Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Information Professionals' Christmas Party

And so to the Information Professionals' Christmas Party, the event that always seems like a Guinness Book of Records attempt to cram as many weird acronyms (Biall anyone?) on to one invite. Anyway, last Monday, on the kind of balmy November evening that gets one in just the right mood for misletoe and Santa, I trotted along to the Science museum to enjoy the festivities. Champagne was served and the reception was all rather jolly. There was the usual photo session for the scores of sponsors and the now infamous 'raffle' that seems to be restricted to five people. Nice prizes if you can get them. It was then hiking boots on for the long march to where the food was being served. After last year's bread bun debacle, it was a pleasant surprise to be served Thai curry and coq au vin. However, as I chewed on the tasty bird fIesh the presence of a crashed aeroplane exhibit reminded me of those poor chappies in the film Alive. Very tasty.

Suitably stuffed, the information professionals moved on to the serious business of partying. The only downside of the magnificent venue was that its sheer size meant that the party was a bit spead out thus making networking/chatting /pulling difficult. Still there was always the dance floor. Now as someone who rarely dances I realise I'm being a tad hypocritical here. However, as an observer I feel duty bound to report the unbelievable scenes at the Science Museum discoteque. To the strains of Michael Jackson's Thriller, I witnessed a line of at least four IPs doing that funny zombie/arms up like a kangaroo dance that Michael and his chums do in the video. Thankfully someone recorded it. See you at next year's party?

Wikipedia rated by experts

The debate continues . . . A recent piece of research by "First Monday" (a peer reviewed journal on the internet) found that experts found Wikipedia’s articles to be more credible than the non–experts. The report goes on to say: "This suggests that the accuracy of Wikipedia is high. However, the results should not be seen as support for Wikipedia as a totally reliable resource as, according to the experts, 13 percent of the articles contain mistakes."

Monday, November 27, 2006

A viable alternative to Wikipedia

uncyclopedia is a wiki that has been designed to challenge the growing power of Wikipedia. However, the difference is that while Wikipedia tries (hard) not to get its facts wrong, Uncyclopedia goes all out to subvert the truth. It's an ambitious parody project and like the site it is lampooning anyone can add or edit any of its existing (150,000) entries. The only guideline from the creators is "please be funny and not just stupid". An example entry on Australia states: "Australia is a minimum security prison turned British colony that is either part of South East Asia, a British colony, or America Jr. depending on whose opinion you ask." Given the growing use of Wikipedia in the profession, I can't wait for a journalist to get their wikis in a twist . . .

Arrghhh! We're all gonna die!

Yep, it's Monday. Happened upon a list of what your chances of dying a certain way are. The National Safety Council in the US have produced a long list and a WAYS TO GO simple chart. They released the info in response to constantly being asked by journalists what the odds of dying of "x" are. Given that I've got a mere 193 to 1 chance of dying from accidental poisoning by exposure to noxious substances I think I'll cancel my 14 million to 1 national lottery subscription.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

AmbientLibrarian

Great idea it might be, but unfortunatley AmbientLibrarian is not a site for all things Brian Eno. Instead it's a wiki dedicated to helping information professionals learn more about available web technologies, with Library 2.0 as its main focus. If anything's going to explain what it's all about, this it. Well worth a visit.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Librarian: Seen the film? Now read the comic.

With a sequel to The Librarian about to be aired in the US, the brand has extended to a soon-to-be-released comic book. Get an 8-page sneak preview here. For the uninitiated, it has been described as "if Indiana Jones were a librarian . . " You have been warned.

Is it safe?

It's what we're all supposed to be good at, but how exactly do you go about assessing the quality and validity of information? A useful list of Top 10 Tips, compiled at the end of TFPL worshop, can be found at Karen Blakeman's blog.

Morgue Mama rides again

Just finished Dig, by CR Corwin, the second Morgue Mama book starring Hannawa Herald-Union librarian Maddy Sprowls. This time she's investigating the murder of Gordon Sweet, university professor of garbology and fellow college beatnik in the Fifties - does it involve illegal dumping at the local tip, a campus murder in 1957 or a 40-year argument over Jack Kerouac's burger of choice?

Maddy's definitely old school (she has a stash of old cuttings files in her basement and refuses to use a computer - she wouldn't last two minutes in a news library these days), and catchphrases like, "Good gravy!" wear thin quickly, but it's hard not to like her. It feels authentic; when a junior reporter describes Maddy as a "desk-bound gnome who watches over the morgue", you just know the author has worked at a newspaper (Rob Levandoski, who uses the pen-name, was a reporter for several years). There are a few unnecessary subplots, but the story rolls along at a reasonable pace and it's nice to read a novel where the librarian is the central character, even if there are a few clich├ęs thrown in.

Dig, as well as the first book, The Cross Kisses Back, are published by Poisoned Pen Press.

Random library blog of the month

Red Tape, the blog for Government Documents Librarians of Michigan. Discover why Michigan needs a new state constitution and whether organic apple farming is viable there.

Another random(ish) blog yours truly gets a mention at the Global Journalist, and its list of blogs.

The truth isn't out there, for the moment.

The Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal, which we wrote about a few weeks ago, is still down, but that hasn't stopped The Garlic from speculating what else might be on there.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blocked sites

A library in Washington state is facing a lawsuit against an over-zealous CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act)computer filtering system. Under the act, implemented by the US government in 2004, public libraries that receive E-rate computer funding must block web images that are deemed sexually explicit and therefore inappropriate for children.

If a library refuses to use the filtering software there's a limit to the funding they receive. Filtering software isn't that discriminating, though, and many programs block innocent images too - including health education pages and technology news site The Register. Some even block filter advocate and House Majority Leader Dick Armey's official site, for obvious reasons.

The American Libraries Association brought a successful suit in 2002, arguing that the ruling broke the First Amendment, but the Supreme Court overturned the decision in 2003 and CIPA still stands. The new suit is being brought by adults who can't remove the filters for their own internet use.

It's unlikely to be successful though - Congress suggested last month that social networking sites like MySpace and Bebo should be added to the list of blocked sites as well. I know there's a risk of kids being approached by paedophiles masquerading as 13-year-old girls, but surely the US government has a better method of stopping paedophiles than banning kids from the web?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Info Island

Just in case you haven't heard about it, Second Life is an online digital world being built by its residents. Currently there are over 1.3 million people creating virtual businesses, bars, parks and of course libraries. Read all about it at the Second Life Library 2.0 blog. They're providing real services to SL residents, answering reference questions, doing training and providing books. The question is though, will there be a need for news librarians in this new world? Reminds me of the "If Media Libraries didn't exist, would we have to invent them", discussion at the AUKML York Conference. Not surprisingly the conclusion was yes but SL offers the chance to put the theory into practice. Any takers?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

2006?

You may recall (who am I kidding?) a post this time last year on women and binge drinking. Well, the festive season is upon us again and, true to form, women are in the firing line. Last month, the Independent on Sunday ran a special report on Women and Drink. Now we're told that three quarters of rape cases thought to involve date-rape drug rohypnol are apparently just down to the woman drinking too much. That's ok then. Surely it won't be long before someone suggests they were asking for it. Behold! BBC Online have beaten us to it. Nice to see they're using the same old photo to trail the story on the front page, too. She should start charging commission.

Articles in UK nationals (not FT) in the past year:

women and alcohol: 176
Women and binge drinking: 34
Men and alcohol: 138
Men and alcohol and violence: 4

Planet of the AP researchers.

If you're having an 'I hate this job, nobody appreciates me' day and need inspiration, read the article on Associated Press's research centre in the autumn issue of News Library News. A research team that actually has equal footing with reporters! Can I have a job please?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Worldometer

At the time of writing there have been 93,209 deaths and 226, 622 births in the world today. A quick look at worldometers, world statistics updated in real time, will show what the figures are now. Lots of other useful stats too.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Association of UK Media Librarians

The Association of UK Media Librarians was 20 years old yesterday. Discover more about the past couple of decades here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A blow for freedom of information?

According to the New York Times, a US government website giving the public access to documents relating to the invasion of Iraq has inadvertently provided details of how to make an atom bomb. Oops. The same site posted documents on how to make chemical weapons earlier this year. The site has been taken down while the authorities investigate. The US director of national intelligence opposed the site from the start, but hopefully it will return, minus the incriminating documents, shortly.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Citizens of the web unite!

Wikipedia founder Larry Sanger is taking the next step in the "can we trust Wikipedia?" debate, by launching a rival, Citizendium. Sanger left Wikipedia shortly after it was launched, concerned that he had no editorial control over postings.
Though it will initially be a fork of Wikipedia, using the same core of articles, Citizendium differs because it bars anonymous editing, so any spurious facts can be traced. It will also employ editors to monitor posts and settle disputes, and 'constables' to block troublesome posters (see Sanger's explanation for more details).
Whether the editing will extend to fact-checking, and whether the site will take off at all when freedom is the main draw of Wikipedia, remains to be seen.