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.

The Russians Are Coming

Marydee Ojala @ 7:33 am

Driving to work this morning, I heard a news report on NPR (National Public Radio) about Russia joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the negative effect that the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 will have on US economic interests if not repealed. The Jackson-Vanik Amendment was enacted into law on January 3, 1975, when the business climate in both the Soviet Union and the United States was considerably different than it is now. Of course, the Soviet Union of 1975 no longer exists, but the legislation, now about Russia, persists.

A simple Google (or Bing, Blekko, DuckDuckGo, or your search engine of preference) search will retrieve numerous documents about Jackson-Vanik and its potential for repeal. However, the story caught my attention for a more personal reason. It validated my decision to make Anne-Marie Libmann’s article about finding information in support of doing business in Russia the cover story for ONLINE‘s March/April 2012 issue.

The cover, a stunning photo of downtown Moscow, conveys an image of a modern city. Whether you agree with repealing Jackson-Vanik or not, Libmann’s article will give you lots of resources to check if you want to find information or help someone else find information about Russian companies with which to do business.

Google’s Search Refresh

Marydee Ojala @ 7:34 am

This morning’s Wall Street Journal reports on Google’s gradual incorporation of semantic search techniques, in an article titled “Google Gives Search a Refresh” by Amir Efrati. Since WSJ is a subscriber-site, that link may or may not work for you. The article also appears in the print version on page B1. And, of course, you can find it on Factiva.

From the article: “Amit Singhal, a top Google search executive, said in a recent interview that the search engine will better match search queries with a database containing hundreds of millions of “entities”—people, places and things—which the company has quietly amassed in the past two years. Semantic search can help associate different words with one another, such as a company (Google) with its founders (Sergey Brin and Larry Page).”

I’m sure we’ll hear more about this at WebSearch University in September, because by that time we’ll probably have real world examples of how Google’s “refresh” is actually working.

March Madness

Marydee Ojala @ 7:18 am

March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. So far, the weather in my part of the world has been more lamb-like than liony.

In mergers & acquisitions news, the climate swings toward the lion side of the scale. Twitter is the new proud owner of Posterous, according to its blog.

There’s a rumor out from SXSW, that CNN will buy Mashable, something Mashable is denying. I’m not linking to any of the news stories about the rumor. If it turns into a true story, with nobody lion about it, then I’ll amend the post.

Gowalla was bought by Facebook back in December. Its website now says “Thank you for going out with Gowalla. It was a pleasure to journey with you around the world. Download your check-ins, photos and lists here soon.”

I’m sure there’s more to come. March is far from over.

NASDAQ Internet Index

Marydee Ojala @ 7:30 am

Interesting group of companies added to the NASDAQ Internet Index in its annual update. These become effective on March 19, 2012.

Angie’s List, Inc. (Nasdaq:ANGI), HomeAway, Inc.
(Nasdaq:AWAY), Carbonite, Inc. (Nasdaq:CARB), Cornerstone OnDemand, Inc. (Nasdaq:CSOD), Groupon, Inc. (Nasdaq:GRPN), Move, Inc. (Nasdaq:MOVE), Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. (NYSE:QIHU), Stamps.com
Inc. (Nasdaq:STMP), Velti plc (Nasdaq:VELT), 21Vianet Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:VNET), Boingo Wireless, Inc. (Nasdaq:WIFI), Yandex N.V. (Nasdaq:YNDX), and Zillow, Inc. (Nasdaq:Z).

For those attending the annual AIIP conference in Indianapolis the first week of May, Angie Hicks, co-founder of Angie’s List, will be one of the featured speakers.

And I’m pretty sure you’ll hear about Yandex at WebSearch University in September.

EU Investigates Thomson Reuters

Marydee Ojala @ 5:12 pm

During a speech on March 8th, at the European Competition and Consumer Day in Copenhagen, European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia announced that the Commission had opened an anti-trust investigation into Thomson Reuters. A press release contains his full speech, but this is the part that mentions Thomson Reuters:

” … we have launched an antitrust investigation in the Thomson Reuters case, involving one of the major financial information providers. We want to make sure that undue restrictions on the provision of financial information do not hamper the healthy development of financial services.”

“We have concerns that Thomson Reuters has potentially abused a dominant market position by restricting the usage of its identification codes RICs (Reuters Instrument Codes), thereby limiting the ability of its customers to switch to competing data providers.”

This is of concern, not just in Europe, but for online researchers worldwide. Most notably, Factiva removed all RIC codes from its database in December 2011. The RIC codes were originally implemented in Factiva when it was a joint venture between Reuters and Dow Jones. Now that it’s owned solely by Dow Jones and Reuters became part of Thomson, Factiva had to ditch the RIC codes, which is a great shame, as it eliminates an important access point for searching for company information.

IBM’s Watson Goes to the Financial Sector

Marydee Ojala @ 9:31 am

After winning Jeopardy and getting a gig in the health care industry, IBM’s Watson has been “hired” by Citigroup to see how Watson’s deep content analysis and ability to learn could apply in the financial sector. According to the IBM press release, Citi wants to use Watson “to help advance customer interactions and improve and simplify the banking experience.” And, presumably, also boost Citi’s profits.

The idea is that Watson will use Citi data to analyze customer needs and identify both risk and reward factors for the bank. The relationship between Citi and IBM is public knowledge, although it’s probably not the only “employment” that Watson has in the financial world. Its searching ability would certainly benefit both commercial and investment banks, which are so heavily reliant upon huge amounts of unstructured data.

Every time I read about Watson’s technology and its application in industries as disparate as health care and finance, I wonder how it could be utilized within libraries. Could Watson supplant the discovery services? Could it really tell whether the person asking a question was an undergraduate, a tenured professor, a bench chemist, a corporate librarian, a financial analyst, or something else? Could Watson revolutionize how librarians do collection development? Could it be the next generation of text mining?

More to the point, could companies in the information industry afford Watson? I’m pretty sure that libraries can’t.

Solar Flares

Marydee Ojala @ 8:59 am

Need an excuse to explain why your devices aren’t working properly today? Why your internet connection is slow? Why you didn’t get that critical email? Why you’re behind in getting that report out?

Try solar flares!

But for tomorrow’s excuse, you’re on your own.

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