Thursday, January 31, 2008

Web 3.0 as in Automation?

I often wonder what kind of automation will make it possible for the Semantic Web. I know there needs to be an automated web browser (or something similar), but what would it look like? The solution could look something like Automatic Character Switch (ACtS), which is a strategy and a philosophy rather than a standard, meaning community moderators can independently implement their own ACtS methods. Similar to AJAX, ACtS is invoked only when it is necessary; that is, only when a web space is connected to a community.

So what is ACtS? According to Yihong Ding, ACtS only allows different communities to recognize whatever they can identify from a web space. A web user can set up a local web spce that stores his web resources. When he subscribes to a new web community, he uploads his local web space to the site while the site customizes its resources based on the community specifications. ACts begins with a user's subscribing a web space to a community. The community server thus performs a community-sensitive resource identification procedure to categorize (information retrieval) and annotate (semantic annotation) public resources stored in the web space. Thus, the local web space creates a community-specific view over its resources, which composes a community-specific sub-space. But ACtS is only a theory. For it to be realized, there needs to be two premises:

(1) A uniform representation - Web spaces similar to what is on Web 1.0. This requires advancement on HTML encoding. In particular, this means independent HTML encoding of individual web resources.

(2) Character recognition and casting technology - A combination of information retrieval and semantic annotation methods.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Public Library 2.0?

Much has been discussed about the role of public libraries as they are increasingly facing budget cuts while facing greater needs for technological innovations. Some have argued that this is natural, as we have entered Library 2.0, which is all about rethinking library services in the light of re-evaluating user needs and the opportunities produced by new technologies. Although there have been great resources written about Library 2.0, there hasn't been one as thorough in its analysis of public libraries as Public Library 2.0: Towards a new mission for public libraries as a "network of community knowledge"? Chowdhury, Poulter, and McMenemy proposes Public Library 2.0, inspired by Ranganathan's famous five principles. They make great fodder for further discussion, don't they?

(1) Community knowledge is for use
- Since the value of a community is the knowledge it possesses, people who leave a community will have memories. Yet, little has been carried out in public libraries to digitize local resources.

(2) Every user should have access to his or her community knowledge - Knowledge is for sharing; community knowledge becomes valuable only when it can be accessed and used by others. Facilitating the creation and wider use of this knowledge should be the new role of public libraries.

(3) All community knowledge should be made available to its users - No community knowledge should be allowed to be wasted. Rather, public libraries should facilitate the creation of such knowledge so that it is recorded and preserved. Nothing should be lost.

(4) Save the time of the user in creating and finding community knowledge - Just like the paper records of past lives, the digital records of current lives are accumulating in an ad hoc manner but in a much greater quantity and variety. Hence, public library staff should fill the role of advisors on local content creation, management, and implementation of controlled description, as well as access schemes.

(5) Local community knowledge grows continually - Because community knowledge creation is a continual process, public libraries should act as local knowledge hubs must use existing standards and technology for digitization as well as metadata for the management of, and access to, the digitized resources

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Semantic Catalogue

It's important that librarians keep at the back of their minds how to integrate the Semantic Web into the catalogue, which is ultimately the bridge that users cross to access the library's resources. But it's easy to forget about it, particularly since many libraries have difficulty keeping up with Web 2.0 technologies. But regardless of how far we've come along, it's necessary to peer into the future and see what kinds of changes we'll need to embrace. It could be ten years down the road before we hit the Semantic Web . . . or five . . . or even less. Take a look at Campbell and Fast's Academic Libraries and the Semantic Web: What the Future May Hold for Research Supporting Library Catalogues. They make an excellent case for integrating existing web resources into a dynamic, information-rich, and user-centred catalogue.

Meshing services such as IMDB, Amazon, AFI's Catalogue, the authors suggest that academic libraries could use the Semantic Web as a source of rich metadata that can be retrieved and inserted into bibliographic records to enhance the user's information searches and to expand the role of the library cataloguer as a research tool rather than a mere locating device. (Something along the lines of the Pipl search engine technology). In doing so, the cataloguer acts as an information intermediary, using a combination of subject knowledge and information expertise to facilitate the growth of semantically encoded metadata. In a Web 3.0 world, the cataloguer's new responsibilities would include the following:

(1) Locate - RDF-encoded information on specific subjects, scrutinizing its reliability, and assessing its usefulness in meeting cataloguing objectives

(2) Select - RDF resources for the specific item being catalogue

(3) Participate - In markup projects within a specific knowledge domain, thus promoting the growth of open-access domain-specific metadata

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Google Scholar, Windows Live Academic Search, and LIS 2.0

That School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sure churns out some great theses. The latest one is Josiah Drewey's Google Scholar, Windows Live Academic Search, and Beyond: A Study of New Tools and Changing Habits in ARL Libraries offers remarkable insight into these two academic search engines. Little has been written about Windows Live Academic Search, so much so that it appears most people have forgotten about it. (Including its own creators). Drewey's paper reveals that such is not the case. It's worth a read. Here are my favourite points that Drewey makes about GS and WLAS. I'll share them with you all, it deserves some attention here:

(1) Citation Ranking - Search results are largely influenced by citation counts generated by Google's link-analysis, which means that users see the most highly cited (and therefore, the most influential) articles

(2) Citation Linking - GS rivals Web of Science and Scopus with its ability to link to each article through a "cited by" feature that allows users to see which other authors have cited that particular article. GS is superior in this aspect as it stretches into the Humanities as well.

(3) Versioning - GS compiles each different version of a particular article or other work in one place. Different versions can come from publisher's databases, preprint repositories or even faculty homepages.

(4) Open Access - GS increasingly brings previously unknown or unpublicized content to users.

(5) Ability to link to libraries - GS has the bility to link to content already paid for by libraries. Thus, search results from GS can lead directly to the libraries' databases.

(6) Federated Search Engine - Instead of searching many databases as a query is made, GS' resources are compiled prior to the search and return very quickly.

In contrast, Drewey makes some great insights into Windows Live Academic Search. Here are the main strengths of WLAS:

(1) Better interface - WLAS uses a "preview pane" to display initial search results, which the user can mouse over a citation to show the abstract in another pane to the right, whereas GS is inflexible

(2) Names of authors are hyperlinked - Search results take the user to other works by each author

(3) Citations Export - Although GS allows this, WLAS are much more easily visible to export to BibTeX, RefWorks, and EndNote

(4) User-friendly - In many ways, WLAS offers more features tailored for users. Not only does it offer RSS feeds, it enables uses to store their preferences and save search parameters. GS surprisingly does not have such features.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Long Tail and Libraries

To date, Lorcan Dempsey's Libraries and the Long Tail has offered the most insightful analysis of the Long Tail's importance in libraries. As I've written before, the Long Tail is an effective strategy to utilize when implementing Library 2.0 for the modern library. The question is: could it be implemented without a huge overhaul of most existing libraries? These are some points that Dempsey argues:

(1) Transaction Costs - The better connected libraries are, the lower the transaction costs

(2) Data about choice and behavious - Transactional behavioural data is used to adapt and improve systems. Examples of such data are holdings data, circulation and ILL data, and database usage data.

(3) Inventory - As more materials are available electronically, we will see more interest in managing the print collection in a less costly way. Although historical library models have been based on physical distribution of materials, resources are decreasingly needed to be distributed in advance of need; they can be held in consolidated stores

(4) Navigation - There are better ways to exploit large bibliographic resources. Ranking, recommendations, and relation help connect users to relevant material and also help connect the more heavily used materials to potentially useful, but less used, materials

(5) Aggregation of Demand - The library resource is fragmented. In the new network environment, this fragmentation reduces gravitational pull, which means that resources are prospected by the persistent or knowledgeable user, but they may not be reached by others to whom the resources are potentially useful. What OCLC is doing is making metadata about those books available to the major search engines and routing users back to library services

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Google = God?

Maybe Google got it right all along. But is it God? That often appears to be the way that most people do their searching online nowadays, expecting to find the answer to just about anything. Yihong Ding calls this kind of searching, "oracle-based" web searching, which search engines such as Google are assumed to know everything. But this worked relatively well in the early days of the Web because it a pragmatic and affordable strategy; at that time, the quantity of web resources was comparatively small. We rarely searched for meaning. Based on this premise, to build a semantic oracle (i.e. Semantic Google) is equiavalent to create a real God (who knows everything) to human beings.

Perhaps, according to Ding, a better alternative is collaborative searching. Since current answer-based search strategy is motivated by questions, collaborative search is motivated by answers. In our answer-based search model, the ones who answer questions may not have passion (or enough knowledge) to questions. But an inanimate search engine such as Google doesn't know this -- nor does it care.

However, Web 2.0 is slowly changing this course of searching. Already, search engines such as Cha Cha are harvesting collective intelligence and wisdom of the crowds to retrieve more "relevant" results. Ding goes one point further: Web 3.0 will be based on community-sensitive link resources. It will reverse the relation between horizontal search engines and vertical search engines. The current model of vertical search engines being built upon generic search engines are not working well because they are too immature to provide communicate-specific search by themselves. (Just look at the limitations of Rollyo). What will the Semantic Web search engine look like? Maybe something like this.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Future of I.S.

Meet Ramesh Srinivasan, professor of Information Studies at UCLA. During my trip to Los Angeles, I met with the IS faculty and visited some of the libraries there at UCLA. My conversation with this up and coming academic star was fascinating to say the least. Ramesh's interests includes exploring connections between diasporic/indigenous communities and new media and how information technologies shape, transform, and differentially impact nations, cultures, societies along educational, political, health-related, social, and infrastructural dimensions.

Among his more interesting projects is the Emerging Databases, Emerging Diversity (ED2): National Science Foundation-funded initiative to study methods by which digital collections can be shared via systems that maintain diverse tags, ontologies, and interfaces. In collaboration with Cambridge University's Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, and the Zuni community of New Mexico, the $300,000-funded project inquires how digital access to ancestral objects affects diverse communities. Ramesh's work involves extensive field work in places like Kyrgyzstan and India. (Exciting!)

The faculty at UCLA represents Library and Information Science's gradual shift towards the iSchool movement. Academics such as Ramesh Srinivasan represent the new face of LIS. This has important implications for librarians, who will ultimately be bred and nurtured by these new scholars nontraditional perspectives to LIS. Rather than basing their studies on users of libraries, newer scholars such as Srinivasan, whose background is as diverse as his research (his PhD is in Design), go beyond the traditional domain of LIS. Inevitably, librarianship will change because of this new approach. New ways of thinking and research will be injected into the profession -- perhaps this is where the source of innovation in libraries will come from as well. From the classroom.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Metcalfe's Law

As I had opined in previous posts, the next stage of the Web will be built on the existing infrastructure of Web 2.0. One of the foremost thinkers of the Semantic Web makes an insightful analysis of the progress from Web 2.0 to the Semantic Web. Along with Jennifer Golbeck, James Hendler puts forth the idea of Metcalfe's Law, arguing that value increases as the number of users increases. Because of this, potential links increase for every user as a new person joins. Not surprisingly, Metcalfe's Law is the essence of Web 2.0.

As the number of people in the network grows, the connectivity increases, and if people can link to each other's content, the value grows at an enormous rate. The Web, if it were simply a collection of pages of content, would not have the value it has today. Without linking, the Web would be a blob of disconnected pages.

As information professionals and librarians, we shouldn't miss out on the obvious links between Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web. Social networking is critical to the success of Web 2.0; but by combining the social networks of Web 2.0 with the semantic networks of the Semantic Web, a tremendous value is possible. Here's a scenario from Tom Gruber which I find very compelling:

Real Travel "seeds" a Web 2.0 travel site with the terms from a gazetteer ontology. This allows the coupling of place names and locations, linked together in an ontology structure, with the dynamic content and tagging of a Web 2.0 travel site. The primary user experience is of a site where travel logs (essentially blogs about trips), photos, travel tools and other travel-related materials are all linked together. Behind this, however, is the simple ontology that knows that Warsaw is a city in Poland, that Poland is a country in Europe, etc. Thus a photo taken in Warsaw is known to be a photo from Poland in a search, browsing can traverse links in the geolocation ontology, and other "fortuitous" links can be found. The social construct of the travel site, and communities of travelers with like interests, can be exploited by Web 2.0 technology, but it is given extra value by the simple semantics encoded in the travel ontology.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Pragmatic Web as HD TV

The Pragmatic Web: A Manifesto makes a return to simplification. For all the hype about Web 3.0, we've still seen very little substantial evidence that it exists. Schoop, De Moor, and Dietz proposes a "Pragmatic Web" as a solution which does not replace the current web but rather, extend the Semantic Web.

Rather than waiting for everyone to come together and collaborate -- that could take forever or worse yet . . . never -- the best hope might be to encourage the emergence of communities of interest and practice that develop their own consensus knowledge on the basis of which they will standardize their representations. Thus, the vision of the Pragmatic Web is to augment human collaboration effectively by appropriate technologies. Thus, the Pragmatic Web complements the Semantic Web by improving the quality and legitimacy of collaborative, goal-oriented discourses in communities.

I liken this scenario to High-definition Television. By 2010, the majority of programming in North America will move to HDTV specifications, thus effectively removing other TV formats such as plasma TV's from competition. In the meantime, consumers are free to continue using their existing TV sets. The Web could very well employ this model, as it's logical and crosses the path of least damage. Using the HD TV scenario, Web users can continue using their current browsers and existing ways of surfing while those who want to maximize the full potential of the Web will use Semantic Web browsers (e.g. Piggy Bank) that are designed specifically to utilize the portion of the Web that is "Semantic Web-compliant."

Meanwhile, in the background, semantic annotation will be slowly integrated into Web pages, programs, and services. As time progresses, users will eventually catch onto the "rave" that is the Semantic Web . . .

Saturday, January 05, 2008

E-Commerce 2.0

Web 2.0 has been quite the hype over the past few years, perhaps too much. Much of it pertains to best practices using blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, and mashups. But not very much has been discussed - well, not enough in my opinion - about practical commercial applications other than the ubiquitous eBay and Amazon. Not anymore. Meet Zopa, the world's first social finance company. In 2005 Zopa pioneered a way for people to lend and borrow directly with each other online as part of our continuing mission to give people around the world the power to help themselves financially at the same time that they help others. According to Kupp and Anderson's Zopa: Web 2.0 Meets Retail Banking, here's how Zopa works:

(1) Zopa looks at the credit scores of people looking to borrow and determines whether they're an A*, A, B, or C-rated borrower. If they're none of the those, then Zopa's not for them

(2) Leners make lending offers such as "I'd like to lend this much to A-rated borrowers for this long and at this time

(3) Borrowers review the rates offered to them and acept the ones they like. If they are dissatisfied with the offered rates on any particular day, they can come back on subsequent days to see if rates have changed

(4) To reduce any risk, Zopa spreads lender capital widely. A lender putting forth, for instance, 500 pounds or more would have his or her money across at least 50 borrowers

(5) Borrowers enter into legally binding contracts with their lenders

(6) Borrowers repay monthly by direct debit. If repayments are defaulted, a collections agency uses the same recovery process that the High Street banks use

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mashups for '09

It's already been two years since my publication of an article on library web mashups. There have been developments, but still no breakthroughs with that killer application that could popularize mashups for the masses. The main challenge with mashups is that they are still a programmer's world. In merging two or more web programs together, web mashups are the next stage of Web 2.0 and are changing the way that the web is being used. There are already several mashup editors that help user create or edit mashups. Yahoo pipes, Google Mashup Editor, Microsoft Popfly, and Mozilla Ubiquity. But they require some programming skills. I believe mashups are the next stage of the web, the Semantic Web. Why? Because mashups open up data, breaking down the information silos.

I've updated my last article with Mashups, Social Software, and Web 2.0: How Remixing Programming Code Has Changed The Web. In taking a look at mashups, I think libraries need to pay attention, as they open up virtual information services to a much larger audience.

When Times Are Tough . . .

I love libraries, everything from the smell of books, to the warmth of staff, the comfy carpets, to the great DVD collections that are all free to borrow with just a library card and nothing more. But we are in tough times lately, and the downfall of the economy has proven just how useful libraries are to society. As the Los Angeles Times has reported, that although retail stores may be quiet these days, but libraries are hopping as people look for ways to save money. The Los Angeles Public Library is “experiencing record use,” said spokesman Peter Persic, with 12% more visitors during fiscal 2008 than the previous year. At the San Francisco Public Library, about 12% more items were checked out in October than a year earlier. The Chicago Public Library system experienced a 35% increase in circulation. The New York Public Library saw 11% more print items checked out (a spokesman said that could be partly explained by extended hours) . . .

And I`ve begun to experience this myself. Patrons are starting to use collections more, and realizing the financial pinch that the economy has given us. Fear not. The library isn`t going anywhere anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mashups for '09

It's almost two years since I first researched on web mashups. I still remember having a working draft of an article I had been doing for the Journal of Canadian Health Libraries on New Year's Eve. (Hey, it was a slow day). Lo and behold, two years later, and there still have only been a handful of articles on mashups. My idol Michelle "The Krafty Librarian" Kraft has written an excellent chapter in Medical Librarian 2.0 which is perhaps the most concise to date.

I've recently written another entry on mashups, Mashups, Social Software, and Web 2.0
How Remixing Programming Code Has Changed The Web
. The challenge with mashups is that it's still unfortunately a web programmer's tool. However, the next stage of the Web will be mashups. It's about opening data for others, and breaking down information silos.

11 Ways to the Library of 2012

Don't blink. It's only five years away. Inundated with the day-to-day duties working in a large academic library has sometimes removed me from the "larger" picture of what libraries look like not only to users, but ultimately how libraries will look like in the future. I've written a great deal about the Semantic Web and Web 2.0; but how do they fit libraries: physically and conceptually? Visions: The Academic Library in 2012 offers a meta-glimpse of how libraries might look like in 2012. As you'll notice, some of the features are suspiciously Web 2.0 and Library 2.0? Let's take a look, shall we?

(1) Integrated Library System - the system will recognize the patron and quickly adapt and respond to the patron's new questions and needs (A Semantic Web portal?)

(2) Information Available - collections will undergo dramatic transformations, as they will be largely patron-selected, featuring multi-media resources and databases, many provided collaboriatvely through extensive consortial arrangements with other libraries and information providers (Think longtail?)

(3) Access to Information - print-on-demand schemes will be developed utilizing the dissertation production experience of UMI but providing mechanisms by which the user can return the fresh, undamaged manuscript for credit, and for binding and future use (Kindle?)

(4) Study Space - Space for work and study will be adaptable, with easily reconfigured physical and virtual spaces (Information Commons? Learning commons?)

(5) Information Instruction - Training and learning support, delivered both in person and through appliance-delivered (desktop, hand-held, and small-group), videoconferencing, will characterize all this

(6) Information Printouts - Articles, videos, audios, an on-demand printing of various formats will not only be commonplace, but displays of titles will be coordinated with publishers and booksellers to enhance information currency, to market small-run monographs, and to generate revenues

(7) Organizational Aspects - Library staff will be engaged, networked, matrix-structured, and largely "transparent" unless the patron is standing inside the facility facing the individual

(8) Orientation - Library's perspective will be "global" - ubiquitous automatic translators will facilitate truly global information-accessing programs

(9) Computer Access - From OPACS to wireless access for collapsible laptops and personal appliances

(10) Financial - the viable library will have developed dependable revenue streams to facilitate ongoing innovation and advancement (Library as Bookstore model?)

(11) Consortia - Collaborating to create and publish academic journals and resources, particularly e-journals, e-books, and collections of visual resouces in various media (Open Access?)