Sexy SirsiDynix shenanigans in sunny Southampton

(Well, it’ll be sexy in-so-far as I’m including some gratuitous nudity in my session on “RSS and Social Networking” on Thursday. Will I be stripping off and revealing all in the name of “2.0”? You’ll have to come along and find out!)

I’m currently sat in Manchester Airport, waiting for a budget flight down to Southampton, which is playing host to this year’s “Dynix Users Group/European Unicorn Users Group Joint Conference“. High on the agenda is the merging of the two user groups, and hopefully a shorter name — my personal choice is still “SirsiDynix Libraries User Group”, if only for the cool “SLUG” acronym.

As Ian has already mentioned on his blog, European Horizon users are crossing their fingers that SirsiDynix CEO Gary Rautenstrauch’s “commitment to our worldwide customer base” will result in an announcement that Horizon 7.4.2 will be made available to non-US customers. Sadly, the 7.4.1 release was a US only affair and UK sites are still tootling along (quite merrily, it has to be said) on 7.3.4.

Right — must dash, my boarding gate has just been announced! 3G card allowing, I’m hoping to blog and Flickr the conference.

new API from OpenLibrary

Great to see that OpenLibrary (“One web page for every book”) now has an API!

There’s an interesting debate going on via the Code4Lib email list regarding the API. Specifically, should they have used SRU or is exposing a simple API better? Personally, I’m all for simple APIs that non-library techies can pick up and run with.

I’ve worked as a developer in libraries now for nearly 14 years and I’ve never used (or even seriously looked at) SRU. When I read the specification, I can feel my eyes begin to slowly glaze over! Perhaps this is just because I cut my teeth writing EDI processing software in COBOL and I’ve always suspected that people who develop specifications for use in libraries (e.g. Edifact, Z39.50, MARC, etc) are all a bunch of masochists 😉

Giving it all away

Fans of Chris Anderson might want to check out this article which appeared in today’s Guardian newspaper in the UK: “The big giveaway“…

International flights that don’t cost a thing? Books or music you don’t have to pay for? Even companies handing out cars? Traditional business is based on the certainty that everything has a price. But now US writer Chris Anderson believes we are at the dawn of a new consumerist era, governed by what he dubs ‘freeconomics’.

Scrum and Agile

I’m sure many SirsiDynix customers remember the terms “Scrum” and “Agile” being bandied around a few years ago during the development of Horizon 8.0. What I don’t remember being as widely reported at the time was that half of the developers were based in Russia (the other half were based in Provo, USA).

Anyway, the Google Blogsearch RSS feed for SirsiDynix threw up an interesting blog post last week: “Managing Offshore Software Projects“.

This project distributed Scrum teams so that half of each team was in the United States at SirsiDynix and the other half of each team was at Exigen Services in St. Petersburg, Russia. It showed how to set up distributed/outsourced teams to achieve both linear scalability of teams on a large project and distributed velocity of each team the same as the velocity of a small colocated team.

This project is still generating controversy in the Agile community by showing that you can run distributed high performance Scrums. There were quality problems on this project that caused some in the Agile community to discount the remarkable results and argue that it could not be repeated successfully.

I guess whatever your thoughts about Jack Blount and Horizon 8 are (or were), it certainly seems he knew what he has doing!

Whilst I’m thinking about Jack, I’d like to offer my sincere condolences to the Blount family for their recent loss.

decorative tag cloud

It’s not often that I’d consider adding pure “eye candy” to the OPAC, but I couldn’t decide what would be the best way of making this tag cloud functional. So, I made an executive decision and decided it shouldn’t be functional 😀

If you run a keyword search on our OPAC, at the foot of the page you should see a keyword cloud (it might take a few seconds to appear). The cloud is generated from previous keyword searches used on our OPAC. Here’s the one for “library“…


For multi-keyword searches, an electronic coin is tossed and you either get a cloud of the union or the intersection of your keywords. The former uses previous searches that contain any of the keywords, and the later is only those that contain all of them (if that makes sense!)

As it’s not functional, the cloud is just a decorative window into the hive mind of our users.

I’m interested to hear what you think — should the cloud be functional, or does it work as just “eye candy”?

Library and Information Show 2008

A big thank you to everyone who came along to my OPAC session at the Library and Information Show last week! If you’re looking for the presentation, it’s available on SlideShare (I’ve finished adding the comments to the slides).

During the afternoon, I snapped a few photographs

lis_007 lis_008 lis_006 lis_005 lis_013 lis_014 lis_015

Owen Stephens has already mentioned the funky “Smartblades” from Intellident. I dread to think how much is would cost to kit out an entire library, but maybe in 20 years from now most libraries will have smart shelving? Seeing the blades light up (using blue LEDs) in sequence as they scan the shelves is cool beyond words :-)

SirsiDynix were demoing an early (“pre alpha”) prototype of “Enterprise” (the replacement for EPS). The search examples shown highlighted that it automatically uses fuzzy searching (e.g. “global warning” also found “global warming”). Over the weekend, I couldn’t resist tweaking the “did you mean” suggestions on our OPAC to do something similar (e.g. “global warning” or “nursing practise“). It’ll be interesting to see what SirsiDynix come up with to differentiate their new product from “Primo” and “Encore”.


RIP: Edward Lorenz

Very sad to see that Edward Lorenz, one of the founding fathers of Chaos Theory, has died.


There can’t be many people who aren’t familiar with the concept expressed in the title of his 1972 paper “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?”

Lorenz was awarded the Kyoto Prize in 1991 for his work on determinsitic chaos — “a principle which has profoundly influenced a wide range of basic sciences and brought about one of the most dramatic changes in mankind’s view of nature since Sir Isaac Newton.”

Tweet Clouds

I have a confession to make — I grew bored of Twitter after a couple of days.

However, I felt obliged to keep on Twittering something… anything… so I hooked our OPAC into the feed instead. Every 5 minutes, a bit of code checks to see what the most popular keyword(s) used on our OPAC has been recently and, if it’s different to the last run, it fires it off to Twitter. I was so lazy, I didn’t even bother filtering out stopwords.

The result is an eclectic mix of words that encapsulate our student’s usage of the library catalogue — little snapshots of what was important to a bunch of students (or perhaps one particular determined student). Topics meander semi-randomly, occasionally repeating at unusual intervals.

Sometimes, there’s not a single popular keyword, but several. Sometimes the multiple words make sense, other times they create weird phrases…

  • british genetics music
  • angina attachment theatre
  • education picasso sex
  • rape skills study

Anyway, a few days ago I spotted Tweet Clouds and decided to see what it made of my feed…


…and here’s a cloud I made back in December 2006


I must admit, I feel kinda guilty that I ate up 23 minutes of CPU time on the Tweet Cloud site :-S

Another one bites the dust — RIP SirsiDynix EPS Rooms

Wow — looks like another flagship SirsiDynix product has been shelved. According to reports from attendees at the SuperConference, the company is dropping Stephen Abram‘s beloved EPS Rooms product. Never mind, “shift happens“.

At the conference, the company also announced their version of Primo/Encore (branded “Enterprise”). Curiously, this will be a SaaS only offering. RSS feeds, tagging, user reviews, and ratings are earmarked for version 3 of the product (due around 2010). All I can say is that I’m glad we took the decision to implement these features ourselves, rather than waiting for our vendor to do it for us :-S

Edit — looks like some customers have come away from SuperConference without the foggiest idea of what the product road map is, so I’m happy to wait for clarification from SirsiDynix of their new products, and rumours of EPS’s death have been greatly exaggerated (by me).

Edit #2 — Sorry Stephen, as far as I can tell, it looks like the customer reports were indeed correct. There’s no “end of life” for EPS (in the same way that there’s no “end of life” for Horizon or Dynix Classic) and apologies if the original post implied that there was, but future product development will see the Rooms concept moving into the new Enterprise product.