Trip Database Blog

Liberating the literature


August 2007

When Search Engines Become Answer Engines

I came across this interesting article When Search Engines Become Answer Engines which highlights the move by users of “dipping a toe into websites rather than truly “visiting” them. Using search engines as their Web interface, people simply grab query-related nuggets from sites, but don’t engage with the sites themselves.

It later reports:

For search engines, becoming the user interface to the Web’s embarrassment of riches is good news. It’s also good news for users, who can find answers by visiting a few search hits rather than enduring the obscure design and poor navigation found on many sites.

It also states that using the count of unique users to a site is fairly pointless as most people will probably sampling a small part of the site to see if they get an answer, rather than engaging with the site. Loyal users are a much more useful metric.

I rather like this article, I think because it points to a rosy future for TRIP. We are increasingly engaged with trying to serve answers to users. This stems from having good content served well to users, introducing innovations such as conclusion previews (meaning users can get answers from our site) and the fact that we have a large, loyal following – over 70% of our users either bookmark us or directly type in our URL.

The article then links out to another report using eyetracking technology.

Flying and TB

We’ve just answered the question “When is the earliest a patient safe to fly following a diagnosis of tuberculosis?” (click here to view answer). Having just come back – via a plane – from holiday it hadn’t entered my mind the recirculation of ‘germs’. Fortunately, in the case of TB, the chances of catching TB appear fairly remote. So back to worrying about turbulence!

What’s special about this PubMed Record?

Personal health records

An interesting blog post about Dr Microsoft and Dr Google click here.

Size of guideline collection

Given my previous post I thought I’d compare a few of the larger guideline collections:

  • CMA Guidelines Infobase (Canada) – 750 guidelines (approx)
  • NLH Guidelines Finder (England) – 1,200 guidelines (approx)
  • National Guideline Clearinghouse (USA) – 2,200 guidelines (approx)

TRIP contains all the above guidelines plus collections from New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Holland, South Africa and a few other guidelines from around the globe. In total TRIP contains 4, 964 guidelines, this should exceed 5,000 by the end of the month.

Back and working towards the new TRIP

I got back towards the end of last week and already I’m looking forward to the start of September, when the new version of TRIP will be ready! Various updates on that, plus some other news – mostly trivial.

New Sites

  • I’ve not been shown the new algorithm with the ability to switch between our ‘relevancy’ score and date. This works very well, so things are looking very good on that front.
  • As mentioned previously we’ll be releasing 26 baby TRIPs at the same time. The software is written, we just need to grab the content. The slight downside is that this new content is very large – it triples the current size of the database. Due to this size increase we are having to buy new hardware and software (oops, more spending). We’ve been expecting to have to do this for a while now, given the large volume of traffic coming to our site.


We cover a large number of guidelines, I have little doubt we allow users to search the largest collection of guidelines on the web. Curiously, this publication type seems to have the most unstable URLs! With the arrival of the new site I thought I should update as many as possible and have managed to tidy up the various Royal College’s guidelines. However, the worst offenders seem to be those offered via the CMA Infobase. This is a large collection of guidelines (nearly 800) and had been ‘lumped’ together as one publication. However, given the relative instability I have created separate entries for the largest publishers. As such we now have the following publications in TRIP:

  • CMA Infobase
  • British Columbia Reproductive Care Program
  • Canadian Paediatric Society
  • Cancer Care Ontario
  • Clinical Practice Guidelines and Protocols in British Columbia
  • Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
  • Thrombosis Interest Group of Canada
  • Toward Optimized Practice

The 7 new publications will allow us to update more rapidly if they choose to alter their URLs.

I think I’ve manually added and edited over 1000 guidelines over the last 2 days – tiring but rewarding!

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