Thursday Threads: Google Book Search summary, Bad Side of Filtering, Academics Editing Wikipedia

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School is out and the summer heat has started, but there is no signs yet that the threads of technology change are slowing down. This week’s threads include a healthy review of the Google Book Search lawsuit settlement, the downside of recommendation engines, and how academics are contributing to Wikipedia.

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'What Next for Google Books' on Vimeo

New Video: What Next for Google Books?

I’ve just posted a new video on behalf of the Public Index, What Next for Google Books?. It’s an 80-minute discussion between myself and noted digital copyright experts and longtime settlement followers Jonathan Band and Kenneth Crews. We discuss Google’s scanning project, the lawsuit against it by copyright owners, the proposed settlement and the controversy around it, Judge Chin’s opinion rejecting the settlement, possible next steps for the parties, and some of the larger issues raised by the case. It’s a self-contained overview of how the settlement got to where it is now and what might happen next, designed to be informative no matter how little or how much you already know about the case.

- New Video: What Next for Google Books?, James Grimmelmann’s The Laboratorium

James Grimmelmann continues to be a prime go-to person for clear analysis of the Google Book Search lawsuit. If for some reason you haven’t been keeping track of what has happened with the lawsuit from the very beginning, then this is a great overview to get you up to speed. Even if you have been following a lot of the commentary, this video is a good way to quickly refresh your memory of the key points that started the lawsuit and how those initial key points have woven themselves throughout the story. Or, as Ed Summers tweeted, “lost 1h20min of my afternoon to ‘What Next for Google Books?’ … was worth it though”

All the News That’s Fit for You

Delivering personalized news poses much harder problems than
delivering personalized recommendations of books and movies as Amazon and Netflix do. Yet, despite the difficulties, personalized news seems all the rage these days. In February alone, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Yahoo! all announced some form of automatic personalization, and Google is quietly running its own experiments in personalized news delivery. …

But despite the promise of algorithmic personalization, the idea is far simpler in theory than in practice, and newspapers have struggled to figure out how to do it without giving up their traditional role as arbiters of news.

“Computer scientists may think it’s nirvana to get what you want to get,” says Penelope Abernathy, professor of digital media economics at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But a newsperson will say, ‘My role is to bring you the world, and it may be news you didn’t know you needed to know.’ “

- All the News That’s Fit for You [subscription required], by Marina Krakovsky, Communications of the ACM

Pair this up with Eli Pariser’s Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” 20-minute TED Talk from early last month and you might start to wonder if recommendation engines based purely on user behavior are the right way for us to go. Is it a role for librarians to help patrons break out of an echo chamber of their own making when the highest relevant hits are based on what they have already searched and read? I wonder if there has been a study of clusters of users that naturally form from recommendation engines because there is a high correlation between what the cluster has already selected. Or are human interests varied enough to prevent these self-selected, tight-knit clusters from happening.

Academics editing Wikipedia

The call to action was all over the Association for Psychological Science’s annual meeting here this past weekend. “Attention APS Members. Take Charge of Your Science,” fliers shouted. Promotional ads in the conference programs urged the society’s 25,000 members to join the APS Wikipedia Initiative and “make sure Wikipedia—the world’s No. 1 online encyclopedia—represents psychology fully and accurately.” And the Wikimedia Foundation, which backs the encyclopedia, was holding editing demonstrations in the middle of the conference exhibit hall.

- Academics, in New Move, Begin to Work With Wikipedia, by Josh Fischman, The Chronicle of Higher Education Wired Campus blog

This school year, dozens of professors from across the country gave students an unexpected assignment: Write Wikipedia entries about public policy issues.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which supports the Web site, organized the project in an effort to bulk up the decade-old online encyclopedia’s coverage of topics ranging from the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 to Sudanese refugees in Egypt. Such issues have been treated on the site in much less depth than TV shows, celebrity biographies and other elements of pop culture.

- Wikipedia goes to class, by Jenna Johnson, The Washington Post

Could the title of this section be “Librarians editing Wikipedia”? It could have been. This pair of stories show how faculty and students are channeling their efforts to improving the open access encyclopedia. Librarians are doing their part, too — notably OCLC Research is looking for ways to add authority data to Wikipedia entries.