Category Archives: Librarians

SXSW Interactive back on the radar

After a chat at work about this and next year’s SXSW Interactive, I’m feeling inspired. But guilt at not blogging all my notes from the conference/festival has also resurfaced.

Not like it’s not out there already, but every report has its peculiar skew, paraphrasing quirks, deliberate omissions and oversights (to confirm if I’ve missed anything, check out the SXSW official podcasts).

So I’ve resolved (in my spare time) to write up all the sessions I never got round to doing back in the spring-summer period when I was completely overwhelmed with planning Content 2.0, the Beers & Innovation series and NMK’s broader programme of events, in addition to my editorial and web development duties.

If you missed them, the three sessions I did write up back then were:

Beyond Folksonomies: Knitting Tag Clouds For Grandma

Book Digitisation: Revenge Of The Librarians (more exciting than it sounds, but then some librarians are very cool these days)

James Surowiecki on The Wisdom Of Crowds

The forthcoming ones are equally juicy, but they also have a more business-like slant (with garnish of social media and visionary ranting for good measure). Which is a perfect fit for the evolving logic of the Beers & Innovation series.

They also relate equally to the ‘creative industries’ start-up enterprises and SMEs (I *so* hate that acronym, but hey) that dominate the UK web industry. And the creative industries being another area B&I will soon be tackling – in fact it was going to be announced last week (sorry for the delay on that).

So, session write-ups coming soon on:

Running Your New Media Business

The Perfect Pitch – How To Attract Money To Your Digitally Convergent Business

What People Are Really Doing On the Web

Commons-Based Business Models

Danah Boyd’s Current TV SXSW Interview

Consumer Is The Producer: DIY Media

Bruce Sterling Presentation: The State Of the World

Two other great sessions I went to – the Craig Numark keynote and Jason Kottke & Heather Armstrong in interview – I didn’t take notes on, which was nice as I could just relax and take it in. No need to worry though, as 60% of delegates were blogging the conference, so you can look them up on Technorati.

Are you saving-up for your airfare to Austin in March 2007? No chance of affording it or getting the boss to shell out? Get your mates or family to group together and buy you a ticket for Crimbo (£225 for 4 days of round-the-clock goodness – bargainous). Then take a loan out to cover your hotel and airfare, or sell something / anything. That’s my thought for today  😉


Mash ups and web services

A stack of interesting facts and points came up at Beers & Innovation 3: Web Services & Mash Ups… a few of which i’ve compiled in this special list for y’all.

(1) Yahoo has a data copy of the entire world wide web!

(2) Flickr is making money out of APIs via the ability to order photos and professionally-bound books of the photos (albeit delivered by external companies). And eventually Moo cards I guess.

(3) A start up called (a photo-sharing service) has cloned the Flickr API in its entirety.

(4) James Cooper noted that with MySpace you can plug into it by just using a little widget that has the same effect as an API – so what’s the difference?

(5) The BBC Programme Catalogue resource came about partly through a chance encounter with a librarian (go librarians!).

(6) Tom Loosemore considers the BBC Backstage intiative (as it stood in April 2006 – long before Ian joined) as a “vicar in trainers project” but….

“We’ve done some amazing stuff with it, for example, the ‘Was This (weather) Forecast Right or Not?’ mash-up.”

(7) A mash-up of Google Maps and a Flickr clone (Zoomin) holds out great hope for businesses in New Zealand (and now Australia), apparently.

8.  Ning – a site that makes it easier for you to create (or clone) APIs – was cited on more than one occassion.

(9) For Tom Loosemore, SXIP Identity were the most interesting company in this space, as they are focused on federated identity.

“Just as Google owns the search query level of the internet, whoever can own those other layers of the web apart from front-end websites will make a lot of money,” said Tom.

(10) Simon Willison reckoned that the most useful mash up was the Craigslist & Google Maps apartment mash up Andy Budd of Clearleft noted that does the same thing with estate agents in the UK.

(11) How do you innovate, someone asked, and what do you need to enable this to happen? Standards was a suggestion from a delegate but Tom Coates disagreed – what we need is openness, he said.

(12) The UK is the biggest user (per head of the population) of BitTorrent.

(13) Tom Coates said that the appearance of API’s is the first sign of the movement forward towards structured data.

Agree, disagree, corrections?

Certainly plenty to digest. And granted, it happened in April and I only published the report in September and I forgot to blog it until now, but dammit I have standards to maintain! 😉

Luxuriate in the full details here.

[UPDATE 7th October: I accidentally linked to the User-Generated Content B&I webpage in the first link in the intro – I’ve corrected it now]

Content 2.0 – pre and aftershock

So it's the season of smothering heat, summer storms and, in these specific parts, blogging lite. Mea culpa.

The main reason I haven't been posting is the effort and concentration required in the final run up to NMK's 6th June conference Content 2.0 which I was waist-deep in as both a steering committee member, organiser, web manager/editor and marketer. All the effort paid off thankfully and it went really well.

If you missed the conference and want to see in-depth coverage check out the torrent of posts from our Content 2.0 official blogger for the day Mike Butcher.

Content 2.0 and then some…

Other folks who blogged it include Ben Metcalfe, Sam Sethi, Library2.0, AdLiterate, Diarmuid Russell, Darren Shaw and several others, not to mention speakers such as Marc Canter, Shel Israel, Alan Moore (get well!) and Alex Barnett (phototastic!) and PaidContent's super-stylish reporter Jemima Kiss. Conference panelist James Cherkoff wrote a succinct piece on the rise of blogging for the BBC in advance.

Plus the whole thing was filmed (coming soon) – and a taster interview with Yahoo's Bradley Horowitz posted already – by David Dunkley Gyimah of award-winning video-journalism site (disclosure: he's also an employee of my employer Westminster University, teaching on their International Journalism postgrad MA).

We were also joined in the evening by – among others – Umair Haque of BubbleGeneration and Fergus Burns of Nooked (all the way from County Sligo, Ireland!)

All in all it amounts a good expansion of the debates and discussions of the day. Massive thanks goes to everyone who has taken (or will take) the time to share their thoughts. That's why we did it after all, to improve the conversation, as ace impassioned panelist Hugh MacLeod said on the day!

Content 2.0 podcasts & time out

(BTW, the conference podcasts will be available later this week! You can subscribe to the podcast feed here. They'll also be on iTunes and elsewhere, thanks to Lloyd Davis and Fergus Geraghty.)

The other reason for my absence? Exhaustion. I've been running on adrenaline and little else since at least March, working weekends and late nights, etc. The decision to take a break was for my own good – which is a problematic decision to take when you're blogging for a community but makes sense in the long term.

Signs of life & smokalicious goodness

Like myself, Mike Butcher has also been blogging lite of late over at, but I was both cheered and excited to hear the other day – over an orange juice in Cafe Rio – that in a few weeks he intends to "blog till my eyes bleed". He does have a way with words does Mike. Could it be connected with his planned visit to Los Angeles?

Checked the ever-busy events page at JigsawUK today and was also reminded it's the summer of Geek BBQs – or Web 2.0 BBQs – with the next BBQ coming up in Wimbeldon this Friday. You just can't keep these global Londoners down 😉

SXSW Notes: Book Digitisation And The Revenge Of The Librarians

This session on Saturday 11th March had me from hello, after a fascinating half-day conference on book digitisation I attended and reported on last month in London held by the ALPSP

SXSW 2006 session page 


Liz Lawley – Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, a trained librarian who used to work at the Library of Congress and visiting researcher at Microsoft Research, Liz blogs at mamamusings, Corante's social software weblog Many-to-Many, and
Danielle Tiedt – Head of Microsoft’s Books Program and General Manager of MSN Search
Bob Stein – Institute for the Research of The Book, visiting Fellow USC Annenberg Center for Communication and founder Night Kitchen 
Daniel Clancy – Director, Google Book Search


Sue Thomas, Professor of New Media at de Montfort University (UK) jumped right in with a question about trans-literacy just as the session started. And a guy from Cyworld asked how does something written now fit into future writing – “the living book” – and changing texts (eg Wikipedia)? A delegate from New York Library asked as we digitised things, are we actually shrinking the realm of knowledge as people will be thinking that’s everything?

Liz Lawley first addressed privacy concerns, for instance the privacy surrendered by having to log-in through Google to look at books. An easy criticism of Google Book Search is that it only had options of where you could find the book online, but they now also include where you can borrow it from / ones in the public domain. 

Daniel Clancy recounted how he went to a talk recently where half the students hadn’t been in the library in the last 6 months. There is a vast amount of authoritative content available and Google want it to be available at anytime and everywhere. To this end, Google has their Book Search and their Library Program.

Mary Hodder spoke up from the floor, positing that Google are not being good community members if they are signing exclusive contacts with publishers, etc, because others should be able to crawl and re-scan that information… Tom Clancy responded that for the public domain, it’s limited, but Hodder queried in turn, can I crawl all Google’s public domain content and use that for other things? Can I build new knowledge on top of it and build communities? 

Danielle Tiedt said she got into book search for a lot of the same reasons as Google, for example to improve the answers in Microsoft Search. Only 5% of the world’s information is online today. Book digitisation is a very long-game process and is going to require a lot of people working together to make it happen. One of the reasons Microsoft joined the OCA, she continued, is because it is specifically focused around public domain work and they make it freely available to everyone. There are 3 copies of everything – one goes to the Internet Archive [run by Brewster Kahle – cheers Brewster, fragments of three former websites I’ve worked on that went bust or were retired are stored there!], one to the OCA, and one to a commercial company eg. Microsoft. 

At this point Bob Stein countered that it is scary that Mary Hodder has to act like a supplicant if everything is “going to be okay” Hodder commented that Kahle says “trust me” but if you put the info out there, the concept of having as many copies as possible forces you to make a business model around better services, based on better user interfaces, and trust that validates (eg make an API for all the content so others can remix, mash up and build upon it). 

Stein said he has a tremendous problem with any commercial organisation controlling the archive that is our culture, citing the instance of censorship in China. Ceding our culture in this way to large organisations is scary. We are giving up the role of the public librarian too easily, he stressed. 

Danielle Tiedt noted that Europe is taking a more public approach with governments supporting digitisation. There’s not enough money to make it happen without public involvement, she added. 

Daniel Clancy explained that 30 million books takes $1.5 billion to digitise – so how would Bob Stein et al have Google behave, and is Stein comfortable with the US government being the source of digitisation? 

Liz Lawley interjected that maybe we need to look at more decentralized options, wondering how much would they have costed Wikipedia in advance? 

An issue around the idea of the perfect book was raised from the audience – if pages online are collected from different editions, what edition [or what translation, I wonder] am I reading? What effect is this having on scholarship, he asked.

A delegate from iBiblio described the broadcasting and webcasting treaty currently being negotiated as “the Rome Convention” on steroids!” as it transfers the copying rights onto the web and broadcasting world. 

Responding to the point that there is not a lot of demand for digitisation, Danielle Tiedt, said there is in regards to search. People want authoritative, book-sourced / originated content and a lot of search queries aren’t being answered because there’s a lack of authoritative content in the search results. 

Bob Stein put forth the case that the books Google has digitized are reading us. But Daniel Clancy countered that you don’t have to login for public domain content, if you check 'fully accessible' in Google's 'advanced search'. 

Liz Lawley asserted that Google aren’t organizing anything, they’re just indexing it, and usability issues have to be addressed. For instance the best edition of Hamlet for a six-year-old and the best for a PhD scholar aren’t one and the same. Librarians however, do have expertise in searching and sourcing the correct texts.

Danielle Tiedt took up the point about indexing and organizing – how pages are ranked for search is a lot harder to do with the types of technology we have today and she reckoned we’re still going to need a lot of human intervention.