July 2007 Archives

I love this...

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Breaking News: All Online Data Lost After Internet Crash

My favorite part? The reporting that 'Nigeria has had a full economic collapse.'

The always amazing Roy Tennant takes apart Thomas Mann's latest screed against the modern world. Essentially, Mann wishes it were still 1993 (back when he wrote Library Research Models, which I think was the text in my Research Methods class back in library school.)

I'm not going to try to even dissect any of Mann's assertions (not even the part where he advocates positioning the library as an alternative to the Internet)---Roy does a terrific job of that. Suffice to say, Mann still wishes that the library was the place it was fourteen years ago---a place where librarians solely organized and held the key to accessing all of the knowledge within.

I especially like this quote from Roy (stated as he refutes Mann's claim that librarians should be the primary expert in guiding students' search processes.)

As much as possible we need to put the smarts of a reference librarian in the back end of the process — that is, within the systems themselves.

A good, intuitive, accessible interface can teach. And librarians can use their expertise to design such interfaces. Librarians no longer need to be at the center of the research process, we can also help build systems that provide our users with the opportunity to learn and find for themselves.

iPhoning the CAT

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Wendy's iPhone Thoughts has a post today on using library search tools via the iPhone (not just any library tools--the Penn State web page and The CAT!)

A little backstory...there are several people in ITS at Penn State charged with seeing how the iPhone can be used in an academic environment. You can see a combined feed of all of their respective iPhone blogs here.

Wendy's report on what worked is interesting. Primarily, though it made me excited for the future and technology that will allow you to look up books, check call numbers, etc... while you are in the midst of browsing in the stacks. Portable, web-based technology is going to do tremendous things for some of the accessibility and wayfinding issues faced by large academic libraries.

The ALA Annual panel discussion, "The Ultimate Debate: Do Libraries Innovate?" Moderated by LITA Vice-President Andrew Pace and featuring Joseph Janes, Stephen Abrams, and K.G. Schneider is now available on LitaBlog as a podcast. I'm so glad they recorded and are making this available online. I heard great things about the discussion and was mightily sad that I had to miss it.

(You can also find and download this and other lib tech-related podcasts by going into ITunes and searching 'Lita' in the Store.)

Gmail Update

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I've finished the switch over to Gmail from Eudora, and I think I'm in Gmail to stay.

There are definitely some big advantages to Gmail over Eudora.
--Easy tagging and filtering of items (Goodbye, Mailboxes!--I had over 100 of them)
--Conversations are threaded and present as one item in your inBox
--For those of us who are not always working in the same place, you carry your inbox (and archive) with you.

A few drawbacks:
--No (or very limited) emoticons :(
--Some messages seem to lag in getting to me (altho I'm not sure why)

The Message Uploader that I linked to in my previous post didn't work well---I had to leave my archive behind in Eudora and refer to it as needed.

All of this was a timely switch given the talk this week in the Libraries on 'The Googlization of Library Services.'

Questioning Authority

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I am teaching classes again, really (unless you count a few classes last semester) for the first time in about a year and a half.

Having been away from teaching that long, I can see big changes in how students are searching for and using information in classes.

One of the big changes is in the prominence and banning of Wikipedia. I somewhat understand why instructors are banning the use of Wikipedia as a source, but I don't think they are doing enough to explain to their students why they can't use it, beyond the, "It's untrustworthy" mantra.

In one of today's classes, I started off by asking my usual starting point, "Why do we require that you use library resources for your research?" In the midst of our discussion about quality, breadth and authority, one student said, "Because people of your generation don't understand the relevance of the resources we want to use." (or something like that)

The former middle school teacher in me would have normally shut him down for being, well, insolent. But I do think there is some truth in what he said, and so we went on to talk about it. I said that Wikipedia is a good example of this tension. In many respects, Wikipedia is an excellent resource. This article in the New York Times Magazine last week talks in depth about the massive, continual editing done on its pages. Yes, there are errors and untruths on there (especially on hot-button pages) but it doesn't last long.

To illustrate this point I brought up the Chris Benoit Wikipedia page, and talked about how news of the wrestler's wife's death was posted prior to the actual discovery of her body. It turns out that the person posting this, was simply by coincidence, posting a rumor, and was completely unconnected to the crime. The rumor was on the page for only up for 47 minutes before being corrected. Eventually, the actual news that Benoit's wife had, indeed been found dead was added. (and then vetted, again and again and again.)

The recency and dynamic relevance of Wikipedia (especially for breaking news) can't be ignored. How do we teach students about this and encourage them to think critically about its content in an atmosphere that outright bans the use of this resource?

Second Life in RL

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Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a huge fan of Second Life (I'm much more into my First Life), so it goes without saying that I loved this video...

Say It Loud!

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Karen Schneider posted an excellent rant on the punishment that is Committee work in ALA (with thanks to LazyGal for pointing me to it--and read her post on why AASL is broken as well). All I can say is, amen, amen, amen. We must find a way to fix this.

Oh my Gosh. Too Cool.

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The College of William and Mary recently debuted their App, SwemTools, on Facebook.

It is one of the first Apps I've seen taken the step to integrate social networking tools into a library-focused App. There is a part of it that allows you to identify where you are in the library so that your friends (who also have to be logged into Facebook) can find you! Neat.

Movin' On Up!

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I am moving all of my Eudora mail over to Gmail. This is pretty cool (and a little bit scary.)

Here's how I'm doing it:
1) Forwarded all of my psulias mail to gmail. (I'm already forwarding my psu.edu mail to psulias)
2)Downloaded GMail loader to assist in moving my mailboxes over, one by one. (Yes, this is going to take a long time, but I think it will be worth it.)

One question I have: --How will it work with all of my attachments?

I'll keep posting my progress and experiences. I was motivated to do this by this account of moving an entire family's online activities over to Google Apps entirely.

The ingenious title above is brought to you by this post on See Also, which is, well, depressing.

Not surprising, though. In a nutshell, what appears to be happening is the Facebook is rejecting applications that allow outside-Facebook (i.e. Web) searches from the Profile page (i.e. the UIUC widget). It sounds like there is not as much of a problem with applications that reside entirely within the sidebar, and only expand when the user chooses to work with it.

It also sounds like you can still make your app available to users, it just won't be indexed in Facebook Apps. But do we want to create a University-wide tool that could be perceived as violating the Facebook TOS? I'd guess not.

For more info on who's been rejected and why, read this post in FacebookAppsforLibraries

Updated to add: The Chronicle also published a short piece on this. Isn't it interesting that libraries are the sole trailblazers in developing academic apps for FB? :)

(and apropos of absolutely nothing, the inspiration for that title was one of my all time favorite NY Daily News headlines: FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD. I don't think the NYC tabs have topped that one yet, and it ran back in the 70s.)

The Death of Blogging?

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I think this post at Tame the Web has some truth, but perhaps not for my generation. (at least, not this week) I'm finding the communication at social networking sites to be increasingly ephemeral. I'll go back to my old question: Do social networking sites, like FB and Twitter in any way encourage sustained creative thought? Feel free to tell me how, if you think they do.

For me, blogging has more permanence, and there's something to writing posts that I know will only be discovered by people who really want to see them. (or who just stumbled upon this blog by accident and will quickly leave.)

I tried broadcasting my blog posts via notes on FB several times, and it just made me uncomfortable. Not to mention the problem with FB being able to license content you post on there.

Like I said, I'm old. Feel free to refute me on this.

Justifying the 2.0

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Brian over at Designing Better Libraries has an interesting post on the recent process he took introducing a reference desk wiki at his library.

This is the second time they've tried the wiki, and this time, he notes:


We’re going to demo “homegrown” software created by campus IT, provide a flowchart illustrating the concept, and offer examples of content that are linked to actual needs.

He goes on to say that prototyping helps others in your organization see the technology first-hand, learn how it works, and see how it can be adapted to fit local needs.

I especially like how his prototype image helps explain who would use / view the wiki, what kind of infornation would reside on there, etc... It helps to graphically lay out for people how a tool will be used, and how it will benefit them (and their users). I think sometimes, we let the glitz of the technology overwhelm communicating the utility of it, and we forget to incorporate in this important step.

Spock is a relatively new search engine that claims it is "the online leader in personal search." From what I can tell, it aims to link up identities created in various places on the web--MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, etc... For us academics, it mines RateMyProfessors in a big way.

It's interesting. If you look me up in it, you'll find nothing (even though I have a MySpace profile and lots of other personal/professional stuff out there on the Web). Look up other people, and you might find something. Searching for Jessamyn West (of librarian.net) provides a good example of what this site can possibly do as far as providing and linking to personal and professional information.

It's still in Beta testing, so if you want to give it a try, email me and I'll send you an invite (I have 3).

Below are the classes I've been thinking about for this coming fall. We could hold a test session or two in late summer (perhaps for Libraries faculty & staff) and then have open sessions in the fall. If there are ones that you think won't work, or others that you think we should do, let me know! (coughEmilycough) :)

--Citing the Web: How to Cite Everything (including Videos, Images, Podcasts and more)
--Advanced Google Searching (this would incorporate Google Scholar etc....)
--Information Trapping: Using RSS and other online tools to find and mine the research you need
iLibrary, iGoogle! Building Your Personal Research Desktop

25 hours a day posted some thought-provoking notes on Marissa Mayer's session "Scaling Google for Every User." (from the Seattle Conference on Scalability)

According to Mayer, it takes one month for a novice Google user to become expert. She notes that while novice users tend to use natural language for their queries, expert searchers use keywords.

This is all very encouraging, but take a look at the example searches for the 'expert' users:

Example Novice and Expert Search User Queries

NOVICE QUERY: Why doesn't anyone carry an umbrella in Seattle?
EXPERT QUERY: weather seattle washington

NOVICE QUERY: can I hike in the seattle area?
EXPERT QUERY: hike seattle area

Are these really expert queries? They're using keywords, but hardly terms that, combined, are actually relevant to their specialized search needs. If these searches are what qualify users as Google experts, there's still lots of room for us to continue teaching users how to choose keywords that matter most and construct an effective, efficient search.

Just my opinion, of course. :) Perhaps I'm being especially critical about this since we are in the midst of planning our fall seminars, one of which will be 'Advanced Google Searching." (see next post.)