Support vs Responsibility

Watson won handily, and many disappointed humans were blaming him for his answer that Toronto is a US City. Several humans blamed the outsourced programmers in India for this mistake. Blaming is so human, so it is understandable. However, I was very happy to see that companies like IBM are still interested in some of the fundamental research in computing. For the next 6 weeks, I will be preoccupied with Cricket World Cup which is being played in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  So far, no surprises, though England had a scare against Canada (yes, the country where Toronto is, plays cricket) yesterday.

On to the topic at hand… Library and Technology Services (LTS) is in the business of maintaining and supporting the consumption of information. Whereas we also create some of the information ourselves, that is a much smaller portion than making sure that we develop the appropriate mechanism for our users to get access to the information. It is sort of what Google does – billions of people create content, but it facilitates the consumption of this information through search frameworks that makes it easy to get access to information (though some would argue that it does a poor job!). And makes billions of dollars in the process… The question is, who actually is responsible for the information?

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Administrative Council Presentation

Last Tuesday (2/15/2011)  was yet another meeting-filled day and once again I took a resolution to block my meeting maker so I have at least one hour to catch up on things every day. It doesn’t appear that I will be able to accomplish this at least for a week or two. I was floating in and out of presentation by iStrategy, a Datawarehouse solution that uses modern dimensional data modeling techniques for reporting. I also attended a meeting with the faculty in the sciences around High Performance Computing (HPC) needs. Both were a lot of fun… Talking about HPC, I stopped writing for a few minutes to watch Watson compete in Jeopardy!

I was given an opportunity to talk at the Administrative Council at the College on Monday, Feb 14. I was happy to see a good attendance. Some of the attendees had already heard what I had to say more than once, so apologies to those for the repetition… I am going to touch on many of the important things that I talked about there, but if I miss anythign important, please email me and I will be happy to respond.

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Social Media

Social Media is in the limelight again in the wake of the happenings on in Egypt. I myself have been so busy recently that I have not been able to do my usual level of tweeting and facebooking. We had to open up discussion on the Email/Calendaring to the Wellesley Community and I had to share with the Library and Technology Policy Committee several policy documents. As you know, policy documents take up a lot of time. Policy documents are important, but in my opinion, they need to be relevant, short, readable, to the point and practical. On the EDUCAUSE CIO list I was surprised to find that a few institutions have policies on policy documents. Hmmm… I wonder who wrote that one.

Social Media as we know is a web based technology platform for easy social interaction. Ease of use and access are critical for this to work correctly. As we know, some of the technologies such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have fared very well in this space, but a lot of them such as Google Buzz, and Ning have failed to catch on. The most recent rumor is about Yahoo! planning to shut down del.icio.us, the social bookmarking site. The struggle for us, the technologists, is what advice to give to those we support regarding the use of these.

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Incompleteness of Technology Projects

I am sure that everyone is talking about the unusual snowfall this winter, roof collapses, school closings and all that. Someone I know mentioned that he knew it was way too much snow when, after he cleared the snow in his roof, he stepped right into the mound of snow he had cleared. Picture that!

Luckily, technology is well advanced now that many of us are able to get a lot of work done from home during days such as today – no meetings. Unfortunately I had a couple of meetings that I could not skip today, so I drove to work. My attempts to take the car out from the parking spot failed this morning (2/2/2011) and needed a lot of help to simply get it back into the parking spot. I was able to get it out in the afternoon. Then, my attempts to try to steer the car up a steep driveway in the evening was not successful, so I parked right in the middle of the driveway. Even worse, trying to reverse the car didn’t work well – the car got stuck in a snow bank and needed a LOT more help to get it out. Should have stayed in the apartment and worked!

OK, enough of snow talk. I want to talk about how the successful technology projects are never complete. I refer to this as “Forever Beta” along the lines of the Google philosophy. The only “finished” technologies are the ones that are badly designed and rarely used so they die a slow death. And MIT Libraries have a “Beta Graveyard” to collected those that died.

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My “first” post

I am glad to begin my first post on the Wellesley blog about two months after I began my work here. In the two months, I have had a chance to meet with many of the faculty and staff. In addition, it was a lot of fun to meet with two groups of Albright Fellows to discuss how technologies, especially  communication technologies, are influencing the world. I have also spent time trying to understand the work of all Information Services staff. It has been a pretty busy couple of months.

However, thanks to all the IS staff, we have made a lot of progress in such a short period of time, some of which I will discuss here.

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