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February 29, 2004

Froogle Goes Wireless

From the "your cell phone will soon replace your laptop and handheld" department:

Google. Froogle Beta. Feb. 24, 2004.

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Google as Internet Standard Bearer

"What Google also reflects is our changing sense of the dynamism of the Web. Nothing captures how statically we used to see the Internet as well as 'information highway,' an old phrase that embodies pure linearity and the smell of asphalt. That stasis is also captured in the increasingly outmoded notion of an Internet portal like AOL, much of whose dynamism comes from offering a Google search bar. The fact is that many of us have grown comfortable within the amorphousness of the Web. We no longer need a breakwater like AOL when a good search engine promises to make the sea itself our home."

Verlyn Klinkenborg. "Behind the Rise of Google Lies the Rise in Internet Credibility". The New York Times. Feb. 27, 2004.

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February 27, 2004

Public Libraries Provide Access for Underserved

This is a follow-up to the Feb. 26 posting about rural libraries.

The Gates Foundation has published a report (.pdf) that details the important role public libraries play in providing online access to underserved communities.

"Today, more than 95 percent of library buildings offer public access computing, and 14 million Americans regularly use these computers. This benefit has especially reached certain socioeconomic groups that are less likely to have access at home or work. African Americans and Hispanics are twice as likely to use library computers as Asian Americans and whites. Families making less than $15,000 annually are two to three times more likely to rely on library computers than those earning more than $75,000."

Gates Foundation. "Toward Equality of Access: The Role of Public Libraries in Addressing the Digital Divide." Feb. 25, 2004.

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Internet Telephony Becoming More Popular

LLRX.com has just posted a story on Internet telephony that reviews the Skype application.

Skype is a piece of software that uses KaZaa's peer-to-peer technology to send telephone calls over the Internet, bypassing Ma Bell and her progeny. Author Chris Hayes says one benefit of this approach is that the network's power increases as more users come online. (With the alternative -- a centralized server -- the network's power decreases as more users come online because the server's resources are drained.)

An interesting opportunity for librarians may be to discover how to manage and classify the information in these messages in order to support an organization's knowledge management efforts. I wouldn't even know how to start doing such work; perhaps there are some vanguard librarians already doing this work who would like to share their ideas or experiences.

Chris Hayes. "Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Opportunity Arises With New Skype Application." LLRX.com. Feb. 23, 2004.

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February 26, 2004

This Ain't Your Grandaddy's Search Engine

Search is probably the social network technology with which information professionals are most familiar. And the search space just happens to be the area where some of social software's most exciting innovations are occuring. Lo, verily and thus, we peg several stories that show where search is headed.

The first article is an interview with Ask Jeeves' Jim Lanzone. As is par for the course in these interviews, Lanzone divulges no juicy tidbits of information -- competitors are reading these things, after all. Still, Lanzone offers some interesting viewpoints, including his take on a not-too-distant future where cell phones and handheld devices will have the same search capabilities as the personal computer.

Wired Magazine produces the second set of articles: a profile on Google. A favorite of librarians, Google faces heady days as it prepares to become a publicly-held company. It has expanded from pure search into areas like social software, having introduced Orkut earlier this year. It will be interesting to see whether the pressure to earn profits affects the quality of the information the franchise search engine produces.

As search and information retrieval move beyond the computer to handheld devices, I am immediately struck by the need for two things: a way to organize and archive information for such devices; and a way to improve interfaces and readability on those devices. Both are tasks that tech-savvy librarians are qualified to perform, and we should be intimately involved in these issues as this evolution occurs.

Have any ideas on organizing or archiving information that results from searches? Let us know.

Andy Beal. Ask Jeeves Interview. Webpronews.com. No Date.

Wired Magazine. The Complete Guide to Googlemania! Wired. March 2004.

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No Access = No Social Networking

All conversations about social software are moot if people do not have Internet access. It is easy for many of us to take access for granted; many of our readers are logging in from work or home, probably using high-speed access lines.

But there is still a large percentage of the American public -- usually in rural areas -- that still does not have regular Internet access. This Pew Internet Center report details Internet access trends in the nation's rural communities.

Although the report does not address this issue directly, it is possible that Americans in rural areas depend more heavily on the local library for information and Internet access. It would be interesting to know how librarians in those areas think about social software and its possible uses.

If you are a librarian in a rural area or small community with ideas on how to use social software, please contact us.

Peter Bell, et al. "Rural Areas and the Intenet." Pew Internet & American Life Project. Feb. 17, 2004.

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Gasp!! A *Law Firm* Uses Social Software

Law firms usually take to new technology at a glacial pace. But, lo and behold, there is a Washington, DC law firm that has begun implementing social software to mine the contacts of its 120-lawyer staff. The result? One of the leads lead to $1 million in business.

I wonder if any librarians have been involved in implementing this law firm's foray into social software. Actually, I wonder if the firm's librarians have implemented any social software initiatives on their own. Such initiatives could be as simple as using an interactive Weblog, either as a suggestion box for the public, or as an internal communication tool between professionals.

If you have the answers to these musings, or have used social software to improve your library's service offerings, please contact us.

Demir Barlas, "Legal Services and Networking." Line56. Feb. 26, 2004.

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February 25, 2004

Social Software Roundup

Forbes.com posts a simple, but effective summary of the major social software services and their core audiences.

Reuters. "Livewire: More than love to be found on networking sites." Forbes.com. Feb. 25, 2004.

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Digital Democracy

Howard Dean has left the building (or at least the Democratic nomination race), but the legacy of his campaign's use of social networking tool remains interesting to any group seeking to create community or cash. This article from The Nation provides insights from O'Reilly's recently concluded Digital Democracy Teach-In, including a summary of Joe Trippi's keynote speech.

(Trippi, of course, was the principal architect behind the Dean campaign's social software strategy.)

Also, the author unknowingly sets the stage for a future SNTReport story:

"Some of the more intrepid [attendees] are also jointly taking notes on a document that exists only in cyberspace but appears on their computers and shows each other their comments, in real time."

SubEthaEdit is the technology to which the author refers. SubEthaEdit is a powerful program that allows for collaborative editing allows without locking parts of the text for other users.

Stephen Arnold, SNTReport's resident social software guru, will soon post his own article on SubEthaEdit and its applications.

Micah L. Sifry. "Tripping on Internet Populism." The Nation. Feb. 16, 2004.

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A Solutions Roadmap for Information Professionals

This MIT Technology Review interview with Rael Dornfest provides information professionals with a roadmap on how to improve services offerings to patrons.

Dornfest, co-author with Tara Calishain of Google Hacks (2003, O'Reilly & Associates), discusses the key ideas that were shared at the most recent O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. Dornfest also discusses the role of Web services, most notably the LibraryLookup service that programmer John Udell created last year. LibraryLookup allows a user to automatically search a Web-enabled OPAC for titles that are listed on an Amazon.com.

LibraryLookup is a perfect example of the solutions that librarians can (and should) be developing for their customers over the next several years. Do you have innovations you would like to tell us about? Please let us know.

No author. "View from the Alpha Geek." MIT Technology Review. (Registration required.) Feb. 13, 2004.

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Online Collaboration Borne From Multiplayer Game

As written about in eWeek, this premise sounds very interesting:

"Ludicorp Research & Development Ltd. unveiled its Web collaboration application, called Flickr, during a preview this week for attendees of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference being held here. The Vancouver-based company plans to launch next week a public beta of Flickr.

"Rather than focusing on making connections, as in many social-networking sites, or simply on real-time communication, Flickr embraces the idea of instant media sharing ... Its initial focus: real-time photo sharing and collaboration." Next is sharing video and audio clips, and "collaborating to create new music and sounds that also could be exported."

Now, many of the virtual reference or courseware products on the market feature some of Flickr's core features (chat, instant messaging, file sharing), but I don't think any of them do it simultaneously and in real time.

But librarians can do simpler things right now: for example, encode short multimedia training or tutorial sessions in MP3 files and make them available directly from the library server.

If you know any library that is doing work like this, let us know.

Matt Hicks. "Online Collaboration Borne From Multiplayer Game." eWeek. Feb. 12, 2004.

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Can Librarians Save RSS?

Here is another article that illustrates why now there is a greater need for librarians than ever before:

"The irony of RSS's success though is that this same success may ultimately contribute to its failure. To understand why this might be the case, it helps to imagine the RSS community as a giant Cable TV operator. From this perspective, RSS has now has tens of thousands of channels and will probably hundreds of thousands of channels by the end of the year. While some of the channels are branded, most are little known blogs and websites. ...

"What RSS desperately needs are enhancements that will allow users to take advantage of the breadth of RSS feeds without being buried in irrelevant information. ... While search technology may not solve the "information overload" problem, its closely related cousins, classification and taxonomies, may have just what it takes. ..."

And this comes from a venture capitalist.

Do you know any librarians that are developing classification schemes for RSS feeds? Let us know.

Bill Burnham. "RSS: A Big Success In Danger of Failure". The Weekly Read. Feb. 20, 2004.


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February 24, 2004

Social Software as a Patron Services Tool

An article that profiles two new social software applications writes the following:

"The business problem is universal. In their search for new business, sales professionals know that nearly any kind of personal connection to a prospect will likely bear more fruit than a cold call. So they want to find out who in their organization, or even in their partner organizations, might have an existing relationship with the prospective customer."

For librarians, though, the "problem" could following up on an initial contact. Consider the following scenario: a patron came to the reference desk three days ago and asked for information. Today, you discover information that could greatly assist that patron, but you have no way of getting in touch with her. One possible solution to this problem may be to have library users establish interest profiles along with their patron records, and then post the new information to a bulletin board that is established for that interest profile.

Do you know any library that has a system of providing information to pre-defined patron interest groups? Let us know.

Barbara Darrow. Social Networking Gets Busy. CRN.com. Feb. 17, 2004.

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Community Before Profits (Or Money Isn't Everything)

Recently, PC World weighed in about social software, essentially asking the same question that every businessman wants the answer to: “will it make money?” We believe the question ignores an important premise: connecting people may be a worthwhile activity in and of itself, even without a large profit at stake. One of the things that libraries do best is connect people and create community. Savvy use of social software can help the library extend its inherent advantage in community-building to go beyond the physical building.

Know of any library using these technologies to extend its reach? Tell us.

Dennis O'Reilly. “Emerging technologies, such as social networks, rely on people to shape and guide them.” PC World. Feb. 19, 2004.

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Privacy Concerns Lurk in Social Networking

Not everything in the social software space is peaches and cream. This article in the Bradenton (Fla.) Herald details how one social software service uses search technology to find and organize information – even private information. Although few people will address this issue while social software is a hot topic, personal information may become a source of revenue for social software companies that become strapped for cash. On the other hand, libraries usually keep such information private. Also, libraries that implement social software services may be able to protect such information under state laws that maintain the confidentiality of patron records.

Have some thoughts about how to preserve privacy in this space? Contact us.

Bambi Francisco. “Nosy networking: Are search engines becoming too powerful?” Bradenton Herald. Feb. 22, 2004

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How File Sharing Works

"In this article, you will learn about the differences between Gnutella and Napster that allow Gnutella to survive today despite a hostile legal environment."

Do you know of any library that is using P2P networking or file sharing to serve patrons? Let us know.

Marshall Brain. "How File Sharing Works." Howstuffworks.com. No Date.

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February 23, 2004

Dean Campaign Legacy

The Center for the Study of American Government at Johns Hopkins University has published a 58-page report (.pdf) that analyzes the impact of social networking technologies on modern political campaigning. The report provides insights on the candidates' use of social software tools such as e-mail, blogs, e-commerce, and services like Meetup and Friendster.com, as well as examples of successful uses of those tools. Librarians should find the passages on Internet fundraising particularly useful.

CampaignsOnline.org. "Campaigns Online: The Profound Impact of the Internet, Blogs, and E-Technologies in Presidential Political Campaigning." (.pdf). January 2004.

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Smartphones & Handhelds to Rule Information Transfer

Like most Americans, I look at my cell phone as a simple communication device: I turn it on, I dial, I speak, I disconnect. Much of the rest of the world would consider that sequence of activities to be crude and prehistoric. "In Europe, for example, it's possible to watch television, record videos and use a wireless handheld device as a computer. Europeans even use their cell phones to transact business, using them as a kind of ATM card," so says this Washington Post article. Of course, I am still wondering why Thomson-West hasn't figured out that a handheld-ready version of the Black's Law Dictionary would be a killer app.

If anyone wants to contribute a Tungsten or Treo to our research of the handheld space, please feel free to contact us.

Yuki Noguchi and Griff Witte. "Wireless Firms Look at Phones as Limitless." Washington Post. (Registration required.) Feb. 19, 2004.

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Balancing Sharing and Privacy

This from a recent Business Week article:
"[S]ocial-networking sites find themselves in a Goldilocks-style dilemma: If they share too much information, the services become a spammers' paradise. Share too little, and they defeat the power of social networking, where you can discover and communicate with people you may not know but with whom you share something in common. The amount of information shared has to be just right."

Jane Black. "The Perils and Promise of Online Schmoozing." Business Week Online. Feb. 20, 2004.

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Finding Friends and Foes Alike

Social software is being used to find not only friends, but also “enemies,” according to a recent USA TODAY article. The author details how online gamers have swarmed to the Ultimate Arena website to sign up for Xfire, a service that matches contestants so that they can play online games. More importantly, Xfire allows contestants to send instant messages to other contestants while they are playing the game.

The article details two important trends that librarians should be following: the power of social software to create and maintain community, and the role of instant messaging. Libraries have been implementing virtual reference services for the last few years. But consider this: might librarians better serve their constituents if they were available through instant messaging instead of a virtual reference interface?

Know any librarians that are using instant messaging in their daily work? Let us know.

Jon Swartz. “Virtual friendships, rivalries grow as sites thrive.” USA TODAY. Feb. 15, 2004.

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Important Considerations for Social Software

Christopher Allen, a technologist who was involved in creating secure transactions for e-commerce, has written a thoughtful piece on the factors that social software services need to consider when they build their products. It is appropriate that Allen begins by discussing customer privacy. Librarians, of course, have been experts at maintaining customer privacy for a long time. This is an area where our policies and expertise can help the private sector.

Christopher Allen. “My Advice to Social Networking Services.” Lifewithalacrity.com. Feb. 3, 2004.

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Social Software Used in Smaller Cities, Towns

The Express-Times in Easton, Pa. posted an interesting article about how local residents are using Meetup.com to organize local interest groups. Meetup is one of the free (for now) services that have carved out space in the social software market. Meetup does what many libraries used to specialize in: create and extend community, especially in smaller cities and towns. But perhaps Meetup's most important contribution is that it helps people coordinate a real-world meeting, not a virtual one.

Things that used to go on the library bulletin board now gets entered into forums like Meetup. Why can't libraries use social software to do the same thing?

Know of any library using social software to create community? Tell us.

Amy Satofsky. "From politics to pooches: Like-minded people connect through the World Wide Web." The Express-Times. Feb. 23, 2004.

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