An article by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post caught my attention because Klein has caught on to the elegance of the Kindle app, especially its synched uploading of highlights and notes, that I’ve written about. I have found few other people who are talking about what a game-changing capability this is, so Klein’s giving it such an important place in his discussion of the potential of eBooks stands out (boldface added):

I don’t think we have any clear concept of how good eBooks are going to become. I wasn’t at all impressed with the first generation of eBooks, or eBook readers. When asked to review the first-generation Kindle, I reviewed it poorly and sold my device as soon as I’d finished the article. But now? I have the Kindle application on my home computer, my work computer, my iPad, and my phone. Wherever I am, my books are there, too. My place is always saved. My highlights and notes are automatically uploaded to a central Amazon server that I can access from any internet connection. I get more out of my books now, can read them in more places, can search back through them with more ease, can integrate them into my job with less hassle.

Klein doesn’t mention the Amazon tablet that’s been widely predicted to be coming out sometime in the next several months. Amazon’s dominance of eBook content combined with a strong tablet rival to Apple’s iPad, and leadership in “The Cloud” would put Amazon in a strong place in the eBook market.

Surprisingly, in the talk I’ve seen about the presumed Amazon tablet, it hasn’t been connected to the existing Kindle app. But the elegant tricks that Amazon has bundled with the Kindle app will certainly be carried over to the tablet. So if you want to see the future of eBooks, try out the Kindle App on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android Phone.

Related articles:

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

I much prefer Twitter to Facebook, largely for the reason stated in a couple of recent blog articles I came across — From what I’ve experienced of Facebook, it’s mostly for communicating with people you already know. I find Twitter much more useful and interesting, because it helps me to meet so many new people. The first quote is from Aaron Lee‘s article What is Twitter all About…. to me?:

Everyone uses Twitter differently, and I can’t really tell you what it is about generally. However, I can tell you what Twitter is to me, personally. It is about connecting with people … It’s about building new relationships with people that you’re not able to do on other social networking sites, for example, when being on Facebook we tend to be inside our own circle of friends.

The second quote is from the Indian Chaaps blog — Why Twitter is better than Facebook:

Twitter is for whom you want to know – Facebook acts as a communicating media between us and the one whom we already know, whereas Twitter is a media between us and those whom we want to know.

I like the words that Aaron Lee emphasizes, later in the article quoted above, in describing the value of Twitter — Learning and Engaging. This catches the value of Twitter for me, as a professional tool. I’m constantly learning new things, from the many connections that I never would have made if it hadn’t been for Twitter.

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

As I discussed in another article, Steve Rosenbaum’s Curation Nation is very striking to me because its major theme of the importance of human input in Web curation is so similar to what I’ve written about on this blog. Extending the parallel between Rosenbaum’s thought and mine is the background of our work.

The experience that’s especially sensitized me to the importance of human input in curation has been my work to improve the discoverability of medical pictures in Hardin MD, as I discussed in the first two articles in this blog. In the process of doing this, I learned how much more difficult it is to make pictures findable on the Web than it is for text, which is its own search handle.

With my background of working with pictures, I can’t help but notice that Rosenbaum’s background is in video — We’ve both been sensitized to the importance of human curation, I suspect, by working with non-text media. As difficult as I’ve learned it is to curate pictures, it’s certainly even more difficult for the MOVING pictures of video. As an example of this, it’s difficult to tweak pictures in Hardin MD so they can be found in Google or Google Image search, but there’s not even anything comparable to Google Image search for video.

As difficult as it is to make video findable, it’s not surprising that Rosenbaum sees the future Web being so heavily dependent on curation over Search. I’d guess this is what gives him the many valuable insights about curation that he discusses in the book. And as the mix of media on the Web grows, the need for human curators will certainly grow with it. Good news for humans!

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

As several reviewers of Steve Rosenbaum’s Curation Nation have discussed, a major theme of the book is the importance of human input in curation. Rosenbaum repeatedly hammers home the idea that high-quality curation, which makes it possible to find things on the Web, has to be done by human beings rather than computers. There are many passages in the book on this theme. I’ll quote a few here from Rosenbaum’s introductory comments to give the flavor (boldface added):

(p 3-4) Curation is about adding value from humans … Curation is very much the core shift in commerce, editorial, and communities that require highly qualified humans. Humans aren’t extra, or special, or enhancements; humans are curators. They do what no computer can possibly achieve.

(p 12-13) No longer is the algorithm in charge. Human curators have become essential software. What emerges is new human and computer collaboration  … The important news of the emergence of a Curation Nation is that humans are very much back in charge.

Rosenbaum’s emphasis on the importance of humans especially strikes me because that’s also been a major theme of this blog, starting with the first article in the blog, on the importance of human input for organizing pictures. Other articles on the theme are listed in the category human input.

A subject that’s closely connected to human input and to curation, that Rosenbaum also stresses, and that I’ve written about (category: Pattern Recognition), is the quintessentially human capability of pattern recognition. He has several good snippets based on prominent blogger Robert Scoble:

(p 134) Humans are essential. So exactly what do they add? Is it magic, or something more quantifiable? Taste, judgement, serendipity? Scoble says what they add is uniquely human. “Algorithms are good at picking the big stuff, because computers are good at counting numbers or links or numbers of clicks or numbers of retweets. Humans aren’t going to compete with that. But as humans, our brains are pattern recognizers. I can look at the tree across the street, and in a millisecond I know it’s a tree. A computer has to look at an image of a tree for hours and spend a lot of processor time to figure out it’s a tree.” … (p 140) “I think curation is seeing a pattern in the world and telling someone else about that pattern.”

The exciting bottom line for librarians — As several library people have noted in discussing Curation Nation, this is right up our alley! The sorts of skills that Rosenbaum discusses are just what we’re good at — Careful, Caring Curation of the world’s information.

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

I’m reading Steve Rosenbaum’s new book, Curation Nation — He talks interestingly about social media like Twitter as being tools for curation, which he says are often better than Google in helping people find what they’re looking for.

As a prime example of why he thinks curation is the wave of the future and “search is broken (p 252),” he talks about googling his name (steve rosenbaum) in Google Image Search, and getting many false hits, including pictures of women and a pomeranian dog. His use of Google Image Search here rather than the standard googling tool Google Web search is puzzling — I guess he does it to prove his claim that “search is broken” — In Google Web search, though, searching for steve rosenbaum works just fine — All of the top 10 results are for Steve the book author.

So I think Rosenbaum is confused when he asserts that “search is broken” or “search is dead” (see below*) based upon his experience in searching Google Image search. But in bringing pictures into the discussion, he IS on to something important, which goes along with the book’s “curation” theme, and which I’ve hit upon frequently in this blog. As Rosenbaum discusses repeatedly, an important element of “curation” is that it’s done by human beings, as opposed to automated tools like search engines. This very much echoes a major theme of Seeing the Picture — starting with the very first article — which is the idea that pictures require a large amount of human input, on many levels, starting with the process of “curating” them so they can be found.

I’m finding Rosenbaum’s book especially interesting because, in addition to pictures, he also touches on other curatorial themes that I’ve discussed here:

Twitter – As mentioned above, he mentions Twitter prominently as an example of curation, and I’ve written about tweets being superb curatorial tools to focus the eyeballs of the Twitterverse on valuable information nuggets.

Wikipedia – At its tenth anniversary in January, I wrote about Wikipedia in very much the same vein as Rosenbaum, contrasting it as a tool for human curation in contrast to the machine-mind of Google. When I wrote this article, I was surprised to find that Wikipedia is not often discussed as an example of curation, so I was glad to see that Rosenbaum does.

*In Rosenbaum’s talk at TOC 2011, he goes over the same story of googling his name in Google Image search, to show the problems with Search — In the talk he says search is “dead” instead “broken,” as he says in the book.

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

I’ve been using Twitter account names a lot recently in retweeting — They’re good, attention-grabbing handles. It’s easy to find out if a company has an account, by simply adding the obvious name to the twitter.com/xxxx URL. That usually works, as shown below. But not for Apple.

Almost all of the tech giants do have an active Twitter account, under their obvious names. Here are a few (from my tweet) – ericrumsey: Thanks for being on Twitter: @Twitter @Facebook @Microsoft @IE @FireFox @Google @Amazon @Dell @eBay

And here are the names that Apple has chosen not to claim and use, again, from my tweet – ericrumsey: Why doesn’t Apple do Twitter? – @Apple @iTunes @iPad @Mac @Appleinc @Apple_inc

There have been speculations about Apple’s not using Twitter — Last year Dave Greenbaum in GigaOm speculated (wrongly so far) that Apple would be Twittering  soon, and there’s even a Quora article Why doesn’t Apple have a Twitter account? In March, Dutch blogger Kees Henniphof wrote that Apple doesn’t do social, pointing out that Apple’s non-social media choice extends beyond Twitter to other media like Facebook and LinkedIn, and says that by their non-participation, Apple is making “a statement.” I’d say they’re missing an opportunity.

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

Being an Iowa baseball boy at heart, I naturally thought about Field of Dreams when I read the words below by SEO guru Bill Hartzer in The Status Of Search Engine Optimization: April 2011 — It’s still the same as it’s always been, he says — Build a good website and it’ll get found. The idea is certainly not new, but Hartzer states it nicely:

So, what should you focus on right now, today, in April 2011? What has changed? Really, nothing has changed in a major way. It’s still business as usual. Build a quality web site, with lots of good informational content about your subject, publicize the content (properly) on other web sites, get links from other web sites to ALL of your content, and you will be just fine. Create a site that is good for your users and something that they like, and the search engines will reward you for it.

In other words, quit chasing the Google algorithm and worrying about all of the “minor” SEO tweaks that you could be doing and worry more about the fact that you’re not creating great content on your web site. That said, there are “best practices” that you still need to adhere to:

- Search engine friendly web design
- Unique content
- Make sure your on-page factors are in check (i.e., proper title tags, meta tags, heading tags, alt tags, etc.)
- Add good content to your site on a regular basis
- Do proper publicity for your content (use social sites, link building, and press releases when appropriate).

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

I wrote in a previous post about the punning name of “Mac OS X” — which apparently came from the mind of Steve Jobs. I observed that it’s surprising that there has been little commentary on this cute little pun. I guess maybe this sensitized me to see little-noticed puns by other famous geeks …

I came across another “famous geek pun” recently, by newly-named Google CEO and founder Larry Page — PageRank, the algorithm that made Google famous, is named for Larry Page! Like most people, I assumed that it was called that because of its page-ranking purpose. Although this pun is certainly more widely-acknowledged than the Steve Jobs pun — it’s even mentioned in the first sentence of the Wikipedia article on PageRank — it’s still questioned by some.

Is there a pattern here? Do geeks get too little credit for having a wry sense of humor? It certainly seems like these two little examples merit more attention.

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

I wrote recently on the kinship of Google and libraries. I got the idea for that especially from a long portrait of Google co-founder and new CEO Larry Page, which brings out several qualities of Google and Page that I think show commonality with libraries and librarians. In that portrait, Farhad Manjoo contrasts the Google/Page style with the Apple/Steve-Jobs style, and says it’s unlikely that Google will “tap its inner Apple” under Page’s leadership. …

That term “Tap its inner Apple” kept bouncing around in my mind — Larry Page may not help Google find its Inner Apple, I think, but how about adding another twist? — Combining the idea of Google-Librarian temperamental connections, from my previous article, with Google Books, which resonates strongly with librarianship, and was actually conceived by Page — How about Larry Page as Google’s Inner Librarian? …

At first this idea of Larry Page as Google’s “inner librarian” seemed almost too playful to suggest. It was only when I was able to substantiate Page’s central role in creating Google Books and his conception of it in library terms that the idea seemed more credible. The general idea of his involvement in the early years of the project is commonly mentioned, but Google co-founder Sergey Brin is the one who’s gotten more attention talking about it. So it took some digging to find details of Page’s role in the creation of Google Books, which did turn up some bits of solid evidence, discussed below.

The first is the story of Page telling Google CEO Eric Schmidt about his idea for Google Books. This is from Ken Auletta’s book on Google, ironically enough, right from Google Books — Surprisingly, as interesting as the story is, especially from a library point-of-view, googling the quote turns up only a handful of fairly obscure places where it’s cited. The telling here is notable for Page’s strong emphasis of the project’s library-librarian connections:

[boldface added] Schmidt remembers the day in 2002 he walked into Page’s office and Page surprised him by showing off a book scanner he had built. It had been inspired by the great library of Alexandria … “‘We’re going to scan all the books in the world,” Page said. For search to be truly comprehensive, he explained, it must include every book ever published. He wanted Google to “understand everything in the world and give it back to you.” Sort of “a super librarian,’” he said.

The second telling of the story is also little-cited, probably because it’s buried in the middle of a recent multi-paged Wired article. Written by master tech storyteller Steven Levy, it’s notable for the clear statement that the project was Page’s idea:

[boldface added] It was Page who dreamed of digitizing the world’s books. Many assumed the task was impossible, but Page refused to accept that. It might be expensive, but of course it was possible. To figure out just how much time it would take, Page and Marissa Mayer jury-rigged a book scanner in his office, coordinating Mayer’s page-turning to a metronome. Then he filled up spreadsheets with calculations … Eventually, he became convinced that the costs and timing were reasonable. What astounded him was that even his spreadsheets didn’t dissolve the skepticism of those with whom he shared his scheme. “I’d run through the numbers with people and they wouldn’t believe them,’” he later said. “So eventually I just did it.” Page was disappointed when critics … launched a series of legal challenges … “Do you really want the whole world not to have access to human knowledge as contained in books?” Page asks. “You’ve just got to think about that from a societal point of view.”

It’s ironic that Page is taking over as Google CEO just after the rejection of the Google Books Settlement. But I suspect the Google Books project will be seen by librarians of the future as a necessary first step in the evolution of a universal digital library — An idea that might still seem impossible if it hadn’t been for Google. In fact, this process of looking back on Google Books as “history” has already started — Harvard Library director (and historian) Robert Darnton, writing in a NY Times op-ed soon after the Settlement rejection, proposes the creation of A Digital Library better than Google’s. He concludes his piece by giving credit to Google for getting the idea started:

Through technological wizardry and sheer audacity, Google has shown how we can transform the intellectual riches of our libraries, books lying inert and underused on shelves. But only a digital public library will provide readers with what they require to face the challenges of the 21st century.

And it might not have happened if Larry Page hadn’t had the audacious dream of digitizing the world’s books and scanned the first one in his office with Marissa Mayer.

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

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been in bad repute recently, with Google’s SEO spamming problems in the news. Actually SEO has never been given much respect in the library world, and this is unfortunate because on a basic level SEO is closely related to the library-centric concept of discoverability — Making it easy for users to find good things on your website.

I’ve been thinking for some time that librarians’ apparent lack of interest in SEO was surprising. But recently I’ve been realizing that my perceptions are colored by my experience in crafting Hardin MD pages to be found by Google, beginning about 2001, before most anyone had heard of “SEO.”

I can understand why SEO has bad connotations for library people who know it only as a bag of tricks used by the dotcom-Adwords world to trick Google into giving a high ranking to their clients’ pages. But I hope the examples of my pre-SEO-Adwords experience that I’ll present here will show why I think optimizing pages so they can be found in Google is very much in the library tradition of bringing together the users and the pages.

Even in pre-Google days, standard wisdom about getting pages found by search engines emphasized the importance of a strong page title that gives a concise description of the page’s contents (advice that still holds true). Much of my early work on Hardin MD that I now think of as using SEO techniques centered on this importance of the title. I was an early booster of Google, so I noticed soon after it was launched, in 2000, that many of the pages in Hardin MD were getting high rankings in searches for title words of its pages. I also noticed that most of the pages that were highly ranked got more traffic. But not all of them. Why was this, I wondered? Finally,  with the help of WordTracker (this was long before Google Analytics), I figured out that a high Google ranking goes only halfway — The other half of the high-traffic equation is people searching the term that gets the ranking. Getting a high ranking for a term that no one is searching is useless, like providing a supply of something for which there’s no demand! This simple, basic supply and demand principle is still at the heart of SEO.

The case that opened my eyes about the supply and demand principle was a Hardin MD page with the title “Respiration Medicine” — It got high rankings in Google searches but very little traffic. With WordTracker, I saw the reason why — Hardly anyone was searching for “respiration medicine” — So I used WordTracker to determine the equivalent terms that people WERE searching for, and when I put those words in the title (which is now Respiratory System & Lung Diseases), the traffic increased.

Having discovered the value of using title words that people were searching for, I adjusted Hardin MD pages accordingly. This often meant changing from medical specialty terms to terms that are more easily-understood and widely-used by the public — Ophthalmology was changed to Eye Diseases, Cardiology became Heart Disease … Pediatrics >> Childrens Diseases, Otolaryngology >> Ear, Nose, Throat.

After learning the value of choosing the best words to draw traffic, I applied this optimization lesson to creating the tags that are used at the bottom of Hardin MD pages. The same technique also showed that “pictures” should be used instead of “images” for Hardin MD pages relating to pictures.

I find basic SEO principles especially interesting from a library point-of-view because they have similarities with some of the long-standing principles of librarianship. I’ve written about  tagging in Hardin MD that hearkens back to the subject headings used on library catalog cards. And, having had a bit of experience as a library cataloger, I see a similar parallel between the web page title, that I’ve discussed in this article, with the title-page of a book, that was established as the basis for cataloging books several hundred years ago — Principles of information management endure!

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