Thursday Threads: Learn to Code in 2012, Issues with Apple’s iBooks Author, SOPA/PIPA Are Dead

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The internet has survived the great SOPA blackout, and we’re still talking about the fallout. Apple made a major announcement of plans to support textbooks on iPads, but there are concerns about the implementation. But the first story this week is about a free service geared towards teaching people how to program with weekly lessons throughout 2012.

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Code Year: Learn to Code in 2012

Sign up for Code Year to start receiving a new interactive programming lesson every Monday. You’ll be building apps and websites before you know it!

Code Year is a project of internet startup Codecademy, a service that teaches people how to code (JavaScript only, at the moment). There have been three classes posted already, and the website says they are still accepting registrations at the homepage. Code Year is free, and it sends an e-mail at the beginning of each week with a link to that week’s course. More questions? See the frequently asked questions.

What I think is really cool about this is that a group of librarians has self-organized themselves to support each other through the year. There is a community area on ALA Connect and a list of resources on the catcode wiki that includes examples tailored to cataloging challenges. (“catcode” is a unique story onto itself. It is a wiki created to “help support dialogue between catalogers and coders.”)

Apple Introduces iBooks Author

Educators so far seem excited about the potential promise of a learning “revolution” enabled by Apple’s new iBooks Author app. However, not everyone is feeling that same level of enthusiasm: e-book publishing experts have concerns about the formatting that iBooks Author can output, which isn’t fully ePub 2 or ePub 3 compliant. Furthermore, Apple has added a clause to iBooks Author’s end user license agreement that prohibits selling e-books created with iBooks Author anywhere but the iBookstore.

Last week saw the big introduction of iBooks Textbooks for iPad and iBooks Author ebook creation utility. The combination were billed as a promising new way to have students interact with course materials and to have teachers build their own content. There were some not-so-nice surprises in the implementation, though. First, the ebook format is close to that of ePub standard from the International Digital Publishing Forum, but strays in enough important ways that the iBooks Textbooks themselves won’t be usable on non-Apple devices. Second, included the End-User License Agreement for the iBooks Author software are terms that says content created with iBooks Author can be given away freely but can only be sold through Apple’s iBookstore. Apple also reserves the right to determine if your work is sold at iBookstore with no recourse for rejected works. The article above has more details, and the press coverage of iBooks Textbooks and iBooks Author has been generally negative so far.

Update on 6-Feb-2012: Apple released iBooks Author version 1.0.1 with the only change being clarifications to the End-User License Agreement: “If you want to charge a fee for a work that includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author, you may only sell or distribute such work through Apple, and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple… This restriction does not apply to the content of such works when distributed in a form that does not include files in the .ibooks format.”

SOPA and Protect-IP Are Dead


Graphic from Talking Points Memo

Leaders in Congress on Friday effectively killed two pieces of anti-online piracy legislation following the increasingly vocal protests of tens of thousands of websites and millions of Internet users.

That’s right, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate are, for all practical purposes, dead in the water.

Sure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) used the word “postponed” in their announcements, saying that Congress would only take a breather, but would certainly not give up for good on its goal of passing some sort of legislation designed to combat overseas “rogue” websites hosting pirated American content.

But whenever Congress decides to re-engage the online piracy fight — and it could be a while, given just how acrimonious the debate over the bills became in the last week — it’s almost certain that SOPA and PIPA won’t be revived in any recognizable form.

- How The Web Killed SOPA and PIPA, by Carl Franzen, Talking Points Memo Idea Lab

Who would have thought — grass roots organizations convince major internet presences to “black out” or otherwise inform users of ill-considered provisions (at best) in legislation, and in turn those users bury both houses of Congress with so much anti-SOPA and -PIPA feedback that they effectively kill the bills. Is this the closest we’ve come to direct democracy since ancient Athens? Perhaps! The article quoted above goes into great detail about the formational elements of SOPA and PIPA and the forces that gathered to stop them.

The response to Wikipedia being blacked out in particular was interesting. The Washington Post, The Guardian and National Public Radio announced that they would answer questions posted to Twitter with the hashtag #altwiki. Closer to the library community Credo Reference announced that free access for a day.

(This post was updated on 25-Sep-2013.)