Monday, February 23, 2009

Shame on You Wall Street Journal

It is regrettable indeed.   I was deeply saddened and somewhat enraged by the Wall Street Journal's closing of its library.   In our information age, that depends so much on knowledge workers, Wall Street has decided that it could cut back taking away a vital piece of information news gathering, organizing, and dissemination of up-to-minute information.   Can news reporters expect to do all the work themselves?  Can they properly search for relevant and pertinent information? Is that even their jobs?  

Could we inset librarians and information professionals into the jobs of news journalists?   Of course not.  Wall Street - give your head a shake.   A knowledge centre, particularly in a top-notch industrial media giant such as Wall Street, requires expert searchers.    When asked, a spokesperson responds,

It is regrettable. Our reporters do have access to multiple databases including Factiva and this migration to digital databases as you has been happening for many years.

Sure.  Good luck with having your reporters spend up to ten times the amount of time it would take to find information a trained information professional could obtain for you in a fraction of the time.  A librarian is like the glue that holds the house together.  You can only go so far and so long without a librarian's information retrieval skills before the infrastructure cracks and crumbles.   Particularly in our emergine Web 2.0 world of social media and open access resources, can a company survive alone without expert information and knowledge management?  Best of luck Wall Street Journal.  

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Video Sharing for Librarians

I recently presented at TOTS. What is video sharing Whyshould we care? How can be of use for information professionals? What are some issues for us to consider? Let's take a look together.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Who Video Shares? Barack Obama Does!

Who uses Web 2.0 to its fullest capacity? Barack Obama does. The President posts regularly to Vimeo. Vimeo is different in that it offers High-definition content. On October 17, 2007, Vimeo announced support for High Definition playback in 1280x720 (720p), becoming the first video sharing site to support consumer HD.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mashups at PSP 2009

View more presentations from Allan Cho.
I had recently given a presentation as part of a panel at the Association of American Publisher's Professional Scholarly Publishing (PSP) 2009 joint-pre-conference with the National Library of Medicine, titled "MashUp at the Library Managing Colliding User Needs, Technologies, and the Ability to Deliver."    Here are the slides I had used - any comments most appreciated.

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.