Alexa, Jelly, and Web 3.8

Forget Web 2.0! That is so 2005! Now we have Web 3.8. Wow!

What is that? Remember ‘six degrees of separation’? Well, according to Biz Stone, the guys who came up with that theory have done more research and found that in this digitally connected era, the degrees of separation have reduced to just 3.8.

Rich Roll interviews Biz Stone in an intriguing interview where Biz explains his newest website and system – askjelly. Biz Stone is one of the guys who co-founded Twitter. Oh – that Biz Stone!

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Askjelly is a systemised knowledgebase that uses people for answers instead of text-based information on the Internet. As Rich and Biz spoke I realised that Librarians might finally be out of a job. The famous quote by Neil Gaiman: ‘Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.’, might finally be defunct. Biz has found a way to crowd-source the subjective questions.

So I put askjelly to the test and posed the question: “What will happen to Librarians in the age of knowledge-bases, ‘jelly’ and AI?

And shortly thereafter I received two thoughtful replies:

From CallKathy:

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And from Chris:

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Biz’s theory is that there are not really unique questions, and that someone on this planet will have the answer for you.

He then went on to show how this technology works with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa and it evoked similarities to the AI robot in the movie Her.

Rich Roll has kindly listed a lot of the relevant articles and links in the show notes of his podcast information and it’s well worth a look.

As for the success of #askjelly and the future of Librarianship – only time will tell.

 

Zombies and the future of libraries

What do zombies have to do with the future of libraries you may well ask? In ‘reality’ if there was a zombie apocalypse, libraries would perish along with all of humanity. And being zombies, one would hardly expect them to have an active interest in the future of libraries or indeed any intellectual pursuit.

Like many librarians I have been thinking about the future of libraries a lot lately. It is a hot topic in the library world, mainly due to evolving technology, the proliferation of internet-connected personal devices, and the cheap and easy access to eBooks. The spread of the World Wide Web did not result in the end of libraries, but it has reduced our physical non-fiction collections substantially. Now with the second wave of internet-enabled technologies, does anyone need to go to a library at all to get hold of the reading material they want and need? Perhaps that end is in sight and this has resulted in a lot of talk amongst library professionals. So what are we here for?

The Victorian Public Libraries 2030 Strategic Framework was published in 2013 after 18 months of intensive collaborative discussions by public library staff in Victoria, of which I was privileged to be a part. Future scenarios were discussed in detail, how these scenarios might unfold, and what might be the key drivers to certain future scenarios. The drivers were identified as: technology, environmental issues, commuting, economic problems, health, increasing ageing population, cooperative endeavours, education and lifelong learning. The final stages of these discussions allowed us to add public libraries into the scene, thereby discussing how best to address and take full advantage of some new unfolding situations. Two future scenarios emerged: the creative scenario; and the community scenario. Both of these scenarios described the future public library as a community space.

Library as ‘community space’ has already had a whole lot of verbiage. Isn’t that what public libraries have always been? Perhaps I am not old enough to remember the places of shush, where reading books was done alone and in silence. There is value in the concepts of place-making, maker-spaces, and community collaboration. This has been, and continues to be, my experience of the library. The only quiet library space I can recall is the reading room of the State Library of Victoria; otherwise libraries are full of conversation, activity, people traffic, meetings, entertainment, coffee, and laughter. Oh, and books!

Personally, I am typically bookish, introverted, nerdy, and self-motivated. I like to explore notions on my own. This is the main reason why I love libraries. I enjoy following a pathway through literature that is entirely determined by me and as a result of my reading. I have described this as ‘delving into the book’; it is an entirely unique journey that begins and ends with the book, with regular forays online when new information is needed. I concur with the words that Nancy Pearl wants as her epitaph, “I’d rather be reading.”

The IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994 does not mention the book at all, despite being written pre-internet. The manifesto defines public libraries as “the local gateway to knowledge”, and is essential for “fostering peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of men and women.” Key mission number two, “supporting both individual and self conducted education”, validates my own habits. Public libraries are seen as fundamental to democracy, prosperity and knowledge, so how can anyone consider a future without libraries?

At the recent ALIA Future of the Profession Summit Mark Pesce urged those librarians present to share their knowledge in order to plan a future for libraries. He reminded them that “the culture of sharing has its origins in the library.” And while “the light of knowledge shines more brightly than ever before, from two billion smartphone screens”, this is an opportunity because it is librarians who are the experts “in an environment of informational hyperadundance.” While the librarians in Victoria did just that last year, the resulting framework is one interpretation of possible future scenarios. The trick is in being able to recognise the triggers and apply the strategies at the right time.

Neil Gaiman is an enthusiastic supporter of libraries and he explained recently that “everything changes when we read”, that “libraries are the gates to the future”, and by closing libraries “you are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.” A dire warning indeed!

So back to the zombies… Dr. Matthew Finch is responsible for The Zombies of Tullamore:

In an interview with Corin Haines he talks about his approach to attracting people into the library. By choosing a theme that excites the imagination of a particular audience, he uses the activity to enhance the literacy experience within the library. I’m sure lots of librarians and teachers do this already, but this is a good example of how to do it well and to instill the learning opportunity into the activity. It is more than just a trendy promotional hook; it is immersive learning through role play and self discovery.

He identifies “why Zombies are good for libraries:

  1. Zombies attract kids and teens of all backgrounds.
  2. Zombies remind us that libraries are about more than shelves.
  3. Zombies promote choice and independent learning.
  4. Zombies may decay, but immersive literacy lives on.”

A lot more about the future of library profession can be found here.

This is what I know:

  • People will keep creating new content: fiction and non-fiction.
  • People will want to read that content for a multitude of reasons.
  • People will always expect and deserve to get unrestricted access to reading materials.
  • Technology will continue to evolve and change the way we live.
  • Library funding will continue to be threatened.
  • Librarians will continue to want to organise content.
  • Libraries will continue to be adapted and adjusted to accommodate the new.
  • Fun makes learning easier.
  • Zombies are fiction.

P.S. R. David Lankes talks about the future of libraries in this presentation From Loaning to Learning

Country connections

Library services in the 21st century rely heavily on electronic resources and the internet. We hear of the demise of the physical book and ebooks are being chosen as a preferred format by many people. Google has stolen much of the research assistance once done by Librarians. We are far from card catalogues, limited physical collections of books, and even library standards like the LCSH are being replaced by tags.

While the World Wide Web has increased and broadened information accessibility, it has also radically changed the working lives of Librarians. And there is more to come. Where will we be when a library can’t purchase an item whether it is physical or electronic and we have to subscribe to platforms for everything? How is that going to impact small town libraries and their people?

This all hinges on the internet for access and delivery and there is this widely held notion that this access is a given. But it is not so. Even in the not-so-remote parts of Victoria where I live and work, there are “black spots” where whole towns have no coverage other than dial-up.

Not only does this prevent any delivery and connection via web-based models, such as the online library catalogue, but it means that many people residing in these towns are well behind in knowledge, acceptance, and skills in using this form of information. More and more organisations are only offering online services now. Think about how you submit your tax return, book flights and shows, apply for jobs, etc.

And when a know-it-all interloper from the city breezes into town espousing the wonders and virtues of the internet, they are seen as some kind of snake oil salesman.

 Places like this still exist and are being used as such. Disability access, OH&S, even reliable electricity are not seen as important factors, let alone on any kind of priority list. Attempts at network access via 3G fail repeatedly. So trying to convert the stubborn country folk is a trial of proportions not appreciated by library suppliers from the cities where fast reliable connectivity is expected. Even trying to coax people into using the internet to order and reserve physical books is like trying to teach an aqua-phobic  to swim.

Library services provided to small remote towns with limited internet connectivity are a lifeline to a larger world. While these people value, want and need their regular book delivery, many are yet to catch on to the possibilities that are there waiting for them.

Will the NBN come to the rescue of these people? Or are they destined to growing disadvantage caused by the digital divide?

This is an interesting talk given by Philip Kent in September 2011 at Melbourne University about Research Libraries in the 21st Century.

There is an app for that

Apps are revolutionising the way we all use the internet and the way we connect, are entertained and informed. I love my iPod and the things it does for me keeps expanding and enriching my days. When I bought it all I wanted was a device that could play my music choices and allow me to listen to my favourite radio programs when I could. Little did I know how much more this little device could do for me? And it’s not even an iPhone!

Here is a list of the “apps” I currently have on my iPod:

App name Description Internet required
1 iTunes Basic Apple function for iPods, iPhones, iPads yes
2 App Store Basic Apple location for Apps yes
3 Safari Internet Browser for Apple products yes
4 Mail Connects to your chosen email i.e. Gmail yes
5 Facebook Facebook functions via mobile device yes
6 Twitter Twitter functions via mobile device yes
7 Tweetdeck Twitter functions via mobile device yes
8 Google Earth Access to Google Earth yes
9 Wikipedia Access to Wikipedia yes
10 Skpye Face to Face chat – personal “phone” calls yes
11 YouTube YouTube videos yes
12 DrawCast Doodle and create pictures no
13 Solitaire Card game no
14 Mahjong Tile game no
15 Sodoku Number game no
16 Hipstamatic Photography with camera options and photo editing no
17 ClassicCam Photography with camera options and photo editing no
18 Art Guide Lists of art galleries, artists, exhibitions yes
19 Thousands Australian events guide by city yes
20 TED TED talks yes
21 At the Movies ABC At the Movies show yes
22 Dictionary Dictionary yes to refresh but not to find word
23 Translate Translation software with many language options with speech option yes
24 Dropbox File saving and transfer i.e. Word documents yes
25 Pages Document creation and file transfer Not to create and save documents but yes to transfer
26 RTM – Remember The Milk To Do Task list and organiser no
27 Mind Tools Leadership and Management tips no
28 LIndedin Professional Profile connections yes
29 Flashlight Handheld light no
30 Yoga Yoga postures and instructions no
31 Insight Timer Meditation timer and bell no
32 Nike + iPod Exercise walk and run workout program no
33 LYR – Log Your Run Exercise walk run cycle workout program no
34 MyNetDiary Calorie and nutrition counter no
35 21 Day Veg Kickstart Vegetarian diet and recipes no
36 Dalai Lama A brief overview of the life of the Dalai Lama no
37 Buddha Quotes Inspirational quotes yes
38 Amazon Search and purchase at Amazon.com yes
39 Kindle eBook purchasing, storing and reading Yes to purchase but not to read eBook
40 iBooks Apple eBook purchasing, storing and reading Yes to purchase but not to read eBook
41 Borders Borders eBook purchasing, storing and reading Yes to purchase but not to read eBook
42 State Library NSW NSW State Library Events and information yes
43 Library Anywhere Connection to Public Library catalogues yes
44 iSpydus Staff Library Catalogue connection for Library Staff yes
45 Podcasts Enormous amount of podcasts to choose from radio, TV, independent.
Find your favourite and subscribe for automatic updates when you have
internet access.
Yes to download but not to listen

Net dependent

It’s a short 13 years since the World Wide Web burst onto our world and it makes me wonder how we operated before then. Everything is dependent now on immediate information online.

 

Since returning to work in a public library I notice the change in the usage needs of our customers. The demand for the free public PC’s continues to fill our booking system every day and rarely is there a pc vacant; more often there are customers waiting in line. But the nature of that usage has also changed. People are now using these PC’s for online banking, confirming flight details, applying for jobs using online application forms, lodging their tax returns, email of course, promoting their businesses, researching medical conditions on their doctors advice, and children are using the internet to play online games as well as researching for their school projects. The public usage has become more essential and sophisticated. There is an expectation in the business world that everyone has an internet PC at home, when this is clearly not the case. How quickly we all adopt and adapt to advances in technology.

 

As the online information is displayed more and more in multimedia formats, our public PC’s need to respond to this trend and provide basic software for this; basic image editing software and image display software such as flash, Java, and Media Player.

Staying connected

While on holiday touring Europe I tried to stay connected to my family via email. I found that the variables with internet facilities were as ubiquitous as the variables in bathroom plumbing. Everywhere presented different systems that needed re-negotiation.

 

Not all hotels offer a PC with internet connection. Some are free to hotel guests while others require payment, either by coin in a slot, or credit card logon. And the fees vary.

Internet shops can be found here and there, but not everywhere. Again fees vary considerably.

 

Browsers and keyboards differ from what we are used to. Software systems are usually in the language of the country and sometimes there is no address box for typing in URL’s. MS Windows is worldwide so it is easy to recognise familiar icons. A lady in Italy asked me to help her with her PC because she assumed I could understand Italian from my apparent familiarity with the Italian browser. Keyboard arrangements differ too according to the language of the country, so familiar typing habits can hinder the speed of writing an email and inevitably cost you more money. Imagine “q” for “a” and “y” for “z” and the “m” moved entirely. Finding the “@” key can prove to be a challenge every time.

 

Deqr familz,

It is Summer in Europe so the weqther is hot qnd sunnz. We hqve seen the Eiffel Tower, the Sistine Chqpel, the stqtue of Dqvid qnd the Monq Lisq.

Be home soon.

Xxx

 

 

 

 

 

I managed to send and receive emails in Engelberg, Rome, Venice, Florence, Paris and London. Accessing Facebook was not always possible, but I updated when I could. Hearing news from Australia on TV or in the newspapers is almost non-existent. We Australians do not rate in the world’s thinking. Even world weather reports ignore us altogether. I think this is a good thing though and hope it remains that way. “Where the bloody hell are you?” spoken by a young Aussie lady in a television commercial for tourism, wondering where all the tourists are, could be more accurately expressed by most residents of the Northern Hemisphere when asked about Australia.