Encore at Glasgow

I was interested to come across the Encore implementation at the University of Glasgow. This is still in development, but here is a description of current features ...

Encore is a new way of searching the Library catalogue offering:

  • single search box
  • relevance ranked results
  • location & availability details
  • links to electronic resources
  • easy ways to refine (limit) your search
  • recently added books on your topic
  • a subject tag cloud around your topic
[Encore News 2008]


My eye was drawn to the images pulled in by Yahoo Web Services (this sometimes worked very well, as in the example above, sometimes less well), and to the subject tag cloud. I wondered what processing was done on subject data to generate the cloud.

I liked being shown which fields accounted for the retrieval (top of the 'refine by' column) and seeing new additions.

Interestingly, the tags here are used to refine the search. Of course, they could also be used to expand the search. I wonder do people have expectations either way here when they see 'tags'?

Comments: 4

Jun 29, 2008
Andy Havens

Lorcan> ...the tags here are used to refine the search. Of course, they could also be used to expand the search. I wonder do people have expectations either way here when they see 'tags'?

Interesting... I didn't have an expectation either way; I just assumed they were "related." I'd be curious to see if you could put in some kind of typeface indicator of whether a tag term is simply related (plain text), a refinement (italics) or an expansion (bold), combining some aspects of tags and facets that way.

Jun 29, 2008

We discussed this with the III people when they demoed Encore to us at Imperial - and someone made the same point.

I suppose we need to look at the point of tag clouds - they are a nice way of visualising information, but what functionality should they have?

David Pattern went as far as deciding his tag clouds should just be decorative http://www.daveyp.com/blog/index.php/archives/297/

Jun 30, 2008
Graeme Williams

I think it's pretty clear that people raised on Google expect tags to refine and not expand. And I bet you expect clicking on a year to refine and not to expand (to everything published in that year!).

Although I might quibble about the interface, I think Encore's functionality is just about right for a first generation tag system. You can add tags by clicking on them; then they appear on a list with a delete button. You can delete tags in any order. Tags and catalog fields (like date and language) are treated identically.

The first generation / Google way to expand searches would be either with a query language (like "tag:Army OR tag:Navy") or by including support for tags in Advanced Search. An alternative I like is to open a menu in response to a second click on a tag. For example, this is how Firefox 3 bookmarks a web page (also following in Google's footsteps).

The reason I like it is because your mouse cursor is right there on the tag when you click it for the first time (to add it to the search), so it's easy to click it again for options.

The other obvious deficiency in the Encore interface is that search terms aren't treated the same way as tags. If I search on small hummingbirds, I ought to be able to click to drop small from the search. And if I collect enough tags from the tag cloud, I might also want to drop hummingbirds and do without a search term altogether.

Jun 30, 2008
Lorcan Dempsey

@Owen: 'decorative' may not be quite the right word? The tags may not be linked, but the cloud can be a good representation of an entity, providing some useful to the user?

For example, many of the clouds in Worldcat Identity give a nice snapshot of the person in question, whether or not one clicks on individual tags. See for example ...