Friday, June 29, 2007

Why must government websites do this?

Thanks to Binary Law, I now know that the DTI has become something unpronounceable, the DBERR. Is it ‘deeber’? ‘debeer’? ‘deberr’ (which allows me to say: to deberr is human, to forgive, debine?) Fingers crossed that they decide to be sensible about the whole process, and don’t just decide to shift the whole site, with no redirects, thereby rendering entirely useless the work of anybody who’s spend any time creating weblinks to any of their information…yup, that’d be me then!

Wonder if they’ll also fix the fact that their inbuilt websearch is the biggest excuse for a user enhancement I’ve ever seen, and has yet to ever actually work for me. Google and site specific searching is the only way I’ve been able to drag anything out of its depths!

And did I miss any prior notification of this? As of yesterday, their site was DTI, today it’s morphing (logo gone, I assume the new one’s coming), but no hint of todays change. Today, it’s their entire front page. Have I been selectively blind?

And now, I see the Department for Communities and Local Government is ‘redesigning’ too, apparently in response to ‘stakeholders’. Is the word ‘users’ actually banned in government circles? I don’t ‘stakehold’ their website, I ‘use’ it. And I wonder who the stakeholders were that they consulted…hopefully they’re not the usual, colour blind chimps with hugely advanced search skills they seem to base the rest of their redesigns on!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Freedom of information trumps restriction of access

The constitutional affairs select committee has declared that the Governments plans to limit FOI requests (including bundling multiple requests from the same group / company together and regarding them as a single ‘request’, regardless of the information requested) has not got enough basis, and on that grounds, there is no support for changing the current charging and handling regime.

Quote from summary page:

“The Government has not shown that it adequately reviewed whether the existing charging regime balanced public access rights with the needs of public authorities to deliver services effectively, before deciding to restrict public access rights further;

• We have not received sufficient evidence to support the need to change access rights in the way proposed;

• The cost-benefit analysis prepared by the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) to support the proposed regime is insufficient;

• We have not received any evidence to show that the new charging regime would be transparent and subject to adequate review, nor how such a review process would operate; the proposed regime could result in public authorities avoiding answers to embarrassing, contentious or high-profile cases as the number of internal consultees rises in proportion to the sensitivity of particular requests; and

• The Ministry of Justice should now focus on improving compliance with the existing provisions of the FOI Act and on reducing the delays encountered by requesters seeking information. Any future proposed changes to the charging regime must be supported by a firm evidence base and take proper account of the impact they would have on the benefits which the public derive from FOI.”


Link from OUT-LAW.com

Widening the privacy investigation

As posted on OUT-LAW yesterday, the Article 29 Working Party is expanding the scope of its investigation of search engine privacy practices beyond Google to ALL search engine companies, and their data retention practices.

Will be interesting to see what the other, smaller (and less media-targeted) companies policies are…

I'm not obsessive!

I just worry about my online privacy and security, hence why this information makes me glad not to be a FaceBooker… admittedly, they’ve now updated the settings to prevent those searches from working now, but seriously, why was it ever possible in the first place?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Vote for Fido!

Well, after the fiasco of the Scottish elections in May, I have a lot of sympathy for this lady and her dog Duncan!

Wonder who he'd have voted for?

John Murray archive

Hmmmm, this looks like my sort of thing, I think I might take a stroll over to see it. Loving the idea of being able to email the documents to myself to read without having to queue for a chance to get on a computer...

Monday, June 25, 2007

It’s a mystery!

Why Blogger thinks my time zone is significantly different from reality, and skips me forward an hour, even when I’m set to the right location / time zone.

As a result, I’m currently posting from the Azores. Well, their time zone, which seems to match Scotlands

Unfortunately, the weather isn’t quite the same…


Wait, now London works. Oh the joyous mysteries of Blogger....

Facebook again!

Ohhhh, according to this, your choice of social network reflects your social status….I’m still being a difficult sod and refusing to Facebook though! :D


Perhaps MySpace reflects my eternal inner geekiness?

I feel safer now

It’s good to see that the Lord Chancellor is spending his time pondering the finer aspects of the enforcement of law and order in modern society.

See?

Rise of the Machines?

Looks like the next step for print on demand, although none of them are publications within copyright.

Good to see libraries actually supporting new ways to access information, rather than making the sign of the cross and threatening to burn the inventors at the stake for their heresy….

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Educating X and Y

So, I followed the link posted by lo-fi librarian a few days ago, and looking at that chart, at first I was surprised by the low takeup of my generation (yup, I'm a Gen Xer too, though I've yet to read the book), and then, thinking about my own experiences, began to think that perhaps it's not so surprising really.

After all, who's teaching us?
I feel like the generation that was overlooked.

For example, typing skills when I was at school were something you learned if you weren't going to go to University, and instead were going to have to go out and get a 'proper' job when you left school. So I was never taught to type, as it was regarded as a 'menial' skill, not for us Uni-destined types. Yet within the timescale I was at Uni, it went from being acceptable to submit handwritten work, to it only being acceptable to submit in 12 point type, with 1.5 line spacing to allow space for comments! When was I meant to have learned how to wordprocess? As a result, I'm a 2/3 fingered typist, rapidly developing RSI, and wondering when I can spare the time to totally relearn how to type. And wondering if I CAN relearn how to type...

Then, for my postgrad qualification, I found I was expected to be able to give presentations and effectively use Powerpoint. Where was I meant to have learned about that? Another ' from new to essential' development within 3 - 4 years!

So, if I'm just expected to 'know' how all these programmes and tools work (and yes, I know most workplaces will provide training in these skills now, but at the point when I was learning them, unis weren't really great on training you on things they they often didn't fully understand themselves yet!), am I soon also going to be expected to know about social media and Web 2.0 technologies? Where am I meant to be learning about these? If I wasn't reasonably interested in these topics, and didn't enjoy hunting out information (is that a librarian personality requirement?) how would I find out about them? How does information on these things get through to the average person of my age?

It would be very easy to know very little about what's going on, if you're not technically or information-finding inclined. Why would you know what a wiki is? Wouldn't Wikipedia just be an interesting name, without a reason for the 'wiki' part? Wouldn't blogs just sound like boring diaries, instead of a new style of journalism and professional contact?

How does information on technical developments get through to the majority?

Maybe it's time for a pop quiz on some friends...the ones who aren't really active online, find out what they know about, and why they know what they know...hmmm....

See? I done tole' ya!!

Facebook's the place to be, not MySpace any more...I still ain't joining!! :D

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Do you Facebook?

The answer in my case is…no. And it’s been a deliberate decision (under regular review) not to join it, despite regular requests from various friends. I use (with varying frequency) My Space, Bebo…I blog, I email, I wiki, I forum. I like to be in touch and aware of what’s going on in the world. I don’t, however, have an incredible compulsion to be constantly connected to my friends 24 hours a day, so, although I joined up to find out more about it, I can categorically state that I will never Twitter (unless someone can give me a better reason than “you can tell people who don’t care enough to speak to you in person everything you’re doing throughout the day, in response to a totally inane question about what you’re doing”). I also have a limit on the amount of times I really need to see the same people duplicated in my network of friends in different sites.

It started with MySpace, which I joined in a spirit of investigation and fun in February 2006, when it was filling the news headlines. I also joined Bebo at that point, and promptly forgot about it, until it was suggested by a workmate in March this year that I join, only to discover I already had! At that point MySpace was new, exciting and fun. I made friends, and more. Then Bebo became the Next Big Thing…now it’s Facebook. It’s turning into a pattern of social network hopping…How ‘cool’ you are is reflected by which networks you’re on…MySpace is SOOOO last year…Bebo’s trendy, but fading…now it’s Facebook, only opened to non-university students since September 2006.

But…I don’t WANT to Facebook! I’m one of those bizarre people that believes time is the most important thing you possess, and when you give it away you’ll never get it back. Do I really want to give my time to yet another social networking site, to see the same people doing the same things as they do on the other sites?

No.

I want to appreciate my real friends, the ones I take the time out to write letters to, even though an email’s faster. Yes, these sites are good for me to quickly update myself on how friends I don’t see often are doing, but it’s not exactly socialising with them, really. Is it?

But…could these sites help me in my work? Do I want to join library and law groups on Facebook (which I believe exist, including an IWR group), or is it more efficient to just continue reading the blogs that interest me?

I’m not yet in information overload, but would professional networking on social networks tip the balance?

Excuse me sir, but is my science showing?

Ok, it’s a geeky concept but it amused me!

I like LOLcats a lot…I read Cute Overload (although it gets a bit overly-cute for me at times)…I did a science degree (what do you mean, I'm meant to have done a law degree!?!?)...So I really like this, I’m right there in the middle section!

Link

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Google again

Honestly, I'm not obsessive, really, they just seem to be pretty active just now!
Google have opened up their internal blog on their public policies, to allow users to see what their views are on various important areas such as privacy, content regulation etc.
Which is pretty interesting, but I've got to say, I'm not sure I entirely trust any organisation when they say 'look how honest and open we're being'...probably cos I know there are very, very few of them who will be!
But it's a pretty good attempt to make more transparent the internal workings of a section of a massive corporation.

What does the Web look like?

I use it every day, for work and for pleasure, it's become an essential part of my daily life ....but what does it look like?

Well, according to researchers at Tel-Aviv University in Israel, it looks like...that.

Prettier than I expected, it looks like the first seconds after the Big Bang! Wonder which dot is Earth... ;-)

Link from Popular Science Blog, the link to the original research paper it's taken from isn't working just now.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Privacy and anonymity

Following on from my late-night musings on Google and privacy, an article from Technology Guardian about the differences between privacy and anonymity.

Just glad I don't use iTunes either!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Google - doing evil?

So, I confess my dirty librarian secret: I really like Google. I know I'm meant to be an expert online, using the most appropriate search engine for whatever information I'm looking for (I keep meaning to try to use Sputtr for that too, even though the name sounds like it's an asthmatic with a cold, but never quite remember), but... Google works so WELL!
And it allows you to personalise it with iGoogle, and narrow searches to UK only, and that's lovely!

But, I do worry about what they do with my data. After all, to personalise to iGoogle, you must be logged in. Which means every search you do is logged against your user name / ID, and whatever other information about yourself you've given them. Even if you've not said where you live, your searches are likely to do that. Been on holiday recently? Researched that on Google when logged in? That data's been recorded too. Looked for recipes? Childcare tips? Been looking for a new job? Snap. Although it may be anonymised, that data can still identify you individually, as AOL found out to their cost when they released some 'anonymised' data a while back, and subsequently some users were identified from that data, prompting the usual threats of lawsuits.

Currently, Google log search query details, the IP address of the searcher, and install a cookie (on the machines of those that don't block them) with a validity of 30 years to recognise returning visitors. And they're currently debating with Europe about the time length they hold that data for. I don't like that sort of information being held for any longer than is absolutely necessary. Previously, Goggle held it as long as they saw necessary. Now, they're pledging to anonymise it after 18-24 months. But why so long? Honestly, just how much use is information on a web search after 2 years? I'm very protective of my data online: if forced to register to use a site, I like to play around - initial letters only if asked for a first and last name, make up an age, and sometimes I change gender. After all, I never signed a usage agreement with the Magical Interweb saying I'd always be truthful about my personal details, did I? What information I give up, and to who, is my choice, usually after a check of their data protection and retention policy.

Now, it's true, I could opt not to not to use Google if I'm searching, but surely that defeats the purpose of selecting and using the best tool for the job. I'm not going to use a brushpan and shovel to clean my carpets when I have a Dyson, and nor am I going to use a lesser search engine when Google is constantly tweaking its already very successful algorithms to improve their product every day. I know their recent black ranking by Privacy International is a result of their many products, and the sharing of data between them. They're probably not deliberately doing evil, but they're perhaps beginning to allow a little bit of badness to seep in at the edges...

You know what's even more fun?
Google's now got a log of all the searches I just did for this blog post...

Legally Blogged

So, what a great start: first post, and Blogger lost it, retaining only the first word. Brilliant.

Anyhoodle, I decided to set this blog up so I can post about things that interest me professionally, and keep a separation between my personal life (and blog), and my professional life (and blog). It does mean constantly having to switch between my two IDs for Blogger, but I'm a big girl, I can handle that!

I'm interested in the ways that IT can be integrated into my working life, and my regular reading of the blogs I've linked to has already helped me out: I've started myself a wiki to organise my Chartership materials (but this unfortunately means I'm pretty much ready to submit, so I'm now perfecting my procrastination techniques), I'm using Cite Bite quite a lot already, and I only read about it a week or so ago, my awareness of professional issues is much better....

This "series of tubes" is pretty exciting and fun stuff to be working with! (Lookee, I Cite Bited again!)
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