Link roundup July 21, 2014

Summertime is the best time to share a few pieces of the Web we’ve enjoyed lately.

Google Is Designing the Font of the Future — NYMag

Motion Silhouette: An Interactive Shadow Picture Book | Colossal

It’s gotta be the shoes

Book smell is back – 25 paper-scented perfumes and candles

Bibliocycle is Boston Public Library’s bicycle based library

Link roundup July 6, 2014

Watch These Ninety-Six “Pixels” Inflate and Deflate
Low res, bag display. – Matt Phillips

Color palette tutorial time! This is by no means…
Simple color picking method – Annie

The Most Face-Melting Music Video You’ve Ever Seen
Make and melt your face. – Matt Phillips

For Email Newsletters, a Death Greatly Exaggerated –
Email newsletters, alive and well. – Matt Phillips

TIME OUT .02: Time to X
Walk through the sound clip. 96 sounds through 96 speakers. This is amazing. – Matt Phillips

Link roundup June 14, 2014

Nobody. Understands. Punctuation.
Punctuation should be used to express your voice. This is the best thing I read online this week. – Matt Phillips

How to Tell Someone’s Age When All You Know Is Her Name
I want this, but for publications. Take CS, the average age of an Info Theory pub has to be 40 years. Big data, 3. – Matt Phillips

Amazing work – jeff

A git repository representing the Unix source code history
Browse through decades-old unix commits using git. – Matt Phillips

Secrets of the Stacks — Book Excerpts
Excerpt from The Shelf covering library weeding – Annie

Link roundup May 18, 2014

so good – jeff

The drinkable book purifies water
The form factor and mechanics of the book make it a good delivery device for a large spectrum of things. – Matt Phillips

Video: A Day in the Life of NYC’s Branches — NYMag
– jeff

The leaked New York Times innovation report is one of the key documents of this media age
When an institution like the @nytimes produces for so long, they “can be both a daily newsletter and a library” – Matt Phillips

The Setup / Morgan Holzer
What the NYPL Information Architect for the user experience team uses to get stuff done. – Annie

Full text indexing HOLLIS: a hacky mashup

This project comes from an amateur, not from the excellent devs here at the Lab. I’m a co-director, not a developer. If you look at the code (github) you will have a good laugh. On the other hand, the fact that someone at my level of “skill” can create a semi-workable piece of code is a testament to LibraryCloud’s usability. (Also to Paul Deschner’s patience with my questions. Thanks, Paul.)

Harvard Library has 13M items in its collection. Harvard is digitizing many of them, but as of now you cannot do a full text search of them.

Google Books had 30M books digitized as of a year ago. You can do full-text searches of them.

So, I wrote a little mash-up app [corrected url] that lets you search Google Books for text, and then matches up the results with books in Harvard Library. It’s a proof of concept, and I’m counting the concept as proved, or at least as promising. On the other hand, my API key for Google Books only allows 2,000 queries a day, so it’s not practical on the licensing front.

This project runs on top of LibraryCloud. LibraryCloud provides an API to Harvard’s open library metadata and more. (We’re building a new, more scalable version now. It is, well, super-cool.)

Some details below the clickable screenshot…

Click on the image to expand it.
googleHollis screen capture

Click here to go to the app.

The Google Books results are on the left (only ten for now), and HOLLIS on the right.

If a Google result is yellow, there’s a match with a book in HOLLIS. Gray means no match. HOLLIS book titles are prefaced by a number that refers to the Google results number. Clicking on the Google results number (in the circle) hides or shows those works in the stack on the right; this is because some Google books match lots of items in HOLLIS. (Harvard has a lot of copies of King Lear, for example.)

There are two types of matches. If an item matched on a firm identifier (ISBN,OCLC, LCCN), then there’s a checkmark before the title in the HOLLIS stack, and there’s a “Stacklife” button in the Google list. Clicking on the Stacklife button displays the book in Harvard StackLife, a very cool — and prize winning! — library browser created by our Lab. The StackLife stack colorizes items based on how much they’re used by the Harvard community. The thickness of the book indicates its page count and its length indicates its actual physical height.

If there’s no match on the identifiers, then the page looks for a keyword match on the title and an exact match on the author’s last name. This can result in multiple results, not all of which may be right. So, on the Google result there’s a “Feeling lucky” button that will take you to the first match’s entry in StackLife.

The “Google” button takes you to that item’s page at Google Books, filtered by your search terms for your full-texting convenience.

The “View” button pops up the Google Books viewer for that book, if it’s available.

The “Clear stack” button deselects all the items in the Google results, hiding all the items in the HOLLIS stack.

Let me know how this breaks or sucks, but don’t expect it ever to be a robust piece of software. Remember its source.

Link roundup May 12, 2014

Museum of the Moving Image – Exhibitions – The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture
reaction gifs anyone? – jeff

Mathias Döpfner’s open letter to Eric Schmidt
Really powerful discussion of concerns about google. – jeff

Stopping Link Rot: Aiming To End A Virtual Epidemic
A discussion of linkrot and on NPR’s Weekend Edition. – Matt Phillips

Type–Hover–Swipe in 96 Bytes: A Motion Sensing Mechanical Keyboard
Keyboard and gestures working together in the same space. This feels like the right approach. – Matt Phillips

Welcome to!
So much wonder all bundled into one catalog. – jeff

My Independent Bookshop
My own Bookstore! – jeff

Empowering the Community through Mobile Libraries: Jessa Lingel at TEDxBendSalon
Don’t impose your idea of how a community’s library should work. Find what works for them and help. – Matt Phillips

Link roundup April 11, 2014

Wake up to what the ‘article of the future’ is really about – Semantico
Articles are no longer the unitary objects they once were. – David Weinberger

The Massachusetts Library Snapshot Day Pool
Library Snapshot Day. Photographs of libraries in action, including the building, collection, programs & people. – Annie

900 Years of Tree Diagrams, the Most Important Data Viz Tool in History
900 Years of Tree Diagrams, the Most Important Data Viz Tool in History – Matt Phillips

“The Human Skin Book” at HLS
“The Human Skin Book” at HLS not human skin after all – Annie

Ideas Box
Put this one in the AWESOME! box – jeff

Browser Plugin Maps Your Browser History as a Favicon Tapestry
A browser plugin that fetches the favicon of each visited URL, weaving them into a visual tapestry. – Matt Phillips

Out of Print, Maybe, but Not Out of Mind
“the book — or at least some of its best-known features — is showing remarkable staying power online.” – Matt Phillips

Link roundup March 26, 2014

Keep It Short
“The point of brevity isn’t to chop a certain kind of word, but to make sure that each word is essential.” – Matt Phillips

Wu-Tang Clan releasing only a single copy of their album
Libraries should band together and save up to buy the only copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s new album – Annie

A fresh bite of the Apple | Harvard Gazette
Harvard Business School case study as graphic novel – Annie

People Posing With Books
Bookface – Annie

Gallery: Digitizing the past and present at the Library of Congress
An amazing and deep dive into two of the Library of Congress’s preservation and archiving centers. – Matt Phillips

Underground Library Lets Subway Riders Sample Books On Mobile Phones
On the subway and want something to read? Get the first 10 pages of an NYPL book out from a poster in the train car. – Matt Phillips

Breaking Out of the Library Mold, in Boston and Beyond
Nice piece on BPL renovation and its exciting community engagement. “We’re turning ourselves outward.” – Matt Phillips

CURIOSity for collections

[The next day: Edited to incorporate suggestions from Wendy.]

Wendy Gogel says says a few factors led to this proposal for a new service:

  • Preservation Services, Academic Technology Services, and Library Technology Services have gotten inquiries about online collection building for faculty, librarians and other staff.

  • We need to replace our aging online collection building tools: Virtual Collections and TED

  • We’ve been creating digital content for 15 years at Harvard, so now have a good foundation for combining and presenting collections in new ways. The new service would be called CURIOSity, and, as Wendy notes, it does not exist yet.

    NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

    The name comes from “cabinets of curiosities” [Wunderkammern], which were forerunners of modern museums. It also comes from “curios” as treasures.

    CURIOSity is designed to enable the creation of web-based collection presentations and exhibits: to make an entire collection accessible through searching and browsing; to highlight a collection (or collections) through an exhibition of a limited number of things; to share a research project; or as a resource for a course.
    Features that users expect to see include: searching and browsing; refining results through faceting, descriptive text and thumbnails; narrative context and graphics. Additional desired features might include: geographic display of collections on a map, chronological display on a timeline; or user contributed data like annotations or tags. E.g., Stanford’s Bassi-Veratti Collection; the Shelley-Godwin Archive; and the Emily Dickinson collection. These are great collections, but they were not easy to create. Wouldn’t it help to have services that make it easier? Wendy points to the Interoperability wiki where the original notes about the proposal and key requirements are posted.

    Based on the discussion at the meeting it is unlikely that a single software solution will solve all the needs, though each requires platform requires different skill sets. The group began by looking at Omeka, Exhibit 3, and Blacklight. Now they’re also looking at Shared Canvas. We can’t rely on having resources at hand for doing the required coding and metadata wrangling (converting from native formats). So, maybe we should have a sandbox for experimenting. Then Library Technical Services could provide software hosting.

    The CURIOSity program could also evaluate new software packages and provide analyses and feature comparisons.

    CURIOSity could provide integration services. It could harvest metadata, link to content in DRS, and provide tools and APIs.

    Who would do the work? You need programmers and admins to set up the platform. We’d want to customize it to integrate it with Harvard info. E.g., we [the Interoperability Initiative] did a plugin for Omeka so that it can use distributed sources. Each collection needs to be customized. We could create designs specific to a department. For each collection, a curator has to manage the content, rights clearances, etc. There’s a lot of work, and this would take more than LTS!

    Q&A and Discussion

    Q: A lot of it is about design. That’s half of how we spend our time.

    Q: Aesthetics are expensive and change.

    Q: How long do we expect these collections to live?

    Q: There needs to be an easy way to get your metadata out.

    Q: The metadata should be sustainable.

    Q: What would be the first collection building software to support?

    A: Probably Omeka, and we’re looking at the Spotlight plugin for Blacklight that makes it easier to use.

Awesome Box at PLA 2014. Thank you.

Thanks to everyone at PLA 2014 in Indianapolis for making the Awesome Box feel welcome. We learned some things about public libraries and got to share the Awesome Box with a lot of people.

orange-table blue-table

When we arrived at the exhibit hall it was a dash to get our booth setup. We tossed on the tablecloths, hung up our signage, and set up our sample books and boxes. We grabbed lunch and then began honing our carney-style Awesome Box pitch for the steady stream of library folk.

We pitched and pitched and pitched for two and half days. What a great way to get the selling points nailed down.


So many enthusiastic librarians, especially from Indiana, and so many helpful friends (Craig from Cambridge Public Library, Maura from IMLS, and Tim from LibraryThing). Oh, and thanks to TLC for giving us a ride to the airport.


Please connect if we didn’t get to chat,