Another Life-trumps-blog post

Those of you who have met or talked to me in the past, know how much my family means to me. Some of you who have talked to me know that my wife and I are expecting a new baby somewhere around July 26th (yes, next month).

Of course, you can be sure that I will not be blogging very much after that day (except for perhaps the occasional “Flickr” post with pictures of new baby and proud parents and sibling).

But from here to then, I have to say blogging has to take a slow-down. Those of you who are fathers know that domestic life gets just that much more harry as you get closer and closer to the end of the pregnancy. That’s not complaining — it’s just the reality that I want to do much more wifey-attention and when it’s not wifey-attention, it’s leisure computer time (those of you who follow my del.icio.us account will notice a jump in online games).

I do want to do two things though.   1) I’d like to get a part two for my Joomla tutorial and 2) I’d like to start blogging regularly my reaction to the Best of Ideas podcasts.    I’ve mentioned more than once how I love these podcasts and how relevant I find them to what I do.    I listen to these periodically as I walk to work, so I though I might as well share some thoughts with you.

It’s not as if I don’t agree much with you, Michael Gorman

And it’s not as if you haven’t already read about it on the Britannica blog.   I’ve made my comments already at the source where it belongs.   And I commented too on Andrew Keen’s “me too” post.

But I decided I don’t want to write a blog post about the Michael Gorman thing.   I want to highlight somethings that I’ve seen that support the idea that we [society] needs a break from Web 2.0 and then I want to highlight things that I’ve seen that support the opposite.

I Thought Gorman-y Thoughts When. . .

  •  I first saw the “Keep Your Fucking Hand Down and Shut Up — No One Cares” Facebook group  “For all those students who want to repeatedly stab themselves in the eye with a sharp object when some moron raises his/her hand to answer a rhetorical question, relate his/her life story, or pointlessly argue with the professor and thereby needlessly prolong class.”     Well, I suppose it’s not that bad, since they are talking about the extreme case where someone talks their head off without letting other people talk.    But I’ve also seen cases where a desperate prof looks as if he/she is trying to pull hen’s teeth to get a comment out of a dumbfounded classroom.    No way.   Put your hand up and ask a (relevant) question — 2 times per class at minimum.   You’re paying for that damn education and listening passively to a lecture is just about the worst way for you to be remembering what you are being taught.   If Web 2.0 is about bullying people into an anti-intellectual stance, then I say forget it!
  • I hear about/see stupid kids videotaping themselves beating each other up.    Never should such a thing be considered entertainment.   The same applies to the voyeuristics that occur with the Iraq beheadings and other atrocities.
  • When a list of nauseating sexist/classist/racist comments appears on a website and someone tries to defend it as “funny.”   Nope.   Only funny in the way that people would laugh when they saw you slip on ice and crack your head on the pavement.
  • When I read “me too” comments.  ‘Nuff said.
  • When I think about my personal desire and inability to publish something significant.   It could be about funding or time, but mostly I think it’s about TMI.

I Thought Gorman is just Sooooo Wrong when. . .

  • Five weeks to a social library happened.  Months later I still heard from students who claimed that they learned more from that course than from any other course they paid for.
  • I got to read the spoilers for the Saw movies without having the embarrassing experience of wetting myself in a public theatre.
  • I saw Wafa Sultan speak on Al Jazeera this evening via YouTube.    The ability to see and hear Arabic television could only be a dream prior to Web 2.0.

The obvious response to all of the Gorman concerns is that he is right and he is wrong.   The world is changing.   We will lose some things and we will gain others.   I don’t think the world will blow up though.

But if you consider the trees lost to published materials though.   That might cause the world to blow up.

My Interpretation of Library 2.0 in Strategic Terms

As I mentioned before (more than once for some reason), I was at the CLA Emerging Technologies Pre-conference and did a presentation called “Library 2.0 is the Answer!  Now what are the questions again?”

In my presentation, I wanted to come up with a definition for L2 that focussed on strategy or actions rather than theory and buzzwords.   This is my list of “L2 decisions.”

1. Understand social aspects of the web (Web 2.0), and exploit them to build community.

2. Emphasize innovation over elbow grease.

3. Be intolerant of institutional barriers.

4. Favor the wisdom of diverse, independent and decentralized “crowds” over the authority of elites.

5. Empathize (obsessively) with the user’s experience, and invite their participation.

I really invite anyone to comment on the accuracy/clarity of these items, in case I want to bring them up again in another presentation.    One change I thought about was that “intolerant” of institutional barriers is not quite the right L2 thing.   Maybe I mean “don’t let institutional barriers get in the way” or something like that.

Jessamyn West has a presentation and a resource list that might help alot in this discussion as well.    Not that it hasn’t existed before, but I like that people are talking about actions to take toward L2, rather than dealing with theory.  The theory stuff is neat, but people on all sides get bogged down over principles, values and nomenclature.   When you recommend actions to go along with the theory, then everything becomes so much clearer.

Forget Web 2.0, I Bring You. . . the Semantic Web!

At the CLA Emerging Technologies Interest Group Pre-Conference, Mark Leggott presented something he titled “Library 2.0: Threads in the Tapestry.” If you have ever seen or heard Mark talk, you would know that he appears to enjoy using metaphors to organize his talks. This time it was the “Lady and Unicorn” tapestry that covers the six senses.

The theme of the day was the next phase of Library 2.0, namely what is being called “the Semantic Web” or “Web 3.0.” The wikipedia article on the semantic web is quite a bit convoluted, but the main premise is a web that not only contains great content, but also stores content that can be understood and/or processed by machines in ways that are meaningful to humans.

Even more specifically, semantic web products mine the data of already existing social softwares and uses that data to draw links and connections to other articles. Take, for instance, Freebase which is looking to provide rich information experiences by mashing up the wikipedia database with detailed metadata and a variety of other services. The result being that, if you search for James Cameron (say) you may be able to capture the links through which that person is known, say the movies he made, the people he is related to, restaurants he’s been said to favor, people who have criticized his works and so on. The result is a rich data experience where the web basically predicts the other things which may interest or entice you.

To consider the extent to which the semantic web can go for libraries, consider the following three (relatively) new technologies:

  1. Micropaper — visual output devices (ie. monitors) that have the size and flexibility of paper.
  2. The Surface Computer — a multi-touch interface that could basically turn the mouse into moose.   I discussed other possibilities for this technology before.
  3. Photosynth —
    and there’s more to be found in the TED talks presentation/demo.

So imagine this. A Micropaper monitor that uses surface computer technology for interfacing. Right there, you have paper that can be interfaced in ways that are very similar to a book — and then some, because you could manipulate the text, zoom in and out, rotate the items and so on.

Then add photosynth. You could conceivable have your new “book” that can store entire volumes belonging to any author. You could have it go audio and highlight the words as they are being spoken.

But let’s go further. You could have a scientific article with a footnote that is actually the entire cited article with the quoted text highlighted. That means you can check for context in ways never heard of before!

Or how about reading the Hunchback of Notre Dame with detailed information about the history of Victor Hugo and a complete tour of the Cathedral sitting right there in your little paper-like monitor!

There’s alot about this technology that is both exciting and scary for libraries. It’s like I get my mind blown just about every day!