Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Innkeeper at the Roach Motel"

Dorthea Salo of the UW-Madison (my alma mater!) makes some great points in this not-yet-published article on institutional repositories.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Talk of Google's Knols is spreading quickly across the blogosphere. This strikes me as a venture into online publishing, kind of on par with publishing a traditional encyclopedia that has entries published by paid "experts."

I see this as a welcome development that will compete with and compliment Wikipedia rather than subvert it. As a side effect, it also may further erode usage of the kinds of reference tools that libraries purchase and provide to users.

I'm sensing that there is kind of a backlash against Google from the Wikipedia community on this one. But I say let them have a go at it. This is just another experiment in a form of online publishing that may or may not catch on.

One might worry that Google will force this stuff on their search engine users. But supposedly "editorial integrity" of search engine results is one of their guiding principles, and that would mean that if a Wikipedia article was more relevant than a Knol, it would still rise to the top.

How in the world did I get to be so pro-Google?

digital repositories at the network level

The Internet Archive and the Center for History and New Media are teaming up to create the "Zotero Commons", a kind of open, shared scholarly repository. This is an experiment with some similarities to institutional repository initiatives at academic libraries. Notably, the two organizations tackling this problem are not big players within the academic library world. It'll be interesting to see if this takes off. In the long run, it may make the most sense to collect and preserve unpublished scholarship at a level that transcends academic institutions. Some have been fretting that this leaves libraries out of the picture. Someone in the comments section of Library 2.0 pointed out, however, that the Internet Archive is officially recognized as a library.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Google Universal Search as federated search approach

The Google Operating System blog offers some thoughts on Google's evolving approach to Universal Search (where they group results together from various Google indexes--Web, Books, Images, News, etc.). Even though Google has direct control over its various search 'silos', they are not trying to mix results together in Universal Search. Whether this is due to technical limitations, usability, or a combination of both, we can't be sure.

Trying to intermix and collectively rank results from a wide variety of search systems never seemed like a good approach to me, but that's just what many libraries have been attempting to do with federated searching. If Google can have its silos, why can't we have ours?

Maybe the Google approach reflects the utility of searching for the same type of media: news stories, web sites, images, products, etc. within the same search. Following on this logic, should we stick with the idea of keeping article searches separate from books in library search offerings?

Our library is thinking through these questions as we attempt to package our major search options into a search widget for our website.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

politics of Wikipedia

A recent article reports that inside the "inner circle" of Wikipedia authors and editors, there are a lot of backstabbing politics. Does this mean that Wikipedia is getting more "academic" after all? Perhaps the old saying "the politics are so bad because the stakes are so low" applies equally to a college English department and to the literati of nonprofit Wikipedia. On the other hand, a significant number of people actually read what comes out of Wikipedia, so perhaps the stakes wouldn't be as quite low as those on hand in an English department.

Richard Skrenta makes the case that this kind of political maneuvering is normal in any "social game."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

empty trading floors

Stock trading floors: yet another example of networked computing supplanting the need for a physical space:


My father in law, a big burly guy, was a trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in the 70s and 80s. He's got some good stories about life on the floor. You had to be pretty tough and assertive to be good. Now you can just sit in front of your computer and push buttons if you want to trade.