Technologies used
topic map logo
xSiteable logo
Fri, 28 Oct 2005 13:00:00 GMT

Notice! The blog (but not the website as such) has moved slightly, and the new spot to point your feedreaders and blurry eyes to are http://shelter.nu/blog/, and I've chucked my RSS/Atom feed into FeedBurner for good measure as well.

This also means no more comments here, and especially not you spammers, you filthy floatsam of the internet!

Don't worry, as soon as I get some spare time I'll merge the two blogs together, just need to work out some Blog API with Blogger, or, worse, install WordPress and do it myself. We'll see what I come up with.

Libraries, technologies and progress : A ranting mess!

I've been working in the library sector now for almost two years, trying to work it out, suss out how they prefer to do things, and looking into how I can improve things.

Lately I've come to a number of conclusions, and they've slipped out of me in the shape of rants;

In short my point is that the library world are slow movers, embrace complexity and can't design smoot solutions to save themselves. What are we going to do about it? Damnit!

Permalink (Fri, 28 Oct 2005 13:00:00 GMT)| Comments (14) | General
steven.mcphillips@gmail.com ( Fri, Oct 28 2005 - 04:10:42 )
awww, somebody needs a hug.
ksclarke ( Fri, Oct 28 2005 - 03:10:04 )
Hey, Just responded to your XML4Lib post. Interesting site here... so do you use XTM outside of the RDF context? I've always thought XTM would be a good match for libraries. It would be interesting to hear what you're doing with it -- I'll browse around here to now that I've found the site.
ksclarke ( Fri, Oct 28 2005 - 03:10:16 )
Oh, and one more thing you might be interested in (that I forgot to include in my email)... Have you heard of the code4lib mailing list/IRC channel? It is for library specific programmers and others. See www.code4lib.org -- it is an informal group, but we delve into serious topics (RDF, OAI, COinS, OpenURL, etc) every now and then. I think we all work in libraries (or library vendors' shops), so if you can put up with that perspective (though it does vary) you're more than welcome to drop in. :-)
Alex ( Mon, Oct 31 2005 - 02:10:17 )
Hey, thanks, you'll see me there.
As to XTM; XTM is the XML format for Topic Maps, and is only a part of the technology per se. And RDF is shunned in my presence. :)
ksclarke ( Mon, Oct 31 2005 - 04:10:02 )
Yeah, I admitted my XTM/TM gloss over in another email (another person also pointed that out). Since XML is my interest, the XTM part of TM is what I'm interested in. BTW, I know you might see this as yet another unnecessary schema from library land, but I'd be interested in your take on XOBIS (http://xobis.stanford.edu). It is a schema I've been working on for several years now and am currently trying to do a beta version of now (in .rnc format and with things like Time datatypes, etc.)
It is intended for metadata for institutions of cultural knowledge. The most complete documentation is in PDF form (essentially all the data from the website, but readable) and can be found at http://elane.stanford.edu/laneauetadata for institutions of cultural knowledge. The most complete documentation is in PDF form (essentially all the data from the website, but readable) and can be found at http://elane.stanford.edu/laneauth/XOBIS.pdf (it is heavily jargoned unfortunately). Anyway, if you've got time to kill I'd like to hear you opinions (in a private email would be fine). Thanks.
Eby ( Tue, Nov 1 2005 - 03:11:45 )
I enjoyed the rant and the ensuing discussion. I've commented about it over at libdev.plymouth.edu. In case you didn't see it yet I wanted to point out the BBC Archive Catalogue that is being built. Includes the buzzwords RDF and FOAF so may interest you. Here are the links:
http://www.hackdiary.com/archives/000071.html
http://www.benhammersley.com/weblog/2005/10/31/hot_bbc_archive_action.html
Alex ( Tue, Nov 1 2005 - 04:11:53 )
Thanks Eby; it's nice to see that I'm not a lone raving lunatic, at least! I'm sure there's more rants coming on though, but I've subscribed to your blog to better join the choir.
daniel.harrison.au@gmail ( Thu, Nov 10 2005 - 10:11:42 )
Hey Alex, long time no rant, don't think berry farming's the way to go, but you could always head up to the Byron area and farm nuts :)(macadamia's) Lots of free thinkers up that way. More seriously.
I think a large part of it especially in libraries is a Not Invented Here philosophy on steroids without an understanding of the technologies that are out there and technology in general. But i think that's a (Australian?) public service thing. I've seen it in a few public service organisations now and I see it every day in my current job as a consultant (yet another J2EE self implemented framework, maybe it's good and i'm just a cynic but i guess i've just been burned too many times). So I don't think it's *just* the library. I know in your rant you talked about gathering stats on searches and for the randr design using the search stats to customise the interface and I know that's the first time anyone really looked at/into it. From what I remember stats gathering (at least the web tools) there is to satisfy the ministerial requirements and is in no shape or form used to make informed decisions on services. (How is Tina by the way) Eg I don't think they could accurately or with any real confidence or integrity give the top 10 searched for terms accross all the libraries collections for say people in NSW in the last day. I think that could be the way in and maybe RandR will do it, maybe you could print it out and the next meeting shake it at them across the table whenever a buzzword comes up(would i like to see that). If you have excellent stats (I consider technoarti and the like (google really) stats generators really but look at what they've done to blogs etc) and show how to really use them well, one good project leads to another? I also think the BA's/management need to have their decisions over technologies/buzzwords removed.
I don't know, I always wanted to put feeds etc into the libraries systems (arrow) particularly and had the vision of people getting the power of these things and then being able to really push other systems but in the end I guess I had to spend too much time fucking around with teratext and z39.50 and environments etc and i've always felt bitter about that.
I don't know I got the feeling they embraced complexity as a result of being sold something to do the exact opposite and realising too late it wasn't going to give them that. (also no understanding of the technical complexity or ability to assess the real complexity up front). eg Teratext for Z39.50. And the mantra; requirements, we don't need no stinking requirements or change process.
I guess the real problem i was saw is there is never any relevance driven demand to projects. eg Union legislation is topical in aust at the moment and there's been lots written about it and i'm sure it's in historical data that's at the NLA but there's no service that can provide that information to the general public as a public broadcast/feed/site/blog etc. So by being too slow moving I always thought they weren't living up to their requirement to provide valuable information to aust public. I've never seen a NLA internet resource cited on the internet or a blog and that to me is a tragedy.
As for smoot solutions I think it's very difficult to assemble a team that can produce such things, and it seems tech companies are starting to see the value of good teams or teams that can provide innovative solutions, thinking the thoughtworks, fogcreeks, googles, yahoos etc (more importantly are becoming able to quantify and understand their value I think). So I think with current management you've got a long and hard task ahead of you (but i always thought you were a fighter, me I give up and move on :)
I don't know I guess when I was there I tried to try and say things like we need a decent architecture/framework/processes but what I was really trying to say was we need to rethink things so that we can be innovative ala BBC even the BL etc.
I guess be like the dark side and bide your time and don't be afraid to kick technologies when they're down:) I'm still having nightmares about z39.50 so give it a kick for me.
Anyway this is pretty garbled but i'll hack it out anyway, so I guess I don't think i really answered "So what do we do" but merely added my belated rants on top of yours but oh well, as they say better out than in.
Cheers
ksclarke ( Wed, Dec 21 2005 - 11:12:17 )
Hey, responding here since you don't have comments in "In the beginning" turned on. What's a blog if you don't allow people to talk back? Anyway... since I may have been the person to whom you referred when you said, in the other entry, that you received positive comments from (but only in private emails), I thought I'd add a note here saying I'm glad to say positive things about your comments to me on XOBIS in public places as well (and, in fact, did in the code4lib channel... and now here).
I've enjoyed our (ongoing) communications and look forward to working through what it would take to make the XML representation of (X)OBIS more TM-like. As for being answered by the library geek world with silence, I'm not sure of what you're talking about. When you popped into IRC for a brief bit or posting to WEB4LIB? You sort of introduced yourself in a flurry of rants and then withdrew... give it some time and don't expect everything to get a huge response... keep hanging around.
If all you are looking for is to convert people, you are right that your welcome will be lukewarm (only people in dire need welcome missionaries). If you want to open a dialogue though (like we have with XOBIS-TM(heh)) then I think you'll find a welcome worthy of your contribution. Okay, that was hokey, but you get the picture...
ksclarke ( Wed, Dec 21 2005 - 11:12:28 )
Hey, responding here since you don't have comments in "In the beginning" turned on. What's a blog if you don't allow people to talk back? Anyway... since I may have been the person to whom you referred when you said, in the other entry, that you received positive comments from (but only in private emails), I thought I'd add a note here saying I'm glad to say positive things about your comments to me on XOBIS in public places as well (and, in fact, did in the code4lib channel... and now here).
I've enjoyed our (ongoing) communications and look forward to working through what it would take to make the XML representation of (X)OBIS more TM-like. As for being answered by the library geek world with silence, I'm not sure of what you're talking about. When you popped into IRC for a brief bit or posting to WEB4LIB? You sort of introduced yourself in a flurry of rants and then withdrew... give it some time and don't expect everything to get a huge response... keep hanging around.
If all you are looking for is to convert people, you are right that your welcome will be lukewarm (only people in dire need welcome missionaries). If you want to open a dialogue though (like we have with XOBIS-TM(heh)) then I think you'll find a welcome worthy of your contribution. Okay, that was hokey, but you get the picture...
Alex ( Wed, Dec 21 2005 - 11:12:21 )
Hi Kevin. Thanks for that. Hmm, flurry of rants, eh? :)
About comments; I haven't turned them off. It's just the comment system that's a bit in flux right now, but I'm working on it. Kinda. Wokring on it over christmas some time, I think.
About TM; I sure would like to see more of it, but I've really stopped evangelising about it. I'll just go on my merry way and poke fun at those who ignored it or didn't get it. :) It's basically a matter of preference, and I can understand people not wanting to go the TM way; losing control of things can be quite scary at first, and, depending on your nature, something you want to avoid. I'm saying "losing control" because often when I do Topic Mapping I contextualise my data and let them to be free in a Topic Map; I have no longer control over what data goes where. If my mapping is poor, I've created a poor application, so it pushes me to be a better mapper and letting go even more of my data. It's a strange process, indeed.
Web4Lib and libraries; libraries have a very strange way of looking at technology, where they've got high-tech on the one side as toys and low-tech on mission critical stuff, but rarely does it happen that non-vendor software gets to become mission critical, even if that's the perfect idea at times. Maybe it's the size of the library that determines the playfulness of them; the value of MARC is often registered by the number of them timed by the number of people that library caters to. Maybe that's human behaviour in a nutshell, though.
Anyways, I think my moment of passion is over for now, and I'll retreat to my cage and do some real work with hastables mapped to some dinky RDBMS where I try to filter field 100 from MARC records, and display them straight to screen. :)
ksclarke ( Thu, Dec 22 2005 - 03:12:39 )
Heh, sounds like my behavior pattern too. Push out for awhile then pull back in to mull it over. Sorry, my post above went through twice. I got an error message so thought it didn't make it through.
I think libraries want to push out with new technologies but, like you said, our mission critical apps are legacy. I think we want to move forward there too but have to be sure what we move to doesn't lose something critical to our mission. I've said this already on xml4lib though... I'm starting to sound like a broken record.
Anyway, I look forward to picking your brain on the XOBIS - Topic Map front...
http://www.digitalcameras-store.info ( Tue, Apr 4 2006 - 10:04:56 )
I want mp3 player. What will advise?
http://www.cycling-store.info ( Mon, Apr 10 2006 - 05:04:25 )
Hi
To write the letter, it is necessary ...