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The 'Long Tail' of technology information

http://www.techxtra.ac.uk

It's a prerequisite for any successful search service in technology, and technology-related subjects, to have a ‘Long Tail' – by that, in this context, I mean a large inventory of relevant data. This is because the majority of search queries made by technologists, or by others seeking information in technology-related subjects, tend to be very specific. It's in the nature of the subjects, and the information retrieval needs of those involved in these subjects, for granularity to be important.

TechXtra http://www.techxtra.ac.uk/ aggregates content from a large number of different databases containing technology-related content. A search of TechXtra will search across more than 4 million records of various kinds – articles, technical reports, digital theses and dissertations, books, eprints, news items, job announcements, video, learning & teaching resources, key websites, and more – most of which relate to technology subjects. TechXtra therefore has a ‘Long Tail', and its getting longer!

TechXtra aggregates, so that you don't have to. From the one TechXtra search box, you can currently search 29 databases. If you need them, there are easy links to the native interfaces of these 29 databases. Hits from searches are shown by database, so you can scan their content. Sometimes this is useful, and sometimes not (we're working on more options). If you want, you can restrict searches to a particular format (technical reports, or articles, or books, and so on), or two selected databases using the Advanced Search option.

TechXtra recently added three more databases to its cross-search:

In the majority of cases, the full text of items found through TechXtra is freely available. This includes the 8,000 Australian theses mentioned above, nearly half a million articles in computer and information science from CiteSeer, items found via ARROW (Australian Research Repositories Online to the World), thousands of eprints from arXiv in mathematics and computer science, 300 earthquake engineering technical reports from Caltech Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory Technical Reports, many articles from the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), theses and dissertations from NDLTD, resources from around 30 institutional open archives in the United Kingdom, learning resources from the National Engineering Education Delivery System (NEEDS), and more. We'll shortly be adding graphics which will give a visual indication of the likelihood of being able to click-through to the full text.

Sometimes, materials found via TechXtra are not available in full text, or are only available if you, or your institution, subscribes to the service, or via pay-per-view.

In addition to the cross-search, TechXtra provides a number of other useful services, some of which have recently been expanded.

Some more features will shortly be added.

Here's what David Bradley, Science Writer, wrote about TechXtra:
http://www.sciencebase.com/science-blog/grabbing-the-long-tail-of-search-engines.html
Here's what Karen Blakeman wrote about TechXtra:
http://www.rba.co.uk/rss/2006/08/techxtra-now-independent.html

TechXtra is a freely available service, developed at Heriot Watt University in the UK. We receive no external funding for its development, so we rely on word of mouth to spread the word. I hope you may help, and tell your colleagues about TechXtra, or blog about the service, or place a link to it from your websites.

For more information about TechXtra, contact:
Roddy MacLeod
Senior Subject Librarian
Heriot-Watt University Library
Edinburgh
0131 451 3576
r.a.macleod@hw.ac.uk


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