From the Economist:

Although search technology is constantly tweaked to provide better performance and more relevant results, studies by Microsoft have shown that around half of all search queries fail to provide the information that users want. "We need to get offline content online. Offline is where trusted content is, and where people who need to answer questions go," explains Danielle Tiedt, manager of search content acquisition at MSN. "Books are only the first step," she says. [Pulp Friction. Economist, November 10 2005]
It is interesting to wonder what it will mean for libraries when the bulk of scholarly literature is much more easily available than it is now ...

Comments: 2

Nov 12, 2005
Robert D.

Sounds like Google is way ahead, with Google Desktop and Google Print.

Nov 13, 2005
Paul Miller

I'm not wholly convinced that offline content = trusted content, or that people who need answers go offline to realise them.

It's probably true that we are better able to cope offline... but much of that may be due to the finite bounds drawn around any search by the smaller number of physically available resources in any single institution, and the more limited search tools available to locate relevant items for us.

Most users, most of the time, therefore locate a relatively manageable set of results, and are more likely to feel that they can consume the resources that they are offered.

An online search, where tangentially relevant resources are returned, and where hits are likely to number in the tens or hundreds of thousands, are unlikely to aid the searcher's feeling of being on top of their topic... especially when a high proportion of the initial hits are from services trying to sell them something.

The quality is there. The trustworthy content is there (although locked away inside proprietary databases with depressing regularity). Assessing trust, and managing the flow, requires different skills, and different expectations.

Of course, bringing the online and the offline closer together is valuable, so long as tools to cope are close behind.