Lessons learned from the Eiffel Tower

original article

What We Can Learn From The Eiffel Tower
Scott Berkun
31 March 2016

Scott Berkun recounts some of the history behind the Eiffel Tower as a way to highlight a few useful lessons: “All ideas are made from other ideas,” “Conviction moves ideas forward,” “Even the best ideas meet resistance,” “Long term commitments make history.”  For those struggling with the development of new ideas he encourages digging “deeper into the surprising history of the major ideas in your own field.”

Of course even a faithful application of those lessons learned is no guarantee of success.  When success is elusive, it’s useful to remember the expression that Randy Pausch popularized in his famous Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007, “experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”  And I hope someone is remembering to record the “surprising history” of the development of MARC, RDA, and BIBFRAME.


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Competing on Context

original article

The matter with metadata: why are taxonomies still so taxing?
Natalie Guest
The Literary Platform
18 March 2016

When content escapes from its container, contextual metadata about the content drives its dynamic flexibility for use and re-use on the web.  But first impressions matter, so if that metadata is of lesser quality it may cast aspersions on the content it describes.  While the task of creating and relating quality metadata to fragments of published content is daunting, the author argues that the costs are justified and should lessen over time as new tools emerge to help smaller and mid-level publishers meet the demand.

It was nice to see the author highlight Brian O’Leary’s Context, Not Container in this brief post, as he gave a talk on this topic at the OCLC Research Library Partners FutureCast meeting in 2011.  Strong echoes of the daunting challenges and hopeful prospects that libraries, archives and museums face as they continue to work towards moving from a world of records to a world of Linked Data can be heard in this screencast of a similar presentation by Brian O’Leary at another event.  The idea of creating fragmented and inter-operable metadata in the publishing realm recalls some early work by OCLC Research on Recombinant Metadata, an idea that OCLC has continued to explore, most recently in a pilot test of a Person Entity Lookup service.


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Mind the (generation) gap

original article | original article

Buzzwords Like Millennials Describing 20 Year Age Cohorts Are Bullshit | Five Rules For Managing Intergenerational Teams
Adam Singer | Jessica Kriegel
The Future Buzz | Fast Company
4 March 2016 | 14 March 2016

Much has been made of various generations  — Baby Boomers, GenX, and Millennials — their characteristics, and the differences between them. This pair of articles urge us to look beyond generational differences, questioning them as marketing buzzwords, or worse, “false constructs of social fictions.”  In the end, we’re better off focusing on individuals than on misleading composites.

I’ve worked for decades now in a blended environment. For the first few years of my career it seemed like it was me and the Boomers. More GenXers joined the ranks. And now the Millennials have come to the party. As much as I enjoy the sometimes hyperbolic and sometimes trash talking portraits of generations and their characteristics, you should heed the advice about assumptions dispensed by Coach Morris Buttermaker (as played by Walter Matthau) in the movie The Bad News Bears. Libraries are increasingly blended environments, not only in terms of generations represented but also in terms of the professional backgrounds. With an increasing number of feral librarians in our midst, we should be celebrating diversity and differences as qualities that make us stronger. I think my colleague Lynn Connaway gets it right — her work on Visitors and Residents helps to rise above ingrained assumptions.

[I note with typical GenX weariness that my cohort is not even mentioned in the Future Buzz piece. Le sigh.]



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Turning over a new leaf

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A Computer With a Great Eye Is About to Transform Botany
Margaret Rhodes
17 March 2016

Botany has relied on carefully constructed “fat reference books” detailing “leaf architecture” for identification — until now. A partnership between Penn State and Brown University has resulted in machine learning for leaves. This computer assistance could help scientists work more quickly, and transform botany as we know it.

Scholarship is changing and things that used to require close attention from humans, from lemmatization to classification are now being done with the help of computers. This is resulting in data sets — lots of them, for all kinds of things. Data curation is, of course, a thing for research libraries but planning data curation with reuse in mind should be a thing as well. Fortunately my colleague Ixchel Faniel has spent a lot of time thinking about the reuse side of data as she explains in this interview for dh+lib.


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Stand and deliver

original article

Stand To Work If You Like, But Don’t Brag About The Benefits
Angus Chen
Shots | Health News from NPR
17 March 2016

Feel like you’re missing out on the standing desk trend? After all that talk about “standing is the new smoking” it turns out that there is no science to support the fad. So you can safely — and comfortably — remain seated.

Well, mea culpa. I’ve been standing at work for nearly two years and have sold many people on the wonders of my versatile Veridesk. Those of us who work in our San Mateo office recently relocated and a feature of our new digs are desks that adjust up and down. In Dublin, Ohio, OCLC Headquarters is undergoing renovations (a procedure somewhere in between a face lift and open heart surgery). And we’re not alone in sprucing up our spaces. We’ve seen (at our Library in the Life of the User meeting and elsewhere) that libraries everywhere are taking a fresh look at their spaces. Smart space projects keep a door open to future reconfiguration — for example, the Taylor Family Digital Library at the University of Calgary features raised floors (for ease of moving wiring) and movable walls.

Darn it, I like standing…



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Algorithm, You Can Drive My Car

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Google’s Self-Driving Car Causes First Accident, As Programmers Try To Balance Human Simulacrum And Perfection
Karl Bode
1 March 2016

Accidents happen.  But when a collision between a Google self-driving car and another vehicle was blamed, for the first time, on the software doing the driving rather than on a human, another round of questions and answers was prompted.  Google’s response highlights an aspect of this shift to autonomous vehicles that is relevant for those developing data mining and enhancement algorithms. Yes, accidents happen, but software (perhaps unlike human drivers) can be designed to learn and adapt.

Thom Hickey‘s recent blog post on the evolution of OCLC Research’s algorithms for matching names for people and organizations in WorldCat with authority data in VIAF (the Virtual International Authority File) is a case in point.  Over time this algorithm has been improved to take into account more data elements and context for the names to be matched and has altered its computations for confidence in the matches found.  The process of evaluating the results of this matching process is on-going, and when more data or altered computations can be used to produce better results, the algorithm changes and those improvements stick.

Reports of matching inconsistencies provide useful data and test cases to evaluate algorithm improvements.  I was surprised and pleased to see that the California Department of Motor Vehicles is on top of this for self-driving car “mismatches”, with its “Report of Traffic Accident Involving an Autonomous Vehicle” form.  Will a software upgrade help the car fill out the form and submit it automatically, during or after the next accident?



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Evolving – it’s harder than it looks

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Why The Heck Can’t We Change Our Product?
Steven Sinofsky
8 February, 2016

“Change” is the drumbeat powering most tech companies. If you are starting from scratch, disruption is easy. But once you have an established user base, and particularly if you are lucky enough to have a loyal and committed user base, implementing even necessary change risks alienating those who have an emotional commitment to your product. Evolution is necessary, however, and this article gives some advice for proceeding with caution.

Libraries usually have a loyal and established patron base, many of whom have an emotional commitment to our institutions. However, libraries are evolving to be more than just about books and journals, and seek to draw in new audiences and connect with new communities. Evolving library services and even our collections brings up some strong feelings (you can replay for yourself all the times you’ve heard about the value of serendipitous browsing in the stacks…) But the best defense is information: my colleagues Lynn Connaway and Ixchel Faniel have done much to explore user behaviors around new and refashioned library services, while Brian Lavoie and Constance Malpas have helped libraries to look at collections in a new light.

Easy to say — as a loyal Wunderground user, I am appalled by the changes in what used to be my favorite weather app…. (Proffitt)

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What’s next for Above The Fold?

Above The Fold will continue after I depart. I’m pleased that my colleagues in OCLC Research are taking it on. At first they plan to make the email newsletter into a monthly occurrence and then ramp up the number of issues once a pattern has been established.  I think readers will continue to enjoy ATF given the smart folks that will be recommending articles and the unique voices they will bring to the commentary. Some long-time readers will remember that we occasionally used the group to produce ATF this way in the past. They covered vacation or other times when I was unable to keep up. You enjoyed their choices and voices then. I’m sure you will once again. (Michalko)

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Everything you need to know…fits on a catalog card

This is my last scheduled ATF post because this is my final day at OCLC. As I have moved closer to this retirement date over the last months I’ve had the chance to say grateful farewells to a lot of people. Earlier this month we had a very nice open house (photos) to celebrate moving in (to our new office space) and moving on (my retirement). Of course there were some much appreciated, overly-generous remarks and I got to say a few words.

I mentioned that getting ready for retirement was more work than I had imagined. There was no retirement fairy. Rather there was lots of paperwork and planning especially around finances. In doing that work I once again come across the viral phenomenon of a few years ago – the 4×6 index card that has all the financial advice you will ever need. It encouraged quite a few other financial advisers to offer variants. What all these had in common was that they were short, sensible steps that were easy to state and difficult to do consistently.

These index cards also got me thinking about my long, fortunate, and satisfying career. I wondered whether I could fit what I learned on an index card.  In fact, I was able to do it on a catalog card. During the open house somebody asked if they could see my card. I demurred at the time but now I think I’ll just share it with all of you.

So for what it’s worth here’s my take on what you should do if you want the best chances of having a satisfying career.

What You Need To Know for a satisfying career
What You Need To Know for a satisfying career – on a catalog card

I stared at this on my plane ride home from OCLC headquarters and thought it might need a little bit of additional gloss. So here’s the annotated version I did during the flight.

What You Need To Know for a satisfying career - the library card annotated
What You Need To Know for a satisfying career – the catalog card annotated

I’m sure there are unnecessarily-long, padded-out business, self-help, and life-improvement books written about each one of these bits of advice and counsel. My parting gift – you can skip them. And like the financial advice – they are simple to state and difficult to practice. I certainly didn’t follow them all the time but they guided the way I wanted to behave.

I can’t name all the people who taught me, supported me, worked with me and put up with me. I can thank all of them. I’m very grateful. Best wishes. (Michalko)

P.S. In one of those index card variants on the financial advice, Jane Bryant Quinn led with:

“When you retire you are finally free – but free to do what? Let go of who you were and focus on who you ‘ll become.

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Skin (artificial, in the game, left behind)

Ioannis Yannas looks back wistfully on the surprising discovery of artificial skin (VIDEO).

All The Money In The World, In A Single Chart | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

Causes of Death | FlowingData ᔥ fastcoexist.com

The first because it’s a moving story told with great emotion. It is a breakthrough that was a direct result of a failed experiment. “Go wherever ignorance is maximum.”

The second because it’s a fun visualization and gives you context for markets and numbers which are likely to be unfamiliar. Derivatives

The third because it’s a nice display that appeals to a universal (morbid) interest. (Michalko)

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