Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wolfram Alpha and Year One of the Shroud of Turin

One year after the release of Wolfram Alpha, the hoopla has come and gone. It just seems as if the world wasn't quite ready for Wolfram to come and grab the spotlight away from Google. Heavily weighted toward computational queries, with blended tendency of manipulating its data sets as opposed to simply retrieving what is actually available on the Web means its results can be more authoritative than a list of links.

As a result, Wolfram has "sold out" in a way, as it plans to make over its home page, and will start adding data for more pop-culture-friendly information such as sports, music, health information, and even its own take on local mapping. The problem is that Wolfram just doesn't know what it's for: as one pundit puts it, "Wolfram Alpha is like a cross between a research library, a graphing calculator, and a search engine."

Another challenge for Wolfram is that unlike Google, Wolfram expects to cash in on its enterprise: let's put it this way, it isn't doing this for knowledge dissemination. It plans to sell subscriptions to advanced users who want to do thing like blend their own custom data with Alpha's engine. The question remains: who's going to use it? Its business model is incumbent on a smaller, elite set of expert users. Google, on the other hand, has a business model that's shown a way to work based on use by just about everybody. There's a neatly aligned financial alliance between more users and revenue.

It's unfortunate as Wolfram Alpha came out with a great deal of anticipation and hope. Stephen Wolfram's presentation was very much as if he was uncovering new findings from the Shroud of Turin. Audience members anxiously waited their turns to throw questions which Wolfram easily captured with his new search engine. Unfortunately, for the past year, it appears as if much has come up short.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Copyright Wars

William Patry, author of Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars and blogger on the Patry Copyright Blog, poses some interesting food for thoughts. The "copyright wars," as he puts it, is an archetypal response of outmoded businesses who not only fail to innovative, but use the innovation of others to succeed. The lawsuits and the lawyers hired to manage them, are signs that companies lack such commitment; in other words, litigation is reflective of this failed business model, not its success.

Just look at the decline in sales of CDs, DVDs, and software piracy- they are all results of the copyright industries' failure to satisfy consumers' desires as opposed to stifling those desires out of a woefully misguided view that copyright is control and control means profits.

Intriguingly, Patry believes that Japan and South Korea are role model countries for the copyright wars. Both countries reveal the win-win situation that can occur when government takes innovation policy seriously and where publishers go with the technology and youth, rather than the need to declare war on them as is the case in the United States (and by extension, Canada). In South Korea, the availability of such inexpensive, super-fast broadband as well as the communal nature of digital connectedness has led to the phonemena that exist on a scale in South Korea unimaginable in the US.

Cyworld is one example. According to Patry, 43% of South Koreans use and maintain profiles in Cyworld, which is a social networking community. A combination of social websites like MySpace, a virtual world like Second Life, a blog-hosting site like Xanga, as well as a virtual shopping mall where music is legally downloaded. Korean corporations use Cyworld for product launches. It is part of the social fabric, as youths are associated by their cyaddresses.

Yet, this is a state-sponsored initiative. South Korea has come a long way when internet first appeared in 1995. It has modernized the country's infrastructure in contrast to the regulatory entanglements that has stunted the development of the US telecommunications industry. Impressive considering South Korea had fewer than 1% of its population using the Internet while by 2004, it had over 71% of its population.

It was a concerted effort by the South Korean government in the midst of an economic turmoil of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. Rather than folding under pressure, Korean policy makers instead used technology as a key sector in restoring the nation's economic health, providing not only fiber connection to all big office and apartment buildings, and households (more than 80%) access to fast DSL or cable connections -- but also a national highspeed backbone network linking government facilities and public institutions.

Of course, there is always a drawback: and that resulted when unauthorized downloads or streaming of movies occurred frequently. Instead of shutting down operations, TimeWarner decided to defy its past business model and began releasing its films online in South Korea before they were released on DVD. Not surprisingly, South Korea is a digital culture, one where music sales are done digitally, much more so anywhere else in the world.

In Japan, whole novels are sold via cellphones. Japan's cellphone novels are not a craze, but a norm. Can you imagine where entire novels are read via cell phones? Only is it possible with such amazing broadband connections. In a country in which wireless connections have been common for at least the past decade, this is not a surprising cultural and literary feat. What can be learned from this? Certainly, for the West, open source and open access continue to face alarming distrust and misunderstanding, particularly in the publishing establishment, where copyright and corporatism rule both the digital and print world. It will be interesting to see in the next few years whether the West has caught on with the rest of the world.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Open Access & The Pulitzer Prize

The awarding of the Pulitzer Prizes to a a cartoonist for, the online arm of the San Francisco Chronicle, and an investigative journalist at ProPublica are in many ways a paradigm shift in the literary, publishing, and the age of the internet. Their award is historical as it's the only time an online-only publication has won such a prestigious award for editorial content.

An independent journalism outlet that syndicates content to various traditional news organizations but itself operates solely on the Internet, ProPublica specializes on investigative reporting who had won the award along with the Philadelphia Daily News. Competing against multi-million dollar New York Times, ProPublica still managed to win. A non-profit organization, it offers a resource for struggling news organizations that can't afford to focus human resources on investigative reporting.

In the other award, Mark Fiore won the award for his editorial cartoon work, a series of web videos on Competing against the likes of established The Philidelphia Inquirer and Politico, this is a huge feat. Although it has only been two years since the Pulitzer Prize board first began permitting online-only publications, ProPublica and SFGate's achievements have significant implications in both the publishing and literary world.

Of course, with the ubiquitous availability of Internet access, it has become commonplace for academics to publish a scholarly article and have it instantly accessible anywhere in the world where there are computers and Internet connections. The possibilities of open access comes at a time when the traditional, print-based scholarly journals system is in crisis, as the cost of publishing can no longer match the demand of subscribers. As the number of journals and articles produced has been increasing at a steady rate, the average cost per journal has been rising at a rate far above inflation.

As a result, this all indicates that the web has become the great equalizer for publishers and writers. Until recent time, both academics and publishers have been skeptical about the quality and legitimacy of web publications. Perhaps the latest winners of the Pulitzer Prize by two creators of online content is an indication that open access is slowly making its way into the public consciousness.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Gladwell on Social Media

In a surprising splash of cold water, Malcolm Gladwell dispelled the anticipation and excitement of social media enthusiasts at the F5 Expo in Vancouver, BC. As a conference that converges interactive exhibits, peer idea-collaboration amongst fellow entrepreneurs and executives, and "edge-of-your-seat conferences into one explosive day," on topics such as mobile apps, search marketing, business blogs/webinars, social media, and web 2.0 . . . Gladwell came, and Gladwell left, with a debris of ideas for us to take home.

Gladwell took to the stage at a Vancouver conference on online technologies Wednesday to dismiss the opinion that social media will change our society. He believes that trust -- or the lack of it -- is the main reason why the social web offers weak connections rather than strong. While the Internet offers anonymity and a broad reach, it fails to deliver trust.

Intriguingly, he thinks social media is still in its experimental phase. For someone as observant and bright as Gladwell is, he certainly makes a good point. In the brief history of the internet, it builds something up up only for it to be toppled later. Perhaps Facebook is just a flavour of the month. The web is not a world that respects loyalties and longevity. . . Will Twitter?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Google Vs. The Great Wall of China

I'm really enjoying the latest row between Google and China as it's pits two giants against each other despite the fact that both are battling it out in different contexts. For all the talk about the Google Book Project or the DMCA, Google's pulling out of China has seemingly deserved little attention from Western media. Google is certainly pulling no punches as it has decided to monitor the status of Google in China. Google has launched a website that makes it easy to see how things are going down -- and it's not very pretty to be honest.

Instead of simply withdrawing from China, Google has decided to redirect traffic from to — their site hosted out of Hong Kong. This version of Google hosts unfiltered results — something that likely isn’t too popular with Chinese officials. Moreover, Google stopped censoring its search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Users visiting are now being redirected to, where it offers uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Essentially, Google has decided to let China make the call — instead of shutting down the service themselves, it’s now going to be up to China to pull the plug.

As a snapshot in historical context, this is very much a tense standoff between multinational corporatism and state nationalism. As a result, Google Inc. partners in China are said to follow billionaire Hong Kong Li Ka-shing's lead and cut links with the U.S. Internet company after it defied the nation's self-censorship rules. Li's Tom Online Inc. has already stopped using Google's search engine on its portal and media buyer Zenith Optimedia; advertisers it represents may also switch to rivals after Google began this redirection of its mainland users to an unfiltered offshore site. Not surprisingly, China Mobile Ltd. has a deal with Google to provide mobile and Internet services. What is going to transpire? As we said earlier, this is a game of chicken, with both sides fairly rigid in its position and solidified in its respective empires.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hong Kong Central Library

When I first stepped foot into the Hong Kong Central Library, I had immediately realized had entered the library of the future. The Central Library, the largest of the 76 public libraries in a city of 7 million people, is the main library of Hong Kong. Located at the intersection of Moreton Terrace and Causeway Road in Causeway Bay, the Central Library is a 12-storey high building in with an area of 9,400 sq. metres plus a floor area of 33,800 sq. metres, built at a construction cost of HK$690 million. What are some of the features which make HK Central Library on par with the best knowledge institutions of the world? Here are just a few:

(1) Intelligent Building - The Hong Kong Central Library is an intelligent building, using the most advanced architecture. Intelligent Buildings concepts include a purpose is to control, monitor and optimise building services, (eg. lighting, heating, security, CCTV, and alarm systems, access control, audio-visual and entertainment systems, ventilation, filtration and climate control, and even time & attendance control and reporting (notably staff movement and availability). This is also called building automation, which is essentially a control system using a computerized, intelligent network of electronic devices, designed to monitor and control the mechanical and lighting systems of a building

(2) State-Of-The-Art Multimedia - Called the Multimedia Information System, the MMIS is an example of all-embracing use of information technology and computer application in the Hong Kong Central Library. As such a three level audio-on-demand and video-on-demand system are set up. In order to enable more public use of the first level video and third level audio and video of the AOD/VOD system, about ninety Asynchronous Transfer Mode terminals are installed in the library. In other words, the library allows its users the most advanced technologies available.

(3) Global Repository - has been designated as the legal depository library in Hong Kong for nine global organizations: Asian Development Bank, European Union, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization United Nations, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, World Bank, World Trade Organization; and World Food Programme.

(4) Looking Back, Moving Forward - Because of the Central Library's sheer size coupled with its unique facilities, it even hosted the Hong Kong Library Association's 50th Anniversary conference. HKLA held the international conference in 2008, called "Looking Back, Moving Forward: Asian Libraries in the World of Information" which focused on the key issues and challenges which face libraries in Asia.

(5) History & Culture - Very much an educational institutional as it is a technological masterpiece, cultural symbolism is highlighted throughout the building. In particular, memorial plaques dedicated to famous modern Chinese writers in the library emblazon the library, one of them was for the witty and erudite scholar-novelist Qian Zhongshu (錢鍾書).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Vancouverism and 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver has come and gone. It has forever changed the city. Vancouver is also known for its unique Vancouverism. Characterized by mixed-use developments, typically with a medium-height, commercial base and narrow, high-rise residential towers to accommodate high populations and to preserve view corridors, Vancouverism is an urban planning and architectural technique pioneered in Vancouver, Canada.

Vancouver is somewhat unique among large North American cities with such a large residential population living in the city centre, and no expressways connecting the core to the suburbs, and still being able to significantly rely on mass public transit for its citizens. It these reasons contribute to the fact that it is consistently ranked among the most livable cities in the world. Not to mention its gorgeous landscape during the spring, summer, fall, and winter seasons. Perhaps Vancouver should also be known in Vancouverism for its knowledge capital. Why? Here are some main features:

1. Libraries - If anything, Vancouver has some of the most gorgeous libraries in the world. Its Central Library in Library Square occupies a city block in the eastward expansion of downtown Vancouver. Centred on the block, the library volume is a nine-story rectangular box containing book stacks and services, surrounded by a free-standing, elliptical, colonnaded wall featuring reading and study areas that are accessed by bridges spanning skylit light wells. The library's internal glass facade overlooks an enclosed concourse formed by a second elliptical wall that defines the east side of the site. This glass-roofed concourse serves as an entry foyer to the library and the more lively pedestrian activities at ground level. Public spaces surrounding the library form a continuous piazza with parking located below grade. The building's exterior is often said to resemble the Flavian Amphitheatre in Rome

2. Social Media community - Vancouver has one of the most vibrant, trendiest Web 2.0 communities in the world. An urban city, the majority of these companies are clustered around downtown. Some of the best Web 2.0 writers and bloggers hail from Vancouver, BC. Mitch Joel's 6 Pixels of Separation, Miss 604, Stephen Hui, Rob Cottingham, and the Search Principle are but a few examples social and semantic media trendsetters.

3. Open data / Open Access initiatives -Some of Vancouver's public institutions are progressive minded. Just take a look at the Vancouver City Archives. It's been luring open-source and open-data enthusiasts to a meet-up in January with the promise of free coffee, free Wi-Fi, and free information. Holding such an informal social and coding session is not only a logical fit for the direction the archives is taking, but certainly opens up new opportunities for what the Semantic Web is going to look like.

4. Multiculturalism 2.0 - One of the most culturally and ethnically diverse in the world, almost 60 per cent of people in Vancouver are expected to be a visible minority by 2031. As such, Web 2.0 has changed the way multicultural citizens perceive, interact, and communicate - particularly so in the city of Vancouver. In fact, it is often new immigrants who arrive in Canada that have better survival skills and have used the Web extensively for research before arriving in Vancouver. These immigrants tend to be urban, wealthy, and the most technology adept and often ahead of the trend. As a result, in multiculturalism 2.0 city, one's individual online identity is replicated like one's cultural identity, which is fluid and not limited to “websites about websites."

Friday, March 05, 2010

Bibliothèque nationale de France

This is one of the most historic, most beautiful libraries in the modern world. Tracing its origin to the royal library founded at the Louvre by Charles V in 1368, the Bibliothèque nationale de France expanded under Louis XIV and opened to the public in 1692. With library's collections swelling to over 300,000 volumes during the radical phase of the French Revolution when the private libraries of aristocrats and clergy were seized, the library became the Imperial National Library and in 1868 was moved to newly constructed buildings on the Rue de Richelieu following a series of regime changes in France. At one time or another - 1896 to be exact - the library was in fact the largest repository of books in the world.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Boston Public Library

Historical Boston is one of the most beautiful, but underrated cities in the world. Likewise its library system. Founded in the mid-19th century, the Boston Public Library (BPL) is strongly associated with the emergence of education for the working class. Its unique architectural style was maintained when Philip John designed an additional section in 1972. Serving as both a research library and headquarters for Boston Public Library's 26 branch libraries, the main library branch also holds a large collection of rare books and manuscripts and musical scores.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Semiotics and the Semantic Web

. . . when computing entered the realm of images, a new dimension was added to cyperspace (taking it literally from 1D to 2D) and the term 'virtual reality' started to be more than a daydream. (Cadognety, 2002).

According to Wikipedia, semiotics is the study of sign processes (semiosis), or signification and communication, signs and symbols. What is interesting is that there is currently a great deal of research on semiotics and the Web, and a result, have an important natural link to the semantic web. Anything intended to signal meaning of some kind, signs on websites are especially important. Various kinds of meaning can be transmitted or 'signalled' by using an image, icon, label or a hyperlink of some fashion -- signs. According to the semiotic theory, signs have a significant (e.g. link label), a referent (e.g. actual page the link points to), an interpretant (e.g. the concept it signifies), and even a behaviour (e.g. the link mechanism itself). Signs of all types leverage existing content to express some kind of function (e.g. a thumbnail image used as link to a product) or affordance.

Philippe Codognet has been one of the preeminent researchers in the field of the semiotics of the web. In his article in 2002, Ancient Images and New Technologies: The Semiotics of the Web, when the web was still in its infancy, Codognet points out that indexical images, which we use in navigating the multimedia documents which make up the web, can be based on the study of semiotics, and can be traced back to the classical thinkers such as Gottfried Liebniz and C.S. Peirce. In other words, instead of viewing the Semantic Web as something entirely novel, we must look at the core roots of the web, which is really just an organization of data, documents, and images - conceptually meshed in contemporary computer-based communication.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Horizon Report 2010 - Changes to Come?

The Horizon Report 2010 has come and gone. Reactions? What's most noticeable is that there are a lot of repeating themes to previous Horizon Reports. Perhaps this is due to the reality that there just aren't that many technologies to go around. My interpretation is that certain themes are emerging as this decade comes to a close. As the Web continues to grow, its supporting technologies are emerging to support its growing veins and organs. As a result, we aren't just seeing a few new technologies popping up here and there annually; rather, we're witnessing the growth a layer of technologies that form a foundation for moving our physical world more aligned to the digital realm. Here's a look at the 6 key technologies from the Horizon Report:

1. Mobile computing - This is not a surprise as the iPhone has entered our lives as seamlessly and ubiquitously over the past couple of years. Handheld tools such as smart phones to netbooks are portable tools for productivity, learning, and communication, offering an increasing range of activities fully supported by applications designed especially for mobiles.

2. Open content - Although the open content movement is a response to the rising costs of education, it has been around since the open source and freeware movements in the software and gaming industries back in the 1990's. In the open content (also known as open access in the publishing and academic world), the desire for access to learning in areas where such access is difficult and an expression of student choice about when and how to learn battle against the corporate for-profit universe which for years has seen growing textbook prices, hefty rising student fees, and the ivory tower image of the babel of academia. The digital world is attempting to fight back, be it free online courses or video webcasts open to the world.

3. Electronic books - Going hand in hand with open content, electronic books promise to reduce costs, save students from carrying pounds of textbooks, and contribute to the environmental efforts of paper-conscious campuses. As pblishers are raising the costs of printing to justify the costs of doing business, the digital world is paving the way to break down those barriers and allow for portable, compact, and inexpensive options for all.

4. Simple augmented reality – This is the technology that has subtly entered into our daily lives with little notice or fanfare, but will ultimately change the way we interact with the Web. AR is the concept of blending (augmenting) virtual data — information, rich media, and even live action — into our physical world – with the purpose of enhancing the information we can perceive with our senses is a powerful one. This is what some predicts as the next generation 3D web (or Web 3.0).

5. Gesture-based computing - Allows our natural movements of the finger, hand, arm, and body which can recognize and interpret body motions. As we work with devices that react to us instead of requiring us to learn to work with them, our understanding of what it means to interact with computers will have a paradigm shift.

6. Visual data analysis - An emerging field, a blend of statistics, data mining, and visualization, that promises to make it possible for anyone to sift through, display, and understand complex concepts and relationships. Visual data analysis may help expand our understanding of learning itself. Learning is one of the most complex of social processes, with a myriad of variables interacting in highly complex ways, making it an ideal focus for the search for patterns. Indeed, Chris Anderson has argued in Wired Magazine that the explosion of data spells the ‘end of theory.’
Sensors everywhere. Infinite storage. Clouds of processors. Our ability to capture, warehouse, and understand massive amounts of data is changing science, medicine, business, and technology. As our collection of facts and figures grows, so will the opportunity to find answers to fundamental questions. Because in the era of big data, more isn't just more. More is different.
What does this all mean? We're moving (albeit slowly) into an exciting era of cultural, social, and technological transformation. This has greater implications than just surfing the Web.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

How the Mighty Fall

After Jim Collins' landmark Good to Great, now an essential for most organizations, the collapse of a number of those 'great' companies made Collins re-examine, how companies can fall after decades of unshakable excellence.

What began as a journal article eventually expanded to How the Mighty Fall, which confronts these questions with some answers to how even the best can succumb to decline and collapse. One thing is even more true about the recent financial collapse: all organizations are prone to vulnerabilities, regardless of how well crafted and seemingly operated they appear. Collins' research project--more than four years in duration-- reveals five stages of decline. It's an excellent guide to libraries and information centres, particularly those nestled in the guise of large budgeted institutions. All organizations run by humans face mortality one day or another - it's important that we recognize its symptoms and confront the brutal realities of decline. And perhaps step in if it's not too late. Here are Collins' five stages:

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success - All success depends on hard work and luck; however, success does not guarantee perpetuity. Every decision needs to be continually re-examined.

Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More - Success often breeds greed, which often leads to straying from the original elements which produced success.

Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril - Greed leads to blindness that there are signs of hazard, until it's too late.

Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation - Signs of failure arises, but blindness to reality reinforces the need to look for miracles. Often, the organization looks for a messiah from outside the organization to lead it back to the promise land.

Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death - Nothing is done. Demoralized, the organization accepts its fate of a slow death.

Collins' research argues however, that these are just five stages. Indeed, they are reversible. Some companies do indeed recover--in some cases, coming back even stronger--even after Stage 4. In fact, this is because decline is (believe it or not) self-inflicted, and the path to recovery lies largely within the organization's own hands. As long a company is not entirely knocked out of the game, hope always remains. The mighty can fall, but they can often rise again.

Collins' book impressed me as a book that can be applied to all organizations, profit and not-for-profit - technology or customer-service. Regardless of what sector, when large numbers of people work together to achieve a common goal, they are bound to irrationality and group think, politics and human egotism. The five principles of decline are a good reminder that nothing is indestructible if pushed to its limits.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Seattle's Central Library

Here is a library that I is close to heart, literally and figuratively speaking. I heart Seattle, one of trendiest urban living spaces in the world. Its Central Seattle Library also ranks as one of the most beautiful architectural spaces in the world, with state of the art technology. A remarkably postmodern rendition perhaps, even the floors have a classically labeled Dewey Decimal system as markers of shelf sections.

Designed by Rem Koolhaas, the Library is award-winning in architectural style, modern on both the inside and the out. The library uses RFID that allows patrons to check out their own materials. Its former city librarian Nancy Pearl even had a few books under her name and a figurine, too. So grab a Starbucks and your MS Windows laptop, and take a plushy seat in one of the world's most interesting libraries.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Is it Google? Or Is it Information Imperialism?

Google's threat to withdraw from China over censorship and cyberspying is a sign of a growing willingness among foreign companies and governments to overturn the conventional wisdom that has defined decades of engagement by the West: that China is so big that it must be accommodated. Or is it simply Western hegemony? Or is it "information imperialism?"

In a recent posting from the Google Blog, Google has announced that it will be adopting a new strategy in China after facing cyber-attacks in which Gmail accounts were hacked into. In mid-December, it had detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. Google would have an easier time quitting China than other companies. Although its business there has been growing, it is estimated to be only a few percentage points of its total revenues. That's a sharp contrast to companies like General Motors Corp., for which China is a crucial market.

What's interesting is that the US government has taken a stance in this growing situation, turning it instantly into a political issue, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently pointed out China as among a number of countries where there has been “a spike in threats to the free flow of information” over the past year. She also named Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. In response China called the US of practicing "information imperialism." Viewed from this angle, information is no different than economic and cultural imperialism. Looking at it in this light, Google's strategy might have both political and business implications.

Let's take a look at the the Global Search Report. The report indicates that even as far back as 2007, Google's reach into the web has not been as extensive as we think it might be. Not only did Google have only 21.7% of the market share compared to Baidu's 55% in China, it had only 24.7% compared to Seznam's 65.5% in the Czech Republic. Google didn't even rank top 3 in South Korea (Naver is number 1, with 72.7% of the market share). If we look at Google as a multinational corporation, perhaps its strategy isn't one of intellectual freedom, but one of consolidating market share. As it has no dominance in certain regions, why would it want to move into China in the first place? English isn't everything you know.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Libraries of the World - One Google Streetview At A Time

Launched in May 2007 to allow its users to explore the world through images, Google Maps' Street Views' coverage was limited to just five U.S. cities. When Street View first launched, the platform used to capture images was a van. Since 2007, Street View has expanded to include cities, streets, national parks and even some biking trails throughout the world. (And it's still capturing streets as we're talking). Currently, Street View is available for almost a dozen countries around the world in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Interestingly, scaling the project to this level required more lightweight and high-quality technology. Not only was the van replaced by a car, Google had to use different vehicles in different regions around the world to collect tens of millions of images. (Just think of those small alleys in London or Barcelona).

For the upcoming months, we will be travelling together throughout the world, starting in North America, to some of the most innovative and interesting libraries of the world. How are we going to do that? Google Maps. Our first stop? One of the largest libraries in the United States offering patrons access to millions of books, periodicals, and CDs, the New York Public Library also offers a large number of digitized collections that include images, prints and photographs. Interestingly, NYPL was one of the first to collaborate with Google to create a selection of online digital books as part of the Google Books Online Project. Not only is the library is also highly tech savvy with an active RSS feed as well as podcasts on iTunes U, patrons can download ebooks, video and audio directly from the website or video storybooks, video on demand as well as webcasts.

I like travelling.