Leo Klein's Top Technology Trends

Just so you don’t think my life revolves completely around pizza, ribs and polish sausage, I thought I’d mention a few things that have caught my eye and where I think we’re headed:

CMS for the Rest of Us

OpenSourceCMS Home PageSure CMS has been touted before but it always came with fine print that read, “some assembly required”. Zope was a poster boy for this. Not only was “assembly required” but you had to learn python to do it. Beyond that, no problem.

No problem? My idea of no problem is where you install the thing, set a few preferences and fire it up. Yes, I know I exaggerate but this very blog — the LitaBlog — is a testament to how far CMS has evolved.

And WordPress (what they used here) is only one choice among many. Have a look at OpenSource CMS to get an idea of the range of products on offer. It’s amazing. It’s getting to the point where all but the smallest websites will incorporate one of these products as a routine part of its development.

Websites Like You Would Expect

Home Page of NYPLLibraries are pretty big institutions — at least some of them. I was always struck by the disparity between the size of the institution — its impact and role in the community — and the level of accomplishment (or lack thereof) of their online presence.

This wasn’t a question of resources (don’t make me laugh) but rather a question of vision and expectation.

The good news is that some of them are getting it!

Look at NYPL or the Phoenix Public Library. Or on the academic side, look at Notre Dame, Princeton, Indiana at Bloomington or BYU. Finally we’re getting sites worthy of the institutions they represent!

It’s OK to IM

iChat Interface with Buddy ListThe first time I saw a demonstration of Chat Reference software, my eyes glazed over. There were a hundred different ways of shooting out web pages to a poor unsuspecting remote user. There were a hundred different ways of controlling that user’s environment — if only he had sense enough to come to our special eReference page and subject himself to the treatment.

This wasn’t going to work, I thought to myself. I had other things on my plate at the time so I left it at that.

I think we’re gradually realizing as a profession that this original approach was a bit heavy-handed. Far better — and statistics have borne this out — to use the tools of communication that our users are using. That means AIM and Yahoo (among others). Our IM handles ought to be on our home pages — along with our email and physical addresses. That way, they’re more likely to end up on the Buddy List of our users. Many libraries are doing this — many librarians are doing this — and that’s a great thing!

Web Standards & Dynamic Web Content

Yahoo Maps Showing McCormick Place in Chicago A lot of people have focused on Google Print and eScholar — and rightly so. But what really caught my eye was Google Maps. How’s that’s for a dynamic interface! Finally, I can use the dragging skills I picked up in 1984 with the Classic Mac on a web application.

Little by little, we’re viewing modifications to our web page that don’t require an entire screen-rewrite. This is a good thing. It’s more responsive to user actions. It doesn’t involve the complete disappearance of the interface and its gradual re-write every time we make a change. Ya-hoo, I say!

Part of this is being made possible by browsers adhering more closely to web-standards. It was great news to hear that the next iteration of IE will have improved CSS support. Slowly we’re approaching the web developer’s dream of building to the standard and not to the browser. This opens up a world of new more dynamic possibilities.