Monday, February 24. 2014
Last week I drew the blue line from Sudbury to Ottawa you see in the above map by running MozStumbler on my phone as we headed out to celebrate Winterlude. One day, that line might help you figure out where you are on your FirefoxOS phone! Here's what's going on:
GPS triangulates your position based on satellites, requires a line of sight to those satellites, and can take minutes to get a lock on your location. If you have a smartphone, you've probably noticed that running a maps application will return your location in seconds, not minutes; that's because modern smartphones use cell towers and wifi routers for triangulation purposes. Unlike GPS, your phone is usually continuously scanning for cell and wifi routers, so the data is immediately available at no extra cost to your phone's battery or CPU.
However, while the major smartphone operating system manufacturers have built databases that correlate cell towers and wifi routers with coordinates (and raised some privacy concerns while they were at it - Apple, Google), this data is not openly available. A new operating system, such as Mozilla's FirefoxOS, must licence a service such as Skyhook's, or build their own.
True to its open principles, Mozilla is building its own database of location information--the Mozilla Location Service--that aims "to provide an open service to provide location data" (that page needs wordsmithing but I digress). To collect the data, Mozilla offers an Android application called MozStumbler that you can run while you're out and about; it will build a collection of coordinates with wifi access points and cell towers, and then upload it to Mozilla (either via your data connection, or later when you have wifi connectivity if you prefer). Currently you have to sideload the APK onto your phone; it is not available on the Google Play Store (although it is on F-Droid).
While the fledgling location API is already available, it remains to be seen how Mozilla will run this service: if, for example, it will make data dumps available, or if it will rate-limit calls to the service. But given Mozilla's long and laudable track record, it seems worthwhile to trust that they will do the right thing and help them build their database. They have a long way to go. Comparing Mozilla's stats to Skyhook's, Mozilla has collected observations about 0.7 million cell towers and 17.5 million wifi access points, vs. Skyhook's 30 million and 1 billion respectively.
So why not fire up MozStumbler on your phone? Hey, if a lowly guy from
Sudbury can, in a little over a week, get into the top 200 data
contributors (me =
Friday, February 21. 2014
Over at the Metadata Matters blog, Diane Hillman wrote Why Are We Waiting for the ILS to Change?, asking (in the context of the difficulties libraries experience in making their systems work with RDA):
What I saw underlying that conversation was the assumption that the only way change could happen was if the ILS’s themselves changed; in other words if the ILS vendors decided to lead rather than follow. The situation now is that system vendors say they’ll build RDA compliant systems when their customers ask for them, and libraries say that they’ll use ‘real’ RDA when there are systems that can support it. This is a dance of death, and nobody wins.
I took this as a jumping-off point to discuss the state of linked data support in library systems and discovery software and posted the following comment (currently awaiting moderation):
Who's waiting? Sweden's LIBRIS took essentially the approach you suggested back in 2007, and Bibliothèque Nationale de France and Deutsche Nationalbibliothek have also followed similar paths.
Jumping from RDA to linked data might be a bit of a stretch, but the lack of movement by proprietary vendors in particular hit a sore point that I developed during some of our early W3 Schema.org Bibliographic Extension Community Group discussions. I had asked if anyone else was trying to actually implement what we were discussing. A response from one of the proprietary software representatives was "No, we're waiting to see what develops..." -- which is exactly the attitude that leads to the "dance of death" that Diane described. It can also lead to decisions that are suboptimal, ambiguous, or unimplementable because nobody actually tried to put theory into practice.
Thankfully, a small investment of effort into modifying open source systems to serve as reference implementations can provide a significant amount of insight into flaws or possibilities with otherwise theoretical directions, as well as delivering practical benefits to everyone who uses that software if those modifications are accepted by the parent projects. Here's hoping that the more agile options like Koha, Evergreen, VuFind, and Blacklight continue to push the evolution of their proprietary competitors.
Monday, February 3. 2014
Back in August, I mentioned that I taught Evergreen, Koha, and VuFind how to express library holdings in schema.org via the
The language for some of the terminology may seem a little overly commercial right now, but the next iteration of the schema.org standard will adopt language that more broadly supports non-commercial activities... and this broadening of a number of schema.org definitions is also an outcome of the Schema BibEx community efforts. I'm pretty happy with the results of the group over the last six months! Hopefully this sheds some long-overdue light on some of the results of our efforts, and helps other systems adopt our group's recommended practices for exposing metadata via schema.org.
On , I'll be participating in Laurentian University's Research Week lightning talks. Unlike most five-minute lightning talk events in which I've participated, the time limit for each talk tomorrow will be one minute. Imagine 60 different researchers getting up to summarize their research in one minute each, and you have what is likely to be a brain-melting hour. Should be fun!
Here's a rough draft of what I'm planning to say (which, when read at an even cadence with decent intonation, comes out to exactly one minute:)
What would you understand if you read the _entire_ world wide web?
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