Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Editorial Introduction to Issue 50: Side-Stepping Babel

Richard Waller introduces Ariadne 50.

With Dyson and parts of Burberry disappearing points east, leaving their design departments behind them [1] [2], there are possible grounds for arguing that the (previously) industrialised countries must live by their wits and the emerging knowledge economy. In Limits to Information Transfer: The Boundary Problem Jon Erland Lervik, Mark Easterby-Smith, Kathryn Fahy and Carole Elliott write that 'the challenge for knowledge management is not only to make knowledge available in repositories for dissemination across the firm' or organisation. In effect companies must be able to integrate increasingly numerous and growing bodies of specialised knowledge from different communities of expertise if they are to add value to their goods or services and compete effectively.

In this article they describe three approaches to managing knowledge across boundaries within an organisation. In referring to these boundaries they point out that 'Members of different specialised knowledge communities can be said to reside in different 'thought worlds'. Central ideas in one community may be considered uninteresting or irrelevant in another. Collaboration can be difficult across disciplines, because individuals give different meanings to the same concept.' Project managers and partners on any distributed work package, would, I expect, nod ruefully at the time it has taken sometimes before all partners realise that there is more than one interpretation of a term, conceivably a main target, doing the rounds of their project; not to mention the time it has taken to be able to 'sing from the same hymn sheet'. Those projects savvy enough to circulate a glossary at the earliest possible stage will doubtless still bemoan the time it takes to reach a working consensus - though their approach is nonetheless the surer.

The authors give the example of development of a car engine as an example of how the boundaries between specialisations can be so detrimental to project effort: despite developing the same car, the engine designers and the body stylists had specialised away from each other so much that the project suffered a significant mishap. This article helps to address a modern paradox: that increasing sophistication is necessary for increasingly advanced design; but the specialisation required can so easily lead to development failures through the loss of common understanding.

As the rate of technological change shows no sign of falling off, the whole issue of how institutions manage inventions and more importantly innovation is addressed by Melanie Bates, Sue Manuel and Charles Oppenheim in their article Models of Early Adoption of ICT Innovations in Higher Education in which they provide an overview of some considerations for change agents wishing to introduce an innovative new information communication technology service into Higher Education institutions. Quite properly (I refer you to my earlier remarks about common understanding), the authors define what they mean by both invention and innovation before leading us to consider different theories and models associated with the acceptance and take-up of ICT innovations. They put me very much in mind of the point made by Marieke Guy in her recent article on wikis and communities; namely that a wiki is far more likely to be adopted by a community that needs one, rather than by a disparate group of enthusiasts without a cause. In other words, the wiki is given a job to do for a group of people with common or at least some shared aims. Had Bill Clinton been a technologist rather than a mere President, I expect he would have said to his co-developers, 'It's the Users, Stupid' and it is evident from the research described in this article that the importance and characteristics of early adopters are every bit as important as the bells and whistles on the latest brainwave.

Philip Beresford did indeed carry out his promise, implicit in his Newsline entry of last issue, to provide us with a full article on the Web Curator Tool. As we have become increasingly aware of the fragility of information on the Internet, there have been moves by organisations such as the Internet Archive to capture material before it disappears. In this context therefore it is very useful to have the story (from The British Library's perspective) of the development of new software to aid all stages of harvesting Web sites for preservation. I will risk the wrath of those who hate Amazon's urge to tell them that if they liked one product they may like something similar by referring here to Collecting Born Digital Archives at the Wellcome Library in which Chris Hilton and Dave Thompson discuss plans for work with born digital archival material at the Wellcome Library. The object of each set of authors is palpably different, but the benefits that their work will have for all who wish to access digital material are equally clear.

Francis Cave, Brian Green and David Martin address a not dissimilar boundary difficulty in their article on ONIX for Licensing Terms: Standards for the Electronic Communication of Usage Terms. As more and more publications are made available in digital form, so new ways are appearing in which to trade in them, producing a pressing requirement, among others, for a common means of expressing and transmitting usage terms. The authors describe the work by stakeholders in this area in developing a new set of formats that will support the full range and complexity of licensing terms to be expressed in a machine-readable and easily communicated form called ONIX for Licensing Terms.

I never cease to be amazed by the increasing numbers of search engines and allied formats popping up on the radar screen. Consequently I can only congratulate Phil Bradley on his ability to keep abreast of all these developments. In his regular article for us this issue, Phil provides a comprehensive and brief view of all the New Search Engines in 2006. He recommends or disapproves of each in turn, explaining where a search engine has merits for a particular type of user - and humbly reminds us that these are his personal views - you are very welcome to disagree!

My colleague Julie Allinson has been working might and main on A Dublin Core Application Profile for Scholarly Works which she describes, in collaboration with Pete Johnston and Andy Powell. This work has clearly been attracting interest [3] and I am indebted to all three for their coverage of the application profile which is, it would seem, attracting interest and not necessarily confined to the area of scholarly works.

Referring back to the persistence (or lack of) of Web sites on the World Wide Web, it is always interesting to run through the hot topics that have come (and sometimes gone) in the decade's worth of Ariadne pages, and no prizes for guessing at the current buzzwords such as 'Web 2.0' and 'mash-ups'. However there were prizes offered by Talis to those developers keen to try their hand and developing some of the latter themselves and Paul Miller details what these entries were and how they relate to What Happens When We Mash the Library?. While I was not surprised that US entries predominated, it was interesting to note a third emanated from the UK, of which an impressive number from the Open University.

As usual, we offer our At the Event section, with reviews on books about digital preservation, integrating content and systems in the context of digital libraries, programming know-how to create resources for Google searching and digital photography by the accomplished American landscape photographer Stephen Johnson. In addition of course we provide our expanded section of news and events.

I hope you will enjoy Issue 50.


  1. BBCi News:UK manufacturers lured overseas http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1806463.stm
  2. BBCi News: Protest at label's London stores http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/6159146.stm
  3. Focus on UKOLN, Issue 18: Eprints Application Profile http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/focus/issue18/#18.17

Author Details

Richard Waller
Ariadne Editor

Email: ariadne@ukoln.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/

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