Welcome to Online Insider ...
... the editorial blog by Marydee Ojala, Editor of ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals. ONLINE Insider intends to extend the reach of the print publication, presenting a more timely commentary on the products, people, and events that shape today's online world. It explores new technologies as they impact the working lives of information professionals, explains resources for specific topic areas, and expounds on information management tools and techniques.

We’re Number One!

Marydee Ojala @ 3:38 pm

Well, if the “we” in question is Danish, that is. An annual survey conducted by IBM determined that Denmark was number 1 in Web savviness. The U.S. was number 2. Japan is down further than most would probably expect, at 21.

F-D-C Strategy

Marydee Ojala @ 3:31 pm

I spoke with an F-D-C representative today who told me that all their newsletter titles have been pulled from LexisNexis as well. When I asked if they would make anything available through a third party distributor, she said, “Yes, the Web.” Somehow, that’s not what I meant by a third party distributor. F-D-C is banking on pay per view at their Web site rather than traditional online. I tried to clarify what I meant by asking if there was any place where F-D-C content was aggregated with other publications. Not in full text, she said, but they’re indexed in Pharmaceutical News Index. That’s a ProQuest database, available through Ovid, Dialog, and ProQuest itself. But searching an index database, logging off, going to the F-D-C site, and trying to find what you located in the index database is cumbersome and likely not to result in comprehensive results. It may, however, represent what information professionals will increasingly face in the future.

Bye, Bye Catch the Web

Marydee Ojala @ 3:19 pm

I was sorry to learn today that Math Solutions has decided to discontinue the post-processing product Catch the Web. The Solo version is already gone and the Enterprise version will evaporate the end of April. Catch the Web was one of the first sponsors of WebSearch University , but they haven’t attended recently. Maybe their impending dissolution was the reason!

F-D-C Pulls Files from Dialog, DataStar

Marydee Ojala @ 1:42 pm

Thomson Dialog and DataStar no longer have the F-D-C databases they’ve hosted for years. Gone is Health News Daily (file 43, HNDD, HNDO), FDC Gold Sheet/Silver Sheet (file 184, FDGS), FDC Reports (file 186, 187, FDCR, FDCA), and NDA Pipeline (file 189, NDAP). Although the DataStar news tells me they were to be withdrawn on the first of April, the notice only showed up this morning on the Dialog login page. The F-D-C newsletters, with their colorful names (The Pink Sheet, The Gray Sheet, The Rose Sheet, The Tan Sheet, etc.) are a staple in pharmaceutical libraries. Although pricey — The Gray Sheet, which covers the medical device industry, costs $1,365 per year for an individual subscription — they’re essential. They are also available electronically, with an RSS feed and e-mail delivery, directly from the F-D-C Web site . For Thomson to lose these Elsevier publications from its repertoire is not the best thing that could happen to Dialog and DataStar.

Take the LII Survey

Marydee Ojala @ 9:21 am

If you have a few minuntes to spare (and it’s really only a few minutes), take the LII (Librarians Index to the Internet) survey . I got a little bit of a chuckle when I hit question #14, hope you do too.

AIIP Morning Keynote

Marydee Ojala @ 5:39 pm

The speaker for this morning’s Roger Summit Award Lecture was John Schwartz, a writer for the New York Times, who previously wrote for the Washington Post. He’s clearly no newcomer to online research, noting that AIIPers use Nexis and Factiva to prove we’re “smarter than the Googlers.” He even mentioned using the Well! “We’re all information professionals. We find things and tell people. I just have more clients than you do.”

Then he talked about interviewing Paul Saffo of The Institute for the Future and asking him what he did for a living. Saffo said they were in the same business. “You write something for a large audience and charge a little. I write something for a small audience and charge $100,000.” He then talked about using online resources to identify people to call and interview for a story. “The killer ap of the Internet is people,” he said. I really liked it when he discussed his use of the Washington Post library and how good the librarian/researchers there were. Always nice to know that the info pros are appreciated by the journalists.

He did have some comments on journalism and blogging, most of them fairly predictable. Blogging is democratizing journalism, for example. He had some wry observations as well, such as bloggers are learning about quality and judgment, while some in the mainstream media are forgetting. “Not long ago you had to be a professional journalist to create bloopers. Now anybody can embarrass themselves.”
Some days the blogs win (he cited Dan Rather); some days the mainstream media wins (he cited the Terry Schiavo letter written by the Republican). He then contrasted the immediacy of local bloggers reporting on the Southeast Asia tsunami with TV news. His belief is that we need both.

This led to observations on credibility. “There’s no free ride; you have to earn credibility.” Which is true both for the mainstream media and bloggers. “Everything we do at a newspaper has an impact on our credibility.”

At the end of his witty and informative talk, he came back to another time he interviewed Paul Saffo and asked the same question about what he does for a living. This time the answer was, “My job isn’t telling people what will happen; it’s helping them understand uncertainty.”

In the Q&A period, he had one more memorable quote, this time it’s his, not Saffo’s: “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”

Find Your Niche and Scratch It

Marydee Ojala @ 3:28 pm

That was the title of Paul and Sarah Edwards’ keynote speech at the AIIP (Association of Independent Professionals) annual conference. They talked about the new world in which independent professionals find themselves, an interesting topic since the first time I heard Paul and Sarah was at the AIIP conference in 1991 in Kansas City. They were just as dynamic then, just as inspirational, and just as practical. But today they talk about blogs, which definitely weren’t around in 1991! Why should you care about “niching” yourself? It’s a combination of desire, resources, and opportunity. They had us practice a “door opening sound byte.” It goes something like this: “You know how you have this problem on a recurring basis? Well, what I do is research that will find a solution to your problem.” Then they talked about tailor made marketing. Some of do better with marketing through trade shows, others through networking. Then there’s showing what we do through web sites or directory listings versus telling through newsletters, blogs, or journal articles. They urged us to do 5 marketing activities and follow through on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Thinking About Buying & Selling eContent, Day Three

Marydee Ojala @ 3:59 pm

Day Three??? There wasn’t a day three. It was a two day conference. But Valeo ran a special session on Wednesday morning. Some of the attendees had been to BSeC and some had not. I won’t blog about the content of the session, since it was an “invitation only” event. I will say that it was very valuable to those attending and an interesting way to extend the usefulness of the conference.

My other thoughts on Buying & Selling eContent revolved around blogging. Although several bloggers posted their thoughts on the speakers and topics, nothing compares to actually being in Scottsdale at Camelback. It’s not just the beautiful flowers and landscaping of the resort, although I always love seeing them, it’s the interaction with attendees, the networking opportunities, and the great food. Blogs, including this one, only touch the surface of the Buying & Selling eContent experience.

Thinking About Buying & Selling eContent, Day Two

Marydee Ojala @ 9:01 pm

The second day of Buying & Selling eContent was much more interactive, I think to everyone’s relief. We started with a new content technologies panel, which I moderated. Ross Mayfield picked up on some of David Weinberger’s technologies, but gave live demos rather than the screen shots David showed. It wasn’t a “gee whiz, look at this” type of presentation — Ross showed the self-healing nature of Wikipedia, commented on using del.icio.us tags for product reputation monitoring, and noted that Les Echos uses SocialText for collaborative editing. Gary Halliwell noted the problems that premium publishers are having. Static technologies are inadequate and manual data tagging is expensive. Although ZoomInfo uses NLP and text analysis in its summarization search engine, the companies business model is rather traditional — it sells subscriptions. Jeff Massa took an article from the previous day’s Financial Times, which was on everybody’s chair each day of the conference(which is why I love going to conferences where the FT is a sponsor!), and used it to show Yellow Brix’s technology. He showed that the technology can dedup or not, as you wish. His technology is messy, harking back to Weinberger’s talk the first day, and agnostic.

We then broke for roundtable sessions, where there were lively discussions around such topics as mobile content, pricing, repurposing content, and all those new technologies like blogs, wikis, and social networking. Nobody seemed very interested in discussing open access econtent or new business models, which seemed a bit wierd. Perhaps there were too many options.

In the afternoon, the static tables, chairs and podium for the speakers were replaced by more active arm chairs. This worked out well for the afternoon panel on threats and opportunities. Moderated by Jeff Cutler, the panel included Joe Kasputys (Global Insight), Don Hawk (TechTarget), Corey Johnson (Valeo IP), and David Mandelbrot (Yahoo). We saw the “future” of newspapers in 2014 in the EPIC video, which sees a world of ultra-customizable electronic news where printed newspapers have disappeared. Lots of talk about the Internet and the word quality started surfacing again.

It’s clear that many people in attendance haven’t integrated new technologies into their product line, some because they haven’t considered it, others because they’re not sure where it would fit. How many new business models can one have? Advertising. Subscriptions. These don’t seem revolutionary. Community created content is very interesting. I ended up wondering this: If the public is creating content and it’s published in an incredibly speedy fashion, and it’s of high quality, where does that leave traditional publishing? And where is the role for the information professional? This goes beyond buying and selling to the essential disruptive nature of new technology and new thinking about the very nature of econtent and the jobs/tasks/professionalism of its users.

It can definitely all be a bit overwhelming. In terms of becoming re-invigorated and feeling younger next year, this might make some feel old and tired. I hope not. It does give us all lots to consider.

Thinking About Buying & Selling eContent, Day One

Marydee Ojala @ 8:20 pm

I’ve spent most of the past few days either listening to presentations, running around the Buying & Selling eContent conference room with a microphone to hand to people asking questions of those giving the presentations, and schmoozing with attendees at Buying & Selling eContent. Which means I didn’t have much time for thinking. Others at the conference contributed on the fly, real-time commentary, notably Ross Mayfield who was actually blogging from the podium while sitting next to me and was then praised/chastised (depending on how you viewed it) by David Scott on his new blog. If Rafit Ali is at a show, you know he’s blogging it, and so he was.

Thinking back, here are the things that struck me. The word “quality” was thrown around a lot, but nobody looked at what it meant to their various business models and constituencies. Saying you’re in favor of quality is sort of like Mom and apple pie. But data quality, product quality, and value to the customer aren’t the same thing. In the preconference on Sunday, Bill Noorlander made the excellent point that you should buy for value and that value was not the same as how much money you spend.

Tom Hogan Sr. opened Buying & Selling eContent. He hoped that, by the end of the two days, attendees would have renewed enthusiasm and feel “younger next year.” I do, Tom, I do!

Then it was on to David Weinberger, who told us that everything is miscellaneous and described newer social networking tools (wikis, blogs, Flickr, tagging), urged us to get over the mentality of scarcity, and noted that messiness is in the ascendance. To him, value comes from individualism and group action. That combination is messy in itself. Now if he could only spell Dewey’s first name correctly, it would be nice.

Then we went into intros where everybody had to say when they were first on email. Some amazing answers! Joe Kasputys was the earliest early adopter.

Joe Bremner introduced the morning panel that was to set the framework for the rest of the conference. He called it “the state of the value chain.” John Blossom cited four trends: cooperation, commercialization, containerization, and consolidation. “You don’t go to content; you meet needs where they are.” Jeff Dearth’s hot new stuff: new vertical aggregators, SEM/SEO/affiliate networks, vertical search/local search, rich media, bloggs and RSS, and business/financial data. “Customers and in control and there’s search engine disruption.” Janice Liggett talked about the challenges to the buyer regarding cost and price structures and finding scholarly materials in institutional repositories. “Buyers need to provide information in new ways.” Chuck Richard showed Outsell Inc. statistics about the size of the information industry and pointed out how powerful generational demographics are. “The role of the internal buyer is not command and control.”

The afternoon was filled with the perspectives of the various buying/selling/distributing segments of the econtent landscape. Interesting were the parallel presentations of Cargill’s Maribeth Basig and Ernst & Young’s Mick Stelzer. Here are two companies of similar size with very different information needs and approaches to buying information. The publishers came from very different organizations, Bob Bovenshulte, American Chemical Society, made the point that buyers weren’t the users. Lou Celi announced that the EIU Web site had relaunched that very morning and answered a few of the criticisms that Maribeth had made of it only a few minutes earlier. That was definitely not scripted. The key change he sees by 2010? Extracting knowledge for on demand decision support. Alacra’s Steve Goldstein and IEE’s Erica Mobley, explained how they gathered, aggregated, and distributed information. Max Schireson, MarkLogic, and Bob Weiner, CCC, presented their takes on management of information after it’s been delivered. Summing up for the (very long and tiring) was Bill Noorlander who picked some common themes. Users are global. Many different sectors are involved. Buyers want simplicity, easier access, and a loosening of the rules about usage. Vendors should strive to be partners, not sellers.

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