Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 2 arvo: APIs, eResearch and the Twitter vs Tagging discussion

Paul Bonnington from Monash did an overview of the explosion in data collected, collated, and visualised using automated methods, and some of the lessons he'd learned while trying to preserve that data for wider use than the original purpose of the research. Organisationally the area he works for sits at the nexus between IT, Library, Research Office and Academics and he underlined the importance of partnerships, you can't do this on your own.

He stressed that a sense of ownership of the data by the researchers was crucial to its preservation, and the importance putting the data archiving tool in place at the time of collection.

He cited a couple key articles and books but I was only quick enough to jot down The Fourth Paradigm for a tweet, and I can't find his presentation online or on the CD yet.

As interesting as this area is I don't think it's going to be our direct responsibility to carry out the ANDS mission at JCU although we will have a role in supporting it and linking the data to the publications in our institutional repository that result from it.

Roy Tennant roller skated at a rapid pace over the possibilities of APIs to vastly improve services by augmenting them with information from disparate resources and he offered a feast of links to lists of APIs and real world examples. Between this and the Linked Data stuff I'm starting to think I should start removing myself from the operational tasks that currently eat up so much of my time, and doing more of the 'cool stuff' that Heather envisioned when she first created the job of 'library technologies coordinator'. Sigh. Anyway for my future reference here are two of Roys links to lists of APIs:

We really need more librarians with these sort of skills because I think it's difficult to see the possibilities if you're not getting your hands dirty looking at this stuff. That said, to badly misquote Jacques Attali from memory 'We tend to do what the technology allows us to do, rather than developing the technology that allows us to do what we actually want'.

And I lost my Twitter virginity today. (If your a tweep search for the #VALA2010 tag or post VALA I'm @cockerilla). I mention this because the final session was Top Trends with a star studded panel that included, but was not limited to, Roy Tennant, Marshall Breeding, Tom Tague and Karen Calhoun.
There was lively discussion, but the only 'trend' discussed was social tagging and whether libraries (and other cultural institutions) wanted to control, censor, or normalise it and if so to what extent and how.
In the land of Tweet the natives (and there were lots) were simmering about how the discussion was getting bogged down in the minutae of just one trend. I finally saw a use for Twitter - how would the discussion have evolved if the feed was displayed to the room, or even just to the panel or chair?
Apparently the VALA organisers wanted to display the feed but the venue couldn't do it. I'm not sure whether that sort of immediate, but quiet, feedback to a panel from the audience would improve this sort of event, and whether the feed would become the centre of attention rather than the speaker, but I'm kind of interested in finding out. No doubt chaos might regularly be the result until protocols evolved to make it workable. I can't help thinking that it might end up looking like 'The Word' from the Colbert Report, where the commentator says one thing while the text and graphics provide humorous counterpoint.

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