Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good lecture online from Berkeley

Sept 17, 2007 What People Think About When Searching - Dr. Daniel Russell: Google

He was a guest lecturer in the Berkeley course INFO 141 Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business. He talked about some of the challenges to figuring out what people want from their searches in Google. For example
  • when a person is on the Google home page and types in google as a search term, what do they want?
  • since people don't notice most of the things on a screen how do they guide the user to the right part of the screen? 
  • chronological ordering the results of a Scholar search is difficult at best and impossible when the publishers don't include dates in their metadata
  • people's skills are very uneven because they learn search skills from someone else (not the manual)
  • building an advanced search page that doesn't scare people is very difficult

He also talks about how they do their user observation studies.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New forms of publishing

QR writing breaks the link between a sign and it's meaning; it breaks the contract that written language is based on: viz a stable, shared understanding of a collection of signs and their associated meanings.

Of course signs can be creatively adapted but that creativity is by necessity based on shared understanding. otherwise we're all the crazy people on the subway who talk to themselves.

Similarly codes can secretly shift the meaning of signs but the translation only works if the shift is predictable and stable. It can be extremely complicated but it can't work if it is totally random.

In QR publishing the meaning of the image, the relationship between the sign and it's meaning is decided elsewhere and can, therefore be changed without changing the sign (the actual QR image.) This potentially
  • destablizes authorship -- the author is the one who controls the server where the translator lives rather than the person who designed the QR. In that sense the author can change over time.
  • disrupts temporal nature of meaning -- what the image means can change over time in a completely unpredictable way,
  • limits readership to those with the functioning tools -- if I don't have a device that works on the internet I cannot read the QR image and 
  • subverts permanence -- I can't read the intended meaning of the image without current access to the translator server. One could argue that writing limits access to the meaning of signs to those who are literate.  But once learned, the ability to read is portable and, absent physical or mental deterioration, it is essentially permanent. Once I know how to read I can read anything in the language I know and I cannot be blocked from reading a text I can view.
to be continued (edited) but I'm ready for dinner.

Google and Print-on-Demand

"Google has agreed to provide On Demand Books, LLC (ODB; www.ondemandbooks.com), the maker of the Espresso Book Machine (EBM), with immediate access to more than 2 million public domain titles in the Google digital files....."
Sept 17, 2009

So here's my question: is it an exclusive contract or will Google license their files to other ODB companies.