Thursday, September 25, 2008

ResearchBlogging Mentioned in the Economist

During the last year I have been serving as a library 'consultant' for the ReasearchBlogging project. The project is in the very capable hands of Dave Munger

An article mentioning the project appeared in the print edition of the Economist. I was expecting Dave to be mentioned or quoted in the article. He was not. To give someone the benefit of a doubt, Dave could have been left on the cutting room floor.  After spending time with Dave in March, he is devoted to making the site work and deserves the credit. 

While the Seed Media Group can certainly deserves recognition for development efforts and hosting the site, the concept was brought to them by Dave and is 'owned' by Research Blogging, Inc.  a non-profit he set up for the project. In fact, it is really owned by those involved in the project - the hundreds of bloggers and readers to make the site function. 

Don't get me wrong. The project has been very fortunate to have the Seed providing development support. The folks there have simply been great to work with! The project may not have gotten off the ground without them. I just feel strongly that Dave deserves the credit for the project, something the article does not articulate.

OK, off the soap box.  

A quick primer for those not familiar with the project. Bloggers, often experts in their discipline, frequently find peer-reviewed research they'd like to share. They write thoughtful posts about the research for their blogs. However, these post are often difficult to discover. ResearchBlogging is meant as a discovery tool for those communications and a way to uncover peer-review research.

My thinking, and interest in the project, is that in time the site could be used to help build a quality index of the blogs themselves. Blogs citing blogs; a Blogger Citation Index (BCI), of sorts.  

Bloggers interested in the project can register with the site. A simple form is used to create a snippet of code that is placed in their posts.  This snipet not only notifies ResearchBlogging about the existence of the post, but also creates a properly formatted citation for their blog. ResearchBlogging then regularly scans registered blogs for posts containing the code snippet. (Made easier if the original article has a DOI!).

Interestingly enough, while I have been involved in the project, library and information science is not yet a default topic. While there are a number of LIS bloggers there is less discussion about peer-review literature when compared to other sciences. Perhaps if more LIS bloggers would participate we can get it added. Until then, just add the topic 'Library and Information Science' under 'other.'

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Google (Android) Phone to Debut on Oct. 22

The first Google (Android) phone will be release by T-Mobile on October 22nd.

The HTC-made device has quadband GSM together withWiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, a 3.2-megapixel fixed-focus camera and a 3.2-inch 320 x 480 flush-fit touchscreen. The phone also has a trackball, a slide-out keyboard and, of course, quick access to Google services. 

The phone will 'retail' for for $179 with a two-year contract. The data plan will cost $25 per month on top of the calling service, which is currently at the low end of the price range U.S. wireless carriers.

The device will be sold only in the U.S. cities where the company has rolled out its third-generation wireless data network. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 15, 2008

15 Years Since the Release of WinMosaic Beta

This September 28th marks the 15th anniversary since the first beta release of the NCSA WinMosaic web browser. 

Development of Mosaic began in December 1992 by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina with the original application designed and was originally programmed for Unix's X-Window System. Funding came from the High-Performance Computing and Communications Initiative, a program created by the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, authored by then Senator Al Gore.

The first public beta release (Version 0.6b) occurred on September 28, 1993 with Version 1.0 being released on November 11, 1993.

I remember having to download WinMosaic either from an anonymous FTP site or a Gopher server. I remember having to install (and learning to hate) and configure Trumpet Winsock to make it work. In fact, you can go old school and download it now. (now, make sure to LOADHIGH and include HIMEM.SYS and EMM386.EXE !)

A cottage industry began with companies such as Spry releasing their versions of Mosaic buddled with Internet services.  

I got my copy of Mosaic in a Box at the 1995 Spring Internet World conference in San Jose.  It came on a 3-1/2 inch floppy which required "a 386PC or higher, 4MB of RAM, a mouse, a modem, and standard phone line, and Windows 3.1 or later.

Who knew that at the same time a few miles away at Stanford Larry Page and Sergey Brin were disagreeing with each other over everything and would up with this idea.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Library Innovation Requires Regularizing the Irregular

To move towards a move innovative organization requires experimentation, trial and error, doing new things, and breaking rules. Libraries looking to become more innovative are confronted with reality: it takes 100 crazy ideas to find 10 worth funding experimentally in order to identify 1 project worth pursuing. As it has been said, it takes a lot of acorns to grow an oak tree.

The challenge is that most library organizations are structured and managed to continue current practices rather for than for innovation. Both strategy and resource alignment are focused on supporting short term missions and goals. This holds library organizations captive to a culture that is antagonistic toward innovation. Such a culture kills most attempts at innovation and can eventually drive innovative individuals away. It is not that the individuals within a library do not want to innovate, they talk about it all the time. Simply put, the structure of library organizations and their approach to management may make them unwittingly systematically hostile to innovation.

Gary Hamel notes that that the bottleneck within an organization that ultimately throttles innovation is almost always located at the top. Organizations are trained to look to the top for clues about where it's going. In such organization the vast majority of people have simply ceded responsibility for innovation. When the authority to set strategy and direction is held so narrowly then attempts at innovation inevitably falter. Therefore, new voices and new thinking are essential for a library to create a culture of innovation.

In his book The Future of Management, Hamel discusses new management principles which can help transform a library into a more innovative culture, including:
  • variety, diversity, experimentation, depoliticizing / depolarization of decision making
  • resource allocation flexibility
  • enabling activism through democracy (devolution of accountability, distributed leadership, unalienable >
  • engagement and mobilization through a common cause
  • increasing the odds and successful contribution of serendipity
Other interesting quotes from Hamel:
“To a large extent, managers play the role of parents, school principles, crossing guards and hall monitors. They employ control from without because employees have been deprived of the ability to exercise control from within. Adolescents outgrow most of these constraining influences; employees often aren’t given that chance. The result: disaffection. Adults enjoy being treated like 13-year olds even less than 13-year olds.”

“One can fairly describe the development of modern management as an unending quest to regularize the irregular, starting with errant and disorderly employees. Increasingly, though, we live in an irregular world, where irregular people take advantage of irregular events and use irregular means to produce irregular products that yield irregular profits.”

“Try to imagine what a democracy of ideas would look like. Employees would feel free to share their thoughts and opinions, however politically charged they might be. No single gatekeeper would be allowed to quash an idea or set the boundaries on its
dissemination. New ideas would be given the chance to garner support before being voted up or down by senior execs. The internal debate about strategy, direction and policy would be open, vigorous, and uncensored. Maybe this sounds hopelessly romantic, but such a thoughtocracy already exists—not in any big company, but on the web.”

"When you step on a treadmill and start to jog, your heart automatically increases the blood supply to your muscles. When you stand up in front of an audience to speak, your adrenal gland spontaneously pumps out a hormone that accelerates your heart rate and heightens your faculties. And when you glance at someone who is physically attractive to you, your pupils dilate reflexively, drinking in the agreeable visage. Automatic. Spontaneous. Reflexive. These aren’t the words we typically use to describe deep change in large organizations. And therein lies the challenge: to make deep change more of an autonomic process—to build organizations that are capable of continuous self-renewal in the absence of a crisis."

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Technology Use During Gustav

I have a new Labor Day weekend tradition; hurricane watching. Much like tornadoes hitting trailer parks, having a major hurricane over the holiday weekend seems to be something we can count on. Fortunately, Gustav was not has bad as it could have been.

Over the weekend I looked for ways in which technology was being used to manage and communicate during the storm.

  • The Department of Homeland Security created several Federal Hurricane Response Widgets.

  • NOAA also created several NOAAWatch Web Widgets.
  • General Motors saw a 30 percent increase in calls to its OnStar service. In addition to providing computerized maps and information on hotel vacancies, OnStar offered information on locations of Red Cross shelters. Many subscribers made use of a 30 minute free airtime GM offered to drivers to make calls to family and friends. It has been reported that at one point they were receiving 3000 calls an hour.
  • Globel Relief Technologies provided 29 PDA/GPS/Sat Phones to Red Cross volunteers. The PDAs recorded the status of electricity, food supplies and shelter, and even took pictures. The data and visual material was uploaded to the Red Cross operations center so agency officials could direct resources to where they were need most. Even FEMA doesn't use this technology.
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