Panlibus Blog

Archive for August, 2006

Red light for RedLightGreen

I was sad to read the report of the demise of the innovative RedLightGreen, from the OCLC absorbed RLG, which has been providing a book location and citation service since 2003.

An early and obvious casualty of the OCLC RLG ‘combining’ back in July.  The announcement confirms Paul Miller’s prophecy:

What, for example, does this mean for the freely accessible and oft-praised RedLightGreen? Will it disappear from the public web, locked forever inside the subscription-powered monolith that is WorldCat?

As the announcement indicates it could not compete with the features [or soon to be available in 2007 features] of WorldCat.org.

So time, and OCLC move on.  I shall miss it.  Not only because RedLightGreen was the first non-Talis consumer of the Talis Platform (using the Bibliographic Deep Linking API to link users directly in to Library OPACs) but  also as a trail-blazer in providing simple but effective web technology to do what users wanted.  To quote RedLightGreen’s own words:

What was once available to major university libraries and research institutions only can now be accessed by all who come to the Web.

In 2003 that was quite an innovative approach, providing a service to be accessed by all.  In many ways it still would be, if it wasn’t closing down.

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Out-of-copyright book download from Google

Reported by Michael Arrington on TechCrunch, Google Book Search has added the ability to allow PDF downloads of out-of-copyright books.

Until now, Google only allowed people to read the out-of-copyright books online (and only snippets of copyrighted works). To search the database of available full titles, go to books.google.com and click the “full view books” option when searching. This new move contradicts earlier statements by Google that scans of out-of-copyright books would not be made available for printing.

Its happening almost without us noticing

Returning to the office for a rest after a relaxing [if you can call negotiating 140 canal locks in a narrow boat in a week relaxing] week away I’m struck by several things that highlight the way that Web 2.0 is weaving its way in to our daily lives.

  • Firstly, my posting from the deck of a canal boat shows that things like 3G enabled laptops, and the whole mobile revolution that is taking place, is getting the network to where we are.
  • Secondly, the entries in to the [now being judged] Mashing up the Library Competition have shown that orchestrating services together has the potential to add massive value to user experiences.
  • Then there is what Amazon is up to with their web services…..

    As a practical solution, to a combination of laziness and a concern about the vulnerability of the data on my home PC, I downloaded the beta [but already excellent] Jungle Disk and signed up to an Amazon S3 account. Now I have a copy of all my files, and more importantly my family’s files!, safely secured on Amazon’s spinning platters.  All for an estimated $2 for the first month (allowing for the 5Gb upload) and about $1/month there after.  – No more ‘why should I ‘ blank looks from the children when I ask them if they have backed up their work – and all at negligible cost.

    Then there is the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. The [very] limited beta hit the streets whilst I was afloat [with 3G card turned off] so I missed my invitation to join before it was full.  This is reminiscent of Sun’s Grid but somehow Amazon seem to have got their approach better, not to mention the price [$0.10 per instance per hour – Sun’s is currently $1.00 per CPU per hour]

    So, as I have mused before …


    The SOA Operating Platform is starting to emerge. Get your CPU cycles from a supplier like Sun [or now Amazon], get your network attached storage and queuing infrastructure from someone like Amazon, get your mapping application services from someone like Google, get your payment services from someone like PayPal, get your Library Domain specific Web Services from someone like Talis. Who, other than the core utility processing, storage, and queuing service providers, needs to invest in infrastructure anymore? 

    it is getting to the stage where it will only be the Sun’s, Google’s and Amazons that will be running data centers.  The rest of us will just use them to run our services.  

  • Also there is Worlcat.org an open site for you to search for items stocked by libraries which have invested in an OCLC subscription.  Complete with it’s downloadable search prompt, to put on your web page, it is yet another very small but significant step to get what people want to where they are when they need it.
  • And finally, there is the tool I’m using to compose this blog entry.  Thanks to Lorcan for giving me the heads up on Windows Live Writer at last a tool that lets me type my blog entry in to a page that looks like my blog.  There be a few wrinkles that need ironing out of this beta tool, but if you had told me only a few moths back that I would be praising a Microsoft tool to edit my Movabletype blog entries I would have said you were winding me up.

Each of these examples, and many more, in their own right are not earth shattering in their impact.  Taken together, and compared with the landscape from this time a year back, shows a massive shift in what is possible, and more important an acceptance by others [not Web 2.0 & Library 2.0 anoraks like myself] that this stuff should be there by default and just should work.

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Mashing up the Library Competition – attracts many excellent entries

Mashing up the Library competition logo

The competition closed last night with a total of eighteen excellent entries – all of which can be viewed here.

Now the job of the Judges starts. Watch this space for the results of their cogitations.

On a Library/Web 2.0 note – posting this from the deck of a canal boat, with the aid of a 3G enabled laptop, is certainly a surreal experience.

Still I shouldn’t moan as I have been preaching for the last many months that the point of Library 2.0 is to get the services to the users wherever they are – even if it is on holiday on a canal boat!

Belushi Book brings tears to cataloguers eyes

The Onion reports: Dewey Decimal System Helpless To Categorize New Jim Belushi Book

“With all due respect to the author, we remain unsure how to categorize this particular work,” said the chair of OCLC’s Editorial Policy Committee

I bet the social taggers, building up folksonomies, don’t have the same problems. To be fair though they are not trying to shoe-horn the book in to a rigid classification system – mind you isn’t that the point.

Listen to the Library 2.0 Gang

Anyway apart from being mildly amusing this gives me a good opportunity to recommend a listen to the Library 2.0 Gang podcast from a couple of weeks back on the subject of folksonomies and tagging – well worth a listen. On the Gang for this session were Casey Bisson, Ian Corns, Christina Pikas, Karen Schneider, and Tim Spalding.

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Wikicat

The Wikimeadia Foundation the international non-profit organization behind some of the largest collaboratively-edited reference projects in the world including Wikipedia, have a project that has been running for the last few months named Wikicat.

Wikicat’s basic premise is to become the bibliographic catalog used by the Wikicite and WikiTextrose projects. The Wikicite project recognizes that “A fact is only as reliable as the ability to source that fact, and the ability to weigh carefully that source” and because of this the need to cite sources is recognized in the Wikipedia community standards. WikiTextrose is a project to analyze relationships between texts and is “inspired by long-established theories in the field of citation analysis

In simple terms the Wikicat project is attempting to assemble a bibliographic database [yes another one] of all the bibliographic works cited in Wikimedia pages.

It is going to do this initially by harvesting records via Z39.50 from other catalogues such as the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, and others as they are added to their List of Wikicat OPAC Targets. Then when a citation, that includes a recognizable identifier such as ISBN or LOC number, is included in a page the authoritative bibliographic record can then be used to create a ‘correct’ citation. Eventually the act of citing a previously unknown [to Wikicat] work should automatically help to populate the Wikicat catalogue. – Participative cataloguing without needing to use the word folksonomy!

Putting aside the tempting discussion about can a Z39.50 target be truly described as an OPAC, the thing that is different about this cataloguing project is not what they are attempting to achieve but how they are going about it. The Wikicat home page states:

It will be implemented as a Wikidata dataset using a datamodel design based upon IFLA‘s Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) [1], the various ISBD standards, the Library of Congress‘s MARC 21 specification, the Anglo-American Cataloguing RulesThe Logical Structure of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, and the International Committee for Documentation (CIDOC)‘s Conceptual Reference Model (CRM)[2].

So it isn’t just going to be a database of Marc records then!

Reading more it is clear that once the initial objective of creating an automatic lookup of bibliographic records to create citations has been achieved, this could become a far more general open participative cataloguing project, complete with its own cataloguing rules managed by the WikiProject Librarians.

Because they are starting with FRBR at the core of the project, the quality, authority and granularity of the relationships between bibliographic entities potentially could be of the highest quality. This could lead to many benefits for the bibliographic community, not least a wikiXisbn service [my name] that is ‘better’ than OCLC’s xISBN.

So does the world need yet another cooperative cataloguing initiative? – working for an organisation that has cooperative cataloguing in its DNA for over thirty-five years, I should be careful how I answer this!

Throwing care to the wind – Yes. When you consider that all the other cooperative cataloguing initiatives [including as of today the one traditionally supported by Talis] are bounded by project, geographical, institutional, political, subject area, commercial, exclusive licensing, or high financial barrier to entry issues. What is refreshing about Wikicat is that, like Wikipedia, the only barrier to entry, both for retrieving and adding data, is Internet connectivity.

Unlike Wikipedia where some concerns about data quality are overridden by the value of it’s totally participative nature, the Wikicat team are clearly aware that the value of a bibliographic database is directly connected to the quality, consistency and therefore authority of the data that it holds. For this reason, the establishing of cataloguing rules and training for potential editors overseen by the WikiProject Librarians is already well detailed in the project operational stages roadmap.

I will be watching Wikicat with interest to see how it develops.

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Open Directory now open for opening hours

The Talis Directory of Library Collections, which already underpins many open services has added opening hours to the set of attributes you can enter about a location.

Not a massive leap forward you may say, in fact the facility appeared a few days ago without many people noticing. What it demonstrates though is the simple flexibility of using RDF in the underlying semantic data store for the directory. A traditional relational database powered application would have required re-engineering to add extra columns to its tables. In an RDF world opening hours are now just associated with a location. In fact the major piece of work is around updating the user interface to manage them.

There are many other attributes that the Directory could store about Library Collections and Locations, and introducing them will be a much simpler process because of the choice of RDF as the architecture for the Directory. If you have thoughts on what information should be stored in a directory, join the discussion on the TDN Talis Platform Forum.

As with everything in the Directory these attributes are available to be retrieved and queried via the SPARQL query API. So using the Platform APIs, it is not only possible to discover which libraries hold a particular item, but also to refine that selection to only show the ones that are open on a Sunday.

Mashing up the Library competition logoMaybe wishful thinking but, with 3 days left to run for the Mashing up the Library Competition, I wonder if we will see Library Opening hours being used in any competition entries?

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Second Life after DOPA

Listen to the Library 2.0 Gang

Second Life after DOPA – Wishful thinking? – No, but it was the order of topics for this week’s Library 2.0 Gang podcast from Talking with Talis.

As a Brit, watching the results of the inner workings, machinations, and political motivations of the US political system can only be a spectator sport. Some of the idiotsyncratic decisions made by the UK Parliament seem to have been outdone in recent weeks by their American cousins with this DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act) thingy.

From what I understand about this appropriately named bill, which is much more after the discussion, it is a monumentally mistargeted piece of legislation. Having written that, I can visualize hordes of irate comments heading my way accusing me of being complacent in the face of rampant Internet pedophilia. So let me hasten to clarify that I’m totally in tune with the concerns for the young, the innocent, and the vulnerable that motivates those who have started this bill on its way. What I am disappointed about is how these concerns have been enacted in to a proposed law with very little apparent understanding about the medium that it is trying to control.

So why should a guy from Talis in the UK be concerned by a potential US law? – Well much of the promise the emerging change on the Internet, loosely labeled Web 2.0, and the technological aspects of the Library 2.0 changes appearing in the Library world, are being fueled by social software which to a large extent is coming from US based organisations. [As a Talis employee I must point out that Library 2.0 technology developments are not exclusively the domain of US based organisations!] If DOPA blights the growth of such systems the impact will be felt world wide.

After a fascinating insight of the way the US Library community is reacting to DOPA, the gang moved on to one of the social software phenomena that could be effected by it, Second Life. Second Life, and it’s younger partner Teen Second Life, is a virtual world in which you navigate a virtual person around, visit virtual places, do virtual things, meet with other virtual people, build virtual places, start virtual businesses, and even run a virtual library. I’m not the only one who thinks there is something powerful that is being demonstrated by Second Life and the people that you find in it. I’m not sure what it really is yet but there is a germ of something that a few years down the road may well have changed the way we interact with technology.

All is not peace and light though, a Library 2.0 Gang participant was shot at outside the Second Life Library. So in true Library fashion there has now been erected a virtual sign, near the site of the virtual shooting, proclaiming the banning of virtual weapons from the virtual area.

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Mashing up London ?

Mashing up the Library competition logo

There may only be two weeks left to get your entries in for the one and only Mashing up the Library competition, but the number of other places to which you can then turn your new-found talents continues to grow.

Checking (as one does) the excellent ProgrammableWeb, I see that UK-based telecoms giant, BT, has got in on the act. ProgrammableWeb’s Contests page lists their BT Exact Mashup Competition 2006, which carries a first prize of £2,500. Entries are due by 6 October.

Digging a little deeper, and carefully editing out my stream of rude comments about the unciteability of Flash-based websites, the objective is to help ‘Simon’ gain access to information in order to help him in his new life in London. Many (all?) of the things he wants to know about are well within scope for a library, and it would be interesting to see the sorts of solutions that this sector might offer him.

BT clearly agree, as there’s a prominent link to this on their list of half a dozen “sites useful in your challenge”. So – don’t let libraries down! Show BT (and the world) what we’re capable of!

The competition is open to “UK, EU and US residents” (last time I checked, the UK was in the EU, despite the best efforts of some of our more loony press), so finish your entry for us and then get on to this one.

If you’re thinking about entering, and fancy the idea of pairing up with a London-based library, why not drop a note onto the ideas forum we set up for Mashing up the Library, and we’ll see what we can do to match make?

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summa – the modest ‘search engine of the future’

Summa logo

summa was another find that landed in my inbox recently, sent there this time by Jens Hofman Hansen at Århus’ Statsbiblioteket (State and University Library) in Denmark, and very interesting it is too!

Helpfully, the interface, feature list and white paper have all been translated into English. I may have passed my driving test at Legoland and spent many happy summers building dams on Danish beaches, but my linguistic skills aren’t quite up to the required level.

“Summa is an integrated search system which simultaneously accesses a number of different data sources currently provided to the users of the State and University Library, and which could conceivably be expanded to make even more information available to the library’s users.”

The interface gathers together many of the features that come up again and again in calls to improve the OPAC, and shows some of the ways in which they work, as well as some of the areas we’re really going to have to get better at as we move forward.

According to the white paper,

“Summa consists of a set of independent modules communicating through tested enterprise protocols such as JINI, RMI and SOAP web services. All modules are developed in Java 5 and J2EE 1.4, and all include enterprise monitoring and administration via JSR-3 (JMX). Summa can be administrated through standard administration and monitoring software such as IBM-Tivoli.”

So does that mean we can get at most of summa’s capabilities as web services that could be reused somewhere else?

Take a look, and see if the ‘search engine of the future’ looks like you thought it would…

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