Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Google Wave – Jason Griffey

Google describes Wave as e-mail if you invented it now.

Check out more info at http://www.yourbigwig.com/node/154.

Wave seamlessly knows if people are online or offline. The service is synchronous if everyone is online, asynchronous if they are offline.
If someone is added to the wave, the new person can see everything that has happened in the wave, and – if allowed – they can edit everything that has happened. It allows real-time and asynchronous editing of multiple pieces of information by multiple people.

Google is planning to open-source this product. It will be downloadable an installable to local servers.

A wave is an embeddable client. You can get to it from anywhere. For example, you could have a reference wave with all reference librarians a member, and students can be part of it as well. Multiple libraries can participate in shared wave reference.

You can write plug-ins for it. Google demoed a robot plug-in that can parse text and automatically respond. This can happen with no human intervention. For example, a student needs resources for a Sociology 101 paper. The robot could parse "sociology 101" and recommend the sociology subject guide, the top sociology databases, etc.

A robot could parse the name of a book, search the library catalog, and automatically return results to patrons.

Semantic Web – Julia Bauder

The underlying concept is to make the web machine readable. The idea is to eventually make the web work like Wolfram Alpha: you ask a question and the answer gives you an answer.

With this concept, the answer just pops up. This raises the obvious question of information validity.
To make the semantic web work, everything (including people) has a universal identifier. Privacy concerns.

Q – What are companies doing to facilitate this?
A – Not much yet. There are semantic web browsers out there, but you have to know a subject’s universal identifier. You can’t do natural language searches.

 

Facebook Pages – David Lee King

Using Facebook to push programming – Facebook Events
Meetings are listed selectively because this facility hosts thousands of meetings. They’ve tried some discussions through Facebook, but that hasn’t gotten particularly good response. Status updates have been the most successful tool.

The Facebook statistics have revealed some information about their users, and they have used that to market to their high use constituencies.
Content is updated by David, two web people, and the marketing person (but mainly the marketing person).

Q – Do you have photos and videos?
Y – We’re using boxes for YouTube and Flicker.

Q – How are academic libraries increasing use of their page?
A – We’re posting fun things such as news stories about the anniversary of the Sony Walkman. We’re trying not to be too librarian-y.

Upcoming instruction sessions can be advertised. Some libraries are are friending their student workers, and that leads to some additional friends.
One of the big issues is deciding what your Facebook identity is.

Facebook can also be used to give status updates and construction and renovation projects.

 

Cloud Computing – Matt Hamilton, Cindi Trainor

Computing power moves from your local device to the server on the web.
Cloud computing is like Play-Doh. Break off a little or large piece depending on what you need. When you’re finished, it goes back into the big lump for everyone else to use.
There are software and tools aimed specifically at libraries: Liblime, SFX, ILLiad are all available as hosted services. You don’t have to have staff who can manage server hardware and OS.
Other tools – Google Docs, DropBox
Distinction between having servers in the cloud vs. having services in the cloud.
Amazon idea – companies spend a lot of their resources on supporting the infrastructure. What might happen if you could shift the infrastructure support and focus more local resources on development and innovation?
What about the security of your data? When you put your information on someone else’s server, you’re subject to their privacy policies, their backup procedures, their disaster recovery plans, etc.

 

Government Information Mashups – Rebecca Blakely

Think about extracting raw data and combining it with services to make something new.
www.data.gov

Individuals and non-profits are using this information. Check out www.ilive.at

www.recovery.org – Non-profit site used the http://www.recovery.gov data to create something better.

EPA – Toxic Release Inventory

www.opencongress.org – Pulls data from other government sources.

Managing Staff Furloughs – Melissa Shepherd

Used Drupal to manage furlough information. Many user-developed modules already available.

 

Mobile Websites and Applications – Cody Hanson

Beta site is in development for the UMN community.
Site is developed primarily for the iPhone because it has the most forgiving browser.
Mobile site is php-based.

Site is using Metalib to provide mobile-optimized search results/interface for specific databases.

Q – What level of expertise is required?
A – The lead developer has a lot of PHP experience as well as experience with the ILS.

Q – Did you have a lot of demand from the users? Is that what drove the development?
A – No, we just thought it would be cool.

Q – How much development time has been invested?
A – We’ve just had one developer who sent 2-3 days.

Q – What kind of usability testing will you be using?
A – We do a fair amount of usability testing, but our usability lab is setup for desktop testing. Still trying to figure out how we’ll do this in a mobile environment.

Advertisements

Much has been made of President Barack Obama’s attachment to his BlackBerry. At the end of a long period of struggle and compromise, he is able to keep a portable device that will let him stay connected with friends and colleagues as well as news of interest (rumor has it -White Sox scores). This means that Obama has become the first president to use e-mail while in office. There are many restrictions imposed on the President and his use of the device, but at least he is able to maintain some measure of connectivity.

 

MSNBC recently carried a story that said, “Barack Obama is the first wired president, ready to exchange e-mail with close friends and advisers. When do the rest of us get to read them?”

 

Give the man a break already! He has been in office for just a few days and people are already trying to poke around in his presidential records? Beyond the natural nosiness of people, what reason is there for starting this discussion so early in his presidency? Read the Presidential Records Act and move on.

 

Reference: Yost, Pete. “Wired President: Obama creates an e-mail trail.” MSNBC. January 23, 2009. Available at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28816112/.

I came across an interesting article on CNET: On Inauguration Day, will my cell phone work?

The gist of the article is that with the huge number of people expected in D.C. for the inauguration, the local cell networks will be saturated with users. The wireless congestion is expected to be so great that users may experience dropped calls, delayed text messages, and possibly a system so overwhelmed that they may not be able to make or receive calls. Add to this the number of smartphone users who may be trying to use data services for e-mail or web browsing and the problems multiply.

It’s an interesting problem to consider, but I think the thing that most interests me is the recommendation from the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association. The association is advising attendees, "Text, don’t talk." Text messages are easier on the network than voice calls and data-intensive applications, so the recommendation makes sense from a technological standpoint.

From a people perspective though, it just fuels a trend that is of increasing concern to me: the depersonalization of communication. Remember in the old days when we used to get letters? Remember how nice it was to hear some news from an old friend? E-mail, instant messaging, texting, and other forms of near-instant communication are convenient, but something is missing. When you read "This is amazing!" in a text message, it just doesn’t convey the emotion you would hear in someone’s voice. But the preference increasingly seems to be for electronic communication. I see it more and more in the workplace. People prefer to send an e-mail message rather than just talking to the person in the next cubicle. A generation of youth is growing up preferring to send text messages rather than actually speaking to their friends.

It reminds me of an old FAQ we received when a new voice mail system was implemented at our university. One of the points dealt with why some people are resistant to voice mail, and it highlighted the fact that some people used voice mail as a way to hide from direct communication with people trying to contact them. Increasingly I think people are using electronic communication in much the same way.

Perhaps it’s a pointless bias simply due to my generation, but I can’t help wondering why people don’t want to talk to each other anymore.

What a Great Meeting!

Posted: September 15, 2008 in communication
Tags:

I know of few people who would say “What a great meeting” after a first-thing-Monday-morning meeting, but this one really was outstanding. We tried to work through a couple of things through e-mail and over the phone, but it was finally just time to get together face-to-face.

I met with a couple of people from Campus IT today. We’re still refining the database report that will produce the patron data I pre-load into our catalog. We’re working steadily towards removing a few little glitches (such as duplicate records), and it really feels like we’re in the home stretch.

But why the effusiveness over a Monday morning meeting? Several reasons!

1. We all went in with the common goal of solving a single problem.
2. We each learned a little bit more about how the other unit operates.
3. We each learned a little but more about the other unit’s data considerations.
4. We each came away understanding the needs and limitations of each unit.
5. We all participated as equals in the discussion.
6. We were all free to share ideas that contributed to the overall solution.
7. We talked through several scenarios to arrive at the best possible solution.
8. We considered “unique cases” to determine whether the report would erroneously include or exclude any patrons.
9. We evaluated the viable options.
10. We decided on a solution.

Sounds like a lot, but isn’t that really how all meetings should go? You go in to solve a specific problem, everyone contributes, everyone leaves with more knowledge, and the group arrives at a solution. Simple enough, so why is it usually so difficult? Never underestimate the power of a GOOD meeting!

We’ve all seen those increasingly annoying signs forbidding cell phone use. (In case you don’t have one, take your pick here.) I’m starting to see these in more and more places. Yesterday I had to get my driver’s license renewed. When I walked through the outer door, there was a handwritten sign forbidding cell phone use. As I walked through the inner door, there was another one signed by the highway patrol. (I suppose the entire highway patrol department is in agreement on this policy.) Later I was sent into a waiting room and left to amuse myself with the three-year old magazines. This tiny room had “no cell phone” signs on every wall.

What exactly are they afraid of? I can understand not wanting a lot of loud talkers shouting to be heard on their phones. I can understand not wanting someone simultaneously talking on a cell phone while explaining to the “customer service” agent what they need. Of course libraries come to mind when I think of signs saying “no cell phones”. Libraries love to plaster these signs about. But again, what exactly are libraries afraid of?

There is an obvious balancing point here. Unfortunately most organizations don’t look for it. It’s easier just to put up a sign saying that cell phones aren’t allowed. I think most places could survive if patrons/customers were allowed to switch their phones to silent. Text messaging, surfing the Internet, and reading e-mail aren’t inherently noisy activities, and most people can accomplish them pretty quietly.

It’s definitely time for a new range of signs. We need signs that encourage people to use technology in the appropriate ways and in appropriate places. Libraries are perfectly appropriate places for using a cell phone to look up information and exchange text messages. We need to keep in mind that while certain behaviors are annoying and disruptive, those behaviors are exhibited by some people, not all. Most people choose to use their technology responsibly, and we shouldn’t declare a wholesale ban on technology to regulate the behaviors of a few problem patrons!

This year’s Olympic Games in China raises some interesting problems and questions. NBC paid a lot of money for exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to the 2008 Olympic Games. However, the time difference between the actual competition and the local broadcast time is making it difficult for NBC to maintain its exclusivity. As expected, content is leaking out. YouTube is playing a part. News agencies in other countries are making footage available to their local audiences. Enthusiasts are finding video clips and posting them all over the Internet.

Besides being a management nightmare for NBC, this poses an interesting dilemma for local fans. What if you really don’t want to know the results until you can tune in and watch the broadcast for yourself? If that’s the case, the Internet could absolutely ruin your Olympic experience! Imagine waiting to get home to watch a swimming competition. But then a friend forwards an Internet article that shows all the results of the competitions you were planning to watch. Or perhaps you’re researching something at work and you stumble across a news site that has the medalists plastered across the front page. This takes the idea of spoilers to a whole new level.

This is a situation where I definitely want my information late. Even if the medals were awarded 12 hours ago, I don’t want to know who won until I can actually watch the competition!

On an related note, I happened across an article about a new Philadelphia Inquirer policy. The Inquirer has decided that it will no longer post online versions of news items until the print version is available. No features, no reviews, no blogs, no nothing. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better way to destroy your readership. When there is a breaking news story, people turn to the Internet. It’s automatic. It’s also automatic to turn to major news sources to cover those major news stories.

But imagine this frightening scenario. A major news event is unfolding. Your local news team is covering the event. But they don’t break the news. While all the other newspapers and television stations in the city are updating their web sites, you’re sitting on the story and waiting for papers to be delivered before you update your own site. Very soon your readers learn that your service can’t be relied on for up-to-the-minute news. Because you insist on holding your postings, you almost guarantee that you will never break a story again. And suddenly – almost before your very eyes – your readership migrates en masse to other services.

Frightening, yes . . . for the Philadelphia Inquirer. In fact, they should be downright terrified by this misguided policy. The reporters should probably start looking for jobs with other papers who want to break the news.

These two extremes made me wonder just how people want their information. In my Olympic example for this year, I really do want my information late. Usually I want it as early as possible. And unfortunately, I think the Philadelphia Inquirer’s just-in-time strategy is doomed to failure.

References:

Killing the cash cow and other acts of media indecency

Tape Delay by NBC Faces End Run by Online Fans

Time for some randomness. A trio of stories caught my eye recently. The topics are vastly different, but there is a loose common theme that ties them all together: restricting or opening access to information.

Libraries are all about open access to information. Libraries have tons of great content, and they want to share this content with the widest possible audience. The very title of Meredith Farkas‘ blog emphasizes this: Information Wants To Be Free. However, librarians will readily admit that there is some information which should not be freely available. (Patrons choosing to opt-in on book reviewer services is another matter.) Patron reading records come to mind. Patrons’ reference questions are also taken to be private and confidential with libraries taking great steps to anonymize all questions before analyzing their service quality.

I guess this dual perspective of openness and privacy helped pique my interest in these stories:

CNET: Olympic head: No deal on Internet censorship
CNET: The FCC on Comcast: Confusion in spades
MSNBC: Recordings raise questions about inmate rights

The first story continues the saga of China’s ongoing efforts at Internet censorship. In spite of an agreement with the International Olympic Committee, the Chinese government continues to block access to Internet sites of which it does not approve. International journalists are up in arms about it. This censorship limits their ability to do their jobs, and it simply isn’t what China promised.

The second story deals with Comcast‘s throttling of BitTorrent traffic. Interestingly enough, what Comcast did is regularly replicated on university campuses across the country through various packet shaping technologies. Apparently the FCC’s biggest complaint about Comcast was that the company hid their activities from customers.

The third story highlights illegal eavesdropping on privileged attorney-inmate conversations by the San Diego county jails. Apparently the jails were not only recording these conversations, they were also making them available to prosecuting attorneys. In at least one case, this gave the prosecutor explicit information about the defendant’s trial strategy. The story also reveals that similar recordings occurred in other counties as well. Interestingly enough, in California eavesdropping on inmates’ telephone calls with their attorneys is a felony. I wonder how the state will choose to punish the county?

So here we have a country censoring information that should be open and freely available. We have a company secretly throttling customers’ access to certain types of data streams. And we have county governments clandestinely recording privileged conversations.

In the United States we (SHOULD) treasure our free speech. We (SHOULD) treasure our free press. We (SHOULD) maintain an awareness of corporate practices that impact our access to information. We (SHOULD) actively protect confidential communication from unlawful scrutiny. These stories serve to illustrate that people need to protect their information rights. Without demanding constant accountability, these rights will be slowly, surreptitiously whittled away.