Indexing dynamic text?

Subject: Indexing dynamic text?
From: "Geoff Hart" <geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 08:34:49 -0500

I rarely disagree with Mark Baker, and generally learn something
valuable from his posts (particularly when we disagree), so perhaps
I'm about to learn something valuable again. In responding to the
question about indexing a dynamic document (one in which certain
fields or names or other word labels are filled in only when the
document is compiled or customized), Mark commented:

<<You can't index a document until its content is determined. It is
no use indexing the data used to generate the content. Indexing
only makes sense once the document has been generated. You
can do one of 2 things: 1. Don't index. Indexing is just a primitive
means of providing custom navigation of information. Generating
information on the fly is a more sophisticated approach, which, if
done properly, removes the need for indexing. (But, of course, just
substituting terms isn't going to achieve this.)>>

Would I be correct in assuming that you mean "_manual_
indexing" doesn't make sense because of the volume of the work
and the difficulty of indexing something "on demand, in real time"?
If not, I think you've missed the point of indexing: to provide
contextual clues that let readers find information. Concordances
and full-text searches simply can't meet this need yet, and it'll be
some time yet before they can. Although generating information on
the fly is definitely more technologically sophisticated, it's not even
in the same league as the sophistication a skilled human indexer
brings to the job. Moreover, I've yet to see a text parser that has
even an idiot's grasp of context; the only indexes I've ever found
useful were human-generated, not mechanically assembled.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca (Pointe-Claire, Quebec)
"If you can't explain it to an 8-year-old, you don't understand it"--Albert Einstein


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