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Archive for April, 2006

Aggregating online references from books

I’ve started to tag all the external references in Adam Greenfield’s new book, Everyware on del.icio.us. I did it for Peter’s Ambient Findability when it came out too. The reason why I did it was because I was checking all these references as I read through and I thought how nice it would have been if someone had 1. already presented me with the full references online, and 2. cross-referenced them with the pages I was reading in the book.

All references in these two books are interesting, but typing up long URLs suck. We are lazy people – I think we are less likelly to check the references for more information if we see that long boring link printed on the page. Maybe we’ll check a few, but imagine how much more interesting it would be to experience these books if you could easily access any references and glance through them all as you were reading?

I don’t think this applies to all kinds of books, but these two in partcular discuss a new reality and in many ways require you to think about a world that doesn’t exist yet. It’s not sci-fi, it’s just a near-future that hasn’t been revealed, so the more support you have in reading them, the most you can make out of them. Thus the tagging frenzy.

References from Everyware
http://del.icio.us/livlab/everyware

References from Ambient Findability
http://del.icio.us/livlab/ambientfindability

My entirely non-scientific method of observation and talking to people tells me that there are two reason why one would go online to check a reference from a book: To learn more about a topic the book explores to some extent (dig deeper), or to learn about the background on something that’s referenced in a book (high-level) that you don’t really know much about.

I’ve found that I’m more likelly to do the first because it’s more fun (“hmmm interesting new/cool/exciting thing, let me find out more”). However, I will definitely go for the second when my ignorance about the topic is making me struggle with the book at hand (“oh so it’s like UML? Nice, but I can’t remember the first thing about UML. Let me recap…”)

If I can go somewhere and see the aggregated references sorted by the order I am reading the book, it becomes so much easier to do any of these things. When are publishers going to start doing this as part of the publishing process?

Post-scriptum: I failed to mention I am NOT a del.icio.us fan and I never really saw much value in it for me personaly. It was only when I started to tag these books that it became meaningful to me. I still think the method used to tag references is rudimentary and could be lightyears ahead.

Note: I’m getting tired of the word tagging already. It’s used to represent so many things that it’s losing meaning. I’m only talking about the action of adding an identifier – a tag – to something.

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