April 29, 2006

(Database) Feature Fatigue?

Heard a great story on APM's Future Tense about "Feature Fatigue." Jon Gordon interviewed Roland Rust (U Maryland) about his recent Harvard Business Review article (Feb. 2006) called Defeating Feature Fatigue.

From the citation in PubMed (who knew they indexed HBR? but I digress): "Consider a coffeemaker that offers 12 drink options, a car with more than 700 features on the dashboard, and a mouse pad that's also a clock, calculator, and FM radio. All are examples of 'feature bloat', or 'featuritis', the result of an almost irresistible temptation to load products with lots of bells and whistles. The problem is that the more features a product boasts, the harder it is to use."

Rust pointed out in the interview with Jon Gordon that he was testing college students and THEY were overwhelmed with all these extra features.

Fascinating stuff. What does it tell librarians and database vendors about how library databases are designed? And how patrons are reacting to them?

ps, I got an iHome radio yesterday, and not only does it come with batteries for the backup, the batteries were INSTALLED, and the clock was set to the correct time. How’s that for anticipating user needs?!

April 28, 2006

Library Promotion & Podcasts

Have you heard UC Santa Cruz' Synergy Lecture Podcasts? Subtitled "Explorations in Science and Society", the "series ... focus[es] on UCSC research, as well as teaching and grants in science and engineering with a view towards their impact on society."

Past lectures have included "Red Tides, Shellfish, and Cultural Dietary Traditions," "Great Earthquakes and Tsunamis: How, Why, and Where?" and "Wiring the nervous system from tip to toe: how do neurons go to and fro?". The upcoming lecture (May 2) is called "Deep Down Beauty: Particle Physics, Mathematics, and the World Around Us." Mp3 files can be downloaded from the site or syndicated via iTunes.

What's so interesting about these is that they are sponsored by the UC Santa Cruz Science & Engineering Library — a wonderful way for the library to get out there both on campus & on the World Wide Web. Promoting their faculty, their institution, and the library, all at the same time.


April 27, 2006

Update on Comm Sci Faculty

Here are three articles "my" faculty in Communication Sciences at UConn recently published. If you have access to Academic Search Premier, you can see the full abstract.

"Contextual Features of Violent Video Games, Mental Models, and Aggression." By: Farrar, Kirstie M.; Krcmar, Marina; Nowak, Kristine L.. Journal of Communication, Jun2006, Vol. 56 Issue 2, p387-405. abstract

"Still on hold? A retrospective analysis of competitive implications of the Telecommunication Act of 1996, on its 10th year anniversary." By: Atkin, David J.; Lau, Tuen-Yu; Lin, Carolyn A.. Telecommunications Policy, Mar2006, Vol. 30 Issue 2, p80-95. abstract

"The production of novel root compounds in children with specific language impairment." By: Grela B; Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 2005 Dec; 19(8): 701-15. abstract

Congratulations to all!

April 26, 2006

Horn-tooting time ...

So I gave my presentation on Emerging Technologies to the Capital District Library Council on Monday. It was entitled "Crossing the Chasm" and offered a brief introduction to many tech trends -n- buzzwords that librarians hear about but may not know how to apply to library-land. We talked about podcasts, blogs, wikis, and more -- both in general & as they apply to libraries. You can see the presentation wiki at pbwiki, or download the pdf presentation.

Thanks to all who attended & gave me some great ideas!

Some new podcasts

Linda Fox, who attended my CDLC presentation on Monday, suggested two great podcast diectories.

The Education Podcasting Network links to podcasts created by various educational institutions, including elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, & higher ed. They also group them by subject, including health, English, second languages, and social studies. Worth checking out if you want to see how to use podcasts in your school!

The Podcast Network publishes its own podcast content -- similar to a radio or television network, but for podcasts. You can get some of them in iTunes, but this web site shows all of them and lets you subscribe to their content. Very independent.

Thanks, Linda!

April 23, 2006

New Life for Old books

Wow! Great article by the New York Times reporting on a project by the Portland (ME) Public Library to turn weeded books into art. 186 weeded books were "altered" by artists and given new life in the catalog.

A subject search for Altered Books - Maine reveals 177 books that can be borrowed. 9 books can't be borrowed because they are too fragile or too dangerous (the book "Inaccessibility" by Joanna House, is covered with dressmaker pins, according to the Times).

See photos from the Times of Leaves of Grass / Field of Greens and Candy Dish.

Some cataloging notes: "the cards required longer descriptions than usual, and the artists were allowed to pick subject heading for their works. 'Candy Dish,' for which Brandy Bushey carved out the middle of a book called 'Feeding the Brain' and filled it with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, is listed under book arts and confectioners arts, for example, as well as candy."

Or look at the record for Sticky fingers / by Tabor Story. The note says: "Altered copy of: Teaching reading in today's elementary schools by Paul C. Burns, Betty D. Roe, Elinor P. Ross, 5th ed., Boston, Houghton Mifflin, c1992. ISBN visible, author and title not visible. Cut and shaped book, pages glued together with peanut butter and jelly. Item wrapped in plastic wrap, encased in a zip-lock plastic bag." And subject headings include Lunch; Jelly; Peanut Butter; Food; and Children's Books.


April 20, 2006

More Online Audio

Bob points me to the Internet Archive Audio Archive where there are gobs and gobs of audio files to be downloaded. He warns that the site could cause marital problems, and already I see how that could be possible.

Hear Donald Norman, he of the Psychology of Everyday Things talk about Emotional Design, which was the keynote presentation at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference held in San Diego, California, February 12, 2004.

Or hear Michael Moore speaking at the DNC in Boston in 2004, or How to Meditate, from the Discovering Buddhism Program at the Tse Chen Ling Center, or the Cheshire Public Library (Teen) Podcast, or presidential recordings ... you get the picture.

Oh and here's a tip for listening on an iPod in the car: crank up the volume on any spoken word podcast to 9 or so (doesn't go to 11, sadly) and set the "Equalizer Preset" to "Spoken Word." Makes things a lot easier to hear in a noisy environment.

April 19, 2006

UC Berkeley Podcasting Courses

Want to do continuing education with your mp3 player of choice? UC Berkeley is podcasting several of its courses. Lots of science courses (general biology, chemistry, ecology, physics), electrical engineering & computer science, as well as some social sciences & humanities like art, history, and a philosophy course called Existentialism in Literature and Film.

I'm listening to Animal Behavior and am learning lots.

The feed list lets you download various podcasts, only some of which are also avaiable via iTunes.

This is a nice idea; hopefully more institutes of higer education will start doing it!

April 09, 2006

National Poetry Month

Coupla cool podcasts in honor of National Poetry Month:

  • PoetCast, from the Academy of American Poets. So far, there are a few poetry readings, and some poets talk about poems by others.

  • Knopf has expanded its Poem A Day project for this year's National Poetry Month: they're podcasting poems! They're also offering the more traditional poem which you can read online.

  • The Writer's Almanac is podcasting! Listen to Garrison Keillor provide literary & historical notes about the day, and hear him read a poem. Every day!

Ok, that's three podcasts. Poetic license, anyone?

(this is for Sydney ...)

April 08, 2006

A Tale of Two Disciplines?

Did you read the Nature article in December comparing Wikipedia to the Encyclopaedia Britannica? They compare several scientific entries from Wikipedia & Britannica & conclude that "Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries."

That was in December. A few weeks ago, Nature (to its credit), posted a (pdf) 20-page rebuttal by the Britannica folks which finds faults with the Nature study for several reasons. These include that Nature only looked at partial Britannica entries for some items, for not distinguishing between minor mistakes and major mistakes in counting the total number of errors in each entry, and that Nature didn't review the "free-lance" scientific reviewers' findings. Nature posted its own 2 page rebuttal in which they stand by their original research.

To me, the problems stem from two very different ways of conducting research: the scientific way and the reference-work way. The Britannica folks are mostly concerned that the Nature people ignored the value of the reference work of the Britannica (such as writing style and editing) while the Nature people would probably admit to being more concerned about the number of errors and don’t feel the need to distinguish between major & minor errors.

Also, to quote Paula Berinstein in the March issue of Searcher, "for many subjects, Wikipedia is good enough." I'd add, for everything else, there's Britannica.

April 04, 2006

Science Podcasts

My friend Emily is maintaining a link of science-related podcasts.

I might add AccessMedicine's podcasts from Harrison's or Hurst’s the Heart Updates. You don’t even have to be at a library that has a subscription to AccessMedicine to listen (at least for now).

Podcasts are handy if you've got some time in the car and an iPod to fill ...

Google Answers -- so do librarians

Last week, American Public Media's Future Tense had a show on Google Answers (hear in RealAudio.

The blurb on their site says:
"Would you be surprised to learn that Google employs a stable of freelance researchers who answer questions for a fee? Google Answers has been around for several years now, but relatively few Internet users ever plow deep enough into Google's ever-expanding set of features to encounter it.

"Google Answers is designed fill the void when the search engine fails you. Users post questions, something like "Who will be required to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax in 2007" and specify how much you'll pay for an answer. A low bid means your question probably won't get answered. But if your fee is acceptable, a researcher will find the information you want, post it to Google Answers, and send you an email."

Jon Gordon interviewed Sarah Milstein, one of the authors of Google: The Missing Manual, 2nd edition. Too bad he didn't also have a librarian, who could talk about how librarians do the same thing -- for free.

April 03, 2006

where reference & music geekiness meet

A must-have for a reference / iPod geek? Merriam-Webster Reference for the iPod . For $9.95, you can get Merriam-Webster‘s 2006 Pocket Dictionary on your iPod.

iPrepPress offers other reference / study guides for the iPod, including several Shakespeare plays, SAT study guides, and Spanish vocab charts. They also offer a few historic U.S. documents for your ‘Pod, including the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

I haven’t used any of this, but … it’s a great idea. What are the implications for libraries??

HigherEd BlogCon — Libraries, Technology, & More

HigherEd BlogCon joins SirsiDynix’s Institute Web Seminars in offering free online seminars about hot tech topics. The HigherEd BlogCon web site says it is “a fully web-
based event
focused on how new online communications technologies and social tools are changing Higher Education. Except as noted, presentations are offered free of charge,” sponsored by Thomson Peterson’s, Case, and a few other organizations.

This week, they’re offering several sessions on podcasting, blogging, and curriculum development. Next week’s sessions focus on libraries; the week after, they’re on admissions, alumni relations, and marketing; and the last week in April they’ll look at web sites & web development

Blogs & some podcasts will be available. Some events require a fee, but some are free.

Thanks to Carolyn for posting this to the ACRL/NE mailing list!