Saturday, 30 June 2007

Words of the day

One of the most common sources of new words is the field of management. Here are two words, each of which has several things to communicate. An old favourite, provided by Rebecca from the Communities in Control Conference held recently, is incentivise. This has been around a long time, and can be defined as a policy of "funding those who agree with us, and taxing those who don't." It can also be defined more prosaically as to provide an incentive - a less appealing version of the carrot part of the carrot and stick metaphor.

Also from this verbally prolific conference,
speechify, as in "the community sector has a tendency to speechify." I guess that means to turn some other form of activity into a verbal activity. Many dictionaries define this as simply the act of making a speech, and this unaware definition has apparently been assumed by SpeechWorks in using the word for its new text-to-speech product which turns turns text into speech "with more personality than previously thought possible." The product has been licensed by Microsoft. A better definition is from the Urban Dictionary -"to speechify is to incessantly, superfluously bloviate in regards to an issue that usually calls for more direct action (or a change of course)." For example: "President Bush's strategy to combat the Iraq war's unpopularity is to speechify."

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Word of the day

Cathart, a verb, and many thanks to Professor Geoff Scott from UWS, who used the word this morning at the Workshop on Learning Leaders in Times of Change as smoothly and naturally as if it were already in broad common use. Maybe Geoff invented it, maybe not. It appears on the language creation website with the following definition. I am surprised that such a useful word isn't used a great deal more.

cathart v. catharting, catharted [Back formation <>

Coined By: Acquaintance of person submitting

State of the art ILMS - oxymoron?

My library has an end-of-life integrated library management system (ILMS), Dynix Classic. Every library has an ILMS. An ILMS is a good thing - functional integration, management of resources, efficient workflows, adherence to standards, and so on. But the feature of them all that strikes the librarian venturing into this territory is that they no longer function effectively at the user end and, to the newer user, they just look out of date. They have failed to incorporate features which are commonplace in daily Web use. The development cycle for a conventional ILMS is too long to keep up to date with fast-moving areas of change, such as those loosely described by the term Web 2.0.

Lorcan Dempsey has a recent brief post - and many previous - on the ILMS and he refers to the enquiry into the state of the ILMS recently commissioned in the UK by JISC and SCONUL - a focus on the higher education sector, but relevant to anyone. A new discussion paper on the ILMS from the University of Windsor (Ontario) defines them as "proprietary monolithic systems encompassing the major operations of the library." Windsor, like many others, is not only evaluating its ILMS, but questioning the concept. Since then, Windsor has announced that it is partnering with Georgia Public Library Service in developing acquisitions software for the NZ open source software, Evergreen; there is a nice presentation about this. Also in Canada, the British Columbia public library system is running with BC Pines, a project for "The phased implementation of the Evergreen Open ILS for all of BC . . . over the next 5 years."

There is clearly a lot going on in the ILMS zone, and there seems to be much more willingness to contemplate open source solutions, and other new approaches too. For all of us, the dilemma is that we wish to retain the back end efficiencies and workflows of the conventional, slowly evolving ILMS, but we would also like to achieve the functionality and agility that open source can provide at the user access end.

Another factor: at Swinburne loans of books account for 15-20% of our total managed "transactions" (loans, uses, full text downloads, repository use, online reserve). The ILMS is primarily a tool for managing physical items and material we pay for. As book use declines as a proportion of total use, developers and vendors of the traditional ILMS must surely sense a new business model coming?
At Swinburne we are taking stock, and we are particularly interested in academic libraries which are doing the same kind of thing.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Word of the Day

Here's the most popular word in the past month from a rival word of the day. It is meh, and is a term indicating indifference, to be used when one simply doesn't care. For example:
A: What do you want for dinner?
B: Meh.

The word is now sweeping the Internet, according to the
Guardian. Used in the Simpsons. Defined by Danny Katz as "totally blank-brained can't-be-stuffed indifference." Scored a startling 5934 positive votes and only 514 negative in the Urban Dictionary, a prolific (too prolific) source of new words of all kinds. It is "a slang dictionary. With your definitions." Thanks Debbie for the source.


Is this a word of the day or just a post? I heard a spokesperson for Getup on the radio this morning. Getup aims to "bring participation back into our democracy" and its members "use the latest online tools to act on important issues facing the country." It claims to have more members than all the political parties put together - not that difficult. It claims to be at the "progressive" end of politics, and also "independent" and otherwise apolitical. Have a look.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Convenience is King

At the DA Information Services re-launch gig last night (Wednesday) Richard Siegersma kindly attributed to me the saying "Convenience is king". The context is the older saying, Content is King. But the underlying point for librarians and their friends is that content, in the sense of the quality of content, is no longer as important to the user as convenience. Anything available right now is better than anything available tomorrow. I think that that was always the case, but we ignored it. It is impossible to ignore now, because the Web highlights conflicts of convenience versus content.

I see that has been taken, but is still available (and so is Richard?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Word of the day

Today's expression is heads up, meaning a briefing or short announcement - "pay attention, I have something to say." I remember exactly when I encountered this expression - someone used it as if everyone knew exactly what it meant, and I didn't. And why has it just suddently started to be almost universally used? And is it a runtogether, or does it take a hyphen, or not?

Interestingly, it is featured in the ABC News Radio word pages. They point out that the US meaning is quite different, referring to being alert and watchful. As you can see from a search of the word, its use has become very diffuse. In New Zealand the Labour Party has the domain name; for the .com domain it is an online music store; in a neurological physiotherapy practice has the name, and in Germany its about motor sports. Meanwhile in Tuvalu, the headsup domain name goes to . . . roar, a US advertising site.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Mousebrain Project

The ARROW Project is Australia's pre-eminent open access research repository project, and I am a member of its Management Committee. I think I may have missed something at the last meeting, however - the term Mousebrain Project was mentioned, so I sprang to attention and wrote it down - who doesn't enjoy a new word? I checked it out online and there definitely is a Mousebrain Project - more than one, in fact.

I searched for a runtogether first. Apart from the use of the word as a term of abuse, there were references to an experiment on an IBM supercomputer which simulated half of a mousebrain and attracted a lot of media coverage this year. Mouse Brains is also a new and acclaimed "brainstorming tool for the advertising creatives." And at the website there is a link to dance and drum training in Guinea, West Africa. The word is also used in a cat-related fantasy context, in runtogether form, but you can't investigate everything and I do have to draw lines somewhere.

None of these references had apparent relevance to the ARROW project or other repositories. But then there is the Mouse Brain Library This looked great - I mean, this is a library blog, right? The MBL is in fact an open access repository of "high-resolution images and databases of brains from many genetically characterized strains of mice." Relevance to repositories is clear.

The Mouse Atlas Project is another great project of even wider scope. It aims to develop a dynamic, probabilistic atlas of the adult and developing C57BL/6J mouse. In this, it is related to the Allen Brain Atlas, funded by Paul Allen, a software billionaire; the project has had great publicity. Caltech and the University of Edinburgh, through the Edinburgh Mouse Atlas Project, are also involved in the mouse brain mapping enterprise.

Harvard has a High Resolution Mouse Brain Atlas, with some explanations about why brain atlases are important, and the equally important words "code may be re-used for non-commercial use." "Brain atlases are as essential for the research neuroscientist as are maps for the geographer. . . " according to Harvard. There is also a short piece on the Allen project, written for children by the Neuroscience for Kids editor, which will be accessible to the average reader of this blog, although I had to struggle a little - the older child, I think.

The projects above all demonstrate that online repositories serving well-defined and active research communities have been around for some time, possibly without the use of librarians; we were not the first into the open access repository business. We have come a little late into this area, which finds itself, like us, suddenly confronted by huge new possibilities brought about by the explosion in bandwidth available and falling data storage and processing costs.

OK, there's not much for actual mice in this quick survey. But repositories come out as the right place to be, even if it looks as if librarians have yet to achieve the kind of central role that the Mouse Brain Library has.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

All Rules are Guidelines, and Vice Versa

The ALIA Board is considering what rules should be agreed to by people who post to ALIA lists and otherwise engage with each other electronically. I guess that these rules will be pretty similar to rules which should apply in the offline world too. A draft version will be available to members soon.

I thought about the difference between rules for posting messages to a list, and guidelines (netiquette) and to be honest, I coudn't see a clear difference between the two. If rules can not be transgressed, and guidelines specify behaviours which, on the other hand, may be transgressed if necessary, the difference lies in the inflexibility of the rules. In the real world though, rules are mostly applied flexibly. There are concepts with names like "zero tolerance" and "mandatory sentencing" but most grown up people (like judges), when they think about it, realise that flexibility is the norm, and context is relevant to how we enforce rules.

When situation ethics was all the rage (and it still is - all grown up ethics are applied with reference to a context) we understood the ambiguity inherent in any rules for behaviour. Human life is too complex to be governed by a simple-to-apply set of rules, and ethics involves a pathway through options and choices.

This is meant to be an ALIA blog, and rules for behaviour are not the same thing as ethics. This post started off with a point about ALIA's rules and guidelines for posting to elists. Here is my list of rules/guidelines - try to be nice to people, and read everything one more time before you click on Send.

The new ALIA rules will necessarily be a little longer. Let me know what you think.

Word of the day

Today's word is collaboratorium. Dana reports "I'm not entirely sure how many words are being jammed into this one, but the meaning is pretty clear just on reading... I like it. First seen (by me) at the ubiquitous librarian."

There are now many places where the word is used, and in a number of different senses, but the clearest meaning - a place where collaboration takes place and which is designed and operates with this as a primary goal - works better. This is the meaning the Ubiquitous Librarian has in mind (not really ubiquitous, I hadn't come across him before, but the blog is great) in his link to a 2005 discussion of a new library space at Cal State San Marcos.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Filtering the Internet

We at ALIA have recently issued a media release drawing attention to the recently-completed report of a survey of filtering in public libraries. The survey is the third we have conducted since 2002, and these surveys track the way in public library approaches to managing use of the internet have evolved over the past five years. For me, nostalgia is one of the responses to the issues raised.

I was involved in the introduction of the internet into public libraries in Victoria from the very beginning (1995), when Vicnet rolled out public library access to Victorians, actively supported by the Victorian (Kennett) Government. I was also a member of the Australian Broadcasting Authority's Children and Content Online Task Force which in 1998 reported on online content and its issues for children. From 1999 until its recent (mid-2007) incorporation into ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority), I was a member of the Board of NetAlert Ltd, Australia's internet safety organisation.

Looking back recently at the 1998 report that we put together, I was gratified that the recommendations of the Task Force still seem reasonable, and a good guide on how to handle children's access to the Internet. All the things I still want to say are there - the Internet is for children too, free access to online content must be safeguarded for adults, parental supervision and guidance are the key strategies, and filtering is a supplementary approach. The practical, commonsense - and principled - approach we took then is still valid. The values are clearly stated and shared by Australians generally. There has been a consistent and balanced approach taken, with broad support, for the past decade. It would be a pity if the issues now became politicised.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Word of the day

Thank you Tom for lethologica, which means a state of not remembering the word for something, or forgetfulness of words. As usual the Wikipedia tells all. It suggests that "According to the American Psychiatry Association, '9 out of 10 Westerners will suffer some form of Lethologica during their lifetimes.'" Whatever does that statement mean? How many words do you have to forget to be lethological?

The word is from the Greek, like so many great things - from letho (forgetfulness) and logos (word). The disorder (for such it is) was first identified in 1913 by Jung, like so many other great things. Although I guess that in its non-pathological form, forgetting words is part of the human condition - one reason we make up so many new ones.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is Queen Day, or in Dutch, Koninginnedag. I was reminded today of my delight when I first encountered Queen Day. Each year on this day, now April 30, the Dutch celebrate their Queen's birthday. Over time, the celebration has come to incorporate a much wider range of activities than a simple birthday for the Queen.

On Queen Day, Dutch people have a national
vrijmarkt, which means that they can sell anything in the street that day and also on koniginnenacht (the night before). It is also an occasion for oranjegekte (orange craze), when the colour orange is worn or otherwise used in a wide range of settings - "orange banners, orange colored foods and drinks, and extreme amounts of orange clothing and creative accessories are worn as well. Sometimes even the water in fountains is dyed orange", according to the Wikipedia. The Wikipedia goes on "it is not uncommon for people to impersonate the queen, not always in a flattering manner."

Although the Wikipedia article describes the Queen's Official Birthday in Commonwealth countries, such as ours, as "a similar occasion", I'm afraid that the reverse is true. The Queen's Birthday, as celebrated in Australia, is our dullest public holiday. The only specific celebration is poring through the Queen's birthday honours list in the newspapers to look for the names of friends and relatives or, more likely, remote acquaintances. What can we do? Suggestions are most welcome and will be conveyed to the appropriate authorities.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is iPodagogy, which Andrew (from the State L:ibrary of Victoria) found in the Emerging Technologies Evolving Pedagogies Conference program. I guess it means the use of ipods in learning and teaching. Thanks to the teachers at Heathmont College, who responded to the cruel pre-lunch slot in this way. The term is off and running now, but it would have been great if it had started off without that annoying capital letter in the middle of the word.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Internet Freedom

Phillip Roberts, in a recent post to the IAMEMS list, points out a forthcoming report on global web censorship. The report is the work of the Open Net Initiative (ONI), which is a partnership of four universities - Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Toronto. The report is titled Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering and the New Scientist has a recent article about it. A growing number of countries filter access to particular parts of the Internet, and the number of countries which do this appears to be increasing.

Amnesty International in the UK is running a webcast on 6 June from 18.30 to 21.00 UK time entitled Some People Think the Internet is a Bad Thing: the Struggle for Freedom of Expression in Cyberspace. You can check it out in advance.

Open Net has a couple of interesting features. There is a map showing which countries do block or filter Internet content, and a URL search facility, so that you can find out whether a site is blocked somewhere and, if so, where. It has some flaws, but it is interesting.

This should all be core business for librarians. If we believe in the free flow of information, we certainly do not believe in country-level restrictions on access to the world's major information source, the Internet. What do you think?

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is traditionalesque, which means commerce disguised as tradition. The word comes from a review (in last week's The Economist) of One Perfect Day: the Selling of the American Wedding, by Rebecca Mead. It does for weddings, the review implies, what Jessica Mitford did for funerals. "An example of traditionalesque would be the 'Apache wedding prayer' read by a freelance multi-faith wedding minister." None of the players, nor the prayer, has the slightest Apache connection. Ms Mead appears to have coined the term traditionalesque, which on reflection is a strikingly useful one. In fact, opportunities to create new traditions are all around us, often seized by the commercially-focussed, or sometimes just by people with an exaggerated ironical bent.