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... the editorial blog by Marydee Ojala, Editor of ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals. ONLINE Insider intends to extend the reach of the print publication, presenting a more timely commentary on the products, people, and events that shape today's online world. It explores new technologies as they impact the working lives of information professionals, explains resources for specific topic areas, and expounds on information management tools and techniques.

Reinventing Dialog

Marydee Ojala @ 8:43 am

The NewsBreak I wrote about ProQuest giving Dialog a makeover was published earlier this week (23rd of July, to be precise). I wish I could have covered all the technological aspects of PQD (ProQuest Dialog), but that probably would have bored everybody to death. When I was first introduced to Dialog, which was in the Dark Ages of 1976 or 1977, I spent a day and a half in Palo Alto for the initial training sessions. I can’t imagine information professionals — or anyone else, for that matter — giving up that much time to learn a search engine.

Today’s expectations are that search happens quickly, without much thought or effort. What PQD offers is a somewhat different twist on those expectations. Yes, you can do the proverbial “quick and dirty” search. It will work. Careful information professionals, however, will benefit from studying how to effectively use all the bells and whistles PQD has baked into the new system.

Technology is great, but without sufficient content, it’s an empty vessel. Dialog has told us it won’t contain the corporate directory files, the market research databases (no great loss, as they were mostly closed files), and trademarks. It doesn’t mention EconLit, TableBase, LISA, and other files that don’t seem to have made the cut. If your favorite database is not present in PQD, please let me know. Since ProQuest, so far, declines to provide us with a comprehensive list of databases not transferring to PQD from legacy Dialog, it’s up to the users of the system to fill this gap.

Additionally, let’s tell ProQuest what other content should be in the “reinvented” Dialog. What information sources did they never had that they could now add?

I look forward to your suggestions on legacy databases not in PQD and on new databases PQD could add.

Google Scholar Anomalies

Marydee Ojala @ 8:02 am

I’ve been doing more searching than usual in Google Scholar in the course of editing a manuscript for the September/October 2013 issue of Online Searcher. I know that both librarians and students have mixed emotions about GS, and there have been many articles, blog posts, conference presentations, and tweets about it. I was delighted, last November, to hear about developments from its creator, Anurag Acharya, Google Distinguished Engineer, at the Charleston Conference.

Here’s just a few of the things that delighted/depressed me in my recent search experience. I searched for Marydee Ojala. OK, that’s me. And Google figured out that the M Ojala in the author field was that same Marydee. Not Markus, who’s doing a PhD at Helsinki University. Not Matti, who’s in the Department of Agricultural Sciences at the same institution. Not Mace, the librarian who organizes the unconference Cycling for Libraries. I have a mental image of a Google algorithm that, in extremely unscientific terms, sees Marydee Ojala, notes that I write about online searching, and eliminates social science research, agricultural research, and cycling to present me with completely relevant results. Well done, Google Scholar!

Then I got to the sort options. That’s when depression set in. On my name, I had 696 hits. Un-ticking the box for Citations, the hit count was further reduced, to 308. When I sort by date, that goes down to 1. OK, it’s a book review I wrote in 2013 and the sort does say that it only does articles posted (not published, mind you) in the last year. So I hit the back arrow and suddenly my results, now sorted by relevance, went down to 545. Again un-ticking the Citation box, the hit count is now 196.

Several other author searches performed similarly, so it’s not just me.

Going back to that date sorting: It’s important to remember that it’s not by publication date. One search, on “digital libraries”, retrieved 3,540 hits when limited to Since 2013. The sort by date winnowed it down to 606. Shouldn’t the number of articles in the last year be the same as since 2013? Looking at the first 10 hits in the sorted results list, they are, indeed, sorted by date posted. But the publication dates vary. Again, this is very unscientific, as I looked only at the first 10, but although most were published during the May-June 2013 time frame, they were not sorted by the publication date and one was published in 2006.

I can think of a number of reasons why Google Scholar has trouble with its sorting. Publisher embargoes and the methodology of web scraping to populate Scholar undoubtedly play a role. Still, it’s an interesting exercise to unravel how and why Google Scholar does what it does.

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