Monday, November 28, 2005

What Google Should Roll Out Next: A Privacy Upgrade - New York Times

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Yikes, was I the only one who didn't know that Google stores users' searches with personally identifying information? The New York Times just published an editorial urging Google to adopt stricter privacy controls, an article that brought this to my attention (why I didn't learn this from library sources is beyond me! Perhaps library listservs are too busy bashing Google for stealing our databases' thunder to pay attention to some real substantial reasons to be upset about what they're doing...):
Google has been aggressive about collecting information about its users' activities online. It stores their search data, possibly forever, and puts "cookies" on their computers that make it possible to track those searches in a personally identifiable way - cookies that do not expire until 2038...

The government can gain access to Google's data storehouse simply by presenting a valid warrant or subpoena. Under the Patriot Act, Google may not be able to tell users when it hands over their searches or e-mail messages. If the federal government announced plans to directly collect the sort of data Google does, there would be an uproar - in fact there was in 2003, when the Pentagon announced its Total Information Awareness program, which was quickly shut down.
Further evidence that The Onion is sometimes closer to the truth than non-satire newspapers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Adblock from Firefox

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Wow, this is almost surreal. I've installed the AdBlock extension in Firefox on my machine at work, and I'm now looking at ad-heavy sites like Yahoo Mail, New York Times, and The Onion, and they're full of white space. This extension, with a little training, blocks out ads from pages based on their file names (so if you add to your list of blocking criteria, no ads from there show up on your screen). It's awesome. It's almost eerie, though. I've become so accustomed to my Yahoo Mail blinking and flashing at me, it's strange for it to be so still, so calm.

I think I could get used to this.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The DaVinci Institute's The Future of Libraries

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A new contribution to the growing body of literature about the future of libraries, this report takes the novel approach of avoiding doom-saying. While I'm a little skeptical about the prediction that our culture will transition to a completely verbal one by 2050 (i.e., non-literate within my lifetime?)...

Trend #6 - Over time we will be transitioning to a verbal society
...Dr William Crossman, Founder/Director of the CompSpeak 2050 Institute for the Study of Talking Computers and Oral Cultures, predicts that as we say goodbye to keyboards we will begin the transition to a verbal society. He also predicts that by 2050 literacy will be dead.
While the accuracy of his dates and the wholesale transition from literacy to a verbal society may be debatable, there will undoubtedly be a strong trend towards verbal information. Computers will become more human-like with personalities, traits, and other characteristics that will give us the sense of being in a room with other humans.

...many of the trends discussed here fall in line with the idea I advanced in my thesis--that libraries should re-establish their place in the community as cultural centers. Here they're advocating for physical spaces in the library for cultural activities, while I argued for an online space for such activities (namely, but not limited to, fanfic).
The notion of becoming a cultural center is an expansive role for the future library. It will not only serve as an information resource, but much more, with the exact mission and goals evolving and changing over time.
A culture-based library is one that taps into the spirit of the community, assessing priorities and providing resources to support the things deemed most important.
The DaVinci Institute's The Future of Libraries

Thursday, November 10, 2005

posting to professional listservs

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Whew. I've finally posted something to a professional listserv. I had avoided it thus far, fearing saying something stupid to a national audience of my peers, but I finally got with the program and said something (and i don't think it's too stupid.)

And the cool part was getting two responses directly to me complimenting me on the post, one from the person who I was responding to. Hooray for me!

Information Literacy Instruction Listserv (requires login to view Archives)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Book I'm reading now: Can't Stop, Won't Stop

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I'm going to try to do this regularly from here on out. How long till this declaration mocks me and my lack of follow-through?

I'm reading Jeff Chang's Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (New York : St. Martin's Press, 2005) right now. I'm nearly done with it--despite it's fatness, it's a quick read.

The subject matter is really interesting, especially at the beginning of the book. The first chapter sets the scene with a harrowing description of Bronx in the early 1970's, victim of "urban renewal" projects and escape-Manhattan highways. (It actually helped me understand what i had seen when my family went to Yankees games in the mid-80's!) He makes the connection between Jamaican sound systems, early Bronx DJ's like Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, and the beginnings of hip hop.

The early sections are fascinating--things I learned (off the top of my head):
* pioneering DJ's like Herc, Flash, and others weren't the first to cut records because they didn't see what they did (live turntabling) as something that should be recorded, so the Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight was a total studio production, from the song (written by the record producer) to the group (assembled from a trio of kids who's done some rapping but weren't a performing group).
* there was an interesting (but often tense) relationship between the early hip-hop scene and the early punk/downtown scene. Graffiti artists got downtown gallery shows, the Clash had Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five open for them in 1981 (can you imagine that? They weren't well received.).
* Break dancing was so named because they danced to the song breaks. I think I always thought it was because you risked breaking something to spin around on your head, but the showy stuff developed out of the street dancing rituals that allowed gang rivals to blow off steam without outright fighting. Whoa.

Chang does a great job of contextualizing hip hop--in presenting what was going on in the Bronx, in South Central, when their hip hop scenes broke out. I didn't know a huge, city-wide gang truce was being brokered at the very same time the L.A. Rodney King riots were breaking out. Obviously, being, what, 15 when it happened, and living in a very white, suburban area, I wasn't privy to the inside scoop on the news out of Compton and Watts, but this completely changed my perception of LA in the early 90's and Bronx in the mid/late 1970's.

This past spring, I read Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude, which was a fictional first-person account of a white kid growing up in a black Brooklyn neighborhood. Reading these two books together (or within the year, I guess) makes for a whole new perspective on a time period and a place I missed out on--kind of. It's weird to think of this whole other world that existed just two hours away from Shimerville, PA, and during my lifetime, that seems so foreign, and yet not so.

Anyway, I'm rambling (but this is my blog, and i can ramble if i wanna!).

The major weakness Can't Stop, Won't Stop has is poor editing. Chang gets carried away with using lingo and casual references, but he often doesn't explain the lingo, or if he does, does so poorly or way too late in the book (for example, he refers the Five Percenters over and over, throughout the first half of the book, but never explains who they were until about halfway through. It didn't take that long to describe them, but it was silly to assume that most of his readers would know who they were). A glossary would have been super-helpful.

The book is also messy--it's rambling at times, going back and forth in time and theme, and at times reads like a collection of separately written articles clumsily mashed together to create a book. It's a good 546 page book, but it could have been an incredible 350 page book. It loses steam about halfway through--the pace slows down, it gets repetitive, and it loses focus. I'm not sure if I'm going to finish it or not--I just read a chapter about the founding of The Source, which I really don't care about--and I might just return it to the library unfinished (though i think I'm at least 450 pages into it).