Thursday, 31 July 2008

Ms Dewey's Ask a Librarian

Yes, yes, I know Ms Dewey is not new. Why she is almost 2 years old! Not that she looks 2. Nor is Bibliothekia suggesting for a minute that Ms Dewey is going to replace all those "Ask a librarian" services out there. Then again, I suspect some library clients will find Ms Dewey more appealing. She is certainly entertaining, as well as informative.

If you have not come across Ms Dewey before, according to her Wikipage: "Ms. Dewey is a viral marketing campaign started by Microsoft in October 2006. It also refers to the character of the same name." For all its "fluff", the search results are actually quite good. For example, try doing a search on the following, but make sure you have a good internet connection and your sound is turned on:

* 1936 Australian Tax Act - check the search results, this includes results from AustLII
* Osama Bin Ladin - check the search results and watch for the special comments.
* George Bush - check the search results and watch for the special comments.
* Alain de Botton - check the search results, again not bad search results.
* Joomla - check the search results, pretty good results.
* Waiting for Godot - check the search results (not bad) and watch for the special comments.
* Lord of the rings - hilarious, very funny, and good results.
* Legal - just watch and be entertained!

Ms Dewey must rank as one of the most entertaining (and kind of subversive) search engines out there in the wild untamed land of the Internet. On a more serious note, Ms Dewey shows that a search interface can actually have personality. Who would have thought? Is the inclusion of a "personality" in a search engine a passing fad, or does it represent the future; and what does this mean for all those real life, flesh and blood reference librarians out there? Mmmm.

Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program

Congratulations to the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program team at the National Library of Australia. On 25 July 2008, this team released the Australian Newspapers Beta service to the public. This service contains a selection of Australian newspapers published between 1803 and the copyright cut-off date of 1954. According to the Program's news page, as of July 2008 over 1 million pages have been scanned. It is also good to see that in the spirit of true Web 2.0 collabration, the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program is actively seeking other libraries to get involved.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Cuil aims to upset Google's cool

There is a very interesting article posted on Information World Review that "several former Google engineers have today launched a search engine rival, which promises to provide users with greater control over their privacy." Click here to view the full article on this new search engine which is called Cuil – pronounced "cool". The Cuil URL is http://www.cuil.com. While a search across blogs for Cuil suggests the jury is very much out, it will be fascinating to see where this leads.

It is also worth noting that with so many additional services such as Google Analytics, Google Books, Gmail, Blogger, and Google Docs, to name but a few, Google is now much more than just a search engine. Google is in fact more a competitor to Microsoft as they facing off to provide software as a service and computing in the cloud which Dell suggests will be worth USD $ 1 billion a year. No wonder more and more players are trying to move into this space.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Thing #46: Part A, Learning 2.0 Updates

It is interesting looking back at the Learning 2.0 tools. Some of these I use frequently (I still use RSS feeds), others not at all. For example, Flickr is fine for photos but I would rather use Facebook. I continue to use Blogger for this blog, but when I have time I would like to check out WordPress, However, I don't seem to have a need for Rollyo, I use the Google customised search application instead. Looking back at these Learning 2.0 applications, while most have not changed too much, the way I use them sometimes has. For example, Del.icio.us has not changed very much, but I now use a lot more of its features e.g. tag descriptions and networking tags. LibraryThing however, has updated its interface and has made changes, for example the "recently tagged" section which brings back RSS feeds. Got to say, I love LibraryThing! Though it is not part of the original Learning 23 things, Facebook [Thing #55] is undergoing a massive revamp at the moment. The new Facebook is certainly different, but is better?... or is it that I have just got so used to the old interface?

Learning 2.1: Part A, Updates

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Open Source: Joomla, Drupal, Koha, & Drupal

It is interesting to see that according to Google Trends there appears to be less searching on the broad topic of open source, but an increase in searches on specific open source applications such as Joomla and Drupal.



Bibliothekia has never been to ALA, but my spies tell me that open source applications are becoming one of the "watch this spaces" issues at this and other US library conferences. There is also a growing amount of discussion on open source solutions on library blogs.

It has been fascinating to watch as a growing number of libraries migrate to services such as Koha or Evergreen. Bibliothekia is planning to keep an eye on this one. I have already loaded the recently released Koha 3.0.0 RC1 onto a flash drive (thanks Bart for identifying the problem with the dodgy flash drive), so it will be fun to see what Koha can actually do and how this compares to commercial integrated library system solutions. According to the Koha 3.0.0 release notes, the Koha search engine "features such as relevance ranking, field weighting, truncation, stemming, use of fuzzy operators, language-specific indexing, sorting, etc... Koha 3 can handle Chinese, Japanese, and even right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew."

Thing #45 Charts & Graphs - Part B Mind maps

Even though Bubbl.us has a flash interface, it was much faster than either Gliffy or Flowcharts.com. The Bubbl.us interface was also more intuitive and therefore easier to learn. Ok, mind maps are not the same as flow charts, but I still think Bubl.us was easier to learn. This said, Gliffy offered more options and different types of charts while Bubbl.us focused very much on just doing mind maps.

It was also very easy to save and embed the mind map it into a blog as an image file, (see the following mind map which captured some Sunday morning thoughts on library trends). Bubbl.us however, also gives you the option to embed a script into your blog.

So does Bubbl.us have an ongoing role? - possibly, but it also depends on the quality of thoughts and intent of the mind map. This blogger has seen some pretty poorly thought out mind maps that only demonstrate a lack of understanding and unclear directions. Why is it that some of the worst managers love mind maps? Maybe it is because mind maps are so easy to do, it looks like the participants are planning and scoping a project when in fact they are just making a big mess. In these cases no amount of good software can help. :-)







Learning 2.1: Flow charts and mind maps

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

When software in the cloud goes sour

StikiPad - When software in the cloud goes sour is an interesting blog posting about what happens when all that information you have been saving into the cloud disappears in a puff of smoke. For example, as part of the Learning 2.0 and Learning 2.1 programmes outlined in this blog, there is a whole lot of content that has been posted into the cloud. What do you do if YOUR online files stored in services such as Box.net or Omnidrive [Thing #32]; or photos posted into Photobucket [Thing #27] or Flickr [Thing #5]; or calendar events posted into Plaxo or RememberTheMilk [Thing #31] disappear? I am not suggesting that any of these services are going to fold any time soon, BUT what happens if they do a Stikipad and go off line for a couple of weeks? If you work for a library service that is relying on more and more information in the cloud, have you (can you) back up your information? Be honest, when was the last time you backed up your Del.icio.us tags [Thing #13]?

See also the ZDnet Asia article Can you trust your business to Google's cloud? Monday, July 14, 2008 10:49 AM

Abstract: A large number of Google Docs users could not use their online word processor or presentations for about an hour Tuesday. But the glitch illustrates not just the troubles with cloud computing, but also the gradual progress in making the concept palatable. Cloud computing, in which software runs not on PCs or company servers but instead on computers on the Internet, requires something of a leap of faith both technologically and culturally. Those making the move must get accustomed to a reliance on somebody else's computing infrastructure, and that can be scary.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Thing #45 Charts & Graphs - Part A Flow charts

The flash interface that comes with Flowchart.com, combined with a slow internet connection made it impossible to try out this service. As a result, I tried Gliffy instead. Gliffy was easier to use but still a bit slow (it also uses a flash interface) but it was still faster and easier to use than Flowchart.com. I created a simple flow chart, and then using the "Blog this Diagram" option grabbed the code and embedded it into this blog. However, the file's dimensions were too wide for this blog, and the Gliffy resize by px did not seem to make any difference, so I used the Gliffy JPEG download function and resized the image in Microsoft Paint before uploading it back into the blog. Not ideal but I could not afford any more time with Gliffy. See following for image details. As with Flowcharts.com, the Gliffy flash interface was slow and got in the way. It did not enhance the experience



Learning 2.1: Flow charts and mind maps

Search your own Blog

There are a number of ways you can put your own search engine over your blog, but given this blog uses the Blogger platform by Google, it probably makes more sense to use Google's Google Custom Search API. Getting this custom search box up and running was very easy. It doesn't take long to do, and there are a number of option you can choose from, such as only search your blog, or search your blog and the Internet. It took longer to play around with the width and height formatting than it did to install, but you do need to have a Google account to set up any of these Google apps. Bibliothekia is still interested at checking out the Atomz site indexer and search engine, but that is for another day.

Snap Shots

Ok, so most Web 2.0 apps are easy to install but Snap Shots takes that one step further, not only is it ridiculously easy to install, they even give you a message (with all the html tags in built) that you can post onto you blog or web site. See following message for details. Now how easy is that!

Introducing Snap Shots from Snap.com

I just installed a nice little tool on this site called Snap Shots that enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, display inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more.

Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not.

Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.
Those clever & entrepreneurial librarians at Yarra Plenty Regional Library [YPRL], in Melbourne Australia are about to start a learning 2.0 programme for their library patrons. The programme is called A Taste of the Web and is based on the successful Learning 2.0 and Learning 2.1 programmes that were developed by Helene Blowers, and that introduced Web 2.0 to so many librarians around the world (including yours truly).

As a result of all these programmes, both librarians and patrons are empowered to use Web 2.0. As a result, everyone gets an opportunity to learn, and people are not left behind on the wrong side of the digital divide. What a great idea!

Check out the programme at http://www.yprlconnect.blogspot.com

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Thing #44: Nag yourself + Jott

Jott looked good, pity we don't have it in the land of OZ.

Learning 2.1: Jott

Friday, 11 July 2008

Quintura

Quintura is a really interesting search visualisation tool that offers a cloud search widget you can run across and / or embedded into your web site or blog. Click the words in the cloud to discover popular search topics or surf the web, refine your cloud, save it, and or share it! See following for details, this widget points to ReadWriteWeb because it is one of my favourite sites.

Thing #42 Google Groups & Usenet

I first used the Internet, and had my first email address, in 1990 at Library school. This was just before Mosaic, GUI interfaces and web 2.0, so it was a bit of a trip down memory lane to think about, let alone look at, Usenet after such a long time.

While overall Usenet stats are up, there is also the suggestion that much of this traffic increase reflects not an increase in discrete users or newsgroup discussions, but instead the combination of massive automated spamming and an increase in the use of .binaries newsgroups in which large files (frequently pornography or pirated media) are often posted publicly. For details see wikipedia/Usenet. Mmm so much for Newsnet.

Meanwhile back at the Google Group soc.libraries.talk, usage has tanked in the last 12 years. See the following graph for details. I guess with so many other online discussion services and social network sites available, there are now so many more options.


Learning 2.1: Google Groups and Usenet

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Thing #39 Online Video Animoto

Animoto is very easy to set up, even if in the back of my mind I wonder what all these Web 2.0 companies will do with the demographic data they are getting from people when they join up. How often do people check the terms and conditions when they join up? It was also very easy to upload images and attach music, though the choice of music was a bit limited. I wondered if this was because of copyright, but then there is more and more music being published every day into the public domain under Creative Commons.

Meanwhile back at Animoto, it was extremely easy to create a video though I would have liked more control over how it looks and the sequence of images, but for 30 seconds of free video this is a minor quibble. It was also very easy to embed the video into this blog. You can even embed Animoto into your Facebook [Learning 2.1 Thing #60] profile and directly create a video from your Facebook photos. How cool is that! It is also very, very easy to do.

As with Scrapblog exercise, this Animoto video celebrates Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast novels. The BBC turned this into a mini series in 2000. For some unexplained reason it was not taken up on Australian TV, but apparently it is being released on DVD in zone 4 by Roadshow Entertainment on 4 September 2008.

Learning 2.1 Thing # 39



Learning 2.1: Online Video Animoto

Powerset, Microsoft and the Semantic Web

Given Microsoft has acquired the semantic search engine start up Powerset for a rumoured USD $100 million, it is probably a good time to consider why Micosoft considers Powerset to be important, i.e. "Powerset technology is more about indexing the content and understanding its meaning, than the query itself", against the following statement from ReadWriteWeb:

So far, none of the larger search engines have been able to capitalise on the promises of semantic search. Most of the innovations in the space so far have come from small start-ups and even those never made any real inroads in terms of market share when compared to the keyword driven search engines of Google, Ask, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

It will be interesting to see if the acquisition of Powerset helps Microsoft deliver on the promises of semantic searching. Certainly the Microsoft Start Up blog posting by Don Dodge states that, there "are many lucrative markets for this technology...not just consumer web search." Mind you, not everyone is impressed with Powerset so this could be a dud acquisition by Microsoft.

So how does this work. Well as explained by Microsoft:

Powerset is using linguistics and (NLP) to better understand the meaning and context of search queries. But the real power of Powerset is applied to the search index, not the query. The index of billions of web pages is indexed in the traditional way. The big difference is in the post processing of the index. They analyze the indexed pages for "semantics", context, meaning, similar words, and categories. They add all of this contextual meta data to the search index so that search queries can find better results.

What will be really interesting is: (a) what will Google do, and (b) what does this all mean for libraries.

Metaweb's Freebase Now 60% Larger Than English Wikipedia

The article from Readwrite that Metaweb's Freebase is now 60% larger than English Wikipedia definitely jumped off the page! I am still amazed at the size of Wikiedia, as well as the quality of the Wikiedia content that comes from people collaborating, and sometimes bickering. However, I am definitely going to give Freebase a closer look even though there is a question over the "seriousness" of some of the content. See also the story on Readwriteweb

Monday, 7 July 2008

Thing #35 Micro blogging, Twitter & Friendfeed

Again, as with so many of the other Web 2.0 activities, Twitter is easy to set up and get started. If you can type, you can Tweet. It was also very easy to add the Twitter app to your Facebook [Learning 2.1 Thing #60] profile.

Popular though Twitter is, there is also some interesting evidence to suggest that Friendfeed is becoming more popular than Twitter. Click here to view the Techcrunch posting on the subject. Oh well, so much for brand loyalty in the wild west land of Web 2.0.

Learning 2.1: Twitter & Micro blogging

Use "Get a Badge" to render your Yahoo Pipes RSS

Using the Get as a badge option that comes with Yahoo Pipes you can render your mashed up RSS news feed into your blog or web site. See the following image for details. Why would you do this? Because by using Yahoo Pipes you can grab, join, filter, de-dup, and truncate a large number of RSS feeds and present them as one combined list that appears in reverse chronological order in your blog or web site.



The end result appears like this. I have also added this as a html element into the blog right hand side menu bar.

Scribd iPaper and Box.net

For those who are interested, Box.net, which was featured in my Learning 2.0 Thing # 32 post uses Scibd iPaper previews of powerpoints, word files, excel spreadsheets, and PDFs on box.net without saving them to your computer. This means you don't have to wait for the native software to load (assuming your computer has the native software) before you can start to view a document on Box.net. How cool is that!

For more details refer to the news item dated 21 Feb 2008 located on Mashable.com.

What I Learned Today Library Blog

What I Learned Today is a great library blog located by Nicole Engard at www.web2learning.net. Nicole's blog touches on "Web 2.0 and programming tips from a library technology enthusiast, What I Learned Today… covers blogs, rss, wikis and more as they relate to libraries." In 2007 Nicole was recognised by the Library Journal as being a Movers & Shakers and the VALA Facebook page mashed up RSS feeds sources information from this blog.

This great blog shows that learning never stops.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Thing # 33 Online Art

Yes Helen Blowes, I agree - fun, interesting, but the online art is a bit of a waste of time. Just as well I am doing this at home in my own time. :-)

Learning 2.1: Online Art

Thing # 32 Online File Storage with Box.net

Not being able to use Omnidrive (see previous posting) I used Box.net instead. Setting up the Box.net account was easy, as was creating folders and uploading files. I uploaded two PowerPoint presentations and one MS Word document. See the following links for details:
Like Omnidrive, Box.net also uses the Zoho to allow you to edit word file. Box.net also allows you to tag your documents, as well as attach comments, move, copy, and rename the documents. you can also open and view files without having MS Office open which is very cool.

While the collaboration functionality of Box.net appears good, and it would be very useful when doing group editing, I think I would still use Slideshare when saving and presenting the final version of a Powerpoint presentation. See my blog posting at http://bibliothekia.blogspot.com/2008/04/slideshare.html for details.

While looking at Box.net it was also interesting to see the following information on their About Us page.

"Box.net is the first web-native system for access and collaboration which allows a broad array of functionality. With nearly 2 million users, over 1 million files served every day, and more than 1000 developers in the Box Enabled Network, the service is used by individuals, small businesses, and Fortune 1000 companies."

Learning 2.1: Online File Storage with Omnidrive

Thing # 32 Online File Storage with Omnidrive

Alas, I can not sign up to Omnidrive. As of July 2008 they are posting the following message:

"Omnidrive is currently in Beta, and we have reached capacity in terms of number of users. We expect to allow more user signups during late May (a small run while we roll a trial of the new 1.0 version) and then expect to completely open signups up again once the 1.0 version of the product is launched. Currently a firm date for the 1.0 release has not been set, but we anticipate that most users will be migrated to it during June, and it will be open to all new users in July."

Given it is now July, it looks like I might have to wait a bit longer.

Learning 2.1: Online File Storage with Omnidrive

Friday, 4 July 2008

Thing #31 Rememberthemilk

Rememberthemilk.com, like Plaxo, is another online calendar & to do list which is mentioned in the Learning 2.1 thing number 31 activity. However, unlike most of the other learning 2.1 web tools, Rememberthemilk.com comes from Australia, and came 13th in the Top 100 Australian Web 2.0 Applications for 2008. For details on this award go to Ross Dawson's Trends in Living Networks blog.

Learning 2.1: Rememberthemilk.com calendar & to do list

Thing #31 Plaxo - online calendar & to do list

Plaxo was very easy to set up and has one of the clearest and easiest interfaces. While it was very, very easy to link in my Del.ico.us tags and the RSS feed of the notes from the Facebook page I administer, Plaxo could not find this blog. This was despite me copying and pasted this blog’s URL as well as RSS feed URL. Plaxo can be integrated with Disqus. So I will look into adding Disqus and then try to add in this blog.

With Plaxo it was very easy to add events and tasks, Firefox and icalshare had a bit of a hissy fit [highly technical term] when asked to work together with Plaxo to integrate a couple of TV shows and sport events. It was interesting to see that icalshare even offers a local Melbourne TV calendar with the quote "crap" removed, but when I looked at the calendar it was clear that one persons crap is another person's treasure and vice versa. For the record - Big Brother is crap while 4 Corners is not.

Learning 2.1: Plaxo calendar & to do list

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Thing #29 Scrapblog.com Part C

Per the previous post, publishing the Scrapblog was long and painful (slow internet connection). Share/Posting it to Flickr, and giving it the tag "scrapblogbooks", was a lot faster. See:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bibliothekia/tags/scrapblogbooks

Learning 2.1: Scrapblog

A quote on books & reading

"A woman at one of mother's parties once said to me, 'Do you like reading?' which smote us all to silence, for how could one tell her that books are like having a bath or sleeping, or eating bread - absolute necessities which one never thinks of in terms of appreciation. And we all sat waiting for her to say she had so little time for reading, before ruling her right out for ever and ever." Rachel Ferguson (1893-1957), The Brontes went to Woolworths. See LibraryThing for book details.

Rachel Ferguson was a vigorous campaigner for women's rights and a member of the Women's Social and Political Union or WSPU. A pianist, caricaturist and lover of cats, Rachel's later years were dominated by two causes - the well-being of quote "decayed gentlewomen and performing animals".

Thing #29 Scrapblog.com Part B

Not finding a Scrapblog background theme I could live with, I made one myself, and created a 5 page Scrapblog with photos and stickers. While this was intuitive and easy to do, the Scrapblog flash interface was so slow I was not able to load files directly from Photobucket into Scrapblog as instructed. In the end, I had to download the files from Photobucket onto my hard drive, and then upload them into Scrapblog. It then took 1/2 an hour (I kid you not) for Scrapblog to publish the 5 pages. Not that I blame Scrapblog - when will this country get affordable bandwidth with speeds comparable to other developed countries. As this took so much time, I pasted the Scrapblog URL into this blog posting (see following), and will wait until tomorrow to finish this exercise by publishing this Scrapblog using the Share/Post to Flickr option.



Learning 2.1: Scrapblog

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Thing #29 Scrapblog.com Part A

scrapblog.com had a good interface but because it is uses flash, it is so very slow. Clearly these Web 2.0 services are built around US / Korean / Japanese / European bandwidth. When will this country get decent and affordable broadband? The other interesting thing about scrapblog.com is that its market appears to be teenage and Gen Y girls. For example, most of the ready made background themes are very, very girly. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it would be nice for scrapblog.com to offer a few more background themes for the guys instead of all those backgrounds titled "Twinkle toes", "Pink Chocolate", and "Ethereality" (I kid you not). As an aside, it would be interesting to see the stats relating to the gender of people using photosharing services such as scrapblog.com, Flickr, and Photobucket. I suspect their business plans are built around a female audience - not that there is anything wrong with that.

Learning 2.1: Scrapblog

Google Analytics

Pointing Google Analytics to your blog is very, very easy, and Google Analytics is not only easy to use, it offers a whole lot of very good reports (and they did not pay me to say this). It has been a while since I had a look at the Google Analytics for this blog, so I while I was not surprised to see most of the traffic came from Australia, I was surprised to see that there is also traffic from India! It is also interesting to see that 48% of traffic came from referring sites. So do your self a favour and have a looksy at Google Analytics. Following is two of the Google Analytics outputs from this blog.





To see how Google Analytics can fit into measuring and reporting Library 2.0 activities, see the VALA 2008 presentation Measuring your work and reporting your value as we move to Library 2.0, Melbourne Australia, 6 February 2008. There is also a very good tutorial on Google Analytics on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KK7i084W2w or see below.