Archived video from the American Library Association (ALA) webinar “Fighting Ebola and Infectious Diseases with Information: Resources and Search Skills Can Arm Librarians,” is now available. The free webinar teaches participants how to find and share reliable health information on the infectious disease. Librarians from the U.S. National Library of Medicine hosted the interactive webinar. Watch the webinar or download copies of the slides (pdf).
Siobhan Champ-Blackwell is a librarian with the U.S. National Library of Medicine Disaster Information Management Research Center. She selects material to be added to the NLM disaster medicine grey literature data base and is responsible for the Center’s social media efforts. She has over 10 years of experience in providing training on NLM products and resources.
Elizabeth Norton is a librarian with the U.S. National Library of Medicine Disaster Information Management Research Center where she has been working to improve online access to disaster health information for the disaster medicine and public health workforce. She has presented on this topic at national and international association meetings and has provided training on disaster health information resources to first responders, educators, and librarians working with the disaster response and public health preparedness communities.
To view past webinars also hosted collaboratively with iPAC, please visit Lib2Gov.
Our Book Display Widgets is getting adopted by more and more libraries, and we’re busy making it better and better. Last week we introduced Easy Share. This week we’re rolling out another improvement—Annotations!
Book Display Widgets is the ultimate tool for libraries to create automatic or hand-picked virtual book displays for their home page, blog, Facebook or elsewhere. Annotations allows libraries to add explanations for their picks.Some Ways to Use Annotations 1. Explain Staff Picks right on your homepage.
2. Let students know if a book is reserved for a particular class.
3. Add context for special collections displays.
How it Works
Check out the LibraryThing for Libraries Wiki for instructions on how to add Annotations to your Book Display Widgets. It’s pretty easy.Interested?
Watch a quick screencast explaining Book Display Widgets and how you can use them.
Library of Congress: The Signal: Five Questions for Will Elsbury, Project Leader for the Election 2014 Web Archive
The following is a guest post from Michael Neubert, a Supervisory Digital Projects Specialist at the Library of Congress.
Since the U.S. national elections of 2000, the Library of Congress has been harvesting the web sites of candidates for elections for Congress, state governorships and the presidency. These collections require considerable manual effort to identify the sites correctly, then to populate our in-house tool that controls the web harvesting activity that continues on a weekly basis during about a six month period during the election year cycle. (The length of the crawling depends on the timing of each jurisdiction’s primaries and availability of the information about the candidates.)
Many national libraries started their web archiving activities by harvesting the web sites of political campaigns – by their very nature and function, they typically have a short lifespan and following the election will disappear, and during the course of the election campaign the contents of such a web site may change dramatically. A weekly “capture” of the web site made available through a web archive for the election provides a snapshot of the sites and how they evolved during the campaign.
With Election Day in the U.S. approaching, it’s a great opportunity to talk with project leader Will Elsbury on the identification and nomination of the 2014 campaign sites and his other work on this effort as part of our Content Matters interview series.
Michael: Will, please describe your position at the Library of Congress and how you spend most of your time.
Will: I came to the Library in 2002. I am the military history specialist and a reference librarian for the Humanities and Social Sciences Division. I divide most of my time between Main Reading Room reference desk duty, answering researchers’ inquiries via Ask a Librarian and through email, doing collection development work in my subject area, participating in relevant Library committees, and in addition, managing a number of Web archiving projects. Currently, a good part of my time is devoted to coordinating and conducting work on the United States Election 2014 Web Archive. Several other Web archiving collections are currently ongoing for a determined period of time to encompass important historical anniversaries.
Michael: Tell us about this project and your involvement with it over the time you have been working on it.
Will: I have been involved with Web archiving in the Library for the last ten years or so. The projects have been a variety of thematic collections ranging from historical anniversaries such as the 150th commemoration of the Civil War and the centennial of World War I, to public policy topics and political elections. The majority of the projects I have worked on have been collecting the political campaign Web sites of candidates for the regular and special elections of Congress, the Presidency and state governorships. In most of these projects, I have served as the project coordinator. This involves gathering a work team, creating training documents and conducting training, assigning tasks, reviewing work, troubleshooting, corresponding with candidates and election officials and liaising with the Office of Strategic Initiatives staff who handle the very important technical processing of these projects. Their cooperation in these projects has been vital. They have shaped the tools used to build each Web archive, evolving them from a Microsoft Access-created entry form to today’s Digiboard (PDF) and its Candidates Module, which is a tool that helps the team manage campaign data and website URLs.
Michael: What are the challenges? Have they changed over time?
Will: One of the most prominent challenges with election Web archiving is keeping abreast of the many differences found among the election practices of 50 states and the various territories. This is even more pronounced in the first election after state redistricting or possible reapportionment of Congressional seats. Our Web archive projects only archive the Web sites of those candidates who win their party’s primary and those who are listed as official candidates on the election ballot, regardless of party affiliation. Because the laws and regulations vary in each state and territory, I have to be certain that I or an assigned team member have identified a given state’s official list of candidates.
Some states are great about putting this information out. Others are more challenging and a few don’t provide a list until Election Day. That usually causes a last minute sprint of intense work both on my team’s part and that of the OSI staff. Another issue is locating contact information for candidates. We need this so an archiving and display notification message can be sent to a candidate. Some candidates very prominently display their contact information, but others present more of a challenge and it can take a number of search strategies and sleuthing tricks developed over the years to locate the necessary data. Sometimes we have to directly contact a candidate by telephone, and I can recall more than once having to listen to some very unique and interesting political theories and opinions.
Michael: You must end up looking at many archived websites of political campaigns – what changes have you seen? Do any stand out, or do they all run together?
Will: I have looked at thousands of political campaign web sites over the years. They run the gamut of slick and professional, to functional, to extremely basic and even clunky. There is still that variety out there, but I have noticed that many more candidates now use companies dedicated to the business of creating political candidacy web sites. Some are politically affiliated and others will build a site for any candidate. The biggest challenge here has to be identifying the campaign web site and contact information of minor party and independent candidates. Often times these candidates work on a shoestring budget if at all and cannot afford the cost of a campaign site. These candidates will usually run their online campaign using free or low-cost social media such as a blog or Facebook and Twitter.
Michael: How do you imagine users 10 or 20 years from now will make use of the results of this work?
Will: Researchers have already been accessing these Web archives for various purposes. I hope that future researchers will use these collections to enhance and expand their research into the historical aspects of U.S. elections, among other purposes. There are many incidents and events that have taken place which influence elections. Scandals, economic ups and downs, divisive social issues, military deployments, and natural disasters are prominent in how political campaigns are shaped and which may ultimately help win or lose an election for a candidate. Because so much of candidates’ campaigns is now found online, it is doubly important that these campaign Web sites are archived. Researchers will likely find many ways to use the Library of Congress Web archives we may not anticipate now. I look forward to helping continue the Library’s effort in this important preservation work.
Last updated October 16, 2014. Created by Conal Tuohy on October 16, 2014.
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Retailer is a platform for hosting simple web applications. Retailer apps are written in pure XSLT. Retailer itself is written in Java, and runs in a Java Servlet container such as Apache Tomcat.
Retailer currently includes two XSLT applications which implement OAI-PMH providers of full text of historic newspaper articles. These apps are implemented on top of the web API of the National Library of Australia's Trove newspaper archive, and the National Library of New Zealand's "Papers Past" newspaper archive, via the "Digital NZ" web API.
However, Retailer is simply a platform for hosting XSLT code, and could be used for many other purposes than OAI-PMH. It is a kind of XML transforming web proxy, able to present a RESTful API as another API.
Retailer works by receiving an HTTP request, converting the request into an XML document, passing the document to the XSLT, and returning the result of the XSLT back to the HTTP client. The XML document representing a request is described here: http://conaltuohy.com/ns/retailerPackage Type: Discovery InterfaceLicense: Apache 2.0 Package Links Production/StableOperating System: LinuxMacWindowsTechnologies Used: OAITomcatXSLTProgramming Language: Java
The following is the joint Submission to the UN Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution from the World Wide Web Foundation, Open Knowledge, Fundar and the Open Institute, October 15, 2014. It derives from and builds on the Global Open Data Initiative’s Declaration on Open Data.To the UN Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution
Societies cannot develop in a fair, just and sustainable manner unless citizens are able to hold governments and other powerful actors to account, and participate in the decisions fundamentally affecting their well-being. Accountability and participation, in turn, are meaningless unless citizens know what their government is doing, and can freely access government data and information, share that information with other citizens, and act on it when necessary.
A true “revolution” through data will be one that enables all of us to hold our governments accountable for fulfilling their obligations, and to play an informed and active role in decisions fundamentally affecting their well-being.
We believe such a revolution requires ambitious commitments to make data open; invest in the ability of all stakeholders to use data effectively; and to commit to protecting the rights to information, free expression, free association and privacy, without which data-driven accountability will wither on the vine.
In addition, opening up government data creates new opportunities for SMEs and entrepreneurs, drives improved efficiency and service delivery innovation within government, and advances scientific progress. The initial costs (including any lost revenue from licenses and access charges) will be repaid many times over by the growth of knowledge and innovative data-driven businesses and services that create jobs, deliver social value and boost GDP.
The Sustainable Development Goals should include measurable, time-bound steps to:1. Make data open by default
Government data should be open by default, and this principle should ultimately be entrenched in law. Open means that data should be freely available for use, reuse and redistribution by anyone for any purpose and should be provided in a machine-readable form (specifically it should be open data as defined by the Open Definition and in line with the 10 Open Data Principles).
- Government information management (including procurement requirements and research funding, IT management, and the design of new laws, policies and procedures) should be reformed as necessary to ensure that such systems have built-in features ensuring that open data can be released without additional effort.
- Non-compliance, or poor data quality, should not be used as an excuse for non-publication of existing data.
- Governments should adopt flexible intellectual property and copyright policies that encourage unrestricted public reuse and analysis of government data.
A data revolution requires more than selective release of the datasets that are easiest or most comfortable for governments to open. It should empower citizens to hold government accountable for the performance of its core functions and obligations. However, research by the Web Foundation and Open Knowledge shows that critical accountability data such as company registers, land record, and government contracts are least likely to be freely available to the public.
At a minimum, governments endorsing the SDGs should commit to the open release by 2018 of all datasets that are fundamental to citizen-state accountability. This should include:
- data on public revenues, budgets and expenditure;
- who owns and benefits from companies, charities and trusts;
- who exercises what rights over key natural resources (land records, mineral licenses, forest concessions etc) and on what terms;
- public procurement records and government contracts;
- office holders, elected and un-elected and their declared financial interests and details of campaign contributions;
- public services, especially health and education: who is in charge, responsible, how they are funded, and data that can be used to assess their performance;
- constitution, laws, and records of debates by elected representatives;
- crime data, especially those related to human rights violations such as forced disappearance and human trafficking;
- census data;
the national map and other essential geodata.
- Governments should create comprehensive indices of existing government data sets, whether published or not, as a foundation for new transparency policies, to empower public scrutiny of information management, and to enable policymakers to identify gaps in existing data creation and collection.
One of the greatest barriers to access to ostensibly publicly-available information is the cost imposed on the public for access–even when the cost is minimal. Most government information is collected for governmental purposes, and the existence of user fees has little to no effect on whether the government gathers the data in the first place.
Governments should remove fees for access, which skew the pool of who is willing (or able) to access information and preclude transformative uses of the data that in turn generates business growth and tax revenues.
Governments should also minimise the indirect cost of using and re-using data by adopting commonly owned, non-proprietary (or “open”) formats that allow potential users to access the data without the need to pay for a proprietary software license.
Such open formats and standards should be commonly adopted across departments and agencies to harmonise the way information is published, reducing the transaction costs of accessing, using and combining data.
Experience shows that open data flounders without a strong user community, and the best way to build such a community is by involving users from the very start in designing and developing open data systems.
Within government: The different branches of government (including the legislature and judiciary, as well as different agencies and line ministries within the executive) stand to gain important benefits from sharing and combining their data. Successful open data initiatives create buy-in and cultural change within government by establishing cross-departmental working groups or other structures that allow officials the space they need to create reliable, permanent, ambitious open data policies.
Beyond government: Civil society groups and businesses should be considered equal stakeholders alongside internal government actors. Agencies leading on open data should involve and consult these stakeholders – including technologists, journalists, NGOs, legislators, other governments, academics and researchers, private industry, and independent members of the public – at every stage in the process.
Stakeholders both inside and outside government should be fully involved in identifying priority datasets and designing related initiatives that can help to address key social or economic problems, foster entrepreneurship and create jobs. Government should support and facilitate the critical role of both private sector and public service intermediaries in making data useful.
Governments should start with initiatives and requirements that are appropriate to their own current capacity to create and release credible data, and that complement the current capacity of key stakeholders to analyze and reuse it. At the same time, in order to unlock the full social, political and economic benefits of open data, all stakeholders should invest in rapidly broadening and deepening capacity.
Governments and their development partners need to invest in making data simple to navigate and understand, available in all national languages, and accessible through appropriate channels such as mobile phone platforms where appropriate.
Governments and their development partners should support training for officials, SMEs and CSOs to tackle lack of data and web skills, and should make complementary investments in improving the quality and timeliness of government statistics.
Poor quality, coverage and timeliness of government information – including administrative and sectoral data, geospatial data, and survey data – is a major barrier to unlocking the full value of open data.
Governments should develop plans to implement the Paris21 2011 Busan Action Plan, which calls for increased resources for statistical and information systems, tackling important gaps and weaknesses (including the lack of gender disaggregation in key datasets), and fully integrating statistics into decision-making.
Governments should bring their statistical efforts into line with international data standards and schemas, to facilitate reuse and analysis across various jurisdictions.
Private firms and NGOs that collect data which could be used alongside government statistics to solve public problems in areas such as disease control, disaster relief, urban planning, etc. should enter into partnerships to make this data available to government agencies and the public without charge, in fully anonymized form and subject to robust privacy protections.
A data revolution cannot succeed in an environment of secrecy, fear and repression of dissent.
The SDGs should include robust commitments to uphold fundamental rights to freedom of expression, information and association; foster independent and diverse media; and implement robust safeguards for personal privacy, as outlined in the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In addition, in line with their commitments in the UN Millennium Declaration (2000) and the Declaration of the Open Government Partnership (2011), the SDGs should include concrete steps to tackle gaps in participation, inclusion, integrity and transparency in governance, creating momentum and legitimacy for reform through public dialogue and consensus.
This submission derives and follows on from the Global Open Data Inititiave’s Global Open Data Declaration which was jointly created by Fundar, Open Institute, Open Knowledge and World Wide Web Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation with input from civil society organizations around the world.
The full text of the Declaration can be found here:
Because Google's engineers are at least moderately competent, they don't store your password anywhere. Instead, they salt it and hash it. The next time they ask you for your password, they salt it and hash it again and see if the result is the same as the hash they've saved. It would be easier for Jimmy Dean to make a pig from a sausage than it would be to get the password from its hash. And that's how the privacy of your password is constructed.
Using similar techniques, Apple is able to build strong privacy into the latest version of iOS, and despite short-sighted espio-nostalgia from the likes of James Comey, strong privacy is both essential and achievable for many types of data. I would include reading data in that category. Comey's arguments could easily apply to ebook reading data. After all, libraries have books on explosives, radical ideologies, and civil disobediance. But that doesn't mean that our reading lists should be available to the FBI and the NSA.
Here's the real tragedy: "we take your privacy seriously" has become a punch line. Companies that take care to construct privacy using the tools of modern software engineering and strong encryption aren't taken seriously. The language of privacy has been perverted by lawyers who "take privacy seriously" by crafting privacy policies that allow their clients to do pretty much anything with your data.
CC BY bevgoodinWhich brings me the the second most important thing to understand about privacy on the Internet. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? (I call this the Big Yellow Taxi principle)
Think about it. The only way you know if a website is being careless with your password is if it gets stolen, or they send it to you in an email. If any website sends you your password by email, make sure that website has no sensitive information of yours because it's being run by incompetents. Then make sure you're not using that password anywhere else and if you are, change it.
Failing gross incompetence, it's very difficult for us to know if a website or a piece of software has carefully constructed privacy, or whether it's piping everything you do to a server in Kansas. Last week's revelations about Adobe Digital Editions (ADE4) were an example of such gross incompetence, and yes, ADE4 tries to send a message to a server in Kansas every time you turn an ebook page. Much outrage has been directed at Adobe over the fact that the messages were being sent in the clear. Somehow people are less upset at the real outrage: the complete absence of privacy engineering in the messages being sent.
The response of Adobe's PR flacks to the brouhaha is so profoundly sad. They're promising to release a software patch that will make their spying more secret.
Now I'm going to confuse you. By all accounts, Adobe's DRM infrastructure (called ACS) is actually very well engineered to protect a user's privacy. It provides for features such as anonymous activation and delegated authentication so that, for example, you can borrow an ACS-protected library ebook through Overdrive without Adobe having any possibility of knowing who you are. Because the privacy has been engineered into the system, when you borrow a library ebook, you don't have to trust that Adobe is benevolently concerned for your privacy.
Yesterday, I talked with Micah Bowers, CEO of Bluefire, a small company doing a nice (and important) niche business in the Adobe rights management ecosystem. They make the Bluefire Reader App, which they license to other companies who rebrand it and use it for their own bookstores. He is confident that the Adobe ACS infrastructure they use is not implicated at all by the recently revealed privacy breeches. I had reached out to Bowers because I wanted to confirm that ebook sync systems could be built without giving away user privacy. I had speculated that the reason Adobe Digital Editions was phoning home with user reading data was part of an unfinished ebook sync system. "Unfinished" because ADE4 doesn't do any syncing. It's also possible that reading data is being sent to enable business models similar to Amazon's "Kindle Unlimited", which pays authors when a reader has read a defined fraction of the book.
For Bluefire ( and the "white label" apps based on Bluefire), ebook syncing is a feature that works NOW. If you read through chapter 5 of a book on your iPhone, the Bluefire Reader on your iPad will know. Bluefire users have to opt in to this syncing and can turn it off with a single button push, even after they've opted in. But even if they've opted in, Bluefire doesn't know what books they're reading. If the FBI wants a list of people reading a particular book, Bluefire probably doesn't have the ability to say who's reading the books. Of course, the sync data is encrypted when transmitted and stored. They've engineered their system to preserve privacy, the same way Google doesn't know your password, and Apple can't decrypt your iphone data. Maybe the FBI and the NSA can get past their engineering, but maybe they can't, and maybe it would be too much trouble.
To some extent, you have to trust what Bluefire says, but I asked Bowers some pointed questions about ways to evade their privacy cloaking, and it was clear to me from his answers that his team had considered these attacks. Bluefire doesn't send or receive any reading data to or from Adobe.
For now, Bluefire and other ebook reading apps that use Adobe's ACS (including Aldiko, Nook, Apps from Overdrive and 3M) are not affected by the ADE privacy breech. I'm convinced from talking to Bowers that the Bluefire sync system is engineered to keep reading private. But the Big Yellow Taxi principle applies to all of these. It's very hard for consumers to tell a well engineered system from a shoddy hack until there's been a breach and then it's too late.
Perhaps this is where the library community needs to forcefully step in. Privacy audits and 3rd party code review should be required for any application or website that purports to "Take privacy seriously" when library records privacy laws are in play.
Or we could pave over the libraries and put up some parking lots.
DuraSpace News: Recording Available: “Fedora 4.0 in Action at The Art Institute of Chicago and UCSD”
On October 15th DuraSpace presented “Fedora 4.0 in Action at The Art Institute of Chicago and UCSD.” This webinar was the first in the ninth Hot Topics Community Webinar series, “Early Advantage: Introducing New Fedora 4.0 Repositories.”
One question I got asked after giving my Code4Lib presentation on WebSockets was how I created my slides. I’ve written about how I create HTML slides before, but this time I added some new features like an audience interface that synchronizes automatically with the slides and allows for audience participation.
TL;DR I’ve open sourced starterdeck-node for creating synchronized and interactive HTML slide decks.
For a presentation on WebSockets I gave at Code4Lib 2014, I wanted to provide another example from within the presentation itself of what you can do with WebSockets. If you have the slides and the audience notes handout page open at the same time, you will see how they are synchronized. (Beware slowness as it is a large self-contained HTML download using data URIs.) When you change to certain slides in the presenter view, new content is revealed in the audience view. Because the slides are just an HTML page, it is possible to make the slides more interactive. WebSockets are used to allow the slides to send messages to each audience members’ browser and reveal notes. I am never able to say everything that I would want to in one short 20 minute talk, so this provided me a way to give the audience some supplementary material.
Another nice side benefit of getting the audience to notes before the presentation starts is that you can include your contact information and Twitter handle on the page.
I have wrapped up all this functionality for creating interactive slide decks into a project called starterdeck-node. It includes the WebSocket server and a simple starting point for creating your own slides. It strings together a bunch of different tools to make creating and deploying slide decks like this simpler so you’ll need to look at the requirements. This is still definitely just a tool for hackers, but having this scaffolding in place ought to make the next slide deck easier to create.
Here’s a video where I show starterdeck-node at work. Slides on the left; audience notes on the right.Other Features
While the new exciting feature added in this version of the project is synchronization between presenter slides and audience notes, there are also lots of other great features if you want to create HTML slide decks. Even if you aren’t going to use the synchronization feature, there are still lots of reasons why you might want to create your HTML slides with starterdeck-node.
Onstage view. Part of what gets built is a DZSlides onstage view where the presenter can see the current slide, next slide, speaker notes, and current time.
Single page view. This view is a self-contained, single-page layout version of the slides and speaker notes. This is a much nicer way to read a presentation than just flipping through the slides on various slide sharing sites. If you put a lot of work into your talk and are writing speaker notes, this is a great way to reuse them.
PDF backup. A script is included to create a PDF backup of your presentation. Sometimes you have to use the computer at the podium and it has an old version of IE on it. PDF backup to the rescue. While you won’t get all the features of the HTML presentation you’re still in business. The included Node.js app provides a server so that a headless browser can take screenshots of each slide. These screenshots are then compiled into the PDF.Examples
I’d love to hear from anyone who tries to use it. I’ll list any examples I hear about below.
In an uncharacteristically short post, I want to let folks know that we just launched our new /contribute page.
I am so proud of our team! Thank you to Jess, Ben, Larissa, Jen, Rebecca, Mike, Pascal, Flod, Holly, Sean, David, Maryellen, Craig, PMac, Matej, and everyone else who had a hand. You all are the absolute most wonderful people to work with and I look forward to seeing what comes next!
I’ll be posting intermittently about new features and challenges on the site, but I first want to give a big virtual hug to all of you who made it happen and all of you who contribute to Mozilla in the future.
New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.New This Week
Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.
I had what you might call an unusual early adulthood. Whereas most young adults march off to college and garner the degree that will define their life, I dropped out of high school at the 8th grade, attended an alternative high school (read dope-smoking, although I passed at the time) for two years, then dropped out entirely. The story is long, but I helped to build two dome homes in Indiana, built and slept in a treehouse through an Indiana winter, and returned to California where I had been mostly raised, two weeks after I turned 18, with not much more than bus fare and a duffle bag.
From there I built my own life, on my own terms, which meant (oddly enough, although there are reasons if you cared to ask) a job at the local community college library in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and a life in the outdoors, which had always beckoned.
This is all background for the point I want to make. In the end, I paused before seriously attending college for about seven years. I dabbled in courses, I learned to run rivers and many other things. And that made all of the difference.
In the end, what made the difference was the timing. Had I entered college when I should have (in 1975), that would have been too early for the computer revolution. As it was, I entered college exactly with the computer revolution. I remember writing my first software program just as I was getting serious about pursuing my college education in the early 1980s, on a Commodore PET computer. My fate was sealed, and I didn’t even realize it.
Later, at Humboldt State University where I majored in Geography and minored in Computer Science, I wrote programs in FORTRAN to process rainfall data for my Geography professor. From there, I jumped on every single computer and network opportunity there was to be had.
I was an early and enthusiastic adopter (and proselytizer in the various organizations where I found work) for the Macintosh computer. I still was, when I joined OCLC seven years ago and broke the Microsoft stranglehold that still existed.
I was an operator of an early automated circulation system (CLSI) at Humboldt State. And not long after that, I co-wrote the first book about the Internet aimed at librarians.
So I am here to tell you, that after a career of being on the cutting edge, the cutting edge doesn’t seem so cutting anymore. We seem to have reached, in libraries and I would argue in society more generally, a technical plateau. We might see innovation around the edges, but there is nothing I can point to that is truly transformative like the Internet was.
This is not necessarily a problem. In fact, systemic, major change can be downright painful. Believe me, I lived it in trying to make others understand how transformative it would be when few actually wanted to hear it. But for someone like me who counted his salad days as finding and pursuing the next truly transformative technology, this feels like a desert. Well, call it a plateau.
A long straight stretch without much struggle, or altitude gain, or major benefit. It is what it is. But you will have to forgive me if I regret the days when massive change was obvious, and surprising, and massively enabling.
I was worried about speaking here, but I'm even more worried about some of the pronouncements that I have heard over the last few days, ... about the future of the Internet. I am worried about pronouncements of the sort: "In the future, we will do electronic banking at virtual ATMs!," "In the future, my car will have an IP address!," "In the future, I'll be able to get all the old I Love Lucy reruns - over the Internet!" or "In the future, everyone will be a Java programmer!"
This is bunk. I'm worried that our imagination about the way that the 'Net changes our lives, our work and our society is limited to taking current institutions and dialling them forward - the "more, better" school of vision for the future.I have the same worries that Steven did about discussions of the Internet of Things that looms so large in our future. They focus on the incidental effects, not on the fundamental changes. Barry Ritholtz points me to a post by Jon Evans at TechCrunch entitled The Internet of Someone Else's Things that is an exception. Jon points out that the idea that you own the Smart Things you buy is obsolete:
They say “possession is nine-tenths of the law,” but even if you physically and legally own a Smart Thing, you won’t actually control it. Ownership will become a three-legged stool: who physically owns a thing; who legally owns it; …and who has the ultimate power to command it. Who, in short, has root.What does this have to do with digital preservation? Follow me below the fold.
On a smaller scale than the Internet of Things (IoT), we already have at least two precursors that demonstrate some of the problems of connecting to the Internet huge numbers of devices over which consumers don't have "root" (administrative control). The first is mobile phones. As Jon says:
Your phone probably has three separate computers in it (processor, baseband processor, and SIM card) and you almost certainly don’t have root on any of them, which is why some people refer to phones as “tracking devices which make phone calls.” The second is home broadband routers. My friend Jim Gettys points me to a short piece by Vint Cerf entitled Bufferbloat and Other Internet Challenges that takes off from Jim's work on these routers. Vint concludes:
I hope it’s apparent that these disparate topics are linked by the need to find a path toward adapting Internet-based devices to change, and improved safety. Internet users will benefit from the discovery or invention of such a path, and it’s thus worthy of further serious research.Jim got sucked into working on these problems when, back in 2010, he got fed up with persistent network performance problems on his home's broadband internet service, and did some serious diagnostic work. You can follow the whole story, which continues, on his blog. But the short, vastly over-simplified version is that he discovered that Moore's Law had converted a potential problem with TCP first described in 1985 into a nightmare.
Back then, the idea of a packet switch with effectively infinite buffer storage was purely theoretical. A quarter of a century later, RAM was so cheap that even home broadband routers had packet buffers so large as to be almost infinite. TCP depends on dropping packets to signal that a link is congested. Very large buffers mean packets don't get dropped, so the sender never finds out the some link is congested, so it never slows down. Jim called this phenomenon "bufferbloat", and started a crusade to eliminate it. In less than two years, Kathleen Nichols and Van Jacobson working with Jim and others had a software fix to the TCP/IP stack, called CoDel.
CoDel isn't a complete solution, further work has produced even more fixes, but it makes a huge difference. Problem solved, right? All we needed to do was to deploy CoDel everywhere in the Internet that managed a packet buffer, which is every piece of hardware connected to it. This meant convincing every vendor of an internet-connected device that they needed to adopt and deploy CoDel not just in new products they were going to ship, but in all the products that they had ever shipped that were still connected to the Internet.
For major vendors such as Cisco this was hard, but for vendors of consumer devices, including even Cisco's Linksys divison, it was simply impossible. There is no way for Linksys to push updates of the software to their installed base. Worse, many networking chips implement on-chip packet buffering; their buffer management algorithms are probably both unknowable and unalterable. So even though there is a pretty good fix for bufferbloat that, if deployed, would be a major improvement to Internet performance, we will have to wait for much of the hardware in the edge of the Internet to be replaced before we can get the benefit.
We know that the Smart Things the IoT is made of are full of software. That's what makes them smart. Software has bugs and performance problems like the ones Jim found. More importantly it has vulnerabilities that allow the bad guys to compromise the systems running it. Botnets assembled from hundreds of thousands of compromised home routers have been around from at least 2009 to the present. Other current examples include the Brazilian banking malware that hijacks home routers DNS settings, and the Moon worm that is scanning the Internet for vulnerable Linksys routers (who do you think would want to do that?). It isn't just routers that are affected. For example, network storage boxes have been hijacked to mine $620K worth of Dogecoin, and (PDF):
HP Security Research reviewed 10 of the most popular devices in some of the most common IoT niches revealing an alarmingly high average number of vulnerabilities per device. Vulnerabilities ranged from Heartbleed to Denial of Service to weak passwords to cross-site scripting.Just as with bufferbloat, its essentially impossible to eliminate the vulnerabilities that enable these bad guys. It hasn't been economic for low-cost consumer product vendors to provide the kind of automatic or user-approved updates that PC and smartphone systems now routinely provide; the costs of the bad guys attacks are borne by the consumer. It is only fair to mention that there are some exceptions. The Nest smoke detector can be updated remotely; Google did this when it was discovered that it might disable itself instead of reporting a fire. Not, as Vint points out, that the remote update systems have proven adequately trustworthy:
Digital signatures and certificates authenticating software’s origin have proven only partly successful owing to the potential for fabricating false but apparently valid certificates by compromising certificate authorities one way or another.See, for an early example, the Flame malware. Further, as Jon points out:
When you buy a Smart Thing, you get locked into its software ecosystem, which is controlled by its manufacturer, whether you like it or not.Even valid updates are in the vendor's interest, which may not be yours.
This will be the case for the Smart Things in the IoT too. The IoT will be a swamp of malware. In Charles Stross' 2011 novel Rule 34 many of the deaths Detective Inspector Liz Cavanaugh investigates are caused by malware-infested home appliances; you can't say you weren't warned of the risks of the IoT. Jim has a recent blog post about this problem, with links to pieces he inspired by Bruce Schneier and Dan Geer. All three are must-reads.
This whole problem is another example of a topic I've often blogged about, the short-term thinking that pervades society and makes investing, or even planning, now to reap benefits or avoid disasters in the future so hard. In this case, the disaster is already starting to happen.
Finally, why is this relevant to digital preservation? I've written frequently about the really encouraging progress being made in delivering emulation in browsers and as a cloud service in ways that make running really old software transparent. This solves a major problem in digital preservation that has been evident since Jeff Rothenberg's seminal 1995 article.
Unfortunately, the really old software that will be really easy for everyone to run will have all the same bugs and vulnerabilities it had when it was new. Because old vulnerabilities, especially in consumer products, don't go away with time, attempts to exploit really old vulnerabilities don't go away either. And we can't fix the really old software to make the bugs and vulnerabilities go away, because the whole point of emulation is to run the really old software exactly the way it used to be. So the emulated system will be really, really vulnerable and it will be attacked. How are we going to limit the damage from these vulnerabilities?
This summer I spied and acquired a copy of The Foolish Gentlewoman by Margery Sharp, who also wrote Cluny Brown and The Rescuers and sequels (none of which I’ve read). It’s the 1948 Canadian edition, published by Wm. Collins Sons & Co., Canada, at 70 Bond Street in Toronto (the Collins in HarperCollins).
What caught my eye was this, on the front endpapers:
I suppose Lehman Libraries was a private subscription library, but I’ve never heard of it and a quick search online didn’t turn anything up. If anyone knows anything about it I’d be happy to hear.
If you are not familiar with “Stump the Chump” it’s a Q&A style session where “The Chump” (That’s Me!) is put on the spot with tough, challenging, unusual questions about Lucene & Solr — live, on stage, in front of hundreds of rambunctious convention goers, with judges who have all seen and thought about the questions in advance and get to mock The Chump (still me) and award prizes to people whose questions do the best job of “Stumping The Chump”.
People frequently tell me it’s the most fun they’ve ever had at a Tech Conference — You can judge for yourself by checking out the videos from last years events: Lucene/Solr Revolution 2013 in Dublin, and Lucene/Solr Revolution 2013 in San Diego.
And if you haven’t registered for Lucene/Solr Revolution yet, what are you waiting for?!?!
Last updated October 14, 2014. Created by Peter Murray on October 14, 2014.
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This release is mostly back-end upgrades, including:
- Support for Rails 4.x (Rails 3.2 included to make migration easier for existing installations, but recommend upgrading to Rails 4.1 asap, and starting with Rails 4.1 in new apps)
- Based on Bootstrap 3 (Umlaut 3.x was Bootstrap 2)
- internationalization/localization support
- A more streamlined installation process with a custom installer
We asked our LITA Midwinter Workshop Presenters to tell us a little more about themselves and what to expect from their workshops in January. This week, we’re hearing from Kate Lawrence, Deirdre Costello, and Robert Newell, who will be presenting the workshop:
From Lost to Found: How User Testing Can Improve the User Experience of Your Library Website
(For registration details, please see the bottom of this blog post)
LITA: We’ve seen your formal bios but can you tell us a little more about you?
Kate: If I didn’t work as a user researcher, I would be a professional backgammon player or cake decorator (I am a magician with fondant!). Or both.
Deirdre: I’m horse crazy!
Robert: In a past life I was a professional actor. If you pay really really close attention (like, don’t blink), you might spot me in a few episodes of Friday Night Lights or Prison Break.
LITA: User Testing is a big area. Who is your target audience for this workshop?
Presenters: This is a perfect workshop for people who want to learn user testing in a supportive environment. We will teach people how to test their websites in the real world – we understand that time and other resources are limited. This is for anyone who wants to know what it’s like for patrons to try accessing their library’s resources through their website.
LITA: How much experience with UX do attendees need to succeed in the workshop?
Presenters: Experience isn’t required, but an understanding of the general UX field and goals is useful. Attendees are encouraged to come with a potential usability study topic in mind. From Robert: “You just need to be able to put your social scientist hat on and look at user testing as an informal (and fun!) psychology experiment.”
LITA: If your workshop was a character from the Marvel or Harry Potter universe, which would it be, and why?
Kate: Having just read the Harry Potter series with my two kids, I can say that our workshop will inspire like Dumbledore, give you a chuckle like those naughty Weasley twins, teach you like the astute Minerva McGonagle would, and leave you smiling with satisfaction just like the brilliant Hermione Grainger.
Deirdre: Marvel: definitely Wolverine. Tough and sassy with a heart of gold, calls everyone “bub.” Harry Potter: 100% Hermione. I’m an avid reader, rule-follower and overachiever. (LITA note, I think those are of Dierdre, maybe not the workshop ? )
Robert: I’m gonna say Mystique. Mystique can literally put herself in someone else’s shoes (human or Mutant). When we conduct usability testing, we’re directly observing what it’s like to be in the user’s shoes and we’re seeing things from their perspective.
LITA: Name one concrete thing your attendees will be able to take back to their libraries after participating in your workshop.
Kate: The knowledge about how to conduct a user test on their library site, a coupon for a free test from usertesting.com, and support and encouragement from a team of experienced researchers.
Deirdre: The skills to plan, recruit for and execute small-sample usability tests. The ability to communicate the findings for those tests in a way that will advocate for their users.
Robert: The ability to validate your ideas about your website with direct, reliable user feedback. Whenever you think, “This might work, but would it make sense to our users?” You’ll have the skills and tools to go find out.
LITA: What kind of gadgets/software do your attendees need to bring?
Presenters: Whatever note taking method you prefer; a laptop or mobile device to follow along is recommending but isn’t required. Kate recommends “A laptop. A pen and paper. A positive, can-do attitude!”
LITA: Respond to this scenario: You’re stuck on a desert island. A box washes ashore. As you pry off the lid and peer inside, you begin to dance and sing, totally euphoric. What’s in the box?
Kate: I’m assuming my family is on the island with me, and in that case – I want that box to contain Hershey’s hugs, the white chocolate kisses with milk chocolate swirls. I’m obsessed!
Deirdre: Hostess Orange Cupcakes.
Robert: A gallon of Coppertone Oil Free Faces SPF 50+ Sunscreen. I’m sorry but I’m fair skinned with a ton of freckles and a desert island scenario just screams melanoma to me.
Thank you to Kate, Deirdre, and Robert for giving us this interview! We’re looking forward to their UX Workshop at Midwinter in Chicago. We’ll hear from our other workshop presenters in the coming weeks!http://alamw15.ala.org/ Registration start page: http://alamw15.ala.org/rates LITA Workshops registration descriptions: http://alamw15.ala.org/ticketed-events#LITA When you start the registration process and BEFORE you choose the workshop, you will encounter the Personal Information page. On that page there is a field to enter the discount promotional code: LITA2015 As in the example below. If you do so, then when you get to the workshops choosing page the discount prices, of $235, are automatically displayed and entered. The discounted total will be reflected in the Balance Due line on the payment page. Please contact the LITA Office if you have any registration questions.
Last week, Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office, Cathleen Bourdon associate executive director of ALA Communication and Member Relations, and I (staff lackey) took a road trip to the Snowshoe resort in West Virginia to speak at the West Virginia Library Association Conference. The five-hour drive from D.C. to Snowshoe, W.V., was a pastoral treat, with fall leaves at their peak in the Allegheny Mountains.
There was a gas station in Warrensville where a gallon was only $3.09! The folksy diner there served a grilled cheese sandwich for $2.50. We saw a lot of cows (which is a big deal for folks who live in cities and rarely leave their offices). Emily’s theory that pending rainfall could be determined by whether a cow was standing or laying down on the ground proved to be inconclusive.
Once we got to Snowshoe, we experienced firsthand the difficulties a rural state like West Virginia have with access to broadband. We were assured prior to the trip that Wi-Fi was free, but upon arrival learned that that meant free at the Starbucks (which closes at 4pm). AT&T and T-Mobile were the only cellular networks supported. Because of the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope and potential interference with its operation, a large swath of land surrounding the area requires that all radio transmissions be severely limited. Check out the West Virginia Broadband map to see for yourself. Library-wise, over 65 percent of West Virginia libraries still require increased broadband based on the Digital Inclusion Survey.
For those of us suffering digital overload, this might not seem too bad. Cheap gas, low cost grilled cheese sandwiches, and beautiful mountains sound great, so who needs broadband? Everyone. In today’s connected world, how can people succeed without broadband?
Each year, OCLC Research staff gather together to review current activities and to plan for the upcoming year. During this year’s meeting, which happened in September, we reviewed our activity areas. I lead the User Behavior Studies and Synthesis activity area; our group engaged in a discussion about describing and possibly renaming the activity area. We discussed “user behavior studies” and whether this terminology is overused and whether it reflects the whole picture of studying and identifying how individuals engage with technology; how they seek, access, and use information; and how and why they demonstrate these behaviors and do what they do.
I wonder if we, as librarians and information professionals, spend too much time contemplating and discussing users of our services and resources and if this energy would be well spent on identifying those individuals who choose not to use library services and resources. I wonder why we are fixated on users of library services and resources and why we do not expend energy on learning about those who go elsewhere for their technology and information needs and try to position library services and resources in their workflows and personal and professional landscapes. Marie L. Radford and I define these individuals who do not use library services and resources as potential users.
If we do buy into this need to identify potential users and their behaviors, what do we call this group? Are these individuals users also, just not users of library services and resources? The term potential user seems cumbersome and not very enticing when trying to promote interest and activity in this area. Even more difficult is identifying a term that describes both users and potential users of library services and resources. Could that term be Elusive Users? According to Choose Your Words, “Anything elusive is hard to get a hold of. It eludes you.” Does this term, elusive, accurately describe the individuals who we observe, interview, and track in various contexts of using technology and acquiring information? I invite you to share your ideas in the comments!About Lynn Connaway
Senior Research Scientist at OCLC Research. I study how people get & use information & engage with technology.Mail | Web | Twitter | More Posts (2)
LibraryThing, the company behind LibraryThing.com and LibraryThing for Libraries, is looking to hire a top-notch developer/programmer.
We like to think we make “products that don’t suck,” as opposed to much of what’s developed for libraries. We’ve got new ideas and not enough developers to make them. That’s where you come in.The Best Person
- Work for us in Maine, or telecommute in your pajamas. We want the best person available.
- If you’re junior, this is a “junior” position. If you’re senior, a “senior” one. Salary is based on your skills and experience.
- LibraryThing is mostly non-OO PHP. You need to be a solid PHP programmer or show us you can become one quickly.
- We welcome experience with design and UX, Python, Solr, and mobile development.
- Execution is paramount. You must be a sure-footed and rapid coder, capable of taking on jobs and finishing them with diligence and expedition.
- Creativity, diligence, optimism, and outspokenness are important.
- Experience with library data and systems is favored.
- LibraryThing is an informal, high-pressure and high-energy environment. This puts a premium on speed and reliability, communication and responsibility.
- Working remotely gives you freedom, but also requires discipline and internal motivation.
- Gold-plated health insurance.
- We have a simple quiz, developed back in 2011. If you can do it in under five minutes, you should apply for the job! If not, well, wasn’t that fun anyway?
- To apply, send a resume. Skip the cover letter, and go through the blog post in your email, responding to the tangibles and intangibles bullet-by-bullet.
- Also include your solution to the quiz, and how long it took you. Anything under five minutes is fine. If it takes you longer than five minutes, we won’t know. But the interview will involve lots of live coding.
- Feel free to send questions to email@example.com, or Skype chat Tim at LibraryThingTim.
- Please put “Library developer” somewhere in your email subject line.