Second Life Library

The Second Life Library 2.0 initiative really fascinates me. Second Life is a free online role playing game. Unlike most games of this type, there are very few limitations on what you can do in the game world. The official site does a much better job of explaining the concept than I can.

So what is the Second Life Library 2.0? A bunch of librarians and organizations like OPAL and the Alliance Library System are building a library inside the game world. They play on offering reference service, instruction programs, and pretty much anything else possible in the game.

There’s a couple of reasons I love this idea. It definitely accomplishes outreach to an unserved population. At the same time, there’s a definite Cool Factor that libraries can sometimes lack. Thumbs up to all involved!

I really want to help out with this project, but unfortunately Second Life will not run on my aging computer. I’m hoping to get a new system later this year, so maybe I’ll join up after that event.

Weather Maps as Complex Visual Interfaces

I spent a lot of time last weekend watching the weather radar on TV. Friday night was my first Big Southern Storm, and let me just say: I’ll take a good ‘ol northern blizzard any day.


During a break in the storm, I was struck by how complicated a modern TV weather map is. You’ve got all those colors to take in and synthesize, geographic references to match them up with, a time scale, spinning refresh line, and sometimes even wind speeds or other situational data. Yet somehow everybody can take it in. You never hear anybody complain about the weather map being too complex.

I think the success is due to a combination of familiarity and a highly visual representation. After you see enough local maps of any kind, you get an idea of what towns are placed where. Once you gain that sense of location, the town names become almost unnecessary to even read. Then the colors: again, no reading necessary. Red bad. Green not so bad. That’s about the extent of knowledge required.

So if this kind of visual representation of highly complex data can be so successful, why can’t the new crop of visual search engines?

EBSCO recently added the feature to their databases, and I’m not really impressed. Sure it looks slick, but I just can’t be nearly as efficient with their expanding connected bubbles as I can in traditional searches.
Perhaps I haven’t given myself time to gain that critical threshold of familiarity. But I’d love to try some sort of visual search system based on a weather map’s amorphous blobs and see how it compares. Maybe the years of honing that system can be drawn upon.

Google’s Related Links

I’m still alive! Just very busy.

Today Google added a “Related Links” box that anybody can embed into their site. I’ve added it down near the bottom of my sidebar (for now) if you want to check it out.

Mostly I was just curious what Google would pull up as recommended from parsing my site. Right now its one news story about national library week and a couple of random library-related blogs.

I guess you can think of the service like the Adsense program, only you don’t get paid when people click the links. But on the plus side, these are ‘real’ links instead of ads. And meanwhile, our Google Overlords get to harvest even more data 🙂