May 2006


Daniel Greenstein

Experience comes from Open Content Alliance (content partners like UC, Internet Archive; tech partners like HP Labs, Yahoo, etc.; funders).

Interesting notes from talk:

Melvyl (UC library catalog) has three recommender systems in place (a "more like this" feature, recs produced by an algorithm run on their circ data, and recs from Amazon)

UC has found that faceted browse is more useful for non-experts (like K-12, community college, and undergraduate students) than a search box (since they don't know what's behind it or what words to use). The California Digital Library gives ways to drill down (geography, time period, etc); they provide thumbnail images and instant results but also the ability to drill down more and refine still stays no matter what level you go to. This, he points out, required a lot of metadata augmentation since all the items in the library came from varying sources; massive text digitization would require less because of robust existing standards and the presence of full text.

Open services definitions–he was all about building collections in a way that allowed others to build on top and repurpose (I was wondering if this was another way of saying open architecture or talking about APIs).
Advantages of mass digitization:

Greater reference linking and discovery (not just for journal literature but for books, images, sound, data (which scientists have requested), etc) in an automated fashion

Curation-ability to build corpus or canon that you couldn't do with physical holdings (e.g. APIS-APIS, Advanced Papyrological Information System)

Localiztion or metasearch across items people in a local community (intellectual as well as physical) care about. This kind of catering to small communities (esp. small scholarly communities) is the sort of thing Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and the like won't do because the market's too small. if we don't do it, no one will.

Dissemination of content in new ways (Amazon model of print-on-demand, OCLC library toolbar, Trove.net image reproductions)

Efficiencies–high density storage facilities. UC stored 1 set of 23,000 volumes represented in JSTOR. If all their libraries got rid of their duplicate copies (which they weren't required to do) UC would save 3.8 million in shelving costs

Enrichment of existing texts (again the idea of building services on top of digital collections)–He mentioned Joe Esposito's Processed Book project (article in First Monday at http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_3/esposito/ and demo at http://prosaix.com/pbos/) and Wikipedia as examples of cases of scholars and laypeople who are willing to and interested in adding to a text

Personalization–he said that it was important to allow local users to present local views of content and to add a local narrative to those views

Funding–He basically said we'd have to choose what our priorities were and make a commitment. He also pointed out that it wasn't as much a matter of finding new money (as reallocating the money we're spending on maintaining physical collection? Must go back and re-listen)

In Q&A someone asked a question (must also re-listen to hear where this comment originated) but he said that as a research university (which was't about teaching) UC wasn't going to be taking care of the pedagogical services needed on top of digital collections but he hoped someone else would so they could take advantage of it. The way he put it sounded a bit harsh but thinking about it later, it was honest (though the instruction librarians at Berkeley will probably string him up when he gets back). It's a sad truth that most research universities are more geared to research and major collections that teaching. But I don't think it's something that should or has to be.

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Susan Herzog of BlogBib and Susan's Blog gave a presentation on blogging in academic libraries. At the beginning of the session she asked a series of questions of the participants: less than half of the people in the session read blogs, about a quarter had their own blogs, and strangely enough, even fewer people had commented on someone else's blogs. Maybe this indicates that so far a lot of people are using blogs for marketing, self-expression or current awareness but the conversation factor might not be as prevalent yet in this group?

It was interesting hearing someone else give a version of the type of presentation I've done a few times–what blogs are, examples, what they're used for, how you can create one and why you'd want to–but unfortunately since it was something I've done before that was the best bit about it. She went more into detail about trackbacks and permalinks and the connection factor as well as the data on blog use than I usually do. It was interesting hearing the updates on the Pew Internet & American Life but I could have done with a little less data. I did see a few other blogs that I hadn't known about and she talked about the auto-emailing feature from blogs and the editorial policies point which I always forget to talk about too much.

I missed a good chunk of the end of this talk and will have to go back and listen at some point but I thought the bit on institutional blogging was interesting.
Who will post to the blog–you or a team (much easier with a team but need to train them), consistent format, conversational tone, and spell/grammar checking, marketing (press release, announcement in library newsletter, put the URL on library publications, bookmarks or business cards, links from other blogs, and listings with search engines.

Technical issues with the presentation: it seems like the blog presentation format is a little difficult in this online conference format since everytime she switched from live links back to the blog it jumped to the top of the blog not where she was in the presentation.

I’ve kept Tom Kelley’s The Art of Innovation out from the library long past the time I sat down and inhaled it in one weekend but now that I have to give it back and that I’ve just started his second book, The Ten Faces of Innovation, I figure I should sum up, compare and move on. Tom Kelley is part of Ideo, a leading design firm known not only for its cutting edge designs of everything from computer input devices to medical equipment to services and environments for all kinds of companies but also for its unique approach to fostering innovation and creativity. I got interested in it because of a Nightline episode chronicling its method (called The Deep Dive I believe) and because of a committee at work looking at innovation. So, the book:

IDEO’s methodology for observation:

  • Understand the current situation
  • Observe real people in real life situations
  • Visualize new stuff and who will use it (brainstorm, simulate, storyboard, etc)
  • Evaluate and refine prototypes (quickly! no one perfect model and get input from everybody)
  • Implement the new design

Other points:

Observation (not focus groups or what you or experts think your market needs)–this made me think of the continuing OPAC and database dilemma where librarians tell vendor reps to make incremental changes and addons, the kind of feature creep that has nothing to do what users need (which users wouldn’t be able to articulate if you asked them either). IDEO suggestions: take notes on an experience when it is new to you and immerse yourself, observe lots of different (even crazy-seeming, rule-breaking) real people (I thought about U of Rochester hiring an anthropologist), ask “dumb” questions, consider the human story, sometimes mall changes make a big difference, think of things as verbs (things people use for tasks) rather than as nouns (just objects), make people the heroes of their own stories (I thought about John Beck’s You’ve Got Game and his assertion that millenials want to be heroes of their own stories).

IDEO on brainstorming:

  • Start with a well-stated (not fuzzy) problem or question (not too specific or fuzzy). Focus on cutomer need or service enhancement rather than organizational goal
  • Don’t critique first or you’ll kill ideas
  • Number your ideas (100 ideas in an hour?!)
  • Watch for energy changes in the session and prompt at plateaus
  • Write up ideas so everyone can see them as they emerge (can be post its, flip pads, whiteboards, etc)
  • Warm up to brainstorming in new, infrequent, or distracted/pressured brainstorming grups (word games or show and tell) and in all groups get physical (sketch, mind map, show and tell, act out or build)

Don’t: Let boss speak first, require everyone to get a turn or be an expert to speak or have to com up with very serious ideas, write everything down or only brainstorm offsite

IDEO on hot groups/teams: dedication to end result, some pressure on deadline, respectful of diversity and nonhierarchical, empowered to do what it takes to get it done (small groups and no inertial standing committee!), make your own fun and energy, passion and call to excellence, group problem solving and shared space, good team dynamics, no all-controlling “they” who regulate what can and can’t be done. I was interested to read that IDEO recommended “crazy deadlines and seemingly unreachable goals” in some cases. But when does this become a help rather than a demoralizing hinderance? The examples that Kelley gave seemed tobe when the challenge was external (another competitor, an unexpected flaw, new field or personal challenge) rather than internal willfulness. I also liked the “three implicit questions” from Lou Holtz, football coach at Notre Dame: “Do you care about me? Can I trust you? Are you committed to the success of the team?” Good teams make people feel special from the outset and reward them often (with experiences not just tokens), meet often to exchange and celebrate, brand themselves and welcome characters (like USA Networks). So much of this reminds me of work; no wonder I like it!

IDEO on prototyping: Get things done and now (not perfectly and too late –oh boy do I need to remember this!) or prototype, prototype, prototype. Problem solve, sketch, model. Do incremental reviews to get feedback early in the process. Put your bad ideas out there to get them out of the way and have something to shoot down. Ask forgiveness rather than permission.

IDEO on office environment: Create neighborhoods and community interaction; let everybody have a say in designing their space; make it fun, flexible, and nonhierarchical; use basic building blocks and keep it simple; merge process and play; brand areas and make sure you’re walking your talk in your physical arrangements; tell your stories in public; use your random stuff (the Tech Box of neat stuff for inspiration)

IDEO on the unexpected and the power of serendipity, timing, quick responses to unexpected uses, “cross-pollination” from other fields and areas (again brainstorming with the Tech Box, browsing magazines and the Web, playing “film director” to sharpen observation, holding informal open houses (again with the show and tell), inspiring and listneing to advocates for various viewpoints, hiring outsiders, and trying out different perspectives and new training)

IDEO on barriers to innovation: individual and company mindsets and false assuptions; cultural divides and social norms; S-curve adoption; “FUD factor” [fear uncertainty doubt]–Regis McKenna, marketing expert; legal issues. How to deal? Increase creativity by making sure org is: merit-based, autonomous, familiar/family-like; messy; full of tinkerers (those willing to experiment). Try new skills, look for design opportunities, realize the power of ritual, evangelize, be persistent and go th eextra mile (sometimes literally)

IDEO on experience design: Not just products or a tangible end goal but a better-designed experience. What steps do you have to take? How can I fix an unpleasant experience? How do I make it fun (and effective and human)? How do I tell an authentic story? Resist featuritis and realize veen small changes count.

IDEO on fast innovation: Challenge yourself by playing or competing to learn (IDEO does the Sand Hill Challenge).

IDEO on risk taking: “Fail your way to success” but use something that has small consequence (as Kelley pointed out, juggle with beanbags not rocks first). Easier to risk when you have nothing much to lose (which is why new, small companies often dominate later) but big places can innovate by creating smaller spinoffs, discourage bureaucracy and rules, open things up to everyone. BUT don’t go off into the wilderness completely.

IDEO on v.2.0: No featuritis; keep directions simple; focus on the part you touch most; simplifying take time and fighting some uphill battles. Make a great first impression; create a useful metaphor; make it useful at work and at home; use color; let people know what’s hapenning under the hood; make it simple, fast, error-proof/forgiving, and painless; make sure it fulfills your checklist of must-haves; include valuable extras.

IDEO on the future: change happens at different rates in different areas; look outside your field; empower people and observe and talk to them; try concept projects, film mini-movie trailers, read widely; think ten years from now.

Final tips:

  • Observe cutomers, noncutomers, enthusiasts.
  • Play with your physical space
  • Think verbs not nouns, experiences not objects
  • “Break rules and fail foward”
  • Encourage human scale orgs and hot groups
  • Connect org departments, workers and customers, old and new