Friday, December 28, 2007

Be very angry

Is it Scrapple? I don't know. It's the kind of thing you don't want to belive. You want to put it out of your head. But I heard this testimony on C-Span radio yesterday.

Two years and no action from the State Dept or DoJ. Who are the guys covering this up? Do they not have mothers? sisters? wives? Where is Condoleezza Rice? Where is this country's moral compass?

She has created the Jamie Leigh Foundation to help others in similar circumstances.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Right tool for the job

See the free alphabetizing service online at

I know, I know. So, what. I can paste a list into Excel and sort fine. But this thing does more. It has tons of options.

You can dump in text separate by:
  • new line
  • comma
  • tab
As it alphabetizes you can have it:
  • Strip HTML
  • Ignore Case
  • Make all lowercase
  • Capitalize first word
  • Remove Duplicates (cool)
  • Reverse List
  • Randomize
  • Ignore Indefinite Articles (haven't tried but it sounds nice)

You can have it:
  • Add your own term to the beginning of each entry
  • Add your own term to the end of each entry
  • Remove the first word from each entry before alphabetizing
  • Remove the first word from each entry after alphabetizing
It won't:
  • make coffee
  • wake you up in the morning.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An open source clustering engine

This morning I ran into Carrot2 , an "Open Source Search Results Clustering Engine."

It has an interesting approach to displaying results from multiple sources. Being built in Poland. Give it a try.

And it's open source. How great is that?!

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Beyond OPAC 2.0: Library Catalog as Versatile Discovery Platform"

There's an absolutely fabulous article in The Code4Lib Journal about what NCSU is doing these days with their catalog. Since JH is in the middle of thinking about what we're going to do when we don't have Horizon to kick around anymore this article caught my eye.

If you remember NCSU folks are the one who brought us the faceted 'Endeca-based" catalog a few years ago. Of course they are up to even more creative doings.

The whole article is very interesting but if phrases like 'Application Programming Interface' and 'data modeling' make your eyes glaze over then just skip the one section called "CatalogWS."

But definitely don't miss the section on "Current Applications." I'm excited by the idea of making a version of the catalog for the mobile--you're in the stacks and can't remember what the call # is. What do you do? pull up the catalog in your phone. Cool, huh?

BTW, The Code4Lib Journal is a brand new journal and our own Jonathan Rochkind is one of the founding editors.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Spacetime browser

The Spacetime browser attempts to provide a 3D search space for displaying results. Check out the flash video on their website:

I downloaded it to my pc. I wasn't too impressed with the initial google image search, however, I did like how you could star multiple images and click on compare. This bought up the images side by side for comparison.

The nice thing about the google search in spacetime is that you can click the next button, to switch directly to the keywords from your search in the next web page.

Will be interesting to see how this develops. Too bad they don't have it for the Mac :)


Hi all, been a long time since I posted.  Thought some of you might be interested in Shelfari. If you haven't tried it, it's a social networking site where people share what books they are reading. 

It is extremely easy to set up. Somebody sent me an invite, though I'm sure you could sign up on the site directly. When I signed up via the link, it asked me if I wanted to import my gmail address book friends who already were on Shelfari. Annoyingly though, it then wanted to send invites to everybody in my contacts list....and I have a lot on that list that aren't in my address book (people from listservs mostly). There wasn't an uncheck all, so after unchecking about 15, I closed the window. When I logged back on today to plow through that list, I found I didn't have to, it took me directly to my home page, where it showed my one friend and group lol. 

Adding books to your shelf is very easy also. You just search on title, author, or ISBN etc and get a list of results you can select from and with just one click, add that title to your shelf. When you log onto your shelf, you see a selection of books from your bookshelf.

I've avoided most of the social networking attempts, like twitter, face book, etc., however, we're trying this site out to see if our local friends of the library group wants to make use of it somehow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I'm in the Powerlabs Community!

Powerlabs is the playground for Powerset, a natural language search engine company. Like so many other companies, right now, they are trying to mash up huge vats of full text with some kind of linguistic knowledgebase to produce a search engine that does more than keyword searching. They opened up to beta testers recently and I applied.

They have a very interesting and extremely well done site. Members get 'karma' points for making comments, having their suggestions implemented and so on. You have to vote on the results of any search you do before you can do another search. You vote on other people's comments, etc. The point is it encourages people to participate. OK, it encourages a certain kind of person to participate. People who are so competitive that they'll go all out for something as insubstantial as extra karma points. :~)

Right now I'm ranked #8303 of 8342 community members and I have a 4 karma. I'll report more as I explore.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What good is the Semantic Web?

Here's a video from TrueKnowledge that does a great job of explaining it. These guys not only have a web interface to their query engine, they have an API for querying it. Very cool.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Have you read about Kindle?

Just finished reading the recent Newsweek article called ""the Future of Reading", and was intrigued anough to go to amazon to see the Kindle demo. It was so skillfully done that I was positively drooling for one by the end. Be still, my heart! The convenience of being able to tote around 200 books in such a light, portable device was most appealing. I am anxious to see how well the e-ink works in terms of eye fatigue. Has progress in this area finally made the e-book a viable product, and how will academic libraries use them, if at all? Right now, with Kindle, the price for books as well as newspaper subs is very affordable. The Kindle itself is a bit price-y ($399), but will likely go down.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Authority records and the Semantic Web

Since we're thinking a lot about authority control and what a post-ILS library system would look like the Twine system in my previous post is pretty interesting stuff. It makes me think about the relationship of authority control to these efforts to extract meaning from massive quantities of text. I'm going to ramble a bit and my knowledge about all of this is a mile wide and an inch deep so, as my PoliSci professor Gil Cuthberson used to say, don't take all this too seriously. I'm just trying to figure out what i think about all this. It's a real puzzle to me.

EXAMPLE: In a 1949 article in SW J of Anthropology, Wm Welmers cites the words Pessi, Kpessi, Kpwessi, Gberese, and Guerze as variants for Kpelle the name for a Liberian ethnic group. Kpelle is the form most commonly cited in the English literature and it is the authorized name in LoC authority records. Guerze is the form most commonly cited in the French Literature. In the online version of the LoC authority records I could only find these two versions. The other terms were never found in WorldCat as names of an ethnic group (Pessi is the name of a Finnish author and WC had 9 hits for his works.)

My point is not to disparage the work done by the excellent catalogers at LoC nor say that we can or should abandon this work. The authority work already in existence should serve a very useful purpose in building a semantic knowledgebase. That work could serve as a scaffolding/anchoring system. A word that exists in a name authority record is or at least can be thought of as something that we name. Or perhaps as a systems to aid in ranking. If words are linked in LC authority records they get an extra boost in relevance.

But we have to recognize the limits of human effort and appreciate the bounty of indexing massive quantities of text. My ability to come up with the example I did is based on the fact that I have ridiculously deep/focused knowledge about the Kpelle and am acquainted with the concept of LC authority records.

OK, so the stuff we have now is useful. It represents millions of hours of human intellectual labor to produce it. Do we still need to continue the work? I would argue that yes, we do need to continue. The effort needs to be cooperative and we won't be able to do equivalent labor on everything in the world.

still thinkin'....

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Twine Time

I haven't written seriously on this blog for quite some time. Most of what I would've put here is finding its way to wikis and RefWork accounts that require JHED authentication. But I'm about to sign up for a Twine account and thought that this page would be a better site to cite as my webpage than my businesscard web page on the library's site. If I get an account I'll come back here and report a bit on it.

[text removed from this entry to make a separate entry about authority records and the semantic web]

Monday, August 20, 2007

OpenURLs at NPR site

I just noticed this morning that NPR uses OpenURLs for the javascript links that open the audio player but, for the page about the story--the page where you find that link--they use a simple 'storyid' for a php call.

Page URL: []

Audio URL:
[javascript:launchPlayer('12909122', '1', '19-Aug-2007','
& prgCode=WESUN
&tableModifier=', 'RM,WM');]

I added returns to make the longggg url easier to read. Obviously the real url has no spaces or returns. My favorite field is the 'thingID'. ;~)

Another slant on intellectual property

NPR has a story about a Senate bill that would give the fashion industry copyright protection. It has an interview with Steven Lindner of the New School in NY who says the law is unnecessary. After all, he says, even his 10 year old niece can tell that the Gucci knock-offs they sell on the NY streets aren't leather. In essence his argument is that Gucci and the knock-off artists are going for a different customer. The knock-offs don't hurt Gucci because Gucci's customers wouldn't be caught dead carrying a vinyl replica of a leather handbag.

He goes on to ask when the copyright protection would kick in...when the fabric is draped? when the design is sketched? when the fabric is cut? when the dress is ready for sale?

The knock-off issue is interesting in terms of class and market. But the second question, the one about when copyright kicks in is an interesting process question. We've been talking about the problem of making Writing Sems theses freely accessible in an IR since their theses are often a first draft or a larger work like a novel.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How are libraries like health services?

Interesting article from BBC about how people in the UK seek and choose health information on the Internet. Core points:
  • Participants skipped drug company sites because they didn't trust them
  • Participants skipped National Health Service (sort of like NIH) b'cuz on the "first page participants were directed to was a portal or they had too much background or generic content."
  • And "even if a site made a favourable first impression, it was unlikely to keep the attention if it did not include personal stories to which the reader could relate."
So people in the study were looking for information that is
  • easy to find and,
  • by their standards, trustworthy
Does this mean we need testimonials about how using ABI/Info helped their search?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

For the most part I think our patrons see our resources as trustworthy but just a pain in the ass to use. But I doubt we can ever make it as easy to use as Google. We just don't have the $ to catch up. So what about getting testimonials? Not a scholar saying how great ABI inform is but how about working with a faculty member, graduate student or the dept as a whole to brand the site--'Here's what the anthro dept uses'? Leverage the liaison program?

Another random thought--

Are libraries are like health info sites -- my take is yes but...
  • On library sites people are looking for citations or other specific pieces of info that they will know (more or less) what to do with
  • On health info sites people are looking for trusted advice about what to do

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sundance premier

Attended a Sundance movie called "Strange Culture" in Second Life yesterday. The movie is about the Steve Kurtz affair, with ramifications that cross art, politics, and science.

Pictures from the event are here:

Information about the project can be found at this website:

Now we have a Sundance Festival tag!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cybrary City

Hi all,

Here is some info about the Stanford Science & Engineering Library in Second Life:

I've also posted some info/instructions on how to log on, etc for librarians