Libraries and the state of the Internet

Mary Meeker presented her 2016 Internet Trends report earlier this month. If you want a better understanding of how tech and the tech industry is evolving, you should watch her talk and read her slides.

This year’s talk was fairly time constrained, and she did not go into as much detail as she has in years past. That being said, there is still an enormous amount of value in the data she presents and the trends she identifies via that data.

Some interesting takeaways:

  • The growth in total number of internet users worldwide is slowing (the year-to-year growth rate is flat; overall growth is around 7% new years per year)
  • However, growth in India is still accelerating, and India is now the #2 global user market (behind China; USA is 3rd)
  • Similarly, there is a slowdown in the growth of the number of smartphone users and number of smartphones being shipped worldwide (still growing, but at a slower rate)
  • Android continues to demonstrate growth in marketshare; Android devices are continuing to be less costly by a significant margin than Apple devices.
  • Overall, there are opportunities for businesses that innovate / increase efficiency / lower prices / create jobs
  • Advertising continues to demonstrate strong growth; advertising efficacy still has a ways to go (internet advertising is effective and can be even more so)
  • Internet as distribution channel continues to grow in use and importance
  •  Brand recognition is increasingly important
  • Visual communication channel usage is increasing – Generation Z relies more on communicating with images than with text
  • Messaging is becoming a core communication channel for business interactions in addition to social interactions
  • Voice on mobile rapidly rising as important user interface – lots of activity around this
  • Data as platform – important!

So, what kind of take-aways might be most useful to consider in the library context? Some top-of-head thoughts:

  • In the larger context of the Internet, Libraries need to be more aggressive in marketing their brand and brand value. We are, by nature, fairly passive, especially compared to our commercial competition, and a failure to better leverage the opportunity for brand exposure leaves the door open to commercial competitors.
  • Integration of library services and content through messaging channels will become more important, especially with younger users. (Integration may actually be too weak a term; understanding how to use messaging inherently within the digital lifestyles of our users is critical)
  • Voice – are any libraries doing anything with voice? Integration with Amazon’s Alexa voice search? How do we fit into the voice as platform paradigm?

One parting thought, that I’ll try to tease out in a follow-up post: Libraries need to look very seriously at the importance of personalized, customized curation of collections for users, something that might actually be antithetical to the way we currently approach collection development. Think Apple Music, but for books, articles, and other content provided by libraries. It feels like we are doing this in slices and pieces, but that we have not yet established a unifying platform that integrates with the larger Internet ecosystem.

Meaningful Web Metrics

This article from Wired magazine is a must-read if you are interested in more impactful metrics for your library’s web site. At MPOE, we are scaling up our need for in-house web product expertise, but regardless of how much we invest in terms of staffing, it is likely that the amount of requested web support will always exceed the amount of resourcing we have for that support. Leveraging meaningful impact metrics can help us understand the value we get from the investment we make in our web presence, and more importantly help us define what types of impact we want to achieve through that investment. This is no easy feat, but it is good to see that others in the information ecosystem are looking at the same challenges.

Site migrated

Just a quick note – has been migrated to a new server. You may see a few quirks here and there, but things should be mostly in good shape. If you notice anything major, send me a Challah. Really. A nice bread. Or just an email. Your choice. 🙂

The new iPad

I decided that it was time to upgrade my original iPad, so I pre-ordered a new iPad, which arrived this past Friday. After a few days, here are my initial thoughts / observations:

  • Compared to the original iPad, the new iPad is a huge improvement. Much zipper, feels lighter (compared to the original), and of course the display is fantastic.
  • I’ve just briefly tried the dictation feature, and though I haven’t used it extensively yet, the accuracy seems pretty darned good. I wonder if a future update will support Siri?
  • The beauty of the display cannot be understated – crisp, clear (especially for someone with aging eyes)
  • I purchased a 32-Gb model with LTE, but I have not tried the cell network yet. I did see 4G show up, so I’m hoping that Tucson indeed has the newer network.
  • Not really new, but going from the original iPad to the new iPad, I really like the smart cover approach. Ditto with the form factor.
  • Again, not specific to the new model, the ability to access my music, videos, and apps via iCloud means that I can utilize the storage on the iPad more effectively.
  • All-in-all, I can see myself using the new iPad consistently for a variety of tasks, not just for consuming information. Point-in-fact, this post was written with the new iPad.

    3rd SITS Meeting – Geneva

    Back in June I attend the 3rd SITS (Scholarly Infrastructure Technical Summit) meeting, held in conjunction with the OAI7 workshop and sponsored by JISC and the Digital Library Federation. This meeting, held in lovely Geneva, Switzerland, brought together library technologists and technology leaders from North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia for the purpose of exploring common technology and technology-related issues that crossed our geographic boundaries.

    This is the first SITS meeting that I attended – prior to this meeting, there were two other SITS meetings (one in London and one in California). As this SITS meeting was attached to the OAI7 conference, it brought together a group of stakeholders who’s roles in their organizations spanned from technology implementors to technology strategists and decision makers. From having chatted with some of the folks who had attended previous SITS meetings, the attendees at those meetings tended to weigh heavily on the technology implementer / developer side, while this particular instance of SITS had a broader range of discussion that, while centered on technology, also incorporated much of the context to which technology was being applied. For me, that actually made this a more intriguing and productive discussion, as I think that while there are certainly a great variety of strictly technical issues with which we grapple, what often gets lost when talking semantic web, linked data, digital preservation, etc. is the context and focus of the purpose of deploying said technology. So, with that particular piece of context, I’ll describe some of the conversation that occurred at this particular SITS event.

    Due to the schedule of OAI7, this SITS meeting was held in two parts – the afternoon of 24 June, and the morning of 25 June. For the first session, the group met in one of the lecture rooms at the conference venue, and this worked out quite nicely. SITS uses an open agenda / open meeting format, which allows the attendees to basically nominate and elect the topics of discussion for the meeting. After initial introductions, we began proposing topics. I tried to capture as best I could all of the topics that were proposed, though I might have missed one or two:

    * stable links for linked data vs. stable bitstreams for preservation
    * authority hubs / clustered IDs / researcher IDs / ORCID in DSpace
    * effective synchronization of digital resources
    * consistency and usage of usage data
    * digital preservation architecture – integration of tape-based storage and other storage anvironments (external to the library)
    * integration between repositories and media delivery (i.e. streaming) – particularly to access control enforcement
    * nano publications and object granularity
    * pairing storage with different types of applications
    * linking research data to scholarly publications to faculty assessment
    * well-behaved document
    * research impacts and outputs
    * linked open data: from vision to deployment
    * Relationship between open linked data and open research data
    * Name disambiguation

    Following process, we took the above brainstormed list and proceeded to vote on which topic to begin discussion. The first topic chosen was researcher identities, which began with discussion around ORCID, a project that currently has reasonable mindshare behind it. While there are a lot of backers of ORCID, it is not clear whether the approach of a singular researcher ID is a feasible approach, though I believe we’ll discover the answer based on the success (or not) of the project. In general, I think that most of the attendees will be paying attention to ORCID, but that also a wait and see approach is likely as there are many, many issues around researcher IDs that still need to be worked through.

    The next topic was the assessment of research impacts and outputs. This particular topic was not particularly technically focused, but did bring about some interesting discussion about the impact of assessment activities, both positive and negative.

    The next topic, linking research data to scholarly publications to faculty assessment, was a natural progression from the previous topic, and much of the discussion revolved around how to support such relationships. I must admit that while I think this topic is important, I didn’t feel that the discussion really resolved any of the potential issues with supporting researchers in linking data to publications (and then capturing this data for assessment purposes). What is clear is that the concept of publishing data, especially open data, is one that is not necessarily as straight-forward as one would hope when you get into the details, such as where to publish data, how to credit such publication, how is the data maintained, etc. There is a lot of work to be done here.

    Next to be discussed was the preservation of data and software. It was brought up that the sustainability and preservation of data, especially open data, was somewhat analogous to the sustainability and preservation of software, in that both required a certain number of active tasks in order to ensure that both data and software were continually usable. It is also clear that much data requires the proper software in order to be usable, and therefore the issues of software and data sustainability and preservation are in my senses interwoven.

    The group then moved to a brief discussion of the harvesting and use of usage data. Efforts such as COUNTER and popirus2 were mentioned. The ability to track data in a way that balances anonymity and privacy vs. added value back to the user was discussed – the fact that usage data can be leveraged to provide better services back to users was a key consideration.

    The next discussion topic was influenced by the OAI7 workshop. The issue of the synchronisation of resources was discussed, and during OAI7, there was a breakout session that looked at the future of OAI-PMH, both in terms of 1.x sustainability as well as work that might end up with the result of OAI-PMH 2.0. Interestingly, there was some discussion of even the need for data synchronization with the advent of linked data; I can see why this would come up, but I personally believe that linked data isn’t at the point where other methods for ensuring synchronized data aren’t necessary (nor may it ever be).

    Speaking of linked data, the concept arose in many of the SITS discussions, though the group did not officially address it until late in the agenda. I must admit that I’ve yet to drink the linked data lemonade, in the sense that I really don’t see it being the silver bullet that many of its proponents make it out to be, but I do see it as one approach for enabling extended use of data and resources. In the discussion, one of the challenges of the linked data approach that was discussed was the need to map between ontologies.

    At this point, it was getting a bit late into the meeting, but we did talk about two more topics: One was very pragmatic, while the other was a bit more future-thinking (though there might be some disagreement on that). The first was a discussion about how organizationally digital preservation architectures were being supported – were they being supported by central IT, by the Library IT, or otherwise? It seemed that (not surprisingly) a lot depended upon the specific organization, and that perhaps more coordination could be undertaken through efforts such as PASIG. The second discussion was on the topic of “nano-publications”, which the group defined as “things that simply tell you what is being asserted (e.g. Europe is a continent)”. I must admit I got a bit lost about the importance and purpose of nano-publications, but again, it was close to the end of the meeting.

    BTW, as I’m finishing this an email just came through with the official notes from the SITS meeting, which can be accessed at

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    David Lewis’ presentation on Collections Futures

    Peter Murray (aka the Disruptive Library Technology Jester) has provided an audio-overlay of David Lewis’ slideshare of his plenary at the last June’s RLG Annual Partners meeting. If you are at all interested in understanding the future of academic libraries, you should take an hour of your time and listen to this presentation. Of particular note, because David says it almost in passing, is that academic libraries are moving away from being collectors of information to being provisioners of information – the difference being that instead of purchasing everything that might be used, academic libraries instead are moving to ensuring that there is a path for provisioning access to materials that actually requested for use by their users. Again, well worth an hour of your time.

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    Librarians are *the* search experts…

    …so I wonder how many librarians know all of the tips and tricks for using Google that are mentioned here?

    What do we want from Discovery? Maybe it’s to save the time of the user….

    Just a quick thought on discovery tools – the major newish discovery services being vended to libraries (WorldCat local, Summon, Ebsco Discovery Service, etc.) all have their strengths, their complexity, their middle-of-the-road politician trying to be everything to everybody features. One question I have asked and not yet had a good answer to is “How does your tool save the time of the user?”. For me, that’s the most important feature of any discovery tool.

    Show me data or study results that prove your tool saves the time of the user as compared to other vended tools (and Google and Google Scholar), and you have a clear advantage, at least in what I am considering when choosing to implement a discovery tool.

    Putting a library in Starbucks

    It is not uncommon to find a coffee shop in a library these days. Turn that concept around, though – would you expect a library inside a Starbucks? Or maybe that’s the wrong question – how would you react to having a library inside a Starbucks? Well, that concept shuffling its way towards reality, as Starbucks is now experimenting with offering premium (i.e. non-free) content to users while they are on the free wireless that Starbucks provides. In fact, Starbucks actually has a collection development policy for their content – they are providing content in the following areas, which they call channels: News, Entertainment, Wellness, Business & Careers and My Neighborhood. They even call their offerings “curated content”.

    Obviously, this isn’t the equivalent of putting the full contents of a library into a coffee shop, but it is worth our time to pay attention to how this new service approach from Starbucks evolves. Starbucks isn’t giving away content for free just to get customers in the door; they are looking at how they might monetize this service through upsell techniques. The business models and agreements are going to have impact on how libraries do business, and we need to pay attention to how Starbucks brokers agreements with content providers. Eric Hellman’s current favorite term, monopsony, comes to mind here – though in reality Starbucks isn’t buying anything, as no money is actually changing hands, at least to start. Content providers are happy to allow Starbucks to provide limited access (i.e. limited by geographic location / network access) to content for free in order to promote their content and provide a discovery to delivery path that will allow users to extend their use of the content for a price.

    This begs the question – should libraries look at upsell opportunities, especially if it means we can reduce our licensing costs? At the very least, the idea is worth exploring.

    Source: Yahoo News

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    1 week of iPad

    It has been a little over a week since My iPad was delivered, and in that time I have had the opportunity to try it out at home, at work, and on the road. In fact, I’m currently typing this entry on it from the hotel restaurant at the CNI Spring task force meeting. I feel that I have used it enough now to provide some of my insights and thoughts about the iPad, how I am using it, and what I think of it.

    So, how best to describe the iPad? Fun. Convenient. Fun again. The iPad is more than the sum of its parts; much like the iPhone, it provides an overall experience, one that is enjoyable and yes, efficient. Browsing is great fun; I have only run into one site where because of the lack of flash support was completely inaccessible (a local restaurant site). A number of sites that I regularly peruse have some flash aspect that is not available via the iPad, but typically this isn’t a big loss. For example, if there is an engadget article that contains video, I won’t get the video. However, the NY Times, ESPN, and other major sites are already supporting HTML 5 embedded video, and I expect to see a strong push towards HTML 5 and away from flash. In the grand scheme of things, most of the sites I browse are text and image based, and have no issues.

    Likewise for email and calendaring – both work like a charm. Email on the iPad is easy, fun, and much better than on the iPhone. The keyboard, when in landscape mode, is actually much better than I expected, and very suitable for email replies (not to mention blog posts). I’d go as far to say that the usability of the onscreen keyboard (when the iPad is in landscape mode) is as good or better than a typical net book keyboard. Also, an unintended bonus is that typing on the keyboard is pretty much silent; this is somewhat noticeable during conference sessions where a dozen or so attendees are typing their notes and the clack of their keyboards starts to add up.

    So, how am I using my iPad? Well, on this trip, I have used it to read (one novel and a bunch of work-related articles), do email, listen to music, watch videos, stream some netflix, browse the web, draft a policy document for my place of employment, diagram a repository architecture, and take notes during conference sessions. Could I do all of this on a laptop? Sure. Could I do all of this on a laptop without plugging in at any point in the day? Possibly, with the right laptop or net book. But here’s the thing – at the conference, instead of lugging my laptop bag around with me, my iPad replaced the laptop, my notepad, and everything else I would have dragged around in my bag. I literally only took my iPad, which is actually smaller than a standard paper notebook, and honestly I didn’t miss a beat. Quickly jot down a note? Easy. Sketch out an idea? Ditto. It’s all just right there, all the functionality, in a so-much-more convenient form factor.

    Is the iPad perfect? By no means – the desktop interface is optimized for the iPhone / iTouch, and feels a bit inefficient for the larger iPad. Because of the current lack of multitasking (something that Apple has already announced will be available in the next version of the OS), I can’t keep an IM client running in the background. There is no inherent folder system, so saving files outside of applications is more complex then it should be. Fingerprints show up much more than I expected, though they wipe away fairly easily with a cloth. The weight (1.5 lbs) is just enough to make you need to shift how you hold the iPad after a period of time.

    Again, here’s the thing: the iPad doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be niche. Is it niche? Ask my laptop bag.

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