Commented regarding the future of search, at VLAB Web 3.0 event

On November 20, 2007, I attended an MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) event titled “Web 3.0: New Opportunities on the Semantic Web.” [1]

The topic of user scenarios arose several times, in the midst of discussion regarding underlying techniques and technologies. For example, people raised the topic of the evolution of ‘search.’ I contrasted two user scenarios for search.

In today’s “clerk-level service,” the beneficiary of a search guesses at words that might appear in documents that might be findable via the World Wide Web (or an intranet). A search engine returns a list of document matches, but provides at best minimal intelligence regarding which documents might be relevant to the beneficiary’s real needs and regarding the extent to which the beneficiary can trust the information.

In a future “librarian-level service,” the beneficiary would discuss outcomes the beneficiary wants to achieve (for example, in life or in business) and perhaps implementation steps the beneficiary is attempting to make. The discussion would be in vocabulary reflecting the beneficiary’s frame of reference. A “basic librarian service” returns information relevant to the objectives and activities. A “premium librarian service” also indicates the extent to which the information is useful and complete – in the context of the beneficiary’s needs.

Here, the terms “clerk” and “librarian” are meant to evoke images of services provided by people who staff traditional human-run information services, such as public and corporate libraries.

The above analysis is an application of the Direct Outcomes systems-thinking tool known as Achieve Progress. The terminology of ‘clerk’ and ‘librarian’ are previous terms for today’s ‘Transactions’ and ‘Information’ services. This application dovetails with the roadmap for the electromechanical Information Age that Achieve Progress suggests. The roadmap predicts 6 eras of widely applicable services based on electromechanical technologies. The Infrastructure era started in the 1840s with deployment of telegraphy. The Transactions era started in 1890 with the electromechanical processing of data for the United States census. Perhaps the Information era will start soon. [2]



Click for information about Thomas J. Buckholtz.


One Response to “Commented regarding the future of search, at VLAB Web 3.0 event”

  1. daveshields Says:

    The importance of librarians cannot be overstated. They are they guardians of our past. We read their books to plan and build out future.

    This is especially important in the new digital age. The largest library yet created by mankind is the Internet. Google, a company based on advertising, is thus the world’s librarian.

    Moreover, Google has, by its success, invalidated such science of libraries as had been created, so we must now define a new science of libraries so we can build new libraries of science.


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