Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Visual searching

Finally, a chance to use Grokkers visual searching technology in a real life search situation. Beginning in February EBSCOhost will add a Visual Search tab to their search interface. See a flash presentation on it at .

It sure seems like a cool technology but I've never been able to figure out if it's more than just cool sounding because the data available to search are so small. Academic Search Premier should be a good one to try this out on.

Out of town

I went to San Antonio over the weekend for ALA mid-winter. Here's are some brief notes on some of what I saw:

  • EX LIBRIS meeting we got good news from about date for starting to use x-server (earlier) and info about training (web based and we can subscribe to it for a year if we want -- I'm not sure what that means exactly but it sounded good.)
  • Sirsi/Dynix meeting was pretty ordinary except I found I like the president of the company better than the last time I attended one of these meetings. Probably because he also likes the idea of a movie-only search space. I still don't know if we can do it now but it helps to know the president of the company is enthused about doing it.
  • Scholarly Stats -- I hope we can get this. It's a service that harvests all your e-use stats (even non-counter compliant ones), cleans them up and puts them in a csv file. If you've ever had to gather use stats you would be falling down at these guy's feet. It's about $30-40 for each platform (FirstSearch, CSA, EBSCOhost, etc.)
  • Web of Science -- got a contact for xml gateway but the guy I spoke with pointed out that this is definitely a dbase we'll need to watch for excessive turn aways.
  • WebFeat ( -- saw presentations by several institutions using it. Some had features I like (e.g., check off box for dbase selection) I made notes so we can borrow liberally.
  • Alamo -- I walked by it every day but never went in. I'd been in several times before and was pretty sure it's about the same--I'm absolutely sure they still haven't put a basement in it.
  • Souvenir shops -- the best ones (if you like odd/quiry artesanal products) are definitely not on the first floor. I bought several more coconut masks (like the one hanging in my office) and a microscope made out of a spark plug, washers and other bits of metal welded together. There is some great self-taught sculpture from scraps around. Had I a few hundred dollars to waste I'd need a trunk to get it all back.
I'm staying with my father now in Wharton (see for the objective outsider look or for a How we see ourselves page.) I got here by bus. The ride was fine except they had no lights for reading after dark and I truly wish the person I sat next to had been a good bit thinner.

On Saturday I leave for Veracruz for an Austin Smiles mission on which I'll be translating. We stay in the Hotel Camino Real. We're at the Red Cross hospital pretty much all day but in the evenings we go out to eat together.

If I get a chance to update things in Mexico I will.

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Midwinter in San Antonio

    It seems slower to me than in the past but I'm not sure whether it's me or if the conference has changed.
    • The best thing I've seen here is Scholarly Stats, a company that will go out and gather all your online use stats, normalize them where possible and hand them to you as a csv file so that you can do your own analysis. I'm hoping we can get it.

    • Sirsi/Dynix has a new scheme for rolling out their new products. They will have 'migration scripts' that will allow us to go on using the existing version of the system while we are testing our own data and then do the cut over when we want to. What's not to like.

    • They told Ron that they understood why the sloooow response time to the WebReporter and think the most recent upgrade should have fixed it.

    • The prospects for getting a slightly early start on x-server look good.

    • Unfortunately my scheduled meeting with some folks from the International Relations Round Table fell through. We were going to talk about setting up an open URL link resolver for folks in deveopig nations. I'm not sure what happened, they just didn't show.Go figure.

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    ACRL San Antonio

    Dear all,

    I'm heading out this morning to go back home since I've been in San Antonio since Tuesday for an intensive seminar for new library directors. If you go to any of the interesting technology show case sessions, please post some of your thoughts here. I'm wishing now I had stayed longer, but also want to get back to Jonathan.

    I'm looking forward to ACRL Baltimore....we'll have to have a Scrapple alum meeting there for current and past Hopkins folks.



    AADL Catalog

    Check this post out. Cool image work in the AADL catalog.

    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    graphical passwords, as it were

    Rutgers has a page (article?) announcing a graphical password system. Instead of using letters and numbers you use images and click on selected areas on the image.

    I've been using a graphical password for some time now with my bank but it works slightly differently. They show me an image and a phrase I created myself to make me confident that I have indeed gone to their web site. When I see that I can be confident ane enter my password. Trust goes both ways.

    what do you think of this hair-brained idea?

    We have a great video collection and we know that lots of people want to pick out a movie for the weekend. Of course, that's just a royal pain to do-- you can't browse like at Blockbuster and the catalog is hard to use. So what if we had a Movie Library catalog...or maybe a Movie library portal channel. We would provide a search interface specifically desigined for searching and displaying records for films. We could do things like:
    • restrict all searches to material type "videos, dvds..."
    • restrict all searches to location "Eisenhower AV"
    • change names of fields from author/contributor to director, writer, actor, etc.
    • offer the choice of format -- dvd or video (we could do this because DVD call numbers begin with DVD and video call numbers begin with video)
    • steal from the ncsu catalog format and give our interface a side frame with links to all the named people in the record, maybe to genre types like feature film, comedy, film noir...
    • lots of records for films include a summary that would be good to highllight
    • wonder if we could get images like the ones you see in IMDB?
    We'd want to work with someone who does film cataloging to see what other features could be pulled out. And I like the ncsu catalog function that allows you to return only items that are not checked out.

    your thoughts?

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    Cool catalog interface/engine, part 2

    Wow, I looked around and it has some great features.

    Here's a good powerpoint on the thinking behind it --“The Dis-Integration of Library Systems of the Future” (Kristen Antelman)

    I love what she has to say -- she understands that you just can't shove everything into a single Integrated System. No matter how hard you try, something new will come along that doesn't fit the model. You have to be able to pull up related info from different sources in real time. She calls the system as a whole the E-Matrix and says what we really need is a mashup of all these different pieces of info.

    OK so right now we've got (or will soon have) these knowledgebases -- if you will forgive the term
    • SFX
    • MetaLib (JHsearch)
    • our catalog records (MARC info)
    • new E-Resource Management System
    • vendor A&I dbases like EBSCO (some full text)
    The question is, how will we mashup all those sources? We've got our Web Site and we're going to have portals. What goes where? When do we pull in personalization?

    And how do we make the switch without traumatising our patrons?

    ...but it's still not Google Scholar

    InfoTrieve (a doc delivery company) has gone back to offering their search service for free.

    The interface is cluttered and you still have to pay for the article. If there is a way to show our link resolver it's not immediately obvious.

    We won't be promoting it any time soon.

    Cool catalog interface/engine

    NCSU just unveiled last week the new interface to their catalog.

    I think they are either Sirsi or Dynix but they are using Endeca to power the searching. I wonder how that works? And how does it interface with the ILS? Very interesting.

    the catalog is at:

    I have some reservations about the number of options. We've been headed towards a cleaner interface but still...

    They also have a nice interface to their e-resources. I like the narrower/broader distinction in their related dbases list.

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    another day another vulnerability

    Is it just me or does it seem like we're seeing a speed up in the tempo of Windows vulnerability alerts. Newest one is for machines that automatically search for wi-fi connection on boot up. Not that it's that big a deal. But still...

    "Criminal gangs were unlikely to target this flaw as it would be too labor-intensive to exploit, predicted MessageLabs, saying that it was "really a threat from script kiddies".
    from c|net

    Friday, January 13, 2006

    back among the living

    I've been neck-deep in the metalib project and haven't written here much lately but I'm back now. At least until I leave for ALA next Friday.

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Mouse revenge

    Not computer mice, but a real mouse. Just a note to never do this for a myriad of reasons.

    Saturday, January 07, 2006

    New breed of e-books

    Made possible with the advent of e-ink, we are likely to see several new gadgets of e-readers

    Worth reading:

    I'm looking forward to the reader that is about the thickness of and moves like a glossy magazine page.

    Think of what it would do for people who have vision problems reading? Sounds like a great advance.