inconsistencies web search performance

Fri Nov 7 09:26:10 EST 1997

For the past couple of days we have been discussing the gross inconsistencies 
of www search engines. Erroneous results from "top" engines for subjects 
including "date rape" and "roman sites" were reported.  One colleague said 
(tongue not so firmly in cheek) as much as "then you cannot search for date 
rape".  Explanations were profferedthat some search words are "concealed" (i.e., 
date and sites in the above examples).  Furthermore, it was mentioned that the 
concealed "stopwords" could change with every "crawl".

This type of news is unsettling for the professional searcher, the librarian who 
tries to teach about engines, and should be very alarming to the end-user.  If
search engines do not a) work as they should per the engine's own help pages or
b) work inconsistently, there is the *theoretical* point of why bothering to 
have them at all.  LookSmart, Excite, and Yahoo could be relied on for 
hierarchical directory type searches.

The point is that as a professional searcher who has seen the accuracy of 
powerful engines including Dialog, BRS, STN and reliable CD ROM products, I'm 
wondering when we are going to be offered this type of accuracy with the web.
"The Web made simple" book, and "Search Engine Secrets ofthe Pros" (PC World 
article) nothwithstanding -- these engines including AltaVista, Lycos, InfoSeek, 
et al, do not perform as they should on a consistent basis.  Is this vexing 
anyone besides me?

Nicholas G. Tomaiuolo, MLS
Bibliographic Instruction Librarian
Central Connecticut State University Library
Reference Department
New Britain, CT  06050
email=  tomaiuolon at
phone=  (860) 832-2068
fax=    (860) 832-3409

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