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The theme for today’s Tech Sharecase was algorithms and the roles they play in our lives. We started off by watching a TED Talk video by MIT grad student, Joy Buolamwini, titled “How I’m Fighting Bias in Algorithms.”
The discussion among our twenty attendees touched on a number of topics:
- Cathy O’Neil’s book, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
- filter bubbles
- predictive analytics systems for “student success”
- algorithms in library search systems
If you’d like to learn more about algorithms, here is a list of references to articles, books, videos, and more.
At today’s Tech Sharecase, we had fifteen attendees to participate in a gadget show and tell that include demonstrations of:
- inexpensive virtual reality goggles from ViewMaster
- a sun dial with a compass
- a Microsoft Surface laptop with a detachable touch screen
- an Android watch with apps to measure exercise activity
- a portable battery charger that can charge three devices at once
- the pulse oximeter on a Samsung Galaxy S8 phone
- a Wahoo heart rate monitor
- a Logitech presentation remote
The next get together for the Tech Sharecase will be on Friday, December 8. The location and agenda will be announced soon.
We had 24 attendees at today’s event, which was held in the library’s conference room. Our discussion focused on data management and data visualization.
Generating Maps in Microsoft Excel
Ryan Phillips gave an overview of the mapping feature that is available as a plugin in older versions of Excel and as a standard feature in Excel 2016. Examples he shared:
With this example of a incomplete tracking map showing Hurricane Ophelia poised to strike Ireland, we talked about how mapping tools are sometimes not up to the tasks we have in mind.
Charlie Terng showed how you can use the Shiny package for R to create visualizations of data. He’s been using ggplot2 to put together a dashboard of information about circulation of library books and is looking at how he might use Shiny. He showed us three visualization examples on the Shiny website to give us a sense of what the system can do:
Ralph Englander showed some screenshots of the work he’s done in the iDashboards system to display various metrics from the library. One challenge of his project has been the task of having to manually load data into the system.
We looked at the dashboard of CUNY-wide data from library systems that the CUNY Office of Library Services has posted on its free Tableau account.
Monitoring Activity on the Campus Network
Upcoming Tech Sharecase Events
- November 10
- December 8
The locations will be announced shortly. Please submit any suggestions for discussion topics on this editable Google Doc.
For our first meeting of the fall semester, we had 22 attendees in the 9th floor conference room sharing ideas about ways to create and manage passwords.
We started the discussion by referring to this recent Wall Street Journal article in which the person responsible for writing a set of long-standing best practices for password creation decided his guidelines needed a complete overhaul:
McMillan, Robert. “The Man Who Wrote those Password Rules has a New Tip: N3v$r M1^d! Bill Burr’s 2003 Report Recommended using Numbers, Obscure Characters and Capital Letters and Updating Regularly–He Regrets the Error.”Wall Street Journal (Online), Aug 07, 2017, ABI/INFORM Global, http://remote.baruch.cuny.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1926721443?accountid=8500.
During our discussion, a number of different options for password creation and management came up:
- Password management software (most will store your username/password credentials and help you create very strong passwords)
- Saving passwords in a local spreadsheet or text file (that may also be encrypted)
- Using Diceware to create strong passphrases
Some institutions have set up LastPass at the enterprise level, enabling all employees to have their own accounts and to share passwords with trusted colleagues. It was noted that LastPass has struggled in the past year with a security problem that is worrisome for its users.
We talked generally about what makes a strong password and how a long passphrase can actually be as secure if not more so than shorter password with a bunch of random characters, something this xchd cartoon by Randall Munroe illustrates well:
One amusing thing that came up in our discussion was a list of the most common passwords people use (“123456” is at the top of the list year after year).
We also talked about the way passwords get hacked by means of dictionary attacks (a brute force method in which a computer throws billions of words from dictionaries in every language at a login) and social engineering attacks in which users are tricked into giving away their login credentials.
It was noted that while two-factor authentication can offer an additional layer of security, it is not without weaknesses, too:
- Can be hard to implement at the enterprise level, as it requires every person to do something additional to log in beyond simply typing in a user name and password
- If the second layer of authentication involves sending a text message to the user’s phone with a unique PIN that has to be typed in after the password, the phone then becomes the weak point, as it is increasingly common for hackers to steal people’s cell phone numbers away from them and thus be able to hijack this additional security layer
- You can use a security key for two-factor authentication like this one from Yubico but not all systems will accept it
For two-factor authentication, authentication apps (like Authy) were suggested as being more secure than getting text messages with login codes.
We looked at the list of topics already suggested for upcoming meetings:
- Sharing screens among students and instructor in a classroom
- Data management and preservation
- Faculty and staff options for file storage and sharing
- Integrating LibGuides into Blackboard
- Open educational resources (OERs)
- Online and Hybrid Tools (Screencast-O-Matic, VoiceThread)
- What is blockchain?
- Intro to encryption and what are options for encryption (personal and work)
- Technology fatigue
- Internet of things
- Digital archiving
Our next meeting will be a Friday in October (look for an announcement soon).
Google Docs Phishing
We started off our meeting today with a discussion of the recent hack of Google Docs that saw millions of users getting email messages inviting them to view a fake Google Doc. We discussed how Google had taken the step of removing all the suspected phishing emails from people’s inboxes.
Guide on the Side for Library Tutorials
We returned to a topic that has come up in previous Tech Sharecases: the open source software, Guide on the Side, that libraries can use to design information literacy tutorials. Although the CUNY Office of Library Services set up the software on a server a few years ago at the recommendation of LILAC, Hunter College did the same on their own a few years earlier and has some tutorials online (not all of them seem to have been updated yet to match the new library website).
The larger context for the discussion of Guide on the Side are the Flash-based tutorials our library developed with Kognito a decade ago. Some of these continue to be used even though the content is a bit out of date (some of the databases have been canceled and some have been renamed or wholly redesigned). Some examples of our tutorials that could use some attention because they are still being used are the Beginner’s Guide to Business Research and Research for Oral Presentations.
Audio for Augmented Reality
We watched a video review of the Hear One wireless earbuds, which can automatically adjust sound levels in response to the environment you are in.
Next Meeting of the Tech Sharecase
Although we haven’t scheduled any meetings for the summer, it is likely we’ll try to meet up a few times (maybe on Thursdays once we get to the f0ur-day workweek). Stay tuned!
At today’s event, we focused on the ways that we discover things to read online, how and when we do that reading, and how we save items that we want to maybe re-use later on. Among the specialized services and apps we discussed were:
- Feedly. An RSS reader that offers a free service for up to a certain number of feeds or a paid service for more feeds.
- Pocket. An app and web service for saving items to be read later.
- Instapaper. Another app and web service (that I use) for saving items and sharing them.
- Evernote. App and web service for saving notes (also can save articles, blog posts, etc, that you want to read later)
- Pinterest. Bookmarking app and service.
- Pinboard. Another bookmarking app and service
- JournalTOCs. Web service that lets you sign up for email notification of new content in journals you care about.
- Zotero. Web service for saving citations and bookmarks and generating properly formatted bibliographies.
- Nuzzel. Web service and app for seeing what your friends in Faceboook and/or Twitter are sharing.
I showed a video I made on my phone of how I use Feedly to scan through items in my RSS subscriptions, Instapaper to save things for reading later, and Instapaper to share to Twitter the items that I think others might want to know about.
A couple of us shared our experiences using Slack for communication with a team working on a project or for communication among professional social network. We noted that Microsoft and Facebook each recently released competing products called Teams (Microsoft) and Workplace (Facebook).
Finally, we watched a video from Facebook about a new virtual reality social network they’re working on.
Text Analysis Tools
Ryan introduced a number of different text analysis tools that were the subject of a workshop he attended last week that was hosted by the LACUNY Emerging Technologies Committee:
- Google Ngram Viewer. We discussed the problems that OCR runs into and the ABBYY FineReader software for OCR that Jessica and her team use.
- Sentiment analysis. Example: The movie review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, uses automated text analysis to look for certain words in online movie reviews so the site can then assign a rating to each review.
- Voyant Tools. We looked at the way that the free Voyant Tools website allows fast analysis of text files. Both Jessica and Linda mentioned the ways that they’ve used the service.
Converting Drawings and Symbols
We discussed a few apps and a web site experiment from Google that do interesting things converting images into text:
- Pleco. This app converts into English the Chinese characters that you capture with your phone camera or that you draw in.
- Photomath. This app uses your camera phone to capture a math problem and solve it for on your screen.
- Quick, Draw! The experiment on the web by Google will take your doodle and identify it. Lots of fun!
New User Interfaces
For our first meeting this fall, we had 16 people in attendance, with representation from the library, BCTC, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the CIS department.
Partnership with OCM and Athletics
Jessica Wagner Webster and Kimmy Szeto gave a presentation detailing the history of the library’s collaboration with the Office of Communications and Marketing and the Athletics Department to help them manage their digital assets. They showed us the digital asset manager, Merlin, that has been set up to organize the materials. They also described how legacy content will be stored in the archives, cataloged in ArchivesSpace, and made accessible to users when requested.
Digital Measures and Research Information Management Systems
At the next meeting (October 21), we’ll discuss a topic that came up at the end today’s meeting: how to make the most of the many systems for colleges and universities to track the scholarly pursuits and intellectual contributions of their faculty. What’s intriguing about these systems is the possible points of contact they might make with other systems and services:
- author identifier systems like ORCID and ResearcherID
- open access repositories (including institutional repositories like CUNY Academic Works and subject repositories like arXiv)
- commercial networks and repositories, such as SSRN, ResearchGate, and Academia.edu and subscription services like Pivot that alert researchers to funding opportunities that are keyed to the publications of those scholars
It might be interesting to wade into the debate about the extent to which commercial publishers (such as Elsevier, Wiley, etc.) are trying to enclose the scholarly commons and co-opt the open access movement (see for example this interview that journalist Richard Poynder conducted with Clifford Lynch about the future of the IR).
We watched a video featuring a presentation by Andrew Flowers about how he and his team at FiveThirtyEight use R for analyzing and visualizing data used for news stories. We also looked at some notable examples of data-driven journalism that featured great graphics:
We looked at the way a couple of libraries offer data about library services and collections in compact and detailed ways:
We watched a bit of the video from Ex Libris showing some of the new features and design elements in beta interface for Primo (more details here). We also looked at the new e-journal portal interface from Serials Solutions that Molloy College has already set up.
Open Collections Librarian
We talked about the newly opened position for an open collections librarian here.
We started off by watching this 60 Minutes piece from April 17 about how easy it is for hackers to gain total access to your phone if all they have is your cell phone number (yikes!)
We looked at this funny series of images taken by a parent’s phone camera as their son tried unsuccessfully to log into the device (thereby triggering this security feature).
Ryan recommended this Lifehacker post about why smartphone security matters and what you can do to make your phone more secure and this chart in Statista showing the results of a survey in the UK about what people do and don’t do to keep their phones safe.
We also talked about the problem Android phones have in the erratic scheduling of updates and patches, which is due to the variety of manufacturers dealing with these upgrade issues in different ways. Ryan shared this related blog post about how the FCC and FTC are looking more closely into the way carriers are pushing out patches.
Redesign of the library search bar
I offered a preview of what the new search bar will look like when it gets launched this summer. I summarized the work that’s taken place since last November:
- Usability tests in November/December 2015 on the existing search bar (goal was to identify existing problems and look for design ideas from users)
- Query log analyses and site analytics in January-March 2016 to identify usage trends
- Usability tests in March of two different prototypes of a new search bar
- Usability tests in April of a new course reserves page
Work that remains to be done includes:
- Usability tests in May of new databases page
- Launch of new course reserves page in May
- Development of a fully functional prototype of the new search bar in June and usability testing of it
- Launch in June or July of new search bar and databases page