Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is knol, and thanks to the indefatigable Peter Suber for that. Knol is Google's answer to the Wikipedia, and Peter quotes a Google blog posting which describes knol, launched on 13 December, and standing for " a unit of knowledge." "Our goal" the blog goes on, " is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only." Wikipedia, to which knol is a rival, has an entry on knol, as one would expect. The BBC has an interesting item on the knol, too, ending with a quote from Nicholas Carr, who suggests that the knol project is a head-on competitor with Wikipedia. "He said it was an attempt by Google to knock ad-free Wikipedia entries on similar subjects down the rankings."

This blog is a friend of Wikipedia, as previous postings have indicated. but as a librarian, the more information the better. Surely?

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Word of the Day

Thank you to Sue for today's word, which is glitching. Glitch is a common word, especially used in relation to technology, but I haven't seen it as a verb before - although according to Wikipedia it is derived from a German adjective meaning "slippery", or I guess now "glitchy", which is also pretty widely used. The context is ". . . the list seems to be glitching today." Wikipedia defines it as a bug, or a "short-lived fault in a system."

But it has migrated from computing and electronics to the real world now, and is used in any context. There is even a Glitchipedia. I like the way language is used to bring the vagaries of personality into technology, which is on the whole boring and predictable. In many cases, of course, the glitch is in the user, rather than the software, but the use of the term gently shifts the blame. Last week's transport ticketing glitch in Brisbane, which held up the Go Card, is a nice case study in the use of the term.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Word of the day

Thank you to Julie for today's word, which is webinar, as featured recently in the comic strip, Unshelved. A webinar, according to the strip definition, is a seminar held on the web. Like electronic card last week, this is close to oxymoronic, like so many e-versions of analog nouns.

The Wikipedia defines webinar in this way: "A webinar is a type of web conference, that tends to be mostly one-way, from the speaker to the audience with limited audience interaction, such as in a Webcast, which is transmission of information in one direction only, like watching a concert on the internet. A webinar however, can be very collaborative, and include polling and question & answer sessions to allow full participation between the audience and the presenter. A webinar is 'live' in the sense that information is conveyed according to an agenda, with a starting and ending time . . . There are a few web conferencing technologies on the market that have incorporated the use of VoIP audio technology, to allow for a truly web-driven presentation, removing the need for any external devices, such as a telephone."


Monday, 7 January 2008

Word of the day

Thank you to Tom for today's word, which is yo, used as a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun in place of "he" and "she". It is in an article from a journal called American Speech (2007) v.82(3):262-279 - "A new gender-neutral pronoun in Baltimore, Maryland: a preliminary study / Elaine M Stotko and Margaret Troyer. Here's an example of this new usage, from the article "Yo handin' out papers" = She [the teacher] is handing out papers."

The Wikipedia defines the normal role of the word as an American slang interjection, or a greeting (like "hey") but with other meanings according to tone, context and situation. It can also be an exclamation at the end of a sentence.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Odd Alliance

In his piece in The Age yesterday, Peter Chen refers to "an odd alliance of librarians, libertarians, industry hard-heads, IT geeks and computer experts." He refers to this odd alliance as backing Senator Kate Lundy some time ago in her opposition to internet censorship. At the same time, an editorial in The Australian reinforced Peter's comments on internet censorship and made many of the same points.

These articles are two of many which have appeared in response to the recent announcement by Senator Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Information Technology. The Minister announced that the Government proposed to require all internet service providers to provide "clean feeds" - internet content that is "free of pornography and inappropriate material." This would be mandatory for all households, schools and libraries.

Although there have been many critical comments, it is not at all clear what the Government plans to do, or whether what it plans to do can be done - depending on what it plans to do (this is a circular statement, yes). If the government plans to filter the internet for all Australians without slowing down response times, then it won't be filtering out much; as Peter Coroneos (Internet Industry Association) points out, the more you filter out, the longer it takes. Logical and true.

At these stage there seem to be a couple of logical steps. First, it might be a good idea to put together that odd alliance to which Dr Chen refers. And second, we must ask questions and see if we can find out what the Government plans to do, if "plans" is not too precise a term for its intentions.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is electronic card. This is, you would think, a clearly and obviously oxymoronic term. "Card" describes a type of stiff paper which can be used for a variety of purposes, such as conveying a tasteful greeting, being rigid enough to be stood up on a mantlepiece, and incorporating sufficient space to write a few appropriate words somewhat short of a letter. Cards are also slightly cheaper to send, at about $1.45 for a reasonable quality card and a stamp. An electronic card can do none of these things, and the term therefore qualifies as an oxymoron - one term negates the other. Most electronic cards are not tasteful, not rigid, and not writeable.

Although what we really need is a new term for an electronic card, and a different function, we are likely to have to live with the oxymoronic term we now have. Here is a
charming card from the University of Queensland Library which although called an electronic card, does something quite different to the things a card can do.

It is easy to be taken in by a statement that the money which would have been spent on cards has been donated to a charity. For a university library sending out, say, 70 cards, this amounts to $101.50. Nice electronic cards cost a lot more to create - perhaps a programmer and/or software developer for a day or so, at least. I did say a nice card.

Happy new year, too.