Thursday, April 3, 2008

stop word

Governmental use of misleading language to obfuscate the available information isn't really news any more, I suppose. Still, this breaks my heart. When a search for "abortion" in a government-funded database devoted to information about reproductive health returns no results, something is wrong. And my problem here is not just the moral one, though that's, needless to say, large. It's also a problem of efficiency and design. They haven't removed the information, presumably in order to avoid being accused of censorship. But they have made it much, much harder to find.

Sure, you can search for "unwanted pregnancy" or, (as the representative from the database suggests) "Fertility Control, Postconception," but these are not the terms people use. A good search engine is responsive to both vernacular and specialized terms, providing results that allow the user to learn the more specialized terms as their research progresses. Now, to use POPLINE, you have to know in advance.

Turning to their handy "Keyword Guide" won't help you either, because Abortion, Abortion Law, and Abortion Rate are all still misleadingly listed as keywords.

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