Searching Authoritative Sources First?

from the how-do-you-define-authoritative? dept

It seems like new search engines are being announced every day right now, and most don’t do anything particularly worth commenting on. However, a few seem to be getting attention for doing something different. The latest is a search engine called Kozoru, which says it will be better than Google because it searches authoritative sources first, before searching the rest of the web (if it searches the rest of the web at all — which isn’t entirely clear from the article). Basically, all they’re doing is creating an interface for professionally published sources. This isn’t a new idea at all, and has been discussed many times before — often with the idea that Google would basically offer this themselves. Still, a more interesting point is how do they decide what’s an authoritative source, and what if people disagree? For example, they mention in the article that they “start with a dictionary” as their main source and then quickly follow that up with an encyclopedia. This, of course, immediately raises the question: do they consider Wikipedia to be an “authoritative” source? That’s not to say there isn’t a good idea in having a better way of searching for specific information within certain databases from a single interface. However, the power of the internet is that it lets multiple viewpoints get out there, and lets the end user make the final decision. Being limited to a few chosen sources risks important information being left out. Of course, having no limits risks lots of bogus information being passed along (or simply information overload). So, is one solution better than the other, or are they simply two different, and perhaps complementary, ways of getting information?

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Comments on “Searching Authoritative Sources First?”

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DV Henkel-Wallace says:

ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny

(OK, maybe it doesn’t really, but in the sense here is still true).

Mike asks, “…how do they decide what’s an authoritative source, and what if people disagree?”

Oddly enough, there’s already a model of how to deal with this: have several such indices. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal fight it out, as do The BBC and Fox or The Encyclopaedia Britannica and the slipshod Encarta. What’s the big deal? They all have their own set of sources they deem “authoritative” and you know that if you don’t like it you can switch to a source more of your liking. The model has existed for centuries in the “dead tree world” and the web just makes this easier.

Actually, this suggests a good model: you just take google output and filter (or otherwise bias/rebalance/whatever) it to your own particular ideology or perspective. Sounds like an excellent, free-market model!

Google’s terms of Service prohibit it right now, but there’s no reason for them to prohibit it as long as you pass through their ads (or provide some other revenue stream) and satisfy some sort of trademark requirements.

Imagine: you’re an anti-evolutionist and so you give yourself an internet without it! Cool!

Alex Moskalyuk (user link) says:

Works fine if you consider the Web static

The solution was pretty good for old-media searches like Knight-Ridder, or some information databases the universities and schools subscribed to. Wall Street Journal, NYT and Newsweek are definitely the sources I’d prefer over Bob’s Personal Blog when doing my research.

Every once in a while a new resource comes around, that’s very good and does a good job compiling and storing information. The search engine described would penalize the new resource for being new, and hence majority of referrals on the Web right now come from search engines, you have a chicken-and-egg dilemma whether you make a resource popular enough to be considere authoritative and then get included into the database, or whether you get included first and then get enough traffic and exposure to be considered authoritative.

Penalizing new Web sites would not work, and the first ones to protest would probably be the users. For example, I was buying a Toyota Camry recently. Besides doing research on resources that are considered authoritative (Consumer Reports, Yahoo Autos), I also did blog searching and just found some great blogs and auto-communities with useful information.

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