The Eclectic

Time moves in one direction, memory in another. – William Gibson

Blogs, cataloging, the beast and my son’s tongue

Posted by David Leslie on August 3, 2004

As you may or may not know, I work for OCLC where we maintain one of, if not the largest bibliographic catalog in the world, WorldCat. Keep this in the buffer since I need to digress a bit and show you how 4 things completely unrelated to each other fuse into what I hope is an interesting question for folks in the information sciences.

Now the other night I was sitting back and thinking about the conflicting advice my wife and I had gotten about our son’s tongue.

See, John is tongue tied (yes, its not just a figure of speech) and the question was one of cut it or leave it be. We got nurses telling us to cut or he won’t be able to breast feed while the Doctors are telling us if the cut isn’t done right, his tongue could be paralyzed. So we opted to wait since he could in fact breast feed. 15 months later, this question is still nagging at us, especially since he’s starting to make sounds and being tongue tied could lead to a speech impediment. So we took him to see Dr. Darryl Willett, one of the best Ear Nose and Throat surgeons in Columbus and the man who stopped my snoring thanks to his “el grande” surgery that laid me low for two solid weeks. Doc said if he was still an infant, he take John in the back, snip the tongue in about 3 sec, 2 minutes to stich the cuts and off we go. But now since John is a toddler, we’d have to knock him out. So the best thing would be to wait to see if the speech is impacted and if it is, then we snip.

Later I got to thinking about this whole mess with all its conflicting information, lack of a clear place to turn to for knowledge and how these decisions would impact my son’s life. I saw this as fodder for a science fiction short story that has been kicking around in me for years about life post bio weapon attack. I wanted to do it as a blog with links to web sites which would pull the reader deeper into the world that the story takes place in. Then I remember that something like this was done much in a much cooler way that I could ever dream of.

For the movie A.I. one of the visionaries in gaming, Jordan Weisman and the folks at Microsoft developed project code name ‘the beast’ to promote the movie. It was a collection of websites seeded across the web with registered domains, working email and voice mail addresses for people and companies based in the world of the movie. The entry point was a strange job title next to a name in the credits for the A.I. trailer. Google that name or that job title and you got the first site which had the basis for the mystery and the first clue / puzzle. The ‘game’ was to find out why a developer at an AI research center was murdered. Figure out the clues and puzzles that pulled you deeper into the world by opening up other sites. At one point they hired an actor to answer one of the phone numbers and give clues since the team never bet on people working together to solve the thing.

Now this is where OCLC and cataloging fit in. How would you catalog something like ‘the beast’? Snap shot of the web page? Won’t work since it could be in constant update mode. At the end of the project? Maybe or maybe not. It could go on with another writer or team. Now throw in blogs for a moment. With more and more mainstream writers turning to blogs like Dave Berry, how does the information sciences preserve this kind of writings for future generations? So feel free to kick in your ideas in the feedback.


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