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January 12, 2014

A bloggy dinner in London. Join us?

To commemorate the old days of blogging, and because we still like one another, we’re going to have a bloggers’ dinner in London this Saturday (Jan. 18) at 7pm. We think we have room for another 8 or 9 people. (This will be a pay-for-what-you-consume affair.) So, if you’re interested, enter your details in the spreadsheet. First come, first served.

This came about because of some quick emails between Suw Charman-Anderson and me. Her husband Kevin Anderson will be there, as will my wife. And it looks like Euan Semple will also come, and possibly AKMA (plus maybe Margaret) as well.

See you in London?

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December 30, 2013

The family album — making good on a resolution

I’ve been spending TV time taking digital photographs of every page of our family photo albums. Sure, it’d be better to digitize each one individually, but it turns out that what I’m doing is way better than never getting around to doing it right.

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October 20, 2013

[templelib] Anne Kenney: “Friends in new places: special collections in special communities”

At Temple University’s symposium in honor of the inauguration of the University’s new president, on Oct. 18, 2013.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Anne Kenney is University Librarian at Cornell.

For the past six years, Cornell has been building a hiphop collection. It began as the private archive of Johan Kugelberg, who recognize the cultural importance of popular music. He went in search of recordings, posters, flyers, etc. Cornell acquired the collection 2007. Cornell acquired Joe Conzo’s photographs.

But you don’t usually think about hiphop in beautiful, rural upstate NY. “So the rest of the story is about engagement.” Cornell needed to show the community that it’s a responsible steward. So, they held an inaugural conference in Oct. 2008, which included music, talks about hiphop founders, roundtables, etc. Academics also came. It began a two year period of intensive engagement. Anne shows some great photos of the interactions.

Seeing their photos on the same shelves as the Gettysburg Address was (as Joe Conzo said) “priceless.” Many of the artists themselves have gone out to spread word about the collection.

She shows some classroom use of the materials, in multiple disciplines. The artists have been spreading word. Cornell is proud of the integration of the artists into the academic environment. E.g., Afrika Bambaataa is a 3-year visiting scholar. She points about many more events and classes, some in partnership with other institutions and cities. E.g., the Class of 1945 requested a workshop.

She ends by talking about engaging the public in crowd-archiving. A gallery in SOHO was turned over to cataloging the 40,000 record collection of Afrika Bambaataa.

Anne says: “The future of most large research libraries lies…with unique and special materials” (Rick Anderson, “Can’t buy Us Love” 2013).

See Preserving HipHop.

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September 30, 2013

[SPOILERS] A Breaking Bad plot flaw

Breaking Bad Finale SPOILERS

A number of plot weaknesses, if not exactly flaws, have been noticed by many people: It was too convenient that Walter found the car keys in the first scene, it was unlikely that he could have so casually evaded the police lookouts when visiting his wife, he couldn’t have counted on being allowed to position his car so perfectly for the last scene, it was lucky that all the bad guys (except one) were in just the right range for his bullet-sprinkler system.

But I haven’t seen one particular, and genuine, plot flaw mentioned anywhere. Probably because I’m wrong about it. Here goes:

Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz were next to each other facing forward when the red laser dots appeared on their chests. How did they see the dots? Did they see the laser sources and figure out that they were pointing at them? That’s probably it. Ok, so much for the plot flaw. Carry on.

Finally, yes, I know that picking plot flaws misses the point of the Breaking Bad finale. But I have to say that I was a little disappointed by episode. It wrapped up the plot points, but I didn’t think it advanced the series’ argument. And, no, I don’t claim to know exactly what that argument was; it was too wonderfully complex for that. Still, I didn’t think the finale deepened its themes.

I agree with how others have framed it: “Ozymandias” — the third-to-last episode — was the series’ climax. The rest was denouement.

Great, great series.

 


Freudian slip of the month. From E-Online’s coverage of the finale: “Walt (Bryan Cranston) got his revenge but succumbed to his wombs.”

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September 24, 2013

[berkman][misc] Curated by the crowd

I’m at a Berkman lunchtime talk on crowdsourcing curation. Jeffrey Schnapp, Matthew Battles [twitter:matthewBattles] , and Pablo Barria Urenda are leading the discussion. They’re from the Harvard metaLab.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Matthew Battles begins by inviting us all to visit the Harvard center for Renaissance studies in Florence, Italy. [Don't toy with us, Matthew!] There’s a collection there, curated by Bernard Berenson, of 16,000 photos documenting art that can’t be located, which Berenson called “Homeless Paintings of the Italian Renaissance.” A few years ago, Mellon sponsored the digitization of this collection, to be made openly available. One young man, Chris Daley [sp?] has since found about 120 of the works. [This is blogged at the metaLab site.]

These 16,000 images are available at Harvard’s VIA image manager [I think]. VIA is showing its age. It doesn’t support annotation, etc. There are some cultural crowdsourcing projects already underway, e.g., Zooniverse’s Ancient Lives project for transcribing ancient manuscripts. metaLab is building a different platform: Curarium.com.

Matthew hands off to Jeffrey Schnapp. He says Curarium will allow a diverse set of communities (archivist, librarian, educator, the public, etc.) to animate digital collections by providing tools for doing a multiplicity things with those collections. We’re good at making collections, he says, but not as good at making those collections matter. Curarium should help take advantage of the expertise of distributed communities.

What sort of things will Curarium allow us to do? (A beta should be up in about a month.) Add metadata, add meaning to items…but also work with collections as aggregates. VIA doesn’t show relations among items. Curarium wants tomake collections visible and usable at the macro and micro levels, and to tell stories (“spotlights”).

Jeffrey hands off to Pablo, who walks us through the wireframes. Curarium will ingest records, and make them interoperable. They take in reords in JSON format, and extract the metadata they want. (They save the originals.) They’re working on how to give an overview of the collection; “When you have 11,000 records, thumbnails don’t help.” So, you’ll see a description and visualizations of the cloud of topic tags and items. (The “Homeless” collection has 2,000 tags.)

At the item level, you can annotate, create displays of selected content (“‘Spotlights’ are selections of records organized as thematized content”) in various formats (e.g., slideshow, more academic style, etc.). There will be a rich way of navigating and visualizing. There will be tools for the public, researchers, and teachers.

Q&A

Q: [me] How will you make the enhanced value available outside of Curarium? And, have you considered using Linked Data?

A: We’re looking into access. The data we have is coming from other places that have their own APIs, but we’re interested in this.

Q: You could take the Amazon route by having your own system use API’s, and then make those API’s open.

Q: How important is the community building? E.g., Zooniverse succeeds because people have incentives to participate.

A: Community-building is hugely important to us. We’ll be focusing on that over the next few months as we talk with people about what they want from this.

A: We want to expand the scope of conversation around cultural history. We’re just beginning. We’d love teachers in various areas — everything from art history to history of materials — to start experimenting with it as a teaching tool.

Q: The spotlight concept is powerful. Can it be used to tell the story of an individual object. E.g., suppose an object has been used in 200 different spotlights, and there might be a story in this fact.

A: Great question. Some of the richness of the prospect is perhap addressed by expectations we have for managing spotlights in the context of classrooms or networked teaching.

Q: To what extent are you thinking differently than a standard visual library?

A: On the design side, what’s crucial about our approach is the provision for a wide variety of activities, within the platform itself: curate, annotate, tell a story, present it… It’s a CMS or blogging platform as well. The annotation process includes bringing in content from outside of the environment. It’s a porous platform.

Q: To what extent can users suggest changes to the data model. E.g., Europeana has a very rigid data model.

A: We’d like a significant user contribution to metadata. [Linked Data!]

Q: Are we headed for a bifurcation of knowledge? Dedicated experts and episodic amateurs. Will there be a curator of curation? Am I unduly pessimistic?

A: I don’t know. If we can develop a system, maybe with Linked Data, we can have a more self-organizing space that is somewhere in between harmony and chaos. E.g., Wikimedia Loves Monuments is a wonderful crowd curatorial project.

Q: Is there anything this won’t do? What’s out of scope?

A: We’re not providing tools for creating animated gifs. We don’t want to become a platform for high-level presentations. [metaLab's Zeega project does that.] And there’s a spectrum of media we’ll leave alone (e.g., audio) because integrating them with other media is difficult.

Q: How about shared search, i.e., searching other collections?

A: Great idea. We haven’t pursued this yet.

Q: Custodianship is not the same as meta-curation. Chris Daly could become a meta-curator. Also, there’s a lot of great art curation at Pinterist. Maybe you should be doing this on top of Pinterest? Maybe built spotlight tools for Pinteresters?

A: Great idea. We already do some work along those lines. This project happens to emerge from contact with a particular collection, one that doesn’t have an API.

Q: The fact that people are re-uploading the same images to Pinterest is due to the lack of standards.

Q: Are you going to be working on the vocabulary, or let someone else worry about that?

A: So far, we’re avoiding those questions…although it’s already a problem with the tags in this collection.

[Looks really interesting. I'd love to see it integrate with the work the Harvard Library Interoperability Initiative is doing.]

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September 5, 2013

Pew Internet survey on Net privacy: Most of us have done something about it

Pew Internet has a new study out that shows that most of us have done something to maintain our privacy (or at least the illusion of it) on the Net. Here’s the summary from the report’s home page:

A new survey finds that most internet users would like to be anonymous online, but many think it is not possible to be completely anonymous online. Some of the key findings:

  • 86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprintsâ??ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email.

  • 55% of internet users have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government.

The representative survey of 792 internet users also finds that notable numbers of internet users say they have experienced problems because others stole their personal information or otherwise took advantage of their visibility online. Specifically:

  • 21% of internet users have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else without permission.

  • 12% have been stalked or harassed online.

  • 11% have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card, or bank account information.

  • 6% have been the victim of an online scam and lost money.

  • 6% have had their reputation damaged because of something that happened online.

  • 4% have been led into physical danger because of something that happened online.

You can read the whole thing online or download the pdf, for free. Thank you, Pew Internet!

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August 12, 2013

When Husserl met Heidegger

Here’s a photo of Heidegger talking with Husserl in 1921 in St. Märgen.

Heidegger talking with Husserl

Heidegger was born 1889. He published Sein und Zeit (Being and Time) in 1927.

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July 6, 2013

[misc][2b2k] Why ontologies make me nervous

A few days ago there was a Twitter back and forth between two people I deeply respect: Dan Brickley [twitter:danbri] and Ed Summers [twitter:edsu]. It started with Ed responding to a tweet about a brief podcast I did with Kevin Ford [twitter:3windmills], who is on the team working on BibFrame:

After a couple of tweets, Dan tweeted the following:


There followed some agreement that it's often helpful to have apps driving the development of standards. (Kevin agrees with this, and points to BibFrame's process.) But, Dan's comment clarified my understanding of why ontologies make me nervous.

Over the past hundred years or so, we've come to a general recognition that all classifications and categorizations are tools, not representations of The Real Order. The periodic table of the elements is a useful way of organizing information, and manifests real relationships among the elements, but it is not the single "real" way the elements are arranged; if you're an economist or an industrialist, a chart that arranges the elements based on where they exist on our planet might be just as valid. Likewise, Linneaus' classification scheme is useful and manifests some real relationships, but if you're a chef you might have a different way of carving up the animal kingdom. Linneaus chose to organize species based upon visible differences — which might not be the "essential" differences — so that his scheme would be useful to scientists in the field. Although he was sometimes ambiguous about this, he seems not to have thought that he was discerning God's own order. Since Linnaeus we have become much more explicit in our understanding that how we classify depends on what we're trying to accomplish.

For example, a DTD (document type definition) typically is designed not to capture the eternal essence of some type of document, but to make the document more usable by systems that automate the document's production and processing. For example, an industry might agree on a DTD for parts catalogs that specifies that a parts catalog must have an element called "part" and that a part must have a type, part number, length, height, weight, material, and a description, and optionally can note whether it turns clockwise or counterclockwise. Each of these elements would have a standard name (e.g., "part_number," not "part#"). The result is a document that describes parts in a standard way so that a company can receive descriptions from all of its suppliers and automatically build a database of the parts it uses.

A DTD therefore is designed with an eye toward what properties are going to be useful. In some industries, it might include a term that captures how shiny the part is, but if it's a DTD for surgical equipment, that may not be relevant enough to include...although "sanitary_packaging" might be. Likewise, how quickly a bolt transfers heat might seem irrelevant, at least until NASA places an order. In this DTD's are much like forms: You don't put a field for earlobe length in the college application form you're designing.

Ontologies are different. They can try to express the structure of a domain independent of any particular use, so that the widest variety of applications can share data, including apps from domains outside of the one that's been mapped. So, to use Dan's example, your ontology of jobs would note that jobs have employers and workers, that they may have a salary or other form of compensation, that they can be part-time, full-time, seasonal, etc. As an ontology designer, because you're trying to think beyond whatever applications you already can imagine, your aim (often, not always) is to provide the fullest possible set of slots just in case someone sometime needs that info. And you will carefully describe the relationships among the elements so that apps and researchers can use knowledge that is implicit in the model.

The line between DTD's and ontologies is fuzzy. Many ontologies are designed with classes of apps in mind, and some DTD's have tried to be hugely general purpose. My discomfort really comes down to a distrust of the concept of "knowledge representation" that underlies some ontologies (especially earlier ones). The complexity of the relationships among parts will always outstrip our attempts to capture and codify those relationships. Further, knowledge cannot be fully represented because it isn't a thing apart from our continuous invention, discovery, and engagement with it.

What it comes down to is that if you talk about ontologies as knowledge representations I'll mutter something under my breath and change the topic.

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May 28, 2013

Dear Internet: Please help me kill this bush

This fall I followed the Internet’s instructions on how to cut back the giant shrub of ugliness that’s been occupying the strip that divides our front yard from our neighbor’s. Alas, the Internet lied, and the bush has not sprouted new leaves where I cut it back past its thin margin of green. Oops.

nullsideways view of shrub

That’s ok because I hate that !@#$@ing shrub and would be happy to be rid of it. Unfortunately, as you can see, it consists of sticks that have buried their gnarled fingers deep into the earth.

shrub full on

Dear Internet, how do I get rid of the thing so that I can plant something more humble and subservient?

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May 8, 2013

Cheating Keynote’s dumb sizing limitation

Keynote presentation software has what seems to be a needless limitation on how large you can scale an object using their animation capabilities: you can take it up to 200% and no larger. A few years ago I poked around in the xml save files and manually increased the scaling on an object to 1000%, and it animated just fine. So I don’t know what was in the designer’s minds when they limited the user interface. Actually, I’m sure they had a good reason, so I already regret the use of the word “dumb” in my headline. A little.

“Dumb” is appropriate, however, for me, given how long it’s taken me to realize a way around the limitation in some circumstances.

Keynote has a really helpful slide transition called “Magic Move.” If you duplicate a slide and move around the objects in the duplicate slide, and resize them, then when you click from the first slide to the second, the objects will smoothly animate into their new positions and sizes. It is occasionally finicky, but when it works, it can save an enormous amount of manual animation. For example, if you have a slide with a square made up of 64 little squares, and you want to animate those little squares flying apart, rather than animating each of their movements, just duplicate the slide and drag the little cubes where you want.

So, duh, if you want to animate one of those cubes so it grows larger than 200%, just duplicate the slide and enlarge the cube to whatever size you want. Apply the “Magic Move” transition to the first slide, and Keynote will do the deed for you.

This doesn’t work for all situations, but in the ones that it works in, it’s very handy. And, yes, I should have realized it a couple of years ago.

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