Fred Stutzman was a presenter and panelist at the American Library Association’s Information Commons conference in Cerrittos, California this week end. He’s filed a good outline/report of all the talks on The Explainer — Here are the postings in order:
In our neighborhood as the spooks were slowing down under the weight of their sweet loot, the power suddenly went out! There was a slow dimming then total darkness as we stood in the street trying to decide if people without lights would still be up for treating — or if tricking were in order. The good spirits prevailed and treats continued to flow until a few houses later the lights came back on. Had to reset all the clocks twice today.
Just over 20 years ago, I drove out past Chicken Bridge in Chatham County then down a long gravel road to James Carnahan’s self-designed and self-build house and small odeon to see a performance of Medea. The show was intimate and the actors familiar and the weather was wonderful.
This afternoon, we drove out across a new Chicken Bridge then down a partially paved road to the former home of James Carnahan (he now lives in Carrboro) and to the same odeon. I’ve seen several plays there over the years many advertised by word of mouth only and all well played.
Today we saw Shakespeare’s Tempest played by the Shakespeare and Originals Company. Some of the actors, notably Tom Marriott this time in the role of Prospero, were in the Medea. Others were not yet born at the time of the Medea production.
The play, produced on a lovely fall afternoon, had several unique and interesting touches. Miranda was played as a tom-boy who seemed awfully interested in touching her own toes. The Dukes were given to business suits and the clowns Stephano and Trinculo (who was more properly Trincula) were in even more formal dress. Caliban, who played the oppressed colonial to the hilt, was dress like Fred Flintstone — not in a bad way bit that was my first and enduring impression. A News and Observer review of the same production at a different venue notices how well this production does in making the play clear and accessible, drawing strongly on the comic attributes of the play, and being inventive in the costuming, etc.
This weekend took a spur of the moment trip to the North Carolina mountains on Saturday. It’s audacious to head up on the major leaf display weekend, but that’s what we did. To get a place to stay, we chose not to stay in Asheville but in nearby Black Mountain. Then to stay in a 50s motel that is haunted by night trains, the Acorn Inn. All this was good because 1) the Acorn Inn had rooms at noon on Saturday but they were sold out by 3ish and 2) Asheville was hosting two nights of sold-out shows by Sting Cheese Incident.
Despite (or because) of the whole town smelling of pachouli and packed with trustifarians seeking Cheese tickets, we had a wonderful visit to our favorite bookstore, Malaprop’s, and one of our favorite restaurants, Zambra’s, a great Spanish tapas place.
In Black Mountain, the Dipolator Coffee House had not only good java and great pastries but also free wireless broadband access which delighted Sally. I stayed off the grid showing great restraint.
The leaves despite or because of the clouds were magnificent. Getting around was a bit of an adventure. The hurricanes washed out large sections of highway so that the Blue Ridge Parkway now stops at Mount Mitchell going north, picks up again at Busick and Crabtree Meadows, then stops again between mile posts 325-317 at Linville Falls.
We remained audacious and headed up the Curtis Creek Road in Pisgah National Forest toward the Parkway. The road follows Curtis Creek and the drive is rough but beautiful. Not much of it is paved. But that road too is closed at the steepest climb.
We went down to Old Fort and picked up Highway 80 which is more high than way. The Parkway notes linked to above say that the road is steep and winding. Those are not strong enough words. There was evidence that 80 too had washed out, but it was mostly repaired.
After lunch at Little Switzerland, of which I think someone once said “This place looks a little like Switzerland; a little but not much,” we took the scenic route down the equally curved 226a to 221 and on to Marion.
A brief trip but a good respite.
One thing that Walther’s studies pointed out was that the idea of “presence” is probably not only over-rated but entirely wrong. We assume that CMC group work fails because there are not enough cues. But his studies show that high levels of communication and trust built over time far outweigh cues. And further that cues, even neutral cues, have a negative effect. Joe says this is because textual communication without f2f creates “hyperpersonal communications” in which people are more intimate than in f2f. People reveal more about themselves in email than in a conversation for example. This is from his Don’t Look Before You Leap paper of 1999.
Groups working effectively through high textual communcation on long term projects can lose effectiveness by simply seeing pictures of each other! So much for virtual presence.
The worse cases for virtual work groups are low communications, short term projects, and too much time spent on allocation of tasks (rather than working in parallel).
Here is a version of Joe’s Rules for Successful Virtual Group Work from the paper referenced above.
Frequent communication, more frequent than in unmediated groups;
Confirming receipt of messages;
Making sure all members are included on all messages (by e-mail, when a group-based computer conferencing system is not being used)
Early and continuous work on both organizing and substantive contributions to the team’s final project (rather than sequencing organization then substantive efforts)
Substantially greater explicitness in questions, answers, agreements, and articulating expectations
Earlier deadlines (more working ahead) and greater adherence to them
Get started right away. You don’t have as much time as you would off-line, because (a) you have to wait for replies instead of getting them instantly, and (b) it takes time to type. Don’t procrastinate; you can’t put off virtual work the way you can face-to-face group projects. Get started right away.
Once you get started, communicate with one another often. Oftener than you think you should need to do. A lot. Very frequently. All the time.
Overtly acknowledge that you have read one another’s messages. When you don’t, the message sender doesn’t know if…
You never saw it
You saw it and disagreed.
You saw it and totally agreed
The network is dead.
Be explicit about what you are expecting and what you are doing. That doesn’t mean be harsh; it means that subtlety doesn’t help you make yourself clear.
Multitask getting organized and doing substantive work simultaneously. In face-to-face groups it’s typical to try to decide on an action plan (organizing) before doing the research, reading, and writing (substantive work) that go into a report. You don’t have the luxury to wait. Even if you end up reading the same material as someone else, you haven’t wasted your effort—more perspectives, more ways of looking at it. Duplicate, don’t allocate: Doing the least amount of work is not better than doing more than necessary.
Stick to deadlines. If everyone sticks to deadlines, you’ll get along. If anyone doesn’t, everyone else will all of a sudden get very nervous.
Caught Chapel Hill’s best export playing at home outside on a beautiful autumn day at the Johnson Center for Undergraduate Excellence terrace at lunch today. Southern Culture on the Skids was always a trio when I heard them over the past nearly 20 years, but they had an additional guitar today. Bill Ferris, appropriately dressed in his good ole boy outfit, did the introductions and gave out fried chicken when told to do so. Not only was Bill dressed appropriately but as one of the creators/editors of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, he was the exact right person to be introducing S.C.O.T.S. The band has long combined humor, musicianship, wild antic rock and roll, and over the top costuming in their quest to elevate and at the same time destroy Southern stereotypes while making the crowds laugh and dance. Wonderful hillbilly surf music. Inspired bosa nova (on House of Bamboo). Smart silliness.
I need to make more of the Thursdays on the Terrace. Next Thursday is Bluesman Cool John Ferguson!
Was good to see our Provost Robert Shelton there among the many good people out. Also got a chance to catch up a little with former local rock drummer and internationally famous William Blake scholar Joe Viscomi.
Yesterday, I went to a presentation by David Harper of the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen on ProfileSkim with its “Relevance Profile Meter that displays the relevance profile across the document and a document browser that supports highlighting of the query words.”
Best to see/read the developers’ description of the project which really does look like an innovative way to present search results once a document has been retrieved.
Here’s how David described his talk:
Query-Based Document Skimming: A User-Centred Evaluation of Relevance
We present a novel within-document retrieval tool, ProfileSkim. The tool computes a relevance profile for a single document and query, and presents the profile in the form of an interactive relevance profile meter. Using this meter, a user can identify and visit relevant sections of a (long) document. ProfileSkim has been integrated as a plug-in within Adobe Acrobat Reader and Professional, and we will demonstrate this plug-in.
Much of the seminar will focus on a user-centred evaluation of ProfileSkim. ProfileSkim is compared against a document skimming tool based on a sequential “find” function, FindSkim. A novel simulated work task was devised, where experiment participants are asked to identify (index) relevant pages of an electronic book, given subjects from the existing book index. This subject index provides the ground truth, against which the indexing results can be compared. Our major hypothesis was confirmed, namely ProfileSkim proved significantly more efficient than FindSkim, as measured by time for task. Moreover, indexing task effectiveness, measured by typical IR measures, demonstrated that ProfileSkim was better than FindSkim in identifying relevant pages, and in the case of precision, almost significantly so. The experiments confirm the potential of relevance profiling for improving query-based document skimming, which should prove highly beneficial for users trying to identify relevant information within long documents.
Harper, D. J., Koychev, I., Sun, Y., and Pirie, I. (2004). Within-document retrieval: A user-centred evaluation of relevance profiling. Information Retrieval, 7, 265-290.
My question though is how to test the efficiency of a method or tool which in competely unknown to the subject against a method or tool that is very familiar — in this case highlighted search terms within the document? When presented with something novel, like ProfileSkim, subjects (users/people) tend to explore the new tool or method for quite a while before becoming comfortable in using it. Yes you can look for changes (deltas) but for how long? Is there a good or accepted way to measure technology adaptation by a subject? (I’ll take either ;->)
As an IBM Shared University Research Grant recipient, I was invited to speak at IBM’s University Day. Before going I had managed to get UNC-CH to officially sign-on to the IBM Academic Initiative. Good thing too as only four universities in North Carolina are official members: Duke, NCSU, NC A&T and UNC-CH. Any scholar at an accredited institution of higher learning can sign up for the IBM Scholar’s Portal and get free software and lesson plans for teaching, but only Academic Initiative members can get special “hand holding” from IBMers. Not sure that we need it, but it would be nice if you were suddenly asked to teach a database course to have help with say DB2. Additionally — and I am not sure completely how this works – members of the Academic Initiative can go to IBM training at no cost if they are willing to go at short notice and are willing to take an unfilled seat (vacated or unsold). All this from my notes on my Treo so I could be off a little. Barry Eveland welcomed us to the RTP IBM campus and described the challenge to IBM and to the universities — leading in research, producing the best technical, engineering and scientific graduates in the world, and producing the best code and services. The new part here is the accent on training and on services. This means more skills based education and more attention to business process (notice the inclusion of business schools from Duke and NCSU doing new educational initiatives below).
Margaret Ashida, who runs the international Academic Initiative was the main speaker in the first session. Ms. Ashida also described IBM Fellowships for Faculty and for PhD students.
On to the other talks. Michael Rappa of NCSU’s School of Management described and presented his Open Seminar Software. Nevin Fouts, Duke University Fuqua‘s Associate Dean for Information Technology, explained how to pronounce Fuqua (foo-kwa) and described the Global MBA program. I did a very fast talking version of my talk from the slides that John prepared about ibiblio and six of our current projects. Folks from NC A&T, including Marlow Hinton and Waochang Lee, described their participate in the NC Grid.
Great to catch up with Dan Green, a SILS grad now at NCSU as Director of IT for Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and with IBMers who have used ibiblio for year (or so they told me) including (oops gave his card to Jane Greenberg) who is interesting in metadata and RDF etc. Also had a nice discussion with Mohammad Tabrizi from East Carolina about scanning and searching handwritten documents.
Our panel on Open Source, Open Courseware and Open Minds was chaired by Michael Rappa with Tom Miller NCSU’s Vice Provost for Distance Education and Learning Techologies, my SILS collegue Gary Marchionini (with Open Video), Margaret Ashida and myself.
We had a small crowd for this session so I used the opportunity to pull Tom’s leg a bit. He is delightfully good natured having been educated at UNC.
Michael introduced me to Rada Chirkova who is doing analysis of database usages and who is interested in looking at how ibiblio’s databases are being used and how they might be optimized. This was too good to be true since mySQL was having trouble with the load we put on it even as we spoke.
Also met Heather McClain who is running the University programs for IBM locally.
Thanks to Andy Rindos for putting the whole thing on and for letting me be a part of it.
Others attending from SILS included: Kristin Chaffin, Gary Marchionini, Lamont Cannon, Sayan Chakraborty, and Christopher Maier.
Turns out that had I known several of the people in his book, but at very different times in their (and in my) lives. That is not in Oxford, NC, but in other places. Ben Chavis (later of Wilmington Ten, now Muhammad) and James Grant (later of Charlotte Three) were both involved in the Gene McCarthy presidential campaign when living in Charlotte in 1968 and in the anti-war movement there. Julia Stockton — before, I think, she met Tim and encouraged him to leave his life of restaurant work and go be a writer and historian — was in a poetry writing group with me. She is a wonderful poet who also worked with Bill Harmon on his Handbook to Literature.
It has been decades since I’m see these folks so reading Tim’s book was a kind of reunion for me. An odd one, since I was reading of parts of their lives already long past and parts tied to a single event which while up the road only a short ways from me when I was in college at NCSU seemed so remote. Much has changed for each of them since Tim’s book and the events following the racially motivated murder of Henry Marrow in Oxford, NC in 1970 (25 years after the more famous killing of Emmett Till in Alabama) as well.
Tim was at our place to meet with Sally’s bookclub of mostly lawyers, historians and a doctor who get together to discuss non-fiction books. Apparently, they get enough fiction during their day jobs. I got to sit in in a support capacity. There was a lively discussion and Tim with his humor and good tales held up well and was a delight to talk with.
It was rewarding to read Jonathan Yardley’s Washington Post review of Tim’s book tonight. I’ve always considered Yardley a conservative writer in general, but in this review he writes well and straight on the issues raised and colored by the murder in Oxford from his title “A candid account of an ugly episode in the last days of Jim Crow North Carolina.” on to the close of the article.
Fred sent out an interesting new service from Google Labs, Google SMS, with which you can find addresses and phone numbers as well as services based on town and/or zip code. You send a brief SMS message to 46645 aka GOOGL and you get results back fairly quickly.
Of course, I gave it a try. Sure enough I found myself as “paul jones chapel hill nc” “paul jones 27517″ and by my phone number (google sms does reverse look up!). So much for the residential lookup on to Definitions!
I asked GOOGL to define vascular (by sending “define vascular”) and it did a fine job, then I challenged the dictionary a little with “d libertarian” and got “one who upholds and lives the principle of individual liberty and responsibility of thought and action” Not bad. How about a more complicated word like “d community”? For that I got “a group of people living in a particular local area; ‘the team is drawn from all parts of the community” Serviceable, but not as complex as what Google’s “define:community” gives you on the web. Both are drawing from WordNet 2.0 from the Cognitive Science Laboratory at Princeton.
On to commercial services; this uses Google Local. I tried “pizza 27514″ despite of the many many pizza joints in the area, the three I got were somewhat interesting — first Pizza Hut, then Alfredo’s, then Domino’s. Next I asked “Shoes 27514″ and I got a fancy and unique women’s shoe store, “Shoes at the Square”. I ramped up the challenge with “turkish.chapel hill nc” I got a place called “Turk’s Sports Food and Spirits” in Reidsville, NC and a great rug company “Nomadic Trading” in Carroboro. How about “Thai.chapel hill nc”? Better luck there. The first result was the occassionally wonderful Thai Palace just up the road. But also the Thai Garden in Raleigh.
On to online prices. I think this is so you can compare a brick and mortar store’s prices with online stores’. “P optio camera” or “get the price of a Pentax Optio digital camera” gave me a series of various Optios including the 33WR Water Resistant Camera ($349.95 from Dell), the 750Z 7 megapixel ($499 from Comp-U-Plus) as well as a Froogle buy. As it turns out, searching on Froogle for “optio camera” gives the same first three results — duh!
Other features include reverse zip code look up (entering “27514” gives you a message telling you that that is a “zip code for Chapel Hill NC.), calculator and units convertor (“44 gallons in liters” gets you “44 US gallons = 166.558119 liters”), and the wonderful Google snippets (“g paul jones” gets you my home page! I am still the number one Paul Jones!).
Even though the Google SMS Troubleshooting FAQ says “Google SMS and Treo phones don’t seem to play nicely together.” Everything worked pretty well. One confusion/disappointment is that several messages said “(1 of 4)” yet I only received one message and occassionally two.
After doing a recording session with Brian Russell which he will be podcasting from his audioactivism.org site, I started looking for podcasting resources. I’ve listed a few below and will add others. So suggest away if you are reading this and know a little about podcasting.
A list of my last two days featuring tales of creeks, geeks and media:
Very interesting research presentation on media effects and perceptions of news articles by Shyam Sundar of Penn State. Among many of the various findings presented was the “strip-tease effect of slow downloading” that is slowly rendered images increase the arousal and excitation transfer. (Does this mean that we get a better deal on our porn over dial-up? I leave this for others to follow up).
I’m looking for a brief way to explain the experiment that Shyam presented about multimedia effects and/or a pointer to his paper. Here goes: he used four presentations of the same story: 1) text only 2) test plus picture 3) test with picture and audio 4) test with picture and video. In the series of tests and responses, text with pictures won out over the others (as I recall). The content was an bland story about a smoker using suit settlement money to discourage teens from smoking. I think this experiment was done without embedded video or audio and at a time when web multimedia was pretty creaky. It would be interesting to try it again now.
In another experiment, the subjects were all given the same story but they were told or tricked as to the source of the story. 1) chosen by professional national news editors 2) chosen by self 3) chosen by other — someone else in the room — a referal 4) chosen by computer program. The finding here was that chosen by other prevailed over the others in both acceptance and in recall. The computer chosen story had stronger effects than the one chosen by professional editors. Remember these are all the same story…
(Media and a little Geekishness of the Mass Comm and Experimental Psychology type)
Interview with Ken Smith of WRAL-TV with Dave McCabe on camera about Internet and politics. I hear this aired Friday night on WRAL and on their sister Fox station. I have no idea what I would have seemed to have said as we taped about 15 minutes and used, I understand, up to 30 seconds. Last time we did 45 minutes and I was reduced (or elevated, as I look better when not show on air) to “experts say…” I could not get Ken to say “Bush Bulge Baffles Bloggers” without having him fall into fits of hysterical giggles. Several people tell me they heard the story, but not one remembered the topic much less what I said. Perhaps if it had been presented as text with picture, as Shyam’s research suggests, they would have remembered. (Media featuring a Geek)
Back in 1993, I went to Milosz’s home in Berkeley, California and video taped him reading poems in Polish and in English. The audio from that session is on the Internet Poetry Archive. But tomorrow night, thanks to help from Max Gustashaw, I’ll be showing the video for the first time. Eventually we’ll add the video to the Internet Poetry Archive.
It’s not that often that you get to meet someone like Czeslaw Milosz. His poetry over the years and changes is wonderful, clear and strong in a dialectic with his tendencies to be complex and direct, almost lewd yet religious, attracted to the world but spiritually driven, child-like yet wise, formal but also free in any form. His prose work, The Captive Mind, is the best book on totalitarian manipulation of intellectuals written.