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Open Knowledge Foundation: New Open Access Button launches as part of Open Access Week

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-10-22 15:02

This post is part of our Open Access Week blog series to highlight great work in Open Access communities around the world.

Push Button. Get Research. Make Progress.

If you are reading this, I’m guessing that you too are a student, researcher, innovator, an everyday citizen with questions to answer, or just a friend to Open Knowledge. You may be doing incredible work and are writing a manuscript or presentation, or just have a burning desire to know everything about anything. In this case I know that you are also denied access to the research you need, not least because of paywalls blocking access to the knowledge you seek. This happens to me too, all the time, but we can do better. This is why we started the Open Access Button, for all the people around the world who deserve to see and use more research results than they can today.

Yesterday we released the new Open Access Button at a launch event in London, which you can download from The next time you’re asked to pay to access academic research. Push the Open Access Button on your phone or on the web. The Open Access Button will search the web for version of the paper that you can access.

If you get your research, you can make progress with your work. If you don’t get your research, your story will be used to help change the publishing system so it doesn’t happen again. The tool seeks to help users get the research they need immediately, or adds papers unavailable to a wish-list we can get started . The apps work by harnessing the power of search engines, research repositories, automatic contact with authors, and other strategies to track down the papers that are available and present them to the user – even if they are using a mobile device.

The London launch led other events showcasing the Open Access Button throughout the week, in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Notably, the new Open Access Button was previewed at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C. as part of the International Open Access Week kickoff event. During the launch yesterday, we reached at least 1.3 million people on social media alone. The new apps build upon a successful beta released last November that attracted thousands of users from across the world and drew lots of media attention. These could not have been built without a dedicated volunteer team of students and young researchers, and the invaluable help of a borderless community responsible for designing, building and funding the development.

Alongside supporting users, we have will start using the data and the stories collected by the Button to help make the changes required to really solve this issue. We’ll be running campaigns and supporting grassroots advocates with this at as well as building a dedicated data platform for advocates to use our data . If you go there you now you can see the ready to be filled map, and your first action, sign our first petition, this petition in support of Diego Gomez, a student who faces 8 years in prison and a huge monetary fine for doing something citizens do everyday, sharing research online for those who cannot access it.

If you too want to contribute to these goals and advance your research, these are exciting opportunities to make a difference. So install the Open Access Button (it’s quick and easy!), give it a push, click or tap when you’re denied access to research, and let’s work together to fix this problem. The Open Access Button is available now at

Nicole Engard: ATO2014: Using Bootstrap to create a common UI across products

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-10-22 14:59

Robb Hamilton and Greg Sheremeta from Red Hat spoke in this session about Bootstrap.

First up was Robb to talk about the problem. The problem that they had at Red Hat was that they had a bunch of products that all had their own different UI. They decided that as you went from product to product there should be a common UI. PatternFly was the initiative to make that happen.

Bootstrap was the framework they chose for this solution. Bootstrap is a front end framework for apps and websites. It’s comprised of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and an icon font (for resolution independent icons). Of course Bootstrap is open source and it’s the most popular project on Github. Bootstrap is mobile-first and responsive – design for the smallest screen first and then as the screen gets bigger you can adjust. Bootstrap has a lot of components like a grid, drop down menus, fonts, and form elements. So the answer to ‘Why Bootstrap’ seems obvious now. But one reason that Red Hat chose it was that most everyone was already using it in their products.

PatternFly is basically Bootstrap + extra goodness.

Up next was Gregg to talk about using PatternFly on his project – oVirt. First when you have to work with multiple groups/products you need good communication. The UI team was very easy to reach out to, answering questions in IRC immediately and providing good documentation. One major challenge that Gregg ran in to was having to write the application in a server-side language and then get it to translate to the web languages that PatternFly was using.

Gregg’s favorite quote: “All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection, except of course for the problem of too many indirections” – David Wheeler. So he needed to come up with a layer of indirection to get from his language to bootstrap. He Googled his problem though and found a library that would work for him.

The post ATO2014: Using Bootstrap to create a common UI across products appeared first on What I Learned Today....

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Nicole Engard: ATO2014: Modern Applications & Data

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-10-22 14:09

Dwight Merriman from MongoDB was up next to talk to us about modern applications and data.

We’re not building the same things that we were before – we’re building a whole new class of applications that just didn’t exist before. When creating an app these days you might use pieces from 12 other applications, if you had to do this with a closed source project this would be very difficult. Open source makes the modern applications possible – otherwise you have 12 other things to go buy to make your application work.

We’re in the midst of the biggest technology change in the data layer in 25 years. We talk about big data and this is all part of it. One of the differences is the shape of the data. It’s not all tabular data anymore. The new tools we’re creating today are very good at handling these new shapes. Saying ‘unstructured data’ is inaccurate – it’s dynamic data – hence the word ‘shape’.

Speed is another aspect of this. Everything is real-time now – you don’t want to wait overnight for you report anymore. As developers as we build systems we need to start with a real-time mentality. While this sound logical – it’s actually a big change in the way we were taught which was to do things in batches. These days, computers are a lot faster so if you can do it (real-time) it’s a lot better.

We also need to think about our approach to writing code these days – this has changed a lot from how we were taught years ago. It’s not just about writing the perfect spec anymore, it’s a lot more collaboration with the customer. Iteration is necessary now – look at how Facebook changes a tiny bit every day.

Dwight then shared with us some real world examples from John Deer, Bosch and Edeva. Edeva is doing some interesting things with traffic data. They have built a technology that will see your speed when you’re driving over this one bridge in Sweden, if you’re going over the speed limit it will create speed bumps specifically for you. That’s just one say they’re putting their data to use in a real life scenario.

“There’s new stuff to do in all domains – in all fields – and we have the tools to do them now.”

The post ATO2014: Modern Applications & Data appeared first on What I Learned Today....

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Nicole Engard: ATO2014: Open Source – The Key Component of Modern Applications

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-10-22 13:44

Jeffrey Hammond from Forrester Research started this morning with a talk about Open Source – The Key Component of Modern Applications. Jeffrey wants to talk to us about why open source matters. It’s the golden age to be a developer. If you have people who work for you who are developers you need to understand what’s going on in our space right now. The industry is changing drastically.

When you started a software company years ago it would cost $5 to $10 million. Today software innovation cost about 90% less than it used to. This is because of a variety of things including: elastic infrastructure, services that we can call upon, managed APIs, open source software, and a focus on measurable feedback. Open source is one of the key parts of this. It is one of the driving forces of modern application development. In 2014 4 out of 5 developers use or have used open source software to develop or deploy their software.

The traits of modern applications show why we expect to see more and more open source software everywhere. One of those traits is the API. Another is asynchronous communication – a lot of the traditional frameworks that developers are used to using are not conducive to this so we’re seeing new frameworks and these are open source. We’re seeing less and less comparison of open source versus proprietary and more open source compared to open source.

Jeff showed us the Netflix’s engagement platform and how every part of their system is built on open source source. Most of the popular tools out there have this same architecture built on open source.

This development is being driven by open source communities. What Jess call collaborative collectives. Those of us looking to hire developers need to restructure to use the power of these collectives.

When asked if they write code on their own time 70% of developers say they do. That desire to write code on your own time is built on a variety of motives, all those motives represent intrinsic motivation – it makes them feel good. For those developers a little over 1 in 4 contribute to open source projects on their own time. So, if you’re looking to hire productive developers Jeff says there is a direct correlation between those who participate in open source to those who are amazing and productive programmers.

I’d add here that we need to educate the next generation in this model better so that they can get jobs when they graduate.

We are in a generational technology shift – web-based applications are very different from the systems that have come before them. The elasticity of open source licenses make them the perfect fit for these new modern architectures and comes naturally to most developers. Open source projects are driving the formation of groups of people who know how to work collaboratively successfully.

The post ATO2014: Open Source – The Key Component of Modern Applications appeared first on What I Learned Today....

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LITA: Women Learning to Code

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-10-22 13:00

I am a user of technology much more than a creator.   After I completed a masters in educational technology I knew to better use the skills I had learned it would benefit me to gain a better understanding of computer coding. My HTML skills were adequate but rusty, and I didn’t have any experience with other languages. To increase these skills I really did not want to have to take another for-credit course, but I also knew that I would have a better learning experience if I had someone of whom I could ask questions. Around this time, I was made aware of Girl Develop It. I have attended a few meetings and truly appreciate the instruction and the opportunity to learn new skills. As a way to introduce the readers of the LITA blog who might be interested in adding to their skill-set I interviewed Michelle Brush and Denisse Osorio de Large, the leaders of my local Girl Develop It group.

What is Girl Develop It?

MB: Girl Develop It is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing more women into technology by offering educational and network-building opportunities.

DL: Girl Develop It is a nonprofit organization that exists to provide affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn web and software development through mentorship and hands-on instruction.

What sparked your interest in leading a Girl Develop It group?

MB: I attended Strange Loop where Jen Myers spoke and mentioned her involvement in Girl Develop It.   Then several friends reached out to me about wanting to do more for women in tech in Kansas City, so we decided to propose a chapter in Kansas City.

DL: Growing up my mom told me my inheritance was my education, and that my education was something no one would ever be able to take away from me.  My education has allowed me to have a plentiful life, I wanted to pay it forward and this organization allowed to do just that. I’m also the proud mom of two little girls and I want to be a good example for them.

What is your favorite thing about working in the technology industry?

MB: Software can be like magic.  You can build very useful and sometimes beautiful things from a pile of keywords and numbers.  It’s also very challenging, so you get the same joy when your code works that you do when solving a really hard math problem.

DL: I love the idea of helping to create things that don’t exist and solving problems that no one else has solved. The thought of making things better, drives me.

Why do you believe more women should be working in information technology?

MB: If we can get women involved at the same percentages as we have men, we would solve our skills gap.  It also helps that women bring a different perspective to the work.

DL: The industry as a whole will benefit from the perspective of a more diverse workforce. Also, this industry has the ability to provide a safe and stable environment where females can thrive and make a good living.

Are there other ways communities can be supportive of women entering the information technology industry?

MB: We need more visibility to the women already in the industry as that will make other women recognize they can be successful in the community as well.  Partly it’s on women like me to seek out opportunities to be more visible, but it’s also on the community to remember to look outside of the usual suspects when looking for speakers, mentors, etc.  It’s too easy to keep returning to the names you already know. Conferences like Strange Loop and are making strides in this area.

DL: I believe it starts with young girls and encouraging and nurturing their interest in STEM. It is very important that members of the community provide opportunities for girls to find their passion in the field of their choice.

Are any of you reading the LITA blog involved with Girl Develop It? I’d love to hear your stories!

Open Knowledge Foundation: Building Community Action at Mozilla Festival 2014

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-10-22 11:49

Often Community is thought of as a soft topic. In reality, being part of a community (or more!) is admirable, a wonderful effort, both very fun but also sometimes tough and building and mobilising community action requires expertise and understanding of both tools and crowds – all relationships between stakeholders involved need to be planned with inclusivity and sustainability in mind.

This year Mozilla Festival (London, October 24-26), an event we always find very inspiring to collaborate with, will feature a track focusing on all this and more. Called Community Building, and co-wrangled by me and Bekka Kahn (P2PU / Open Coalition), the track has the ambitious aim to tell the story about this powerful and groundbreaking system, create the space where both newcomers and experienced community members can meet, share knowledge, learn from each other, get inspired and leave the festival feeling empowered and equipped with a plan for their next action, of any size and shape, to fuel the values they believe in.

We believe that collaboration between communities is what can really fuel the future of the Open Web movement and we put this belief into practice from our curatorship structure (we come from different organisations and are loving the chance to work together closely for the occasion) to the planning of the track’s programme, which is a combination of great ideas that were sent through the festival’s Call for Proposals and invitations we made to folks we knew would have had the ability to blow people’s mind with 60 minutes and a box of paper and markers at their disposal.

The track has two narrative arcs, connecting all its elements: one focusing on the topics which will be unpacked by each session, from gathering to organising and mobilising community power and one aiming to embrace all learnings from the track to empower us all, member of communities, to take action for change.

The track will feature participatory sessions (there’s no projector is sight!), an ongoing wall-space action and a handbook writing sprint. In addition to this, some wonderful allies, Webmaker Mentors, Mozilla Reps and the Space Wranglers team will help us make a question resonate all around the festival during the whole weekend: “What’s the next action, of any kind/ size/ location, you plan to take for the Open Web movement?”. Participants to our track, passer-bys feeding our wall action, folks talking with our allies will be encouraged to think about the answer to this, and, if not before, join our space for our Closing Circle on Sunday afternoon when we’ll all share with each other our plans for the next step, local or global, online or offline, that we want to take.

Furthermore, we also invite folks who’ll not be able to join us at the event to get in touch with us, know more about what we’re making and collaborate with us if they wish. Events can be an exclusive affair (they require time and funds to be attended) and we want to try to overcome this obstacle. Anyone will be welcome to connect with us in (at least) three ways. We’ll have a dedicated hashtag to keep all online/remote Community conversations going: follow and engage with #MozFestCB on your social media platform of choice, we’ll record a curated version of the feed on our Storify. We’ll also collect all notes, resources of documentation of anything that will happen in and around the track on our online home. The work to create a much awaited Community Building Handbook will be kicked off at MozFest and anyone who thinks could enrich it with useful learnings is invited to join the writing effort, from anywhere in the world.

If you’d like to get a head start on MozFest this year and spend some time with other open knowledge community minded folks, please join our community meetup on Friday evening in London.

In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: Using Animated GIF Images for Library Instruction

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-10-22 10:30


In Brief

This article discusses the changing nature of animated Graphics Interchange Format images (GIFs) as a form of visual communication on the Web, and how that can be adapted for the purposes of information literacy and library instruction. GIFs can be displayed simultaneously as a sequence of comic book like panels, allowing for a ‘birds eye view’ of all the steps of a process, viewing and reviewing steps as needed without having to rewind or replay an entire video. I discuss tools and practical considerations as well as limitations and constraints.

Introduction and Background

Animated GIFs are “a series of GIF files saved as one large file. Animated GIFs…provide short animations that typically repeat as long as the GIF is being displayed.” (High Definition) Animated GIFs were at one point one of the few options available for adding video-like elements to a web page. As web design aesthetics matured and digital video recording, editing, playback and bandwidth became more affordable and feasible, the animated GIF joined the blink tag and comic sans font as the gold, silver, and bronze medals for making a site look like it was ready to party like it’s 1999.

Even so, services like MySpace and fresh waves of web neophytes establishing a personal online space allowed the animated GIF to soldier on. Typically used purely for decoration without any particular function, and sometimes funny at first, then less so each subsequent viewing (like bumper stickers) animated GIFs ranged from benign to prodigiously distracting, best exemplified by that rococo entity: the sparkly unicorn:1

To be fair, some sites used animated GIFs with specific purposes, such as an early version of an American Sign Language site that used animated GIFs to demonstrate signing of individual words.2 As the web continued to evolve and function began to catch up with form, the animated GIF began to fade from the scene, especially with the advent of comparably fast-loading and high-resolution streaming video formats such as Quicktime and RealVideo. Flash, in conjunction with the rise of YouTube, established a de facto standard for video on the web for a time. In turn, with the ongoing adoption of HTML5 standards and the meteoric rise of mobile devices and their particular needs with regards to video formats, the web content landscape continues to develop and change.

I had personally written off the animated GIF as a footnote in early web history, until the last few years when I noticed them cropping up again with regularity. My initial reaction was ‘great, I’m officially old enough to see the first wave of web retro nostalgia’, but I began to notice some differences: instead of being images that simply waved their arms for attention, this new generation of animated GIFs often sketched out some sort of narrative: telling a joke, or riffing on a meme, such as the following:

This example combines an existing visual meme as a ‘punchline’ to clips from scenes in two different movies (Everything is Illuminated and Lord of the Rings) that pivots on two points of commonality: Elijah Wood and potatoes. I should note that when I first created this GIF, it was in ‘stacked’ format, or one continuous GIF to give the ‘punchline’ more impact, but I separated them here in keeping with the spirit of the article’s topic. In general, further thoughts and observations on the curious persistence and evolution of GIFs as a popular culture entity is discussed in this 2013 Wired article: The Animated GIF: Still Looping After All These Years.

Concepts and Rationale

At some point, an idea coalesced that a similar approach could be applied to instructional videos, specifically those supporting information literacy. Jokes and memes are, after all, stories of sorts, and information literacy instruction is too.

One initial attraction to exploring the use of animated GIFs was as an alternative to video. Given a choice between a video, even a short one, and some other media such as a series of captioned images or simple text, in most cases I will opt for the latter, especially if the subject matter demonstrates or explains how to do something. Some of this is merely personal preference, but I suspected others had the same inclination. In fact, a study by Mestre that compared the effectiveness of video vs. static images used for library tutorials indicated that participants had a disinclination to take the time to view instruction in video form. One participant comment in particular was interesting: “I think that a video tutorial really is only needed if you want to teach the complex things, but if it’s to illustrate simple information you don’t need to do it. In this case, a regular web page with added images and multimedia is all you need” (266). Furthermore, only five of twenty one participants indicated a preference for video over static image tutorials, and of those five, two “admitted that although they preferred the screencast tutorial, they would probably choose the static tutorial if they actually needed to figure out how to do something (270). Not only did the study show that students prefer not to watch videos, but students with a variety of learning style preferences were better able to complete or replicate demonstrated tasks when tutorials used a sequence of static images as compared to screencast videos (260).

Some reflection on why yielded the following considerations.

  1. Scope and scale: A group of pictures or block of text gives immediate feedback on how much information is being conveyed. The length of a video will give some indication of this, but at a greater level of abstraction.
  2. Sequence: Pictures and text have natural break points between steps of a process; the next picture, or a new paragraph or bullet point. This allows one to jump back to review an earlier step in the process, then move forward again in a way that is not disruptive to a train of thought. This is more difficult to do in video, especially if appropriate scene junctures are not built in with attendant navigation tools such as a click-able table of contents/scene list (i.e., you have to rewatch the video from the beginning to see step 3 again, or have a deft touch on the rewind/scrub bar). The Mestre study suggested that being able to quickly jump back to or review prior steps was important to participants (265).
  3. Seeing the forest and the trees: This involves the concept of closure as described by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics: “the…phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole”(63). Judicious choice and arrangement of sequences can allow one to see both the individual steps of a process and get a sense of an overall concept in less physical and temporal space than either a video or a series of static images. The main challenge in applying this concept is determining natural breaking points in a process, analogous to structuring scenes and transitions in a video or deciding on panel layout and what happens ‘off-screen’ between panels. Does the sequence of GIFs need to be a video that is chopped into as many parts as there are steps, or are there logical groupings that can be combined in each GIF?
  4. Static and dynamic: This is where the animation factor comes into play. A series of animated GIFs allows for incorporating both the sequencing and closure components described above, while retaining some of the dynamic element of video. The static component involves several GIFs being displayed at once. This can be helpful for a multistep process where each step depends on properly executing the one before it, such as tying a bowtie. If you’re in the middle of one step, you can take in, at a glance, the previous or next step rather than waiting for the whole sequence to re-play. Depending on the complexity of the task, the simplification afforded by using several images compared to one can be subtle, but an analogy might be that it can make a task like hopping into an already spinning jump rope more like stepping onto an escalator—both tasks are daunting, but the latter markedly less so. The dynamic component involves how long and how much movement each image should include. A single or too few images, and you might as well stick with a video. Too many images and the process gets lost in a confusing array of too much information.

Using animated GIFs can also leverage existing content or tutorials. A sequence of GIFs can be generated from existing video tutorials. Conversely, the process of producing an efficient series of GIFs can also function as a storyboarding technique for making videos more concise and efficient or with appropriate annotation, selected individual frames of an animated GIF can be adapted to a series of static images for online use or physical handouts.

Animated GIFs might also be explored as an alternative instructional media where technological limitations are a consideration. For example, the area served by my library has a significant population that does not have access to broadband, and media that is downloaded and cached or saved locally might be more practical than streaming media. In terms of web technology, animated GIFs have been around a long time, but by the same token, are stable and widely supported and can be employed without special plugins or browser extensions. Once downloaded they may be viewed repeatedly without any further downloading or buffering times.

Applications, Practical Considerations, and Tools

In the section below I’ll discuss two specific examples I created of brief library tutorials using animated GIFs. The raw materials for creating the GIFs consisted of video footage recorded on an iPhone, video screen capture, and still images.

The first example of using this format is at This page features four variants of instructions for renewing a book online. To some extent, the versions represent different approaches to implementing the concept, but probably more poignantly represent the process of trial and error in finding a workable approach. Notice: if the ‘different cloned versions of Ripley’ scene from Alien Resurrection3 disturbed you, you might want to proceed with caution (mostly kidding, mostly). I tried different sizes, arrangements and numbers of images. For the specific purpose here, three images seemed to strike a good balance between cramming too many steps into one segment and blinking visual overload.

The second example, at:, sticks with the three image approach for demonstrating how to track a call number from the catalog to a physical shelf location. The images produced in this example were very large, as much as 6MB. It is possible to shrink the file size by reducing the overall image size or optimizing the animated GIF. The optimized version is below the original. There is a distinct loss of image quality, but the critical information still seems to be retained; the text can still be read and the video is serviceable, although it has a certain ‘this is the scary part’ quality to it.

Creation of the two examples above revealed an assortment of practical considerations for and constraints of the animated GIF format. Animated GIF file sizes aren’t inherently smaller than video, especially streaming video. One advantage the animated GIF format has, as mentioned above, is that aside from not needing special plugins or extensions, they can be set to loop after downloading with no further user intervention or downloading of data. This facilitates the use of a series of moving images that illustrate steps that happen in sequence and can be parsed back and forth as necessary. This also helps in breaking up a single large video sequence into chunks of manageable size.

Depending on the task at hand, the usefulness of the animation factor can range from clarifying steps that might be difficult to grasp in one long sequence of static images (the bowtie example) to simply adding some visual interest or sense of forward propulsion to the demonstration of a process (the climbing the stairs example).

For some topics, it’s a fine line judgement call as to whether animated GIFs would add any clarity, or if a few thoughtfully-annotated screen shots would serve. While looking at non-library related examples, I found some demonstrations of variations on tying your shoe, both illustrated with static images or a single GIF demonstrating all of the steps. I found one to be learnable with the static images, and I actually regularly now use that method and tie my shoes one or two times a day instead of ten or twenty. A second, more complex method, was harder for me to grasp; between the complexity of the task, the number of images needed to illustrate the steps (which were displayed vertically, requiring scrolling to see them all), and the fact that it’s hard to scroll through images while holding shoelaces, I gave up. I also found it difficult to keep track of the steps with the single animated GIF. I can’t help but wonder if using several animated GIFs instead one for the entire process might have tipped the balance there.

In terms of tools, there is a variety of software that can get the task done. The examples above, including the mashup of Everything is Illuminated / Lord of the Rings, were done using Camtasia Studio versions 4 and 8 (a newer version became available to me whilst writing this article). The GIF optimization was done with Jasc Animation Shop v.2, which has been around at least fifteen years, but proved useful in reducing the file size of some of the example animated GIFs by nearly half.

Camtasia Studio is not terribly expensive, is available for Mac and Windows, and has some very useful annotation and production tools, but there are also freely-available programs that can be used to achieve similar results. A few Windows examples that I have personally used/tried:4

  • Screen capture: Jing and Hypercam.
  • Scene selection and excerpting: Free Video Slicer.
    • VLC is another option and is available on Mac and Linux as well. There is a Lifehacker article that details how to record a section of video.
  • Video to GIF conversion: Free Video to Gif Converter .
  • Captioning: Windows Movie Maker
    • The captioning in Camtasia and Movie Maker is a nice feature, but it should be noted that conversion to GIF removes any ADA compliance functionality of closed captions. An alternative is to simply caption each animated GIF with html text under each image. An inference can be drawn from the Mestre study that a bit of daylight between the visual and the textual information might actually be beneficial (268).

Some cursory web searching indicates that there are a variety, yea—even a plethora, of additional tools available; web-based and standalone programs, freeware, shareware and commercial.

Discussion and Where Next

The example information literacy GIFs discussed above both deal with very straightforward processes that are very task oriented. Initial impressions suggest that using animated GIFs for instruction would have a fairly narrow scope for usefulness, but within those parameters it could be a good alternative, or even the most effective approach. Areas for further exploration include using this approach for more abstract ideas, such as intellectual property issues, that could draw more upon the narrative power of sequential images. Conversely animated GIFs could serve to illuminate even more specific library-related processes and tasks (e.g.: how to use a photocopier or self checkout station.) Another unknown aspect is assessment and effectiveness. Since I assembled the examples used, I was naturally very familiar with the processes and it would be helpful to have data on whether this is a useful or effective method from an end user’s perspective.

The Mestre study made a fairly strong case that static images were more effective than video for instruction in basic tasks and the the sequentiality of the images was an important component of that (260, 265, 270). One aspect that warrants further investigation is whether the dynamic aspects of animated GIFs would add to the advantage of a sequence of images, if the movement would detract from the effectiveness of purely static images, or if they would provide a ‘third way’ that would draw on the strengths of the other two approaches to be even more effective than either.


In closing, I’d like to note that there is a peculiar gratification in finding a new application for a technology that’s been around at least as long as the Web itself. In reflecting on how the idea took shape, I find it interesting that it wasn’t a case of looking for a new way to deliver library instruction, rather that observing the use of a technology for unrelated purposes led to recognition that it could be adapted to a particular library-related need. I suppose the main idea I’d really like to communicate here is, to put it simply: be open to old ideas surprising you with new possibilities.

I would like to acknowledge the peer reviewers for this article: Ellie Collier and Paul Pival, and the Publishing Editor Erin Dorney for their kind support, invaluable insights, and unflagging assistance in transforming ideas, notes and thoughts and first drafts into a fully realized article. Many thanks to you all!


“Animated Gif.” High Definition: A-z Guide to Personal Technology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Credo Reference. Web. 13 October 2014.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. New York: Paradox Press, 2000. Print.

Mestre, Lori S. “Student Preference for Tutorial Design: A Usability Study.” Reference Services Review 40.2 (2012): 258-76. ProQuest. Web. 26 Sep. 2014.



  1. source:
  2. I was able to dig up the original site on, it seems to have moved on to use video clips, but I was able to find a web oubliette that still has examples of GIFs used to animate ASL signs.
  3. In one scene in Alien Resurrection, a cloned version of the main character discovers several ‘rough draft’ clones of herself, gruesomely malformed and existing in suffering
  4. As a side note, I’m simply listing them, rather than providing direct links, erring on the side of caution on security matters, but I have personally downloaded and used all of the above with no issues that I’m aware of. They are all also easily findable via a web search.

DuraSpace News: Fedora 4.0 Update: Fall 2014 Outreach and Training

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-10-22 00:00

From Andrew Woods, Technical Lead for Fedora 

Winchester, MA  Members of the Fedora team have been engaged in outreach and training at multiple community events around the globe this fall.

DuraSpace News: Fedora in Action: the Flexible and Extensible Digital Repository Platform

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-10-22 00:00

Winchester, MA  Fedora ( is a robust, modular repository system for the management and dissemination of digital content. It is especially suited for digital libraries and archives, both for access and preservation. It is also used to provide specialized access to very large and complex digital collections of historic and cultural materials as well as scientific data.

Nicole Engard: ATO2014: Open Source Schools: More Soup, Less Nuts

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 23:19

Charlie Reisinger works for Penn Manor school district and was our final talk tonight. Tablets are all the rage in schools these days and if we give them laptops we lock them down. And then we wonder why kids are so turned off of computing. Charlie shared with us the store of stone soup.

Last year they gave every one of their students a laptop powered with Linux and the program has been tremendously successful. In addition to the laptops they spun up a student help desk where the students could work together to unbox the laptops, label the, inventoried them, etc etc. They wrote a tool that is shared at:

With this model they taught the students not just how to use the computers, but how to be part of the community.

See more in Charlie’s Ted Talk.

The post ATO2014: Open Source Schools: More Soup, Less Nuts appeared first on What I Learned Today....

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Nicole Engard: ATO2014: The first FOSS Minor at RIT

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 23:12

Remy DeCausemaker aka “RemyD” was up next to talk to us about the first FOSS Minor at RIT

Remy is the Hackademic at Rochester Institute of Technology. He works on a lot of student engagement at RIT to get students involved in open source. They have run about 50 hackathons in the last 5 years. They offer credit to students who work on open source and/or pay them to work on open source to show them that they can make a career at this. RIT offers the first open source minor in the United States. Three courses are required for this minor: Humanitarian Free and One Source Software Development (H-FOSS), Free and Open Source Culture, and Legal and Business Aspects of FOSS and Free Culture.

Remy uses a lot of common open source tools in his courses. Students have to log in to IRC to take roll, assignments are managed on Github and have to submit pull requests to hand their assignment in. The H-FOSS class has to design an educational game for the one laptop per child project as their final project.

Finally, if you’re in upstate New York and want to guess lecture Remy is inviting you in to his open classroom.

The post ATO2014: The first FOSS Minor at RIT appeared first on What I Learned Today....

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Nicole Engard: ATO2014: Unmanagement and Unleadership

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 23:10

Luis Ibanez talked to us next about unleadership and unmanagement at All Things Open tonight.

We tend to celebrate leadership in sports, politics, in social movements. We make it sound like leaders are what are needed to succeed. That war stories don’t tell is the story of everyone else who made the success possible. When you emphasize leadership you miss what really went in to the success.

When you elevate the leader in a group of people you diminish everyone else. This makes the followers a little bit “mushy” and slow and dependent. The worst part of leadership is that it leaves the community members off the hook. This makes the community vulnerable (especially to zombies, aliens and the city bus).

Instead we want to educate and cultivate the community.

The post ATO2014: Unmanagement and Unleadership appeared first on What I Learned Today....

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Nicole Engard: ATO2014: Social media for slackers

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 23:00

Rikki Endsley overheard this at a conference: “I don’t believe in social media” but she’s here to tell us that it’s real! Social media is a great way to direct people to where you want them – even your IRC channel. You want to share relevant interesting, accurate information with people – keep on message even with your retweets.

Make sure you avoid PR talk, write like you would talk to someone next to you.

Part of being on social media is begin “social”. You need to retweet, reply and reshare. Participate and grow your reach – ask your network to share particularly important content.

Remember to consider your schedule. If you’re going to an event in a different time zone schedule your tweets for that time zone. Don’t share in your local timezone if the event is 5 hours ahead of you – you’re missing those people.

Measure your success. You can do this with many tools that are out there.

Finally you want to promote all of your accounts.

The post ATO2014: Social media for slackers appeared first on What I Learned Today....

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Nicole Engard: ATO2014: Easing into open source

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:23

Scott Nesbitt was up next with his talk titled: Easing into open source.

There are lots of people out there who are interested and eager to try open source, but don’t make that leap right away. Scott shared with us his tips as a technology coach of how to ease people in to open source. A lot of us learned by getting thrown in to the deep end and we did learn a lot – but for most people that doesn’t work. This leads to a lot of fussy, angry people and they decide that open source is not for them.

So, the first thing you can do is curb your urge to get up on your soapbox – it rarely works. Most people don’t really care about the 4 freedoms or the ethical reasons to use open source in the beginning. Instead go for the heart of it. Show them what they’re interested in – they’re interested in what open source can do for them. How can they do their work with it?

“I’m afraid of open source, I can’t program” – tell people that this isn’t true (I like to use Firefox as an example here). “But it’s not … ” – the answer is ‘So What?!’ the software we’re showing you is just as efficient as the proprietary options. Instead of going feature by feature, teach them how to do a specific task.

And finally remind them that free software does have a price – the price is in the form of time – time it takes to learn the software. It’s time – but it’s time very well spent.

Take baby steps. Show them how to crop an image in Gimp – but don’t show them all the features all at once. Once they have the basics they’re going to want to learn more advanced topics – or maybe they won’t – but they’ll be happy that they’re no longer paint licensing fees for their software.

The post ATO2014: Easing into open source appeared first on What I Learned Today....

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Nicole Engard: ATO2014: Building a premier storytelling platform on open source

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:21

Up first at the All Things Open Lightning Talks was Jen Wike from Red Hat. started in 2010 as a platform to share stories about open source software. Jen denied for us the open source way (which is the twitter handle for the site) :

  • Openness
  • Transparency
  • Collaboration
  • Meritocracy
  • Rapid prototyping

One example of this is an inspiring story from that talked about the E-Nable group which creates 3D printable hands

At we ask why we tell these stories? It’s a great to way to share stories of people’s experiences of using open source as a better way to live and work. As a storyteller for open source we strive to educate people outside (as well as inside) of the open source community. We have pages like What is Open Source and What is Open Stack. We also have series for beginners and/or women in open source. has a moderator program where moderators write articles, give feedback, curate content and bring in more authors. This is essential for keeping new content rolling in on the site.

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District Dispatch: Write an E-rate essay in 1000 words or less

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 20:50

Photo by Kennedy Library via Flickr

I was just asked if I could summarize the last year’s worth of E-rate work we have done in the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office. Here’s the challenge: Can I do it in two pages or less? Apparently the answer is yes and this blog post may also be an all-time record for brevity (for which I am not known). So even though the summary and timeline (pdf) is right at two pages (and spiced up with bulleted lists and descriptive headers), you can get the gist of it right now:

Timeline of the E-rate Modernization Proceeding
  • July 2013: The Commission introduces the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
  • September 2013: Initial comments are due at the Commission.
  • November 2013: Reply comments are due.
  • March 2014: The Commission issues a Public Notice (PN) seeking additional comment.
  • April 2014: PN Initial comments are due April 7, reply comments due April 21.
  • July 2014: The Commission adopts the E-rate Modernization Report and Order and issues a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM).
  • September 2014: FNPRM initial comments are due September 15, reply comments due September 30.
  • The Commission is expected to vote on a second Order in November or December 2014.
    ALA (Recent) Engagement

In addition to ALA’s comments, we submitted another joint letter to the Commission urging it to address the broadband capacity gap for libraries. The Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL), Organizations Concerned about Rural Education (OCRE), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), and The Rural School and Community Trust joined ALA and the Public Library Association (PLA) on the letter.

What to Expect and When

Throughout the modernization proceeding, the Commission has made clear that its review of the E-rate program is a multi-phase process. In a speech made on September 29, the Chairman indicated that the next phase of the proceeding must address the “rural fiber gap.” Since that time, the focus at the Commission has been to identify policy changes that would address the barriers that prevent libraries and schools from securing affordable high-capacity broadband. The Commission is also looking at the need to increase the overall size of the fund. The Chairman is advocating that closing the fiber gap is a significant driving factor in determining the need for more funding. He is also looking at related issues such as the lack of competition among service providers—particularly in rural areas—and the lack of affordable broadband when it is available. ALA advocated for action on these three issues (availability, affordability, and increased funding) and is pleased that these issues are squarely before the Commission now.

All indications are that the Commission plans to vote on a second Order during their November open meeting, November 21. What does this mean? The Chairman must circulate a draft Order to the Commissioners October 31. One week before the public meeting, the Commission enters into the Sunshine Period where outside parties other than members of Congress or other federal agencies may not make presentations or otherwise advocate at the Commission. Commission staff, however, may reach out to outside parties to ask questions. During the open meeting the Commission staff present the draft Order, and Commissioners may ask questions and make statements prior to voting to adopt the Order (or not). The Order is made publicly available after the vote if it is adopted. Any rule changes go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Additional information

• Ongoing coverage in the District Dispatch
• ALA E-rate filings to the FCC
• FCC E-rate modernization summary (pdf)
• FCC E-rate modernization fact sheet (pdf)
• Handy collection of major FCC E-rate modernization documents
The rulemaking process at the FCC

Read the E-rate summary and timeline (pdf)

The post Write an E-rate essay in 1000 words or less appeared first on District Dispatch.

Nicole Engard: Bookmarks for October 21, 2014

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 20:30

Today I found the following resources and bookmarked them on <a href=

  • OpenHatch OpenHatch is a non-profit dedicated to matching prospective free software contributors with communities, tools, and education.
  • CORAL CORAL is an Electronic Resources Management System consisting of interoperable modules designed around the core components of managing electronic resources. It is made available as a free, open source program.
  • Journal of Free Software & Free Knowledge An Open Access Journal on the broad philiosophies around the FOSS movement, including aspects of software and other intellectual artifacts, emerging developments in this ecosystem, and interfaces with society.

Digest powered by RSS Digest

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Code4Lib Journal: Editorial Introduction: On Being on The Code4Lib Journal Editorial Committee

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 19:59
Behind the scenes of the The Code4Lib Journal...

Code4Lib Journal: Archiving the Web: A Case Study from the University of Victoria

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 19:59
The University of Victoria Libraries started archiving websites in 2013, and it quickly became apparent that many scholarly websites being produced by faculty, especially in the digital humanities, were going to prove very challenging to effectively capture and play back. This article will provide an overview of web archiving and explore the considerable legal and technical challenges of implementing a web archiving initiative at a research library, using the University of Victoria's implementation of Archive-it, a web archiving service from the Internet Archive, as a case study, with a special focus on capturing complex, interactive websites that scholars are creating to disseminate their research in new ways.

Code4Lib Journal: Technical Challenges in Developing Software to Collect Twitter Data

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-10-21 19:59
Over the past two years, George Washington University Libraries developed Social Feed Manager (SFM), a Python and Django-based application for collecting social media data from Twitter. Expanding the project from a research prototype to a more widely useful application has presented a number of technical challenges, including changes in the Twitter API, supervision of simultaneous streaming processes, management, storage, and organization of collected data, meeting researcher needs for groups or sets of data, and improving documentation to facilitate other institutions’ installation and use of SFM. This article will describe how the Social Feed Manager project addressed these issues, use of supervisord to manage processes, and other technical decisions made in the course of this project through late summer 2014. This article is targeted towards librarians and archivists who are interested in building collections around web archives and social media data, and have a particular interest in the technical work involved in applying software to the problem of building a sustainable collection management program around these sources.


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