Google Books' Biggest Screw-Up Danger??

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Sep 10 21:12:06 UTC 2007

Townsend's indictment does not go quite far enough, as the very first response concerning "snippet views" makes clear.  My experience too has been that, about half the time, the "snippet view" doesn't include the data sought. (Sometimes you can see by the yellow highlighting that the data - or maybe something similar - appears to exist just beyond range of the snippet. What more do you want?

  Nor did Townsend encounter the latest gaffe, stupidly conflating two entirely different books.

  English lacks sufficient swear-words to describe the following response to Townsend, from an apologist who may or may not be Google-connected.  I have seen this sunny attitude many times from the computer-gaga community:

  "We can’t take the traditional academic approach to this project – otherwise, it would simply never get done. I’m on a National Archives committee grappling with these very issues – how do we keep track, organize, and access all of our information? We create so much more everyday [sic] and _it will take all of us working together to make whatever product that becomes available the best that it can be_."  [My emphasis.]

  Correct me if I err, so deep a cynic have I become, but this seems to mean, "Don't whine, Mr. or Ms. Luddite! You know we compufolk just don't have *time* to get it right! Or even be real careful! You sillies!"

  Get ready to swallow "whatever product becomes available" knowing it'll be the BEST it can be (i.e., without thoroughly overhauling the way they've been doing things).


Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Benjamin Zimmer
Subject: Re: Google Books' Biggest Screw-Up Danger??

On 9/10/07, David A. Daniel wrote:
> I have a brother-in-law (who is nonetheless a very good guy) who is pretty
> well placed at Google in Mountain View. Though I have not used the book
> search utility much myself, I have told him about ADS being in general
> uproar and dismay over its failings and discussed possible courses of
> action. He thinks he can perhaps start things rolling to get it
> fixed/improved. If y'all would be interested in my following up on this I
> will be happy to do so. What I need to do is put together a case, or
> argument, that is very specific and convincing with examples and suggestions
> and so forth from all you folks about exactly what is wrong with it and what
> needs fixing/how to fix it. I will send this to my B-I-L and he will see
> that it gets to the right people in Google. Idea would then be to start a
> continuing dialog with them as they go forward with the Books project.

This piece by historian Robert Townsend sums up the objections succinctly:

--Ben Zimmer

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