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Magazines > Information Today > April 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 4 — April 2004

NEWSBREAKS UPDATE
News About Organizational Tools, the Content Industry, and More
By Paula Hane

It's spring-cleaning time in my house. Time to tackle those dirty blinds, fan blades, and corners with dead bugs—the things we miss on a regular basis. But it's my office that's most crying out for a thorough cleanup and complete reorganization. I desperately need to toss old papers, sort through magazines, and organize the stuff I want to keep. With this weighing on my mind, it was no surprise that announcements of new organizational tools seemed to jump out from the many press releases flooding my in box.

New Tools

Personal information managers (PIMs) have been around since the 1980s and are still popular. Now, however, applications that aren't labeled specifically as PIMs often help keep users' digital houses in order. For example, I use Microsoft Outlook as my personal manager for time, tasks, and correspondence, but I don't yet have a good way to organize and access related information across applications and data types.

MicroLogic's Info Select PIM has been helping users manage their information since 1986. This is amazing longevity. The company has just released Info Select 8, a new version that helps users manage random and structured data. According to a company representative, Info Select provides e-mail, word processing, image editing, collaboration, database functionality, and more, with an extremely fast search engine at its core. It lets users manage all their information in one place and keep related information together in the form of notes, categories, images, databases, e-mails, schedules, contacts, ideas, or plans. Info Select has previously won two PC Magazine Editor's Choice Awards, a Perfect Report Card from PC World, and other acclaim. I haven't had a chance to try Info Select yet, but it could prove to be my new electronic clutter helper.

Saving and organizing Internet/Web information is the focus of Onfolio, a product that was just launched by a start-up company of the same name. This new PC application enables users to collect, organize, and share information they find while searching the Internet. Tightly integrated with Microsoft Internet Explorer, Onfolio provides tools for collecting links, snippets of text, documents, and full pages. From within the browser, users can then organize the captured items, add comments, and share the content through e-mail, reports, documents, and Web sites.

The company says that the release of Onfolio marks the emergence of search information managers, a new category of productivity tools that complement search engines and browsers. A free, fully functional 30-day trial version of Onfolio can be downloaded at http://www.onfolio.com. The product just launched at press time, so I haven't tested it yet. So many interesting tools, so little time. (But I should have more time once I get myself organized.)

Updating previous coverage, HighBeam Research, a company that emphasizes the value of the research/organizational tools it offers in its online research service for individuals, announced that it took only 20 days from the January launch of its new research service (see
http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040126-1.shtml) to acquire more than 100,000 individual users as HighBeam basic members. The company also said the number of paying full members is now more than 40,000.

Patrick Spain, founder and CEO of HighBeam Research, was obviously pleased with the speedy customer acquisition and the validation of the company's strategies. "Just as we offer all visitors a portion of a HighBeam eLibrary article at no charge to show the value of the paid membership that includes full-text articles, we have successfully applied this proven business model to research tools through the concept of a free membership. Acquiring more than 100,000 basic members in 20 days proves that researchers are willing to register for access to these tools."

Cuadra Enhances Its STAR

Speaking of companies with longevity in information management, Cuadra Associates, a firm that was founded in 1978 and is familiar in library and records management circles, has introduced a new version of its customizable STAR information management software. The 3.9 release provides a number of enhancements to its core technology, Windows-based client interface, and browser-based system management interface. STAR now handles encryption for safe communications over the Internet from multiple locations.

Cuadra offers a number of STAR product families, including applications for collection management, competitive intelligence, knowledge management, library automation, records management, and vocabulary control.

Search Engine Wars Heat Up

Given the eyeballs and advertising dollars at stake, the turf battle among Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and others has intensified and shows no signs of a cool-down. Analysts at Outsell, Inc. called it a "slugfest" with "a remarkable sequence of bobs, weaves, jabs, and misses...." Here's a quick rundown of a few recent events. First, Yahoo! dumped Google as its search provider and began using its own search engine technology platform. Then, Google announced its expansion to 6 billion documents.

Not to be outdone, Yahoo! introduced an aggressive new content acquisition program (CAP) that offers enhanced coverage to both commercial (paid inclusion) and noncommercial (nonpaying) data sources. (See Barbara Quint's NewsBreak at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040308-1.shtml.) Significantly, CAP promises to reveal major new content sources from the invisible Web. Program participants include the Library of Congress, The New York Public Library, National Public Radio, and the National Science Digital Library.

Quint wonders whether the invisible sources being included will actually remain invisible to users simply because they can't be easily located within Yahoo!. She says, "If the data from the new sources just gets thrown into the ocean of Web entries, never to rise again, addition of the new content may serve neither users nor Yahoo!'s marketing goals." It will certainly be interesting to see how this develops and if/when Google and others jump in with additional invisible or deep Web content.

Meanwhile, Google does not offer paid inclusion, claiming that it skews search results. In addition, Ask Jeeves just stopped accepting paid inclusion for its search algorithm and announced plans to buy Interactive Search Holdings, which includes iWon, Excite, MyWay, and other sites.

In SearchDay, Chris Sherman pointed out some potential disclosure issues with Yahoo!'s paid inclusion: "There's no way for a searcher to easily distinguish between paid inclusion results and content that Yahoo!'s crawler found on its own. And there's no indication that Yahoo! gets paid when a searcher clicks on a paid inclusion link." My overall concern is that Google, Yahoo!, and the others seem to concentrate on e-commerce initiatives and revenue generation at the expense of the real needs of users (which isn't surprising, I guess).

Yahoo! also debuted its new Yahoo! SmartView technology on Yahoo! Maps. This service displays local information pulled from the company's network of content sources, such as yellow pages and travel resources. Users can specify an address and then customize a map display with local points of interest and attractions, including restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, museums, parks, and ATMs. Once displayed on the map, you can find expanded information, including an address and phone number, pricing, user ratings (for hotels), Web site address, and driving directions, by clicking on the identified icon. It's a nifty implementation, though in my testing it offered incomplete information for the area I selected. Still, this technology illustrates two trends that I think will be apparent in future search developments: visualization interfaces and the importance of finding localized information.

[Note: At press time, Google announced the integration of local search results into Google.com with the availability of the new Google Local, a service that provides neighborhood business listings, maps, directions, and useful Web pages.]

Desktop Search Update

In December, I reported on the launch of Grokker2, an impressive desktop search tool from Groxis that provides a visual context for accessing search engines and content sources (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb031222-3.shtml). At that time, Grokker2 had built-in plug-ins for searching the Web, searching for products through Amazon.com, and mapping a hard drive or any drive over a shared network. Grokker's Web search module let users search AltaVista, MSN, WiseNut, Fast, Yahoo!, and Teoma all at once.

Recently, Groxis released a free beta version of its long-anticipated Google plug-in. The company also launched Grokker SDK, a software development kit that enables developers to quickly create their own custom plug-ins to virtually any content feed or data source available on a network.

In a recent announcement, R. J. Pittman, CEO and co-founder of Groxis, gave a hint of what's coming next: "Grokker has taken another step forward in its ongoing mission to become the first true desktop search application framework for unlimited, personal data-mining power. Over the coming months, Grokker2 will deliver unprecedented access to news feeds, blogs, social networks, e-commerce, and special interest research and content sources from around the globe."

Mapping my hard drive with Grokker could be the help my messy office and electronic files need. Grokker2 organizes and provides a visual map of search results, making it easy to discover, explore, and organize the information—yet another tool for me to test.

Update on RLG Project

Last fall, Barbara Quint reported on the launch of the first phase of RLG's RedLightGreen project, which opened a Web-based version of the RLG Union Catalog that's optimized for undergraduates (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb031013-2.shtml). Now, the pilot is moving into its second phase. More of RLG's member institutions are joining the effort to test and promote awareness of this resource. Current partners include Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University, Swarthmore College, and the University of Minnesota. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given additional funds to continue development.

RedLightGreen has recently been updated to include 1.5 million more records and has received interface and layout changes. With a new "My List" feature, students can now create a citation list and return to it in future sessions. RLG wants the RedLightGreen site to serve as a gateway to local library holdings and encourage more students to discover and use what's available at their library. Additional background on the project is available at http://www.rlg.org/redlightgreen/index.html.

Categorization from Xerox

Scientists at Xerox Corp. say they have invented software that's clever enough to "read" an electronic document, decide how it should be classified by subject, then route it to the right person's e-mail address or online document management system—all automatically. The categorizing software is intended to help businesses keep e-document collections orderly and accessible.

The categorizing tools that are currently available in the market treat each subject category independently of each other, but the Xerox system uses a hierarchical model that's able to understand the dependency between categories. The Xerox categorizer system, which uses linguistic analysis and machine-learning technologies, can handle documents written in up to 20 languages and can be adapted for specific customer requirements.

The software, which is available for licensing from Xerox, is written in Java and can be deployed on multiple platforms, including UNIX, Linux, and Windows. According to the announcement (http://www.xerox.com/innovation/categorize.shtml), the company anticipates the technology to be licensed by software vendors or companies that wish to incorporate it into document systems focused on areas such as customer relationship management, information retrieval, and data management.

The Content Industry $$

Outsell, Inc., the research firm that focuses on the information content (IC) industry, has released a report that it says challenges what it calls the "big lie": no one is willing to pay for content, and the total online paid content market is $1.5 billion. The company says that the 30-page report (for sale at http://www.outsellinc.com) contains "detailed and actionable data and predictions" about the $50 billion online paid content market and profiles of the business models employed by more than 100 content sellers. The following are some highlights from "Content Vendor Best Practices: Busting Up Fee vs. Free," by Outsell analyst Chuck Richard.

• The total information content market tracked by Outsell (excluding entertainment) is $183 billion.

• The online-user-paid portion of the IC market is more than $50 billion.

• The online-user-paid content revenue of just three companies—Thomson, Reed Elsevier, and Wolters Kluwer—was $7 billion in 2002.

While it looks like the IC industry is alive and well, the budgets of library customers have yet to show a significant rebound from the cutbacks of the last several years. So go easy with those price increases, IC folks.

STM Inquiries, Initiatives

Speaking of Reed Elsevier and its competitors, an inquiry is underway that will look into the pricing practices of commercial STM publishers and discuss open access publishing models. At the U.K. Parliament's Science and Technology Select Committee hearings in March, the publishers testified and key organizations (such as IFLA and The Royal Society) submitted formal statements on these issues. (See Richard Poynder's column on page 1 and watch for ongoing coverage.) Meanwhile, STM companies were busily rolling out new products and services.

Elsevier announced the first fully functioning version of Scopus, its highly anticipated, full-text linking, A&I database that was initially tested by 20 academic libraries. (For details, see the NewsBreak at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040315-1.shtml.) The company is now providing access to another 30 academic libraries for final testing and user trials and expects to have the commercial release available by the fourth quarter of this year.

Scopus is designed to be an all-science, comprehensive access point for libraries. It delivers coverage of 13,000 titles from more than 4,000 STM publishers and plans to cover more than 100 open access journals by the summer. Scopus also simultaneously searches the scientific Web using Scirus, Elsevier's science-only search engine.

In a rival development on the citation-linking front, Thomson ISI announced that it will collaborate with NEC to create a comprehensive, multidisciplinary citation index for Web-based scholarly resources. The new Web Citation Index, due out in early 2005 following pilot testing this year, will also include citations and links to open access resources. (For more information, see Barbara Quint's NewsBreak at
http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040301-1.shtml.)

Finally, if you're interested in checking out the background of some of these companies, tracking the history of their acquisitions, and learning about the imprints they own, there's an important report you should look into. "The Academic Publishing Industry: A Story of Merger and Acquisition," by Mary H. Munroe (http://www.niulib.niu.edu/publishers), was prepared for the Association of Research Libraries and the Information Access Alliance, a group of associations that's concerned about mergers and acquisitions in scholarly publishing. Munroe provides an interesting timeline for each company.

Ongoing Identity Issues

If you thought the issue of a name/identity was settled by a Special Libraries Association (SLA) membership vote last year, you were mistaken. There's more than one way to effect a name change. The board of directors recently decided that the Special Libraries Association would operate publicly using its acronym in place of its "extended name"—the name that its members voted to keep—while it would continue to operate legally and financially as "Special Libraries Association." According to a press release, the change to "doing business as" SLA occurred after SLA president-elect Ethel Salonen raised the subject during a strategy session.

In a letter to SLA members, current president Cindy Hill said, "Adopting this model lowers barriers and simplifies our ability to position the association to new and diverse market segments, building on our recent steps to make SLA more attractive to international audiences." She also noted that the change "does not preclude a legal name change in the future." The association's logo has already been changed, and there's a new tagline: "Connecting People and Information."

For the latest industry news, check http://www.infotoday.com every Monday morning. An easier option is to sign up for our free weekly e-mail newsletter, NewsLink, which provides abstracts and links to the stories we post.


Paula J. Hane is Information Today, Inc.'s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks. Her e-mail address is phane@infotoday.com.
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