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ZING Initiative at LOC: v1.0 SRW & CQL

The ZING Initiative (Z39.50 International Next Generation), under the auspices of the Z39.50 Maintenance Agency at the Library of Congress, is pleased to announce Version 1.0 of SRW and CQL.

SRW ("Search/Retrieve for the Web") is a web-service-based protocol which aims to integrate access across networked resources, and to promote interoperability between distributed databases by providing a common platform. The underpinnings of the protocol are formed by bringing together more than 20 years experience from the collective implementers of the Z39.50 protocol with recent developments in the web-technologies arena. SRW features both SOAP and URL-based access mechanisms (SRW and SRU respectively) to provide for a wide range of possible clients. It uses CQL, the Common Query Language, which provides a powerful yet intuitive means of formulating searches. The protocol mandates the use of open and industry-supported standards XML and XML Schema, and where appropriate, Xpath and SOAP.

The SRW Initiative recognizes the importance of Z39.50 (as currently defined and deployed) for business communication, and focuses on getting information to the user. SRW provides semantics for searching databases containing metadata and objects, both text and non-text. Building on Z39.50 semantics enables the creation of gateways to existing Z39.50 systems while reducing the barriers to new information providers, allowing them to make their resources available via a standard search and retrieve service.

SRW, SRU, and CQL have been developed by an international team, minimizing cross-language pitfalls and other potential internationalization problems.

The ZING, SRW, and CQL home pages are at:
http://www.loc.gov/zing,
http://www.loc.gov/srw, and
http://www.loc.gov/cql
The Z39.50 Maintenance Agency home page is at
http://www.loc.gov/z3950/agency.

The SRW and CQL version 1.0 specifications will remain stable for a six- to nine-month implementation-experience period. During this period developers are encouraged to implement the specification (see the implementors page at http://www.loc.gov/srw/implementors.html), join the list of implementors, participate in interoperability testing, and help develop the next version, 1.1. Please direct questions, comments, and suggestions to z3950@loc.gov.

Indexer organizations

List of indexer organizations and freelance indexers compiled by Songbird Indexing Services.

Click here

Nathan Ashby-Kuhlman takes "click here" link text to task, showing examples used in popular media sites. Click here to read it. :)

    The words “click here for...” and “click here to...” serve no purpose within links. Unfortunately, many news sites still use them. According to Google, “click here” is on about 8,970 pages at sptimes.com alone.
Dial Up Modem Simulation

Christina found this page on WebNovice that offers suggestions for simulating dial up modem speed.

What's with the hostile tone lately?

I've only just begun to notice that the volume on the posturing and list debating has gotten a little loud and in some cases unprofessional lately. What's with that? I, as much as the next person, believe in the value of open forum
the airing of dissenting views, and good debates. But it seems to me that people have been holding in some hostility and resentment towards entire groups of people (against IA's for instance) and have even resorted to name calling. Maybe it's the economy, I don't know.

Flash and Web-Based Applications

Nielsen's alertbox talks about web-based applications using Flash on the front end. I recently talked to Molly, a new aquaintence in NYC, about how her organization was using Flash to put a front end on a project management db. Sounded like an interesting idea, only because I haven't seen a project/client contact type db done in Flash before.

    In usability tests of 46 Flash applications, we identified several basic issues related to Web-based functionality's ephemeral nature. Some findings restate old truths about GUIs; others reflect the Net's new status as nexus of the user experience.
To digress a bit, the Flash based apps I've thought work well lately are just for fun, e.g. this Bush speech generator, tuning the world. I've come across some design sites that have all flash interfaces with databases, but at the time felt turned off by them. I'm coming around, though. For me, a Flash interface for customizing a product design, like timbuk2 bags is excellent. But what are good examples of content-heavy sites that use Flash, like Molly is talking about? Are there any portal-type sites using Flash?

Ciao, IAping; Hello, chatbot

Alright, the IApings experiment was a bit silly considering how many many blogs we aggregate here and since iaslash users can just post their news. So it's going bye bye. Happy holidays! Consider it -1 gift. Onward.

As a consolation, you can chat with my beta AIM chatbot, jibbajabbaboybot. -1IAping, +1chatbot, brings me back to owing you nothing.

p.s. Don't be alarmed when you talk to the bot and it seems like you're talking to Mr. T. Where do you think the name jibbajabba comes from anyway?

Navigate on the right? The jury is still out.

Lucian pointed to the short Syntagm article by William Hudson on right-side navigation. Hudson, responding to Bob Bailey's HFI newsletter article on the topic believes that we need more data before we can know that moving navigation to the right will be a real improvement.

Interview: Maryam Mohit, Amazon.com

Mark Hurst interviews Maryam Mohit, V.P. of Site Development at Amazon.com to find out what makes that company one of the leaders in customer experience online and off.

    For us, it's a combination of listening really hard to customers, and innovating on their behalf.
I never knew about Amazon's butterfly ballot joke.

IA should get under the UX tent

That's what Sean Coon is saying at apperceptive's uxDesign. I agree with his contention that vocal IA's should be spending effort cross pollenating and talking big IA. Lou has been doing a lot of that lately as do some Adaptive Path who do IA as one component of their work. But even with the fiery debates that have been going on, I still feel there is a need for something like AIfIA, if only to support IA's that don't have a steady and constant lifeline of IA peers -- I suspect that isolated IA's, like those that have moved into in-house positions with small IA groups will feel this. I also feel that evangelism can make the people holding the purse strings see the light and spend money on IA where it's needed.

Apparently some people also believe that IA needs an egomaniacal figurehead. I agree with Thomas Alison on that one. I've said that a few times in the past few weeks to people I've spoken to about getting business decision makers to understand IA. When I say business decision makers, I mean in the big and maybe boring brick and mortar corporations who need in house IA's to work on stuff like enterprise IA.

Don't know where Sean's rockstar theory comes from. I never wanted to be a rockstar and I never really worked in a traditional library.

International Children's Digital Library: Facet browsing ZUI

Peter V. pointed to the IDCL browser, a Java application that offers an interface for browsing an ebook catalog. What's unique about the catalog is that it offers a type of zoomable interface for browing categories such as About (Subject), Genre, Setting, Characters, etc. Clicking one facet drills you deeper into that facet tree, that is to say, reveals the sub-facets/categories and/or reveals the items within that node in a tiny thumbnail results window at top that you can expand to review hits. Each term you pick -- terms are the end-points, the buttons that don't have further sub-division -- is added to your collection (on top of the worm graphic) to show that you've combined terms in your search. You can click on one of the terms in that area to remove it from your search. The results window shows how your search terms have narrowed your results.

You have to have the Java Virtual Machine plug in installed to use this application. To start browsing by facet, click "Find books in category".

Lou on enterprise IA and search log analysis

Lou posted two presentations on his site for speaking engagements he had at the London AIGA-ED group and at ASIS&T 2002 in Philadelphia. The first is on enterprise IA presentation and the second on search log analysis. Ann Light summarizes the enterprise IA presentation at usabilitynews.com.

Nathan Shedroff: The V-2 Interview 1/2
    If IAs (and others) want to be taken seriously and gain back some of the stature they've lost in the last three years, they should start with turning down the volume on the entitlement and righteous indignation, and opening their eyes to a lot of other people who know a piece of the evolving puzzle that is called the customer marketplace.
Adam Greenfield interviews Nathan Shedroff to talk very candidly about Experience Design and Information Architecture. It's part 1 in a 2 part series that's turned out to be a lively debate with significant clashes occurring between the concepts of experience design and information architecture. Shedroff offers some succinct definitions that characterize ED as an umbrella encompassing a lot of smaller roles. I've tended to accept this classification to some extent, but found Shedroff's perceptions of the smaller roles (and the people who inhabit those roles) to be rather unclear at times (IA is not Information Design in my opinion) and condescending at others. It is interesting to read his perceptions of IA, however, particularly with regard to the growth of the field, the ability of IA's to view projects within a broader context. I disagree with those opinions as well.

At one point Shedroff also mentions Information Theory, stating that more IAs should be conversant in it. I found that amusing. I know that many of us come from LIS backgrounds, so there is no doubt that many IAs have some knowledge of that literature, but am wondering how they factor that into the work they do. For me, the experience of studying and working on Information Retrieval is informed by a lot of IR literature, but as a generalist, I rarely point to specific theories in order to make decisions. Shedroff also mentions Wurman, but I have no idea what Wurman has to do with Information Theory. Maybe this has to do with the fact that he lumps information architecture with information design.

In any case, it was a very open conversation -- with opinions that should be aired in the public in this manner. Looking forward to part 2.

BBC adaptive boxes

In Auntie's facelift, Matt points to the innovative re-working of the bbc.co.uk home page. When you click a link in one of the blue boxes on the home page and then return to the homepage, that blue box will be a shade darker. The idea is that over time the boxes will adapt to show you which areas you work with most, which seems like a form of personalization to me, adapting to user behavior. Nice.

Eric Miller on the Semantic Web

Peter V. pointed to this interview on New Breed Librarian with Eric Miller, which provides a concise definition of the Semantic Web and examples of how it would be realized in applications.

Thanks, Peter. I found the examples helpful as I still attempt to grok how this will be used in the real world. Thanks Eric for reminding me to link to it. Duh.

Way finding/losing in a digital library

I am in a discussion with a programmer about ways to offer navigation using a poly-hierarchical arrangement of nodes. He brought up the concept of directed acyclic graphs (DAG), which is from Mathematics. I learned from the Free Online Dictionary of Computing that the idea is that a directed graph would contain no cycles, i.e. if there is a route from node A to node B then there is no way to cycle or loop back. I can see some applications benefitting from this algorithm, such as in forward citation searching. I think I may not understand the concept entirely, but I am guessing that in an information environment, this means that you'd lose context the deeper you find yourself in a directed path. Or perhaps it simply means you navigate forward to point A from point B and has nothing to do with providing backward movement.

The problem we're experiencing is that we have been dealing with a legacy of organizing by collections/products/services, which is reinforced in our site navigation. Oddly, we don't have problems post-coordinately displaying term combinations in database search results. Rather, in search results we display other terms from the subject taxonomy to narrow results by subject. The problem we have is with the legacy of hierarchical arrangements of access points organized by: collections, services, topics (this uses slices of the subject taxonomy). It's a very library-centric view that we've been dealing with changing, and if you ever worked in a library (corporate, private, special or public) you might know how difficult it is create this type of change.

I've pointed out that the concept of surfacing more facets of index terms would be helpful for browsing. Jim Anderson at Rutgers helped me to buy into this idea while I was in library school, and before I knew much about the web, I advocated this idea in an image index I proposed in 1997. That naive and over-ambitious Filemaker Pro screen shows how I envisioned it. It's funny. Today, I'm wondering how we can support the display of polyhierachical classifications such as our subject taxonomy and other database fields. We have some ideas floating around, but I feel like a toddler trying to topple an elephant.

...

Some follow-up. We're kicking around the idea of a) showing multiple breadcrumbs, and b) showing local navigation for one of the hierarches where the node exists. With the local navigation, we're going to check where the user came from in order to determine which tree to show. If they came from a bookmark or an email (most of our pages are also lined to from email alerts) we will show nothing, unless the node only has one parent, then we will show that tree. This is the theory. We need to test, but interested in opinions. Have you done something like this in a better way?

Information Architecture is not Usability

Jeff Lash tells us why Usability is not IA in the November, 2002 IAnthything goes column of Digital Web.

    The distinction between information architecture and usability may seem like semantics, but there are significant differences between the two disciplines. Though they are often discussed interchangeably, and practitioners are often well-versed in both, information architecture and usability differ in their scope and areas of focus.
Moving beyond the Web as a single-user system

There are some instances of Web sites that begin to have interaction that extends beyond the client/server model. Tag Board for weblogs is a subtle example of it. However, the Web itself remains a single-user system. Arguably, the Web becomes more valuable as a greater number of people use and contribute to it. We see the same in Web sites. And yet, the very same Web sites lack the ability to have direct discourse with other people who are looking at the same book at an e-commerce site at the same moment.

A Visit with a Digital Architect

Online Journalism Review interviews Matt Jones.

FacetMap of iaslash

Seems FacetMap works now with links to XML feeds rather than uploaded files. Updated iaslash FacetMap is up. Guess I should clean up and index some of those earlier blog entries. Maybe.

XML feed