March 2006 Archive
Over the next month, I'm planning lots of updates to the site both on the backend and for the content. For anyone tracking the RSS feed, please note a change in the feed address. The index.rdf will eventually go away. The new address is at feeds.feedburner.com/sesnews. I'll eventually have a redirect for the file. If you notice any broken links, please let me know!
Danny has a summary of a French relevancy study which compares Google, MSN, Yahoo!, Exalead, Voila, and Dir.com. By one measure (best relevance of top five results), Google and Yahoo! tie for top relevancy scores. Using a different measure (at least one good result in top five), Yahoo! beats Google by a bit with MSN and Exalead not very far behind.
Yesterday, MSN launched its new Windows Live Search interface in beta. It features a personalizable home page. The search results interface has the most significant changes. Users can scroll through the first 200+ results without clicking next. A slider (upper right corner) changes the amount of information for each record. The image search results also scroll, have a slider for changing the number of results (and size of thumbnails), and has a zoom in mouseover effect for each image. Unfortunately, no advanced search form is available on either page. Nor are there direct links to the other databases. There are some cool user interface tricks here, but the initial launch was rocky, and it needs more debugging.
In the past, Ask handled phrase searching differently from the other search engines. Several years ago, phrase searching just did not work all the time. More recently, if a phrase search would get in zero results, Ask would just display the results as if a non-phrase search had been requested. There would be a brief message at the top stating that there were no phrase matches, but it was easy to miss that message. As of today, searching for a phrase such as "american pugilistic association" gives an appropriate message of "Your search for "american pugilistic association" did not match with any Web results."
Unfortunately, it is not yet perfect, in that of the several phrases I tested, they all worked except for one oddity. One search gave six results (plus ads) along with the cryptic message of "Showing results 1-6 of 0" even though there were not any exact phrase matches. Perhaps it was because it included the stopword 'in' even though other phrases with that word did work correctly.
Like Google Scholar has done for some time now, Google has announced that Book Search will have more "Find it in a library" links to connect to OpenWorldCat records. While I'm glad to see that a librarian at Google makes the announcement, I was disappointed in that few of the records I found had the link. For the many I looked at, it was less than 10%. However, it sounds as if they are planning on expanding that number significantly, and I hope it does increase soon.
On a related issue, I am still disappointed that books scanned via the Google Library program do not give attribution to the library providing the book. Perhaps the libraries prefer this to protect them from legal concerns, but from a scholarly viewpoint it would be good to know which library copy was used. Then the record could be tied to more detailed bibliographic records about the item from that library. In the meantime, try looking at the first few pages for a library stamp if you'd like to know the originating library.