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Magazines > Online > May/June 2006
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Online Magazine

Vol. 30 No. 3 — May/Jun 2006

The HomePage
Innovation Starts Here
By Marydee Ojala
Editor • ONLINE

Does it startle you that more people can identify Google than EBSCOhost; mention Yahoo! in casual conversation than Factiva; or think search couldn’t possibly pre-date the Internet, having never heard of Dialog? I thought not. Web search engines have more visibility than those “library” services. Does that mean innovation happens only outside the library? I think not.

If anyone believes that innovation is confined to the world of Web search or that all our traditional online vendors have fallen far behind, three major announcements—from EBSCO, Factiva, and LexisNexis (in alphabetical order)—should change their mind. EBSCO’s partnership with Groxis for Visual Search and the new Nexis interface that sits on a global platform are profiled in the News section of this issue of ONLINE, while Mary Ellen Bates reviews Factiva’s Search 2.0 in her Online Spotlight column.

Although different, the three exemplify certain basic changes in online search behavior and capabilities. Although I’m not sure if they are the first steps toward Library 2.0, one of the concepts Greg Notess refers to as “the terrible twos” in his On the Net column, I do think these innovations represent some important changes in how information professionals search for, retrieve, and analyze information.

EBSCOhost’s Visual Search tab, which seems analogous to its Basic and Advanced Search tabs, is a bit of a misnomer. You aren’t searching visually, you’re retrieving visually. Your top 250 hits display as colored circles and squares. There’s no results list to scroll through. Click on the circles to drill down and gain an
alternate view of the underlying data.

Factiva’s Search 2.0 does show a results list, but to the side are a tag cloud of the most relevant index terms and a colorful array of graphs analyzing results by industry, company, subject, and source. The new Nexis has no tag clouds, but does cluster results by source type, source name, subject, industry, company, geography, and language. Both Factiva and Nexis leverage their controlled vocabularies and taxonomies to cluster results in different ways. The information isn’t any different, but the way in which it’s surfaced is.

Discovery, seeing information in a new way, is what these innovations from traditional online hosts are all about. The visualization components, seeing relationships rather than lists, adds a new dimension to online research—one that appeals greatly to our upcoming millennial researchers.

George Plosker, in his Information Strategist column, worries that we’ve become too enamored with technology at the expense of content. I think the innovative moves by major vendors shows an intelligent blending instead. New technologies enhance content, encouraging searchers to look at data differently and to gain insights previously hidden in the mist of lists.

Although these innovations may not exhibit all the characteristics of whatever Web/Library 2.0 might mean— what’s missing is the ability of users to add commentary, tags, and additional content to search results—they do share the attribute of making the underlying, existing data work harder. User expectations have altered and traditional vendors are innovating to take advantage of their depth and breadth of content in an evolving, search-intensive world.

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

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