2collab: A next step for federated search? | Federated Search BlogFederated Search

2collab is a social bookmarking site that was introduced late last year. If it were just another bookmarking site it wouldn’t be all that interesting. Peter Scott’s Library Blog has a succinct description of 2collab that should make readers of this blog curious:

2collab is a social bookmarking site where you can store and organize your favorite internet resources – such as blogs, websites, research articles, and more. Then, in private or public groups you can decide to share your bookmarks with others – stimulating debate and discussion. Members of groups can evaluate these resources (by rating bookmarks, tagging and adding comments), or add their own bookmarks. You can browse public groups and bookmarks, but must register (your name and email address) to access the full functionality – such as creating groups, adding comments, and adding bookmarks.” 2collab is a free service from Elsevier, initiated by a collaboration between Scopus and ScienceDirect.

2collab has some interesting features that should be of interest to the federated search community:

  1. It is sponsored by Elsevier, publisher of science and health information.

  2. 2collab allows for incorporation of bibliographic information, including reference type, source title, article title, volume information, publication date, author(s), ISBN/ISSN, and DOI.

  3. Bookmarks from popular Windows browsers and from del.icio.us, connotea, and citeulike can be imported.

  4. References from Endnote, Refworks, and other tools that produce RIS files can be imported.

  5. Integration with ScienceDirect and Scopus facilitates import of bibliographic information from these services.

  6. Support for sharing bookmarks with groups of users and via RSS.

2collab extends federated search by adding elements of collaboration. I like that the 2collab developers focused on a relatively small set of features and didn’t try to put the kitchen sink into the application. I think that this focus on simplicity will foster collaboration while not distracting researchers from their productive activities.

When I wrote about collaborative search last month, reporting on Microsoft’s SearchTogether experiment, I wasn’t aware of 2collab. Much of what I wrote in that article is relevant to the 2collab offering.

I strongly believe that collaboration is the next step for federated search. There’s a simple reason that Web 2.0 has grown so quickly and has become so pervasive; humans are social creatures and value interaction with others. In the realm of research, collaboration and sharing of ideas is critical. The cross-fertilization that occurs when scientists from different fields of specialization share ideas with one another is also critical to advancing of science. The evolution of federated search, moving from analyzing search results in isolation to analyzing them in communities, will support the research that advances research and science.

Another tremendous benefit from collaborative federated search comes from the realization that humans can rank documents better than computers can. While federated search software typically ranks documents based on presence and frequency of search terms in documents, humans apply much more sophisticated criteria to document analysis. Recommendations from trusted persons, especially experts in one’s field of study, weigh much more heavily than does frequency of search terms in documents. 2collab includes elements that support collaboration such as allowing users to vote on the quality of a bookmark, to leave comments, and to share bookmarks with groups (or the public.)

While I like 2collab, the collaborative searching paradigm is very much in its infancy. Specific to 2collab, I’d like to see a way for users to add bookmarks from others into their personal set without having to copy and paste all of the bookmark’s information. Having to do this is clunky and results in duplicate bookmarks in the system, and no one wants to have to deal with merging content from duplicate bookmarks.

In a broader sense, I’d like to see collaborative searching become integrated with federated search. With 2collab, aside from ScienceDirect and Scopus, there’s no integration with federated search tools. I’ve not looked at Connotea yet to see how (or if) it plays with other applications. (That’ll be a subject for another blog article.) I think that wider adoption of 2collab and others will depend on integration with other search tools; federated search tools are natural for this integration because it’s the federated search users who are performing the kinds of searches that benefit the most from collaboration.

Wider adoption is important to the success of this paradigm because the value in a social bookmarking site becomes evident only after the number of entries hits a critical mass. Too few entries and people aren’t drawn to use it. Yes, it’s the chicken-and-egg problem. If not enough people use it, it won’t become very useful, so how do you get people to use these kinds of applications when they’re not yet very useful. Where are those early adopters?

I like what I’ve seen so far from 2collab. If the 2collab developers can address my one gripe, I’ll be even happier. If their utilization increases so that there are many more bookmarks in their system, I’ll be happier yet.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 at 6:48 pm and is filed under viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or TrackBack URI from your own site.

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