Data Mining Your Desktop

Technology Review • May 23, 2012

Who you gonna call? HP's Collective Project is a workplace social network that uses automated tracking data on internal documents opened by employees to build knowledge maps and family trees around subject areas and employee expertise. "You don't have to update a profile, you don't have to declare your interests or expertise, you don't have to search," says an HP lab director. "The tool makes knowledge instantly accessible, rather than being a laborious process of discovery and input."

HP's Collective Project applies the friction-free sharing of Facebook apps such as Socialcam or Social Reader, but unlike those apps is unlikely to leave the participants thinking "I wish you hadn't told me that." Using a passive tracking mechanism, text-mining, and algorithms to infer expertise strikes me as a smart approach. And I can imagine even mid-size organizations benefitting from the results, as working groups become more distributed. ( Washburn)
 
 

A Vision of the Role and Future of Web Archives: The Web Archive in Today's World

Library of Congress • May 22, 2012

In case you missed it . . . Check out the first of three posts by the University of Illinois' Kalev Leetaru on the issues surrounding web archiving as it strives to keep up with multiple moving targets, filters, crawlers and formats. Leetaru presented his comments at the recent 2012 General Assembly of the IIPC.

This guest post by Kalev Leetaru on the Library of Congress's "The Signal" digital preservation blog highlights the potential value of archiving web content for future use, as well as the challenges involved in building and managing web archives. The article begins by presenting some intriguing figures that testify to the scale of the corpus of web content that could potentially be archived: for example, 2.5 times more words are posted to Twitter every day than have appeared in The New York Times over the last 60 years. But while the scale of web content is sobering, the difficulties in archiving it systematically are perhaps even more so. Leetaru ranges through an array of issues that, while not necessarily unique to web archiving, are in many cases amplified or complicated when encountered in that context: skew or bias incorporated into web archives as a by-product of ad hoc collecting strategies; content that can change repeatedly after it is captured and archived; the need to select from the vast sea of web content the portion that can and should be archived; and the existence of valuable web content locked within proprietary systems like Facebook. The key message is one of both opportunity and challenge: while web content is increasingly overtaking print as society's medium of record, the problems attached to collecting, archiving, and providing long-term access to it are considerable and have not yet been solved. The post is the first of a three-part series on web archives. ( Lavoie)
 
 

Intellectual Access—It Takes More than Accessibility

Scholarly Kitchen • May 23, 2012

Push button to publish? Medical journal publisher Kent Anderson makes the point that open access—taking down publishers' paywalls—is only a first step toward information dissemination. For many users, "the information remains inaccessible in any functional sense—they can't apply it, understand it competently, or put it into context. The information is accessible, but the person has no access to its real value." Read on for Anderson's commentary on why publishing is so much more than just making something public.

Anderson's blog post reads like the rebuttal of a claim that no one has made (i.e. that all information everywhere should be open access). The real meat is to be found in the first couple of reader comments, where one person points out that there is room in the world for both openly accessible information and value-added information living behind a pay wall—one does not detract from the need for the other; the blog's author responds that "OA is not immune to unintended consequences," and makes several points that are more interesting than anything in the main post: that there are more journals, less reproducibility of results, and a literature that is getting worse instead of better—the inevitable result of open access business models that, in Anderson's view, "only deepen the commitment to quantity over quality." ( Massie)
 
 

What Do Spoilers Spoil?

The New York Times • May 21, 2012

Please don't tell me. Author and academic Stanley Fish analyzes the "spoiler" effect of leaking plot details to the uninitiated. Many people report enjoying re-reading and re-viewing thrillers and mysteries despite prior knowledge of the outcome, and Fish examines the various theories on how the human mind processes such experiences.

This commentary strikes me as an elaborate rationalization for having committed the offense of having spoiled sans alert!  This is of personal interest to us as readers, rather than of professional interest to us as librarians. Having wept during multiple re-readings of Gone with the Wind as a teenager, having witnessed the joy with which a preschooler watches the same Disney movie over and over, and having been surprised at the endings of movies I've already seen, I agree with Fish that we can immerse ourselves "completely in the uncertainties of a narrative whose conclusion [we] know, but may not actively know at the moment." And I also agree that when we are conscious of the outcome, it is fun to be able to "savor the skill with which a plot is constructed." But still, there's no reason not to offer readers a spoiler alert and let them decide! ( Erway)
 
 

The Perfection of the Paper Clip

Slate • May 22, 2012

Clip job. Trivia hounds will want to check out this history of the humble paper clip, which was first mass-produced in its current configuration a little over 100 years ago. If the paperless office leads to a paperclip-less environment, what will we use to clean the crevices of our keyboards and poke those pesky recessed reset buttons?

Sara Goldsmith writes about the lowly paperclip. This is a must read for the trivia buff and anyone interested in industrial design. While the need for paperclips had been around for a century, its actual invention required innovations in metallurgy and mass production. Once invented, its design was tinkered with, but never really improved. This is a lovely article and best of all, it is just part of a series on the design of everyday objects, including the key and the book. ( LeVan)
 
 

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, where can you learn about how some libraries reconfiguring their spaces, their services, and their staff to better serve the needs of the 21st century university?

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