The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Monday, February 03, 2003

Turning On and To Television

Live! From Your Cell Phone

"One of the promises of digital media is the ability to get news when you want, from wherever you want. The FeedRoom has been a champion of that idea, becoming the leading destination for streaming news on the Web. Now they are going a step further. Next month, The FeedRoom will begin delivering video news to cell phones via the Sprint Network. A monthly subscription fee will give you access to video clips of the latest news stories, all right in the palm of your hand....

Some cell phone users already have access to services like games and digital pictures. According to Webster, Sprint has done a lot of surveying to find out what type of new services people want. Their research has indicated it's streaming news. He says people are looking for piece of mind, 'That's why I think you buy into the service because you want the security of knowing that when something happens you can find out about it and you can see the pictures related to it....'

That piece of mind goes for just $2.95 a month. The industry standard is about $3.95 for a comparable service. The video will be initially deployed on two of Sprints handsets, the Samsung N400 and A500. Currently, Sprint has about 1,000,000 vision-enabled sets and that is expected to grow to 2 million by the end of the second quarter.

To access the video, people first have to download the application from the Web. Once downloaded, the video can be accessed after paying the monthly fee. The FeedRoom will be providing 5 to 8 clips at a time, with regular updates throughout the day. Each clip will be about a minute and 30 seconds, the length of time of a standard broadcast news package.

I had the opportunity to view a video sample on one of the Sprint phones. I was skeptical at first, but I have to say the quality of the picture was much better than I had anticipated. The streaming was very slow however, similar to viewing video on a dial-up Web connection. Broadcast delivers 30 frames per second, the Internet delivers around 15 frames per second and the cell phone just 1 frame per second. Of course the quality will be improving overtime and I think the excitement of viewing the news when and where you want will over shadow the short-term technical bugs....

The real potential will be unlocked when The FeedRoom offers SMS broadcasting to subscribers for breaking news events. Overtime, the streaming video can also be geo-targeted, so people can access their local news and of course the advertising potential is enormous." [, via The Lost Remote]

I'm fascinated by this, because I was in my car Saturday morning when I heard what had happened to the Space Shuttle Columbia. In 1986 (also during the week of my birthday), I was in my college dorm room when I heard about the Challenger. A friend who lived on the floor below mine called and told me to turn on the TV. That's how I found out about it because I was listening to music instead (actually, I was blasting music and almost didn't hear the phone ring). Of course I turned on the TV.

On September 11, 2001, I didn't hear about the terrorist attacks in my car because I was listening to an Audible title instead of the news on the radio. It's not like the traffic congestion signs were telling me to turn to a news station, so it wasn't until I got to work that someone told me what had happened. Of course we turned on the TV.

And then last weekend, I was driving Rosie (the cutest puppy in the whole wide world) to the groomer when I heard about the Columbia. By pure chance, I had been listening to a blues show on NPR the night before, a rare event since I'm usually listening to my Archos Jukebox. Of course I wanted to turn on the TV, but I wasn't anywhere near one. If I had been able to, I would have pulled over to the side of the road, opened my cell phone, and "turned on the TV."

10:39:33 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!

Entering the Technorati Fold

I've felt quite left out over the last few months because my Technorati Watchlist for my Link Cosmos just didn't want to work, but today David Sifry reports good news. He "just completed a massive re-engineering of the Technorati backend, which should have a bunch of speed improvements and bug fixes." And the waters parted, the sun shone down, and suddenly I've joined the Technorati community! Thanks, Dave!

10:25:34 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!

Googling the Library Catalog

Breaking Through the Invisible Web

"More and more web content, including library content, never sees the light of day. It is hidden behind proprietary database interfaces where it can't be found by popular Internet search engines. Librarians must bring the deep, invisible web to the surface so that our public can discover our resources through a query on a popular search engine....

Our students would be better served by library content on persistent pages that continue to exist beyond the end of a database search. This would help them find information where they look for it—online. We can accomplish this by using web site development products that allow for publishing web sites and database packages that enable data export. We can update, change, and maintain content in background databases and still offer a persistent presence for our content on the web server....

There are many initiatives today to bring library content to the surface web. Projects such as the Open Archives Initiative and products such as SFX seek to harvest and mine information from the depths of myriad databases. At the University at Buffalo (UB), State University of New York, we have concluded experiments that show millions of web pages can be extracted from databases—such as the catalog—and stored persistently on the web. This allows libraries to have the best of both worlds: database control and bookmarkable persistent documents. It will also allow students to use their interface of choice—that of a web search engine—to find authoritative materials....

At UB, we wondered if a web server could handle an unlimited number of persistent web pages. Many web sites contain tens of thousands of pages, but could a web site handle millions of pages? Modern disks certainly have the required capacity....

As a proof of concept test, and to meet the practical needs of conversion testing, we made a file for each of our 2.2 million MARC records. We extracted exactly one MARC record in each file and named the files in a consistent way that included the unchanging, unique record number from the mainframe system. Not only did the web server handle this without a problem, but with the help of a free program called MarcEdit, we could download any record at will and display or edit it on a desktop computer....

In short order we had 4.4 million files, 2.2 million MARC records, and a corresponding HTML page for each record that contained a link to the MARC record. Then we decided to index the HTML pages. Would Google crawl through the web site and make us a free catalog?

After several weeks, a Google spider found our site and crawled away. Unfortunately, Google only picked up our 80,000 directory entries, crawled about 20,000 of our HTML MARC pages, and then stopped crawling. Apparently, too much content from one site is to be feared. We did get to see what a Google library catalog might look like. More importantly, we proved that it is possible to create many catalog pages, index them, and search them with an Internet search engine. This can be done without an ILS and without a relational database....

Further experiments with web spidering engines confirmed that it is possible to index two million XML catalog pages. There are scalability problems, however. We found one free engine that handled XML beautifully but was memory bound while building the index and thus limited to about 100,000 of our pages. Another free engine successfully indexed the whole two million–record site but exhibited slow response time when searching....

Librarians working closely on the design of the NetCatalog have already pointed out some benefits. These stem from the fundamental design model. Because all of the metadata is tagged and included on a results document, any and all information can be combined in a search. Novel combinations of search criteria allow slicing and dicing that was formerly impossible in NOTIS. For example, location-based searching and call number searching can be combined with author, title, and other bibliographic selection. Limits by language, material type, and even physical attributes like book cover color are now possible. Searches and results pages can be easily saved and rerun. Web servers run 24/7, unlike mainframe systems, so for the first time we have round-the-clock operation of the catalog." [Library Journal, via Catalogablog]

Emphasis above is mine. This idea is really blowing me away, although I can't see every library doing this. It could certainly be an interesting route for VIC, though.

9:58:13 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!

The "Me" in Media

"The folks at Corante have launched what looks to be an excellent new weblog -- 'Amateur Hour: the 'me' in media', by Jonathan Peterson.

I like what I'm seeing so far, and it's useful to see ideas from this bottom-up perspective. As regular readers of this blog know, I'm even more interested in how we join all the aggregate 'me' into 'we' to create a piece of tomorrow's 'We Media' journalism. But I'm putting Amateur Hour into my blogroll, and onto my daily list of reading." [Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

I wish I could say the same, but the Corante crew just doesn't want to give up the RSS feeds, so I don't read a single Corante blog. Which is a real shame, because I hear they're quite interesting....

(C'mon guys, at least give me Copyfight!)

9:32:54 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] |

A Nation of Voyeurs

"Dazzlingly fast, vast, and precise, Google has made our lives appreciably easier. The first tool truly to make sense of the white noise that is the Internet, Google has become essential research for everyone from sales people calling on new accounts to single people taking another spin with blind-date roulette. It's reconnected long-lost biological brothers and battalion buddies. And who dials 411 anymore, when it's cheaper and faster on Google, and you don't have to explain to some headset-wearer in Terre Haute how to spell Worcester?...

'It's the collapse of inconvenience,' says Siva Vaidhyanathan, assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University. 'It turns out inconvenience was a really important part of our lives, and we didn't realize it.'

Google has quietly but unmistakably changed our expectations about what we can know about one another. But this search engine that fields 150 million queries a day is of no use in helping us determine how much information we deserve to know about one another, or how we should proceed once we know it. Should we confront friends, dates, or co-workers with the damning details we unearthed while cyber-snooping? Or should we say nothing?" [The Boston Globe Magazine]

Phil Wainewright also has an interesting Google story that shows just how far the search engine has encroached into our everyday thinking.

9:03:35 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] |

Out Shouts

"Apologies for the slow start this week. I never expected to see two space shuttles and their crews go up like roman candles in my lifetime. It has lowered a pall on my enthusiasm, as well as the knowledge that anything much I might say at the moment is terribly trivial." [Bag and Baggage]

Denise articulated my thoughts far better than I've been able to for the past week....

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Celebrating Simpsons

I'm trying to get back into the blogging spirit, so why not do it with something fun. My cousin Susan sends along the following:

Inside the Actors Studio

"Sunday, February 9, 7:00 p.m. CST, Bravo TV

In anticipation of the landmark 300th episode of The Simpsons, James Lipton sat down with the series' accomplished ensemble to meet the actors behind the voices in order to discover how they have managed to create such a wealth of believable and beloved characters."

Sorry, but that link above is as close as I can get you to the episode information because the site is done as a separate browser window, with all of the content done in Flash. I really hate that. Personally, I'd love to see Matt Groening do a follow-up episode where James Lipton interviews the characters themselves, a "very special episode" like the Behind the Laughter one.

Of course, I also think Harry Shearer should ask James Lipton why they couldn't spell his name correctly ("Harry Sherer") in the write-up.

Addendum: Don't you wish there was a little button next to this post (either on the web, in your aggregator, or as a bookmarklet) that would let you click on it to automatically add this show to your Tivo or ReplayTV? How hard can this be? After all, SonicBlue has even given my ReplayTVs their own web site, although mine still dial in rather than accessing it in real-time over the web. SonicBlue, come through!

3:05:13 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Trackback [] | Google It!