jibbajabba's blog

Amazon Plan to offer full-text search of some non-fiction texts

Very interesting news from Amazon today in an article in the NY Times. The retailer is planning a new full-text searching service called "Look Inside the Book II" that will combine some of the functionalities of a digital library with the retailers' current methods for helping customers find and evaluate products. The full-text service will extend the "Peak inside" service that users get when previewing TOCs, indexes, and sample pages with "Look Inside the Book". I couldn't surmise from the article whether full-text searching would be offered only when viewing a single book or if it would be possible to do full-text searching across a corpus of digitized e-texts.

The new service is being met with some wariness from publishers and authors who worry that the service will make Amazon more like an information service a la ebrary and netLibrary and undoubtedly Amazon will have to do a lot to protect copyright.

Being someone who uses e-text vendors and full-text digital libraries, I think the service could be a boon to the book selling industry. There is no reason that full-text searching of some non-fiction works can be offered without protecting copyright. If brief keyword in context (KWIC) displays of search terms are given to offer some help in filtering out and refining your search without publishing too much information, then how can this hurt publishers? No doubt, some works such as reference books would give away too much in even a brief KWIC display, but surely there must be a way to make this work. I think it's a good step in making the Amazon shopping experience even more valuable. It's amazing that they continue to innovate the experience of buying online.

The Right Number

Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics has started his own online novela/comic called The Right Number. It's about math, sex, obsession and phone numbers and it features a zoomable interface. Check it out.

Notes from Special Libaries 2003 Conference

I posted my notes from the SLA 2003 conference. It's rather lengthy and may only be of interest to those interested in what's happening with library information systems and services.

So What Exactly is a Call to Action?

Grok has a nice description of "Call to Action". I've actually never heard it articulated before either. He uses a good example of how guests at a hotel are prompted to take action, or guided to their possible next steps. He goes on to say...

It is absolutely okay to ask your visitors to take action. In fact, you must ask them. Because if you don?t, all you can do is hope they?ll figure out what they are supposed to do next and then actually do it. Without well-considered, well-placed Calls to Action, you leave a lot more to chance.
AIfIA Job Board

Looking for a job? The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture will soon be announcing the launch of its new Job Board. Here's a description:

The AIfIA Job Board serves as a clearinghouse for position postings relating to information architecture and more broadly to information design, interaction design, and HCI.

The Job Board is a service for AIfIA members. AIfIA is the only professional organization solely dedicated to information architecture professionals and our membership serves as a qualified pool of candidates in this emerging field.

Kudos to the AIfIA folks who worked on this.

Knowledge Management glossary, primer and bibliography

AOK: Knowledge Strategy newsletter (login required) pointed to these resources for knowledge management:

Federated search overview

I recently heard Roy Tennant tell a group of information professionals that "only librarians like to search, everyone else likes to find." Roy should get together with Peter to combine his findability meme with this appropriate tagline.

In keeping with this findability theme, Tennant's describes some of the current offerings in the federated search space in his latest Digital Libraries column in Library Journal. This is an area that is hot with vendors in the information searching space right now.

Western States Dublin Core Metadata Best Practices

The Western States Digital Standards Group (WSDSG) Metadata Working Group's best practices for using Dublin Core metadata elements is an excellent resource to consult when starting a project requiring metadata. The group came up with a set of guidelines for using Dublin Core during the development of a "Western Trails" digital library project. From the document's purpose and scope statement:

These best practices offer assistance in creating metadata records for digitized resources, both those that are born digital as well as those that are reformatted from an existing physical resource (photographs, text, audio, video, three-dimensional artifacts, etc.).

You can download the 1MB PDF from the Western Trails site.

Scout Portal Toolkit: Open Source Digital Library Application

Since I blogged the Gassie presentation earlier, I thought I should mention one of the applications she chose for the digital project. Scout Portal Toolkit is an open source (requires PHP and MySQL) application that allows an organization to maintain a library of resources via a web site. The application with the following features: configurable metadata tool with a field set based on Dublin Core; vocabulary control; fielded searching (in advanced search); user annotation; email alerting and the ability save search strategies; and a recommender system. I was impressed with the demo, so I installed on my system and have been evaluating it for the past week. Last year I suggested to some Drupal friends that I would like to develop a libary-type module for that application that would use the DC metadata elements. Of course, life being what it is, I never got to that. I may forgo coding something for myself in favor of just using SPT because it seems pretty robust.

Digital From Birth: IA for building a digital library

Lillian Woon Gassie and Greta E. Marlatt's case study presentation at the SLA 2003 conference provided a thorough examination of the process undertaken to build a digital library for the Homeland Security program of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. The presentation gave a good idea of the steps leading to the development of the digital library, which will eventually be partially available to the public, but will mainly serve students in the School and other military and civilian people involved in Homeland Security. The presentation touches on goals and rationale for the project, audience and personas, political and monetary constraints, metadata and classification strategies, technical specifications and and analysis of tools and technologies evaluated and selected for the project.

Lillian has posted afew other presentations that may be of interest as well to information architects. As usual, you won't get all the details communicated in a PowerPoint presentation, but when reading the "Digital from Birth" PPT, be sure to look at the very extensive speaking notes that go with each slide.

Digital from Birth: Information Architecture for Building a Digital Library,
presentation with Greta E. Marlatt at the SLA Annual Conference, New York City, June 9, 2003.
Online Presentation | Download PPT file (2.8 MB)

Taxonomies for Communities of Practice,
presentation at the e-Gov Knowledge Management Conference, Washington, D.C., April 16, 2003.

Metadata Tools, Practices and Ontologies,
presentation at the Monterey Bay Area Workshop on Data Management & Visualization, MBARI, Monterey, April 7, 2003.

Anacubis: Visualization tool for navigating a finite info. space

At the SLA conference this year I got to demo Anacubis. I don't often see anything too interesting in the exhibition halls of library & info. sci. conferences, but this tool caught my eye. Based on the investigative software used by police in England and developed by i2 Group, Anacubis is a visualization front-end for data sets. The demos that showed included a front-end for Dun & Bradstreet company research, Lexis Nexis Legal databases, and intellectual property databases. In the D&B example, once you are viewing a company's information you can browse customer, competitor and subsidiary companies, as well as view officers visually. I've seen some application of similar visualization tools -- mostly it seems social network and map-based stock market visualizations have been around -- but this seems to be the first major commerical entry in the area of commercial information provision. I can see major advantage in the visualization of patent information, for example. This kind of information can be invaluable to companies looking to protect their patents and visualization tools can certainly help exploit our visual senses, which are more efficient/quicker when it comes to picking out patterns of information.

You can view a demonstration of their tool here.

ASIS&T IA Summit 2003 Presentations

ASIS&T has posted all of the presentations from the Information Architecture "Making Connections" Summit in Portland, OR.

Thanks to Gary Price, who I got to meet at SLA.

Poynter Online: The Art of Explanation

Poynter has started a site to show infographics created by journalists covering the war. Much as I dislike the subject matter and war in general, the idea of getting the designers and journalists to explain how they developed the infographics is a great educational tool. More about the site:

The Art of Explanation showcases the efforts of visual journalists as they help readers find clarity. This is a place to share ideas and processes to improve the credibility and necessity of information graphics.

K-Logging: Supporting KM with Weblogs

I wrote an article in Library Journal that may interest some ia/ readers. Here's the abstract from Ebsco:

Discusses a type of weblogging called knowledge
logging or k-logging. Information that can easily be put onto web sites; Organizations that can communicate knowledge easily with K-logs; Software that can be used for k-logging; Librarians who should provide content, share knowledge, and provide access.


MetaMap is an interesting visualization of metadata initiatives.

With the exponential development of the World Wide Web, there are so many metadata initiatives, so many organisations involved, and so many new standards that it's hard to get our bearings in this new environment.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the names of most of these new standards are represented by acronyms. The MetaMap exists to help gather in one place information about these metadata initiatives, to try to show relationships among them, and to connect them with the various players involved in their creation and use.

The MetaMap takes the form of a subway map, using the metaphor of helping users navigate in "metaspace", the environment of metadata.

Thanks, Catalogablog (David Bigwood)

Forrester on Yahoo! and directions in search space

Forrester weighs in on Yahoo!s new search features (account required) claiming that a new emphasis on user experience will give search engine leaders a competitive advantage. Forrester likes the new Yahoo! for its streamlined (more Google-like) search entry page, cleaner and easier to read search results and use of text ads over banners. The market research company makes a few suggestions to the top search engines to put their results in context and add to the user experience:

  • Yahoo! should use its directory to package and filter results. -- They're basically suggesting that the company use its taxonomy across Yahoo! news, financials, services, etc. to create "More like this" linkage between content.
  • Google should dynamically cluster its high-quality results. -- This seems a no-brainer. I think Northern Light must have used clustering. Teoma does. Information professionals see advantage in it, but somehow Google hasn't done it in search results. Forrester suggests that they consider clustering functionalities similar to what Vivisimo offers.
  • Overture should optimize for specialized searches. -- This is an interesting suggestion. Forrester suggests that Overture might consider uses taxonomies in subject areas that have broad appeal, but limited scope, such as "Perosonal Health" by partnering with builders of taxonomies and ontologies.
  • MSN should research users to support the richer search scenario. Seems like they suggest that MSN invest in user research to invent their future because they have the dollars to do so. It doesn't make predictions for how MS N can innovate this space.
Piles of documents

Some interesting speculation on Mac Rumors about Apple integrating a finder feature called Piles that creates a finder metaphor based on the physical act of viewing/sifting through a pile of documents on a desktop in meatspace. Here's a description from an earlier Tog article.

Apple holds a patent on this one. Developed by Gitta Salomon and her team close to a decade ago, a pile is a loose grouping of documents. Its visual representation is an overlay of all the documents within the pile, one on top of the other, rotated to varying degrees. In other words, a pile on the desktop looked just like a pile on your real desktop.

To view the documents within the pile, you clicked on the top of the pile and drew the mouse up the screen. As you did so, one document after another would appear as a thumbnail next to the pile. When you found the one you were looking for, you would release the mouse and the current document would open.

Piles, unlike today's folders, gave you a lot of hints as to their contents. You could judge the number of documents in the pile by its height. You could judge its composition very rapidly by pulling through it.

Teaching taxonomies: a hands-on approach

If you happen to have a Montague Institute membership, you might want to check out this article (full text with screenshots only available to members) discussing how to get a diverse team of professionals thinking about taxonomies. The full article features some excellent examples from their learning lab that show how taxonomies can be utilized in enterprise applications, e.g. email, contacts, document management, taxonomy management. Their taxonomy administration UI and user-facing UI are excellent examples. If you attend one of their sessions, apparently, you get to work with the apps in the learning lab.

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