Information Retrieval

Dead Media: What Other Forms Of Technology Have Gone Extinct?

Kevin Kelly has an interesting article about what he believes to be the only extinct form of technology (at least the he could find): the Edge-Notched Cards.
Any library out there that can prove him wrong?

Piercing the fog of production

Rarely is it good to talk about the inner-workings of editorial decision-making. Such ranks up there with the making of sausage and the creation of laws as things best not known. Sometimes it is necessary to do so, though.

This week's episode of LISTen features five separate Public Service Announcements. We received absolutely no compensation for running such. The five discrete ads are all available as free downloads from a federal agency, namely the Federal Communications Commission. While it may sound fairly odd to some and perhaps quite condescending, there is a purpose to such.

The role of the librarian in today's Amazoogle world is to meet information needs. When you start from that philosophical standpoint you have to consider some things. When there is a lack of a clutch in a coming paradigm shift, what responsibility do you have to those you serve? How does such impact serving their information needs?

For the audience that LISTen serves, the whole discussion of the digital television transition in the United States probably seemed meaningless. Such misses the forest for the trees. While we acknowledge that librarians are striving today to be technological elites, the people who are served by librarians more often than not are not such elites at all. The whole Tech for Techies discussion was an attempt to discuss the transition in terms of how to approach patron questions. Rather than tell a patron you don't know, why not take a look at some of the common questions patrons might pose let alone some uncommon ones?

I made a conscious choice to use all five of the ads I used. Those are the US government's best effort to reach out to the public. Have you ever heard such outside LISTen, though? With reports of somewhere around eighty percent of the population not even knowing this is coming, can we take steps to at least prevent catastrophic information seeking sessions that barely help anyone involved?

I will not order anyone to "be creative". That's not the way such works! Considering that ALA is entering into a public education partnership with an electronics retailer to try to get word out to folks, it is not like this is an issue that the profession's organization in the United States is ignoring. I would much rather you heard the government's best effort at outreach and be stirred to action on your own to try to do better. As information professionals who deal with the information-seeking needs of rather diverse populations, this should be an easy one to plan a program on! The ALA is already trying to make it easier for you to get speakers in as it is. If a listener can come up with something creative on their own, the result is probably going to be far better than my sounding like a drill sergeant barking orders.

Part of the infrastructure to our Amazoogle world is changing fundamentally. What is the role of libraries in trying to be relevant to their served populations? I do not argree that being hip and trendy is the way to go. Establishing a firm foundation and reputation as being the source for good information is what you build relevance on top of. In an unorthodox way I tried to show something that would be an easy thing to start with.

This wouldn't require an investment in new servers or software. This would not require necessarily an infrastructure investment. If anything this is something that libraries do well but have gotten away from over time. Being the "People's University" doesn't always require a new social network and sometimes requires merely a meeting room as well as speakers and potentially refreshments.

The Web Time Forgot

On a fog-drizzled Monday afternoon, this fading medieval city feels like a forgotten place. Apart from the obligatory Gothic cathedral, there is not much to see here except for a tiny storefront museum called the Mundaneum, tucked down a narrow street in the northeast corner of town. It feels like a fittingly secluded home for the legacy of one of technology’s lost pioneers: Paul Otlet.

In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or “electric telescopes,” as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a “réseau,” which might be translated as “network” — or arguably, “web.”

Full story here.

Selling Placement in Library Search Results

If you're like me (and you know you want to be) you love ads!

The Disruptive Library Technology Jester isn't like me, he Writes About Selling Placement in Library Search Results.

All of this still leaves my vaguely uncomfortable, and I’m not yet sure why. (Writing it all down in this posting hasn’t helped.) It would be one thing if “preferential placement” meant “invisibly raising the relevance of such content” in the search results list. That clearly would seem to be out of bounds: invisible mucking with search results placement leads to distrust of the underlying service. Google has shown us, though, that it is possible to sell conspicuously marked advertisements on search results pages and make billions doing it. Could the same thing work for libraries selling conspicuously marked, relevant results that could lead users to an e-commerce transaction at a publisher site? Is the value libraries (and our users) could receive in exchange for such placement the free access to the digital form of the content?

Shopping is a way of interacting with the world around us

Shopping is a way of interacting with the world around us: "This means searching becomes a way for us to interact with the world around us, an experiental horizon where certain aspects loom large in the foreground while others are pushed into the background," he explains.

In particular, his research focuses on what is actually going on when we are "window shopping", i.e. strolling round and "just looking" at things without having a clear idea of what we are looking for. The people he has been studying search patiently for certain things, but more than anything, they are searching for the feeling of having found something that is better and finer that they could have imagined. At this point they have stretched the boundaries of what would be reasonable to expect to find.

Usability testing on Vufind

Katie Bauer posted this one to NGC4LIB:
Of possible interest to those who may be contemplating doing usability testing on their OPAC, Yale recently conducted two tests on pilot VuFind installations at Yale. One study looked at a subject based presentation of ebooks for the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library

and the other looked at a pilot test of Vufind with a sample of 400,000 records drawn from the Library's Voyager system

Test questions were drawn from user search logs in the current library system, and some were designed to test for those problems that the logs have demonstrated exist for patrons, such as incorrect spellings, and incomplete title information. In reading the reports please be aware that some of the problems uncovered may have had a lot to do with peculiarities of the Yale implementation, such as the sample of records imported into VuFind for this test, and less to do with VuFind itself.

In general participants were intrigued by the possiblities offered by facets, although the topic facets in particular did not always seem to function as they expected or desired. The most desired feature participants wanted to see developed was an easy direct export from the catalog to a bibliographic citation management tool such as RefWorks and Endnote (while other catalogs may have this feature already, the current Voyager system at Yale does not a direct export feature.)

Storage comes full circle

Storage comes full circle:

“And what storage format has zero energy consumption, a tiny carbon footprint, can sit for long periods of time without degrading and offers the easiest data destruction?”

Mrs. Rat rolled her eyes. “Paper.”

“Yes. The future of data storage is paper,” the Rat said, grinning as an entrepreneurial idea came to him. “And, of course, no one has the capacity to store all that paper because we got rid of all the filing cabinets.”

Towards a Value-Added User Data Economy

Every week it seems like the debate over access to, portability of and privacy over user data on the social web has reached new heights. It's only going to get louder though, just as discussions about other forms of economics will never be resolved.

User data has been sold by ISPs, leveraged by ad networks and horded by social networks for years. Now, users are storming the castle to recapture their own booty. Read Write Web argues that it's in everyone's best interest that the data be freed. Vendors have far more to gain by working to add value to freely flowing data than they do from trying to horde as much data as they can.

Locked Information

The recent earthquake in China came as no surprise to some scientists. Last July they published the results of a study showing that the region was ripe for a major quake. There is little reason to believe Chinese officials were aware of the report, or that it would have made much difference if they had been. “We had certainly identified the potential of these active faults,” said one of the co-authors.

MP3 Audio: How To Find Someone's Date of Birth

Pete Weiss sent over This MP3 audio file (3:36 minutes). It's a recording from of the article, How To Find Someone's Date of Birth. It suggests sources of information and research strategies for finding a person's date of birth.


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