July 27, 2010 – In the past week, the news has been inundated with accusations and apologies surrounding what Ms. Shirley Sherrod did or did not say during a particular speech. The lessons from this are many and varied, but what do they teach us in the world of indexing, metadata and real-time search results?

Unintended consequences is what often results from a misspeak or misquote, but it can also be the results of incorrect or incomplete tagging when indexing occurs, whether manually or automated. Van Jones from The New York Times wrote about the commonalities of Shirley Sherrod’s situation and one he experienced a few years prior in his article, “Shirley Sherrod and Me”. Jones speaks of the hope he has that as a population we will learn to not rush to judgment, and that we will learn to accept humans as a whole and not define them by one quote, one video clip, or one photograph. As professionals indexing these events in real-time, here is the hope that we not contribute to these missteps and that we assist in the evolution of acceptance.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.