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Ring in the New Year with Accessible Content

As it turns out, easily accessible content on your site can make a big difference. Users tend to have a better experience when a site helps them find and understand its content. Having an accessible site not only empowers users, it also helps search engines understand what your site is really about.

So if you’ve resolved to boost your site’s user experience and online presence for the new year, improving your content accessibility is a great way to start. Thankfully, there are tons of features you can add to make your site more accessible. In this post, we’ll highlight three of them:Intuitive navigationConcise, descriptive anchor text for linksUnique, accurate page titles throughout the site

Read the rest of this clinic at the  Official Google Webmaster Central Blog

Manafy on Social Web Etiquette

The web is atwitter with coverage of Google’s foray into social media with Google Buzz. Gmail users have probably noticed the Google logo-hued talk bubble that muscled its way onto their inboxes in February. For some, Buzz was a welcome addition to the Gmail party.  Others wished they’d had the option to turn it away at the door. It’s one thing to have an unwanted guest turn up and wrangle his way in.  It’s another to have someone else controlling the guest list and then making it available for all to see.

Read the rest of Michelle Manafy’s article at  Social Web Etiquette
or follow @michellemanafy on Twitter.

Washington Office Updates Attendees on the Google Book Settlement

Delegates lined up to ask questons

Delegates lined up to ask questions about the settlement's impact on libraries

The man in the brown shirt at the speaker’s table is the Google guy.  His name is Dan Clancy, Engineering Director for Google Book Search, Google’s effort to digitize all the world’s books and make them publicly searchable and displayable, purportedly as a service to the public, but most observe Google also has commercial interests.

When the scanning began a few years ago–involving major academic library partners–Google claimed Fair Use.  But publishers and authors didn’t exactly see it that way.  The Assoociation of American Publishers and the Authors Guild sued for Copyright infringement.

Two years in the making, a settlement was announced last autumn, so the Fair Use argument will never be decided by the Courts.

Clancey told delegates attending the Washington Office policy update sessions, the upside of the case not going to court is, “If we had won the lawsuit, people would only be able to see (content) snippets. The settlement will actually open up the treasure trove of content.”

What he was referring to are provisions within the proposed settlement that permit Google, Google library partners, and other libraries to offer access to the entire corpus of scanned books, under royalty arrangements with publishers and authors, even for books that are out-of-print.

Similar to the ASCAP agency, which collects and pays royalties for recorded music, the settlement will establish a Books Rights Registry, which will collect and pay fees to copyright holders for the use of their works.

To assure equitable access to the digital book collection, the settlement provides for a Public Access Service, defined by one speaker as amounting to “one designated terminal for every 10,000 students” in her academic institution.  Subscriptions will also be available for institutions that want to provide expanded access.

Google’s official description of the deal is here.

Concerns expressed at the update session centered around transparency of the price- and policy-setting process.  One speaker observed that though publishers and authors are represented in the group that will make these decisions, libraries will not have a voice, except Google library partners who can, according to Clancy act as a “bargaining collective to arbitrate pricing.”

The proposed settlement is so complex that ALA, ARL and ACRL, have prepared two  backgrounders, dubbed “Guides for the Perplexed.”  For these and other background materials, visit the ARL site.

See also:  The Google Book Settlement Update we published earlier this month on our NewsBreaks service.  In that piece, ITI News Bureau Chief Paula Hane summarizes discussions at SLA last month and provides a number of additional useful links.

Dick Kaser, ITI,VP, Content

What's True of The Loop Is True of the Industry

To get from here to there at ALA it's best to take the shuttle buses

To get from here to there at ALA it’s best to take the shuttle buses

Ah, Chicago.  Hog butcher, etc., etc.  When I arrived yesterday afternoon I took a quick walk through The Loop, Chicago’s historic downtown district.  I even stepped into the old Marshall Fields department store, which reminded me a lot of the old John Wanamaker department store in my hometown of Philadelphia.  Both from the same era.  Both now owned by Macy’s. We live in a world where things seem destined to consolidate.  And expand in the process.

It’s true in the information industry, too.  Coming out on the plane yesterday–we actually took off early from  Philly and arrived early at O’Hare!–I was catching up on the last couple of days of newspapers, devouring reports about Google’s foray into the operating systems space, with a free open source platform potentially challenging MS-Windows.

At SLA a couple of weeks ago, the ITI blog team was invited to a private breakfast with ProQuest, where we were briefed on developments related to Proquest, Dialog, CSA, and Serials Solutions–now all operating under the ProQuest name.  At ALA, we’ve been invited to another (this time public) breakfast where ProQuest is going to announce its platform integration strategy. It used to be you could pigeon hole the vendors into a single category of service offerings, but more and more they are–how to say this?–becoming more and more.

Later today, I’ll be interviewing Jay Jordan, President OCLC, about recent announcements coming out of Columbus (OH), about OCLC’s ambitions to expand its offerings to what it describes as a “web scale coperative library management” system, which sounds to me as if the world’s largest cataloger wants to be an ILS vendor, too. More on that later today.

Meanwhile, it’s drizzling in Chicago, so if I were you, I’d take the shuttle bus, operated as always by Gale, now owned by Cengage Learning, down to McCormick Place.

Dick Kaser, ITI V.P., Content

Danny (Re)Visits Search Engine Land

 

Search engine guru Danny Sullivan is always a welcome addition to any Internet Librarian program—he’s so busy traveling to his own company’s events that’s it’s great to grab him when the opportunity presents. He says he likes to come to IL because it forces him to examine if there are big “themes” to discuss.

If there is a theme, it’s that there isn’t a Google killer yet—Google is likely to dominate for the foreseeable future. They have made it very difficult for anybody to challenge them.

Cuil.com played the “biggest is better” card again (and had a great “founders” story)…but bigger isn’t better – Cuil’s relevancy was woeful.

Powerset was hyped as a potential killer but it proved that natural language isn’t a natural killer. It only searched Wikipedia—and was then acquired by Microsoft, for not much money. It has intriguing technology but Danny says it is overkill at this point.

Microsoft fumbled with Yahoo! and as a result set Google up as more powerful than ever. Google now has more than 60% market share in the U.S. and even higher in many other countries, such as Germany. So, is that it? Does Google now rule everything?

What Danny says is there likely won’t be a single killer—there will be “killerettes.” There will be many small contenders that nibble away in niche areas. Here are some of the interesting tools he mentioned—most of them consumer oriented.

  • Summize/Twitter search – hyper real-time tool to follow the buzz and breaking news, and Google at this point has nothing like this (http://search.twitter.com)
  • Urbanspoon – never wonder where to eat again (this iPhone app that knows where you are and picks a restaurant—it actually uses a huge database of reviews) again, Google has nothing like this
  • Eventful (http://eventful.com)
  • Upcoming (owned by Yahoo! – Google has no event search, and may have to play catch-up in this space)
  • Yelp (local reviews of all types at http://yelp.com)
  • Trulia.com and Zillow.com – for real estate information
  • Kayak.com and Farecast.com (now owned by Microsoft) for travel info
  • Craigslist.org – buy and sell related to local areas (Google has Google Base but it hasn’t really taken off)
  • Jobs at Indeed.com
  • News/discovery at Digg.com
  • Video search – Blinkx.com, VideoSurf.com
  • Gas prices at GasBuddy.com

But the “killerettes” have a challenge – it’s hard to remember all the ones out there and go back to them.

Yahoo continues to face uncertainty. It is still doing innovative things – BOSS, Search Monkey (enhanced search listings), etc. With the assumption that Microsoft will eventually take over, which just makes for more uncertainty—it’s hard to get excited. Like the situation with Ask.com—Danny finds it hard to even talk about them. People lose faith with these alternatives.

Microsoft is positioning itself as the chief competitor…and it has some good stuff, but will people really notice and will it grow? It bailed out of “non-consumer” search; it focused on ads first and search second; and it has major branding problems.

Lots of people try to figure out where Google is taking us—does it have a “master plan”? Danny’s theory is that it has done some planning (Chrome browser, Google Checkout) but much of it comes naturally, through a “hive mind” mentality (see his post at searchengineland.com). He thinks the economy will slow the company’s growth somewhat but it may weather things better than most companies. Unfortunately, he says we’ll see many more ads—everywhere.

The real big trend that he says will continue is personalized search results. Google is now doing “search customization” – it is tailoring results based on your geographic location, previous query, and your Web history. He thinks Google will ramp this up. As a search professional you may not want it to do this.

The bottom line: Google will continue to be the benevolent dictator—for the next 5 years or so. Mobile and vertical search do offer new opportunities, but the economic downturn may hit some of the startups.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, Information Today, Inc.