Information and knowledge alert!

There is a bit of a thing happening with Campus Editions. First I learnt about Edublogs Campus, a nice new offering…. and then rather belatedly I  heard about Firefox Campus Edition.

The Firefox campus edition comes pre-installed with StumbleUpon (for discovering websites, photos and videos), FoxyTunes (lets you control almost any media player and find lyrics, covers, videos, bios and much more with a click right from your browser) and Zotero (for clipping web notes and to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources.

Providing this tool will make it imperative for us that students have good information and critical literacy skills to navigate successfully in this environment in order to think deeply, creatively and fairly rather than plagiarising or operating outside a creative commons approach to online media.

It’s marketed as being everything you need for a well-rounded College Life!

According to Mashable

It’s probably fair to say this is a marketing drive to get Firefox installed on student laptops before they head back to school.

I wonder, did anyone actually install this on their student machines? I like to be quite choosy about the Firefox addons I use – some of which are great. I think I would prefer to apply the same approach to customizing student delivered web browsers.

  • Some new things about information distribution…

    CreateSpace is the new name of Amazon’s on-demand self-publishing service for the super long tail of books, audio CD’s and film DVD/Blue-ray. Products automatically get an ISBN number(a huge draw-card) and are listed on Amazon.com, including “Search Inside” for books. This extends what is on offer, when compared to Lulu and other self-publishing sites.
    The National Archives in USA and CreateSpace will be publishing movies from its collection of over 200,000 public domain films, raising some interesting copyright issues i.e. will public domain files ‘go viral’ either online or via home CD copies?

    Getting into Google explains that Google is coming out with a new tag called “unavailable_after” which will allow people to tell Google when a particular page will no longer be available for crawling. For instance, if you have a special offer on your site that expires on a particular date, you might want to use the unavailable_after tag to let Google know when to stop indexing it. Or perhaps you write articles that are free for a particular amount of time, but then get moved to a paid-subscription area of your site. Unavailable_after is the tag for you! Pretty neat stuff!

    Barry Shwartz reports that Bloglines released a new public beta of their popular web-based RSS reader. The new Bloglines beta is optimized to run well in Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox.

    The new beta has several new features including a customizable start page with drag and drop AJAX functionality, three feed viewing options including a “Quick View,” “3-Pane View,” and a “Full View.” New enhanced AJAX drag-and-drop makes feed management and ease, plus a new “Unread System” that makes marking feed items clearer, quicker and easier.

    No need to worry, Read/Write Web has a comprehensive review of the new beta Bloglines, plus there is a lot of coverage at Techmeme. You can also read Gary Price’s write up at ResourceShelf.

    These three things – nice juxtaposition don’t you think?

    Search engine wizardry

    I’ve always been curious about the information architecture behind search tools – infrastrucure and alogorithms. As I am not a mathematician or a programmer, some answers can become too complex.

    However, I have found a couple of gems about Google. The first takes us back in time to Stanford University and two eager students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, working on a large-scale prototype search engine. The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine introduced some key ideas that we are now familiar with – but which were revolutionary and which underpin the force of Google today.

    We know from The Google Story just how different the Google setup is. David Carr in How Google Works explains:

    Google buys, rather than leases, computer equipment for maximum control over its infrastructure. Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt defended that strategy in a May 31 call with financial analysts. “We believe we get tremendous competitive advantage by essentially building our own infrastructures,” he said.

    Google does more than simply buy lots of PC-class servers and stuff them in racks, Schmidt said: “We’re really building what we think of internally as supercomputers.”

    Previous search engines had not analyzed links in the systematic way that Google did – all part of the original ideas of the two young researchers. If you’d like more answers to your question, How Does a Google Query Work, provides a few clues.

    But Niall Kennedy, a web technologist has also come to my rescue with his post on Google phrase analysis where he explains that a few more details about Google’s possible analysis of page text is available from a recently published patent application by Googler Anna Patterson from June 2006. The application details how a search engine like Google might analyze text phrases, date-based topics, and associate a web page with related topics, even if the specific topic does not appear in the document itself. The 22-page document further emphasizes Google’s current work on “shingle” analysis to discover important phrases and concepts.

    He provides a neat Google search diagram for muggles like me!

    Tagging – for the fun of it?

    Folksonomy has become an important part of information sharing structures via the web – formal and informal. Folksonomy is the “vocabulary” or collection of tags that results from personal free tagging of web resources for one’s own use and the aggregate collection of tags that results from a group tagging project. Tagging systems are possible only if people are motivated to do more of the work themselves, for individual and/or social reasons. They are necessarily sloppy systems, but for an inexpensive, easy way of using the wisdom of the crowd to make resources visible and sortable, there’s nothing like tags :-)

    [Photo Credit: From Rashmi Sinha: A cognitive analysis of tagging]

    Tagging for Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing explores these issues and shows the power of tagging to encourage conversations.

    Coming up with the perfect tag is the problem- or is it? Subject analysis does not come naturally to the folksonomy crowd. Tags and the Power of Suggestion is a light-hearted consideration of some of the underlying influences of ‘natural’ approaches to organisation.

    If you just want to delve further into tagging, then The Tagging Toolbox: 30+ Tagging Tools might be just what your are after:

    Tags – for some, one of the best ideas on the web, for others, merely a visual distraction. Yes, we’re talking about those loosely defined categories which are usually organized into cute little clouds. Looking for tag-related resources can be tough, so we’ve dug up 30 tools and resources that every seasoned tagger should check out.

    Books to 3D search – good for your soul!

    I can’t resist commenting on BOOKS as we continue to skip down the yellow brick road to Web 2.0, Web 3.0 or whatever!

    Here is an excellent visual list of the Top 10 Banned Books of the 20th Century. Needless to say, each tells a ‘story’ – and the cultural shifts around some of them have been profound! Books still have a significant place in our world – and perhaps this is why they still figure in Web 2.0 developments that make books easily accessible to buy and read.

    5 Alternative Ways to Browse Amazon provides an array of alternative visual search tools for….. well yes, for finding and buying good books. Very good read.

    Developments in visual search tools seem to be gaining pace. You will be amazed at what is happening at Space Time, 3D web search, currently in Beta and only available on a PC. But what a WOW! way of searching “at the speed of thought”. “Watch as your information converges in one space at one time”.

    But even more interesting for an information professional is the presentation about the Semantic MEDLINE Visualization Prototype which incorporates the semantic web and natural language processing – manipulating information as well as documents to respond to a searchers needs. It connects knowledge from various resources from PubMed and Medline – and natural language processing will summarize and produce a visual network or relationships between the material you are interested in.