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Archive for September, 2009

Zotero Groups and Teaching

Posted in Teaching, Technology on September 24th, 2009 by darcusb – Comments Off

Like Sean Takats, I’ve been experimenting with using Zotero’s new groups functionality in a graduate seminar I teach. Here’s a quick report.

The course in question is a beginning seminar required of all grad students in my department (though this year I also have someone from history as well). Its purpose is to introduce them to the history of the discipline (geography), and to given them basic skills to analyze the development of literatures in more focused subfields.

The course involves weekly readings and reading responses. In the past, students posted the reading responses to a course listserv. The major product of the term is a literature review paper on the evolution of a subfield.

So my initial plan was:

  1. setup a private Zotero group for the course
  2. create collections for different broad topics, as well as weekly topics
  3. ditch the class listserv and have students comment on readings by adding notes to the Zotero items

How well did this work? Not exactly as planned. Item 3 above was a disaster, since Zotero groups are not setup to facilitate discussions. So I switched back to the listserv.

It’s been a challenge to get students up and running with Zotero, but they’re starting to adjust, and contributing to what may have a lot of promise: a collaborative annotated bibliography of sorts that will hopefully develop over time so that it can be a resource for future grad students.

But, issues:

  1. Tag management is a PITA for individual users, but unmanageable for groups. Automatic tagging is really more trouble than help, but before realizing this, you end up with dozens and dozens of useless tags, and no easy way to bulk manage them. Morever, there appears to be some weird syncing-related bugs that happen when I edit or delete tags individually. This is a problem that I hope gets resolved.
  2. Sometime sync issues (which could be networking related; not sure).
  3. There’s no easy way to see who contributed what to a group library.
  4. Students have struggled a bit understanding how group items relate to personal items (they are copied, not shared).
  5. No annotated bib support (I ask them to submit one).

So I think it’s fair to say we’re finding promise in the group functionality, but that there’s still some work to do.

Promoting an Extended Date-Time Format

Posted in Technology on September 7th, 2009 by darcusb – Comments Off

For people that work with bibliographic data, you quickly realize that standard date-time formats formats often don’t go far enough. So it’s nice to see this effort from the Library of Congress. It seems to be a clean superset of the ISO 8601 date-time format, and to cover the most important missing pieces. This is a datatype that can and should be used anywhere that people need to represent bibliographic dates. I’m interested in using it in both RDF (Dublin Core) and in JSON, for example.

Yet the first paragraph of the description page presents the effort much more narrowly:

There is no standard date/time format that meets the needs of various well-known XML metadata schemas, for example MODS, METS, PREMIS, etc. For several years there has been discussion of developing a reasonably comprehensive date/time definition for the bibliographic community, and submitting it either for standardization or some other mode of formalization - a W3C note for example, a NISO Profile, and/or an amendment to ISO 8601.

Issues:

  1. MODS, METS, etc. are not at all “well-known” except in the library world
  2. XML is not the only way to represent or move around data in 2009 (RDF and JSON are two I quite like, for example)
  3. XML Schema is not the only way to represent XML formats; many people avoid it like the plague
  4. formal standards are over-rated; better to first establish de facto standards through adoption

So my observation is simply this: the EDTF is little gem, and can and should be widely used in a variety of different contexts. The LoC should recognize this and adjust details (documentation, examples, namespace URI) accordingly to promote it as such.