Can Google’s New “My Account” Page be a Model for Libraries?

One of the things discussed in the NISO patron privacy conference calls has been the need for transparency with patrons about what information is being gathered about them and what is done with it. The recent announcement by Google of a "My Account" page and a privacy question/answer site got me thinking about what such a system might look like for libraries. Google and libraries are different in many ways, but one similarity we share is that people use both to find information. (This is not the only use of Google and libraries, but it is a primary use.) Might we be able to learn something about how Google puts users in control of their activity data? Even though our motivations and ethics are different, I think we can.

What Does it Mean to Have Unlimited Storage in the Cloud?

We’ve seen big announcements recently about unlimited cloud storage offerings for a flat monthly or fee. Dropbox offers it for subscribers to its Business plan. Similarly, Google has unlimited storage for Google Apps for Business customers. In both cases, though, you have to be part of a business group of some sort. Then Microsoft unlimited storage for any subscriber of all Office 365 customers (Home, School, and soon Business) as bundled offering of OneDrive with the Office suite of products. Now comes word today from Amazon of unlimited storage to consumers…no need to be part of a business grouping or have bundled software come with it.

Thursday Threads: Google Maps is Good, DRM is Bad, and Two-factor Authentication can be Ugly

Looking at maps, Eastern Carolina University Digital Collections.

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Three threads this week: how mapping technologies have come such a long way in the past few years, and why explaining digital rights management is bad for your sanity, a cautionary tale for those trying to be more conscious about security their digital lives.

Notes on the Code4Lib Virtual Lightning Talks

Last week I emcee’d the second Code4Lib Virtual Lightning talk session and I wanted to record some notes and pointers here in case me (or anyone else) wants to do the same thing again. First, though, here is a list of those that presented with links to the talks archived on Internet Archive.

Name Topic
Terry Brady File Analyzer and Metadata Harvester
Misty De Meo Transitioning a legacy thesaurus to SKOS/RDF
Roy Tennant Under the Hood of Hadoop Processing at OCLC Research
Kate Kosturski How I Taught Myself Drupal In a Weekend (And You Can Too!)

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.

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

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After a longer than intended hiatus, DLTJ Thursday Threads is back.

Feel free to send this to others you think might be interested in the topics. If you find these threads interesting and useful, you might want to add the Thursday Threads RSS Feed to your feed reader or subscribe to e-mail delivery using the form to the right. If you would like a more raw and immediate version of these types of stories, watch my FriendFeed stream (or subscribe to its feed in your feed reader). Comments and tips, as always, are welcome.

Teaching Search Engine Literacy with A Google A Day

A Google a Day screenshot

Back in April, Google announced its announced its A Google a Day project as “a new daily puzzle that can be solved using your creativity and clever search skills on Google.” For example, today’s question is “This planet’s slow retrograde rotation results in the universe’s longest day. How many Earth days equal one day here?” I solved this puzzle by first searching for “planet retrograde rotation” and found that Venus and Uranus are the planets that rotate counter to other planet rotations in our solar system. Then I searched for “planet rotation rate” and found a nice table in Wikipedia that showed the rotation periods of major objects in our solar system. A quick peek at the history of that wikipedia page shows that it hasn’t been tampered with recently, so I’m pretty sure the answer is 243 — the number of Earth days it takes Venus to complete one full rotation. And, sure enough, that’s the answer! Each question comes with a brief description of how one can find the answer, so if someone gets stuck they can see hints on how to find the answer. And the questions use Google offerings other than just search; for example, the last Saturday’s question uses Google Translate and the one from July 6th uses Google Maps.

When this first came out I thought it was a stunningly good way to demonstrate the kinds of search skills that libraries teach patrons when demonstrating how to use the internet. So I sent a message to the generic service address and started a conversation with a product marketing manager at Google. After some back-and-forth with him and other librarians, it does seem like there is a possibility of a really neat collaboration. To start us off, Google put together the information below on how to embed the question in library websites (see below). On a conference call with other librarians we also talked about possibilities like a categorization of questions (so if you wanted a chemistry question or one that uses Google Street View you would be able to find it quickly) and “guest written” questions based off of real life reference interviews.

Thursday Threads: Google’s Social Strategy, Big Data, Patriot Act outside U.S., Frightening Copyright Revisited

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It might have been the week of the annual American Library Association meeting with all the news and announcements and programming that came from it — as well as getting into the dog days of summer — but interesting news at the intersection of technology and libraries did not take a pause. Google made a big splash this week with tantalizing tidbits about its new social media project; it is at a look-but-don’t-touch stage, but the look is enticing. Then there were two articles about really big data — what is produced in the high energy physics supercolider at CERN and what we produce as a society. And to go along with that data we produce as a society is another warning that much of it isn’t safe from the prying eyes of the USA PATRIOT Act. Finally, we revisit the Georgia State University copyright case with a comment on the potential chilling impacts on free speech.

Thursday Threads: Cloud Computing and Data Centers — Amazon, Facebook, and Google

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This week’s DLTJ Thursday Threads is about data centers — those dark rooms with all of the blinking lights of computers doing our bidding. Data centers hit the mainstream news this week with the outage at one of Amazon’s cloud computing clusters. And since computers and their associated peripherals consume a lot of energy, researchers are proposing to run data centers on renewable energy. And finally Facebook and Google release separate videos that give glimpses into how large data centers are run.

Thursday Threads: Teaching Search, OCLC Research Library Partnership, Shelvar App

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Another week, another set of threads of library and library-related topics. (Who ever said this profession was boring? Well, I once did, but that is a thread for another day.) Information literacy hit the mainstream this week with noted usability analyst Jakob Nielson noting that internet users need to learn better search skills and Google giving us a tool (in the form of a daily puzzle) that might do just that. Next is an announcement from OCLC about a re-energizing and re-forming of the research library partner program. Lastly, a computer scientist at Miami University creates a mobile app that will be a godsend for library shelvers everywhere (perhaps after you relabel your spines).