Friday, April 13, 2007

From Web 2.0 to Web 2.0

I've been reading up on Web 2.0-related material, and have noticed that although it appears to have somewhat disjointed viewpoints, they nonetheless point to a consensus. Over the next while, I will be analyzing these differences, and will come up with my own "theory" as to what Web 2.0 is (or is not). To start off, I'm going to compare two versions of the definitions of Web 2.0 from both ends of the chronological spectrum: an "old" entry written back in 2005 by Sharon Richardson and a "new" one by Michael Habib, a Master's thesis recently published in 2007 (in a later entry).

Here are Richardson's main points about Web 2.0.

(1) The Wisdom of the Crowds - Not only has it blurred the boundary between amateur and professional status, in a connected world, ordinary people often have access to better information than officials do. As an example, the collective intelligence of the evacuees of the World Trace Center towers saved numerous lives in the face of disobeying authority which told them to stay put.

(2) Digital Natives - Because a generation (mostly the under 25's) have grown up surrounded by developing technologies, those fully at home in a digital environment aren't worried about information overload; rather, they crave it.

(3) Internet Economics - Small is the new big. Unlike the past when publishing was controlled by publishers, Web 2.0's read/write web has opened up markets to a far bigger range of supply and demand. The amateur who writes one book has access to the same shelf space as the professional author.

(4) "Wirelessness" - Digital natives are less attached to computers and are more interested in accessing information through mobile devices, when and where they need it. Hence, traditional client applications designed to run on a specific platform, will struggle if not disappear in the long run.

(5) Who Will Rule? - This will be the ultimate question (and prize). As Richardson argues, whoever rules "may not even exist yet."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Introducing Google Maps (Personalized)

Google has gone ahead and just introduced to us a new feature which is eerily familiar to what a simple mashup can do: in fact, it's pretty much what a mashup is. Using Google Maps, Google has saved us the trouble of using API coding and programming and simply allowed us to personalize our own "Google Map." Give it a try: first, you need to have a theme (e.g. vacation areas you'd like to go to). Second, fill in the required information (addresses). Third, add photos, pictures, descriptions, anything you'd like to "customize" your map. Voila! A personalized map that you can share with your clients, acquaintances, friends, family, and just about anyone you can think of to. Yes, this is Web 2.0: we're doing just fine, thank you very much.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Wrapping Up on Five Weeks

The Five Weeks to a Social Library course wrapped up on March 17, 2007. In being the first free, grassroots, completely online course devoted to teaching librarians about social software and how to use it in their libraries, Five Weeks to a Social Library provided a free, comprehensive, and social online learning opportunity for librarians interested in learning more about Web 2.0 technologies.

The course’s strength was the very fact that it had appropriately used social software to run much of its content. Not only did it use a wiki (hosted by Drupal) as the platform for its main page, it also capitalized on blogs for allowing discussion virtually anytime anyone felt like posting a message; this allowed for a two-way communication among participants and instructors. Moreover, presentations creatively combined streaming audio, text chat, and presentation slides which truly made online learning an interactive experience; even better, much of the materials are archived for access, thus allowing anyone with an interest to take the course long after its completion, anytime and anywhere.

However, if there are drawbacks to the course, it would be some of the content. For a more experience user of social software, some of the course content might be considered somewhat basic. Because blogs, wikis, Flickr, and social bookmarking are becoming ever more commonly used, focusing too much on them runs the risk of narrowing social software to just these tools. What the course could have done was emphasize more on “theory” and “concepts” such as collective intelligence, open platform, open collaboration, than on the actual tools themselves.

With the advent of the so-called “Web 3.0” or semantic web, blogs and wikis will come and go and will likely be replaced with newer and even more advanced tools in the near future. While the scope of Five Weeks to a Social Library is certainly limited due to its relatively short time frame and also because it is meant to be an introduction of social software for the novice, I felt that the course could have provided a “glimpse” at things to come by offering a presentation or two from a more advanced “techie”, be it a librarian or not, that would have summarized that we are only on the cusp of something great, and that social software phenomenon will look vastly different even a year from now, let alone many years from now.

Nonetheless, the course was an ambitious first step for providing the necessary knowledge that librarians need to advance the profession and provide better services for patrons. While it could have done more to maximize its potential, the course nonetheless passes with flying colours in terms of meeting its goals and expectations from Day 1 when it had announced such an exciting venture of an entirely free online course for anyone interested in social software.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy April Fool's

The good folks at Google pulled a wonderfully brillant and witty April Fools joke which certainly pulled my leg. The joke is Google TiSP, a new FREE in-home wireless broadband service that includes a self-installation kit, which includes setup guide, fiber-optic cable, spindle, wireless router and installation CD. What do you need to do? Simple. A toilet. And a pair of gloves. Then you're ready for high speed internet. According to Google TiSP, actual speeds will vary, depending on network traffic and sewer line conditions. Users with low-flow toilets may simultaneously experience a saving-the-environment glow and slower-data-speed blues. Here's more:

How can Google offer this service for free? We believe that all users deserve free, fast and sanitary online access. To offset the cost of providing the TiSP service, we use information gathered by discreet DNA sequencing of your personal bodily output to display online ads that are contextually relevant to your culinary preferences, current health status and likelihood of developing particular medical conditions going forward. Google also offers premium levels of service for a monthly fee.

Best of all, there is also great technical service support, including on-site technical support in the event of "backup problems, brownouts and data wipes."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Let's Build a Mashup (Or at least see how one works)

Let's take a look at how a mashup works. Take a look at this one. This Proto mashup brings Craigslist, Yahoo! Pipes, Yahoo! Maps, and Microsoft Outlook together into an effective apartment hunting and tracking mashup application.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Introducing Web 10.0?

Are you still confused about Web 2.0? Well, it's time to move on to the next stage, according to some. How about Web 10.0? Can you imagine? Ray Kurzeil, DeWitt Clinton, and Nova Spivak have, and they see a very different Web than the one we're using right now.

To date, next to Tim O'Reilly's seminal article, DeWitt Clinton's "Web 2.0" offers the best and most concise definition of Web 2.0. (It's really well worth a read). But he also offers an intriguing glimpse at the Web many years into the future. What will the world and the Web will look like in 2046? Imagine this:

All data . . . can be instantaneously streamed anywhere at anytime. Your very experiences, your senses, perhaps even your thoughts, will be broadcast and archived for anyone to download and view. All human knowledge will be publicly accessible — all music, all art, all media, all things. The distinction between human thought and computer thought will be blurred. We will be part of the network, the network will be part of us. We will be the hive mind, and we collectively will have evolved into something quite unlike anything the world has ever seen.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mashups for Libraries

I recently published an article on mashups, "An introduction to mashups for health librarians" in the Volume 28, Number 1, Winter 2007 Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association. This paper is based on a presentation I made in December.

So what has changed since then? Certainly not my amazement, if you ask me for my opinion. In terms of technology, mashups are getting more sophisticated by the day. As users are increasingly getting a stronger grasp of the power that mashups provide, the world of mashups is inevitably evolving into more sophisticated ventures. Take the following, for example: Translation Services Via SMS.
Using this service, you can send an SMS to translate using BabelFish between English and Spanish and receive a call or SMS with the translation.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The New Health Librarian

At SLAIS' 2nd Annual Job Fair, I had a wonderful chat with health librarian, Karen MacDonell, Co-Manager of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC Library. She gave me some fascinating insight this area of librarianship. Here are the highlights:
(1) Personality - Dreamweaver will come and go, but a person's ability to go out for coffee and talk about vacation planning doesn't. In other words, the most important trait for finding the right job candidate comes down to interpersonal skills. What great advice; very practical and makes common sense. Inner traits can't be taught, but everything else can.
(2) Marketing - Librarians need to know how to market their libraries in order to continue funding. Particularly for smaller, special libraries, fundraising is ever so important. Because libraries are forever in danger of being closed down due to budget cuts, librarians need the skills to continue promoting and reminding everyone why their library is important.
(3) Workload - Longer hours, more librarians, less clerical staff. There's increasingly a hierarchical flattening of library organizations. Because librarians are doing more and more, more librarians are getting hired. The flipside of this is that less library assistants are hired to offset these costs unfortunately.
(4) Outreach - Less people are coming to the library, meaning librarians are increasingly required to take the information to the user. This also means that there is increasingly less need of paper (books and journals); rather, users are increasingly asking for PDF's and other electronic documents that can be accessed anywhere and anytime. Hence, wireless technology is increasingly being relied on by users, particularly to facilitate the need for up-to-the-minute information, usually on PDA's. The "wireless" librarian? That's right: it's just around the corner. . .

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

E-Learning 2.0

I'm having an absolute blast learning about social software through the Five Weeks to a Social Library course. Although I'm not one of the participants, it really doesn't matter, because all of the materials are archived. It "feels" real-time, with Power Point presentations simultaneously running with audio discussions and online chatting.

As Stephen Downes puts it, this is "E-Learning 2.0." And what is most fascinating is that it is deeply intertwined with Web 2.0 technologies. Moreover, in the world of e-learning, the closest thing to a social network is a community of practice, where it is characterized by "a shared domain of interest" where "members interact and learn together" and "develop a shared repertoire of resources." But not only is it user-centred and based on collective intelligence, it's also convenient. What better way to learn than in the comfort of my desk, mug of coffee in hand, sitting back, and relaxing to the rhythm of expert opinion?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Library Two Point Oh?

Wendy Schultz, a Futures Studies scholar and Political Scientist, has written a fascinating article about Library 2.0 and the future of libaries. "To a Temporary Place in Time . . ." proposes four stages of libraries: (1) Library 1.0 being commodity; (2) Library 2.0 is product; (3) Library 3.0 being service; and (4) Library 4.0 as service.

Most people are probably rolling their eyes at the "point oh" phenomenon. But I say, good, let's start visualizing and get creative. This is a perfect way to propel the library and information professions to that next level. How to build on the current library model and make it even better. Let's stop worrying about semantics, and start focusing on possibilities.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Take a look

Web 2.0 in action. What is Brooklyn College Library doing differently? Take a look at its impressive entry into the social software wave. Some might argue that the library is doing nothing more than riding 'fad' in technology. But is it? Or is it merely extending its reach into the sphere of its young users, connecting them through an online social space, and encouraging participation and communication through Myspace? Should we see this as outreach into cyberspace? Is it Library 2.0? The clues appear to say so...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Move Over Google

With Web 2.0 comes social searching, a type of search engine that determines the relevance of search results by considering the interactions or contributions of users. Social searching takes many forms, ranging from simple shared bookmarks or tagging of content with descriptive labels to more sophisticated approaches that combine human intelligence with computer algorithms. One search engine that has impressed me to no ends is ChaCha. Why?

Using ChaCha's Search with a Guide feature, your query is sent to a real person who is skilled at finding information on the internet and knowledgable on the subject at hand so that you get the few exact results you want, not the millions of results you don't. The more ChaCha is used, the "smarter" and "faster" ChaCha becomes. Indexing all the questions that are asked and associating them with the search engines and resources used by Guides, and the links visited by the users, ChaCha knows where to look and what the best human-approved resources are for each question or topic. Indeed, this kind of searching and type of search engine poses an interesting challenge to our friends at Google. How reliable are the guides? Here's where ChaCha is creative:
The primary reason is that we pay them and their pay is directly related to their performance. At the end of every session, you can select between one and five stars to rate their performance. While we expect you to be honest when rating a Guide, ChaCha can also detect any needlessly malicious ratings.
Welcome to Search 2.0, which uses third-generation search technologies designed to combine the scalability of existing internet search engines with new and improved relevancy models. User preferences + collaboration + collective intelligence + a rich user experience = Search 2.0.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mashups for '07

Doug Steiner's "Party Everday" in the Report on Business laments that teenagers use newfangled technology to gather in groups fast, so why don't businesses? Here is what he proposes:

I dream of a Lavalife-like site to help me find a doctor. Provisioning of actual physician visits would be done through optimal distance and availability computation: The site would give me a list of doctors in my neighbourhood and key information like their areas of expertise and hours preferences. And a picture and astrological sign for each one, of course.

Doug, you spoke too soon. Here is what one prototype looks like: Berkeley Area Doctors by Chad Dickerson. It's a mashup.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Creative Librarian?

Shelley Hourston's "Creativity and the resilient health librarian" offers a fascinating look into one aspect of librarianship which is underappreciated: creativity. Librarians do a lot, especially with limited resources in health libraries, including cataloguing (descriptive and subject analysis); reference interviews; collection development; database searching; justifying the existence of the library, just to name a few.

Librarians are professional creative thinkers, from finding better ways to display new books on the shelves to adjusting to budget cuts. Well, then, how do you nurture creativity? It can be done, according to Hourston, as her interviews with working information professionals revealed that most creativity stems from recreational activities as writing, painting, drawing, sculpture, crafts, and knitting. It's worth a read!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Key to a Librarian's Success in the 21st Century

Intriguingly, I discovered that an article, "The Key to a Librarian's Success" in Information Outlook eerily resembles the posting that I had made earlier about the definition of a great librarian. Is this coincidence? Or did I just happen to luck out in finding such a superior teacher? Regardless, this is worth a definite read. Here are the main traits of the 21st century librarian:
(12) Humility
(11) Salesmanship
(10) Communication
(9) Perceptiveness
(8) Self-confidence
(7) Flexibility
(6) Responsibility
(5) Persistence
(4) Creativity
(3) Trustworthiness
(2) Enthusiasm
(1) Passion