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District Dispatch: FOIA is heating up!

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 20:45

On Monday of this week, legislators introduced two bipartisan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) bills in both the U.S. House (H.R. 653) and the U.S. Senate (S.337). Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 653, with Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) cosponsoring. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Photo by Craig Kohtz via Flickr

Action in the Senate was slightly more interesting; not only did Senator John Cornyn (R-Tx) introduce S. 337 with Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and Charles Grasssley (R-LA)—the ranking member and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee cosponsoring—but the Senate Judiciary Committee today passed the bill out of committee!

Earlier today, ALA joined with forty-six other groups to state our support for these bills (pdf) and to thank these men for introducing them. As the letter states, “Public oversight is critical to ensuring accountability, and the reforms embodied in both the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act (H.R. 653), introduced by Representatives Issa and Cummings, and the FOIA Improvement Act of 2015 (S.337), introduced by Senators Cornyn and Leahy, are necessary to enable that oversight.”

It’s exciting to have this legislation be introduced and move so early in the 114th Congress and we will keep you informed as things move forward!

The post FOIA is heating up! appeared first on District Dispatch.

Cynthia Ng: Presentation: Making Accessible Content Easy and Part of Your Work

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 18:41
This was originally presented as an online workshop for the Center for Instructional Development & Distance Education, University of Pittsburgh on February 5, 2015. If you’re familiar with my presentations, everything up to and including the introduction to universal design is quite similar to my past presentations (especially the most recent one). However, after that, … Continue reading Presentation: Making Accessible Content Easy and Part of Your Work

District Dispatch: It’s a Big Deal: FCC Chairman outlines strong network neutrality protections

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 18:21

Today Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler will circulate his network neutrality proposal to fellow Commissioners in preparation for a February 26 vote. While we can’t read the detailed draft as it is not yet public, the Chairman did outline his plans in a Wired op-ed and fact sheet released yesterday. To paraphrase our Vice President, this is a Big Deal.

FCC Building in Washington, D.C.

“I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services,” Chairman Wheeler writes.

Today, the American Library Assicuation (ALA) President Courtney Young responded: “I am very pleased that Chairman Wheeler’s outlined proposal matches the network neutrality principles ALA and nearly a dozen library and higher education groups called for last July. America’s libraries collect, create and disseminate essential information to the public over the Internet, and enable our users to create and distribute their own digital content and applications. Network neutrality is essential to meeting our mission in serving America’s communities and preserving the Internet as a platform for free speech, innovation, research and learning for all.”

In a nutshell, the proposal:

  • Asserts FCC authority under both Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to provide the strongest possible legal foundation for network neutrality rules;
  • Applies network neutrality protections to both fixed and mobile broadband (which the ALA, Association of Research Libraries and EDUCAUSE advocated for—unsuccessfully—in the 2010 Open Internet Order and in our most recent filings);
  • Prohibits blocking or degrading access to legal content, applications, services and non-harmful devices; as well as banning paid prioritization, or favoring some content over other traffic;
  • Allows for reasonable network management while enhancing transparency rules regarding how Internet service providers (ISPs) are doing this;
  • Creates a general Open Internet standard for future ISP conduct;
  • Identifies major provisions of Title II that will apply and others that will be subject to forbearance (i.e., not enforced).

Among the provisions that will be enforced are sections that assert no “unjust and unreasonable practices” (Sections 201 and 202), protect consumer privacy (Section 222), protect people with disabilities (Sections 225 and 226) and parts of Section 254, which includes the E-rate program and other Universal Service Fund (USF) programs. After the recent successful completion of E-rate program modernization to better enable affordable access to high-capacity broadband through libraries and schools, ALA has a particular interest in safeguarding FCC authority related to the Universal Service Fund. We agree the new Order should not automatically apply any new USF fees, but we would like to better understand how a partial application of Section 254 will work in practice. We’re reaching out to the FCC on this question now.

As always, more information on libraries and network neutrality is available on the ALA website and we’ll keep blogging here on the Dispatch.

The post It’s a Big Deal: FCC Chairman outlines strong network neutrality protections appeared first on District Dispatch.

Open Knowledge Foundation: Open Knowledge Belgium: Bringing Together Open Communities, Policy Makers & Industry

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 16:02

Open Knowledge Belgium to host The Second Edition of Open Belgium in Namur on Feb 23rd, 2015! Register Today!

On 23 February, Open Knowledge Belgium is hosting the second edition of Open Belgium, an event expected to attract over 200 people, coming together to learn and discuss the growing open knowledge movement in Belgium. This year Open Knowledge Belgium is hosting the conference, together with our Walloon colleagues and partners, at the Palais des Congrès in Namur.

OpenBelgium 2015 Teaser from Open Knowledge Belgium on Vimeo.

The jam-packed programme is not to be missed! With over 35 speakers, the objective of the day is unpack challenges, explore opportunities and learn about technological developments as they relate to Open Data and Open Knowledge. The event presents an ideal opportunity to exchange best practices with national and international experts.

The conference program includes:

The conference will open with a panel discussion on the state-of-play of open data and open knowledge in Belgium, followed by a series of keynote talks and eight participatory workshops!

State-of-play Session

A panel discussion on Open data in Belgium, with representatives from the federal and regional governments.

A Series of Keynotes

  1. Jörgen Gren of DG Connect on the future of Open Data in Europe
  2. Dimitri Brosens of the institute of Nature and Forests (INBO) becoming an open research institut
  3. Thomas Hermine (Nextride) and Antoine Patris (TEC) on how opening up Walloon public transport data offers new opportunities and economic value.

Eight Participatory Workshops:

Following the keynotes, participants will have the opportunity to participate in eight workshops focused on specific themes and organised by national and international experts.

  1. Open Transport, from data source to journey planner (moderated by Pieter Colpaert)
  2. Open Culture, tackling barriers with benefits (Barbara Dierickx)
  3. Open Tools, using tools to release the full Open Data potential (Philippe Duchesne)
  4. Open Tourism, the importance of framing the scheme online efforts (Raf Buyle)
  5. OpenStreetMap, the importance of working with communities (Ben Abelshausen)
  6. Open Science, going beyond open access (Gwen Franck)
  7. Local Open Data efforts in Belgium (Wouter Degadt)
  8. Emerging Open Data business models (Tanguy De LESTRE).

Open Knowledge Belgium will close the day with networking drinks on a rooftop terrace overlooking the city of Namur.

View the full programme and all the speakers on the website.

Practical information and registration

  • Date and Location: Monday, February 23, 2015 in [Namur Palais des Congrès](
  • Admission: € 130 – [Register online](
  • Contact the organisers:

DPLA: DPLA at Code4Lib 2015

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 16:00

Code4Lib is an annual, volunteer-organized conference focused on the intersection of technology and cultural heritage. DPLA is participating heavily in  Code4Lib 2015, taking place on February 9 – 12 in Portland, Oregon. Here’s a handy guide detailing some of the key places they’ll be and how you can connect with them.

  • Monday, February 9 (9 AM – noon): Tom Johnson (DPLA Metadata and Platform Architect) will lead a Linked Data Workshop with Karen Estlund (University of Oregon).
  • Monday, February 9 (1:30 – 4:30 PM): Tom Johnson, Mark Matienzo (DPLA Director of Technology), Mark Breedlove (DPLA Technology Specialist), Audrey Altman (DPLA Technology Specialist), Gretchen Gueguen (DPLA Data Services Coordinator), and Amy Rudersdorf (DPLA Assistant Director for Content) will lead an introductory workshop on the DPLA API.
  • Wednesday, February 11 (4:30 PM): Audrey Altman, Mark Breedlove, and Gretchen Gueguen will present on DPLA’s new ingestion system. The presentation is entitled, “Heiðrún: DPLA’s Metadata Harvesting, Mapping and Enhancement System.”

Beyond these formal opportunities to connect, these folks are eager to chat and answer questions about timely topics including the Community Reps application, DPLAfest 2015, and DPLA’s recent work upgrading its ingestion system.

In addition to staff participation, and in keeping with DPLA’s broader commitment to diversity, DPLA has also supported Code4Lib 2015 by helping to sponsor one of the Code4Lib 2015 Diversity Scholarships as part of the Code4Lib community.

Questions about where specific DPLA staffers will be at Code4Lib 2015? Drop one of us a line!

David Rosenthal: Disk reliability

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 16:00
Two recent publications about disk reliability are of considerable interest. Continuing their exemplary tradition of transparency, Backblaze updated their 2013 report on their experience of disk failures with a report on 2014, and the raw data and a set of FAQs. And J-F Paris et al published Self-Repairing Disk Arrays. Below the fold, thoughts on the relationship between these two.

Backblaze now have over 41K drives ranging from 1.5TB to 6TB spinning. Their data for a year consists of 365 daily tables each with one row for each spinning drive, so there is a lot of it, over 12M records. The 4TB disk generation looks good:
We like every one of the 4 TB drives we bought this year. For the price, you get a lot of storage, and the drive failure rates have been really low. The Seagate Desktop HDD.15 has had the best price, and we have a LOT of them. Over 12 thousand of them. The failure rate is a nice low 2.6% per year. Low price and reliability is good for business.
The HGST drives, while priced a little higher, have an even lower failure rate, at 1.4%. It’s not enough of a difference to be a big factor in our purchasing, but when there’s a good price, we grab some. We have over 12 thousand of these drives.Its too soon to tell about the 6TB generation:
Currently we have 270 of the Western Digital Red 6 TB drives. The failure rate is 3.1%, but there have been only 3 failures. ... We have just 45 of the Seagate 6 TB SATA 3.5 drives, although more are on order. They’ve only been running a few months, and none have failed so far.What grabbed all the attention was the 3TB generation:
The HGST Deskstar 5K3000 3 TB drives have proven to be very reliable, but expensive relative to other models (including similar 4 TB drives by HGST). The Western Digital Red 3 TB drives annual failure rate of 7.6% is a bit high but acceptable. The Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 3 TB drives are another story.Their 1163 Seagate 3TB drives with an average age of 2.2 years had an annual failure rate (AFR) over 40% in 2014. Backblaze's economics mean that they can live with a reasonably high failure rate:
Double the reliability is only worth 1/10th of 1 percent cost increase. ...

Replacing one drive takes about 15 minutes of work. If we have 30,000 drives and 2 percent fail, it takes 150 hours to replace those. In other words, one employee for one month of 8 hour days. Getting the failure rate down to 1 percent means you save 2 weeks of employee salary - maybe $5,000 total? The 30,000 drives costs you $4m.

The $5k/$4m means the Hitachis are worth 1/10th of 1 per cent higher cost to us. ACTUALLY we pay even more than that for them, but not more than a few dollars per drive (maybe 2 or 3 percent more).

Moral of the story: design for failure and buy the cheapest components you can. :-)40% AFR is really high, but labor to replace the failed drives would still have cost less than $8/drive. The cost isn't the interesting aspect of this story. The drives would have failed at some point anyway, incurring the replacement labor cost. The 40% AFR just meant the labor cost, and the capital cost of new drives, was incurred earlier than expected, reducing the return on the investment in purchasing those drives.

Alas, there is a long history of high failure rates among particular batches of drives. An experience similar to Backblaze's at Facebook is related here, with an AFR over 60%. My first experience of this was nearly 30 years ago in the early days of Sun Microsystems. Manufacturing defects, software bugs, mishandling by distributors, vibration resonance, there are many causes for these correlated failures. It is the correlated failures that make the interesting connection with the Self-Repairing Disk Arrays paper.

The first thing to note about the paper is that Paris et al are not dealing with Backblaze-scale arrays:
These solutions are not difficult to implement in installations that have trained personnel on site round-the-clock. When this is not the case, disk repairs will have to wait until a technician can service the failed disk. There are two major disadvantages to this solution. First, it introduces an additional delay, which will have a detrimental effect on the reliability of the storage system. Second, the cost of the service call is likely to exceed that of the equipment being replaced.4-slot DroboThe first problem with the paper is that there has been a technological solution to this problem for a decade since Data Robotics (now Drobo) introduced the Drobo. I've been using them ever since. They are available in configurations from 4 to 12 slots and in all cases when a drive fails the light by the slot flashes red. All that is needed is to pull out the failed drive and push in a replacement disk the same size or bigger. The Drobo's firmware handles hot-swapping and recovers the failed drive's data with no human intervention. No technician and much less than 15 minutes per drive needed.

The second problem is that although the paper's failure model is based on 2013 failure data from Backblaze, it appears to assume that the failures are uncorrelated. The fact that errors in storage systems are correlated has been known since at least the work of Talagala at Berkeley in 1999. Correlated failures such as those of the 3TB Seagate drives at Backblaze in 2014 would invalidate the paper's claim that:
we have shown that several complete two-dimensional disk arrays with n parity disks, n ( n– 1)/2 data disks, and less than n ( n + 1)/2 data disks could achieve a 99.999 percent probability of not losing data over four years.A 99.999 percent probability would mean that only 1 in 100,000 arrays would lose data in 4 years. But the very next year's data from their data source would probably have caused most of the arrays to lose data. When designing reliable storage, the failure model needs to be pessimistic, not average. And it needs to consider correlated failures, which is admittedly very hard to do.

HangingTogether: The scholarly record: a view from the campus

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 15:59

[Thanks to Geneva Henry, University Librarian and Vice Provost for Libraries at the George Washington University, for contributing this guest blog post.]

Geneva Henry, George Washington University

While many may think of the scholarly record as the products surrounding scholarly works that are eventually disseminated, usually through publications, there is another aspect to the scholarly record that people at academic institutions – especially administrators – care about. This can be thought of as the campus scholarly record that frames the identity of an institution. In considering this perspective, there is an even more compelling reason to consider how the many activities surrounding scholarly dissemination are captured and managed. The libraries at academic institutions are arguably the obvious leaders to assume responsibility for managing these resources; libraries have been the stewards of the scholarly record for a very long time.  But librarians must now recognize the changing nature of the elements of that record and take a proactive role in its capture and preservation. Moreover, they have a responsibility to the many campus stakeholders who have an interest in these resources for differing and sometimes conflicting purposes.

Research activities and early dissemination of findings have changed with the proliferation of social media and the Web. Scholars can exchange information via blog posts, twitter messages, Facebook posts and every other means of social media available, with feedback from colleagues helping to refine the final formal publication. The traditional methods of peer review are now being further enhanced through web-based prepublications and blogs where reviewers from anywhere can provide less formal feedback to authors. For an increasing number of scholars, social media is the new preprint. Data is posted and shared, comments are exchanged, methods are presented and questioned, revisions happen and the process can continue, even after the “formal” publication has been released in a more traditional form. This requires librarians to think about how they’re preserving their websites and social media outputs that now need to be part of the scholarly record as well as the overall campus record of scholarship.

The campus is full of stakeholders who have an interest in this new, constantly evolving record. Some would like all of this information fully exposed to publicize the work being done, while others feel that there are limits to how much should be made available for everyone to view. Systems such as VIVO and Elements provide platforms that will highlight faculty activities to provide more visibility into the research activities on campus. Sponsored research offices want insights into what people are doing so that they can match research opportunities with relevant researchers and help with identifying partners at other institutions. Media relations staff want to identify experts as media inquiries come in related to current issues happening in the world. Academic departments are interested in showcasing the scholarly record of their faculty in order to attract more graduate students and new faculty to their departments. Promotion and tenure committees want a full understanding of all of the activities of faculty members, including their service activities; increasingly, social media is blurring the line between scholarship and service as one feeds into the other.

Faculty members, the source of creating these resources, are understandably confused. Their attitudes and perceptions range from excited to worried, from protective to open. Their activities on social media do not always relate cleanly to a single scholarly record and will often be mixed with personal, non-scholarly information they may not want the world to see (e.g. pictures of their dinner, political commentaries, stories of their family vacation). This mixed landscape helps to fuel the legal concerns of an institution’s general counsel and the image consciousness of the public relations folks who are cautious about what might end up in the public with the exercising of academic freedom.

Circling back, now, to the library as the logical keeper of the academic record, it is important to realize that there is a vast range of stakeholders that the records serve. These stakeholders become partners with the library in helping to determine what information will be kept, what will be exposed and what needs to remain in restricted access. Partnerships with campus IT units that manage security and authoritative feeds from enterprise systems are critical. Sometimes some stakeholders will ask that exposed information be “redacted” from its online availability and librarians must be able to intelligently communicate the limits of successfully removing this from the world wide web.

The change in the scholarly record raises many questions and will continue to present challenges for libraries and academic institutions. As faculty change institutions, who will be responsible for managing their record of scholarship that is disseminated through social media so that it is preserved long-term? Constantly changing methods for communicating and sharing knowledge will require a scholarly record that can readily accommodate innovations. What will the scholarly record of the future be and what should be captured?  While we don’t have a crystal ball to help with this prediction, we do have a good barometer surrounding us in our libraries everyday: study your students and how they communicate.

About Merrilee Proffitt

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CrossRef: A FundRef Progress Report

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 14:39

In the two years since the launch of FundRef we have been helping participating publishers with their implementations and listening to their feedback. As is often the case with new services, we have found that some of our original assumptions now need tweaking, and so the FundRef Advisory Group (made up of representatives from a dozen or so publishers and funding agencies) has been discussing the next phase of FundRef. I'd like to share some of our findings and proposals for improving the service.

When CrossRef launched FundRef, the FundRef Registry - the openly available taxonomy of standardised funder names that is central to the project - contained around 4,000 international funders. In the past 24 months this has doubled to over 8,000, thanks to input from funders and publishers and the ongoing work of the team at Elsevier who curate and update the list. There are over 170,000 articles with a properly identified funders. Unfortunately, there are also over 400,000 articles with a funder name that hasn't been match to the Registry and doesn't have a Funder Identifier. While a number of publishers are routinely supplying Funder IDs in all of their deposits, some are only managing to supply Funder IDs in as little as 30% of cases. Funder IDs are critical to FundRef - they allow us to collate and display the data accurately. Analysis shows that the deposits we are receiving without IDs fall into roughly three categories:

  1. Funder names that are in the Registry but have not been matched to an ID
  2. Entries into the funder name field that are clearly grant numbers, program names, or free-form text that has been entered or extracted incorrectly
  3. Funders that are not yet listed in the Registry.

At the outset we expected most of the deposits with no IDs to be a result of the third of these use cases. What we are finding, however, is that the vast majority are a result of the first two. Delving into this a little more and talking to publishers about their processes and experiences, we have identified the following reasons:

  • Where authors are asked to input funding data on submission or acceptance of their paper, the margin for error appears to be quite high. They are not used to being asked for this data, and so very clear instructions are needed to stress its importance and ensure that they understand what it is they are being asked for. Authors should be strongly encouraged to pick their funding sources from the list in the FundRef Registry, but presenting a list of 8000+ funder names in a navigable, straightforward way is not without its challenges. Back in 2013 CrossRef worked with UI experts to develop a widget that publishers and their vendor partners could use - either outright or as a guideline - for collecting data from authors. Two years down the line we are reviewing this UI to see how we can further encourage authors to select the canonical funder name and only enter a free-form funder if it is genuinely missing from the Registry. Even with the most intuitive of interfaces, however, some authors will copy and paste an alternative name, or enter a program name instead of a funding body. Editorial and production staff should be aware of FundRef requirements and incorporate this metadata into their routine reviews. 
  • Some publishers have opted to extract funding data from manuscripts instead of asking authors to supply it in a form. This is perfectly acceptable - after all, the information is usually right there in the paper's acknowledgements. However, this process also needs to be accompanied by a certain amount of QA. We are seeing instances of grant numbers being extracted instead of funders, funder names that are concatenated into a single field, and funder names that are 100% accurate but have simply not been matched with IDs ahead of deposit. (In the CrossRef database we currently have 16,989 FundRef deposits that contain the name "National Natural Science Foundation of China" but have no accompanying ID. These are clearly slipping through the QA net.)

So what are we going to do to try and improve things?

Firstly, we are undergoing a review of our own UI and talking with vendors about changes that might encourage better data input by authors. We are also going to find out more about what processes are being undertaken by the publishers that are depositing consistently accurate data, and share these with the publishing community as a set of best practices. Whether publishers are asking authors or extracting the data from manuscripts, an element of QA seems to be critical to ensure the integrity of the data being deposited.

Secondly, we are going to start on some data "tidying" tasks at our end. Traditionally, CrossRef has not altered or corrected any of the data that publishers deposit: we provide error reports and ask that they make the corrections themselves. But with FundRef there seem to be a few quick wins - those 16,000 instances of the Natural National Science Foundation of China could easily and without ambiguity be matched to the correct FundRef ID (, along with other names that have some very obvious minor discrepancies ("&" in place of "and", "US" instead of "U.S."). Cleaning up these deposits and adding the Funder IDs should result in a significant increase in the amount of FundRef data that is retrievable through FundRef Search and our Search API (and by extension, CHORUS Search).

We are also asking publishers to continue to review their own processes and procedures to see where improvements can be made, as the success of FundRef ultimately depends on the quality of the data that is fed into it.

LITA: Share Your Committee and IG Activities on the LITA Blog!

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 13:00

The LITA Blog features original content by LITA members on technologies and trends relevant to librarians. The writers represent a variety of perspectives, from library students to public, academic, and special librarians.

The blog also delivers announcements about LITA programming, conferences, and other events, and serves as a place for LITA committees to share information back with the community if they so choose.

Sharing on the LITA blog ensures a broad audience for your content. Four recent LITA blog posts (authored by Brianna Marshall, Michael Rodriguez, Bryan Brown, and John Klima) have been picked up by American Libraries Direct – and most posts have been viewed hundreds of times and shared dozens of times on social media. John Klima’s post on 3D printers has been shared 40 times from the LITA Twitter account and another 40 times directly from the blog (a cumulative record), Bryan Brown’s post on MOOCs has been viewed over 800 times (also a record as of this writing), and Michael Rodriguez’s post on web accessibility was shared over 60 times direct from the blog (another record).

Anyone can write a guest post for the LITA Blog, even non-LITA members, as long as the topic is relevant. Would you like to write a guest post or share posts reflecting the interests of your committee or interest group? Contact blog editor Brianna Marshall at briannahmarshall(at)gmail(dot)com or Mark Beatty at mbeatty(at)ala(dot)org.

Peter Murray: Thursday Threads: Web Time Travel, Fake Engine Noise, The Tech Behind Delivering Pictures of Behinds

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-02-05 11:21
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In this week’s DLTJ Thursday Threads: the introduction of a web service that points you to old copies of web pages, dispelling illusions of engine noise, and admiring the technical architecture of Amazon Web Services that gives us the power to witness Kim Kardashian’s back side.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my Pinboard bookmarks (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Items posted to are also sent out as tweets; you can follow me on Twitter. Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Introducing the Memento Web Time Travel Service

The Time Travel service helps you find versions of a page that existed at some time in the past. These prior versions of web pages are named Mementos. Mementos can be found in web archives or in systems that support versioning such as wikis and revision control systems.

When you enter the web address of a page and a time in the past, the Time Travel service tries to find a Memento for that page as it existed around the time of your choice. This will work for addresses of pages that currently exist on the web but also for those that have meanwhile vanished.

- About the Time Travel Service, Last updated: 19-Jan-2015

The folks at Los Alamos National Laboratory have been working on web-time-travel for years. What started with browser plugins has now become a web service that can be used to find old copies of web pages found in caches throughout the world. Thought the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine was the only game in town? Check out the Memento Time Travel service.

America’s best-selling cars and trucks are built on lies: The rise of fake engine noise

Stomp on the gas in a new Ford Mustang or F-150 and you’ll hear a meaty, throaty rumble — the same style of roar that Americans have associated with auto power and performance for decades.

It’s a sham. The engine growl in some of America’s best-selling cars and trucks is actually a finely tuned bit of lip-syncing, boosted through special pipes or digitally faked altogether. And it’s driving car enthusiasts insane.

- America’s best-selling cars and trucks are built on lies: The rise of fake engine noise, by Drew Harwell, The Washington Post, 21-Jan-2014

I knew they were adding “engine noise” to the all-electric Prius car because it was so quiet that it could startle people, but I didn’t know it was happening to so-called “muscle cars”.

A look at Amazon’s world-class data-center ecosystem

Amazon VP and Distinguished Engineer James Hamilton shares what makes the company’s armada of data centers run smoothly.

- A look at Amazon’s world-class data-center ecosystem, by Michael Kassner, TechRepublic, 8-Dec-2014

Among the geek community, there must be some awe at how Amazon seems to create infinitely big data centers that can be used for everything from powering Netflix to this humble blog. Amazon is also notoriously secret about how it does things. This article provides a glimpse into how Amazon Web Services achieves the scale that it does.

How PAPER Magazine’s web engineers scaled their back-end for Kim Kardashian

On November 11th 2014, the art-and-nightlife magazine PAPER “broke the Internet” when it put a Jean-Paul Goude photograph of a well-oiled, mostly-nude Kim Kardashian on its cover and posted the same nude photos of Kim Kardashian to its website (NSFW). It linked together all of these things—and other articles, too—under the “#breaktheinternet” hashtag. There was one part of the Internet that PAPER didn’t want to break: The part that was serving up millions of copies of Kardashian’s nudes over the web.

Hosting that butt is an impressive feat. You can’t just put Kim Kardashian nudes on the Internet and walk away —that would be like putting up a tent in the middle of a hurricane. Your web server would melt. You need to plan.

- How PAPER Magazine’s web engineers scaled their back-end for Kim Kardashian (SFW), by Paul Ford, Medium, 21-Jan-2015

Speaking of how Amazon can seemingly scale to infinite levels, this article tells the story of how one online publisher ramped up their server capacity to meet the demands of users flocking to see Kim Kardashian’s rear end. (And who said the internet wasn’t a valuable tool…)

Link to this post!

Nicole Engard: Bookmarks for February 4, 2015

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-02-04 20:30

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

  • Greenfoot Teach and learn Java programming
  • Blockly Games Blockly Games is a series of educational games that teach programming. It is designed for children who have not had prior experience with computer programming. By the end of these games, players are ready to use conventional text-based languages.
  • Blockly Blockly is a library for building visual programming editors

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HangingTogether: The Evolving Scholarly Record, Washington, DC edition

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-02-04 19:32


Brian Lavoie, presenting in the GWU International Brotherhood of Teamsters Labor History Research Center

On December 10th, we held our second Evolving Scholarly Record Workshop at George Washington University in Washington, DC (you can read Ricky Erway’s summary of the first workshop, starting here). Many thanks to Geneva Henry and all the staff at GWU for hosting us in the fabulous International Brotherhood of Teamsters Labor History Research Center.This workshop, and others, build on the framework presented in the OCLC Research report, The Evolving Scholarly Record.

At George Washington Gelman library attending OCLC workshop #esrworkshop

— Martha Kyrillidou (@kyrillidou) December 10, 2014

Our first speaker, Brian Lavoie (OCLC Research) presented the ESR Framework and put it into context. What is considered part of the record is constantly expanding – for example, blogs and social media, which would previously not have been included. The evolution of how scholarship is recorded, makes it challenging to organize the record in a consistent and reliable ways. The ecosystem of stakeholders is evolving as well. It became clear to Brian and others involved in discussions around the problem space that a framework was necessary in order to support strategic discussions across stakeholders and across domains.

Formats shift (print to dig), boundaries blur (from books to data sets), characteristics change (static works to dynamic) #esrworkshop

— Keith Webster (@CMKeithW) December 10, 2014

In addition to traditional scholarly outcomes, there are two additional areas of focus, process and aftermath.

Process is what leads up to the publication of the outcomes – in the framework, process is composed of method, evidence and discussion (important because outcomes usually consolidate thanks to discussions with peers). Anchoring outcomes in process will help reproducibility. Scholarly activities continue in aftermath: discussion (including post publication reviews and commentaries), revision (enhancement, clarification), re-use (including repackaging for other audiences).

In the stakeholder ecosystem, the traditional roles (create, fix, collect, use) are being reconfigured. For example, in addition to libraries, service providers like Portico and JSTOR are now important in the collect role. Social media and social storage services, which are entirely outside the academy, are now part of create and use.  New platforms, like figshare, are taking on the roles of fix and collect. The takeaway here? The roles are constant, but the configurations of the stakeholders beneath them are changing.

How does the traditional "scholarly record" fit into today's consumer-producer model of web content? Not well, it seems. #esrworkshop

— Scott W. H. Young (@hei_scott) December 10, 2014

Our second speaker, Herbert van de Sompel (Los Alamos National Laboratory) gave perspective from the network point of view. His talk was a modified reprise of his presentation at the June OCLC / DANS workshop in Amsterdam, which Ricky nicely summarized in a previous posting. Herbert will also be speaking at our workshop coming up in March, so if you’d like to catch him in action, sign up for that session.

Wow @hvdsomp is basically reading my mind. "The web will fundamentally change from human-readable to machine-actionable." #esrworkshop

— Scott W. H. Young (@hei_scott) December 10, 2014

Our third speaker was Geneva Henry (George Washington University) – Geneva represented the view from the campus. We will be posing her viewpoint in a separate blog post, later this week but her remarks touched on the various campus stakeholders in the scholarly record – scholars, media relations, promotion and tenure committee, the office of research, the library.

Look to your students: How are they communicating? asks Henry. They’re future scholars; don’t expect drastic behavior changes #esrworkshop

— Mark Newton (@libmark) December 10, 2014

Daniel Hook (Digital Science), shared his “view from the platform.” (Digital Science is the parent company of several platform services, such as FigShare, AltMetrics, Symplectic Elements, and Overleaf). Daniel stressed the importance in transparency and reproducibility of research – there is a need for a demonstrable pay-off for investors in research. There is a delicate balance to be reached in collaboration versus competition in research. We are in an era of increased collaboration and the “fourth age of research” is marked by international collaboration. Who “owns” research, and the scholarly record? Individual researchers? Their institutions? Evaluation of research increasingly calls for demonstrating impact of research. Identifiers are glue – identifiers for projects, for researchers, for institutions. The future will be in dynamically making assertions of value and impact across institutions, and to build confidence in those assertions.

Funders keen to assess impact of research they funded at a macro-level – have you influenced policy? The economy? #esrworkshop

— Keith Webster (@CMKeithW) December 10, 2014

Finally Clifford Lynch (Coalition for Networked Information) gave some additional remarks, highlighting stress points. Potentially, the scholarly record is huge, especially with an expanded range of media and channels. The minutes of science are recording every minute, year in year out. Selection issues are challenging, to say the least. Is it sensible to consider keeping everything?  Cliff called for hard questions to be asked, and for studies to be done. Some formats seem to be overlooked — video, for example.

We concluded the meeting with a number of break-out sessions that took up focused topics. The groups came back with tons of notes, and also some possible “next steps” or actions that could be taken to move us forward. Those included.

  • Promulgating name identifiers and persistent IDs for use by other stakeholders
  • Focusing on research centers and subject/disciplinary repositories to see what kinds of relationships are needed
  • Mining user studies/reviews to pull out research needs/methods/trends/gaps and find touch-points to the library
  • Following the money in the ESR ecosystem to see whether there are disconnects between shareholder interests and scholar value
  • Pursuing with publishers whether they will collect the appropriate contextual processes and aftermaths
  • Investigating funding, ROI, and financial tradeoffs
  • Getting involved during the grant planning processes so that materials flow to the right places instead of needing to be rescued after the fact

Thanks to all of our participants, but particularly to our hosts, our speakers, our notetakers and those who helped record the event on Twitter. We’re looking forward to another productive workshop in Chicago (in March) and then expect to culminate the three workshops at the ESR workshop in San Francisco (in June) where we’ll focus on how we can collaboratively move things forward to do our best to ensure stewardship of the scholarly record now and into the future.

I have 19 pages of notes from 5 breakout sessions. We'll boil down discussions and talking points for next steps soon #esrworkshop

— Merrilee Proffitt (@MerrileeIAm) December 10, 2014

The @DANSKNAW & #esrworkshop events on archiving the future scholarly record have given me focus on tech aspects that must be tackled first

— Herbert (@hvdsomp) December 11, 2014

About Merrilee Proffitt

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LITA: Jobs in Information Technology: February 4

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-02-04 17:58

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

Digital Initiatives Librarian, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC

Director of Library Services, Marymount California University, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Sr. UNIX Systems Administrator, University Libraries, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

Technology Projects Coordinator, Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, IL

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.


LITA: Agile Development: What is a User Story?

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-02-04 13:00

Image courtesy of Paul Downey’s photostream.

So far in this series, I’ve talked about the pros and cons of Agile, and reviewed the methodology’s core values. Today I want to move beyond the “what” and into more of the “how.” I’ll start by looking at user stories.

A user story is the basic unit of Agile development. User stories should be written by the business, not by the development team. They should clearly state the business value that the project is expected to create, as well as the user that will benefit. The focus should be on the problem being solved, not the software being built. This not only increases efficiency, but also provides flexibility for the development team: how they solve the problem is up to them.

There’s a generally accepted template for writing user stories: “As a [user type], I want to [specific functionality] so that [tangible benefit].” I’m not crazy about using this convention because it seems contrived to me, but it does make it easier to understand the priorities of Agile development: a feature exists to provide a benefit for a specific user or user group. If you can’t express functionality in this manner, then it is either superfluous or a technical requirement (there’s a separate document for those, which is written during and after development, not before).

A great user story should follow the INVEST model: user stories should be Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimatable, Small, and Testable (you can read about this in more detail in the links provided below). The main thing to remember, though, is that we’re really just trying to create software where every component can be proven to solve a specific problem for a specific user. It all comes back to justifying programming effort in terms of the value it provides once it’s been released into the wild. Let’s look at some examples, based on developing a tool to keep track of tasks:

  • “As a task list creator, I can see all of my tasks together.” This story is too vague, and will result in developers guessing about the true purpose of this feature.
  • “As a task list creator, I can see all of my tasks together so I can download them to MS Excel.” This one is too specific. MS Excel is a technical requirement, and should not be part of the user story text. The real need is for a downloadable version of the task list; limiting it to one specific format at this point may lead to problems later on.
  • “As a task list creator, I can see all of my tasks together so I can download them.” This is better, but it still doesn’t answer the question of value. Why do I need to download the tasks? This looks ok, but reality I have created a false dependency between two separate features.
  • “As a task list creator, I can download a task list to so I can share it with project stakeholders.” Now we’re getting somewhere! The user needs to share the list with other members of the team, which is why she needs a downloadable version.

User story writing is iterative and investigative. At this point, I could argue that downloading, just like display, is an unnecessary step, and that the real feature is for some mechanism that allows all project members to see the task list, and the true need is for the team to work on the list together. That’s where the value-add is. Everything else is bells and whistles. Maybe downloading is the most efficient way to share the list, but that decision is part of the development process and should be documented in the technical requirements. Maybe there are other reasons to add a download feature; those belong on separate stories.

As a business-side stakeholder with an engineering background, my first attempts at creating user stories did not go well. I like to tinker and get my hands dirty, so trying to keep design out of my user stories proved difficult; it’s easy for me to get bogged down in technical details and focus on fixing what’s in front of me, rather than asking whether it’s even necessary in the first place. Any time design creeps into product requirements, it adds a layer of abstraction that makes it harder for a development team to understand what it is you really want. It took me a while to learn that lesson (you could argue that I’m still learning it). Besides, when a product owner gets involved in designing software, it’s hard to avoid creating an attachment to the specific design, regardless of whether it meets user needs or not. It’s best to stay out of that process altogether (no matter how much fun it may be) and maintain the focus on the user.

Writing user stories can be frustrating, especially if you’re new to Agile, but they are a great way to discover the true user needs that should drive your software development project. If you want to learn more about user stories, you can go here, here, or here. I’ll be back next month to talk about prioritization and scheduling.

What’s your experience with user stories? Do you have any tips on writing a great user story?

Library Tech Talk (U of Michigan): Web Accessibility, Part 1: How Do You Internet?

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-02-04 00:00
The University of Michigan Library is working hard to improve the accessibility of all our websites. This brings up a simple question: what does it mean to make a website accessible?

DuraSpace News: CALL for Proposals for Sixth Annual VIVO Conference Workshops

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-02-04 00:00

Boston, MA  The Sixth Annual VIVO Conference will be held August 12-14, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, overlooking Boston. The VIVO Conference creates a unique opportunity for people from across the country and around the world to come together to explore ways to use semantic technologies and linked open data to promote scholarly collaboration and research discovery.

OCLC Dev Network: Developer House Project: More of the Same - Faster Results with Related Resources

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-02-03 20:00

We have started sharing projects created at our Developer House in December, and this week we’re happy to share another. This project and post come to you from Bill Jones and Steelsen Smith.    

OCLC Dev Network: Developer House Project: More of the Same - Faster Results with Related Resources

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-02-03 20:00

We have started sharing projects created at our Developer House in December, and this week we’re happy to share another. This project and post come to you from Bill Jones and Steelsen Smith.    

Tim Ribaric: OLA SuperConference 2015 Presentation Material and Recap

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-02-03 17:23


(View from the Podium)

OLA SuperConference 2015 was last week. I had the good opportunity to attend as well as too present.

read more

Mita Williams: Be future compatible

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-02-03 16:42
Hmmm, I thought kindly published my last post but did not update the RSS feed, so I made this re-post:

On February 1st, I gave a presentation the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Chicago, Illinois as part of the ALA Masters Series called Mechanic Institutes, Hackerspaces, Makerspaces, TechShops, Incubators, Accelerators, and Centers of Social Enterprise. Where do Libraries fit in? ::
But after inspection, it looks like the RSS feed that is generated by Feedburner has been updated in such a way that I - using feedly - I needed to re-subscribe. Now, I'm not sure who is at fault for this: Feedburner, feedly, or myself for using a third party to distribute a perfectly good rss feed.

I don't follow my reading statistics very closely but I do know that the traffic to this site is largely driven by Twitter and Facebook -- much more than hits from, say, other blogs.  And yet, I'm disturbed that the 118 readers using the now defunct feedly rss feed will not know about what I'm writing now. I'm sad because while I've always had a small audience for this blog - I have always been very proud and humbled that I had this readership because attention is a gift.


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