In this issue:
Giraffe Forum • April 19, 2009
Don't lose sight of the human element. A recent glitch at Amazon highlights the folly of relying too heavily on content management software for organizing searchable publication data. Rather than adding another search engine, Web managers should be looking at how people use the site and making it easier for them to find what they're looking for.
Brief but useful article on the need to take account of human factors in service design on the Web. Libraries are slowly getting the message that they should understand their users before they provide them with wonderful new tools. It's a lesson we need to learn for our library Web sites, our institutional repositories, our search interfaces, and every other Web-based contact point. In fact, it's so important that we are devoting our Annual Symposium to it this year. ( MacColl)
Harvard Business Publishing • April 24, 2009
Keep complexity to yourself. People just want to find whatever it is they're looking for, so clean up the clutter on your Web site, and keep your interface simple. And refer back to these rules every time you add new functionality.
Merholz pitches a "system-oriented" approach to complexity—that is, within a given system, carefully placing the complexity where it belongs. This isn't about stripping down Web sites, but rather placing complex interactions where people are best able to cope with them. In some cases you may place complex interactions on a Web site, to keep interactions in other channels, such as mail, the phone, Twitter, etc. simple. In other cases you may place it elsewhere. As libraries, museums and archives set about recreating their infrastructure in light of the opportunities presented by the Internet, this is a concept well worth remembering. ( Tennant)
InnovationTools • April 21, 2009
Ask a smart question...You can learn a lot about your customers and their needs and expectations through provocative questioning. The tips in this article are not new, but may serve as a reminder the next time you're putting together a user survey.
We should all follow these tips for asking questions that increase our knowledge, not just in surveys but in all our interactions. We're good at identifying problems; the tips remind us to frame the questions we ask to encourage identifying solutions. I was pleased to see that the first provocative question suggested included "What would keep us awake at night?"—a variation of the "What's keeping you awake at night?" theme of our podcasts. ( Smith-Yoshimura)
The Washington Post • April 21, 2009
Worth a peek. The recently launched World Digital Library offers access to about 1,200 works and associated explanations from some of the world's leading libraries. The documents, images, maps and audio recordings are searchable by location/ origin, timeframe, topic, type of article and contributing institution. Take five minutes and click around for a quick and entertaining lesson in history, social studies or political science.
My initial reaction after reading the WDL's "About" verbiage was...$10 million for 1,200 images? Eegad! It's a pretty cool site though: zoomable images that might impress an electron microscopist, easily comprehensible navigation and much else. The developers cite consistent metadata, a high-quality narrative description of each item and the multilingual interface and translated content in seven languages as their most important breakthroughs—and each of these is indeed impressive in its own way. But is it sustainable? There will be a big ongoing price tag associated with maintaining such quality while building out the content; the entire concept falls apart if the metadata gets inconsistent, or the descriptions trivial, or the translations imperfect. We'll have cause to be impressed if WDL can keep growing and thus become more than a lovely prototype. ( Dooley)
The Wall Street Journal • April 28, 2009
The truth about cloud? Cloud computing is the latest hype, but is it secure? BT Chief Security Officer Bruce Schneier warns that, "Cloud computing services like Google Docs, and social networking sites like RealAge and Facebook, bring with them significant privacy and security risks over and above traditional computing models." Should we be risking our privacy for the convenience of using off-site computing power?
It will be interesting to see whether organizations that offer services in the cloud begin to differentiate themselves from their competitors by highlighting the ways in which they ensure privacy and security of data. That pattern has been seen in other emerging markets, where trust is a marketable commodity. ( Washburn)
New Statesman • April 23, 2009
Beware the numerati. As the medical and marketing fields increasingly rely on sophisticated statistical analysis to flag a potential health problem or micro-target an audience, the people behind the algorithms are growing in influence. Author Stephen Baker's new book, The Numerati , describes the extent to which we're all under surveillance and what it means for our lives and careers.
The balance between privacy and improved, customized services is a tough one, nicely described in this short article. What are the implications for the library community? Do Amazon and Google (or Amazoogle) derive and define what materials are most valuable, or does the circulating library collection factor into use metrics? If so, how do we contribute to the knowledge base without exposing our patrons? On the flip side, how can we take advantage of data mining done outside of our own community? ( Proffitt)