As a graduate student back in the 1970s, the Health Science Library at the Ohio State University offered a service they called SDI, or Selective Dissemination of Information. Registration of the words or phrases you were looking for earned a stack of cards on a regular basis, each identifying a journal article corresponding to one of your search terms. Nice for scanning, nice for filing. It was pretty hot stuff at the time, a huge time saver compared with laborious thumbing of the latest Current Contents which was likely to have already been through a lot of hands before it got to you. The subscription (I almost wrote prescription!) was pretty pricey and it was the rare graduate student so profligate as to have his or her own.
One perused these cards with an admixture of gratitude, fear and guilt... So much easier, but is everything there? Shouldn't I spend Friday nights chained to Index Medicus to be sure? Well, all that is in the past now... or is it? Of course not. I signed up for Google Alerts some months ago to try to catch stuff I miss on various topics, and to further assure that no part of my life is left untouched by Google. Seems to work reasonably well for things like news, but once again, the opacity of the operational model leaves one feeling uneasy. This unease is amplified when one gets, as I did today, retrievals for one's vanity search (yes yes, I confess) of email posted to a listserv from two years ago.
Its not that I've been waiting for this one to show up, but why now, months after initiating the search? The Web is perhaps bigger than we fully appreciate.
Yangon Taxi Stand, September 2007