will xml and information retrieval make society transparent
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Will XML and Information Retrieval Make Society Transparent?

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Will XML and Information Retrieval Make Society Transparent?. Gregory B. Newby School of Information and Library Science University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill http://ils.unc.edu/gbnewby. Basic Premise.

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will xml and information retrieval make society transparent

Will XML and Information Retrieval Make Society Transparent?

Gregory B. NewbySchool of Information and Library ScienceUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


basic premise
Basic Premise
  • Information retrieval will be facilitated by XML because of the additional structure that XML adds.
  • This will result in better IR abilities compared to plain text or HTML
ir is not database retrieval
IR is Not Database Retrieval







Structured data

Natural Language

(Semi-) Structured

Or unstructured

information retrieval in one slide
Information Retrieval in One Slide
  • IR is about matching information to info. needs
    • Information may be contained in documents, extracts, document surrogates, or newly-created documents
    • Information needs may be poorly defined, changeable, and context-specific
  • We evaluate IR systems by the numbers of relevant documents they identify
    • Recall: proportion of all relevant documents that are retrieved
    • Precision: proportion of documents that are retrieved that are judged as relevant
why ir sucks
Why IR Sucks
  • Human language is ambiguous
    • Polysemy: The same word can mean different things
    • Synonymy: Different words can mean the same thing
  • The topic or aboutness of a document is hard to assess
  • Queries are short and ambiguous
  • Information needs are moving and vague targets
things that help ir
Things that help IR
  • Structure: matching based on known types of content (e.g., a list vs. discourse)
  • Relationships: Knowing how groups of documents are related
  • Metadata: terms or phrases that are of assuredly high importance
  • User knowledge: context, user models, history…
transparency through information access utopic view
Transparency through Information Access (utopic view)
  • What if organizations (government, corporations, etc.) are less able to hide their actions?
  • What if individuals’ information is readily accessible to all?
  • What if nearly all information that is generated is available to all seekers?
inequity through information access dystopic view
Inequity through Information Access (dystopic view)
  • Organizations share their data only when and with whom they choose
  • Individuals’ information is hoarded by businesses, government and the people themselves
  • Information is available on a fee- and authority basis
xml can t make societal decisions
XML can’t make societal decisions…
  • But XML brings about the opportunity for such decisions to be made
    • If information is readily available to all, XML will help make it more searchable
    • If information is only available to the privileged, XML will make them more powerful
xml uncertainties
XML Uncertainties
  • Will XML be used for markup? Or only at the back end?
  • Will standards such as Z39.50 or EDI make it easier for sharing XML data? Or will translation & mapping be difficult?
  • What sort of variety will exist in DTDs? How difficult will it be for IR and database systems to map between DTDs?
xml stakeholders big organizations
XML stakeholders: Big organizations
  • Organizations with lots of internal data
    • (The IRS; Time-Warner; others big & small)
  • These organizations will benefit from XML + IR by being able to match database-type items with IR-type information needs.
    • E.g., “for people who purchase these products, what email and chat messages have they exchanged”
xml stakeholders organizations who share
XML stakeholders: Organizations who share
  • Organizations who broker, repackage or resell information will benefit from XML + IR
    • (Credit bureaus, investigative services…)
  • XML will make it easier to submit IR queries against multiple datasets and merge the results
    • E.g.,”See what this person’s public Web pages say before deciding whether to hire him or her.”
xml stakeholders individuals
XML stakeholders: Individuals
  • Ultimately, lots of the most valuable information is by or about individuals
    • (Lifestyle, health, purchasing, travel…)
  • IR systems that understand us better will be able to serve us better
    • E.g., “recommend a book based on my past reading, movies and available time to read.”
what we know revisited
What we know, revisited
  • IR sucks, but is better to the extent that language is unambiguated and structure is present
  • People have information needs, but have trouble expressing those needs
  • Documents can address some needs, but often real-world information needs are better met by assembling answers from diverse sources
what we don t know revisited
What we don’t know, revisited
  • XML: In the background or the foreground?
  • How will organizations share XML data (will they?)
  • What external forces might make data in all forms more accessible across organizations and to individuals?
xml ir
  • Despite problems, IR has continued to make good progress
  • Despite problems, XML appears to be making a strong contribution to storing, organizing and presenting data of all types
  • With IR, XML will be more searchable for a variety of purposes
  • With XML, IR will gain better precision and ability to serve the needs of individuals and organizations