Thursday, June 08, 2006

Windows Live Academic Search

Microsoft launched Windows Live Academic Search (what I call Live Academic for short), a competitor for Google Scholar, a couple of months age (Apr 11, 2006 to be precise). According to their FAQ, they are harvesting material from open archives (like arXiv) using OAI-PMH. This is a different strategy than Google’s; Google is mainly indexing papers found on the Web.A rather detailed article by Barbara Quint about Live Academic which discusses how Microsoft learned from Google’s experiences and how Google is not feeling threatened by this newest entry in the search webosphere. Quint was impressed by the “very polished look” of Live Academic. I gave it a try, and here’s what I have to say about it:

Things I liked:
  • Display of the abstract and other metadata for the article on the right side of the screen.

  • The ability to click on an author’s name to search for other works by that author.

  • Support for BibTeX and EndNote.

  • The ability to sort by author, date, journal, and conference.

Things I did not like:
  • The attempt to produce a “snazzy” interface (using Ajax) which has a scroll bar that jumps around from time to time with no apparent explanation. Also if I used IE, it was almost impossible to highlight and copy text. Surprisingly Firefox on Windows had no such problem.

  • No advanced search. You can’t limit the search results to just computer science or search by author, journal, title, etc.

  • When using IA, the Back button on the browser frequently does not return to the previous page. Firefox on Windows sometimes also exhibited this behavior.

  • Intermittent problems with searching. For example, searching for "mod_oai" results in nothing being found. But it I search for “apache module for metadata harvesting” the paper with “mod_oai” appears in the title. But if I search for “apache module for”. (Correction: these problems appear to have been fixed overnight.)

  • Searching for authors with a middle initial can be problematic. A search for "michael l. nelson" (with quotes) seems to accurately locate many of Michael's publications. But if you click on "Michael L. Nelson" in one of the results, a search is made for authors matching "Nelson, M" which produces many false-positives.

  • I could not find a single one of my publications even though several of them are in arXiv. (Correction: this morning several of them now appear to have been indexed including my thesis.)

Overall I'd say stick to Google Scholar for now. But as Microsoft appears to be making some major improvements (literally overnight), my list of “didn’t likes” are bound to get much shorter.