Technology for Law Libraries

Diane Murley of  John J. Ross – William C. Blakley Law Library at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law  (aka the law school formerly known as Arizona State) announced today the Technology for Law Libraries Blog.  It’s going to supplement her “Technology for Everyone” column that appears in Law Library Journal.

Facebook Beacon (includes list of partner sites)

Like duct tape, The Force and seemingly everything else that’s holding my life together at the present moment, it appears that Facebook has a bit of a dark side. Well, it actually may not be that dark. It just seems like whenever a large corporation (or other agent of The Man) and privacy are involved and I have to choose between looking at the situation calmly and rationally or freaking out, well…I immediately reach for my tinfoil hat.

Facebook has made a lot of changes in the past month. The one that I’ve blogged about extensively here is Facebook Pages, which allows businesses or entities (like libraries) to create a page on Facebook that has much of the same functionality of a Facebook Profile. What I’ve not written about (or, frankly, thought about) until this moment are Facebook Beacon and Social Ads. Now, I understand that Facebook is a business and needs to make money. As with most Internet businesses, the way that they do that is through ads. I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the method that generates these ads.

For you non-Facebookers, one of the things that I find most addictive about Facebook over MySpace is the “newsfeed.” This allows you to see actions that your friends are taking (e.g. who they’ve added as a friend, who they’re playing Scrabble with, what books they’re reading, etc.) You don’t have to visit each one of your friends profiles, either. It shows up when you first login to Facebook on your start page. (And actually, MySpace will be adding a similar feature soon.) If you didn’t want everyone on your friends list to see these actions, you could easily adjust your privacy settings so that they didn’t show up. Ever.

Remember that last bit…it’s important.

With Social Ads and Beacon, Facebook is providing code to its “partner sites” that will harvest information on your activities on these partner sites and then post it to your Facebook profile. So, for example, if I were to buy something on Overstock.com, soon would appear in my newsfeed “Sarah just bought X from Overstock.com.” From what I can gather, you can opt out of having the information posted, but only after it’s been posted. So, if my purchase from Overstock was a gift for someone on my friends list…oops! Suprise! And if it’s something that I may not want everyone on my friends list to know I purchased for personal reasons (if you know what I mean and I think you do wink wink nudge nudge)? Well, this could make that next faculty meeting kind of awkward.

Actually, it’s not commercial vendor type of partner sites that really bother me. (Although they do really bother me.) Also on the list of partner sites are the Six Apart blogging services. I know of several people on my friends list who maintain personal, anonymous blogs on these services that probably don’t want people to know that these blogs exist if they don’t already.

There is frustratingly little official information out there about Beacon. I can’t figure out how it knows the person that purchased the unmentionable item from Overstock is the person that has a Facebook profile. Is it from cookies on the computer? Similar login emails? Magic? I just don’t know! I also had a dickens of a time finding a list of the partner sites. Here’s what I’ve been able to find, thanks to this post that cites a Facebook press release:

  • AllPosters.com
  • Blockbuster
  • Bluefly.com (NASDAQ: BFLY)
  • CBS Interactive (CBSSports.com & Dotspotter) (NYSE: CBS)
  • eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY)
  • ExpoTV
  • Fandango
  • Gamefly
  • IAC InterActiveCorp. (NASDAQ: IACI) sites (CollegeHumor, Busted Tees, iWon, Citysearch, Pronto.com, echomusic)
  • Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE)’s Hotwire
  • Joost
  • Kiva
  • Kongregate
  • LiveJournal
  • Live Nation (NYSE: LYV)
  • Mercantila
  • National Basketball Association
  • NYTimes.com (NYSE: NYT)
  • Overstock.com (NASDAQ: OSTK)
  • (RED)
  • Redlight
  • SeamlessWeb
  • Sony Online Entertainment LLC (NYSE: SNE)
  • Sony Pictures (NYSE: SNE)
  • STA Travel
  • The Knot (NASDAQ: KNOT)
  • TripAdvisor
  • Travel Ticker
  • Travelocity
  • TypePad
  • viagogo
  • Vox
  • Yelp
  • WeddingChannel.com
  • Zappos.com

I’ve also heard that Amazon is on there, but I can’t find any confirmation of that.

There’s also some potential legal issues involved, but instead of tackling that, I’m just going to link to this post on Concurring Opinions and let people more able to discuss it handle that.

ETA: I forgot the most important part…there is a way to block Beacon if you use Firefox. Here’s the details. I am worried, though, that this will just block the notification that something is being posted to Facebook instead of blocking the information gathering all together.

ETA Again: It looks like some groups are going to file a complaint with the FTC. This is getting interesting.

55 Alive

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with signing my mother up for social networking services, especially in light of our disastrous MySpace experiment.  And yet I persist.  Today I found one that she may like….55 Alive, a social networking site aimed at the older population.   It features many of the same features that one would find on Facebook or MySpace, like groups, picture sharing and games.  There’s also an online dating service because – depressingly – you’re apparently never too old to try and find love on the Internet.

Week Off Round-up

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving break. I seem to have picked up a cold from my 6 year old nephew (aka Typhoid Joey the Walking Germ Factory) so I’m not feeling quite up to thinking today. So I’m just going to post some quick thoughts and link to some stuff that’s caught my eye over the break.

-I thought it was interesting how Web 2.0 has infiltrated even the most common and traditional of family events. Whenever my older brother would do something to deliberately annoy me – which was often because he is very annoying and it doesn’t matter that we’re both in our 30s – his new extra knife twist would be to say, “Oh, does that bother you? What you gonna do? You gonna go home and blog about this?”

-Here’s a first hand account of how a college professor uses wikis with her classes.

-The legal blog Concurring Opinions has announced The Law Review Table of Contents Project. I’m not entirely sure why they did this, since Washington and Lee has the searchable Current Law Journal Content and there is University of Washington’s subscription CILP service.

-I came across a recent article in Library Journal that provides some useful tips on consuming all of the information that is now available thanks to Web 2.0

-I’m starting to think the overwhelming faith in the wisdom of crowds thing is going to far with cumlu.us, a weather prediction site that bases weather forecasts on traditional sources, like NOAA, and non-traditional ones, like what the kid down the street is wearing. I sometimes have a hard time determining what is real and what is a parody site, and I’m not entirely sure that this is for real.

Thanksgiving Week Hiatus

I am in the middle of moving house and, combined with Thanksgiving, I realized that I’m probably not going to be posting this week. So much for NaBloPoMo.

I’ll be back the Monday after Thanksgiving, unless I see something really cool, which is entirely possible.  If you’re looking for something to read, check out Stephen Fry’s Blog.  Surprisingly, he’s a total techie.  I would have not guessed that.

Newsflash: Students Don’t Like Library Databases

Back in my library school days, I used to work as a library instruction assistant at the IU Undergrad Library. This meant that I locked myself in a computer lab with 25 or so disgruntled undergrad students and tried to show them joys of OPACs and library databases. I felt like I occasionally made a difference, especially when I would show them my Dr. Martin Luther King internet search example (click on http://www.martinlutherking.org), but for the most part I was faced with bored indifference.

Or so I thought.

Not only are undergrad students not really impressed with library databases, they actually hate them. Some enterprising young souls actually took the time to create a Facebook group to announce to the world that they think EBSCO sucks. Here are some choice quotes from the group:

my lit teacher made us do this huge project and he wasnt letting us use anything toher than the links on the library website. its pretty much impossible seeing as ebsco was liket he only thing there.

screw him. i used google.
and wikipedia.

And from a discussion titled “google is the shit”:

that crazy librarian lady is always like random people post incorect information on google and ebsco is always right/// who just like sits at home and is like alright ill just go ahead and pay money to have a web address for a bunch of made up shit i just came up with to throw off kids on high school reserch papers!!! i always find exactly what i need in like the first 3 serch results.

Ah, the innocence of youth. The funny thing is, I actually know of someone who posts incorrect stuff on Wikipedia just be a jerk. In the same conversation, someone tries to be a voice of…well, I can’t say reason, but shows why it’s not just jerks that post incorrect information:

when people aren’t aware that they are wrong, it happens and they make their websites. Most of the sites they talk about when they say google isn’t always accurate are geocities or similar hosts where it’s free and people just post ideas claiming that they are facts. and don’t get me wrong, i can’t stand ebsco because of all the irrelevant BS it gives you even when you use the most specific advanced search, but you need to take a lot of sites with a grain of salt, and while i read articles on wikipedia all the time, don’t ever think that is 100% unquestionable truth (i’ve seen so many errors in dates and even names that it really makes me wonder how the site is popular, but then i remember its so damn easy to find stuff).

Yep. Dropping the $20 to G0Daddy for a domain name is the guaranteer of accuracy.

I have to go put my head down now.

ETA: They don’t like databases, but they also don’t want us to buy books anymore.  I’m so confused!

The Original Blog?

It seems like everytime I turn around lately, I’ve seem some reference to a “commonplace book.”  And as I hadn’t heard of a commonplace book before, oh say…three days ago, it’s caught my attention.   One of the first places that I saw commonplace books referred to was this blog post in which a medievalist explains how they’re very similar to modern blogs.

I always find it interesting to see how things that we think are new are just different ways of humans doing the same thing.  Which reminds me…somewhere there’s a website that has constructed The Federalist Papers as a blog.  I keep searching for it but can’t seem to find it.