June 30, 2003

Speaking of Salon, they often have very good popular science articles (older ones are free, newer you will have to take advantage of a day pass):

The Google backlash is pretty well documented out there. A couple of recent entries include an article at Salon, entitled, you guessed it: "The Google Backlash." (Salon's not free anymore, but they almost always have someone sponsoring day passes.) Another is from the BBC and is about the word Google and its trademarkability. Googling "google backlash" is quite revealing. BBC story from Lisnews.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is kinda funny. Can you say "Divine editorial comment?" APOD is one of my favourite sites -- I almost always have one of their images as the wallpaper on my workstation.

June 26, 2003

A day in the life of a super-spammer.

June 25, 2003

The Urban Legends Reference Pages is a hoot. It even has sections on computers, medicine and science. It may even come in handy at the reference desk. How about: "Is it true that the average person swallows eight spiders per year?" No! From SciFi Weekly.

Celebrating Einstein with dance? The purpose is to celebrate the centenary Einstein's miracle year of 1905. Quote from IoP managing director Jerry Cowhig: "Dance is an expressive medium and it will be ideal for abstract concepts like the theories of Einstein on everything from tiny atoms to the dynamics of the whole cosmos."

June 24, 2003

A couple of readings suggested by one of my colleagues in the Computer Science Department:

  • "Teaching reviewing to graduate students" by Jens Palsberg and Scott J. Baxter in Communications of the ACM, v45 i12, Dec 2002. A quote: "researchers usually learn the principles and practices of reviewing with little to no practical training because such training is generally not a part of a Ph.D. education. Despite this fact, we believe teaching the review process should be part of a Ph.D. education, and that such training can be integrated smoothly and inexpensively as part of existing coursework rather than be added as an additional course." Of course, the article is written about CS grad students, but I see no reason why the same argument couldn't be applied to any discipline. And, of course, part of any good review is a search of the appropriate literature. And, the grad student asks, how do I do that? Very interesting -- the article is written by CS faculty, not librarians.
  • The Sept 2002 issue of CACM (v45 i9) has a special section on search engines called, "The consumer side of search" with several very interesting articles. The one I would most like to draw attention to is "Bias on the Web" by Abbe Mowshowitz and Akira Kawaguchi. The main idea is that the web is full of biased information, largely trying to sell stuff, and that the best way to combat the bias is to have a variety of engines to search for the same information. They suggest that it's a good thing to have a variety of intermediaries between the user and the information to try and evaluate or filter the data. Unfortunately, they neglect to mention libraries & librarians as possible intermediaries. The even take a bit of a shot at us in the beginning: 'Your refrigerator starts making unusual noises; you figure it is time to replace it. ... Unwilling to take the time to head for the local library and browse consumer magazines for "refrigerators," you decide to search the Web for information about this home appliance.'

An RSS feed for this blog is now available here. Lisfeeds seems to work just fine for Blogger (also assuming I set everything up properly), but if anyone has any problems or suggestions, please let me know. One problem: I wasn't able to figure out how to get my blog title into the feed, possible solutions appreciated at jdupuis (at) yorku.ca. I greatly appreciated some of the links suggested by Lisfeeds, particularly this one (a good link & resources collection) and this one (a tutorial).

School libraries are a very important factor in the overall success of students. Read the report from the Canadian Coalition for School Libraries and available on the People for Education site. This has been reported quite widely, but I think the results are important enough to post here as well. The Globe and Mail's John Allemang has a good article about the report. Some quotes from the article (and the report, via the article): "Given the concern about education today, it seems surprising that an existing resource like the library should be so undernourished and undervalued" and "middle and high-school students have surprisingly low levels of success using the Web as a search tool, despite their stated confidence in using the Internet." From The Globe and Mail and Lisnews.

June 20, 2003

The June D-Lib is out and is, as usual, full of interesting articles. The two I'd like to highlight are:

  • "Google Meets eBay: What Academic Librarians Can Learn from Alternative Information Providers" by Anne R. Kenney, Nancy Y. McGovern, Ida T. Martinez, and Lance J. Heidig. This is a very interesting and perhaps even important article. It does a comparason between the answers given by academic reference librarians to the researchers on the Google Answers service. Guess what? The results are mixed. The methodology employed is rather simplistic and the conclusions (more than) a bit controversial but it's certainly worth taking a close look at this article.
  • "Trends in Use of Electronic Journals in Higher Education in the UK - Views of Academic Staff and Students"by Karen Bonthron and 12 others. From the abstract: "Results indicate that academic staff incorporate electronic journal usage into their working patterns in different ways than students and that these differences may affect attitudes towards support services (library Web pages, Virtual Learning Environments) designed to promote electronic journal usage. Disciplinary differences also need to be considered." Well worth reading.

A couple from the latest Internet Scout Report for Math, Engineering and Technology (v2 i12):

As EEVL Manager Roddy MacLeod has helpfully pointed out to me, the EEVL catalogue has passed its 10,000th record. EEVL is now the Internet Guide to Engineering; it used to be the Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library. It has always been a terrific source for resources in engineering, mathematics and computing.

Ellen Ullman's Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents is one of my absolute favourite techie memoirs -- funny, perceptive and very personal, sometimes painfully so. Almost an anthropological feel to it. It gives a very accurate and interesting insider's view of the programming biz -- I should know 'cause I used to be a programmer myself. I just ordered it for my library -- after checking and *gasp* noticing we didn't have a copy. This is all to say that I find it very interesting to note that Ullman has written a novel about that very same programming milieu, called The Bug: A Novel. I can't wait to read it and when I do, I'll post my thoughts here as well as on my other blog. Ullman has written quite extensively about the high tech world and many of her essays are available at Salon, including two excerpts from Close to the Machine. The ACM's Ubiquity also has a very fine interview with her in it's May 20-26, 2003 issue, v4 i13 -- it's actually that interview that started this whole thread going.

June 17, 2003

An item from the chicken little file. While I agree that the web has totally changed the way we interact with information -- both publication and discovery -- I think it's going a bit far to say that the whole project has become a kind of "substitute for meaningful thinking." Take a look at "From Thinkers to Clickers: The World Wide Web and the Transformation of the Essence of Being Human" by M.O. Thirunarayanan and tell me if you don't think this person needs to relax and get a grip. I'm sure when Gutenberg invented the printing press, there were all kinds of people who went on about how you can't possibly think properly about a topic unless you spent a couple of years copying out every book on the subject by hand. Yes, we are more impatient. Yes, we are bombarded with more information. We may even be lazier. But, are we -- by definition -- stupider? Sheesh. There's an interesting discussion on the topic in the associated forum. From Current Cites.

June 16, 2003

Time to start catching up on some of the reading piling up on my desk:

Non-conference highlight of my trip to SLA in New York? Easily my quick trip to the American Museum of Natural History. They currently have a great little exhibition on Einstein as well as a fantastic collection of dinosaurs! The blue whale model in the Ocean Life hall is also something that has to be seen to be believed.

Ever wonder what the call number range is of a particular subject? Here's a link to the LoC's summary page for their classification system.

June 12, 2003

You can subscribe to the Dilbert newsletter here. It's written by Scott Adams and it's actually pretty good. You can also subscribe to the comic itself and have it emailed to you everyday.

Back from a great conference in New York to read an interview with one of my favourite science fiction writers, Michael Swanwick. A quote: "The scientists I know would be very uncomfortable at the thought of themselves or their beer-swilling buddies being heroic. I think admirable is a better word here ... As for the scientific worldview, people have the notion that science is a cold and dispassionate endeavor when, as it's practiced, it's anything but. Scientists often start from an intuition or an emotional preference and work outward from there." Please be aware of an annoyance with the Science Fiction Weekly site: the link isn't static, it always links to the current week's feature interview. There is a side bar menu of previous interviews which will eventually be the place to find the link to the Swanwick interview.

June 6, 2003

I'm off to the SLA annual conference in New York so I expect to be offline until the end of next week.

In the "what will they think of next" department: "Scientific Computing on the Sony Playstation 2." From Internet Scout Project: Math, Engineering & Technology.

I'd really like to acknowledge a couple of recent mentions of this humble blog:

I really appreciate these mentions, as they are a validation of what I'm trying to do here. As well, they've caused a huge spike in the number of hits I'm getting, so far well over 400 so far this month. That is more than double the number of hits since I started counting in May. Since so many of you seem to be visiting here, I would encourage you to drop me a line with suggestions, input, feedback, greetings, whatever, at jdupuis (at) yorku.ca. (I'm not putting a real mailto link because I've noticed a spike in spam at my yorku account since I started this blog.) (On another note, I'm very happy with eXTReMe Tracker and would recommend it without hesitation.)

June 5, 2003

Some recent IEEE publications (signing up for the email alerts is a great way to keep up to date):

June 4, 2003

"Too much information: Organizing information—after gathering it in the first place—is the key to actually using it" by Jean Thilmany from Mechanical Engineering Magazine. The closing quote: "The amount of information that engineers can access within minutes can be both a blessing and a curse. But as librarians and researchers know, the way to tame the information is the same way you tame clutter in your home: constantly tossing unused items and organizing the rest." A valuable article which I may very well send to all the scitech professors I liaise with. It's valuable both because it discusses engineering design in terms of information gathering and because it's written from an engineer's perspective. From Mel DeSart via eldnet-l.

A thoughful piece by noted science fiction author Robert Silverberg in the latest Asimov's: "Reflections: When There Was No Internet." It's an interesting meditation on life before and after the Internet, something we should all keep in mind as we deal with hordes of undergrad students stampeding our reference desks: they really don't remember life before the web very well, it's always seemed ubiquitous to them. We who are a bit older can compare how immeasurably easier it is to do research online compared to the old paper-based methods, we can appreciate that if something isn't online, hey, no big deal, the print version is just down the hall. At least it was easy to identify that the article existed. But, the new researcher doesn't make that comparison: her expectation is that the needed information will exist online, that it isn't worth the trouble to get if it isn't. I, to tell the truth, I can't blame them because I've become much the same. They imagine the pre-web days like I imagine the pre-TV days. From Locusmag.

June 3, 2003

Noted without comment: "Pervasive Computing: Just Can't Get Away from those Darn Things!" by John Dupuis. From the Spring 2003 issue of The Courier, the SLA Toronto Chapter's web newsletter.

Another quickie: Scientific American's Sci/Tech Web Awards 2003.

An interesting article from Publisher's Weekly about the state of university presses in the United States.

June 2, 2003

Bob Gainey has just been named the new GM of the Montreal Canadiens.

The last two issues (March/April, May/June) of the Bulletin of the Information Technology Division of SLA have mini New York travel guides full of useful tips for those of us heading off to NYC next week. The May/June issue also has a terrific article by Angelica Cortez on the deep web, in other words the database driven part of the web hidden from search engines. It's one of the best such articles I've seen, highlighting several good resources and references. And BTW, if you see me at SLA, please say "Hi!" I welcome any and all questions, comments, feedback and whatever about this blog. And yes, an RSS feed is under consideration.

From the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Academic Librarianship (From SEPW.):

  • "Changes in faculty reading behaviors: the impact of electronic journals on the University of Georgia" by Erin T. Smith
  • "The two cultures? librarians and technologists" by Mark Cain

The explosive growth of the Internet over the last decade has created a lot of concerns: privacy, security and many technical challenges resulting from that growth. Rachel Ross of the Toronto Star interviewed three of the Internet's pioneers, Steve Crocker, Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf, and asked them what they would do differently, if only they knew.