Archive for June 2006

Scamming the Scammers

June 30, 2006

Friday is the traditional day for making frivolous and humorous posts on one of my system admin listservs. Carrying that tradition over this blog and this being Friday I thought I would share this with the loyal few who subscribe to Techview.

A fellow named Derek Trotter received one of the 419 scam emails we all love to get in our in-boxes. He turned it around and got the scammer to send him several wood carvings including a replica of a Commodore 64 keyboard. He wrote the scammer that his organization was looking to support promising artists and asked for some samples. The scammer bit. Read the full story here.

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Google – Is there an end?

June 29, 2006

So Google has activated another service today, Google Checkout. It is analogous to Pay Pal. TechCrunch wrote about it here. How long do you think it will take before you receive your first phishing email asking you to verify your Checkout account?

Google also had a booth at ALA. If anyone attended ALA and stopped by, I’d love to hear how they pitched themselves to librarians (and did they have good loot).

Update:  Google says that they don’t want to be your ISP.  Read what Google says on Wired News.  It is an interesting follow-up on the reports they are buying dark fiber.
Have you looked at everything Google offers these days? With announcements spread-out you might lose track of all the other services they provide. Off the top of my head, here is what I use or have read about. You can Google Google to find more:

  • Google Desktop on my PC
  • We run a google Appliance to index the library’s website.
  • I have Google search box in my FireFox browser
  • I have two Gmail accounts
  • I have a Custom Google home page
  • I have a Google Calendar account (plus I have access to a shared calendar for an organization)
  • I have Google Talk (IM)
  • I check Google News
  • I’m a member of a Google Group
  • I’ve signed up to try Google Picasa Web Albums
  • Upteen different kinds of searches including Google Scholar for more academic search results and Google Catalogs so I can find another source for black t-shirts
  • I can view Lance Armstrong on the Charlie Rose show using Google Video
  • I can look for black helicopters using Google Earth
  • I can search the full text of books for references to Gerald Durrell using Google Books
  • From my Blackberry I can send an SMS message containing a search string to Google
  • Google is rolling out a WiFi network (in San Francisco right now) and buying dark fiber (ie unused) presumably to build a nation-wide, hight capacity data network
  • Google owns 79 billion billion billion IPv6 addresses. ZDNet has an article on this.
  • Google is exploring AI (artificial intelligence) search engines. Blogged here and here

You get the idea. Google apparently has no limits in its ability to regularly roll out new products. If I was a conspiracy theorist I might start thinking about Skynet from the Terminator movies. Remember the benign way it started. Hmm, can a Google Satellite be in our near future? Or maybe I would wonder if Google is the technology arm of the Illuminati. But I choose to be optimistic and hope that, like Jean Luc Picard (but not Locutus of Borg), one day I’ll just have to say, “Google, I need …”

There is an interesting article in Business Week Online that goes Inside Google’s New-Product Process that looks into Google’s apparent product development ADD.

Demographics Prediction

June 28, 2006

According to Microsoft’s new adCenter Labs Demographics Prediction tool, this blog is male-oriented with a predicted audience in the 18-24 year old range.


When we started this blog we were not targeting this demographic at all. I would predict that the majority of our audience is quite a bit older than this.

I also ran Swem’s website through the demographic prediction tool:


To me this is about right (at least the ordering), though I would probably swap the under 18 and 25-34 brackets (I suspect we have more graduate students in this bracket than we do high schoolers using our site).

What else is on my desktop

June 27, 2006

Since I posted on what can be found on my desktop I’ve thought of four more services that I use fairly regularly. One I know you’ve heard about. The others might be interesting to explore.

digg.com — The content of digg comes entirely from its users who post stories they think are interesting. Other users vote on the the stories. You don’t get to apply tags but you can leave comments and the comments are often informative in and of themselves. According to John Dvorak it has a greater readership that the New York times on-line. You can narrow the stories you see by some broad categories such as Technology and Science. Not surprisingly, I look at the technology stories first. With thousands of people combing the Internet for interesting stories you have a much better shot finding something that you would have missed. Just today I found an article on one of my interests, RSS (RSS: The New Internet Protocol?) that appeared on a blog of which I wasn’t aware.

dailymashup — The Daily Mashup is another popular link site that I try to scan at least once a day. It has hard core techie stuff interspersed with sites such as this one that helps you predict when airfares will go up or down. I’ve found useful sites on web design including techniques for using CSS effectively and a discussion on how people read a web page. If you are interested, the article is F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content. Why is this important? It will help you place the important informaiton of your web page.

skype — Skype is a voice over IP (VoIP) service. That includes the Internet. They are offering it free until the end of the year. With Skype, from your PC, you can place phone calls. You need a microphone and speakers but a headset works better. Skype supports Skypecast, a large, hosted call, in an on-line session supporting up to 100 participants. I’ve used it myself in an on-line meeting and I thought it worked well.

MySpace — Unless you have been cut off from all news for a while, the chances are you have seen a story about MySpace. Currently it is the largest social network with nearly 90 million subscribers. I signed up out of curiosity but never did anything with my account until I read a couple of posts on Bill Drew’s Baby Boomer Librarian blog. On Monday Bill posted:

I am in the process of searching for other librarians on MySpace so I can send them requests to be added as a Friend. I am hoping to start up or find a MySpace group about using MYSpace to reach our users. If you only accept invitations from people you know, send me an invitation via MySpace.

He also referenced an interesting article from PC Magazine, MySpace Nation. Social networking is not just for kids is the gist of the article. So I became Bill’s friend and started looking around. I checked out his friends and found people whose blogs I read as well as a friend I normally see only at the SirsiDynix Superconference. I also discovered that there is a noticable library and librarian presence in MySpace. I’m getting a better idea of just how big this social network really is. I’ll keep you posted on what comes of this.

You might have noticed the absence of any reference to Google in writing about my desktop. I started listing the services offered by Google and am up to 17 and am not yet finished. Google is a discussion unto itself.

LibraryThing in the WSJ

June 27, 2006

I’ve mentioned LibraryThing in past posts.  There is a good article about it here in the Wall Street Journal.  The developer, Tim Spalding is on a listserv to which I also subscribe, NGC4LIB (Next Generation Catalogs for Libraries).  Tim is interested in exploring how LibraryThing can work with traditional library services.

Don’t be fooled that the WSJ articles appears under Time Waster.   I think you’ll come away seeing that it isn’t a toy.

Evidence-based practice

June 27, 2006

Want to know more about evidence-based practice? The Wikipedia definition:“An approach to a profession informed by the review of evidence gathered in systematic ways. Evidence-based practice (EBP) uses research results, reasoning, and best practices to inform the improvement of whatever professional task is at hand. Evidence-based practice is a philosophical approach that is in opposition to rules of thumb, folklore, and tradition. Examples of a reliance on “the way it was always done” can be found in almost every profession, even when those practices are contradicted by new and better information. Evidence-based design and development decisions are made after reviewing information from repeated rigorous data gathering instead of relying on rules, single observations, or custom. Evidence-based medicine and evidence-based nursing practice are the two largest fields employing this approach.”

Given the intractability that change brings out in some librarians, gathering this kind of information seems like a good thing. It’s ammunition against the conventional wisdom.
For many of us there is little time or opportunity for extensive usability testing. The good news is that there is a new online journal, Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, which presents articles using the evidence-based practice to information gathering. Here’s their focus and scope statement, “The purpose of the journal is to provide a forum for librarians and other information professionals to discover research that may contribute to decision making in professional practice. EBLIP publishes original research and commentary on the topic of evidence based library and information practice, as well as reviews of previously published research (evidence summaries) on a wide number of topics.”

Even if you are preparing your own usability work the journal provides a good place to start. To quote from Steven D. Levitt’s Freakonomics blog, “The effective use of statistics is one issue for which I am always happy to be an advocate.”

What’s On My Desktop

June 26, 2006

With all writing we have been doing on social software and web 2.0 I though I would share what I’m actually using on my desktop. This list changes often and I’ll update it periodically. I hope you will leave comments if you have a favorite that I didn’t include or I left out some important feature/disadvantage in my descriptions.

del.icio.us & tag del.icio.us — Before del.icio.us it was a chore for me to remember where I found a website. I would bookmark the site then promptly forget where I saved it. With del.icio.us, I can add tags to identify key subject areas. When you add a site to del.icio.us you get a screen where you can add tags and a description. del.icio.us tells you how many other people have bookmarked a site and you can see what tags they used. When you click on the link saved by nn other people you will see the tags they used for the web site as well as their comments. I have used this social aspect of del.icio.us to locate related web pages. There are many ways to use this social aspect of del.icio.us. A professor told me recently that he applies a class tag to sites he wants his students to visit. He give them a URL to his account with the tag filter in place and they get, in effect, a citation list. Librarians could do the same for subject guides. Your list is in last-in-first-out order which may be annoying if a site you visit frequently was one of the first added. You can filter by tags so it is managable. There are alternatives such as ma.gnolia.com. I am considering a switch to Magnolia. This service carries the social software aspect further along by allowing you to join and create groups. I also like the screen layout in Magnolia. del.icio.us does have a larger number of users so the social network is larger. I plan to use both services for a while. If you really want to look at social bookmarking, WikiPedia has a nice article and a Google search for “social bookmarking.”.

bloglines/subscribe to bloglines — for me, blogs are a major source of information about library and technical issues, trends, problems, concerns, and news. RSS feeds and RSS aggregators are an effective way to manage subscriptions. Before I discovered the beauty and efficiency of RSS, I would bookmark a site in a FireFox folder. Every day I would work my way down the list. A good aggregator will tell you if there are new posts and how many new posts. Your list of subscriptions is fixed in one panel and the blog posts appear in another. No more going back and forth between the website and your bookmarks. Your subscriptions are stored on a Bloglines server so you can get to them from any PC. Bloglines works well for me but you might also look at alternatives. Here is a nice RSS compendium. You’ll find both web-based and PC based reader/aggregators.

Gaim — Gaim is an open source instant messaging client available from Sourceforge. It supports multiple protocols inlcuding AIM, Yahoo, and Jabber. It is a good, solid client for IMing. Like other single front-end clients, you don’t get the bells and whistles that you would have with a service specific product such as AOL. It really depends on how you use IM. there is nothing to say that you can’t have multiple clients installed. Trillian is another single front-end IM client. It has some features not present in Gaim such as automatically saving a chat session to disk.

CiteULike and Connotea — These two services are citation managers. One of their primary finctions is to store links to articles with bibliographic information. I still testing both of these services.

CiteULike is marketed to academics and helps “academics to share, store, and organise the academic papers they are reading.” As with other social software, you can apply tags and see the articles to which other users have applied the same tag. CiteULike has supported sources. this means that if you find an article on one of these supported sites and post it to your account, it will carry over the journal citatioin with it. The supported sites include Amazon, JSTOR, HighWire Press, Nature, Science, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, and Wiley Interscience. If you post an article from another site you have the opportunity to fill in the citation information.CiteULike also has a feature to export to EndNote

Connotea is a bit more like del.icio.us in that it also markets itself as a service to bookmark websites as well as articles. As I write this I tried to go to connotea and got a message that it is unavailable due to very high load. That’s annoying. Ah, it’s back. Connotea also has sites that it recognizes and will autumaticall pull in the bibliographic informaiton. The list isn’t as extensive as CiteULike but I imagine that will change. Connotea would like to be your one-stop reference center. Right now I am leaning towards CiteULike but I recommend you try both services.

Flickr — Flickr is a hugely popular site for storing and sharing your photographs. As with other social software you can tag your images and search for other images with the same tag. A handy little Upload to Flickr client is available. You can also create and join groups. As Wayne snarkily pointed out in a comment to another posting, I failed to mention that Swem has a group on Flickr. Take a look at it here. There are other library related groups. For example, Libraries and Librarians Group Photo Pool. Google has just introduced Picasa Web Albums which has some of the same features as Flickr. It uses the desktop Picasa application to upload web albums.

ZohoShow — This is in my try-it-out-sometime group. zohoshow allows you to create, edit, and show presentations. You can load existing PowerPoint and Open Office presentation. There is a 1 Mb size limit for uploads which might limit this feature. You can also import pictures from your Flickr account. You can invite participants to view and control the show remotely. I can see it as a handy tool for for committees with distant members. You could combine it with voice over IP or IM chat to make it interactive.

LibraryThing — This is a service for cataloging your personal library materials. Right now it is in my fun group of services but it has larger potential. You can tag you books, search for other items with the sam tags, find another user who seems to have similar tastes and see what he/she has in his/her library, write reviews. The folks at LibraryThing are intersted in reaching out to traditional library services.

StumbleUpon — This is a fun site for idle moments. You can select a category then stumble through random web sites. Tag a site as being of interest, see who else is interested in the site. I’ve found some gems this way.

This has gone on long enough so I am going to stop here. The problem, for me, is that I start looking at a web service which leads me to a similar web service which I then have to try by creating accounts on those new services. Remeber what I said in and earlier post about developing a standard naming convention for user accounts. It comes in handy.