Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Live Librarians Search Online For You
"Yesterday I found out about a new service AskNow! [reported in A live librarian found this information on Google Australia for me]. This was both a test of the new cool service and also to ensure that I was getting the right Google information. The service at AskNow! was amazing. What is more, this is from a Public Library Service -- The National Library of Australia....
This got me thinking, though, about this new service from the National Library. What value does this add? Why would I, or anyone else, use a live librarian to search for something that essentially I could do myself?
The information that David obtained for me is actually all online. With a few moment of imagination and a knowledge of how to search those locations, I could have obtained that information. To get the address and telephone number, I would simply have had to search in Australian White Pages, and the article he found is in The Age archives. Now David did that all in a matter of several minutes. For me to locate that information just then, it was at least five minutes, and he took only about two minutes. That's it! He is a trained information gatherer, trained in search, relevance, etc. Aha! An expert Googlologist, knows how to dig for the right stuff and get it from the haystack really quickly!
An expert at search! That is it. From a simple non-scientific test of the people who live in my house, at the dinner table we discussed the AskNow! service and whether they felt it was a good service. In our house we have three adults and three teenagers going through high school. Most admitted to searching in vain for things, not being able to find things on Google, or any other search facility. Having 'a real librarian do the trick for me, why that is wonderful!'
What did this tell me about search skills? Most people are not taught, and do not have the relevant search skills to be able to use a service like Google. Refining searches and getting the actual document one needs is a set of skills basic to the concept of the 'new literacy' ('technacy' and see also The Technacy Log). To see how detailed this is, one only needs to review the pages of Webmasterworld for about ten seconds to realize that there is a lot more to getting the right document, or website, in a search of Google." [Smoogle]
And as Gary Price constantly reminds us, Google is not the be-all, end-all for searching in the first place. You'd be amazed at the additional resources librarians have available to them.
Here's a teaser for a site I'll be highlighting next week. It pretty much says it all. :-)
ALA's Office for Information Technology Policy to Offer "Privacy 101 for Librarians"
"March 3 through May 5, 2003 OITP will host an online e-mail tutorial on privacy. Similar in format to the successful copyright, UCITA and licensing tutorials offered in past years, the privacy tutorial will cover privacy basics for library professionals in 20-25 brief, but informative messages written by Leslie Harris, experienced lawyer, lobbyist and public policy strategist in Washington, D.C. Leslie is founder and president of Leslie Harris & Associates, and has been a long-standing partner with ALA in defending civil liberties and protecting library patron privacy.
The tutorial will address privacy expectations of library patrons and practical ways to meet them; legal protections for library records and their limitations; how technology has changed the way libraries must address privacy; and privacy audits. The tutorial course is FREE to ALA members, and only $25 for non-ALA members.
Signing up is easy. 1. Send an e-mail message to: email@example.com. 2. Leave the subject line blank. 3. In the body of the email type: subscribe privacytut YourFirstName YourLastName (example: subscribe privacytut John Doe)
After subscribing, you should receive an automated welcome message. On March 3rd, you will receive your first e-mail tutorial message on privacy and libraries. You can read your messages when they arrive, save them for later, or print them out, but we recommend reading the messages in the order that they are received. Please note the email tutorial is one-way communication. You will not be able to post to a discussion list...
For more information, contact Kathy Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Chiffonya Brown at email@example.com or call ALA's Washington Office, (800)941-8478. " ---from ALA release" [Chi Lib Rocks!]
Schumer Unveils First Comprehensive Cell Phone User Bill of Rights
"US Senator Charles Schumer today unveiled a cell phone user bill of rights aimed at improving wireless service and making competition an ingrained part of the wireless industry. Schumer's bill would mandate number portability between companies; create a box with contract and service information on solicitations and contracts (similar to the Schumer box on credit card solicitations); and authorize the FCC to monitor cell phone quality.
Consumer complaints on issues ranging from billing to service quality to contracts with hidden costs are skyrocketing across the country. In New York, for example, the New York State Consumer Protection Board reports that cell phone complaints increased an incredible 1400% in 2001....
The bill requires all wireless contracts and marketing materials to place a similar box containing standardized information on numerous key issues. All plans will have to disclose rate info, including calling-from area, monthly base charge, per minute charges for minutes not included in the plan and the method for calculating minutes charged. Information on minutes in the plan, including weekday/daytime, nights/weekend, long-distance, roaming, incoming and directory assistance will also have to be displayed. Termination and start-up fees and trial periods will have to be outlined as will any taxes and surcharges....
Improving government monitoring of cell service The bill authorizes the FCC to monitor service quality industry-wide. Data will be collected and made publicly available so consumers can compare signal strength among providers, look at dropped call counts per carrier and compare dead zones across carriers. Most importantly, consumers will have access to high resolution maps that detail variations in call quality across a provider's service area." [beSpacific]
If the industry really wants to move forward and start selling premium services to a skeptical customer base, they'll need to implement all of the pieces of this bill. And if the federal government is going to mandate E-911 service, then cell phone carriers need to start improving their services now.
Way to go, Senator Schumer! I'm going to contact my senators and ask them to support it.
Ernie says don't let DigitalRecorder.tv repair your TiVo! How stupid of a company do you have to be to mess with Ernie the Attorney, a lawyer with one of the most popular lawyerly blawgs?!
Note to customer service reps everywhere: if you're going to screw over a customer, make sure s/he doesn't have a popular blog first!
Blog Publishers Stealing Web Limelight
"Dave Winer, a pioneering Silicon Valley-based software programmer who is widely credited with spearheading the self-publishing movement, sees blogging following a well-worn path into the mainstream.
'At first the geeks go for a new information technology. It is required for that to happen. Then you have the lawyers and the librarians. Following very closely after that comes education and business,' he said." [Reuters, via Scripting News]
Heh, heh. Except that if you're talking about an information technology hierarchy, I'm pretty sure librarians come before lawyers!
I think I'm going to highlight this article at our Tech Summit on blogging tomorrow!
Continued cross-blog discussions about RSS feeds:
- "Why isn't the question 'Wny not RSS?' If you are writing because you think you have something to say what are you putting any roadblocks up to people reading it?... I suppose I can accept that someone wouldn't want to provide full text feeds, but why would anyone refuse to at least publish headlines to bring me back to the site whose design I'm supposed to appreciate? Somebody help me understand the other side of this argument, cause I just don't get it." [McGee's Musings]
- Accordingly, Rafe Colburnwrites that because "readers come first.., I've added the ability to subscribe to an RSS feed with full posts in addition to the default feed, which provides excerpts of longer posts....
I figure this provides maximum flexibility for you, the readers. To me, the important part of this site is the words, and I want to make them as easy to get as possible." [rc3.org]
To Brother Jim McGee, I say amen! I don't get it, either. And to Rafe, thanks from a most appreciative reader! In my comments link, today's scan found the following:
"Are you arguing that RSS preserves 100% of a weblog's substance? Because I think that's only true for a small subset of weblogs." - Anil Dash
Actually, I think that is true for most of the blogs I read in my aggregator, but I don't think it's applicable across the board. I subscribe to very few sites that don't focus on what I consider to be substantive information, so it depends on the author, the blog's subject, and how the content is handled. (Duh, but it's true.)
I get very little information from Movable Type blogs that only provide the first 25 words of the post, and as a result, 9 times out of 10 I don't click out to read the whole link. Sites with abbreviated feeds have to do an extra hearty job with their titles and first couple of sentences, and unfortunately this rarely works (especially for sites that provide headlines only). Why do you think it's so difficult to write headlines for newspaper articles? Take advantage of the medium and use all of the tools at your disposal to be heard, read, and discussed.
But to answer Anil's question, no I don't think it preserves 100% of the content, but it's 100% more of the content than I'd be reading if the site wasn't in my aggregator. button understands this, as evidenced by the comment he left. Jon Udell addressed some of this last year when he wrote about heads, decks, and leads and why titles matter.
button also writes that "you should realize that many of the bloggers are not into RSS and are just trying to accommodate your request for that format for your convenience." I do realize that, and I'm grateful for it every hour when my aggregator goes out and scans your site for me. It's technology making me more efficient and getting your posts out to a growing audience. Sounds like a win-win to me!
"Andy Rhinehart is experimenting with an RSS feed of help wanted ads from the Spartanburg Herald. Very cool. It would be even better if there was an e-mail address attached to each job posting so people could respond. He is also using the multi-author tool in Radio to publish a weblog for the paper's news stories. Jim Zellmer chimes in on this topic." [John Robb's Radio Weblog]
Yes, it's true, Andy Rhinehart has made the Spartanburg Herald-Journal job classified ads into a blog with accompanying RSS feed. That puts the SHJ two up on almost every other newspaper in the country, as you might recall that Andy's was the first American newspaper to offer an RSS feed for its' news headlines.
I got a first look at the classifieds feed this morning and was impressed. I was even more thrilled when he was able to get the categories working ("help wanted general, professional services, etc.). Some of the ads do have email addresses in them, and Andy was able to make them live this morning.
I also learned that the SHJ has moved to a new back-end system in which stories are categorized automatically within a taxonomy. Andy's going to see if that taxonomy can be applied to the classified ads in the hope that users could then subscribe to specific types of job ads. Ah, the power of taxonomies!
Interestingly, the paper is running a poll on its front page that asks readers if they know about blogs. The answer, unsurprisingly, is "say what?" with 78.5% of 355 votes.
Iraq to Blame?
"Many questions have been swirling around Governor Jeb Bush’s plan to abolish the Florida State Library but he has now been gracious enough to explain why: Iraq, of course. No, I am not making that up. Read the article if you don’t believe me. Jeb is determined to spend $20 Million over the next 4 years to save $3 Million dollars a year (1/20,000 of the state’s $60 Billion budget) in order to give away $10 Million dollars of public property." [LibraryPlanet.com]
I still don't get the Iraq connection, either. If Florida experiences a drought this year I'm sure that will be Iraq's fault, too.
Camera Phones Soared in 2002
"The latest Wireless Device Strategies report from research firm Strategy Analytics concludes that 18 million mobile phones with embedded digital cameras were sold worldwide in 2002. Of these, 13 million were sold in Japan with Vodafone-owned J-Phone topping the charts. For now, Europe and North America still find themselves playing catch-up with the Japanese wireless market...." [infoSync]
"Jackie told us that Travis Air Force Base phoned soon after 9/11, asking for records related to the possible use of a Berkeley Public computer to attempt to hack into their system. The call was refered to her, the director. When she told them a subpoena was needed they pointed out that their need for this information was critical. She said that she wanted to help them as much as she could and that a subpoena was required. She also told them how little information they have about their users. They did not come back with the subpoena.
At Berkely Public, they 'erase the servers' every night and shred the paper signup sheets. Circulation records are deleted as soon as material is checked in. (No time lag as we have)" [Retrofitted Librarian]
So it's not just bookstores....