Archive for October, 2008

Portal is a website that acts as a doorway or introduction to many other websites or information on particular subject areas that are sometimes grouped into categories. Some individuals and organizations develop portals without taking into consideration issues such as core business model, content, resource availability, audience, technical tools etc. These issues are important to be dealt with before the development of portal as they crop up any time during the lifetime of portal.

I had a talk in this connection with Ms Siobhan, Information Systems Unit, IDS involved in the development of IDS web services. From the discussions, I realized that there are many aspects, which need to be looked into before the development of a portal. Some of the issues needs to be addressed are:

1. What is the core business of the portal?

This issue needs to be addressed from the point view of vision, aims and objectivities, timeframe, risks etc, which are associated with the portal. It enables to know the viability of the project in the long run.

2. What type of content to be included in the portal?

The content is core for any online service such as website, blog or portal. The person or team who are associated with the development of portal needs to decide on the type of content to be included. The portal whether will include publications of different organizations within a subject group with links to the full text, information on latest developments/policies, information on conferences/workshops, links to different organizations websites etc. In a way it depends on the type of product/s (portal) you plan to deliver it to your audience.

3. Resource availability

The resources are crucial for running any kind of services. The resource availability in terms of finance, technology and human expertise needs to be taken into consideration.

4. Who will be your audience?

The audience play a key role for the success any service. You need to know who are they and core characteristics of them. You should also have to have a clear idea regarding what you would be offering to them in terms of content.  The end product, whether will provide links to articles or news items or websites or databases or filtered content on a particular subject etc will be of more important.

5. What will be your technical communication tools?

What will be sources for your portal content? Does the content is generated within your organization or it will be aggregated from various sources such as RSS feeds, databases, websites etc. Also you need to think type of platform in terms of software/system relating to front and back end of service. In other words, the methods and tools applied for the production and distribution of a service. 

6. Monitoring and evaluation of portal

The success of any service is analysed based on its usage by audience. You need to know the possible web analytical tools, which will be deployed to monitor the service. It is also necessary to identify the critical success factors, which work in favour of the service.

7. What are the core competencies of your delivery team?

The core competencies of your team play an important role in the delivery of information. You need to find out the existing expertise of your delivery team in terms of technology and also the possibility of expansion of their expertise to other technologies.

I think, the success of a portal more or less depends on these issues and hence makes sense for everyone concerned with the portal development to take into consideration of the same.


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What would be the future of libraries? This question was addressed in the Internet Librarian International 2008 (ILI-2008) conference held at London between 16 and 17 October, 2008. With the growing number of web applications, changing format of documents and changing users information seeking behaviour, is there is a way for libraries to survive?

The answer to this question is NO, if libraries do not adopt themselves to the changing environment. The keynote addresses of the ILI-2008 conference addressed these issues. The key note address given by Mr Guy Cloutier highlighted how libraries and librarians can bring in change by better understanding the technology and clients. He advocated for thinking innovative and adding value to the information products to make it saleable. The other key note address by Shanachies group highlighted on how changes can be brought in to the libraries to attract more users by introducing new concepts such as gaming, music, coffee club etc. Also the penal discussion on ‘What is the future of Libraries? pinpointed on the use of Web 2.0 applications, adopting to changing environment and providing services by understanding clients information needs.

Some of the key presentations made in the conference were on Web 2.0, Search projects, Information literacy and digital preservation. The one I liked the most is use of ‘Google Analytics‘ for library websites. The Google analytics is a free tool of Google search engine, which can be used to know the usage statistics of a website or webpage. It is possible to generate various kinds of reports, which is crucial to evaluate the success of any web product.

In regard to tagging for posts on blogs and social networking sites, there was an interesting presentation by SLAINTE, which harped on use of controlled vocabulary rather than user defined keywords or tags. This, I highlighted in my previous post on Web 2.0 and this study supports the idea of developing a thesaurus or using an existing thesaurus for assigning the tags.

I strongly support that there is a future for libraries/librarians and we only need to adopt to change and do not expect somebody to bring in change for us.

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I believe Web 2.0 tools have gone one step ahead. In addition to helping the generation and sharing of content, some of them even help for sourcing and aggregation of content. This was showcased in the workshop I attended on Web 2.0 at IDS by Mr Chris and his colleague Mr Pier from Euforic.

With the growth of websites and use of Web 2.0 applications, it is becoming impossible to keep track of news, articles and other content in a subject area of research or study. Now, you can keep track of new information emanating in a particular subject field by making use of Sourcing and Aggregating Web 2.0 applications. These tools help you to collect RSS feeds, news etc from various websites of your choice and deliver it on various platforms such as e-mail, mobile, website and many more. Some of them even do filtering of information to avoid any duplication of information. Few of such services are:



These will be immensely useful in knowing the latest developments in particular field/s. Information intermediaries can make use of these tools effectively to deliver information in a field or group of fields to the selected audiences.

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Web 2.0 as what I understand gives place for everyone to publish and share information on the Internet, which was not the case with Web 1.0, where in only organizations and specific individuals or experts used to provide information. It harps on how individuals can put content (blogs), write content (Wikis), add keywords (tagging), move information across (RSS feeds) and bringing together information (mesh-up) on the web.

I had an opportunity to attend few sessions on Web 2.0 delivered  by Mr Chris Addison and Mr Pier A. Pirani from Euforic at IDS with specific reference to development information and research. From the sessions, I could understand that Web 2.0 tools are great to make use of, however they too also have problems in curtailing information overload. I was very much impressed with the five important things one should know before implementing Web 2.0 tools, which were explained by them. They are:

  • People – Understand the group
  • Access – Bring down barriers
  • Motivation – Find the use that matches the need
  • Content Management – The same management issues of Web 1.0 apply
  • Impact – Measuring change

The problems with the Web 2.0, I foresee are related to vocabulary, bandwidth, sustainability and usability. The non-use of controlled vocabulary (thesaurus) for tagging (assigning keywords) to posts, makes it impossible for users to assign stanadard tags (keywords) and look for information on a particular topic using tags. Each user is independent of assigning their own tags/keywords, thus creating information chaos. Secondly, bandwidth is an issue in accessing certain content such as videos available on Web 2.0 platforms, it is especially a serious issue for developing and third world countries.

The sustainability of many of these tools is a question. Like a bubble burst of websites sometime back, the same may be the case with these tools, thus create problem in moving content form one tool to another. In relation to usability, there is lot needs to done as many users still do not aware how to make use of these tools. Even if researchers are trained by trainers, there is a need for further training by researchers themselves by giving their own example of how they are making use of these tools.

From these sessions, I find there is a lot of scope for information intermediaries such as Library and information science professionals to play a greater role in filtering information, developing standard  thesaurus for social bookmarking and in providing training to researchers.

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Database, database development and exchange of information or data are quite familiar terms for LIS professionals. However, the intricacies involved with the development and exchange are quite large.  I had an opportunity to discuss the issues related to exchange of data with Ms Julie, Head of British Library for Development Studies [BLDS], Mr Andrew Buxton, Information Systems Unit and with few others.

I think the problems are similar everywhere in relation to the fields used for development of database.  It may be invariably due to development database fields based on the individual library requirements without taking into consideration what fields standard international commercial databases use. This issue came up for discussion as BLDS is planning to have an agreement with International Bibliography of Social Sciences [IBSS] brought out by London School of Economics [LSE] and Economic and Social Research Council [ESRC], UK in sharing bibliographic data of articles. BLDS has a database consisting index to articles published in various social science periodicals, now in order to increase its scope, it would like to have a data exchange agreement with IBSS. As per this agreement, BLDS contribute data for around 100 journals and in turn it will receive data for another 100 journals from IBSS.  Presently, they are working out to standardize certain fields for the hassle free exchange of data.

One more interesting issue came up for discussion is whether copyright permission is required from the publishers to include abstracts of the articles into a the database. Many opined that it may be required, however Mr Andrew Buxton mentioned about copyright exclusion for scientific articles abstracts, he further added that it needs to be confirmed for social science articles abstracts.

In another meeting, I had an opportunity to talk to Ms Shanti Mahendra, one of the editors of ID21 (one of the knowledge services of IDS) in relation to OII database output based on author’s affiliation or institution’s contribution to the development of social science literature or use by policy makers. Here again, it reminded me about the standard fields to be used in the database.

All these discussions remind me that, the group or institute or library, who are into the development of databases need to take care of all the fields as per existing international standard norms and also to take feedback of users before the database is being built. This will help in avoiding any future conflicts with data interchange. Also, we need to adhere to international copyright agreements.





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Mapping of a product…

Mapping using Sticky Notes

Mapping using Sticky Notes

Concept of mapping is identifying pathways of action or change around a project or service,  we used sticky notes to identify different actors and actions relating to the Open Index Initiative [OII] , a service of IGIDR library, then drew the connections between them.

It is a very useful tool for planning or analysing of any new work project. What interested me in the whole process is how a product can be mapped using sticky notes on sheets of paper (as seen in the picture) and later arranging them logically to know about:

  • Present status of project
  • Role of developers and their responsibilities
  • Identification of stakeholders or beneficiaries
  • Expected change the OII can bring in for research
  • Sustainability and future development of the project
  • Drawing of assumptions, which could derail the process of change

I think this method can be effectively applied to library projects/products, before they are being developed to know beforehand what would be the possible outcome of projects/products.

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