Blog pioneer wants to foster local voices

No Comments

Co-creator of Blogger, author and software developer still finds time for Oregon blog directory

Blogger, MySpace, Facebook and Livejournal are words that have become popular on campuses around the country. Corvallis resident Paul Bausch contributed to the development of the technology that made blogs and social community a reality.

Bausch studied journalism at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. But he quickly got disillusioned by the broadcasting industry. He felt that local news was dictated by national agencies like The Associated Press and that only national events mattered. The role of local or campus news outlets was basically to republish whatever story was provided to them.

“Find a local angle and rewrite it … ,” said Bausch of his college journalism experience. “This was extremely discouraging to me.”

While working on his degree, Bausch also did programming on the side. After graduation, he moved to San Francisco to work for an e-commerce company. Not long after, two of his classmates asked him to become the first employee of Pyra Labs, the company they had just created. The company’s goal was to develop new project management tools. While the tool itself never found a sizeable audience, one of its components generated a lot of interest. The component was an application that will list notes in reverse chronological order. Pyra Labs decided to shift its focus to develop the component. Bausch, along with Pyra Labs co-founders Meg Hourihan and Evan Williams, ended up writing most of the code for the new application, a Weblog tool named Blogger.

Weblog was not a novelty by then and Bausch was already maintaining one to find connections with other people through the Internet. But Blogger would participate in the blog revolution by easing the process of creating and maintaining a blog. The Blogger service took off on its own and the usage exploded once the company started Blogspot, a hosting service for blogs.


Instant Messaging at the library

No Comments

Messaging service offers live help from library staff

Initiative is part of larger project to bring more library services online, accessible to students

By Riad Lemhachheche

Doing research for your next class paper while sitting on your couch at home? This has become easier as the OSU libraries are offering more and more resources online.The latest research publications can be accessed though the hundreds of electronic journals the library has subscribed to. Electronic versions of dissertations, graduate and honors theses from recent OSU graduates will soon be integrated in the catalog as well.With this wealth of information available at library patrons’ fingertips, a computer with Internet access pointing to OASIS, the OSU Library electronic catalog, has become the starting point for most library material searches.This has made it possible for OSU students, faculty and staff to access most of these resources from anywhere in the world, on and off campus. But until recently, there was still one thing you couldn’t get without coming to the library: help from a professional librarian.In 2004, OSU libraries, along with other public libraries in Oregon, set up a system to support its online patrons. The new service, named live reference service or L-Net, is staffed by OSU librarians and accessible online to any library patrons regardless of location.

“The primary target is the OSU community. We want to be able to provide real-time help wherever someone needs it,” said Ruth Vondracek, head of Reference and Instruction at OSU Valley Library.

The live reference service enables patrons to exchange text messages with librarians. The system also enables the user and the librarian to share a common browser window. Librarians can use the window to point to a location from where the resource researched can be accessed. Librarians can also display particular pages on the patron’s computer.

While the service has not been widely publicized yet, this option has proven popular to help patrons navigate through menus to locate the article or resource they are looking for.


Information access in the library

No Comments

What you need not flying off the shelf? Try the library’s catalogs

OSU’s Valley Library has many ways to get the books you need

By Riad Lemhachheche

The OSU Valley Library owns about 1.9 million monographic volumes (books, videos, maps and government documents). Yet, OSU patrons may not find all the items they need for their research or classes in the shelves of the Valley Library.

Indeed, while the OSU collection is substantial, it is nowhere near the Library of Congress with its 130 million items spread over 530 miles of bookshelves. Additionally, OCLC WorldCat, a worldwide library cooperative, reached one billion holdings this August.

The Valley clearly pales in comparison with it’s 1.9 mil. But, as the saying goes, it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use it.

So, what are the options left to OSU patrons if items they’re looking for isn’t on the shelves here in fair Corvallis?

In the case of articles, the library subscribes to several online publications accessible through the online catalog.

Another resource is the Summit Alliance Web catalog. Summit is the catalog of all the holdings of the 33 partnering academic libraries in the Pacific Northwest and was created by the merger of Orbis, the Oregon Academic Library Association, and Cascade, its Washington Counterpart. The catalog contains more than 20 million items of which 8 million are unique titles.

Any search done on the OSU catalog, OASIS, can be repeated on the Summit catalog and OSU patrons can borrow items available from any of the Summit Alliance member institutions.

Turnaround time is around three to five days for Summit borrowing.

“The interesting thing is that of this database, 65 percent of the books in the database are owned by only one of the Alliance members. That heterogeneity really increases the value of belonging to the Alliance,” said John Pollitz, the associate university librarian for public services and innovative technology.


Oregon State GIS group gets ready to map your world

No Comments

by Riad Lemhachheche, staff writer

GIS map

Global Positioning System technology has become famous for letting hikers and travelers find their location wherever they are.

GPS devices are used in cars to provide driving directions and in airplanes to display the distance to one’s final destination. But GPS is only the tip of a growing industry and academic field known as Geographic Information Systems or GIS.

“GPS is no good unless GIS is doing analysis with that data”, said Dawn Wright, professor in the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University.

GIS technologies are used for research in forest science or oceanography, as well as being incorporated in products and services used by millions of people every day.

Mapping services like Mapquest, Yahoo Maps or Google Earth rely heavily on GIS to associate topographic data, street and highway layout and traffic information to enable their users to plan their travels.

GIS experts were on the forefront of the emergency response team during the Katrina relief effort. They were able to generate up-to-date maps of transportation systems and locate areas where flooding had the most impact.

OSU is an academic leader in the GIS field, as it is one of the 16 founders of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the major academic consortium in the field, that now counts over 70 members.

Last fall, OSU launched a new program for students and community to provide increased learning opportunities in the field of GIS.


The music you may like, recommended by ….YOU

No Comments

The music you may like, recommended by ….YOU

Local start up is also a multi-national enterprise

By Riad Lemhachheche

OSU alumni Matthew McLoughlin, left, Rick Hangartner and Jim Shur show off the MyStrands program they have helped develop into an international franchise with more than 40 employees.

MusicStrands, a local company, is planning to change the way people discover and share music.

Music enthusiasts may search numerous venues for novelty: specialized magazines, MTV, the radio, concerts or even friends. There isn’t an easy way to discover new cool songs without some effort.

MusicStrands is trying to change that. MusicStrands’ free software, MyStrands, recommends songs based on what you are currently listening to.

Connected to Apple’s iTunes (and soon other players), the application looks at your listening behavior and searches in its 5-million-song database for recommendations.

“When you listen to radio, watch TV, or read a magazine, you are discovering the music others are telling you to discover. What MusicStrands wants is for people to have greater control of the music they discover,” said Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarria, vice president of marketing and communications at MusicStrands.

Several other companies are trying to provide innovative music recommendation services., for example, provides its customers with recommendations based on their previous purchases. LastFm collects your playlists and provides you with recommendations based on your profile.

What sets MusicStrands apart from the competition is the fact that “MyStrands is the only system that recommends based on what you play, that provides with instant recommendations,” Aldamiz-echevarria said.

“The songs you are playing now represents your context,” said Matthew McLaughlin, a 2005 OSU graduate and vice president of product innovation for the company. In fact, MusicStrands offers two types of recommendations. MyStrands offers instant recommendations based on your current mood and the latest songs you played, while the Web site gives you recommendations on your complete profile.

What if your tastes do not fit mainstream standards? MusicStrands places a lot of emphasis on independent music. The MusicStrands Indy program enables artists to get profiled for free in the system by including information on their music and letting them add links to hear their songs.

“It is not based on advertising, it is based on how they play,” McLaughlin said.