Teaching Search Engine Literacy with A Google A Day

A Google a Day screenshot

Back in April, Google announced its announced its A Google a Day project as “a new daily puzzle that can be solved using your creativity and clever search skills on Google.” For example, today’s question is “This planet’s slow retrograde rotation results in the universe’s longest day. How many Earth days equal one day here?” I solved this puzzle by first searching for “planet retrograde rotation” and found that Venus and Uranus are the planets that rotate counter to other planet rotations in our solar system. Then I searched for “planet rotation rate” and found a nice table in Wikipedia that showed the rotation periods of major objects in our solar system. A quick peek at the history of that wikipedia page shows that it hasn’t been tampered with recently, so I’m pretty sure the answer is 243 — the number of Earth days it takes Venus to complete one full rotation. And, sure enough, that’s the answer! Each question comes with a brief description of how one can find the answer, so if someone gets stuck they can see hints on how to find the answer. And the questions use Google offerings other than just search; for example, the last Saturday’s question uses Google Translate and the one from July 6th uses Google Maps.

When this first came out I thought it was a stunningly good way to demonstrate the kinds of search skills that libraries teach patrons when demonstrating how to use the internet. So I sent a message to the generic service address and started a conversation with a product marketing manager at Google. After some back-and-forth with him and other librarians, it does seem like there is a possibility of a really neat collaboration. To start us off, Google put together the information below on how to embed the question in library websites (see below). On a conference call with other librarians we also talked about possibilities like a categorization of questions (so if you wanted a chemistry question or one that uses Google Street View you would be able to find it quickly) and “guest written” questions based off of real life reference interviews.

Seeking feedback on database design for an open source software registry

As part of the Mellon Foundation grant funding the start-up of LYRASIS Technology Services, LTS is establishing a registry to provide in-depth comparative, evaluative, and version information about open source products. This registry will be free for viewing and editing (all libraries, not just LYRASIS members, and any provider offering services for open source software in libraries). Drupal will be the underlying content system, and it will be hosted by LYRASIS.

I’m seeking input on a data model that is intended to answer these questions:

  • What open source options exist to meet a particular need of my library?

Fixing a Bad SSH authorized_keys under Amazon EC2

I was doing some maintenance on the Amazon EC2 instance that underpins DLTJ and in the process managed to mess up the .ssh/authorized_keys file. (Specifically, I changed the permissions so it was group- and world-readable, which causes `sshd` to not allow users to log in using those private keys.) Unfortunately, there is only one user on this server, so effectively I just locked myself out of the box.

$ ssh -i .ssh/EC2-dltj.pem me@dltj.org
Identity added: .ssh/EC2-dltj.pem (.ssh/EC2-dltj.pem)
Permission denied (publickey).

After browsing the Amazon support forums I managed to puzzle this one out. Since I didn’t see this exact solution written up anywhere, I’m posting it here hoping that someone else will find it useful. And since you are reading this, you know that they worked.

Thursday Threads: History and How-To of Search, DPLA Update, Searching for Jim Gray

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Ahhhh — with the annual meeting of the American Library Association out of the way and two major holidays (Canada Day and U.S. Independence Day) behind us, the summer can now start. My formal vacation comes next month, and I haven’t yet decided what to do with DLTJ Thursday Threads during that week. While I sort that out, take a look at this weeks threads: a book chapter describing the history and how-to of web search, pointers to a textual and video update on the DPLA project, and an article that examines the efforts to rescue noted computer science professor Jim Gray.