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March 30, 2004

Congress Looking to Kill P2P

Members of Congress may be leading a bipartisan effort that would give federal prosecutors the authority to prosecute people that use peer-to-peer networks, and collect fines and other monetary damages from those users.

Wired News reported last week that members of the House Judiciary Committee have been circulating a draft bill that "would make it much easier for the Justice Department to pursue criminal prosecutions against file sharers by lowering the burden of proof."

The bill also would seek penalties of fines and prison time of up to ten years for file sharing, according to the story.

Additionally, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) have drafted and introduced a separate bill, named the Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act of 2004 (or "Pirate Act"), that would give federal prosecutors the ability to collect monetary damages from persons who are liable for copyright infringement. Currently, copyright law allows only the copyright owner to recover monetary damages.

"Peer-to-peer file sharing software has created a dilemma for law-enforcement agencies. Millions of otherwise law-abiding American citizens are using this software to create and redistribute infringing copies of popular music, movies, computer games and software," said Hatch. "It is critical that we bring the moral force of the government to bear against those who knowingly violate the federal copyrights enshrined in our Constitution. The bill I join Senator Leahy in sponsoring today will allow the Department of Justice to supplement its existing criminal-enforcement powers through the new civil-enforcement mechanism. As a result, the [Department of Justice] will be able to impose stiff penalties for violating copyrights, but can avoid criminal action when warranted."

Hatch and Leahy have been longtime members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the committee that has jurisdiction over intellectual property matters. The House Judiciary Committee also has jurisdiction over intellectual property legislation passed in the junior house of Congress.

This legislative initiative is another in a string of several recent efforts to criminalize the use of peer-to-peer networks. On March 19, we analyzed a separate news item that reported an initiative by states' attorneys general to portray the makers of peer-to-peer software as manufacturers of defective products. Under such a legal theory, the manufacturers could be held liable under state product liability laws.

Additionally, the Wired News story points out that the entertainment industries "are pushing to portray P2P networks as dens of terrorists, child pornographers and criminals -- a strategy that would make it more palatable for politicians to pass laws against products that are very popular with their constituents."

Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act of 2004

Xeni Jardin. Congress Moves to Criminalize P2P. Wired News. March 26, 2004.

Declan McCullagh, et al. P2P Faces New Legal Scrutiny from States March 15, 2004.

United States Senate, Committee on the Judiciary. Protecting Creative Works in a Digital Age.

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March 29, 2004 Now Supports TrackBack has just been updated to allow for TrackBack and pings, so feel free to make use of them. Spammers, I didn't mean you.

Just as an example, this post will ping a previous post here at this site, Lessig's "Free Culture" is Free.

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Lessig's "Free Culture" is Free

Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig has just released his new book, Free Culture (2004, Penguin; ISBN:1594200068), and he and the publisher have arranged to make the entire book available for free.

The book is available in many formats, including Adobe's PDF, ZIP file, and Microsoft's MS-Reader. The multiple format translation is made available courtesy of Blackmask Online, a publisher of HTML books focusing on mystery and horror using content borrowed from the Gutenberg Project.

Additionally, the book is available in several audio-only versions.

The manufacturing and distribution of the audio-only versions are possible because the book's copyright is governed by a Creative Commons license. Free Culture's license allows people to to copy, distribute, display, and perform the book, as well as make derivative works as long as people give credit to Lessig and do not look to make commercial uses of the work or its derivations.

It will be very interesting to see what, if any, effect Lessig's approach has on sales of the physical book. The publisher, Penguin, should be commended for allowing Lessig to follow this approach.

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March 28, 2004

Can Blogs Replace Communities of Practice?

"Before the development of weblogs, 'online community' tools like forums, mailing lists and bulletin boards were predominantly used for community building. Experience seems to show that weblogs are proving far more effective in creating meaningful interpersonal connections than centralized community spaces on the web. Can networks of bloggers be seen as the future of online communities?"

Mopsos. Blogs and CoPs. March 22, 2004.

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IM the MLS

The R.B. House Undergraduate Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill is implementing instant messaging as a service offering to patrons.

Update (April 1, 2004): interviews Suchi Moranty, a librarian at UNC-CH's House library, about this initiative in its new Connections Column. The interview will be published on Monday, April 5. (KMD)

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March 26, 2004

Toolbars Broaden Search

It seems that Google is not the only company that is doing innovative things in the search space. I recently received notice that two companies have implemented RSS into search toolbars, and one of the toolbars allows users to search the Web and desktop simultaneously.

We'll start with the Lycos toolbar. "[Lycos' HotBot Desktop] works as an internet browser toolbar," according to a PC World story. "In addition to searching the web, HotBot Desktop supports indexing and searching of Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail and files in Microsoft Office, PDF and most text-based formats.

"The tool also includes an RSS browser, which allows users to choose from hundreds of included RSS feeds, often used for distributing news content. Users can also add custom RSS feeds or subscriber-based feeds."

The Lycos toolbar is the first application to combine desktop and Web searching.

Separately, Dogpile has announced that it has integrated RSS into 2.2. version of its search toolbar. The toolbar sends RSS feed results directly into the Web browser, and unlike the Lycos toolbar, the Dogpile Search Toolbar 2.2 also reads syndication feeds written in the Atom specification.

The Lycos and Dogpile toolbars both run on the Microsoft Windows operating system, and work with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Scarlett Pruitt. Lycos Combines Web, Desktop Search. PC World. March 22, 2004.

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Largent Lobbies for Cell Phone Industry has recently published an interview with Steve Largent, the new chief executive officer of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).

CTIA is the chief industry representative and lobbyist for the cellular telephone industry. Before arriving at CTIA, Largent was a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, and a wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League. Largent was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

The interview discusses many topics, including the pending AT&T-Cingular; merger, why the U.S. lags behind other countries in providing wireless service, and the federal mandate that will require all cell phones to be identified and located whenever a caller dials 911.

Ben Charny. Running with Wireless. March 23, 2004.

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March 25, 2004

Government Adopts RSS

RSS in Government, a news source that "reports on how RSS is being used by international, federal, state and local governments," has a recent posting that points out that the Wisconsin's Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) is making many of their publications available via RSS feeds -- including the state's legislative Blue Book.

"The LRB has created RSS channels for 11 publication series, and one for each of twenty-one subject areas," reports RSS. "For example, if you were interested in following State and Local Government in Wisconsin, you could learn about new briefs through the category RSS feed."

The RSS in Government story also asks a very relevant question: why don't libraries and publishers offer RSS feeds for new acquisitions? does: the bookseller announced earlier this month that it would offer specialized category feeds to alert potential customers of new offerings in subject matters of interest.

Additionally, the Utah legislature began offering an RSS feed of its content in December. According to RSS in Government, current offerings include "notices of the Legislature's Interim Newsletter (in pdf), legislative audit results, and other significant content changes on the Web site."

Finally, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team ("US CERT"), the federal government agency that coordinates the country's response to cyber attacks, offers several RSS feeds for security alerts, technical alerts, and bulletins.

And even members of Congress are getting on the RSS bandwagon: RSS in Government reported in December that Rep. Julia Carson (D.-Ind.) became the first member of Congress to establish an RSS newsfeed. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) became the first Senator to establish an RSS feed when he created one in January to disseminate press releases.

RSS seems to be a natural way for libraries and publishers to distribute key information to current and prospective customers, not only for acquisitions, but for customer service. And given the library's large, credible role in most communities, those institutions can use RSS feeds to distribute information about weather, program offerings, and even emergency notifications.

Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. Subscribe to LRB News Feeds.

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Yahoo! Revamps News Search

"Yahoo released a new version of its news search engine late last week, a new move in what may be a modern-day version of the great newspaper wars.

"The old version of Yahoo News combined content from 100 Yahoo news partners, although its advanced news search option did enable users to search 4,500 Web sources. The new version of Yahoo News, which the company is calling Yahoo News Search 2.0, now enables users to search more than 7,000 global news sources in 35 languages.

"This makes Yahoo News Search 2.0 appear to be "more comprehensive" than Google News, which presents information culled from approximately 4,500 news sources worldwide. However, a series of queries on both news search engines presents a relatively mixed picture."

Greg Jarboe. Yahoo! News Upgrades To Take On Google News. Search Engine Watch. March 22, 2004.

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Stopping Chat-Based Pedophiles

"A British computer programmer has created sophisticated new software that aims to detects pedophiles attempting to contact children in Internet chat rooms.

"[ChatNannies] works by giving a convincing impression of a young person taking part in a chat room conversation, while at the same time analyzing the behavior of the person it is chatting with."

Reuters. ChatNannies Program Scans for Pedophiles. March 17, 2004.

ChatNannies. How to Use ChatNannies.

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March 24, 2004

Spam Dampens E-Mail's Utility

"The distress of Internet users at spam has increased in recent months and growing numbers of Internet users are becoming disillusioned with email, despite the first national anti-spam legislation which went into effect on January 1.

"A new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project between February 3 and March 1, 2004 shows 29% of email users say they have reduced their overall use of email because of spam; 63% of email users said that the influx of spam made them less trusting of email in general; and 77% of emailers said the flood of spam made the act of being online unpleasant and annoying."

Lee Rainie and Deborah Fallows. Pew Internet Project Data Memo: The impact of CAN-SPAM legislation. Pew Internet & American Life Project. March 2004.

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March 23, 2004

FAQ Sheet for

What is – Social Software for the Information Professional™ is an electronic publication that analyzes social software and how it affects the work of information professionals. ( began publishing in March 2004.

What is social software?

“Social software” is a catch-all phrase that describes any tool that helps people collaborate on the Web. Social software includes the following products or technologies:

  • Blogs
  • E-mail
  • File Sharing
  • Gaming
  • Handheld Devices
  • Instant Messaging
  • Internet Relay Chat
  • Internet Telephony
  • Listservs
  • Mobile Phones
  • Open Source Software
  • Peer-to-Peer Networking
  • RSS & Web Syndication
  • Search Engines
  • Webconferencing
  • Web Services
  • Wikis
  • Wireless Networking

Who should read

Anyone who is involved with creating, saving, distributing or organizing information should read, including:

  • Authors
  • Chief Information Officers
  • IT Directors
  • Journalists
  • Librarians
  • Multimedia Developers
  • Programmers
  • Researchers
  • Publishers
  • Web developers
Why should I read provides information about how people use social software to work more collaboratively and efficiently. Most other publications discuss social software in financial terms, speculating whether social software companies will make money for investors and venture capitalists. In contrast, analyzes products, trends, business models and resources in the social software space, and show how information professionals can implement these tools in order to improve communication and services.

Who publishes is published as a joint venture between a pair of veteran information professionals: K. Matthew Dames and Stephen E. Arnold. Both Kevin and Steve have extensive backgrounds in information transfer, including computing, libraries, law, journalism and search.

What information is available on

Currently, provides a free news service that gives information professionals timely and relevant information about the key developments in the social software industry. We write original content, and also write abstracts of other key stories published on the Web. We have also begun creating profiles of the companies and tools we discuss in our stories.

Future enhancements will include a searchable archive of our news component, a social software glossary, and interviews and profiles with the information professionals who are using social software in innovative ways in their workplaces.

Can I contribute to

Absolutely. You can contribute in one of two ways. First, you can send thoughts, comments, kudos, criticisms, or suggestions to us either on the site, or the editors via e-mail at

Second, we always welcome articles, interviews, profiles, and clips from information professionals. If you wish to contribute to, please contact K. Matthew Dames at – Social Software for the Information Professional™

Founder and Editor
K. Matthew Dames

Co-Founder and Editor
Stephen E. Arnold


Revised March 22, 2004

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March 22, 2004

Google is an Ad Company

"While most of the $500 billion ad world fixates on high-touch branding - spots designed to imprint a name on a consumer's mind - Google is going after low-profile but lucrative segments once lorded over by business directories and newspaper classifieds."

Josh McHugh. It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World. Wired. March 2004.

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March 19, 2004

States Looking to Lock Up P2P

Once the exclusive domain of federal prosecutors, strategies aimed at shutting down peer-to-peer networks are now being studied by state attorneys general, according to a March 15 California Attorney General Bill Lockyer was discovered. The letter, which was leaked to peer-to-peer networking companies, "demands that peer-to-peer companies do a better job of protecting customers from numerous 'known risks' of their products and warns them against developing features that would hinder police from pursuing criminals such as copyright infringers," according to the report.

By using such language, the states may be trying to portray peer-to-peer networking companies as manufacturers of defective or potentially dangerous products. If classified in such a manner, file sharing products would have to bear extensive warning labels, and aggrieved copyright owners may be able to win damages from the products' manufacturers under state product liability statutes and federal copyright infringement laws.

In addition to being home to a vast number of entertainment companies whose intellectual property may be illegally traded on peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa, California also has some of the most stringent product liability laws in the country.

Officials from the Motion Picture Association appear to been involved in drafting a portion of the letter, the report continues. "[It] should 'come as no surprise to anybody that we talked to attorneys general, particularly the chief law enforcement officer in California, because of the impact that illegal file copying and stealing has on motion pictures and sound-recording industries, the lifeblood of California,'" MPAA Vice President for state legislative affairs Van Stevenson said to

If the states were to get involved in copyright issues by investigating and bringing legal action against file sharing companies, it would mark the second time over the past decade that the entertainment industries sought to use or affect state law in order to enforce or influence copyright law, an area governed by federal statute. Previously, a coalition led in part by the entertainment industries sought to pass the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) in all 50 states.

If passed as a uniform law, UCITA would have created new rules for software licensing, online access and other transactions in computer information that would have been detrimental to consumers' rights. In the end, most states' attorneys general opposed UCITA, as did a coalition that included library associations, law professors, and consumer advocacy groups.

To date, UCITA has been implemented as law only in Maryland and Virginia.

Declan McCullagh, et al. P2P Faces New Legal Scrutiny from States. March 15, 2004.

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Search Goes Local

Search engine companies have developed several new innovations over the past few years that are aimed at generating revenue and profit. "Pay-for-performance" advertising (text-based ads that are tied to search results) and "paid inclusion" (a program that allows site owners to pay to have hard-to-index information on their Web sites updated frequently and included in the index of the search engine) are two of the best-known.

Next up? Localization.

Google announced on March 17 that it is beta-testing a new system that the search engine company to display localized information in response to search requests that include a ZIP code or a city's name.

"Google's approach to local search involves using yellow page and business directory information from [unnamed] third party providers, and integrating it with information about individual businesses from Google's main web page index," according to a March 17 story in Search Engine Watch. "The key difference between Google and other local search offerings, such as those provided by online yellow pages, is that Google is incorporating additional information beyond basic business listings into its search results."

Google's foray into localized search is consistent with similar initiatives that other companies have commenced. For example, Yahoo! announced the debut its SmartView initiative in early March. SmartView, which is used in conjunction with Yahoo! Maps allows searchers to choose local points of interest and attractions to customize a current map display.

And Verizon recently overhauled its site to deliver more useful local results. The overhaul was done to support Verizon's "pay per click" advertising initiative, which charges businesses advertising fees only when searchers click through to their content. Advertisers bid on placement, setting their own price for what each click is worth, with higher bidders receiving top placement. Pay-per-click advertisers can adjust bids as often as they want -- to promote a seasonal sale, respond to competition or target specific geographies.

The localization effort is one of the ways search engines are seeking to tap into the small business market. It is estimated that American small businesses spend more than $20 billion annually on local advertising in the Yellow Pages, newspapers and direct mail.

Google. Google Local.

Chris Sherman. Google Pushes Local Search Into the Limelight. Search Engine Watch. March 17, 2004.

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March 18, 2004

RSS as File Transfer Mechanism

Andew Grumet, an MIT-educated computer programmer, has developed a piece of software that allows people to serve very large files over the Internet in much shorter time periods than would be possible even with the fastest Internet connection. The software is especially useful for transferring large mutlimedia files across the Web.

According to a Wired News article, Grumet's software meshes two social networking technologies: RSS and BitTorrent. "The hybrid system is meant to eliminate both the publisher's need for fat bandwidth, and the consumer's need to wait through a grueling download," writes Wired News's Paul Boutin.

"BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file-sharing system that optimizes bandwidth usage to enable its users to take full advantage of broadband connections, downloading a DVD's worth of data in hours rather than days," continues Boutin. "RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is an XML-based protocol used to serve news headlines and weblog entries in a streamlined, organized format that lets users subscribe to "feeds" of their favorite content."

Paul Boutin. Speed Meets Feed in Download Tool. March 15, 2004.

Andrew Grumet. Getting Started with BitTorrent + RSS in Radio [BETA]. March 11, 2004.

Andrew Grumet. Experimenting with BitTorrent and RSS. Technology at Harvard Law. No date.

Bram Cohen. Introduction. BitTorrent. No date.

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Social Software Leads Wired Rave Awards

Social software was the dominant technological influence during the 2004 Rave Awards, as the former campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Howard Dean was hailed for his use of social network technologies to raise money and communicate with constituents.

Joe Trippi shared his Rave Award for Political Force with Scott Heiferman, the CEO of Throughout the early stages of the Dean campaign, supporters used as a tool to coordinate their efforts.

The Rave Awards, which are sponsored by Wired Magazine, celebrate innovation and innovators. Awards are given in 14 categories, including Businessperson, Policy Mover, and Software Designer, and Political Force.

Bram Cohen won the Software Designer Rave Award for his BitTorrent application. BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file-sharing system that optimizes bandwidth usage to enable its users to take full advantage of broadband connections. The application allows large amounts of data to be downloaded from the Web in hours rather than days.

Four of the five nominees for the Software Designer award are involved in the social software space. In addition to Cohen, those nominated included Jonathan Abrams, Founder and CEO of Friendster; Toivo Annus, Janus Friis, Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, Jaan Tallin and Niklas Zennstrom, developers of the Skype Internet telephony application; and Dave Winer, architect and caretaker of the RSS specification.

Other winners included Steve Jobs, who was named 2004 Renegade of the Year for his work with Apple's iTunes Music Store and Pixar's animated film "Finding Nemo," and film director Peter Jackson, who won the Film Director award for "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Patrick Brown, Michael Eisen, Harold Varmus won the Science Award for their work with the Public Library of Science. The Public Library of Science is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a public resource.

The awards were presented March 15 at The Fillmore in San Francisco, California.

Wired. Rave Awards.

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March 17, 2004

Short URLs: The Ultimate Killer App

Wired News has posted a profile of Kevin Gilbertson, founder and developer of the eminently useful Web site transforms impossibly long URLs into short, sweet aliases. The beauty of TinyURL is that the URL aliases it develops always work -- they are not temporary addresses. is particularly useful when used to transform addresses on database-driven Web sites that dynamically generate mile-long URLs. The redesigned American Library Association Web site has been a major long-URL culprit (although the string-length of the URLs are better than they used to be).

For example, the ALA's USA PATRIOT Act page is available at:

But in, the same address comes out as:

Right now, is a free service, although the Wired article notes that Gilbertson is working to expand the site into a business. "The URL-shortening service will remain free, but he's developing customization services that would have a fee attached. Businesses might use the service to track information and gather statistics."

Katie Dean. Honey, I Shrunk the URL. March 16, 2004.

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Phoning the Cable Guy

"Cable companies are beginning to deploy new telephone services based on voice-over-IP technology, or VOIP, that could make their products even more competitive. Like the low-cost phone calls hundreds of thousands of consumers already make over the Internet, cable VOIP technology translates voice into a digital data stream. But cable's dedicated pipes -- upgraded to broadband at a cost of more than $80 billion over the last decade -- make for much higher quality and more reliable voice transmissions than often-sketchy Internet connections.

"Those pipes give cable companies a potential advantage in the voice market over telephone companies because telcos have been slow to upgrade their traditional circuit-switched telephone systems, which rely on huge switches to route phone calls over dedicated copper wires to consumers. High-speed cable lines can carry voice, video and data in one pipe."

Michael Stroud. Cable Guy Whupping Phone Guy. March 11, 2004.

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March 16, 2004

The Privacy Quandary, the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle has published a story that points out there are some potentially serious privacy problems lurking behind commercial social networking websites.

Author David Lazarus chronicles that Tickle, one of the leading social networking sites, has stated in its privacy policy that it "will never disclose your personal information to any third party unless you expressly tell us to." Yet Lazarus points out that Tickle is considering outsourcing its customer service function to a business located in the Phillippines.

Interestingly, Tickle does not think that such an arrangement would violate its privacy policy. "They're within our system," answered James Currier, Tickle's founder and chief executive officer. "They'd be under contract to us." As a result, Lazarus continues reporting, Tickle would not consider the Phillippine firm to be a third party.

Lazarus points out that this sort of arrangement is not unique to Tickle, but also notes correctly that it is very difficult for businesses to balance customer privacy with their desire -- and possible need -- to leverage customers' personal information into capital and profit. "The outsourcing of U.S. consumers' personal information is a widespread and growing trend, but it's also one that's transpiring largely behind consumers' backs," he writes. "Like most companies, Tickle wants it both ways. It seeks the competitive and economic advantages of exporting operations -- and consequently access to customers' data -- to cheaper workers abroad. At the same time, it keenly wants customers to believe that their privacy is a paramount concern."

David Lazarus. Sending More Info Abroad. San Francisco Chronicle. March 5, 2004.

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March 15, 2004

Hunting Google

"Analysts have already forecast a protracted and difficult battle among Google and Net titans Yahoo and Microsoft, which have both carved out Web search as a key piece of their businesses.

"Below the radar, Google also faces Lilliputian threats from a fast-growing group of start-ups that hope to replicate its own meteoric rise from unknown upstart to Internet powerbroker. While most of these companies are long shots, a handful have begun to garner attention from analysts and investors thanks to new technologies that expand on Google's formula and take it in entirely new directions."

Stefanie Olsen. Search Upstarts Storm Google's Gates. March 11, 2004.

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Redmond's Inner Circle

Lest you think that Microsoft is outside the social software wave, reports that the software giant has plans to implement these tools into new versions of its Office software suite and its new operating system, code named Longhorn.

According to Lili Cheng, group manager of the social-computing group within Microsoft Research, Inner Circle is one answer to the problems that occurs when software enhances, rather than hinders, persons' social lives. Inner Circle, which calls "not really a breakthrough in computer science as much as it is an exercise in cultural anthropology," automatically maintains and updates a list of about 20 people with whom one is e-mailing and instant messaging the most.

Ina Fried. Microsoft Wants to Know Who Your Friends Are. March 4, 2004.

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March 14, 2004

Rock the Vote Goes Mobile

"Rock the Mobile Vote, in partnership with phone maker Motorola, plans to offer information on candidates' stances on issues. Users also could request voter-registration forms. And the service will offer a candidate matchmaker quick quiz, which asks users for their opinions on major issues and tells them the candidate most in tune with them. Users also would be able to query their phone to find their polling place on Election Day. And, bringing MTV's influence to bear, Rock the Mobile Vote will be calling participants with get-out-the-vote pleas recorded by rock stars."

Daniel Terdiman. Cell Phones to Democracy's Rescue. March 11, 2004.

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IM, Meet CM reports on a new trend in content management: the preservation and cataloging of previously ignored documents.

As more information is transferred in documents such as instant messages, e-mail, chat sessions and listservs, companies like Open Text are introducing solutions that preserve such documents. Such features, which are available on products like Open Text's new product Livelink Instant Messenger, may be particularly useful in industries that require such information to be immediately available for regulatory or litigation purposes.

David Becker. Open Text adds IM to Content Management. March 10, 2004.

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March 13, 2004

Enterprise-Level Social Software has posted an interesting article about how one company used a slew of technologies -- including social networking software, portals, IM, videoconferencing -- to help manage its global presence. The article gives information professionals a glimpse of social software's possibilities for communication and collaboration.

Demir Barlas. A Virtual One-Room Company. March 11, 2004.

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March 12, 2004

P2P Being Used as Distribution Tool

A recent story outlines how one peer-to-peer network has reconfigured its business model into a content distribution business.

"Red Swoosh and rival Kontiki, along with a handful of other companies, say peer-to-peer technology allows content distributors to pass off much of their distribution costs--largely in the form of Net bandwidth charges--to their customers," according to the article. "For companies distributing large files to many people, such as gaming or video publishers, that can be a huge benefit, they say."

John Borland. Legal P2P Networks Gaining Ground. March 11, 2004.

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Mickey D's To Offer WiFi reports that McDonald's has begun to offer wireless access in a downtown San Francisco restaurant, and may announce plans for a wider rollout of the service in select restaurants by the end of this month.

The Golden Arches will be the latest large retail or restaurant chain to offer Wi-Fi access, which allows wireless-equipped laptops and handheld devices access to the Internet. Starbucks, Kinko's and Borders offer wireless access through T-Mobile USA. Barnes & Noble is planning to introduce wireless in as many as 650 of its stores by September, according to

Retailers are moving toward offering wireless access because in-store, online surfing tends to lead to longer customer stays, thereby boosting sales.

McDonald's also is expected to decide on its wireless service provider by the end of this month.

Richard Shim. McDonald's Wi-Fi Recipe Could Define Industry. March 12, 2004.

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March 11, 2004

Is the Bandwagon Only Half Full?

"Many consumers are not interested in handheld devices that offer multiple functions beyond making phone calls or holding data, according to a survey by Guideline Research, a custom market research firm. The survey of a representative group of online consumers also found that 25% of consumers think these multifunctional devices have limited functionality. ...

"Still, there is an early adapter niche in the market that does want these multifunctional devices. Nearly 40% of those surveyed said they were anxious to have a multifunctional device, while 10% said they already had a handheld device that performed more than one function."

Anthony Newman. "Consumers Don't Want It All, and They Don't Want It Now". InfoSync World. March 3, 2004.

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March 10, 2004

ICQ Meets Social Networking

ICQ, Inc., an AOL subsidiary, has announced the debut of ICQ Universe, a social networking service that will be built on top of the company's popular instant messaging platform.

"The purpose of ICQ Universe is to enable members of ICQ's community to meet new people in a more secure and safe way," according to a article. "Customers are already able to browse the extensive directory, but ICQ Universe allows them to check out people whom their friends and colleagues already know. It essentially lets members view their friends' buddy lists and examine the relationships and profiles of these new individuals before contacting them."

Membership in the ICQ Universe is by invitation only, according to the company. Guest users can register to join in the service's "virtual lobby." In this virtual lobby, guests can browse member profiles and request to join the ICQ Universe. Once invited to join ICQ Universe, the new member can create their own part of the universe, invite additional members to join and recruit new friends as they like. Members can also interact with other members through the service's user interface, which reveals the relationships among ICQ Universe members.

Among factors working in ICQ's favor is the sense of community already developed among ICQ users. According to company figures, the ICQ network claims eight million active daily members, and has 175 million registered users worldwide.

Christopher Saunders. AOL Leverages ICQ for Friendster-like Play. March 5, 2004.

Scarlet Pruitt. ICQ Builds a Social Network. PC World. March 4, 2004.

Marguerite Reardon. ICQ Gets 'Friendlier' with New Service. March 4, 2004. ICQ Launches ICQ Universe. March 4, 2004.

ICQ Universe. ICQ Universe -- F.A.Q. No date.

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Competing Blog Formats Get Closer continues its timely coverage of the RSS scrum by reporting that the chief architect of the RSS syndication format has proposed that he merge the format with Atom, RSS's chief competitor.

Writing on March 9 in his blog, Dave Winer -- recognized as the caretaker of Really Simple Syndication, or RSS -- stated that he was seeking to resolve the long-contentious RSS issue at this time because he felt RSS was secure.

"My philosophy is that the time to make an offer is when you're strongest, because that's when it's most likely to work," Winer wrote. "Now that RSS is ascending so powerfully, I want to make an offer on its behalf. It would be easy to say that other formats don't matter, but even if I believe that, the community is better off if we have one format we're all promoting; as opposed to having continued arguments about whether "issued" is better than "pubDate". The truth is that neither is better or worse. If it works it's good.

"By making this offer to the Atom people I'm giving them a chance to get out of conflict with RSS. I think it's something users can support," Winer continued. "I hope they get together and make a serious counter. Why shouldn't they?"

RSS is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites, including major news sites, news-oriented community sites, and personal weblogs, according to There are seven different RSS formats; version 2.0, owned by UserLand, is the most recent format.

Winer's truce offer comes about one month after Google announced that it would adopt Atom as the main syndication format for its popular software instead of RSS. Google acquired's parent company, Pyra Labs, in February 2003.

Atom supporters have stated that they began seeking an alternative to RSS because the RSS specification is five years old and Winer had announced that the current version (RSS 2.0) would be the last final version of the syndication format. "[RSS] was designed for news sites, a way for them to list the stories they had," the Atom authors explain on its "Motivation" page. "Things are different now, and RSS is mostly used as a way of sending around the content of weblogs. RSS has been kludged and pushed into this world, but it doesn't really fit."

Google and Six Apart are among those that support Atom, while Yahoo!, Apple Computer and support the RSS standard.

The Atom crew denies that their efforts to build a competing Web syndication specification have nothing to do with reported personal rifts. (For a non-technical explanation of the Atom syndication effort, please refer to

Paul Festa. Blog Format Truce Proposed. March 9, 2004.

Dave Winer. RSS is Raging. March 9, 2004.

Dave Winer. RFC: Merge RSS and Atom? Dave Winer's Test Site. March 8, 2004.

Paul Festa. Google Spurns RSS for Rising Blog Format. Feb. 11, 2004.

Paul Festa. Battle of the Blog. Aug. 4, 2003.

AtomEnabled Alliance. What is AtomEnabled Beta: What is Atom? No date.

Mark Pilgrim. What is RSS? Dec. 18, 2002.

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March 09, 2004

Connecting Calls

"When Alexander Graham Bell transmitted his voice over 100 yards of wire in the first public demonstration of the telephone in 1876, the Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II exclaimed, 'My God, it talks.' The invention demonstrated a truth articulated by the sci-fi master Arthur C. Clarke almost a century later: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

"Since then, advances in telephone technology have been useful but unspectacular. But now it's again time for something worthy of Dom Pedro's exclamation. Thanks to a rapidly growing technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), we could rid ourselves of the need for telephone poles and $80 monthly phone bills within a few years. Making a call would cost no more than sending an e-mail."

Nicholas Thompson. Call Forwarding. Legal Affairs. March-April 2004.

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March 08, 2004 Provides RSS Feeds

RSS feeds are no longer just for personal Web logs, as large businesses increasingly turning to the XML-based format to communicate directly with their customer base.

Walt Disney, Yahoo!, Macromedia, and have been testing or have implemented RSS feeds to send news directly to people's computers. These companies have been using RSS as a way to bypass e-mail communication, which has become increasingly difficult to use as a communication tool because of spam and spam filtering., in particular, has an extensive RSS feed program, which delivers content by categories, subcategories and search results from its Web site. "The company said the feeds would deliver a headline-view of the top 10 bestsellers in specific categories or set of search results," according to an story. "Categories include books, music, DVDs/videos, electronics, toys and magazines."

RSS, which is shorthand for either Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, has been the core technology behind Web logs for years.

Yahoo!'s new program, announced last month, returns available RSS feeds within search results and integrates those results with its "My Yahoo" news aggregator. Yahoo! announced the enhancements as part of its improved search engine technology after the company decided to discontinue using Google's search technology.

Yahoo! is also returning Atom feeds on its new search engine, even though those feeds are labeled RSS. Atom is a competing syndication format that is supported by Google and implemented on Google's platform.

Libraries also are using RSS to notify users of collection enhancements. The University of Louisville library system provides RSS feeds for more than 30 topics; the feeds contain the newest 10 books added to the library's collections in various subject areas.

The next big development using RSS may be mobile blogging, according to developments at the DEMO 2004 technology conference. "Moblogging," as it is called, enables users to easily post new content including pictures, audio and text to their Weblogs from their PDAs and cell phones.

Ryan Naraine. Joins RSS Bandwagon. March 4, 2004.

Ryan Naraine. Yahoo's New Search Touts RSS Format. Feb. 19, 2004.

Ron Miller. All About RSS at Demo 2004. Feb. 17, 2004. Syndicated Content. No date.

University of Louisville. UofL Libraries -- RSS Feeds. No date.

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March 05, 2004

Ask Jeeves Drops "Paid Inclusion" Program

This is an update to our March 2 post about Yahoo! and its adoption of "paid inclusion." ("Search Going the Way of the ATM.")

Search Engine Journal reports that Ask Jeeves has decided to discontinue its "paid inclusion" program. "Paid inclusion" is a program adopted by search engines such as Yahoo! and MSN Search that allows site owners to pay to have hard-to-index information on their Web sites updated frequently and included in the index of the search engine in question.

Ask Jeeves will continue offering a separate program, called Site Submit, in which site owners to pay a fee for immediate inclusion of their site into Ask Jeeves' search engine index.

No author. Why Ask Jeeves Dropped Paid Inclusion. Search Engine Journal. March 4, 2004.

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Will Internet Telephony Ever Connect?

Dan Gillmor and Clay Shirky, a pair of the Web's most influential journalists, have weighed in about Internet telephony, and both offer legitimate reasons as to why the technology has not been adopted widely in the United States.

Internet telephony is a technology that threatens to disrupt the traditional method of making calls. "VoIP isn't a service, it's just a set of protocols, meaning that competitors don't have to set themselves up as upstart phone companies to deploy VoIP," explains Shirky. "If Plan A is "Replace the phone system slowly and from within," Plan B is far more radical: "Replace the phone system. Period."

VoIP converts voice signals to digital packets, which travel across the Internet like e-mail messages. According to Gillmor, widespread adoption of Internet phone calling could undermine a key revenue stream for the giant regional phone companies. But he points out that there are more complicated issues at hand. "How will America maintain its commitment to widespread if not universal service if customers peel away in droves? Should VoIP companies be required to provide automatic 911 service? Should VoIP companies be required to provide wiretapping capabilities for law enforcement?"

Dan Gillmor. "Radio, Net phone draw feds' attention.". San Jose Mercury News. Feb. 29, 2004.

Clay Shirky. VoIP - Plan A vs Plan B. Feb. 26, 2004.

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March 04, 2004

Getting Up to Speed on Social Software

Need a primer on some of the underlying technologies iin the social software space? Check out's "Get Up to Speed" series. As of this writing, the series covers six areas, four of which are important technologies within the social network sector:

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March 03, 2004

Hijacking Hot Spots

CNet's reports that wireless hot spots in restaurants, airports, and other locations may not be totally safe, as hackers have taken to establishing nearby ghost access points and using them to get the passwords and credit card numbers of unsuspecting patrons.

The good thing is that some of the major hot spot providers, including T-Mobile. already have begun to address this and other security issues.

No author. Commentary: Hot-spot security in hot water. Feb. 25, 2004.

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March 02, 2004

Orkut: Metatools Up the Ante in SNT

Orkut, allegedly named after named after a Google engineer who coded the social software application on his own time, is both prescient and problematic. Orkut is one of more than a dozen startups that have entered the social networking market sector.

A user signs up for Orkut, provides textual information about himself / herself, and can perform Friendster-type functions to find people with similar interests. (For more on Friendster, click to

A member can learn of a person named John Doe. The member can then run a query on Google for more information about John Doe. One can learn quite interesting bits of information with modest effort.

Many2Many, a blog focusing on the social software sector, ran a useful two-part discussion of the Orkut geomap service. (Part 1, Part 2)

In a posting on March 1, 2004, Many2Many touched on the privacy issue. (Programmers may say that building the service with Visual Studio.Net was even more tricky.) The issue for libraries may become an interesting one.

Access to public information sources such as Orkut are useful services to many users and patrons. However, improper use of social network technology in an information center introduces the possibility of identifying the library as a point of access with the information delivered.

The application of technology to what many perceive or misperceive as trivial information can produce striking insights. Anonymous spiders index content. Owners of Web sites overlooked by such services as Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google, among others, pay money to get their content into the consumer search services.

Content posted by an individual in a Web log or on a public bulletin board similar to those used by Yahoo! Groups often overlook the fact that an indexing crawler may index postings. A posting that seemed less public than a Web page about a person's hobby is manipulated by geomapping, data mining, or similar value-adding software, the individual may feel that a line has been crossed.

The difficulty is that removing pointers from an index such as AllTheWeb, Google, or Microsoft's indexing agent is for most situations impossible.

Among the questions value-added index manipulation services raise include:

  1. What is the procedure for removing an index entry that crosses the line between public indexing and personal privacy?
  2. What is an information center's role in providing access to value-added indexing services? Does the library have a role to play in calling indexing policies to the attention of users or patrons?
  3. Should content housed within a public-facing server hosted or operated by a library be subject to an indexing policy managed by the library and its professionals?

For more information about Orkut, SNTReport recommends:

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A Mac Collaborative Editor Breaks New Ground

SubEthaEdit is a collaborative distributed text editor, combining the simplicity of TextEdit and the power of Rendezvous. It allows to share documents on a local network (with Rendezvous) or on the Internet. Every participating user can type simultaneously and see what others are typing. SubEthaEdit is also a capable text editor with most of the features of BBEdit. However, each SubEthaEdit document can be shared via Apple's Rendezvous technology.

SubEthaEdit uses Rendezvous. Apple's Rendezvous lets a user create an instant network of computers and smart devices just by getting them connected to each other. The computers and devices take over from there, automatically broadcasting and discovering what services each is offering for the use of others. The network could be as simple as two wireless PowerBook users communicating.

TheCodingMonkeys is a small group of computer science students at "Technische Universität München" (Technical University of Munich). TCM took form at the chair of applied software engineering, known for its continued commitment to the Macintosh platform. The developers will accept donations, but there are no overt requests for payment. SubEthaEdit is TheCodingMonkeys' first public product.

The software was developed in Germany. SNTReport believes that the freeware program is likely to trigger a wave of similar products in the collaborative editing segment.

Collaborative Editing

Collaborative editing systems or CES allow multiple users to edit the same set of documents collaboratively over networks. The editing can take place at the same time or in a time shifted mode. CES are not confined to text. Image, multimedia, hypertext, hypermedia, spreadsheets, and three dimensional models among others can be manipulated in a collaborative editing environment.

Collaborative editing is faced with a set of social issues that support and improve the team work.

Users of Adobe Acrobat 6.0, Rendezvous (Macintosh only) Microsoft Office System 2003, and some specialized tools such as iStorm can explore collaborative editing within these applications.


The name "SubEthaEdit" is a tip of the hat to Douglas Adams and his Hitchhikers Guide trilogy. SubEthaEdit—formerly named "Hydra," and then TAFKAH—resonates with those who are fans of Douglas Adams' fiction. According to one of the developers, the name changed reduced the number of lawyers the company with whom the company had to work. "SubEtha" is a good shorthand way to refer to the software.

Collaborative editing has been a Holy Grail for some organizations for many years. SubEthaEdit has developed a system that allows all users to type anywhere in the text without locking parts of the text for other users. The result is that SubEthaEdit can be used with little or no training and no complex checking in, checking out, and file locking workarounds.

The software belongs to a category that is collaborative editing. Several people take notes at a lecture, a conference, or other activity. When each person participating transmits his / her notes, the resulting summary presents each note takers comments in the summary.

At a technical conference, for example, three people from the same organization may attend. One person can listen and comment on the technical aspect of a presentation. Another person might focus on the business implications of the presenter's comments. The third person might submit comments from attendees or specific detail about the implications of the presenter's remarks.

Instead of manually assembling the notes from three people, SubEthaEdit automatically presents the notes with some useful features.

At this time, SubEthaEdit runs on Macintosh computers. However, other developers of collaborative editors will examine SubEthaEdit's features and offer similar functions for Web browser versions.

Users can see other users' pictures in the SubEthaEdit window. Documents can be shared over the Internet. An authorized user can join a SubEthaEdit session regardless of the user's location. SubEthaEdit document identifiers can be used to open a document in a Web browser.

SubEthaEdit supports true, real-time, distributed collaboration. When a session is active authorized users can see other users' cursors and edits. If another person wishes to join a session, another user can authorize access to that individual. In the event of a user's failure to participate or taking unwarranted action, that user can be excluded from the session.

The software offers full Unicode support, line ending conversion from soft to hard line break, and supports word completion. Customization is supported.

Localized versions are available for French, German, and Chinese. Other languages are being added.

Work began on the software in February 2003. SubEthaEdit is now at Version 1.1.5.

The SubEthaEdit Interface

The screenshot below shows four people taking meeting minutes together. On the right are the participants in the document session. SubEthaEdit calls this the "drawer." The status bar shows the current cursor position and the author of the text at that point in the document.

The second screenshot presents a summary of user details for a document. The color coded symbols indicate access or status of a user in a specific editing session.


iStorm includes a net-enabled chalkboard. In addition to a collaborative text editor, iStorm provides an integrated TeX equation interface. This software supports Synchronized navigation of imported PDF files and shared annotations. If a library needs to work collaboratively on a web page, iStorm includes a built in Web editing module.

iStorm is available at

Relevance for Libraries

Large, distributed libraries with Macintoshes may want to experiment with the program initially for staff and, if the tests are positive, with availability to some library users and patrons. Teams participating in on site training programs and group work may benefit from a real-time, sharable note taking or collaborative editing for certain documents.

TheCodingMonkeys can be contacted via Email: monkeys [AT]

More Information

More information about the software is located here:

The software may be downloaded at

The Special Interest Group on Collaborative Editing at

Proceedings of the Fifth International Workshop on Collaborative Editing Systems at

Alexander Klimetschek has written the DocSynch-Plugin for the Java-based text editor jEdit. It allows any number of developers to edit any number of documents in a local or wide area network.

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Social Software is So ... Nineties

CBS Marketwatch's Bambi Francisco has an interesting commentary about the social networking phenomenon -- or rather its resurgence as a business model. Francisco reminds us of that social networking has had a past life, one that occurred briefly in the mid-nineties.

"Many will recall that a commercial version of an Internet social network, Sixdegrees, was launched back in 1996. Founder Andrew Weinreich said he raised just over $26 million for his company back then. Weinreich started Sixdegrees because he believed the Internet could make the process of networking more efficient. He was building upon a theory of social networks, which says that people are connected on average by six degrees."

Francisco also offers some keen insights on the areas in which social software vendors will specialize.

(Thanks to reader David Darst for the story.)

Bambi Francisco. "What's old is new again". March 2, 2004.

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Search Going the Way of the ATM

Remember those heady days when large computers began to appear on street corners and in bank lobbies? It was all so simple then: get the card, punch in a PIN, get some money. We got hooked, and fell for the gambit hook, line, and sinker.

We never realized that the banks would begin charging "out of network" fees once the machines became ubiquitous. Nor did we realize that banks would "force" you away from the bank. ("But, of course, you can do all your banking by ATM!!" they now say.)

It seems search is following the same path: provide a (free) service, get us hooked, then bring down the hammer and charge for everything. First, it was pay-for-placement, then pay-to-list. Now, the Times reports that Yahoo! is offering search engine insurance: pay them to ensure that your site shows up in search results.

We should have seen this coming. Yahoo! isn't the only search engine that offers what is known as "paid inclusion": Ask Jeeves and Microsoft's MSN search also offer this option. Google frowns on the practice of "paid inclusion," but how long will it avoid following suit, especially since it will be seeking additional revenue streams once it becomes a publicly-held company?

Once again, it seems that there is no search (or research) substitute for a good librarian. Librarians provide both balanced information, and the context for that information, something that search engines have never done consistently well.

Saul Hansell. "Yahoo to Charge for Guaranteeing a Spot on Its Index". The New York Times. (Registration required.) March 2, 2004.

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March 01, 2004

The Library as Intermediary

Apparently, Barry Diller is keen on the investment possibilites in social software. This Business Week article details Diller's recent purchase acquisition of ZeroDegrees, a social networking site. Diller's InterActiveCorp already has holdings in the social software space: the company owns dating service Web site, as well as eVite,, and

Now how does this affect librarians? On the face of it, not at all. But consider the following paragraph:

"Diller is positioning himself as a new kind of cyber-middleman. ... His companies intermediate between travelers and hotels, borrowers and banks, music lovers and concert halls. Think eBay, not Inc. Diller does not want to warehouse products like Amazon. Instead, he uses the immense power of the Web to gather boatloads of customers and deliver them, en masse, to sellers of products and services à la eBay."

The key to Diller's business strategy is to being middleman whose businesses connect help people connect with each other. If you think about it, this is what the best libraries do: not only connect people with information, but connect people with each other. Social software is simply the modern, technological means to facilitate such connections. Thus, good libraries can use social software to extend and enhance what they already do.

Timothy J. Mullaney. "Diller's Latest Little Bet on the Net". Business Week Online. March 1, 2004.

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Getting More Information Into Less Space

The Grey Lady writes about innovative applications for the cellular telephone. Zipdash lets cell phones with global positioning systems (GPS) get traffic information instantly.

"The Zipdash application displays a map of traffic speeds as green, yellow and red arrows, graphically representing traffic jams and bottlenecks. The company plans to add features, including route planning and accident alerts. The service will be free to cellphone users and Zipdash is planning to create a business by selling accurate traffic information to Web sites and other publishers," writes the Times.

"The system is available in the Bay Area and is expected to be extended nationally in the coming months."

These sorts of appications are common for cell phones in Europe and Japan. Such innovations, however, have yet to become commonplace in the States. When that time comes, though, bibliographic information may be the sort of data that people want available through their phones or other handheld device.

John Markoff. "That's the Weather, and Now, Let's Go to the Cellphone for the Traffic". The New York Times. (Registration required.) March 1, 2004.

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Blogging Not Yet Widespread

A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project says that while an increasing number of Americans contribute content to various online channels, blogging has not become as widespread as many thought.

"Some bloggers indeed update their journals often, in some cases several times a day," according to an Associated Press story about the report. "But it's clearly a minority who are taking advantage of the blog and its potential to steer the online discourse with personal musings about news events and daily life."

Query this: should blogs become standard communication tools in libraries? It seems the application has wide uses, either as a public notice application, or as an internal staff tool for professional development and information sharing.

We would be interested in learning how you, Uber-librarian, use blogging and related tools. Please post a comment in the Comments area (link located in the dateline of this post).

Amanda Lenhart. Content Creation Online. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Feb. 29, 2004.

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New Roles for Vanguard Librarians

CIO Magazine recently published an article about the chameleon-like qualities a modern chief information officer must have in order to run today's information organization.

The most interesting thing about this article is that it describes the modern chief librarian as well.

Have any ideas about librarians' roles in the 21st century? Please post a comment below.

Michael Fitzgerald. "Chief Beggar, Fortune-Teller and Juggler". CIO. March 1, 2004.

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