Sometimes I get baffled by the internet even more so by websites that only seem to work by knowing the URL of a page in advance. Let me elaborate. About two months ago @rsc_comms and @_thereaction posted about the Jack Lewis Prize Lecture for 2013. In case you want to see the lecture you should follow this link:
Now the lecture was given by the prize winner from 2012 being Professor Sir David King. Can I just state I love the fact you can be a Professor Sir what a great combination of titles. Anyway the lecture was amazing it had some really nice clearly designed slides with some great environmental impact comments. It also ended with a bizarre bit on lighter than air ships. Which again I also loved. Remembering I am a hydrogen freak and well the main reason the Hindenburg disaster appears to have been so bad was down to a leaking valve and good old static electricity. Anyhow I digress.
A few weeks later I wanted to watch the video again so I thought no problem I will go to “The Reaction” website and find it. It was pretty easy finding the website url and once there I thought I would search the site using their search tool for “Lord Lewis prize lecture 2013” job done I figured. No, no it wasn’t as I got one hit and that was for something related but not the same. The hit was interesting it was a page entitled “Conspiracy of Hope” but did not take me to the video page. In fact searching google didn’t either as that instead took me to the RSC website and the only links of merit still did not take me to the lecture page?
At this point I was getting frustrated and after a small ponder realised that I had retweeted the original post. In fact perhaps twitter would be the salvation where the websites and google had failed.
Eureka - it was!
Perhaps then with this precious url in the bag I would give up my search just like you do when you find your keys and they are in the last place you looked for them sort of thing. But no, I was annoyed why couldn’t I just go to The Reaction website and find the video. Perhaps that was it I should look for the video directly. So I did. I went back to the website then followed the “explore chemistry” link and from there to the “video archive” link “arrrgh what a fool I’ve been” I thought to myself but just as I thought it I clicked on the “chemistry centre” link assuming (ass out of u and me style) that I would get a lovely list of videos. But no instead it gives a bit of text and a comment box. But there was another link to follow so I followed it. Arrgh nuts 2011 what? Yes it took me to the 2011 events page. This was neither the newest or the oldest events page it made no sense. Ok on the left was a series of links for each year. I knew the lecture was in 2013 so I clicked there. Another list of pages but no Lord Lewis Prize Lecture.
So after pottering around looking at videos of Daniel Radcliffe and or exploding hydrogen in washing up suds I gave up. With the clear matter of fact statement to myself that unless I already knew the URL of that video there was no other way to find it again. The URL when you read it clearly tells you what it is but whatever indexing system is being used by The Reaction, The RSC or the Chemistry Centre none of which actually document the presentation videos very well at all.
I guess the take home message is that the internet is only as good as the index used to find things in/on it. Which means that search engine you use needs to be good but importantly your website also needs to be good. Is there any point having a search box if it fails to find the results people want or need? Is this a much wider problem? I dare say this website is horrible for finding things but with that said there is really nothing here to find.
In short there is still a need for the bookmark - remember to use it and don’t get too reliant on Google or any search engine I guess. When I was a student I was taught to undertake proper boolean searches of BIDS. Except in my day it was via a CLI or TLI. It pretty much vanished replaced by WOS (web of science) which became WOK (web of knowledge) which too seemed to go the way of the mammoth with SciFinder. What happened to Beilstein Commander for that matter? Nowadays all the kids are using Google and this makes me worry. I know from personal experience that Google no matter how great and good it is alters the search results with “clever algorithms” to personalise my hitset which as I’ve stated before means I just get the same results over and over again. So mix up your search engines, mix up your literature search tools shake up your life and for the love of Bragg (or should that be Miller) make your websites indexable.