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Magazines > Information Today > April 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 4 — April 2004

DEPARTMENTS
Looking for Space
By Lauree Padgett

Tunesmith Paul Simon had it right: "April, come she will." Not that she doesn't take her dear, sweet time, mind you. But she gets here. And with April comes one of my favorite holidays. While not a big seller for Hallmark, for me, April 1 (aka April Fools' Day) rates right up there with Christmas, Easter, and the NCAA men's basketball final. (Well, OK. The latter's not an official holiday, but it should be.)

April 1, you see, gives me permission—nay, an invitation—to have a little fun with my friends and co-workers. Over the years, I've pulled off some pretty good jokes. In college, I told the alumni office secretary that a power failure had wiped out all her computer records. Once, after discovering a co-worker had a habit of leaving his keys in his unlocked car, I had an accomplice move it so that when he went to lunch, it was gone.

For the last several years, I've targeted one person: the head of production here at Information Today, Inc. But it's her own fault, really. Each year, she announces to one and all, "Lauree will not get me this year." She even tells new employees not to talk to me on April 1. Honestly! So, of course, if she's insisting that there's just no way I'm going to trick her, I have to take the challenge, don't I? But don't fear, dear readers. I would never lead you astray. The articles I'm highlighting from Computers in Libraries, The CyberSkeptic's Guide, and Searcher will be worth your while. And that's no foolin'!

Homeland Bound

To tweak another old folk tune: "Where has all the government information gone, long-time passing? Where has all the government information gone, long time ago?" Well, believe it or not, all of it isn't under lock and key. According to Linda Zellmer ("How Homeland Security Affects Spatial Information, Computers in Libraries, April 2004), since 9/11, much of the spatial information (place names, maps, aerial photos) that had been previously available on government Web sites has been taken off.

Zellmer notes, "Interestingly, most of the spatial data that has been withdrawn by government agencies is available from other agencies or the private sector." Here's an example: While the Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety removed the National Pipeline Mapping System from its site after 9/11, pipeline, refinery, and energy production and transmission data can be obtained through PennWell, an energy and petroleum information marketing company.

The article provides a history of security-versus-access issues that stems back to the Cold War era. As a member of the Federal Geographic Data Committee's Homeland Security Working Group (you gotta love government names), Zellmer can give details you might not learn elsewhere. She discusses why so much data that was once freely available has been put on red alert, whether these drastic measures are accomplishing their goal (the story of a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter will make you wonder), and how to track down the spatial info you need.

Yesterday Once More

One day, I woke up with the Carpenters' song "Merry Christmas, Darling" going through my head. I had no idea why. Then, while reading the newspaper, I discovered it was Karen Carpenter's birthday. Eerie, huh? Something that Genie Tyburski finds unsettling is mismatched pieces of information that may add up to a client's lack of integrity. In "Lies, Damned Lies, and the Internet Archive" (The CyberSkeptic's Guide, April 2004), the woman behind The Virtual Chase service highlights how you can find archival information on the Web, even when you have to go "way back" for it.

The slogan for the Information Archive (http://www.archive.org), which was founded in 1996, could be "more than 30 billion Web pages stored." While it was always "open for business" for researchers, Tyburski notes that "the collection did not become readily accessible until the introduction of the Wayback Machine in 2001." Through the Wayback Machine (http://www.archive.org/web/web.php), searchers can find archived pages by their Web URLs. Archived documents can be displayed along with any pages that are linked from it.

This all sounds simple, right? Well, yes and no. If you haven't used the Internet Archive or Wayback Machine ("Thank you, Mister Know-It-All!" Sorry, I just had to do that for all the Rocky and Bullwinkle fans out there!), let Tyburski show you the ins and outs, such as how to use Recall Search, a beta version of a keyword search feature. She'll also give you a heads-up about problems you may encounter along the way back!

Audit Be Me

Ulla de Stricker knows her stuff when it comes to information audits ("Hunches and Lunches: Using the Information Audit to Understand Information Culture," Searcher, April 2004). She says, "[T]he information audit is about as fundamental a tool as there can be when it comes to planning and managing information operations of all kinds." She also knows why information audits often hit a wall—an information culture wall that prevents recommendations stemming from the audit from being carried out.

In the article, de Stricker looks at ways to find subtle hints of the encroaching culture wall and suggests ways in which the culture can be included as part of the information audit. This means adding a third dimension to the audit that goes beyond finding out who does what and how with information objects as well as how this information gets passed along and by whom. de Stricker emphasizes a need to include the "belief" audit into overall planning exercises. Through the belief audit, the convictions of the company's leaders and knowledge workers are probed in accordance with how ROI is connected with information systems, tools, and practices.

If your information audit focus groups are less than focused, and you feel that you're at an impasse, let de Stricker show you the ropes. She'll help you scale the information culture wall so that you can not only get the recommendations that will move your organization along, but put them into action.

To Sleep, Perchance to Plot

My column's done, and there's no Duke game to watch, so it's off to bed for me. And as I wait to fall asleep, I think I'll work a little more on this year's April Fools' joke. And believe me, my friend won't know what hit her!


Lauree Padgett is Information Today, Inc.'s manager of editorial services. Her e-mail address is lpadgett@infotoday.com.
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