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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

IEEE Launches A New Digital Library

IEEE celebrated the launch of the new IEEE Xplore Digital Library with cake and champagne in its booth

The STM Mobile Landscape

Heather Staines

Heather Staines surveyed mobile internet usage by STM publishers and presented an excellent summary of some of their efforts to date.  Mobile internet usage is growing much more rapidly than desktop usage, and this boom is being driven by smartphones such as the iPhone and the Android.  One report predicts that by the end of next year, the penetration of smart phones in the STM market will increase to near 50%.

Some of the questions when developing a mobile strategy include:

  • What are the goals?  Should the mobile application be commercial or only for promotional use?  Should it contain original or repurposed content?
  • What platforms should be supported?  Options include the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or Symbian (now used on “feature” phones).
  • What business models should be developed?  Are all books apps, or should there be different apps for each product?  Should apps be free for marketing or should they only be offered as commercial products?
  • And what should we do with the iPad?

Springer’s mobile strategy includes creating mobile-optimized versions of all products, focusing first on the iPhone platform, then distributing content through as many channels as customers want.  Discovery and alerting apps will be free, and added value apps will be paid.  Books are the first content to be offered, but there is a large demand for journals or journal articles as well.

Other publishers’ efforts include:

  • ACS Mobile
  • IEEE Xplore
  • IEEE National Electric Safety Code
  • AIP iResearch (DL 2500 times in 3 months!)
  • mobile apps
  • EBSCOhost Mobile
  • OCLC

OCLC has been particularly active in developing relationships with mobile partners. And libraries are also going mobile and are delivering their information to users on mobile platforms.

It is clear that multi-channel delivery of information is a very complex landscape.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blogger

Your Personal Brand

Do you really need a personal brand?  What is a personal brand, anyway?  In a “spotlight session”, Kim Dority, Principal, Dority & Associates, and Scott Brown, Owner, Social Information Group, explored the issue of personal brands and clarified many of the issues surrounding them.  Introducing the session, Cindy Hill said that today we have new “normal” working environments, and many people are working and connecting with others differently than they did as little as a decade ago.   A personal brand is a 21st century application of an old subject—how we represent ourselves to others. We are now going well beyond our business cards and resumes.  Kim Dority said that the new model of todays careers can be thought of  “parkour“–overcoming obstacles to reaching our goals.  A strong professional brand can help you jump obstacles, stay on track, and propel yourself forward.   You can showcase your strengths and how you add value no matter where you are.  You can shape the perceptions of others before they have had a chance to develop their own misconceptions about you.  Branding is important in fighting stereotypes.

A personal brand has these characteristics:

  • Competencies—what are those things that you have honed to a strong level of contribution
  • Standards—are you known for excellence, methodical, attention to detail
  • Style—attitude, are you low key, enthusiastic, a great collaborator, etc.

Scott Brown noted that brands will happen whether you want them to or not.  They are the online equivalent of networking and displaying your personal and professional interests.  He also noted that HR people have become aware of social networking tools and are using them to scope out potential employees, so use caution when you are developing your brand (one way is to create separate profiles for personal and professional interests).

When you create a personal brand, there will be a shift in thinking about yourself and how you show up in the world.  There is a loss of control, more visibility, personal responsibility.  Can you handle that?

Brown also addressed security and privacy concerns, but said that they should not stop you from creating your brand.  Be aware that social networking tools are called “social” for a reason, and if you are in a place where cameras are present, be careful how you behave.  He showed an example of “social business cards” for library staff in which front shows the person’s photo and social networking links and the back shows the network data for the library–a great idea!

Three major networking tools are LinkedIn, blogs, and Twitter.  Here are Brown’s top 10 recommendations on using these services:

  • Know what your brand is. (If you don’t know, ask somebody!)
  • Build your personal brand outside of your employer
  • Be professional…
  • …and also be authentic. (It’s OK to be yourself—share your humor and your interests)
  • Leverage what others are doing.
  • Don’t use social tools as your only tool.
  • Start small (you don’t have to use several services all at once).
  • Invite and involve others (don’t be shy about invite people you don’t know well, or who you don’t know at all)
  • Experiment and play.
  • Have fun with them!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blogger