Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Catalogue

507 words

Two things for a better internet experience happened today. The first was E. Naeher's comment pointing to the RedLightGreen catalogue as an improvement to the WorldCat catalogue I mentioned yesterday. Yep, interface-wise that's pretty much what I've been looking for. Very promising. It seems to be a very young project still and there may be a lot left to do, but it doesn't start off with a broken user interface that has to accomodate the quirks of the system behind it. The most pressing issues in my little test run were the quality of the databases they're using and degree to which records have to be merged to make it truely useful. Let me state a few observations.

Freeform
There is freeform searching. One search field that does it all. Brilliant. I think that's the way to go. Why bother the user with figuring out how the form works if algorithms are good enough - at least they seem to be – to figure things out for themselves?
Umlauts
No results are found for the search term Jänich, although there are books in the catalogue. This looks like broken (i.e. English) records and, when looking at the links, encoding problems. At least the latter shouldn't be an issue these days.
Merged records
That record also illustrates a very nice feature – different editions and translations of an item are merged into one. Very useful. Alas, not working reliably, as these search results illustrate: Several results for the same book and separate results for the different translations and the German translation missing. Still work to do here. This may require clever programming as nobody is going to want to sift through millions and millions of records.
Refining
The catalogue also supports refining searches, which is a very good idea and can be very helpful. Unfortunately the Subjects provided seem very random. When searching for Vector BundlesWhy can I choose Vector Bundles – Congresses but it's not related to Vector Bundles? Why can't I simply limit my search results to a broad area like Mathematics, say? For example in this search, all the top results are maths related. Still the top Subjects to come up are completely unrelated.
Web Services
And the site automatically does Google and amazon searches for you on the results. I suppose this is what they call Web Services. It's pretty cool. And even more useful.
Citations
The site also offers to format your citations for you. Probably quite simple for them to do – but immensely useful for the user. I hope they'll offer BibTeX output as well some day as the AMS does. That would be tremendously useful for some people, including myself.

These were my first impressions. I dig the idea of having a sane UI to the whole thing and I see a couple of good and new ideas working there. I can't see how the database can be improved to be perfectly good, though, if only for its sheer volume.

October 6, 2003, 21:32

Trackback

Trackback “Books, Books, Books” from Marginal:

Okay, so for a while now, I’ve been looking for something like an IMDB for books. It seems that Sven-S. Porst over at Quarter Life Crisis has gone and solicited a good candidate: RedLightGreen. I hope this replaces retail links…

October 7, 2003, 17:27

Trackback “Quarter Life Crisis's review -- part I -- diacritical comments” from Tuna Breath:

I was warned that starting a blog while managing a project might be a bit demanding – and i haven’t been as attentive to this as i have been to the project itself. So it goes. I just had someone…

October 25, 2003, 7:17

Trackback “Quarter Life Crisis's review -- part II -- LC Subject Headings” from Tuna Breath:

In Quarter Life Crisis’s section Refining, Prost writes: The catalogue also supports refining searches, which is a very good idea and can be very helpful. Unfortunately the Subjects provided seem very random. When searching for Vector Bundles Why can I…

October 28, 2003, 21:26

Trackback “Quarter Life Crisis's review -- part II -- LC Subject Headings” from Tuna Breath:

In Quarter Life Crisis’s section Refining, Prost writes: The catalogue also supports refining searches, which is a very good idea and can be very helpful. Unfortunately the Subjects provided seem very random. When searching for Vector Bundles Why can I…

March 29, 2004, 17:16

Trackback “Quarter Life Crisis's review -- part I -- diacritical comments” from Tuna Breath:

I was warned that starting a blog while managing a project might be a bit demanding – and i haven’t been as attentive to this as i have been to the project itself. So it goes. I just had someone…

August 8, 2004, 16:28

Comments

Comment by Judith Bush: User icon

FYI, I’ve tried a track back ping to this message twice:

2003.10.25 02:16:10 198.144.208.168 Ping ‘http://earthlingsoft.net/ssp/mt/mt-tb.cgi/436’ failed: HTTP error: 500 read timeout 2003.10.25 06:17:41 198.144.208.168 Ping ‘http://earthlingsoft.net/ssp/mt/mt-tb.cgi/436’ failed: HTTP error: 500 read timeout

October 25, 2003, 7:20

Comment by ssp: User icon

Judith, our server is a bit crappy and frequently fails to run the scripts properly.

Usually your message arrives, though, it’s just that the web page doesn’t get updated.

I’ll go read your post now…

October 25, 2003, 19:55

Comment by Judith Bush: User icon

I’m happy to point out that we’ve made the change so that your links to searches and to editions will now work.

Yay. I regret it took so long.

We’ll be rebuilding and redesigning the database this is based on early next year. The pilot is a success, and we’ll be bringing the database in synch with the source database. The way we cluster editions will change, although it will be hard to bring translations into the same group as the original unless the catalogers follow proper practice and add the original untranslated title to the record. (Not always done by a long stretch.)

I hope you’ll find us more useful now!

August 14, 2004, 1:43

Comment by ssp: User icon

Thanks for the heads-up Judith.

It’s good to see the service evolve.

August 16, 2004, 0:00

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