Thursday, June 30, 2011
The Football is an auto-pointing BGAN satellite terminal that requires no user training. Simply place the weather tight sealed case under the open sky anywhere in the world and turn it on - no pointing necessary. It becomes a wireless hotspot in under a minute for any wireless device up to 100' from the case for 9.5 hours on the internal battery. The name "Football" is inspired from the presidential "nuclear football" suitcase that goes everywhere the president goes.
The short video really shows how this thing requires no technical knowledge at all to set up and use.
OpenStudy is a for profit business funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Georgia Research Alliance. They are located at Georgia Tech's ATDC Center in Technology Square, Midtown Atlanta. OpenStudy is a social learning network where students ask questions, give help, and connect with other students studying the same things. It's stated mission is
...to make the world one large study group, regardless of school, location, or background."
Beginning Friday, while supplies last, customers will receive a free, 2GB microSD card loaded with 30 NOOK Books – from cooking and lifestyle to classics and reference –when they show a bookseller their old device and purchase the NOOK reader that best suits them.
As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write 'a, b and c' not 'a, b, and c'. But when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used -- especially where one of the items in the list is already joined by 'and'.
Update: This document is from a branding style guide for Oxford University. It recommends against using the Oxford comma in most cases. The Oxford Style Manual, meant for the general public and last published in 2003 by Oxford University Press, "a department of the University of Oxford", recommends using the Oxford comma in all cases. So basically, Oxford is telling us to use the Oxford comma but isn't going to use it internally. Does this all make sense?
The New Oxford Guide to Writing
Here is (to me) a gorgeous object Markus has generated and below that is a brief movie demonstrating the process. I found the movement of the melting, bubbling desert sand mesmerizing.
Found via Coudal Partners
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Always give credit where credit is due
if you didn't write it, don't say it's by you
just copy the credit along with the work
or else you'll come off as an arrogant jerk
Always give credit where credit belongs
we know that you didn't write Beethoven's songs
pretending you did makes you look like a fool
unless you're Beethoven - in that case, it's cool
A transparent system makes cheating unwise
the simplest web search exposes your lies
no one wants their reputation besmirched
which happens to liars when they are web-searched
Proper citation will make you a star
it shows that you know that we know who you are
Plagiarization will only harm you
so always give credit where credit is due!
From Ms. Paley's essay:
Attribution is a way to help your neighbor. You share not only the work, but information about the work that helps them pursue their own research and maybe find more works to enjoy. How much one is expected to help their neighbor is determined by (often unspoken) community standards. People who don't help their neighbors tend to be disliked. And those who go out of their way to deceive and defraud their neighbors - i.e. plagiarists - are hated and shunned. Plagiarism doesn't affect works - works don't have feelings, and what is done to one copy has no effect on other copies. Plagiarism affects communities, and it is consideration for such that determines where attribution is appropriate.
At least that's the best I can come up with right now. Attribution is actually a very complicated concept; if you have more ideas about it, please share.
Ms. Paley's Website, "Question Copyright."
Following the initial success of 1911, the Solvay Conferences (Conseils Solvay) have been devoted to outstanding preeminent open problems in both physics and chemistry. The usual schedule is every three years, but there have been larger gaps.
Perhaps the most famous conference was the October 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference on Electrons and Photons, where the world's most notable physicists met to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory (1927 attendees shown below). The leading figures were Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Einstein, disenchanted with Heisenberg's "Uncertainty Principle," remarked "God does not play dice." Bohr replied, "Einstein, stop telling God what to do." (See Bohr-Einstein debates.) Seventeen of the twenty-nine attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners, including Marie Curie, who alone among them, had won Nobel Prizes in two separate scientific disciplines.
The Oxford University Press examined a number of socioeconomic trends over the duration, and focused in on 1950 the first year that detailed wage data were recorded, 1990 at the peak of the profession and 2009 the most currently available data. They looked at data within the profession and made comparisons across the work world.
A few graphs offered below and much more info at the link.
- Report, which gives tips on how to use Twitter Search, Advanced Twitter Search, TweetDeck, and Archive Search;
- Engage, which highlights methods on effectively tweeting for particular audiences;
- Publish, which introduces the tools Web Intents, Follow and Tweet, and the Blackbird Pie plugin;
- Extra, which leads to support areas, Twitter Blogs, and Twitter partners.
We know you come from different generations. Some are native to the pilcrow (¶), others native to the hashtag. You began your careers in different media: radio, print, broadcast, online and mobile. But you share a common bond: the desire to make a difference in the world, bringing reliable information to the communities you serve.
1. What are e-books?
An e-book is a digitally expressed narrative containing text and other media. Many e-books are electronic versions of printed books; increasingly authors and content creators are creating e-books with no print analogues. Most current e-books exist as packages that can be read on computing devices using a browser-based application or on a dedicated e-reader device. Some e-books are enhanced and include indexes, dictionaries, maps, video, and geolocational or interactive elements such as simulations as an integral part of the book. Most e-book distribution platforms permit bookmarking and annotations. At this time, the majority of trade digital books that public libraries typically acquire do not presently have these features.
2. How many libraries provide e-books?
In 2011 two-thirds of U.S. public libraries offered e-books, up from 38 percent only two years before. According to Library Journal, 60 percent of libraries that do not currently offer e-books expect to within two years. (Source: LJ/SLJ Virtual Summit: eBooks at the Tipping Point, October 2010.)
3. Why do libraries offer e-books?
Public libraries have established relationships with their communities that begin when parents bring their very young children to the library to read books, and these relationships continue through adulthood. Many readers have purchased dedicated reading devices or multipurpose computer tablets and expect the public library to offer e-book downloads as an extension of print library lending. As people age and eyesight diminishes, e-books offer users the ability to enhance the reading experience by adjusting font size and screen background. Print disabled users have an opportunity to gain access to millions of works previously unavailable to them. Library users want books in regular print, large print, audiobook and e-book formats. Libraries want to offer the user the right book, in the right format at the right time. E-books are now part of that service.
4. What advantages do e-books offer over traditional print books?
- E-book readers are compact; a single -book reader can hold thousands of traditional text based e-books.
- E-book readers are lightweight and portable
- Using the most common lending technologies, users do not incur overdue fines because e-books “time out” on a patron’s reader at the end of the loan period.
- Patrons do not have to come to the library to access and download e-books.
- E-book readers and browsers are more effective in meeting the accessibility needs of library users with print disabilities. Many have built-in screen readers, screen enlargement options and text-to-speech functionality.
- E-books do not require shipping and physical processing like traditional print books, saving staff time and money.
- When an e-book is returned, it goes back into circulation immediately with no time spent waiting for the user to return it. E-books spend no time in a book drop waiting to be checked in and no time waiting to be shelved. And there is nostaff time or cost required for check in, check out, or shelving — not to mention shelf reading!
- E-books do not require shelving like traditional print and at some point this may reduce library capital costs.
- There is a definite “cool factor” associated with e-books.
5. What are the disadvantages of e-books?
- Not all titles are available in digital format.
- Not all publishers are releasing digital simultaneously with print.
- Libraries cannot easily select which titles they would rather have in digital format at the time of publication.
- Libraries often pay a premium (hosting fees) for e-books rather than getting a discount from vendors for quantity purchases of print books.
- Current reading experiences are enhanced with e-book readers, which may not be affordable for everyone.
- Most current e-book retailers and distributors use proprietary digital rights management (DRM) software to control access to the e-book.
- A standardized file format for e-books is still evolving, although EPUB dominates, with EPUB3 likely to see widespread adoption.
- E-book use statistics usually cannot be tracked within the library ILS system.
- There are significant reader privacy concerns.
6. How do libraries acquire e-book service?
Some libraries provide the service as individual libraries, while others participate in a consortium which leases the books. Most libraries use a vendor that hosts a site to manage the e-books and the portal that library patrons use to borrow the e-book. There are also several sites online that offer free e-books directly from authors, publishers or genre based interest groups.
7. What impact does a vendor’s platform have on e-books?
The procedures for downloading vary, which makes it more difficult for libraries to offer and support e-book service to the public. A library user may be unable to access and download e-books that are offered only in a propriety format that requires the use of a particular e-reader.
8. Do libraries loan e-book readers?
Some libraries do, but this lending model might not be sustainable in the long term, and the legal issues remain unclear. Readers can be broken or stolen and their replacement adds financial burden to libraries. As reader technology evolves, libraries have to purchase new readers supporting new features and formats. Traditionally, public libraries have focused more on providing the content rather than the appliance; readers are likely to fall in price, making it less necessary for the library to provide readers.
9. Which e-book reader is best?
It all depends on what the reader is seeking and what the customer is willing to pay. E-book readers vary in weight, screen size, resolution and digital rights management controls. Library patrons are reading e-books on a variety of other electronic devices (phones, computers, and other handheld devices.) The types of books a reader likes will also have bearing on the device they choose. Novels and nonfiction that are primarily text are well suited to black & white e-readers; while full-color or graphics-intensive books, such as children’s and lifestyle books, are best presented on multi-function tablet-style devices and computers.
10. How are libraries responding to patrons’ questions regarding e-book readers?
Libraries are working hard with the public to help them understand the new technology and how to use it. Staff help the public make sense of the complicated ebook and e-book reader market place by offering instructional classes and tip sheets that provide information on how to make various e-book formats work on the patron’s particular reader. Libraries also provide public access computers with Internet connections that facilitate access to digital books.
11. What would libraries offering e-books like to see happen in the future?
- Interoperability of e-book readers and platforms so that all library e-books could be downloaded to any device.
- The option to purchase rather than to lease e-books, in much the same way libraries purchase print books, audiovisual, and other materials.
- Full integration of e-books into library catalogs so that the vendor’s site is transparent to the user.
- Integration of e-book usage data into the ILS circulation module so that there can be a single place to generate circulation statistics for both print and digital material.
- Integrated acquisitions workflow so that e-books can be selected and made available to patrons through the established materials ordering process.
- Vendor collection development programs for digital materials that mirror programs now used for physical materials acquisitions, such as new title notifications plans and standing order programs.
- Reasonable pricing models comparable to those given on traditional print books. [For a nice desiderata see: http://www.openbookmarks.org/checklist/
12. Where do libraries acquire e-books?
Many e-books are available free online. For more information on this subject go to: http://www.publiclibrariesonline.org/content/e-books-and-libraries-whats-available-free
13. What privacy issues are there related to e-books?
New reader privacy issues emerge with digital book services. Reading history can be collected and analyzed and wind up in the hands of governments or third parties without the reader’s knowledge or consent. This information may be used for targeted advertising. Libraries have strict reader privacy policies supported by state privacy law. The need for an updated federal privacy law in wake of the new digital environment is currently being considered by Congress.
14. How long will they be allowed to be on your shelf without re-buying?
This varies by vendor and publisher. In some cases there is a cap on the number of circulations. In others there is no limit. The supply chain is still in the process of establishing viable models.
15. Can you use bookmarks?
In most cases, yes.
16. Is the cover image available?
17. What is the difference between Overdrive and vendors like Follett?
OverDrive allows library patrons to select and download e-books. The patron can transfer downloaded books to his personal e-reader. The downloaded books expire (or, if you prefer, return themselves to the library) when due. Follett’s focus is the educational market, offering books in bundles like “easy fiction.” Follett books can be read via a browser. Many of their titles are delivered content via TITLEWAVE®, TitleWise®, and TitleCheck™ – their own proprietary, independent online products published and owned by Follett Library Resources. There is a license associated with the purchase similar to licenses for online journal databases. When you stop paying your annual subscription fee, you lose access to the books.
18. I am interested in know about length of time these e-books can be downloaded and do they just disappear after so many days?
If a library uses Adobe Content Server and Adobe Digital Editions (as OverDrive does) the loan period is up to the library. The patron can even choose from among multiple loan periods. When the loan period is up, the e-book “expires” on the patron’s PC or e-reader and can no longer be read.
19. How many licenses are required if you have 6 to 10 people reading the same book at he same time? This has always stumped me. Once a library has purchased a license, must the library purchase more than one to allow access by its users?
This varies by vendor and licensing model. The default OverDrive model treats an ebook like a hard copy book. If you want 6 people to be able to read it at once, you buy six copies. EBSCO has stated that they will offer plans that allow the library to pay more per “book,” but be able to loan that “book” to multiple users at once.
20. Is there another major vendor, like Overdrive we should be looking at for an expanded source of e-books?
EBSCO and 3M have indicated that they intend to compete in the space OverDrive currently dominates. They will release more details at ALA Annual in June 2011.
21. Are there vendors for Spanish language or other language e-books?
Yes, you can find a selection of offering on the web. Currently, Barnes & Noble’s Nook has the largest collection of Spanish language books on the market.
22. How burdensome are the technical support questions posed by library patrons?
And is it worth the commitment, given the extent of time it takes for librarians to resolve some of the connectivity/downloading problems and other technical questions posed by our patrons? Tampa Bay Library Consortium, for example, has a digital book collection of over 11,000 titles and serves patrons from seven library systems. Questions that are not easily answered by public service staff go to the TBLC IT shop. Questions they cannot resolve are forwarded to the OverDrive Support team. About three questions per week come in on average. Each library will be unique here, and your mileage may vary. OverDrive is developing a (paid) service that will enable patrons to get help directly from OverDrive Support. Counter-question: Is it worth the commitment to allow patrons to request hard copy books from home, select their own pickup location, and force the library to find the first available copy, pull it from the shelves, ship it to the patron’s chosen site, notify the patron, and then return the book to its home branch and re-shelve it when the patron finishes reading it?
23. Why isn’t this book available as an e-book? This is one we get all the time is.
The short answer is that not all publishers play along. As e-book usage in libraries and in the overall culture increases, it will make more sense to release the e-book first and sell it to anyone who has money.
24. Does the library own the e-books we purchase?
With OverDrive and probably most other vendors, the library does not own the book. It may have a perpetual lease, but it cannot resell the book, give it away, or lend it via ILL. It cannot even lend it to its own patrons without going through the vendor’s site. There are exceptions. For example, Douglas County Libraries are working with the Colorado Independent Publishers Association and will own ebooks they purchase for lending to their community. The Internet Archive has a “Publishers Program” where they are seeking to purchase titles that are then made available through lending.
25. What format should we get?
That will depend on the devices your patrons have and the uses they intend for the e-books. EPUB is an open standard supported and endorsed by the overwhelming majority of publishers, distributors, and trade associations, including the American Association of Publishers.
26. Is there an industry standard for e-books?
There is a standard format adopted by the International Digital Publishing Forum. It is EPUB. In practice, differing DRM systems prevent device interoperability, and the quality of digital books differs across publishers. However, there are a growing number of validation suites for EPUB which supports their standardization. A new version of EPUB, EPUB3, has been released for final comment before publication as a standard. See http://idpf.org/epub/30/spec/epub30-overview.html.
27. What is DRM?
DRM is Digital Rights Management. It is a way of securing an e-book (or music or other digital file) so that only someone with the correct key can open it and use it.
28. How does DRM work?
There are many different forms of DRM, just as there are many types of physicallocks. One simple form uses time and date and takes advantage of the fact that computers have built in clock calendars. The e-reading software on the PC checks the current date and time whenever the e-book is opened. When the current date and time are later than the e-book’s due date (which the e-reading software knows), it refuses to open the book. Some DRM systems rely on the credit card of the purchaser. Some use a complex encryption of the text and build the decryption key nto their proprietary e-reader.
29. Can all e-books be loaded onto a device, or does it depend on the vendor and the device?
It depends on the vendor and the device. An EPUB book with no DRM could be loaded and read on any of several devices. An AZW book from Amazon can be read only on a Kindle.
30. Why can’t I open my new e-book on my device/computer?
There are over two dozen e-book formats and probably at least that many DRM schemes. E-books are available from many sources. There are multiple computer operating systems (Windows, iOS, the Linux family, etc). If you want to open a Word document without having to fight with your HP PC, get Microsoft Word. If you have a Mac, use products that Apple supports. If you have a specific e-reader brand, and you get books only from that e-readers’ vendor (e.g. Nook and Barnes & Noble), it will probably work easily. If you try to read an e-book with an unknown format and DRM on the first e-reader than comes by, you are likely to run into problems. Getting comfortable in this is not rocket science, but it goes beyond what an FAQ can offer.
31. Can I convert one e-book format into another that I can read?
You can convert almost any format into any other format. You can do this on the Web at http://convert.com and you can download the “calibre” software free from http://calibre-ebook.com. If the book is protected by DRM, you may not be able to convert it. A search engine will let you find sites that claim to have software that will strip DRM from e-books and allow you to convert them. Their claims may or may not be true. If they are true, using the software may or may not be legal.
32. What publishers will not sell e-books to libraries? (It would be helpful if the answer included the subsidiaries as well as the main publisher name.)
MacMillan and Simon & Shuster. Some of their subsidiaries, however, do sell ebooks to libraries.
33. What publisher will only sell e-books to libraries for a limited number of checkouts? It would be helpful if this included subsidiaries as well.
Only HarperCollins at this time. Some subsidiaries of HarperCollins do not limit checkouts.
34. How can I interlibrary loan an e-book?
OCLC has developed software that will enable some ILL of e-books.
35. One of the issues creates a dilemma for me at work. One of our missions is to serve the public libraries around the state. The big, urban centers are doing fine, but some of the
small rural libraries are way behind…
Small libraries may have trouble filling a patron’s needs for best sellers. But, if helping students with assigned reading is one of their roles, the existence of so many of the required reading classics as freely downloadable files is a slam dunk. You can get the book for the student even at the last moment after all the hard copies are out. And he can keep it. You can provide one for every person in the class. All for free. You can add a bib record to your online catalog with an 856 tag that links out to the file at Project Gutenberg or Open Library and “own” the book for all intents and purposes. E-books are great for poor and/or remote libraries.
36. What are the advantages and disadvantages of e-books for people with disabilities?
Advantages might include text-to-speech capabilities and font enlargement.
Disadvantages might be DRM employed by publisher to prevent text-to-speech functionality. On the newer dedicated e-readers, on iPads, on smart phones and on laptops, it is easier to turn a page than it is with a hard copy book. You often have multiple ways on the same reader to turn a page: a screen tap, a key press, a mouse click, or a ‘flick’ of the finger.
(Via Librarian by Day.)
It's Facebook's world. Google's just dabbling in it ... for now. Google+ engineering lead Vic Gundotra and product lead Bradley Horowitz explain.
You would be forgiven if you took a look at Google's new social field test, Google+, and decided, “Meh”--especially given the amount of snickering on the Internet about what many presumed would be the search giant's Facebook killer.
But you would also be wrong.
Google+ isn’t a new Google Buzz or Google Wave--giant new products tossed out into the wild with much fanfare, only to quickly fizzle out or, worse, wither under backlash.
Instead, Google+ is one element in a much larger strategy the company launched last year to gradually shift all of Google – Search, YouTube, Places, etc. – from standalone tools to a set of services that operate much more socially.
"People are already on Google. We have billions of users," Bradley Horowitz, the product lead for Google+, tells Fast Company. "We haven't provided them with a consistent and coherent experience of how they represent themselves and their relationships. We're fixing that."
In fact, Google executives say they aren’t necessarily trying to replicate Facebook, per se. Instead, they say they are simply trying to make the experience of Google itself better--by making it easy for people to share the things they already use and discover on Google products.
"This isn't really about trying something new," Horowitz says. "It's about an improvement to the experience people have on the Google they know and love already."
Today's iteration of Google+ is the first stab at this, and the company plans on building on it, adding new features and integrations with other Google products throughout the year.
Among the features released today, some are reminiscent of Facebook (and Twitter), and some are new altogether. As on Facebook, you can connect to people you know and share information with them. And as on Twitter (and Quora), you can also follow people you don’t know.
New features include Hangouts that lets you create group video chats. And Huddle, a mobile feature designed for use while you’re on the go, allows you to create on-the-fly group conversations for those times when sending individual texts to multiple members of your crew gets downright annoying.
Vic Gundotra, the engineering lead for Google+, tells Fast Company the company is intentionally keeping the introduction of Google+ small so they can watch what people do with it and fine-tune it before opening it to a wider audience. It’s not even in beta, only a “field trial,” and only people who have received invitations from the company can give it a spin.
The company declined to say how many people had been issued invitations. But if all goes well, Gundotra says, the company will let current Google+ users start inviting their own friends in "a few weeks."
All of which is to say, if you take a look at Google+ today, and write it off for all the ways it falls short of what you’d want from a new social network, you’d be missing the point. This is just v 1. Or, more likely, v 0.5.
Google has clearly taken his drubbings from the Buzz and Wave fiascos to heart and is taking a much more thoughtful approach to building out social this time around. It’s starting small and humble, and it’s planning to use the tried-and-true model of learning from real-world use to iterate and improve.
"We've learned from those experiences," Horowitz says. "They've helped inform the corrections in the product we're launching today."
That doesn’t mean, of course, that the Google+ project is going to be a hit. It could still fall flat. But the company’s process this time, and its focus--on improving what they already do well, rather than copying what someone else is doing--means that, this time around, Google’s social network will be worth watching.
(Via Fast Company.)Image from xkcd.com
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The year you were born partly determines what generation you belong to, but so do your cultural experiences. USA Today has produced an interactive chart which shows the offset from birth years to one's teenage years -- when people are most influenced by the world around them -- and the music, movies, TV, news, fashion, technology, toys and sports of those eras. Pop over here, select the dots to see more information about each item.
You know how your iPhone is now an essential tool for finding something to eat? Penguin hopes to offer the same help for people wanting something to read.
Penguin Classics--publisher of lit guides, special editions, and classics ranging from The Odyssey to On the Road--is doing for iPhone book browsing what Urbanspoon did for restaurant searching.
The Penguin Classics app for iPad and iPhone, the publisher's complete annotated listing (free in the iTunes store starting Tuesday), lists every Penguin Classics release searchable by author, title, newest releases, essentials, and more. You can search for books about art in the 7th century or check out the list of Pulitzer Prize-winning classics; if you're using your iPhone, you can even shake your phone like you would Urbanspoon to find something new to read at random.
Users can also keep track of books they've read, what they'd like to read, bookmark certain pages, or share the info via email or on Facebook with friends. The app also redirects you to the Penguin shop, where you can purchase the books online--it’s the only clunky part of the app, since you’re directed to ways to buy the print editions rather than the e-books. Nothing disrupts the lean-back experience like a wait for the FedEx guy. E-rights are thorny with some classics, but Penguin doesn’t rule out the possibility of an e-book store in the future. For now, the app makes it less of a tool for a book-lovers' immediate gratification, more a tool to carry with you to your local shop. Who knows, maybe it’ll lead to more purchases of actual books.
Penguin releases a printed annotated guide to its special imprint every year, but not many casual readers outside of the deepest-burrowing bookworms and publishing insiders get their hands on it. Those who do grab a copy use it as a literary to-do list, Elda Rotor, Editorial Director of Penguin Classics, tells Fast Company. "We just wanted to be able to provide this to just a general book-lover. If it inspires people to go buy a classic title, we're really excited about that. If anything, it just also puts in one place a good resource for people that are thinking about books."
And if you’re the kind that thinks about books, you’ll want to test that brain power with what might be the most entertaining feature ever to be included in a catalog, the Penguin Classics Quiz, which comes in three speeds: five- and 10-minute games and the particularly humbling lightning round.
It’s “high-brow procrastination," Rotor says. "We were just brainstorming about what classics readers would love, and I think there are these fans with encyclopedic knowledge of whatever classic author they're crazy about."
Although right now the only social media functionality is its integration with Facebook, there's definitely a social aspect to the quiz. "What I really want to see are people posting or tweeting about their scores. And it would be really great to know if people, like high-profile literary folks, how poorly they do on these tests," she says, laughing. Meanwhile, Penguin has plans to keep the application fresh and updated based on ideas from tech-savvy bibliophiles.
(Via Fast Company.)
Google Tells You What You Love. Quietly launched just now, Google has a new site called wdyl.com that's quite handy: If you type in a search string, it'll return some of the key matches across lots of different Google products – pictures, video, trends, patents and even open calendar entries.
(Via Fast Company.)
Monday, June 27, 2011
What happens when you add elements of film, puppet theater, pop-up books, and interactive light projection? "The Ice Book," a spellbinding traveling show by Davy and Kristin McGuire. Which sounds hard to grasp, but watch the video.
The Ice Book is a miniature theatre show made of paper and light. An exquisite experience of fragile paper cutouts and video projections that sweep you right into the heart of a fantasy world. It is an intimate and immersive experience of animation, book art and performance.
More stills and a little "how to" over at FastCompany.
And high time. Blackboard was designed for the technology of the 1990's. It is cumbersome, outdated and limited. Coursekit co-founder and CEO Joseph Cohen says that Blackboard currently controls 57% of the market for Learning Management Software (LMS) — down from 83% in 2009. He believes that Blackboard’s $400 million in revenue is leaving a huge amount on the table. Cohen believes that with the advent of social networks like Facebook, there is an opportunity to create an academic social network that uses the latest social technology to enhance learning.
They have already raised over $1 million in seed money. In raising capital, Cohen pitched Coursekit as a chance to get a piece of what he believes is a $10 billion market — only $3 billion of which is currently being tapped by the likes of Blackboard.
The service will launch later this summer in time for the Fall semester. It’s a place where teachers can post their syllabus, reading materials, grades, calendars, links, and so on. It is designed as a way for professors to manage their course and interactions with students.
But it is also a social messaging system for students to communicate with each other. “We want a 300 person lecture feel like a 20 person seminar,” says Cohen. Students can share links, videos, MP3s, and other files like PDFs. In this way, they can bring in relevant material from the Web to enhance the course and teach each other.
The animation below is part of the Voyage installation. The glowing bookshelf (which can be glimpsed in the above movie) represents the master collection of every unique and engaging guest experience.
Granted, this is a book that encourages young people to play around with things like hydrogen sulfide. But even on a quick read-though, The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments is far less giddily homicidal than its reputation would have you believe. (For instance, children are warned, in bold red letters, to only play with said hydrogen sulfide outdoors, and to not breathe in the fumes. Also, judging by illustrations, the book seems to be clearly aimed at young teenagers or 'tweens. And it appears to support adult supervision in some circumstances. Yes, even the legendary Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments does not seem to advocate setting a bunch of 7-year-olds loose with toxic, flammable gas.)
Here is a link to a full scan of this classic tome of DIY science ready to be downloaded from Scribd. Enjoy!
(Via Boing Boing.)
Past lecturers include the philosopher Bertrand Russell, "father of the atomic bomb" J Robert Oppenheimer and pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim.
More than 240 Reith Lectures are also available to download as podcasts. The archive has them all.
* Science Fiction Novel: Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis (Spectra)
* Fantasy Novel: Kraken, China Miéville (Macmillan UK; Del Rey)
* First Novel: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit UK; Orbit US)
* Young Adult Book: Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
* Novella: The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
* Novelette: "The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains", Neil Gaiman
* Short Story: "The Thing About Cassandra", Neil Gaiman (Songs of Love and Death)
* Magazine: Asimov's
* Publisher: Tor
* Anthology: Warriors, George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, eds. (Tor)
* Collection: Fritz Leiber: Selected Stories, Fritz Leiber (Night Shade)
* Editor: Ellen Datlow
* Artist: Shaun Tan
* Non-fiction: Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve, William H. Patterson, Jr., (Tor)
* Art Book: Spectrum 17, Cathy & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood)
The New York Times reports that the little boxes that transmit cable signals and digital recording capacity to televisions have become the single largest electricity drain in many American homes. Some typical home entertainment systems consume more power than a new refrigerator and even some central air-conditioning systems, the Times writes.
These days, many homes now have one or more basic cable boxes as well as add-on DVRs, or digital video recorders, which use 40 percent more power than the set-top box, the Times writes. One high-definition DVR and one high-definition cable box use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year — about 10 percent more than a 21-cubic-foot energy-efficient refrigerator, a recent study found.
These set-top boxes are energy hogs mostly because their drives, tuners and other components are generally running full tilt, or nearly so, 24 hours a day, even when not in active use, the Times writes.
More at the above link.
Home Energy Monitor at Amazon.com
Friday, June 24, 2011
1. SONY Pictures
2. A&W Restaurants
3. Saab Automobiles
4. American Apparel
5. Sears (!)
6. SONY Ericson
7. Kellog's Corn Pops
9. Soap Opera Digest
I am a voracious reader and usually have four or five going at once! Now, after listening to Nancy Pearl's description of a few of these, my stack will get even taller. You can read her report here.
Midnight Riot at Amazon.com
Matched at Amazon.com
Castle Waiting at Amazon.com
Emily, Alone: A Novel at Amazon.com
Thursday, June 23, 2011
More than 300 heavily-annotated books from Charles Darwin's personal library have been digitized in a collaboration between Cambridge University, which holds the collection, and the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a project that has so far digitized nearly 50,000 titles from the natural sciences. And if you're looking for what Darwin wrote, rather than what he read, the University of Oklahoma has digitized the first edition of each of his 22 books.
This morning, June 23rd, "Potter" creator J.K. Rowling made an official announcement about the mysterious "Pottermore" website she introduced last week.
The site will deliver a free, online reading experience including, according to a press release, "extensive new material about the characters, places and objects in the much-loved stories" and a digital capability in which "the storyline will be brought to life with sumptuous newly commissioned illustrations and interactive 'Moments' through which you can navigate."
"[It's] a way I can be creative in a medium that didn't exist when I started the books back in 1990," Rowling told reporters during the press conference.
About 1,000 volunteers gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. yesterday to ring in summer by preparing 50,000 "summer reading" backpacks for distribution to low income children.
The event was part of United Way's Day of Action. First Book, the non-profit organization dedicated to providing access to new books for children in need, donated 150,000 books for the event. Each backpack was filled with three new books, and a "reading kit" featuring tips, activities and bookmarks.
Original flyer for the event:
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
That click you just heard? That was the sound of photography as we know it changing.
Reader, Kate, forwarded me a link to this video in her insightful comment to this post and I am posting the video for perspective on the market for this technology.
Lytro (click link for an image gallery) is a Silicon Valley startup that's building on research carried out by CEO Ren Ng at Stanford, and its promise is simple: With its light field camera hardware and software, it could change photography in an almost unimaginable number of ways--starting with the thing that most news sites have picked up on this morning, the lack of a need to focus a photo.
Meanwhile, Lytro's $50 million in start-up capital has come from big names like Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock, and its technological team includes a co-founder of Silicon Graphics and the man who was the chief architect for Palm's revolutionary webOS software. So what's the fuss all about?
It's called light field, or plenoptic, photography, and the core thinking behind Lytro is contained neatly in one paper from the original Stanford research--though the basic principle is simple. Normal cameras work in roughly the same way your eye does, with a lens at the front that gathers rays of light from the view in front of it, and focusses them through an aperture onto a sensor (the silicon in your DSLR or the retina in your eye). To focus your eye or a traditional camera you adjust the lens in different ways to capture light rays from different parts of the scene and throw it onto the sensor. Easy. This does have a number of side-effects including the need to focus on one thing. This adds complexity, and, if used well, beauty to a photo.
But Lytro's technology includes a large array of microlenses in front of the camera sensor. Think of them as a synthetic equivalent of the thousands of tiny lenses on a fly's eye. The physics and math gets a bit tricky here, but the overall result is this: Instead of the camera's sensor recording a single image that's shaped by the settings of your camera lens, aperture and so on, the sensor records a complex pattern that represents light coming from all the parts of the scene in front of it, not just the bits you would've focussed on using a normal camera. The image is then passed to software which can decode it.
And this is where things get freaky. Because the system captures data about the direction of light rays from the scene, it can be programmed to "focus" on any depth in the photo--years after you took the original image. In an instant images can be more ideal, cameras could do away with bulky, power-hungry and expensive focusing systems, photos can be snapped much more quickly and the average Joe Public doesn't need to worry about focusing an image. The lenses also capture light in low lighting conditions that would previously have needed a flash. That's a big enough impact, and it could have enormous repercussions for the whole camera industry.
But that's not all. Because the image is finalized in a computer, you can process it in a number of ways--including stacking together images focused on different things into an animation that could reveal much more detail of the original scene. Imagine a war photo where you can focus all the way from the nearby friendly fighters, down the barrels of their guns, over the barricade and into the eyes of the enemies down the street. Imagine internet adverts that dynamically move through the detail of a dress in a fashion shoot. Imagine Harry Potter-esque front page images on your tablet PC-edition newspaper.
And there're other implications: There's no reason you couldn't stack two plenoptic cameras side-by-side and generate some truly brain-tricking variations on 3-D imaging. And theoretically you could generate video using the lenses (although the computing burden might end up being very significant) and that could open the door to movie special effects that may make the Matrix look like a Victorian magic lantern show.
That's why there's all this excitement about Lytro. And the excitement persists even though the company is taking the unusual step of launching its own cameras later in the year, rather than licensing adoption by other more established billion-dollar photography names like Canon and Nikon.
But plenoptic imaging isn't something you can trademark, necessarily, and it's likely that in the same way James Dyson's revolutionary vaccum cleaners forced changes on long-established designs across that market, Lytro's system will push other makers to develop their own similar tech. Indeed it's pretty likely, given that Ng's 2005 paper notes it's "a simple optical modification to existing digital cameras that causes the photosensor to sample the in-camera light field. This modification is achieved without altering the external operation of the camera."
And yet: Lytro may still have changed photos forever.
(Via Fast Company.)
"During the last 50 years, the conception and production of the book has evolved into an art form that exceeds all former standards for the book as object. Book arts have become a mature medium, and California artists and printers are leaders in the fine arts of the book," - Roberto G. Trujillo, head of Stanford Library's Department of Special Collections.
Currently on view at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University is the exhibit, The Art of the Book in California: Five Contemporary Presses. Featuring nearly 50 books the exhibit highlights some of the amazing book art and fine press work emanating from the great book state of California.
The featured presses are:
Moving Parts Press
Peter Koch Printers and
The catalog for the exhibition features essays by Robert Bringhurst and Peter Koch and a detailed bibliographic entry for each book in the exhibit. Bringhurst has also put together a Chronology of Fine Printing in California that takes us from the birth of Agustín V. Zamorano, a provisional governor of Alta California and the state’s first printer, in 1798 through the 2007 launch of the Codex Foundation's first biennial international fine press book fair.
For those of you planning on being in Northern California this summer, the exhibit runs through August 28, 2011.
(Via Book Patrol.)