Feeds

Google crowdsources card index for 'humanity's last library'

Garbage in, garbage out

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Google has responded to criticism of the quality of its books metadata - by inviting anyone to write anything they want. Before you read on, remember that Google Books could become the world's digital library by default - it's been called "the last library" - since nobody is likely to do the scanning ever again.

However, for researchers and scholars, a collection is only as good as its metadata - and the quality of the metadata at Google Books falls far short of any library in history. Last year Stanford linguist and columnist Geoffrey Nunberg writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education described the errors as "disastrous".

Nunberg found that potentially hundreds of thousands of books were misdated, with titles credited to authors before they were born. Google Books showed books from Victorian era discussing Jimi Hendrix, or the microprocessor, for example.

Freud had strong views on web browsers

Attribution errors commonly miscredited authors, with Madame Bovary credited to Henry James. And bizarre classification errors abound. A Mae West biography was filed under Religion, for example. Jane Eyre showed up under Love Stories, Architecture, and Antiques and Collectables. And on top of this mass of errors, was a superstructure of erroneous links. Google's "related books" rarely point to anything related.

In short, if this is humanity's last ever library, humanity's last ever scholars won't get very far with their research.

"Our reputation precedes us" - The Victorians discuss Jimi Hendrix

(We've also highlighted problems due to lack of care and attention at Google Books here.)

When Salon revisited Google Books earlier this month, things hadn't improved. And worse, the answer to 'garbage out' is 'more garbage in' - crowdsourcing.

A Google engineer called "SofiaF" now invites us to nominate books that are out of print. They're only suggestions, but given that none of us are as dumb as all of us, can we expect the quality of the metadata to improve? As with classification, knowing the copyright status of a work requires expertise, particularly the intricacies of territorial copyright. It's not something a helpful amateur with time on their hands can usefully do.

For Nunberg, Google's haste to complete the project is the problem - it prefers to get it finished, for competitive reasons, rather than devote expert resources to getting it right.

"People at Google are also saying, 'Let's crowdsource this,' but that is a stupid idea. You and I are both smart, knowledgeable people, but I wouldn't trust either of us to do the skilled work of cataloging a 1890 edition of Madame Bovary," Nunberg told Salon.

He suggests that Google devote more expert resources to the problem - which is expensive - and that librarians, who have up until now trusted Google Books to get it right, become more feisty and pro-active. ®

Related link

Google Book errors, illustrated [PDF, 1.6MB]

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.