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Technology befuddles session C3

So now that I remember my blog password, I have lots to say. I want to extend my congratulations and kudos to my fellow session participants in C3 (New Discovery Tools: Thinking Outside the Catalogue) where we managed to kill 3 laptops and still do 4 outstanding presentations. The room was too hot and too crowded but the attendees were patient, enthusiastic and even provided some tech support!!

Paul Bern was the lucky presenter - the laptop didn't reallly crash until he was done explaining how to make Google work better for us and help us to help other folks find data. I propose that IASSISTers who do create CSEs for data exploration link their CSEs together to really harness the power of our community. Good job Paul!

The meltdown began with the next presenter....ME! Apparently it is true that "everything is San's fault" because the chaos begin in the middle of my presentation and plagued us the rest of the session! I killed the first laptop and didn't even get to show off the cool RSS stuff we've been working on. Therefore, I will totally abuse my postion as blog editor and give the links for interested folks to check out for themselves. Unless you really like looking at XML, I recommend using IE7, Firefox 2.0 or an RSS reader to check these out but here they are:

Fed funds rate from the New York Fed

Foreign exchange rates from the Bank of Malaysia

Commercial paper rates from the Federal Reserve Board (currently on a test server and liable to disappear very soon!)

Details on the collaboration effort that brought these about can be found on our wiki. Please stop by and take a look - let me know what you think about this crazy idea of publishing data one number at a time!

So after I killed the first laptop, a second laptop arrived but not before our brave colleagues, Taina Jääskeläinen and Tuomas J. Alaterä from the Finnish Social Science Data Archive, had to start their talk without their powerpoint. The discussion went on, however, and Taina explained very nicely the difficult job they face having to maintain webpages in three languages. As I wear a web hat as part of my job, I really appreciated the part of the discussion where she pointed out that multilingual websites need to actually be separate websites developed in separate languages rather than multiple translations of a single language site. This was also the first IASSIST presentation that I can recall that emphasized usability in a website - which made my colleague, Meredith the Usability Guru, very happy. We were also reminded that users are IMPATIENT and that we can't give them what they want fast enough no matter the delivery speed. The powerpoint eventually guided us to the end of the talk - good tech support Tuomas!!

Although it looked at first like we might make it through a second presentation without mishap, the helpful local arrangements folks decided to abandon the equipment we were using and Anastassia gave up her personal laptop to ensure that the fourth presentation went off without a hitch. I have to say, I have never seen so many icons on a desktop in my life! But eventually we made it to the presentation by Tatyana Yudina and Anna Bogomolova of Moscow State University who showed us how to build and use search tools that not only operate in two languages but actually use two alphabets! (I confess that I think any interface that looks as cool with Cyrillic letters as it does with our boring English alphabet gets gold stars from me every time!) They described the service they provide to add value to a host of research information in multiple languages (and letters!) including adding links to case law citations in court documents from the European Court of Human Rights! Another excellent example of IASSISTers going all out to do some assisting!

So a major round of applause for all of us who made through the 3 laptop circus that was session C3. A standing ovation to our session chair Anna Bombak who kept her cool, kept us on track and made the best use of our technology downtime to handle questions and comments. I'm learning lots of things to pay attention to as program chair for next year!

Submitted by San Cannon
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