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SLA 2011 Opening Keynote Address

Anne Caputo, Past President of SLA, introduces the 2011 keynote speaker

Thomas Friedman

The SLA Opening keynote address was given by Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times and winner of three Pulitzer Prizes.  He wrote The World is Flat in 2005, when there was no Facebook, Twitter, Skype, or apps.  Now, the Nepali government provides high speed internet and video from the top of Mt. Everest!  Today’s major challenge to America is the merger of globalization and information technology.

Where did the idea of globalization come from?  In 2004, Friedman wanted to write a documentary on why people are mad at America, so he went to Bangalore, India, capital of outsourcing and made a documentary on “the dark side of outsourcing”.  He discovered that globalization has been taken to a whole new level.  The global economic playing field is being leveled, and America is not ready for it.  This experience led him to write The World is Flat.

There have been 3 great eras of globalization:

  1. 1492-1800:  The world shrunk from size Large to size Medium.  You went global through your country.
  2. 1800s to 2000:  The world went from size Medium to Small.  The agent of globalization was companies.
  3. 2000-today:  The world is shrinking from Small to Tiny and flattening at the same time.  This era is not built around countries or companies but around individuals and the degree to which we can and must act globally as individuals.  This is unprecedented.

Four key forces have produced this world:

  1. PCs allowed individuals to create and author their own content in digital form.
  2. August 9, 1995, the day that Netscape went public, was the most important day in our lifetime.  It changed the world because of their invention, the browser, which illustrated everything that was previously locked away in inaccessible files only available to computer scientists.  It brought the computer to life so that everyone could interact with the Internet with equal facility.  That was also the date of the Netscape IPO.  It was priced at $28/share, and closed that day at $56, which showed that there was value in the Internet and caused a rush to every Internet stock.  That in turn funded a massive deployment of fiber optic cable, which made anyone anywhere in the world a neighbor.
  3. Transmission protocols and Networking by HTML, etc. made everybody’s computer interoperable and connected.  Nobody has to think about whether they will be able to connect with somebody anywhere in the world to collaborate.
  4. Everyone can upload their own content and share it with the world.  The world is full of uploads.  The mother of all uploads is Wikipedia; every second it gets another entry.

These things flattened the world and created a platform where people could collaborate at less cost than ever before in the history of the world.  We are in a universe of collaboration. This flattening is the biggest inflection point since Gutenberg’s press.  We are going from a vertical to a horizontal environment where value will be created by what you create and collaborate with.  This point has been playing out over 20 years.

Major trends:

  1. When the world is flat, whatever can be done will be done.  The only question is will it be done by you or to you!  Whatever idea you have, somebody will have it a second later.  If you don’t pursue it, somebody else will.
  2. The single most important competitive advantage you can have is between you and your own imagination.  Imagination is so important because what you imagine as an individual can be acted on cheaper and taken farther than ever before.  Everything is a commodity except imagination.   The world will bifurcate into 2 kinds of countries–high imagination enablers (HIEs) and low imagination enablers (LIEs).
  3. The world is getting flatter and flatter and more and more hyper-productive.  CEOs used the recession to get very efficient.  The jobs they eliminated are gone and are not coming back.  We are getting a huge skills bias polarization: if you have skills, you will be very productive if you can do non-routine work that cannot be easily automated, digitized, or outsourced.  If you are doing anything routine in a routine way, you are in danger.  That world is shrinking and being collapsed.  “Average” is officially over.  Whatever you do, don’t be average.  CEOs have tremendous access to people who can do things above average; if you just show up, you won’t have your job very long.  Those who just work in the old ways are the first to be laid off.  Employers want people who can do critical thinking and reasoning and who can invent and re-invent the job.  Everybody has to find their “extra”, which will be different for everybody.  Find out what yours is, develop it, and exploit it.

We have two challenges today in education:  left brain: rote, math, etc.; and right brain:  creating, storytelling, and empathy.  It is increasingly becoming a right brain world.  We have to bring the bottom up to the world average, and we have to bring our own average up to the new ceiling about the creativity needed to reinvent the job.  We need to value the liberal arts more than ever because that is where creativity comes from.  Creativity occurs when people who have mastered two fields use the framework of one to nourish the other.  Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford is the greatest statement on the liberal arts.

The world is getting flatter and flatter. The gap between routine and non-routine work is getting wider, and the demands of employers are that you invent the job.  The demands of education are all about the things that liberal arts give us.

In the world of info overload, if we knew what our companies know, the world would be amazing.  This is major opportunity for librarians who are called on to tell us what we know.

Almost 3 of 4 people now have a cell phone, and their phones are getting smarter.  India is adding 15 million cell phones each month.  We are rapidly heading to a world where everybody is connected: universal connectivity.  Connectivity will become like electricity and will disappear.  All the old fashioned things will make a huge comeback: trust, values, ethics, and judgment will matter more than ever.  That will be hugely important to the librarian and information industry.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


Need A Button?

If you need a button, visit Research Solutions‘ booth, and you will have 13 library-themed ones plus one proclaiming your love for Philadelphia to choose from.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

A Most Interesting Display

(L-R) Marydee Ojala, Editor of ONLINE Magazine; Michael LaGreca, VP, Library Access Programs, Material Connexion; and Paula Hane, ITI's News Bureau Chief, in the Material Connexion booth

Material Connexion Display Board

I found the Material Connexion booth one of the most unusual I have ever seen at a library show.  Material Connexion is right in tune with today’s emphasis on conservation, “green” materials, etc.  Formed by some materials scientists, they have constructed a database listing sources of materials made out of unusual recycled materials for use in libraries and other buildings.  The database allows the user to specify the properties desired in the materials and returns a list of materials meeting the specified criteria, and suppliers.

For example, here are some of products on display.

Leather made from a cow's stomach

Textiles from Silkworm Cocoons

Work Surface Made From Counterfeit Currency

Super-strong Paper Made from Hippopotamus Dung

I was fascinated, entertained, and educated by this display.  (Of course,my interest was heightened because I studied materials science as a graduate student!)

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

SLA 2011 Opens in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Skyline

The 2011 SLA conference opened this afternoon in Philadelphia’s Convention Center.


Here are some scenes from the exhibit hall.


Even though it was early, the massage station for weary attendees was open for business.

Want a flashing star to wear in your lapel? Get one at the Backstage Library Works booth.

Backstage Library Works helps libraries with their “back office” tasks, from placing RFID tage on books to re-labeling items in a collection.

Where is the China Data Center?  Hint:  It’s not in China!  Look at the photo below.


It’s at the University of Michigan.

Think today is your lucky day?  Visit the Mary Ann Liebert booth to find out!

Tom Mulak (L) and Geoff Worton (R) in the Mary Ann Liebert booth

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


Next Year in Philadelphia!

SLA’s 2011 Annual Conference will be held June 12-15 in Philadelphia, PA.

See you there!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blogger

Independence Hall

The Liberty Bell

Elfreth's Alley--the Oldest Residential Street in America

Franklin Court

Science of Hot Sauce

The Science of Hot Sauce

I always try to attend the sessions of the Chemistry and Food, Agriculture, and Nutrition divisions of SLA because they have interesting speakers and topics.  At the last two SLA conferences, attendees heard about the science of beer and coffee.  This year, being in New Orleans, what better topic to explore than hot sauce?  And this session not only provided some fascinating facts about hot sauce, but samples as well!

Dr. Ben Villalon, retired Texas Extension food chemist and specialist in peppers and chiles (which is why he is known as “Dr. Pepper”) entertained the audience with many little known facts about these spicy food items.

Peppers come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and shapes

About 20 years ago, Villalon was responsible for discovering  why pepper plants were being afflicted with a virus and dying, and he developed new virus-resistant varieties and saved the crops.  The compound responsible for the heat in peppers is capsaicin, a chemical compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin, and especially the mucous membranes.   It is mildly addictive.  When you eat hot peppers, you can destroy the nerve endings, but in young people, they regenerate themselves quickly.  In older people, it can take up to two weeks to regenerate the nerve endings.  Since capsaicin is odorless, you cannot tell hot hot a pepper is by smelling it.

There are more than 25 different species of chile peppers, and the most highly consumed pepper in the US is the green bell pepper (which is not spicy because it contains no capsaicin).  Bell peppers are a very healthy food; they have five times more Vitamin C than citrus or tomatoes!

In a jalapeño pepper, capsicum, the flavor-producing chemical, is contained in small yellow blisters on the inside walls of the skin. Most peppers are hotter at the top (stem) end.  The heat of a pepper is measured on the Scoville Heat Scale, which measures the amount of capsaicin in the pepper.

The Scoville Heat Scale

Following Villalon’s talk, Daniel (“Shoney”) Lima, chef at a local restaurant (Juan’s Flying Burrito, which is known for its extensive selection of salsas of all spiciness levels) prepared a delicious mango salsa and provided samples to the audience.  (Interestingly, more salsa is sold in the US than ketchup!)

“Shoney” Lima Makes Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa Preparation

Lima kindly provided his recipe and gave me permission to post it here on my blog.

Mango Salsa
Chef Daniel Lima, Juan’s Flying Burrito

2 ripe Mangoes, diced
1 bunch Cilantro, finely chopped
1 Red Onion, diced
2 cups Pico de Gallo or Salsa Fresca*
1/2 cup Black Beans, cooked or canned
1/2 cup Sweet Corn, cooked or canned
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
Pinch of Salt “to taste”
1 fresh Jalapeño Pepper, seeded and finely chopped

Combine all ingredients into mixing bowl.  Mix.  Cover and chill in refrigerator before serving.

*1 tomato, 1 white onion, 1 bunch cilantro, 2 Tbsp lime juice, chopped and combined

Sampling the Result

Chef Lima and His Salsa

"Dr. Pepper" Samples the Salsa

What a great session this was!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blogger

“Taxonomy Tuesday” Part 2: Do We Still Need Taxonomies?

It’s a question many of us are asking with increasing frequency.  In these days of simply putting a few words into a search box, is it really worth all the time, effort, and resources that have been put into constructing (sometimes elaborate) controlled vocabularies, taxonomies, and metadata?  Are we really providing added value to our users?  It’s true that information professionals, especially in some disciplines (like medicine), rely on controlled vocabularies to aid search, but most end users don’t know how to use them.  A panel led by Susanne BeDell, Vice President of ProQuest and General Manager of Dialog, looked into this issue.

Suzanne BeDell

(L-R) Tim Mohler, Jabe Wilson, Tyron Stadig

In her introduction to the session, Suzanne BeDell noted that entity extraction is used by publishers to add functionality to articles.  For example, Nature Publishing Group uses TEMIS’s software to identify chemicals.  Analytics and data mining add another layer of capability to the traditional industry structure of primary journals, abstracting & indexing services,  and search and aggregation.   Analytics are used to identify knowledge buried in unstructured content, and they are usually based on statistical analysis of content or natural language processing.

Jabe Wilson, Sr. Solutions Manager at Elsevier agreed, suggesting that taxonomies are more important today than they have ever been and, because they are based on words, they underlie developments of new technologies.   He defined the difference between a dictionary, taxonomy, and an ontology  The relations between each are shown in the following map.

Language Relationships

Tim Mohler, Vice President, Operations, Lexalytics Inc. reviewed human indexing, noting that although it makes navigation easier for users, the drawback is that it is expensive because indexers are scarce, and indexing entails considerable effort.  Because users tend not to use complex taxonomies, many information producers simply index their content by machine.  However, machine indexing depends on developing rules based on the content, and Mohler wondered if a model could be built to guide the machine, based on a taxonomy.  This is still an unanswered question.

Tyron Stadig, CTO and Founder of Innography, echoed a similar theme, saying that analytics as applied to business intelligence can be used to predict future trends, uncover behavioral patterns, link seemingly unrelated behavior, and identify outliers.  Structured data helps people make decisions; taxonomies can provide additional attributes of the text to enhance decision making.  Multiple taxonomies can be used in a process called “fingerprinting”, and they can also create additional links between data sources, so that you can find information that would otherwise not be evident.  Structured information is necessary for analytics; simple keywords aren’t enough.  Taxonomies provide additional features to unstructured text and identify its useful attributes.

So are taxonomies worth the effort necessary to construct them?  Based on the examples given by the speakers, the answer is, “Indeed, they are!”

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blogger

“Taxonomy Tuesday” Part 1: Taxonomies and Knowledge Management

Many of Tuesday’s sessions deal with taxonomies, and it is disappointing that, unless you have perfected the ability to be in two places simultaneously, it is impossible to attend them all.  The first one I chose dealt with how taxonomy work can contribute to knowledge management in an organization.

Patrick Lambe

Patrick Lambe, Founder of Straits Knowledge, a Singapore-based consulting firm, and author of Organising Knowledge: Taxonomies, Knowledge and Organisational Effectiveness (which received four 5-star reviews on Amazon) was the speaker and noted that his talk was on “taxonomy work”, not the taxonomies themselves.  Taxonomies are not solely about organizing content.  A number of disciplines, including information and library science, contribute to their development, and their applications include content management, document management, and metadata.  Taxonomists are often frustrated and challenged by a general lack of understanding of their work, technology limitations, and unrealistic expectations by users.

Challenges for Taxonomy Work

To be effective, organizations must follow four principles, many of which can be affected by taxonomy work:

  1. All organizations must deal with risk and diagnose it.
  2. They must reduce cost and manage cash flow, which inolves managing information about internal processes.
  3. They must add value for customers and markets. What do customers want? This requires pushing information out to the customer and informing them about available products. An organization with many products must segment the customers, which is a taxonomy. For example, calls coming into a center can be organized into a taxonomy.
  4. Create a new reality and innovation by mixing and matching categories. Some people say taxonomies cannot describe innovation because they describe history, but many innovation initiatives start by describing the present, which istaxonomy work.

Coordination, learning, and remembering are three key knowledge-related activities in which organizations can engage and taxonomy work can play a leading part in all of them.  For example,

  • Coordination: Taxonomy work helps people coordinate and use the same terms when describing something, decision making, and setting objectives.
  • Remembering:  Taxonomies can help in categorizing history, linking and tracking how different terms have changed over time, and in reusing knowledge.
  • Learning:  Taxonomies track how descriptions change and can lead users to the correct term to use in educational activities, thus acquiring and spreading the right expertise.

In his work, Lambe has used Cynefin Diagrams to help people how to decide what to do in different situations.  The photo below shows how they might apply to taxonomy work.

Cynefin Diagram

Taxonomies mainly operate in the area of what is known, but they can also be used to help detect patterns about what is happening.  For example, in the areas of structure and organizing and establishing common ground (lower right of the above diagram), taxonomies might help design smoother workflows and provide for better reuse of information and knowledge.   Boundary spanning refers to coordination and better use of information assets across disparate workgroups in an organization and a reduction of duplication of effort.  And finally, sense-making and discovery will lead to greater confidence in decision making and communication among teams.  Lambe also noted that sometimes it is useful to construct a “disposable taxonomy” to create a concept map of how domains relate to each other and which ones should be further explored, and then discard it at the end of a project.

Lambe’s presentation was a fascinating look at the potential of taxonomies and provided an insight into this highly technical subject.  I thought I knew quite a bit about taxonomies, but I learned a lot from this session.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blogger

Icons of New Orleans

Some things immediately come to mind when one thinks of New Orleans.  Here are some of them:

The French Quarter

Paddle-wheel boat on the Mississippi River (and a beautiful rainbow that appeared after a thunderstorm)

Jackson Square


Streetcar interior

Brand You and Web 2.0

In a “spotlight” session this afternoon, industry guru Mary Ellen Bates continued the theme launched in this morning’s session, speaking on some further aspects of personal branding and social networking sites. Following some of her own advice, she has generously posted her slides on her website (click here), so I will mention only a few of her additional points in this posting.

  • You are the best one to talk about yourself.
  • People often make excuses for not using Web2.0 systems, but Mary Ellen has found that it helped her work more efficiently when her brand was out in the cloud.
  • It is almost unavoidable that your name is out there somewhere, so you should control how the world knows about you.
  • This is slow marketing; you should start now to build a corpus of content.
  • You must build your brand everywhere you have an online presence.
  • If all you do is look at social networks and not participate, you are missing out on much of the benefit.
  • The social web is all about sharing social resources, and we information professionals do this very well.   We also know how to answer people’s questions, and we are used to getting feedback from our clients.  Use the social web the same way.
  • Make yourself findable by using your name consistently, make sure that your do not hide yourself.
  • Add value to all your presences. Remember that it is not your job to tweet about what you had for lunch!
  • Make yourself interesting and easy to find. Use words that make you retrievable. Ask yourself how people would search for you.Think about how you want to be seen, not how you look now. Focus on your high-end skills.
  • There is a premium on credit and sharing on social networks.
  • Keep your Twitter name as short as possible so it does not consume too many of your 140 characters.
  • Have a permanent email address so that people can always find you. Don’t worry that it will get harvested by spammers—that’s just part of the game.  Have a good ISP that will filter the spam.
  • Be accountable—if you make a mistake, be open and admit it.

There is lots of good advice here!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blogger