Thursday, February 11, 2010

Twitter augmented Panel Discussion Day 3 Morning Plenary

This morning's panel was decidedly more wide roaming than yesterdays. With the chair tapping into the zeitgeist via Twitter. Lots of talk about user demand for multimedia and a brave attempt to relate what digital natives wanted/preferred.

One tweep said that her/his children searched for things in this order:
Google Images

Lots of real and virtual chat about access to ebooks in Australia and New Zealand and a little handwringing from the public library sector. Rights, metadata, full text and the near death of indexing and abstracting services unless they can be one-click to full text.

Teula Morgan pulled the blanket off the elephant in the room when she asked do libraries even needed to be involved if people were getting what they needed without our interference. No-one seemed willing to answer.

All in all a pretty interesting session, and confirming that itch in the back of my brain that sometimes libraries are a solution looking for a problem.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 2 arvo: APIs, eResearch and the Twitter vs Tagging discussion

Paul Bonnington from Monash did an overview of the explosion in data collected, collated, and visualised using automated methods, and some of the lessons he'd learned while trying to preserve that data for wider use than the original purpose of the research. Organisationally the area he works for sits at the nexus between IT, Library, Research Office and Academics and he underlined the importance of partnerships, you can't do this on your own.

He stressed that a sense of ownership of the data by the researchers was crucial to its preservation, and the importance putting the data archiving tool in place at the time of collection.

He cited a couple key articles and books but I was only quick enough to jot down The Fourth Paradigm for a tweet, and I can't find his presentation online or on the CD yet.

As interesting as this area is I don't think it's going to be our direct responsibility to carry out the ANDS mission at JCU although we will have a role in supporting it and linking the data to the publications in our institutional repository that result from it.

Roy Tennant roller skated at a rapid pace over the possibilities of APIs to vastly improve services by augmenting them with information from disparate resources and he offered a feast of links to lists of APIs and real world examples. Between this and the Linked Data stuff I'm starting to think I should start removing myself from the operational tasks that currently eat up so much of my time, and doing more of the 'cool stuff' that Heather envisioned when she first created the job of 'library technologies coordinator'. Sigh. Anyway for my future reference here are two of Roys links to lists of APIs:

We really need more librarians with these sort of skills because I think it's difficult to see the possibilities if you're not getting your hands dirty looking at this stuff. That said, to badly misquote Jacques Attali from memory 'We tend to do what the technology allows us to do, rather than developing the technology that allows us to do what we actually want'.

And I lost my Twitter virginity today. (If your a tweep search for the #VALA2010 tag or post VALA I'm @cockerilla). I mention this because the final session was Top Trends with a star studded panel that included, but was not limited to, Roy Tennant, Marshall Breeding, Tom Tague and Karen Calhoun.
There was lively discussion, but the only 'trend' discussed was social tagging and whether libraries (and other cultural institutions) wanted to control, censor, or normalise it and if so to what extent and how.
In the land of Tweet the natives (and there were lots) were simmering about how the discussion was getting bogged down in the minutae of just one trend. I finally saw a use for Twitter - how would the discussion have evolved if the feed was displayed to the room, or even just to the panel or chair?
Apparently the VALA organisers wanted to display the feed but the venue couldn't do it. I'm not sure whether that sort of immediate, but quiet, feedback to a panel from the audience would improve this sort of event, and whether the feed would become the centre of attention rather than the speaker, but I'm kind of interested in finding out. No doubt chaos might regularly be the result until protocols evolved to make it workable. I can't help thinking that it might end up looking like 'The Word' from the Colbert Report, where the commentator says one thing while the text and graphics provide humorous counterpoint.

Marshall Breeding at VALA2010

Marshall covered a lot of ground. Some of the bits that stood out for me were:
  • The Abby video that introduced VALA2010 could have replaced his presentation
  • Web 2.0 is old hat, it should be part of the core of our apps not an add on
  • We can't be device nazis - and discriminate against users with various devices (iPhones, iPads et al)
  • Kuali OLE, Ex Libris URM, WorldCat cloud LMS are the revolutionaries in LMS's (as opposed to the evolutionaries
  • Do you want to go open source if it's just replicating the functionality you have in your current system?
  • APIs as an alternative to opening up proprietary systems
  • Open Source tend to have more limited APIs than the proprietary ones
  • Most library web sites are a list of links to disparate resources (as I say all the time but sometimes I wonder if anyone listens)
  • Marshall's ideal looks a little like Summon...
  • Deep indexing (particularly of book materials - Hathi Trust
  • Mobile is coming, but have a unified approach there too
  • Cloud computing is inevitable and efficient
  • Economic restraint is not an excuse for slowing tech innovation, it's a reason to accelerate it
  • Outlook for next five years
    • most still using evolved systems
    • more next gen LMS
    • Resource discovery matures
    • Mobile mainstreaming
    • Transition from local to cloud
In response to a question from the floor said that the problem for Linked Data is the business case for IP owners to make content Linked Data (by definition freely accessible)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

VALA 2010 on Twitter

Ok Twits, here it is:

If you like that sort of thing


I've seen so many articles about the semantic web it's a pleasure seeing someone actually doing it.

OpenCalais is a free (for under 50,000 requests/day) service analyses unstructured data and returns structured metadata, really, really quickly. And that metadata links to related 'packets' of 'Linked Data'. That's pretty meaningless without seeing it in action. But try pasting an article into and see how it breaks the data down into social tags, entities, people and events down the left hand side.
Sure it's a roughasgoodenough approach, but it still impressive, and has allowed many organisations to free up human resources and speed up throughput (and improve accuracy) when processing large wads of information. Or you could simple use it to add tags to you blog posts...

As Tom Tague says, "Match up a geek with a domain specialist and see what happens".

Tim Berners-Lee talks about Linkded Data on TED:

The following are just links and terms for me to follow up on when I have time but...
OpenCalais Marmoset
OpenCalais Tagaroo
Linked Data W3C standard
OpenPublish (based on Drupal)
Powerhouse Museum (kEMU, REST API,
OpenCalais Gallery of parsers

VALA - Plenary

In Sunny Melbourne - just out of the plenary session delivered by Karen Calhoun (OCLC) who gave me a warm fuzzy feeling by iterating principles I've emphasised in the Library ICT draft plan.

The VALA 2010 intro video gave us all a (nervous) laugh:

Karen did give us some good new lines to use in trying to convince our colleagues that good intentions, commitment and sticking to an old blueprint for services is not going to cut it for our users.

"Take a fresh approach (...) give them that they want"

"Find it on the web, use it in the library."

"It's not enough to do your best, you have to know what to do and do your best"

and a Proust quote:

"The real act of discovery is not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes"

She really pushed for the idea of outreaching collaboration and loosely coupled synching systems - REM: I post a link to the full presentation when I can find it!
Here it is courtesy of Karen: