South By Southwest (SXSW) – Day 3

Keeping the ball rolling… Some thoughts from the day. It was another great day. The best part of this conference is hearing about new ideas and working to translate the idea into the library web environment.

Why We Should Ignore Users

Moderator: Robert Hoekman Jr Interaction Designer | Consultant, http://www.rhjr.net
Robert Hoekman Jr Interaction Designer | Consultant, http://www.rhjr.net
Sarah Bloomer Principal, Sarah Bloomer & Co
Mark Schraad Sr User Interaction Designer, AOL
Christina Wodtke CEO, Cucina Media

I love the title; I just couldn’t resist. What are the merits of user research? Great question and it was a room full of interaction designers, information architects. There’s a whole world out there whose job it is to research and create from the user perspective. Robert Hoekman Jr was the dissenter on the panel. The other panelists were really interested in canonizing user feedback as the only way to create. Hoekman pointed to the inconsistencies in user feedback and spoke about designing around tasks and activities. Build the tool and see what works for users. Might try and bring some of that sentiment back to academe…

Non-Developers to Open Source Acolytes: Tell Me Why I Care
Moderator: Elisa Camahort Pres of Events & Mktg, BlogHer
Elisa Camahort Pres of Events & Mktg, BlogHer
Dawn Foster Dir of Community & Partner Programs, Compiere
Annalee Newitz Freelance Writer
Erica Rios Internet Project Mgr, Anita Borg Institute For Women and Technology

Interesting panel trying to bridge the gap between open source zealots and the designers they develop for. A solid, balanced conversation about what makes open source compelling for both parties. Nice give and take with the audience. Best quote “Open Source is not free as in beer; it’s free as in freedom to build what you need.” There’s a hidden cost to this stuff, but you need to balance it with the advantages of the open programming development model.

How to Convince Your Company to Embrace Mashup Culture

Moderator: Kevin Lawver , AOL
Kevin Lawver AOL
Steven Chipman Pr Software Engineer, AOL
Gregory Cypes Sr Software Engineer, AOL Instant Messanger
Alla Gringaus Time Inc Interactive
Arun Ranganathan AOL

I was expecting a little more from this group. More of a dog and pony show about some pretty cool AOL projects. OpenID, a new way of confiriming identity on the internet based on a user’s personal url, received some airtime. Promising, but seems like it’s a bit out of reach for those people that don’t live and breath the web. There was also some encouragement to work on interesting projects outside of your work duties. Ficlets.com, an online storytelling service, was used as an example.


South By Southwest (SXSW) – Day 2

Lots of panels to visit. It’s a chance to see web heroes up close and personal. Most of the panels will be available as podcasts. Here’s the feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/SXSWpodcasts. Wireless access was pretty good, but I’m avoiding liveblogging the panels (obviously). I just wanted to collect some of my thoughts on my own time… Anyway, here’s a cursory summary and commentary of some of the panels visited.

A Decade of Style
Molly Holzschlag Pres, Molly.com Inc
Eric Meyer Principal, Complex Spiral Consulting
Chris Wilson IE Platform Architect, Microsoft
Douglas Bowman Visual Design Lead, Google

More of a reflection on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and where CSS development is going from some pioneers of design. Question and answer session mostly… It was interesting to note how much knowledge was the panel assumed the audience would have. Talked through very advanced CSS techniques and nobody in crowd batted an eyelash. It made me feel like I was in the right place. The highlight was hearing Doug Bowman talk about the possibility of layout markup for CSS and the use of variables and constants in stylesheets. Brilliant, let’s see it in the CSS 4 spec.

How to Bluff Your Way in Web 2.0
Andy Budd Creative Dir, Clearleft Ltd
Jeremy Keith Web Developer, Clearleft Ltd

These guys were entertaining and hilarious. Much of the presentation was tongue in cheek, but poignant. We’ve been doing a lot of this web 2.0 stuff since Tim Berners Lee invented hypertext. Look at Amazon and Ebay – commenting, rating… If you have a chance, listen to the podcast available on the South by Southwest site. This was the first session where I heard of a call to kill “web2.0″ as a term. Let’s start looking at the technologies on their own terms and not get lost in the broader semantic debate. There’s valuable stuff under the web 2.0 umbrella, but let’s get rid of the term. Good stuff.

Web App Autopsy

Moderator: Ryan Campbell Co-founder, Infinity Box Inc
Ryan Campbell Co-founder, Infinity Box Inc
William Flagg Pres, RegOnline
John Zeratsky Designer, FeedBurner
Josh Williams CEO, Firewheel Design

A nice chance to hear from the folks that built FeedBurner. That’s a solid web application. The panel evaluated the code behind top web apps, more of a focus on eCommerce apps which was pretty relevant to libraries. A couple of takeaways from the QandA: “The reality is that the marketplace doesn’t look like us (techgeeks); it’s about selling ease of use for your application.” AND “Here’s a new design principle: put as few barriers as possible in front of user (keep forms simple)”

Web 2.0 and Semantic Web: The Impact on Scientific Publishing
“new webtech and science publishing: (re)constructing the scientific article”

Second mention about an allergy to the web 2.0 moniker… This was a great session looking at how web 2.0 technologies – social bookmarking, tagging, RSS – are informing the design of online scientific journals and the way research can be conducted. There was an interesting discussion about traditional metrics for impact factors and journal power rankings. Blogs, tagging, active participation in soical networks are a different kinfd of impact factor within your field. The problem is how to reward and encourage this new kind of impact. What can you measure? PageRank, Trackbacks, Web Traffic, number of bookmarks, number of comments.. These new opportunities for measurements move much faster than traditional citation ranking metrics. I’m leaving quite a bit out… A quick takeaway from the QandA: How does the Semantic Web relate to tagging? Tagging is first step – translate the actions and definitions we are seeing into semantic web relationships.


South by Southwest (SXSW) – Day 1

Stood in line today for my badge. It only took about 45minutes. (Pictures will be coming.) Chad Hutchens, a colleague and my travel guide, had the insight to get us to the convention center early.

This thing is big. Much bigger than any library conference I’ve been to. It’s also full of a younger crowd. 4o something feels like an old fart. I’ll post more later tonight when I collect my thoughts. Can’t wait for the start tomorrow.


“TERRA: The Nature of our World” gets South by Southwest (SXSW) Nomination

I’ve mentioned the TERRA group project in previous posts. Earlier this month, I received some great news regarding the project. “TERRA: The Nature of our World” was nominated in the student/university website category by SXSW interactive Web Awards.

TERRA is a partnership between Montana PBS, The Media/Theatre Arts Department at Montana State University, Montana State University libraries, and various independent filmmakers. Montana State University libraries was brought in to build/code the site and content management (metadata, data preservation architecture…) The site was designed with a nod to the future of digital libraries. It’s a digital video library with commenting, ratings, tags AND a controlled vocabulary. And it’s all wrapped up with some AJAX functionality and a Dublin Core/OAI metadata backend. The TERRA group also experimented with syndicating our content as podcasts. You can actually search iTunes for TERRA and receive our podcasts. That’s powerful stuff and the reach of the site has been amazing. Just last week, TERRA podcasts were placed as default content in the download for democracy player, effectively doubling the TERRA audience in one fell swoop. More and more, I see leveraging these type of communities as the future of library content distribution.

As for the nomination, I am honored and just a little surprised. SXSW is the center of the web geek world and to even be considered is quite humbling. We’ve got some university press lately, but I didn’t see it going a lot further. (Check the MSU news release for complete details.) So, I’m heading to Austin, TX with a colleague in March. I’m excited to step off the library circuit and see how the other half lives. Stay tuned for SXSW updates.

And if the mood should strike you, vote for “TERRA: The Nature of our World” in the People’s Choice Award race at https://secure.sxsw.com/peoples_choice/.


Web 2.0 = Library 2.0: Offline 2007 (MT)

I had the opportunity to speak about Library 2.0 for the Montana Library Association yesterday. It’s a really great group. Engaged, interested, friendly… You get the picture. Greg Notess spoke about screencasting and made it look really easy. He was ponting to the ease of distribution for the video content he creates with sites like wink and YouTube. I surveyed some web 2.0/library 2.0 web sites and made the argument that web 2.0 is not about a single application, but rather a shift in what people can expect from web applications. The medium of the web is changing and the idea of the network is informing what the web can be. (Slides are available at my slideshare space).

I also got to see a few demos of protopage and Google page creator. I watched as several web sites were created and made live to the world during a session. That’s pretty useful web 2.0 stuff for some Montana Libraries without access to a server. Overall, it was a fun experience and it was exciting to see the group embrace what web 2.0 principles can do for library web apps.

UPDATE: Suzanne Reymer, the Montana State Libraries Statewide Technology Librarian, was one of the presenters on protopage and Google Page Creator and she has set up a new blog for Montana Library Association (MLA) 2007 at http://mla-conference.blogspot.com/.  I mentioned that the structured data behind blogs (think RSS) is the greatest innovation afforded by blog software.  I stand by that statement.  It’s given me hope for the semantic web.  But… blogs can also be useful in recording conference and event information.  Suzanne already knows this and she’s on the case.


Internet Librarian – Epilogue

I’ve been back for a little over a week and I’m still doing the catchup thing. Overall, Internet Librarian (IL) was a great experience. Got to do a little bit of everything: teaching, learning, networking…. you get the idea. One of the great things about IL is the small scale of it all. Enrollment tops at a little more than a grand which makes it easier to connect with all of the attendees. I had some extended conversations about libraries, code and workplace scenarios with a whole range of people. I’ve blogged most of the sessions I attended in earlier posts, so I won’t bore you again with the details. Here are a couple of quotes from the conference:

Favorite Library Quote from the week: “Libraries are a collection of services, not books”

Favorite Non-Library Quote from the week: “I just checked the il2006 tag on Flickr. Who is that brunette you were talking to?” (from my wife jokingly…)

One of the major themes from IL 2006 was libraries using social software – Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, Wikis… It’s a rich topic and most of the tech is easily implemented. But there are other parts of the conference where I struggle to understand the “where does the rubber meet the road” code questions. Most of the IL sessions offer the broad ideas and have little time for explaining how to do it. (I’m including myself here…) That’s not a criticism; that’s just the structure of the event. There are some ways to get at the “how’d they do that?” code questions.

  1. Attend conference workshops to answer some of the in-depth code questions.
  2. Ask for code examples from presenters (I had a number of people stop me after the presentation and over the course of the conference to talk a bit more about code questions.)
  3. Network and talk to librarians with some programming chops. Talk shop with those who are building apps in your field of interest.

As I said earlier, it was a great conference and I haven’t even mentioned Monterey, CA which is just a beautiful setting. I would suggest Internet Librarian for any public services librarian looking to understand what’s on the horizon for libraries. The smaller scale of the conference and the forward-looking nature of the presenters makes for a great mix. If you have the means and the time, check it out.


Internet Librarian – Day 4: The Mobile Web

Trends in Mobile Tools and Applications for Libraries
Megan Fox, Web & Electronic Resoures Librarian – Simmons College

I missed a similar session at a previous conference. Wanted to hear about how our resources are displayed in all kinds of settings. Fox has got a broad perspective on the topic and had all kinds of tips and gadgets.

Notes from the presentation:

Mobile tools – PDAs, cell phones, ipod
Mobile information needs – on a flight, stuck in traffic

The market
75% of all US adults have mobile phone service
90% of college students

The Devices
smartphones are the device of choice – nokia, samsung
-camera, calculator, phone, web browser, radio, interactive gaming
-large screens (relatively speaking) and keyboards
- other devices, UNPC, sony reader

The future network – 3G, even faster wireless to allow for streaming – think video conferencing on the bus
-not yet available in US, but taking off in Japan

The mobile web
- formatting content is the challenge – optimize for web
- limit images, simplify html, mobile css stylesheets, avoid device intensive programming languages (large javascript files)

Library mobile web options:
- hours pages
- quick lists
- library catalog search (Sirsi and Innovative)
- ready reference on the go – Handango, answers.com
- ebooks – mobipocket (U of Alberta has directions on downloading netLibrary into PDAs)
- databases (Ovid and LexisNexis have some mobile partnerships)
*Los Angeles public has ipods and smartphones, Thomas Ford Memorial, Duke Freshman Reading project – Billy Collins reading his poetry in a podcast

*check IMDB and New York times for examples of optimized web; convert web pages on the fly can be another option

Third party sites – google mobile optimizer, skweezer
- convert your sites for mobile “transcoding”

Mobilize your content with an RSS feed – simple format for display
Mobilize your mashups – Frucall (compare prices), RealTime Traffic

Drawbacks to mobile web:
1. Cost
2. Comfort with small size
*people are using the devices to text message because it’s much cheaper

Content via SMS – texting: more acceptance
Communicating with mobile users

Next generation prefers the texting environment – we need to get in their network
- check altarama.com.au
- extending ready reference or library record lists
- JOOPZ web texting – fill out simple web form and translate to text message

LibriVox – auidobook version of project Gutenberg
Expected n 2007 – PVR (personal video recording on your mobile)

What’s next?
*problem with data entry
- communicate using images “photo to search”
- voice recognition
- taking advantage of GPS – location interaction, geotagging
- face recognition for security

full url for presentation – web.simmons.edu/~fox/pda


Internet Librarian – Day 3: Repositories, a library opportunity

Repositories & The Impact on Digital Librarians
D. Scott Brandt

D. Scott Brandt talked about getting into the research network at the university. Brandt was pointing to a new library initative at Purdue to involve libraries earlier during the research process. It’s not about managing finished, publishable objects; we need to insert ourselves in the data management, access and preservation needs when the research is happening in the lab. I like the sound of that.

Notes from the presentation:

The story of how Purdue Libraries got into repository initative?

Need for approaches, protocols and systems to store all of our natiaonl data
New dean, new directions – collect, organize describe, curate – for university community

“Librarians as participants – putting libraries salaries on grants for limited times”
-librarian does work or is project manager

Library faculty are better integrated into campus research agenda

How to foster interdisciplinary collaboration?

Researchers have data management needs
- seek researchers who undrstood that collecting and organizing and providing access to data
could make grant need stronger

Initial Questions:
Do researchers have data discovery management and organization needs?
Can library science solve some of these problems

Data related faculty needs they found:

  1. not sure how to share data
  2. lack of time organize data sets
  3. help describing data
  4. want to find new ways to manage data
  5. need help archiving datasets/collections

Departments served – Ag, Chem Eng, Biology

Brandt used the onstar car data example

Collaboration: crucial to research
- different aspects of dealing with data = library opportunity

Agronomy example:
1. working with simple data generation model, determine data/metadata workflow
2. libraries role is helping data producers

Chem Engr – discovery informatics
1. investigation of small science data needs
2. issues of what gets shared, when and how
3. libraries role is developing dataset ontologies – utilitzing language of electronic notebooks to define, navigate throughout research process

Library roles:

  • metadata creation
  • providing access
  • providing preservation
  • consult on ontologies and vocabularies

scholarly communication – data analysis

  1. published data/datasets
  2. unpublished research
  3. published research (non-traditional)
  4. published research traditional
  5. secondary tertiary resources

Libraries are being invited into the levels of development before these top 5 peieces of scholarly communication are finished
- actually participating during research and development – COOL STUFF

Data Curation Matrix – Johns Hopkins, looking at 5 types of scholarly communication and the opportunities across disciplines

Repository as a research platform
- focus on active verbs: access, preserve
- Distributed Institutional Repository

Going forward – new role for librarians
- serve as “bridge” between researchers and libraries
- library data research sceintist

Purdue e-Scholar library

http://e-scholar.lib.purdue.edu


Internet Librarian – Day 3: Mashups + APIs

Mashup Apps: Community Dev
Chris Deweese, Lewis and Clark Libary System
John Blyberg, Ann Arbor District Library

I’ve been thinking about how we might open up some of our library data to an API. Chris Deweese and John Blyberg have taken some different approaches.

1. Use someone else’s – e.g., Google Maps API
2. Build it yourself – PatRest add on to Innovative OPAC (XML REST web service)

It was interesting to hear their thoughts on encouraging users to “re-purpose” library data. I was wondering about using XML-RPC as quick and easy alternative to full-on SOAP and REST web services.
Notes from the presentation:

JOHN BLYBERG

New buzzwords – Mashups = consuming and recombining two separate systems
Preparing for what’s next – many parts, loosely joined

What’s so great about them?
- don’t require wicked coding skillz
- results are instant
- results can be striking
- Masups = the evolving web

Two categories of mashups
1. simple mashup
2. statement mashup – web as an authoring language – profound statement

“Net as a global operating system.”

Call for “an open standards based API”
A first part of the semantic web – web services

Can libraries mash?
We already have a goldmine of data

It’s all about markup
- xml + rdf (applying schema to loggically group data)
- OWL ontology definitions
- help machines read the data

REST? Sounds lazy
- representational state transfer
- accessed through URI
- simple for developers

PatREST (Patron REST)

http://www.aadl.org/rest/top/books/10/2

- schema that was simple to use, easy to understand

Stuff you can do – electronic signage
Ed Vielmetti’s (SuperPatron) Wall of Books
Library Gadgets

Why let the public do it?
- creates a sense of stewardship
- unlocks a potential brain trust
- encourages innovation
- benefits other libraries
- solicits high-quality feedback
- puts library data into new contexts

CHRIS DEWEESE

Google maps mashup: Mash-it-up Google Style

Google Maps API

1. Get Google Maps API key
2. Get Hello World example
3. Add markers to the map – lat AND long

Google maps API allows you to plot a series of points using a custom xml file
Lewis and Clark Library System – delivery routes


Internet Librarian – Day 2: Data Dump

Got a chance to see some great speakers today. Wanted to collect some of my thoughts about Steve McCann’s study of academic library web sites.

Analysis of US College and University Library Home Pages
Steve McCann, University of Montana

He’s been analyzing the organization of popular academic library index pages. Steve was mostly interested collecting trends and then running a usability test to determine best practices. He hasn’t conducted usability testing to hammer out the last part of his thesis, but it was still really informative to see library web design trends catalogued with the long view in mind.

Here are my notes from the session:

Making data work harder; talked about his business experience

Study of library college websites by analyzing wayback machine

Users are bypassing on-site navigation – getting to object directly
-search engines, weblogs, rss
-commercial sites have had sucess – flickr, youtube

Library Access: a long tail problem
-social software strategy; it can’t all be on the front page
-how to address the bypassing of content
-does the index page even matter?

Methodology

  1. google search: 1803 library websites found
  2. ranked with Alexa.com – tracking ip
  3. isolated sites ranked in top 100
  4. categorized top page strategy – browse OR search

Two Site Strategies for library web sites

Browse:

  • grid
  • cascade
  • frame
  • radial

Search:

  • no search box
  • library search box
  • site search box
  • university search box

Data results:

  1. grids and cascades are most popular
  2. browse strategy has become most popular on sites
  3. search strategies are pretty evenly distributed – search is becoming a standard

Findings:
-browse = grid, cascade with grid showing most momnetum
-search = some form of search strategy will exist

Next steps – usability testing with your user groups about preferences
hybrid – search and browse – u of oregon libraries (http://libweb.uoregon.edu/)


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