Category Archives: web surfing

Making your website mobile friendly with Telnames

Business_Startup_logo

Once again the Business & IP Centre had a stand at the Business Startup Show (this year bigger than ever and moved to Olympia). Although not quite the same draw as Caprice Bourret or Brad Burton, the session I ran with Julie Hall from Women Unlimited was full to bursting.

I always try and find some time to get around the exhibition and see what catches my eye. This year it was Telnames, a new service that claims to ‘create a mobile site that you own and control within minutes’. With the rapid take-up of mobile internet use, I can see the potential for a service like this. According to their website, by 2013 more people will use mobile phones than PCs to get online, and research indicates that 6 in 10 visitors will leave a mobile-unfriendly site.

The man I spoke to was an ex Yell employee, and explained that Telnames has ambitions to become a big player across Europe. I wondered how they would convince small business to pay for an additional service. His answer was simple – £14.95 a year all inclusive. My response was at that price it is a ‘no-brainer’, which by coincidence is the term they use on their home page.

It will be fascinating to see if this service really takes off in the way the salesman predicted.

Telnames_screenshot

The UK Web Archive: an important resource for business

ukwa_logoOur Web in Feb month has got me thinking about the impermanence of so much internet content.

Companies put a great deal of useful information online, but rarely have a strategy for maintaining or persevering it. This is where the British Library comes in. Preserving the UK web is a natural extension of our traditional role of preserving UK printed material.

So if you are researching business that no longer exist, or blogs which have ceased to be updated, have a look at the UK Web Archive

Collecting since 2004, the UK Web Archive contains websites of cultural and research relevance relating to the UK. Its purpose is to collect, preserve and give permanent access to key UK websites for future generations. It is a selective and unique archive, built on nominations from subject specialists in and outside of the Library, alongside public nominations. With over 10,000 different websites, the archive is one of the library’s largest ‘born-digital’ collections.

The archive team have made searching easier by adding indexing terms (meta-tags) and added research tools such as Ngram visualisations.

You can read more about developments in the archive on their blog

Digital Strategies for Heritage – DISH 2011 Rotterdam

Dish_logoThe Digital Strategies for Heritage 2011 conference (DISH 2011) was a new name to me until quite recently.

This could be explained by the fact that my job is all about helping aspiring entrepreneurs with their information needs, rather than digitising parts of the enormous British Library collection.

However, one of the four strands of DISH 2011, held from 7 December in Rotterdam, was Business for Heritage, and I was asked to speak at session on Organisations that Redesigned their Business  Models.

I certainly believe the Business & IP Centre is an excellent example of how a library can deliver a different kind of service, to support its community and economy. As well as giving a talk about the development of the Centre and the services we deliver, I was also asked to offer myself up as a trained business advisor.

Quite a few conference attendees applied for these one to one advice sessions, and I selected four I felt I could help the most. It was fascinating to hear first hand about some of the projects my clients were undertaking, and the challenges they were facing. In most cases it involved persuading staff with somewhat traditional and cautious attitudes to adopt new technologies and new ways of working. These were issues we had faced in developing the Business & IP Centre.

Overall I found the conference to be extremely well organised with fascinating speakers and interesting and engaged attendees. I would thoroughly recommend attending any future DISH conferences.

Here are my notes from the two days of the event:

I got off to an excellent start when I found myself sitting next to the conference chair Chris Batt and his charming wife Adie, who also happens to be his business partner, on the flight out to Schiphol airport. So I was able to get the inside track even before arriving in Rotterdam.

Chris has been a key figure in the information world for many years including  Chief Executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). However, this was the first time I had had the opportunity to speak to him.

Chris_BattWednesday 7th December – Introduction from Chris Batt, Conference Chair

DISH has now seven years experience, and aims to be a toolbox with practical solutions, rather than just keep on saying it is a ‘good thing’.

The four themes for the conference are:

  • ­    Business for heritage
  • ­    Crowdsourcing and co-creation
  • ­    Institutional change
  • ­    Building a New Public Space
DISH_2011_introduction

Image by DEN (Digitaal Erfgoed Nederland)

We are living in a time of uncertainty, complexity and change, but more than ever a need for us to think strategically.

In the private sector it is a case of ‘a thousand flowers blooming’, but each one is aiming for market domination. And how can you tell which will be the success story?

We are moving from Evolution to Revolution (look at the recent changes in the music industry), also in some cases Extinction.

There are big differences between the public and private sectors, but both are serving the same customers.

In the public sector how does the weeding of the ‘thousand flowers’ take place, when there isn’t the private sector market control elements.

Do we undertake cost benefit analysis for our digitisation projects?

When looking at the UK government departmental strategies and cooperation, it is a case of ‘the whole being less than the sum of the parts’.

Chris asked the audience what ‘being ahead of the wave’ meant to them.
Is it the Institution, the Project, the Sector, or Public knowledge institutions?

To make progress we need to move from being technicians to strategists, and from an institutional focus to a consumer focus.

Katherine_WatsonLiving the Digital Shift – Katherine Watson – Director, European Cultural Foundation

  • We need to start with the person not with the technical tool.
  • We should look into the future, and ask ourselves how will the current six year old in school be wanting to use your services when they are ready?
  • Looking to the past is not helpful.
  • The economic crisis means that our funding landscape is crumbling around us.
  • In the future it will not be ‘back to business as normal’.
  • Rapid change means that it is not possible to predict the future with risk free certainty.

Amber_CaseCyborg anthropology and the future of interfaces – Amber Case

Although something of a surprising presence at a conference on digital strategies, Amber’s talk was absolutely fascinating, and I am still pondering on the implications of what she said. You can catch some of the same points in her TED Women talk.

The traditional tools that humans use have changed very little over thousands of years. Whereas computers have changed beyond recognition in less than 50 years.

The idea of Cyborg Anthropology first came about in 1941, when a group of scientists and technologists first met to review impact of computer technology on people. In 1992 it became a formal academic subject.

Becoming a cyborg
When you first go online, you have to start making decisions about how you will present your virtual self, and how closely related this will be to your ‘real’ self. You are likely to adjust this version of you based on feedback from your contacts.

The future

  • We will see more Calm Technology, which appears when you need it, and disappears when you don’t.
  • Technologists try to digitise old technology and nearly always fail. For example trying to ‘grab’ a virtual page and turn it, instead of pressing a button.
  • We need to have technologies which give us superhuman powers, eg Flipboard
  • There will be an increasing merging of tech with real life. E.g. body implants.
  • Real-time gaming eg MapAttack
  • Home automation that actually works.
  • The interface will begin to disappear, so that actions are reduced, queries are eliminated. E.g. Kinect for Xbox®
  • The best technology is invisible… like a book.

Q&A
Q. How do you cope with the way technology negatively impacts available time and the ability to concentrate?
A. Amber recommended moderation in all things includes technology. She recently took 3 weeks away from her email and social media to read a book a day. The government in Singapore has proposed its citizens should turn off technology an hour before bed-time to give their brains time to settle down so their sleep is effective.

Charles_LeadbetterCulture and Social Media – Charles Leadbetter

The answer lies in ‘creative muddling through’, using skill-full incompleteness.

Charles used an excellent analogy of the development of the wine industry over the last 50 years to illustrate different models of customer service that relate to the Cultural Heritage sector.

French wine is elitist, their bottles (with just a front label) give almost no clue to an amateur wine drinker as to the nature of the wine they will find inside. You need to know their language, geography, horticulture and coding systems.
The message is, ‘keep away, unless you know what you are dealing with’.

In contrast Australian wines are consumer friendly. They have colourful modern labels on the front and lots of helpful information on the back, explaining the grapes that make up the contents, and what the wine will smell and taste like. They a have a handy screw top, so you don’t even need to drink the whole bottle in one go.
The message is, ‘I go very well with your Chicken Korma’.

Because of these changes New World wines are now the largest selling in the world.

Then there is the rapidly expanding area of home made wine. People are planting their own garden vineyards and buying the wine making kit from the web. Needless to say the quality of wine produced ranges from the undrinkable to excellent.
The message here is, ‘anyone can have a go’.

Next Charles looked at four distribution models and the challenges they present for the cultural sector.

1. How we communicate

Communication

2. Where ideas come from.

Contributors

Compare this to what he called the evil genius of Simon Cowel managed to operate in three out of four sectors.

Contributors X Factor

He was particularly impressed by how Apple have been so successful, by creating a ‘guild’ of followers (customers) who believe their Apple products are helping them to live better, more modern lives.

3. How has society changed?

change

In the future to grow big with small investment will require seeing yourself as a movement, or networks with values and ideologies, not institutions, with opening hours, collections and catalogues. Social media and the web gives an opportunity to do this.

He gave the example of Barcelona football club as the kind of organisation which exemplifies this approach.

The English, who invented football, developed a game in which defenders never went beyond the half-way line. They repelled attacks with physicality and generally ‘booted’ the ball up the pitch to their attackers who had the skill to put the ball in to their opponents net.

The ball only ever went straight up and down the pitch. The occasional creative player would attempt to move the ball across the pitch instead.

However, Barcelona developed ‘total football’, where everyone is a key player with skill. The ball always moves across the pitch, never along it, the team aim is to never lose possession, and everyone has to contribute.

This has made them into the most successful football team in the world.

For Charles cultural institutions must learn that the way to win is, not to be brilliant and individualistic, but to remain part of the network, to pass, to constantly move, look for space and find interesting angles, to always remain linked. If you are not open to people passing the ‘ball’ to you, no one will be interested in playing with you.

In other words, play culture, like Barcelona play football.

Thursday 8 December

Michael_EdsonCome let us go boldly into the Future – Michael Edson

Michael gave the closing keynote talk, which was more a call to arms than an academic treatise.

He spent some time talking about future predictions from the last 50 years. He pointed out that even those ideas we think of as new, such as The Long Tail, Joy’s Law, Cognitive Surplus, Network Effects, Moores’s Law & Mobile, and Every user a Hero are no longer really new.

He built towards his message that the ‘future is now’. So we should stop worrying about what may or may not be coming down the wire, and start engaging with our present future.

He summed up with three key questions we should all be asking ourselves:
1.    What world am I living in?
2.    What impact do I want to have?
3.    What should I do today?

He also strongly recommended The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun.

I have been attending keynote talks at library and information conferences for over 20 years now, and in all that time I have only seen two genuinely evangelical speakers from an information background.

The first was Eugenie Prime at SLA Conference in Seattle in 1997, when she called on all librarians to quit whining about image and begin walking the walk. And to earn respect by forgetting about our negative image and doing our jobs better than anyone else could.

Michael Edson qualifies as the second. The audience left his session inspired to tackle this particular professional challenge. No more whinging about all the problems we face, but to focus on the solutions.

You can watch his talk on Vimeo.

Teenagers teaching Silver Surfers the web way

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1204276Once again my local paper has its finger on the pulse of social and business change. Although, once again their headline writer hasn’t exactly hit the jackpot – ‘Youngsters take Infernal Trouble out of IT for mature students.’

According to the Middy ‘For many people IT stands only for Infernal Trouble and The Web is somewhere unsuspecting technophobes get trapped.’

I would be more inclined to say that for many older people, Windows are something they prefer to open in order to let in fresh air, and the Web is something they get tangled up in all to easily.

The article is actually about a group of teenagers at Oakmeeds Community College in Burgess Hill, who run a weekly class for that growing population over Silver Surfers (The growing grey market in the UK). Interestingly the club is funded by the local Business Enterprise, so it will be interesting to see how many of these mature students are aspiring Grey Entrepreneurs.

I love the way this story goes against the usual media stereotyping of teenagers as rude and lazy, by showing them in such a positive light, using their skills and knowledge by empowering older generations to take advantage of this revolutionary technology.

It’s not all one way traffic either. According to 15 year old Lloyd Passingham, ‘I really enjoy helping at the club. It feels really good to know that something I’ve learnt, I’m passing on to someone else’.

Read or Die (R.O.D) and the coolest librarian in the world

I’m wondering if my quest for the most exciting librarian in the world (Cool librarians, More cool librarians) has now ended with the discovery of Yomiko Readman, codename The Paper, an agent for the Special Operations Division of The British Library. Yes you read that right, but may have realised that Yomiko is a fictional character set in an alternative future, where the British Empire has managed to maintain its superpower status.

In this fantasy world the British Library is an institution devoted to the promotion of literacy (so far so believable), but is also home to The British Library Special Operations Division who run operations around the world to fight book related crime and terrorism. Their slogan is ‘Peace to the books of the world, an iron hammer to those who would abuse them (I have some colleagues who would support this part), and glory and wisdom to the British Empire’.

Yomiko, the hero of the stories is a half-Japanese, half-English papermaster. This means she has the ability to manipulate paper in a wide variety of ways, including creating paper darts that can carry people, paper-rope stronger than steel, and samurai swords. As a result, she never goes anywhere without her case full of stationery supplies.

Although polite and friendly with very few exceptions, she does have a licence to kill, and does so with her deadliest technique, death by a thousand paper cuts!

Yomiko reports to Joker, a stereotypically stiff upper lip Englishman who needs a proper cup of tea in a china cup to help him in a crisis. He reports to Gentleman, an aged, one eyed man, who is the power behind the throne of the British Empire (no sign of the Royal family here).

Although not generally a fan of Manga comics, I greatly enjoyed watching the Read or Die DVD animated version of the stories last night (many thanks to colleague Matthew Shaw for the loan).

In particular I loved the way that Yomiko always asks so politely for her books to be returned to her. And the almost sexual excitement with flushed cheeks she shows when coming across a special book. Needless to say her apartment is piled high with books, to the extent that she is covered by them as she sleeps on her sofa.

Here are some links about this exciting (for a librarian) new discovery:

Please give back my book! Welcome, fellow readers, the newly revamped ReadorDie.org

Internet Movie Data Base

Wikipedia entry

Read or Die Wiki

Website Design: Ten Areas Where You Can Learn From User Behaviour

website_design_user_behaviour.jpgI am currently working with my SLA Europe colleagues to build a shiny new website for our association so these tips are timely.

Many of the clients we see in the Business & IP Centre are not planning to build their own websites, but all too often they come in with horror relating to their experiences with web designers.

In many cases they have paid a self-proclaimed ‘professional’ web designer a great deal of money to produce a site they are not happy with. As with all aspects of bringing in professionals to deliver a service your business needs, whether it is accounting, contracts or web design, the more knowledge you have the stronger position you are.

So this short guide from Alistair Gray is a good start to get you thinking about what you site should (or shouldn’t) look like.

Website Design: Ten Areas Where You Can Learn From User Behaviour

10 Unexpected Online User Behaviours To Look Out For
by Alistair Gray

1. People Have Banner Blindness

2. People Develop Tunnel Vision

3. People Skip Your Homepage

4. People Need Answers

5. People Follow The “F” Pattern

6. People See But Don’t Watch

7. People Hate Scrolling

8. People Don’t Read

9. People Are Lazy

10. People Want Directions

Protect your content against online plagiarism and theft

Many of my Business Advice clients are concerned about rivals stealing their on-line content, so I was pleasantly surprised to come across the free Copyscape service whilst researching a replacement mobile phone on the Mobile Phones UK: Reviews & Best Buys website.

All you need to do is post in your website address and see where (and how much of it) is appearing elswhere on the Web. Needless to say Copyscape offer a premium service with no monthly limit and batch searching for a fee.

Copyscape recommend you put a warning notice on your website to help scare off any potential content theives.

Defend your site with a plagiarism warning banner!

Find out your favourite blogger’s Myers-Briggs personality type with Typealyzer

Thanks to Karen Loasby* and her Favourite Tipples from FreePint from 22nd January 2009 for highlighting Typealyzer.

The (currently beta) service is a text a text classifier that analyses any blog and assigns a Myers-Briggs personality to it based on writing style.

“Typealyzer.com is developed by the happy people @ prfekt.se. Illustrations are made by Sol at Accented. Please also visit our Typealyzer group at Google!. If you want API access for R&D, try free text classification or use psychographic analysis for commercial purposes – please visit PRfekt at uClassify!

How does it work? For a long period of time, we have been training our system to recognize texts that characterize the different types. The system, typealyzer, can now by itself find features that distinguishes one type from another. When all features, words and sentences, are statistically analysed, Typealyzer is able to guess which personality type the text represents.

I have tested it on a some of my favourite blogs (and mine of course) and come up with some interesting results.

My colleague Steve van Dulken who writes about the world of inventions and how it interacts with business, the media and patents, is ISTJ – The Duty Fulfillers. “The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever. The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work int heir own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.”

Stephen Bury  (Curator of the Breaking The Rules exhibition and blog) is ISTP – The Mechanics. “The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts. The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.@

SurprisinglyEuan Semple a leader in the field of Social Computing with thousands of followers on The Obvious blog is also classified as ISTJ – The Duty Fulfillers.

Stephen Abram previous President of SLA and thought leader for Libraries 2.0 through his blog Stephen’s Lighthouse, will be pleased to hear he is INTP – The Thinkers. “The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications. They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.”

Finally, I am rather pleased to be able to report that this blog also falls into the the INTP category… remembering of course that it is all just a bit of fun.

thinker

* Karen Loasby is an Information Architect for the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) and Contributing Editor of the FUMSI Manage practice area. Karen was previously Information Architecture Team Leader in the BBC’s Future Media & Technology department, managing a team of 16 information architects. She is a regular presenter at information architecture conferences and writes about information architecture and creativity at www.iaplay.com. Karen can be reached at karen.loasby@fumsi.com

Happy slapping for the Google generation

According to Google there are two definitions of Google Slapping.

The first is what can happen to your site after Google have revised their PageRank link analysis algorithm. Some websites have seen their search results ranking drop through the floor after having been slapped with PageRank penalties, Google slapping PageRank Penalties, and a Wired article.

The second comes from a recent net@night podcast with Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte. They interviewed Mr. Calzone of http://gog.is who has developed what he calls ‘the simple Google slapper’.

“Ever felt like slapping someone with a Google search, while in an IM conversation, chat-rooms, or on Twitter? simply write http://gog.is and put the keywords in the url, like this: http://gog.is/clerks. This will redirect them to the Google search for clerks.

So the next time someone asks you how to remove spyware on their windows box, tell them to http://gog.is/remove,windows,spyware. Or simply http://gog.is/install+ubuntu. You can even write http://gog.is/what/is/love.”

This is a more friendly variation of what has become a popular response to simple questions between Internet sophisticates. They  create a link to Let me Google that for you, with the topic in question. The site generates an animation of typing the search into Google followed by the patronising message “Was that so hard?”, before producing the search results.

Here is an example for the word library. Incidentally, it is gratifying to see that the British Library comes up at number five in the results. So it looks as though we haven’t been Google slapped (definition one) recently.

“Let me Google that for you
This is for all those people that find it more convenient to bother you with their question rather than google it for themselves. Created by @coderifous, contributions by @rmm5t. Inspired during a lunch conversation with @coderifous, @tmassing, @rmm5t, @EricStratton, and @methodvon. Not associated with Google™ in any way.”

More cool librarians – Part 1

My search for the coolest librarian continued during the annual SLA conference in Seattle.

My previous winner of this (grossly under-recognised) award Louise Guy from Cirque du Soleil was not at the conference this year, although I did bump into Chad Eng, drummer in the death metal band From the Wreckage, looking suitably cool with his shoulder length blond hair and goatee beard.

This year I didn’t come away with a clear winner, but instead a trio of cool librarians.

Mary Ellen Bates

The first, and most surprising discovery for me, was Mary Ellen Bates. She is a big name in the information profession with more than 25 years of experience in business research. She has written hundreds of articles and white papers, conducted hundreds of speaking engagements, and is an acknowledged expert on variousPatty Hearst aspects of online and Internet research. Instead of her usual topic relating to what’s new in internet research and tools, her much more ambitious title was, The Next Information Revolution, and our Role as Revolutionaries. She caught my attention with her second slide which flashed up for just an instant with this photo of Patty Hearst, best known for her attachment to an SLA organisation with truly revolutionary intentions.

Her presentation (which I will cover in a later blog) was primarily about our new clients and customers known as millennials or digital natives. And how we must re-educate ourselves to provide services they want in the way they want. These are customers who will be telling us what they want rather than vice versa at present. Her blunt but effective scenarios contained scenes of librarians explaining the limitations of their databases or catalogues only to be met with, ‘I see your lips moving, but I’m not listening’. Or even worse, a response consisting of one of the two favourite three letter responses of this new generation, OMG (Oh My God) – meaning I’m not impressed, and WTF (What The ‘Heck’) – meaning I really don’t care at all about what you are saying to me.

Mary Ellen BatesAs you can see by her photo Mary Ellen does not immediately strike one as of the revolutionary mould. In fact you could say she looks something close to the stereotype of the female librarian (although sans hair in a bun and wearing a pearl necklace). But with her casual (joking) references to giving up on her crack pipe, and other amusing but unexpected comments I didn’t have time to note, she effectively destroys that negative image of information professionals.

Needless to say, as a cutting edge librarian she has a blog (since 2006) called Librarian of Fortune (Mary Ellen Bates contributes white noise to the blogosphere) at http://www.librarianoffortune.com/

I can’t wait to hear her next presentation.