Thursday Threads: SOPA Suspended, Lending Chromebooks, OCLC Introduces WorldShare

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This is the just-in-time-for-the-holidays edition of DLTJ Thursday Threads. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee suspended work on SOPA, and there was much relief from the technology community. The Palo Alto Public Library announced plans to lend Chromebooks (laptops with Google’s cloud-based operating system) to patrons. And OCLC announced a rebranding and expansion of its webscale activities with the WorldShare Platform.

Inclusive of all holidays of the season I wish you a safe, restful and happy celebration.

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A Status Update on SOPA from Washington

Prospects: mixed. On the one hand, it’s looking likely that it will pass out of committee. Proposed amendments voted down 2-1 in HJC when the manager’s amendment was marked up. Unless something changes, I expect SOPA to emerge largely unamended, particularly with respect to that relates search engines and use of DNS for enforcement, the most controversial aspects of the bill for the tech community.

On the other hand, there have been significant cybersecurity concerns raised about the bills because of what it would do to DNSSEC, including by DHS officials. The committee might take a classified briefing so that the government’s own geeks from Sandia Labs and DHS and other “Three Letter Agencies” could explain to the legislators) who somehow neglected to bring in any technical experts before the committee to testify) why SOPA won’t work and why it’s a terrible idea to try to DNS for enforcement. If that happens before markup, it could change the bill that heads to the House floor — and House leadership might want to address security concerns before bringing it to a full vote.

- A Status Update on SOPA from Washington, by Alexander Howard on Google+

Remember the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)? It is the proposed bill that would force internet service providers to block DNS name-to-address translation and force revenue-generating systems (advertisement networks and payment intermediaries) to cut off service to a “foreign infringing site”. The bill was on the fast track to go through the final markup process through the Judiciary Committee last week when debate on dozens of proposed amendments ran out the clock on this year’s congressional session. That is where O’Reilly Media technology writer Alexander Howard picks up the story with his summary excerpted above. Alexander’s post is a great synopsis of the history, status, players-to-watch, and people to watch for updates. For a view on why the technology community was alternating between sobbing and anger, see the aptly titled “Dear Congress, It’s No Longer OK To Not Know How The Internet Works.”

Silicon Valley Library Lends Google Chromebooks

In a first-of-its-kind pilot project, the Palo Alto, California Library will soon be loaning Google Chromebook computers to library patrons for as long as one week at a time.
The program highlights the Chromebook’s ability to operate as a kind of “disposable computer,” as Google puts it. With the Chromebook, most all data and applications reside on the Web — not the local machine — so it can easily be passed from person-to-person. It’s a very Googly setup, and the search giant hopes it will reinvent the way businesses use computers.

Cloud computing meets equipment circulation. I remember a time when libraries used to offer VCR and DVD players to patrons for check-out. Now that service is coming to computers. Since everything on the computer is replicated to Google’s servers, it is easy to wipe the individual patron’s files on the machine when the next person logs in. One just needs a Google account to make it work, and that is — of course — one of the distinguishing factors between lending Chromebooks and lending VCR and DVD players. Will patrons mind the Google account requirement? Should libraries educate patrons on the privacy and information-harvesting/using practices of Google before lending a device?

OCLC Introduces OCLC WorldShare

The OCLC WorldShare Platform facilitates collaboration and app-sharing across the library community, so that libraries can combine library-built applications, partner-built applications and OCLC-built applications. This enables the benefits of each single solution to be shared broadly throughout the library community.

Reaching back a little bit, earlier this month OCLC announced the WorldShare Platform — a roll-up of the existing Webscale Management tools with the ability to insert third-party applications into a single bibliographic view. This is potentially a game-changer in how libraries work with bibliographic data. Similar in concept — although quite different in technical implementation — to next generation library automation systems like Kuali OLE and Ex Libris Alma and Evergreen, WorldShare views back-room bibliographic description, acquisition, and materials-handling workflows as a series of choreographed processes that can be mixed and matched to meet a library’s particular needs. It turns the traditional approach of information processing inside out — the data is in a superior position to the computer program. The WorldShare Platform is sort of like Facebook. Just as Facebook introduced ways for outside developers to “integrate into the core Facebook experience“, WorldShare platform enables external providers to supply applications that can use the data residing in the platform.

Unless I’m not reading the right places, the WorldShare introduction has landed with somewhat of a thud among the library technologist community. Aside from Marshall Breeding’s post on InfoToday, I haven’t seen any discussion of it. And that seems odd.

(This post was updated on 06-Jun-2014.)