Re: Index vs. Search

Subject: Re: Index vs. Search
From: Joanne Sprott <afterwords -at- aweditorial -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 10:13:54 -0500

Al Geist wrote:
> I agree, given a typical help file or electronic documentation, full
> text searching (FTS) is the only tool of value. Indexes these days, and
> even hyperlinked indexed, are mostly there for appearances, and are not
> developed systematically or thoroughly. If they were well developed,
> that would be a different fantasy, but as things exist today,
> fuggedaboutit, most of them are too mickey mouse to be useful.
A professional indexer chimes in:

Actually, Al, the index is, as some others have mentioned, a very
valuable tool for folks looking for items using other than whatever the
"inside" vocabulary is. Good search engines handle synonyms, too,
although as someone else noted, that can get cumbersome if one goes too
far with it. But the index also has to use just the cross-references
that are useful (and cross-refs are not always even possible in Help
indexes), and not just get carried away with it. And the index has the
advantage of being developed by humans who choose only significant
mentions of topics so one doesn't have to deal with all those unrelated
hits that the mechanical search engine can come up with (although search
is getting better at this with relevancy sorting, etc.)

And you're quite right about most tech doc indexes being extremely
substandard, which makes them useless. I've been redoing some of these
indexes, both for server software and cell phones, and it seems as if
two things are weighing against quality indexing: time and training. In
addition, embedded index tagging is very cumbersome thanks to a number
of software limitations. Most tech writers (and me when I do them) have
a very limited amount of time near deadline for software or hardware
release to produce the index. I have some tools that make that go
faster, but I still need an extra two or three days to do a thorough index.

What users really benefit from, I think, is more than one way to access
the same information. Like someone else said, some folks like to run
through a hierarchy like Yahoo's, and some folks need specific
information for problem solving. A good index provides both kinds of
terms, and a good search engine provides surgical access for those who
don't want to scan a list.

But without taking just a little time for good indexing, we only have
the search engine, which is not an adequate substitute.


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Re: Index vs. Search: From: Fred Ridder
Re: Index vs. Search: From: jmccrooks
RE: Index vs. Search: From: Al Geist
Re: Index vs. Search: From: Ned Bedinger

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