Wednesday, June 14, 2006

SLA Conference, day 3

I hadn't planned on attending courses today, but I'm very glad I did.

The Science of Chocolate, presented by Debra Miller and Dave Stuart, both of Hershey Co. - A very well presented and informative course. Dave Stuart started out with the history of chocolate, from its discovery between 1500 and 300 BC by the Olemics to building of Hershey, PA. While chocolate started in South America, currently over 70% of it is produced in West Africa. Some random facts:
  • The word 'chocolate' comes from either Xocolatl or Cacahuatl, depending on the language you're talking about.
  • Ancient glyths reveal a god of Chocolate, who happened to have a scorpion tail.
  • Cacao beans were used as currency in the New World for a while; 10 would get you a rabbit.
  • Spanish sailors originally mistook cacao beans for almonds, due to their size and shape (not their taste, of course).
  • Chocolate was a drink only until 1820, when Cadbury mixed it with sugar and cocoa mass to make the first bar.
  • While chocolate has caffiene, a bar contains less than a cup of decaf coffee.
Debra Miller then went on to explain the health benefits of chocolate. Naturally, she is coming from the angle of a chocolate company, but her cited research was valid and scientific. Apparently, cocoa has more antioxidents per gram than any other natural substance tested so far. More than blueberries, more than coffee, more than tea. This results in a statistically significant reduction in blood pressure and related cardiovascular diseases. The darker the chocolate, the better, generally speaking.

Closing General Session, featuring Walt Mossberg - This was mostly a thank you and rah-rah session for the conference, with some previews of next years' event in Denver. Walt Mossberg gave a very good talk on the future of the internet and information technology. He envisions the internet falling into the background, like the power grid, and for our devices to plug into it and get what information they need (microwaves that can download cooking programs for specific foods, for example). Cellphones will become the dominant devices for retrieving content, since they are more portable and longer lasting than laptops, and can do just as much these days.
The major impediment to this is are the "Soviet Ministries", the communications companies who want a return on their investment, but are going about it in stupid, counter-productive ways. He calls for a rewriting of copyright law to be centered around the consumer, not the copyright holder, enumerating our rights, rather than merely barring copying totally and then adding a few exceptions. He favoured DRM, but not the way its implemented currently.
Walt also spoke of how search engines haven't really done anything new in the last half a decade, and that figuring out a way to improve them will be the next big leap in internet technology. Products like Yahoo! Answers he calls "ethically irresponsible", since it claims to give real answers, but really only gives anonymous people's opinions. Anonymity is a major problem, he believes, since people lack responsibility. Just as Open Source will never take off because no one is responsible for the content; it will never get past the 80% development that geeks take it to.
He covered several other topics, which can likely be viewed on the SLA's website in completion. I found the talk to be excellent, witty and definately worth my time. I'm glad Prof. Stankus had me go (pre-requisite to the free lunch he provided, which was absolutely delicious, and gave me a chance to catch up). I look forward to SLA 2007 in Denver, if I can make it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

SLA Conference, day 2

Another exciting day.

I missed the bus into town, so I had to drive in. Upon arrival, I saw the same bus number that I had dismissed at the Park n Ride... dopey me. I hate to be wasteful, paying extra for parking, but it allowed me to be in the right place at the right time to run into Prof. Stankus (always a delight; I had hoped he would make it and we'd cross paths). There will be lunch tomorrow.

On to the courses:

How to use RSS to know more and do less, presented by Jenny Levine - This course was so popular, we had to move to a larger room, and there still weren't enough seats. The popularity was well-deserved; this was a very well structured and presented course, with lots of vital content. The basic message: Web 2.o is the future, and if we want to be relavent as professionals, we need to get on board. RSS is being built into every part of the new Windows OS, and even small-town newpapers have feeds. You can collect the newest news from any sites you wish with an aggregator, and then explore them at your leisure, in one place. You can also get software to put feeds into your own website (which I will be doing), keeping your content fresh with no human intervention necessary. How do you make a feed yourself? Easiest way is to get a blog. Blogs are automatically set up to work as RSS, and can be used for more than just diaries. If your feed is often read, there are even ways to get revenue for it.
I plan to implement feeds for Slashdot, Boing Boing,, ResourceShelf and now Shifted Librarian into my News page; I will also use Feedster, the equivalent of Google for RSS, to feed me searches on subjects like DRM and the RIAA, copyright, Google Book Search, FRBR or anything else I'm interested in. I also plan to add a second blog for keeping track of updates to my site, and having it fed to my page, as well.
Jenny Levine's notes can be found at and on the SLA Conference blog.

SLA Tech Zone: Ready...Site...GO! - Wire Framing a Web Site, presented by Thomas Dopko - Another course will Tom, this time about using Photoshop, ImageReady and Dreamweaver to create a prototype website for approval by some kind of committee. Once again, we started with theory, and then moved into practical, hands-on work. The basics of what we covered: use good Information Architecture to make your site logical and easy to navigate. Have no more than 3 clicks between the user and the material (if its really weird stuff that people won't want often, perhaps more is okay, but people are lazy this millenium). When you create your prototype, put in only a few links, enough to get across the navigation concept to your audience. Since you've only 'wire framed' it, you haven't invested too much time, and can change it quickly when they shoot you down.
You can create an image of your webpage in Photoshop. Draw it, as a graphic designer would, using layers for each different element. Once you have all you need, slice the image into smaller bits, so its easier to load. Try to keep the slices as close to even as you can. That way, when you click 'Save for the web', the HTML document you get has easier table code to deal with (you don't want to loose the speed added by slicing to the lag of longer HTML loading). You can then use the map tag in Dreamweaver to make Image Maps that fit your images, making a much more interesting and unique page. A word of caution: using images for everything is great, but Google indexes by text, so make sure you include your 'alt' attribute.
I will likely go back into Photoshop and create a version 4.0 of my site in the near future, using this wireframing/slicing/image mapping strategy. This might roll out at the same time as the Flash content, or it might be staggered; I don't know yet. I have to download some trial versions first, and find free time to make the changes (oh, yeah, and do all the graphic design!).

Tomorrow, we have the Science of Chocolate, and then lunch and drinks with Prof. Stankus. From there, on to DC, then to the Outer Banks for some vacation!

Monday, June 12, 2006

SLA Conference, day 1

Today was my first full day at the SLA annual conference in Baltimore, MD. Aside from sharing an umbrella with the president-elect, and having lunch with a colleague from the library, I attended two courses that I'd like to write about while they're still fresh in my mind.

1) At-Risk: Capturing and Preserving Web Resources, presented by Cathy Hartman - This program addressed the issue of finding a way to catalogue and keep record of old webpages. The main problem is the horrid lack of standards; the W3C has recommendations for what should be on all websites, but these recommendations are not followed with any consistancy. has caught many terabytes of information, but has no indexing system. What we need, the speaker said, was more funding from organizations to preserve web resources, and more people who can communicate between Librarians and IT people. The presentation was peppered with library "Bushisms", which were interesting, but didn't add serious content.

2) SLA Tech Zone: Macromedia Flash Integration - Scalable, Portable and Memorable, presented by Thomas Dopko. I really enjoyed this course; Tom started out with the reasons why Flash has value in a library setting. Many people assume that since its 'flashy' and so often used for funny animations, that it has no serious applications. This is untrue. Flash is simple a programming language for content that happens to lend itself well to visuals. It can be used just as effectively, if not moreso, than Powerpoint, and is far more memorable. It can also be read by any browser with the necessary plug-in; not so with Powerpoint. Unfortunately, Flash animations are more difficult to create than Powerpoints, and the software is pretty pricey. For a large organization that can afford a Flash expert, though, it is very practical to integrate.
We also had a chance to play around with Macromedia Flash 8 a bit, putting together a simple animation from some pre-created parts. I wish we'd had more time to work on it, but I'll see Tom again for the Wireframing course, and I can download Flash for 30 days from Adobe. That should be long enough to get some decent graphics put together for my site.

I left the conference very excited and pleased. I look forward to tomorrows courses!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Another dual program

Some research for my Information Architecture class as turned up another dual degree program between Library Science and Computer Science.

The University of Hawaii's LIS is located within its Computer department, so I'm not surprised this dual degree has come into existence. However, even if URI is not the first to offer these two degrees at once, we are still the only place I know of on the East Coast that does.

I had applied to UH, and got in, but from what I've heard, Hawaii isn't in the best economical situation right now, and the cost of living is very high (which may or may not balance out with the low tuition). Also, previous residents and recent visitors have told me that there is quite a bit of racism towards Caucasians.

I'm in the right place.