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.

PaidContent Mixer

Marydee Ojala @ 4:59 pm

I went to the PaidContent Mixer tonight in London. It’s their third. ContentNext Media, Inc. now includes the sites paidcontent.org, moconews.net, contentsutra.com, and paidcontent.co.uk.

The speaker at the mixer was Martin Stiksel, one of the three co-founders of Last.fm. Stiksel and company sold to CBS in one of the highest-profile start-up UK-US deals of late for $2.8 million. Interesting comments about licensing. They have to get rights for every country to which they broadcast. Uh, they’re on the Internet, so that’s practically every country in the world! Wow! That’s quite a challenge! He also said the merger with CBS was going well.

During the cocktail hour following the talk, Raj Kotecha, ConentNext’s director of sales and business development for Europe, announced major changes to the corporate structure. Rafat Ali is stepping down as CEO. Taking that position will be Nathan Richardson, whose credentials include previous positions with Dow Jones and Yahoo Finance. Pat Dignan will leave Forbes.com to become the chief sales officer and Charlie Koones, ex-publilsher of Variety, will join the board. Although Raj announced this in halting terms, telling us it was a premature announcment because of a pending Reuters story, the full details were posted to the PaidContent website about an hour and a half before the mixer began. Check there for details.




ILI Call for Speakers Deadline Extended

Marydee Ojala @ 9:23 am

We decided to give people another week to submit their proposal to speak at Internet Librarian International. With Easter holidays, it seemed like a good idea to allow a bit more time. The new deadline is the 4th of April. I’m really looking forward to examples of 2.0 stuff in action!

Funny You Should Ask

Marydee Ojala @ 9:01 am

Every Monday, Cengage Gale (when will I get used to that Cengage appellation?) drops a little gem into my inbox. It’s called "Funny You Should Ask" and is real-life questions asked at real-life reference desks of real-life libraries. Today’s was more hilarious that usual:

"I’m doing a demographic project. Can you tell me the percent of mothers who have children?"

Hey, I’m no math wizard, but I think I know the answer!


21 Steps

Marydee Ojala @ 12:12 pm

As a fan of mystery stories, I’m quite taken by a new Penguin initiative called We Tell Stories. I’ve been reading 21 Steps, a story by Charles Cumming, that starts at St. Pancras station where a man, Jack Kalba, is shot and drops dead at the feet of the story’s protagonist, Rick, who then runs into the British Library to use their computers to read what’s on the memory stick given him by Kalba. It’s hardly a conventional means of telling a story, since it’s actually a mashup with Google maps. As you read, you follow the path of the narrator. From the British Library, he goes to the National Gallery, then Heathrow, and onwards. I confess that at times the map whizzes by a bit too fast for me, but it’s still an interesting way to present fiction.

21 Steps is the first week of a 6-week series of stories that Penguin is presenting. The next one will debut on March 25th. They are based on classics, according to Penguin–this first one is a homage to 39 Steps, both John Buchan’s book and Alfred Hitchcock’s film, I think. This whole idea of digital fiction brings Web 2.0 to stories. Of course, it’s going to be difficult for libraries to "shelve" these kinds of new media stories, but I doubt Penguin cares.

As someone who read Smilla’s Sense of Snow with a map of Copenhagen next to her, I like Penguin’s digital fiction idea. And as one who will be in London next week, the setting for 21 Steps is perfect for getting reacquainted with that city.


Q&A Stats

Marydee Ojala @ 7:29 am

Hitwise reported that U.S. visits to question and answer sites increased 118% from last year, with Yahoo Answers gleaning 74% of the traffic. In second place was WikiAnswers, from Answers.com. Third was Answerbag and fourth was Ask MetaFilter. Hitwise interprets the popularity of the Q&A sites as showing the importance of the social network in sharing knowledge contributed by community experts. If the popularity is so great, why did Google leave this particular playing field? Also, it strikes me that the quality of the questions is often not very high. In fact, many of them simply reflect the laziness of the questioner. Not only do they not know how to frame a good question, they don’t really care to lift a finger to try and find information on their own. Research apparently consists of asking the question online. The quality of the answers varies tremendously and does not always reflect either knowledge or expertise. A major exception is WikiAnswers, which grounds its answering mechanism in trusted, reliable sources.

I suppose there is room in the information world for trivia questions, but glorifying both trivial (which is not exactly the same thing as trivia) questions and answers based on opinion rather than facts rubs me the wrong way. I do sincerely hope that, when the question-askers have something of real import to ask, they won’t rely 100% on any of these Q&A sites, but will look for qualified answer sources. Yes, like librarians! And researchers who cite their sources.

Speaking of expertise, the next issue (May/June 2008) of ONLINE will have an article by Bobby Brody exploring some "real" expert sites. She begins by defining expertise, then notes you can find experts at places like professional and trade associations, government agencies, executive network sites such as LinkedIn, and Who’s Who type publications.

The Horse You Go Out With

Marydee Ojala @ 6:40 pm

Great segment on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer about public libraries. Julia Keller talks about the impact of public libraries on peoples’ lives. My favorite takeway line was that it doesn’t matter as much what you come in looking for as what you actually take away with you. OK, that’s a paraphrase. Here’s an even more egregious one: It’s not the horse you rode in on, it’s the one you go out with. Bad grammar, I know. Still a terrific sentiment. Reminds me of a sentence from a book by Annie Dillard where she talks about the explosive nature of the books she encountered as a child at the Pittsburgh Public Library. You just never knew, she said, what was between the covers.

IOLUG Looks at Digitizing Yesterday for Tomorrow

Marydee Ojala @ 9:56 am

It’s the IOLUG (Indiana Online Users Group) spring meeting, titled Memory, Heritage, Visions: Digitizing Yesterday for Tomorrow. First speaker, Robin Crumrin, Associate Dean of Collections & Information Access at IUPUI Library, gives background, how State Library kickstarted in 2003, up to licensing OCLC’s CONTENTdm and LSTA digization grants. There’s a framework for partnership & policies & guidelines.

Indiana Memory Project should launch this May, sasy Connie Rendfield, Indiana State Library. Two parts to this project, uisng ISL CONTENTdm license to create collections and collections being harvested into Indiana Memory Portal. Plans for the future: develop collection, educational materials, soft launch, and long-term sustainability.

if you have collection, must tell Indiana Heritage that it should be harvested. Library’s logo can be affixed to harvested collection.

Should collections be harvested into WorldCat? Not so sure. Speakers think that decision should be up to individual institutions contributing to INdiana Memory.

There’s no charge from OCLC to add. OCLC will convert to MARC format.

Next talk is on Wabash Valley Visions & Voices Digital Memory Project. Speaker is Cinda May, Indiana State University Library. Project started to document and preserve history and cultural heritage of West Central Indiana (that’s the Terre Haute area) in digital format made freely accessible. Started in 2004 with 3 goals: establish consortium of cultural organizations & community groups in west central Indiana; create digital collections documenting history and cultural herital of region; develop a digital library that fits seamlessly with Indiana Memory. She’s showing a list of poject participants in 2008. There’s lots of public libraries, also academic, and then there’s the Clabber Girl Museum. I didn’t know there was Clabber Girl Museum. Wabash Valley actually starts in Ohio and Cinda will take materials from anywhere in the region that might be loosely defined as Wabash Valley.

Visions project started with a licence for 12,000 items but soon realized they needed an unlimited license. There’s an MOU among partners.

Vigo County contributed doll collection. Cinda wasn’t thrilled.

Copyright is responsibility of contributing partner. Partners can upload but problems with FTPing 1300 images occurred.

Community History Days used to get members of the community to contribute stuff that’s in their attics, closets, etc. Scan material on the spot, sometimes use digital camera for objects. One had music entertainment and tons of food (Vigo County). But one other one only pulled 5 people (at Clabber Girl). More people are available on Saturday.

Now she’s showing Story of a House, 1873-2004. Full history of the building of the house through to its destruction in 2004. Great for architectural history.

And they’ve got a blog. Tells what the featured subjects are. Now it’s Women’s History Month.

O Miners Aware project. Indian Coal Miners, Their Families, Their Communities. I guess this is from the Coal Museums collections, but she didn’t actually say so. Other special collections. Early Vincennes. Eugene B. Debs corresondence.

Not in competition with Indiana Memory.

Challenges: addressing needs of diverse partners; adequate staffing; equipment replacement/upgrades; quality control across collections; digital preservation issues.




Marydee Ojala @ 7:19 pm

I’ve been thinking about the wierd things that happen in theoretically stable online environments. Karen Blakeman mentioned recently that, in a hotel in England, her Google connection was suddenly German. Turned out the telephone provider to the hotel was German. I had the same experience in Prague once, only my Google there was French. Same reason, though, the telephone provider to the hotel was French. In trying to circumvent seeing web pages in languages other than English, I’ve long tried entering www.google.co.uk in these situations, trying to invoke the UK version of Google. Last year I experimented with www.google.us, which almost always works. I don’t know if the .us version actually replicates the .com version I get on my home machine, but it’s close enough for horseshoes (as my Dad used to say).

Over the weekend, a frequent author for ONLINE and a talented book author, Michael Banks, asked me if I could see the Search Within the Book feature on Amazon. I could on my laptop, but when I checked it on my office desktop, the feature had disappeared. It seems that Amazon is experimenting with the feature. Mike’s workaround is brilliant. He goes to www.amazon.ca (the Canadian version of Amazon) or www.amazon.de (the German version). I checked the UK version, www.amazon.co.uk, and Search Within the Book was there.

I’ve been annoyed for the past few days with Twitter search not finding people I know are signed up with Twitter. Today it worked perfectly. Everything I couldn’t find last week I found today.

Lessons learned: Nothing is always as it seems. Patience is a virtue. Look for the workarounds.






Marydee Ojala @ 2:31 pm

I set up a Twitter account for Internet Librarian International. It’s here, but as far as I can tell, is invisible to Twitter’s search feature. When I couldn’t find it,  I started searching for people I know have a Twitter account, including me. Most of the searches came back to me with no results. Including the search on my own name. How distressing.

Speaking at Internet Librarian International

Marydee Ojala @ 4:31 pm

There’s only 3 weeks left to submit your request to speak at Internet Librarian International, to be held in London (the one in the UK, that is) on the 16th and 17th of October. We’re looking critically at all things 2.0, including transparency, technology, and the tangible benefits. Plus, any neat new stuff you’ve done with search, web design, portals, and funding would be interesting.

It’s our tenth year and we’re looking for a mix of papers for conference sessions, workshops, and short tutorials. If you’ve got something to share, please take a look at the website, and submit a request to speak.

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