Monday, 18 August 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is frolleague, which is a work colleague who invites you to be an online friend. Thank you to Tom for spotting it.

The Inquirer used the word in a scare story run recently: "A frolleague epidemic is upon us." But how can friendship be seen as a threat to us all? Apparently this sort of thing "runs the risk of damaging careers" or "could be absolutely life-threatening", according to

"Although rather alien now Frolleagues is expected to become a far more familiar term soon enough, as due to the epidemic in Britain, the Oxford English Dictionary is considering it for inclusion in its next revision."

The Urban Dictionary provides some further definition and this example of usage "My Frolleague, Bert, is really connected but I would not be seen dead with him at a bar, so I'll invite him to join my LinkedIn network. While I drink and work with Betty so she gets the Facebook invite." In the absence of better grounded advice, that's the latest word on frolleagues.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Striking achievements from the National Library

I was so immensely impressed by the National Library of Australia's new Australian Newspapers BETA search service that I sent a message out about it in the irregular newsletter I send to staff. Someone found a relative in a newspaper overnight (they wouldn't do that kind of searching at work) and reported in. And since then I have come across several more happy users.

The service - see - is available and working now. It is freely available to the public and currently (several weeks ago) contains 73,000 out of copyright newspaper pages (approx 730,000 individual articles) from 1803 onwards. Another 20,000 digitised newspaper pages will be added each week to the service. The goal is to provide the full text of a daily newspaper for each state and territory up to about 1955, in both image and machine-readable form. You can also go and look at the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program (ANDP) website for more information – at The site has a huge amount of information about the program.

Most of you, I assume, will just want to go to the site and try it out. One of the great strengths of the ANDP is that it is national; if your subject of interest is not nailed down in a specific state, the default search is national, across multiple newspaper titles. The text of the newspapers appears in all cases both as an image, and as scanned text using OCR. And because of the vagaries of OCR, if you spot errors (and there are plenty) and itch to correct them, you can. You can register as a user, and this enables you to correct the text - more crowdsourcing. The service even has a list of Top Text-Correctors.

You can add tags, ask questions, and use facets to refine your search, which is relevance ranked. In other words, the tools for accessing information through the Australian Newspapers service are definitely superior to the average library catalogue.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is crowdsourcing, and thank you to Rebecca for pointing it out, and to the JISC posting which we both saw. I was sure that I had used it before in this blog, but I haven't. I have just remembered where I did use the word, which was in the text of this library's IT Strategic Framework, developed early in 2007. So the word has been around for a while.

According to the Wikipedia, it means "the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call." Crowdsourcing has been coined along the lines of outsourcing, with which it is compared and contrasted. For us, crowdsourcing is most often applied to user-contributed keywords, or tags. There is an interesting article in Boingboing about the Library of Congress "using Flickr to crowdsource tagging and organizing its photo archive." And Flickr is the great example of user-generated subject descriptors - billions of them.

There are discussions amongst librarians about whether user-contributed tags are "better" than structured subject headings. Here is the definitive answer to that question: yes, and no. They do different things, both useful.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is wetware. This was created in the 1990s by analogy with hardware and software, and refers to the human brain. Merriam-Webster dfines it as "the human brain or a human being considered especially with respect to human logical and computational capabilities." Wikipedia has a much more complex definition, which refers to the way in which mind and brain interact.

The Merriam-Webster definition has the virtue of simplicity, but the disadvantage of particularly annoying pop-ups. It refers the user to Britannica Online, which has absolutely no information, but even more annoying pop-ups. You may well be able to do without this word, but if you do want to use it, the financial side of Wikipedia (a very small request for donations) is easier to handle.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is vagueing up, from yesterday's article in The Age by Michelle Grattan, headed "Nelson fudges 2012 date for start of carbon trade." Grattan uses the term in this sentence: "This is a vagueing up of the line of recent months, which said the scheme should start "not later than 2012". One Liberal later said the 2012 date was now "aspirational"." The alternative spelling, vaguing up, occurs in an article by Roger Clarke on research ethics. Roger refers to "withholding and/or vaguing up" research information to preserve a commercial advantage.

However, this invaluable term seems to have been coined anew by Michelle Grattan - yet another in her many contributions to the expression of Australian political life - I can
think of many possible uses already. I guess that a definition of the term would run something like "redefining a policy or course of action so as to make its meaning less clear". The expression has been formed by analogy with similar expressions, like dressing up or sexed up.

As for the spelling, that is a dilemma. Related words like queueing can be spelled both ways (with or without the e). I'm not sure which I prefer - simplicity would lean me to the version without the e, but the version with the e looks righter. And I'm a Gemini. You decide.