Welcome to Online Insider ...
... 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.

Q&A Stats

Marydee Ojala @ 7:29 am

Hitwise reported that U.S. visits to question and answer sites increased 118% from last year, with Yahoo Answers gleaning 74% of the traffic. In second place was WikiAnswers, from Answers.com. Third was Answerbag and fourth was Ask MetaFilter. Hitwise interprets the popularity of the Q&A sites as showing the importance of the social network in sharing knowledge contributed by community experts. If the popularity is so great, why did Google leave this particular playing field? Also, it strikes me that the quality of the questions is often not very high. In fact, many of them simply reflect the laziness of the questioner. Not only do they not know how to frame a good question, they don’t really care to lift a finger to try and find information on their own. Research apparently consists of asking the question online. The quality of the answers varies tremendously and does not always reflect either knowledge or expertise. A major exception is WikiAnswers, which grounds its answering mechanism in trusted, reliable sources.

I suppose there is room in the information world for trivia questions, but glorifying both trivial (which is not exactly the same thing as trivia) questions and answers based on opinion rather than facts rubs me the wrong way. I do sincerely hope that, when the question-askers have something of real import to ask, they won’t rely 100% on any of these Q&A sites, but will look for qualified answer sources. Yes, like librarians! And researchers who cite their sources.

Speaking of expertise, the next issue (May/June 2008) of ONLINE will have an article by Bobby Brody exploring some "real" expert sites. She begins by defining expertise, then notes you can find experts at places like professional and trade associations, government agencies, executive network sites such as LinkedIn, and Who’s Who type publications.

Take That, Hyphens!

Marydee Ojala @ 4:01 pm

A news report from Reuters this morning informs me that about 16,000 words are no longer hyphenated in the newest edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. I feel vindicated, after 30 years of screaming at people not to hyphenate the word online. I can’t find it at the moment, but in the very early days of ONLINE magazine, Jeff Pemberton, then both the publisher and the editor, I think, ranted in an editorial about why hyphens were inappropriate when it came to online (and ONLINE). It’s online, not on-line. Although I was tempted to describe Jeff as the then-editor, I resisted temptation and restructured (re-structured?) the sentence.

I did find it amusing that the editor of the Shorter OED, Angus Stevenson, used two hyphenated words in his explanation of why he had assassinated hyphens: design-led and old-fashioned. Yeah, both look old fashioned to me.

And when was the last time I saw ice cream rendered as ice-cream? Can’t recall, it must have melted from my memory.

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