Panlibus Blog

Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

‘Free Our Data’ debate

Free Our Data campaign logo

This morning’s Guardian newspaper includes a short piece to mark a new phase in their ongoing Free Our Data campaign. The story is also online, for those without the printed paper.

On the evening of 17 July, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts in London will be hosting a debate on the issue, with speakers to include the Guardian‘s Charles Arthur, OPSI‘s director Carol Tullo (also, as is the way with senior public sector posts in the UK, “the Queen’s Printer”), and Ordnance Survey‘s CTO Ed Parsons.

The event is free, and you can book tickets via the RSA’s web site.

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Tweaking the feeds

I have made some minor modifications to the feeds from Panlibus.

The default feed, to which most of you are probably already subscribed, will now include comments. You may see some duplication of entries already in your aggregator, but this duplication will gradually disappear as the feed is refreshed with totally new content after today.

For those who prefer to keep posts and comments separate, there are two new feeds. This one only carries posts to the blog. This one only carries comments.

We will monitor these new feeds – and reader reaction to them – for a period, but all being well would then intend to apply the same approach to Talis’ other blogs.

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‘Protecting’ Web 2.0

Check out this post on our sister blog, Nodalities, for details of some legal heavy handedness around the term “Web 2.0 Conference”.

I trust that Michael Casey doesn’t have similar intentions for “Library 2.0” ? 😉

Whilst I might expect such legal silliness from a traditional big business like CMP, I’m somewhat surprised – and very disappointed – by the follow-up from O’Reilly Media.

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Making the data work harder

Windows Live Local

A member of Microsoft’s Windows Live Local team writes

“As part of the launch of the latest Windows Live Local web app, today we also shipped a WLL plugin for Microsoft Outlook. It’s a free download – get it here. Hands down, my fave feature is the automatic time buffering on calendar appointments based on travel time” (my emphasis)

So obvious. So useful. Such a perfect example of taking data that already exists, and having machines do things with it that we’d just have to do in our own heads otherwise… Well done Microsoft.

Now, if it were just available as a generic service that could be accessed in Entourage/ iCal/wherever, and include travel data for the billions of people outside the US who use cars, we’d be set!

Oh, and the whole ‘Live’ naming thing is still silly. ‘Microsoft Windows Live Local’, indeed!

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Responding to Ed Vielmetti responding to Paul Miller

Responding to an earlier post from today, Ed Vielmetti writes

“I suppose it’s all a matter of framing the question right.

If it’s patrons marking up the library’s catalog, then well I suppose you would have to be really protective to not have them trash things.

On the other hand, if it’s patrons marking up their own collections (which happen to reference materials owned by the library) then it’s only natural to give them free rein to do whatever they want within reason.

Shared participation is an interesting question. On LibraryThing it’s really handy to track down shared readers of obscure books. On the other hand, here in Ann Arbor there are a lot of book readers, and it’d really be rather nice to read comments from people who shared the same town with you. If I want to read random untrusted comments from people all over the world there’s already Amazon.”

On Ed’s point about ‘protection’, I actually think we’re far too protective already. We go into everything we do assuming that ‘bad users’ are going to ‘trash’ things. Most of them don’t, and there are plenty of ways to deal with those that do. I remember discussions around an archival project in the UK. The subject matter was such that the site was likely to prove a magnet to elements in society fond of trashing. Yet not one submission to the site (at the time) had to be blocked. Not one. Even the BBC, a real focus for life online here, has moved to a policy of retrospective policing; they give you the benefit of the doubt, allow you to participate, and take down offensive or inappropriate posts if they come across them.

We have backups. We have rollbacks. We have a barrage of similar technologies, and we shouldn’t be afraid to use them if we really need to. We also have the law. We might find, though, that rather than ‘trash’, the vast majority of people actually enrich.

Shouldn’t libraries, those bastions of community, participation and inclusion, give their members the benefit of the doubt too?

John – have you had to edit any of the comments on the catalogue at AADL?

And on shared participation, there’s certainly a place for viewing comments by those geographically nearby. There must surely also be value in viewing comments across a community of interest, regardless of space. Yes, there’s already Amazon, but the comments are locked up there. A shareable pool of comments contributed to and consumed by libraries, LibraryThing and anyone else who wants to play would be so much more powerful. Build the pool big enough and capture (optionally) enough metadata on the way in, and segment it any way you like; geographically, by ‘authority’, whatever.

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Commenting on items in the catalogue

Card Catalogue image from AADL

Over on Library TechBytes, Helene points to a post from her Library 2.0 Bootcamp blog. The post flags work done at Hennepin County Library allowing library patrons to leave comments on books they have read.

Although rarer than it should be, this isn’t unheard of elsewhere in library land. John Blyberg, for example, provides a retro take on the whole thing for Ann Arbor District Library.

User participation of this sort really does seem to increase the bond between library and public, and channelled properly it is also pretty useful.

Why, though, (and this is not to knock the work already done at Hennepin, Ann Arbor, and elsewhere) are comments tied to a particular library? Might not the reader of the Da Vinci Code (I’ll not tell you how little I enjoyed it) in Ann Arbor find value in the comments of a reader in Hennepin County? Might both gain something from a review written by the Louvre’s curator of all things Da Vinci?

Participation is an important part of moving forward. How much better might shared participation be?

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Access 2006 ‘tentative programme’ released


The ‘tentative programme‘ for this year’s Access conference is now available.

It’s little more than a list of names so far, but the names certainly look like good ones! And yes, my name is on the list. It’s still a good list of names! 🙂

This year’s conference is in the Canadian capital, Ottawa; another city to which I look forward to returning.

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Institutional Web Management Workshop 2006 – Web 2.0 panel session

“The Web is changing. It is no longer a phenomenon but has integrated itself within our culture. However for those creating Web services times are far from stable. A wide range of Web-based applications continue to be developed, such as blogs, wikis, podcasting, social networking software, RSS feeds etc. The Semantic Web is still on the cards and now we have Web 2.0, an opportunity for a more sharing, more participative Web? Is it just hype? Will these progressions make any difference to the way in which we go about our work? What does Web 2.0 mean to the Institutional Web?”

CETISScott Wilson, Amazon‘s Don Young and myself will be proposing some answers in a panel session at this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, organised by UKOLN and to be held at the University of Bath from 14-16 June 2006. It should be an interesting session, and we’re hoping for plenty of engagement from the floor!

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We’ve paid, so let us in!

Free Our Data campaign logo

Charles Arthur has a piece in today’s Technology supplement to the Guardian newspaper, moving their ongoing “Free Our Data” campaign forward. The work that we are currently doing with academic and public libraries clearly has some philosophical synergies with this extremely worthwhile campaign.

The campaign has been underway since March and, as the campaign site explains,

“The argument is simple: government-funded and approved agencies such as the Ordnance Survey and UK Hydrographic Office and Highways Agency collect data using our funds, but then charge users and companies for access to it.

That restricts innovation and artificially restricts the number and variety of organisations that can offer services based on that most useful data – which our taxes have helped to collect.

Making that data available for free – rather as commercial companies such as Amazon and Google do with their catalog and maps data – would vastly expand the range of services available. It cannot make any sense that Google, an American organisation, is presently more popular with people aiming to create new map applications.”

We are arguing that libraries, whether funded by the State or other means, are better able to fulfil their mission if they and their assets can be located, accessed, and used. An open approach such as that behind the Talis Platform, we argue, better prepares individual libraries and the sector at large to take a place in the wider information landscape, reliably and consistently locatable, addressable, and actionable thanks to open and simple yet powerful web service calls into the Platform from any application, anywhere.

The days of competing closed silos of data, jealously guarded and made available only to those who know the requisite handshake or have the good fortune of extensive budgets, must surely be numbered. None of them are good enough. None of them meet the needs of a mobile and enquiring populace who care naught for the vendor behind their library’s systems or the clique to which their library authority chooses to belong. These users deserve to see the totality of this country’s library services when they wish or need to, and third parties wishing to add value to data originated within libraries are less likely to go elsewhere if we are able to project those data openly and consistently onto a global stage far bigger than libraries, and almost wholly uninterested in the peculiarities of library standards and practice.

And, to return to the final sentence of my quote from their site,

“It cannot make any sense that Google, an American organisation, is presently more popular with people aiming to create new map applications.”

Not for nothing did we power the visually arresting “Are you on the Map?” demo at last week’s Library & Information Show with Google Earth, or win one of Ideal Government‘s prizes last year with our initial mashing up of Google Maps. We’d love to be able to do something similar with data from the Ordnance Survey.

Data, whether basic spatial data or basic information about a book and the libraries in which it may be found, are nothing special in and of themselves. They are a means to an end. They are a component part in building something bigger and better, something that actually meets some purpose on the part of the enquirer. These new applications that mine our huge databases, orchestrate task-specific parts of our disparate services, and deliver solutions at the point of need are the point to which value is shifting with increasing rapidity.

The value has moved from legacy systems, legacy business models, and legacy mind sets. Get over it, and move on.

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Approaching a significant milestone

As regular readers will be aware, I joined Talis last September. I moved from a very different world at the heart of the public sector, where I ambled along corridors of power at the Cabinet Office, the BBC, and in various Government departments and agencies.

Even more important to me than escaping the horror of spending time in London every week, the primary motivating factor behind leaving all of that behind and moving to Talis was the vision painted by our CEO, Dave Errington, and his infectious and unstinting conviction that Talis really could do it.

Although the term itself had yet to be coined by Michael Casey over in Georgia, that vision was one of Library 2.0. It was a vision of open, extensible systems. It was a vision in which libraries were encouraged and enabled to unlock their undeniable potential, and to push their proposition out to the contexts in which it would be of most value to them and to their users. It was a vision of community, of sharing, of cooperation, of necessary disruption, of challenge, of opportunity, and of a long hard slog to something better. It was a vision of an environment in which commercial organisations and the public sector worked together when appropriate, rather than always resorting to the fundamentally flawed models of unstinting competition on the one hand and unfailing adherence to the issuing of tenders on the other.

Realising the whole vision remains some way off, but it comes very much closer with the impending release of APIs around the Silkworm Directory, and the publication of associated documentation on the TDN. The idea of the Directory dates to before I joined Talis, and seeing an early iteration of it was an important part of persuading myself to take the plunge. RLG recognised the possibilities, too, and leveraged the Directory within RedLightGreen. The game changes significantly, though, with the opening of mechanisms to allow anyone to contribute to or consume from the Directory, either via our web interfaces, web interfaces built by others, or programatically via the APIs, and those who have seen it begin to share our internal optimism.

A Directory may not seem much to get excited about at first glance, but this one is different, and it will take a while to grasp just how different it is, and how those differences herald something new.

The Directory is not the end. The current web interface, and the documented APIs that will come this month do not even mark the end of the Directory, as further iterations lurk behind the scenes for phased release over the coming months.

Things are changing. Things are getting better. Join the TDN, read the documentation when it comes out and see how easy it is to enrich your own environments with the Directory and with the other Platform components to follow it. Join in, make it better, make it work for you, and make it work for all of us and for our users, existing and as yet unmet.

Seeing what Ian Davis and the rest of the Platform team have done within Talis reaffirms that Dave Errington’s persuasiveness was justified, and that my decision was the right one.

I can’t wait for the next phase of the journey.

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