The Indexer

My own publications on indexing

The myth of the reusable index

The Indexer, 24(4), 213-217 (October 2005)

Summary: Index reusability is one of the claims made for embedded indexing but the technique itself provides evidence that no human index can ever be divorced from its source document

Based on a talk given to the SI Conference, University of Exeter, 8-11 July 2005, this paper examines the extent to which the promise of embedded indexing has been fulfilled in practice, what this tells us about the essential nature of the indexing process and prospects for its automation and some broader implications for the profession and for publishing.

The full text is accessible free of charge here.

Web 2.0 and users' expectations of indexes

The Indexer, 26(1), 18-24 (March 2008)

Summary: Web 2.0 involves little new technology but it is a significant development, signalling a move from Internet users as content consumers to users as content creators. In seeking to organize their material, these users are developing their own information retrieval techniques, far removed from traditional analytical indexing. Having already been persuaded to accept incomplete retrieval and high noise as the price of fast keyword searching, they seem ready to believe indexing might best be done by a consensus of untrained users. It seems likely that traditional indexing skills will become increasingly marginalized even though there are sound social reasons for trying to preserve them.

Based on a talk given to the SI 50th Anniversary Conference, University of Roehampton, 13-16 July 2007, which examined the changing influence of the Internet on information-seeking behaviour and in particular how, after a decade's exposure to search engines had already lowered their expectations, techniques like collaborative tagging have confused index users.

It recommended a more assertive promotion of the advantages of human indexing over full-text searching, coupled with a re-examination of assumptions indexers may have inherited from a time when books were the unchallenged medium of individual instruction.

The full text is accessible to Indexer subscribers via Ingenta here.

Indexing by numbers: Is there scope for metrics in index evaluation?

The Indexer, 26(4), 158-162 (December 2008)

Summary: Many of us believe we can detect clear structural differences between a good analytical index and the first attempt of an untrained indexer, but are these reflected in any measurable quantities? In other words, can we derive parameters suitable for reliable index assessment? If so, they have proved frustratingly (or perhaps reassuringly) difficult to isolate. Readers are warned that this article comes to no useful conclusions and has no practcal utility whatsoever, unless it provokes some reader to a more probing and productive analysis.

The full text is accessible to Indexer subscribers via Ingenta here.

Popular articles on indexing

In addition to one-off presentations and occasional articles, I contributed a regular one-page column on indexing to the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators' Communicator magazine for ten issues from Spring 2006 to Autumn 2008. These are available on the Society of Indexers' site under the heading Indexing user manuals.