Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Updates on Pulsing Content, Unconferences, and Coding

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Updates on Pulsing Content, Unconferences, and Coding

Article excerpt

Before I started at my current job, I'd been in academic environments--straight through school to a first job teaching, then back to grad school, then to several jobs in universities. Maybe it's because of this that I love the fall season. It's a time to take stock of where you are, especially from the perspectives of what you've done with what you've learned and what you need to learn next in order to move ahead to bigger and better things. I loved that feeling of moving through a program at school--how when advanced classes that once seemed far beyond me a year or two earlier were suddenly on my schedule. The follow-up feeling of "just think of what I'll be able to do once I learn this" is even better. With those feelings in mind, and with this issue scheduled to arrive on your desk right around the start of the fall school semester, I thought it might be useful to take stock of some of the topics I've covered in this column before and give you an update of where they've gone since I last wrote about them.

Dynamic, 'Pulsing Content' Libraries in Your Browser

I've been an advisor to the Zotero project ( in the past, and I'm excited to be able to tell you that one of the best ways to see what "dynamic libraries from scratch" might look like is already on its way to a browser near you. Zotero is a browser-based citation management application. If you can run Firefox, you can run Zotero; and when you run Zotero, you're seeing the latest and greatest in web integration with citation management. From teenagers working on high school reports to graduate students working on dissertations and faculty members with diverse research interests, Zotero offers many useful features to anybody who does "research on the web," which means pretty much all of us who work in libraries. Whatever you're working on, Zotero lets you keep a list of your references, reading notes, and page snapshots with you wherever you go next.

So imagine you're doing group work--again, that shouldn't be hard for us, working in libraries--and you're starting to share resources and references with your colleagues. The new version of Zotero has a preview of an option that might sound familiar if you read my earlier column on how the Zeroconf network protocol helps iTunes let neighboring iTunes users "see" and "share" each other's music. Whether you use Zotero with two, 20, 200, or 2,000 references, you can now enable "sharing" in Zotero just like you can in iTunes. Zotero sharing lets you see and peruse the Zotero libraries of other people near you on the same network. So if you're on a group project and you meet in a library or a cafe or a conference room, if you and your peers are sharing your Zotero reference libraries, you can see others' data just as easily as if you were looking at your own.


This works almost exactly the same way as iTunes music sharing, by using Zeroconf. In this case, much like with iTunes, Zeroconf lets users both "announce" the availability of their shared Zotero library onto the network and "browse" for other users' available Zotero shared libraries. When you're all sitting together and sharing your Zotero data, you simply see everybody else's stuff. When a new person arrives, his or her Zotero shows up in your Zotero; whenever somebody leaves, his or her shared Zotero references simply go away. In that brief period when you and your peers are working together and are most likely to need to share with each other, you see each others' data without any muss or fuss over connecting wires, USB drives, disks, or passwords. Now that's a dynamic library!

At the time I'm writing this, the Zeroconf sharing feature in Zotero is still in an early, preview-release-only stage, and the Zotero developers still have work to do to make it function smoothly on all platforms. But I'm optimistic that they'll work through these details and that Zotero sharing will soon become second nature to many of us. …

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