Carlson, Scott. "The Deserted Library" Chronicle of Higher Education 48(12) (November 11, 2001) (http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i12/12a03501.htm). - Our numbers are down: fewer students are coming to the library; circulation statistics are falling; reserve loans have dropped dramatically. Needless to say, electronic resources play an important role in this drama. Students are using online databases and e-journals and, of course, Internet services like Ask Jeeves and Google. Many library administrators, in turn, are citing the explosion of e-resources as an excuse to cut funding for print collections and space. On the other side of the debate are librarians who value the library as an important central space for the academic community. These are the librarians who are in involved in building café's and creating ambient wood paneled reading alcoves as a means of drawing more students to their libraries. Others are bringing computer centers and writing centers into the library. The library, it seems, is many things to many people: for some it is the intellectual heart of the campus; for others it website that provides access to hundreds of licensed resources (don't forget to tell these people that not everything is online); for others it's a good place to check e-mail; and let's not forget the many undergraduates who think of the library a great place to flirt and socialize. Can the library of the 21st Century be all these things and more?
Deuze, Mark. "Online Journalism: Modelling the First Generation of News Media on the World Wide Web." First Monday 6(10) (October 1, 2001) (http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue6_10/deuze/).
- The author explores the impact of the Web on a longstanding and proud profession. He argues that the Web is an entirely new medium and that has had great impact on the consciousness of journalists. He specifically focuses on the graphic interface of Web pages, which has influenced readers, writers and designers. Web journalism has become known as computer-assisted reporting (CAR), and is rapidly emerging as a legitimate area of specialization. After charting the past decade of "online journalism", which was dominated by an exploration of "hyptertexuality", he identifies three strategies that journalists may use to enhance the potential of journalism online: annotative reporting, open source journalism and hyperadaptive news sites. Information professionals will enjoy reading this overview of journalism as a profession and the changes the Internet has wrought on it.
- Drop it, Phone Boy, and take this quiz, designed to
measure your dependence on your wireless phone (and give you a few cheap
laughs). "Have you ever...placed your phone on a restaurant table alongside
cutlery like it's some kind of participant in the meal? ...sneered at
someone else's handset because it's larger than your model, which conveniently
folds down into the size of a throat lozenge? ...reacted to a momentary
loss of reception in the same way as you might react to the death of your
parents, screaming incoherently into the handset even though the other
person clearly cannot and will never hear you? ...felt glad that the shitty
greed-smeared telecoms companies have lost billions?" You get the idea.
- A bad intranet is worse than no intranet at all because "suboptimal intranets can drain corporate coffers," according to usability guru Jakob Nielsen, a source for much of the information in this article. Not only is there an upfront expenditure for hardware, software and IT time, Nielsen says, but there's a significant cost attached to the time wasted by employees who are fruitlessly searching for the information they need. And this isn't chump change, either. Nielsen "estimates that if you multiply the number of people in the world using intranets by the number of minutes they're wasting on them each day, it's approximately a $1 trillion problem." At the dawn of intranet time, these internal sites were built and maintained by "small groups of techies, librarians and knowledge management ideologues." But as Web publishing tools proliferated and became easy to use, "people throughout the company started cranking out content like crazy and posting it willy-nilly." Also, many intranets "became the poor stepchildren of their companies' flashy Internet site." Common pitfalls of intranet development include insufficient planning, ignoring the end user, lack of organization, no one in charge and disconnect by higher management. Article includes a sidebar on the costs of running an intranet.
- Everyone loves images. The web wasn't anything until images came along, then it was an overnight success. So how does one find a specific image on the web? By using one of a burgeoning number of image-focused search engines. These search engines are simply optimized versions of typical web indexes, with crawlers that go around sucking down web content and indexing it. But with image search engines, they focus on images only, and the web page text that may describe them. As information professionals, we know that this is a clumsy approach at best, but as the author puts it, until more sophisticated methods become available, the tools profiled here will "have to suffice." Seven search engines are thoroughly tested in this review article, with Google's Image Search (http://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en) being the highest rated.
- Hillesund argues that to chart the fortunes of e-books, it's necessary to study the impact of networks and information technology on society. He explores "what e-books are" by studying book production processes and other features of the print artifact. One key difference is that while e-books are often regarded as a single digital object, they are in fact "diffuse", ported to different platforms in bits and pieces-a characteristic that has unexpected impact on readers and marketing plans. Much of his analysis predates recent setbacks for the budding e-book industry and its main players, but this article remains a very overview.
Kenney, Anne R., editor. "Editor's Interview: Collaboration Between RLG and OCLC with Digital Archiving Initiatives" RLG DigiNews 5(6) (December 2001) (http://www.rlg.org/preserv/diginews/diginews5-6.html#interview).
- Digital preserveration is, as anyone with even only a passing interest in the topic knows, a headache-inducing problem. Just keeping the bits around is a big enough problem, what with formats coming and going with a rapidity not seen since the days of eight-track tapes (anyone remember the 5 1/4" floppy?). Add to that the problem of moving data from one proprietary format (such as WordStar) to another (such as MS Word), and you should start watching those with such responsibility for suicidal tendencies. Some in the field are convinced that the only reasonable solution to such problems is the creation of centralized, cooperatively-supported digital repositories charged with preservation responsibility. Efforts such as those described in this interview, by OCLC and RLG, two of the most significant U.S. cooperative library organizations that exist, are essential to such solutions. OCLC is taking the lead in the realm of preservation metadata, building on previous experience with such efforts as CORC and the Dublin Core. RLG is leading the charge in defining the attributes of a digital archive. Together, they hope to help libraries come up with some essential pieces of the digital preservation puzzle. This interview gives us a glimpse into how they are approaching this effort.
- Although the Internet was "made in the USA," it's been widely acknowledged as a vehicle with the potential to promote information sharing and increase cultural understanding worldwide. Alas, says Lessig, the so-called "Internet Revolution" is dead. What killed it? "A series of new laws and regulations" which, "under the guise of protecting private property," are "dismantling the very architecture that made the Internet a framework for global innovation." Lessig, in this article, explains how "courts and corporations are attempting to wall off portions of cyberspace," and examines the undesirable effects resulting from this. Examined herein are online music sharing, the DMCA, and WIPO's role in ensuring that this balkanization of cyberspace becomes more and more of a worldwide phenomenon.
Pew Internet & American Life Project. "Press Release: The Dot-Com Meltdown and the Web." (November 14, 2001) (http://www.pewinternet.org/releases/release.asp?id=32).
- The intention of this survey was to gauge the effect of the "dot-com meltdown" on average Americans. The short answer is not much. Indeed, most look at the event as a "benefit to the online world". Perhaps most significant however is the great reluctance of U.S. web surfers to pay for content which hitherto they've been getting for free. 17% reported being asked to pay for services they previously got for free and of that 17%, a mere 12% were willing to foot the bill. The others either found alternatives or did without.
Poe, Marshall. "Note to Self: Print Monograph Dead; Invent New Publishing Model." The Journal of Electronic Publishing 7 (December 2001) (http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/07-02/poe.html).
- Harvard professor Marshall Poe had a problem: academic publishers loved his book (one called it "an incredible achievement"), but none of them would publish it. Given the economics of scholarly print publishing, no one could afford to publish a monograph titled The Russian Elite in the Seventeenth Century: A Quantitative Analysis of the "Duma Ranks," 1613-1713, which Poe estimates might only be of interest to 200 readers in the next two centuries. Remarkably, Poe did not give up. Instead, he conducted an informal peer review process with experts in the field and made revisions. Next, he fired up Microsoft Word and formatted his manuscript as an electronic book. Concerned about universal access issues, he then converted it to the Adobe Acrobat format. Next, he let specialists know it was available by posting a message to the Early Slavic Studies list, and he e-mailed it to journals for review. Finally, he investigated print-on-demand options, and he talked to librarians about whether the e-book could be added to the collection of the Widener Memorial Library at Harvard. Poe says that "the old model—big university press, big print run, big publicity campaign, big losses—is deader than Elvis." He may be right, but, glancing at his home page, I notice that the monograph is now "forthcoming from the Finnish Academy of Science." However, if this is what it takes to get a scholarly book published, how many other faculty members will have the vision, technical skill, and determination to follow his lead? It's a pity that research universities can't afford to support small, fully subsidized technical support units to help faculty members like Poe publish freely available e-books and to arrange for print-on-demand production of conventional books on a cost-recovery basis.
- "Without question," says the author of this look at the current issues facing e-government, "government leaders have largely embraced the Internet." However, she points out, they've run into a number of obstacles that are keeping online government from fulfilling its potential. These include financial issues (how to pay for e-government in an era of shrinking budgets, and whether charging fees is an answer); political issues (including a major one involving the FirstGov search engine, created through a nonprofit organization backed by Inktomi and Sun Microsystems, which forbids advertising on sites that link to it and may mean an unfair advantage when the renewal contract comes up for bid); and the implications of GovNet, a proposed private network for government entities that is separate from the existing Internet. While these issues represent significant challenges, e-government has achieved a high level of public acceptance, and "both government agencies and the public are ready for better Internet services."
- The filling out of forms on the Internet and the frustration derived therein is rapidly becoming an almost universally shared experience among web users, much like waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Needless to say, quite a literature has developed on how to make these experiences more user-friendly. By far, one of the most important factors is, as the author puts it, "the less you ask for, the greater the chance of completion". The author brings up many other good points. This includes the kind of expertise required to write error messages when something isn't correctly filled out: "Ideally, the same person who writes the company's groveling apologies for major foul-ups should be brought in to edit programmers' attempts at error messages, which will rarely hit the right tone."
Wiggins, Richard W. "The Effects of September 11 on the Leading Search Engine." First Monday 6(10) (October 1, 2001) (http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue6_10/wiggins/).
- The author explores how people turned to the Internet for news and information on the day of the apparent terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He showcases how the leading search engine, Google, fared in the days following in the eyes of its users. Google uses "search is king" as a motto, and has remained a search-focussed site style rather than a human-generated "portal" with added interactive features. Yet the days that followed the attack saw the pursuit of news and "community" dominating the search logs. Google focused on links to breaking news and cached news from different sites, essentially steering users to primary new sources instead of recreating them. Within days of the event, traffic on this section of Google grew vastly. The author forecasts that this feature will remain live on Google-pushing it more in the direction of a "portal" instead of a metasearch site.