Quite some time ago I had read an interesting article about Singingfish, a beta multimedia search engine. That article (no idea where it was, so no link for you) was mostly concentrating on how Singingfish could be used to search NPR content, a neat idea, especially for one who so rarely gets to listen to NPR live anymore. At that time there was no public Singingfish site to play with :-(
So today brings a whole slew of articles about Singingfish and other multimedia search initiatives, including one from your friend and mine, Google. First up in my aggregator was an article from News.com, Striking up digital video search. This one talks about initiatives by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to index different (mostly video) types of media, both stuff that's on the web and stuff that's currently only on your TV. Somewhat abstract, and normally wouldn't be relevant enough to mention here.
But then a little further down in my aggregator were two articles from SearchEngineWatch, New Singingfish Beta Web Site Online, and More "Fishing" and Multimedia Search. Too much coincidence, so I had to go try them out to see how they could be relevant to distance students.
Right off the bat I'll say Singingfish (sf) seems much more relevant for academic content than does GoFish (gf). Also a lot more advanced, with personalization options, and many more limits available. Plugging a generic search for "libraries" into sf yields 1050 hits, while gf brings back zero. "Distance education" in sf results in 227 hits with quotes and 415 without, while gf gives us zero (but only if you use quotes - otherwise you'll get lots of default "or" results. There were actually quite a few full class lectures available at the top of those results.
But these aren't the types of searches a distance student looking for content would use, so then I started getting a lot more specific. Distance education and library gives us five hits in sf and (can you guess?) none in gf (though I had no idea Green Day had a song called "At the Library"). Of those five sf hits, three are relevant, with one 28 minute facilitator training video with Rob Morrison, DE Librarian at Utah State as a guest, an 8-minute press release video from UIUC, and a 22 minute intro to distance library services at the U of Louisville. So I've got a pretty good idea that I'm only going to get any remotely relevant hits from sf.
So then I did some searches on specific database names, and actually got a few generic tutorials. And this is where my long and rambling post leads. Once these search engines are a little more mature, we should be able to incorporate them into any library pages that include multimedia content (tutorials, tours, orientations, podcasts, etc) and make it easier for the students to find the multimedia content that will answer their specific information need. They've got a long way to go still, but I'm guessing by this time next year they'll be ready for prime time. I wonder if we'll have any content worth indexing? The first problem I see for my content is that it's rendered in Flash, and it doesn't appear that Singingfish indexes Flash. :-(