I have used the phrase search engine interoperability in these pages a couple of times. This is a play on search engine optimization, which some do not like (although I think we should not avoid using a standard industry term). We value interoperability in libraries, and I think that a large part of SEO is, effectively, interoperability with search engines, where, to repeat myself, interoperability means managing resources in ways which promote effective crawling, indexing and ranking by search engines.

In this context, I was very interested to read Andy Powell's critique of 'web usability' in an institutional repository. He looks at how a particular document is presented and how that 'plays' with search engines in a web environment. Andy suggests that his experience here is probably broadly representative of this class of service, something I am not in a position to judge. He examines a range of features and concludes in this way ...

OK, I apologise... I've lapsed into sarcasm for effect. But the fact remains that repository jump-off pages are potentially some of the most important Web pages exposed by universities (this is core research business after all) yet they are nearly always some of the worst examples of HTML to be found on the academic Web. I can draw no other conclusion than that the Web is seen as tangential in this space. [eFoundations: Repository usability]

Update: Andy has a followup entry looking at a document in another institutional repository, using a different technical platform.

Update 2: There is an interesting stream of comments on Andy's first post.

Comments: 3

Feb 11, 2009
Herbert Van de Sompel

I hate to see Andy in such repository pain. So, I took a stab at a possible solution that builds on existing technologies, including OAI-ORE and even OAI-PMH! Since the description is a bit too long to embed, I put it up here

Feb 11, 2009
Scott Leslie

I'm a bit torn here - I resist this new term, "Search Engine Interoperability," because, well, I think I just naturally resist the introduction of new terms, especially when the existing one is accurate. But as someone who has been in the repository game far too long, I will admit to thinking 'SEO' was a dirty word until about 24 months ago when I finally realized (I'm a slow learner) that far from being a dirty word, it was probably a better description of my job than almost any other.

Will calling it something new remove the stigma and get more people focused on its relevance? I don't know. But it's clear at the very least that if the key method people use to find you isn't part of your design considerations, there's a good chance you'll not be found. And this acknowledgement, that our enclaves need to be part of the widest ecosystem possible, seems slow in dawning.

Feb 11, 2009
Lorcan Dempsey

Scott - I agree. I much prefer SEO. I am using SEI slightly tongue in cheek.

My perspective here reflects participation in a JISC advisory committee where repository and metadata interoperability has been much discussed. I am struck by how 'interoperability' is seen almost as an end in itself. However, interaction between repositories and Google is probably as important or more important than interaction between repositories themselves.

My thinking here was that if you cast the discussion in terms of interoperability, a sacred cow, that it might get more attention.