thagoo – meta-search for social bookmark sites

So this kind of seems like a good idea, a site which allows you to search tags across a large number of social bookmarking sites, but somehow I expect I’ll use it as much as I use “meta-search” engines, which is to say, not at all.

If I knew I was getting the best stuff from all the sites, and it dealt well with duplication, then maybe. But my experience, which seems borne out by how hard it is to get people to shift off of their habitual search techniques, is that familiarity with the search experience (both interface and reliability of the results, and in the case of social bookmarking, the extent of your affinity or ability to control your sources) trumps the greater span of these ‘meta-‘ approaches. – SWL

Group-specific Tagclouds in Academic Portals

So the other gem for me from Bryan’s Educause article was the above Gnosh from Allegheny College. Actually, I’m not sure that it was this tool that excited so much as the idea it inspired.

One of the things that has always bugged me about broad tagclouds like the one on or flickr is that, well, they are really broad – there is nothing connecting all of the words appearing in the tagcloud other than that they were used by any user of one of these services, and the userbases on these services are totally heterogenous. So sure, I can see generally what the popular tags for all flickr or users are, but why should I care? What I do care about is what the tags used in my particular community are.

How many departments webpages or college portals provide search boxes to Google (or even their own sets of pages)? Lots, right? In both cases, the users using these search boxes have lots more in common than the entire set of users across flickr or, and in fact in cases like portals we typically can get real specific about group memberships and affinities. So if instead of passing their searches directly through to the search engines we first capture locally what the terms they were using, all of a sudden we can build tagclouds of search terms that are locally relevant to that community of users.

So as someone in the Faculty of Science taking this specific Biology course, I might come to my campus portal and beside my personalized search box see a tagcloud of terms that other people in the Faculty of Science had recently used (including my professors). Sort of like displaying the attention of my particular affinity group, and potentially opening up interesting terms I may not have thought to search on.

Probably not very 2.0’ish, and likely someone will scream ‘oh the invasion of privacy’ (though nobody is forcing you to use this search interface) but what I like about the idea is that it is imminently doable right now with almost no new tech – whether it be this gnosh piece or one of the other tag cloud pieces emerging out there, the only other piece would just be a small script that wrote the search term to a database table before passing it on to whatever search engine you were using (that could be configurable). Someone please tell me if this already all exists and I’m just being dense before I go off and spend the little time I have free to using my terrible development skills to hack this together, please….

(And as an afterthought – why can’t I see all of the tags used by myself and people I list as friends in flickr – or can I? how about all of the tags used by members of the same group? Maybe this is something that is already being done through the API?) – SWL

Rollyo – Search all major Course Management System Sites

I knew I had to read Bryan Alexander’s Educause article on Web 2.0 not so much because the ideas would be new but because I knew that inevitably Bryan would point to some little gem in the ever growing Web 2.0 landscape that I hadn’t seen before.

One that was new to me that he pointed to was Rollyo – a site that lets you roll your own search index by providing up to 25 URLs you want indexed. I wanted to check it out, because ever since Atomz was bought out a year ago, I had been looking for a replacement free web-based service that would let me do this.

To try out Rollyo, I built the above index that searches the top 20 (IMO) Course Management System sites. So say for instance, you wanted to find out which of these systems supported the “eXe editor,” or was working on a blog project, you could try searching across just those sites for those terms. It is definitely not infallible, but I have been intrigued by the use of constrained search engines as a way to either augment or replace certain types of directories, where what is being catalogued is well known and fixed (for instance, all of the post-secondary course catalogues in a certain jurisdiction). – SWL – commercial “royalty free/rights managed images and footage” repository

Sent to me by a colleague as a “Canadian example of digital rights managment for digital media,” (thanks Brian!), this is worth pondering for those in the repository building business.

The site uses a lot of Javascript, frames and flash which makes it a real pain to try and point out specific aspects to you as it mostly returns under the single URL, but if you go to the pricing info page you can launch a Flash-based “Rights Managed Pricing Calculator” which is worth looking at (if only for a bit of sticker shock at how much images cost to license). The browseable taxonomy terms and how the searching works (clearly using some thesaurus) is also worth a glance.

Yeah, yeah, I know, all content should be free/it’s the networks, not the closed silos/the revolution will be blogged/yada yada yada. For the rest of us, here’s simply an actual real world commercial example to chew on. – SWL

Discovery+ : Federated searching of bibliographic resources for elearning

Via the latest CETIS Quarterly newsletter (thanks Stephen) came news of this interesting U.K.-based project. According to the precis on the E-Learning Framework site, the project will deliver “web services and toolkit[s] capable of searching various library and resource gateways and transforming the search results to reusable and standardised schemas for e-learning purposes.”

If I’ve understood correctly (and it’s entirely possible I haven’t) what will be provided is middleware that will enable the core services of search/expose, request/deliver, and submit/store, across heterogenous repositories (from Z39.50 library systems, to LORs, to Amazon and more) through a single set of web service interfaces. Crikey! – SWL

RedLightGreen – Search 130 Million Library Titles and automatically create citations

Via David Mattison came news from the library world of this service aimed at undergraduates and the librarians that support them. RedLightGreen is a service from the Research Libraries Group (get it?) that allows users to search over 130 million library catalogue entries. The user can then automatically create citations in either MLA, APA, Chicago or Turabian styles, and with one click also check their local library for title availability. The service is free to anyone; if you are like me and only have to do academic citations irregularly, this is invaluable. – SWL

Digicult Techwatch – Natural Language Processing

Digicult is a fabulous publication aimed at the cultural and scientific heritage sectors funded by the European Union. In addition to their newsletter and thematic issues, they produce shorter documents called “Techwatches” that help to introduce a specific field of technology to their readers and draw out some of the implications for the future.

TechWatch 14 concerns the broad field of Natural Language Processing – which can variously include everything from text parsing software, to speech recognition, to automatic translation and knowledge mining. This paper starts out with a broad overview of the field and then moves on to draw out some of the potential uses for the technology. Well worth a read to get a sense of what this truly disruptive technology may hold (though with the caveat that this has long been an area that has over-promised and under-delivered). – SWL

ECL – eduSource Communications Layer connector software and

I’m sure there’s some good reason for working on software for a few years, releasing it into the public domain, and then not telling anyone about it, right? In any case, with amazingly little fanfare the impressive ECL connector software is available for download. Billed as one of the first implementations of the IMS DRI specification, it will allow repositories to share search results, gather records, alter each other to new materials and submit new materials in other repositories. You’ll likely see the ECL show up in some format or another in a number of future initiatives as a way to interconnect repositories and other stores of learning materials, and we hope to have it implemented in the repository we deploy here in B.C. by September. – SWL

Finding Learning Objects – Walking the Talk

Can our intrepid search find a learning object in time to figure out how to calculate ‘Z-scores’? Tune in and find out!

Today (like many days) I was faced with a task I was not 100% sure how to do. I had a set of ratings for different evaluators, and had been told by someone who knew better than I that I should be trying to calculate their ‘z-scores’ in order to standardize the numbers.

As I was about to enter a handy-dandy Google search, I thought – “no wait! Why don’t you see if there are any ‘learning objects’ out there that could teach you what a Z-score is, and how to calculate it.” So I set out in search of my closest learning object repository to see what I could find.
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