It is an honour to have been appointed as Editor of Informer in succession to Udo Kruschwitz. The first time I saw a real-time computer-based search service was at 10am on 23 February 1976. If you are wondering how I can be that precise over forty years later the secret is that at the time I was Editor of Inform, the newsletter of the Institute of Information Scientists. I was attending the launch of the European Space Agency’s RECON service. This gave access to databases of scientific secondary journals (abstracts) such as those from Inspec (now the IET) and Chemical Abstracts. The RECON service was set up in 1969 but searches were carried out off-line for customers, who then received a print out of the results in the post 10 days later. That all changed in 1976 and I’ve been involved in search one way or another ever since.
Now search is ubiquitous but although much of the underlying mathematics (TF.IDF, BM25 et al) is well established managing search applications remains challenging. I have the benefit of seeing search from two perspectives. One of these is the ‘information retrieval’ perspective as a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield, an honour dating back to 2002. The other is as an ‘enterprise search’ consultant, which has been a major part of my work since setting up Intranet Focus in 1999. Since 2008 most of my engagements have been in enterprise search strategy and management.
My objective for Informer is that it will provide a balance of content on both IR and enterprise search. Academic readers will, I hope, find much of interest in enterprise search (and that included e-commerce, large scale corporate web sites and search-based applications). Practitioners should be aware of developments in IR research as they may well end up in commercial and open source applications in the near future.
As in the past Informer will publish conference reports and alerts about forthcoming events. There will be feature articles and comments on recent developments. I am inaugurating a series of profiles on IR research groups, initially in the UK but with occasional forays into Europe. There are a very large number of these centres of excellence so it is one way to have potential content lined up for at least the next five years. There will of course be book reviews, though search-specific books are not common.
Editors always like to plan ahead but they also like to be surprised. If you have something you would like to contribute, or a suggestion to make about content you would like to read, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good newsletters, like good search applications, need to be user-driven.