Sunday, September 07, 2008

Web 2.0 + Semantic Web = Web 3.0

Finally, the latest issue of Talis' Nodalities it out. One of the brightest minds of the SemWeb industry, Alex Iskold has written an article, Semantic Search: Myth and Reality, which is really worth the wait and the read. He argues that the SemWeb shouldn't about competing with Google since its algorithm has so successfully ruled the web for over a decade. Why fix something that's not broken?

Try typing in the query: "What is the capital of China?" And Google automatically spits out the answer. But when you need it to answer a question such as "What is the best vacation for me now?" and the answers that a search engine provides might not be so clear afterall; in fact, probably impossible. That is where the SemWeb comes in.

In analyzing SemWeb search engines such as Search Monkey, Freebase, Powerset, and Hakia, Iskold proposes that the SemWeb should be about solving problems that can't be solved by Google today. In fact, the search box must go, in order for the SemWeb to work.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Quantum Computer Reviewed

Back in the 80's, quantum computing was viewed as something of a futuristic scenario, something out of a sci-fi flick like Minority Report. However, in 1994, interest ameliorated immediately after Peter Shor, then at Bell Laboratories (now at MIT), published his famous quantum factoring algorithm capable of undermining widely used cryptosystems that relied on the difficulty of factoring large numbers.

Currently, there are physicists, computer sciencists, and engineers in more than 100 groups in universities, institutes, and companies around the world are exploring the frontiers of quantum information, encompassing quantum computing, as well as recently commercialized quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation communication techniques.

Ross and Oskin's Quantum Computing is definitely worth a read. Exponentially scalable computing power that could solve problems beyond the capabilities of conventional computers. The key is exploiting the superposition of quantum-entangled information units, or qubits. But the research challenges are daunting: How to create and reliably compute with the qubits, which require the seemingly mutually exclusive conditions of exquisite classical control while being isolated from any external influences that could destroy the entanglement.

What does this mean for information professionals? A lot. With Web 3.0 around the corner, information processing at high levels will be necessary. It's still cloudy as to how it will all look like. But with quantum computing, we're on the right track.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Third Digital (Dis)order


Just finished reading David Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. A terrific ideas-driven text, which proposes the idea that we have to relinquish the notion that there is one of way organization information hierarchies. From the Dewey Decimal System to the way we organize our CD collections, Weinberger critiques and takes a shot at everything along the way. But he does make an exellent argument: in the digital world the laws of physics no longer apply. Just take a look at your computer files, and you realize you can organize your music by any number of criteria -- artist, genre, song name, length, or price -- you name it, you've got it. Because the Web is a hyperlinked web of information that grows organically, it's really a mess out there. And Web 2.0 doesn't help at all with the glut that has emerged.

Weinberger proposes that in this new digital world, there are three planes to disorder:

(1) Physical Disorder - The natural state of disorder, when things are left as they are, disorder inevitably arises.

(2) Metadata Disorder - Because of this disorder -- lists, classification systems, hierarchies, taxonomies, ontologies, catalogues, ledgers, anything -- that brings order to the physical realm

(3) Digital Disorder - In the digital world, it makes bringing order that much more difficult, yet also that much more interesting and convenient. There are more ways than one to bring order to the chaos. Just look at Wikipedia.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Open Access: The Beginning of the End?

I jotted down a few ideas about open access, and wouldn't you know it, turned it into an article. OA's an interesting phenomenon. It's here, but not really. There is still so much skepticism regarding whether it'll work out that we just don't know whether it will make it. There are already textbooks that are mashed up using bits and pieces of many other textbooks for students to access digitally rather than buying the whole expensive mess at the beginning of every semester. Journals are starting to slip off in terms of purchases by libraries, especially the academic ones. With the rise of the Semantic Web, open access and open source must go hand-in-hand in order for them to collectively contribute to the new way of searching and organization online information. Librarians take heed? Peter Suber, are you listening?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A LEAP of Faith

One of the main tasks I do in my position is to evaluate digital technologies and how they fit into the Library model. I always am looking at how other organizations integrate emergent technologies into their webpages. One organization that has done a superb job is the Learning Enhancement Academic Partnership (LEAP) program at UBC. They really have some outstanding concepts. Libraries are increasingly moving towards the Library 2.0 (L2) model. Catalogues and homepages play only a part of the whole picture, but an important one. Here's why LEAP surpasses most library homepages by leaps and bounds. Here's hoping it catches on. And quick.

(1) User-generated content – As opposed to content posted solely by the site author(s), LEAP encourages user feedback, with things such as online surveys, polls, and student blogs.

(2) Treats users as co-developers of the site – The more people using the service, the better it becomes. LEAP treats this fundamental treatise to the core, encouraging student’s reviews, comments, and rants. Collective intelligence in its purest form.

(3) Customizable content and interface – LEAP allows students (and faculty) to merge their blog content to the

(4) Core application of the website runs through the browser and web serve – Rather than on a desk platform. We don’t need Dreamweaver. All we need is a freely downloadable open source software. LEAP uses Wordpress, a beautiful piece of work.

(5) Social software – the LEAP homepage is maximizes on this. Blogs, tagging, video and image sharing. You name it, they’ve got it. The whole Web 2.0 suite.

(6) Integration of emerging web technologies – LEAP uses this, building on AJAX, RSS, and using API’s for mashups.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

7 Ways to Better Teaching

Paul Axelrod’s Student Perspectives on Good Teaching: What History Reveals makes some perceptive insight into what makes a good teaching. As academic librarians, we teach almost as much as faculty. Many don't know about this seedy side of the profession. Axelrod puts things into perspective. Librarians need to take charge of instruction - it's an integral part of the profession. What good is technology if there's no one to translate it to users? Here are the top seven things a good teacher should have:

(1) Accessibility and Approachability

(2) Fairness

(3) Open-Mindedness

(4) Mastery and Delivery

(5) Enthusiasm

(6) Humour

(7) Knowledge and Inspiration Imparted

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Information Anarchy

I've just written a short piece about the Semantic Web. What is it? I know what it isn't. The current web is in many ways, an information anarchy, where the multitude of user acccounts and passwords coupled with the vast amount of similar operating web programs, have made online searching not only a difficult task at times, but confusing and frustrating most of the time. In my short article, I explain what the SemWeb proposes to do, and offer the famous seven layered cake as my model of grand understanding. As usual, comments are most welcomed.