Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Some Issues Answered: West Explains and Raises questions....

3 Geeks and a Law Blog: WestlawNext - Some Issues Answered published an email that Anne Ellis, Senior Director, Librarian Relations, at West, distributed to many AALL listservs this week.

Just beneath the surface of all the hub-bub surrounding the roll-out of WestlawNext (WLN), is an unanswered question regarding the structure and nature of the new search engine. West doesn't seem to be very forthcoming about what it is other than to say that it is more than just a new interface on the same old product. It is, apparently more that simply new window dressing on WIN. It is also more than simply taking searches, analyzing them and then searching through West's vast universe of secondary materials. There is an aspect of the searching process (dare we call it "algorithm"?), apparently, where the users themselves actually contribute to the ranking/value of specific documents in Westlaw's database, be they primary or secondary law.

Indeed. This is essentially how Google has built it's search engine hegemony. Essentially, users "vote" for results with their clicks. (Of course Google makes money by selling votes to businesses that want to be top of any search list. The ramifications for law makes one think of a Grisham novel....) Is this really what WLN is all about? Is crowd-sourcing the law really good for the law? For researchers?

I wonder.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I'm wondering what it'll do to the titles that are behind the separate databases, especially in terms of production and publishing. Sure, we'll get some because they've hooked us into the LMA, but if they're searching all the databases at once in a federated search, eventually what's the purpose of keeping them separate and distinct and associated with a title? Perhaps I'm thinking too much into that, but it looks to me as if this could a way to drive certain titles out of publication.