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LibUX: An Intro to SQL for Librarians

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-10-19 05:06

So Ruth Kitchin Tillman wrote a really nice intro for those of you interested in learning SQL — I pronounce it “sequel” — which, you know, you probably should.

When might it be appropriate for a librarian to learn SQL? … For example, at my place of work we have a MySQL database where we hold metadata before turning it into Fedora objects. I use SQL to extract that metadata into spreadsheets and then run update queries to improve that metadata. A lot of the work done around migrating Archivists’ Toolkit installations to ArchivesSpace involved digging into both databases. And it translates. Understanding SQL may help you better understand an API for a service you’re trying to set up. I’d definitely recommend it for metadata types and digital archives/collections types.

This last bit about better understanding APIs is, I think, more important than not. For those of you aren’t already deep in the database there is an increasing chance you’re in a content management system working with a facade, like the WP_Query() in WordPress or some other API, that ultimately exists to make it easier for you to lookup something in the database.

LibUX: Design your technology to work toward diversity, inclusion, and equity

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-10-19 04:49

Chris Bourg posted her talk about libraries, technology, and social justice where she makes some really great observations about our role as designers.

So here’s what happened with AirBnB – first there was an experimental study out of Harvard about a year ago showing that renters were less likely to rent to people with black sounding names; then there were several reports of renters cancelling bookings for black guests; only to then rent to white guests for the same time period. … What is interesting is that AirBnB is trying to do something about it, and they are being unusually transparent about it; so we might learn what works and what doesn’t. … What’s really interesting is that they are also working on technical features to try to eliminate instances where hosts claim a room or house is booked when a black renter makes a request; only to then immediately rent for the same time period to a white renter. Here is how they explain it: With the new feature If a host rejects a guest by stating that their space is not available, Airbnb will automatically block the calendar for subsequent reservation requests for that same trip.

She adds: “Would it have been better if they had anticipated the racist behavior enabled by their platform? Sure. But now that they are trying to make corrections, and to use technology to do it, I think there might be a real opportunity for us all to learn how we might leverage technology in combatting discrimination.”

How do we promote an inclusive perspective, and an agenda of equity in and through our tech work?

But again, this just points to the fact that if we want our technology to work towards diversity, inclusion and equity; we have to intervene and design it explicitly to do so.


LibUX: DRM is Still Coming to the Web and You Should Care More

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-10-18 18:55

Original photo by Álvaro Serrano

In March, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) threw out a nonaggression covenant that would safeguard people from some of the legal risk associated with building DRM (digital rights management) into the open web. This means that the charter for the HTML Media Extensions Working Group—which oversees the Encrypted Media Extensions specification—had been extended through September 2016.

This was a big deal and no one really seemed to notice.

What are Encrypted Media Extensions?

W3C is the nonprofit body governing the core technical standards for the web, responsible for ensuring that specs like HTML, WCAG (accessibility standards), and RDF are openly developed and implemented. In 2007 their HTML5 specification introduced the <video> element, which since has largely freed the web from the chokehold of third-party plugins—like Flash and Silverlight—except when that media needs to be locked down. Netflix obviously doesn’t want its viewers to right-click and download Jessica Jones the same way people save memes.

And although the capability of browsers improved so much so that the cool stuff afforded previously by plug-ins like Flash is now replicable without, our ability to Right-Click-View-Source pretty much guaranteed the persistence of those pesky, impossible-to-update Java applets. These impede the accessibility of the web and the security of its users. We knew it, the W3C knew it.

So, a few years ago, they requested an alternative:

In February 2012 several W3C members proposed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) to extend HTMLMediaElement that would replace the need for users to download and install ’plug-ins’ with a standard API (Application Programming Interface) that would automatically discover, select and interact with a third-party’s protected content.

Encrypted Media Extensions work behind the scenes: when the browser recognizes that a video or audio happens to have one or more encrypted parts, it quickly negotiates the license then streams the content like you’d expect—no fuss, no Flash.

Folks for and against agree DRM sucks for users

As a W3C member, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been long since involved, intending to “persuade the W3C that supporting DRM is a bad idea for the Web, bad for interoperability, and bad for the organization.”

EFF’s international director Danny O’Brien writes:

The W3C is composed of many thoughtful and experienced engineers and standards writers who know, often through personal experience, how painful digital rights management is to implement, how brittle it is in the face of inevitable attack, how privacy-invasive it can be, how damaging it can be for competition, and how often unpopular it is among consumers. … Our impression is that dominant reason why the W3C (and Tim Berners-Lee, as its tie-breaking Executive Director) has continued to permit DRM to be considered in the HTML working group is their hope that within the W3C, the worst parts of DRM might be tamed.

Tim Berners-Lee himself said as much in October 2013:

No one likes DRM as a user, wherever it crops up. It is worth thinking, though, about what it is we do not like about existing DRM-based systems, and how we could possibly build a system which will be a more open, fairer one than the actual systems which we see today. If we, the programmers who design and build Web systems, are going to consider something which could be very onerous in many ways, what can we ask in return?

The legal argument against

The controversy, however, is chiefly legal. Opponents like O’Brien claim that since “laws like the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Canada’s C-11, New Zealand’s Bill 92A; and accords like the European EUCD, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the US-Australian and US-Korean Trade Agreements” make it illegal to tamper with DRM; essentially, the open lawful development of the web cannot continue since, paradoxically, DRM is core to that development.

He goes on:

The W3C can’t fix that [paradox]. Even if its most optimistic goals of limiting the dangers of DRM came to pass—by defining strict sandboxing, say, or carefully cabining off its use in other Web standards—W3C standards could still be used to punish security researchers and attempts at interoperability. You can’t prosecute a researcher for finding a bug in your browser, or threaten someone for using your Web standard in a lawful way you didn’t approve of; but those are the dangers that hang over anyone investigating a DRM implementation.

Thus the Electronic Frontier Foundation proposed in its “Objection to the rechartering of the W3C EME group” a DRM circumvention nonaggression covenant in which W3C members agree not to sue anyone for circumventing the encrypted media specification or in disclosing any vulnerabilities therein.

This proposal was rejected.

You need to be more involved in the conversation

DRM in HTML means that organizations like libraries could possibly, more usefully, incorporate vendor-blocked content into their sites and applications without the need for users to download special software, or potentially even visit the vendors’ sites.

The argument against, however, as presented by Cory Doctorow, suggests that what net gains there could be in the user experience may be at a substantial cost:

Equally significant in the world of open standards is protecting interoperability. The normal course of things in technology is that one company may make a product that interoperates with another company’s products, provided that they don’t violate a patent or engage in some other illegal conduct. But once DRM is in the mix, interoperability is only legal with permission.

It’s an important conversation to have.

To librarians, specifically

Libraries’ predilection toward open source and direct involvement in the development of specs like RDF demonstrate greater stake in these discussions than not. There is an opportunity—albeit a diminishing one—to participate in this conversation, one that librarians on the front-lines of open access look past, unaware.

Jason Ronallo: Client-side Video Tricks for IIIF

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-10-18 18:09

I wanted to push out these examples before the IIIF Hague working group meetings and I’m doing that at the 11th hour. This post could use some more editing and refinement of the examples, but I hope it still communicates well enough to see what’s possible with video in the browser.

IIIF solved a lot of the issues with working with large images on the Web. None of the image standards or Web standards were really developed with very high resolution images in mind. There’s no built-in way to request just a portion of an image. Usually you’d have to download the whole image to see it at its highest resolutions. Image tiling works around a limitation of image formats by just downloading the portion of the image that is in the viewport at the desired resolution. IIIF has standardized and image servers have implemented how to make requests for tiles. Dealing with high resolution images in this way seems like one of the fundamental issues that IIIF has helped to solve.

This differs significantly from the state of video on the web. Video only more recently came to the web. Previously Flash was the predominant way to deliver video within HTML pages. Since there was already so much experience with video and the web before HTML5 video was specified, it was probably a lot clearer what was needed when specifying video and how it ought to be integrated from the beginning. Also video formats provide a lot of the kinds of functionality that were missing from still images. When video came to HTML it included many more features right from the start than images.

As we’re beginning to consider what features we want in a video API for IIIF, I wanted to take a moment to show what’s possible in the browser with native video. I hope this helps us to make choices based on what’s really necessary to be done on the server and what we can decide is a client-side concern.

Crop a video on the spatial dimension (x,y,w,h)

It is possible to crop a video in the browser. There’s no built-in way that this is done, but with how video it integrated into HTML and all the other APIs that are available there cropping can be done. You can see one example below where the image of the running video is snipped and add to a canvas of the desired dimensions. In this case I display both he original video and the canvas version. We do not even need to have the video embedded on the page to play it and copy the images over to the canvas. The full video could have been completely hidden and this still would have worked. While no browser implements it a spatial media fragment could let a client know what’s desired.

Also, in this case I’m only listening for the timeupdate event on the video and copying over the portion of the video image then. That event only triggers so many times a second (depending on the browser), so the cropped video does not display as many frames as it could. I’m sure this could be improved upon with a simple timer or a loop that requests an animation frame.

Watch the video and cropped video

And similar could be done solely by creating a wrapper div around a video. The div is the desired width with overflow hidden and the video is positioned relative to the div to give the desired crop.

This is probably the hardest one of these to accomplish with video, but both of these approaches could probably be refined and developed into something workable.

Truncate a video on the temporal dimension (start,end)

This is easily accomplished with a Media Fragment added to the end of the video URL. In this case it looks like this:,480/default.mp4#t=6,10. The video will begin at the 6 second mark and stop playing at the 10 second mark. Nothing here prevents you from playing the whole video or any part of the video, but what the browser does by default could be good enough in lots of cases. If this needs to be a hard constraint then it ought to be pretty easy to do that with JavaScript. The user could download the whole video to play it, but any particular player could maintain the constraint on time. What’s nice with video on the web is that the browser can seek to a particular time and doesn’t even need to download the whole video to start playing any moment in the video since it can make byte-range requests. And the server side piece can just be a standard web sever (Apache, nginx) with some simple configuration. This kind of “seeking” of tiles isn’t possible with images without a smarter server.

Scale the video on the temporal dimension (play at 1.5x speed)

HTML5 video provides a JavaScript API for manipulating the playback rate. This means that this functionality could be included in any player the user interacts with. There are some limitations on how fast or slow the audio and video can play, but there’s a larger range of how fast or slow the just the images of the video can play. This will also differ based on browser and computer specifications.

This video plays back at 3 times the normal speed:

This video plays back at half the normal speed:

Change the resolution (w,h)

If you need to fit a video within a particular space on the page, a video can easily be scaled up and down on the spatial dimension. While this isn’t always very bandwidth friendly, it is possible to scale a video up and down and even do arbitrary scaling right in the browser. A video can be scaled with or without maintaining its aspect ratio. It just takes some CSS (or applying styles via JavaScript).

Play stretched video

Rotate the video

I’m not sure what the use case within IIIF is for rotating video, but you can do it rather easily. (I previously posted an example which might be more appropriate for the Hague meeting.)

Play rotating video

Use CSS and JavaScript safely, OK?


Two of the questions I’ll have about any feature being considered for IIIF A/V APIs are:

  1. What’s the use case?
  2. Can it be done in the browser?

I’m not certain what the use case for some of these transformations of video would be, but would like to be presented with them. But even if there are use cases, what are the reasons why they need to be implemented via the server rather than client-side? Are there feasibility issues that still need to be explored?

I do think if there are use cases for some of these and the decision is made that they are a client-side concern, I am interested in the ways in with the Presentation API and Web Annotations can support the use cases. How would you let a client know that a particular video ought to be played at 1.2x the default playback rate? Or that the video (for some reason I have yet to understand!) needs to be rotated when it is placed on the canvas? In any case I wonder to what extent making the decision that someone is a client concern might effect the Presentation API.

Stop all videos

DPLA: New Exhibition! Battle on the Ballot: Political Outsiders in US Presidential Elections

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-10-18 15:00

With Election Day just three weeks away, we are pleased to announce the publication of our newest exhibition, Battle on the Ballot: Political Outsiders in US Presidential Elections. With only twenty-one days until we elect our next president, your inboxes, news feeds, and social media networks are likely abuzz with the minute-to-minute happenings in the world of polls, pundits, and party politics, yet historical perspective is sometimes hard to find. Both candidates—a billionaire businessman and the first woman nominated by a major party—approach the presidency as outsiders, reaching beyond the traditional boundaries of US presidential politics, though each in very different ways.

In Battle on the Ballot, the DPLA curation team digs into the vast collections of our partner institutions to explore the ways in which the 2016 race resonates with the legacies of the outsiders who have come before. The exhibition offers a dynamic definition of outsider and explores the rich history of select individuals, parties, events, and movements that have influenced US presidential elections from the outside—outside Washington politics, outside the two-party system, and outside the traditional conception of who can be an American president.

  • Have Americans elected past presidents with no political experience?
  • What third parties have successfully impacted election outcomes?
  • Who were some of the earliest women to run for president?
  • What happens when parties and politicians organize around fear of outsiders?
  • How have African Americans exercised their political power—as voters and candidates—in presidential elections over the last fifty years?

Explore the answers to these questions and more in the exhibition.

View the Exhibition

Battle on the Ballot: Political Outsiders in US Presidential Elections was curated using materials contributed by institutions across our partner network. In particular, we would like to thank the Digital Library of Georgia, Missouri Hub, North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, and California Digital Library for their assistance in creating this exhibition.  

The image in the featured banner comes from the collection of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill via North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

David Rosenthal: Why Did Institutional Repositories Fail?

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-10-18 15:00
Richard Poynder has a blogpost introducing a PDF containing a lengthy introduction that expands on the blog post and a Q&A with Cliff Lynch on the history and future of Institutional Repositories (IRs). Richard and Cliff agree that IRs have failed to achieve the hopes that were placed in them at their inception in a 1999 meeting at Santa Fe, NM. But they disagree about what those hopes were. Below the fold, some commentary.

Poynder sets out the two competing visions of IRs from the Santa Fe meeting. One was:
The repository model that the organisers of the Santa Fe meeting had very much in mind was the physics preprint server arXiv. ... As a result, the early focus of the initiative was on increasing the speed with which research papers were shared, and it was therefore assumed that the emphasis would be on archiving papers that had yet to be published (i.e. preprints).The other was:
However, amongst the Santa Fe attendees were a number of open access advocates. They saw OAI-PMH as a way of aggregating content hosted in local - rather than central - archives. And they envisaged that the archived content would be papers that had already been published, rather than preprints. ... In other words, the OA advocates present were committed to the concept of author self-archiving (aka green open access). The objective for them was to encourage universities to create their own repositories and then instruct their researchers to deposit in them copies of all the papers they published in subscription journals. As these repositories would be on the open internet outside any paywall the papers would be freely available to all. And the expectation was that OAI-PMH would allow the content from all these local repositories to be aggregated into a single searchable virtual archive of (eventually) all published research.Poynder's summary of the state of IRs is hard to dispute:
So while the OA movement may now appear unstoppable there is a growing sense that both the institutional repository and green OA have lost their way. It is not hard to see why. Not only are most researchers unwilling to self-archive their papers, but they remain sceptical about open access per se. Consequently, despite a flood of OA mandates being introduced by funders and institutions, most IRs remain half empty. What content they do contain often consists of no more than the bibliographic details of papers rather than the full text. More strikingly, many of the papers in IRs are imprisoned behind "login walls", which makes them accessible only to members of the host institution (and this is not just because of publisher embargoes). As a result, the percentage of content in IRs that is actually open access is often pretty low. Finally, since effective interoperability remains more aspiration than reality searching repositories is difficult, time-consuming and deeply frustrating.A small part of this is because OAI-PMH was, as Herbert van de Sompel and Michael Nelson pointed out in Reminiscing About 15 Years of Interoperability Efforts, insufficiently "webby" to be an effective basis for aggregated search across IRs. A larger cause was inadequate investment in IRs:
What has surely also limited what IRs have been able to achieve is that by and large they have been seriously under resourced. This point was graphically made in 2007 by erstwhile repository manager Dorothea Salo. Her conclusion nine years ago was: there is need for a "serious reconsideration of repository missions, goals, and means."My analysis of the major causes is different, and differs between the advocates of pre- and post-print IRs:
  • The pre-print IR advocates missed the key advantage that subject as opposed to institutional repositories have for the user; each is a single open-access portal containing all the pre-prints (and for essentially all the papers) of interest to researchers in that subject. The idea that a distributed search portal built on OAI-PMH would emerge to allow IRs to compete with subject repositories demonstrates a lack of understanding of user behavior in the Web.
  • The post-print IR advocates were naive in thinking that a loose federation of librarians with little institutional clout and few resources could disrupt a publishing oligopoly generating many billions of dollars a year on the bottom line. It should have been clear from librarians experience of "negotiating" subscriptions that, without strong support from University presidents and funding agencies, the power of the publishers was too great.
There was an interesting discussion in the comments to the blog post, to which Poynder responded here.

Meredith Farkas: Is the Framework Elitist? Is ACRL?

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-10-18 14:18

Many of you who read my blog already know that I came to librarianship from social work, where I was a child and family psychotherapist. As a therapist, one of our major guiding documents (whether we liked it or not) was the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The DSM determined what things were considered “real” mental disorders and what the diagnostic criteria for each disorder were. It’s so important to the mental health fields that we actually had to memorize the majority of it in grad school. Many therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists disagree with aspects of the DSM or the entirety of the DSM. I personally felt like it pathologized a lot of things that were not pathological (like being a bright, energetic little boy), but I still had to use the DSM to diagnose my clients so that we could bill Medicaid for their treatment. I didn’t let it influence how I looked at or treated my clients though because I didn’t have to. Therapists have different views of mental illness, work with different populations, and provide different types of therapy (solution-focused, cognitive-behavioral, narrative, etc.). There is no consensus in the mental health community that a particular approach to therapy or technique is the best (probably because different approaches work for different people and illnesses), and our individual approaches are guided by a mix of theory, experience, and our own personal biases.

Similarly, we librarians work in all sorts of different contexts with different populations. We have different approaches to teaching information literacy and there is no one agreed upon approach that people have found is best. Our approaches have probably been influenced by theory, experience, and our own biases and probably change over time. In that context, where neither we nor our patrons are interchangeable widgets, the idea that any guiding document or vision of information literacy is going to meet everyone’s needs is laughable. Given that diversity, it makes sense to develop a guiding document that is as flexible and as little prescriptive as possible, since we’re not billing insurance for our services.

At least that’s my view of things, but it clearly does not jive with Christine Bombaro of Dickinson College who argues in her Viewpoint article in Reference Services Review that “The Framework is Elitist” (sorry for recommending you read something so long, but it’s an easy skim). Before I get into critiquing the content of the article, I want to say that I was frankly dismayed that an article like this would be published in one of our best instruction-focused peer-reviewed journals. While it is a “Viewpoint” article, it reads like a ranty one-sided blog post; like something that would be published here (I can’t find another one in RSR’s archives that is similar in length or tone). I also find it funny that the article is published in a non-OA publication when so much of the article is about how the education regarding the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (from now on called the Framework) is inaccessible to most librarians who don’t have big professional development budgets.

But let’s get to the meat of it. I think Bombaro would have been well-served by focusing solely on why the Framework was elitist, but her article is a litany of complaints, many of which have nothing to do with elitism. Here are the ones I was able to tease out (there may be more):

  1. The Framework is not consistent with Threshold Concepts theory
  2. Threshold concepts cannot be taught
  3. The Framework is meant to be adapted by the individual institution.
  4. The Framework suggests that disciplinary faculty must be involved in the teaching of information literacy, which is totally unrealistic
  5. The Framework is more about validating librarians as scholars than supporting our work with students
  6. The Framework inspired divisions between “philosopher librarians” and “practical librarians”
  7. The Framework made her feel foolish because it referenced theory she wasn’t familiar with
  8. All of the professional development experiences she’s gone to re: the Framework have been given by people unqualified to be teaching how to use the Framework in instruction and assessment
  9. The Framework both requires us to completely change our instruction programs AND it’s not really so different from the recently-rescinded Information Literacy Competency Standards (from now on called the Standards) anyway (I have no idea how to reconcile these claims, but she seems to make them both)
  10. The concerns of people who valued the ACRL Standards were ignored and not addressed in a meaningful way by the ACRL Board
  11. The Standards were rescinded by the ACRL Board without any call for public feedback from the membership
  12. There has been little in the way of free support for librarians looking for ways to implement the Framework in their libraries

It looks to me like #6 might suggest that some librarians are elitist and #’s 10, 11, and 12 definitely suggest that ACRL is elitist. None of these really suggest that the Framework itself is elitist. In fact, I would suggest that the Framework is the opposite of elitist, recognizing that we don’t all work with exactly the same populations and need to define learning outcomes for our own context.

To me, the ACRL Information Literacy Standards seemed elitist because they proffered a very specific definition of what an information literate person looks like with, basically, a list of diagnostic criteria. To me, a person is successfully information literate if they are and feel they are successful at finding and using information in their lives, and I think that probably looks different depending on the individual. The Standards also viewed information literacy as a mechanical task focused on what we can see, ignoring the changes in thinking and feeling that come with being information literate. Information literacy is about empowerment, and I saw none of that in the Standards. The Framework suggests six basic concepts that are part of being information literate, though they make it clear that there are likely others (and others have created additional “Frames”). The dispositions and knowledge practices, though not totally dissimilar from what we saw in the standards, embraces that a lot of that internal thinking, feeling, and understanding that is not necessarily as visible in a students’ work, but is the real meat of becoming information literate. While I did think it was weird to base our guiding document on threshold concepts, I loved how much more realistic and human (and less mechanistic and elitist) the Framework was versus the Standards.

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that there are few things I hate more than the creation of false dichotomies; the rhetorical us vs. them tool. We’ve seen that used a lot in politics over the years, but never more than in this election where Trump has positioned himself (somehow) as being the antithesis of the moneyed, liberal, intellectual elite. Bombaro made her dichotomy quite clear — it’s the “philosopher librarians” vs. the “practical librarians.” This was primarily in the context of discussions on the ACRL Framework listserv, but she used it liberally throughout the document, which I found incredibly divisive. The “philosopher librarians” had more advanced degrees, worked at moneyed libraries, had faculty status, got to take sabbaticals to explore philosophy, and loved to talk about theory. The “practical librarians” did not have PhDs, did not have tons of professional development funding, did not have access to sabbaticals, and were focused on their day-to-day work with patrons. While she hedged and said that librarians could fall into either category or both at different times, she described the “philosopher librarians” in very negative terms, even calling their contributions to the listserv “supercilious.”

I remember reading some of those contributions to the listserv myself. There was a group of mostly (or all?) men who were talking about theory a great deal and one in particular who seemed to suggest that to understand the Framework, you basically had to read a gazillion books about learning theory. I call bullshit on that, but I didn’t find most of the contributions superior at all (especially not Bill Badke who you called out, Christine and who has been so generous in sharing his work and ideas over so many years); they were just geeking out on theory in ways that I never will. The pedagogical theories that I have read have enriched my teaching hugely. I don’t like to talk about theory that much, nor am I nearly as well-read as a lot of my friends who geek out on theory, but I also don’t feel less-than because theory isn’t as much my jam. I might have found some of their conversations annoying or baffling, but we all have things that we’re really into that we want to talk about all the time. I’m sure my colleagues find my undying love of Bruce Springsteen annoying.

I saw a lot of insecurity in what Christine Bombaro was writing (a feeling I know well) and she came out and said that these conversation made her feel “frankly stupid.” While I agree that one of our major guiding professional documents should be easy for anyone to understand, to call the contributions of a whole group of people “supercilious” and to call the Framework “elitist” because you didn’t understand the dialogue on a listserv seems amazingly anti-intellectual. There are loads of things I don’t know or understand well (a-ha! I knew math was elitist!). And I have lots of friends who are deep into pedagogical theory and are also some of the best and most passionate instruction librarians I know. I may be less into theory, but it doesn’t make me in any way less than. I’ve learned a ton from them and they’ve also learned from me. Diversity in our profession is a good thing.

Another thing that bugged me a bit is that while Bombaro seems to have little regard for the “philosopher librarians” there is one whose opinions she seems to hold in high esteem: Lane Wilkinson. Apparently Lane (who is lovely, but holy moly, he writes a lot of high-minded stuff about philosophy) using terms like “agent-relative” and “reductionist” is not supercilious because he was criticizing the Framework. You can’t have it both ways. I feel like Bombaro would have been far better served leaving out her critique of the Framework not being 100% consistent with Threshold Concepts theory. Maybe I’m crazy, but, to me, theory is not some monolithic immoveable thing. It’s not made of concrete. It’s not incapable of being changed, tweaked, and adapted for different purposes. Maybe this is heretical, but I see nothing wrong with taking the aspects of theories that work for us and molding them to our purposes. Then again, I’m the lunatic who teaches the BEAM Model without the M, so you should probably ignore me. Intellectual impurity!!!

I’m no expert on threshold concepts (for that, talk to my dear friend Amy Hofer), but I do think you can teach to threshold concepts and create learning experiences for students focused on helping them move through a threshold. It appears that Bombaro is conflating teaching with learning and also crossing a threshold. Information literacy, because it is so complex and internal, is not easy to learn. It’s not a formula you can memorize nor facts you can digest, though lord knows librarians have tried to oversimplify aspects of it for decades. One hour of dipping them in the information literacy tea is not going to make them information literate, nor are we capable of making students learn at all (that’s their choice). We play our very small role in the big picture of their learning experience and all we can do is hope we have opened their minds a little more to these things. They may cross that threshold days, weeks, months, or years later, or not at all; all I hope is that I helped them come a little closer to it.

And that’s why making sure that our faculty feel equipped to teach information literacy within their curriculum is so critical. Bombaro might call that elitist (because at most libraries collaborating with faculty is really hard to do), but I call it reality. A daunting reality, but the reality we live in nonetheless. At my library this year, we are working on developing a toolkit to support faculty in teaching information literacy. It will contain videos we’ve created packaged with suggested in-class activities, worksheets, assignments, and lesson plans (for those keeping score, yes, I did this at PSU too). We’re also working on our marketing communication to faculty, which right now is rather hit-or-miss. Some of us have also talked about getting funding to pay faculty to attend research assignment design workshops that we would teach. We want to brand ourselves as partners in pedagogy who can advise them in their teaching of information literacy. This is not easy work by any means, but it’s probably actually more important than teaching students ourselves because students will have so much more contact with their disciplinary instructors.

What I read between the lines (or really, in the lines) of Bombaro’s article was that she was perpetually searching for authority. She wanted ACRL to tell her how to use the Framework in her library. She wanted answers from the ACRL Framework listserv that were authoritative, not musings on the theoretical aspects of the Framework and discussions about how “non-experts” implemented it. She wanted to go to a conference and learn the right way to implement the Framework, not to hear from “people who were largely unqualified” (talk about elitist!). Authority, authority, authority. This reminds me of students who just want to be told whether a source is good or not. They must hate it when we tell them “well, it depends on how you intend to use it.” It’s the same here. Context matters. We are all struggling with this stuff; no one is really an expert at implementing the Framework and whoever pretends to be is probably a charlatan. We can learn from each other, but we can’t expect that anyone is going to have all the answers.

What I agree with Christine Bombaro 100% about is her criticisms of ACRL and the ACRL Board. There were so many people who made it clear that they relied on the Standards for their teaching, assessment work, and accreditation, and so many who argued that the Standards and the Framework could coexist. Whether the latter was true or not (and whether or not people REALLY needed the Standards for accreditation, which I always wondered about), the fact that so many dues-paying ACRL members were so concerned about this should have merited additional work and communication, not just time. There were no calls for comment or open discussions with the ACRL membership before the Standards were rescinded by the Board at the ALA Annual Conference this past summer. The lack of openness and transparency was pretty stunning. While I didn’t care much about them being rescinded because I didn’t feel like it would affect my work, I did think it was a foolish move politically for ACRL.

Given the controversy among the membership around the Framework, the ACRL Board should not have filed the Standards without requiring a comprehensive plan for providing accessible (read: free) professional development around the Framework for its members. Bombaro is not alone in her concerns about the Framework and this has left a huge number of academic librarians feeling alienated from their professional home. The Sandbox was a great idea, but it’s still not here and I’m honestly incredulous that they rescinded the Standards before anything concrete really was provided to ACRL members to support their adoption of the Framework. It’s no surprise that people feel like the ACRL Board is elitist; their concerns were ignored!

I won’t tar all of ACRL with the same brush. ACRL Publishing has been an incredible trailblazer in terms of open access and the Instruction Section has done a brilliant and innovative job of engaging members who can’t attend the twice-yearly conferences. There are probably other groups within the Division that are doing a lot for members who don’t have any or much professional development funding. But ACRL as a whole has not exactly done a lot to support members who do not have big professional development budgets. Reading Bombaro’s article started to make me wonder what value ACRL provides me anymore, now that I do not have professional development funding and am focusing my service work at the state level. I pay my dues each year like a robot, but why? I especially wonder why people like Bombaro, who feel totally ignored by and alienated from ACRL now, should keep paying their dues. I wish Bombaro’s criticism had been more focused on ACRL itself, because it’ll be easy for many to write-off her article as a one-sided rant.

Maybe I’m naive, but I still can’t understand why people feel like everything has to change because of the Framework. I guess it should come as no surprise that I really don’t care whether the Framework or the Standards are the “law of the land” because I’m going to do what is best for my students at my institution. ACRL is not our boss, not an instruction cop, nor an accrediting agency that requires us to follow their standards to the letter. The Framework has influenced my teaching, assessment work, and instructional outreach focus, but neither I, nor my colleagues, felt like we had to totally change the way we did instruction and assessment because of this. That might be because we weren’t in lockstep with the Standards either. Bombaro even admits in the beginning of her article that the Framework has enriched her teaching, so she, like me, has found aspects of it that are useful. Take those and run with them! There is no requirement that you change something if it’s working well for your students. In the end, that is all that matters.

Image summary: A screenshot from this YouTube video on logical falacies

Islandora: Islandoracon Workshop Survey

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-10-18 12:52

Islandoracon is coming up next May in Hamilton, ON. During the conference, we will have a full day of workshops to help you expand your Islandora skills. Workshops will be 90 minutes long and will run in two tracks, so we'll have a total of eight. 

The topics in our survey have been suggested by the Islandora community as potential workshops. Please select your top three choices. We will use the results of this survey to determine the schedule of workshops offered at Islandoracon.

You can fill out the one-question survey here.

More information about Islandoracon here.

LibUX: A Thorough-as-hell Intro to the Kano Model

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-10-18 12:28

In the 1980s, Noriaki Kano — a professor and consultant in the field of quality management — observed how customer satisfaction is determined by whether the service is good and if it meets customers’ expectations about what it should be. We can suss out these expectations and plan features that satisfy them (this know-your-users paradigm is central to user-experience design). However, features play off one another, and one that’s poorly implemented negates the benefits of the others.

If you like, you can download the MP3 or subscribe to LibUX on StitcheriTunes, YouTube, Soundcloud, Google Music, or just plug our feed straight into your podcatcher of choice.

Open Knowledge Foundation: MyData 2016 – What we learned about personal data and where to go from here?

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-10-18 09:00

This piece is the final installment of a three-part series of posts from MyData 2016 – an international conference that focused on human-centric personal information management. The conference was co-hosted by the Open Knowledge Finland chapter of the Open Knowledge Network. Part 1 looked at what personal data has to do with open data and Part 2 looked at how access to personal data is linked to wider social issues.

The MyData2016 conference came to an end a couple of weeks ago, and we are now even past the International Open Data Conference, but given the discussions that emerged, it is clear this is only the beginning of something bigger. While MyData is still a vague concept, the conference started many processes that might evolve into something tangible.  During the conference I met participants that enlightened me about the MyData concept, reminding that conference is more than panels and workshops, but also about the human connection.

As I described in my first blog post in the series, I was keen to understand what the connection was between MyData and open data. Now, two weeks later and hours of going over the materials, I still have more questions than answers. Open Data is a techno-legal definition of data; MyData is still less clear. The borders between ‘My Data’, private data, and public data are sometimes blurry and undefined, and there is a need for regulation and open debate about these issues. However, the open data world gives inspiration to the MyData world, and MyData conference was an excellent opportunity for the two communities to learn from one another and think ahead.

“The borders between ‘My Data’, private data, and public data are sometimes blurry and undefined, and there is a need for regulation and open debate about these issues.”

What is MyData? One of the terms that were thrown in the air was “The Internet of Me.”  At first, this sounds to me a very millennial description (which brings, for me at least, a bad connotation). Lucie Burgess, from The Digital Catapult, shed a different light on the term. This, in her view, means that we put people, not companies or technical terms, at the center of the internet.

To me, it reminded me of Evgeny Morozov’s concept of ‘Internet-centric’ – when we give the term ‘The internet’ life of its own. When we give the internet life, we sometimes forget that humans are creating it actively, and other parts of the net are passive, like the data that we provide to companies just by using their services. We forget that the internet is what it is because of us. The ‘Internet of Me’ puts the ordinary citizen at the heart of that beast we call ”the internet”. It is a  decentralized shift, the idea that we can control our data, our information.

Lucie about Internet of me:


Credit: Pouyan Mohseninia

What does it mean though when it comes to different types of data? Here is an example from one of the main promises in the field of MyData – the health sector. Health data is one of the most delicate data types out there. Having MyData as a way to make data sharing in the health sector safer and more responsible can assist many to unlock the promise of big and small health datasets to make not only services in the field better but also to improve research and human lives.

Health data raise some important questions – Who owns the data in official health registries? What is the line between MyData and public data? The way is still long, but the conference (and the Ultrahack) helped to shape some new thinking about the topic and look for new use cases.

Here is Antti Tuomi-Nikula, from THL, the Finnish Ministry of health and welfare, speaking about the potential of MyData and the answers we still need to answer:


The question of the border between personal and public data is also a concern to governments. In the last decade, many governments at different levels of jurisdiction are going through efforts to improve their services by using data for better policies. However, government personnel, in particular, local government personnel, often do not have the knowledge or capacity to have a better data infrastructure and release public data in an open way. MyData therefore, looks like a dream solution in this case. I was excited to see how the local municipalities in Finland are already examining and learning about this concept, taking into considerations the challenges this brings.

Here is Jarkko Oksala, CIO of the city of Tampere, the second biggest city in Finland speaking about MyData, and what the open Data community should do in the future:


On the one hand, the MyData concept is the ability to allow one to take control of their data, make it open to be used when they want to. When it comes to the open data community, MyData gives us all another opportunity – to learn. Open Data and MyData are frameworks and tools, not the ends. It was good to see how people come to expand their horizons and acquire new tools to achieve some of our other goals.

Ultrahack in action. Credit Salla Thure

One of the great side events that help to facilitate these learnings was the UltraHack, a three-day hack that tried to make the very vague concept of open data into actual use. Interesting enough, a lot of the hackathon work involved some open data as well. Open Knowledge in Finland is an expert in organizing hackathons, and the vibrant, energetic spirit was there for the whole three days.

These spirits also attracted visitors from Estonia, who crossed the bay and came to learn about hackathons and the different types of data. It was very surprising for me to see that Estonians see Finland as a place to learn from since I assumed that because Estonia is known for its progressive e-gov services, it would similarly excel at creating an open data empire. I guess that the truth is much more complicated than this, and I was very lucky to learn about the situation there. We are also excited to have our first Open Knowledge event in Estonia a couple of weeks ago to discuss setting up a group there. This would not come to life without the meetings we had in Helsinki.

Here is Maarja-Leena Saar speaking about this topic with me:


The Open Knowledge community indeed came to learn. I met School of Data Fellow Vadym  Hudyma from Ukraine, who works with the Engine room about privacy and responsible data. Vadym brought up many important points, like the fact that we should stop looking at the binary of consent of giving personal data, and how we need to remember the people behind the data points we gather.


“We discussed what we want to do with our data and the question of privacy and the willingness too of people to share and to create open data from private data.”

I also met members from Open Knowledge chapters in Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany.  They came to share their experiences but, also to learn about the different opportunities of MyData. For me, it is always good to catch up with chapters and see their point of view on various topics. Here are some useful insights I got from Walter Palmetshofer from OKF DE, who started to think about MyData concept already in 2011. We discussed what we want to do with our data and the question of privacy and the willingness too, of people to share and to create open data from private data.

More of my conversation with Walter here


All in all, I am grateful for the opportunity I had to go and learn at MyData 2016. It gave me a different perspective on my usual work on open data and open government and allowed me to explore the internet for me. This is, I hope, just the beginning, and I would like to see what other members of the network have to say about this topic.

A big thank you to the members of Open Knowledge Finland and in particular Salla Thure, who hosted me so well and helped me to find my way around the conference. Special thanks also to Jo Barratt, Open Knowledge International’s own audio guru for editing my interviews. Watch this space for his audio blog post from the GODAN summit!

Ted Lawless: Querying Wikidata to Identify Globally Famous Baseball Players

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-10-18 04:00

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Cesar Hidalgo of MIT's Media Lab. One of the projects Hidalgo discussed was Pantheon. Pantheon is a website and dataset that ranks "globally famous individuals" based on a metric the team created called the Historical Popularity Index (HPI). A key component of HPI is the number of Wikipedia pages an individual has in in various languages. For a complete description of the project, see:

Yu, A. Z., et al. (2016). Pantheon 1.0, a manually verified dataset of globally famous biographies. Scientific Data 2:150075.

Since the Pantheon project relies mostly on open data, I wondered if I could apply some of their techniques to look at the historical significance of Major League Baseball players.

Identifying famous baseball players using Wikidata

When the Pantheon team was assembling their data in 2012 - 2013 they considered using Wikidata rather than Wikipedia and Freebase data dumps but they found, at that time, it wasn't quite ready in terms of the amount of data. A lot has changed since then, data has accumulated in Wikidata and there are various web services for querying it, including a SPARQL endpoint.

Querying for total Wikipedia pages

With Wikidata's SPARQL support, we don't have to parse data dumps from Wikipedia and Freebase to do some initial, Pantheon inspired exploration. We can write a single SPARQL query to find entities (players) and the number of Wikipedia language pages each have.

Here is the query, I used for this exercise.

SELECT ?player ?playerLabel ?brId (COUNT(DISTINCT(?sitelink)) as ?sites) WHERE { ?player wdt:P31 wd:Q5 . ?player wdt:P1825 ?brId . ?sitelink schema:about ?player . SERVICE wikibase:label { bd:serviceParam wikibase:language "en" . } } GROUP BY ?player ?playerLabel ?brId

I'm restricting to instances with a Baseball Reference ID (Wikidata property P1825 rather than those with the because when I initially ran this query I found many non-professional baseball players with the occupation (P106 of baseball player (Q10871364 in Wikidata. This included former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and the actor and comedian Billy Crystal. These people played baseball at one time, which is interesting in a different way, but not in the MLB.

Retrieving the Baseball Reference ID in another way. I can use it to join the knowledge stored in Wikidata with other sources, like Baseball Reference or the Lahman Baseball Database. This is one of the aspects that I find most promising with Wikidata, it can serve as an identifier hub that allows users to join data from many sources, each of which have unique aspects.


Using the results from this SPARQL query we are able to rank players by the number of Wikipedia language pages written about them. The top 10 is as follows.

This top 10 list is filled with some of baseball's all time greats, including Babe Ruth at number one, which seems right. But there is at least one surprise, Jim Thorpe coming in at sixth. Thorpe had a remarkable athletic career in multiple sports but only played briefly in the MLB, so he's not often in discussions of baseball's great players.

I've also uploaded a csv file containing players that have 9 or more Wikipedia language pages, which means they are in the top 250 players (or) when ranked by number of language pages.

Digging deeper

Now that we have a list of globally famous baseball players determined by the number of Wikipedia pages in various languages, we can dig a little deeper and try to understand if fame has anything to do with actual performance on the baseball field.

Wins Above Replacement - WAR

Baseball Reference, calculates a metric called Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Describing WAR in detail is beyond the scope of this post but, briefly, WAR is a metric that attempts to capture how much a player is better than the average, or a replacement, player. If a player has a WAR of 2 for a season, that means his team won 2 more games than they would have if they would have used a replacement player instead. WAR attempts to cover all facets of the game, hitting, fielding, and base running. In recent years, WAR has begun to receive more attention from baseball media since it tries to capture the complete value of a player rather than a single aspect, like batting average.

WAR can also be a valuable way to rank players over the course of a career. Baseball Reference publishes a list of the top 1,000 players of all time based on career WAR. Here again, Babe Ruth tops the list here too. But, does WAR, or performance on the field, relate at all to global fame?

To investigate this question, I grabbed the top 50 players by career WAR from Baseball Reference. Since WAR is calculated differently for position players and pitchers, I've focused this exercise just on position players.

I merged the career WAR information with the Wikidata information using the Baseball Reference IDs. I then generated a rank for each player based on the number of Wikipedia language pages and career WAR ranking. The full data is available as CSV and inline below.

At least a few things stand out in this list.

  • some players, like the legendary Yankees centerfielder Joe DiMaggio have significant higher fame scores than WAR scores (5th vs 42nd). This can because of non-baseball reasons (served in WWII and was married to Marilyn Monroe) or because of a relatively short impactful, career.

  • other players performed well on the field but aren't as famous. Lou Whitaker and George Davis are both ranked in the top 50 for career WAR but not in in the top 2000 players when ranked by Wikipedia language pages.

  • there are still relatively few players that could be considered "globally famous" when thinking of history as a whole. The Pantheon team set a threshold of 25 language pages when they ran their analysis. At this time, only 12 players would meet that mark.

  • the list seems weighted towards players who have played during the last 10-15 years. We could use the Baseball Reference data to verify that.

To pursue these basic comparisons further, and produce more meaningful results, I would want to take a look at the other data used by the Pantheon team, like Wikipedia page views, and the time period of the careers to develop a HPI-like metric for baseball players. We could also try to isolate by team, era, etc or investigate which languages are writing about baseball players and see if we can gleam any cultural insight from that.


The main takeaway for me is that using Wikidata and SPARQL, and the methods from the Pantheon project, we can relatively quickly explore global fame for groups people we are interested in. Using identifiers stored in Wikidata, we can join information from the Wikidata knowledge base with external, domain specific, sets of data that can allow us to dig deeper.

Aaron Schmidt: UX Means You

planet code4lib - Mon, 2016-10-17 20:44

At the end of our 2014 book, Useful, Usable, Desirable: Applying User Experience Design to Your Library, Amanda Etches and I left readers with what we consider to be an important and inspiring ­message:

“Every decision we make affects how people experience the library. Let’s make sure we’re creating improvements.”

When we wrote this, it resonated with me. But over time, I’ve come to understand just how crucial it is for us to dwell on it.
Selecting materials for purchase? It impacts UX. Choosing replacement carpet for the YA department? It impacts UX. Taping up a sign? Changing the hours of operation? Cleaning the restroom? Waiving or collecting a fine? Creating the structure on your website? Yes, all of these things impact the experience you’re giving library members. And I could go on.

As important as the “decisions” message is, I realized that it could be communicated in a more straightforward, simplified, and effective manner:

All librarians are UX librarians. This means you. I hope you’ll take the role seriously.

Where to begin? Taking into account the wants, needs, and preferences of library members is a good start. If you’re on board with the above, chances are that you’re already doing this. But a lone-wolf UX-minded ­librarian can make only so much progress in a vacuum. Since everyone impacts the library’s UX, everyone has to be on board.

It is no small task to create an organization that thinks critically about UX and effectively crafts experiences.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Conduct a library UX assessment, highlighting both what the library is doing well and areas for improvement. This can help open people’s eyes to UX issues, and it will also help you identify some potential initial projects.
Studying and assessing the entire library is a great way to engage the whole organization, but if that seems daunting, consider conducting some usability tests. They are quick and easy to administer and can help you demonstrate that library members often have wants, needs, and preferences that are different from those of ­librarians.

A third idea to get started: go on some Service Safaris. This technique will give everyone practice in analyzing and describing experiences. Having the skills vocabulary to describe experiences is essential For more on Service Safaris see “Stepping out of the Library” (LJ 3/1/12).

Libraries are complex beasts. There’s no magic wand that you can wave for instant UX greatness. It is worth acknowledging that big changes may take time to happen. Staff need to be trained; issues must be studied. There might even be a talent management component. Hiring the right folks or reassigning roles could potentially be valuable.

However, long-term goals are no excuse for studying things to death, or to delaying changes via endless committee meetings. You’ll need to make changes—even if they’re small at first—to engage staff and let them know that their efforts are being rewarded with actual impact.

In order to maintain momentum and have a long-term focus, you’ll need a plan. Consider answering this question: “What do we want to do in the next year to improve library UX?” Work together to set goals, and ensure they’re well known throughout the organization. Break down those goals into actionable items, determine who is responsible for doing what, and get to it.

As you carry out your plan throughout the year, be sure to acknowledge milestones and celebrate small victories. This will keep everyone’s UX morale high and encourage people to stick with the long-term plan. Consider having a monthly UX meeting and a weekly “What have we done for UX?” all-staff email.

If your organization is lucky enough to have someone on staff with the title UX Librarian, that’s great. The UX ­Librarians I know are invaluable guides for their organizations. Having a ringleader to think about the big UX picture and mentor the organization is most definitely a good thing. Still, just because your library doesn’t have a titled UX Librarian doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Take up the mantle, find some allies, create a cross-departmental UX team, and go for it.

This first appeared in Library Journal’s “The User Experience.”

Islandora: Looking Back at iCampMO

planet code4lib - Mon, 2016-10-17 15:40

We wrapped up the last Islandora Camp of 2016 last week in Kansas City, MO. 34 Islandorians from across the US and Canada came together to share how they use Islandora and learn more about how to extend it. We covered topics such as the State of Islandora CLAW, how the University of Missouri does Islandora, and how great custom sites like Bowing Down Home are put together. For the full slate of sessions, check out the Camp Schedule.

Kansas City was also a beautiful place to visit during this time of year. A couple of rainy mornings aside, we had beautiful fall weather and a gorgeous location at the Kauffman Conference Center. We also got to sample Kansas City Barbeque, which is certainly an experience. Our camp social at Char Bar involved sharing this:

Which made us glad to have such a scenic area to go for nice long walks in afterwards. Walks that were punctuated with so




(for the record, the water flows frog-> child on that last one)

In short, iCampMO was a blast. Our sincere thanks to the University of Missouri Kansas City for hosting the event, and to Sandy Rodriguez for taking care of local arrangements. We look forward now to our next Islandora gathering: the second Islandoracon, in Hamilton, ON, Canada.

Shelley Gullikson: User Research for Everyone: Conference Notes

planet code4lib - Mon, 2016-10-17 14:27

This was a virtual conference from Rosenfeld Media; a full day of sessions all about user research. Have a look at the program to see what a great lineup of speakers there was. Here are the bits that stood out for me.

Erika Hall: Just Enough Research

First off, Erika won me over right away with her first slide:

I found she spoke more about the basic whys and hows of research, rather than how to do “just enough,” but she was so clear and engaging that I really enjoyed it anyway. Selected sound bites:

  • Keep asking research questions, but the answers will keep changing
  • Assumptions are risks
  • Research is fundamentally destabilizing to authority because it challenges the power dynamic; asking questions is threatening
  • Think about how your design decisions might make someone’s job easier. Or harder. (and not just your users, but your colleagues)
  • Focus groups are best used as a source of ideas to research, not research itself
  • 3 steps to conducting an interview: set up, warm up, shut up
  • You want your research to prove you wrong as quickly as possible
Leah Buley: The Right Research Method For Any Problem (And Budget)

Leah nicely set out stages of research and methods and tools that work best for each stage. I didn’t take careful notes because there was a lot of detail (and I can go back and look at the slides when I need to), but here are the broad strokes:

  • What is happening around us?
    • Use methods to gain an understanding of the bigger picture and to frame where the opportunities are (futures research fits in here too – blerg)
  • What do people need?
    • Ethnographic methods fit in nicely here. Journey maps can point out possible concepts or solutions
  • What can we make that will help?
    • User research with prototypes / mockups. New to me was the 5-second test, where you show a screen to a user for 5 seconds, take it away and then ask questions about it. (I’m guessing this assume that what people remember corresponds with what resonates with them – either good or bad.)
  • Does our solution actually work?
    • Traditional usability testing fits in here, as does analytics.
    • I kind of like how this question is separated from the last, so that you think about testing your concept and then testing your implementation of the concept. I can imagine it being difficult to write testing protocols that keep them separate though, especially as you start iterating the design.
  • What is the impact?
    • Analytics obviously come into play here, but again, it’s important to separate this question about impact from the previous one about the solution just working. Leah brought up Google’s HEART framework: Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task Success. Each of these is then divided into Goals (what do we want?), Signals (what will tell us this?), and Metrics (how do we measure success?).
Nate Bolt: How to Find and Recruit Amazing Participants for User Research

Recruiting participants is probably my least favourite part of user research, but I’m slowly coming around to the idea that it will always be thus. And that I’m incredibly lucky to be constantly surrounded by my target audience. Nate talked about different recruitment strategies, including just talking to the first person you see. For him, one of the downsides of that was that the person is unlikely to be in your target audience or care about your interface. Talking to the first person I see is how I do most of my recruiting. And it also works really well because they are very likely to be in my target audience and care about my interface. Yay!

One comment of Nate’s stood out most for me: If someone doesn’t like your research findings, they’ll most likely attack your participants before they’ll attack your methods. This is familiar to me: “But did you talk to any grad students?” “Were these all science students?” Nate recommended choosing your recruitment method based on how likely these kinds of objections are to sideline your research; if no one will take your results seriously unless your participants meet a certain profile, then make sure you recruit that profile.

Julie Stanford: Creating a Virtual Cycle: The Research and Design Feedback Loop

Julie spoke about the pitfalls of research and design being out of balance on a project. She pointed out how a stronger emphasis on research than design could lead to really bad interfaces (though this seemed to be more the case when you’re testing individual elements of a design rather than whole). Fixing one thing can always end up breaking something else. Julie suggested two solutions:

  1. Have the same person do both research and design
  2. Follow a 6-step process

Now, I am the person doing both research and design (with help, of course), so I don’t really need the process. But I also know that I’m much stronger on the research side than on the design side, so it’s important to think about pitfalls. A few bits that resonated with me:

  • When evaluating research findings, give each issue a severity rating to keep it in perspective. Keep an eye out for smaller issues that together suggest a larger issue.
  • Always come up with multiple possible solutions to the problem, especially if one solution seems obvious. Go for both small and large fixes and throw in a few out-there ideas.
  • When evaluating possible solutions (or really, anytime), if your team gets in an argument loop, take a sketch break and discuss from there. Making the ideas more concrete can help focus the discussion.
Abby Covert: Making Sense of Research Findings

I adore Abby Covert. Her talk at UXCamp Ottawa in 2014 was a huge highlight of that conference for me. I bought her book immediately afterward and tried to lend it to everyone, saying “youhavetoreadthisitsamazing.” So, I was looking forward to this session.

And it was great. She took the approach that making sense of research findings was essentially the same as making sense of any other mess, and applied her IA process to find clarity. I took a ridiculous amount of notes, but will try to share just the highlights:

  • This seems really obvious, but I’m not sure I actually do it: Think about how your method will get you the answer you’re looking for. What do you want to know? What’s the best way to find that out?
  • Abby doesn’t find transcriptions all that useful. They take so much time to do, and then to go through. She finds it easier to take notes and grab the actual verbatims that are interesting. And she now does her notetaking immediately after every session (rather than stacking the sessions one after another). She does not take notes in the field.
  • Abby takes her notes according to the question that is being asked/answered, rather than just chronologically. Makes analysis easier.
  • When you’re doing quantitative research, write sample findings ahead of time to make sure that you are going to capture all the data necessary to create those findings. Her slide is likely clearer:
  • Think about the UX of your research results. Understand the audience for your results and create a good UX for them. A few things to consider:
    • What do they really need to know about your methodology?
    • What questions are they trying to answer?
    • What objections might they have to the findings? Or the research itself?
  • In closing, Abby summarized her four key points as:
    1. Keep capture separate from interpretation
    2. Plan the way you capture to support what you want to know
    3. Understand your audience for research
    4. Create a taxonomy that supports the way you want your findings to be used

I have quite a few notes on that last point that seemed to make sense at the time, but I think “create a good UX for the audience of your results” covers it sufficiently.

Cindy Alvarez: Infectious Research

Cindy’s theme was that research – like germs – is not inherently lovable; you can’t convince people to love research, so you need to infect them with it. Essentially, you need to find a few hosts and then help them be contagious in order to help your organization be more receptive to research. Kind of a gross analogy, really. But definitely a few gems for people finding it difficult to get any buy-in in their organization:

  • Create opportunities by finding out:
    • What problems do people already complain about?
    • What are the areas no is touching ?
  • Lower people’s resistance to research:
    • Find out who or what they trust (to find a way in)
    • Ask point-blank “What would convince you to change your decision?”
    • Think about how research could make their lives worse
    • “People are more receptive to new ideas when they think it was their idea.” <– there was a tiny bit of backlash on Twitter about this, but a lot of people recognized it as a true thing. I feel like I’m too dumb to lie to or manipulate people; being honest is just easier to keep track of. If I somehow successfully convinced someone that my idea was theirs, probably the next day I’d say something like “hey, thanks for agreeing with my idea!”
  • Help people spread a message by giving them a story to tell.
  • Always give lots of credit to other people. Helping a culture of research spread is not about your own ego.
Final thoughts

It’s been interesting finishing up this post after reading Donna Lanclos’ blog post on the importance of open-ended inquiry, particularly related to UX and ethnography in libraries. This conference was aimed mostly at user researchers in business operations. Erika Hall said that you want your research to prove you wrong as quickly as possible; essentially, you want research to help you solve the right problem quickly so that you can make (more) money. All the presenters were focused on how to do good user research efficiently. Open-ended inquiry isn’t about efficiency. As someone doing user research in academic libraries, I don’t have these same pressures to be efficient with my research. What a privilege! So I now want to go back and think about these notes of mine with Donna’s voice in my head:

So open-ended work without a hard stop is increasingly scarce, and reserved for people and institutions who can engage in it as a luxury (e.g. Macarthur Genius Grant awardees).  But this is to my mind precisely wrong.  Open exploration should not be framed as a luxury, it should be fundamental.

… How do we get institutions to allow space for exploration regardless of results?

Alf Eaton, Alf: Polymer + Firebase Makefile

planet code4lib - Mon, 2016-10-17 12:50

I’m at the Polymer Summit in London today, and finally writing up a build process for Polymer apps hosted on Firebase that I’m satisfied with enough to recommend.

The problem is this: if you create an app using web components installed with Bower, and import each component using <link rel="import" href="bower_components/component-name/component-name.html">, the bower_components folder will be inside your app folder.

This is fine for development, but when you deploy the app to a remote server (e.g. Firebase), you don’t want all the files in the bower_components folder to be deployed to the public server as part of your app - not only does it take much longer to upload, but there could be security problems with demo files hiding in any of the component folders.

So you need a build process, which builds the public app in a build folder and deploys that folder instead, without the `bower_components` folder.

The Makefile for this build process is quite straightforward:

.PHONY: clean lint build deploy serve all: build clean: rm -rf build lint: # node_modules/polylint/bin/polylint.js node_modules/standard/bin/cmd.js build: clean lint cp -r app build node_modules/vulcanize/bin/vulcanize --inline-scripts --inline-css app/elements.html -o build/elements.html deploy: build firebase deploy --public build serve: firebase serve

Running make build builds the app: first making a copy of the app folder called build, then running vulcanize on app/elements.html (which includes all the <link rel="import" href="…"> imports) to create a single build/elements.html file containing all the imported code. It inlines all the script and style dependencies of those components, so everything is imported from build/elements.html instead of individual files in bower_components.

There are a few more things the build process can/could do: lint the app using polylint (currently disabled as it finds too many errors in third-party components) and lint the JavaScript using standard. It could also run crisper to move all the inline JS and CSS into separate files, but I haven’t done that here.

Running make deploy runs firebase deploy, setting build as the public folder. The “ignore” setting in the firebase.json file (see below) tells it not to upload anything in bower_components, so in the end only a few files are uploaded and deployed.

{ "hosting": { "public": "app", "ignore": [ "firebase.json", "**/.*", "**/node_modules/**", "**/bower_components/**" ], "rewrites": [ { "source": "**", "destination": "/index.html" } ] } }

index.html is untouched, leaving it readable as a manifest and allowing it to be loaded and parsed quickly.

Ed Summers: Law on ANT

planet code4lib - Mon, 2016-10-17 04:00

Here are some more notes from a reading that followed on from Nicolini (2012): a description of ANT by John Law, who worked closely with Latour and Callon to define it.

Law, J. (2009). The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory, chapter Actor Network Theory and Material Semiotics, pages 141–158. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford.

Law is careful to state up front that ANT is not a theory, and is instead a set of descriptive practices. It can be defined in the abstract, but it is best understood by looking at how it works in practice. Perhaps this is where Nicolini got the idea of the toolkit from, which eschews theory, and places ANT firmly in a practitioner space:

As a form, one of several, of material semiotics, it is best understood as a toolkit for telling interesting stories about, and interfering in, those relations. More profoundly, it is a sensibility to the messy practices of relationality and materiality of the world. (p. 141-142)

Law mentions that key to understanding ANT is the idea of translation, that was first introduced by [Michel Serres] and used by Latour and Callon in their early work on ANT. Translation is making two words equivalent, but since no two words are equivalent translation is about betrayal or shifting and linking words. He is also situates ANT as a scaled down, or empirical version of what Foucault calls discourses or epistemes. He also compares translation to Deleuze’s idea of nomadic philosophy. He also draws a parallel between Delueze’s assemblage or agencements and ANT. Just as an aside it’s interesting to think about how this philosophical work involving networks w was germinating in France in the the 1970s and 1980s and then we see the Web itself being created in the late 1980s.

Here are some features of Actor Network Theory as originally conceived:

Material Durability: social arrangements delegated into non-bodily physical form tend to hold their shape better than those that simply depend on face-to-face interaction

Strategic Durability: actor network conception of strategy can be understood more broadly to include teleologically ordered patterns of relations indifferent to human intentions

Discursive Durability: discourses define conditions of possibility, making some ways of ordering webs of relations easier and others difficult or impossible

And then here are some features of what Law calls the New Material Semiotic a more “polytheistic” version of ANT that he groups under the Deluezian heading Diaspora. Interestingly he cites Star (1990) as offering one of the earliest critiques of ANT, from a feminist perspective.

Performativity: the social is not constructed, it is enacted or performed, and its in these performances that they can be understood and studied.

Multiplicity: a given phenomenon can be understood as a confluence of practices, that aren’t different perspectives on the same phenomenon, but are actually different practices that may be coordinated for some duration Mol (2002). Aside: it’s kind of interesting that Mol has been one of the points of connection between my independent study on practice theory and my ethnographic methods class this semester.

Fluidity: the ability of objects and practices to mutate, change shape, reconfigure and persist.

Realities and Goods: networks create multiple overlapping ethical realities

Much of this discussion is oriented around the work of Haraway, Mol, Moser and Verran. He ends on this note:

To describe the real is always an ethically charged act. But, and this is the crucial point, the two are only partially connected: goods and reals cannot be reduced to each other. An act of political will can never, by itself, overturn the endless and partially connected webs that enact the real. Deconstruction is not enough. Indeed, it is trivial (Latour, 2004). The conclusion is inescapable: as we write we have a simultaneous responsibility both to the real and to the good. Such is the challenge faced by this diasporic material semiotics. To create and recreate ways of working in and on the real while simultaneously working well in and on the good.


Latour, B. (2004). Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern. Critical Inquiry, 30(2), 225–248.

Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple: Ontology in medical practice. Duke University Press.

Nicolini, D. (2012). Practice theory, work, and organization: An introduction. Oxford University Press.

Star, S. L. (1990). Power, technology and the phenomenology of conventions: On being allergic to onions. The Sociological Review, 38(S1), 26–56.

Eric Hellman: Maybe IDPF and W3C should *compete* in eBook Standards

planet code4lib - Mon, 2016-10-17 00:07
A controversy has been brewing in the world of eBook standards. The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have proposed to combine. At first glance, this seems a sensible thing to do; IDPF's EPUB work leans heavily on W3C's HTML5 standard, and IDPF has been over-achieving with limited infrastructure and resources.

Not everyone I've talked to thinks the combination is a good idea. In the publishing world, there is fear that the giants of the internet who dominate the W3C will not be responsive to the idiosyncratic needs of more traditional publishing businesses. On the other side, there is fear that the work of IDPF and Readium on "Lightweight Content Protection" (a.k.a. Digital Rights Management) will be a another step towards "locking down the web". (see the controversy about "Encrypted Media Extensions")

What's more, a peek into the HTML5 development process reveals a complicated history. The HTML5 that we have today derives from a a group of developers (the WHATWG) who got sick of the W3C's processes and dependencies and broke away from W3C. Politics above my pay grade occurred and the breakaway effort was folded back into W3C as a "Community Group". So now we have two, slightly different versions of HTML, the "standard" HTML5 and WHATWG's HTML "Living Standard". That's also why HTML5 omitted much of W3C's Semantic Web development work such as RDFa.

Amazon (not a member of either IDPF or W3C) is the elephant in the room. They take advantage of IDPF's work in a backhanded way. Instead of supporting the EPUB standard in their Kindle devices, they use proprietary formats under their exclusive control. But they accept EPUB files in their content ingest process and thus extract huge benefit from EPUB standardization. This puts the advancement of EPUB in a difficult position. New features added to EPUB have no effect on the majority of ebook user because Amazon just converts everything to a proprietary format.

Last month, the W3C published its vision for eBook standards, in the form on an innocuously titled "Portable Web Publications Use Cases and Requirements".  For whatever reason, this got rather limited notice or comment, considering that it could be the basis for the entire digital book industry. Incredibly, the word "ebook" appears not once in the entire document. "EPUB" appears just once, in the phrase "This document is also available in this non-normative format: ePub". But read the document, and it's clear that "Portable Web Publication" is intended to be the new standard for ebooks. For example, the PWP (can we just pronounce that "puup"?) "must provide the possibility to switch to a paginated view" . The PWP (say it, "puup") needs a "default reading order", i.e. a table of contents. And of course the PWP has to support digital rights management: "A PWP should allow for access control and write protections of the resource." Under the oblique requirement that "The distribution of PWPs should conform to the standard processes and expectations of commercial publishing channels." we discover that this means "Alice acquires a PWP through a subscription service and downloads it. When, later on, she decides to unsubscribe from the service, this PWP becomes unavailable to her." So make no mistake, PWP is meant to be EPUB 4 (or maybe ePub4, to use the non-normative capitalization).

There's a lot of unalloyed good stuff there, too. The issues of making web publications work well offline (an essential ingredient for archiving them) are technical, difficult and subtle, and W3C's document does a good job of flushing them out. There's a good start (albeit limited) on archiving issues for web publications. But nowhere in the statement of "use cases and requirements" is there a use case for low cost PWP production or for efficient conversion from other formats, despite the statement that PWPs "should be able to make use of all facilities offered by the [Open Web Platform]".

The proposed merger of IDPF and W3C raises the question: who gets to decide what "the ebook" will become? It's an important question, and the answer eventually has to be open rather than proprietary. If a combined IDPF and W3C can get the support of Amazon in open standards development, then everyone will benefit. But if not, a divergence is inevitable. The publishing industry needs to sustain their business; for that, they need an open standard for content optimized to feed supply chains like Amazon's. I'm not sure that's quite what W3C has in mind.

I think ebooks are more important than just the commercial book publishing industry. The world needs ways to deliver portable content that don't run through the Amazon tollgates. For that we need innovation that's as unconstrained and disruptive as the rest of the internet. The proposed combination of IDPF and W3C needs to be examined for its effects on innovation and competition.

Philip K. Dick's Mr. Robot is
one of the stories in Imagination
Stories of Science and Fantasy
January 1953. It is available as
an ebook from Project Gutenberg
and from GITenbergMy guess is that Amazon is not going to participate in open ebook standards development. That means that two different standards development efforts are needed. Publishers need a content markup format that plays well with whatever Amazon comes up with. But there also needs to be a way for the industry to innovate and compete with Amazon on ebook UI and features. That's a very different development project, and it needs a group more like WHATWG to nurture it. Maybe the W3C can fold that sort of innovation into its unruly stable of standards efforts.

I worry that by combining with IDPF, the W3C work on portable content will be chained to the supply-chain needs of today's publishing industry, and no one will take up the banner of open innovation for ebooks. But it's also possible that the combined resources of IDPF and W3C will catalyze the development of open alternatives for the ebook of tomorrow.

Is that too much to hope?

Brown University Library Digital Technologies Projects: Hydra Connect 2016

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-10-14 15:21

Last week I attended Hydra Connect 2016 in Boston, with a team of three others from the Brown University Library. Our team consisted of a Repository Developer, Discovery Systems Developer, Metadata Specialist, and Repository Manager. Here are some notes and thoughts related to the conference from my perspective as a repository programmer.


There was a poster about IPFS, which is a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol for creating a distributed web. It’s an interesting idea, and I’d like to look into it more.

APIs and Architecture

There was a lot of discussion about the architecture of Hydra, and Tom Cramer mentioned APIs specifically in his keynote address. In the Brown Digital Repository, we use a set of APIs that clients can access and use from any programming language. This architecture lets us define layers in the repository: the innermost layer is Fedora and Solr, the next layer is our set of APIs, and the outer layer is the Studio UI, image/book viewers, and custom websites built on the BDR data. There is some overlap in our layers (eg. the Studio UI does hit Solr directly instead of going through the APIs), but I still think it improves the architecture to think about these layers and try not to cross multiple boundaries. Besides having clients that are written in python, ruby, and php, this API layer may be useful when we migrate to Fedora 4 – we can use our APIs to communicate with both Fedora 3 and Fedora 4, and any client that only hits the APIs wouldn’t need to be changed to be able to handle content in Fedora 4.

I would be interested in seeing a similar architecture in Hydra-land (note: this is an outsider’s perspective – I don’t currently work on CurationConcerns, Sufia, or other Hydra gems). A clear boundary between “business logic” or processing and the User Interface or data presentation seems like good architecture to me.

Data Modeling and PCDM

Monday was workshop day at Hydra Connect 2016, and I went to the Data Modeling workshop in the morning and the PCDM In-depth workshop in the afternoon. In the morning session, someone mentioned that we shouldn’t have data modeling differences without good reason (ie. does a book in one institution really have to be modeled differently from a book at another institution?). I think that’s a good point – if we can model our data the same way, that would help with interoperability. PCDM, as a standard for how our data objects are modeled, might be great way to promote interoperability between applications and institutions. In the BDR, we could start using PCDM vocabulary and modeling techniques, even while our data is in Fedora 3 and our code is written in Python. I also think it would be helpful to define and document what interoperability should look like between institutions, or different applications at the same institution.

Imitate IIIF?

It seems like the IIIF community has a good solution to image interoperability. The IIIF community has defined a set of APIs, and then it lists various clients and servers that implement those APIs. I wonder if the Hydra community would benefit from more of a focus on APIs and specifications, and then there could be various “Hydra-compliant” servers and clients. Of course, the Hydra community should continue to work on code as well, but a well-defined specification and API might improve the Hydra code and allow the development of other Hydra-compliant code (eg. code in other programming languages, different UIs using the same API, …).

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planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-10-14 15:03

Last updated October 14, 2016. Created by Peter Murray on October 14, 2016.
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