Transparency and Search


I had a brief conversation with Kim Clark of US News & World Report yesterday, and now this fantastic demonstration of Apture’s multimedia platform has got me thinking.

The video is about 3.5 minutes long, and details the way in which Apture “gives content creators the power to find and incorporate relevant multimedia items directly into their pages. Readers can then access these items without ever leaving the page, providing them with a deeper and more meaningful web experience.”

This first example is about bringing more transparency to government, a goal I can wholeheartedly support.

But since what I was talking with Kim about is what we college counselors REALLY want in a college search engine, of course my next thought was about transparency and the college search.

Transparency is an important part of what I want in a search experience. If I’m looking for a school, I don’t want to be tied to someone else’s (often hidden) algorithm; I want to build my own. Rather than adhere to another’s idea of what constitutes “highly selective,” I’d like the opportunity to define for myself what kinds of numbers go into that equation. Rather than accept the College Board’s definition of “mid-sized,” I’d like a chance to define my own range of number of undergraduates.

Maybe not every time. Sometimes pre-defined criteria can be a handy shortcut. But I’d like the option to do some fiddling around the edges.

So. Point and shoot? You bet. But also, manual controls, please. As many as you can serve up. Including things like average amount of student indebtedness upon graduation, first-to-second-year retention rate, NSSE data, and other factors that sometimes don’t make it into the college brochures.

How about you? If you were designing a college search engine from scratch, what would you want?

(Hat tip to Lawrence Lessig,
who featured this Apture video on his blog recently,
and who will be moving back East soon!)

Posted on December 12, 2008, in big picture, college search. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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