Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Welcome to 23 Things + 5

This year adds 5 new items to 23 Things, making it 23 Things + 5, which actually brings it to 28 things in total.

This program is intended to be a continuation of the existing program, so if you are looking for where to start, try this list of the original 23 Things first.

The 5 new items are (use the links below to view each one):
If you're a Swinburne library staff member and you haven't yet registered your participation, please do so using this form. We will keep track of your progress (in private this time), and send you a double movie pass when you are done.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them on this blog or contact a 23 Things buddy or committee member, who will be introduced to you in July 2008.

5. Read about the Semantic Web

Play MP3 Play audio introduction for this task

Now that we have a bit of an idea of what “Web 2.0” is, some people have begun to speculate about what Web 3.0 might consist of. Many accept that it will focus on the Semantic Web, a concept introduced by the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and explained in his book Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web (2000).

The word "semantic" refers to the meaning of text, and the "Semantic Web" refers to the idea of drawing meaning from the information on the web.

The web as it currently stands consists largely of free-form text as well as images, links, interactive forms and more. Automatic machines such as search engines can do a good job of grabbing and storing this text and these links, so that we may use keywords to find information. However, these machines are simply looking for word matches. They cannot logically understand the meaning of the text on the web and draw logical conclusions from it.

If we use standard file formats which mean something to computers rather than humans, then machines would be able to do something more intelligent with that data. Such file formats wouldn't contain text for humans to read and understand, but data for computers to understand: information on "people", "dates", "events", "places" and other things.

Let's say we wanted to find the answer to a complex question like, "what was the weather like in Melbourne on the opening day of the Seoul Olympics?" Search engines are particularly bad at finding such data, because it would typically involve looking up information from more than one source and understanding how it relates together.

If there existed a standard computer based format for expressing dates, events, locations, and weather, however, and there were websites which provided information in this format, then a search engine or other computer based process may be able to find the answer to the above question.

While the Semantic Web as described by Berners-Lee has not yet been realised oon a large scale, its concepts have been used in the formation of a set of standards, such as RDF (Resource Description Framework), a file format which describes what data means.

Some, such as blogger Cory Doctorow (Walmsley, 2008) argue that it could never be realised on a large scale due to the unreliability of metadata. He suggests that getting people to create data that it is both in a consistent format and free from errors is asking too much of humans.

Your task

Read about the idea of the Semantic web - you may use one of the resources below or look it up on your own.

Can you see how such a Semantic web could be used? Write your opinion on your blog.

Further information

4. Try Voyage RSS feed reader

Play MP3 Play audio introduction for this task

For this task we look at a familiar product with a non-traditional interface: an RSS feed reader called Voyage which employs a visual display to structure and depict information.

Voyage RSS feed reader

Voyage is an unusual example of an RSS feed reader. You might remember feed readers from last year's 23 Things. If you haven't

Here is what Andy Biggs, the designer, says about Voyage:
'Voyage is an RSS Reader with a difference. It’s been carefully designed around the content it displays. Add RSS feeds from your favourite sites and let voyage pull all the information together for your reading pleasure.

'How do I use it? It’s simple. Posts are organised by date; to scroll through them just use your mouse, or the up and down keys on your keyboard. Add and remove RSS feeds using the management pane at the bottom.’
Your task

First, play with Voyage.

You can maximise a topic by clicking on the pink and blue '+' signs. Click on a web address to load up an article or post.

Then, find an RSS feed and add it to Voyage.

How do I find RSS feeds?

Many sites have news feeds that you can subscribe to. Almost all blogs have a news feed; that even includes your own blog. More and more library databases now also have feeds. Look for the orange feed icon. For more information, take a look at these instructions from last year's 23 Things.

Some popular news sites with RSS feeds
Add your own feed

To add a feed, click on the orange 'Add an RSS Feed' link at the bottom of the screen, paste the feed url into the box and click on Add. Can you meet the challenge of finding it again?

Tell us what you think of Voyage on your blog!

3. Use KartOO visual meta search engine

Play MP3 Play audio introduction for this task

KartOO is a visual search engine with an interface offers something a little extra. KartOO divides results into several categories, some serious, some not so serious.

The results are displayed in clusters using Flash and sheet of paper icons. Some results are more relevant than others, and clicking on an icon takes you to a deeper level of results. This might be a little confusing at first, but moving your mouse over a result produces a result summary at left, including a screenshot of the result page.

Your task

Do some images searches on KartOO.

Tell us what you think about it on your blog.

Further exploration

2. Use VuFind to search a library catalogue

Play MP3 Play audio introduction for this task

VuFind: The Library OPAC meets Web 2.0

VuFind is a library resource portal designed and developed for libraries by libraries. The goal of VuFind is to enable your users to search and browse through all of your library's resources by replacing the traditional OPAC to include:
  • Catalog records
  • Digital library items
  • Institutional repositories
  • Institutional bibliography
  • Other library collections and resources
VuFind is completely modular so libraries can implement just the basic system, or all of the components. And since it's open source, they can modify the modules to best fit their needs or add new modules to extend resource offerings.

The latest library to use VuFind is our own National Library of Australia catalogue which was launched on the 27th May 2008.

A few libraries with Sirsi Unicorn are currently testing VuFind to see if it works for them.

Your task

What we would like you to do is go to the VuFind website and find some items using their live demo, and then you could go and have a look at how the National Library of Australia looks using VuFind.

Let us know on your blog what you think of this system and if it is a good replacement for a library OPAC.