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Saturday, November 19, 2005

John Battelle discusses "building a better [Web2.0] boom", and why "Libraries Matter"

Cracking article by John, which discusses why Web2.0 ain't no flash in the pan.

This is a good read for those who still struggling to understand Talis's research investment in Web2.0 and the Talis Platform over the last 18months. Bottom line for me is that the philosophies of Web2.0 are so closely aligned to the philosophies of libraries - community, social networks, content, information, standards, openness, participation, innovation, sharing.

Why does that matter? Well, I've worked for/with various software vendors, and its always been the same. You have some librarians who "believe in libraries", and a mix of others who (and I hope this isn't harsh) don't just quite "get it". They may passionate about their job, but its rare they are as passionate about libraries.

After this week's Talis conference, it hit me. We've changed. We're different. Staff across the company are becoming believers too, and as a librarian that excites me so much more. I think its because for the first time we have a "technology" in Web2.0 which is as philosophical as it is technical. Developers can't just develop - they have to believe in the principles of Web2.0. And these principles are the very foundations of what it means to be a librarian. Suddenly they do "get it" - and this results in a re-evaluation of libraries, our profession and our social responsibility.

At the conference, you could feel the attendees struggling to understand the shift in attitude and belief - its such a fundamental change for a library vendor. I think the problem is that the ideas are so new and the philosophy in such stark contrast to how traditional vendors act. For us, it's been an 18month journey and we've had time to take a close look at ourselves and our business and what it actually MEANS to be a library/information vendor. What is a dramatic change externally, is now a way of life, of talking, of doing, of belief, for the staff.

A theme for the conference was "Libraries matter", and there were some of those plastic bracelets with this embossed on in the delegate packs. The cynical would see that as marketing speil. It's not. Its a message that's steadily infusing the company. Why do I say this? Well, taking an isolated example, when I went for drinks with a few of the developers this week, every one of them was still wearing their bracelet proudly. Not because they had to. Not becuase they were too lazy to take them off (I'm hoping!). But because they wanted to. Because for them, like for me, libraries matter.

Friday, November 18, 2005

3D Interaction for the future?

This post starts about the current "gaming console" wars but don't give up yet - this may have relevance for you!

For those that don't know, Sony (PS3), Microsoft (360) and Nintendo (Revolution) are all gearing up over the next 6 months to release their next generation consoles. Now, Sony/Microsoft have taken the traditional upgrade route - we've got x-trillion terraflopsicles of power, graphics that look so real you'll cry, etc. Nintendo, however, have taken a different approach. The processing power is upp'ed a bit, but the revolution is in the hardware used to interact with the console/your TV. Go and take a quick look here...

So, it looks like a remote. So what? Well, firstly, this is about trying to extend the platform to non-gamers, the grail of console manufacturers. A remote is familiar. But that's not what excites me. Did you play the video from that link? If not, or if you can't, let me explain. The controller works within 3D space, similar to the gyroscope technology that you see in some computer mice. By tilting, rotating, flicking, moving forward/back, you interact with your TV. And its only really when you see it in action, you get it. Remember that bit with Tom Cruise in "Minority Report" when he's shifting information projected in front of him - this is like that, but you're interacting with the image on your TV within the full space that surrounds your body. The demo has people fishing (hand behind head, arcing forward to cast, twitching to get a bite, and pulling it back to reel that fish in), conducting music, using the remote as a virtual torch, zapping bugs, as a base ball bat (full swing!) or golf club (likewise!).

Suddenly, the actions you make in the real world are directly translated to the actions you're taking on the screen. Not only does this destroy the barrier to entry (if you - or parent, or grandparent - can perform the action physically, its going to allow you to perform it "in game") but it suddenly offers a fundamentally new model to all interactions with moving media. With the coming of digital TV and the revolutionary broadband services this promises, how we interact with this has possibly been challenged. With a flick of the wrist, you change channel, or turn the page in teletext, or go from browser to DVD player. Draw a circle in the air to circle your choice on the screen, stab forward to select. As I start considering the potential for this, I do wonder if we are seeing the first steps of moving away from buttons, and mice, and remotes, to a place where we interact with our TV or PC merely by waving a hand, or flicking a finger. And the change in interaction will open up many new and unimagined services/products that it will be possible to deliver in this coming digital age.

Maybe its just me. I read about this and thought "so?". I watched the video of people using this and thought "oooo". I think Nintendo may not just be starting a revolution in gaming. I think they may be starting a revolution across the entire user interaction experience with all media forms. Guess time will tell, but I'm more than willing to wait...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

You won't find heavy metal using "dobly"...

A line that struck me when reading Dave Green's "Need To Know" (for those that don't, its an off-the-wall look at "that thar interweb", which occasionally offers something to make you sit up and feel very scared about our world!). Anyhow, Dave was commenting on some silly Google search misspellings (those that result in the "did you mean this?") and rounded it of with "you won't find heavy metal using 'dobly' ".

Now, for those with a rich knowledge of classic films, "dobly" comes from Spinal Tap, and is one of those all time funny moments from film that you either "were there for, or weren't" - basically rocker girlfriend mistakes "dobly" for "dolby" (noise reduction method on tapes) - its a lot funnier in context!

Got me thinking - why shouldn't I be able to enter "dobly" and get Spinal Tap back as my first hit? Why does Google tell me "Did you mean dolby" and bring me back lots of hi-fi sites? I know perfectly well what I meant, I meant "dobly" and I want a button so I can tell Google that I typed it right and to got get me some stuff about Spinal Tap.

This is indirectly about, you've guessed it, folksonomies again. Within the right community of shared knowledge, "dobly" is a valid word. In fact, it is more than a word - it is a shared experience, a moment in time, an emotional response, an example of stereotyped "rock chicks". In fact, not just "rock chicks" - I'd define it as "a moment when someone tries to join in a conversation with a group who have shared domain knowledge, and gets a word o-so slightly wrong and is relegated back to the group fringe". Its liking saying Phewey classification, instead of Dewey, to a gaggle of librarians.

The Oxford English Dictionary may not recognise it. Google may not either. But I do, and so does the entire community of Spinal Tap watchers. Which slices across all professions, sexes, races and ages. This is a PRIME example of why there is so much value in letting communities tag their content, against having "those on high" telling the community what terms they can and cannot use.

It's about time our profession started buying into this with the same passion we show for controlled and authorised headings. There is a lot of value we can add, in slicing and splicing these search tags and encouraging this "uncontrolled" practice. There may not be a place for "dobly" in the Library of Congress Subject Headings, but there is an equally important place for it within our domain. And, more importantly, in the domain of our customers and users...