Tuesday, November 27, 2007

boxes, the outcome of online shopping

In our household we shop online a lot. Boxes often arrive at home that one or the other of us didn't expect.

What happens when thousands of students living at a University are shopping online every day for whatever they might need, from shoes to car tires? In a very entertaining article, The New York Times reports on what's happening at mail rooms at Universities.

ars technica on Google Book Project

ars technica has a very fair blog posting outlining the ongoing online discussion between Paul Courant at Michigan and Siva Vaidhyanathan at UVA about the Google Book project. It nicely presents both sides of the discussion.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

unplanned hiatus

Between a 3-day planning retreat, updating technology and the threat of data loss, a cat that went missing 7 days ago who has not returned, and the Thanksgiving holiday, blogging hasn't been top of the list. I'm back now.

the not-so-nameless fear of personal data loss

Ten days ago I upgraded my smartphone.

For over three years I hung onto my Treo 600. Yes, a 600. Even when its antenna broke while I was at JCDL 2006, I drove to Durham and got a replacement unit rather than upgrade. I just didn't see a reason, as none of the new Treos were better. So what if my contract expired a year and a half ago and I could have upgraded at any time?

Then I saw the Centro, and something about it changed my mind. Maybe it was the much smaller size, or the brighter, clearer screen. Maybe the much more usable buttons and keyboard (I know, they're smaller keys, but their gel surface is great for my small hands and fingernails). Maybe that it had Bluetooth. Or that it was available in slightly sparkly black. I came to covet it online, and then I gave in and bought it.

Then I had to transfer my data.

Now, I've had a Palm device for 10 years. I have my calendar going back to early 1996 because I've been synching up my calendar with an enterprise system at three universities during those eleven years. I have databases like all my books (downloaded from LibraryThing) and DVDs in FileMaker Mobile. I have the electronic Zagat. I have ebooks. I have memos and to-do lists and a large address book.

None of them moved over when I updated the Palm desktop and initiated my first sync. Not a darned thing. Not only did they not move to the Centro, they disappeared from my Palm Desktop.

Hysteria ensued.

Once I was talked down off the proverbial ledge, things improved. I was able to beam over all my memos, my to-do list, and my address book from the Treo (although they all lost their categories). I had a calendar backup on my laptop that had 1996 to late 2005 (apparently the last time I backed up my full calender. Memo to self -- never forget to do that again). I discovered that my Zagat had expired the week before, which is why it didn't move. Fixed. I got my ebooks reinstalled (after discovering that I somehow had 2 Palm users set up and that I was using the wrong one in the installer). I deleted the extraneous Palm user, causing a bit more temporary hysteria because I re-lost and and to retrieve some data again.

My Oracle Calendar Sync completely failed. I couldn't even see the conduit. I thought, hey, there's a newer version than the one I have, upgrading will reinitialize the conduit. A fine plan if the installer hadn't failed, corrupting the old install so that I not only couldn't install a new one, I couldn't remove the old one because a file was missing. Our IT help desk didn't have the old installer available anymore (Memo to self -- keep all installers AND keep up on new versions) but a nameless university elsewhere in the world had it on their web site and all was repaired. The first sync took over 130 minutes, but that was a small price to pay to have my past and future calendar back.

All of the above took 2 1/2 days. What never came back, though, was FileMaker Mobile. UVA never moved past FM 6, so that's what I've continued to use as a client with FM Mobile 2. Given that FM is on to version 9 and FM Mobile 8, and the company has announced that it's discontinuing FM Mobile, I do seem to be be in a jam there. Yes, that I have that installer, and I have my databases, and I can see the conduit, but no joy in synching.

Change is good. I just need to decide what to change to, and then I will have all my data back. Until the next time I have to upgrade ...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

highlights from the Fall 2007 DLF Forum

There were a number of highlights for me from the fall 2007 DLF forum.

Dan Gillmor gave a great opening plenary on journalism in a world of ubiquitous media access. He talked quite a bit about participatory media and collaboration, and how the average person with a cell phone can participate in "random acts of journalism," such as recording the shooting at Virginia Tech or the 2005 tsunami in Sri Lanka. It is more likely that on-the-spot photojournalism will come from anyone, not journalists . He also talked about what he termed "advocacy journalism," where a community is formed, whether around a location or a topic, and that community reports often more quickly and more deeply on issues of interest to their community. What's the role of professional journalism? "Do what you do best and point to the rest." Follow well-established journalistic practices in reporting, and point to those communities and compedia that are doing a good job rather than trying to also do what they do. In a world with so much access, there is more transparency; conversely, it is also much more difficult to keep secrets. But what do you trust? What's accurate? Trust cannot be based solely on popularity, but on reputation, which is exceptionally difficult to qualify and quantify.

Rick Prelinger gave a talk on moving image archiving and digitization. I loved this phrase: "Wonderful and unpredictable things happen when ordinary people get access to original materials." In a world where there is now more individual production that institutional production, we should be crawling and preserving what's out there on YouTube and elsewhere, starting in early on what will be the hardest to preserve. He also pointed out that YouTube raised popular expectations about video findability while simultaneously lowering quality expectations and making the segmenting of content out of its raw or original context the norm. Rick also referenced the SAA Greene-Meissner report which urged archivists to consider new ways to deal with hidden collections, in making his point that workflows should not be sacred. Our social contract with users is to provide access. Digitization provides visibility and access, which can drive preservation.

Ricky Erway led an interesting overview of the agreements that various institutions have entered into with their third-party digitizing partners. The one that I knew the least about was the NARA arrangement with Footnote.com, where the materials will be available only on Footnote by subscription for five years, after which NARA can make them available, although NARA admits that it isn't clear exactly what they can and cannot do. For some reason James Hastings made sure to make the point that Footnote is not a LDS Church unit, although the parties involved definitely have ties to the church and are strongly interested in the materials for use in genealogy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There was a session on mass digitization "under the hood." I was particularly floored with the work at the National Archive of Recorded Sound and Images in Sweden. Their automated (in some cases robotic) processes for digitization are truly astonishing, as is the scale of their digitization. If I am reading my notes right, they create between 1.5 and 2.5 TB every day.

Herbert Van de Sompel gave a very effective presentation on ORE. I see a lot more folks getting what he and Carl Lagoze have been saying about compound objects. I love their elegant use of ATOM.

Denise Troll Covey gave a report on a the preliminary results of an in-progress study at Carnegie-Mellon on faculty self-archiving. I look forward to reading the final results and being able to share them, especially given the mis-information that faculty believe about their rights and their lack of archiving.

Steve Toub and Heather Christenson gave a great talk on a survey on book discovery interfaces. Microsoft Live Search Books seemed to fare the worst, while LibraryThing seemed to be at the top. They promise to make a ppt with many more slides than they presented available.

Tito Sierra, Markus Wust, and Emily Lynema from NC State presented their "CatalogWS" a RESTful Web API, which they take advantage of for their very cool MobiLib mobile catalog app, as well as a staff book cover visualization tool for large screen displays, and an advanced faceted search interface for generating custom catalog item lists for blogs and webpages. They also gave a nice shout-out to Blacklight, which we appreciated.

Mike Furlough and Patrick Alexander from Penn State led a good discussion on publishing and libraries. Activities represented in the room ranged from journal hosting to publishing of library collections online to collaborating on born-digital scholarship to working with university presses on electronic editions of works.

Read Peter Brantley's post on Mimi Calter's talk on the examination of the Copyright Registration Database that Peter and Carl Malamud worked to hard to set free. Make sure to also read the comments.

I was happy with the responses that Bess Sadler and I received from our presentation on Project Blacklight. Bess went way above the call of duty and completed some UI update tasks (translating language codes and setcodes into human-readable terms and adding browse centuries) and figured out how to combine the Virgo and Repo indexes in Lucene while sitting in our hotel room. We were able to show REALLY up-to-date screen shots in our presentation, including one we added while setting up the laptop at the podium.