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Ambient Findability 73

norburym writes "Peter Morville is an information architect, an advocate of expanding the boundaries of librarianship in an Internet age and the voice of ambient findability. In this new book from O'Reilly, Morville expands on a theme he's been discussing for several years: we live in an age where computers and the Internet are changing how we access information. Digital networks are available everywhere. As users, we have computers, PDAs, GPS units, smartphones, software and other network technologies that enable constant and mobile connectivity. As Morville writes, ambient findability is "a realm in which we can find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime" and his book is a thought provoking chronicle of the advent of that goal." Read the rest of Mary's review.
Ambient Findability
author Peter Morville
pages 204
publisher O'Reilly Media
rating 9
reviewer Mary Norbury-Glaser
ISBN 0596007655
summary Information retrieval in an age of ubiquitous computing.


Ambient Findability is divided into seven sections that track the journey from simply defining what the author means by findability through a history of man's search for location awareness in both the physical environment and in the cyber world; how we interact with information through documents, language, and systems of retrieval; intertwingularity and findable objects; the balance between push (advertising) and pull (information retrieval); being a Web designer and a user advocate; metadata and physical data in the context of findability; and the ability to make informed decisions based on open source and emerging technology.

A core definition offered by the author in Chapter 1 is for findability: "the quality of being locatable or navigable; the degree to which a particular object is easy to discover or locate; the degree to which a system or environment supports navigation and retrieval." Morville discusses how well various websites perform in providing information desired by the user and how successful sites cater to mass customization. Businesses and non-profits that aim to reduce search time and improve findability of their site contents will gain marketplace advantage.

Chapter 2 is an interesting and informative introduction to the history of wayfinding through lessons learned from various animal species (exocentric and egocentric navigation, echolocation, etc.) to how humans have adapted landmarks or created tools to aid in navigation and exploration (lighthouses, compasses, sextants, maps, etc.) and further how architects and urban planners can effectively design built environments. The logical extension of this discussion is how the wayfinding techniques developed in the physical world have translated to the digital realm. In this discussion, we see how we have translated our spatial metaphors to the web.

This leads directly to the next chapter, on how people interact with information. Morville tackles the difficult task of defining information and considers the concept of relevance in relationship to the information we seek to retrieve from the Internet and how the inherent ambiguity of language negatively impacts any system of information retrieval. To top this off, the author reminds us that users themselves introduce added complexity and complication to how people seek information. He cites several research studies and literature on the subject and suggests that there is value in integrating both push and pull in how we interact with information systems.

Chapter 4 deals with the topic of intertwingularity (a combination of "intertwined" and "mingled") or the idea that things are connected together in a complex and nonlinear way. In terms of the Internet and ubiquitous computing, this translates into our ability to connect to disparate bits of data not only from computers but also from mobile devices and other ambient devices (GPS, EZPass, pagers, RFIDs) that are truly pervasive throughout society. Morville takes us through part two of wayfinding with descriptions of GPS technology, interactive mapping and photographic confluence sites, tracking using GPS and cellular communication, RFID, webcams, and of course the convergence of technology as wearable computing (sunglasses that can be used with cell phones and MP3 devices, Bluetooth enabled garments, cameras embedded in glasses, etc.) becomes more common and affordable.

Morville then leads us neatly back to the idea of push and pull. In chapter 5, he discusses the necessary flow toward balance and uses the example of Google, which successfully intertwingles unobtrusive targeted ads with search results. Design and marketing, as the author notes, are not enemies. Yet finding the balance is tricky and not a simple task. Morville describes his "user experience honeycomb" model which combines the key issues that designers should consider when creating a website that optimizes findability and therefore enhances user experience: useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible, and valuable. He concludes the chapter with hacks that improve web findability: adopting search engine optimization techniques (avoid drop down menus, image maps, frames, etc.; use RSS feeds with backlinks; embrace web standards; determine and include keywords and phrases in visible body text, links, headers, tags, etc.), and personalization (examples include Yahoo! using individual profiles to customize sports scores and stock information, the Weather Channel using zip codes for local weather, and Google Alerts letting users track keywords in news and web sites).

In chapter 6, "The Sociosemantic Web," Morville outlines the controversy surrounding an article, "The Semantic Web," that appeared in May 2001 in the Scientific American. The authors of the article propose an ambitious "road map for future Web design" that subsequently fueled a debate between W3C Semantic Web members and social software supporters. The debate leads to a discussion about how well metadata can be normalized in an environment such as the Web. Morville uses this debate as an introduction to a history and structural description of metadata. He describes the formulation of taxonomies and the use of controlled vocabularies to enable findability. Of course, web sites are not simply hierarchical; they are complexly grouped which brings us to the idea of folksonomies where users tag objects with one or more keywords that become shared. Folksonomies are obviously not great for findability since they fail at semantic relationships and hierarchy. However, all forms of structure (folksonomies, ontologies, and taxonomies) can co-exist on the Web to describe metadata and the differences between data and metadata are becoming less distinct. Amazon is a perfect example of this: traditional publication and topic details and concordance are documented along with customer reviews and rankings. Amazon also has the option to "search inside this book" which makes the pages and even the text itself become metadata.

The final chapter of the book delves into how we are ultimately capable of making informed decisions through the power of the Internet: the sheer volume and variety of sources available to us and the ease of access enable us to take charge of decisions we would normally trust to those professionals outside of our narrow realm of expertise. We decide which information to believe in. Morville considers information literacy and digital librarianship and proffers the idea that libraries and the Internet have common principles of maintaining free expression, privacy, free and equal access, and intellectual freedom.

Tim O'Reilly is well known for expanding the boundaries of technology in print and through conferences like the Emerging Technology Conference, the Web 2.0 Conference, and the Open Source Convention held in both the US and in Europe. His agenda has never been to fill convention halls with attendees who fit a lowest common denominator; his aim has been to bring together people who not only think smart but who also have the ability to think outside the normal boundaries of their particular field of interest (Robert J. Lang, Freeman Dyson, James Gosling, among others) and who therefore inspire innovation. With the publication of Ambient Findability, O'Reilly Media continues this tradition of giving readers an opportunity to experience the visionary writing of people like Peter Morville.

Read Ambient Findability if: you are interested in expanding your business or nonprofit through its presence on the Internet; you are a librarian and want to grow into the nontraditional environment of the Web; you are a Web designer and want to optimize the findability of your sites on the Internet; you are a user and want to enhance your searching experience. Read this book if you are a teacher, a student, a writer, a parent...in short, if you use a computer or a handheld or a GPS or a smartphone or any type of technology that connects you to the world, then you should read this book. Peter Morville's Ambient Findability will amaze and delight you. It will give you new insight into how ubiquitous computing is affecting how we find and use information and how we, as users, can and will shape the future of how data is stored and retrieved.

Mary Norbury-Glaser is IT Director at the Barbara Davis Center, an affiliate center at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver."


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Ambient Findability

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  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:44PM (#14380365) Homepage Journal
    This book and the review uses way too many catch phrases: findability, intertwingularity, Folksonomies, metadata, smartphone, backlinks. Talk about overload.

    Nonetheless, as the Internet becomes more available in even the lives of the poorest (in the US at least), will the need for libraries and physical stores of information even be needed? I've been "connected" wirelessly to the web now for over 3 years, and last month I upgraded my wireless connection to T-Mobile's EDGE network (150kbps downloads practically everywhere I go).

    With Google's ability to aggregate not just information but opinions, reviews and similar items/services into one easy-to-access page, there are many services we won't really need around. This weekend I saw the demo of the GPS+XM traffic-nav solution in helping me avoid traffic jams ahead and find quicker ways for me to get to my destination. WIth that device I won't need news radio at all (I already receive weather updates to my wireless PDA). A few weeks ago I met with a company that is working on RFID check-out lanes for a grocery store (fill up your cart, walk out) and it seems that they're less than 6 months away from being "ready" -- they're just waiting for manufacturers to include the RFID tags needed to get the system working.

    I'm ordering this book -- I had thought about writing something similar a few years ago. In one of my jobs as an IT consultant, I find myself providing more services regarding these new technologies, especially to CEOs and top level managers. It is an easy sell especially when you look at the time saved for people making the top tier incomes. The great part about the movement for cheaper goods is that we see all these products trickle down to even the lower class worker.

    The last few paragraphs of the review are enlightening: TIm O'Reilly doesn't try to fill convention halls with the lowest common denominator. This is intriguing to me because I've always had a difficulty in figuring out which market I should attack the hardest: The rare (and wealthy) CEO wannabe-geek who wants to have all the toys first, even if it doesn't help him become more productive? The common CEO who sees that technology can help him become more productive, but he can't pay as much as the guy with the desire to have everything the earliest? The common user, who will eventually come to use technology when it is either forced on them, or when they finally get around to see the value that the technology brings to every-man? I'm not jealous of O'Reilly's ability to pack conventions with the top level geeks, but it is interesting that he even has a market. How many of his readers actually understand what he's saying though, and how correct has he been in previous years?

    Lastly, how many geeks here have an intense amount of new technology knowledge, but find themselves unable to sell that knowledge for an income? Is the super-geek becoming more common, or less common? I find a lot of geeks just out of college aren't truly information whores, they're just ex-jocks with a tiny bit of tech know how.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As a /.er with a 4 digit uid, I must ask you: where do you find the time to both work and post to every damn /. story with long winded comments like this? I realize today is a national holiday in the US, but give me a break! You do this during normal business hours too! If my boss caught me /.ing every day all day long I'd be fired pronto...
      • I'm in the car right now, on a 3 hour drive to another state. The person driving me is jamming to the radio, so I'm on my laptop, banging away on some research and reading the 6 or 7 forums I tend to read daily. Most of my posts on slashdot are performed either in the car, waiting on the tarmac, or sitting in an office waiting for a meeting to take place :)
        • '...banging away on some research.'

          You almost had me, until I got to that part.

          Let us summarize and see how we can write the same content, with a bit less wind:

          "Nonetheless, as the Internet becomes more available in even the lives of the poorest (in the US at least), will the need for libraries and physical stores of information even be needed? ...With Google's ability to aggregate not just information but opinions, reviews and similar items/services into one easy-to-access page, there are many ser
          • You don't seem to know the RFID market very well, or you'd know the stall-out is due to other issues...

            It surw is, which is why this guy is stalled -- but this is his risky endeavor.

            Some consultant...how about 'all of the above', since today, everyone is a 'geek', and the concept of a stand-alone figure has been laid aside years past.

            If you believe that, you're missing some big opportunities.

            BTW, you forgot to mention that being able to type with more than one finger means being able to post long-winded, er

    • This book and the review uses way too many catch phrases: findability, intertwingularity, Folksonomies, metadata, smartphone, backlinks.

      Ted Nelson remarked that "everything is deeply intertwingled" way back in the original Computer Lib / Dream Machines, so "intertwingularity" at least should look familiar.
      • This is the first time I've heard somebody other than Ted Nelson or people that I know were once Xanadudes [wikipedia.org] using the word "Intertwingled". It was such a nice hippie cosmic term, but the 70s called and said we should give it back and make up our own pseudolexicons for our own millenium...

        On a more technical point, one of the unforeseen problems with Xanadu was privacy, which is also a major problem with Ambient Findability - in a worldwide information network with deep two-way linking, where quoting worke

    • As far as I'm concerned, the great technical breakthroughs (HTTP, P2P, gargantuan secondary storage, wireless networks, laptops, etc) have already been discovered and quite well refined.

      What needs to catch up are our legal and social systems. Copyright essentially makes most information not available on demand. What is available on demand generally must be done using proprietary and fragmented systems. Patents and DRM mean that many protocols and formats (such as DVDs and console video games) cannot be acce
    • I'm maybe a half through the book, and I might just send it back to the library tomorrow. For a book ostensibly about finding information, I have a hard time finding any in this book.

      Yes, there are sme interesting nuggets, but so far it is too much fluff and padding.

      I suggest reading some of this in your local bookstore, or grabbing a copy from the library, before plunking down any cash for it.

  • Animals in color (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plasticsquirrel ( 637166 ) on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:50PM (#14380388)
    Interestingly, although admittedly a small point, the book seems to be the first O'Reilly animal book to be colored in [ora.com]. I really like the new look, and I hope it continues.
  • I shut off my mobile, email, IM and unplug my land line when I feel like being incommunicado, takes all of 10 secs.
    • As users, we have computers,. . .

      Ok, so guess my desk has Ambient Findability within 50 ft. or so.

      . . . PDAs, GPS units, smartphones . . .

      The bloody hell we do. If I had that sort of shit I'd have Ambient Findability and I like to flat out fucking disappear from time to time, thank you very much.

      Digital networks are available everywhere.

      Either this guy never leaves Ann Arbor or he walks around with an Al Franken satellite dish on his head.

      KFG
  • by Cuthbert Calculus ( 629326 ) on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:51PM (#14380398)
    ...am I the only one who had to get out the dictionary to wayfind the intertwingularity of some of these sociosemantic words? A few of the folksonomies seem to have only ambient findability.
  • WTF... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GWSuperfan ( 939629 ) <crwilson@gwu . e du> on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:52PM (#14380407)
    is "Ambient Findablility?"

    "Ambient Findability is divided into seven sections that track the journey from simply defining what the author means by findability through a history of man's search for location awareness in both the physical environment and in the cyber world"

    Again- "Huh?" So, I have to read the stupid book just to find out generally what it's about? Is it just me, or does that sound retarded?

    And while we're at it- let's stop making up meaningless words and phrases. If it's truly a new concept, that's one thing. Otherwise, unless it's in a dictionary, I just wish peoplw would use words and phrases that *are*
    • Re:WTF... (Score:2, Funny)

      by IAAP ( 937607 )
      And while we're at it- let's stop making up meaningless words and phrases.

      And what? Put an end to all marketing departments around the world?!? Are you mad?! Think of the children of those marketeers!

    • Is it just me, or does that sound retarded?

      If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance. . .

      Personally, it sounds to me like this guy drank Hubbard's past its expiration date Kool-Aid and I really don't want to become an Findabilityologist, ambient or otherwise.

      KFG
  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs.ajs@com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @04:53PM (#14380416) Homepage Journal
    One of the paradoxes of information and language sciences is that any means of communication is valued by humans as much for its ability to hide or withold infromation as to share and navigate it. This is how we form social cliques, and otherwise identify those who are "us" vs. those who are "them". Witness the use of 1337 speak, the near religious fervor with which certain file formats are espoused, debates over programming langauges, etc. If there were a truly comprehensive way to share information without any ambiguity in a searchable, locatable way, you can expect that within a year there would be a dozen variants of it aimed at introducing ambiguity and uncertainty. Moreover that ambiguity would be cherished by devoted sets of users who felt that it was more important than the rest of the medium.
    • Completely agreed. Humans need privacy, and the social tokens implicit in being able to share information selectively. The Net tries to negate this; to the extent that is does negate this, we will witness the rise of 'sharable but not completely public' means of communication. It's an interesting paradox... each of us desires to know everything that is going on around us, but desires to show little of what we actually tell others. References: The Death of Privacy, David Brin Arisotos, William Jon Williams
    • Some kinds of information hiding are important for the information providers, which probably does improve information findability for the user, but it's also important for the users to be able to hide information about themselves, especially when data-mining is becoming increasingly practical, inexpensive, and popular with marketers and governments.

      There's some information hiding that can happen by accident, but way too much of it requires explicit thought and planning, and doesn't happen if it's not plan

    • Interesting idea, but I'm not sure I agree. Aren't the internet and a general surfeit of data making such distinctions both harder and less relevant? Filtering has become critical, I agree, but hoarding information is much, much harder these days. In days past middle managers could make a comfortable living acting as information gatekeepers; today anyone foolish enough to try would soon be out on the street.

      I agree that inside knowledge can be a part of what makes cliques, but only a part. However, i
    • One of the paradoxes of information and language sciences is that any means of communication is valued by humans as much for its ability to hide or withold infromation as to share and navigate it.

      Well, hiding information is easy - you just don't publish it. Harder is restricting access to published information, although encryption seems to suffice for most purposes. The problem doesn't really get interesting until you need to hide the fact that the data exists at all. This is the Filesharer's Dilemma: ho

  • What's the difference between these buzzwords and what librarians have been doing for the last 100 years?
    • Re:Library science? (Score:3, Informative)

      by StudMuffin ( 167171 )
      Very little - except for the addition of global accessibility that the Internet provides... In fact, Peter is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Information (which until recently was the "School of Information and Library Science). We still teach more traditional librarianship (I am an adjunct faculty member and teach at the school, as does Peter) and, in fact, blend the traditional librarianship/archives management role with the new technologies and access vectors that electronic technolog
  • Another Review... (Score:2, Informative)

    Here is another review [digital-web.com] from Digital Web Magazine [digital-web.com]
  • by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:06PM (#14380476) Homepage Journal
    First, as has been noted, the catchphrases are as ambiently findable, whatever that means.

    Second being able to find everything about everything isn't a good thing. Bertrand Russell [wikipedia.org] pointed out that one is better served becoming intimately knowledgeable of a handfull of books on any given subject than to have a passing familiarity with all available material on the subject at hand.To know a subject one has to have a foundation from which to work. The hallmark of a journey workperson is a fundamental understanding of the principles that inform the work.

    Ambient Findability seems to me to be yet another guide for the social gadfly, catchphrases abound, and, the ever aspiring social/corporate climber can jump on or off board any bandwagon by instanteously accessing the prevalent catchphrases served up in a pablum formula that allows for quick regurgitation.

    The best thing that can be said for such approaches is that they draw off the pop culture adulators and papprazzi, allowing easier navigation for those who know their stuff and where they're going.

  • serendipity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rheotaxis ( 528103 ) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:13PM (#14380509) Homepage
    Good review, I'm going to find this book someday, perhaps. A findable book means a book that can be found, and I can find lots by serendipity, i.e. just random walks through the physical stacks, and picking books off the shelf without looking at the title, author, or call number first. Sometimes, I have visions of which stack and shelf to visit just before I arrive at the library, in which case the randomness can be questioned. No matter what, I always find a book, sometimes one I might never find by more rational methods, sometimes books that later prove very meaningful in some way. What part of the mind is helping me find these books? I recommend everyone try it, let your whole psyche guide you to new found freedom.
  • The irony here is that while it is becoming easier and easier to find stuff, every year there is less and less stuff worth finding.
    • for some reason all the google links for this book are either reviews and/or wanting me to buy it.. for some reason i can't seem to find the second Par on Page 3 .. why to go for helping out.. i find that ironic.. i mean if you are going to write a book about the topic atleast let the book adhear to the topic..
    • Re:The Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by delong ( 125205 ) on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:04PM (#14380761)
      The irony here is that while it is becoming easier and easier to find stuff, every year there is less and less stuff worth finding

      The irony is that it is becoming harder and harder to get your content found in a sea of content. Electronic academic journals are finding this phenomenon a bit hard to overcome. Content overload is as much a problem for the future as content obscurity was in the past.
    • Unless the stuff that was worth finding yesterday is disappearing then no there is not less stuff worth finding. There will always be more, and more, and more.

      The signal to noise ratio may seem high, but that may just be because that over time the noise of yesterday dies down and the signal starts getting though.

      To really find out whats worth finding today, wait a couple weeks and it will come though much clearer.
  • The benefits of ambient findability will be exploited most successfully by societies who do not attempt to restrict the ability of the average citizens to use the ambient findability. The societies that allow free and open access will improve the lives of all of their citizens at a faster rate than those that do not. A government like the one currently running the show in Iran will continue to have a hard time controlling the hearts and minds of their citizens. Citizens of open societies in Europe and the
  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:30PM (#14380592) Homepage
    A core definition offered by the author in Chapter 1 is for findability: "the quality of being locatable or navigable; the degree to which a particular object is easy to discover or locate; the degree to which a system or environment supports navigation and retrieval."

    Or written clearly, "Findability: how easy or hard it is to locate what you need."

    Judging by the review, this book is filled with overqualified obfuscated definitions of simple concepts that have never needed names before and don't now. I doubt I'll ever need to read this blinding glimpse of the obvious.

    • I loved the book (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:21PM (#14380842) Homepage Journal

      Judging by the review, this book is filled with overqualified obfuscated definitions of simple concepts that have never needed names before and don't now. I doubt I'll ever need to read this blinding glimpse of the obvious.

      I finished the book a few days ago. For me it was a difficult book to put down - I powered through it quickly because I was so absorbed by it. The review didn't really get to the heart of why the book is so good. In my opinion, Morville excels at explaining complex interactions and bringing important questions to light. He does this by starting out with clear definitions of the terms he is investigating. For example, the term *findability* is about more than finding what you're looking for; it's also about discovering information objects which you were not explicitly looking for, but that provide the information you need. Some of the concepts may not need names, but having terms to define concepts makes it easier to discuss them.

      Morville's discussion of the marriage of the physical and virtual worlds through geocaching and tagging is particularly illuminating, as is his comparison of taxonomies, ontologies, and folksonomies. These are not just academic terms; they have great bearing on how information is organized and found. I also found the inquiry into what constitutes a document to be very thought-provoking.

      Ambient Findability is not a book full of answers. It outlines how we find data, how technology is changing that process, and what opportunities and dangers await us in the future. The topics Morville raises affect much more than just commerce, and his plea for information literacy is an important warning. Technology is only half of the equation, and it can create new problems even as it solves old ones.

      If you want a receipe book for SEO, this won't really help you very much. If you want to know how people find information and how human behavior affects information technology and vice-versa, you'll probably enjoy this book.

  • The best way to increase the findability of something is to write a book about it:

    • Amazon book reviews
    • Slashdot threads
    • $$$ for the author!
  • These kinds products are already appearing; the limits right now are cost, standardization, and battery life, not the imagination of designers.

    Morville's book is another instance of people without an original idea trying to pass themselves off as innovators, complete with the obligatory buzzwords and neologisms.

    • Unfortunately, you are terribly mistaken. Moreville, along with Rosenfeld and others, have pushed the Information Architecture aspects of the web from the very beginning. What Moreville et al are attempting to do, IMHO, is standardize the taxonomies that designers use when creating systems with ambient findability in mind.
      • Unfortunately, you are terribly mistaken. Moreville, along with Rosenfeld and others, have pushed the Information Architecture aspects of the web from the very beginning.

        <sarcasm>Wow, all the way back in the mid-90's. I mean, people had no idea before then how to organize information, and taxonomies and ontologies just didn't exist before then.</sarcasm>
        • Of course people knew how to organize information - on paper or in isolated monolithic computer systems. However, the web was a whole 'nuther animal. It is a mistaken assumption to believe that the 'old skool' methods of archiving and retrieval work in a highly distributed, taxonomy adverse environment such as the Intarwebs.
  • Hmm, now that sounds like a catchy domain name...
  • survival of the species is everybody's business.
  • You can read Chapter One [oreilly.com] for free and decide for yourself. That is, if you're not afraid of learning some new words.
  • But pretty empty from a technical point of view. I don't feel like I have any more knowledge after reading it.
  • The title is obviously spam. No need to read it, just delete.
  • this was discussed, in detail, in 1995... Look for the transcripts of the Internet Society conference in Prague, the Czech Republic.
  • I'll say what we're all thinking...

    I'm all for it... as long as I'm not the "anyone" being found anywhere, anytime.

    Personally, I'm too damn wired as it is, and this bozo wants to make my life worse by enabling anyone to interupt me at anywhere, anytime. No thank you.

    -- Terry
  • I liked the book, although it is mostly a conceptual exercise, it more sort of peters out at the end rather than coming to any grand conclusions or giving many solid prescriptions.

    Plus which, having read it gives me a great excuse to work "ambient findability" into conversations. Nothing livens up a meeting like interjecting "hmm, but do we need to consider the principles of ambient findability here?"
  • ...is an information architect, an advocate of expanding the boundaries of librarianship in an Internet age...

    Perhaps it's just me, but I find the attempts by librarians to stay 'relevant', while understandable, to be just a little bit pathetic.

    Like the "crusade" by the librarians against the Patriot act (which, if you think about it sounded more like the result of some wierd Illuminati internal fight) a few years ago, librarians (like newspapers, and mass-media conglomerates) seem to think that they had so
    • by jc42 ( 318812 )
      Perhaps it's just me, but I find the attempts by librarians to stay 'relevant', while understandable, to be just a little bit pathetic.

      It's not you; that definitely comes across. But "librarian" isn't a monolithic borg-like population. Some of them have taken to the internet as a great new extension of their traditional role. The city library a mile from where I live has a room full of internet terminals; the "card catalog" has been electronic for 20 years and online for 10 years. And so on.

      When's the la
  • Except - information created a long time ago, which no one sees profit or value in digitizing. Ever tried looking up WW II or earlier service or military medical records? How about historical research - there's an incredible daily diary of a person living in Providence (Rhode Island, US) in the 1600s or 1700s; there are books written pre-Civil War that have a more accurate representation of people's thoughts and opinions than histories written in the twentieth century (notice I don't say the facts are neces

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