Evil (Information) Scientist

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

Your wiki wiki ways

Posted by Nathaniel on September 30, 2007

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usI consider myself fairly techno-literate. I can fix most problems that occur regularly on my desktop PC all by myself, as well as on my little mac laptop (few and far between as they are – as a tangent, mac is a far, far superior product). I know basic HTML and can work with CSS. Any programme I use, I’ve taught myself to use. I’m not afraid of computers. I have built web pages (not good ones), blogs, contributed to Wikipedia. In other words, I can feel my way around information technology fairly effectively, but I don’t get one thing: what is a wiki?

I read all the readings for 1311 about wikis. And all I get about them is that they’re good for sharing information and that bosses that let you use them on the job are way cool. I still don’t really see what they are.

Are they a blog? No, they’re not in inverse temporal order. Are they a website? No, anyone with access can access and change them. OK, they’re websites that some people can modify when they don’t like what someone else has written. Why is that good? Does it make the quality of information shared that much more credible if it can be erased, warped, or spindled by someone with a grudge, a crazy person, or a person convinced they’re right regardless of any facts that may (or may not) be ringing through his or her head.

How is the wiki any better than a website for sharing information?

“Obligatory Wiki Photo” by Cogdogblog downloaded under a Creative Commons License


Posted in Information Sharing | 3 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 »

Librarian mating rituals

Posted by Nathaniel on September 13, 2007

Why does no one leave their website in the comments? How do I know how to find you and return your snippy little comments and sign you up for comment spam services? The friends who left comments because I guilted them by telling them that more comments = higher marks have an excuse. But not you people taking a course in using technology to share information. Unclean! Unclean!

As punishment I give you a glimpse of your future librarionic life, supplied by fellow 1311er Meg. Hahahahahahaha! It’s much funnier if you’ve seen the movie March of the Penguins so don’t yell at me if you just think it’s weird. It’s not. It’s mildly amusing in a chuckly kind of way. Go rent the movie and then come back and watch this. And then you’ll totally snicker.

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