[Web4lib] RE: Another Google question

Sloan, Bernie bernies at uillinois.edu
Fri Jul 15 15:07:14 EDT 2005

Jeremy said:

"Providing useful feedback on this stuff is great, and I think that
largely that's the spirit Bernie's effort is towards, though sometimes
I'm not sure."

My motivation is curiosity...trying to find out why things don't seem to
work quite as they seem to be advertised when I stumble across them.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a typical Google searcher, e.g.,
there are times when I need to go beyond the 1,000 result limit, etc.
And Google is fairly prompt in answering my questions, and they seem to
be open to suggestion. For example, about the 1,000 result limit, part
of their answer was that if they returned all of the results to everyone
it would greatly impact performance and response time. That's
understandable. But I told them I didn't want it to be a default for
everyone and I asked them if there might be a way to allow those of us
crazy enough to want to go past the 1,000 limit to do it, say, 1,000
results at a time. They seemed interested.

Basically, I think that maybe they should do a little bit better job of
describing how various search options work (or don't work). For example
on the advanced search page the description of the "link:" command says
"Find pages that link to the page". Maybe it could be changed to "Find
examples of pages that link to the page". Or if someone actually gets to
the end of the line on a 1,000 result set there could be a message
saying to the effect that they only return 1,000 results because of
performance issues...something similar to the "In order to show you the
most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar..."


-----Original Message-----
From: web4lib-bounces at webjunction.org
[mailto:web4lib-bounces at webjunction.org] On Behalf Of Jeremy Dunck
Sent: Friday, July 15, 2005 10:46 AM
To: Mike Taylor
Cc: web4lib at webjunction.org
Subject: Re: [Web4lib] RE: Another Google question

On 7/15/05, Mike Taylor <mike at miketaylor.org.uk> wrote:
> No.  And that's the whole point.  We couple of hundred information
> professionals on this list care deeply about this stuff, but we do
> need to come to terms with the fact that no-one else does.  As far as
> the other 5,999,999,980 people out there are concerned, Google is just
> fine.  If we pretend otherwise, we're hiding out heads in the sand.

First, I'd like to thank you for voicing what I've been too afraid to.
 Which is to say, I'm no librarian, I'm just here because I want to
see the web become more useful to libraries.  I've been quite
surprised at the-- I'm sorry but it does seem accurate-- glee that
folks on this list seem to take at poking holes in information tech
that's available.

Scholarship and accuracy are great, but they are not the end-all of
utility, and most of the time, people just want to get things done. 
Should we burn the libraries once Google Print has all stuff scanned? 
Hell, no.  Libraries have purpose, even if they are underfunded and
get far too little emphasis in the press.  But Google Print will still
be useful in a way that's different than libraries.  Get your head
around it!  It's not a zero sum game.

I'd be very happy if the depth and richness of major libraries were
available online, but the resources haven't been there, have they?

> After all, the world's most dominant software vendor achieved that
> position by producing a badly flawed product that was "just good
> enough".  Why should we be surprised that the world's most dominant
> search provider is adopting the same strategy?

I think that goes too far.  What google's doing is making profit on
the back of an unprecedented commodity hardware farm and the ideas of
a lot of smart people.  You shouldn't interpret failures of
transparency are the Evil Empire out to snooker the poor
used-to-be-a-library-goer into trusting the web as gospel.  Providing
useful feedback on this stuff is great, and I think that largely
that's the spirit Bernie's effort is towards, though sometimes I'm not

What if making a totally accurate "links to" index would require 10x
the resources that it currently does?  Should Google really not have
offered it?  If you want to go that way, I have yet to see a library
which carried all titles ever produced-- hey, I'm missing a viewpoint

Would it be sufficient for there to be a disclaimer like "links are
not comprehensive", and "total results are approximations"? 
Continuing the comparison, it's pretty well understood that no single
library has all titles, right?  Roy, what would you have expected?  If
it was perfection, well, how would that be sustainable?

And what's with the Google fetish, anyway?  Isn't this list supposed
to be about using the web to the benefit of libraries?
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