Technology Twitter

Catching the Wave

No sooner do I mentioned the thinking I’ve been doing about Proactive Reference, and Google throws all my thinking into a tailspin. Just a few days ago, Google announced a brand new product, called Google Wave. So what is Google Wave? It’s not easy to grok at first glance, but a the elevator pitch might be: Communication for the 21st Century. It takes the most popular communication formats (email, IM, Txt) and mashes them together with the new, real-time web (Twitter, Friendfeed, etc) and you get something that is greater than both parts.

There’s a TON to say about this, and at first blush I’m going to bet that it’s the biggest revolution in communication online since the invention of email. It’s both a platform and protocol, and will push existing thought-leaders like Twitter to open up in ways they might not be ready for.

Here’s a video of the launch preview…I’m trying hard not to gush about the possibilities. Look for much, much more on this from me over the next few weeks.

Books Media Technology

Ebooks explode this week

This week, ebooks were all over the tech news, and there were at least two huge announcements. Well, one announcement, and one not-so-secret launch coming Monday.

The announcement was the Google Book mobile service, which gives users access to 1.5 million books from the Google Book scanning project OCR’d and formatted for mobile screens, like those of the G1 and the iPhone. In one fell swoop, Google has made these platforms the home of the largest electronic book library in the world…the Amazon Kindle store currently has 230,000 books, while Project Gutenberg has just over 100,000.

The upcoming announcement is that almost certainly on Monday, Amazon will announce the Kindle version 2. Leaked photos make the v2 look sleeker, more updated, and with much better physical form-factor. What I’m most excited about is the possibility of v.2 of the software, which better UI and possibly more features. As long, of course, as the software is ported back to the original hardware.

Are these the things that will finally push ebooks firmly into the public consciousness? Time will tell, but I can hope.

Legal Issues Library Issues

Google Magazines

Google is now indexing AND displaying magazines in Google book Search! Here’s the blog entry where they describe it:

There’s no mention of a titles list, and there’s clearly some limitations on these (Check out Jet, for instance…they only have every 5th year of the mag). Popular Science is there in its entirety, but only 2000-Feb 2008.

But in any case…it’s an interesting development. If Google decides not to provide a titles list, is anyone interested in crowdsourcing it? Where can we dump the resulting data so that it’s harvestable?

Library Issues

Computers in Libraries 2008 Calendar

As an experiment, I created a Google Calendar for Computers in Libraries 2008 and asked a number of my friends to help me fill it in with the schedule. Why? Because Google Calendar is an open standard, and allows people to do all sorts of sharing. People can add the calendar, overlay it with their personal calendar, copy events off….it’s just a much better way of dealing with this sort of information.

If you are interested, the calendar can be found here: HTMLiCal XML

If you want to be added as an editor, just drop a comment to this post with your gmail address, and I will add you. If this is useful, we’ll see about doing it for other, upcoming library conferences.

Digital Culture Library Issues Technology

I really hate Zotero

There, I said it. Zotero should warm the heart of any academic, but somehow it escapes me. I’ve been loath to admit it for a long time, especially since I was part of the beta, and tried it for a long time. Plus, it’s exactly the sort of tool that I should really love.

Except I don’t.

Why not? Well, after examining my prejudice, I came to one conclusion: I no longer have any patience with applications that are local. Unless the application I want AND my data live in the cloud, I just won’t use it. I’ve found myself, over the last 6 months to a year, moving nearly everything I do online. Documents are created with Google Docs, I prefer Gmail to any local mail client I’ve tried, heck, I’ve even started using Flickr’s editing deal with Picnik to do my photo edits, and I luuuuuuurve me some photoshop.

What’s up with this change? I really only use two computers; my work PC and my Macbook. It wouldn’t be that hard to use local programs, and sync my documents. The problem is that it’s any effort at all. Syncing my documents shouldn’t be something that I think about, it should just happen…Mac nearly has it right with their .mac syncing, but the PC world just doesn’t operate like that without some serious effort on the user’s part. If Apple would move hard into this space, perhaps with Google as a partner…I think they could revolutionize computing yet again, especially if they leveraged their media power as a part of the cloud storage.

But I digress…

After using Zotero for awhile, I found myself cursing the fact that I had two different databases of information…the “macbook” stuff and the “desktop” stuff. This is why the third lobe of my brain is…I don’t have to think about where I might need that information. It just goes to the cloud, and I pull it down no matter where in the world I may be. I know that Zotero has listed on it’s homepage:

Remote library backup
Shared collections
Access your library from anywhere via the web

Give me that, and maybe it becomes a tool that is useful to me. But until then, local just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Digital Culture Library Issues

Google Book Search: My Library

Google has made an interesting move with Book Search…they just added a “My Library” component, which allows you to catalog your home library using Google.

Now, if you do a search in Google Books, one of the options is “Add to My Library”

Google My Library

If you click the link, and are logged into Google, it starts your collection:

Google My Library 2

The links on the side give an option to Import/Export you library, but the import options is woefully weak…it only allows you to paste in a list of ISBNs. No CSV or Delimited files, no xml, no other formal metadata. Just ISBNs.

Export is possibly even worse. Google My Library exports an XML file with the following structure:

<title>Pattern Recognition</title>
<contributor>William Gibson</contributor>

Google? What’s with the non-existent metadata? I can do better at Amazon, not to mention a real library tool like LibraryThing.

Google My Library also has the ability to display just the cover view of your library, but there doesn’t appear to be any ordering/sorting options…although it will limit a search to just your library, it would still be nice to be able to order. How about some faceted browsing, Google?

Google My Library Cover View

This is an interesting product from Google. It is yet another set of information they can use to target advertisements (if they know the contents of your library and 982734987234 other people, they can cross reference that and target ads). But as a product from the consumer’s view, this seems way less useful than LibraryThing, which has given serious thought to what people want to do with their own books, and gives a nearly obsessive number of tools to the user.

On the other hand, this is Google. They are likely to gather a huge number of users from their existing base, even when there may be better tools out there for the given job. Haven’t seen this over at the Thingology blog…Tim, what do you think about this?

Digital Culture

Google Gears

Google Offline access! Google Gears is a beta that allows for offline access to Reader (your feeds, no internet access needed) and is going to support Gmail very soon.

Not always needed, but invaluable during those long flights.

Digital Culture

$1.65 Billion

That’s what Google reportedly just paid in stock for YouTube. The interesting question is whether Google Video will go away, or will YouTube? The press release says that both will stick around…but that makes little sense. It will be interesting to see, that’s for sure.

Digital Culture Library Issues

Google @ ALA

Here’s Google’s video relating their experience at ALA 2006. Included are shots of the booth in the exhibit hall, a little video of the party they held at Muriel’s, and snippets of interviews they did with librarians at the party. You can see the swanky glowing drinks that I talked about earlier.

I was interviewed, but evidently didn’t make it into the video…but they did put up a picture of myself and Charles at the booth:

me @ ala

The most amusing thing to me about the picture? Google put these up as a Picasa Web Album, but I’m linking to it from my flickr account. Why? Picasa doesn’t give you easy linkability…I could copy image location and paste in the URL, but that’s not a friendly user experience. Flickr EXPECTS you’re going to hotlink their images, and gives you the URL to do so.

Picasa also doesn’t give you an easy way to browse to a specific picture…this was pic 166 of over 200, and when I went back to find it, I couldn’t be bothered to click next picture 165 times. There must be a jump to picture option for usability, guys. What else…oh yeah…no multiple sizes to pick from, so the resolution you get is just what’s there. I love Picasa as a local picture manipulation solution, but Google is a long way from flickr for online experience.

Digital Culture

Google Cubes

Google Cubes

Another pic I’ve been meaning to get to…these are little promo items from the Google Bash at this year’s American Library Association Annual meeting in New Orleans. They were at the bar, and when you ordered a drink the bartender would pop one in along with the booze and ice. When you do that, they light up:

Google Cubes all lit up

They have a couple of electrodes on the back that need to be bridged with some conductive item before they light up. Clever, and they gave the party a decidedly sci-fi aura, with everyone walking around with different colored glowing drinks.