Friday, January 8, 2010

Is your source in Google Books under a wrong name?

Those with better sound quality than mine will want to listen to a YouTube snippet embedded in David Walsh's report from the American Historical Association conference in San Diego. In it, Prof. Paul Duguid of UC Berkeley's School of Information criticizes GoogleBooks for mishandling "metadata," or in plain language, getting book titles, authors, and dates wrong. (Commenters please add or correct if I have missed anything pertinent due to poor audio.)

There are big-picture policy reasons to be worried about this (primarily that Google may already have squeezed out any significant competition, and their scanning may be the definitive one), but from the practicing genealogist's worm's-eye view, the moral is to treat the Google One just like any other source: prone to error. Look for variants, mistakes, and alternative ways of searching.

No comments: