A Room With a View

I’ve just arrived at the Crowne Plaza NEC Birmingham, ready for a meeting with Paul Miller at Talis first thing tomorrow morning, followed by the SirsiDynix Executive Roadshow 2006.

Travelling to Birmingham is never straightforward — today, due to a broken down train, they had to cram two sets of passengers onto a single train.

The Crowne Plaza is officially located in the middle of nowhere, about a mile from the National Exhibition Centre.  Just in case there’s anyone reading this who’s planning to arrive tomorrow via train — get off at Birmingham International, walk straight through the NEC (you’ll see the occasional sign for the Plaza), and when you exit the NEC by the bus stops, you’ll be able to see the Plaza in the distance.  The entrance to the hotel is actually on the other side, so you’ll need to skirt around the edge of the building.

I have a room with a view, but unfortunately it’s a view of a dull car park…

…and what is it with hotels and light switches?  I seem to remember it took Bryony and me about 10 minutes to figure out how to switch the lights on in our hotel room at CODI 2005, and it took me even longer today. 

When I walked into the room, none of the light switches would work.  So, I read the guest information booklet twice (standing by the window as the light of the day faded), but there were no tips in there.  Hmmmmm – should I swallow my pride and ring up the reception desk?

“Hi – Room 149 here… I have a question for you… How do I turn the lights on?!?”

Eventually I noticed that there was a strange box, hidden away in the shadows on the wall near the door.  It says “TESA” on it and, according to Google and the Acronym Attic, TESA can stand for:

  • Texas Educational Secretaries Association
  • Texas Elks State Association
  • The Endangered Species Act
  • Teacher Education Student Association
  • Theater Environmental Situational Awareness
  • Testicular Epididymal Sperm Aspiration

…not much help there, although Google Images has an amusing picture that seems to be someone gaffa taped to a wall.  Sadly, I couldn’t get the full sized version (http://www.pocsmadar.hu/miazmas/tesa.jpg) to load.

Anyway, on closer inspection, the box has a credit card sized slot in it… (gears begin to grind)… and my room door key is shaped like a credit card… eureka!

Three Coins in the OPAC

Inspired by Lorcan Dempsey’s post about Coins in Open WorldCat, I’ve been messing around with adding Coins to our OPAC.

I still need to research the specification in further depth, but it’s been relatively easy to add a prototype to our OPAC. Here’s how it displays in Firefox using the Openly OpenURL Referrer extension:

I’ve configured the extension to link to our SFX server, so clicking on the SFX icon takes me through to our SFX menu:

Obviously there’s little point linking from our OPAC to our own OpenURL resolver — the idea is more that you can configure the exension to point to your preferred resolver.

Even more Ajax

I’ve added a couple more bits of Ajax to the OPAC, although they’ve not live yet:

  • links to items with the same (or similar) subject headings
  • links to related works / other editions (courtesy of OCLC’s xISBN service)

As an example, here’s the links that appear for the first edition of Learning XML:

Although having links to “people who borrowed this” is cool, it does tend to link to items that circulate well (which you could argue is a “good thing”).  On the other hand, the quick links to items with same/similar subject headings are deliberately shown in a random order.

More Ajax goodness

I’ve spent the afternoon Ajax-ing the “did you mean?” code on the OPAC, and also finishing off the serendipity suggestions.

The serendipity suggestions take longer to generate than before, as the the code now considers keyword phrases returned by answers.com, instead of just single keywords.  As an example, here’s what appears if I try searching for the film “Faraway, So Close” on our OPAC:

Obviously the suggestion of searching for “Close Faraday” is of little use.  However, most of the serendipity suggestions are relevant to the film, and at least two of them will lead me straight through to the catalogue page for “Der Himmel über Berlin” (the prequel to “Faraway, So Close”).

One rather cool outcome of this is that our OPAC can now sometimes answer questions!  Sadly the results don’t always lead to relevant items, but at least our OPAC knows the answer to the Ultimate Question!

Extended info from "pewbot"

LibraryThing‘s Tim Spalding has been in touch with me and he made some suggestions that I’ve now added into pewbot.

If you pop /extended onto the end of a request, then pewbot will return a richer set of information – e.g.:

http://webcat.hud.ac.uk:4128/pewbot/0750603054/extended/

The attributes returned for each ISBN are:

  • count
    the number of borrowers who borrowed both books
  • totalDays
    the total number of days that elapsed been each item being borrowed by all the borrowers
  • sumDays
    the sum of days, taking into account loans before and after
  • ckoBefore
    the number of borrowers who borrowed the second item first
  • ckoSame
    the number of borrowers who borrowed the second item at the same time
  • ckoAfter
    the number of borrowers who borrowed the second item afterwards

Continue reading

Now with added Ajax

We’ve finally got our first bit of Ajax on the OPAC, although it’s not currently working with Firefox.

Thanks to the wonderful Scriptaculous, the “people who borrowed this” suggestions in our OPAC are now powered by Ajax – e.g.:

The printing revolution in early modern Europe

…clicking on the “show more” link brings in the next batch of selections without having to reload the entire page.

The reason why Firefox won’t show anything is that our JBoss/Jetty OPAC runs on webcat.hud.ac.uk port 80, but the Apache mod_perl server that generates the suggestions runs off port 4128 on the same server.  Unfortunately that’s enough of a difference for the Firefox security to block the script from running, although Firefox still seems to happy to bring in other (non Ajax) JavaScript content from the Apache server.  Many thanks to the guru’s on #code4lib for spotting the problem!

To get around this problem, I’m planning to move the OPAC to a different port and set Apache to run on port 80 and then configure it to act as a reverse proxy for the OPAC.  Once I’ve done that, from the web browser’s point-of-view, everything will appearing to be coming from port 80 (which solves the Firefox Ajax issue).

This also helps out with the problem that SirsiDynix don’t seem to provide any security patches for the JBoss/Jetty server that runs their OPAC — by moving the OPAC and placing it behind the Apache server, it means that the OPAC cannot be accessed directly (which provides a degree of “security through depth”).

Superpatron's Library Camp!

This is such a great idea — Ann Arbor, and their resident Superpatron Ed Vielmetti, have organised a Library 2.0 unconference:

http://wiki.library2.net/index.php/Main_Page

As Ed notes on his blog:

An unconference or “camp” is a way of organizing a conference so that you focus on bringing the right people to the room and don’t stress about who is going to be a speaker or what’s going to be on the agenda.

The sign up page for the event is here.

I’ve love to know how much interest there would be in having a similar Library 2.0 event in the UK?

Although there’s always scope for more formal L2 events and presentations at the upcoming UK conferences, it would be great to know if there’s already a sizeable number of UK Librarians and Library Techies out there who’d like to get together for an informal day of Library 2.0 discussion, idea swapping, and brainstorming?

Tree Trimming Tips

Many thanks to Talis’ Paul Miller for inviting me to take part in their latest Talking with Talis today.

Just before the recording session started this afternoon, workmen from the local council pulled up outside our house to do some tree trimming.  So, if you detect any odd noises in the background then it’s probably their 3 chainsaws and wood chipper rather than the Superpatron suffering a bout of chronic flatulence ;-)

If you like pictures of trees getting mutilated, then there’s more here!

I’m not too sure that the local squirrel population will make of the trimming, as there used to be several overhead crossing points for them (where the branches of trees on opposite sides of the road mingled together).