Friday, 26 September 2008

Apple's Genius points the way for RM2.0

In Chapter 9 of ‘Managing the Crowd’ I make the point that “Largely as a result of … technical advances, we now live in a world defined by information storage; ours is now a culture in which size most definitely matters. Just take each new generation of iPod that hits our shops. Have you ever seen an improved ability to decide what tracks you want to delete quoted as a selling point? No. The fact that it now has a 16Gb memory, compared with the 8Gb available last year, or the 4Gb the previous year, however, most definitely is”.

In this context it was interesting to read over the weekend that iPod will no longer be selling their 160GB iPod Classic. As the Daily Telegraph puts it, “ (perhaps) people have realised that, although the iPod has the potential to put their entire CD library in their pocket, they only ever listen to a few hundred favourite songs”. So maybe there are limits to our love affair with storage after all.

More interesting still, particularly in relation to Records Mgt 2.0, is the new ‘music-recommendation engine’ which the new Nano has built into it. According to the article by Claudine Beaumont Genius will scan through your music collection looking at genres, the number of albums and songs you have by a particular artist, as well as the ratings you have given them. It will also look at the characteristics of the song itself, such as beats per minute… (it then) beams it back to the iTunes mothership. From there, it is able to build dynamic playlists of other recommended tracks, based not only on your library, but that of other iTunes users with similar tastes”.

So here we have the appraisal of large volumes of content based on information value and decided by a combination of both user opinion and user behaviour. Plus a system which combines the views and actions of the individual with those of the broader user community to provide a more informed analysis based on the ‘wisdom of the crowd’. Well whad’ya know. If we were talking about online business records, rather than music records, I’d say that Apple have just taken a pretty big stride towards realising Records Management 2.0.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Google - the future of the newpaper archive?

Another interesting innovation from Google, News Archive Search that will make 'millions of pages of archived newspaper content available for free'.

Okay so most of the publications currently covered are from the US, but it surely won't be long until many of the major UK papers and periodicals start to get the same treatment?

I'm sure it will prove popular with many users, able now to search and browse from the comfort of their home PC using the same simple search engine that they have grown accustomed to. It might prove more of a mixed blessing for the archive repositories that currently house and provide access to the original newspapers (or their nausea inducing counterparts on microfilm): on the one hand encouraging would-be researchers to continue their studies using the additional material they may hold within their repository; but on the other resulting in far less 'bums on seats' within the archive. Plus, of course, increasing the popular assumption that there is no need to visit an archive any more as its "all available on the web"...

Monday, 1 September 2008

Office 2.0 – a reality check?

Rachel posted such an interesting comment on her experience of using Office2.0 technologies at the recent Society of Archivist’s conference that I thought it deserved picking up in a separate posting.

Rachel is absolutely right in pointing to how reliant the ‘dream’ of Office2.0 is on the nuts and bolts of technical infrastructure and quite correct that at the moment that infrastructure is not yet sufficiently developed to turn the dream into a reality. However, I suspect the phrase ‘not yet’ is really key here. In response to Rachel’s experiences I think I would offer the following points (aside from a hearty ‘well done’ for the whole experiment!).

The infrastructure is still developing, but developing fast. I know (from bitter experience!) that relying on wifi access for internet access when on the road can still be a very patchy and frustrating experience. But, what I would say is cast your mind back 5 years or so and then compare it with today. Five years ago I couldn’t even get a mainline broadband connection for my rural home. Today, not only do I get a reasonable BB connection, but I actually first read Rachel’s comments on my Blackberry whilst walking the dog round a field this morning…

Similar evidence of progress can be seen around the country, whether it be wifi hotspots in stations and coffee shops or the increasing number of hotels that are now offering connections (including an increasing number providing free access). Of course this isn’t the same as being universal and I suspect that it will be some time – perhaps another 5 years or so – before coverage begins to approach this. But I find it hard to believe that it won’t happen soon – just look at the rise in mobile phone coverage over the past decade.

Incidentally, Rachel may have had more luck with a 3G card than she suspected. I’ve used one for several years now and though not without their own frustrations, do mean that access to the internet is possible pretty much anywhere you can get a mobile signal (at least at GPRS speeds, if not 3G).

It might also be worth checking out the potential of Google’s Gears. I’ve not yet got round to trying it myself, but the logic of a piece of software which enables offline access to services which are normally only available online (including Google Docs and Zoho) would seem a potentially valuable means of plugging this temporary gap as seamlessly as possible.

So, I guess in summary its worth saying that this blog is called ‘futurewatch’ for reason! The reality of the universal, seamless access to the web that is required to fully realise Office2.0 may still be a little way off, but personally I still have no doubts that it is the direction in which we are heading.