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Book Review: Dreaming in Code (a book about why software is hard)

Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software
(or “A book about why software is hard”) by Scott Rosenberg

Before I dive into my review of this book – I have to come clean. I must admit that I have lived and breathed the world of software development for years. I have, in fact, dreamt in code. That is NOT to say that I was programming in my dream, rather that the logic of the dream itself was rooted in the logic of the programming language I was learning at the time (they didn’t call it Oracle Bootcamp for nothing). ... 

Redacting Data – A T-Shirt and Other Thoughts

ThinkGeek Magic Numbers has created a funny t-shirt with the word redacted on it.

In case you missed it, there was a whole lot of furor early this month when someone posted an Advanced Access Content System (AACS) decryption key online. The key consists of 16 hexadecimal numbers that can be used to decrypt and copy any Blu-Ray or HD-DVD movie. Of course, it turns out to not be so simple – and I will direct you to a series of very detailed posts over at Freedom to Tinker if you want to understand the finer points of what the no longer secret key can and cannot do. The CyberSpeak column over at USA Today has a nice summary of the big picture and more details about what happened after the key was posted. ... 

RSS and Mainstream News Outlets

Recently posted on the FP Passport blog, The truth about RSS gives an overview of the results of a recent RSS study that looks at the RSS feeds produced by 19 major news outlets. The complete study (and its results) can be found here: International News and Problems with the News Media’s RSS Feeds.

If you are interested in my part in all this, read the Study Methodology section (which describes my role down under the heading ‘How the Research Team Operated’) and the What is RSS? page (which I authored, and describes both the basics of RSS as well as some other web based tools we used in the study – YahooPipes and Google Docs). ... 

Epidemiological Research and Archival Records: Source of Records Used for Research Fails to Make the News

Typist wearing mask, New York City, October 16, 1918 (NARA record 165-WW-269B-16)In early April, Reuters ran an article that was picked up by YahooNews titled Closing Schools reduced flu deaths in 1918. I was immediately convinced that archival records must have supported this research – even though no mention of that was included in the article. The article did tell me that it was Dr. Richard Hatchett of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) who led the research. ... 

Digital Archiving Articles – netConnect Spring 2007

Thanks to Jessamyn West’s blog post, I found my way to a series of articles in the Spring 2007 edition of netConnect:

“Saving Digital History” is the longest of the three and is a nice survey of many of the issues found at the interseciton of archiving, born digital records and the wild world of the web. I especially love the extensive Link List at the end of the articles — there are lots of interesting related resources. This is the sort of list of links I wish were available with ALL articles online! ... 

Copyright Law: Archives, Digital Materials and Section 108

I just found my way today to Copysense (obviously I don’t have enough feeds to read as it is!). Their current clippings post highlighted part of the following quote as their Quote of the Week.

Marybeth Peters (from“[L]egislative changes to the copyright law are needed. First, we need to amend the law to give the Library of Congress additional flexibility to acquire the digital version of a work that best meets the Library’s future needs, even if that edition has not been made available to the public. Second, section 108 of the law, which provides limited exceptions for libraries and archives, does not adequately address many of the issues unique to digital media—not from the perspective of copyright owners; not from the perspective of libraries and archives.” Marybeth Peters , Register of Copyrights, March 20, 2007 ... 

Visualizing Archival Collections

As I mentioned earlier, I am taking an Information Visualization class this term. For our final class project I managed to inspire two other classmates to join me in creating a visualization tool based on the structured data found in the XML version of EAD finding aids.

We started with the XML of the EAD finding aids from University of Maryland’s ArchivesUM and the Library of Congress Finding Aids. My teammates have written a parser that extracts various things from the XML such as title, collection size, inclusive dates and subjects. Our goal is to create an innovative way to improve the exploration and understanding of archival collections using an interactive visualization. ... 

Getting Your Toes Wet: Basic Principals of Design for the New Web

Ellyssa Kroski of InfoTangle has created a great overview of current trends in website and application design in her post Information Design for the New Web. If you are going to Computers in Libraries, you can see her present the ideas she discusses in her post in a session of the same name on Monday April 16.

She highlights 3 core principles with clear explanations and great examples:

  • Keep it Simple
  • Make it Social
  • Offer Alternate Navigation

As archives continue to dive into the deep end of the internet pool, more and more archivists will find themselves participating in discussions about website design choices. Understanding basic principals like those discussed in Kroski’s post will go a long way to making archivists feel more comfortable contributing to these sorts of discussions. ... 

Ideas for SAA2007: Web Awards, Wikis and Blogs

Online since late March of this year, the new ArchivesNext blog is wasting no time in generating great ideas. First of all – I love the idea of awards for the best archives websites. How about ‘Best Archives Blog’, ‘Best Online Exhibit’ and ‘Best Archives Website’? It seems like barely a week goes by on the Archives and Archivists’ listserv between each announcement of a new archives website or online exhibition. I think an entire blog could be created just showing off the best of archives websites. I would love to see those making the greatest online contributions to the profession honored at the annual conference. ...