Re: proposal for subjects in subject tree

Alan Emtage <> Wed, 16 December 1992 23:08 UTC

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From: Alan Emtage <>
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1992 17:12:15 -0500
In-Reply-To: Anders Gillner's message as of Dec 16, 17:50
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To: Anders Gillner <>
Subject: Re: proposal for subjects in subject tree

Hi Anders,

> First: I loved it ! (Probably because I am a "non-techie"
> and tend to think along the same lines :-)), I have not included
> your text in total, partly because it is long as it is, partly
> because I have`t commented on all of it.

Thanks. I'd like to believe that this will go some way to encouraging
discussion in this area.

> There are different types of information, and different reasons why we
> want to structure it. Scientific information is structured and catalogued
> by the libraries so that the scientific community can find what need in
> order to bring science forward, but not only for that. Different
> periodicals rank differently in the world of scientific merit, and will
> do so also in the future. This type of information will have to be
> catalogued also in the future, and the libraries, or their 
> successors, will have to have some "control" over that type of
> information. How do you rank an article published on the net, without
> reviewing, in terms of academic merit ? What scientific value has
> a discussion like the one which went on, on the net, in a newsgroup, after
> the "discovery" of "cold fusion" ? 

I should make clear that when I talk about the "Spectrum of Quality" I
don't for a moment mean that "biliographic control" should not be
maintained. However, my point is that the people who do this kind of
thing should be very picky about what they choose to exert this kind of
control over. However, once done they should maintain as much control as
possible to maintain the consistency of the information. I'm saying that
I cannot believe that is (a) possible and (b) desirable to try and
catalog _every_ piece of information that comes down the byte stream.

> If we leave the classification to the providers, it would be
> possible for them to classify a document in a couple of different
> schemes, making it possible to search the data with a couple of
> search-systems.(The text below is seen more or less from a gopher
> perspective.)

["gopher" example deleted...]

Exactly. For any object that I pointed at and asked you to describe, 99%
of the time you would give _most_ of the attributes as I would. However,
what I consider important and what you do might be very different. Our
aim is to include as much of the "objectness" of said thing in the
abstract (index, whatever) so that the people who provide the object and
the users looking for the object can find what they are looking for. This
is of course not a new problem, but we are being asked to look at it in
novel ways.

As I said, I have not had much contact with the European library
community but I'd guess that the problems being faced there are a subset
of those in North America where a relatively homogenous language and
culture (says the person from Quebec :-) allows many of the problems
coming from multi-lingual/multi-cultural interfaces to be ignored. I'd
certainly be interested in participating (if even it means reading) in
the discussions on your side of the Pond. I'd appreciate it if you could
point me at those groups...

Thanks for the comments.


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