Thursday, May 31, 2007
To understand what that means, see "Hey, you got LibraryThing in my catalog" or the entry from LibraryThing's blog (Thingology) on the project. My comprehension - such as it is - is that the service patches in - on top of (or should I say along with) - LibraryThing users' tags and recommendations, as well as a FRBR-like ability to see all editions of the work that the library has, rather than requiring you to enter multiple separate bib records). One of the great things (how many times can I use the word "thing" in a post?) about this project is that Danbury & LibraryThing integrated these services so nicely in a single web interface, so the user doesn't have to care about where the info is coming from - they see it all at once.
Back in the day, I remember integrating a Syndetics-based add-on into a CARL OPAC - it was called "You See More" as I recall. It was great because it added Amazon-style features (e.g., book jackets, tables of contents, excerpts, and book reviews) into the catalog. And the presentation was largely integrated so - for the most part - the content looked like it was in the catalog itself, though it was drawn from another source & matched to the catalog search result via ISBN. What's different nowadays is that the content LibraryThing pulls into a catalog is user-generated, not created by publishers & corporations. Real users create "tags" for books in their LibraryThing collections. It's this type of data that LibraryThing adds. How wonderful! And it's not like Danbury's losing anything - the integrity of their catalog remains - they've just added end-user generated tags as additional access points. (because not everyone thinks like a librarian!)
I'll learn more about it in a meeting soon & you can, too - the CT Library Consortium will offer a look at the service - a presentation by Loose Cannon Librarian and Coordinator of Library Automation herself, Kate Sheehan on Tuesday, June 19 from 10:00 to noon at Danbury Public Library.
What else? Oh yeah, if you've ever thought about doing the Google Custom Search Engine for your site, I can highly recommend it. Use a wildcard in the keyword field when you create the search if you want the search to automatically go through your entire site (minus - of course - any robots.txt disallowed pages). The little wizard that creates the Google Custom Search Engine even offers a widget for people to automatically add the customized search that you've created to their personalized Google (iGoogle) home page.
I was looking into the Spry AJAX framework from Adobe earlier today - will need to get CS3 soon, just to be able to take advantage of the new options that it offers. But I don't have time right now. Maybe in the next blue moon.
Friday, May 25, 2007
To that end, we've experimented with setting up a "user feedback" loop/mechanism [it's called a blog! ;)] no, but seriously, we let folks comment on the flickr photostream of screenshots that I'd annotated various features of (e.g., this little box - not in the final version, but do you want it in the final version)... and if it was easier, they could just comment on the blog. Now, anyone can either email me or comment on the blog. I dunno if this is the 100% right way to go - but why not try the conversation? I definitely need feedback to improve things. I'm hoping it's all constructive. Then again, maybe it's what you make of it - it can all be constructive.
If you want to leave comments for me or the web team re: the new site - go to http://www.cslwebmaster.org. Hope you have a great holiday weekend!
Oh yeah - here's the pics - 1 in IE, 1 in Firefox - both PC-based:
Monday, May 07, 2007
Database vendors - I'm talking to you. All of you. We've seen the calls on library management system vendors to improve their interfaces. We've seen discussion after discussion on the lousiness of the OPAC. And I've heard countless discussions among my peers about this - but I don't know if we've really made it public knowledge - we intensely dislike your interfaces! [I'm trying to be diplomatic here by avoiding that 4-letter h- word]
(EBSCO, ProQuest, Gale, etc., etc., you know who you are... yes, I'll be transparent, I'm using your names so that - if you check buzz on the blogosphere about your company, you'll find this little rant...)
Or maybe I shouldn't speak for the profession. But I CAN speak for the users. Why do you think so many people would prefer to Google than to use your services? [I've extolled the virtues of the commercial databases to many of my family members and friends, but when I actually demo the services, they are atonished at how lousy the interface is, how irrelevant the search results are, how difficult it is to get in (yes, trying to find your library card number to prove that you're a legitimate library user, typing it in, and awaiting the ever-so-slow load up of your search interface is a pain to people used to the Google model of searching)... I know that they don't continue using the databases after I've shown them - unless a professor in a course they're taking requires it... how do I know? (a) I talk to them; (b) I myself - librarian that I am - far prefer to Google everything than to go into a database. Heck, I prefer Wikipedia to struggling with the licensed online resources that I have available to me. And I'm not any more lazy than anyone else out there - like everyone nowadays, I'm overbooked, overworked, and overwhelmed. I'm always seeking to do the easiest thing. It's the only way I can reduce stress and get by. And my methods are working well enough to make me forego the extra hardships involved in getting info from a commercial db, unless I really, really, really, really need it.
You are data aggregators - that's what you are good at. Stick to that. Provide endless ways and means for us to get at that data and to shape a positive user-centered experience. Provide endless ways and means for our users to take and shape that information.
If I might paraphrase Dave Rogers in this article - http://www.gotomedia.com/gotoreport/may2007/keys.html :
"And the promise of Web 2.0 is going to remain unfulfilled until a few companies are brave enough to give away the keys to their well-fortified Web kingdoms."
I'm not trying to be deconstructive without offering solutions. A few simple suggestions (yes, simple in concept, perhaps not simple in execution - but that's why you're a big corporation with a great number of resorces) will keep all of us from pulling our hair out, ranting on blogs, and bypassing the many quality resources that these database vendors provide to use lesser quality resources that are easier to use:
- allow the users & library folks to shape their own data delivery experience - let them use RSS feeds (e.g., to plug into their Google homepages/their Bloglines, Feedburner email alerts, etc.); let them aggregate the database offerings available to them, regardless of what vendor provides; allow them to cross-search the many providers - they shouldn't need to know that this journal is in your so-called "academic" product and another vendor's "general" product (abstracts only!)
- allow systems librarians to more easily integrate your resources with their other resources, be they catalogs, RSS feeds from blogs/wikis, or anything else for that matter; allow systems librarians, for example, to provide a search that goes across their entire website, all of their digital archives, catalogs, and every vendor's database [yes, yes, I know that your specific interface can likely be plugged into a WebFeat or SFX or other tool, but even so, when the end-user clicks on the results, they usually end up at a wholly different interface (your proprietary one) and it can be hard to move among the different resources from then on..]
- allow users to share information more easily using collaborative tools like blogs and wikis, offer permanent urls that they can point their readers and co-collaborators to
- help libraries to provide better authentication mechanisms - stop burdening the user with barriers to use (how about the use of global ip - something that the iCONN statewide database program for Connecticut has pioneered?)
- last, but certainly not least, stop trying to dazzle the users with smoke & mirrors -- prettying up your interface's "buttons" or page layout. Instead, meet their expectations of functionality -- search relevance in this case. It was not a smart-looking site that moved Google to the forefront (G's creators, of course, admit that the so-called "clean look" of their search engine was simply due to the fact that neither of them were designers - instead they were developers). People needed a search engine that would mine the vastly-growing web in ways that wouldn't just burden them with irrelevant results. Google offered the most relevant search results for users, so they ignored the low-tech look and used it. Moreover, the popularity of Google spread person-to-person - no marketing $$$ were spent at all. It was just Google's functionality - users who decided to give it a try were so impressed that they not only came back, but brought friends and family with them. This is another lesson for all of you db providers out there - forget the glossy brochures & slick marketing - spend your money on more developers!
- Meme: the concept, which itself has become a meme (and does that make it recursive?) - essentially that units of culture that are spread person to person (phrases, popular bands/tv shows, ideas, etc.) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme
- Stuck/unstuck (listen to the podcast from the South by Southwest interactive conference this spring):
- See the gotomedia.com's May report on the concept of getting stuck (and ideally unstuck - follow her links to the other getting unstuck links) - http://www.gotomedia.com/gotoreport/may2007/index.html
- Communication as a way of preventing "stuck"-ness; continuous feedback loop is useful when doing a web design/redesign project
- Be ready, willing and able to fail - but fail quickly
- Silverlight from Microsoft - the new Flash-killer application (cross-platform compatible)? Revealed at last week's Mix07 conference; point being, it will help us create more, better rich interactive applications for the web (i.e., RIAs)
- Try out slideshare, if you haven't already!
- From the Web2.0 Summit - note that Amazon has unveiled its entire "web stack" of services - they are no longer booksellers, but web services providers; they include in their webstack the Mechanical Turk for providing expert answers
(ASIDE: librarians, listen up, between Amazon, Yahoo answers, and Microsoft Live Q&A, is it possible that soon people won't think to turn to librarians for their answers (do they think to at this point anyway?) - but only to turn to the big online web service providers.... On the other hand, maybe there's only room for one large online answering service... Google Answers has been retired as of the beginning of '07, for example (largely due to the success of Yahoo Answers & Google's comparative lack of success). If you haven't done virtual reference yet, maybe it's time to stop hesitating & to jump into the ring - I'm not sure if it's not too late, but it's certainly worth a try folks... for Connecticut libraries, there's InfoAnytime, which combines the resources of libraries throughout the state to offer 24/7 live chat reference services... )
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
A discussion just came up on ning.com's Library2.0 community about "manager2.0" - creating a library2.0 environment (if you aren't yet on ning.com & in the Library2.0 community, what on earth are you waiting for? when you do, friend me, I'll be happy to reciprocate!). Bob K. offered this opening post:
Reading Helen Blowers' CIL wrap-up blog entry and reflecting on many posts here prompted me to think about creating an environment where 2.0 can flourish. What are its attributes? How can we achieve it? And if we are not part of management, what can we do to change ourselves that will force management and coworkers to be more receptive to the 2.0 message?Here's a reading list (I like webliographies):* Creating Passionate Users: Manager 2.0* Free Range Librarian: Management 2.0 and the Trumpeter in the Attic ...
So I read the Creating Passionate Users blog posting & then noticed a not completely unrelated posting on the same blog about social contagion & negativity. It's great, I highly recommend it - it reminds us of the role that we all play in making the world a better place. It drove home the point that everyone can help to build Library2.0... even if they're the sole proponent and they're non-managerial - they can build a little bit of Library2.0 in their environment... and it will spread!
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
If you haven't yet availed yourself of a gmail account, I can only say, what are you waiting for? A world of Google lies before you, ever-evolving and these days - as vast as the horizon. [customized Google search engines, Google Analytics for web statistics, the Google calendar, RSS feed aggregator and that's not all... for the amazing price of just - well, free - you also get the all-new Google "gadgets"]
[P.S. what the heck happened to some of the feeds and the Google RSS Reader I had embedded in my personalized Google home page? iGoogle appears to have eaten functionality on my page, as well as having added some.... ah the joys of technological innovation!]
Manage your influx of geek-formation using NetVibes (or iGoogle), manage your life using GTD (Getting Things Done) techniques & tools...
Manage your blogging presence from the externally-hosted Blogger.com or Wordpress.com, but don't let it manage you - use your own domain name to personalize and professionalize the experience in your end-users' eyes (instead of librarywebhead.blogspot.com, e.g., I could create blog.librarywebhead.com or could use the blog as my homepage at www.librarywebhead.com).
If you already have a domain name, used for your email and/or your main website, however, you'll want to look into the creation of a subdomain (to understand domains, subdomains, and the corresponding A and CNAME DNS records, see this article at http://content.websitegear.com/article/subdomain_setup.htm), then use Blogger or Wordpress' domain options. These are fairly new features for the blogging services. In the past, if you wanted to use your own domain name, you needed to run bloggin software locally, from your own web server.
And, of course, manage your organization recognizing Google's 10 Golden Rules... these are particularly apropos, I believe, since the concept is to treat knowledge workers appropriately & what else are librarians but knowledge workers? Gems, such as this one originally from Drucker: 'strip away everything that gets in [the workers'] way'. Google's golden rules remind us why social computing is so important right now - with notions like 'the many are smarter than the few'. Google's rules include "hiring by committee" and decision-making by consensus, though informed by the evidence/data.