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]