Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Meaning Mapping for Ballparks, not Bulls eyes

In a number of our projects, we have had difficulty training our clients and partners NOT to get too specific by trying to imagine every possible future user while creating the controlled vocabularies and multi-dimensional indexes. (When we did this on an early project we ended up with an “out-of-control” controlled vocabulary.) The but the indexing process is not about naming things, rather sorting them into a collection of baskets of meaning we create. The structure of baskets can grow, change, expand or contract over time (an "iterative" process) and provide a lot of retrieval power and more than ample browsing power.

A misleading concept that Google reinforces in the digital age is the idea that accessing multi-media is about hitting bulls eyes or getting home runs. But one of the most underrated features of Google is not its powerful secret engine for retrieval that we will never understand, but the way it now leverages 10+ years of our “near misses”.  Google’s correlative database gives us a quick list of potential things we meant, but, like many others users, have misspelled or mis-Googled and eventually found. Even Google knows that searches are actually less about searching, and more about matching meaning to users’ desires. "Browsing" is still a mode of operating on the web and "Googling" is something different--more specific. We remember and embrace the promise of the web as a place to explore and browse...

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