Archive for December 2008
Issue 5 of the Code4Lib Journal was published this afternoon. And if I do say so myself (as a member of the journal’s Editorial Committee, it’s another excellent one. Here’s the table of contents:
- Editorial Introduction – Issue 5 by Emily Lynema
- â¡biblios: An Open Source Cataloging Editor by Chris Catalfo
- User-Centred Design and Agile Development: Rebuilding the Swedish National Union Catalogue by Henrik Lindström and Martin Malmsten
- Reaching Users Through Facebook: A Guide to Implementing Facebook Athenaeum by Wayne Graham
- Affinity Strings: Enterprise Data for Resource Recommendations by Cody Hanson, Shane Nackerud, and Kristi Jensen
- Identifying FRBR Work-Level Data in MARC Bibliographic Records for Manifestations of Moving Images by Kelley McGrath and Lynne Bisko
- Rasmuson Library DVD Browser: Fun with Screen Scraping and Drupal by Ilana Kingsley and Mark Morlino
- Reviving Digital Projects by Dianne Dietrich, Jennifer Doty, Jen Green and Nicole Scholtz
- Generating Metadata on a Shoestring sans Programmer, with Our Good Friend, Excel (or Any Spreadsheet) by Jill Strass
- SPECIAL REPORT: Creating Conference Video by Noel F. Peden
- COLUMN: We Love Open Source Software. No, You Canât Have Our Code by Dale Askey
Google released its Chrome web browser back in September as a beta. Unlike so many other Google tools that are in perpetual beta, Chrome today is now a full-fledged product (see Google’s press release to this effect).
As I noted back in September, Chrome had no support for RSS feeds. And it still doesn’t — here’s RSS4Lib’s RSS 2.0 feed as displayed by Chrome:
Given that Google has a perfectly serviceable RSS reader, and seeing the importance Google has clearly placed on Chrome — moving it from public beta to supported software in an unheard of three months — it seems even odder now than in the beta stage that Google has chosen not to make use of it.
I’ve been thinking about how much the Internet and computers have been part of my life, and for how long. My first exposure to computers, and to online life, was way back in the spring of 1978 when my family moved to New Hampshire and I started attending the public elementary school there. Dartmouth College, in the town where I grew up, had created a time-sharing computer network in the mid-1960s and put terminals in Hanover’s secondary schools. By the time I moved there a decade later, Dartmouth had also put terminals in the elementary schools. So there I was, in 5th grade, dialing up on a 300-baud acoustic modem with a DEC Writer terminal playing computer games.
In middle school, the next year, I was learning BASIC and spending all my free time in the library’s computer lab — where they had a CRT orange-screen terminal in addition to a DEC Writer. I spent far too much much time trying to play a college student on Dartmouth’s chat system… Typing “joi xyz” would let me speak to the world, or at least, the world of people online. My conversations, if they were recorded for posterity, would certainly not be worth the cost of the storage media to save them, and I’m sure they didn’t fool anybody as to my age.
A few years later, in high school, I was still geeking around. By then, I had purchased my first “real” computer, an Atari 800. I wrote simple games (and memorably, a Star Wars trivia test) in BASIC filled with references to GOTO this line number… True spaghetti code. At school, the math lab had several Ohio Scientific PCs where I taught myself the bare basics of Assembler and wrote some simple games and other applications. I wish I still had the 8″ floppy disks used to save applications. And I continued my forays into the online world. Thanks to Google’s indexing of Usenet, I discovered that I can trace my online presence back to twenty-five years ago today… To a very geeky “warez” post on the net.micro.atari Usenet group asking if anyone had Atari 800 software to trade. I even got some takers — from England as well as the United States, and early demonstration of the power of the Internet.
And then college — where technology was much less a significant part of my life than it has been at just about anytime in the past 30 years. Grinnell had computer labs and was online, but most of my friends were far less computer-focused than I. I mostly wrote papers and occasionally chatted with another paper-writer in another computer lab on campus, but pretty well left the nascent Internet alone until I got to graduate school in the early 1990s.
And that’s where my interests and technology came into sync. During my first semester of library school, in 1993, the first graphical web browser, NSCA Mosaic, was released. I jumped on the bandwagon, and haven’t fallen off yet. Back when there actually was a reasonably accurate “What’s New” service for the Internet — listing new servers and new sites, day by day, as they came on line — I was playing around on the library school’s web server, posting web pages, and being amazed when things like centering text and tables were added to HTML. Fast forward another decade, and the web is, well, my job — who would have thought it?
FeedVis is a word cloud/feed visualization tool. Give it a bunch of RSS feeds (in OPML), it will digest them for you, and present a word frequency chart which you can interact with by selecting date ranges, specific blogs, or both.
I selected about 75 RSS- and library-related feeds and generated an OPML file, which I then uploaded to FeedVis. This is what the interface looks like. Across the top is a time scale — a yellow bar indicates each day in the 30-day window, with the number of posts for each day shown. Beneath that is a word cloud, showing the most common words in the collection of feeds for the selected time period (in this case, all feeds for all 30 days).
If you select a single blog, FeedVis focuses on that blog and redraws the word cloud for you with a slick AJAX effect. The size of the word shows frequency (per thousand words), as you’d expect. The color indicates recent shifts in popularity. If a word has been used more in the selected time period than overall, it shows up as green. If a word has been used less frequently in the selected time period than overall, it’s red.
You can interact with this data yourself at http://jasonpriem.com/feedvis/index.php?account=varnum. Of course, you can also create your own by exporting an OPML file from your favorite RSS reader (no more than 100 feeds can be imported at once, however).
Google has finally made Google Alerts available via RSS. Just as with email alerts, you can enter search terms and select parts of the web to monitor (news, blogs, web, groups, video) or go for the whole shebang with a “comprehensive” search. For example, here’s an alert feed for January’s Inauguration Day. Google has enabled feeds to be shared — so once you create an alert, it can be read in any feed reader or included in any web page.