The tweet shown here, by Dr. Ves Dimov (@DrVes), is interesting on different levels. The tweet is about Huffington Post, but it gives good advice on how to write a blog article in general — Find a juicy nugget in a news or blog article that’s unnoticed by most readers and feature it in your own article, quoting it prominently and adding your own spin to it.

But beyond its application to writing blog articles, Dimov’s tweet applies at least as much to writing tweets. Even more than a blog article, a tweet needs to strip a subject to its essence, and put it into a 140 character message that combines the arts of narrative writing and headline writing.

A twist of Meta …

Another layer of interestingness here is that Dimov’s tweet itself applies exactly the stripping to the essence technique that’s featured in the tweet  — The words in the tweet are taken from far down in a NY Times story, where few human eyeballs (or the GoogleBot) are likely to see them, and brought to the attention of the Twitterverse and Google by @DrVes — Here’s the NY Times quote, with words in the tweet in boldface:

Huffington Post is a master of finding stories across the Web, stripping them to their essence and placing well-created headlines on them that rise to the top of search engine results, guaranteeing a strong audience.

A great example of combining the simple elegance of Twitter and the power of human judgment to search out an interesting nugget in a long page of text, and bring it to the attention of the Web’s eyes. With Google’s spam troubles recently, there’s been much discussion of the renewed importance of human curation, with Twitter being seen as a prime vehicle, and I think this is a nice example of that.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Earlier today I tweeted about blogger Jeff Hamilton’s hare-brained idea that the recently implemented top-of-the-search links to NLM’s PubMed Health is some kind of government-Google conspiracy. I tweeted about Hamilton’s tweet, which had a link to his article on his own blog — Ha Ha, funny, right?

The way I came across Hamilton’s article, however, gives it a bit more seriousness — I found it when I was searching in Google for pubmed health, as in the screenshot at left — The first 6 hits are links that are well-known to the medical library community. But #7 is Hamilton’s article — that seemed so laughable on his own blog — in PageRank-powered Psychology Today, which means Google takes it seriously!

The lesson here, I think, is that NLM needs to say something about PubMed Health! As I discussed in my earlier article on it, and as Nikki Dettmar has discussed, it’s very strange that PubMed Health has been launched and assumed automatic #1 rankings in Google searches with no announcement or discussion of any of it by NLM or Google — If it had been talked about, assuredly it would be reflected in the Google search results in the screenshot. Instead, as these results show, there’s sort of a “vacuum” of information about the whole situation — which is just waiting to be filled by “passing spectators” like Hamilton ;-)

For the record, I’m including a screenshot of Hamilton’s article in Psychology Today that’s linked in the Google search:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In January I wrote articles about the wonderful way Amazon’s Kindle app works on non-Kindle devices to allow cross-platform reading of Kindle eBooks. Using the Kindle apps on other devices (iPad and iPhone have been especially popular) has advantages over using the Kindle device, such as easy highlighting and note-taking. It was ironic. then, that it was just a week after I wrote that news came out that Apple would be putting restrictions on the use of the Kindle app on the the iPad and iPhone. While it’s not clear how much this will restrict use of the app on Apple devices, it seems likely to diminish their use.

With a relatively small number of titles available on the iBookStore, Apple is not in the business of providing content, unlike Amazon, with its KindleStore, and Google, with the Google eBookStore. So, with so few books of  its own, it’s surprising that Apple is putting restrictions on Kindle app users, instead of encouraging them — Hey, Apple, it seems like Amazon is helping you out!

Kindle apps on the iPad have been immensely popular, as described in my previous article, and the reaction to the new Apple policy has been strongly negative. A tweet by @fienen on Feb 15 highlights this (boldface added):

The content wars continue. Apple may have played the wrong card here. Big time. Official: Apple locks down the Kindle app http://ow.ly/3WVcP

On the same day as this tweet, an article in CNNMoney reported recent remarks by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in which he called Amazon’s Kindle e-reader app the best business decision of the past decade, which made Amazon “‘the poster child’ of the cloud computing movement” — I don’t know about that, but I’d say the Kindle app certainly showed Amazon’s astuteness about the eBook cloud environment.

I think the future of eBooks is going to belong to the one who can bring together the devices & computers with the best collection of books. Right now, Apple has the devices and Amazon has the most books. So get with it, Apple — Amazon has opened up it’s books to play with your devices, so how about reciprocating?

What will Google do?

Looming over the spat between Apple and Amazon, of course, is … Google. As I said in concluding my previous article about the Kindle app ecosystem, “imagine the possibilities if Google puts their attention to doing something like this for their collection of public domain eBooks” — Bringing together the devices (Android tablets) and the books (Google eBookstore) in Google’s one big house.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In his recent article in Library Journal (The Benefits of Less) Aaron Schmidt talks about simplifying library websites to make them more usable. He suggests that a good way to work on this is to think how the site would be designed for mobile devices:

Another way to brainstorm the most important parts of your website is to imagine you’re building a mobile version. Given the limited screen real estate available, what parts of your site are essential?

I suspect Schmidt is not aware of it — I haven’t seen it discussed much in library circles — but the idea of building the mobile version of a site first, before building the full desktop site, is more than just an imaginary brainstorming idea in the dotcom tech world — In 2009, Luke Wroblewski proposed his Mobile First idea that this is the best way to design a website — Design the site first for mobile, then work on the full site design. Last year, Google’s Eric Schmidt took up Wroblewski’s theme, saying in a speech at the Mobile World Congress that Google would “work on mobile first” in bringing new tools to the Web.

A few months ago, venture-capitalist Fred Wilson wrote an elegant summary of the Mobile First idea that resonates strongly with Aaron Schmidt’s ideas for designing library websites:

I was meeting with the team from one of our portfolio companies a few weeks ago and we were talking about a redesign of their new web service. I had told them I thought the initial design was too busy and too complicated to work well in the market. They showed me the iPhone app they were planning to release soon. I said “just do that on the web.” And happily they told me they were thinking the same thing.

Using the mobile web as a constraint to think about web design is growing in popularity. I see it in my own efforts and the efforts of our portfolio companies. When users spend more time accessing your service over a mobile device, they are going to get used to that UI/UX. When you ask them to navigate a substantially busier and more complex UI/UX when they log onto the web, you are likely to keep them on the mobile app and off the web app.

I’m starting to think a unifying vision for all apps should start with the mobile app, not the web app. And so it may also be mobile first web second in designing web apps these days.

Wilson could almost be talking about the same “busy, complicated” library websites that Aaron Schmidt talks about — Good website design for a venture capitalist is also good for libraries.

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I just noticed last week that Google is now ranking pages from the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Health encyclopedia at the top of search results for disease words (accompanied by an attention-getting red icon) as shown at left for asthma. Other disease examples putting NLM at the top of search results are diabetes, migraine, lupus, and chickenpox. So, Congratulations, NLM! — A great new opportunity to lead people to the wealth of information at your site!

There are questions though — I was surprised to find this prominent placement for NLM (which replaces less prominent placement in the Health OneBox group of links at the top of Google searches that I wrote about in 2009). There apparently has been no announcement of the change, either from NLM or from Google, as far as I can find in searching. Beyond that, I also can’t find that NLM has announced the launching of the PubMed Health (PMH) encyclopedia that’s linked from Google. It was mentioned as being in development in summer, 2010, but there’s been nothing since saying that it was completed and ready to use.

There are also questions about the PubMed Health pages that are linked from Google (first screenshot below). These are from the ADAM Health Encyclopedia, and the same content is also part of NLM’s MedlinePlus (second screenshot below) — Why is NLM maintaining two different versions of the same content? Also, the PMH page that’s linked from Google (in the first screenshot below) has no link to MedlinePlus (MLP). The MLP version of the ADAM content, on the other hand (in the second screenshot below), is tightly integrated into the wealth of other information in NLM’s flagship MLP resource.

Below is the PubMed Health page that’s linked at the top of the Google search for asthma. This page has no link to MedlinePlus, in contrast to the MLP version of ADAM content, in the second screenshot below.

Here’s the MLP page for asthma, that’s well-integrated into other resources in MLP. So, NLM, how about asking Google to link to MLP instead of PMH? Otherwise, if the Google link continues to go to PMH pages, make a link from those to MLP!

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Siva Vaidhyanathan is a frequent commentator on the Google Books Settlement, and my impression has been that he’s generally on the “anti-Google” side. In a long interview by Andrew Albanese in Publishers Weekly, however, Vaidhyanathan presents a more nuanced view. He continues to be unfavorable to the Settlement, and to the part played by libraries in scanning their books for Google. But he also acknowledges the failure of public institutions, especially libraries, in taking the initiative to digitize the world’s books. The interview is full of interesting insights on a wide range of Google-related subjects. Here are some excerpts on Google Books (boldface added):

The Google Books plan is a perfect example of public failure. The great national, public, and university libraries of the world never garnered the funds or the political will and vision needed to create a universal, digital delivery service like Google envisions. Public institutions failed to see and thus satisfy a desire—perhaps a need—for such a service. Google stepped in and declared that it could offer something close to universal access for no cost to the public. The catch, of course, was that it would have to be done on Google’s terms.

Here Vaidhyanathan’s mixed sentiments about Google and the Settlement start to show — He says that if Google had proceeded in its legal battle as he would have preferred, the legality of Search might have been undermined — Which apparently would be OK with him — Even though he says earlier in the interview that he “loves Google” and relies heavily on its Web Search, so acknowledging that he’s like the rest of us, caught on the horns of the Google good-evil dilemma:

[On Google's Fair Use defense in the Books Settlement] Say, Google had decided to fight in court, rather than settle. And say it won before the Supreme Court. Congress was never going to let them just win. Congress would have listened to the major content providers, and it would have intervened in a way that would have restricted fair use. That in turn could have undermined some fundamental practices of the Web, like search. …  But with books, Google reached from the digital world into the analogue world and said to publishers, “You now need to operate by the rules of the Web.”  … As a policy argument, there is something to be said for running copyright the way Google wants to run it. If we were testifying before Congress about such a change, I would be right up there with Google. But as it stands, that’s not what Congress has said, and that’s not what the courts have said.

And here, he seems to be acknowledging that if Google had followed the conventional legal procedures that other companies have to do, there’s a pretty good chance that the scanning project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground yet:

[On the Settlement as a corporate end run around the legislative process] Google figures that if it creates good products and they get popular, the courts and Congress will be less likely to undo them. But that is an arrogant, audacious perspective on the legal and legislative system, and it’s fundamentally antidemocratic. Google should have to do things the old-fashioned way: hire lobbyists to bribe legislators to get their agenda passed [laughs]. Seriously, though, that’s what every other company has to do. And as sick as it sounds, that’s the way the game is played. If Congress thinks it is a bad idea to permit a digital library like this, then we fight harder to convince them why it is a good idea, and we make those arguments in public.

In concluding the interview, Vaidhyanathan returns to the high road, calling for the people of the world to finally take up their responsibility and create the universal digital library:

[On the argument that libraries would never have been able to do the project that Google is doing] If we, the people of the world, the librarians of the world, the scholars of the world, the publishers of the world, decide that we should have a universal digital library, then let’s write a plan, change the laws, raise money, and do it right. If we’re going to create this with public resources, let’s do it in the public interest, not corporate interest. There’s nothing wrong with Google pursuing a books project, of course, and, yes, there are benefits. But we have to understand that what Google has created is first and foremost for Google.

See the complete interview for additional interesting insights: Sergey Brin and Google as the mind of God; the “brilliant story” of Google Search; and why publishers will like Google eBooks more than Amazon.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Josh Keller’s recent article in the Chronicle, As the Web goes mobile, colleges fail to keep up, as the title indicates, focuses on college campuses. But it’s message also applies well to libraries, as I’ve discussed before. Around the same time I saw the Chronicle article, I came across the graphic on the left that seems to capture the same ideas in a picture – Together with the chart on the right, from the Chronicle article, the message is clear – “The mobile wave is coming fast, don’t get washed away.” Here are Keller’s words:

Hand-held devices like smartphones and tablets are fast becoming the primary way many people use the Internet. Half of all college students used mobile gear to get on the Internet every day last year, compared with 10 percent of students in 2008, according to Educause, the educational-technology consortium.

But many colleges still treat their mobile Web sites as low-stakes experiments. That attitude risks losing prospective applicants and donors through admissions and alumni portals that don’t work, and it risks frustrating current students who want to manage coursework and the rest of their lives with their mobile phones, says David R. Morton, director of mobile communications at the University of Washington. “For so many institutions,” he says, “mobile is a part-time job, almost an afterthought.”

One key to these projects is recognizing the mobility of mobile devices, and not treating them as if they were small desktop computers. Among colleges, even the leading mobile applications and Web sites still function like add-ons; students and others can get much the same information on a personal computer, although perhaps not as quickly.

But many college officials say that will change within a few years. As more people adopt Internet-enabled mobile phones, colleges will be able to take advantage of features like the ability to record information on the fly or to determine somebody else’s location.

Colleges often do not realize how far their Web services have fallen behind what students are used to, says Kayvon Beykpour, of Blackboard. The Stanford graduate recalls that signing up for courses online was so difficult that it was a “running joke” in the computer-science department. “Students are using Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, all these Web 2.0 systems every day,” Mr. Beykpour says. “It’s like their top five Web sites they use. And the sixth Web site is the school Web site, because you have to use it. And that’s where the biggest disconnect is.”

Another recent thread speaks to the problem of trying to keep up with the mobile wave — In a talk making the rounds on Twitter, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says put your best people on mobile — A pretty strong indication that Google et al are scooping up all the mobile programmers they can find, which means that inevitably it’s going to be hard for us in academia to compete. So for the time being, we’ll probably need to rely on the sorts of third-party solutions discussed in the Chronicle article, like Blackboard and iMobileU.

For me, a key to understanding the deep infrastructure of mobile has been learning about WebKit, the underlying technology of all mobile browsers, including Safari, Chrome, and Android. Read more in my earlier article: The Mobile Revolution & the WebKit Revolution.

Mobile wave graphic credit: http://ssb.mofusepremium.com/blog/the-mobile-web/the-mobile-browser-is-the-killer-app

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey