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      Searcher’s Voice
                                                       hat this world needs
                                                       is more bibles. No,
                                               I am not advocating we all
                                                                              questions. I’m assuming the “ether” to which the author
                                                                              alluded would be the one defined by Merriam-Webster
                                                                              as “the upper reaches of space,” though — as an
                                               join Gideons International     information professional — I could see the need to apply
                                               [] and          an alternate definition in this situation, namely “a light
                                               start putting the Good         volatile flammable liquid C4H10O used chiefly as a
               Book in every hotel room. (In fact, the Gideons wouldn’t       solvent and especially formerly as an anesthetic.” In this
               accept many of us, according to their FAQ, since we are        professional’s humble opinion, you’d have to have a
               not all men aged whatever to whatever. I stopped               goodly quantity of that former anesthetic on hand to
               reading at that point.) What I mean is that this world         trust unathenticated answers from the void, especially
               needs more authoritative sources and it needs to know          when your standard for a “friend” denigrates to the level
               it needs them. It needs to identify the best sources, to       of anyone who happens to answer your question.
               analyze their strengths and weaknesses, to monitor their           Back in the prehistoric days of my library school
               quality as that quality grows or diminishes, to support        education, I remember discussions of important studies
               them and their improvement, and to get the word out            of information gathering and usage by the Defense
               so that everyone who needs information knows where             Department. (Anyone here remember the name Casper
               to find the best.                                              Weinberger?) The studies showed that researchers relied
                   Sound vaguely familiar? It should. That’s why the world    first and foremost on information supplied by colleagues.
               built libraries. That’s why publishers seek out qualified      But as haphazard as that process can be, at least
               authors and qualified authors seek out prestigious             information gathering was done within a collegial
               publications. That’s why news organizations hire graduates     community of expertise.
               of journalism schools. That’s why experts of all types and         Social media now absorbs a quarter of the time U.S.
               fields of study have entrance requirements to become           online users spend online (“Social Media Syphoning 25%
               practitioners. That’s why librarians and information           Of U.S. Online Time [Nielsen],” SEWatch, Tuesday, Aug.
               professionals have careers identifying expertise wherever      3, 2010). Facebook has opened Facebook Questions
               they find it.                                                  [], where you can ask
                   But today here we are with the “wisdom of the              and/or answer whatever for whomever. Who are you,
               crowd.” Nothing new really. I recently read a blog             oh gracious answerer? A self-defined Facebook profile.
               posting — at least I think it was a blog posting —             What do you know, oh voice from the ether? What that
               cheering the wonderful technological advantages                profile I wrote says I know. On the other hand, the price
               along those lines:                                             is great — free — and the convenience too. Not even
                   In fact, throughout human history, by far the              the complexity of sticking words into a Google box and
                   commonest source of shared information was                 having to endure the burden of scanning and choosing
                   through asking other people. Increasingly, the             alternative sites for answers.
                   online world is making it easier to ask our friends            Now I’m not against the wisdom of the crowd aka
                   for help. We can even pose a question into the             user-generated content. I couldn’t be after persuading
                   ether without even knowing which friend will               Nick Tomaiuolo to write a wonderful series — which will
                   know the answer and respond.                               shortly become a wonderful book — on how users
                   Hmm. I wonder who wrote that posting (if it was a          should generate content. But Nick wrote that series
               posting). Sorry I didn’t make a note of who wrote it, but,     targeting sites the world of users relied upon, sites which
               after all, who cares? We could ask the ether, the same         have some rules for entry and revisions built into them.
               ether that will be giving us the answers to all our other                                                   continued on page 6

4   SEARCHER    The Magazine for Database Professionals
                                                                                                                                   The Magazine for Database Professionals

    text continued from page 4
    And he aimed his articles at improving the process. After all, everybody’s an               Vice President, Content                                                             Richard Kaser

    expert at something, and one of the beauties of good user-generated content                 Editor-in-Chief                                                                      Barbara Quint
    lies in the acceptance of anything as something worth being an expert about.                Managing Editor                                                                    Lauree Padgett
    Some topic any respectable reference work would regard as irrelevant trivia                 Editorial Services Manager                                                      Deborah Poulson
    may be just the thing one or two lone users may want to learn about.                        Proofreader                                                             Celeste Peterson-Sloss

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