Information Retrievability

Last year, I wrote a post about Leif Azzopardi and Vishwa Vinay‘s work on information accessibility:

Instead of an actual physical space, in IR, we are predominately concerned with accessing information within a collection of documents (i.e., information space), and instead of a transportation system, we have an Information Access System (i.e., a means by which we can access the information in the collection, like a query mechanism, a browsing mechanism, etc). The accessibility of a document is indicative of the likelihood or opportunity of it being retrieved by the user in this information space given such a mechanism.

After reading a pre-print of my HCIR 2009 position paper about the information availability problem, Vinay pointed me at follow-up work he’d done with Leif on information retrievability. I agree with his observation that, while I look at information availability from a user-centric perspective; they consider retrievability from  a document- or system-centric perspective. The approaches are complementary, and both add to a growing body of work that advocates a holistic model of how users access information, rather than a narrow focus on reductionist measures like precision and recall at the level of individual queries.

To be clear, those reductionist measures still have their place. In fact, I’m looking forward to NIST‘s Ellen Voorhees defending Cranfield next month to an HCIR crowd that is, for the most part, deeply suspicious of it.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

5 replies on “Information Retrievability”

I really enjoyed that Azzopardi and Vinay paper — I was there at their CIKM 2008 presentation. It kinda crystallized a lot of the thoughts I’d been having about how all of these things tie together: task, evaluation, stepwise function learning, etc. It needs to be holistic, I agree.

At the risk of blatant self-promotion, I had a few thoughts about it earlier this year, outlined in three related posts:

There is certainly a lot more to talk about in this space, but again, I loved the Azzopardi and Vinay paper; I think it can be a catalyst to a lot more interest work on this topic.


Jeremy, you know my policy about self-promotion–the penalty is very strict. You are required to write a guest post! 🙂

And, speaking of Peter Morville, look out for his upcoming book on Search Patterns. I’m one of the reviewers, and I’ve been enjoying reading the current draft.


An enlightning paper.

@ jeremy
Re-read your posts and they make a lot more sense this time around.

Wrt, open government sites, it is interesting to postulate the scenario where a user employs the result(s) from a search which lead to a personal or business loss only to find out later (somehow) that the search engine query didn’t return one or more documents which wouldn’t have led to the loss. Where does the accountability lie – with the user, the search engine, the government?


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