Life is a Mystery

24 August 2006 . Comments Off

Talk

OK, one more note about LibraryThing… talk. LT has recently implemented discussion forums, but done so with a shifting twist that re-imagines what an online conversation can be. I am stunned at what Tim and his team have accomplished in less than one year, and the kind of creativity behind the new Talk feature is a great example of the dynamic ideas inspired by really thinking about how to serve a community.

Mary has been working on an Open Source Religious Education site idea. I don’t know that conversations had been part of the idea, but if we were to implement them, I think the Talk model could be very exciting.

23 August 2006 . Comments Off

Dream of Fields

Yesterday I got a chance to check in on LibraryThing for the first time in a few months. I was impressed with how much progress the site has made, not only in terms of users (over 60,000) and content (almost 5M records), but also in terms of services. There is now a way to collapse editions of titles together (a kind of communal FRBR), to sign up for an organization account (in case you want to catalog your school library with LT), to query LT via web services APIs (like the thingTitle), to join groups (like librarians who use LT). LT started out as a very simple proposition (we’ll keep your list of books and allow you to share that list with other users of LT) focussed on attracting a community. It attracted the community, and continues to. Now it is learning from that community in order to understand what it should become.

I feel that we too often feel we have to specify a service, understand all the functional requirements, survey the community, get it right the first time. This leads to the “if we build it will they come”. The “it” becomes really big, and the “coming” becomes really important. What if we built just enough to get them to start coming? If we fail, “they” don’t show up, we try something else. If “they” come, we wait for them to demand services, to tell us what should come next, to help us understand the functional requirements. We build for the community that grows. More of an “if they come then we build it model,” or as a colleague put it today, a “dream of fields.”

I have no idea if LT really evolved this way, I’d love to know. But it sure feels like it has. I think we need to learn to evolve library systems in similarly iterative ways. I fear we will miss the boat otherwise.

23 August 2006 . Comments Off

Documenting Internet2

Dharma and Beth have published an article about Documenting Internet2 in RLG DigiNews. I spent quite a bit of effort on this project last year and found web crawling for content much more reasonable an approach than I’d expected. This year we are giving Archive-It (from the Internet Archive and RLG) a go for similar crawling. The article is an effective summary of the project.

22 August 2006 . Comments Off

Day Dreaming

Do you have an idea for an application you wish someone would write? Here’s a new idea: MyDreamApp is a contest in which the winner will have their idea turned into a real application. Kind of American Idolish, this could be fun from the idea-generation perspective or from the voting-em-out perspective. I wonder what will come of it.

4 August 2006 . Comments Off

Circuit City Challenges DMCA

Here’s a high profile company offering a service that clearly violates DMCA, and about time! Ars Technica reports that Circuit City offers to duplicate DVDs for various purposes from backup to reformatting data for other devices. To make this work they have to rip the DVD’s, circumventing the encryption present on the discs. How long will this last?

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org