Mowing as an act of love

Note to self: NEVER again minimize Joe's contribution to household labor when it involves mowing.

I mowed the grass today for the first time in many years. This is a task I only take on when Joe is out of town for more than 2 weeks. Last year he didn't go to Ecuador and the year before I shamefully got my 79 year old father to do it for me. I never really thought that much about it. After all it is just pushing the mower around, right? How hard can it really be?

I think of all the times I complained when Joe mowed down the wild achillea, the clover, the violets, whatever.... OK, I am officially sorry.

My mowing experience began with starting the mower. It is hard to start. I admit I am kind of a girly girl and it takes some strength and persistence to get it going. The whole time I was trying I was thinking about when he tried to show me how to do it before he left. I stupidly said (yes actually said), "How hard can it be? I just pull the string, right?" He told me to hold the lever that pulls the throttle at the same time. "OK, I've got it."

Yeah, right. I held one of the two levers and pulled. Nothing. Repeated several times. Still nothing. Is that the lever to the throttle? What is a throttle anyway? Maybe I have to hold the other lever at the same time? So I held both. It finally started after several pulls. The problem is that the 2nd lever is the one that makes it go - self-propelling it turns out. Whoa!!!! Mower and me going - fast. Sheesh.

I completed the task. But achillea, violets, clover are completely mowed down. Mowing along I could see them coming but avoiding mowing over my precious plants was next to impossible. I now fully appreciate the patch of clover by my beehives that Joe carefully avoided mowing.

No wonder he has a plan for replacing all grass with ground cover and herbs. Great idea! I am fully 150% on board. I vote for clover and other short bee friendly plants.

I think that couples in committed long term relationships should be required to do the other person's tasks at least once or twice. And then shut up. Would make for smoother sailing. Next week is our 34th wedding anniversary, so a special note to the love of my life....I love you, too.


It's all about discovery

These are some of my thoughts that are the result of reflecting on a presentation by Dan Clancy, engineering director @ Google: Google Book Search Project: Present Status and Next Steps for the Google Book Search Project. Presented at Archiving 2009, May 2009.

Some impressive statistics were revealed at the beginning of this talk – I think these numbers should cause the library world to sit up and take notice (if they haven't done so already). Of the 10 million items included in Google Book Search every month users preview 81% of content contributed by the partners and 78% of the public domain content. The daily numbers are equally impressive: users preview 40% of content contributed by the partners and 17% of the public domain content. That is every day. Most of the traffic comes from Google.com.

That really puts a spin on the notion of the long tail. The backlist is heavily used because of discovery. It is all about discovery. Having full text available and searchable makes it discoverable.

I was interested in what Clancy had to say about quality assessment (QA). This has been an issue that has plagued our group since we started with our first film to digital books project, Beyond the Shelf. We treated those images as if they were precious objects. We scanned and did QA on about 1,000 books. We really wanted the page images to look great. That speaks to our obsessive compulsive nature, I think. We wanted perfection. Eventually it hit us in the face that there was a huge cost to this approach and that was quantity. We had fantastic discussions about cost, scalability, feasibility as it related to the number of searchable page images that we could make available.

Clancy observed that as projects want to get to a 99.9% confidence in the quality of the image/ocr that each “9” leads to an order of magnitude in cost.

This reflects our experience as well. While we really want excellence across the board at some point we have to cave to quantity and develop a good workflow for correcting errors as they are reported.

Clancy said that Google Books Search is doing this…they strive for as good of an initial capture as possible and then have developed good QA to catch errors. They also fix problems as they are reported. They have committed to: a. keep making software smarter, b. keep taking user input, and c. fix things as needed. It is cheaper to fix errors because it is a small problem.

I think this is really the bottom line for those of us creating digital content. It is about quantity and developing methods and processes to create the content faster and cheaper. Here at Kentucky we have learned to do one of the hardest types of content – newspapers. (here is a link to information about our NDNP participation) We are looking at developing efficiencies and balancing quality and quantity – is there a happy medium? Newspapers present the added challenges of small fonts, reading order problems, publishing errors (metadata problems for the most part), etc. If we can make newspaper digitization faster and better it is all to the good.

As we examine what else we choose to digitize it seems to me that we can look in our collection for the unique items and start there. There is no point in us duplicating efforts of those libraries already participating with Google. As we mine our collections I believe that we will discover a great deal of unique material in our special collections. Adding those items to the corpus of digital, discoverable content will be good for everyone. Let’s get going!