Archive for August, 2009


Laura of the Llyfrgellydd Blog posts some observations about the implementation of Summon at Grand Valley State University. Here are the highlights of her points. See the article for more detail:

  • One does not have a choice about the content in a discovery service.
  • To my knowledge, only one index can be searched through Summon.
  • Because you’re working with a single index, there doesn’t seem to be a way to tell which source a particular search result has come from.
        It could throw off your database statistics.
        It limits discovery of specific databases.

And, a couple of caveats.

  1. With the exception of my second point above, these all seem to me to be very “librarian” issues. Yes, they will effect the user – but are these things that most of our users are going to care about? Honestly, I don’t think so.
  2. As I noted above, my place of work is the first commercial adopter of Summon. To my knowledge, Ebsco’s discovery product isn’t live yet. My point is that discovery services are still a pretty young technology – there’s a lot of potential for improvement and change in the coming months (and years).


How do you make relevance ranking better? Lukas Koster argues, at the blog that:

You want the results that are the most relevant for your search, with your specific objectives, at that specific point in time time, for your specific circumstances, and you want them immediately.

The concept isn’t new; use as much information as possible about users and their search experience to target more relevant results. That’s search personalization. What I appreciate about this article is that it provides a nice introduction to the various aspects of personalization.

Read the rest of this entry »


Shortly after committing to write regular in-depth articles I’ve had to shift gears to take on a very important software development project. This project, which I can’t discuss right now, has been consuming me. So, for now, my blogging here will be limited and articles will mostly be of the “check this out” variety.

Check out “Rivals Strive to Topple Google in Quest for the ‘perfect Search’.” The article, not about federated search but certainly relevant to the industry, speaks to the Yahoo!/Microsoft marriage and to other threats to Google’s stranglehold on search. It reminisces on how far the search industry has some since Google’s inception in 1998. It philosophizes about how search has affected all of us, for better and worse. It ponders the future of search.

I particularly appreciated the wisdom in this paragraph about public search as the great equalizer:

But the real power of the internet and search has been to break down gate-keepers. Putting all the information in the world into a form where it can be accessed and searched by anyone has destroyed industries. Just ask journalists, who suddenly find that anyone can listen to a press conference, scan a court case or email a president. Or the music industry, which found the internet had allowed bands to get their music out to the world virtually free. Or publishing. The growth of Amazon and the Kindle electronic book reader is poised to allow anyone to write and sell a book online. It is a democratizing of power to the individual, fueled by the simple fact of allowing people to search for whatever they want without a middle man.

I highly recommend this article to anyone who’s curious about the future of search.


Government Computer News (GCN) recently produced a special report: “Great dot-gov Web Sites 2009: 10 sites that take online government to the next level.”, whose search is powered by this blog’s sponsor Deep Web Technologies, is on the list. The list includes sites that are meeting and exceeding Obama administration transparency goals.

Page 8 of the GCN article explains how “ breaks down stovepipes of research.”

[W]ith, you don’t have to worry about which agency published the research. Led by the Energy Department’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), the site offers a one-stop shop for searching U.S. scientific databases. At last count, you could do a single search of 38 data sources — or about 200 million documents.

In 2001, when they set out to establish a digital scientific library, DOE officials quickly realized that theirs wasn’t the only agency doing scientific research and that citizens would benefit from a cross-agency compilation of resources.

The resulting site represents a considerable coordination effort among numerous federal agencies. Besides OSTI, members of the Alliance include the Agriculture and Interior departments, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Disclaimer: I consult for OSTI.