Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is Youtube The New Search?

Information professionals everywhere take note: Google is uncomfortably sliding. Gone are the days that we 'google' for information. And now YouTube, conceived as a video hosting and sharing site, has become a bona fide search tool. Searches on it in the United States recently edged out those on Yahoo, which had long been the No. 2 search engine, behind Google. Interesting that Google owns YouTube, isn't it? In November, Americans conducted nearly 2.8 billion searches on YouTube, about 200 million more than on Yahoo, according to comScore. Here is what one 9 year old reveals about his information search behaviour in a New York Times article:

I found some videos that gave me pretty good information about how it mates, how it survives, what it eats,” Tyler said. Similarly, when Tyler gets stuck on one of his favorite games on the Wii, he searches YouTube for tips on how to move forward. And when he wants to explore the ins and outs of collecting Bakugan Battle Brawlers cards, which are linked to a Japanese anime television series, he goes to YouTube again. . .

“When they don’t have really good results on YouTube, then I use Google."

What does this mean? Are Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter going to take down the venerable goliath Google? Not really. I argued in an article that this is the phenomenon of social search. Are things finally catching up?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ushahidi as a Mashup

I'm going to be talking soon about mashups. (And getting nervous about it, too). One mashup that I will be discussing is Ushahidi. It's an excellent example of how Web 2.0 is saving lives. Using technology to harness peace. More to come. Here is an excellent slide show of Ushahidi.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nova on the Future of the Web

I heart Nova Spivak.  The grandson of management professor Peter Drucker, Spivak is an intellectual in his own right.  Not only is he a semantic web pioneer and technology visionary, he's also founded Twine, one of the first semantic web services out there.   I think he's one of the brightest minds today regarding ideas about the future of the Web. He's a visionary.   Here's a synopsis of Spivak's treatise Future of the Desktop.

1) The desktop of the future is going to be a hosted web service

(2) The Browser is Going to Swallow Up the Desktop

(3) The focus of the desktop will shift from information to attention

(4) Users are going to shift from acting as librarians to acting as daytraders

(5) The Webtop will be more social and will leverage and integrate collective intelligence

(6) The desktop of the future is going to have powerful semantic search and social search capabilities built-in

(7) Interactive shared spaces will replace folders

(8) The Portable Desktop

(9) The Smart Desktop

(10) Federated, open policies and permissions

(11) The personal cloud

(12) The WebOS (Web operating system)

(13) Who is most likely to own the future desktop?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Topic Maps and the SemWeb

Half a year ago, I had a posting discussing Katherine Adams' seminal article about librarians and the Semweb. Katherine made a point about Topic Maps, which she believes will ultimately point the way to the next stage of the Web's development. They represent a new international standard (ISO 13250). In fact, even the OCLC is looking to topic maps in its Dublin Core Initiative to organize the Web by subject.

In the same posting, Steve Pepper, an independent researcher, writer and lecturer who has worked with open standards for structured information for over two decades, made a very interesting comment. He argues that:

Topic maps is really spearheading is nothing short of a paradigm shift in computing -- the notion of subject-centric computing -- which will affect far more than just the Web.

We've let programs, applications, and even documents occupy centre-stage for far too long. This is topsy-turvy: users are primarily interested in subjects (what the information is about), not how it was created or where it lives. We need to recognize this, and effect the same kind of change in information management that object-orientation effected in programming; hence the need for a subject-centric revolution.
Indeed, the Topic Maps 2008 Conference in Oslo, Norway, April 2-4 has just concluded. So what are topic maps, and why are they relevant for libraries and information organizations? The basic idea is simple: the organizing principle of information should not be where it lives or how it was created, but what it is about. Organize information by subject and it will be easier to integrate, reuse and share – and (not least) easier for users to find. The increased awareness of the importance of metadata and ontologies, the popularity of tagging, and a growing interest in semantic interoperability are part and parcel of the new trend towards subject-centric computing.

This conference brings together these disparate threads by focusing on an open international standard that is subject-centric to its very core: ISO 13250 Topic Maps, which is interestingly what Katherine Adams had pointed out eight years ago. We're getting closer. The pieces are in place. We just need a good evening to frame together the picture.

Monday, January 12, 2009

hakia and Librarians' Race to End the Search Wars

I've always been intrigued by hakia, which is considered the first SemWeb search engine of its kind. It is said that for the next generation web to exist, there needs to be a more concise way for users to find information and to search the web online. hakia is working with librarians to help make its results even more credible in the attempt to win the race to ouster Google in the current search engine wars. hakia is one of the first Semantic Web search engines.

However, besides QDEX (Quality Detection and Extraction) technology, which indexes the Web using SemanticRank algorithm, a solution mix from the disciplines of ontological semantics, fuzzy logic, computational linguistics, and mathematics, hakia also relies on the subject knowledge expertise of professionals. By combining technology and human expertise, it attempts to completely redefine the search process and experience. Take a look at my hakia, Search Engines, and Librarians How Expert Searchers Are Building the Next Generation Web for a deeper analysis of what hakia is trying to do with librarians. Hopefully, it offers more food for thought.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A New Web 2.0 Journal

Web 2.0 The Magazine: A Journal for Exploring New Internet Frontiers is an important new journal that librarians and information professionals should take a serious look at. It attempts to fill the information gap in the area of Web 2.0 by focusing on new developments, the most used tools, trends, and reviews of books, articles, sites, and systems themselves so as to make Web 2.0 a useful part of the reader’s technology experience. Here is what Web 2.0 The Magazine attempts to do:

Admittedly, Web 2.0 is a hard concept to get one’s arms totally around as it means anything involving “user content”. This broad definition covers everything from social networks, such as Facebook, to 3D Virtual Reality Worlds, such as Second Life and World of Warcraft, with many, many stops in between. The unifying feature in all of the Web 2.0 systems and tools is that they differ fundamentally from Web 1.0, which is a one-way connection, in which information sources, vendors, advertisers, etc. present information for the reader to consume and / or respond to (the fact that a user may choose to buy on-line from Amazon or Sears does not make those sites something other than Web 1.0 since the user was not the one to initiate the content).

Thanks Dean for recommending this journal to me. It's an excellent read so far.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stephen Abram and the World of Libraries

Stephen Abram is a smart guy. The first time I heard him speak was at the 2008 SLA Conference in Seattle. He was brilliant, to say the least. Abram's almost everywhere you turn your head, he is a workaholic to the nth degree. Abram is a innovative librarian who invests his energies in technology and trend forecasting.. Abram also has more than 25 years in libraries as a practicing librarian and in the information industry. In other words, I trust this guy.

Abram has also been highly acclaimed with numerous awards and leadership positions. He was named by Library Journal in 2002 as one of the key people who are influencing the future of libraries and librarianship. Served as President of both the Canadian Library Association (CLA) and Special Libraries Association (SLA). Here is a candid interview that Abram gave a year ago. He reveals he had to apply twice to get into library school, and how he learned the craft of public speaking.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Seasons Greetings

Seasons greetings everyone. This holidays, as you are enjoying your Christmas at home, please take some time in considering contributing to a worthwhile campaign. The campaign is Books for Darfur Refugees -- which give $1 for each book received as a holiday gift -- the website is:

Books for Darfur Refugees certainly appreciate your helping to spread the word, too. It is a 100% volunteer staffed; 100% of funds raised by this campaign for direct book related aid for Darfur refugees. The good news story here is the inspiration of Darfuris who self-organized their own English classes in refugee camps. For example, they view learning English as their "road to freedom."

Since sending two shipments of specifically requested ESL books to the camps in May 2008, the numbers of refugees learning English has jumped from 400 to 800 (as of July 2008) and now numbers more than 1,100! We are partnering with the British NGO, CORD, that runs education programs for UNHCR and UNICEF in the Bredjing, Treguine, and Gaga camps (60,000 refugees, about 20,000 students, about 1/2 are girls).
The website ( shows inspiring photos of the refugees smiling and holding up the ESL books that were sent to them. Happy New Year everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Professor Jerry Newman on Management

A while back ago, I had written on a book I recommended as a must read for those interested in management techniques and the ways in which people interact in a fast-paced workplace The book, My Life on the McJob, explores this, as Jerry Newman, a management professor at Professor at SUNY Buffalo, decided to conduct an experiment as he worked at seven stores over 14 months – two McDonalds, two Burger Kings, one Wendy’s, one Arby’s and one Krystal (a fast food chain in the South), with the stores being located all over America, in Michigan, Florida and New York. Newman worked all jobs, grill, register, custodian, and observed and documented experiences first-hand.

Newman's case study was so fascinating that I wanted to interview him and ask him more about his book and whether it applied to libraries, which often resembles a retail fast-food chain in terms of frenetic pace with customers and rigid tension between management and staff. Here is our interview:

Question: Libraries are every bit as dysfunctional as any organization. What can libraries learn from McJob? Is your book written for fastfood and retail only? Does it apply for all?

Newman: The book is relevant to any organization that has multiple shifts in the course of a day, or that has multiple units within the organization. I think libraries qualify on both accounts. The biggest problem in multi-unit operations, and this isn't just me speaking - mcd agrees with this - is the inconsistency across time and units. To be great, first you must be consistent. This isn't always "sexy", hence the reason for low interest.

Question: What can managers learn from your book? If there is one thing they can take away from your book, what would it be?
  • Fast food jobs are HARD – both physically and mentally
  • These jobs provide opportunity to learn important life skills
    • Dealing with pressure situations
    • Communicating with peers
    • Managing conflict (with customers, peers)
  • Fast food is more representative of our country’s diversity and makeup than other industries
  • MOST INTERESTING: The store’s manager (and not corporate operations procedures and values) determines the climate and ultimately the success of the workplace

Question: What works? You had mentioned the four four R’s. What are they?

  • Realism…People like predictability, set boundaries and expectations
  • Recognition…Be an ego-architect – reinforce self worth
  • Relationships…Build a social web, identify those employees that connect with others and use them to cultivate camaraderie among the troops
  • Rewards…Gold stars still work

Question: What were some challenges you found?

Newman: How to reward your employees when money is not an option.

  • Provide constructive feedback: Gold stars worked in elementary school, still work now
  • Recognize job proficiency by make an example of a strong employee
  • Offer flexible hours and job security
  • Facilitate social interaction – build a social web, make the work-place a fun-place to be
  • Advertise opportunities to advance
  • Build positive manager/employee relationships

Question: What are some key takeaways from your research in this book?


  • Hiring decisions are key to store success and employee retention
  • Culture has the strongest impact on workers’ behavior – and managers are in control
  • Camaraderie and strong work ethic are a winning combination

Question: Were there any surprises during the extent of your experiences?


  • Fast food is not an easy job
  • No forum for employee feedback and unsolicited feedback on operations/best practices is not welcome
  • Wide disparities exist across stores – even those with the same name
  • Women are better managers
  • Recognition is a powerful motivator

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Gen-Archivaria

Archival programs in North America are few and far between. Only a handful of programs available, the majority of archive programs are narrowly focused on records management techniques. Unfortunately, for social and cultural historians, this narrow approach has its limitations. Although as a profession, archivists have worked side-by-side with historians through the ages, archival sciences is still a young academic field. As Alex Ben's Excluding Archival Silences: Oral History and Historical Absence Excluding Archival Silences: Oral History and Historical Absence argues,

archives remain, largely, material repositories of cultural memory. It is an accepted historical problematic, however, that culture is often resistant to material preservation. There exists an undeniable and profound tension between scholarly efforts to reconstruct history and interpret cultural traditions and the fragmentary, and often limited, material record. That is to say, scholarship is shaped by a sinuous negotiation around the historical silences that encompass all of material culture. Historical silences, however, can at times be marginalized (or at best excluded) by a sensitive configuration of material evidence with oral history.

The new generation archivist should be motivated by the long term preservation of moving images and by the invention of new paradigms for access to celluloid, tape, bits and bytes. It should be rooted in historical, practical and theoretical study - and rather than limiting itself to one methodology, it needs to assign equal importance to heritage collections and emerging media types.

One example of innovative ways of recording the past is UBC's First Nations Studies Program's oral history archive projects. In particular, Interactive Video/Transcript Viewer (IVT) is a web-based tool that sychronizes a video with its transcript, so as users play the video, its transcript updates automatically. In addition to searching a video's transcript for key words and phrases, and then playing the video from that point, IVT includes a tool that allows users to create a playlist of clips from interviews for use in meetings. While it took historians thousands of hours of transcription work, IVT transcribes in real-time. These are the types of technologies archivists need to be aware of, in order for us to create active archives. And this is where information professionals need to be aware - to anticipate the needs of its users.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Web 2.0 and its Identity Crisis

Web 2.0 seems to be facing an identity crisis. We don't know quite know what to do with it anymore. We're talking lots about information overload. Web 2.0 is said to be passe. Web 2.0 in fact, might never have existed at all. (It's just a fabrication of the imagination). Whatever Web 2.0 is, it's certainly an evolutwion of the world wide web, which is a reflection of human civilization. We live in a period of globalization, and the web is a manifestation of this. Take for instance. Queen Rania is launching her presence on YouTube and maximizing on the powers of the social web through her powerful video sharing.

On March 30, 2008, the queen of Jordan, Queen Rania launched her own channel on YouTube with a video in which she asked people to send her their questions about Islam and the Arab world until August 12, 2008 (International Youth Day). By intending to respond to those questions and explain the truth about various stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims, Queen Rania hopes to help heal cultural misunderstandings. She continues to post daily videos on subjects that including honor killings, terrorism and the rights of Arab women. Over the five month conversation, her YouTube site had more than 3 million views. Her success shows us the power of social media. True, Web 2.0 might have a fractured identity. But it's an imprint on globalization and our world.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Road to Web 3.0 for Librarians

Web 3.0 (Presentation)
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Recently, I presented to a SLAIS class, LIBR 534: Health and Information Services. I gave a talk about Web 3.0, and more specifically, the continuum from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. I strongly believe that the road to Web 3.0 is linear, and that in between is the Semantic Web. While many interchangeably use Web 3.0 and Semantic Web, I differentiate the two and contend that only through harnessing Web 2.0's social and collective collaboration and applying it using Semantic Web's intelligent technologies can we realize the potential of Web 3.0.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Early Learning and Libraries

This is Malcolm Gladwell. His new book, Outliers, is an excellent read and in my opinion, confirms Gladwell as a public intellectual. His book makes a number of insightful findings, but perhaps the most mind-boggling is the argument that cultural heritage plays a strong part in a person's educational abilities. In his argument that Asians perform better at mathematics, Gladwell surmises that it is the inherited working culture of rice paddies which makes all the difference.

Perhaps most controversial is the assertion that upper middle class children often score better on standardized testing because their backgrounds allow for concerted cultivation - that is, the abilities. It's the summer time that makes the difference. Rather than looking at test scores at one time period, we need to take a closer look at the test scores over an entire year, and examine the difference in improvement during the entire year. And what we find is astonishing. The reason for the disparity between the social classes is that privileged children are given more resources to practice and study during the summer time. Perhaps this is not surprising, as libraries play a huge role in the lives of young children. I certainly remember that as a young boy, I went to the local library often. (I only wish I had gone more now that I know how much a summer makes).

Libraries are seminal institutions in a child's early learning and educational experience. I like American Libraries' 12 Ways Libraries Are Good for the Country. It's an excellent thesis to why libraries are important for society:

1. Libraries inform citizens

2. Libraries break down boundaries

3. Libraries level the playing field

4. Libraries value the individual

5. Libraries nourish creativity

6. Libraries open kids’ minds

7. Libraries return high dividends

8. Libraries build communities

9. Libraries make families friendlier

10. Libraries offend everyone

11. Libraries offer sanctuary

12. Libraries preserve the past

Thursday, November 27, 2008

PR 2.0 for Information Pro's

Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks, an innovative Public Relations and New Media agency in Silicon Valley, along with Jesse Thomas of JESS3, has created a new graphic that helps chart online conversations between the people that populate communities as well as the networks that connect the Social Web. The Conversation Prism is free to use and share. It's their contribution to a new era of media education and literacy.

The conversation map is a live representation of Social Media evolves as services and conversation channels emerge, fuse, and dissipate. As the authors argue philosophically, if a conversation takes place online and you’re not there to hear or see it, did it actually happen? Indeed. Conversations are taking place with or without you, and this map will help all to visualize the potential extent and pervasiveness of the online conversations that can impact and influence your business and brand.

As a communications, service, and information professionals, we should find ourselves at the center of the prism - whether we are observing, listening or participating. Solis and Thomas' visual map is an excellent complement to The Essential Guide to Social Media and the Social Media Manifesto, which will help us all better understand how to listen and in turn, participate in the Web 2.0 world. A new, braver, world.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Christmas gift from Malcolm Gladwell came early this year. And I just bought a copy. His new book, Outlier, is a magnificent read. In Outliers, Gladwell, the ever-curious mind, examines why some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential. Analyzing historical nuances from Asian rice paddies to the birthdates of Canadian junior hockey players, Gladwell forces us to re-examine our cherished belief of the "self-made man," and throws out the long-held notion that "superstars" do not come from nowhere. Although born with innate genius and talent, successful people are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.

While there are a plethora of intellectual points for discussion, 'practical intelligence' in my opinion, is the new key term to take away from Gladwell's book. PQ is a term that psychology Robert J. Sternberg proposed, when he argued that there are three intelligences in human cognition:

(1) Analytical intelligence - the ability to analyze and evaluate ideas, solve problems and make decisions

(2) Creative intelligence - involves going beyond what is given to generate novel and interesting ideas

(3) Practical intelligence - the ability that individuals use to find the best fit between themselves and the demands of the environment.

The three intelligences, or as he also calls them three abilities, comprise what Sternberg calls Successful Intelligence: "the integrated set of abilities needed to attain success in life, however an individuals defines it, within his or her sociocultural context." While society tends to have bought into the idea that innate talent, through such test devices as IQ tests, can predict the success of a person, Gladwell re-examines this piece of wisdom, and argues otherwise. This book will be useful for anyone with a curiosity for success. It gives us a better, more complex, inquiry into what fuels success. And it's not just about brains, you know.