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

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A Pro-Library Protest Song


Six minute video of Piers Cawley at OSCON 2011


I’m a Child of the Lib’ry, it made me who I am, /
It taught me about freedom and the fellowship of Man /
A sea of story waits for you behind the lib’ry door, /
Don’t say we can’t afford them any more.
- Chorus from “Child of the Library”, by Piers Cawley, OSCON 2011

OSCON is the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, held this year July 25-29, 2011 in Portland, OR. Normally an event for all things open source software, Piers Cawley stepped outside that box this year by asking attendees if they have ever used a library and if they have used a library in the past month. He then sung a song he wrote earlier this year when he learned about the drastic cuts facing public libraries in the U.K. Piers has released the song under a Creative Commons license and asks that people spread it far and wide.

How Google Makes Improvements to Its Search Algorithm


Four minute video from Google


Here’s a short video we put together that gives you a sense of the work that goes into the changes and improvements we make to Google almost every day. While an improvement to the algorithm may start with a creative idea, it always goes through a process of rigorous scientific testing.

Curious to know how Google engineers try to find the best search results? This video from Google’s web search team talks about how it uses various “signals” and adapts the algorithm as often as once a day to improve relevance ranking.

New Web-based Tool Teaches the Basics of JavaScript Programming

Three days ago I wrote about Codecademy — a slick, fun way to teach yourself how to program. The app has done an excellent job minimizing the frustration often associated with writing your first lines of code, and it sports a good-looking and intuitive interface. Another plus: the initial signup flow doesn’t show up til you’ve completed your first few lessons, so you’re writing code within a few seconds of landing at Codecademy.com.

I’m not the only one who liked it: cofounder Zach Sims tells us that in the three days since the application launched, it has drawn 200,000 unique users. That’s users who have actually interacted with the app — and not people who hit the webpage and bounced away a second later. Perhaps even more impressive: users have completed a total number of 2.1 million exercises.

A popular topic on library technology mailing lists is librarians asking for advice on how to get started with programming. This was, in face, a key part of Diane Hillman’s keynote at the Code4Lib conference this year — getting catalogers and programmers closer together.

Enter a new option: Codecademy. A new startup that went public this week, it teaches the basics of JavaScript programming through an interactive, web-based interface. There are just eight lessons at the moment, but there is the promise of more to come. Now if only we had an equivalent way to teach coders about cataloging and the MARC format…