Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Yellow is not Green

Last night Sensis, which is owned by Telstra, dropped off the Yellow Pages. This also included 'Yellow™ In the Car', which is a mini paper version of the yellow pages. The whole package weighed 5 kilos.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates there are over 8.1 million households in Australia. So if we do a rough calculation and bring the number up to 9 million to include the businesses who still get the paper version of the yellow pages we get:

5 kilograms * 9 million = 45,000 tonnes of paper!

That's a lot of paper, and that does not take into account the white pages.

If considering the impact on the environment, this does not include the cost of producing or delivering these directories. Basically we are talking about a lot of energy consumption and green house gases.

Is this really necessary? More and more Australian's have Internet access, so surely for the environment's sake, Sensis should offer an easy opt out service for people do not want the print version. I for one did not bother to open the last few years print versions of the yellow pages. They send them to me and I put them straight into the recycling. What a waste of paper and resources.

If I need to find a phone number, I either use either Google or the yellow pages online. This brings me to the new(ish) Sensis product: 'Yellow™ In the Car'. If you have a mobile, and especially if you have a 3G mobile, why would you use a print version of the yellow pages in the car.

Maybe there needs to be some direct action. If Australian's started dumping all their unused and unopened yellow pages and white pages into their local Telstra shop it would become Telstra's problem to deal with the recycling. Would this open their eyes to the waste they are causing!?! Maybe, maybe not, but direct action is sounding pretty good.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Information Online 2009: Opening Address, Senator Stephen Conroy

Before we start, let me say that there have been many blogs and tweets about the Senator's speech at the 2009 Information Online Conference, so I am going to try and avoid clogging up the Internet by repeating things that others have already said. However, by posting after the event I can bring together people's threads, comments, observations, insights, and yes even rants, and add some of my own. Se let's begin.

Most of the comments on blogs and tweets relating to this io2009 address seemed to agree that Stephen Conroy was very defensive for much of the speech. See the other resources listed below for details. This is not surprising, for while the Senator gave the Rudd Government’s line on the digital economy, the importance of access to information, and the role libraries play in the digital economy; most of us were really there to hear what he would say about the proposal to implement national internet filtering. So what did he say on the matter? Well here are some quotes and paraphrases:

* The Rudd Government's AUD $125.8 million Cyber-Safety Plan still includes funding for ISP-level content filtering.
* The Senator admitted the concerns about the viability of the ISP-level content filtering 'rested on technical aspects, as well as freedom of speech arguments'.
* In regards to the technical aspects of filtering, Stephen Conroy voice the belief that "index-based filtering of a central blacklist is technically feasible' while there are some technical issues around 'broader, dynamic analysis filtering of internet content".
* Specific to libraries, the Senator stated that "as public libraries provide internet access in a public space, funded by public money, the role of Government in ensuring broader public safety is an important one that needs to be considered".

It is very interesting to see that at the same time as Stephen Conroy is proposing Internet censorship for Australia, in the US the Supreme court has (to quote the New York Times) "refused to step in and save the Child Online Protection Act. Everyone can agree on the need to protect children from sexually explicit online material, but this misguided law tried to do it in ways that infringed on too much constitutionally protected free speech."

Unfortunately the American Library Association (ALA) is in the middle of a major web rebuild, so their online resources relating to Internet filtering are not currently available. BUT, I did find the PDF file of the ALA's Report to President-Elect Obama, in which it asks President Obama to:

* "Support legislation and fund programs that include Internet safety education, as opposed to Internet blocking and filtering;
* Emphasize the importance of parental involvement in Internet training and safety;
* Oppose any further filtering/blocking requirement for the E-rate and other programs; assure protection of First Amendment rights and other civil liberties in the online/digital environment;
* Support vigorous enforcement of existing child pornography laws; increase public awareness about reporting child porn and other illegal Internet activities;
* Conduct research on cyber-bullying and other types of behaviors on the Internet; promote discussion of First Amendment vs. personal privacy rights in the digital environment."

This ALA document also has some very interesting things to say about literacy and lifelong learning, copyright, eGovernment, library funding, as well as broadband and telecommunications policy. So if you are not aware of it check it out! Be aware this link points directly to a PDF file.

It will be interesting to see what tact the Australian Library and Information Association will take in response to the Cyber-Safety Plan and Internet filtering. Up till now they have negotiated from 'inside the tent'. While it is encouraging that Senator Conroy stated that the government will take an 'evidence-based approach to implementing its cyber-safety policy' the question remains who's evidence, and will the views of libraries, libertarians, and ISPs be heard; will freedom of speech be protected as well as child safety ensured? Only time will tell if we are heard. Hopefully, as Australian governments tend to follow the lead of US governments, we will not have a 10 year battle ahead of us as was the case in the USA.

So what is my overview of the speech? Well it was a competent, if some what uninspiring, speech that gave the government line. If the Senator's speech is any guide, the government does seems genuinely surprised by the level of debate and disquiet their Internet filtering proposals have generated. I am no fan of Tony Abbott, but the great political one liner of 2008 was from Tony when he said that 'Kevin Rudd hit the ground reviewing' However, when it comes to Internet filtering, the Rudd Government does not seem to have done enough consultation before raising the sceptre of national internet filtering. Is this more evidence of the Nanny State? I think I need a nanna nape.

RESOURCES




Click here for a copy of my notes with a podcast of the Senator's address.


Click here to see what bloggers are saying about Senator Conroy and Internet filtering.




OTHER INFORMATION ONLINE 2009 RESOURCE




There is a three part video of the address on Youtube, but be warned. If you are like David Stratton, and dislike the hand-held camera school of film making, this video is going to make you a bit seasick. Still it is good the video was made and posted on the web.



Stilgherrian has posted a transcript of the Senator's address on his blog. I have included this blog post as it also has includes interesting discussions.



Click here to view the tweets about this speach.



Thanks also to Paul for the photo. The original with comment is available on Flickr.

Writing notes and podcasting at Online 2009

Before we delve into my more detailed notes taken during the recent Information Online 2009 Conference (io2009) in Sydney, I have a few disclaimers.

First, you are going to have to excuse my writing. My writing was never good as I was experimented on by nuns in primary school. Well that's my excuse and I am sticking to it.

But seriously, my hand writing has got worse. I suspect it is because (other than birthday and Christmas cards) I hardly ever write anything these days.

Per my previous blog post, during the conference I used a Livescribe pen from Pulse rather than schlep my lap top around to blog. In taking these notes I noticed that it DOES require a different type of note taking, and this took a bit of getting used to.

You do not have to write everything down as you can play it back, BUT it makes sense to write down a place holding word to mark a particular section within your notes. It was also interesting that not all of the presenters where very good at highlighting their next topic before launching into it. Some did not even stay within their own proposed presentation framework. I also found that if you got engrossed in the topic being discussed, and you forgot to mark something down, this could really stuff up the flow of the notes.

So with all of this out of the way... DRUM ROLL. Here come the first of the io2009, Information Online 2009 notes and podcasts from Bibliothekia via the Livescribe pen pen from Pulse.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Information Online 2009 - Overview

Now that I am back from the Information Online conference in Sydney it is time to sit down and go through the notes and report back. This posting is an overview; the more detailed comments will be posted over the next few days.

So what did I learn? Well, ... actually not that much. There was no real parting of the clouds and radiant shafts of insight, nor were there any (for me) really challenging papers. This said, it was still worthwhile, and there were some good things to see and hear.

Liz Lawley's keynote address on Libraries as Happiness Engines was inspiring, positive, and very good. Maybe because of my close proximity to the local film industry (which is busy building interactive online gaming content) I did not really come away learning anything new. On the Friday after the conference I was lucky enough to visit an inner Sydney production studio and see first hand what they were doing with film, interactive online content, and games for the education sector. More on this when it is released into the public domain and I can blog about it. But back to Online; it was great to meet Liz and her new research (I am sworn to secrecy for the time being) sounds very interesting indeed. Liz and I also worked out we have a common friend in Karen Schneider. Is LibraryLand small or what!

Andy Hind was very good and insightful. It was good to see that it verified everything I have learnt in my Post Grad Marketing Diploma. Paul Hagan from the National Library of Australia also gave a very good and inspiring paper on what libraries can do to build really interesting and relevant content on the fly using mashups.

Some seemed to have found Mal Booth's comments on metadata unsettling, and they then got distracted. This is a pity, as it was only one part of his excellent presentation. Still, (to be controversial) let me say that: just as we have lost the search portal wars to players such as Google, we seem to be oblivious to the fact that we are quickly loosing (if indeed we were ever ahead) the tagging and client content war to players such as Flickr who make it so easy for people to upload content and who do not ask for '12 core metadata fields' in the process! More on this latter.

There were of course many more good papers, but there were also some very ordinary papers. However, compared to some of the comments from my peers, I seemed to avoid the worst of these papers. Maybe after going to conferences for many, many, years you learn how to pick and choose the best.

Three general observations:

A. It was interesting to see that some (and it was only some) librarians still hang onto sacred cows when rapid changes in information technology is making some of these cows fit for the knackery. These seem to be the same librarians who complain about not having enough time to do all the new things that are expected of us because they seem unable to give up any of the old. Not that everything new is good and everything old is bad, BUT it is so much more difficult to move forward when you are stuck in the past.

B. Speaking of the new(ish), it was great to see the incorporation of a wide range of social networking platforms in and around the conference. In 2009, Information Online used:

* Twitter tagged to io2009,
* a Flickr group,
* a Conference Blog,
* Technorati tagged to io2009,
* a Facebook group,
* a Linked in group, and
* Slideshare.

For this the Information Online Committee should be commended.

C. It was also good to see a new generation of tech savvy and articulate librarians participating in the conference. I wonder if it was this new generation librarians who were behind the use of social networking at the conference. For example, I notice that the links to the Information Online social networking options do not go via the conference domain, but rather go via (the very smart and tech savvy) Neerav Bhatt's domain at http://www.bhatt.id.au. Though these younger participants may still hold junior positions in their libraries, they often outshone many of their ‘older’ colleagues. This can only be good for the future of libraries.

Australia Day Honours and Libraries

Congratulations to Elizabeth Ellis from NSW for being awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the General Division for "service to librarianship through a range of professional roles with the State Library of New South Wales".

It's a pity the Australian honours database can't be updated so the 2009 recipient's details can be searched on the day they receive their awards. The only quick way to search across ALL the 2009 recipients for the term librar* was to go to the Herald Sun newspaper's web site.

There are some very poorly constructed databases offered on Australian government web sites, and the honour's database is one of them. On one hand it offers a lot of search functionality but it is impossible to do a keyword search limited within a date range. It would be easier if they added a Google Search box across the site. If there is an easy and cheaper way, and a hard expensive way; why do government agencies so often take the hard and expensive route?

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Adults and Social Network Websites

I have been busy at Information Online in Sydney (more on that latter) so I have not had time to blog; but in the meantime I noticed those fantastic people at the Pew Internet & American Life atProject have released an excellent report on Adults and Social Network Websites. Authored by Senior Research Specialist Amanda Lenhart, the report looks at adult use of social networking sites. This is a change from the usual research and commentary that focuses on kids as well as Gen x, y, and z and their use social networking.

While much of the findings in this report come as no surprise (e.g. online social networking is more prevalent among professionals), it is good to see this is backed up by empirical research. Key findings include:

* The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years -- from 8% in 2005 to 35% in 2008,
* Most adults, like teens, are using online social networks to connect with people they already know,
* When users do use social networks for professional and personal reasons, they will often maintain multiple profiles, generally on different sites.
* Most, but not all adult social network users are privacy conscious.

If your library is working with and around online social networks you really need to take a closer look at this report.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Fabulous Podcasting Pen

Over the last few months there has been a buzz amoung certain Melbourne librarians about THAT pen. People have got excited and envious, and there is some serious pen envy going around. So what's this all about?

Sitting on my desk at the moment is my new Livescribe pen from Pulse. This pen captures audio as well as remembers where the audio syncs with the notes I am taking at the time. The pen also lets me upload, manipulate, and share my notes and audio via the web. As a result, the pen lets me enrich and give context to my notes, as well as making sure I do not miss any important details. This has the potential to revolutionise the classroom and work meetings.

For example, I am going to a conference next week so I will be taking lots of notes. I was thinking of blogging during the conference, but I am not sure I wanted to lug my laptop around. I was also not sure I wanted to blog via my iPhone. I have become quite proficient at using the iPhone keypad but still it is not the same as a full size keyboard. The Livescribe pen solves this problem. I can sit in one of the conference sessions and take notes as well as capture the audio at the same time. At the end of the conference I can play back the audio, bookmarking and highlighting key sections in my notes. I can then post my notes and the associated audio to the web and share it with my colleagues. Next week's conference will be a test, but I see no reason why I can't put together a blog post which includes notes and the original audio.

The Livescribe pen comes in either a 1GB (over 100 hours recording time) or a 2GB (over 200 hours recording time) version. Click here to view the full technical details.

Most of the buzz relating to the Livescribe pen comes from its application in the education and business sectors. Livescribe has also just receive a Macworld Expo Best of Show 2009 Award.

If you want to see how this pen can be used, there are some very good videos on the Livescribe site. I have embedded one of these videos from YouTube into this blog post. See following for details and watch this space. In Australia you can purchase the Livescribe pen from Officeworks, and thanks to Bart for introducing me to the pen.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

News Flash: Internet Overtakes Newspapers

In late December 2008 the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released the findings of a survey that indicated that the Internet has now surpassed all other media except television as an outlet for national and international news. Following is a graph from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press which outlines the trend in news seeking behaviour over the last decade.

This is of interest because in November 2008 I blogged about the dedicated sports and gaming lounge in the Brisbane City Library. At the time, I noted that the rational behind the use of large screen TV in the library dedicated to sport was that "in the past people got their sporting information from the newspapers. Now more and more people get their sporting information from either the Internet or pay TV. So if you can't afford the internet or pay TV, and don't want to go to a pub to watch Fox Sport, you are stuck."

With the use of print newspapers declining, and the majority (70%) of people using TV as a news source, the Pew research seems to back up and validate the Brisbane City Library approach. However, it looks as though the use of TV a medium is also declining. This is especially true for young people. For example, the Pew summary states that: "For young people,... the internet now rivals television as a main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online; an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%)."

What was also interesting about the Pew research is that the top news stories people followed closely online all related to the state of the economy.

This research vindicates the continued trend for libraries to acquire less in the way of print resources, and more in the way of online content, or at very least the technology to facilitate online content within the "library as place".

"Library as place", along with free access to large screens is important, because with the expected increase in the use of portable devices, why do you need to come into a library? In the short term people may still come into a library to access online as well as TV content because it may be more appealing than the small screen on a portable device. In the long term the appeal will probably be the social interaction.

Cinemas learnt this lesson when video players took off in the early 1980s. Yes, you could watch a movie at home, but what was mising was the social interaction, sharing the popcorn and choc top ice creams. So while we will be able to access content, as well as learn and collaborate using a portable device on a train or walking down the street, will we still crave for that third (public and free) place away from home and work... a.k.a. a library?

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Fruit Wars: Is the portable future an Apple or a Blackberry?

2009 will be the year portable devices really go head to head in a battle that will probable make the 1990's browser wars look like a kindergarten tussle. If you want to read a very informative and entertaining account of the browser wars check out the oral history of the Internet.

Whereas the 1990s browser wars where primarily between Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape (do remember you Netscape), the portability wars will be between Apple's iPhone, RIM's Blackberry, and everyone else. At the moment it looks as though the momentum is with the iPhone. As quoted in a number of places on the internet: "On October 21, 2008 Apple announced sales of 6.89 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2008, totalling 13 million iPhones to date. They also noted that this quarter's iPhone sales surpassed RIM's BlackBerry sales of 5.2 million units". However, it is clearly too early to rule out Blackberry and large mobile phone players such as Nokia with its N97 which it unveiled in December 2008. Of course the market may continue to fracture with Blackberry ruling the corporate sector and the iPhone ruling the lifestyle personal use sector of the market.

As with the 1990s web browser fracas, the portability wars will have a huge impact on the way we access information and who controls that process. There is and will continue to be a tsunami of comments on all of this. After all, there is a huge amount of money at stake. Other fascinating questions include:

• If Apple gets too much market share will the Europeans treat Apple the same way they treated Microsoft?

• Will the US invoke anti trust laws if one player is seen as having too great a market share in the US?

• What happens to Apple and the iPhone if Steve Jobs never attends another Macworld Expo and sails off into the sunset? (Apologies to Larry Ellison).

Because this is a library IT blog, the question here is what does all this mean (if anything) for libraries? Well for starters, libraries will need to get on board the portable devices bandwagon. Libraries need to make sure their own online offerings work on portable devices, and that it is easy for patrons to upload and use.

Other than OCLC's Worldcat application for iPhones, there currently appears to be little in the way library applications for portable devices. This is a worry given there are over 10,000 iPhone applications as of January 2009, and a search on the iPhone app store reveals nothing in the way of library based applications. The table to the left is sourced from 148apps.com and shows the current number of iPhone apps by category.

Forget apps, how many libraries have started to reconfigure their Web portals so they look good and work well via portable devices? If you want to see how it can be done very well check out the New York Times via iPhone. How many libraries have even started to think about this sort of stuff? It is time to get cracking. After all, think about all those sales of iPhones, Blackberries, and other such devices, and then ask yourself how many of your patrons use these devices to access information.

To finish on a slightly more positive note, it is interesting to see that according to 148apps.com there are 740 apps dealing with books though a lot of these seem to relate to Manga (not that this is a bad thing, it just is). And speaking of the Japanese, it is also interesting to see that the Australian Oxford Dictionary (2nd Edition) can now be downloaded on an iPhones for AUD $29.99. This application is available via the Japanese based Enfour Inc. For details see http://www.enfour.com/iphone. Given the leadership Japan has shown in taking up mobile technology it comes as no surprises that Enfour is a Japanese company that specialises in applications for portable devices.