In an article on the most popular online stories of 2010 in the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World, Whitney Mathews discusses writing headlines with “‘Google juice'” to attract traffic — In other words, using the principles of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — Mathews talks especially about a syndicated AP story in April for which they made the headline “iPad vs. Kindle” — With this short, pithy headline, the article has consistently been in the top ten hits in Google searches ever since (which I confirmed several times in the last few days), and of course has brought a lot of traffic.

I’ve been aware of the importance of choosing language carefully to bring search engine traffic since the early days of Hardin MD, before SEO became big business, and I’ve been surprised that libraries have been so slow to put it to use. Recently I’ve been paying attention to publishing and journalism because I see that people in those fields are thinking about many of the same digital-future questions as librarians. So I was glad to find, in the Lawrence story, that journalists ARE thinking about crafting their stories to be found by Google. A bit of googling (searching for SEO newspapers site:edu) showed that Lawrence is not alone — There’s a lot on SEO and newspapers.

How about libraries? …

Comparing journalism to librarianship, searching for SEO libraries site:edu finds very little — Actually, I’ve been doing this search periodically for several months, and have never found anything in the top ten, until today I did find one piece, a Word document from Binghamton University Libraries (YAY!) on using SEO for their web pages.

In the dotcom part of the online world, SEO is a givenWhy have libraries not used it more? I’ll be writing more about this in the next few weeks, so keep watching.

What’s Chocolate got to do with the story? …

It just happened that this week, as I was reading about SEO in Lawrence, I was also following a NY Times story with the catchy title Giving Alzheimer’s Patients Their Way, Even Chocolate. This was a lengthy article about an innovative Phoenix nursing home, with only incidental mention of chocolate, but the smart headline writer with some SEO-savvy used the word to get attention — The story was in the top ten most emailed NYT stories all week, and I suspect the chocolate hook had a lot to do with that.

And finally, with my mind on chocolate and libraries, I found this cute little article that was my most popular tweet of the week, no doubt showing the (SEO) power of chocolate! …

ericrumseytemp: How about a Library with Chocolate instead of Books? NY Educ Dept says NO!

Thanks to my son Brian Rumsey, who lives in Lawrence, and brought my attention to the Journal-World story.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

Sometimes Google spins off new services and experiments so fast it’s hard to keep up. The first couple of weeks of December were an extreme case of this. Early in the month it was Google eBooks (aka Google eBookStore). Then the next week, out rolled the Body Browser and the Ngram viewer.

I was struck by the closely timed launching of these tools because they all relate closely to my interests, in eBooks, medicine, and history. It’s especially striking because the three projects were apparently developed by unrelated teams at Google — Maybe each of the teams was as surprised by the other two launches as the rest of us!

More of my comments on these new Google treats: Google eBooks, Body Browser and Ngram Viewer.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

Google Ngrams is a fascinating visualization tool for studying word frequency over time in the 15 million books that are part of the Google Books project. The research that led to the creation of Ngrams was a cooperative effort between Google and Harvard University.

The little screenshot snippet below shows Ngrams in action, making it easy to see at a glance how cancer has come to predominate over infectious diseases in the 20th century. Other examples show similar trends in related diseases, medical specialty fields, and the practice of healthcare. Ngram viewer IS case sensitive and results vary quite a bit depending on capitalization, so play around with it …

Especially of historic interest:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

Google’s elegant, new 3-D anatomy viewer — Body Browser — is best experienced seeing it in live action. Since it’s not viewable on some commonly-used browsers (notably Internet Explorer) a good quick introduction to it is in video. Here’s the one that seems to be the standard on YouTube:


The maker of this video is apparently Hetman Ostap — From his channel page in YouTube (noobfromua), it looks like he’s a student in Ukraine. This is another example of what I wrote about earlier this year, that people outside the US, often in obscure places, seem to do great work on the Web — Making a video of the Body Browser seems like such an obviously good thing to do — Why did it take a Ukrainian student to do it? … If you’re using a supported browser, this link will put you directly in the Body Browser. If not, it gives information on browsers that work.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

The screenshots below are from Google Books, showing the link to the Google eBook version in the blue box to the left, and the formats available for downloading, in the upper right. The “Settings” box in the center is pasted from the Google eBook record, to show the connection between download formats and the versions available in Google eBooks.

In the first example, both PDF and ePub formats available for download in Google Books.  Correspondingly, in Google eBooks, Flowing text and Scanned Pages are available.

In the second example, only PDF format available for download in Google Books, and in Google eBooks, only Scanned Pages are available. Note that this is indicated in the blue box in Google Books with the note that the Google eBooks version is “Better for larger screens” (circled in red) – i.e. the PDF version is not good for mobile devices.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

How does Google Books relate to Google eBooks? Here’s one interesting little indication — For a full-view, free, public domain book, the URL is identical except that the Google Books version says “books” …

And the new Google eBookstore version says “ebooks” …

This makes it easy to compare the record in Google Books and Google eBookstore — Just add an “e” in the URL!

Notice here also that Google is making the connection between Google Books and the Google eBookstore, by putting the blue box with the “Get it now” button in both versions.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

I found these links looking at home pages of AAHSL libraries on the list of Medical & Health Sciences Libraries. I’m sure I missed some, so if you know of any, put in a comment, a tweet, or send on email (address at bottom of page). All of the libraries on Twitter below are in the AAHSL Twitter list/feed I made — Take a look to see what all these folks are tweeting about!

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

Ray Beckerman’s long article has good advice about avoiding Twitter’s “Retweet” button that accompanies every tweet, and instead using what he calls the “traditional retweet,” done manually with cut-and-paste. Up until a year ago, when Twitter introduced its own version of retweet, this was the only way to retweet. From the time this came out it’s gotten many strong negative reactions. Beckerman states the case so eloquently that I’m excerpting his words here, starting with words from the conclusion, which are likely missed by a lot of readers (boldface added):

Conclusion – If you want to be invisible, then by all means use the pseudo-retweet. If not, then this is my advice:

  • Don’t use Twitter’s so called retweet function…. ever.
  • Use genuine, traditional retweets only.

Beckerman explains how to do a traditional retweet, and also has a detailed list of 13 reasons why the traditional retweet is superior to the Twitter-version retweet, worth a detailed reading. Along the way, he has interesting commentary about the odd stance of Twitter on retweeting:

Ironically, the most important feature on Twitter is one that Twitter itself did not develop, and has never adopted: the traditional retweet. It was developed by the customers, on their own, and not by the company. And amazingly, to this date Twitter itself has never incorporated it, although doing so would be as easy as pie.

Twitter’s management doesn’t get it. They try to justify their pseudo-retweet on the theory that a retweet is for the purpose of repeating, or rubber stamping, and thus paying homage to, some genius’s isolated statement spoken in a vacuum, to a vacuum, to be broadcast into an abyss. … Twitter’s competitive edge is the traditional retweet. By abandoning that, it is relinquishing its competitive advantage.

My advice to all Twitter users is that you should not use what Twitter calls a “retweet”. It is a counterfeit, and does not have any of the key properties of a retweet. Just skip it. The true, traditional “retweet” is the life blood of Twitter, and what has set it apart from other similar “microblogging” services.

I especially appreciate Beckerman’s stress on the value of Twitter as a conversational medium, with the traditional retweet as an integral part of the process. As he says, the Twitter-version retweet loses this valuable aspect, as tweets are treated as anonymous bits of information, not connected to a known person in the user’s chosen Tweet-stream.

Ray Beckerman is at: @RayBeckerman

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

Many of the aspects of the invention of the Web by Tim Berners-Lee are well-known, especially the technical details, but there are some aspects that are are more hazy — One is the question of what constitutes “The Birth of the Web”? The other is the interesting story of how the birth of the Web was interwoven with the birth of Berners-Lee’s first child.

Berners-Lee proposed his idea for the yet-unnamed web to CERN in 1989, and based on that, last year (2009) was celebrated by CERN as the 20th anniversary of the Web. But it wasn’t until 1990 that Berners-Lee named it “The Web” and demonstrated a real working model. And, notably, just this month, in his article on the future of the Open Web, Berners-Lee says that he’s writing on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Web — So he apparently sees the Web’s birth as having been when he did the nitty-gritty production work on it in 1990.

The events of 1990 raise more questions — Berners-Lee went to work on making a working model of the Web when his proposal was finally approved by CERN in early November 1990. At that time he wrote a more detailed description of his idea and named it “The Web,” so that’s been seen by some as the Web’s birth date. But it wasn’t until December that Berners-Lee, working with CERN colleague Robert Cailliau, demonstrated communication between a Web server and another computer. The exact date in December when this first happened was apparently not recorded. Apparently based on Berners-Lee’s description excerpted below from his book Weaving the Web, most commentators say that it happened “by Christmas day.” Here’s Berners-Lee’s narrative:

Meanwhile, I took one quick step that would demonstrate the concept of the Web as a universal, all-encompassing space. I programmed the browser so it could follow links not only to files on HTTP servers but also to Internet news articles and newsgroups. … In one fell swoop, a huge amount of the information that was already on the Internet was available on the Web. … The browser/editor was working on my machine and Robert’s, communicating over the Internet with the server by Christmas Day 1990 [boldface added].

And here are Berners-Lee’s touching words putting the birth of the Web in the context of the personally more emotionally affecting birth of his first child:

As significant an event as this was, I wasn’t that keyed up about it, only because my wife and I were expecting our first child, due Christmas Eve. As fate would have it, she waited a few extra days. We drove to the hospital during a New Year’s Eve storm and our daughter was born the next day. As amazing as it would be to see the Web develop, it would never compare to seeing the development of our child.

Berners-Lee generally says little about his private life, so I think it’s notable that he talks about it here, and it certainly is an indication that his personal life was taking precedence as he was working on making the Web — So it’s not surprising that the details of the Web birthing are hazy in his mind.

As mentioned, the quotes above are from Berners-Lee’s Weaving the Web — This has no preview in Google Books and no one has ever bothered to enter the excerpts above, that I can find in googling, so I’ve typed it in myself. With so many commentaries apparently based on the words in the quote (i.e. demonstration of the Web “by Christmas Day”) and with the unusual view of Berners-Lee’s personal life, it’s surprising that this hasn’t gotten more attention.

An open field for aspiring investigative journalists!

I’m left with the impression that I’ve just touched the surface of several interesting stories here, centered around the heroic figure of Berners-Lee — Working feverishly on the birth of the world-changing Web and waiting excitedly for the birth of a first child that would certainly change his own personal world. And the idea that the first communication that made the Web a live reality might have actually happened ON Christmas Day is certainly full of rich possibilities for a good story-teller!

Berners-Lee is a famously quiet, modest, altruistic person, who has chosen not to make money off of his invention of the Web — If he was one to seek publicity, I suspect the story told here would be told in the way that inventions of the past — Samuel Morse’s first telegraph message, Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone call — have been told — Shouted out, to the benefit of the inventors, and entered into the mythology of our history books.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp