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.

Twittering in Prague

Marydee Ojala @ 12:05 pm

The 14th INFORUM conference is happening in Prague this week. Produced by Albertina icome Praha, it attracts librarians and information professionals primarily from the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. This year it has speakers from those countries as well as the USA, UK, Croatia, Germany, Bulgaria, and Serbia. I was in Prague in February for Albertina’s new INSOURCE conference, which I reviewed in the May 2008 issue of Information Today. During that conference, Karen Blakeman and I experimented with Twitter as a mechanism of conference reporting. I wrote up that experience in the April 2008 issue of Information Today. Karen is in Prague for INFORUM and posting regular tweets about the conference sessions and workshops. I have to admit I wasn’t altogether thrilled with Twitter for conference coverage, but since Karen remains quite taken with it, I thought I’d give it another try. One big obstacle: I’m thousands of miles and a 6-hour time difference away from Prague. Not to worry, Albertina arranged for the conference to be streamed on the internet –"implemented by the IKAROS professional electronic journal in cooperation  in cooperation with students of New Media Studies and kindly supported by these companies: Oxford University Press and SAGE. Multidata supports interviews with leading personalities attending Inforum, and interviews post production and archiving. Cosmotron supports technical equipment and photo-documentation."

So I tuned in, listened to the speakers, viewed their slides (when available), and posted my own tweets. I skipped the morning sessions, since I didn’t really want to be up at 3 a.m., virtually "attending" a conference. It’s a peculiar experience to cover a conference you’re not physically attending. You can’t look around at attendees’ reactions. With this conference, some talks are given in Czech (which I don’t understand) and some in English. The streaming offered both language options. However, if I was tuned into the English translation, I couldn’t see the slides. If I tuned to the Czech version, I could see the slides but couldn’t understand the speaker. This morning (afternoon in Prague) suddenly the Czech channel started broadcasting the English translation, so I could both hear and see. Meanwhile, Karen and I had some back-channel conversations going on, just as we did in February when we were sitting next to each other.

An interesting, invigorating experiment. And fun, too. But I’d still rather be in Prague covering the conference in person rather than twittering it from abroad.

Missing Steve Cisler

Marydee Ojala @ 1:24 pm

I’ve just heard the sad news that Steve Cisler died on May 15th. The San Jose Mercury News obituary is here and a special website has been set up to commemorate his life here. This is what I posted in the comments section of the CommunityNetworking site:

It seems like yesterday that Steve was writing for ONLINE and Database magazines, but it was decades ago. He was working at Apple; I was at BofA. His column, Micro Monitor, ran from the last 1980s into the early 1990s and kept all of abreast of the most recent developments in what we then called “microcomputers.” And when you think back, they weren’t nearly as “micro” as what we use now for computing! Steve was always ahead of his time, both in terms of his knowledge and understanding of technology and of his social conscience. He will certainly be missed!


Chinese Earthquake Data

Marydee Ojala @ 12:25 pm

The China Data Center at the University of Michigan, an exhibitor at the recent AIIP conference in Pittsburgh, has published a PowerPoint presentation titled "A Quick Assessment of Potential Population Affected by the Earthquake of
Sichuan, China." Drawing on its database, the slides show where the May 12th earthquake happened and the population characteristics of the area. It’s a wonderful piece of work and very valuable for those with minimal knowledge of that part of the world.



Ask Acquires Lexico

Marydee Ojala @ 7:50 am

According to a press release, Ask.com is acquiring Lexico Publishing Group LLC, the Long Beach-based owner of Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com, and Reference.com. There is no corresponding press release at the Lexico site. In fact, its most recent press release is dated July 17, 2007 and announces Lexico’s intent to be acquired by Answers.com for $100 million. That never materialized. The Ask press release doesn’t give away the price it paid for Lexico, just says it’s "an all cash transaction."  Ask also says that the acquisition will grow its user base to "more than 145 million unduplicated monthly unique users." That’s a lot of people! Particularly attractive, apparently, is Lexico’s Word of the Day Mailing List, which has over a million subscribers. The fact that all its products are free doubtless encourages all that traffic.

Diane Rehm Program on Social Networking

Marydee Ojala @ 1:04 pm

I caught part of today’s Diane Rehm show on the car radio while driving to the post office (surprisingly, not too many people there in line to buy one-cent stamps). The topic was social networking, which made me wish I’d heard the entire show. But, of course, I can listen to it at the website. Here’s the official description:

Social Networking — Facebook and Linked-in are two of the most popular on-line social networks, but there are now millions of others catering to all ages and a myriad of interests. A look at the growing appeal of on-line social networks and their value to members in the profit and not-for-profit worlds.

The guests were: Gina Bianchini, co-founder, Ning; Andy Carvin, senior product manager, NPR Community, NPR Digital Media; Josh Bernoff, vp, principal analyst, Forrester Research; Manuel Hernandez, president,Diabetes Hand Foundation www.tudiabetes.com, and Amy Worley, Director of Digital Marketing, H&R Block, Digital Tax Solutions.

I did chuckle when Andy Carvin talked about using Twitter to announce that a guest for an NPR program had cancelled and ask for suggestions for a replacement. During CIL 2007, it was the obverse. The Tuesday morning keynote speaker couldn’t make it, so Andy filled in — and Twittered the experience. On  today’s radio show, he also talked about how NPR is using Twitter to broadcast news. Very creative, NPR!



InfoUSA to Become InfoGROUP

Marydee Ojala @ 9:17 am

It’s not just Warren Buffett who headquarters his company in Omaha, Nebraska — infoUSA is there as well. This database and marketing company will officially change its name to infoGROUP on June 1st. The name change reflects its increasing presence outside the U.S. It has offices in Canada (just opened one in Toronto), the UK, australia, Indian, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. The company, which has been around since 1972, owns OneSource (an aggregator of business information, although it would be nice if its website for information providers would update Thomson Gale to Cengage Gale — that’s not exactly a recent name change), Donnelley (direct marketing company), and Opinion Research (the CNN partner for polling). This name change is one of the more logical I’ve seen in the information industry. It’s hard to portray yourself as a global company, with international business information, when you’ve saddled yourself with USA in your company name.

Data Sources Matter

Marydee Ojala @ 8:18 am

A story in the Wall Street Journal this morning caught my eye. Headlined "Source of House Data Skews Loan Losses," by Marshall Eckblad, it talked about the effect the source of data has on companies’ financial reporting. My Dollar Sign column in the May/June 2008 issue of ONLINE was about real estate information sources. One of the frustrating things about writing the column is the fixed length. I’ve got 3 magazine pages, which doesn’t always allow me to mention every single thing I’d like to — and in this case it was these two sources of housing data that got "lost on the cutting room floor."

One of the sources mentioned in the WSJ article is governmental, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, and the other is private, the Case-Shilling Index from S&P. The OFHEO data presents a more optimistic picture than does Case-Shilling. If you want a good comparison of the two sources, the OFHEO published a research note last year, complete with charts and graphs. I certainly wish I’d had the space to include those two sources. Maybe I’ll write myself a letter to the editor.

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