The smartest guy

A couple of years ago at Educause 2006 I had the pleasure of hearing Ray Kurzweil speak as a keynote speaker. Kurzweil is clearly the smartest guy I have ever heard speak. For an example of what he is involved in take a peek at his website. Yesterday morning on Morning Edition I heard a story about cell phones that read to the blind. This is one of the many technology advances that Kurzweil described in that Educause talk - ideas that he has had that will change people's lives. This particular device takes a photograph and then reads the text aloud. Amazing! The example the guy in the NPR story gives is the problem of distinguishing between regular and decaf coffee in a hotel room - the packets feel the same!

This makes me wonder about the other predictions Kurzweil made in that Educause talk:
  • The computer as a visible object starting to disappear by 2010
  • "Target" drugs fighting disease on a cellular level
  • Researchers will discover how to reverse engineer the brain
  • Holography being realized for virtual reality
  • Rate of change is accelerating exponentially
Kurzweil is the author of many books including The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Interesting stuff!


The State of the Union

Those of you who know me know that I am a Barack Obama supporter. I have had my Obama 08 bumper sticker on my car for a year and a half. I believe in this man and hold out every hope that he will be elected president this year. Here is why:


My Kindle - I love it

Well there has been a lot of dissing of the Kindle out there, but let me just say - I LOVE my Kindle! OK, I admit it - I am a gadget freak. I was one of the few people who had a Newton and saw the potential for a real PDA. Yes, there is room for improvement - and I am confident there will be improved versions soon - BUT for me it is one of the best devices I have owned. It IS proprietary, the forward and back buttons could be smaller so you don't accidentally turn pages when you grab it, etc. BUT it is the greatest thing for someone who travels (and reads) a lot.

How many times have you packed several books and weighted down your bag so you won't run through all reading material you have with you? This is especially true for traveling abroad to non-English speaking countries.

How many times have you brought a new book with you only to discover that you don't really engage with it? Do you just throw it away??? Buy something new? Just hope this doesn't happen on a 7 hour plane flight.

What I particularly love about my Kindle include:
  • I can enlarge the size of the type when my eyes are tired.
  • I can try out books for free - if I like the first chapter then I will buy the rest of the book
  • I can carry LOTS of books with me
  • I can have searchable access to documents I create or that others send to me (again great for travel)
  • I love having ready access to a dictionary to look up words as I read
  • I really like access to Wikipedia while I am reading
  • It fits in my purse easily and doesn't weigh me down

In short there are enough good things about this device that make me love it now and look forward to improvements to come.

I think a device like this has the potential to fundamentally change the way people interact with text and thus have a HUGE impact on Libraries.


Future researchers

The British Library/JISC sponsored report entitled "information behaviour of the researcher of the future" (maybe not so distant future?) is a worthy read for any librarian. I have long contended that we are in a transitional time and one wonders what the tipping point will be. The report states (on page 16):
Although research libraries spend
millions of pounds providing seamless desktop access to
expensive copyrighted electronic content: journals,
books and monographs, much of this is news to their
users. Either they do not know that the library provides
this material, or they get to it, possibly via Google, and
assume it’s `free’. Libraries are increasingly between a
rock and a hard place: the publisher or search engine
gets the credit, they just pick up the tab.

There is plenty of fodder in this report for those looking at information literacy/information seeking behavior and how academic libraries can play a role. The report describes a horizontal searching - flicking from page to page - skimming off information and using library sites as jumping off points - never to return (during the search). One of the recommendations in this report is to "make simplicity [our] core mission".

We need to open up our digital content to search engines and thus become a destination not simply a pass through.


Digital Preservation Challenge

DigitalPreservationEurope has once again proposed a digital preservation challenge with prize money attached. This Challenge was created to support innovation as applied to preserving digital content (of all kinds) and to provide valuable information on the nature of the challenges ahead in preserving digital content. Good going!

I was interested in the scenarios and the content to be preserved - a legacy application file, images from a legacy gaming platform, an obsolete database, electronic art, and web archiving. All will present substantial challenges. I am particularly interested in the electronic art scenario. The challenge is based on preserving the work of Prix Ars Electronica. One glance at the winners of last year's prize can give an inkling of the intensity of the challenge. I guess it's not called challenge for nothing!

Hats off to the Europeans and the way they are generating innovation...


reading comprehension

TurnipFish from Conor on Vimeo.

A fresh start

Well, this is my new improved blog. Not just about bees, gardening, digital libraries, reading, weight loss, travel, blah blah blah, but rather about anything and everything that is on my mind. Ostensibly I started this for our Blue 2.0 program. But while that is the impetus, this can serve as a fresh start.

I love technology tools and all things related to them. I love the potential of technology and what that can mean for access to information. Easier, faster, better. Who would have thought that an art major with a minor in philosophy would love such science based things? I like the design of good tech tools and bemoan the waste of bad ones.

Stay tuned....