Ahead, Looking Back
By Marydee Ojala Editor
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.
Ojala [firstname.lastname@example.org] is
the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters
to the editor to email@example.com.