December 15, 2003

The most recent IEEE Spectrum (v40i12 Dec 2003) has a great article with a ridiculously long title: "5 Commandments Some technology laws and rules of thumb have stood the test of time, but not all. Spectrum looks at five to see how they have fared, starting with the grandaddy of them all--Moore's Law." It basically goes through five common "rules of thumb" about how the tech world works and looks at how it compares with reality. They are:

  • Moore's Law: The number of transistors on a chip doubles annually.
  • Rock's Law: The cost of semiconductor tools doubles every four years.
  • Machrone's Law: The PC you want to buy always will be $5000.
  • Metcalfe's Law: A network's value grows proportionately to the number of users squared.
  • Wirth's Law: Software is slowing faster than hardware is accelerating.

I've been a member of the Electronic Resources in Libraries (ERIL) list for quite some time. It always has good information and discussions. Here's a good list of open access journal collections, part of their very comprehensive resource page.

Let's just say that this one had me checking the calendar to see if it's really April 1st. Digital revolution leaves Google feeling quite flush is an article about Google installing digital toilets. Insert your own toilet joke here. Via ResourceShelf.

December 10, 2003

"The expert user is dead" by Leo Robert Klein is such a terrific article it's like it smacked me right between the eyes with a two-by-four. We all like seeing articles that agree with our basic assumptions, and I'm no exception. Klein's thesis is basically that the modern user (ie. average undergrad and 90% of grad & faculty) really don't care about the thesaurus or other controlled vocabulary. They rarely, if ever, use advanced search features. They almost never want everything on a topic or even the best information on a topic. The want good enough, fast enough as easy as Google. However, we as librarians usually assume that the users are just like us and want to use all the bells and whistles, that they are being comprehensive, that they enjoy poking around in odd corners of a database. Not! The point being, we should design our websites, out databases, our webguides, our instruction, our reference interviews for who our users are, not who we would like them to be. Sure, there are highly specialized users that are the exception (chemistry & SciFinder comes to mind), but I really think the Google paradigm is the rule. Every librarian, every vendor should take a look at this article. You may not agree, but you will be challenged. Via various sources.

The latest issue of b/ITE (v20i6 Nov/Dec 2003), the newsletter of the SLA IT division, has just been posted. It's a special issue on RSS with interesting articles by Marie C. Kaddell, Greg Kaplan and Stephen M. Cohen. Well worth taking a look at, as are all issues of this newsletter.

The latest portal: Libraries and the Academy is out with, as usual, several very interesting articles for academic librarians. A small sample:

This is a terrific issue. Virtually every article would have a broad interest for academic librarians.

It's nice to know that medical researchers have a sense of humour, too. Or perhaps this is just a ploy to win an IgNobel? The article, "Head injuries in nursery rhymes: evidence of a dangerous subtext in children's literature " by Sarah M. Giles and Sarah Shea is a hoot. via Google News.

December 7, 2003

For those of us interested in the Philosophy of Science, there is an eprint server up and running. Looks interesting but not too many documents yet. Come on, you philosphers, get with the open access program. From Robert Michaelson via slapam-l.

December 5, 2003

Library Bloggers of the world unite! Or at least write about it for The Reference Librarian. This is something I totally support. Blogging is such a new phenom that I think we owe ourselves the opportunity to think deeply about what we do. Do I take my own advice? Let's wait and see. Via Commons-blog.

If you write book reviews as part of your professional persona, here's a survey being conducted on just that topic. via H. Robert Malinowsky.

November 17, 2003

When an undergrad asks me how to tell if a scientific article is primary or not, I always ask them, "Can you understand the title?" If they answer "no," then I say, "Bingo!" It's simplistic, probably overly so, but my follow-up explanation goes into how the audience for primary articles is other specialists in the same field, so it uses highly specialized language that the non-PhD will probably not understand yet. This seems to work. In the LIS field, I rarely get that feeling, of seeing such highly specialized terminology that I'm not sure what the darn thing is about. This is one of the closest so far: "Using MPEG-21 DIDL to Represent Complex Digital Objects in the Los Alamos National Laboratory Digital Library" from the lastest D-Lib. Every so often, D-Lib publishes something that probably doesn't belong there, more likely in the ACM/IEEE Conference on DLs -- this is a case in point.

What to do if your mom finds out about your blog? From blogger home page.

November 10, 2003

The Master of EEVL, Roddy MacLeod, has informed me of two new highly EEVL services, OneStep Jobs and OneStep Industry News. Read full details at the press release here. Both are available via RSS feeds, making them as convenient as they are valuable. I certainly plan on subscribing to the Industry News one myself. It's interesting that the name my fingers wanted to type was "OneStop," which, when you think about it, is also a pretty good description of the service.

November 7, 2003

As long time readers of this blog know, I'm quite interested in computer chess. Well, our friend Garry Kasparov is starting a new match with a program called X3D Fritz next week. The site also has a good intro into the subject here and an interview with one of the Fritz guys, Frederic Friedel here. For those interested in the royal game, my handle on GameKnot is john_d.

A couple more on information seeking behavior:

November 6, 2003

Geeks of the world, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your pagers!

From the "OH MY GOD" department: rumours of Google & Microsoft merging. Is this good news or bad news? Would Google turn Microsoft into a kinder, gentler monopoly or would MS turn Google into a meaner, nastier monopoly? Thanks to ResearchBuzz.

Another interesting article, which has been sitting around on my desk so long I can no longer remember where I got the referenfce, is "A brief history of information architecture" by Peter Morville. Morville is a librarian and one of the pioneers of IA. His book with Louis Rosenfeld, Information architecture for the World Wide Web, is one of the all-time classics and belongs in every library. The essay is a concise overview of the development and importance of the field.

Trolling around google, thinking about how scientists communicate, I stumbled across a few interesting sites:

Noted without additional comment, the PP slides I used for a presentation in a Professional Writing class for my colleague Scott McLaren. My topic was basically "how to be a science writer," with my focus being that the most basic requirement for being a science writer is knowing a bit about how science works. What doesn't come through in the slides as much as in my oral presentation was the emphasis on finding and interviewing gatekeepers and other members of the invisible college as a key to good science writing. If any of my readers have any suggestions on improving or correcting some of my ideas, I would be more than happy to hear from you.

Sincere apologies for not posting in a while. October/November, as we all know, tends to be a bit hectic. Also, due to various reasons I'm not going to go into here, my posting may be very infrequent from November 18th until the end of the year.

October 21, 2003

Roy Tennant's "Open-Access Journals" in the Oct 15 Library Journal is a good introduction to (and manifesto supporting) the topic. From OAN.

The fall 2003 issue of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (v22i3) is a special issue on "women and minorities in information technology." All the articles look very interesting and well worth checking out. A sampling from the TOC:

October 16, 2003

Another article that's not online that's is worth taking a look at is "Bibliographic Databases in a Changing World" by Jim Ashling. It's in the October 2003 issue of Information Today (v20i9). It's about a subject that interests me greatly, the fate of traditional bibliographic databases in the face of increasing competition from other tools, such as full text aggregated databases, publisher databases, free services (ie. arxiv, NASA ADS) and, of course, Google. Ashling does a good job of outlining the issues, including impacts on vendors and librarians. He continues next month looking specifically at vendor reactions.

October 15, 2003

From the Recent Atlantic Monthly, "Columbia's Last Flight: The inside story of the investigation—and the catastrophe it laid bare" by William Langewiesche (v292i4 Nov 2003). This doesn't appear to be onlline, but is well worth seeking out. Langewiesche is also the author of the truly excellent series "American ground: unbuilding the World Trade Center" from the July-August, September and October issues of 2002. It was also published as a book.

The latest D-Lib is out and, as usual, has a few very interesting articles:

October 10, 2003

Now, a new journal to watch. It might be a bit techie, but it has great potential: The IEEE Technical Committee on Digital Libraries (TCDL) Bulletin. Some sample articles from the first issue: From Open Access News.

The latest issue of the High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine is out. As usual, it is full of interesting articles for all science librarians. This time I would like to point out "Documenta Mathematica: A Community-Driven Scientific Journal" by Ulf Rehmann. Basically, it is a specific case study of the economics of open access publishing, interesting for us because it is a math journal. From Open Access News.

A couple of recent entries in the poplar-science-watch category:

October 9, 2003

It's that time of year again. Nobel winners here. Peace prize to be announced tomorrow. On a lighter note, IgNobels here. This year's favourite, noted without additional comment, is the biology prize: "C.W. Moeliker, of Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck." is a interesting service that keeps you abreast of the conferences in various fields. Some fields seem to have better coverage than others, but overall it is quite good. From ResearchBuzz.

October 2, 2003

I knew it was only a matter of time until I got to blog something by Bruce Sterling, one of the most realistic and sensible futurists out there. Perhaps also the most amusing. There are terrifically amusing and sensible aspects of "Ten Technologies That Deserve to Die" from the October 2003 issue of Techonolgy Review. The technology I would miss least? The internal combustion engine. From Locusmag.

September 30, 2003

"IM Interoperability Becoming a Reality!" I shudder even to think about it.

Extremely interesting and useful is "The Digital Mathematics Library" by Allyn Jackson in the September 2003 Notices of the AMS (v50i8). As it says, the mathematical literature is one of the best candidates for wholescale retrodigitization primarily because the literature itself has such a long useful life. Like I tell people, 1 + 1 will always = 2. However, the nature of math literature is that it is very diffuse and distributed, and thus any wholescale digitization effort will mirror that. Well, this article is a good overview of the issues and where we're at. The list of active projects alone is terrific. Highly recommended. From SEPW.

The MIT Open Courseware project is up and running with it's first 500 courses online. From Open Access News blog.

September 29, 2003

The incredibly useful Scolarly Electronic Publishing Weblog (SEPW) is now available via email subscription. From Open Access News.

September 22, 2003

On a happier note, I call your attention to a fantastic series of articles on Google culture in the most recent b/ITE (v20i5, September/October 2003). In particular, the article by Beatrice Pulliam takes an interesting view inside the library world's love/hate relationship with Google. Threat or opportunity? Both.

  • "The Cult(ure) of Googling" by Beatrice Pulliam
  • "Advance your search options on Google" by Catherine Dimenstein
  • "Beyond searching with Google" by Tara Calishain

It's always rather interesting when some of the more "true believer" scientists engage in a little social extrapolation. Check out "The profession's role in the global information society" by Wojciech Cellary in the September 2003 Computer. How's this for a quote: "The common ability to pass an individual's knowledge to computers will be essential because software will be the means both for expressing knowledge and transferring it. Thus, the education system must give the entire society the ability to express and gather knowledge this way." Can you believe it. This guy actually thinks we should all become programmers. Sure, he grants that programming has to become easier, but the idea that everyone needs to know how to encode their knowledge into software is patently ridiculous. He's basically advocating that software will be the only way that knowledge transfer will take place in the future. Doesn't that get us back into Gutenberg's time where we all had to build our own printing press? Hasn't this guy ever heard of TV? I thought reality TV shows were going to be the only method of knowledge transfer in the future. As for encoding our knowledge electronically, wouldn't that include weblogs? So, wouldn't that mean that we're already where Cellery wants us to get? Sheesh.

September 17, 2003

Are academic libraries creating an expectation within students that they will have access to all this licensed stuff when they graduate? Will business students graduate and demand ABI/Inform from their new employers? Do CS grads only accept employment from companies that subscribe to the full IEL package? Should we be thinking about this when we extoll the virtues of these products in our IL classes? Should we instead be thinking about ways to negotiate licenses that extend access to alumni? Interesting questions, related to the SciAm posting below. Take a look at Clifford Lynch's "Life after graduation day: Beyond the Academy's Digital Walls" in the Sept/Oct 2003 EDUCAUSE Review. From sepw

"Can you be an engineer and not be able to write, speak, or listen effectively? Sure, but not a successful one." What a great quote. It's from Carl Selinger's "Stuff you don't learn in engineering school" from the September 2003 IEEE Spectrum (v40i9). There's certainly a role that an engineering library can play teaching those skills and an article written by and engineer in an engineering journal can certainly help make the case.

September 12, 2003 is a kind of clearing house for PhD student weblogs. It's very interesting to see what all these students are doing and, I think, a great idea to create this sort of list. Now lets see one for master's and ugrad students! Oh, sorry, 99% of the blogs out there are already by ugrad students...and generally not about their studies. From Commons-blog.

The York email system was down yesterday evening (Sept 11, 2003) from 6pm to 11pm EST. If you by chance sent me an email at jdupuis at, it is likely that it did not get through.

September 9, 2003

A colleague passed around copies of an article from the September 2003 Scientific American (p. 23-24): "Public Not Welcome." The article is basically about how the rush towards electronic only access & higher access prices from the publishers is seriously restricting the public's access to scientific literature. It used to be that anyone could go into a university library and see the latest in the journal literature or even use Chem Abs to find information there. Now, with print copy cancellation and e-only access to most indexes, what is the public to do? Don't they pay the taxes that lets us buy these things for our students and researchers? Librarians of the world, Unite! Keep whatever print you can for important public access journals (ie. JAMA), fight for walk-in clauses in electronic licenses and, most of all, keep as many of those terminals non-password-protected as you can. Thanks Chris.

A few very good articles from the ever-reliable Katharine Mieszkowski in recent issues of Salon.

September 8, 2003

A quote from a BBC news story, quoted in The ResourceShelf: "Now Google has stopped simply reflecting the organisation of the web. Instead a high Google rank for a search now defines a page's quality and relevance." How can we compete with this attitude. And, coupled with the news that IEEE is now indexed on Google, how long before Google will be the one-and-only -- or at least close enough that no one really cares? I&A services, what's your reaction? On a lighter note, I can't complain too much with the above expressed sentiment: this humble blog comes first on searches for both "science librarian" and "John Dupuis." ;-)

Our old friend Garry Kasparov is at it again, this time playing a match against X3D Fritz using a 3d interface. It seems that no real chessboard will be used in the contest! And speaking of virtual chess, my handle at GameKnot is john_d. GameKnot is a turn-based system rather than real-time -- it's a kind of internet postal chess. Although I'm not very good, I look forward to playing some of my fellow scitech librarians.

Bioinformatics is one of the hottest areas in science these days, with grad & undergrad level programs sprouting up like mushrooms at universities all over. This interdiciplinary field combines statistics, molecular biology and computer science, so it's possible to see those programs housed in any of a number of different departments. Computer Science seems to be the most likely, however. The recent issue of IEEE Transaction on Eduction (v46i3 August 2003) has an article "Crossing the interdisciplinary barrier: a baccalaureate computer science option in bioinformatics" by T. Doom, M. Raymer, D. Krane and O. Garcia. A slightly different version is available here.

In recognition of the recently completed Toronto World Science Fiction Convention, I submit for your consideration: "The double helix: Why science needs science fiction" by Athena Andreadis. It's in Thought & Action, v19n1, Summer 2003. How's this for a quote: "If science was my romance literature, science fiction was my hidden stash of bodice rippers." The article is actually an impassioned plea for encouraging creativity and vision in the pursuit of scientific knowledge, leading to another great quote: "And though science will build the star ships, it's science fiction that will make us want to board them." Interestingly, Andreadis is also the author of The Biology of Star Trek. Pete Lowentrout via SFRA-L

The most recent issue of IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication is on "English language training for nonnative speakers of English in science or engineering," which is certainly an important topic here and I imagine in most other schools as well. Interesting (which seem to have the potential for a library connection) articles include:

September 4, 2003

The other science-related thing we did on our summer vacation was visit The Miller Museum of Geology at Queen's University in Kingston. It's a very nice little museum, perfect for kids at the hyper-curious stage.

September 2, 2003

Have way too many books filling up your house? Me too.

Good plagiarism bibliography here by Sharon Stoerger. She also has similar pages on various ethics topics including bioethics and a general page on research ethics. Stephen Abram via ocula-l.

August 25, 2003

The ever-EEVL Roddy MacLeod has informed me that EEVL has put up an RSS Primer for Publishers and Content Providers. A quick glance is quite impressive -- something I wish I had a few months ago when I was trying to figure out what the fuss was all about.

Two recent announcements from the SLAPAM-L listserv:

I'm back...Sorry about the extra long absence from this forum, but I promise to try and catch up. And boy has the stuff been pilling up on my desk. BTW, the only scientifically oriented thing I did on my vacation was to visit the Montreal Insectarium. It was great fun, much better than the last time I was there about 5 years ago. There were lots of displays with living insects to look at.

July 18, 2003

I'm on vacation for the next three weeks. I don't expect to post again until the week of August 11th.

Find metadata mysterious? Try Metadata Demystified: A Guide for Publishers from the NISO Press. While aimed at publishers rather than librarians, it certainly covers all the main points. And since librarians obviously deal with publishers, that perspective can also be valuable from our end.
From ResourceShelf.

Via Randy, the newletter of the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications looks very interesting. In particular, it takes a lot of the same-old-same-old issues and gives them a refreshingly global spin: "INASP is a cooperative network of partners whose aim is to enhance worldwide access to information and knowledge. " The current issue, for example, has an article: "Strengthening the local creation and adaptation of health information in Tanzania."

July 17, 2003

"Textbook Writing 101" by M. Garrett Bauman. Thirteen rules, some serious, some tongue-in-cheek, many both. From Arts & Letters Daily

All Google all the time. "Digging for Googleholes: Google may be our new god, but it's not omnipotent" by Steven Johnson is an article in Slate about the holes & biases in Google searching. It's interesting that he rightly points out that much of the search results you get are skewed towards companies selling products, but then he complains that too many journals are putting their articles online in pdf. He laments the fact that no one is putting their books available online for free, thus biasing his research process against books and towards articles: "Assuming this practice continues, and assuming that Google continues to grow in influence, we may find ourselves in a world where, if you want to get an idea into circulation, you're better off publishing a PDF file on the Web than landing a book deal." An interesting thought. To somewhat subvert himself, though, he concluding by saying maybe he shouldn't be doing his research on Google at all: "We're wrong to think of Google as a pure reference source. It's closer to a collectively authored op-ed page—filled with bias, polemics, and a skewed sense of proportion—than an encyclopedia."

July 16, 2003

In my on-going quest to find legitimate reasons to make science fiction-related posts here, I would like to draw attention to The Innovative Technologies from Science Fiction for Space Applications project. From the project description, they're aim is to "conduct a study on technologies and concepts found in Science Fiction, in order to obtain imaginative and innovative ideas potentially viable for long-term development by the European space sector. " They are requesting input from all interested parties, especially in the form of "fact sheets" giving details of the use of space technology in a particular sf story. The projects sponsors seem to be the European Space Agency, the Maison d'Ailleurs and the OURS Foundation. After a quick glance at the brochure, the project seems quite serious and impressive. The brochure itself looks better than half the sf novels I've read recently. From Hal Hall via SFRA-L

July 10, 2003

I've just added a comments feature to this blog, so please feel free to add your thoughts to this (hopefully) ongoing conversation. You know who you are! Haloscan was very simple to set up and seems to be working (so far), so I would recommend it.

July 9, 2003

Just what at the most desirable skills for the new engineering undergraduate? It will come as no surprise that employers are valueing communication and people skills more and more for what have in the past been mostly "back office" functions like engineering. The latest ASEE Prism Magazine has a good discussion of recent trends in engineering recruitment: "The Graduate" by Kerry Hannon (v12 i9 May/June 2003). I'm very sure that the same trends also apply to computer science grads and probably most other science & applied science grads.

Salon seems to be doing a lot more interesting science-related articles lately (or, more accurately, interesting to me). "GOTO considered joyful" By Rachel Chalmers is a wonderful tribute to famous computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra, mostly talking about the Dijkstra archive available at the University of Texas.
I had a very wierd flashback to my undergrad cs days when we used to endlessly debate whether or not using goto statements in fortran or pascal was a cosmically good thing or bad thing. I wonder what cs undergrads debate today with that same messianic fervor? Linux/unix vs. windows, no doubt!

July 4, 2003

A newish blog on information literacy, run by Sheila Weber, Bill Johnston and Stuart Boon. I really appreciate its international focus. From Informtation Resources Newsletter.

July 3, 2003

"Is Math a Young Man's Game? No. Not every mathematician is washed up at 30." by Jordan Ellenberg, from Slate in May 2003. I guess that should be "Young Person's Game." Interesting: it now takes such lengthy study to get to the frontiers of your field (and math isn't the only field where this is true, by far), that no one has the chance to be a prodigy until they get into their 30's & 40's.

July 2, 2003

From an IEEE online support email anouncement: "Google to index IEEE Xplore (IEEE to announce when Google indexing is complete)." This leads to an interesting thought. What if all STM journal publishers did the same thing? Would anyone bother subscribing to any A&I services anymore? Would they all just disappear? Certainly those that don't add a huge amount of value to the raw data (i.e. SciFinder) would quickly seem rather useless. At the same time, Google could also make a misstep by not realizing that it's dangerous to mix too much of the stuff on the open web with the scholarly content -- getting even more fantastically overwhelmingly huge search results will not endear them to serious researchers or even to impatient undergrads.

Salon again: "The free research movement" by Farhad Manjoo. It's a very good article about the Public Library of Science which makes some compelling arguments for open access. As usual, you need to use a day pass to access the full text.

Thanks to Doug Holton for pointing out that the Lisfeeds RSS feed wasn't working and for suggesting this one.

June 30, 2003

Speaking of Salon, they often have very good popular science articles (older ones are free, newer you will have to take advantage of a day pass):

The Google backlash is pretty well documented out there. A couple of recent entries include an article at Salon, entitled, you guessed it: "The Google Backlash." (Salon's not free anymore, but they almost always have someone sponsoring day passes.) Another is from the BBC and is about the word Google and its trademarkability. Googling "google backlash" is quite revealing. BBC story from Lisnews.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is kinda funny. Can you say "Divine editorial comment?" APOD is one of my favourite sites -- I almost always have one of their images as the wallpaper on my workstation.

June 26, 2003

A day in the life of a super-spammer.

June 25, 2003

The Urban Legends Reference Pages is a hoot. It even has sections on computers, medicine and science. It may even come in handy at the reference desk. How about: "Is it true that the average person swallows eight spiders per year?" No! From SciFi Weekly.

Celebrating Einstein with dance? The purpose is to celebrate the centenary Einstein's miracle year of 1905. Quote from IoP managing director Jerry Cowhig: "Dance is an expressive medium and it will be ideal for abstract concepts like the theories of Einstein on everything from tiny atoms to the dynamics of the whole cosmos."

June 24, 2003

A couple of readings suggested by one of my colleagues in the Computer Science Department:

  • "Teaching reviewing to graduate students" by Jens Palsberg and Scott J. Baxter in Communications of the ACM, v45 i12, Dec 2002. A quote: "researchers usually learn the principles and practices of reviewing with little to no practical training because such training is generally not a part of a Ph.D. education. Despite this fact, we believe teaching the review process should be part of a Ph.D. education, and that such training can be integrated smoothly and inexpensively as part of existing coursework rather than be added as an additional course." Of course, the article is written about CS grad students, but I see no reason why the same argument couldn't be applied to any discipline. And, of course, part of any good review is a search of the appropriate literature. And, the grad student asks, how do I do that? Very interesting -- the article is written by CS faculty, not librarians.
  • The Sept 2002 issue of CACM (v45 i9) has a special section on search engines called, "The consumer side of search" with several very interesting articles. The one I would most like to draw attention to is "Bias on the Web" by Abbe Mowshowitz and Akira Kawaguchi. The main idea is that the web is full of biased information, largely trying to sell stuff, and that the best way to combat the bias is to have a variety of engines to search for the same information. They suggest that it's a good thing to have a variety of intermediaries between the user and the information to try and evaluate or filter the data. Unfortunately, they neglect to mention libraries & librarians as possible intermediaries. The even take a bit of a shot at us in the beginning: 'Your refrigerator starts making unusual noises; you figure it is time to replace it. ... Unwilling to take the time to head for the local library and browse consumer magazines for "refrigerators," you decide to search the Web for information about this home appliance.'

An RSS feed for this blog is now available here. Lisfeeds seems to work just fine for Blogger (also assuming I set everything up properly), but if anyone has any problems or suggestions, please let me know. One problem: I wasn't able to figure out how to get my blog title into the feed, possible solutions appreciated at jdupuis (at) I greatly appreciated some of the links suggested by Lisfeeds, particularly this one (a good link & resources collection) and this one (a tutorial).

School libraries are a very important factor in the overall success of students. Read the report from the Canadian Coalition for School Libraries and available on the People for Education site. This has been reported quite widely, but I think the results are important enough to post here as well. The Globe and Mail's John Allemang has a good article about the report. Some quotes from the article (and the report, via the article): "Given the concern about education today, it seems surprising that an existing resource like the library should be so undernourished and undervalued" and "middle and high-school students have surprisingly low levels of success using the Web as a search tool, despite their stated confidence in using the Internet." From The Globe and Mail and Lisnews.

June 20, 2003

The June D-Lib is out and is, as usual, full of interesting articles. The two I'd like to highlight are:

  • "Google Meets eBay: What Academic Librarians Can Learn from Alternative Information Providers" by Anne R. Kenney, Nancy Y. McGovern, Ida T. Martinez, and Lance J. Heidig. This is a very interesting and perhaps even important article. It does a comparason between the answers given by academic reference librarians to the researchers on the Google Answers service. Guess what? The results are mixed. The methodology employed is rather simplistic and the conclusions (more than) a bit controversial but it's certainly worth taking a close look at this article.
  • "Trends in Use of Electronic Journals in Higher Education in the UK - Views of Academic Staff and Students"by Karen Bonthron and 12 others. From the abstract: "Results indicate that academic staff incorporate electronic journal usage into their working patterns in different ways than students and that these differences may affect attitudes towards support services (library Web pages, Virtual Learning Environments) designed to promote electronic journal usage. Disciplinary differences also need to be considered." Well worth reading.

A couple from the latest Internet Scout Report for Math, Engineering and Technology (v2 i12):

As EEVL Manager Roddy MacLeod has helpfully pointed out to me, the EEVL catalogue has passed its 10,000th record. EEVL is now the Internet Guide to Engineering; it used to be the Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library. It has always been a terrific source for resources in engineering, mathematics and computing.

Ellen Ullman's Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents is one of my absolute favourite techie memoirs -- funny, perceptive and very personal, sometimes painfully so. Almost an anthropological feel to it. It gives a very accurate and interesting insider's view of the programming biz -- I should know 'cause I used to be a programmer myself. I just ordered it for my library -- after checking and *gasp* noticing we didn't have a copy. This is all to say that I find it very interesting to note that Ullman has written a novel about that very same programming milieu, called The Bug: A Novel. I can't wait to read it and when I do, I'll post my thoughts here as well as on my other blog. Ullman has written quite extensively about the high tech world and many of her essays are available at Salon, including two excerpts from Close to the Machine. The ACM's Ubiquity also has a very fine interview with her in it's May 20-26, 2003 issue, v4 i13 -- it's actually that interview that started this whole thread going.

June 17, 2003

An item from the chicken little file. While I agree that the web has totally changed the way we interact with information -- both publication and discovery -- I think it's going a bit far to say that the whole project has become a kind of "substitute for meaningful thinking." Take a look at "From Thinkers to Clickers: The World Wide Web and the Transformation of the Essence of Being Human" by M.O. Thirunarayanan and tell me if you don't think this person needs to relax and get a grip. I'm sure when Gutenberg invented the printing press, there were all kinds of people who went on about how you can't possibly think properly about a topic unless you spent a couple of years copying out every book on the subject by hand. Yes, we are more impatient. Yes, we are bombarded with more information. We may even be lazier. But, are we -- by definition -- stupider? Sheesh. There's an interesting discussion on the topic in the associated forum. From Current Cites.

June 16, 2003

Time to start catching up on some of the reading piling up on my desk:

Non-conference highlight of my trip to SLA in New York? Easily my quick trip to the American Museum of Natural History. They currently have a great little exhibition on Einstein as well as a fantastic collection of dinosaurs! The blue whale model in the Ocean Life hall is also something that has to be seen to be believed.

Ever wonder what the call number range is of a particular subject? Here's a link to the LoC's summary page for their classification system.

June 12, 2003

You can subscribe to the Dilbert newsletter here. It's written by Scott Adams and it's actually pretty good. You can also subscribe to the comic itself and have it emailed to you everyday.

Back from a great conference in New York to read an interview with one of my favourite science fiction writers, Michael Swanwick. A quote: "The scientists I know would be very uncomfortable at the thought of themselves or their beer-swilling buddies being heroic. I think admirable is a better word here ... As for the scientific worldview, people have the notion that science is a cold and dispassionate endeavor when, as it's practiced, it's anything but. Scientists often start from an intuition or an emotional preference and work outward from there." Please be aware of an annoyance with the Science Fiction Weekly site: the link isn't static, it always links to the current week's feature interview. There is a side bar menu of previous interviews which will eventually be the place to find the link to the Swanwick interview.

June 6, 2003

I'm off to the SLA annual conference in New York so I expect to be offline until the end of next week.

In the "what will they think of next" department: "Scientific Computing on the Sony Playstation 2." From Internet Scout Project: Math, Engineering & Technology.

I'd really like to acknowledge a couple of recent mentions of this humble blog:

I really appreciate these mentions, as they are a validation of what I'm trying to do here. As well, they've caused a huge spike in the number of hits I'm getting, so far well over 400 so far this month. That is more than double the number of hits since I started counting in May. Since so many of you seem to be visiting here, I would encourage you to drop me a line with suggestions, input, feedback, greetings, whatever, at jdupuis (at) (I'm not putting a real mailto link because I've noticed a spike in spam at my yorku account since I started this blog.) (On another note, I'm very happy with eXTReMe Tracker and would recommend it without hesitation.)

June 5, 2003

Some recent IEEE publications (signing up for the email alerts is a great way to keep up to date):

June 4, 2003

"Too much information: Organizing information—after gathering it in the first place—is the key to actually using it" by Jean Thilmany from Mechanical Engineering Magazine. The closing quote: "The amount of information that engineers can access within minutes can be both a blessing and a curse. But as librarians and researchers know, the way to tame the information is the same way you tame clutter in your home: constantly tossing unused items and organizing the rest." A valuable article which I may very well send to all the scitech professors I liaise with. It's valuable both because it discusses engineering design in terms of information gathering and because it's written from an engineer's perspective. From Mel DeSart via eldnet-l.

A thoughful piece by noted science fiction author Robert Silverberg in the latest Asimov's: "Reflections: When There Was No Internet." It's an interesting meditation on life before and after the Internet, something we should all keep in mind as we deal with hordes of undergrad students stampeding our reference desks: they really don't remember life before the web very well, it's always seemed ubiquitous to them. We who are a bit older can compare how immeasurably easier it is to do research online compared to the old paper-based methods, we can appreciate that if something isn't online, hey, no big deal, the print version is just down the hall. At least it was easy to identify that the article existed. But, the new researcher doesn't make that comparison: her expectation is that the needed information will exist online, that it isn't worth the trouble to get if it isn't. I, to tell the truth, I can't blame them because I've become much the same. They imagine the pre-web days like I imagine the pre-TV days. From Locusmag.

June 3, 2003

Noted without comment: "Pervasive Computing: Just Can't Get Away from those Darn Things!" by John Dupuis. From the Spring 2003 issue of The Courier, the SLA Toronto Chapter's web newsletter.

Another quickie: Scientific American's Sci/Tech Web Awards 2003.

An interesting article from Publisher's Weekly about the state of university presses in the United States.

June 2, 2003

Bob Gainey has just been named the new GM of the Montreal Canadiens.

The last two issues (March/April, May/June) of the Bulletin of the Information Technology Division of SLA have mini New York travel guides full of useful tips for those of us heading off to NYC next week. The May/June issue also has a terrific article by Angelica Cortez on the deep web, in other words the database driven part of the web hidden from search engines. It's one of the best such articles I've seen, highlighting several good resources and references. And BTW, if you see me at SLA, please say "Hi!" I welcome any and all questions, comments, feedback and whatever about this blog. And yes, an RSS feed is under consideration.

From the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Academic Librarianship (From SEPW.):

  • "Changes in faculty reading behaviors: the impact of electronic journals on the University of Georgia" by Erin T. Smith
  • "The two cultures? librarians and technologists" by Mark Cain

The explosive growth of the Internet over the last decade has created a lot of concerns: privacy, security and many technical challenges resulting from that growth. Rachel Ross of the Toronto Star interviewed three of the Internet's pioneers, Steve Crocker, Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf, and asked them what they would do differently, if only they knew.

May 29, 2003

The latest issue of Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship is out and as usual it is full of terrific articles. The theme for this issue is Information Literacy for Science & Technology. It's been a while since the last issue, but well worth the wait as this is probably the best issue of the journal that I have seen. Here are some of the highlights of the TOC, but of course all the articles are interesting:

May 27, 2003

Another batch of computer chess links, in no particular order. Not all of them are freely available online:

  • Gimbel, Steve. "Get with the program: Kasparov, Deep Blue, and accusations of unsportsthinglike conduct." Journal of Applied Philosophy 15(2): 145-154. 1998.
  • Hsu, F-h. "IBM's Deep Blue chess grandmaster chips." IEEE Micro. 19(2): 70-81. Mar/Apr 1999.
  • McGrew, T. "Collaborative intelligence. The Internet Chess Club on game 2 of Kasparov vs. Deep Blue." IEEE Internet Computing. 1(3): 38-42. May/Jun 1997
  • Seirawan, Yasser. "Still no match for the human brain." Communications of the ACM. 40(8): 22-25. Aug 1997.
  • Friedel, Frederic. "A short history of computer chess." Chessbase.
  • Schaeffer, J. and A. Plaat. "Kasparov versus Deep Blue: The Re-match." ICCA Journal. 20( 2): 95-102. 1997.
  • Campbell, M., A. J. Hoane and F-h. Hsu. "Deep Blue." Artificial Intelligence. 134(2002): 57-83.
  • Gulko, B. "Is chess finished? World champion Garry Kasparov let IBM's computer get away with murder." Commentary (US). 104(1): 45-47. July 1997.
  • Guterl, F. "Silicon Gambit." Discover. 17(6): 48-50, 54-56. June 1996.

Ok, so it has nothing to do with science librarianship, but it sure is funny: "Read it and weep" from The Independant. A bunch of fairly pretentious people pick their least favourite book. Best comment, about a Martin Amis book: "It reveals what a disgusting, malformed, literary dwarf Martin Amis is. His whole approach to life ­that if you write good prose you are morally superior ­is so ridiculous and snobbish." FWIW, I actually quite like Martin Amis. From Lisnews.

May 26, 2003

A couple of other excellent bits of content from the O'Reilly site:

  • "Buy Where You Shop" by Tim O'Reilly wherein O'Reilly makes a very sensible suggestion -- if you like to hang out at bookstores and look at the books, you should buy there rather than saving a few bucks online. Everything he says is applicable to the music biz as well.
  • "Information Architecture Meets Usability," an interview with IA guru Lou Rosenfeld and usability guru Steve Krug. A fun, wide-ranging discussion, useful at least for the answer to the burning question, "Hey, aren't information architecture and usability the same thing?"

"Why Try to Out-Google Google?" is the second installment of Tara Calishain's series over at the O'Reilly site. It concentrates on some of the non-technological reasons for Google's success, some of which I think academic libraries could pay more attention to, particularly the way it is tune with the culture of its user community and uses humour to establish that link. Calishain also makes a few suggestions about how Google could extend it's functionality. The most interesting of which is the suggestion that they reach out to various content providers and help them get their content indexed. Scholarly societies and journal publishers, anyone?

May 24, 2003

Noted without comment: "Too much self-esteem: the blight of modern times" by Johanna Schneller of The Globe and Mail (May 24, 2003). Check it out quickly as the link will decay after about a week.

May 20, 2003

The May 10th issue of The Economist had a series of articles surveying the state of the IT industry. They all seem to be online.

The newest issue of D-Lib is out and as usual there are several very interesting arcticles included. Most interesting is "Patterns of Journal Use by Scientists through Three Evolutionary Phases" by Carol Tenopir and several others. This article presents the results of several years of research into patterns of scholarly communication among scientists and basically makes the case that the world is changing. Personal subscriptions are down, online reading is up, more and more scientists are using online searching and citations to find articles. But most interestingly, the total amount of reading done by scientists is going up as they get access to online journals. If it is easier for them to find and retrieve information, they will retrieve more of it. And, it seems that they are still very interested in the peer-reviewed journal literature as the research did not indicate a large number of articles read from personal web sites. IMHO, this last finding may be the one to change most drastically over the next little while. If institutional repositories, eprint servers and google catch on like I think they will, I thnk we'll see more and more researchers finding their information where it is most convenient and fastest, not where it is most pre-approved.

Also of interest, but without accompanying rant:

May 15, 2003

At this point, I'm usually not going to bother duplicating either Randy's or Catherine's blog postings here (at least on purpose), but this one on academic integrity and peer review in the sciences is important enough to make sure it gets as wide a readership as possible. The title is "Peer trouble" by John Crace in The Guardian. From The (sci-tech) Library Question.

Take a look at "Search engines make us dumb" by Jonathan Gordon-Till. The title says it all. There's not much for me to add to the very perceptive comments on this article over at the ResourceShelf, where I originally saw this posting. Favourite quote: "No search engine can cause the same degree of discovery as the human brain. Yet we are happy to abrogate our responsibility to use our brains optimally." This whole google / search engine / open access journals / information literacy melange of things all relate to each other. With the ground shifting beneath our feet so quickly, it can sometimes be hard to see the forest for the rather distressing trees, sometimes.

May 13, 2003

Check out the Directory of Open Access Journals. It's searchable by title and browsable by subject. From FOS News.

May 12, 2003

Here's an interesting article from the Communications of the ACM, May 2003 (v46i5: 71-75): "Of Course it's True; I Saw it on the Internet!" I find it particularly interesting because it's sort of an acknowledgement that even CS students need to develope information literacy and critical thinking skills when it comes to finding stuff on the net. And it even comes from CS scholars! There's what seems to be a slightly different version here.

May 8, 2003

In the spring 2003 issue of Mathematical Intelligencer there's an article titled "Predicting the Future of Scholarly Publishing" by John Ewing. Ewing is a bit skeptical of the whole free online scholarship movement, tending to favour something closer to the current model for journal publication. "Throwing out the baby with the bath water" might describe his viewpoint of the mad rush to FOS. I don't really agree with a lot of what he says, but he does make a lot of interesting points. Ewing's site at the AMS also has several other articles about scholarly communications in mathematics. All together, a treasure trove of information and opinion. BTW, he's Executive Director of the American Mathematical Society, so he's not exactly a disinterested observer. From slapam-l.

For those of us going to SLA in New York next month, the latest issue of the journal Physics in Perspective (v5i1: 87-121) has an absolutely indispensible article. It's titled "The Physical Tourist: Physics and New York City" and it's by Benjamin Bederson. Link here to the absract and here to the full text, for those of you who are licensed. Who knew there was so much to see and do? See you in NYC!

A so-so article on computer chess. It's long and informative (and the English is a bit fractured -- whatever happened to editing?), but it has some factual problems. See Mig Greengard's comment (it's number 91) for some of those issues. From Chessbase.

The latest on the listservs in the scitech world is this article in arxiv about the accuracy of author citations in papers. The article is titled "Read before you cite!" and is by M.V. Simkin and V.P. Roychowdhury. The implication is, of course, that many authors don't actually ever read many of the papers they cite, but rather copy the citation from a paper they did read, thus perpetuating an incorrect citation from that source. So, I wonder if I actually read this arxiv article or if I'm just copying the citation from a source I did read? From slapam-l.

May 5, 2003

The new Ariadne has an article on EEVL's ejournal search engine. The engine is very interesting because it indexes free ejournals, certainly providing a service we lack. I'm sure that the scholarly content is a bit weak, but this is a real start. I also can't wait until they do the same for their computing and math collections. The article is titled "Free full-text e-journals and EEVL's Engineering E-journal Search Engine" and its by Nicola Harrison and Roddy MacLeod. There's also interesting articles on syndicating content for web pages & blogs and a UK eprints archive project . from sepw.

April 25, 2003

And last but certainly not least for today, Rita Vine has a link on her blog to an industry report on the search engines. I haven't read the report yet (it's 90 pages!) but it seems to be coming from the business/commercialization perspective. I think it's important to keep in mind that these search engine companies are in it to make money -- even Google.

It seems that there are two other scitech librarian blogs out there, one of which I've know about for a while: EngLib by Catherine Lavallée-Welch of the University of Louisville. The other is a relatively new one: The (engineering) Library Question by Randy Reichardt of the University of Alberta. We all seem to take a slightly different approach to our missions. And, as Catherine points out, we're all Canadians. Enjoy!

Getting tech books to developing nations is a great idea. Tim O'Reilly, of course, is at the crest of the wave.

So, what are the information seeking habits of engineers in industry? They just ask their friends. Take a look at these two news stories (1, 2) about a study done on aerospace engineers. Apparently they prefer to ask a co-worker they know well as opposed to using any print (or even oline) source or even an expert they may not know personally. I haven't been able to track down the original article yet, but when I do, I'll post the source here. From Lisnews.

April 21, 2003

Here's an interesting quote: "'What did they think I was taking, smart pills?' asked Eythorsdottir, an native of Iceland who now lives in Huntsville, Alabama. 'The moment I invent smart pills, I won't have to play bridge for a living.'" This is from a recent newspaper story about so-called "mind sports" such as chess and bridge becomming olympic sports. Of course, to compete in the olympics, an athlete has to undergo drug tests to make sure they are not cheating. And what drug, exactly, would make someone perform better at chess or bridge? Even too much coffee would make it more difficult for someone to concentrate deeply.

ResearchBuzz guru Tara Calishain has just posted the first in a series of articles about search engines on the O'ReillyNet site (Yeah, them again). She talks about where she sees search engines such as Google evolving over the next little while. The first is titled "Eight Search Engine 'C' Changes." I'll put something here as the articles are posted.

The O'Reilly site is a goldmine of interesting material for those of us interested in the bleeding edge of computing technology. There's currently a link to a long interview with Tim O'Reilly where he talks about his vision of open source software and the communities that have risen up around the movement. The interview ranges all around copyright, bioinformatics and a whole bunch of other topics. O'Reilly can be a bit of a techno-utopian, but his ideas are always thought provoking.

April 14, 2003

Every issue of D-Lib profiles a different digital collection that's out there. The most recent is quite a hoot: Strange Science: The Rocky Road to Modern Paleontology and Biology. Hey, scientists aren't perfect.

A very interesting article from the latest D-Lib about the new trend (or, actually, not so new) to personalizing library web sites: Building Upon the MyLibrary Concept to Better Meet the Information Needs of College Students by Susan Gibbons. What I got out of it is that the next wave of portals we provide to our students will not be based on the subjects or programs we think they are in, but on the actual courses they are taking. A bit of a stretch, maybe, but our students are notoriously impatient with (and indifferent to) our efforts to get them to the information resources we think they need. The article also suggests that these kinds of efforts will by their very nature lead to a closer relationship between us and the faculty we serve. Thought provoking.

Chess and Science Fiction? What could be a better combo?

April 7, 2003

Eprints -- the wave of the future, usually the best way to see what's at the cutting edge in a field. Here's a good metalist of eprint servers in various disciplines. The best example is easily the Physics one, arxiv. From FOS News.

What's programming all about? Where did it come from, what's its history, where's it going? Alan Kay is a pretty important figure in the computing field, and he shares some of his ideas on these issues in an interview at the O'Reilly site titled Daddy, Are We There Yet? A Discussion with Alan Kay. Oh, and by the way, don't forget to test your code.

April 3, 2003

Engineers don't exactly have the best reputation in the world for their writing skills. And guess what? They know it too. From EngLib

March 27, 2003

I've had a whole bunch of computer chess links lying around for a couple of months, so I thought I start putting them out there:

Back from those middle-of-the-term blues and seeing the light at the end of the mad rush tunnel...Some links to articles about the state of the literature in math that I've gathered over the last few months (mostly from FOS News):

February 24, 2003

One of the most common "complaints" I get from faculty is that it's hard to get students to use journal (or conference) literature in their research assignments. Well, Philip M. Davis has an idea to encourage students to look at alternate sources in information -- if instructors set minimum bibliographic guidelines, the situation improves significantly. Here's an article about Davis' research. Here's the original article in portal: Libraries and the Academy.

The great Kasparov vs. Deep Junior match ended rather anti-climactically in a draw. Here's some annotations of the games by one of Junior's programmers.

Has there ever been a worse idea that granting patents for software? Probably not, and Tim O'Reilly, in his usual sensible way, presents the case.

February 4, 2003

Here's a fun one: the Encyclopaedia Britannica people came up with a list of the top 100 inventions of all time. From VAS&ND.

February 3, 2003

Deep Junior and Garry Kasparov are tied at 2-2 with two games left. It's been pretty exciting!

Another interesting bioinformatics pioneer interview on the O'Reilly site, this time with Lincoln Stein.

January 27, 2003

Man vs. machine! What could be better than that? Garry Kasparov and Deep Junior face off over the next couple of weeks in NYC. Check out this CNN report on the match. The first game was won handily by Kasparov, check out this report at Chessbase. Chessbase is the best place to follow the match -- take a look at their media page. A brilliant addition to the popular literature on artificial intelligence is Feng-hsiung Hsu's Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion, a behind the scenes account of the last time Kasparov faced a computer in public. Computer chess is a topic that really interests me and I've been reading a lot lately on the topic. A big post of various resources is coming soon. And guess what? Yep, there is a Claude Shannon connection.

January 23, 2003

Am I obsessed with Google? If you're an academic librarian these days and you're not displaying at least some degree of Google anxiety, you're probably not paying attention. Has Google won? is an interview with Steven J. Bell at The Chronicle of Higher Education. It raises some interesting issues, especially about our assumption that full text databases are the best weapon in our arsenal to get students to use something other than Google in their research. His suggestion? Quality not quantity. From Lisnews.

January 22, 2003

Stephen Wolfram is the "wild and crazy science pundit" du jour these days. Of course, that doesn't mean what he has to say isn't weird, stimulating and thought provoking, as is this interview at the O'Reilly Network on bioinformatics.

January 11, 2003

David Hartwell is one of the secret masters of science fiction, editor at Tor, publisher of The New York Review of Science Fiction and editor or too many anthologies to mention. By definition, being a secret master means that he might be a little less well known than he deserves -- for example, you rarely see interviews with him. This recent interview in SF Revu should change that a bit. The connection to our mandate here? His most recent anthology (with Kathryn Cramer) is The Hard SF Renaissance. Hard sf being, of course, the most scientifically minded branch of the genre. From Locusmag.

January 8, 2003

One of the most valuable research skills it is possible to have is the ability to dig up obscure and forgotten knowledge. This skill may not be as important in the sciences as in journalism or history, although it should not be undervalued. Physicists, mathematicians, botanists and many others often use dusty old tomes as part of their research. Unfortunately, most new students refuse to believe that anything not on the Web could be important or useful. The Web may be transforming how research is done forever, but I don't think we need to throw out the baby with the bath water. One of our Science & Technology Studies profs, Ernst Hamm, pointed out this wonderful little article to me about journalism students. I think it is just as relevant to virtually every other field, highlighting some of the "old-fashioned" research skills such as persistence, imagination and hard work.