December 12, 2014
How can you search data from multiple databases when the terminology may be different? For example, you may type in “Python” in Google. Are you a techie who is interested in the programming language python or a parent who would like to find out when the python exhibit opens in the local zoo? How can a computer tell the difference between the two contexts? You will find, below, how this issue is being addressed.
A community called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been trying to come up with standards, mainly for web sites. The W3C has generated a Data Activity (http://www.w3.org/2013/data/) group to develop standards and vocabularies, in part to improve interoperability between data base terms. Since the W3C Data Activity group addresses how to connect terms from different sources, I think this will also apply to your issue.
A couple of frameworks allow for interchange between many different databases by describing concepts and the relationship of the concepts. I think also these schemas allow for defining contextual constraints. The frameworks consist of RDF and RDF Schemas, SKOS, OWL, RIF.
While standard vocabulary is a starting place, of course, development tools are needed to allow for different database terminologies to work together. A list of development languages that would be helpful can be searched from the W3 Tools- Semantic Web Standards site (http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/wiki/Tools). There are over 300 tools. A tool that has had some positive press and was introduced at an O’ Reilly conference, is SPARQL(http://www.w3.org/TR/2013/REC-sparql11-protocol-20130321/) .
Let us say that you don’t have the time or resources to look at connecting databases by scratch. I recommend that you look at DSpace http://www.dspace.org/introducing or http://www.dspace.org/ . The MIT libraries have developed a digital archive of materials. In part, the institute has come up with a way of connecting search vocabularies and contexts, easier. You could also find services available to help you get going. Dura-Space is an open technology project to provide guidance in using D-Space. However you need to foster research and be open source, DuraSpace.Org (http://duraspace.org/about) may be an option. I think these folks offer free consulting in using DSpace.
For the average user who wants to make searching the web easier, you may wish to try Context Miner (http://contextminer.org/about.php). Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, Context Miner automatically crawls some specific websites and gets contextual data. You use context miner to set the context and the terms through a campaign. Context Miner uses these parameters to get you the relevant information and looks beyond the literal.
As you can see from the text above, you can find several tools to make your searching and database-integration easier. These put the context in data. Also stay tuned. You will find an exciting future making data more meaningful and searching more integrated.
January 14, 2013
Technical writers need flexible tools to collaborate with their peers and to ensure their words reach readers. No longer do writers and readers confine content to a piece of paper. They interact with content and reuse it in a variety of contexts. To meet these demands, a technical writer requires a good content management system. Confluence and Framemaker are examples of two such applications.
Confluence, created by Atlassian, combines desktop editing functionality with dynamic capabilties to interact with other team members. Confluence users can edit documents quickly by using macros to replace content and to automatically upload documents. Writers use Confluence to keep the look and feel throughout a set of documents and to pull excerpts from one section or file format to another. This tool allows content to remain fluid and usable among different types of content, while still maintaining the overall integrity of the document. Confluence power allows more than one writer to edit a document while maintaining the changes from each. Writers can use confluence to assign and manage tasks, obtain comments from their peers, contribute feedback, and track their content evolution. Confluence allows team members to search for particular content and task status while notifying others of updates. Writers can use this tool to look up technical requirements, forming the backbone of help content. Confluence users will find a power and ease in writing about and accessing technical knowledge.
Framemaker , produced by Adobe.com, uses XML (Extensible Markup Language) and DITA (Darwin Information Technical Architecture) to define and use content elements. Content from one document can be searched and applied to a different context, such as a pop-up from hovering over an image. Through XML and DITA, Framemaker enables the writer to specify a hirearchy of elements, allowing for consistency among descriptions and content placement. Readers in return, can easily access documentation through a variety of media, including cell phones and Kindles. Moreover, Framemaker authors can upload a variety of media, including videos and images, to enhance their writing, making content dynamic. Content, created through Framemaker, can be transferred easily across different file formats and documentation structures, while maintaining consistent terminology.
Framemaker and Confluence provide technical writers tools to make content dynamic and accessible by a wide audience.
November 23, 2012
What are the holidays without toys? Big and small kids play with toys. I enjoy selecting toys for my niece and friend’s children. I try to picture what could spur creativity and imagination. But many times, I look for good ideas. I use a couple of websites to help.
Dr. Toy, http://www.drtoy.com/ , provides creative toy suggestions. Stevanne Auerbach keeps the site up to date with great suggestions. Users can search a toy database by age group, price or product type, http://www.drtoy.com/find-toys/ . If I needed to find a good toy store near me, I could look at the directory. Today I am serendipitous. I look at Auerbach’s blog to learn what is new. She has written a post on Metamorphic Toys, that allow kids to personalize their play. I like this.
I think, why only read one person’s toy expertise? Parents and industry experts collaborate and review toys at http://www.parents-choice.org/default.cfm . This group started in 1978 and continues to take a well-rounded approach in recommending toys. This panel gives awards by type. I select the Holiday guide, http://www.parents-choice.org/holidayguide.cfm, for additional ideas. The site provides easy access to searching by age or by price. A gift idea rotating media display shows featured toys for the holidays, including games and gems. I find the products clearly described and toy pictures helpful.
With Dr Toy, http://www.drtoy.com/, and Parents Choice, http://www.parents-choice.org/default.cfm, my toy shopping experience promises to be fun. I will see creatitive ideas within my budget. Now, back to looking for a good gift to delight my friends and family.
July 29, 2012
Where would we be without our medicines? I ponder this question. Women and men can choose when to have families with birth control. People who are diabetic can manage their conditions and even use medication to control blood sugar. Drugs can save lives by treating individuals with cardiac diseases and problems. Children who would have failed school, can receive stimulants to treat attention deficit disorder, making it possible to learn and to have more choices in the future. Patients can transform the quality of their lives by using medication to manage moods, as Listening to Prozac, by Peter Kramer, attests. At the same time medication can have unintended consequences, including drug-induced diabetes. Medications that adversely affect how blood sugar is regulated may lead to a poor blood-sugar regulation or drug-induced diabetes. This can be more noticeable when taking some prescription medications over a long period of time. How can you learn about prescription drug interactions? Here are two sites:
The Food and Drug Administration, FDA reports adverse effects of prescribed medications and addresses safety concerns at the website: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/default.htm . The MedWatch site provides information on recalls, news on drug risks, a place to report negative interactions with drugs, as well as a friendly database to search for specific drug interactions. This site also tracks unlawful prescription drugs sold over the Internet, warning customers of potentially dangerous suppliers. The FDA maintains the website, providing a more objective viewpoint to medications, as the FDA is not in the business of selling or distributing drugs or medical products for a profit. As a medical regulator and a more neutral party, The FDA and its MedWatch site provide accurate assessments on the medication.
PubMed, an electronic, biomedical, article archive maintained by the US National Library of Medicine, provides quality research information. The novice and the expert will find information about current studies and trends, including documentation about drug-interactions and diabetes. Pubmed provides a snapshot summaries on trends and studies . Readers can search over 21 million records to identify the information that is needed. The search tool makes it easy and quick to retrieve terms. Similar articles to a topic searched, can be found pretty fast, in part due to a controlled vocabulary, MeSH or Medical Subject Headings. For those on the run, with a mobile phone and internet access, the mobile version of Pubmed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/ offers ready access from almost anywhere.
We need to understand medications as much as we need them to help us manage parts of our lives. We need to understand how prescription drugs will benefit us and their risks, especially as they are prescribed for the same person over a longer period of time. Drugs can contribute towards impaired sugar regulation and diabetes. To manage diabetes, we need to exercise, eat healthily, cease to smoke, minimize or cut out alchohol, and reduce processed sugars and foods. Doctors give us this good advice and it holds true today. In addition we need to be aware of how many prescribed drugs we take, their benefits and their interactions. The two sources above help in this understanding.
February 14, 2012
Last Tuesday, Brad at Concordia University and I spoke. We talk about reference librarians that work remotely by email. We talk about supporting distance learning. We talked about requirements, from the NIH, for researchers to make their findings available to the public, remotely. We talk about several universities and colleges in the northwest, pooling their resources by consolidating cataloging through Orbis Cascade Alliance: http://www.orbiscascade.org . As we talk, I think about when and where librarianship can be done remotely. I look for more information about distance librarianship and providing remote reference services.
The Virtual Librarian Handbook provide information for those who wish to get started providing virtual reference services as well as some tips and tricks. A review of The Virtual Reference Librarian’s Handbook can be found here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC209520/. The reviewer, Lynn Kasner Morgan highlights how the book can help librarian plan policies, software purchases, and service using this workbook. Amazon provides the book for purchase and an additional review at, http://www.amazon.com/Virtual-Reference-Librarians-Handbook/dp/155570445X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329193841&sr=8-1 .
Jessamyn West also provides a good resource to understanding virtual librarianship and is a good example herself. She writes a blog called “The Shifted Librarian” http://www.theshiftedlibrarian.com/, talking about a new kind of librarian, that can provide services remotely. She has an excellent reading list: http://theshiftedlibrarian.com/stories/2002/02/02/aShiftedReadingList.html . Also she has an introduction as to what is a virtual librarian http://www.theshiftedlibrarian.com/archives/2006/09/04/what_is_a_virtual_librarian.html . Her posts are very matter of fact and easy to understand. Jessamyn provides an example of a remote library service, Mass Answers and her response to asking a virtual librarian http://www.librarian.net/stax/1837/ . Through her experience with Mass Answers was not as positive as she would have liked, Jessamyn’s writings provide a critical eye and examination of what makes a good virtual reference services.
We are just scratching the surface of virtual librarianship and I am continuing to learn. Where I may not shell out for the Virtual Librarian’s Handbook, I will keep it in mind for the next time I get a bonus or a special gift certificate to Amazon. Reading Jessamyn’s blog has opened up my eyes to virtual librarianship. I am looking forward to learning more about how reference, research and resources can be provided remotely.
February 6, 2012
On Friday, I travel to Salem to speak with Bill, at Willamette University . We talk about the technical tools that are used to create and manage a digital library. To track and catalog artifacts and images, Bill recommends ContentDM. To archive thesis and papers, suggests DSpace. DSpace is an open source application, meaning it is free for distribution and can be modified, since the source code is readily available. Open source applications, such as D-space, are an attractive option, as it can cost less to use than proprietary software. This got me thinking. What other open source software are available to assist managing digital collections.
Bill LeFurgy, of the Library of Congress, recommends several open source tools in his blog post “Supporting Open Source Tools for Digital Preservation and Access“, at http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2011/12/supporting-open-source-tools-for-digital-preservation-and-access/. His blog links to 31 open source programs geared towards digital preservation, including those assisting metadata creation (labeling digital objects for easier retrieval), managing submissions to digital repository, and facilitating storage. Bill also lists several tools contributed by the Library of Congress and refers to several ongoing initiatives. This is a meaty blog post.
Naresh Sarwan reviews 15 open source software used to manage digital assets, in the blog post “Review of Available Open Source DAM Software” , at http://www.opensourcedigitalassetmanagement.org/reviews/available-open-source-dam/. The reviewer concentrates on web-based and OSI approved options. The options towards the end, under the heading “Preservation” may be of most interest to librarians. The blog describes who developed, the strengths of, and the framework of the applications. In addition, the blog provides links to download the open source applications and the licensing requirements. This post provides a good overview as to what Digital Archive Management options are out there and a realistic appraisal of them.
Open Source solutions for digital collections look very promising. It is an exciting time to learn and play with these tools.
February 3, 2012
I visited Portland State University library, yesterday. I leave the classical, wood-encased, reception area and step into Tom’s office, filled with diverse posters and gadgets. I find the transition foretelling of a different perspective on digital collections. We talk about a potential new need for academic librarians, to assist researchers write a data management plan, a recent requirement of the National Science Foundation to secure grant funding. To get paid for research, scholars need to not only create, conduct, and summarize their studies; they need to provide a plan to make that information available, a strategy to make it searchable, and to secure sensitive data. Here is where a librarian can come in and make recommendations. This type of librarian may be a data curator, the care-keeper of digital collections This data curator type of librarian is a lynch-pin in securing new grant funding and ensuring compliance with the data management plan. Our conversation left me wanting to learn more. Tom recommended some good resources to learn more, listed below.
First, the Center for Digital Scholarship and Services of the OSU (Oregon State University) Libraries has put together a page on resources available to create and follow a data management plan: DATA MANAGEMENT PLANS| Get Help , http://ica.library.oregonstate.edu/subject-guide/1346-DATA-MANAGEMENT-PLANS?tab=515611 . This site provides the nuts and bolts on data management plans as well as resources to commonly asked questions, data sharing requirements from the NIH, elements to consider as well as tools and resources. Whether you are a researcher starting out and sending your first grant, a grant writer, or a librarian, this site will provide the guts to secure grant funding and standing in the relevant community.
The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), http://www.cni.org/, provides a second resource to understanding Data Management . The CNI was created to “broaden the community’s thinking beyond issues of network connectivity and bandwidth to encompass digital content and advanced applications to create, share, disseminate, and analyze such content in the service of research and education”. It combines the work between IT and Libraries. The CNI provides an entire page of references on Digital Curation http://www.cni.org/category/topics/digital-curation/ including recent podcasts, videos, notes from CNI Meetings and Recent publications. Recent information on data management strategies , from December 2011, is available for review.
CNI and OSU provide windows into a new kind of librarianship, needed to secure grant funding. This melds IT and library resources and foreshadows an emerging digital landscape. I am excited about my discussion with Tom and look forward to actively participating in digital collections and management, in the near future.
January 20, 2012
I walk into a back office at Lewis and Clark College to talk with Jeremy, Digital Services Coordinator. Among other tasks, he coordinates 7 digital collections and projects, spanning art, to poetry, to documents collected by the Waztek library. I put Jeremy to the test. Why should students go to a digital collections instead of using Google? He thinks for a moment. The digital archives provide portals to common interests but Google provides information instantaneously. Some student wonder why have an academic library at all when so much is available online.
Experts have pondered the value of academic libraries and how they can cater to digital library seekers. Can they out do Google. Several articles about this topic are listed by Candy Schwartz at http://gslis.simmons.edu/blogs/candy/ This includes http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/briefingpaper/2010/bpdigitalinfoseekerv1.pdf , giving suggestions on how libraries can meet their digital needs. As a former student of Candy Schwartz, I find her very knowledgeable about digital libraries.
Fast Company, takes a different perspective in the article Google’s Digital Library Failed–Can Academics Succeed, http://www.fastcompany.com/1744427/can-academic-libraries-succeed-where-google-failed . The article talks about how most of academia, as non-for profit, could succeed in building a digital public library for America. The article ends with lots of questions.
I took a different tack in my conversation with Jeremy. What if academic libraries provided digital collections that are customizable? Perhaps a collection where students and faculty could decide what information they wished to stay current, similar to an RSS feed. Perhaps the digital library collections could integrate with social media, such as Facebook and Delicious API’s . Promise abounds for academic libraries and their digital collections.
January 6, 2012
I recently received an Amazon Kindle for the Holidays. Immediately I downloaded many favorite books; these include Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher and several Sherlock Holmes mysteries. As I am reading on my Kindle, I am amazed at how this electronic book reader changes reading and writing. I prefer short passages that are easy to scan. I practice keeping my writing brief. As I am thinking about writing, here are some excellent sources on online writing.
Colorado State University (CSU) has a great series of writing guides, including 3 on writing for the Web, See: http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/index.cfm?guides_active=web&category1=39 . Readers will gain understanding of how print and online writing compare and are different. In addition, the website provides comments on common etiquette. The CSU guides also provide a list of handy resources to learn more about online writing, see good writing samples, using HTML to write on a web page, and sample different approaches to designing web pages
For some good practices towards online writing, the NOF-digitise Technical Advisory Services provide a guide, Writing for the Web, at http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/nof/support/help/papers/writing-web/ . Although this is an older document, the guidelines and general principles apply today. In addition the guide provides tips on describing online images and tailoring text to different audiences, making content more readable.
I think the writing guides from Colorado State University and the Writing for the Web, are good starting places to learn about online writing. I look forward to see additional writing resources for alternative platforms. Maybe the next writing guide will describe how to capture readers using a cell phone to retrieve information quickly.
July 5, 2011
As I have been using SQL to query databases, I have wondered about alternatives to query among multiple data sets. Is there a more intuitive way to retrieve information that is not so tied down to a particular meaning of a field? Say I was looking for a new mobile phone and wished to query different vendors for the best price. Do I search for “cellphone”, “cell phone” “mobile phone”, “mobile device” , or “phone” ? All these terms can refer to a cell phone. It would be much easier if I could query one term and results close to the meaning of the first term would also appear. I would then get what I meant by the search. SPARQL is a query language that has such power. SPARQL is a language that accesses RDF or resource description framework in order to retrieve closer search results from a graph of possible meanings and pattern matching. As I am investigating this language, I have found several resources that I would like to share.
The W3, or World Wide Web Consortium 3, provides an excellent SPARQL technical document and recommendations at Query Language for RDF ( http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-sparql-query/) . The W3 is a group of web experts, pioneers, and interested contributors that develop web standards . The group is well regarded and is used as a reference upon developing web pages. This technical document starts by introducing SPARQL, giving some sample queries, providing details on the syntax, constraints, and defining the testing framework.
For the newbie, XML.com provides a down to earth introduction in XML.com: Introducing SPARQL: Querying the Semantic Web http://www.xml.com/lpt/a/2005/11/16/introducing-sparql-querying-semantic-web-tutorial.html . XML.com is a resource published by O’Reilly, a publisher of technical training materials. The article talks about main points associated with SPARQL, simple queryies, other querying forms such as construct, describe and ask. The article describes the background needed to understand SPARQL, the context, tools and how to use patterns.
SPARQL is receiving attention from developers. Microsoft is looking for ways to implement this robust query language. See SPARQL-DL( http://academic.research.microsoft.com/Publication/5476728/sparql-dl-implementation-experience ) . This language is also making its way into the clinical space see Zynx Health Incorporated (http://www.zynxhealth.com and https://trak.baiworks.com/application/jobdescription.aspx?q=leSEDqZdwZ4gKo4Ayjbxnfq6W3IaFJTL4ysCRnjIn8wgDur%2fwJfrM72BIrQ5%2b2NeybHA4dEkh0U%3d). SPARQL has promise to query a wide range of information and bring back better matches in search results. The next time I look for a mobile phone or do any complex query, I may just use SPARQL.