Current Cites

Volume 14, no. 7, July 2003

Edited by Roy Tennant

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 -

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Margaret Gross, Shirl Kennedy, Roy Tennant

Arar, Yardena. "Better 802.11 (2 July 2003) (,aid,111330,00.asp). - When I was a .edu, I enjoyed a wonderful wireless work environment. Now that I am a .mil, this is completely out of the question. Wireless networks have a well-deserved reputation for being insecure. WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), the existing "security algorithm" that is part of the 802.11 standard, is completely crackable using off-the-shelf tools by anyone with a little technical savvy. Also, since it does not come enabled by default in wireless routers/access points, the average Joe or Jane with a wireless home network simply does not use it. Although the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is working on an iteration of 802.11 with better security (802.11i, for those keeping score), this will not be a viable alternative for a year or more. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance -- the trade group which certifies the "interoperability of wireless Local Area Network products based on IEEE 802.11 specification" -- has come up with an interim solution. Known as Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), it uses a more sophisticated "encrytion key technology" that can authenticate users on a corporate network via a dedicated server, but is still simple enough to work without much hassle on a home or small office network. Good news for those with existing wireless routers and access points: WPA firmware may already be available for download to your existing hardware. Check your manufacturer's website. - SK

Head, Alison J. "Personas: Setting the Stage for Building Usable Information Sites" Online 27(4) (July/August 2003): 14-21 ( - Successful website development requires profound knowledge of the target audience. In order to gain insight into the needs, habits, eccentricities, etc. of users, one needs to create the 'typical' client. Personas are hypothetical stand-ins for typical users. They are full blown characters with a given age, gender, job, family, hobbies, expertise, and so forth. This article offers useful tips for the design of personas, and how to gain most benefit from their creation. The author, ( who has written two books on web usability, provides a case study of the development of a newspaper website. She describes how the creation of personas demands extensive research and detail in order to accurately reflect the targeted user. A Q&A session with this hypothetical being helps breathe life into the persona. This interesting article concludes with several references. - MG

Kenney, Anne R., Nancy Y.  McGovern, and Ida T.  Martinez, et. al. "Google Meets eBay: What Academic Librarians Can Learn From Alternative Information ProvidersD-Lib Magazine 9(6) (June 2003) ( - This is the report of an interesting study by Cornell University, in which Cornell reference librarians went toe-to-toe with Google Answers to try to determine which service answered reference questions better and most cost-effectively. The study was basically inconclusive, and the authors admit that it was a "quick, limited review," but they offer three lessons: "First, the study revealed the importance of self-assessment...Just as public school teachers evaluate each other's performance throughout the school year, reference librarians could improve their services through peer review...Second, academic libraries should make a practice of regularly monitoring developments in the broader infromation landscape...Finally, what lessons can academic libraries draw from the ancillary services offered by commercial enterprises? Commercial enterprises determine their services in part by assessing their competitors and going one better." Required reading for reference librarians and administrators. - RT

Kichuk, Diana.  "Electronic Journal Supplementary Content, Browser Plug-ins, and the Transformation of Reading"  Serials Review 29(2) (2003): 103-116. - In this article, the author examines the need for plug-ins and add-ons to fully access the content of scholarly journals in the electronic collection of the Canadian National Site Licensing Project. Primary content access requires support for the ASCII, BibTeX, DVI, HTML, LaTeX, PDF, PostScript, and TeX file formats. Supplementary content requires support for numerous file formats (listed in a table in the printed version of the article that takes up most of a page). Discussing the impact of this support requirement on her library (the University of Saskatchewan Library), the author says that: "An ever-expanding list of plug-in and add-on viewers and players is required to access this new content: word-processing files, 3D images, animations, video clips, virtual reality, and chemical-structure data, audio files, and interactive applications. Anecdotal evidence indicates a wide range of patron response, from bewilderment and avoidance to full acceptance and excitement." While this supplemental content is not yet prevalent, it raises immediate support issues--if libraries want to provide users with access to the entire article, they must install and maintain a growing collection of plug-ins and add-ons, some of which do not have MIME types and may conflict with plug-ins and add-ons that do. Moreover, free plug-ins and add-ons may have limited functionality; the full version may need to be licensed to provide adequate access. Plug-ins and add-ons constantly change, and staff must track these changes and install updates. If plug-in and add-on support is difficult for technical staff in the library, how easy will it be for users to perform similar tasks on their home and office computers? I'll add that what is supplemental content multimedia use today may be primary content multimedia use tomorrow as e-journals move beyond mimicking print journals and evolve into new forms that more fully exploit their unique capabilities. Then the fun really begins. - CB

Krim, Jonathan.  "Site Lets Citizens Monitor 'Big Brother'The Washington Post (8 July 2003) ( - MIT graduate student Ryan McKinley has created something he calls the Government Information Awareness Project, a online repository to which citizens can contribute information about public officials, corporations and corporate executives. He anticipates that the end result "will be a giant set of databases that show the web of connections that often fuel politics and policymaking, such as old school ties, shared club memberships and campaign donations." McKinley, who says his inspiration was the military's Terrorism Information Awareness project, wants to make sure it is not just federal authorities who have a lock on databases/data mining projects of this magnitude. So far, McKinley has entered into his site such freely available data as "lists of White House appointments of agency heads, biographies of members of Congress and campaign-contribution data compiled by public-interest groups." This means one-stop shopping for those who would otherwise have to visit a number of different websites to collect diverse information about an official or a corporate entity. Anyone contributing information must identify him- or herself, although aliases may be employed by those using the site. An individual who is the subject of posted information is notified and may file a rebuttal/response if desired. Users can configure the site not to show information from posters they consider unreliable or offensive. Some planned current awareness features have not yet been activated. - SK

"SCIENCE: Grokking the InfovizEconomist Technology Quarterly (19 June 2003) ( - Is Infovis going mainstream? Infovis is a term that stands for information visualization. This article deals with software that will allow far more visualization of informational patterns that are currently obfuscated and hidden by the printed word. While the technology has been around for several years, several factors have interfered with its widespread application. Software evolution has been controlled by few players, and the hardware 'plumbing' has not been robust enough to efficiently handle graphics. Several factors are now giving impetus to the spreading of infovis technology. Textual information overload, data stored in a structured manner, use of XML for marking up data from diverse sources. The preceding coupled with a downsize of corporate decision makers, who need actionable information quickly, are contributing to the increased need for information visualization tools. - MG

Seaman, David.  "Deep Sharing: A Case for the Federated Digital LibraryEDUCAUSE Review 38(4) (July/August 2003): 10-11. ( - At the 2003 Spring Digital Library Federation Forum, Director David Seaman announced a major new DLF initiative -- the Distributed Online Digital Library. This brief piece introduces the concept to the higher education community, and makes the case for building a unified collection of digital objects from libraries across the country. The proposal is that libraries would contribute not just the metadata, but the actual digital files into a central repository. Other libraries, or conceivably other individuals, could then download the actual content and recombine materials from diverse collections to create a new type of collection or service. Clearly there are many challenges ahead, not the least of which are political and legal in nature, but if it can be done at all, Seaman makes a fairly compelling case that it should be attempted. - RT

Spring, Tim.  "Bogus Ink (2 July 2003) (,aid,111319,00.asp). - In one of my first real jobs out of undergraduate school, I worked in a graphic design department with a guy who had ties to...the sort of people who were able to obtain high quality merchandise at rock-bottom prices. Something new and interesting "fell off the truck" almost every week -- Burberry trench coats, Sony Trinitron TVs, Hitachi camcorders... Apparently, what is falling off the truck these days are bogus ink jet and toner cartridges which, according to this article, "can ruin prints, spray ink, and permanently damage your printer." The Internet, of course, has made it trés facile for these counterfeiters to ply their trade -- open up your inbox in the a.m and this becomes immediately obvious. As you might suspect, this is causing a lot of grief for legitimate purveyors of ink jet and toner cartidges, which include the major printer manufacturers. Not only is money being lost directly to fake merchandise, but when consumers use the counterfeit products in their printers, the resulting damage is usually blamed on the printer manufacturer. As with piracy and trademark violations in general, the problem is most acute in certain parts of the world; it is estimated that as many as half of the name-brand cartidges sold in Mexico and the Middle East "may be inauthentic." In the U.S., the Imaging Supplies Coalition says that one in every 20 cartridges sold is a fake, and the problem is growing. - SK

Van de Sompel, Herbert, Jeffrey A.  Young, and Thomas B.  Hickey.  "Using the OAI-PMH...DifferentlyD-Lib Magazine 9(7/8) (July/August 2003) ( - Readers of Current Cites are familiar with the Open Archives Initiative, which has created a protocol for harvesting metadata from distributed repositories. In this piece, the authors describe some interesting ways that they are extending the functionality of the protocol, and therefore the applications to which it can be applied. The techniques highlighted include sending an XSLT stylesheet parameter with the OAI repository response to allow the result to be viewed directly in a web browser, using a PURL to turn complex OAI requests into simple URLs, and exposing such things as usage logs to private OAI harvesters. The primary benefit of this article is not the specific uses described, but rather the example it sets in freeing up your thinking to think of the OAI Protocol for Metadata Harvesting as an extensible infrastructure, not a standard that is narrowly focused on solving one particular problem. Let a thousand flowers bloom. - RT

Current Cites - ISSN: 1060-2356
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