It’s going to be a simple explanation. It’s going to be just like that Ambio problem: it will drive me nuts for a while and then it will all be alarmingly, obviously clear…
A colleague sent an interesting email yesterday: she was accessing an article in Academic Search Premier and the ASP identified her as a Brigham Young University user. Those of us who received her message tried accessing the article ourselves and couldn’t duplicate the effect. I chalked it up to a temporary problem, albeit disappointing because she had to get the article elsewhere.
She wrote back today and said it was happening once again. A couple of us went to her office to see for ourselves, and there it was:
After playing around with it for a bit, it finally recognized her as a UVM patron. My guess was that her specific IP address was (somewhere, somehow) listed as being owned by BYU even though it’s in our ranges (stranger things have happened). My colleague suspected that it was a cookie left from when our colleague had the problem yesterday. We went to a public terminal to try it out. And there it was again: “Brigham Young Univ-Idaho”.
Now it was getting funny. Was it because she had conducted the search using WebFeat? Was WebFeat somehow indicating to ASP that we were BYU patrons? I tried doing another WebFeat search and selecting a different ASP resource: again, BYU. I couldn’t see anything in the URL that indicated a customer number or something distinctive. I tried using another browser: again, BYU. Was it because I had already connected as BYU in the session? I tried another machine but was starting to get more confused as I tried to keep all of my experiments straight and remember which variables I was using.
I went back to my own computer and grabbed the screenshot of WebFeat to send to EBSCO’s Research Database folks and to our contact at WebFeat. The EBSCO guy wants to find out if our WebFeat server’s IP address is in a BYU range, but I haven’t heard back from the WebFeat representative.
(Funny thing, this whole debacle actually aided another ASP problem I was investigating. Long story short: students now have a persistent link to “Hand Hygiene: A Frequently Missed Lifesaving Opportunity During Patient Care.” Of course with that subtitle, I can no longer express gratitude that “nobody’s gonna lose a limb” in my line of work. “Lifesaving”? Gulp.)
Update 1/16/08: I contacted EBSCO and WebFeat and learned that the problem lies with WebFeat. They are “aware that the problem has been occurring” and are trying to catch it in action to “establish the parameters that create this problem”. (They’re certain it’s not the IP addresses: if it were, we wouldn’t have any access.) I have a phone number to call if I catch it happening again.