Saturday, March 11, 2006

Scholarship and Libraries in Transition Conference, Part Two

This is the second of three posts relating my observations on the Scholarship and Libraries in Transition Conference (better known as the Google Library Symposium) which was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan on March 10th and 11th, 2006. This post will have my remarks regarding the afternoon speakers on March 10th.

Please note that I am doing my best to report what the speakers said. However, quotes might be slightly different than what the speaker actually said due to the fact I had to write it down while the speaker went on talking. Feel free to post and correct me if you are being quoted here incorrectly.

Ed Tenner, Professor and author from Princeton University, talked about the failure of search engines including Google to return the best results. He gave an example on search in Google on the search term “world history.” He also showed the Wikipedia article on this topic. He claimed that both failed to actually give the most meaningful results and that most searchers would not dig far enough to actually get the best stuff. He also noted that academic sites on the Web need to practice SEO. This stands for search engine optimization.

I heartily agree with Dr. Tenner. Commercial sites spend tons of time and money trying to trick the search engines into believing their sites are the best. Academic sites do not do this and the result is searches in search engines which are sometimes bad. Why shouldn’t academic sites use some SEO white hat tricks? With the built-in advantage of high Trust Rank of .edu or other domains, a little optimization will go a long way to making search engine results better. And there is little chance of harm for most academic sites for trying some SEO. What are the odds that Google would ban or significantly penalize stanford.edu, msu.edu, harvard.edu, etc. for making an SEO mistake?

Jean-Claude Guedon, Professor at the University of Montreal, discussed what he thought could be a new algorithm for Google or another search engine. He said, “Using the literature review chapters from doctoral dissertations as citation analysis would give a constantly updating view of knowledge.” As dissertations are written in most fields, this is a good idea. It would be virtually impossible for spammers to infiltrate the dissertations so links appearing in these dissertations would be more than likely the best on the Web for the topic at hand. Can you imagine if dissertation link citations from Viagra related dissertations actually determined which Viagra sites were at the top of Google search results? I can just hear the screams from some webmasters now if this was implemented…

Suzanne BeDell, Vice President of ProQuest Information and Learning, presented a different picture. She argued a view some publishers may take. She noted that, “The Google dark digital archive will go live eventually. When this happens, the publishers will lose control of their content. They should be concerned and so should librarians as this will stifle future publishing.”

Adam Smith, who is in charge of Google Scholar and Google Books, finished up the day. He claimed that the media gets the Google library project wrong. Google is not giving away copies of all books and that it fully respects copyright law. He said that Google was trying to figure out, “how to enable, create, and connect a myriad of links that connect online and offline objects.” He also announced a new sales tool that will allow publishers to sell online access to books via Google Books. I am also pleased that I got Adam’s e-mail address. I will e-mail him soon with some questions.

Further observations on the conference can be found at the links below. I will add the links when my posts are ready so if you see this right away they may lack a link.

Scholarship and Libraries in Transition Conference, Part One
Scholarship and Libraries in Transition Conference, Part Three

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