Free-Space-Explosion-Background-PSDI was reading some old photocopies I had taken of “Online Information Retrieval’ by John Convey recently (part of my attempt to read through my stash of papers and recycle the ones that don’t matter). This was published in 1992 so pre-www. Gosh, how things have changed! In these chapters, the cost of searching was discussed (some databases charged over $120 per hr) and the choice of whether to print records online (something like 60p per record) and whether you’d want to have the database print the records and then post them to you. You would then need to retype all the records to remove all the extra stuff that was attached to it (and also prettify it up for the client – no giving them the computer paper you got in the mail). I remember learning how to access databases via gopher and ftp when an undergrad.

But this is titled Explosion because I think from reading these chapters, I found the reason why this feature is called Explode. Remember the old computer screens – those black ones with the green font and no graphics what-so-ever? The screens were so small you had be very economical with what you called the database features on the menu. Many of these feature names have translated to the new www enabled database interfaces – including Explode. But I have to explain what this feature does countless times (do you?) and to my mind, it isn’t immediately explicable. The people we train are not dumb and can understand the most complex of concepts. But this word often throws people off. What does it mean? Why isn’t there are better word or phrase to indicate function? There is enough space on the interface surely? What word or phrase would be a better fit? Does it need to change?


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