Friday, January 23, 2009

on Google Scholar and 'electricity sucking mosques'

Came across this post by Paul Kedrosky on "Google Scholar Suckitude." He's a financial commentator with a popular blog. It's interesting to read an outsider's perspective on the scholarly information ecosystem. Kedrosky is frustrated by a few things about Google Scholar. From the comments:
But I also find it messes up dates all the time, with recent papers too hard to find. And I'm unimpressed with its authoritativeness measures, with many quack pieces from quack journals making it through the cracks.

More broadly, I'd like it to tell me more clearly if there is a PDF somewhere. Perhaps back-index from authors/paper to author websites and look for the original paper there. Too often I find the piece referenced, and then have to do a second set of searches to find the author's website where there is often a working paper available. That shouldn't be required.
Funny that I was just admiring the addition of the Google Scholar feature that attempts to locate a free copy of a journal article online if available. Another comment on the post argues that academic libraries have shifted from being information disseminators to information gatekeepers:

The facilitation of easily accessible information, such as the good dope contained in publicly funded research, grants and other knowledge-transmitters, the stuff that's found in academic journals and other walled-enlightenment-gardens; in yesteryear fell in the domain and function of the "library".

However, in recent history, the library's role has changed. 180 degrees. Their actions are similar to them RIAA , only in some ways, much darker: their role as spreader-of-our-knowledge-treasures has petrified into the ghostly statuesque remnant that serves as a fortress of knowledge bigotry requiring secret user identifications and passwords.

The library system in America is 1000 times worse than theRIAA .

The Ivy-Leagued elites and celebrities have no problem gathering information. I'm sure that there have been many times when you've bumped into something like the JSTOR hurdle, only to have a colleague or well-intentioned ivy-league aristocrat quietly email you the journal, article or tidbit of enlightenment that you were seeking.

It's not that way for us ignoramus masses. We've got to unGREENy burn oil, use or gas hog cars, travel to the gigantically inefficient electricity sucking mosques that houses the remnants of old, vermin infested and inked-ladened dead tree parchments -- the method of infomatics-gathering used by our candle-burning-horse-and-buggy ancestors.

It's a system structure benefits the Ivy Leagues. They have the access. They have the secret keys, passwords and easy pathways to the knowledge chambers. To withhold the public's golden knowledge, to keep the masses enslaved to illiteracy and darkness -- isn't it unconscionable?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Less is Moore

This piece in the Economist points out that there is now a movement to use Moore's law to save money rather than add-on new bells and whistles to computers. I've always thought that it was kind of a racket that computers never got much cheaper, they just got more powerful and stayed around the same price. "Net books" seem to counteract that trend.

I just put Ubuntu on a six year old laptop, whose performance in Windows XP (loaded up with virus protection and who knows what other add ons and spyware) had slowed to a crawl. It works great now.

Friday, January 16, 2009

GMail apps

I was just ordering some books sent to me as requests by faculty in over email. Wouldn't it be cool if we could write our own apps that would live inside GMail and could operate on the information that came through in email messages? In the same way that Google Calendar recognizes dates and times in email messages, an application could recognize book titles, ISBNs and do some checking on our catalogs, and eventually help place an order for the title if desired.

Since GMail is web-based, I suppose you could use any kind of browser embedded application like Zotero or LibX to take these kinds of actions, too.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the evolution of library discovery environments in the web era

I'm working on an article for OLA Quarterly now about the evolution of library "discovery environments" during the web era. Maybe I'm getting a little too theoretical here, but I'm trying to come up with three distinct phases of evolution. Roughly, they are:

1. Bringing pre-web indexing systems onto the web platform (mid-to late 90s)
2. Systems that increasingly 1.) match the consumer web experience on the wider web and 2) manage (synthesize) online full text content, in both with an increasingly dis-integrated set of tools (early to mid 2000s)
3. Two-way network level systems that benefit from both global scale and local customization (specialize), systems that get better as more people (library staff and patrons) use them. Systems that syndicate (mobilize) resources (late 2000s)

The first phase is sort of Web .5. The second phase involves trying to catch up to Web 1.0. The third phase is Web 2.0 and beyond.

1. Web OPACs, static library websites, A&I databases on the web
2. JSTOR, Serials Solutions, SFX, ContentDM, DSpace, lipstick-on-a-pig library catalogs, Endeca, federated search.
3. Google Scholar, Google Books,, WorldCat Local, Flickr Commons

I realize that trying to write history as it's happening is hazardous.


A group of people in our library are trying out Yammer (NYT coverage), a micro-blogging service designed for organizations. We're the first people on the domain to use it. It's easy for people in a library to get a little bit isolated in their work and we're hoping that this will promote more communication and collaboration among staff

This is my first foray into micro-blogging and I like it. The operative question in Yammer is "what are you working on?"

It would be fun to view a busy Yammer feed from a large and diverse organization like a college. We'll see if it takes off beyond the library at here L&C.