Peter Brantley has posted the text of an email debate on the inherent utility of Google Book Search (GBS), involving Paul Duguid of the Information School at UC Berkeley, Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land, Tim O’Reilly from O’Reilly Media, and Donald Waters of the The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
It is a long post, but well worth reading. Key nuggets include:
- Paul Duguid: Google tended to assume that its algorithms made their metadata irrelevant. It learned–though the assumption still makes problems for those trying to use GBS for any kind of research.
- Tim O’Reilly: Many people seem to be under the false impression that algorithms and metadata are mutually exclusive approaches. In fact, both play essential roles.
For too long, metadata was the only game in town: if you wanted to find something in a large collection, you could only search the metadata, not the data itself. Now that you can actually search the data AND the metadata, you can build interesting new applications more powerful than either alone.
- Danny Sullivan: I guess as I said, it depends on how you look at the service. If you view it as a book curation resource, it has huge deficiencies. If you look at it as allowing you to search every word in millions of books, it’s an amazing new resource. Not perfect, but seriously – who would have thought we’d have that type of capability just a few years ago before it started.