Thursday, December 8, 2011

An improved proxy bookmarklet?

I wrote about different ways to add the ezproxy stem to url almost 2 years ago but the bookmarklet method has always being the most popular method used by libraries to allow members access to articles via the library's subscription even when off campus.

MLibrary's proxy server bookmarklet is perhaps representative of such a bookmarklet, and of course it works fine on both iPhone and iPads (as well as presumably other smartphones and tablets).

I've always wondered how popular such bookmarklets are, I've received raves reviews when I demonstrated it in classes, usually accompanied by "I wish I knew about this earlier".  But all this is anecdotal of course.

Somewhat better  evidence is that the FAQ on how to install the proxy bookmarklet is currently the 9th most popular FAQ with over a 1,000 views, which surprised me.

But of course it would be better if you could get more direct evidence, to know the actual number of times the proxy bookmarklet is clicked. Also where they are clicking it from etc. I'm not sure if looking at the ezproxy logs could allow you to tell this?

Also, one thing about typical implementations of the proxy bookmarklet is that the javascript is totally local on the bookmark. So if you ever need to change something the user has to reinstall the bookmarklet. So for example a while back we changed the ezproxy stem to remove https ....

The solution of course is to link the bookmarklet to a external js file on your server, such that whenever you need to modify the bookmarklet, you change whatever is on your server and the bookmarklet will use the script there.

The other advantage is that you can now track how many times the js file is being used. I tried it and it works fine.

Can one do better? How about embedding Google Analytics into the js file. Many libraries have embedded Google Analytics into their Websites, LibGuides, LibAnswers, Library catalogues etc, so might be a good idea to embed it into the bookmarklets as well for tracking.

I have being thinking of this for a while, but I never had the time or skill to play with it, until I saw the following bookmarklet by Barbara Arnett and Valerie Forrestal at the
Stevens Institute of Technology which sends a search to the library's Summon/Ebsco Discovery Service based on the title of  a page you are on (designed mostly for use on wikipedia pages but works with most pages).

Bookmarklets that send search strings are not unheard of, but what caught my notice was that it embedded Google Analytics into it.

I asked Valerie if it's possible to adapt it to work with proxy bookmarklet and Barbara responded in the comments with code .

I haven't really gotten it to work, but thought might be interesting to people who want to try it. Does it work for you?

This is such a simple idea, the fact that few have modified their proxy bookmarklet that way makes me wonder. Are there any drawbacks? There shouldn't be much speed issues, as it's such a small file. Privacy issues? No more or less than the data coming from ezproxy logs, GA on other sites...
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