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October 7, 2009

A Future Library Service?

This would be pretty cool, which is good since we’re headed in this direction already.

Take this story: Entire Cities Recreated Using Thousands of Flickr Photos

“A group of researchers with University of Washington’s graphics and imaging laboratory (GRAIL) wanted to see if they could build a piece of software that would search the web for images of a particular place and recreate that place in 3D in under a day.

They succeeded, and the team, lead by Sameer Agarwal, created a simulation of Rome using 150,000 images harvested from photo-sharing website Flickr, and build a virtual model within a day.

The team also tested the software on the Croatian city of Dubrovnic and were able to recreate the entire old city, including all the buildings and streets, within 22 hours.”>

Mix in local, digitized history from the library and archives, the way DOK does with their Surface table app that reads your library card and retrieves historical images of your neighborhood.


Multitouch Microsoft Surface: Cultural Heritage Browser from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Top off with the coming wave of augmented reality apps for mobile devices, led by the “it’s already here” Yelp app for local reviews.

“Yelp’s new iPhone app is now the first iPhone App with Augmented Reality. It takes Yelp information and overlays it into the real-world. It’s actually a secret easter egg (discovered by Robert Scoble), which may be why Apple didn’t reject Yelp’s augmented reality app. We have screenshots and a demo video to show you what this is all about.” [Mashable]

And you get a glimpse of where virtual worlds, ubiquitous information, and mobile broadband access will converge. I can imagine walking through Chicago neighborhoods (like Pullman), around the Mall in Washington DC, and other places where libraries can add value to this type of experience.

If you feel information overload now, just wait until that information flow magically appears all around you in the real world and not just on a screen. Can librarians become part of users’ networks and help filter out some of the noise? Will libraries make their archives open and available for these types of uses?


5:50 am Comments (3)

August 21, 2009

Another Reason for Libraries to Make Their Sites Social

Now that I’m on a smartphone that has a real web browser and is capable of multitasking (the Palm Pre), In fact, I find myself expecting it to act like my laptop. I’ve stopped carrying my laptop or my netbook to work each day because I can do so much on my phone, but I’m still noticing where decisions made by web designers make my mobile life easier.

So here’s mobile developer tip #1, my two cents: use plugins and widgets that let users automatically share your content on sites like Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, etc., because you’ll make the user’s life easier. Granted, not all phones support the Javascript that powers this type of service on a web page, but more and more will, so consider getting ahead of the curve and adding it now.

The alternative for me as the reader (acknowledging each person’s situation is different) is to:

  1. Leave the site up in a card until I get home in the evening and can manually bookmark it on my laptop. This works about 50% of the time.
  2. Email the site to myself so I can bookmark it later on my laptop. This works about 80% of the time but is annoying.
  3. Try remembering to revisit the site later on my laptop to bookmark it. This works 0% of the time.

As a result, I’m finding that I’m far more likely to bookmark something if there’s a direct link to post it to Delicious, and that workflow will continue for me until there’s a Pre app that makes this easier, which means I really appreciate sites that offer this. Even better is if you can add it so that it appears in your RSS feed so that it shows up in places like Google Reader and Bloglines, too.

Here are some options to consider for adding this functionality to your site.

  • For WordPress blogs, you can use the Sociable plugin (I’m sure there are others, but this is what I use so I know it works). I have another blog post brewing on this topic, but this is yet another reason I encourage libraries to make their “what’s new” page a blog – you can then use the wealth of plugins out there to improve the user’s experience.

    Sociable WordPress plugin

  • For Drupal sites, you can use something like the Share module (I’m going to look into this for ALA Connect. If you’re using a different CMS, check to see if there’s a similar module for it.
  • Failing that, or even for use on general web pages, check out something like the Add This widget, although I have to admit I’m not sure how accessible it is.

Regardless, this can be a relatively easy way to help meet the needs of your mobile users, a group that’s just going to grow in the future. Food for thought. Nom nom nom.


11:17 am Comments (6)