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November 30, 2005

Library 2.0 Swicki

What’s a swicki?  According to Eurekster, a swicki is a search engine that takes results from a relevant community – your community – and in the process improves the relevancy of results.  Along the way it also creates a tag cloud (they call it a “dynamic buzzcloud”) that reflects recent searches.  Here's how Eurekster describes it:

Joining the personal Web publishing phenomenon on blogs, podcasts, wikis and websites is the swicki - a next-generation search engine that gives personal and small-business Web publishers the power to design and deliver results tailored to their community's specific interests. A blend between a search engine and a wiki

How well does it work? Well, take a version for a spin.  I’ve put together a “Library 2.0” swicki that is supposed to search the library 2.0 community.  Give it a try.


November 29, 2005

3 Degrees of Separation: Libraries, Technology, and Administration

I was having a brief IM conversation with Michael Stephens yesterday and we discussed the problem many librarians face when discussing Library 2.0 technologies with administrative staff – the issue of “hot” words such as blog and wiki, and how some administrators tune out whenever they hear such talk.  Then, early this morning, I read Jessamyn West’s post over on Librarian.net and saw that she was discussing something very similar, namely the problem of trying to sell a 2.0 idea to a 0.98 librarian.  She linked to Tinfoil+Racoon and a post titled Rejoicing and Crying over Upgrading to Library 2.0, which discussed the “in-house digital divide”.  She concludes her piece by saying:

As much as I love learning about Library and Web 2.0 and finding ways to make technology work for patrons and colleagues, I'm not sure that many (most)  libraries are ready to take even the baby steps suggested by Michael [Stephens].

This blog-trail fascinates me, and the idea that all of these people are thinking about the same very real issue means that these are all very valid concerns that need addressing.  These discussions further my belief that “Library 2.0” is a transitional process through which all libraries will/must pass.  Everyone’s beginning is relative, and one person’s 1.0 may look like another’s 0.5 or 1.5 – the point being that the starting point changes but the goal remains the same (see the Wikipedia entry on Library 2.0 for a good idea of the goals).

Selling this goal should not require a technologically savvy library administration, although an understanding of technology can only help.  What sells a  Library 2.0 idea is its ROI, as Michael Stephens discusses in his CPL Scholars in Residence presentation.  The ROI, discussed in terms of circulation or walk-ins or web hits (eyeballs, as Om calls them) are what sells concepts to administration.  The technology is the tool to achieve the goal, and it must fit into the plan in order to be considered.  Again, Stephens has been preaching about this for a long time  and his warnings are well heeded. 

But how do we offer these tools to an administration that does not even want to hear such words as “blog” and “wiki” and “IM”?  I do not believe I am exaggerating here – I have heard first-person accounts from fellow librarians about administrators saying such things as “I don’t ever want to hear the word blog”.  This despite numerous trusted sources such as Harvard Business Review (2/2005 issue) and Business Week proclaiming the necessity, the requirement, for any company to have and use an internal (behind-the-firewall) blog and, in many circumstances, an external customer-focused blog.

I think the answer here is small steps.  Look to those progressive libraries that are using such tools and use their successes as examples.  If you’re lucky enough to be in one of those progressive libraries, please write about your success in journals and blogs, sharing statistics so that others can use your successful ROI to sell such ideas to our administration.

I’m anxious to hear more ideas for overcoming these hurdles.

November 28, 2005

They're Gonna Love Your Wi-Fi Connection

How is your library going to respond to the changes in portable communication technologies?  If you have Wi-Fi, and I hope you do, then you may already be seeing some changes in the way people interact with your library.  Is that customer talking to his computer?  Yes, that customer with the laptop surfing the web and browsing your catalog is also speaking into a headset that’s plugged into that laptop using softphone software to create a voice connection.  Customers, via your Wi-Fi connection, can now collaborate across oceans using Web 2.0 technologies like Writely and Google Talk – talking and editing online documents and projects in real-time.

But far more convenient for voice communications, VoIP–enabled portable phones (both VoIP-only and VoIP/cellular) are now beginning to hit the market, and they’ll catch on quickly as VoIP is already firmly entrenched -- 52% of all U.S. businesses and about 3 million of the nation's consumers are using VoIP

VoIP-only phones allow users to make calls using VoIP service providers, such as Vonage or Skype, anywhere an open Wi-Fi connection is available (and some phones are being designed to work with subscription Wi-Fi hotspots such as Starbucks).  (Several new portable and home service phones are linked from here.)  The VoIP/cell combination phones take advantage of free hotspots to route calls over the Internet instead of the local cellular network, reducing costs for the user.

Many of the newer PDAs, such as the Dell Axim 51V, are capable of VoIP operation.  The Axim also has Bluetooth  built-in, so it’s easy to strap the PDA to your hip or toss it in your purse and talk via a Bluetooth earpiece (even if you do look a bit odd doing so).

Speaking of Bluetooth, will your library offer Bluetooth printing?  Are you planning on pushing any content to Bluetooth-enabled customers as they enter and walk around your library? 

To be sure, there are security and network issues that libraries need to address.  Will the increase in VoIP traffic burden your network connection?  Many public libraries pull their Wi-Fi connection from a DSL or cable hookup, so having several customers downloading music and videos and talking on their VoIP phones may consume much of your bandwidth. It’s a very good idea to invest up-front in a good Wi-Fi access point that comes with bandwidth management in order to prevent customers from hogging your airwaves while downloading large files.  What this means is,  don’t go to Best Buy and purchase a $75 Wi-Fi router.  I’m not going to mention names here, but there are plenty of very good commercial-quality Wi-Fi access points out there that can manage bandwidth, and the initial investment will pay dividends in quality-of-service.

In describing the future of portable wireless technologies, Business Week writer Andy Reinhardt sums up everything when he says:

One minute, the phone might be connected to a conventional cellular operator. Moments later, as you pass within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, it could switch automatically to a faster and cheaper connection to download a batch of e-mails. While you stroll around the mall, it might pick up coupons from stores via free short-range Bluetooth radio. Then, overnight, it could receive the day's sports highlights via digital-TV broadcast for you to watch on your morning commute.

Hey Feedster, Thanks!

The nice people at Feedster have made LibraryCrunch their "Feed of the Day".


No Need to Click Here - I'm just claiming my feed at Feedster

November 27, 2005

Coffee table with integrated book-shelves like hanging files

Okay, so it's not exactly library 2.0, but it's unique and I'd love to have one of these in our library's Teen section (or in my living room)! This coffee table has slots for hanging books, and the surface panels slide to cover sections.  Unfortunately, the ub-studio website is very thin -- they say it's under construction -- and the company is located in Turkey.  [Found via Boing Boing.]


November 25, 2005

Wallis and Blyberg Dialogue

Richard Wallis (of Talis) responds to John Blyberg's An ILS Customer's Bill of RightsBlyberg then responds to Wallis's comments. 

I think it's fascinating to watch these two very different viewpoints being discussed. Thanks to Richard and john for such an open and honest dialogue. 

[Via Michael Stephens]

November 23, 2005

Librarian Trading Cards

Stephen M. Cohen over at Library Stuff is trying to get as many librarians as possible to create and submit their "trading card" to his Librarian Trading Cards Flickr group. So, get your photo and surf over to Flickr Toys and create your trading card.

Here are some from me and my friends:




Data Collection Just For Blogs: Measure Map

I received an invite to Adaptive Path's Measure Map alpha this morning and immediately installed the little bit of java code into my MovableType indexes (very easy, by the way).  After letting it collect data for an hour or two, I jumped onto the dashboard and began looking around.  The interface is both attractive and easy to decipher – there are four large icons directing you to Visitors, Links, Comments, and Posts.  The amount of data given is amazing.  It tells you how many individual posts received visitors, and it breaks down your top ten posts.  It not only tells you the links that people followed getting to your site, but it also tells you the links people followed leaving your site.  To quote TechCrunch, “you can slice data almost every way imaginable.”

This svelte flash/ajax/java tool is wonderful, and it's significantly easier to use than Google’s Analytics and far more powerful than SiteMeter or many of the other site statistics apps out there when it comes to recording data for blogs.

Here's the cool looking world visitor map after an hour of collecting data:

Visitor Map 

November 22, 2005

Your IT Department, Buy-In, and Team Work

There has been a significant amount of discussion on some of my favorite blogs recently about getting along effectively with your IT department, and I want to add a recommendation from my own little world.  As chair of my library system’s Emerging Technology committee, I made it  a point to choose two IT staffers to serve on this six person committee.  The charge of the committee is to examine both new technologies and technologies that may be new to the library world (though they are used in other areas).  Many of the products and services we examine are in early beta stages, or they are only being used by a small handful of institutions.  Effectively evaluating these products requires several things, including an open mind, an ability to think beyond the library’s current boundaries and structure, and an understanding of how things will ultimately work (or play) together. 

All of the members of my team are either young in age or new to the field of library science, and all bring with them some expertise or strong interest in an area of technology that I am lacking.  The IT team members bring with them two very important attributes -- a wealth of understanding regarding technology in general, and a firm knowledge of the library’s current technology structure.  Having this knowledge allows them to picture how the product being examined will eventually fit into the library’s technology infrastructure. 

Having IT staffers on the team does something else, too – it puts the IT department on notice that things do change, and that the library’s technology will always need to change.  Having IT on board for this part of the process ensures early buy-in, a much easier job selling the idea when it comes to the budget, and it eliminates the sometimes difficult job of selling the new product or service to the IT department – since they are a part of the process from the earliest stages they are integral players and have an interest in seeing the initiative succeed.

"It's about adding additional functionality"

A comment from John Blyberg caught my eye on Michael Stephen's piece on the Talis whitepaper in ALA TechSource.  I wish I had made my concerns so crisp and clear as John does when he says:

Library 2.0 is not about replacing 1.0 technology. It's about adding additional functionality and if that is threatening to some people, then it means it's good technology.

Be sure to read John's piece titled ILS Customer Bill of Rights.

November 21, 2005

Sidney Verba and getting teens to the library

From the New York Times comes a wonderful look at Sidney Verba, director of Harvard's library, and his partnership with Google. 

"Everyone with a teenage kid is worried that the younger generation may believe that all knowledge is on Google," said Mr. Verba, who said he nagged his own students to use library books.

"But what this does," he said, referring to the Google project, "is take you to Google, which takes you to the library."

Pew Memo: Search Engine Use

Search engine use shoots up in the past year and edges towards email as the primary internet application.

Full PDF report linked here.

Wow! Next Gen RSS: Simple Sharing Extensions, SSE


"...two endpoints can mutually publish and subscribe to each other's RSS feed. When changes are made in one endpoint, they are propagated to the other and vice versa."
Read about it here at MSDN and at here on Dave Winer's blog, and at Ray Ozzie's place.

The best example being given now is the calendar example, where two people who have different calendars want to share data and update each other's calendar as changes are made – picture one person’s desktop Outlook and another person’s Apple.  With SSE, each person can make changes and have those changes synched with the other person’s calendar – no need for docking or exporting files or special interface software.

This from Don Dodge

I think SSE will be a really big deal. It will enable all kinds of multi-directional syndication and synchronization across many different applications.

And one more that I really like, this time from Scripting News:

We need some way to share subscriptions between different applications, between vendors -- we need an way to do that that works when the lists are small, and one that works when the lists grow large. Most important, it needs to be open, and in order to be really open it has to be simple, so that no vendor can use their large size as a way of keeping smaller competitors out of the market. We've seen that when this happens innovation stops. Let's learn from our past mistakes, and not make it so easy to dominate a market. Compatibility should never be a reason to choose one product over another. Let performance, features and price drive the market, not the obscurity of the wires connecting the apps together.

November 20, 2005

Paul Graham on Web 2.0

Paul Graham has written an excellent essay on his understanding of Web 2.0. Some of my favorite comments:
I don't think there was any deliberate plan to suggest there was a new version of the web. They just wanted to make the point that the web mattered again. It was a kind of semantic deficit spending: they knew new things were coming, and the "2.0" referred to whatever those might turn out to be.
Does "Web 2.0" mean anything more than the name of a conference yet? I don't like to admit it, but it's starting to. When people say "Web 2.0" now, I have some idea what they mean. And the fact that I both despise the phrase and understand it is the surest proof that it has started to mean something.
The second big element of Web 2.0 is democracy. We now have several examples to prove that amateurs can surpass professionals, when they have the right kind of system to channel their efforts. Wikipedia may be the most famous.
Web 2.0 means using the web the way it's meant to be used. The "trends" we're seeing now are simply the inherent nature of the web emerging from under the broken models that got imposed on it during the Bubble.

Taking Back the Web: a CNET Report

CNET is running an interesting series of articles called Taking Back the Web.  Included in the series are the articles How Wikis Are Changing Our View of the World and Tagging: Humans Find What Bots Can't.

One good example of a (young) library wiki project is Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki

November 19, 2005

E-Mail Is So Five Minutes Ago, a BW article

It means something when a company as big as Dresdner begins to look beyond email.  In a Business Week article titled E-Mail Is So Five Minutes Ago (11/28/05), Michelle Conlin reports that J.P. Rangaswami, Dresdner's global CIO, is looking to real-time virtual workspaces to replace email.  What are they looking to?

  • Private workplace wikis
  • Blogs
  • Instant Messengers
  • RSS
  • Microsoft SharePoint

In the long run, perhaps the biggest death knell for e-mail is the anthropological shift occurring among tomorrow's captains of industry, the text-messaging Netgens (16-to-24-year-olds), for whom e-mail is so "ovr," "dn," "w/e (over, done, whatever)."

Internet research firm Gartner Group predicts that wikis will become mainstream collaboration tools in at least 50% of companies by 2009.

Who Controls It?

Michael Stephens, in his latest ALA TechSource entry, references a white paper by Ken Chad and Paul Miller titled Do Libraries Matter? The Rise of Library 2.0 (PDF file) that’s posted at Talis.  I’m not all that familiar with Talis, but I do know that they tout themselves as being “the market leading provider of products and services for public and academic libraries in the UK and Ireland.”

I made the following comment on ALA TechSource regarding the Talis white paper (and not about Michael Stephen’s well argued essay):

Regarding the Talis white paper, when we speak in terms of revolution, in this case a revolution in the way library services are conceived and delivered, I am hesitant to look to those companies that fueled library 1.0 as the purveyors of ideas that will bring about our understanding of library 2.0. I appreciate many of the comments made in the Chad and Miller paper, but I imagine that the development of library 2.0 – and the inherent nature of free and open source content, applications and services – rather scares any company currently built upon older, closed, proprietary service delivery models.

Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but I would like to think that at some point library applications such as catalogs (and the databases that drive them) will not be proprietary middleware written by third party companies but will, instead, be open source applications that pull together the library’s catalog data (because the data DOES belong to the library) with an Amazon API. This is nothing new, and has been talked about for some time, such as here at Library Web Chic.  We control the data, we tailor the interface, and we harness the community to constantly improve and expand it.

And when Chad and Miller say “relevant aspects of that library experience should be reproduced wherever and whenever the user requires them, without any need to visit a separate web site for the library,” I think of such tools as Ross Singer’s new WAG the Dog Web Localizer, which he describes:

Library websites and resources tend to be awkward and non-intuitive (for many reasons, certainly one of which is the rather wide diversity of content and services libraries provide) and most likely wouldn't be the first location that springs in a user's mind when trying to solve problems while on the web. My overarching plan is to deemphasize the importance of "the library website" and instead push our content contextually out to users in the places they would think to look.  "Ah, I notice you just searched for 'Hegel's Dialectic' in Wikipedia (which, oddly, has no matches). This search would return 3 results in our catalog. It also returns 253 results from our metasearch application. Would you like to see those results?"

Chad and Miller state, “Library 2.0 is about working with partners and suppliers to increase the availability of information.”  This democratization of information is an excellent goal, and it is key to the philosophy of Library 2.0.  Perhaps it’s the cynic in me, but I am a little uncomfortable believing that these changes we refer to as Library 2.0 will be pioneered and initiated by a Talis or SirsiDynix.

Rules of Web 2.0 

Richard MacManus over at Web 2.0 Explorer has been writing a case study of Yellowikis and its attempt to become the next Yellow Pages.  In doing his study, he takes a very fundamental look at what comprises a Web 2.0 service, several of which bear repeating here:

  • Any user can both read and write content - adding business listings and editing them. To put it in 'Web 2.0 wanker' terms, it harnesses collective intelligence.
  • Requires a significant amount of 'trust' in the users.
  • Can be deployed via the Web in countries all over the world (see Emily Chang's interview with Paul Youlten for more details on this aspect).
  • Has fast, lightweight and inexpensive development cycles.
  • Uses Open Source LAMP technologies (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) - meaning it is very cheap to run.
  • The content has no copyright and is freely licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.
  • Can and will hook into other Web systems, e.g. Google Maps. Indeed if it introduces its own APIs, then it will be able to be remixed by other developers.
  • Yellowikis will get better the more people use it. The Wikipedia is an excellent example of this.

eBay Sees Web 2.0 Light

eBay will make access to its application programming interfaces (APIs) free to its more than 21,000 developers. This should happen as soon as Monday.

Quoting Richard MacManus:

This is a common sense move in the Web 2.0 world, because it no longer matters if users buy and sell on eBay's official website. As long as eBay gets a cut of the auction, the User Interface could be in Timbuktu for all they care. To paraphrase Steve Ballmer, it's all about Data, Data, Data (cut to monkey dance).

November 18, 2005

Do Libraries Matter: On Library & Librarian 2.0

Michael Stephens has a good piece over on ALA TechSource that's worth reading.

November 16, 2005

Google Base

Google Base launched today. It's not exciting some people, but it's getting a lot of coverage. It's also much more than a classified ad clearinghouse, as the Times said.  I suspect that librarians may be drawn to the simple way information can be added to the web via Google Base.  Since any information can be cataloged, including images, it will be fun to watch the database grow.  We may see personal collections such as music, artwork, poetry, recipes, etc., being added.  I am reminded of the long tail theory here, with Google Base being the platform for cataloging everything that does not fit within eBay's sale pages, or Craig's List, or Flickr, but instead falls within that long and very diverse tail that is sure to be out there.

November 14, 2005

Audible, Podcasts, and DRM

A very interesting debate is taking place concerning podcasts and DRM.  Audible announced a new service on Friday, and then one of their top consultants set about to alienate most of the web community by personally attacking several very well-respected technology bloggers.

Read the original post here (by Mitch Ratcliffe, an Audible consultant), and some good coverage on tech.memeorandum and TechCrunch’s blog.

November 13, 2005

Ambient Findability: Business Week Interview of Peter Morville

Ambient findability: a world, at the crossroads of ubiquitous computing and the Internet, in which we can find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime.

In Ambient Findability, Morville searches for the answers in the strange connections among social software, semantic webs, evolutionary psychology and interaction design.

November 10, 2005

Machiavelli and Leadership: Is it Applicable in Libraries?

From Michael Lorenzen, Head of Reference Services at the Park Library of Central Michigan University, comes a great essay titled Machiavelli and Leadership: Is It Applicable to Libraries?


Library leaders should understand at least that the world is changing. The way in which libraries have operated has been altered dramatically in the last several decades.  For centuries, the basic operational structure of libraries remained unchanged.  However, the advent of the World Wide Web and the shift of information resources to electronic format has resulted in a revolution in the ways that libraries are operated   This change in the information distribution has been compared (Lorenzen, 2003) to the alteration of the publishing industry by the invention of the Guttenberg Press.   As these changes continue, library leaders must be ready to embrace continued change or become irrelevant.  In this reality, complacency will lead at least to the end of a leader’s reign or worst to the death of a library organization.

November 08, 2005

New "Internet services" era could be significantly disruptive for Microsoft

From 11/9/2005 New York Times:
In separate memos distributed internally to senior executives on Oct. 30, Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates, and a chief technology officer, Ray Ozzie, warned that the new "Internet services" era could be significantly disruptive for the company.

Yeah, and the world of information technology in general... 

Edit (11/9/05): for a good look at this memo, see this Web 2.0 Explorer entry. Here's an excerpt from Ray Ozzie's memo:

"It is now 2005, and the environment has changed yet again – this time around services. Computing and communications technologies have dramatically and progressively improved to enable the viability of a services-based model. The ubiquity of broadband and wireless networking has changed the nature of how people interact, and they’re increasingly drawn toward the simplicity of services and service-enabled software that ‘just works’. Businesses are increasingly considering what services-based economics of scale might do to help them reduce infrastructure costs or deploy solutions as-needed and on subscription basis."

Netvibes Continues to Please

Netvibes, the browser-based RSS aggregator, continues to amaze me with its offerings.  Besides being a truly simple and flexible feed aggregator, Netvibes now makes it easy to integrate your Gmail account, Writely documents, and Flickr photos into your browser desktop.  If you haven’t tried Netvibes, give it a shot and see what Windows Live has to catch up to.

Netvibes Expands its offerings

November 07, 2005

BlinkList: A Delicious Alternative?

Via Meredith Farkas at Information Wants to be Free comes this recommendation for BlinkList. I've imported my Delicious bookmarks into BlinkList and started to play with the many offerings -- my favorite so far being the tag cloud and social side of bookmarking (seeing what friends are doing). Take it for a spin -- my BlinkList name is mecasey.

Don't Forget the Need for Constant Change

Jason Boog, writing in Publish, takes a look at this idea called Library 2.0 in an article titled Library 2.0 Movement Sees Benefits in Collaboration with Patrons.  Boog writes:

So at the Internet Librarian conference last week, over 100 library professionals speculated about how to survive in a world of Web-based, user-created content.

They've dubbed their initiative Library 2.0.

These innovative librarians realize that some Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs, wikis and online databases like Google Print, are already competing for the attentions of library patrons.

The librarians aim to build a participatory network of libraries using Web resources like blogs, wiki tools and tags.

They hope that the Library 2.0 "movement" will break librarians out of brick-and-mortar establishments and get them to interact with patrons through blog comments, IM and Wiki entries.

But the emphasis on the library as keeper of reliable information remains.

The article includes several excellent comments from experts such as Jenny Levine, Darlene Fichter, Aaron Schmidt, and Jessamyn West.  The overall concept of Library 2.0 is presented as: two-way information flow, task sharing (such as tagging, classification, etc.), open services from internal and external sources (read as ‘not proprietary’), and aggregating data using customer criteria – all of this being built upon the foundation that is Web 2.0.  The article is well done and serves as a very good overview of Library 2.0.

What I would add to this dialogue is the very important role of change to the concept of Library 2.0.  Built into every decision making process, every product rolled out to the public, every service released  to the customer, must be the underlying assumption that it will not be good enough and must be examined and changed.  This is constant beta, or, as Caterina Fake from Flickr said, “perpetual beta.”

Boog quotes Jessamyn West as saying, “Many libraries I work with are in towns where they can't get high-speed access…How can [libraries] be obsolete when people out here aren't even fully using them yet?”  What happens when they do get high speed access (which I hope is tomorrow)?  Imagine the change curve for those small libraries and their users!  Hopefully they have plans in place that can be rolled out as soon as fast access becomes a reality, but the learning curve on both sides of the desk will be steep and the need to revisit and retool those services will be ever-present.

What we need to do is become comfortable in this reality of constant change.  We cannot create our service and sit back and watch its success, for as soon as we do that we’ll see the next service (perhaps a disruptive service) come along and steal our customers (and our glory) – or perhaps we won’t see it until it’s too late.


Library 2.0: The Movement

Over on Publish, Library 2.0 Movement Sees Benefits in Collaboration with Patrons

At The Shifted Librarian, Anybody Going to Blog these Library 2.0 Events?

At Ariadne, Web 2.0: Building the New Library 

November 06, 2005

Building Community Intelligence at Yahoo

Take a look inside the web’s premier social networking company – no, not Google or Amazon, or even Facebook, but good old Yahoo. James Fallows, writing in the New York Times, went to the Yahoo campus and spoke with their top social networking people about the future of Yahoo.

Fallows came away with a very vivid picture of what the web will look like in the next few years – something many have been referring to as Web 2.0, and I have been trying to plug into library service offerings.  Discussing the evolution of web search, Fallows writes:

"You can look at the evolution of search as a play in three acts," said Jeff Weiner, the senior vice president for search and marketing. "The first is the 'public' Web, where if different people type the same query they'll all get the same results." The second, he said, was purely personal search - finding a file or photo, usually on your own machine

The third is the one that we are very interested in," Mr. Weiner said. This is "social" or "community" searching, in which each attempt to find the right restaurant listing, medical advice site, vacation tip or other bit of information takes advantage of other people's successes and failures in locating the same information.”

The idea that human judgment can improve a search engine's automatic findings is hardly new. From the dawn of the Web's history - that is, over the last 15 years - companies have invented tools to help users assess the quality and relevance of information, often by relying on others' opinions. Examples include Amazon's user reviews, eBay's feedback ratings and "trusted networks" created on many sites.

What is different is Yahoo's systematic plan to build "community intelligence" into nearly all aspects of its operation - and in turn, to entice users to spend more and more of their time on Yahoo sites, where they can see Yahoo ads.

That last line is enticing: building community intelligence into all aspects of the operation.  Obviously, for a company the size of Yahoo, the idea of community is large – very, very large, in fact.  But in this size comes strength – “with hundreds of millions of users, there is critical mass to create social networks that cover most locations and interests.”

Caterina Fake, one of the original Flickr founders (I love Flickr), ends the article with my favorite quote:

"You can think about the way people will interact, as you sit in the usability lab, but until you put it in front of very large numbers of real people, you don't really know," Ms. Fake said. "So you have to release products early and often, like perpetual beta."

Perpetual beta.  I love it.


November 03, 2005

Access to information is an essential building block of social development

Amsterdam, Netherlands, is building its own fiber network to provide very high-speed service to over 40,000 homes.  The city government is not subsidizing this, but instead is simply acting as an investor.  James Enck, over on EuroTelcoblog, has this to say regarding the message that Amsterdam’s effort is sending to other local service providers:

Not to put words in anyone's mouth, but I think the message is something like:

It may be "your network" and "your investment" you are trying to defend, but your customers are our taxpayers, our society, and we have a duty to look beyond the next quarter and where our share options are at present. Access to information is an essential building block of social development, like access to water and electricity. Highly-contended DSL products with bandwidth caps ain't gonna cut it.

Here Comes Microsoft

This week we’ve seen some of the big players stake their claims to the Web 2.0 world.  Microsoft has announced Windows Live, and Office Live will launch in first-quarter 2006.  The merits of both of these products is open to debate, and there is plenty of debate out there to read.  However, Windows Live could become very popular with users who do not consistently use one computer, such as library users.  Windows Live will offer a powerful email tool that will give users Outlook-like power from a browser-based product.  Windows Live will also have IM and VOIP tools built-in – that is big!  Users will no longer need to install separate applications in order to access IM and VOIP, these tools will function within the browser itself, providing maximum flexibility to the user.  The possibilities brought about by IM and VOIP browser integration are significant for our library world.

Almost just as exciting is Yahoo’s release last night of the new, Macromedia Flash-based, Yahoo Maps.  The great reviewers over at TechCrunch have looked at this latest development and their description sounds fascinating.  Instead of building the map on Ajax (as Google does), Yahoo chose to go with Flash, and there are some very real benefits.  Yahoo will still offer an API that will plug into Ajax applications.

November 02, 2005

Control the news to the best of your ability

Looking at some of the news today makes me wonder how we, in the world of libraries, are dealing with difficult and controversial decisions, especially when it comes to public relations.  Any organization that seeks to change as often and as we do needs to craft its public persona in a manner that is easily understood and earns the respect (and sometimes the sympathy) of its public.  Our mission needs to be clear, even if our services change and morph to meet demands.  So I have one small bit of advice:

Control the news to the best of your ability – Issue early press releases that discuss your problem and your thought process.  Involve community groups in issues that could become especially tricky.  Do not seek to hide or cloud your reasoning – the public will see this.  Keep your back-room dealings private, and make sure your numbers are honest – your staff may buy into exaggerated numbers, but the public and press will make you pay.

The sorry fact is, you’ll always have public relations issues when it comes to controversial and difficult decisions, but taking a proactive approach to media control will always pay big dividends in the end.

November 01, 2005

Take His Survey, Please

Michael Stephens over at Tame the Web has just started a survey project. He asks, "Please, if you are an MLS, in library school, or working at a library and blogging, take the survey!"

Take the survey here