Monday, December 19, 2011

Info Tech Start-ups Featured at SLA Toronto Event

A few weeks ago I attended SLA Toronto's event Start It Up!  The event was hosted by Helen Kula at the MaRS Discovery District where she works as a Senior Information Specialist in the Market Intelligence group. Four local vendors presented their technologies, all in the area of information aggregation.

I was excited to attend because as someone who works and plays in the areas of social media, information management and knowledge management, I am always looking for useful new tools to use in my work. We live in exciting times when someone in his or her basement can quickly become the founder of the next Amazon, Twitter or Facebook. But it's not an easy road to getting there, and those startups that truly have valuable ideas need our support if they are going to be viable.

The notes below are based on notes I sent out via Twitter during the event. No doubt there are inaccuracies and omissions as a result; I welcome corrections and additions.

First up was Mark from Trendspottr.   Trendspottr is a free web-based service that identifies and predicts trends from real-time data. Some of the largest media companies in the world are using it, for example: the BBC, The Guardian, BBC Today, Yahoo News and Canada's Post Media. Also some of the biggest PR agencies in the world are using it to identify trends. Klout is using also using it internally, sees the value of it.

Mark explained to use that the "half-life" of content is now about 3 hours. It will soon be down to minutes. Value dissipates quickly. The focus of Trendspotter is to find data very early on, hours before general awareness. They are now trying to predict trends and outcomes, getting ahead of the info curve.

Trendspotter has a bookmarklet that allows you to start a search to see what is trending on any topic.

In December it will be integrated with social media "dashboard" tool Hootsuite. They will soon also be releasing Trendspottr Newsroom and Trendspottr Pro (with notifications and analysis). Trendspottr is also working on time-based influencer analysis.

BuzzData - -  @BuzzData 

Next up was Nick Edouard of BuzzData, a tool for data sharing and collaboration. Data sets loaded onto BuzzData are given their own URL and tools for sharing or working with privately.

Some of the features making BuzzData unique:

  • You can choose your license for making data sets available publicly, for example making them available under Creative Commons.
  • BuzzData helps to encourage community around the data, encouraging the community to work with, manipulate, and link to the data.
  • You can add context to data including visuals, graphs, images.
  • Versioning of data. Excel doesn't allow for this kind of data trail. 
  • Site has ability to flag content as being inappropriate.
BuzzData is a platform.  Edouard says "let's build an ecosystem of apps around it," which goes along with the general philosphy of BuzzData: "Good stuff happens when data is shared." It seems to me this is a lot of what we hear reporter/author Jeff Jarvis saying as well. 

Still in public beta, BuzzData is being used by newspapers, news agencies, governments, cities, not-for-profits, NGOs and more.

Edouard explained that most people's experience with open data was version 1.0. We now need to take it a step further,  curating the data and building engagement around it. 

How do you get experts to comment on something relevant and turn it into content for clients? That is the goal of ConnectedN. 

How does it work? ConnectedN delivers targeted information to the experts inside an organization (also for knowledge management and marketing teams). It allows them to easily add comments and then publish this out to blogs, a newsletter, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sources on the Internet. 

This allows you to easily designate one person inside your organization to spend an hour a week or five minutes a day participating in content creation. 

If you have a strong KM or marketing team trying to drive customer engagement, this makes it a lot easier. 

Currently ConnectedN is available as a paid, customized service, but will soon be launching a self-serve, lower price point service.

Sciencescape - coming soon to: 

Next up: Sam from Sciencescape with a new product launched that same day.

Sciencescape maps out scientific publications/articles from PubMed, and includes news feeds, filters, timelines and article-level metrics.

To date Sciencescape has been mapping out current publications. They will be relying on users to map out historic articles.  According to Sam, Sciencescape gets better the more it is used: as comments are added in, researchers around "bleeding edge" areas can be identified. 

Once available to the public (soon!), there will be flagging methods in Sciencescape to help police contributions. 

It is not yet ready, but in a few days we should be able to go to and sign up for beta passwords.

Next up at SLA Toronto start-up night: William Mougayar of Eqentia - a news/social media content curation platform.  I was already familiar with Eqentia, having worked with Mougayar previously to put a sample site together (more on that below). 

Eqentia allows organizations or internal departments to put content out to internal or external clients/customers. Content can be automated, curated, or manually gathered.

Eqentia looks for relevancy rather than popularity; it index 120,000 articles per day using semantic search. It looks for relevancy first, then popularity.

It essentially allows you to become the publisher - content comes in, is filtered according to rules you set, and the good content comes out. Your content can be branded, integrated with any site, even delivered via email.

Eqentia acts as an all-in-one comprehensive platform allowing for content harvesting, filtering, aggregation, curation, branding, newsletter managemeent, semantic searching, publishing and more. The content integrates well with social media; it has "on ramps" and "off ramps" bringing content in, pushing content out.

They already have a range of customers. Mougayar said he is talking to a few law firms currently because of mix of internal and external content. 

Mougayar showed a sample Eqentia site at that was created with my help. (It needs work and, yes, it is heavy with posts from my friend Stephen Abram). 

ITWorld Canada also has an Eqentia site

Wrapping it all up

I personally find the subject of tech startups to be fascinating, and love to see us give support to these local companies, especially in terms of being beta testers, providing feedback, and giving them potential new business.

During the Eqentia presentation, I was asked how I got involved with the project. Long story short: I had attended a few Toronto Semantic Web Meetup Group meetings organized by William Mougayar in an attempt to get my head around the semantic web. He is extremely humble, not talking about his own semantic tool at the meetings. As I started to get to know him, I started to ask about his company. Finally one day he invited me to see it in action. I was hooked!

He then asked if I would like to curate a site. Of course! Unfortunately it has been a busy year and I haven't spent the time on it that I would like (which is why I've never written it up here previously). But I hope you will take a look. If you would like an introduction to the folks at Eqentia, let me know. I have no financial arrangements with them--I am just an enthusiastic fan-girl who likes to be the first to try things out.

Everyone seemed to quite enjoy the tech start-up evening. I hope SLA Toronto makes this an annual event! Toronto is a real hot-bed for tech start-up companies, many of them working in areas that should be of interest to special librarians, information managers, and knowledge management directors. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Occupy Toronto?

I have been trying to get my head around the "Occupy" movement, particularly in Canada. It seems to me there are a lot of points of contention and pain in other countries, but wonder what we have to complain about in Canada that would move people to these extreme measures. I'm also not sure I completely "get" this movement since there are not specific demands or direction. On the other hand, I defend their right to peaceful assembly and protest.

I was in New York last week and walked past the Occupy Wall Street encampment. I was surprised at how small a geographic space it takes up (no bigger than Toronto's, albeit a lot more densely populated). I was also surprised at how organized they appeared to be, obviously quite self-contained in the space they are occupying.

Last night my fellow Slaw law blogger Omar Ha-Redeye appeared on TV Ontario's current affairs talk show The Agenda with Steve Paikin supporting the Occupy Toronto movement. It is a thought-provoking exchange and helped clarify things for me. Here's that discussion--

As I have been writing this, word comes via Twitter that the people at Occupy Toronto have been served eviction notices by the city. Everything is peaceful so far, but the city (and the world) will be watching.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Top 5 Tips for Businesses Using Social Media

On Friday Phil Ridout put out the following question to some people in his Google Plus network:

Social media in business setting - top tips please!
I've been asked to make a presentation in 10 days time about using Social Media in a Business Setting. I've a bunch of ideas and stuff of my own but what better way to demonstrate the power of social networking than by asking people in my network for their top tips. So, what are your top 5 tips for businesses using Social Media please.
I quite like the list I came up with, so decided to share with you here. This has been derived from a lot of reading, course work learning and hard-won real world experience. I believe all these points apply whether your project is inward facing or outward facing.

My top 5:

1. Start small with a "quick win" project, especially with a small group (e.g. pilot project, proof of concept) and then slowly work into larger, strategic projects from there.

2. Don't build an "empty disco" - seed any new tool with content and invite a few people in to share specific contributions to get the ball rolling. If the dance floor is empty, no one is going to want to be the first to dance.

3. Solicit early adopter(s) to be champion(s) of the project. Give them support, including special training in the project's technology. Keep them in the loop so they can accurately sell/evangelize to others inside the organization.

4. To sell it to the executives, the initiative needs to tie back to the organization's or department's business goals. Don't just start using a tool because everyone else is doing it. (Hint: "It will improve collaboration" rarely ties back to business goals and is usually not a selling point.)

5. If the small project doesn't work, kill it quickly and move on to another "quick win."

What do you think of these tips? What are your top 5 tips for businesses using social media?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Are You Using Plaxo? How to Delete Your Account

A discussion on one of my listservs about Plaxo got me thinking about why I had signed up for it, and why I still had an account. It was many years ago that I signed on (probably when it was first launched). I signed on to see what it is about, but rarely went back. Few of my contacts were there, and those were mostly contacts I have connection with on other sites. So, I decided to delete my account and document the process for everyone.

Do you use Plaxo? I am curious to know what value you are getting from it. Why do you use it?

How to delete your Plaxo account

1. Go to the Plaxo site and click on the "sign in" button.

2. Sign in. If you don't remember your password, ask for a password reminder. Hopefully you remember the email address you used to sign up!

3. Once you successfully sign in, click on the drop down menu under your name. Then click on "Settings".

4. On the first screen under "Account info" find the line that says "If you no longer want to use Plaxo, you can delete your account." Click on the words "delete your account" (in blue).

5.  Plaxo will ask you to confirm the deletion. Note that this deletion (and the deletion of all your contacts) will be permanent. It asks you to review what will be deleted. If you prefer, there is a way to download your content from the very first screen (under "Sync and Back Up" in the menu at the top). I didn't bother with that since I did not have much content or many contacts.

Plaxo also asks for your reasons for leaving, and what they could have done better to keep you to stay.

6. Click on the blue "Delete account" button (above) and voila! your account has been permanently deleted.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Blogger Monday: When should you back up your blog content?

Last week I wrote my "Blogger Monday" blog post Sunday night and used the option to schedule it to post on the Monday. I went to sleep, content in having a new blog post under my belt. I have been on Blogger, Google's blogging platform, before it was even owned by Google. Yes, more than seven years. I have always composed my messages directly into the blog, hit "publish" and never had a problem. Until last week.

The next day I went about my day, and it wasn't until late morning that I thought to check in to the blog. Much to my surprise, the new blog post was not there! I went into the dashboard on the back end. Perhaps I had done something wrong? With the WordPress blogging platform, for example, if you leave the category "uncategorized" checked off, the post does not appear publicly.  No, nothing there. I checked draft posts, I checked scheduled posts, and I checked all posts. Nothing. I tried searching the posts from the back end, again nothing. I spent a couple of stressed hours. I remembered largely what I had written, but who wants to spend another hour rewriting a blog post?

I checked Google's help forum and discovered a few others had experienced the same problem recently, but no one was offering answers as to why and how to recover. I vented a bit on Twitter, and got a bit of sympathy but again no real answers.

And then I got a message from educator extraordinaire, Diane Bédard:

Backup? Ummm...hrm. I had never thought to back up an individual blog post. I always thought once it was accepted as post I would be safe. Apparently not!  My first reaction was to say "I could never write off-line and then post to a blog! Blogging directly into the blog platform is part of my creative process!". I have to admit to being a bit huffy about it. And then I realized that (as is always the case) Di was right.

Backing up individual blog posts

So, my compromise is to write directly in the blog platform, but then to copy down the content at least until the post goes up publicly. That way I always have my last post at least in draft "just in case."  I am getting used to this new addition to the workflow, but here is what I do:

  • Go to the HTML editor for the blog post and copy all content (using "select all" in the browser).  This way I capture all the HTML coding. 
  • I then copy it into a text editor rather than Word so that extra Word code is not added to the document.  
  • If I need to reinstate the blog post later, I would copy from the text editor document, and paste into the HTML editor screen.

So how did I get the post back last Monday? After putting it aside for a couple of hours, I came up with an idea: what about my browser history, was there a link there? I went in, and was very fortunate to somehow (mysteriously) be able to pull open the blog post. It appeared to somehow still be in Blogger, albeit lost. I copied from the HTML editor and then went to the blog in a fresh screen, started a new blog post, and pasted the copied text back into the HTML editor.  I was extremely lucky all of this actually worked.

Backing up all archived blog content (i.e. exporting)

In addition to backing up individual posts, what else should you do to back up your blog content? It is a good idea to periodically back up your content in case the site goes down or disappears.

WordPress, for example, has an "Export" feature currently under "Tools":

Blogger has an "Export content" feature under "Settings" and "Basic":

Other considerations in backing up blog content

Other things to think about when determining how you are going to back up blog content:
  • Think about the format you are exporting the content into. 
  • What about the blog template, especially if you have customized it? On Blogger it doesn't hurt to grab the template HTML (copy from the Template > Edit Template page). In WordPress, keep track of the plugins you have added.
  • What about blogger profiles? And other pages added such as with WordPress?
  • Will the content you capture allow you to sufficiently replicate the blog later? Move to another platform?
  • Where will you store the backup versions of the site? Think about the measures you typically take to back up important content. You may wish to do the same with your blog content.
  • How often will you back up content?  It is a good idea to stick to a regular schedule. Will you back it up daily, weekly or monthly?
  • Who will be in charge of backing up the site? Who will fill in if that person is away?
I have to admit being a bit cavalier with my own blog, but after last week's incident am starting to realize how much personal equity I have built up in this blog and how I should be making a more concerted effort to back it up. And of course if you are administrating a blog for work or business purposes, you may have even more important reasons to back it up consistently.

When updating blog templates or layouts

Finally, it is a very good idea to have a separate development or test site for making changes to the blog template or plug-ins. Set up a copy of your blog at a separate URL to test out changes. That way if you mess something up, you haven't destroyed your good work on the main site. This is something I see others doing. In the past I would have just tweaked the template of this blog on the fly; however, especially with something like WordPress, code and plug-ins can interact in unexpected ways. As I start to think about changing the template to this blog, I am giving thought to setting up a separate test site so I can play around with options and not risk losing my hard work. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Innovative Ideas: Virtual Stores and the Possibility for Public Libraries

This video depicts how Tesco have adapted their services for the South Korea market. One of their goals was to increase market share while not increasing number of stores. The solution? "Virtual" stores in subway stations. Have a look, this is pretty cool--

Shoppers add items to their shopping carts by scanning QR codes with their smart phones, and then the items purchased are delivered to their homes. This makes me wonder how public libraries might take advantage of something like this? Imagine browsing books while waiting for a train or bus and having them delivered to your ebook reader or home. Libraries have been exploring the various uses of QR codes. This use would certainly attract some attention to libraries, don't you think?

Can you think of other uses of a virtual store like this?

Hat tip to Martin Cleaver for sharing this video.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Blogger Monday: Kickstarting an Old Blog

I know I keep harping on about the things I learned at AALL 2011, but there is indeed more. Last week I attended the blogger meetup hosted by the CS-SIS (Computing Services Special Interest Section). We were fortunate to have Meredith Lindemon, owner and operator of Meredith Group, join us. Lindemon is a consultant who specializes in launching the web presence for organizations as well as business development.

She sat with each of our tables and gave us individual advice about our blogs. I have to admit, I didn't expect to learn much since I have been blogging so long and even written a successful book about blogging. But I was pleasantly surprised!  I explained to her that I have been blogging for over seven years, help other people to blog, and even consult in this area. But, I was struggling to keep content going on my own blog. I have been a stuck thinking about how I would like to change the look of this blog, and feel this has kept me a bit hung up on posting.

She gave me three pieces of advice to get started again, some of which I apparently have been taking:
  1. Give up on the old blog and start fresh with a new one on a different topic.
  2. Get into the habit of writing each day for just 20 minutes.
  3. Pick a theme for each day of the week and write to that theme. For example, Mondays could be about law librarianship, Tuesdays could be interviews with mentors.
While I felt that the first suggestion to be sage advice, it is not good for me. My blog has been wide-ranging and has developed over time as I have developed my own interests. I want to keep blogging about what I am learning professionally, so don't see a need to start on a new topic or a new blog. That being said, at some point the look will get revamped.
But the other two pieces of advice hit the nail on the head, I think. Writing each day for 20 minutes is a low time commitment, and yet should get me back in the groove of blogging each day. I do a lot of writing throughout the day (Twitter, Facebook, email, blog comments, and of course client reports) so this should not be a stretch.  

I am mulling over the idea of a theme for each day. Behind the scenes I have in the past put together series of blog topics only to feel less than inspired when it came time to write the full blog posts once I had completed the outlines. No doubt there are skeletal blog post remains littered all over the place. So, it will be important to pick themes I can sustain. No doubt the best plan of action will be to start with themes I am already addressing, and allow those to flourish. I am still giving some thought to this. 

I do like the idea of making one day dedicated to the topic of blogging since I have written substantially in this area. Therefore, I am kicking off the themes with "Blogger Monday". What do you think? What sorts of topics would you like to see covered with respect to blogging?

And what about the other days of the week? What should I cover then? I have some ideas but haven't set fingers to keyboard yet, so there is still time to get your suggestions in. 

Thank you so much for joining me in this journey to get this blog rolling again. I think it is about time! I really do hope you will consider participating and adding a comment or two to the blog. That would be some real encouragement!


Photo credit:  based on "Kick Start" by BotheredByBees made available for use and adaptation under Creative Commons.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What Are You Saying? - Communication and the Need to Speak the Same Language in the Workplace

Having just come back from the AALL 2011 conference, I can't help but think about all the sessions that started off by defining the terminology and concepts being discussed. Kathie Sullivan and I did the same in our session on collaboration tools, explaining what sense of collaboration we were talking about.

Here are a few things I have been thinking about lately with communication and learning to speak the same language in the workplace:

1. It is important for senior managers to get an accurate vision out to staff.

This means a few things:
  • Make sure everyone is using the terminology in the same way. There are different ways to collaborate; are you talking about the same thing? Are you talking just about co-ordinating with one another, or actually creating something together so that the individual contributions (and contributors) will not be distinguishable in the final work product?
  • How will this collaboration happen? Who will lead? What are the ground rules?
  • If you want to see something "innovative", what do you mean by "innovative"? 
  • What is your risk tolerance and how open will this process be?
All of these things need consideration before people magically work together to make your vision a reality.

2. It is important for senior managers to communicate the vision directly to staff.

I see "broken telephone" taking place inside organizations: with communication being handed down from VP or Managing Partner to CIO to Director to Manager to staff. By the time it is handed down through the ranks, and questions meant to clarify go back up through the chain of command, everyone has a different picture in mind and is doing something different. How inefficient!

If holding a group meeting or a group call is too difficult, what about the senior officer with the vision putting the communication into a podcast episode for internal staff to listen to? Or have it video taped and post on your intranet or portal? And allow staff to submit questions in a way that everyone can see the answers to help with the understanding. Of course, ideally the senior person will speak to each individual on the project to ensure they are on side and on track. A periodic call around on important projects would be well worth the time spent.

3. If you are working on a project and are working from directions handed down through various chains of command, it is worth going directly to the source to ensure you understand what is being asked of you.

This was a rule of thumb when I was a reference librarian: if instructions on complex research had been handed down via an assistant or a junior, it is possible something was inadvertently missed during the transmission. It was always better to go directly to the person giving the research request directly to ensure the work was being done correctly and in the most efficient way possible. It was also an opportunity to ask questions and clarify.

4. Keep in mind culture and cultural differences.

If you are assigning work to someone or accepting work from someone with whom you are not familiar, keep in mind that the way in which you communicate may play a role at the outset. Emailing back and forth with people from different countries and of different cultures lately, I notice that in North America our communications tend to be direct and informal. Those in or from other countries may be less direct and more formal.

Think about how your communication may be received by the other person. Will you be seen as too formal? Will you be seen as too kurt and therefore rude? Speaking first by telephone may help alleviate some of this tension.

5. Are you using bad email habits to communicate?

Emailing in ineffective ways may mean that you are confusing others, and slowing down the process. Again, think about how you are communicating and what is most effective.

I love reading tips from my friend Bruce Mayhew since he has some great advice on how to communicate with email. I highly recommend his Email Etiquette blog posts. I have taken Bruce's email workshop and found it invaluable in communicating more effectively via email, and identified a few of my own bad habits of which I was previously unaware.

Your thoughts?

What kinds of communication breakdowns have you seen within organizations or teams? What would you recommend as a remedy? I look forward to hearing your ideas!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

AALL 2011 - E-books and the Future of Legal Publishing

These are notes are from a panel discussion session with Scott Meiser of LexisNexis, Dan Bennett of Thomson Reuters Professional, and Steven W. Sutton of YBP Library Services, A Baker & Taylor Company . The session was moderated by June Hsiao Liebert, Coordinator, John Marshall Law School. Note: these are my selected notes from this session; any inaccuracies or omissions are my own. I welcome your comments and follow-up thoughts!

This panel discussion was in a Q & A format, with questions from the audience at the end.

What is the future of ebooks?

Meiser of LexisNexis:  People using ebooks in their personal life are expecting them in their professional life as well. There is a continued blurring of lines between online and paper content, also expectation of apps. Are of licensing will need to evolve, as will lending evolve.

Bennett of Thomson Reuters: They have taken an app approach: current ebooks standards are not satisfactory for professional level content. Current standards for ebooks are from the consumer side. Professionals expect things like footnotes and tabular material (sometimes works, sometimes doesn't). The ebook readers don't understand their updates; consumer grade ereaders just don't support this. This will be messy; different readers support different things.

Steven Sutton at YBP Library Services - Good future for ebooks based on current sales. Space is becoming an increasing issue. Also, patrons have changed; today's students expect access 24/7 and expect to have it on their computers.

Survey of audience: How many are academics who have bought standalone ebooks (as opposed to those accessible from databases)? - about 1/8 of the large audience.

They have launched demand-driven or patron-driven acquisitions. A whole new service, a new way to buy ebooks - part of the collection development strategy.

What kind of licensing models are you implementing; how are you implementing digital rights management?

Meiser of LexisNexis:  new ebooks start to look more like software than hard copy books. Start to look at unlimited access, pay-per-use, lending directly from the publisher. These are new options, and they will continue to explore. Customer demand will drive the model.

Bennett of Thomson Reuters:  He agrees. There will need to be different types of models for different content. You initially come at this from a print model, but it is constrained in ways that do not exist with ebooks. They have heard there has to be an archival version of the content, you cannot "rip it back" in the future.

They expect managing the rights "in the cloud" so you can see what you have access to.

Sutton of YBP: working with clients to understand the license agreements from their providers. They have to educate their customers on how to read the agreements so they can sign. They would ideally create one license agreement that would cover everything. Aggregators have the same problem - when you buy content from the aggregator, what are the implications of the agreement?

What difficulties are there in converting a book to an ebook?

Meiser of LexisNexis:  The technology part is easy for them to do; it is the adoption and working with it by libraries that is going to be the difficult to part. What makes sense in what format, and what licensing model is going to be difficult for them to figure out. Consistency is going to cause difficulties for libraries.

Bennett of Thomson Reuters: Page numbers are incredibly important to people, and even when you have content that cites to paragraph or section numbers, you still get people quoting page numbers. There will be a period of transition when some clients will be looking at print, and some looking at ebooks.

Sutton of YBP: They have to be better at describing the digital; the ebook may not be exactly the same as the print and need to be able determine and describe the differences.

The challenge of the Expresso Book Machine was just getting the files. They have a whole new division internally to look at the files and make sure they are formatting correctly.

If you had a crystal ball, how long do you think your companies will continue to produce print?

Meiser of LexisNexis:  He doesn't think ebooks are going to be even half their business in the near future. He doesn't see print disappearing.

Bennett of Thomson Reuters: High value books - there is a place for some of these in our world. There will be a "long long time" before the hard copy book disappears altogether.

Sutton of YBP: Turn the question around; how are you going to satisfy patrons who want print when you have bought ebooks?  You may want to print on demand, possibly just chapters as needed. There is a question coming up as to whether they can discount books if they buy the ebooks; this is a pressure they are getting.

What types of content do you plan to put into ebooks first?

Meiser of LexisNexis: Customers expect all of their content to be online. The expect all of it to be available by first quarter of next year; 75% done by end of this year. Some of their books they can't afford to reprint in paper which they can put into ebook, so there should be more varied content.

Bennett of Thomson Reuters: A lot of value to give books that attorneys use every day in a format they can use on their ipads. Textbooks - they are doing some casebooks already.

Sutton of YBP: Encourages publishers to make their content either in digital format or at the same time as print. Customers want the option, they want no embargoes. Embargoes means libraries are forced to choose. Make titles available in a timely fashion as ebooks. (Show of hands: everyone in the audience agree).

What platform will your ebooks use?

Meiser of LexisNexis: Are aiming to be device agnostic, publishing in both ePub and Mobi as long as both models are used. Readers don't have to learn a new platform. They expect there will be a faster evolution than they could ever support so they are not going to get into the eReader business.

Bennett of Thomson Reuters: Didn't want to dumb their content down to consumer grade level. Delivering a number of platform features. Notes and annotations need to move to subsequent versions. Full text search - they have the full text search of Westlaw sitting on the iPad. They have their own platform that they can't deliver to the level they want to their own content.

Sutton of YBP: They re-sell the ebooks as they are; they do not try to standardize. They try to help clients understand what they can do with the various platforms.


Q: Have you started working with your authors to introduce multi-media components?

Meiser: Yes, with their more tech-savvy authors who can see the need.

Bennett: Thinks they will.

Q: Is there a reason why books themselves can't be multimedia apps?

Meiser: need to look at whether it should be a book or an app

Bennett: for the volume of titles they have Apple would not let them put out that many apps, but they have done it for Black's Law Dictionary.

Q: How soon will things no longer be out of print.

Sutton: "About an hour." :)   - Google is doing a lot of this.

Q: But what about out of print in the future? 

Sutton: In the print world, "out of print" meant the publisher felt there was not enough business to continue it.

Bennett: There will be no incentive to throw it away, so it will not be a problem.

Blog post update August 1, 2011: The link to Dan Bennett's profile on LinkedIn has been corrected.

AALL 2011 - Coding Potpourri: A Survey of Programming Languages and Tools Used in Library Applications Today

These are notes are from a panel discussion session with Nicole Engard, Director of Open Source Education ByWater Solutions, Ted Lawless, Library Applications Developer at Brown University, Jason Eiseman, Librarian for Emerging Technologies at  Yale Law School Library, and Tom Boone, Reference Librarian, Loyola Law School. The session was moderated by Cynthia Bassett, University of Missouri Law School Library. Note: these are my selected notes from this session; any inaccuracies or omissions are my own. I welcome your comments and follow-up thoughts!

The speakers gave us an introduction to each coding language, and we saw an example of each.

Nicole Engard on MySQL - presentation will be posted

MySQL = My Structured Query Language - relational database management system, usually accessed via a web interface. Licensed under the GNU GPL, meaning it is Open Source and used in a lot of Open Source applications.

Who's using it:
  • Wordpress
  • Drupal
  • Wikipedia
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Ebay
  • Google (not searches)
Using the code for Koha, she created a table and then inserted data into the table. It is not necessary to enter data into every field unless a required field. 

She then showed us how to query the table using the "SELECT" statement. Headings in query results can be created for combined fields with the "CONCAT" command. She showed us how to pull results from two different tables to give meaningful results. The most common use for reports is for end of month or end of year statistics, so date and time functions are used extensively in queries.

Ted Lawless on Python

a "power tool" that can do anything such as manipulating data, building websites and running libraries. The tools for this have become better over the years. 

"A little code can go a long way." - Eric Hellman at Code4Lib 2011 conference

Librarians' work is data oriented. It needs to be harvested from various sources, repackaged, and used in our systems so that our users can learn from it. We use tools such as Excel and MARCEdit; using Python is taking it to the next level; flexible and can be adapted quickly.

Getting started: 
  • start with a real problem
  • get an overview of Python with The Programming Historian
  • a computer
  • a good text editor e.g. jEdit, Notepad++
Data types - identifies and classifies types of data
Reads data from spreadsheets - .CSV files (his example was showing reading a Bluebook citation from a table)

He showed us querying a file, searching for records via Z39.50, creating MARC records, building reports from the ILS, and harvesting data from websites not already in a .CSV file or in MySQL.

More advanced: for reporting, they had a script that ran every night to pull ILS data, used MySQL to put it onto a little website. Built with a Python tool called django for building websites.

Jason Eiseman on HTML5

One of the design principles of HTML5 is to support existing content 

Some history

HTML 4.01 - 1999
XHTML 1.0 - 2002
XHTML 2.0 - 2006
Web Forms 2.0 - 2004 < focused on advanced web applications

2008 - HTML5 standard started
2012 - expected to be a candidate recommendation
2022 - expected to be finished

All standard browsers support HTML5 today; Apples, iPhones and Androids also support it; however the only browser currently supporting all of the elements is Opera.
  • HTML5 uses semantic tags to structure an HTML document;
  • good for accessibility for working with screen readers. 
  • a lot more support for additional microformats
He showed us some of the graphical changes allowed by HTML5 and some new form elements that look the same on the computer but look better with a mobile interface. shows all of the forms available.

Last year he used Javascript to draw on Canvas to map out carrels in their library. He thinks they will be able to use graphics, Canvas and Javascript to create interactive overlays. See and for examples.

Audio, similar. See for example. 

HTML5 can delivery functionality to off-web applications (i.e. when not connected to the Internet).

For more reading:

Tom Boone on CSS: Cascading Style Sheets

Without CSS, content is not unreadable. Tom showed us the, New York Times and Facebook websites without CSS - largely unusable to the human eye.

Cascading Style Sheets 

Cascading - the cascading feature has changed in the way it works over time
  1. browser style sheet (default styles)
  2. site style sheet(s) - overrides the browser defaults - this is what web designers work on
  3. user style sheet(s) - not used very often; users can overwrite styles e.g. he has a style that hides the comments on news websites
  • font size, type, colour, format (bold, italic, upper case)
  • linked - applies to more than one page - make the change once and it shows up in many places
  • embedded - embedded but appears in the head portion of the web page - has a CSS rule defined in the head. 
  • inline - property directly embedded into the page - almost impossible to override, so avoid
CSS Syntax (see also: )

{color: red;}

p = selector -
paragraph tag - everything within the paragraph tag will show up red. Could be

  • etc.

    {color: red;} = the declaration

    can be more specific using classes, IDs and descendant selectors

    e.g. p.summary{color: red;}only applies to paragraph tags that have been given a summary class

    Class and ID work very similarly, however ID can appear only once on a page; a class can appear many times.

    p#summary {color: red;} - an paragraph with an ID of summary

    Descendent selectors - a more hierarchical rule

    ul li {color: red;} < white space - any descendent of a list will get the red

    Classes/IDs can be combined with descendant selectors to create increasingly complex rules.

    New developments:
    • Adaptive Web Design
    • CSS3
    For more reading:

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    AALL 2011 - To Recover or Not to Recover: Trends, Solutions, and Alternatives for Taming Online Research Costs

    These are notes are from a panel discussion session with Joan Axelroth, Axelroth & Associates, Anthony A. Licata, CFO of Dechert LLP and Nuchine Nobari, Library Director of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, LLP. The session was moderated by Sarah Mauldin, Head Librarian of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP. Note: these are my selected notes from this session; any inaccuracies or omissions are my own. I welcome your comments and follow-up thoughts! 

    A panel discussion...

    Is it ethical to charge clients for online research?

    Axelroth: ABA put together an opinion on  charges other than professional fees - library, computer research, third party providers - should be treated differently. You can charge for computer services, paper, person running the searches, etc. You have to pass on any discounts received from third party providers.

    Can firms add a mark up to online search charges?

    Axelroth: The fairness factor: is it fair to the firm's clients and the firm's attorneys. Are paid clients subsidizing non-paid clients? (Are you non-paid clients your larger clients who have negotiated this?)

    Licata: Dechert model - most libraries have fixed fee contracts with the large providers and pay a retail rate for other 10%. There is risk to chopping up a fixed fee contract - they create a usage model, put all the usage for a month in and then "chop it up". They also look for trends; e.g. February has fewer business days than March, so individual searches that month cost more so they make sure they take a loss on every search. They actually mailed cheques back to their clients because they were able to reduce their online costs. "Usage swings wildly" so they track it carefully.

    What are the trends on recovering for services that firms pay a flat fee for, regardless of use?

    Axelroth: Percentage of recovery of costs by firms is going down. Indications show this is only going to come back a little.  "Slicing and dicing is getting so complicated" partners are not understanding it and cannot explain it to their clients, so they are writing things off.

    Does your firm attempt to recover costs for other services (especially local pay per use services) e.g. BNA, Bloomberg Law, Casemaker, CCH Intelliconnect, Fastcase, Hein Online, Loislaw, PACER, RIA Checkpoint.

    Licata: They have tried to take the discussion away from the billing partner. They don't expect partners to; they ask the client finance person talk to the firm's finance person to walk through it. They make the attempt to pass savings along to clients. Clients are welcome to discuss deals up front, but they are not comfortable just billing full cost to clients.

    Nobari: it is sometimes comparing apples to oranges. Lawyers would only go to alternative sources if they are as sophisticated sources as Westlaw and Lexis. Her only success is Fastcase; it has fewer bells and whistles for just basic reading of cases. They used this to manage use of Westlaw and Lexis. Lawyers are more reluctant to use Bloomberg Law, so they had less success with this service.

    What is the trend with regard to following up on online charges that are written off?

    Axelroth: 62% of firms track write-downs or write-offs of electronic research charges to see what can be billed back. The goal is to try to change lawyer habits. You need management to support this, and possible a reward/punishment system.

    Licata: library staff don't running around up front trying to figure it out; they put in a "fairly diligent budget process" a few years ago. If the lawyers don't put something on a client bill, it is put into that lawyer's departmental budgets. Budgets got a lot of attention; they looked at because there were other things they wanted to spend their budgets on.

    Nobari: spend 2 hours of staff time every week: letting the lawyers know if there is a better way of doing research because they may not know the most efficient way; they email aggressively to encourage lawyers to bill back to clients rather than charge back to office. They have decreased usage of Westlaw and Lexis by 20%. Start with your 20 least effective users and follow up with them.

    What is your firm's average rate of recovery for Westlaw and Lexis research costs?

    Licata: they recover about 70% of their contract spending. It is a line item everyone understand. Clients don't necessarily understand why lawyers need to have legal research, they expect the lawyers to know. You need better communication with the clients showing value. Help put clients' focus on their overall value from the law firm's work.

    Nobari: they fall pretty much within the same ranges. They work with consultants to compare, and they are comparable to others.

    What are the trends for using cost recovery tools like OneLog, Research Monitor, Lookup Precision?

    Licata: It gives them more data, but he's not sure it helps them recover more. He gives a qualitative "yes it does" because information helps you back up your argument when trying to change lawyer behaviour.

    Axelroth: using software for recovery is one reason, but you can use it for things like acquisitions decisions and others. Even if you are not charging back (rolling online charges into overhead), have attorneys input client matter number to get an idea of needs by individual clients.  Greg Castanias gave an impassioned talk at the PLL Summit asking us to put pressure on the vendors to give libraries what they need to get results.

    Nobari: a research tool to help you qualify and quantify are useful. Librarians are the ones who get calls when something is going wrong with the vendor databases. Make sure you are part of the conversation when your senior management want to change the research services the firm subscribes to.

    Are clients pushing back against paying for online research resources?


    What is the trends for firms no longer charging back?

    Licata: you need to understand what your base level of overhead is, and what $ is needed back to keep things going. Firms ultimately will not be recovering less, it will just be recovered in different ways. He thinks clients are asking the wrong questions. Clients who ask not to pay these fees are asking firms to be less transparent.

    Nobari: the lawyers' margins on specific work are so thin since they are now moving to flat fee and volume arrangements for clients.

    Axelroth: in response to Licata, says you can still track what research has been done for the client. You still want to track this internally.  (Licata's response: he was not saying they would be less transparent, he was just looking from clients' viewpoint).


    Audience comment: they blocked 1000 "mysterious" client numbers that did not get research billed back;  also, she is seeing dramatic shifts of "new guard" products replacing use of "old guard" products by tracking usage.

    Licata: doing what they do depends on the firm culture.; they try to run their firm more like a business than a law firm.

    Licata: library costs are less predictable than other firm expenses such as leasing space costs.  He puts the responsibility for recovery of costs on the shoulders of accounting departments, telling law firm CFOs with respect to working with libraries: "If you don't learn what they do and how they affect financial statements, how are you going to teach them about financial statements?"

    Q: fixed fees of attorney costs?

    Licata: varying levels of usage for all these tools. He encourages discussion around costs early. Sometimes it becomes a volume issue, so it depends on what the firm is doing.

    Q: looking at possibly rolling these expenses into overhead and want clients to know this is what they are being charged to.  Thinking of rolling it into a "research charge" charged to all clients equally. Are there ethical concerns?

    Licata: being transparent is the right thing to do; however, client doing 15 real estate transactions is going to question 15 research charges.   Law firms don't get all terms of arrangement into the agreements; don't have a handle on how we do research. Need more documentation in the arrangement letters.

    Q: Usefulness of the tracking services from the publishers?

    Nobari:  Neither PowerInvoice from Lexis nor Quickview from Westlaw provide you with enough information to be used in negotiations later. They are not research tools.

    Q: if they role the cost of the two flat rater contracts together and bill clients back according to that, are there any ethical problems with this? They are not looking to make a profit.

    A: No ethical problem if you are not making a profit. It is an interesting idea.

    Nobari: get an opinion on ethics from a lawyer so that you do not get caught in the middle. Let the lawyers decide how much they want to bill the client.

    Comments: Do we add value to the firm when we follow up with lawyers about expenses being written off? You need to also look at actual recovery as well. She asks  the lawyers "Was there a problem with the service? Did you not get the service you wanted?" The third party tools helps her see where someone needs more training.

    AALL 2011 - Barbara Tillett and John Mark Ockerbloom on Authority Control Vocabularies and the Semantic Web

    I am at the American Association of Law Libraries 2011 Conference in Philadelphia. These are notes are from talk by Dr. Barbara B. Tillett of the Library of Congress and John Mark Ockerboom of the University of Pennsylvania.  Note: these are my selected notes from this session; any inaccuracies or omissions are my own.

    Dr. Barbara B. Tillett, Library of Congress

    DBPedia - example of a linked data, open data project

    • Community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and to make this information available 
    • covers 3 million things that are interconnected
    • meant as proof of concept/prototype, but fully working now
    • linking Wikipedia to lots of other content on the web (videos, websites, etc.)
    • libraries got involved in the linked data network with University of Sweden getting involved first
    • Library of Congress Subject Headings now linked
    • Virtual National Authority File also linked
    All our data can be freely accessible on the web, or available for a fee; now we can share in the cloud via the Internet. Data can come from publishers, data sources themselves, libraries, and from anyone else who wants to help describe the data

    Bibliographic resources are available now, and vocabulary being added.

    Three projects the Library of Congress is involved in:

    1.  VIAF (Virtual International Authority File)

    • facilitate exposure of authority data
    • reduces cataloguing costs
    • simplifies authority control (creation and maintenance) internationally
    From the VIAF website:
    VIAF, implemented and hosted by OCLC, is joint project of several national libraries plus selected regional and trans-national library agencies. The project's goal is to lower the cost and increase the utility of library authority files by matching and linking widely-used authority files and making that information available on the Web.

    e.g. if bibliographic data appears in Japanese script, VIAF could be used to show this to users in Latin script. 

    Originally thought national bibliographic agencies in each country should be responsible for the authors in their own countries; however, this is problematic because different countries have different cultural needs.

    VIAF now has 18 participants with more adding on.  There are 21 different authority files as some countries have different languages.

    All of the terms in the VIAF data are represented by URIs and are linked data.  VIAF itself is using unicode so they can handle any script characters.  MARC 21, UNIMARC and RDF are all supported. 

    Usage of VIAF tripled last year.

    They are mining data from bibliographic records to create a derived authority record. All of the data is normalized (diacritics and capitalization removed). Subjects are group, material types are turned into a code; publication date turned into a decade; co-author pulled out. Take the author record and attach derived authority data to it to created an enhanced authority record.

    A lot of information can be derived from bibliographic records e.g. areas of interest of authors, for how long those people published, who they worked with, alternative names they published under, etc. 

    Tillett encourages us to use VIAF - "It's fun!"  VIAF shows us how we can more creatively (and graphically) represent data from our MARC records. 

    Next steps for VIAF
    • better searching
    • more "Linked data"
    • Participants beyond libraries
      • have Getty signed on
      • Rights management agencies, publishers
      • museums, archives
      • have been working with ISNI project to include their information
    • want to add more name types (beyond personal and corporate names)
      • geographic jurisdictions
      • family names
      • "uniform" work titles
    2. SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System)

    Have put the Library of Congress Subject Headings into SKOS. You can search e.g. "animated films" pulls back three entries. You can suggest subject headings (under the "terminology" tab) to them, even if you are not a member. 

    You can go to the "aquabrowser" display that visually shows headings into graphical interface (with circles).

    3. RDA (Resource Description and Access)

    RDA controlled vocabularies - currently free on the web at Open Metadata Registry (RDA element sets and RDA vocabularies available).

    Metadata includes the URI for every one of the terms. 

    Originally created in English: also in German, and Spanish and French being added (French so that Canada could use it).

    RDA Linked Data - all linked data can be displayed using linking URIs. Depending on the user's view, all of the linked data can be displayed in one particular language. 

    What is slowing them down: current ILSes (integrated library systems). "They are still working in 1970s technology mindsets. They do not take advantage of this."

    John Mark Ockerbloom, University of Pennsylvania Libraries

    Increased use of linked open data will improve discovery significantly

    Some definitions:

    linked data:  
    • data that you put on the web that has resolvable, persistent URIs.
    • creates a web of data that machines can be used

    open data:
    • data that welcomes reuse, with little or no restriction
    • may included linked data
    • people may reuse, remix, mash up data, and give results back to the community
    • if you open your data, make it easy to get in bulk

    • a coded format, easier for a machine to understand
    • once you have this information, you can do analysis

    Penn Libraries were able to pull the Library of Congress Subject Headings to pull down data and apply to their catalog to improve the quality of their own data.  Also, using linked data they can enhance the catalog so that researchers can find data e.g. movie An Inconvenient Truth was catalogued under "global warming" but not "climate change" so may not be found.

    The Online Books Page -

    They have used these technologies to created listings of 1 million books freely available on the Internet, and to let people to easily search the subject categories. 

    He talked about libraries pulling data from external sources and combining it with what we have in our own collections.  

    Another example of a project using linked data: Cornell and others are building VIVO - a network showing university scholars and what they are doing (publishing, where their funding is coming from, who is collaborating with whom).

    Getting started:
    • Don't jump in the deep end right away. "Make good data" and then make it available in one of these systems.  Adapt and improve your own data.
    • Consume and adapt others' data to create practical applications
    • collaborate with a growing community of collaborators