Monday, December 17, 2007

Searching Google: Objective?

On Dec. 15, the New York Times's business/technology section carried an article about Google's project "Knol" - which they portrayed as a competitor to Wikipedia. Possibly the NYT's article was based on a blog entry from Google itself.

While Knol interests me, I find these two sentences from the NYT article - particularly the latter - even more amazing:
If it attracts a following, the service could accelerate Google’s transformation from a search engine into a company that helps create and publish Web content. Some critics said that shift could compromise Google’s objectivity in presenting search results.
Come now, is there anyone left who believes that Google's results are objective? Why else do Wikipedia entries often come up near the top?! It's been confirmed to me by two separate people, working for two separate companies that in order to receive better rankings in Google - they pay them. Google then tweaks their algorithm, and voila! Results of their clients get higher on to the list.

Google has been doing this for years. As others have pointed out, the more they do this (and they engage in it whenever a government doesn't want certain things showing up in search results -- think China), the more they stray away from their original mission. In this way, they cease becoming a search engine, and are just another for-profit tool.

If they intend to continue making money, they probably can't ever go back to an objective search result because they have too many customers's expectations to handle.

But it might take a while before the people of the world realize this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blogging Addiction

This survey is making the rounds, so I figure I might as well try it. BTW, this is the *second* time I took the test. I changed one answer to lower my score - and it raised it instead.

60%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Mingle2 - Dating Site

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More quiet than usual: Change

My public silence has been particularly pronounced due to an amazing change: My institution has set up internal blogs for the entire staff! Potentially that is over 2,000 people, not including communal accounts (most organizational units also have email accounts). So recently I've focused my blogging energy there, always intending to continue here as well.

On one hand, this is an amazing change. Staff is able to write about whatever they want, and these articles can be read by everyone in the institution. I've already "discovered" coworkers whom I've never heard of or encountered before, but who have worked there for many years (sometimes many decades). We are all beginning to feel comfortable in communicating with one another. To be sure, there is a long period during which people need to figure out how they can use their blog by exploring topics and focus. Some have written about mundane, personal, local matters (such as fixing copying machines) to broader issues that affect much of the staff (e.g. cataloging policies, and my own general thoughts on internal blogging). I eagerly look each morning to see what people have written. It's very exciting!

On another hand, of the probable 2,000+ employees, since June only 46 people have posted on their blogs. That's about 2.3% of the entire staff. (Of those 46, only 11 have more than 10 posts.) I find that surprisingly small, and have been wondering what is the reason.

It could be that staff is not technically proficient in all things web-related (i.e. Web or Library 2.0). Even though blogs (in general) have been around for years, I've heard coworkers state that they have read a blog for the first time only a few months ago. (It could be that they've been reading them all along without realizing that they were blogs.)

But there could be a larger issue. Change is a difficult thing to deal with. People become accustomed to doing the same thing and thinking in the same ways. What they do becomes tied up with their own personal identity. To get them to change can be a major hurdle because of these psychological issues. (That's why Change Management is a large aspect of life today -- from the individual level as in psychology up to leadership and management in the world today.)
(I have actually thought of taking coursework leading to a diploma in Change Management.)

When change is introduced at work, I sometimes hear coworkers murmuring that our duties are already so overloaded, and that taking on a new task just causes more stress. This would explain the antagonism toward change (even when the change is potentially helpful).

That could be part of the reason why my coworkers have not jumped at the chance to have a blog. One of the causes of depression is the feeling that one can not communicate with others. So a personal blog could be a step in the direction of alleviating staff cynicism or skepticism.

Personally speaking, I have come to recognize that one can not live in the past. Au contraire, to be happy and live well, one must actually embrace each day's challenges and rewards and engage them with vigor and energy, as if riding a surfboard over the waves of change. To be able to do this eventually gives one the skills of generally managing hurdles, obstacles and challenges that come in life (and boy, do they come).

So while I keep aware of these issues, I'm hoping that more of my coworkers will get on board with blogs. To that end, I feel that we, the bloggers, should gently push in that direction. One way of low-key proselytizing is through communication. Asking "Did you read X's blog today?" can be a way to motivate people to look at the blog site. Even better, at a recent staff meeting, I mentioned what I had read on someone's blog. When several people expressed interest, I repeated the URL of our internal site, and suggest they visit it for themselves and to consider getting one of their own.

Change is definitely in the air, and I sense that blogs are only the beginning.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Enterprise 2.0, Wikipedia and Facism

(I've become quieter than usual because my employer unleashed a bombshell: blogs for the entire staff!! That's well over 1,000 people! So I've focusing on (internal) blogging for my institution (sorry - not visible to the public), but hope to get back here more often.)

I began noticing the phrase Enterprise 2.0 before I realized it was used by Professor Andrew McAfee of the Harvard Business School. (He thought he invented the term in 2006, only realizing later that it was first used in 2001.) I began taking notice with a good article in Harvard Business School's weekly ezine Working Knowledge. Entitled How Wikipedia Works (or Doesn't), author Sean Silverthone succinctly recounted McAfee's experience dealing with Wikipedia and how it serves as a model for collaboration - with both positive and negative attributes.

It fascinated me, so I headed to Wikipedia's (now-defunct) article on Enterprise 2.0. Seeing it incomplete, I added several links, expanded the definition, and made a few more corrections, while arguing on the talk page about why the decision for deletion should be rescinded.

Despite McAfee's credentials as an author of serious work, his and others' arguments could not withstand the fury of anonymous Wikipedians, who wielded their power (which ultimately was more important than factual data) in eradicating the Enterprise 2.0 article by merging it with the more generic article on Enterprise Social Software. In his summary, Silverthorne pointed out that this represents top-down administration on the part of Wikipedia, ironically a type of adminisration which is the opposite of what Wikipedia represents. I call it fascism. :) It reminds me of what happens in certain countries which give the illusion of democracy until it becomes uncomfortable - and then take top-heavy action to roll back the uncomfortable attitudes.

What does this have to do with librarianship? It's about the hurdles of library administration in a 2.o world. For example, if a library adopts a 2.0 attitudes, adopting a flatter way of communicating, allowing decisions to be made from the botttom, but then suddenly issues a top-down ultimatum, that would really quash the functioning of the institution.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

NYPL to merge its two halves

NYPL made the New York Sun today:

One Library out of Many Institutions

Most readers of this article will not realize what an earth-shaking experience this is going to be. More to come.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Greetings Josh Greenberg, NYPL Digital Guru

As the previous entry indicates, Joshua M. Greenberg was named Director of Digital Strategy and Scholarship in The New York Public Library’s internal staff newsletter, which was issued on Thursday, May 3. On Friday May 4, Josh came to the Library for the Performing Arts to talk to division chiefs and curators. Here are my notes from that discussion, after which I’ll make a few remarks.

It should be remembered that this should in no way be taken as a transcript and are just my selective and subjective memories.

----------

During the forum, we got to learn about Josh (who has been unofficially nicknamed “The Digital Guru”) and heard about our own diverse thinking from different staff members.

Josh’s interests lie in the history of science, culture, media, their relationship to one another, and how they are used. He described his dissertation From Betamax to Blockbuster: Mediation in the Consumption Junction (Cornell Univ., 2004) as part part business and part cultural, dealing with how the social experience of movies was transformed from a communal theater experience to a personalized one in the comfort of one’s personal space. (It is to be published by MIT Press in 2008.)

Josh (who started his job on April 30) pointed out that his job description is as yet amorphous. But he brought up some of the questions that has occupied him which are pertinent to his new job:

  • How people use information
  • What are the digital tools that scholars need to do their work?
  • What are the digital tools that scholars need to disseminate their work?
  • How are people using digital resources?
  • How will be people be using digital resources in the future?
  • What are the new capabilities available?

He observed that NYPL has lacked one administrative structure that brings all digital interactions together. Digital materials are fun stuff, but what does one do with them? In the humanities computing world, people dream about creative interfaces, but few tangible results are accomplished. Josh is interested in building stuff that people use as opposed to being a pathbreaker. Echoing the head of NYPL’s research library (David Ferriero), Josh stated we need to foster and build a culture of experimentation (he quoted the web 2.0 adage “beta is forever”). He was surprised to find that, generally, libraries do not have R&D (research and development) departments as do many corporations. This must change so there can be a way to realize beta projects, or small scale pilot projects. In embracing this flexibility, Josh hopes NYPL can become an institution more responsive to user needs.

One of the topics that arose was rights issues when dealing with web-based content. Traditionally, legal departments want to avoid litigious issues and therefore tend to articulate a very conservative policy, usually to the detriment of experimentation. For the purposes of balance, Josh hopes to engage our legal department so that they have additional voices to consider. He put forth the metaphor of how the ever-moving border of fair use is dealt with, and that there needs to be a balance on both sides of the issue so that one side will not overtake the other.

Josh’s ideas on digital strategy are still being informed by conversations throughout NYPL. As he sees it, there’s a hole in the institution’s infrastructure. In fact, there is no infrastructure to support presentation of materials. When images are created through public orders, they go into a database—which is essentially forgetting about them. They should be considered part of the digital library, but are not.

In Josh’s mind, there are three big issues to wrestle with:

  • The new ILS (integrated library system) that will merge NYPL’s two public catalogs (branch and research) into one, and portends major changes for the institution;
  • NYPL’s Digital Library;
  • NYPL’s website

Much of NYPL is really divided into two organizational units, one overseeing branch library operations, and the other the research library. Then there’s the Digital Library unit, which is kind of a third entity. Unfortunately our Digital Library unit is project-driven (most of their funding coming from grants or donors), rather than built into the institutional infrastructure. Thus far we’ve not been able to build the resources to support this infrastructure.

But when people visit the library’s website, they don’t think of or even realize these three units – they just think that it’s one big “www.NYPL.com.” So the user experience should drive how we re-invision our website and the underlying digital infrastructure.

====

Those are the end of my notes on the informal introduction of chiefs an curators with Josh. After comparing what I heard with looking at his resume, I realized that he’ll not be an administrator, but rather like a salaried consultant. He’ll be advising David Ferriero on how to go forward and implement digital ideas by formulating a strategy. (When David was first hired away from Duke University, I knew this topic would be of importance from merely looking at Duke’s digital site.)

Josh is very steeped in the academic world, but many of our users have nothing to do with that world. They’re just ordinary people – consumers, if you will – who want to consult or copy materials. Since Josh’s dissertation dealt with popular consumer culture, that sounds a hopeful note that he will be sensitive to these users.

If Josh’s mandate is to design (or even implement) a digital strategy, then it sounds like he’ll have a project with a fixed date of completion. Indeed, another look at his CV suggests that he’s always keen on moving to good opportunities, never staying in any one position for long. In my cynical thinking, I recognize that he would probably not stay more than about three years at NYPL (ok, maybe five years). Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing what he has to say, and hopefully particpate in conversations and discussions with him.

So welcome Josh.

Joshua M. Greenberg Appointed Director of Digital Strategy and Scholarship

(From Staff News, vol. 97, issue 18 (May 3, 2007)

Joshua M. Greenberg Appointed Director of Digital Strategy and Scholarship



Effective April 16, Joshua M. Greenberg was appointed the Library's Director of Digital Strategy and Scholarship by David Ferriero, the Andrew W. Mellon Director and Chief Executive of The Research Libraries. Dr. Greenberg was formerly a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University (GMU), and the Associate Director, Research Projects, of GMU's Center for History and New Media. In his position as Director of Digital Strategy and Scholarship, Dr. Greenberg is responsible for leading The New York Public Library's digital initiative and positioning digital library activities at the core of library operations. Dr. Greenberg reports to Mr. Ferriero.

"Josh is precisely the right person to lead the Library's digital future, building upon our remarkable accomplishments to date," said David Ferriero. "He is both an accomplished scholar, as well as a visionary who has spent his career exploring the interstices of technology and scholarship. He is knowledgeable, creative, and fun to be with. We feel extremely lucky to have him aboard."

In his work at the Center for History and New Media, Dr. Greenberg helped to create diverse tools for research and education, most recently co-directing the development of Zotero, a Firefox browser-based research tool. He earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University.  His first book, which will be published by MIT Press in the fall of 2007, is tentatively titled From Betamax to Blockbuster and charts the evolution of the consumer video rental and sale industry. As part of his Masters-level work at Cornell, Dr. Greenberg developed a system that leveraged embedded closed-captioning to assemble a searchable archive of broadcast television. He earned his BA from Johns
Hopkins University in History of Science, Medicine and Technology.

"I have spent the last decade exploring the application of technology to scholarly practices, and welcome the opportunity to continue this work at an institution with the stature, resources, and talent of The New York Public Library," said Dr. Greenberg. "While I find technology
fascinating in its own right, my goal is to tailor digital tools and capabilities to the actual needs of scholars and library users. I see technology as a means to an end rather than an end in itself."

At the Library, Dr. Greenberg will help shape and implement a digital strategy involving content creation and management and building sustainable capacity. He will work closely with the scholarly community, curatorial staff, Research and Branch Library staff, and the Information Technology Group to create and manage opportunities for new convergences of NYPL content, scholarship, and technology. Further information on Dr. Greenberg can be found by visiting his website at epistemographer.com.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

First post - what's the point

Since I arrived in my new job as curator (a little over 2 years now) I've been keeping a private work diary. But so many interesting things I find on the web are from other librarians (often those new to the field), I figure I can go public and air some issues and how I deal with them. In doing so, I think I can contribute to this Web 2.0 or Library 2.0 of social interaction.

So what's going on lately? I'm co-curating an exhibit. Usually in my institution two years is a reasonable time to work on an exhibit. In our case, we received five months. In fact, even though the show opens in three weeks, I have not finalized everything yet. Only a few of the labels are written, although I think that will go quickly. For the most part it's been going smoothly, although the person in charge of physically mounting the exhibit is sometimes difficult to work with (lots of passive-aggressive attitude). So I've brought home pics of the materials in the potential exhibit frames. After meeting a friend, I'll be writing labels later this afternoon and evening. Meanwhile, this week at work, I have to finalize the material that will appear in the cases so I can start writing labels for those.

If there were only more hours in the day.