October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween from Ask

Have you seen the ask.com page today? very impressive. Nice contrast to the google logo.

Who says searching isn't fun?

October 29, 2006

Choice in the Library

Heard another *terrific* TED Talks podcast (and no, I have NO affiliation with Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) at all -- I should be so lucky!) about the value of choice in our lives. From the TED Blog: "Barry Schwartz is a sociology professor at Swarthmore College and author of The Paradox of Choice. In this talk, he persuasively explains how and why the abundance of choice in modern society is actually making us miserable."

My interpretation of what he said is that no choice is bad. Some choice is good. Lots of choices is really bad. Problems with too many choices include: lingering doubt ("maybe I should have bought both the black *and* the navy shoes. Why!! didn't I buy the navy shoes, too?!") and self-blame if the choice doesn't pan out ("darn it! I would have been so much happier if I'd bought the navy shoes instead of the black shoes") -- you can probably imagine more. Or you'll listen and hear Dr. Schwartz' ideas.

That's the interesting cog-sci element. But, as happens so often, cog-sci does meet lib-sci: we offer our patrons so many darn database choices -- it's no wonder they are confused and prefer Google. Not only is the search box simple, but the *choice* of which search engine to use is pretty simple, too.

We should make a greater effort to simplify our patrons' choices. Perhaps this is heresy; listen to the podcast and you might change your mind.

October 27, 2006

Clear Message, at thetruth

Have you seen the commercial with the Singing Cowboy without a tongue?

It's sponsored by thetruth.com. About the ad, they say "There are over 8.5 million Americans living with tobacco-related illnesses. With this in mind we saddled up a horse, found a cowboy with a hole in his neck as a result of smoking, and asked him to sing a little ditty." The song is called "you don't always die from tobacco" (and I still hear the chorus in my head).

Its relevance to the CogSciLibrarian? It's one of the CLEAREST mass market messages I've ever seen.

We need to make library messages that clear (tho' fortunately ours aren't so dire).

Check out the site -- click on the TV link to see the Singing Cowboy ad.

October 25, 2006

Access (Canada) Podcasts Online

"The Access Conference is the pre-eminent Canadian library technology conference and typically attracts librarians and information technology professionals from all over Canada, and in recent years the United States and even Europe." said Randy Reichardt (STLQ) about the 2005 conference. It's probably equally true of the 2006 event.

I have downloaded (but not listened to) presentations by Clifford Lynch, Roy Tennant, and many others on topics like Library 2.0, Social Media & information, and more.

See Access 2006 conference speaker presentations & podcasts.

Thanks to LITA for the information -- I'd never heard of the conference, but that's clearly my bad.

October 24, 2006

Universal Grammar in the Wall Street Journal?!

Yes, it's true!

"That's Not Baby Talk It's Your Kid Testing Her Grasp of Chinese "
Sharon Begley. Wall Street Journal. Aug 11, 2006. pg. A.7

Not much to post, since the WSJ isn't free online, but here's the lead paragraph:

"IF A BABY GROWING up in an English-speaking home squeals 'a my pencil!' dad might correct him, saying, 'That's "my pencil," sweetie.' If a toddler points to an older brother and complains, 'tickled me,' mom might say, 'You mean, "Joey tickled me." ' And the toddler who declares, 'I don't want no spinach,' is told to say, 'I don't want any spinach.' "

A newly-appointed University of Pennsylvania linguist, Charles Yang, argues that these kids are actually speaking perfect grammar *of another language*. In his new book called The infinite gift : how children learn and unlearn the languages of the world he writes that "Children's language differs from ours not only because they occasionally speak imperfect English but because they speak perfect Chinese" (according to the WSJ) -- and this is consistent with Noam Chomsky's theory of universal grammar.


(thanks to Ross Buck for the article)

October 23, 2006

Friendly Buildings

Kathy Sierra posted on Creating Passionate Users that Reducing fear is the killer app. She has photos of user-friendly medical ofices, such as a dentist with a coffee bar, and a hospital which looks like an upscale hotel. And she describes some awesome customer service in the context, of all things, a mammogram.

Lots for librarians to learn here about providing good customer service, esp. in light of Dorothea Salo's Design Speaks article I posted yesterday.

October 22, 2006

ooh: Boston Public Library eCards !!

from the BPL Online Registration and eCard FAQ :

Can I register for a library card online? yes!!
For a limited time, Massachusetts State Residents can sign up for a temporary (6 month) Boston Public Library eCard via the web!

What is an "eCard"?
BPL eCards are virtual 6-month library cards that allow users immediate access to all of the Boston Public Library's electronic resources, including magazine databases, downloadable audio, video and music. eCard users who wish to check out library materials will be asked to upgrade to a standard BPL card (see below).

Who is eligible for an "eCard"?
Anyone who lives, works, attends school, or owns property in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is at least 13 years of age may register for an eCard.


(thanks to my student Pen for the info)

Library Journal on L!brary 2.0

Two good articles in the Oct. 15, 2006 issue of netConnect, Library Journal's quarterly technology supplement.

1. Design Speaks by Dorothea Salo. "These are the messages conveyed by the design of most library services and buildings: 'We are not you. We are not even like you. You have to think the way we do.' From the jargon on signs in our buildings to the unexplained options in our OPACs, libraries are indelibly stamped with librarian-think."

She refers to a conference called User Experience Week sponsored by Adaptive Path. Looks very interesting; sadly, it doesn't look like any libraries participated. (Then again, UEW 2007 is over $1500 to attend ...)

2. A nice response to the Design Speaks problem is Karen Coombs' article Planning for Now & Then; she argues that every library "should have its 2.0 degree by 2010."

see also Beth Evans' article Your Space of MySpace? which describes the Brooklyn College Library's myspace experience.

ps, if you're more aural, check out the LJ netConnect podcast. Haven't heard it myself, but it's interviews with the netConnect editor and the folks who wrote the articles.

October 12, 2006

Laurie Anderson & Antonio Damasio

Found an interesting upcoming event mixing art & cog sci, from our new library art / multimedia database called Rhizome:

Laurie Anderson will present a special audio-visual lecture exploring the
intersections of art, science and creativity. One of the premier
performance artists in the world, Ms. Anderson has consistently intrigued,
entertained and challenged audiences with her multimedia presentations.
Anderson's artistic career has cast her in roles as various as visual
artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, ventriloquist,
electronics whiz, vocalist and instrumentalist. Following her
presentation, Ms. Anderson will be joined in conversation by
neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, director of the USC Brain and Creativity
Institute and a leading researcher of cognition, emotions, and neural

I believe that the audio will be available live from HASTAC, and I hope that it will be available following the conversation as a podcast or other transportable file.

Laurie Anderson: Recent Works
Saturday, October 21st
University of Southern California's Norris Theater
7 p.m. (PDT)
Free and open to the public!

October 09, 2006

Chat Transcript

Ok, so maybe you can't read Maureen Dowd's faux POTUS chat transcript for free (TimesSelect membership or LexisNexis required), but it's hysterical. Featuring decider, Rumstud74, Rover08, DarthV, and my favorite, sexylibrarian. Great sense of chat etiquette combined with political sensibilities. Brilliant.

Death by Instant Message
In a world where everything is instant, the delaying and
censoring mechanisms that contributed to a civilized life
are gone.

October 08, 2006

David Pogue on TEDTalks

Listened to David Pogue podcast on TEDTalks last week. It was awesome! He's funny, articulate, good with a tune, and a definite advocate for good design.

Watch the video here:

or download the podcast from the Ted Blog.

Check out other CogSci & librarian-friendly TED stuff on the Ted Blog.

Elephants are Like Humans, and They Are Angry

Fascinating article from today's New York Times magazine called An Elephant Crackup? illustrates why elephants are like humans (including, but not limited to their long memories and strong familial attachments) -- and describes their anger at humans and rhinos.

A long, very good read.

October 8, 2006
NYT Magazine: An Elephant Crackup?
Attacks by elephants on villages, people and other animals are on the rise. Some researchers are pointing to a species-wide trauma and the fraying of the fabric of pachyderm society.

October 01, 2006


Been remiss in posting lately, mostly because of teaching, work, and ... the article I'm writing for Library Journal on teaching part-time & working full-time. Yipes.

Anyway, here are some podcasts I plan to listen to this week:

  • Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Dennett, and David Pogue on TedTalks -- you can download mp3s of their ~20-minute talks, or watch them on video. They say: "The TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference is an annual event where leading thinkers and doers gather for inspiration."

  • ScienceFriday talks about closing the EPA Library: "the US Environmental Protection Agency plans to close the library at its Washington headquarters on October 1, with materials currently available to staff and the public being boxed up for possible later digitization. Leaked budget documents say that similar 'deaccessioning procedures'may be on tap for regional libraries in Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City."

  • Judy Woodruff talking about advertisers & facebook on the NewsHour. Maybe some useful ideas for librarians-as-marketers?

Just finished listening to Simon Winchester read his book Krakatoa [the day the world exploded, August 27, 1883]. Not quite cognitive science, but very intersesting, well-told, and well-read science nonetheless. If you have 10 hours to listen to something, and you have even a moderate interest in volcanoes / tsunamis, this is worth a listen.

Splogs = bad news

An article in the September issue of Wired: Spam + Blogs =Trouble answers the question "why do I have to type 'zvtmzu' to post a comment on your blog?!"

Because of splogs & link farms. Blech.

Jon Gordon on Future Tense interviewed Charles C. Mann, the author of the Wired article. Listen to the podcast or read the article (or both) to find out about this creepy world of creating faux blogs & links to generate advertising revenue.

Interesting side note: I read this article a few weeks ago when my print copy of Wired appeared in my mailbox; the article didn't go onto Wired's web site until Sept. 5. Good way for Wired to keep some mystery & $$ but also make the article available for free -- after some time passed.

Mind & Brain Portal, from Wikipedia

Wikipedia may be controversial, but that's because some stuff is good & some stuff is, well, not reliable.

That said, the Mind & Brain Portal (which I found through Sci Am Mind) is "an interdisciplinary point of entry to such related fields as the philosophy of mind, neuroscience, linguistics, and psychology."

It links to wikipedia topics like artificial intelligence, consciousness, cognitive science, perception, and philosophy of mind. It also links to people in the field of cognitive science, such as Christof Koch, David Chalmers, and Noam Chomsky. There's a list of people & concepts that are missing; if you want to contribute to wikipedia & know something about intentional system or simulation theory of mind, here's your chance.

Interesting way to use Wikipedia. Nice for browsing or sharing with students.