Wednesday, 28 January 2009

More from Information Online 2009

I'll be posting more of my thoughts from Information Online 2009 over the next week, but some people have already done such a good job summarising and commenting on some of the keynotes that I encourage you to read their posts as well.

Anticipating the Future of Libraries (and many other things!): Andy Hines, futurist, adjunct professor of Future Studies at University of Houston
Andy gave a fantastic presentation on the following trends/challenges:
1. Values
2. Demography
3. Lifestyle
4. Technology
5. Work
6. Education
Strawberries of Integrity posted an excellent summary here, please read it!

Libraries as Happiness Engines - Liz Lawley, director of the Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Liz had some very interesting thoughts on how taking a gaming/fun approach to libraries, work and more can increase happiness AND productivity (shock!). She identified the elements of happiness as:

  • satisfying work to do
  • the experience of being good at something
  • time spent with people we like
  • the chance to be part of something bigger than yourself
And points out that many of these are more accessible in the online gaming world than real life - no wonder people like games! More on how this applies to libraries etc here.

Liz also pointed out Ravelry as an example of an object-oriented network - where the network is not based just around people but a particular object (in this case yarn and knitting patterns etc). She suggests that the next step for libraries is to turn catalogues into this kind of social network. I think we (publishers) should turn our online research collections into them too! More on that from my previous post.

Anna Pearson has also been writing up some of her thoughts on Information Online...have a look at those too!


Sunday, 25 January 2009

Info Online - The Trouble with Books: finding their place in a post web 2.0 world (Dr Sherman Young)

Dr Sherman Young was an excellent presenter, and the concepts and issues he discussed stayed with me right through the conference. The title of his book alone is enough to command attention - "The book is dead: Long live the book".

Dr Young's key point is that we need to disassociate the concept of the book - something that requires a significant investment of time and thought by the author, editor/publisher and reader - from the print, paper and glue that is its origin. The rest of this post is based on the notes I took throughout his presentation.

Dr Sherman Young by neerav bhatt

A History of the World and the Internet in 4 1/2 slides each.
Dr Young started by giving an overview of the development of media and communication, from oral culture to the internet. He notes that upheaval that each development - written word, the printing press, the radio - caused, and the naysayers (starting with Plato!). He goes on to outline the development of the internet and the changes it is bringing to our research, reading and literacy culture. Then he played Apple's "Knowledge Navigator" vision from 1987 - which is the next step from Web 2.0 into the semantic web.

Where do books fit in a post Web 2.o world?
Now on to the meat of Dr Young's talk: What of books in this new world?
In the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock: "The Trouble with Harry"
....Harry's dead. So are books. Books don't seem to have a place. In the world of the Knowledge Navigator, books are props that line the dusty shelves of the academic's study.

In our world:

  • Content in books is hidden from the basic google search.
  • Iphone: millions of videos and music on your phone - but not many books!!! (Unless you like Harlequin Romance, which IS available on Iphone. Yeesh!)
Dr Young contends that book culture and print culture getting confused. And as Jeff Jarvis said, "Print is where books go to die".

A book's core attributes.
But if it is not "a printed object", what is a book? Dr Young explains the core attributes of a "book":
  • Time. Books take time to write and time to read. It is a "premium of time" that must be committed by authors, publishers and readers
  • Deeper content - the result of all that time.
  • Not required to react to current events - more reflective, thorough approach.
  • And then the reader must create the world themselves by engaging with the book. Unlike a movie where everything is created and visualised for you, there is a space that must be negotiated by the reader to be meaningful.
Essentially, it's like cooking and eating a Casserole compared to a Big Mac.

But the book is not dead yet - it's just resting.

The future:
Gam3r Th3ory - each chapter discussed and reviewed online before publishing
Wikibooks at Yale - read AND contribute to free scholarly works from Yale.
Yale Books unbound - read and add comments to published works which are now freely available online. This is based on "CommentPress" software that (I think) was developed by the Institute of the Future of the Book.

So how can we encourage "real books" - long form text?
  • ebooks. 68000 at MQ in 2007. Interstingly though, several of the papers from the conference focused on the difficulty in building awareness of e-books among academics and students. So this particular solution has a way to go.
  • Google books. Puts books back in the online conversation with higher, more effective result rankings.
Dr Youn'g final point was that we are experience a time of creative destruction. We need to navigate this time and ensure that books survive with the videos and blogs etc. But librarians need to support authors and publishers trying to work out new publishing, copyright and distribution models.

Books should be part of the online world, not separate. This is our challenge: to make sure that we continue to value books.

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it"
- ALan Kay

My thoughts.
This is an amazing vision which publishers really need to explore. In fact, we are already poking around the of the potential modifications of the new CCH Intelliconnect platform (coming this year) will be to allow comments and annotations to our online books and commentary. But thoroughly integrating our publications into the stream of the internet will be a much bigger challenge.


Friday, 23 January 2009

All the pretty birdies....tweeting legal/finance publishers

Thomson Reuters Australia have flown into the twitter world to coincide with ALIA Information Online. In the space of a week they have made 9 tweets and collected 10 followers. They're tweeting a blend of event info (for the conference), links to Westblog articles, and new publication notifications. So far I'm finding them quite topical to follow, it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up and also continue to incorporate local material.

Westlaw US is tweeting, and Martindale Hubbell have also hopped on today (better late than never!). Wolters Kluwer is tweeting too, mostly links to financial news and articles. So far Westlaw is winning in the follower stakes with 239 along for the ride.

Question: is it better to tweet as the company, or as an individual representative of the company? Most are going for the former.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Senator Conroy, the digital economy and internet filtering

I finally have the chance to process some of my thoughts about the Tuesday morning sessions.

Senator Conroy, Minister for Broadband etc, got off to a good start by praising ALIA and the "vital role" it plays in developing future directions in information flow. Lots of good words about the value of the digital economy etc, and the necessity of providing education around media literacy - the ability to find and assess material on the internet.

However, the room suddenly got hostile when he moved on to the topic of internet filtering in public places to reduce cyber crime. There were plenty of public librarians (and general librarians) in the room with plenty of thoughts on filtering and freedom of access. Many of them contributed to the policy exposure draft last year, voicing concerns about the inaccuracy of filtering services leading to blocking of safe content (I should know, happens all the time at work) and how it also can slow down the entire system (I've also experienced that!) Conroy tried to reassure us that this would be extensively tested, but I'm not sure that many were convinced. Plus there was something that sounded suspiciously like a threat - that as publically funded, public institutions we will have to abide by govt policy. Ouch. Talk about insulting.

Anyway, Conroy also had some interesting statistics from an Australian report I shall have to follow up. Here they are:

73% of househoulds in Australia have access or use public services such as libraries.

72% read online news
62% use online maps
36% subscribe to e newsletters
37% look up health info
27% look up government info
24% look up local community info

26% engaged in online social networking
16% read blogs
13% online forums
12% online chat

I find some of these numbers surprisingly low, especially given the results of our own whitepaper. For example, we found that 33% read blogs compared to 16%. I have a theory that this is because we surveyed professionals, a highly educated & literate section of the population who are more likely to have regular internet access and an interest in blogs. What do you think?

Edited to add:
Read the speech transcript here.
View the speech here.


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Connected at the Conference!

I finally managed to connect at the CCH stand at the conference. Huzzah! I'm planning to skip a couple of sessions so maybe I'll have time to add all the posts I was too tired to yesterday.

Lots of people have been coming past and picking up copies of our "Professionals and Web 2.0" whitepaper. I spent so much time working on it with the team, it's great to see it getting some interest. I'll be presenting on it and CCH's new research platform at 5.10 today in Theaterette 3. Please come - everybody else will be getting ready for the dinner! :(


Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Information Online Conference Day 1 wrap-up

I am absolutely pooped after a big day one of Information Online.  I'll give a few general impressions in this post and then post summaries and observations on the presentations in separate posts.

First of all, I looove the conference satchel.  I promptly ditched my tatty old laptop bag that ONLY fit the laptop, because this one fits the laptop, my leather folder, and probably half of Asia too.  AND it sits on my shoulder better.  Sadly one of the handles tore away but a lovely conference goer promised me she will bring hers around to the stand tomorrow because she doesn't want it.  Woohoo!

Second of all, great organisation and efficiency all round (with the exception of a couple of timing issues but nothing major).  The conference committee and volunteers I chatted with were all very helpful and friendly.  Nice work.

Thirdly, our CCH stand rocks! (yes I know, shameless corporate plug.)  It's all shiney and white and green and fresh (which was the whole point).  It's a pleasure to hang around.  Plus we have mints.  And pens.  And who can say no to mints and pens?  Everybody should come and visit me there tomorrow, we're not far from the main lunch area (stall 111). 

Fourthly - one major disappointment.

No free wifi.

So instead of loading up my notes after each session, I will be doing it in one big lump tonight.  Huzzah.  Plus I missed the opportunity for direct interaction with other people online via tweets and live blogging.

This is something I really don't understand.  If Maccas (and many libraries) can provide free wifi, why can't they manage it in hotels and conference venues?  Charging $20 an hour in hotels or $165 for three days of a conference is exorbitant.  What a rip off.  When it comes to an Online Information event it should really be included in the cost of conference attendance.  Not that I blame the organisers, they are probably subject to the whims of the venue. 

On that note, I should technically have internet access because I am representing a vendor in the exhibit (and we did buy wifi access!).  However I couldn't seem to log on with the password supplied, although the rest of the team could.  Today was just too busy for me to sort it out, but I might try and get it fixed up tomorrow.

The conference offers a net cafe, but this seems very 2002 to me.  The day was so jam-packed that I had no time to visit it, plus all my notes were on MY computer so I would have had to USB them across.  Tedious. 

Next year I would suggest one of two options.  The first is obvious - free wifi for all!  But if that is not possible, I suggest encouraging bloggers to register as such in advance, and then give them sponsored wifi access.  After all, we are providing free media and exposure for the conference, so it's a fair exchange.


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Monday, 19 January 2009

Information Online - Day 1 program

This week I'm attending the Information Online conference hosted by the Australian Library and Information Association. It's going to be a pretty jam packed few days - here's the plan for tomorrow.

The Stuff Beyond Google: Information Literacy in a Corporate Setting
Engaging Students Online at the State Library of Victoria
Beyond the Search Box: different ways of exploring connections
Enhancing e-resourcefulness
One Search Many Options
Collaborative Spaces in Law Firms

I think Enhancing e-resourcefulness will be very interesting - it's about how UWS librarians worked with academics and vendors to increase the profile of online resources. I've been on both sides of the librarian and vendor fence so it will be interesting to see how they worked together to improve awareness and use of resources.

I'm also intrigued by "One Search Many Options", on the State Library of QLD enriching content with input from patrons using social media and the guidelines they put in place. I believe this is the future for our content as well, so I'll be very interested in what they've done.


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

LexisNexis add fuel to the fire by allegedly uninviting blogger from speaker panel

Some people in LexisNexis have learned the value of engaging the Web 2.0 community rather than dismissing it (see LN's response to my earlier post).

However, the company's latest act has definitely incited a negative response from the online legal profession.

Kevin O'Keefe, owner of Lexblog (blogging solutions for lawyers) and author of Real Lawyers Have Blogs, had been invited to speak on a Web 2.0 panel at the LegalTech New York conference hosted by Incisive Media and sponsored by LexisNexis. About a month ago, he was informed that as part of the sponsorship agreement LexisNexis would have final veto on the panel speakers, but dismissed this as a formality. That is, until he was contacted a few days ago by Incisive Media and apologetically told that the panel was "full".

Kevin was a fairly vocal participant in the recent debate around Martindale Hubbell, so it wasn't much of a stretch to guess why he was suddenly uninvited. When he pressed the Incisive Media contact, he was reluctantly told "there are a lot of politics involved". Read the full details in Kevin's post.

Queue another mad explosion of Twitter conversation on LexisNexis' behaviour, and a debate on whether Lexis is trying to stifle any innovation or constructive criticism in the Legal information industry.

For me, the question is not whether LexisNexis did veto his presence on the panel, or whether they did have valid concerns about what he might say of them at their sponsored event. What interests me is the ongoing PR nightmare this is creating for Lexis. Whoever manages their PR has still not grasped that actions that were possible 5 years ago - such as sweeping a problem maker under the rug by taking away their speaker opportunities - will have the opposite effect in the new world. 5 years ago it may have been the case of the speaker grumbling to a few friends. But Kevin has 2000 followers on Twitter alone, and he has already shown that he is not afraid to speak out about LexisNexis' activities. Is it so surprising that this is being discussed across the web?

A day after Kevin's post, Incisive Media has offered him a place on a different conference panel that is not sponsored by Lexis, an action which he attributes to the storm of protest from his connections on twitter and blogger. There are two implications in this. First of all, it all but confirms that LexisNexis was behind the original rescinding of the invitation. Secondly, that the clients of Incisive Media (& LN for that matter) spoke out via social media, and Incisive Media listened.

I'll leave you something to think about - what will be the real topic of conversation at the Lexis-sponsored panel and the conference as a whole? It may not be what Lexis hope....

An End, and a Beginning, for the Media

"An End, and a Beginning, for the Media". James Poniewozik.

Great article from Time Magazine on how the must respond to the economic crisis and the rise of new media in order to survive and grow. Here's a taste:

People want the vetted information the news media offer--and they want to riff on it, respond to it and even, as in Mumbai, add to it. Journalists should embrace that rather than futilely fight it.

This means offering users more ways of interacting, commenting and contributing. It means seeing new media not as the dumbing down of civilization but as a new way of telling stories and even finding stories. And it means recognizing that the audience is no longer passive--it wants and expects to participate, even as it wants help in making sense of the info deluge.

Of course, what James hasn't figured out is HOW to do that profitably....*sigh*

While you're looking at Time Magazine, check out their article on Facebook and the Gaza Conflict. Most of it isn't that surprising, but it did mention that the Israeli embassy in New York hosted a press conference on Twitter.
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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Academic publishing - new models of information sharing?

Looking at the program for the ALIA Information Online conference (which I'm attending next week), I was intrigued by the number of sessions about open access and university-based publishing and research repositories. One in particular caught my eye - John Houghton's "Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models".

Only a few years ago academic blogging was very much frowned upon as a waste of time. However, that appears to be changing. Some academics are experimenting with writing and editing books within communities. Open access platforms are springing up, bringing blogging into the academic world. Check out, where bloggers discuss peer-reviewed research.

I wonder if universities and academics are experiencing the same struggle I am. Open access and distribution of information is a basic principle of education - but publishing is a necessary source of revenue for academics and universities. And what are the implications of replacing peer-reviewed articles with blogging and open access articles?

This topic is way, way bigger than the stray thoughts I had embarking on this post. But I will leave you with a model that just might become the middle ground - the publisher-provided academic network. Thomson Reuters is already experimenting with this in their new product Law School Exchange. Here's what Westblog had to say about it:

"For law faculty around the country, you might think of Law School Exchange as a combination of Facebook, the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and There’s really nothing like it generally or specifically out there in any market,” says Nickles [Wake Forest School of Law], who helped develop the ideas within Law School Exchange. “It creates an entirely new relationship between faculty, authors and publishers.”

Of course, to participate you must be subscribed to Westlaw. Which makes me wonder - if this is a platform for academics to publish and share information, is it a service for them - or are they providing the content for a new "publication" and should be rewarded accordingly? I would hope the latter (after all, Thomson will get the side-benefits of all members subscribing to Westlaw). In any case, it would be very interesting to see how the revenue model works - and whether academics will embrace this new opportunity to collaborate and distribute their work.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Martindale-Hubbell tries to "get Web 2.0" but they really don't.

The recent experience of Martindale-Hubbell shows the danger of a company positioning themselves as a social media player without actually embracing the Web 2.0 culture. Throughout 2008 LexisNexis worked hard to reposition Martindale-Hubbell, the dying lawyer ratings directory, as a social network for lawyers. In just 3 days in December, Martindale-Hubbell’s credibility within the Web 2.0 community was badly damaged by their ineffectual response to a leak that rapidly spread around the blogosphere.

Several other influential bloggers have posted on their problems, but I thought I might throw in some of the backstory and give a blow-by-blow description.

June 2008: Martindale Hubbell positioned as social network for lawyers.
Leader Networks and LexisNexis released a study on lawyers and social networks indicating that lawyers see M-H as a good platform for a social network

July 2008: Martindale Hubbell and LinkedIn join forces
Business-based social network LinkedIn and LexisNexis announced an agreement where LinkedIn profiles are displayed on M-H and M-H content appears on LinkedIn.

Dec 22: Blogger Heather Milligan queries the future of M-H based on an email from her M-H Consultant.
Is Martindale-Hubbell's AV Rating System officially dead?
I received an e-mail on Friday from a peer at LexisNexisMartindale division notifying me that not only was she let go, so was her entire department.”

Dec 22-23: Twitter spreads the news rapidly
Major influences in the legal industry, including a range of other legal publications and directories, voice their opinions. There is no official word on Twitter from Martindale Hubbell. The only person on twitter who is connected to Lexis M-H indicates he cannot speak for the company on this matter.

Dec 23: News of M-H’s incipient demise is posted on influential blogs
Is Martindale-Hubbell's lawyer rating system officially dead? Kevin O’Keefe, Real Lawyers Have Blogs
Martindale Hubbell's AV Rating System Dead As A Dodo. Sean Hocking, House of Butter

Late Dec 23: Lexis responds
Lexis responds with a comment at the bottom of the original post, a post on its own blog, and a statement to the media. The blog post appears to be very similar to the statement and feels like “PR speak”.

Dec 23 onwards: bloggers are unimpressed with Lexis’ response
There are multiple blog posts and tweets to the effect that “Martindale Hubble doesn’t understand Web 2.0”.
Martindale-Hubbell doesn’t get it. Kevin O’Keefe, Real Lawyers Have Blogs
The Death of AV (Update: MH Responds). Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice.

It will be interesting to see how/if Martindale-Hubbell recovers from this incident, and what its future will be.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Web 2.0: enhancing the value and visibility of premium content

I've been thinking a lot about how Web 2.0 can enhance the value and visibility of premium content. In the pay-per-click world, users need some kind of assurance that the info they are about to purchase is relevant and good quality. And they are much more likely to accept the opinion of their peers than the marketing blurb of the publisher (see post below!).

The first and simplest step is to implement a basic ratings and review system. But an even more sophisticated approach is to actually see how many have accessed it, what they thought of it, how they used it and whether it was the right information for their needs.

I think Ravelry's pattern page does exactly that. Have a look:

Ravelry pattern finder: How Web 2.0 can add value to premium content

(Click here for a higher resolution version if you want to read all the writing!)

Knitting 1.0: you purchase a pattern and hope it will look as good as you as it does on the model in the photo. You can't really be sure until you buy the wool, knit the garment, and try it on.

Knitting 2.0 (Ravelry): just look at what you can find out before you buy:

  • How it looks on bodies of all shapes and sizes
  • How it looks when knit with a yarn other than the recommended one - and what yarns are suitable substitutes
  • How hard it is to knit - and how interesting or boring it is to do so!
  • How to avoid or correct problems as you knit it
  • How people have modified the pattern to create a different product that suits their needs (eg using a sock pattern to create fingerless gloves - it has been done!)
All of this comes from ratings, photos, blog posts, and forum posts from other people who have knit it. All provided for free, adding up to a wealth of knowledge that goes way beyond the original pattern.

You will still need to purchase the pattern to knit it. All of that extra information does not replace the key element required to complete this project. It will however, help you to come to a decision about buying it, and assist you in knitting your own version. Plus all those reviews, comments, photos and blogs will help to increase the visibility of that particular piece of content to future users.

It's also worth noting how incredibly relevant and targeted advertising is on this page. In fact it doesn't even look like advertising, just more really useful information. If you want to knit it, click here and buy the wool. If you like it, check out the designer's other patterns.