Current Cites

Volume 14, no. 5, May 2003

Edited by Roy Tennant

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 - http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2003/cc03.14.5.html

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Shirl Kennedy, Leo Robert Klein, Jim Ronningen, Roy Tennant

Bray, Tim. "About as Big as the WebOngoing (8 May 2003) (http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2003/05/08/OCLC). - Those who have been around a while know Tim Bray. One of the parents of XML, Bray has been involved with structured text (remember Open Text?), web search engines (remember the Open Text web search engine -- one of the first?), and innovative information access (see http://antarctica.net/) for a long time. Clearly he's both a geek and an information junkie (but what else would you expect from the child of a librarian?). So when OCLC (http://www.oclc.org/) asked him to play around with the 50-million item WorldCat database, he reacted like a kid in a candy store, as described in this lengthy blog item. Although most librarians won't get a lot out of the piece itself (much of it is taken up with describing cataloging to civilians), this is yet another signal that OCLC is no longer the place your mom used to know. Lorcan Dempsey, the OCLC Director of Research, is clearly ruling out nothing in his quest to create a world-class resource out of WorldCat -- the incredibly under-utilized family jewels of the library profession. Godspeed. - RT

Donnelly, Martin. DigiCULT Technology Watch Briefing 7: The XML Family of Technologies   Salzburg, Austria: DigiCULT, 28 March 2003. (http://www.digicult.info/pages/download.php?doc=1049988490&twb=y). - No, DigiCULT (http://www.digicult.info/) is not what it sounds like, but rather an area of research for the Information Science Technologies program of the European Union. In this 20-page draft Technology Watch Briefing, the author summarizes XML and related standards, draft standards, tools, and technologies. It provides a fairly good overview of a lot of territory, while ocassionally dipping down to specific useful tidbits (e.g., techniques for moving MS Word documents into XML). A few case studies on how organizations are using XML are included. Be prepared to go through a free registration process in order to download the PDF. - RT

"Is Data Mining for Product Pricing, Illegal? (sic)Slashdot (14 May 2003) (http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/05/15/0134247). - While this Slashdot (News for Nerds. Stuff That Matters.) discussion is not a traditional journal article or magazine, I've chosen to draw attention to it here because of the interesting issue involved. What spurred this discussion was a query from a Slashdot reader who is doing contract work for a travel company that involves gathering price information from competitors' websites. Apparently, this is done manually all the time, but legal action has arisen in a similar situation where another travel company was using a price-harvesting robot ("scraper") to obtain competitive pricing information. One competitor sued -- and IANAL, folks, so this is basically my interpretation -- on the grounds that this constituted authorized use of its website. Writes one Slashdot reader, "I use web scrapers all the time and a site that doesn't like it can kindly take its ass off the web. Once you place material on the web, it is published. If you don't want to publish your prices, you don't have to. That's like publishing a book and complaining the readers read it too fast." Fascinating stuff. - SK

Lasica, J.D.  "News That Comes to YouUSC Annenberg Online Journalism Review (May 2003) (http://www.ojr.org/ojr/lasica/1043362624.php). - The geek quotient in exploiting customizable web features is still pretty high, but when the Christian Science Monitor formats online articles for easy grabbing by personal aggregator software, maybe mainstreaming isn't that far off. An RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed of the entire daily Christian Science Monitor Electronic Edition is available and accompanied by explanatory notes about XML, newsreader programs and how they all work together. This article, for journalists but of interest to anybody watching web use trends, describes the spread of RSS among information content providers, from its 1999 appearance in the My Netscape user portal to its promotion in the websites of major news broadcasters and publishers. The symbol to watch for, the little orange XML rectangle, is common in blogs, and that kind of "power to the people" aspect of this technology is also in effect when a user puts together a daily digest of news items from selected bigtime sources (the New York Times has gotten with it, by the way). Users of software like NewzCrawler or AmphetaDesk can use the programs like TiVo eliminates commercials - popups and their ilk just go away. That benefit alone is almost enough to make me forget a potential downside to the whole personalization thing: it's another way to turn away from unpleasant current events and stay ignorant. - JR

McDonald, John.  "'No One Uses Them So Why Should We Keep Them?'--Scenarios for Print Issue Retention"  Against the Grain  15(2) (2003): 22, 24. - Dump print? A decade ago it would have been inconceivable, now there is a special issue of Against the Grain that has a series of articles on this crucial topic. In his thought provoking contribution to the issue, McDonald overviews the key questions related to the print retention controversy, examines the pros and cons, and provides four possible scenarios for dealing with it: provide access to both formats, offer limited print access, provide electronic access with print being purchased for archival use only, and offer electronic access only. Other articles of note in the special issue include "Collaborative Print Retention Pilot Projects," "The Future of the Hardcopy Journal," "The Hybrid Environment: Electronic-Only Versus Print Retention," and "Libraries in Transition: Impact of Print and Electronic Journal Access." Print retention is one of the most significant long-term decisions that any library can make. It is especially critical for academic and research libraries. McDonald's article and the other articles in this special issue help initiate what I hope will be a long, careful, and thoughtful debate on a topic of considerable social significance. - CB

Meyer, Katrina A.  "The Rule of the Marketplace: Flawed Assumptions Contributed to the Failure of Dot-coms and Virtual UniversitiesEDUCAUSE Quarterly   26(2) (2003) (http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm0320.pdf). - Speculation on why the rush to eLearning on the part of dot-coms and virtual universities didn't prove as successful as anticipated. The author focuses on three reasons, namely, underestimating the cost of the product, misjudging the willingness of people to use them and lastly, the competition of traditional academic learning environments. One could also add unclear academic goals and poor execution. The author sees the poor economy also playing its part. She cautions us that "...the market forces that created the initial rush to dot-coms and virtual universities could well reappear in the future." Dot-com revival? Can a bubble pop twice? - LRK

Pearce, Liz.  "'Apart from the weather, I think it's a good idea': Stakeholder Requirements for Institutional PortalsAriadne   (35) (March/April 2003) (http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue35/pearce/). - Discusses the results of a survey on people's "likes and dislikes" of institutional portals at various academic institutions in the UK. Faculty, staff and students were surveyed. Access to library materials rated high (no surprise here). How something as complex as the library function can successfully be incorporated into a larger, more generic, campuswide interface without being watered down is something, I think, that needs further study. - LRK

Pelley, Scott.  "Your Private Life for SaleCBS News   (30 April 2003) (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/04/25/60II/main551177.shtml). - Who's selling you down the river? Your bank, your mortgage lender, and probably every other financial institution with whom you do business. Open an account or apply for a loan at one institution, and it's almost certain that you'll hear from its "partners," "sister companies" or "affiliates." These institutions take the information you provide and toss it into large data banks, where it's sliced, diced and peddled to various and sundry marketers. The CEO of InfoUSA, indentified in this story as "the nation's biggest data company," says, "We have a database of about 200 million people.... We would know their name, their address. If they have a listed phone number, we will know the phone number. We will know where do they live? Is it a single-family household, or multiple family household? What is the value of the house, and how much did they pay for it? "One financial industry lobbyist quoted here defends the practice of pimping consumer information on the grounds that the income thus generated "can help pay for other banking services." He says, "There are lots of people in whose name this privacy debate is being carried forward who enjoy getting offered products and services at low prices." Hoo boy. - SK

Rogers, Clare, and John  Kirriemuir.  "Developing a Content Management System-based Web SiteD-Lib Magazine   9(5) (May 2003) (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/may03/kirriemuir/05kirriemuir.html). - Overview of a project that saw the installation of a Web Content Management System for the UK-based Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Describes the goals of the system and how those goals were fulfilled, including a short tour of the system's more functional parts (i.e. how people add pages, etc.) - LRK

Siegele, Ludwig.  "Survey: The IT IndustryEconomist   (8 May 2003) (http://www.economist.com/surveys/displaystory.cfm?story_id=1747329). - Peppered with strange and interesting terms and phrases like "griddleware", "liquefaction of hardware" and "freedom from software", this survey of the information technology industry is well worth spending some time with. Scanning the horizon both front and back, Siegele draws upon industry leaders as well as young upstarts and reputable academicians to try to help us understand where we've been and where we may be going. Although chopped up into a series of "articles," most can be read as one long narrative. As an added bonus, the web version has an audio interview with the author. And be sure not to miss the bibliography. - RT

Silverthorne, Sean, and Martha  Lagace.  "How Hot is the "Hot Spot" Business?Harvard Business School Working Knowledge   (12 May 2003) (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/pubitem.jhtml?id=3470&t=technology). - A chicken in every pot. A wireless access point in every hotel, coffee shop, fast food restaurant, airport... If you indulge in the mainstream media, you already know that Wi-Fi is hot, hot, hot. But is anyone actually making money in this sector, or are we looking at another technology debacle on the horizon? "A panel of telecommunications industry pioneers" was certainly waxing enthusiatic at a Harvard Business School "Bandwidth Exposition" conference in April. Darren Hostin, of Starbucks Interactive, said that Wi-Fi traffic at Starbucks has jumped 450 percent since last August, "with most usage in the afternoon and evening." He noted that connected customers spend more time in the stores, which means more infusions of high-end caffeine are paid for and consumed. Sky Dayton, who founded the ISP Earthlink before starting up Boingo Wireless in 2001, said, "We are moving to a time when broadband will be totally ubiquitous, part of the air you breathe." Jim Balsillie, founder of Research in Motion (maker of the Blackberry device), feels that although Wi-Fi has its niche, large wireless networks are largely impractical. "It would take 10,000 hot spots to cover Waterloo [Ontario]," he said. Geoffrey Moore, venture capitalist, said that most players in the early-stage Wi-Fi market are losing money, though the industry is capturing attention. He said it was still unclear how money could be made in this sector, since barriers to entry are so low. Eric Schmidt, CEO and Chairman of Google, made an especially bold prediction -- that by 2008, wireless devices with continuous connections would be ubiquitous, and that the technologically elite would be toting devices that contain "'all of the world's information' issued until that moment, from the Encyclopedia Britannica to audio and video." Wowie kazowie. - SK


Current Cites - ISSN: 1060-2356
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