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I was fortunate enough to see another preview of the coming ProQuest Dialog platform, which will eventually completely replace all Dialog and Datastar platforms. This is fantastic news for me, as I’ve long wished I could dig through the extremely valuable and massive collection on Dialog without actually having to search Dialog.
First, a word on why we care about Dialog – their collection once made up a significant portion of the world’s scientific and technical information stored electronically. Scroll through the Dialog Bluesheets to get an idea of the legacy abstracting and indexing files that were once the major go-to source for online searching. This data is still valuable, and I think that all searchers deserve a chance to access it quickly, easily, and without specialized training. With the current suite of Dialog platforms, that just isn’t possible. Read on to find out how ProQuest Dialog will open this world of content to more information professionals.
The great news about ProQuest Dialog is that it is a modern, up-to-date web-based platform with all the conveniences we’ve come to expect in a search interface: adequate search forms, auto-suggest features, thesaurus lookup functions, faceted results set navigation, and export capabilities. But the really, truly excellent news is that Dialog has finally gotten rid of their antiquated pricing system, which charged users for database connect time as though we had just dialed-in through a modem. This pricing scheme is a major reason why Dialog was losing a new generation of end-users; it’s byzantine, hard to predict, and simply terrifying – try planning your next search strategy while money is wasting as the clock ticks. A generation of expert super-searchers had mastered the art of cost efficiency on Dialog, but today’s environment demands search tools that can accommodate the end-user: the bench scientist, the attorney, the first-time user, the 20-year-old who has only ever searched Google.
The people at Dialog know all this very well, but they were stuck with the infrastructure they had until ProQuest acquired the company and decided to invest in updating the service. From everything I’ve seen, they’ve come up with a nice search interface that should be a pleasure to use. Some welcome new features of the system include:
- Preview results before you pay. This is a big advantage. ProQuest Dialog will still charge users per record they display. However, with this feature, users can mouse over a “Preview” option to read the title and abstract of a record before deciding whether to pay for it.
- Refine search results using faceted navigation. Now a staple in web-based search products, faceted navigation is a panel that shows you a breakdown of results by year, author, subject etc. and allows you to refine your results by including or excluding these terms.
- Thesaurus lookup feature. This feature is still in development, but it will give users the ability to explore special indexing without having to use the dreaded “expand” command.
- On-the-fly translations. Users can instantly generate a machine translation for the viewed record.
- Links to third party publishers. Records that are not full text will display a link to a vendor where the full text can be obtained, when possible.
- Saving results. Users will have access to a nice folder system for storing saved results. This part of the system strongly resembles RefWorks, another ProQuest product.
- Exporting results. A wide variety of export features will replace the old fashioned Dialog display-and-print text output, including compatibility with programs such as RefWorks and BizInt. File formats such as XML and RIS files are supported, and CSV/XLS spreadsheet formats will become available when Intellectual Property content is loaded onto the platform.
- Pricing structure changes. Pricing will no longer include connect time charges, which is a definite positive; however, a display cost for each record viewed will still apply, and will still be based on the fee structure of each individual file. Flat fee access can still be purchased on a per-file basis.
Dialog content is currently being migrated over into the ProQuest Dialog platform in three parts. First, the scientific, technical, and medical content will be transferred, then intellectual property files, and finally business and news. The full migration will be complete by the end of 2011, and this is when we should see the complete, fully formed version of the ProQuest Dialog product as well. The company’s goal is to move every current Dialog user over to the new platform – all other platforms will completely disappear, but Dialog promises that this won’t happen until every customer has been migrated satisfactorily.
As a bonus, I’m also hoping to see some valuable full text content from ProQuest make itself available in this product as well. I’ll be watching future developments with great interest. What features are you hoping to see in this new platform?
This post was contributed by Landon IP Librarian Kristin Whitman. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company, Landon IP, a major provider of patent search, technical translation, and information services.