Thursday Threads: Infinite Virtual Bookshelf, Free Learning Management System, List of Cyber Threats

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Part experimental, part disruption, and part heads-up in this week’s edition of DLTJ Thursday Threads. The first story is a proof-of-concept demonstration of a way to browse an “infinite” bookshelf of virtual items. Next is the announcement of how a content producer (Pearson) is trying to disrupt a deeply embedded technology company (Blackboard) by giving away a learning management system in the cloud. Last, a list of what researchers think will be the most prevalent computer security problems next year.

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Designing an Infinite Digital Bookcase


Demonstration of the Infinite Bookshelf

A digital interface needs to be familiar enough to be intuitive, while simultaneously taking advantage of the lack of constraints in a virtual space. In this case, we imagined something that looks like the shelves in your living room, but is also capable of showcasing the huge number of titles available online—many more than fit on a traditional shelf. With this in mind, we designed a digital bookcase that’s an infinite 3D helix. You can spin it side-to-side and up and down with your mouse. It holds 3D models of more than 10,000 titles from Google Books.

This is a neat demonstration. One of the stated issues that people have articulated moving from physical shelves to representations of books in card catalogs (whether the books are kept in off-site storage or are digital in nature) is the loss of “serendipitous discovery” wandering the stacks. The folks on the Google Chrome browser development team have put together a demonstration of an infinite spiral bookshelf. The experiment itself requires Google Chrome, but the YouTube video embedded above gives you a view if you don’t have Chrome on your desktop.

Pearson and Google Jump Into Learning Management With a New, Free System

Pearson, the publishing and learning technology group, has teamed up with the software giant Google to launch OpenClass, a free LMS that combines standard course-management tools with advanced social networking and community-building, and an open architecture that allows instructors to import whatever material they want, from e-books to YouTube videos. The program will launch through Google Apps for Education, a very popular e-mail, calendar, and document-sharing service that has more than 1,000 higher-education customers, and it will be hosted by Pearson with the intent of freeing institutions from the burden of providing resources to run it. It enters a market that has been dominated by costly institution-anchored services like Blackboard, and open-source but labor-intensive systems like Moodle.

Hmmm — a mix of a content provider and a cloud provider supplying an open learning management system. I’d like to see a “follow the money” thought exercise to figure out how this upsets the learning management system marketplace. A few decades ago, an equivalent situation in the library arena is if a book jobber gave away an integrated library system if a library contracted with it for all of its book purchases. With the large fragmentation of the e-book and e-journal market, I don’t think there is an equivalent cloud-service-with-content-agreement today; I’d be interested in hearing if others can think how this might happen in the library environment.

Georgia Tech Releases Cyber Threats Forecast for 2012

Specific threats to follow over the coming year include, among others:

  • Search Poisoning – Attackers will increasingly use SEO techniques to optimize malicious links among search results, so that users are more likely to click on a URL because it ranks highly on Google or other search engines.
  • Mobile Web-based Attacks – Expect increased attacks aimed specifically against mobile Web browsers as the tension between usability and security, along with device constraints (including small screen size), make it difficult to solve mobile Web browser security flaws.
  • Stolen Cyber Data Use for Marketing – The market for stolen cyber data will continue to evolve as botnets capture private user information shared by social media platforms and sell it directly to legitimate business channels such as lead-generation and marketing.

As the complexity of devices and services increase, so do the number of ways that bad guys can trick us. Here are some things to keep in mind over the next year.

The text was modified to update a link from http://http://www.pearsonhighered.com/ to http://www.pearsonhighered.com/ on December 4th, 2012.

(This post was updated on 04-Dec-2012.)