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Showing posts from September, 2012

Information security, and how not to do it

On the 21st of this month, I received an email from a company*, advertising their upcoming online seminar, and various other online courses they ran, including ones on the Data Protection Act, and information security.
Since I wasn't interested in their courses, and didn't remember signing up to receive any marketing materials from this company,  I clicked on the unsubscribe link. However, when the unsubscribe page opened, the name and email fields were already completed...and none of the information was mine.
In fact, the email address was for a Junior School in Portsmouth (edited version below).


This is not great, in terms of information security...you know, that thing they're running online courses on?
So, I replied to them within an hour, pointing out that the information in those fields was not mine, and they might want to do something about that.
To date, I've not received an acknowledgement of my email, or any form of response.
I was also not alone in receiving …

Things which are not helpful

Today, I've spent a lot of time banging my head against the brick wall of bad or mad search design.

First up was the Scottish Government, with its contribution to "thwarting any attempt at a search", by somehow managing to date various items as being released on October, November and December...of this year. So looking for recent items was impressively pointless. As was the fact that the search was also giving over 300k results.


Then, I went into the Scottish Parliament website, to try doing a search in the Official Report. Top tip: don't do this. Ever. Use Google to search the Parliament's website instead.

Mainly because, if you can get the report to return hits, then you get to wade through the results, blindly. And blindly it is, because the search doesn't give you any idea of how many pages of results you've got, or any shortcut to get to specific points/leapfrog to a further point. So if you know when something happened, and just want to get to that …

It's all in the small print

Quite literally, the small print.

I wanted to try and download voicemails from my phone (call me sentimental, but in years to come, I might be happy to still be able to hear my Mum leaving rambling messages about what insane item she's found for me on eBay today), which appears to actually be quite a difficult thing to do. Multiple forums recommended various techniques involving cables, computers, headphones and microphones, but that's all a bit complex for me, and I decided to try one of the free apps that claimed to be able to manage voicemails.

I did the sign-up, email, password etc, but I thought "hey, since this mini-computerabob that I'm carrying everywhere has access to a LOT of information about me and my life...maybe I'd better actually read the terms and conditions that I have to confirm that I agree with?". After all, there's plenty of stories about what can happen if you allow apps or services access to your phone without considering it.

Now, …

Kevin the Teenager

We're all normal, sensible adults, right? Inanimate objects should not provoke feelings of rage, or the desire to destroy them. We should be able to laugh in the face of small irritations, while congratulating ourselves on maintaining our inner Librarian Zen.

And generally, we do. We field queries, wrestle databases, and wrangle information merrily, with good humour and cheerful Librarian Face* held firmly intact.

But then comes that day, that terrible, terrible day we law librarians dread. Oh yes...the day that the Yellow Tax Handbooks and Orange Tax Handbooks arrive.

Oh, they are fiendish, fiendish things, yet they merely add to the heap of Evil Books in the Library!

Between the Orange and Yellow (which have some disturbing issues), and the various collapsible Butterworths handbooks with their covers made of paper mache, which are now joined by the massive Chambers UK, the library is awash in schlumpy books, determined to slide slowly off the shelves. Or, in the case of Chambers…

Up, or out?

Tina Reynolds brought my attention to this piece of research on career mobility for young professionals (with a focus on women), the research being based on personnel data from a large American law firm.

In brief, it claims that whether a person stays with an employer or leaves within a certain timeframe, in a profession which requires regular promotion to remain with an employer, depends on whether that person is supervised/mentored by a person of the same gender/demographic. It also says that, when a person wishing to progress is within a work group with a high proportion of the members being of the same gender/demographic, they are more likely to leave, as they perceive the other group members as competition.

Now, I may well work with lawyers, but that doesn't mean I have any insight into the dynamics of their career hierarchies, how supported they feel my their supervisors, or what they feel about competition for promotion. I've also never worked for anything other than wo…

National Portrait Gallery images

This blog post from the Scottish Visual Arts Group alerted me to the fact that it was possible to use images from the National Portrait Gallery for non-commercial purposes.

Going to the Advanced Search area of the website, it's possible to perform a search for the profession of the sitter/subject of the portrait. So, of course, I decided to have a look and see what the librarians of the past look  like. After all, today, we're apparently all female, frumpy, and middle aged.

Of the 72 people whose profession was described as "librarian", only 7 were female librarians*. The rest were be-whiskered, elderly white gentlemen of a certain class, with some amazing names: Arundell James Kennedy Esdaile; Luxmoore Newcombe; Harry Tapley Tapley-Soper; Charles Talbut Onions...

Of the 7 female librarians, only one is actually the sole subject of the portrait: the rest are group photographs of National Portrait Gallery staff from various eras, staff of other bodies, or a painting o…