LibraryThing “uClassify Mashup” Contest…12.22.08

22 12 2008

Here is an interesting idea regardless of your position on classification schemes and/or changes therewith from LibraryThing this past  Sunday [] which will be at least interesting to follow:
“I keep up with the Museum of Modern Betas* and today it found something wonderful: uClassify.

uClassify is a place where you can build, train and use automatic classification systems. It’s free, and can be handled either on the website or via an API. Of course, this sort of thing was possible before uClassify, but you needed specialized tools. Now anyone can do it—on a whim.

Their examples are geared toward the simple:

  • Text language. What language is some text in?
  • Gender. Did or a man or a woman write the blog? It was made for (It’s right only 63% of the time.)
  • Mood.
  • What classical author your text is most alike? Used on (this blog is Edgar Allen Poe).

Where did I lose the librarians—mood? But wait, come back! The language classifier works very well. It managed to suss-out NorwegianSwedish and Dutch reviews of the Hobbit.** So what if the others are trivial? The idea is solid. Create a classification. Feed it data and the right answer. Watch it get better and better

Now, I’m a sceptic of automatic classification in the library world. There’s a big difference between spam/not-spam and, say, giving a book Library of Congress Subject Headings. But it’s worth testing. And, even if ‘real’classification is not amenable to automatic processes, there must be other interesting book- and library-related projects. 

The Prize! So, LibraryThing calls on the book and library worlds to create something cool with uClassify byFebruary 1, 2009 and post it here. The winner gets Toby Segaran’s Programming Collective Intelligence and a $100 gift certificate to Amazon or IndieBound. You can do it by hand or programmatically. If you use a lot of LibraryThing data, and it’s not one of the sets we release openly, shoot me an email about what you’re doing and I’ll give you green light.

Some ideas. My idea list…

  • Fiction vs. Non-Fiction. Feed it Amazon data, Common Knowledge or LT tags.***
  • DDC. Train it with Amazon’s DDC numbers and book descriptions. Do ten thousand books and see how well it’s guessing the rest.
  • Do a crosswalk, eg., DDC to LCC, BISAC to DDC, DDC to Cutter, etc…”

“Top 10 Ways to Lock Down Your Data”…12.20.08

20 12 2008

This is great for everyone to review carefully–“The Top 10 Ways to Lock Down Your Data” from LifeHacker []:

10. Wipe that iPhone (or BlackBerry) before trading in.

It’s almost inevitable that your iPhone’s storage space or feature set will seem completely outdated at some point, depending, of course, on personal tolerance. Before you trade it in or sell it, though, take heed—your personal data is still there, and recoverable with a few modest hacks. Considering how much email, login information, and web history is sent through a phone these days, it’s worth looking at Jonathan Zdziarski’s wiping method, which involves jailbreaking your phone and jumping into the command line to wipe it down clean. Rocking the BlackBerry? Check out BBGeeks’ much easier wiping steps.

9. Use virtual credit cards for iffy online buys.

Buying a DVD from Amazon is usually a pretty standard, safe transaction, but that cutesy little shop with the clever T-shirt? That’s when you should take a few minutes and get a virtual—or “one-time,” “secure,” or “online”—credit card. Most major banks, PayPal, and Discover offer them, even if they’re not widely used. If you’re not quite sure about a site, or even if your own computer might be watched, it can’t hurt to try a card made for only one purchase.

8. Hide data inside files with steganography.

You probably know it’s not smart to keep sensitive, need-to-remember data in a file named all_my_bank_accounts.doc. But few laptop thieves or backdoor hackers are going to look for your PayPal data inside soaring_whales.jpg. Even if they did, they’d only see Orca and friends if you stashed your stuff with easy-to-use steganography tools. They’re also great for trading the kind of information you wouldn’t normally send over email inside otherwise non-intriguing files of all types, sparing you the need to go through too much extra effort.

7. Plan for the worst.

As one editor here recently learned, even a decently protected computer or email account can be gotten too, and it’s hard to tell why. So while precaution is a best practice, it’s just as smart to fortify your digital life for intruders. Clean out your old and never-mailed contacts to avoid apologizing to them later (to say nothing of infecting or spamming them later). Delete any emails, archived or not, that contain passwords, account numbers, PINs and the like—some web sites have a bad practice of emailing them right to you. And make sure you know how your webmail provider would reset your account if it was ever compromised—long-ago-sent activation code, ultra-secret question, or something else entirely. If you don’t know this, then a break-in truly is the end of that convenience.

6. Get smarter on security questions.

Most web-based apps provide a fail-safe way to get your password to you if you’ve forgotten it. Some are more secure than others, but almost all of them ask for some kind of verification/security question—”What is your mother’s middle name?” is pretty common, and so is “What was your first pet’s name?” Thing is, a lot of that stuff is easy to get at, as former Vice President candidate Sarah Palin learned the hard way. Blogger danah boyd’s security question algorithm isn’t heavy math, just smart thinking. You basically create two words—a snarky response and a unique word you’ll remember—to encapsulate your actual answer. Unless a clever college student looking to scandalize you lives inside your head, chances are you’ve closed off this weak security link.

5. Boost your browsing and downloading privacy.

Giving away all your web activities is easy to do, if you don’t take any precautions at work or home. For seriously strict IT policies at work, give our guide to private browsing at work a read-through. Need even more security to hide your traces? Try an anonymous proxy service. Many proxies go up and fall off the net every day, but the Tor network and its cross-platform browsing tool, Vidalia, works in most situations to prevent end-result sites from knowing where you’re at. As for all that BitTorrent traffic that gives you occasional pause for thought, we’ve got you covered there, too.

4. Theft-proof your laptop (and its files).

Few everyday emotions can stand up to the “Laptop Dillemma” in complexity. Your laptop is supposed to give you freedom and flexibility, but it’s also a big chunk of moolah just crying out to be lifted. Adam Pash isn’t quite paranoid, but he does have a handle on how to keep your laptop from being stolen, or get pics and locations on the sly of the thief if it does, and prevent your data from getting compromised. Read his guide to setting up a laptop security system and pick out the anti-theft elements that make sense for you.

3. Secure your wireless network.

No matter what any salesperson tells you, you should never take a wireless router out of its box, hook up a few wires and start surfing from the belkin54g hotspot. Tech site Ars Technica has a great guide to “The ABCs of securing your wireless network,” covering everything in your house—Xbox, Wii, laptops, and iPhones—and the best protocols to use. For a more nuts-and-bolts basic guide, try our long-ago wireless network tutorial, but don’t use the WEP standard mentioned in there.

2. Encrypt your data whole or piecemeal.

For whatever the reason, we’ve all got files that shouldn’t be available to anyone who sits down at our keyboard, whether they live across the globe or across the hall. Encryption has come a long way in ease-of-use and accessibility, and some operating systems—mainly the “business” or “ultimate” kind—have native support for encrypting drives and folders. For most of us, though, there’s TrueCrypt, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. We’ve walked through encrypting entire drives or single folders with TrueCrypt, and while there are plenty of encryption tools out there, TrueCrypt is a nice balance of hard-nosed security and understandable, actual-human software.

1. Use KeePass. Love KeePass. Be secure.

It works on any system, it works with any program, and you can have it automatically between your computers. In short,KeePass is pretty indispensable for anyone who isn’t doing the bad, bad thing of using the same password on every web site and computer app. Once you’ve learned the basics of the free, open-source password vault, you can make it work your own way with great plug-ins. Already using Firefox’s password manager? That’s cool—you can export them into KeePass. If you’re a multi-computer, multi-operating-system person, the free online storage service Dropbox can serve as your ultimate password syncer through KeePass.

Social Networking Visualized…12.19.08

19 12 2008

Here is an interesting excerpt from a post (by the way–I really like pictures, diagrams, etc.) by Erik J. Heels entitled “Drawing That Explains Social Networking” []:

“I wanted to be able to explain to those new to social networking how all of the pieces fit together. Plus with feeds being shared back and forth, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t creating any feed loops or leaving out any pieces. I use LinkedIn for business networking (my resume and the like), I useFacebook for friends and family, and I am passive on Plaxo (i.e. I accept invitations to connect but do not solicit new connections). Here’s my drawing that explains social networking:

I’ve drawn the major inputs at the edge of the social networking cloud. In my view of the blogging world, there are four main inputs:


“How Easy is Your Catalog to Search?”…12.19.08

19 12 2008

Here is an excerpt of a helpful post about considering the user’s catalog search from the Remixing Libraries blog entitled “How easy is your catalogue to search?” []:

“…Recently, however, there have been more attempts to provide a coherent – and contextual – approach to the OPAC. Let’s face facts: No one reads help pages or FAQs. It’s true – check your own web logs. So how do you help your users to get the most out of their search (and most importantly, not just walk away)? Here’s some ideas.

Little and Often 
Ok – so the big chunks of help don’t work but there’s nothing wrong with a nudge in the right direction. Check out any popular website and you’ll see succinct clues to how and why results appear as they do. The best trick I’ve found is to try and write a short sentence to explain a function and then cut it down to half the time. 
Reuse! Reuse! Reuse!
Take a look at the University of Huddersfield Catalogue (the work of Dave Pattern) – data’s been pulled from search and usage logs to create neat little features like the Tag Cloud on the front page and the Amazon-style ‘other people also searched with’ feature on the results page.
Don’t Fight Google
It’s done. People expect your search box to work like Google. In fact, not just like Google butbetter than Google. We can moan about the ‘dumbing down’ of researchers but as soon as people see that empty white box they expect to stick a string of (misspelled) keywords into it and get a result they like within the first page of hits. The sooner we learn to work within these parameters, and not fight them, the sooner we can build better mechanisms for search.And don’t even think about making the default search anything except keyword.
Know Your Data (& Fix Your Indexing)
In any kind of searching consistency is everything so we all need a firm grip on our data. A beautifully constructed catalogue record is one thing but if your search parameters and indexing are so complicated that complex combinations are required to achieve useful search results perhaps it’s time to reflect on the value of that data. A few coherent indexes with consistent data will always beat a hundred ‘correct’ ones.
Accept the Complexity 
Sometimes, however the gap between user expectations and the data is just too vast. Say, for example, that you’re predominantly a science library but you’ve also got a small audio collection – how do you provide a straightforward service to your 90% of science users but also support the 10% of audiophiles? Sometimes it comes down to accepting that you’re going to hit issues and making innovative use of zero results pages, 404s, ‘Email a Librarian’ functions and hey – maybe even a live ‘search help’ facility…”

Innovation-The Key in Economic Tough Times…12.19.08

19 12 2008

Here is a very insightful post from Stephen Abram on his Stephen’s Lighthouse blog [] which libraries would be wise the consider, especially in the current recession:

Sometimes the first things to go in bad economic times are just the innovative projects that will allow your organization to survive and thrive. I hear that I have been through 14 recessions since I graduated from library school and I’ve seen a lot of short term tactical thinking every time that deepened the institutional mess. I was glad to see this report offered forfree and recommended on a number of the innovation blogs I read.

‘Chuck Frey of and Renee Hopkins Callahan of Innosight have developed the “MUST-READ” innovation management report for 2008.’

The report is called “Innovation Strategies for the Global Recession”.

It a collection of ideas, thoughts, strategies, recommendations and hopes from today’s top innovation management thinkers about how to not only keep your innovation projects alive during this global recession but to also leverage innovation management to claim a market advantage.

Click to get a FREE copy of this report at InnovationTools

Overall Themes

Start scenario planning now.
Redouble your focus on customer needs.
Strengthen the positioning of your products and services using marketing innovation.
Prune your innovation portfolio.
Look for opportunities to inexpensively test new ideas.
Embrace open-source innovation.
Look for creative ways to extend your current products.
Take a fresh look at your supplier relationships.
Conduct a disruptive threat assessment. You
Don’t just think about innovation in terms of products, services, and business models.

It’s only four pages and it’s quite ‘for-profit’ driven but you can interpret for your context.”

Newpapers Doing Better on the Web…12.19.08

19 12 2008

Erick Schonfeld writes about newspaper changes on the web at TechCrunch [] : 

Newspapers are still lurching their way around the Web, a new study finds, but at least they are making some progress. The Bivings Group released a study today that quantifies the Website features of the top 100 newspapers in the U.S. Among the findings: Nearly every newspaper site has reporter-written blogs and some form of video; features that elicit content from readers are on the rise; podcasts and mandatory registrations are down; social networking features are pretty much non-existent…

In terms of reader-submitted material, newspapers are more comfortable accepting images than words. More newspaper sites accept photos from readers (58 percent) than videos (18 percent) or articles (15 percent). Comments are less controversial, with 75 percent allowing reader comments on articles. One thing I found curious is that 57 percent of newspaper sites offer their editions in PDF form. Why? A PDF of a page, maybe, but nobody prints out the whole edition.

The graph below shows the biggest changes between this year and last. Newspaper sites that incorporate user-generated content is on the rise (58 percent in 2008, versus 24 percent in 2007), as are comments on articles (75 percent in 2008, versus 33 percent in 2007) and bookmarking (92 percent, versus 44 percent).

Sites that require registration are down from 29 percent to 11 percent, which means that most newspapers have finally figured out that putting up any barriers, even a temporary one, between readers and articles simply drives readers to other sites.


iPhone Interface for Bible Versions & Koran…12.18.08

18 12 2008

Here is an very interesting and useful post today by Suzanne Chapman [] from the Blog for Library Technology at the University of Michigan which I found interesting although I don’t yet have an iPhone or similar device:

“I’ve been researching mobile interface design for a few months now so when we got an email yesterday from a user asking if we’d consider making an iPhone interface for her favorite collection, I jumped at the opportunity. The collection she was interested in (the Bible: Revised Standard Version) is one of our oldest ‘legacy’ collections. Luckily, the regular interface is very simple and doesn’t contain any tables or even graphics. The main problem with viewing the text on an iPhone is that it basically displays a much smaller version of what you see on a full size monitor. The user must then zoom in to make the text big enough to read and then do lots of horizontal and vertical scrolling to read.


So, in order to get the text to fill the allotted space and wrap nicely, all we had to do was simply add one meta tag into the <head> of the html.

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width”>

This basically tells the iPhone to display the content at the default size of the iPhone screen.

Of course, ‘simple’ is never just that. Because we aren’t dealing with static html pages, collection manager extraordinaire Chris Powell had to spend some time trying to figure out how to insert the meta element, attributes, and attribute values & then figure out how to pass them to the CGI perl module.

We have 2 other similar legacy collections, so we went ahead and made the same changes to them as well: