Thursday Threads: Structured Data on the Web, Ebook Indexes, Amazon Disintermediates Publishers

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DLTJ Thursday Threads for two weeks in a row! I’m getting back in the groove. This week has pointers to geeky things (learning about structured data on the web) and not quite so geeky things (thoughts about indexes in ebooks and Amazon’s tactics for end-to-end control of book publishing). Well, admittedly, for only certain definitions of “not quite so geeky” … still I hope you enjoy the pointers and be sure to let me know what you think.

Free Stanford AI Class is a “Beta” for a Commercial Launch?

When Stanford University’s School of Engineering announced its free Artificial Intelligence class last month, the news took the geek world by storm and even worthy of note in the New York Times. The initial news articles made it sound like another example of open educational resources — a movement popularized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to put course materials and recordings of lectures online for anyone to use. But with registration for the class open and more details posted on the class homepage, I’m not so sure.

Thursday Threads: Pro-Library Protest Song, How Google Improves it Search, Learning Programming Skills

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After a longer than intended hiatus, DLTJ Thursday Threads is back.

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 FriendFeed stream (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Seeking consultants to create decision support tools for open source software selection

My employer (LYRASIS) is seeking to engage consultants to create decision support tools in the form of whitepapers, self-guided assessments, and worksheets for libraries considering open source software. This work is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help libraries of all types determine if open source software is right for them, and what combination of software, hosting, training, and consulting works for their situation. These tools are to be paired with a software registry to become a community exchange point and stimulant for growth of the library open source ecosystem by connecting libraries with projects, service providers, and events.

How Do You Decide To Use Open Source Software and What Software to Use?

As part of the Mellon Foundation grant funding the start-up of LYRASIS Technology Services, LTS is to produce a series of tools that enable libraries to decide whether open source is right for their environments. The grant says:

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.

Thursday Threads: Google’s Social Strategy, Big Data, Patriot Act outside U.S., Frightening Copyright Revisited

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It might have been the week of the annual American Library Association meeting with all the news and announcements and programming that came from it — as well as getting into the dog days of summer — but interesting news at the intersection of technology and libraries did not take a pause. Google made a big splash this week with tantalizing tidbits about its new social media project; it is at a look-but-don’t-touch stage, but the look is enticing. Then there were two articles about really big data — what is produced in the high energy physics supercolider at CERN and what we produce as a society. And to go along with that data we produce as a society is another warning that much of it isn’t safe from the prying eyes of the USA PATRIOT Act. Finally, we revisit the Georgia State University copyright case with a comment on the potential chilling impacts on free speech.