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February 28, 2006

Microsoft's Cool New Street Side Live Local

Microsoft today anounced a preview of their new Street-Side imaging on Live Local. This new service takes you right down to the street level, just as if you were driving or walking down the street. The service is previewing for Seattle and San Francisco only, but should be expanding rapidly.

Here's what Microsoft said in a release:

* Today we are announcing our new street-side initiative for Windows Live Local and a Technical preview of the new street-side feature.

* The street-side initiative is a key part of our vision to deliver an immersive digital representation of the real world that enables users to know their surroundings, find what they are looking for and know how to get there.

* The new street-side feature augments the current map view, aerial view, and bird's eye view that the Windows Live Local site already has today to provide users with an even more immersive way to explore their local environment.

Take a look here.

February 26, 2006

My Mornings with Maureen: What Is the New York Times Thinking?

I used to wake with her every morning, it was a beautiful relationship. Her intellectually stimulating and always culturally apposite insights into contemporary happenings would often be the highlight of my day. But Maureen Dowd, along with Thomas and Paul and even David, has been taken away from me, cloistered behind the New York Times’ firewall.

Back in September of 2005 I wrote about the new Times Select service from the New York Times. Basically, the Times took their best writers and told them to say goodbye to probably over 75% of their readership. But this is a good thing, mind you, because the Times, I’m sure, thought they’d be making more money. And perhaps they are, though I find it difficult to believe that they were not making a lot of money with all of the page ads and popup ads they used to place in their online Op/Ed pages. But regardless, they took their best people and held them hostage, expecting you and I and everyone else to pony up $8 a month just to get our morning fix back.

So now it’s late February, and I’ve still refused to pay for my mornings with Maureen – though I will admit to sneaking a peek at her every once in a while, thanks to my library’s convenient relationship with ProQuest. But having to surreptitiously tiptoe through a database just to meet Maureen isn’t working. In fact, our relationship is almost over. I’ve gotten used to not having her around (oh, what an awful thought that would have been six months ago).

And what about everyone else? What about Thomas and Paul and David and Frank and Nicholas and John and Bob? (Not to mention Carol & Ted & Alice.) Does anyone remember the fabulous insights into Middle Eastern politics that Thomas Friedman used to provide? And what more important time than the present to be able to read his well-crafted pieces. And how about Nicholas Kristof’s excellent coverage of the genocide in Darfur and the atrocities of child slavery and sex trafficking? And David Brooks, who I would often find myself disagreeing with, but whose intelligence and insight would make me think more about subjects I sometimes avoided. What about David?

All of these great writers are now locked away behind that Times firewall. Sure, I could pay the $8 a month, but what about everyone else? I wonder how these great writers feel about their sudden drop in status – no longer able to sway the national debates, no longer able to look at the “Most Emailed” list on their website and see their columns listed anywhere near the top. What are Maureen and the gang thinking now? Because, in the end, it’s about more than money to them. It’s about power and prestige and the ability to shape the greater debate – the power to push and pull and sway public opinion.

So I hope that the New York Times will change their mind about taking their most gifted talent away from us. I would love to go back to spending my mornings with Maureen, but make it happen soon, because I’m a fickle person and I’m bound to soon find someone younger and, well, cheaper.

Your Office Is Now Online

Thanks to a post by Richard MacManus over on Web 2.0 Explorer I found this white paper by Rod Boothby. He takes a very thorough and interesting look at the coming web office applications and the role they will play in business. One of my favorite quotes comes early in the paper when he is discussing the abilities of new business school grads:

The average MBA graduates in 2006 are not just knowledge workers. They are capable of being highly networked internal entrepreneurs and innovation creators. Their ability to connect is not just about email, BlackBerries, text messages and voice-mails. They are intimately familiar with all those tools, but ultimately, expertise with those one-to-one connectivity tools is just the price of admission.

What makes these new graduates so effective is their ability to work efficiently with large virtual teams and their amazing ability to maximize the power of their personal networks.

His conclusions regarding web office applications are also very interesting and worth highlighting:

There are five reasons why any senior executive needs to start thinking about Web Office now:

  1. Web Office technology will make partnering and out-sourcing more efficient by creating a platform that can seamlessly support virtual ad-hoc teams. Thus, it will quickly reduce your costs.
  2. If you have any competitors using Web Office technology, they are going to have a significant productivity lead over you. Web Office will be as big and important as email, and you wouldn’t imagine running a business today without email.
  3. Your new hires are already using this technology. The MBA class of 2006 has lived and breathed the web since they were in high school. If you don’t provide company endorsed solutions, they will end up using tools that are available on the open Internet until you do.
  4. Most importantly, Web Office will help you to increase the pace of innovation within your organization. As I explained in my last paper “Turning Knowledge Workers into Innovation Creators”, constant innovation is the only business strategy capable of producing a stream of above average profits. To achieve constant innovation, senior executives need to bring everyone into the effort. Web Office is the ideal tool to help achieve that goal.
  5. Web Office is cheap. You will get a lot of bang for your buck.
So take a walk over to Innovation Creators and read Boothby's white paper.

Google Continues to Impress

CNET reports that Google has started placing National Archives videos online. The videos are all public domain and include a lot of United Newsreel, NASA, and Department of the Interior films.

Google Video product manager Peter Chane said the company is working in stages to put as many as possible of the National Archives' 114,000 film reels and 37,000 videos online.

Very cool.  See it here.

Flickr As News Source

Still perhaps the best example of Web 2.0, Flickr has become so much more than a simple repository for people's personal photos. Harnessing the on-the-street phootgrapher, Flickr has become an alternative source for news images. Take a look at John Wallace's photos from yesterday's riots in Dublin to see an example of this information source.

February 24, 2006

Including Your IT Department: High Dividends, Excellent Results

Wednesday’s SirsiDynix talk got me thinking about how the IT department is integrated into the overall library planning structure, and what changes may be necessary in order to improve that relationship between IT and non-IT departments. The importance of this integration and this relationship cannot be overstated.

Planners and designers have a tendency to think parochially. New projects often include past perceptions of technology – for example, a new office may be designed to include a fax machine, a copier, and a printer, when one multi-function machine would more efficiently and more effectively fill all three roles. This isn’t exactly the planner’s or the designer’s fault. More than likely, this is caused by the failure to properly integrate IT into planning and decision making.

We long ago realized that the materials department needs to be involved in any new plans that involve shelving or new materials. Planning for building a new wing onto a library would include the materials department from the beginning. But what about planning for a new ILS system or new automated check-out equipment? Is the IT department going to be involved? And when you decide you’re going to reach out to teens, are you going to invite IT to the planning table?

In both instances, your IT department will be supplying and maintaining the technology to carry-out each service – whether it’s the network infrastructure to support that new ILS system or the bandwidth and computer horsepower to stream videos, push live web feeds, and support multiplayer games for those teens. Either way, your IT department is critical to the success of the service. But all too often we don’t include IT. When we plan for a new service without getting IT on board, the consequences are not good – unsuccessful service offerings, disappointed customers, angry IT staff, and frustrated administrations are often the result.

Very little of what libraries do (or what any organization actually does) are completely devoid of technological components. And this is not limited to system-wide planning. When the materials department decides to purchase a new database, IT must be involved. Will that new database deliver information via large PDF files? If so, do your computers have the muscle to handle those documents? Will the new database offer streaming video or image downloads? If so, do those same computers have the ability to save to something larger than a floppy, and can your network give the database the bandwidth it will need? These are not little questions. The ultimate success of that new offering requires a computer infrastructure that meets specific minimums, and only your IT department can see to it that you have those capabilities are in place when your new service debuts.

Another result of planning and designing services without consulting IT is that it will create bad feelings between IT and the rest of the planning team. Being asked to come in after the fact – after equipment has been purchased or new construction has been started – and fix what’s gone wrong will never make for good relations between departments.

We need to begin including IT in every planning session, and we need to solicit their input on all new service offerings. You’ll be pleased with the improved final product, and IT will be very happy that they were involved from the beginning. The worth of having buy-in must never be underestimated.

February 22, 2006

Library 2.0: A Discussion

I had the wonderful opportunity to take part in a SirsiDynix sponsored web seminar today with Michael Stephens, John Blyberg, and Stephen Abram. Our discussion centered on the concept of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0, but our conversation was wide ranging and touched upon many issues. Mashups and the great number of other new Web 2.0 technologies were part of our dialogue, as was a wonderful discussion of the vital role that the library plays and how best we in the profession can continue to make greater and great efforts to reach more and more customers. John Blyberg's recent post does a wonderful job explaining mashups and their potential.

One thing that I hope came through in today's SirsiDynix talk is the fact that, while mashups require a certain level of technical skill to craft, library customers will see simple-to-use tools that will allow them to easily manipulate and make use of the wealth of data that libraries provide. This easy-to-manipulate and use interface is one key in our larger effort to reach farther down that Long Tail.

But we also spoke about a lot more than mashups. Some of our discussion turned on how we can better prepare our planning and organizational structures to meet future demands. Library leadership needs to be able to respond quickly to changing customer expectations, and technology plans need to have the flexibility to change in the face of new requirements. As important as any role that technology plays, the structural changes that Library 2.0 points towards are fundamental to our success.

Many other topics were discussed, and SirsiDynix deserves praise for playing host to such an excellent conversation. The recorded discussion should be available in just a few days.

February 21, 2006

Web 2.0's Disruption and "The Little Guy"

There is nothing new here.  Everyone reading my blog as well as so many other sites in the biblioblogsphere are well aware of the "disruption" being caused by Web 2.0 technologies.  What is new, and very good to see, is that this level of disruption is just now beginning to catch the eye of the mainstream media.  Today's Times ran a great article titled Web Services Upend Old Ideas About the Little Guy's Role and written by Steve Lohr.  Here is my favorite selection:

The second-generation Internet technologies — combined with earlier tools like the Web itself and e-mail — are drastically reducing the cost of communicating, finding things and distributing and receiving services online. That means a cost leveling that puts small companies on equal footing with big ones, making it easier for upstarts to innovate, disrupt industries and even get big fast.

The phenomenon is a big step in the democratization of information technology. Its imprint is evident well beyond business, in the social and cultural impact of everything from blogs to online role-playing games. Still, it seems that small businesses, and the marketplace they represent, will be affected the most in the overall economy. Long-held assumptions are suddenly under assault.

Read the entire New York Times article here

February 20, 2006

Librarians & IM: A Survey

Please take a moment to hop over to Michael Stephen's site and take his survey on librarians and instant messaging.

Talking With Talis: Introducing the Library 2.0 Gang

Back on the 31st of January I had the pleasure of taking part in a Talis Talk on Library 2.0.  The discussion included Thomas Brevik, Ken Chad, Paul Miller, Michael Stephens, T. Scott Plutchak, and Richard Wallis.  We discussed a wide range of Library 2.0 ideas, including the relevancy of the term itself.

Talis describes it best:

In the few short months since it appeared, the term has also been settled upon by many others. Some of these see it as a rallying cry in moving library services in a new and increasingly user-focussed direction. Others suggest that the claims made for Library 2.0 by its proponents are, in fact, nothing new, and that it's all just 'librarianship'. A small minority appear to worry that Library 2.0 takes the sector in unwelcome directions.

Whichever of these viewpoints is closest to your own, the appearance of the term would certainly appear to have reinvigorated discussion of the ways in which we might wish library services to portray themselves in an increasingly complex and pervasive online environment, and that must surely be no bad thing.

It was a very good conversation and I encourage everyone to take a listen.

February 19, 2006

Evolutionary Technology and the Emerging Divide

At my library we’re in the final stages of crafting our next technology plan, and we’ve been under a lot of pressure to find a showstopper, an eye-catching new technology to insert into it.  But there’s a problem.  New technologies, brand-new, big-wow tech is emerging at a slower pace, and serious issues arise – issues that Michael Stephens refers to as technolust (see below) -- anytime you begin looking for a "big" technology.

We’ve spent a great deal of time over the past few years integrating many new technologies into our daily library operations – PC and print management hardware and software, a major ILS upgrade, staff and public wireless in the branches, RFID circulation and self-check equipment, mobile librarian tablet PCs, and PDAs for management staff.  All of these introductions meant significant training of staff and, sometimes, customers.  Some, like RFID, resulted in fundamental changes in daily operations.

We’re also in the process of upgrading to VOIP, replacing our network servers, preparing for Horizon 8.1 (when Stephen Abram, when?), opening two new branches, and, as always, keeping it all running.  Our IT department is busy – very busy – and the fact that they’ve been able to integrate so many new technologies so successfully is remarkable. 

We’ve also been slowly integrating blogs into many of our internal teams and committees, and IT has been trying to build a wiki to manage the huge amount of knowledge that flows through their department.  We’re even in the final stages of implementing an IM reference service.  All of this takes lots of money – whether it’s in the form of purchase costs or implementation/time costs.

So when my group, the Emerging Technologies Team, sat down to examine the current and future technology landscape, we quickly came to the realization that while there are some wonderful new things that can be put into our plan, few of them are actually new technologies.  Most are modifications or improvements on existing technology.  All of this leads me to believe that technology, at least right now, is in an evolutionary phase, whereas only two or three years ago we were still in a revolutionary time period where new ideas were rocking the library boat on a regular basis.

So what have we looked at to include in our plan?  Much is building upon what we already have, such as pushing wireless to parks that sit next to our libraries;  streaming video from our puppet shows and other programming events; and, integrating new touch-screen flat panel OPACs into customer-convenient places where more traditional computers cannot go.

Our Emerging Tech team is also making a strong effort to push for the introduction of certain Web 2.0 technologies into our service offerings, such as formally encouraging the use of browser-based office applications such as Writely and BaseCamp.

Where does this leave an Emerging Technology Team?  Clearly we need to remove the expectation that technology will always offer sensational new tools that can be inserted into library operations and result in exceptional returns.  While the pace of new technology may increase again in a few years, for now it appears that both hardware and software advances will be more evolutionary in nature.  We need to educate those in positions of power that this does not mean that these evolutionary tools cannot result in revolutionary outcomes. 

Programming being done by Casey Bisson and John Blyerg point to some of the revolutionary things that can be done with small, evolutionary, tools.  What will result from these efforts will be amazing, and I am very anxious to see where we are in two or three years with their services.  This illustrates the one item that we cannot put on our Emerging Tech suggestion list, a programmer.  Clearly, one of the major divisions that now separates libraries is whether or not they can bring a programmer on board -- this will be what divides libraries in the next few years.  The Blybergs and Bissons and Vielmettis of the library world are the newest must-haves, and perhaps they are the new revolutionary technology.


Technolust: "an irrational love for new technology combined with unrealistic expectations for the solutions it brings"

February 18, 2006

Homeland Security, Your Library, and Porn

Read about it here.

February 16, 2006

Going to the Mall, Watching TV, Surfing the web

Like going to the mall or watching TV, people are surfing the web more and more, and they're doing it simply for "fun".  A great new report from Pew/Internet.

February 11, 2006

The 2.0 Meme

A SirsiDynix Institute Conversation: The 2.0 Meme - Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0

February 22, 2006 | 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Eastern

This SirsiDynix Institute is set up as a conversation with three people who are seriously thinking about how to create the next generation of library Web presence - even before we've finished the last generation. Moderated by Stephen Abram, our panel of Michael Casey, Michael Stephens, and John Blyberg will share their insights.

February 08, 2006

The Answer, and Nothing But the Answer

Two weeks ago I spent three days in Seattle talking with various Microsoft employees and fellow technology and library bloggers about some of the search-related products Microsoft was working on.  Some of the specifics I cannot discuss simply because I signed a non-disclosure agreement. But I came away with one especially relevant realization that, because of its generality, I can discuss.

Library customers do not always want librarian answers.  Sometimes customers want soft data and not hard data.  When someone fighting cancer comes into a library and asks for information on their illness, we need to be careful to offer both hard and soft answers.  We need to point them towards the books and electronic materials that will answer their medical questions, but we also need to point them towards both the physical and electronic support networks (social networks) that are out there.  

I am not pretending to speak for all librarians, by any stretch, but I know that we often place an inordinate value on providing the hard data when what customers also desire are answers to the softer side, the personal side, of their question.  We need to know of, or know how to find, the online communities that have become so very popular over the past few years.  In larger metropolitan areas there are certainly physical community resources we can direct customers towards.  But in rural or less well served communities we need to be aware of the online support and social networks that exist so that our customers can have a place they feel comfortable discussing their needs with people with similar needs.

In many ways this is simply an extension of model reference behaviors – making sure our customers get the answer they want and need and not simply the answer we want to provide them.  The difference here is that we need to know of these resources – to know that they even exist – and my fear is that far too many librarians are unaware of the online social networks that now exist.

We can extend this to other areas, as well.  When a fellow librarian recently asked me if I had a copy of last fall’s OCLC report I was able to quickly get them the PDF file of the entire document.  But I realized that they may also need more than the report – they may need editorial analysis from other sources.  What really made an impact with this librarian was the amount of substantive commentary and analysis that existed on the web, not in databases of newspaper and journal articles, but in blogs of fellow librarians and library professionals.  The quality of the discourse on blogs is increasing, and the discussions regarding the OCLC report are an excellent example of the blog network being able to provide an excellent summary of the different views regarding the report’s findings.  But also of great value are the number of links to obscure but relevant articles that blogs often link to.

For many of you, there is nothing new here.  But I want to encourage everyone to spend just a little time evangelizing about the sources of support and information that are online but not found in some of the more “traditional” online sources.