Internet Librarian Thoughts

I attended my first Internet Librarian conference this past week in beautiful Monterey, California. While my blog posts were infrequent, I soaked up a lot of good information from the presenters.
Wednesday morning’s session with a panel of three ‘born digital’ students was fascinating. Why I found it easier to grok this generation’s approach to technology from hearing it from their mouths, rather than reading Pew Internet reports or the work of danah boyd, I’m not sure. I was pleased to hear the members of this panel state how they understood the differences between ‘any old online resource’ [my phrasing] and the ‘good stuff’ [again, my words] libraries provide. I was entertained and a bit amazed at what I understood to be their attitude about technological innovation: that the speed of evolution in how we communicate and interact with the world around us is normal and unending. It makes me feel older than my years to hear eloquent and thoughtful high school students hold forth on the normalcy of technologies that I find, frankly, amazingly innovative and cool. I was struck by one of the participants’ statements that “twitter is dead”; amended by the youth librarian who helped convene the panel, who added “twitter was never alive.” The fact that this quote was repeated many times in the following minutes and hours on Twitter struck me as entertainingly ironic
Mobile devices and mobile computing were a focus of the conference as well. It seems that there is tremendous energy in libraries toward making services and functions available to the handheld devices. In not too many years, mobile devices will be the de facto standard of internet access, the one everyone has — not a computer. (This will be especially true in the developing world, which will bypass landline networking much as large swaths of the world have bypassed landline telephony.) An important point to remember is that the world does not use the iPhone, as much of a phenomenon it has been in some places. Even if the world is using mobile devices, they may not be using full graphic interfaces on those devices. Does this presage the reappearance of more gopher-like interfaces, ones that are much simpler to navigate on small-screen devices?
The Web Presence & Experience track was filled with excellent examples and advice on web design. Presentations covered a range of topics. Refreshingly, it seemed that everyone assumed that usability would be taking place — it is simply part of the process, not a super extra-special tool that only some people use. Innovation centered on services and enabling functionality, and much less on user testing and validating of designs. This is an excellent step.
Another interesting thing that I noticed is that almost nobody mentioned “RSS” as a tool or technology that needed to be explained. As I noted in my post about the lack of RSS support in Google Chrome last month, RSS is becoming invisible plumbing, something that just happens and is assumed. It appears less an active tool, and more a passive way to exchange information. Twitter, on the other hand, is alive and well. At least, among the Internet Librarians in attendance. As I publish this, there have been about 500 tweets with the #il2009 hashtag, from (in my estimate) 1,000 conference attendees.
And finally, a sign of the times…. In the lobby of the Monterey Marriott was the following sign, which made me wonder: Is there any other kind?

Internet Librarians

Presentation at Internet Librarian

I joined my colleagues, Karen Reiman-Sendi and Mike Creech, in presenting about my library’s web site redesign at Internet Librarian 2009 this past week. The presentation, titled “Designing for Content-Rich Sites,” was streamed live; an archived copy is available on UStream:

If you want to follow along, the slides are on SlideShare.

IL2009: When Students Go Mobile

When Students go Mobile: The Effects of Smartphones on Information Literacy and Academic Library Services
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki

Students with smartphones think of them as leisure devices, not academic devices — only 11% in a recent survey. But this is likely to grow as libraries build more smartphone-ready content and services.
2000 ACRL Information Competency Standards. Are these standards still relevant? Five standards — where are we on each one? How do smartphones effect information literacy?
Standard One — determines the nature and extent of the information needed
Should we provide access to high-value applications just as we provide access to high-value databases? For example, Netter’s Neuroscience is $40 for the iPhone; should we be licensing it for our populations?
When others create applications using public information, who validates it? For example, there are two apps for the the World Factbook 2009. Neither produced by the government. What are risks?
Standard Two — access information effectively and efficiently
Extracting information from sources and managing that information. Harder to do on mobile devices. But iPhone is beginning to do this pretty well through applications — such as Margins.
Standard Three — reads text and extracts main ideas
Mobile devices allow students to read on the go, between other activities. Enables on-the-fly reading — but what about deep reading? Will they be able to process what they read? Should smartphone makers make a ‘quiet setting’ so that the user can’t be interrupted?
Students may see information that renders well on a mobile device as more accurate than information that renders poorly. What you can use is better than what’s hard to use (i.e., the Google Scholar effect).
Librarians should help ensure that course management systems are easily accessible via mobile devices.
Standard Four — students can use information to solve real-world problems
Students need to be able to share information. The apps, like Dropbox, exist, but aren’t well known.
Standard Five — students understand the rules around information use
Libraries need to help educate students on the potential impact of posting information on the web. We could help teach how to be safe online — or help others on campus do this.
Plagiarism is still a tricky subject. But students are now in such constant contact, all the time, about their academic pursuits that collaboration is a way of life, not something one does in a course context. Figuring out what’s your own, and what’s a group effort, is harder.
Summary — standards have held up pretty well in the face of mobile computing.
Speaker interested in doing research on literacy and mobile devices.

Kristine Ferry, Lisa Serbert & Holly Tomren, UC-Irvine

Institutions that are building mobile apps don’t often include libraries in their mobile apps.
If we’re going to collect applications for mobile devices, we need to think about a few things. We need to know more about their behavior. As vendors provide mobile-ready content, will libraries be charged more? So far, not — and shouldn’t be. It’s the same users, same content — different destination. Will mobile devices need special activation or authentication?
MIT has a proxy application for iPhone, to proxy specific resources.
Add the mobile version to the catalog record — another 856 field. Simply another location for the device for mobile users.
How do we support information for mobile devices? A multitude of devices and formats. Who gets this task? Library? IT? Vendor?
Why not use mobile devices for library cards? You can check into a flight with one.

I really like this last idea — if American Airlines and Delta can send you a barcode to display on your mobile device, can’t the library do the same thing?

IL2009 D101: Digital library Network — Roy Tennant

Unfiltered notes from Roy Tennant’s talk on Digital Library Network:

Perceptions report — libraries = books
Libraries were once center of information universe. Many online catalogs are simply card catalogs on screen. Libraries were built around the idea of scarcity. World today is not this way. Even in developing world — form of internet access is cell phone (more ubiquitous than computer).
Tablet devices are on the way, and soon. Epaper is comings oon, too.
Users built workflow around libraries. Now, we need to build ourselves around users.
Massively centralized services not possible. Now, this may be our only salvation.
Quotes General Shinseki: if you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelvance even more.
We need to put libraries at the network level of web scale.
We need to be an essential part of the new ecology. Whole publishing indusry uses Onix standard for bibliographic data. Libraries use MARC. Does anyone find this funny? Libraries don’t just process metadata. We add value, put in more data based on what we know about books.
What is going to save our bacon? It’s not what we’ve been doing for last century. Research process is broken — messy desktops (virtual and real). Libraries have metadata to help researchers organize and find the information they need. We have to help people with their problems. Libraries need to be the solution.
Take a look at CDL’s Changed their IR into something more dynamic. Now a publishing tool for faculty. IT’s not an IR anymore — it’s a publishing service. IR is the backend, nobody cares. It’s all about publication and citation.
CDL is also archiving state government sites. See what the world looked like around pivotol events. Crawls state government sites twice a year, some more frequently. Also make tools available to others.
Make sure your site is indexed by Googl, etc. Your site must make its content available. Syndicate your content in places where it can be found.
Libraries need to create conversations, be the locus of ideas and discussion.
Question about future of federated search: is it basically dead?
Answer — yes, it’s time has basically come and gone, if we can build some of these new services like Summon, etc.

IL2009 Keynote: Vint Cerf

I’m recording my mostly unedited notes from Internet Librarian 2009 here.
Vint Cerf was interviewed by Paul Holdengraber — the conversational format made for an entertaining and informative session. I’ll comment on one particular point below (where Vint talks about cloud computing); the rest is presented in raw form.

Business interests don’t like the idea of the web from a copyright perspective: every time you look at a page, you *copy* it.
How should we rethink copyright in the internet age? Copying and distribution is very inexpensive. We still want people to be able to make money and protect work. Creative Commons does this very well. We need flexibility to have free content and paid content.
Email started out as a tool of convenience for programmers. Quickly moved to commercial world through 80s. Commercial email died when it was connected to the Internet (as opposed to proprietary, closed, systems).
What is impact of email, in terms of attention span, interruption. Kids multitask a lot — and they may be training their brains to do so more effectively than we can, because they are learning to do it earlier. But we tend to spend less time reading and thinking before acting. We aren’t necessarily paying enough attention to problems, issues, as we did in the past. (Cites conversation with Henry Kissinger, who posited this.)
What does it mean to be attentive in an age of distraction? “Power corrupts; Powerpoint corrupts absolutely.” Brevity is the enemy, in a sense, of careful thinking and analysis.
Tell us about ‘bit rot’. Vint is concerned that, as we build more digital archives, the archives will not be meaningful if the applications are not available to render those bits. Old files may be perfectly valid, but not interpretable. It’s not just a question of preserving the bits. You can’t just preserve the software; it’s often proprietary. And it’s not just the software, but the operating system. And the OS won’t work unless it’s on the right hardware. How to address this set of problems?
Cloud computing may turn out to be helpful; older programs may be available in the cloud, not personally/individually.

This is where I think Mr. Cerf hinted at where Google is going. With its massive computing capabilities and its experience in the cloud, my guess is that Google aims to make old computer files available via the web. This would be a step or two in the direction of making the world’s information available to everyone — including those musty, bit-rotting files that are already hard to read. With virtualization, Google could well provide access to those old files you created in 1993 on your first PC using a now-defunct Windows 3 application.

Ebooks have very different rights structures than printed books — all you can do is read it; you can’t sell, loan, destroy, etc., the ebook.
Books will evolve if for no reason that they’re static. Our world is dynamic. We need some form of electronic book. Much of what we will want to use are not usable in static printed form (spreadsheets, models, videos, etc.)
We should stop using the word ‘teach’ — we need to focus on ‘learn’, how people learn.
Does Internet inspire passivity? No — Not at all. Idea of the Internet is open — it allows people to try things out. Openness inspires activity. It unlocks creativity.
Internet was designed, not invented.
What are your thoughts on neutrality of the ‘net? Broadband access is increasingly important, but we have limited sources of broadband access. Often have zero or one choice; sometimes two. Broadband providers have a potential motivation to favor their own applications, not their competitors. Need to make sure the pipes carry everything equally, not play favorites.
What about privacy in the Internet age? Privacy is expected by most people on ‘net. And yet… there is monitoring going on. Tension is between anonymity and privacy, and law enforcement and protection of society. Anonymity is important. Strong authentication is important where it is needed.
Challenges for next archivist? Bit rot is huge challenge.
Internet looks like postcards. Explain. A postcard is like an Internet packet. You put it in the system, and it may or may not get to its destination.
What is Google Wave? What would world look like if email, IM, chat, tweets, etc., were all in one system? It puts all the comments on a ‘wave’ (a conversation), participants see it where they want (blog, email, Wave, etc.). Highlights problems of ephemeral and permanent records. Things you might think were ephemeral might end up in Wave.
We now live in an environment like the global village. Abberation of the Industrial Revolution is ending. We’re now back when we all lived in small villages and knew everything about everyone. (See Transparent Society, David Brin)

Endorsements and Blogging

The FTC yesterday released an updated version of “16 C.F.R. Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising: Notice Announcing Adoption of Revised Guides” — guidelines for acceptable endorsements and reviews of consumer products. The full document is available from the federal register.
In brief, the new guidelines attempt to answer the question of when an endorsement is paid and how that endorsement should be credited, and how that relationship needs to be explained. The text that seems most relevant to me is the following, on page 9 of the guidelines:

Thus, a consumer who purchases a product with his or her own money and praises it on a personal blog or on an electronic message board will not be deemed to be providing an endorsement. In contrast, postings by a blogger who is paid to speak about an advertiser’s product will be covered by the Guides, regardless of whether the blogger is paid directly by the marketer itself or by a third party on behalf of the marketer.
… For example, a blogger could receive merchandise from a marketer with a request to review it, but with no compensation paid other than the value of the product itself. In this situation, whether or not any positive statement the blogger posts would be deemed an “endorsement” within the meaning of the Guides would depend on, among other things, the value of that product, and on whether the blogger routinely receives such requests. If that blogger frequently receives products from manufacturers because he or she is known to have wide readership within a particular demographic group that is the manufacturers’ target market, the blogger’s statements are likely to be deemed to be “endorsements,” as are postings by participants in network marketing programs. Similarly, consumers who join word of mouth marketing programs that periodically provide them products to review publicly (as opposed to simply giving feedback to the advertiser) will also likely be viewed as giving sponsored messages.

My reading of this says that if I frequently reviewed commercial items (books or software, for example) that were given me free of charge for review purposes, I would need to disclose the source of the item I was reviewing. So far, that hasn’t happened, although web developers have occasionally told me about their new (and uniformly free) RSS services. I have (sometimes) chosen to review those tools. No money has ever changed hands and, because the products themselves are free, I received no financial advantage through my reviewing.
That the FTC is weighing in on blogs and their role in our consumer society shows what an impact the blogosphere has made. It is important for all of us bloggers to keep in mind that what we write can have a financial impact, whether we are commercially-driven or not (I am in the sense that I really hope you click those ads in the sidebar, but not in the sense I’m looking for money to write what I write, when I write it). And when there are financial incentives, as defined by the FTC, it’s important to state them explicitly.