The sad story on digital libraries in Norway – part 110.12.09

This part is based on too many futile attempts at getting at information at University libraries in Norway through the web.

A starting place for visiting Norwegian University libraries could be the library at University of Oslo. The first impression of the site is “hey, this has been built some years ago”. But there is a simple search form and there are some promising links. But wandering through the page one may conclude with:

  • A number of links which “promises” search directs the user to a closed service. Services for employees and students only should not have been marketed that prominently on the front page. That is a stupid trick.
  • Selecting departments at the library does not narrow down the search! If you select e.g. the math & natural sciences dept. your book searches will still be within the library as a whole (or at least what we are left to believe is what they have).
  • Design and navigation differ from page to page and “service” to “service” in non-logical manners. This seems only to be due to different persons and projects involved in the different pages. Another stupidity.

Oh, there are many more interesting questions which could be raised. But, let’s look at a few other examples in Norway. Let’s travel to Bergen. They welcome you, the reader, with a page and a movie bragging about themselves. A search field given in the upper-right corner may seem to be the doorway to the hidden databases? Or, wait, what happens if you click on one of those menu-items? Nasty thing. The guys and dolls that built the site really did like to show that they can reveal/hide sub-menues. And that promising search field? Searching the library databases? Nope. Just searching the site excluding the databases. Searching the databases is hidden under services. But what a miserable interface:

  • What’s the difference in the searches given?
  • Why does the language in the interface keep changing? I started out with Norwegian, found myself in a English result-page and had to look through the whole page to find the language selector hidden in the upper-right corner.
  • Where is power-search or advanced search mechanisms hidden, i.e. how can we easily narrow down the seraches? Nowhere.
  • Why does the strings “searchin” and “retrieving” appear in different spaces on the page? Why not a fixed position for the search-status?

Again, it feels like the list could have been made into a book.

Travelling to Trondheim must be a winner. This is the city which like to think of themselves a the “core of technology”. And actually, they do have a more coherent site! The search field on the frontpage does cover databases as well as the site itself. And the result page lists result categories and lists potential ways of narrowing your search. Neat. Navigation, design and services for search specification could be improved. But so far, Trondheim is in the front seat.

Travelling further up north, I had high hopes for my old campus (both as a student and employee). But the site for the library at University of Tromsoe is the saddest of them all. When you enter the pages (and are given that insanely long URL) please note that the menu signals you are on a page “for employees”. The search field in the upper-right corner is not only for the library but for the University as a whole. So don’t go there! The three different searches listed in the middle of the page gives you i) Bibsys (the same as the library at University of Oslo), ii) Ofelas (the same as the library at University of Bergen); and iii) a meager collection of less than 2.000 documents locally at the University.

I know we (through our taxmoney) have been paying for digital libraries for years. Where are they? Seems like a lot of money just down the drain.

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Another Microflop10.09.09

Sad days for all the Windows-loyal out there. Strong evidence of another Microflop (or more correctly Macroflop) from Microsoft is emerging.

Microsoft and Ballmer have been laughing at iPhone. And stating that they have a strategy which is going to make sure they stay ahead also when it comes to cellular phones and smartphones.

That was then. Where has this strategy brought Microsoft? Years after Ballmer laughed pictures of their fantastic Pink phones started circulating. I am not a product designer (thank heaven) but I know what I like and what I don’t like. Just looking at it. And the design of the “Pinks” did not appeal to me at all. Anyway, I may not be in their target customer group.

The design in itself is sad enough. But now we get rumours stating the the project is in danger of caving in due to sloppy project management. So they did not understand the techie bits of building phones and didn’t see the significance of choosing this or that technology? Does not surprise me. Maybe they should start out reading the book The Chip by T.R. Reid. It’s a fantastic book on the history of the chip. And by reading that book the Pink project might have understood the implications of protocols? That different communcation technologies could imply different chip sets.

But what seems worst of all, and a lesson to be learned by anyone trying to break a new product into being “the next hit”: try to avoid making your partners in the process pissed.

Even so, I have to admit that I do not care too much about Microsoft getting a dent in their bodywork. Best of all: they only have themselves to blame.

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  • the tuscan cat
    I for one believe that Leonardo (da Vinci) was really smart. And I also believe cats are smart creatures. So when I spotted a nice cat sleeping on a scooter carrying "the signature" Leonardo somewhere in beautiful Italy I just had to "shoot".

    For all you non-norwegian readers: older entries are in Norwegian only. Sorry.