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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Progress For Progress's Sake

Why do I suddenly feel like Dolores Umbridge? I suppose I bear a passing resemblance to her at the moment as I turn bright red and begin to implode with my strength of emotion. I'm also beginning to sound as deranged as her so I'd better explain.

At lunchtime I signed onto the British Periodicals website to locate reviews of a particularly bad novel I'd just finished reading. Part of my ritual; part of my PhD. I read the reviews and left. Then I tried to sign on a few hours later to help me with details of novels by some other novelists - Mrs Hungerford and Mrs Alexander to name but two - however, the site seemed to be taking an age to load. And that's saying something. The site has always been slow but this hit exceptional levels. Then, as the page appeared, I realised why. ProQuest had overhauled the site (along with their entire range of sites) and had given it a brand new gloss and feel.

I know, I know. I can almost hear you rolling your eyes. The fact is, though, that this upgrade has done nothing to the accessibility of the site. It is more difficult to search and find the results you were actually looking for. It takes longer to load (and, boy, is that saying something), the display may be shinier but IT DID NOT NEED TO BE SHINY. It was a functional site before and that was why, although it annoyed me frequently, I enjoyed using it overall. I don't go into it for an 'experience'. I go there to find information that is unavailable elsewhere on the web. I go there because I can't spend day after day in Boston Spa.

It actually reduced me to tears as I sat mumbling incoherently to myself about not being able to find the information I wanted. So, well done, ProQuest. You've made the lives of some researchers that little bit more difficult. And next time you do a drastic and ridiculous overhaul - tell us first. That way we can rescue the lists of saved articles we wanted to read and which we can't now log into because the site's being idiotic.

So what has this progress achieved? Well, it's progress, isn't it? Therefore it must be fine. Excuse me while I find a quiet corner to sob in.

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