Back Issues | Author Index |
Title Index |
D-Lib Magazine July/August 2009 Volume 15 Number 7/8 ISSN 1082-9873
In Brief High Precision and Recall: Focuss.Info as Community-driven Search Engine Contributed by: Focuss.Info Initiative Copenhagen, Denmark <firstname.lastname@example.org> The Times (2009) described it as the "$20 billion ... battle for web supremacy". With Googleâ„˘ as the dominant player in online searches, Microsoft recently launched Bingâ„˘, a new search engine that argues it will give more useful search results and is therefore challenging Google supremacy. The vision of improving search results is a good one, because students, researchers and practitioners are increasingly starting their searches on the World Wide Web (WWW). Google, Yahoo!ÂŽ and Bing are tools for finding general-purpose information where the quantity of information may be seen as more meaningful than the quality. For instance, Google (2008) announced that its search engine was indexing one trillion (1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs, and it is believed that this number will increase significantly in the near future. The number of URLs that are being indexed by generic search engines brings attention to a decade-old issue in computer and information science: relevance of search results. The issue has to do not only with the number of URLs in the search engines' indexes, but because many search engines "have metrics and services to help advertisers improve placement" (Dudek et al., 2007), the focus of attention appears to be on commercial interests rather than on the relevance of search results. Nonetheless, more than ever before the WWW has created new opportunities for tackling the challenges of relevance. These new opportunities are being enabled by Web 2.0 technologies, which assist in the development of a search engine that generates information of high relevance, because it indexes up-to-
date and specific information maintained by experts in the same field. The Focuss.Info Initiative (http://www.focuss.info) is a good example of a platform that incorporates a search engine consisting of the Web 2.0 technology known as social bookmarking. The idea behind social bookmarking is that experts can store valuable e-resources (such as links to websites, electronic journal articles and presentations) in a personal bookmark space on the WWW. The essence of Focuss.Info is to share these bookmarked eresources by the domain-specific search engine: www.focuss.info. Search results from Focuss.Info show high relevance for scholars and professionals, due to higher precision and recall. The experts who are engaged in social bookmarking for the Focuss.Info Initiative consist of librarians, individual practitioners, students and researchers. They have two things in common. Firstly, they all work in the field of global development cooperation, studies and research. Secondly, they save their favorite websites on global development cooperation in their own social bookmark spaces. Aside from the fact that information professionals and librarians, as well as practitioners, students and researchers from the southern and northern hemispheres, participate in the selection, storing and sharing of content, there are also other reasons why the Focuss.Info Initiative is more than a specific search engine: it is itself a social network. Focuss.Info brings learners and information workers together to aggregate their knowledge of valuable eresources, and because the Initiative is embedding third-party Web 2.0 technologies, costs for development and maintenance are very low in comparison with the size and scale of the Initiative. As a result, the Initiative is able to pro-actively encourage and mobilize partner organizations and individual practitioners from local areas in the Global South. Additionally, it makes it possible for the Global South to take part in knowledge creation and sharing at a new level. It is not the objective of the Focuss.Info Initiative to become a rival of search engines like Google and Bing. One of the major forces behind this Initiative is that it makes it possible to promote Web 2.0 technologies to peers. This is of great value, because only when subject experts actively participate by saving their favorite e-resources in dedicated social bookmark spaces will a specific search engine like Focuss.Info become a success in generating high-quality search results as compared with results using generic search engines. Reference Dudek, D., Mastora, A. and Landoni, M. (2007) Is Google the answer? A study into usability of search engines, Library Review, 56(3). <doi:10.1108/00242530710736000>.