April 14, 2004 | Comments (0)

One Word: a very fun site. 60 seconds to write about the word of the day–a good way to start any workday! And it’s fun to read others’ entries as well…Today’s word (“legendary”) made LiB think of that blasted Tom Cruise/Tim Curry movie

Please don’t GoogleBomb LII, begs Karen Schneider.

The Disability Rights Commission has stated that most websites still do not meet the most basic needs of disabled users. From the article:

A thousand websites were tested for the survey using automated software, and detailed user testing was carried out on 100 sites, including government, business, e-commerce, leisure and web services such as search engines.
The results showed that the worst affected group were those with visual impairments.
Blind people involved in testing websites were unable to perform nearly all of the tasks required of them despite using devices such as screen readers.

The article also has a side-bar with a checklist for good, accessible web design.

duct tape I have a theory–that most problems one encounters can be solved with one of three things:
1) twist ties
2) Pez

3) duct tape
And now, there’s a transparent version of #3! Manufactured by 3M, this new transparent duct tape is definitely worth checking out. Kevin Kelly says it’s even better than the grey-standard (!)

Liz Figueroa of California has proposed a bill that would halt Gmail. As much as I personally have no interest in obtaining a Gmail account with the current privacy issues, and am telling patrons and family members to do the same, I don’t see the need for legislation. I agree with the Mad Librarian, who says: “I’m just a bit skittish that if ad hoc legislation comes out of this without a strong understanding of the issues and rights involved, 1) the cure could be worse than the disease or 2) it’ll get overturned in court so fast, Sen. Figueroa’s head would spin.”

Second Hand Songs

April 13, 2004 | Comment (1)

This is just plain cool: a database of cover songs. Second Hand Songs contains “17542 songs (5648 originals, 11222 cover songs and 672 songs with samples), 7058 albums and 10470 artists (performers and songwriters).” Everything is cross-linked, so you can jump from artist, to song, to cover artist, to another song…. Hoo-yah!

Number 2: ACT, SAT, GRE, & vocabulary tests (requires registration with the site). Looks great! Word lists from real tests (SAT, GRE, TOEFL), vocabulary lessons, practice tests, and a cool hangman vocabulary game (which I just can’t seem to beat). This site had some pop-up ads coming at me as I clicked around, but any pop-up blocker worth its salt should catch them.

hoovers.jpg has a new demo, including visualization of data provided by business site Hoovers. You have all the regular Hoover’s search options and your data displays with various icons on the right–people, companies, etc. Right-clicking on the icons gives you tons more data-display options. If you want to get a taste for visualized data, this is a good place to start.

Note: Use IE and make sure you have java enabled.

Thanks to ResearchBuzz for pointing this out!

Bookify your Blog

April 13, 2004 | Comments (0)

LJ Book turns your blog into a hard-copy book (well, a nice printable PDF which you can print, bind, and make all spiffy if you so desire). It’s a free service (so far anyway). It even provides a linked table of contents of your various postings. I’m not sure that it would work well for a blog like mine, but for blogs like the Urbana Free Library Construction News I can see it working quite nicely as a permanent record to bind and keep handy in the library.

There have been some rather heated and opinionated discussions going on Web4Lib and Dig_Ref about Gmail (Google’s new e-mail service, for those of you who have been living in a ditch for the last week). There were so many good concerns raised in these discussions, that I wanted to sum up the important issues (as I see them) so far. For an introductory summary of the controversy surrounding Gmail, go here.

1) If you’re replying to an e-mail reference question by a patron with a Gmail account, are you violating your privacy policy (or your state’s privacy policy), by knowingly sending a message to a service that will scan and retain the information in that message?
2) Since the targeted advertising is based on both incoming and outgoing messages, will all the SPAM people receive be taken into consideration for their advertising? If so, many of us are going to be getting a lot of porn site, mortgage broker, and online university ads.
3) In its privacy policy, GMail is upfront about the information it collects. Users (in general, and come on, yes, we do know it’s true) do not read privacy policies, so will be unaware of what they are signing up for.
4) Users trust Google as a search engine, and in large part, have been led to do so by librarians and educators. This trust will likely automatically transfer to Google’s Gmail.
5) All e-mail should be considered to be “not secure.” Patrons, in general, do not know this.
6) Are the servers that Google will use to store Gmail located in the United States? If so, does the Patriot Act apply to the e-mails stored on these servers?

My feeling, as I expressed in my own message to Web4Lib is this: Google is setting a dangerous (& frankly, unexpected) precedent by dangling the carrot of ample storage space in front of users, in return for completely abandoning any privacy they might have with a more privacy-oriented service. I echo Karen Schneider’s desire for other companies to come forth with super-private e-mail systems in response to the outcry against Google’s hard-core data mining. Simply put, my privacy is worth more than a gig.

I think this controversy (as it is being more widely reported now in popular media) provides those of us who work with the public with a good opportunity to do some user education about online privacy concerns. As has been said again and again throughout discussions on this issue, this is a teachable moment if ever there was one.