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March 14, 2005

Edda scissorhands

A wondferful profile by Lynn Barber in Sundays's (UK) Observer features the career of 'The Scissor Sister' or 'human Google' Edda Tasiemka who, after 55 years, is selling her amazing cuttings library and retiring. 'Whizzy management types are fond of telling us that nowadays you can find everything on the internet' writes Barber, 'but actually it is rare to find any newspaper stories over five years old or any magazine articles at all, whereas one quick phone call to an elderly German widow in the suburbs can provide precisely what you need. Almost every profile writer and biographer I know uses Tasiemka, and everyone who uses her raves about her'. Barber's story reminded me of the time I went to a meeting of librarians at MIT a few years ago. Even since Vannevar Bush had proposed his ideas about 'memex' in 1945, old-style librarians had been told repeatedly that they faced extinction. And yet, in 2000, with the internet in full swing, they discovered that their human-only information retrieval and recombination skills had become more valuable than ever. It's a lesson we will discuss at Doors in the session on how best to share design knowledge.

Posted by John Thackara at March 14, 2005 09:17 AM


This post just reminded me of something. About two decades ago one relished detective stories for children written by the late Satyajit Ray (yes, he was a prolIfic writer of stories for children as well!,especially ones which had the celebrated character of "Feluda" as the Private Investigator. This P.I. would often seek the guidance in form of information search from newspaper archives of another fictional character called "Sidhu-Jyatha". Sidhu was purported to be a walking encyclopaedia of information, who in light of his age would have to, at times and very grudgingly, would need to refer to his library of archived newspaper clippings.
Edda's predicament just reminded me of that curious "Sidhu-Jyatha". And of the fact that how fiction predates facts (or is a very close premonition of it!)

Posted by: Shounak at March 16, 2005 07:31 PM

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