Evil (Information) Scientist

What did I learn in school today? How to blog.

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Schoolyard taunts 2010

Posted by Nathaniel on November 5, 2007

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Posted in Fun (Gimme an A!), Technology | 2 Comments »

NO to the Microsoft Office format as an ISO standard

Posted by Nathaniel on November 1, 2007

Sign the petition here.

Posted in Information Sharing, Technology | Leave a Comment »

The machine is us/ing us

Posted by Nathaniel on October 24, 2007

We watched this video in 1210. It’s Fascinating and powerful (and fun) little clip on the Internet as a democratic medium.

Posted in Information Sharing, Technology | 1 Comment »

Internet literacy kills spam dead

Posted by Nathaniel on October 2, 2007

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg have come up with an innovative way to weed out comment spam while helping to preserve old books and manuscripts. Using an application they developed called reCAPTCHA, webmasters (and blog owners) can install a small program on their sites that commenters must fill out in order to leave a comment. Potential commenters are presented with two, almost illegible words that they must decipher in order to post their comment.

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This is much like the spam guard that Blogger offers where commenters must correctly type distorted letters to leave a comment. Spam comments from spambots cannot read the distortions and so comment spam cannot be posted. Humans can decipher these figures, and also the distorted manuscript items, and are permitted to leave their comments.

The interesting part is where the words are from and what they do. Many libraries and archives opt to digitize their older books and manuscripts in order to preserve them. Some scan them as image files, while others attempt go a step further and scan these images using text recognition programs. Unfortunately these programs are unable to recognize words distorted by older printing practices or age. That’s where reCAPTCHA comes in.

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The distorted words are placed in the comment spam guard in order to be deciphered. As users type them in the information is plugged into the documents they came from. Little by little the files are completed and older items are ready for public use. This a very imaginative and practical use of technology in the archive and library setting.

BBC – “Spam weapon helps preserve books”
Carnegie Mellon University
Images from BBC – “Spam weapon helps preserve books”

Posted in Technology | 4 Comments »

Facebook saves Toronto woman from rabid bat

Posted by Nathaniel on September 23, 2007

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usHow can you not love a story like that? While not precisely library-related, this is still a nice little gem on evolving attitudes towards new technologies. The story begins a few weeks ago when a women dropped off a bat at the Toronto Wildlife Centre. After tests, it turned out that the bat had rabies and the health department understandably wanted to warn her, as Torontoist reports.

[S]o o they tried all their top-secret official government methods of tracking people down (apparently consisting of the “telephone book” and “Google”) but nothing panned out. So they did what any reasonable person would do and turned to Facebook […] and they quickly found her.

Official plague communication via Facebook! I’m sure that is something its creators never foresaw.

By the way, I, Nathaniel Stone, am on Facebook for the addicts in the room. I’ve broken my addiction, but I also post fun, non-1311-related things there too.

Torontoist – “Rabid Bat Terrorizes Toronto; Facebook Saves the Day”
“Bat / Murcielago closeup” by Sarahsanantonio (Image downloaded and posted under a Creative Commons license)

Posted in Information Sharing, Technology | 4 Comments »

Internet killed the video star

Posted by Nathaniel on September 17, 2007

I stole this from fellow 1311er Ronald Gabor. I hope he doesn’t mind. It’s a wonderfully sardonic remake of the old Buggles tune, and with a moral. Ooooooo! Scaaaaary!

I especially enjoyed the skewering of virtual reality games, being a recovered Second Life addict. Reality is so much better.

Posted in Fun (Gimme an A!), Technology | 4 Comments »

They know what you read last summer

Posted by Nathaniel on September 16, 2007

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIf I were truly an evil information scientist I would be rubbing my hands together and chortling maliciously at this article on developments in surveillance technology. While not completely pertinent to a course on how libraries use technology to share information, it certainly gives one pause to consider how technology may be used to gather, store, and disseminate information.

Described in this innocent looking single column piece from the BBC is a terrifying look at our future. One scientist is developing software to recognise individuals in a crowd simply by the way they walk, their charcteristic “gait DNA”. Another has technology that can read individual heart and breathing rates through walls. In 10 years, the scientist claims, technology will have been developed to read individual thought patterns. Couple this with work on pilotless surveillance drones that can remain in the air for 5 years, and we all become Winston and Julia from 1984.

What responsibility do information scientists have to ensure ethical use of technology, since the developers seem to take none? There is obviously an enormous difference between storing data from an online library directory and flying spy drones peering through walls to record your dreams, the United States Patriot Act already gives government agencies access to information on individual library users, including the books they’ve check out, catalogue searches they’ve made, and emails they’ve sent and received at library terminals. The American Library Association (ALA) condemns these sections of the act, but it’s an empty condemnation when one is faced with subpoenas, the confiscation of library hardware by law enforcement agencies, and possible incarceration. We’ve come a long way since card catalogues.

The ethics of data collection, storage, and distribution are of interest to me. I would like to work in privacy and security policy in health records, where some of our most private and vulnerable information is kept. The advancement of technology that can be used to gain access to anyone’s private information – be it literary interests, psychiatric notes, or the way they walk – terrifies me, both professionally and personally. What can we do in our jobs to reign it in? Anything?


Posted in Information Sharing, Privacy and Security, Technology | 7 Comments »

Medieval tech support

Posted by Nathaniel on September 12, 2007

This seems like an excellent way to kick off a blog on information and technology from Norwegian comedy duo Øystein & Meg (Øystein and Me). Unless you actually speak Norwegian (which I don’t either), please don’t get angry at the subtitles. It’s very funny.

Posted in Fun (Gimme an A!), Information Sharing, Technology | 13 Comments »