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.

Upcoming Conferences

Marydee Ojala @ 8:51 am

Lots of activity on the conference front.

Information Today added Philadelphia to its schedule for WebSearch University so I’ve been busy pulling together the schedule for that. Some really interesting topics this year–Ran Hock’s doing a preconference on CSS Stylesheets, Tara Caslishain’s talking about information trapping, Chris Sherman’s got a session on social search, as well as his annual update on what major search engine companies are up to, Mary Ellen Bates will be talking about her special search techniques, and I’m doing a pre-con on business research and a session on open access. That’s just a taste, there’s lots more.

Dates for Philly are April 30 and May 1, 2007, with preconferences on Sunday, April 29th.

We’ll also do WebSearch in Washington DC in September. The exact dates are Sept. 17 and 18, with precons on the 16th.

Hope to see you at one of the WebSearches!

Before I go to Philly, though, there’s the Buying & Selling eContent conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’m looking forward to a warm time in Arizona. Should I mention that it’s 0 degrees outside here at the moment? We’ve trying out a somewhat new format this year, stressing conversations among attendees rather than nothing but panels and formal speeches. Should be both entertaining and educational.

The other conference in which I’m involved in planning for ITI is Internet Librarian International. That’s October 8-9, 2007 in London (UK). The Call for Speakers is now live, as I mentioned in an earlier post.

In April, I’ll be speaking at Computers in Libraries and blogging the conference for ITI.

There are other conference besides those from ITI, however. I’ll be going directly from CIL to Minneapolis for the AIIP annual conference. But I’m particularly excited about the IOLUG 25th anniversary meeting. That will be on May 4, 2007 in Carmel, Indiana. Details should be on the web site soon. I’ll be speaking on Online 3.0 and Pat Ensor from Houston will be giving a retrospective on the online world. Should be fantastic–and we’ve priced it quite low for what you’re going to get!

My main task for today, however, besides staying warm, is editing articles for the next issue of ONLINE.

Dan, the Money Man

Marydee Ojala @ 8:46 am

According to London’s Sunday Times, as reported by Rafat Ali, Dan Wagner’s venture capital company, Bright Station Ventures has invested $4.5 million in the U.K. blogging company, Shiny Media.

Anybody else remember Bright Station? That was the successor company when Dan sold Dialog/DataStar to Thomson in 2000 for $275 million. At the time, Bright Station announced it had three main business units: web services, etrading, and an Internet venture division. The first two pretty much became the present company venda, but we didn’t hear much about anything vc related until now.

It’s also interesting to note that in December 2006, venda itself received $20 million from venture capital firms Investor Growth Capital and GF Private Equity. Interesting times at St. Martins Lane.

Threat to Web Search

Marydee Ojala @ 8:46 am

This commentary from John Dvorak in that latest issue of PC Magazine (February 6, 2007) is scary. He speculates that if a company such as AT&T or Comcast bought a search engine company like Yahoo, it could change your results so that they’d display not by relevance but by how much a company had paid or to benefit the self-interest of the owning company. He dubs this losing “search neutrality,” a play on words from the “net neutrality” debate going on in Congress. He calls the potential to skew results “corruption” and a “threat to democracy,” since search engines with control over your results could manage to swing an election. For those of us engaged in serious research, we already worry about our results being influenced by the SEO (search engine optimizer) contingent. Having the search engines themselves altering the order in which results display (if you move them down low enough, most people won’t scroll down to find them), possibly even suppressing results, could doom our use of the Internet for research.

Small search sidenote here: I had the physical issue of PC Magazine in my hands for about a week before it showed up online. I mentioned this in my editorial that will be published in the March/April 2007 issue of ONLINE.

John Hancock Day

Marydee Ojala @ 8:29 am

I’ll bet you didn’t know that today is National Handwriting Day. I heard this on the radio on the way to work, and checked the veracity of the radio announcer (using a web search engine, of course) when I got here. In these days of blogs, wikis, email, and electronic communication of all types, it seems an anachronism to celebrate pen and ink on paper. If I were to rate my handwriting on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being John Hancock quality, I’d probably be down around a 2. I’m convinced that my ability to use a keyboard has destroyed the legibility of my handwriting. Although I’m happy to celebrate a John Hancock Day, recognizing his importance in American history, I’m not convinced I want to handwrite an actual letter today in commemoration of his clear signature. For one thing, the spell check feature is sorely lacking when it comes to handwriting. In fact, if you were to receive this missive, I’m sure you’d agree with me that my handwriting is so bad, you’d prefer I send email.

Geek Girls

Marydee Ojala @ 9:21 pm

This is a bit late, but I just got around to looking at the session Hazel, Karen and I did with interviewer Maryam Scoble (filmed by Robert Scoble) at the Online Information show last year. If you can put up with 26 minutes of us mouthing off, it’s lots of fun.

Not bad, geek girls. Looking forward to next year! And an InfoChum lunch!

Internet Librarian International 2007

Marydee Ojala @ 7:28 am

The official call for speakers is now up on the Internet Librarian International web site. The dates are the 8th and 9th of October (Monday and Tuesday) with Masterclasses on the preceding Sunday, the 7th. We’re looking for practical presentations, stuff you do, stuff you’ve learned, that will help other people. I’m excited to be involved with this conference again and look forward to lots of great submissions!

UPDATE: Now I’m really psyched! Within an hour of the call for speakers being posted, I already had 3 entries. What an auspicious beginning!

Google Blogs for Librarians

Marydee Ojala @ 1:26 pm

Google, just in time for ALA Midwinter in Seattle, unveiled its new blog for librarians. Phil Bradley’s got a comment on it and Steven Cohen objects to the graphic of a building that seems to be Google’s antiquated idea of what libraries are all about.

With only one post to the blog so far, I find it pretty difficult to believe anything either pro or con about it. I do think that Google is reaching out to librarians in a more obvious fashion than the other search engines. My real question is why none of them show up at WebSearch University? Granted, WSU doesn’t pull as many people as ALA (what does in libraryland?), but every single person there is vitally interested in what Google, Yahoo, Ask, and Microsoft are doing.

Comma Confusion

Marydee Ojala @ 9:04 am

I’m finishing up my latest column for ONLINE and have been looking at various book databases for their utility in doing actual business research. In the middle of this, I get an email from Amazon that reads, in part, “We’ve noticed that customers who have expressed interest in Weblogs and Libraries (Chandos Series for Information Professionals) by Laurel, Anne Clyde have also ordered The Academic Research Library in a Decade of Change by Reg, Carr. For this reason, you might like to know that Reg, Carr’s The Academic Research Library in a Decade of Change is now available.

It would really be nice if Amazon could figure out where to put commas (or, in this case, leave them out). It would appear, from their use of commas, that the Weblogs book was written by someone with the last name of Laurel and the Academic Research Library book was authored by a surnamed Reg. Neither is true. The late Laurel Anne Clyde wrote the first one and Oxford University Bodleian Library’s Reg Carr wrote the second one.

Trying to be fancy about last name comma first name definitely didn’t work here.

Speaking of ONLINE, the January/February 2007 issue should be in subscribers’ hands by now. It’s the 30th anniversary issue! I’m impressed and amazed that we’ve been publishing for 30 years. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Profoundly Thomson

Marydee Ojala @ 9:40 am

Thomson announced to its customers (though not in a press release) that it intends to dispose of its market research and news product lines. To those with long memories, that translates to selling Profound and NewsEdge. Profound, you may recall, was the product vended by Dan Wagner’s company, then called M.A.I.D. In 1998 M.A.I.D. bought Dialog/DataStar and changed the name of the company to The Dialog Corporation. Thomson bought the company in 2000 and then acquired NewsEdge in 2001. They stuck all these together under the Dialog company name. A few years later they unstuck them, demoting Dialog from company to product status and assigning it to
Thomson Scientific in Philadelphia. The Profound/NewsEdge piece, along with Investext (aka Broker Research), InSite, and the news research product, changed its name to Thomson Business Intelligence and went to Thomson Legal and Regulatory to be run under the West banner. Ummm, that never made a lot of sense, since business intelligence isn’t really legal in nature.

Now there’s more rearranging of the deck chairs. In addition to selling Profound and NewsEdge, Thomson will move Broker Research and Insite to Thomson Financial. This seems redundant, since Investext is already a Thomson Financial product. I’ve got a whole review of Investext in the January/February 2007 issue of ONLINE , but I guess it will give them another platform that they will eventually phase out. Investext remains as two databases (files 545 and 745) on the Dialog platform.

The News Research service will disappear in a puff of smoke, so it seems, on December 31, 2007. At least we have lots of notice about this.

So who’s going to buy Profound and NewsEdge? Dan Wagner’s probably not interested, since he’s got his e-commerce company, venda to worry about. Sure would shake things up if it was a search engine company like Google or Yahoo, both of which would like to get into the content business.

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