Archive | February, 2005

More New Gen

The morning’s session on a new generation of information services was continued into the afternoon with four speakers, two from Thomson, one from Wolters Kluwer and one from Elsevier. So I suppose the afternoon represents what the old generation of producers is doing to meet the new generation of researchers.

Thomson Scientific’s Rachel Buckley, who’s in product development for ThomsonPharma, thinks Thomson’s development patterns are similar to Google’s, as articulated by Cathy yesterday — Release early, refine later. That, in itself, strikes me as a major change for traditional online companies. Rachel’s version of extreme product management involves aggressive versioning and showing customers a product, then asking what they like and don’t like about it. In the pharmaceutical industry, there are some 20 vendors selling information, making for a very complex environment. People want more integration — one invoice, one contract.

ThomsonPlus is the company’s playground, where it is experimenting with a technical architecture that integrates Thomson data, on the fly, from many divisions within Thomson. It’s the first pass at bringing together information from across Thomson companies. Woooo,that would be more new generation than old.

Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

New Generation

Gail Hodge of Advanced Information Research & Technologies Group, Information International Associates, Inc. talks about fluid content in a personalized context. She concentrates on providing information to the intelligence community, something that’s gained prominence since 9-11. I was surprised to hear that over 80% of intelligence information is open source. Gail’s group surveyed users and discovered great diversity in how they used information and what delivery methods they were comfortable with. This means that, to be effective, a personalized workflow is essential. Update schedule is important, as is version control. Gail also made reference to differences in those digital natives and immigrants — which seems to have become the informal theme of this conference.

Les Grivell is in a totally different discipline, molecular biology. He showed slides with moving cells to emphasize how important dynamic rather than static information is becoming. His surveys show an increasing need for better inconnectivity, particularly literature articles with different types of molecular data, including images, searching and retrieving full text even when users aren’t at their desks, and the importance of multilingual. Now he’s demonstrating E-BioSci with query fingerprints connecting with resource fingerprints. There’s also a version for non-specialist searchers, such as school teachers and students. This is a European project, funded by the EC.

Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

Working Lunch

Delegates will soon be venturing out into Center City for small group lunches, but
a small (elite?) group of us has been invited to a special members-only lunch.

I was at first flattered to accept the invitation on behalf of Information Today, but when the pre-lunch reading assignment came I was not so sure I had chosen wisely.

The reading assignment?

In advance of the lunch, please read the book “Confronting Reality–Doing What Matters to Get Things Right,” by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, Crown Business, 2004, ISBN 1-4000-5084-7.

At 264 pages, it is considerably longer than most materials I am subjected to reading these days. And in mild protest, I complained to NFAIS HQ, gee, I much prefer books the size of Who Stole My Cheese, a kiddie-sized tome that was on the management reading list a few years back.

But, being a good boy, I did read the book–and I’m talking cover-to-cover and word-for-word. And, okay, I confess, it’s a fairly good read. For those of you in the information industry, you might want to at least check out Chapter 9, which discusses Thomson’s strategy in selling off its newspaper business and getting into digital services aimed at professional markets.

I’m on my way to the lunch right now. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Dick Kaser
ITI VP, Content


R. Paul Ryan, Acting Administrator, Defense Technical Information Center, and a past NFAIS President, found a comfortable place in the Ritz hotel’s lobby to catch up with messages on his PDA during a program break.

Dick Kaser
ITI VP, Content

Venue as a Statement

What is it with publishers wanting to meet in old bank vaults?

When SIIA chose the venue for its Information Industry Summit earlier this month, they chose Gotham Hall, a former bank, in New York City.

NFAIS has for years now been meeting at the Ritz in Philadelphia, a building which started out as a bank.

Both Gotham Hall and the Ritz are marble palaces. As you move through them they make the statements that the bankers who originally built them were also trying to make. This place is safe, secure, rock solid, and, well, wealthy.

The original owners also wanted to make a cultural statement. The Ritz, which is an historic landmark, was designed after the Pantheon in Rome–the place where the gods of Rome were each given a niche in which to live.

Are there parallels to be drawn here? I’m not going to get into it. But I do think the publishers (and dressed as they are) do tend to fit the landscape that this venue creates.

Dick Kaser
ITI VP, Content

Content Within Context

Now we’re into a panel of case studies on how people in diverse user communities search and retrieve information and how the research processes are integrated into workflow.

John Cox, a British directory publisher and publishing industry consultant, started by explaining he’s not an academic researcher, he’s a business man who’s looking for practical information. He detailed all the places he goes for information, including the business department of his local public library, the London Business Library, and the library of the Institute of Directors. But what’s his favorite? Google. He ended by pleading for pricing of data that is consistent with the needs of small and medium sized enterprises. “Convince me you have the tools I need. I’m willing to pay.”

Louis Graziano, Rohm & Haas, is talking about intellectual property information. His case study topic is printer ink. Analytic mapping tools he uses include Micropatent, Aureka/Themescape, and ClearForest. But he wants better tools. Human analysis is still needed, the tools don’t do everything. He also thinks the tools are cumbersome. He wants more flexibility, better visualization, interactive analysis with other users, and more meaningful word grouping.

Nick Dempsey, an analysis at EPS, gives the consultancy viewpoint (wait, wasn’t Cox a consultant, too?) and is also British. His firm has an Ask EPS service, which is a 2-3 hour research activity (sounds a bit like some of FindSVP’s business). He’s wishing he could afford Factiva, Business Source Premier, D&B, and Bureau van Dijk products. They’re very good at searching Google (mostly because they know where to look) and they’ve got internal Access databases. They also do primary research for clients. Now he’s telling about Groove, a collaboration tool, and says it’s not ideal, but the concept has great usefulness. Having used Groove for a project, I completely agree with him. Wants a tool that will store and automatically categorize sources found. How about using VoIP to capture voice conversations, then store them and make them searchable. Moving from the futuristic, he’s noting that LexisNexis and Westlaw are effectively targeting small niche law firms. Other SMEs? Research analysts at investment banks, marketing and strategy folks, and small businesses in the knowledge economy.

Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

Studying Scholar

One other thing J.L. said yesterday about Google Scholar was that it was expanding beyond STM to social sciences and humanities. He also announced that Google Scholar was adding JSTOR journals. I caught up with him at the reception and asked how many JSTOR journals were now in Scholar. He frowned, grabbed his phone, and called a colleague, I’m assuming at the GooglePlex, since it was still working hours in California. The answer? 10 — that’s only ten — journals. I tried some sample searches this morning and, as far as I can tell, they’re all in the discipline of economics.

Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

Sense-Making Research from OCLC

Lynn Silipigni Connaway just finished presenting OCLC’s research project called Sense-Making the Information Confluence. But the session was actually titled “Satisfying the Information Needs of the College and University User: preliminary Results of a Two-Year, Multidisciplinary User Investigation.” The survey research, I would say, didn’t create much new knowledge. Faculty and students both, in most situations, turn first to Internet search engines and then to electronic databases for their electronic information. Only when it comes a situation regarding life outside their colleges and universities do students mention chat rooms and discussion lists (aka listservs). Faculty don’t. The fact that this is the only time chat rooms and listservs come up in the top 3 choices suggests that even students aren’t necessarily Digital Natives. Common themes of librarians were that users don’t think of the library first, but they do use library services, and that there’s too much information, too many choices. Librarians feel they’re competing with Google and Amazon. Lynn concluded that librarians should do more marketing and branding.

A question from the audience pointed up some weaknesses in the survey. It’s not international — everyone surveyed is in Ohio — and it doesn’t break down results by discipline. Yet we know that academic disciplines research patterns are quite different. A chemist, an engineer, an economist, and a musician simply don’t approach the research process similarly.

Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

A Google Encore — Late Yesterday

We told you about the keynote presentation yesterday by Cathy Gordon, of Google.

Cathy reappeared during the NFAIS business meeting last evening, along with John Lewis Needham (Strategic Partner Development Manager, Google), to discuss some specific recent Google product launches with the publishers and vendors assembled here.

Up for open discussion were Google Print, Google Libraries, and Google Scholar.

Quick review:

* Google Print involves Google working with publishers to make their books searchable on the public engine; and the Google representatives described it as an initiative to help publishers market their books. Users see a page or two free. Google refers the users to a place to buy the book.

* Google Libraries is the project that Google has going with five libraries (Stanford, New York Public, Harvard, U of Michigan and Oxford) to digitize the books in their collections. The Google reps. reminded publishers that copyright status of a work will determine how much of a scanned book from one of these collections will be displayed.

* Google Scholar “attempts to allow people to search across scholarly content,
10s of millions of items from those publishers who have allowed crawlers to index their full text.” If full-text is available, they explained, the publisher’s version will be the default link. If no text is available, then the default will be to link users to the results of Web search for the document.

The way Google described each of these things, they were all about ramping the discovery and use of materials that otherwise may be hidden behind firewalls and increasing traffic for publishers’ materials.

It wasn’t entirely clear, upon questioning, how A&I databases might fit into the Google model, but delegates to the conference were urged to think about how their materials might be of use and interest to a wider market.

Google itself, they said, doesn’t really think about how they will monetize content in advance. There’s no advertising associated now with any of the three new services (well except for pass thru to full-texts and book buying opportunities).
“In the long run, content,” said Gordon, “gets monetized. Scholar is a long way from being a finished product. We don’t want to burden it with advertising.”

Dick Kaser
ITI, VP, Content

Chatting @ NFAIS — Day II

Good morning and welcome back to our live coverage of the NFAIS Annual Conference.

The theme of the conferece sessions today is “Content in Context.” And NFAIS has lined up a number of speakers from a variety of organizations to take on the challenge of addressing this theme.

This afternoon, Jim McGinty, Vice Chairman, Cambridge Information Group, will be speaking, in what NFAIS calls its “MIles Conrad Lecture.” More about that later, but the honor of giving this talk is regarded as the major award that NFAIS can bestow on an individual.

While outside, a Nor’Easter threatens to bury this hotel in snow(or will it be rain?), it’s warm and cozy in the hotel.

The sessions started promptly at 8:30.

Dick Kaser
ITI, VP, Content