Sunday, July 25, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 30: Google Acquires Metaweb, UK eBook Loans (or not), Education and NCLB, HRH Queen Elizabeth and Flickr

Google buys database company metaweb. This has wider implications for anyone creating, maintaining and licensing/selling bibliographic or product type databases. Maybe Google data about things (Freebase) becomes more than 'good enough' (Google Blog)
Over time we’ve improved search by deepening our understanding of queries and web pages. The web isn’t merely words—it’s information about things in the real world, and understanding the relationships between real-world entities can help us deliver relevant information more quickly. Today, we’ve acquired Metaweb, a company that maintains an open database of things in the world. Working together we want to improve search and make the web richer and more meaningful for everyone.

With efforts like rich snippets and the search answers feature, we’re just beginning to apply our understanding of the web to make search better. Type [barack obama birthday] in the search box and see the answer right at the top of the page. Or search for [events in San Jose] and see a list of specific events and dates. We can offer this kind of experience because we understand facts about real people and real events out in the world. But what about [colleges on the west coast with tuition under $30,000] or [actors over 40 who have won at least one oscar]? These are hard questions, and we’ve acquired Metaweb because we believe working together we’ll be able to provide better answers.

In addition to our ideas for search, we’re also excited about the possibilities for Freebase, Metaweb’s free and open database of over 12 million things, including movies, books, TV shows, celebrities, locations, companies and more. Google and Metaweb plan to maintain Freebase as a free and open database for the world. Better yet, we plan to contribute to and further develop Freebase and would be delighted if other web companies use and contribute to the data. We believe that by improving Freebase, it will be a tremendous resource to make the web richer for everyone. And to the extent the web becomes a better place, this is good for webmasters and good for users.
In the UK the debate over supplying eBooks via the library system is generating some strong opinions (FT):
“The free loan of e-books by libraries should not be possible,” wrote Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, in a letter to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport this year. “The free loan of e-books is very different from the free loan of printed books.”

Critics say that if reading a library e-book is too similar to the experience of reading a purchased e-book, some consumers will simply forgo the latter option, cannibalising sales.

Others question why the state should fund the purchase of e-books, when the readers libraries target most (such as low-income groups and communities with low literacy rates) are unlikely to own an e-reader.

Yet, libraries adopting the e-book model say they have taken this into account. “That’s why we go for formats that people can download on to their phone or their computer. Because most people have got a phone and access to a computer, whether at home or at school,” says Sue Wills, a librarian at Kensington and Chelsea, which recently began to offer e-books by means of Overdrive (see box below) and by Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online.

Education Sector a think tank focused on education take a look at no child left behind and current education policy (Quick and the Ed)

And while I’m sure Duncan also wouldn’t put this this way, he’s actively contributing to the steady and increasingly successful rhetorical and political attack on the various maddeningly stupid personnel practices that teachers unions continue to defend. Weakened by their unapologetic opposition to the heroic and defense of the indefensible, teachers unions are struggling with the famously difficult task of managing an organized retreat.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, I think the federal government is shifting toward a role in education that fits better with what it can plausibly accomplish: creating and catalyzing standards, investing in information systems, research, and innovative practices, focusing its limited (in the grand educational scheme of things) resources on the students and schools that need help the most. And I, too, have been galvanized by great charter schools. If you honestly believe that helping non-profit organizations give a high-quality education to impoverished children is a bad idea, we have little to discuss.

At the same time, the short- and mid-term implication is little or no attention to students in roughly the 20th to the 70th percentile of school quality, however defined. Charter school networks are unevenly distributed geographically, and even the best can’t grow exponentially over a sustained period of time. Many state departments of education balked when they were legally required to improve the worst schools. How many are going make hard choices when they simply have the option of improving mediocre schools?

Reuters UK reports the Queen is following my lead and putting her holiday snaps up on Flickr (Reuters):
The Monarchy Website Flickr account streams both up-to-the-minute images of royal engagements and archive photographs from the royal collection.The launch is timed to coincide with the summer opening of Buckingham Palace, as the site highlights photographs specially commissioned for the palace's exhibition "The Queen's Year," which opens on July 27.The Flickr account also features historic photographs from current Royal Collection exhibitions at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle and on loan to museums and galleries around the UK.They include masterpieces of early British photography collected by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
From the twitter:

Ron Marshall the CEO who left Borders after less than a year has now been asked to leave his subsequent CEO position at A&P: AP: A&P CEO steps down as loss widens:shares plunge AP What a run of bad luck - for shareholders.

Pearson Buys Sistema Educacional Brasileiro Learning Unit for $499 Million - Bloomberg

How thieves target rare books BBC

With U of Tennessee Rollout, OCLC's Cloud-Based ILS Enters Early-Adoption Phase LJ

Bertelsmann + Holtzbrinck join forces to create online distribution platform to sell e-books The Bookseller

Sherlock Holmes is back… sending texts and using nicotine patches Observer

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