Thursday, 25 August 2011

Best football team in the world

Why is Barcelona (Barça) the best football team in the world? asks The Economist's management columnist Schumpeter. Part of the answer lies in an article written by my colleague Peter Gerrand and published in firstmonday five years ago - "Cultural diversity in cyberspace: the Catalan campaign to win the new .cat top level domain". It details the struggle to achieve a unique top level domain name (TLD),.cat. The name is unique because the campaign for it led to the creation of an entirely new category of TLDs, for linguistic and cultural communities. Catalonia, because it is a region of Spain as well as a nation, was not able to have a country code TLD (CCTLD), and Catalans did not want to use the CCTLD for Spain.

Schumpeter's point is not just about identity being a key to the success of Barça - and the success of any organisation. What else accounts for success? While its approach to football is obviously one answer, Barça, says Schumpeter, "has provided a distinctive solution to some of the most contentious problems in management theory." Four problems in particular.
"What is the right balance between stars and the rest of mankind? Should you buy talent or grow your own? How can you harness the enthusiasm of consumers to promote your brand? And how do you combine the advantages of local roots and global reach?" Read more in The Economist.

As a matter of fact, these are the very questions that a rising university like Swinburne University of Technology needs to ask, and answer.

And if you are actually interested in football, rather than management, you can read all about the best football team in the world on the English-language version of the FC Barcelona website.  

Friday, 19 August 2011

Thinking About Names

Lorcan Dempsey has a wonderful post about names, concluding with some reflections on contemporary library cataloguing, and how we might handle things better in the future. He precedes his suggestions with the words "Authorities work - and think NACO here - is a professional activity, hedged around by rules and procedures; it is after all 'authorities' work." I did have to look up NACO - is is the Name Authority Cooperative Program of the PCC (Program for Cooperative Cataloguing).

Lorcan writes about relationships which are not bibliographic, and suggests that in future we need not limit ourselves to bibliographic relationships in our cataloguing, nor to bibliographic "authorities" in the way we reference names.

In Australia we have a history with names. Here at Swinburne University the Nic Names project looked at approaches which did not involve authority or control; as Rebecca said in a Nic Names post in December 2009, ". . . this [other ways of matching] may well be far more valuable to help us tell people apart in a scholarly publishing context than their dates of birth."

The National Library of Australia has just completed the beautifully-acronymed ARDCPIP (you have to supply a vowell after the C but it can be pronounced) - the Australian Research Data Commons Party Infrastructure Project. In fact, after much debate, the NLA re-named names as "parties." The project does use an authority control basis for its treatment of names.

But Dempsey is interested in more than name authorities and name control. He is interested in libraries going beyond sorting out names by providing a more expansive service. Others are following that path too. OCLC's WorldCat Identities links to a Wikipedia biographical entry if it is confident the link is correct. The National Library of Australia's Trove links names (People and Organisations) to a bewildering variety of sources and locations. Dempsey asks - could we also identify family relationships? What about relatives? He suggests that network level knowledge organisation is where we might really want to go.

It is certainly worth trawling through some of the work being done to expand our access to rich information about people. Parties, too.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Word of the day

What is the opposite to "dumb down"? It needs an opposite. Dumbing down isn't a great concept, and we should be pushing the opposite, avoiding dumbing down where we can. The term is widely used, and even has a Wikipedia definition.
Searching for antonyms doesn't work very well, since all of the sources of antonyms limit themselves to current English words or expressions, and I am mostly happy to accept a neologism, where one is needed. I think that the opposite to "dumb" is smart, and in the expression "dumb down" the slang adjective "dumb" works as a verb. So I suggest smart up, or smarted up as a past partiple analogous to dumbed down, or smarting up, like dumbing down.What do you think?
Speaking of dumbing down, I've just read Lindsay Tanner's book Sideshow: dumbing down democracy, and recommend it. You all knew that Australian politics is being dumbed down, of course, but you haven't seen it documented in such detail before, or thought about the answers, as Tanner has. Have a quick browse. Think about how we can smart up our politics.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Word of the day

Today's word is takestock, a noun, coined especially for Swinburne's senior management recently, when we all held a takestock. It is an illustration of something we all know - you can turn pretty much any part of speech into any other, and pretty much any two-word term into a runtogether.

Needless to say, the neologist at our takestock day did not coin the word. Google claims to have found 7.8 million instances, but this is only possible because of the Google feature of combining searches for variant forms - takestock, take stock, and so on. With an advanced search we're down to 48,000. Most of the uses on the web relate to stocktaking, like But there are few with other meanings of "stock" as well - pedigreed cattle, shares, pond care, stock photography, portfolio management,and more.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

République de Bananes

This is a Quebec website and blog, apparently a conservative one - styled L'autre Québec. I was initially intrigued because I am sure that that isn't the right translation of banana republic - for example, Wikipedia uses république bananière, and the Wictionnaire has a nice definition of this term, as well as of the new verb, bananiser, or to transform into a banana republic.
Definitely a cult site - you can even buy the flag of the République de Bananes on a postcard from Zazzle.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Word of the day

Today's word is crowdfunding - thank you to Helen Reid for this one. It provides an opportunity to resume this blog, and the word of the day, after a gap of almost a year. Thanks is also due to Sherman Young, whose blog post on the matter in turn quotes The Economist, which says:
"Enter Unbound, a British effort to “crowd-fund” books. Visitors to its website can pledge money for a book that is only part-written. If enough money is raised, the author can afford to finish it—and the pledgers will get a copy. Having launched in May, the firm announced its first success on July 18th. Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, has secured the funds to finish a book of quirky stories. Handsome edited volumes and e-books will follow."

Needless to say, what appears as something absolutely new already has in the Wikipedia a nice definition and article on crowdfunding which takes it back to the 1990s.

Why the hyphen? I've eliminated it from my spelling of the word, because I do that, as do others.

And go on, send Terry Jones the money if you feel like it, although the book is well on the way. I loved Erik the Viking, and he's written other nice books too, mainly for children. You can read all about it in Wired, and listen to their podcast and interview with the author.

Read all about it - you can discover not only a new publishing trend, Sherman Young's blog, The Economist (as always, invaluable), this blog and, in due course, Terry Jones's new book.