Horizon 7.4.2 – available “worldwide”

The press release for Horizon 7.4.2 has just gone online.
Both Talin Bingham (Chief Technology Officer) and Gary Rautenstrauch (Chief Executive Officer) use the word “worldwide” in the press release:

This new version adds functionality requested by our customers worldwide and offers great benefits to libraries and patrons alike…

Providing the features librarians need and delivering the best user experience worldwide are SirsiDynix’s highest priorities.

However, the reality is that Horizon 7.4.2 is a North American only release. Much as I would love to be able to roll out some of those new features here at Huddersfield, and much as I would love to have all those really nasty security holes in HIP fixed, the bottom line is that I can’t — SirsiDynix’s definition of “worldwide” is a curiously US-centric one.
Horizon customers in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, etc, are not “qualifying customers”, despite paying their yearly maintenance.
SirsiDynix International made a decision a year or two ago that they would no longer provide regional variations of Horizon, and I can fully understand why. As a non-American customer, I might not be happy about it, but I can understand why. What I can’t understand (and frankly, it’s starting to really piss me off) is why the company continues to pretend in public that they are.
If anyone senior from the SirsiDynix US office would like to contact me today, then please do — I’m sure you’ll find my direct telephone number in your UK customer contacts database. Maybe there’s a perfectly good reason why most of your Horizon customers in Europe are no longer classified as being part of your “worldwide” customer base and I’d really love to hear it.

Changes at SirsiDynix EMEA

Many thanks to Marshall Breeding for reporting the news about the change of management at SirsiDynix EMEA (who are responsible for the UK). I’m presuming that the company has remembered to email its customers to let them know? …I’d hate to think I’m relying on Bloglines to keep me up to speed with what’s happening at Chesham 😉
I’d like to wish Keith all the best in his new role and “yes” — what happened on the bus, stays on the bus! ***
(Keith Sturges, refusing to stand still at the Southampton User Group Conference)
*** suffice it to say that it involved Talin Bingham and an inflatable sheep 😀

breaking news: Stephen Abram’s brain overloads (again)

It’s nearly two years since Stephen Abram’s brain last overloaded, but it looks like it might have happened again. According to a blog post that just appeared in the Google Blog Search RSS feed for “SirsiDynix”, Mr Abram recently said…

We eat a abandoned blueprint insomuch as this armorial bearings and are comfortable in passage to have tenure of ever so plurality perhaps-appreciated restraint of trade leaders who fob in good part uninfluenced their set and datum against the SirsiDynix Give birth to. Their service up befall toward the business dealings goodwill this humors is monistic in transit to the power to act in point of the SirsiDynix Float – ease off, critic familiarization from each and all buttery professionals.

Before you call for the men in white coats, I should point out that the blog post in question looks to be a randomly generated spam blog and it makes about as much sense as my GormanBot does.
However, if Meredith Farkas is looking for a new job title, I think “Culture Bookworm” sounds kinda cool!

HIPpie — how to build a dictionary

Many thanks to those of you who’ve tested the code from yesterday! Those of you outside of the UK might want to see if this version works slightly faster for you:
The next thing I’ll be looking at is how to optimise the spellchecker dictionary for each library. Some of you will already have read this in the email I sent out this morning or in the comment I left previously, but I’m thinking of attacking it this way:
1) Start off with a standard word list (e.g. the 1000 most commonly used English words) to create the spellcheck dictionary for your library, as the vast majority should match something on your catalogue.
2) Add some extra code to your HIP so that all successful keyword searches get logged. Those keywords can then be added to your dictionary.
It could even be that starting with an empty dictionary might prove to be more effective (i.e. don’t bother with step 1) — just let the “network effect” of your users searching your OPAC generate the dictionary from scratch (how “2.0” is that?!)
To avoid any privacy issues, the code for capturing the successful keywords could be hosted locally on your own web server (I should be able to knock up suitable Perl and PHP scripts for you to use). Then, periodically, you’d upload your keyword list to HIPpie so that it can add the words to your spellchecker dictionary.
What about if you don’t have SirsiDynix HIP? Well, as mentioned previously, the spellchecker has been implemented as a web service (more info here), and the HIP spellchecker makes use of that web service to get a suggestion. At the moment it only returns text or XML, but I’m planning to add JSON as an option soon. Also, if you have a look at the HIP stylesheet changes, you can see the general flow of the code:
1) insert a div with an id of “hippie_spellchecker” into the HTML
2) make a call to “https://library.hud.ac.uk/hippie_perl/spellchecker2.pl” with your library ID (currently “demo”) and the search term(s) as the parameters
3) the call to “spellchecker2.pl” returns JavaScript to update the div from step 1
4) clicking on the spelling suggestion triggers the “hippie_search” JavaScript function which is responsible for creating a search URL suitable for the OPAC (which might include things like a session ID or an index to search)
None of the above 4 steps are specifically tied to the SirsiDynix HIP and should be transferable to other OPACs. I’ve put together a small sample HTML page that does nothing apart from pull in a suggestion using those 4 steps:
If you do want to have a go with your own OPAC, please let me know — at some point I’ll need people to register their libraries so that each can have their own dictionary, and I might start limiting the number of requests that any single IP address can make using the “demo” account. Also, it would be good to build up a collection of working implementations for different OPACs.

quick conference summary

Graham and Ian have already said many of the things I was planning to say, so just a quickie blog post and I’ll try and add more later…
A big “thank you” to everyone who was involved in organising the conference — I think it’s safe to say it was a huge success. A huge amount of face-to-face “social networking” went on, which partly explains why I didn’t have time to blog anything!
I’m sure I read a blog post/comment from Stephen Abram that Enterprise wasn’t going to be an OPAC bolt-on front-end (like Primo, Endeca, AquaBrowser, VuFind, etc), but that’s certainly how it was pitched at the conference. One question I was planning to ask, but forgot, was whether or not the relevancy ranking algorithm would be tweakable — the demo threw up some iffy results (e.g. a search for “dogs” ranked a book that didn’t contain the keyword anywhere in the title/author/summary higher than other books that did). Being able to give certain MARC fields a higher priority for relevancy ranking is a “must”.
Keynote speaker Sue McKnight was extremely quotable, and here are a few of my scribbled bullet point notes from her session:

  • “we need to adapt to the digital mindset”
  • don’t give stuff sexy/trendy names — if it’s a information desk, then all it an “information desk”
  • we need to be creating the future and not be the victims of change
  • “…Shibboleth?! Bloody Hell!!!”
  • “become a change junkie”
  • “the status quo isn’t an option”

Ever since seeing Helene Blowers present, I’ve watched what presenters do with their hands (Helene is very kinetic and is almost impossible to photograph). CODI President Amy Terlaga must be double-jointed, as I certainly can’t do this with my thumbs (I tried, and it hurt!)
As Ian has already mentioned, the news about Horizon 7.4.x in the UK was extremely disappointing.
The two User Groups decided to combine, but decided to take a vote on what their new name should be. As soon as the name is chosen, I’ll rebrand the DUG Wiki (https://library.hud.ac.uk/dug). I’ll also be adding the presentations to the wiki (as soon as I’ve got permission from each presenter).
The plan is to put together a registration page for the new User Group that will:
1) register your organisation as a member
2) set you up with a wiki account (so you can edit the pages)
3) let you vote for the new name for the group
We’re also planning to look at chat technologies to help move away from face-to-face meetings, which are always difficult for non-UK members to attend.
So, keep a close eye on the wiki for further info!
I’ve also finished uploading all of my conference photos to Flickr
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Southampton – day one

The presentations for day one of the conference have drawn to a close and there’s only time for a quick blog post before we all head off for an evening of nautical fun and frolics on the “Three Rivers Cruise”. Cross your fingers no-one falls overboard!
Unfortunately, for “personal reasons”, CEO Gary Rautenstrauch isn’t at the conference, which is a shame.
The opening keynote by Keith Sturges talked about the continuing change within the company (something which most customers are only too aware of) and the continuing growth of the company (16%, compared to a sector average of 8%). The SaaS (Software as a Service) model is being pushed hard, with the UK hosted solution handled by IBM in Greenock, Scotland (“the most miserable place you could ever go to”!).
I’m still sceptical of SaaS being a “must have” for UK academic libraries. There are good and valid reasons why universities would prefer to have control over their servers and IT infrastructure — integration with other systems being a key one.
Next up, Kevin Rushbridge (Project Co-ordinator for the Swift Consortium) talked about the state wide consortia model set up in Victoria, Australia. I thoroughly interesting presentation — I think Kevin is speaking at a CILIP event soon? If so, he’s well worth going to see. I was tempted to put my hand up at the end and ask “did you consider Open Source?”, but manged to resist.
After the afternoon break, Talin Bingham (Chief Technology Officer) presented the Symphony product roadmap. As reported elsewhere, Enterprise is the upgrade path from EPS/Rooms and e-Library is the replacement OPAC for iBistro/iLink.
The big news from Talin is that Microsoft SQL Server 2005 will become an alternative database option for Symphony 3.3 (which is due 2009), with support for SQL Server 2008 coming afterwards.
One thing that’s always bugged me about iLink/iBistro is that the book title isn’t a clickable link in a set of search results. In the screenshot of e-Library, it looked like that was still the case.
Talin also mentioned that URSA is continued to be developed, but without support for the British Library, it’s a product that has very little relevance to many UK libraries.
I’ve not had chance to upload images from the presentations, but there’s a clutch of photos from the registration and lunch on Flickr:
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Scrum and Agile

I’m sure many SirsiDynix customers remember the terms “Scrum” and “Agile” being bandied around a few years ago during the development of Horizon 8.0. What I don’t remember being as widely reported at the time was that half of the developers were based in Russia (the other half were based in Provo, USA).
Anyway, the Google Blogsearch RSS feed for SirsiDynix threw up an interesting blog post last week: “Managing Offshore Software Projects“.

This project distributed Scrum teams so that half of each team was in the United States at SirsiDynix and the other half of each team was at Exigen Services in St. Petersburg, Russia. It showed how to set up distributed/outsourced teams to achieve both linear scalability of teams on a large project and distributed velocity of each team the same as the velocity of a small colocated team.
This project is still generating controversy in the Agile community by showing that you can run distributed high performance Scrums. There were quality problems on this project that caused some in the Agile community to discount the remarkable results and argue that it could not be repeated successfully.

I guess whatever your thoughts about Jack Blount and Horizon 8 are (or were), it certainly seems he knew what he has doing!
Whilst I’m thinking about Jack, I’d like to offer my sincere condolences to the Blount family for their recent loss.

Library and Information Show 2008

A big thank you to everyone who came along to my OPAC session at the Library and Information Show last week! If you’re looking for the presentation, it’s available on SlideShare (I’ve finished adding the comments to the slides).
During the afternoon, I snapped a few photographs
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Owen Stephens has already mentioned the funky “Smartblades” from Intellident. I dread to think how much is would cost to kit out an entire library, but maybe in 20 years from now most libraries will have smart shelving? Seeing the blades light up (using blue LEDs) in sequence as they scan the shelves is cool beyond words 🙂
SirsiDynix were demoing an early (“pre alpha”) prototype of “Enterprise” (the replacement for EPS). The search examples shown highlighted that it automatically uses fuzzy searching (e.g. “global warning” also found “global warming”). Over the weekend, I couldn’t resist tweaking the “did you mean” suggestions on our OPAC to do something similar (e.g. “global warning” or “nursing practise“). It’ll be interesting to see what SirsiDynix come up with to differentiate their new product from “Primo” and “Encore”.

Another one bites the dust — RIP SirsiDynix EPS Rooms

Wow — looks like another flagship SirsiDynix product has been shelved. According to reports from attendees at the SuperConference, the company is dropping Stephen Abram‘s beloved EPS Rooms product. Never mind, “shift happens“.
At the conference, the company also announced their version of Primo/Encore (branded “Enterprise”). Curiously, this will be a SaaS only offering. RSS feeds, tagging, user reviews, and ratings are earmarked for version 3 of the product (due around 2010). All I can say is that I’m glad we took the decision to implement these features ourselves, rather than waiting for our vendor to do it for us :-S
Edit — looks like some customers have come away from SuperConference without the foggiest idea of what the product road map is, so I’m happy to wait for clarification from SirsiDynix of their new products, and rumours of EPS’s death have been greatly exaggerated (by me).

Edit #2 — Sorry Stephen, as far as I can tell, it looks like the customer reports were indeed correct. There’s no “end of life” for EPS (in the same way that there’s no “end of life” for Horizon or Dynix Classic) and apologies if the original post implied that there was, but future product development will see the Rooms concept moving into the new Enterprise product.

Spot the difference

Here’s a recent statement from SirsiDynix

“The Horizon 7.4.1 and HIP 3.09/4.13 releases are clear evidence that SirsiDynix remains committed to the Horizon platform,” said Gary Rautenstrauch, SirsiDynix CEO. “While SirsiDynix Symphony is our flagship platform for the future, SirsiDynix will continue to upgrade the Horizon platform for the next four to six years. “This commitment to our worldwide customer base is important to us, and we will keep it,” said Rautenstrauch.
(original PDF dated 11/Jan/2008)

…and here’s one that’s just been sent to all UK customers…

You may be aware that there has been a recent announcement about the general availability of Horizon 7.4.1 and HIP 3.09. SirsiDynix International has seriously considered the option of taking this release and including the various localizations into it. However, at this time we have decided that we cannot commit to the amount of work necessary on an International basis.

Clearly the commitment to the non-US customer base is important to the company, but just not that important.
Come on SirsiDynix, please try and do something to prove Scribe wasn’t right!