Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another Book for My To-Read List

Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) has a new book coming out soon: Free: Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. There's a long excerpt of it up on the Wired site now. I think he's overselling some of his points a little bit (talk to me about computing power being cheap and abundant enough to waste after you've tried running statistical tests on multi-gig datasets for awhile), but it's still worth reading.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Link Roundup

Does researching in a Dewey decimal library lead to finding different information than researching in an LoC library? (Hat tip: The Monkey Cage) I haven't had a chance to read this article yet, seeing as how I'm currently between academic institutions and therefore don't have access to much of anything, but the abstract (at the link) looks quite interesting. (But I think the real question is, why is this research appearing in the Journal of Theoretical Politics?)

Another freely downloadable book (and one I've actually been intending to read!): Daniel Solove's The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet.

Another filtering tool for managing RSS overload, called Persai. I haven't experimented with this one, but between the linked article and their blog, it sounds like it might be worth a look.

The internal dynamics of Wikipedia and Digg. Hint: they're not as democratic as you think (but that's not necessarily a bad thing).

Best cartoon ever. Seriously, this is going on my bulletin board. (Mouse over for the punchline.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Reuters Gives the Semantic Web a Boost

Reuters recently announced that they're opening up their Calais service to the world.

Why should you care? Because Open Calais takes unstructured text documents, analyzes them, and automatically attaches semantically rich metadata. Fast. For free. It's an open API—any Web applications developer with half a clue can start using it right now.

I'm already plotting ways to use this for one of my freelance gigs. I get paid to read great gobs of news every day (like, the entire output of a couple of wire services typs of great gobs), looking for news about business and political leaders that's noteworthy enough to justify updating their biographies in a certain biographical database. So, basically, I'm looking for stories about people getting hired/promoted/fired/elected/un-elected, retiring, or getting involved in legal cases. Which is, oh, maybe 5 or 10 percent of the stories on the wires; most of the stories on the financial side, for example, are about companies releasing their quarterly results, mergers and acquisitions, and other stuff that's about companies rather than people. So if Open Calais is good enough to reliably separate out the stories about people from the stories about companies, I should theoretically be able to set up an RSS feed that just contains stories about people and cut down on the number of headlines I have to skim by 90 percent. And I suspect I might even be able to use the Open Calais-generated metadata to write a script to run the names mentioned in the story against this biographical database automatically, so I won't have to check by hand to see if the people are included in the database or not. Yes, I'm definitely seeing a whole lot of ways that this makes my life easier.

And that's not even getting into the potential library applications of this. Automated or semi-automated subject analysis of electronic documents, without having to shell out thousands of dollars for the commercial indexing software that's generally used for that task in special libraries, anyone?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Told You...

...that a rainbow of books would be pretty spiffy.

Proof (found via LISNews).

Substantive blogging has been derailed by the strep infection from Hades, but theoretically at some point I should be feeling better and able to string coherent thoughts together again . . . right? In the meantime, enjoy the pretty pictures.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Free Books

There's a pretty detailed article in the current First Monday about the experiences of a group of scholars who published an open-access book series.

And Tor is giving away free e-books if you're willing to give them your e-mail address. Good free e-books, from the looks of things! (It's been awhile since I've had the time to read fiction, but I've been hearing good things about Scalzi.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Speaking of Suppressing Information...

...parts of the New York City government apparently want to get in on the action. (Not suppressing eBay user ratings. Suppressing information that might “lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety.”)

EBay Suppresses Information

EBay will no longer allow sellers to give negative feedback on buyers. I understand their stated rationale—that buyers will give more honest feedback if sellers can't retaliate by giving bad feedback to critical buyers—and it may well be the case that eBay is making a logical decision from a business standpoint. (Far be it from me to be too critical of the business logic of a company that's raking in billions of dollars a year!) But from a librarian's perspective, I find it unfortunate: sellers have a legitimate need for information about potential buyers, and eBay is about to take away the method that sellers have been using to fulfill that information need.

Of course, I also suspect that it will take about a week for the sellers to band together and start an independent site where they will share notes on bad buyers. Information has a habit of being difficult to suppress....

Friday, February 1, 2008


Microsoft is seriously considering a hostile takeover of Yahoo.

I'm still on the road and don't have time to do any real research into this right now, but my gut feeling is that this will not end well for consumers.