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Magazines > Online > January/February 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 1 — Jan/Feb 2004
Looking Ahead, Looking Back
By Marydee Ojala • Editor

January is always interesting. As the start of the new year, it's a time for renewal and reflection. There are those pesky New Year's Resolutions, which we have every intention of fulfilling, even if we know we didn't in previous years. "This time it's going to be different," we say to ourselves. "I'll follow these resolutions and I'll become a better person. I will back up my data. I will master all the features on my mobile phone. I will remember there are Web search engines other than Google."

I am forever intrigued by how the information industry reinvents itself. We invent taxonomies, but they taste like thesauri. We worry about the limitations of Web search engines, but we don't exploit all the bells and whistles of our traditional online hosts. We talk among ourselves about online information limitations and glories. Then we bemoan the fact that end users don't do good searches. Why aren't we talking more to them instead of to ourselves?

Not everything, however, is a reinvention. Some things are honestly new. I am particularly intrigued by search engines that don't search text. Nexidia, for example, is a search engine for speech. Run a Nexidia search on a TV news program or recorded phone conversation and it searches the sounds, not a text-based transcription. Spelling ceases to matter. Who cares whether a journalist spells the ex-Russian premier's name as Yeltson or Jeltsin, Nexidia finds it.

Peter Lyman and Hal Varian, University of California, Berkeley, report that worldwide information production increased 30 percent per year from 1999-2002, much of it in electronic form. They compare this size to multiple Libraries of Congress and see it as an organizational challenge. This makes me wonder, though. When everything is searchable, will we concern ourselves with searching for trivia or will we actually digitize the information that is important? What about older information? Will we find the resources to digitize that? Will the legal system make electronic information increasingly unavailable to ordinary people or will we see a true renewal of online resources? I'm hoping for the latter in 2004.

On another note, January is for saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new. For ONLINE magazine, there are a few changes we'd like to share with you. Due to increased work commitments, Mick O'Leary has decided to discontinue writing his "O'Leary Online" column. A change in Outsell Inc.'s mission has led Anthea Stratigos to retire her "Industry Insights" column. These columnists added a great deal to the quality of this magazine, and we are sorry to see them leave. Both, however, have volunteered to contribute feature articles in future. That's the good-byes. Now for the hello. We are very pleased and proud to introduce our new columnist, George Plosker. A longtime participant in the information industry, beginning as a librarian at San Jose State University and moving on to positions at Dialog, Information Access Company, and Gale Group, George has remarkable rapport with both practitioners and providers. His customer-centric view of the online world, expressed in "The Information Strategist," will be a welcome addition to ONLINE magazine.

Marydee Ojala [] is the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters to the editor to

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