On The Importance of Interactivity and Richness in Information Retrieval

The trick is to have your users do the work for you, at least in part. Put your records on Flickr, and let the users tag away. This way, you can monitor the tags but not have to go through the tedious process of creating them – not to mention, the tags created are likely to be superior to whatever you had in mind in the first place.

The issue of finding the manpower, time and resources to catalog documents was brought up in the readings as a hurdle to overcome. A solution to cataloging the influx of data may not be found in librarians, or other professionals, but instead in gamers and voluntary user collaboration. Take the GWAP/ESP game, pet project of computer scientist Luis von Ahn, a simple multiplayer experience in which players have to describe an image using metadata (descriptors) while also matching what the other player picks. This game is behind the recent vast improvement in Google Image Search queries (which, as you may have noticed, now allows you to do all sorts of advanced searches), as the logoi derived from the game play has been imported into the search engine. The task of cataloging millions of images based on verbose descriptors would have proved impossible for a professional team, not to mention economically impractical. Yet, give the users of the internet a fun game where they have to guess what other people are thinking in describing an image, and you can catalog vast amounts of information for free.

In the web 2.0 the administrator takes a horizontally creative rather than vertically supervisory role – it is fundamentally different than the old system, in which top down procedures and content-creation dominates. So yes, old traditions should be abandoned, they have no place in this new environment. The user should be able to interact in order to have a rich user experience, customizing and creating content at will. The archivist/librarian can help maintain the systems that facilitate this collaborative process, as well as ensure that no out of place or unwholesome content pops up.

When the user feels he/she is contributing something or engaging in an experience, traffic increases. When the user visits a sterile and un-interactive website, traffic stagnates. And by interactive I do not mean the web 1.0 notion of “interactivity” – aka gaudy “tours” and games, but multi-user collaborative processes. Twitter/flickr/wiki/blogs etc.

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