Friday, November 28, 2008

Deep Linking to a section of a Youtube Video

Here's a clever little trick to pass on to students and staff who want to show a section of a YouTube video without streaming the entire thing.

Just append the to URL #t=XmYs where X is how many minutes into the video and Y is how many seconds. These values are displayed at the bottom right of the YouTube video player's toolbar if you want to get exact timings.

For example:

Starts the clip at the 1 minute 5 second mark (actually it starts about 2 seconds earlier in practice). Note in the screen shot that the red line that tracks the progress of the stream doesn't start from the beginning of the video but from your nominated start point.

Saves you the embarrassment of a slow download and irrelevant lead material.

More from the YouTube blog

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cloud Computing

Had a chance to see Kent Adams' (Director IT&R) dry run of his presentation on cloud computing on Wednesday.

Read the Wikipedia entry on cloud computing

It's also referred to as SaaS (Software as a Service), I'm sure it used to be called Application Service Provision (ASP) and before that 'thin client computing' (and even before that mainframe/dumb terminal) but I'm showing my age.

Basically a few players (notably Microsoft and Google) are offering to host services (from email to the Office suite) at prices significantly less than we can provide them for and arguably with a lot more utility. They do this by the sheer economies of scale and a massively distributed network of datacentres/servers. If ITR did move to that model of service provision they would remove themselves from the Sisyphean cycle of hardware and network upgrades, backup and maintenance tasks, the impossibility of meeting increasing user expectations, and a significant user support burden.

Potential downsides include:
  • our internet connection becomes crucial in IT service delivery
  • that the price today may not be the price tomorrow (Kent quoted Scott McNealy's take "the first heroin fix is free")
  • the loss of control particularly over security and privacy
The pluses include:
  • tapping into a the resources of these giants (Kent was clearly impressed that Google had 350 software engineers IN AUSTRALIA ALONE - so am I)
  • proven reliability - can you remember Google being down?
  • having access the constant improvements and additional products that are developed on behalf of all customers
  • not having to deal with the I: drive, students having gigabytes of storage they can access the same way from anywhere
I wrote an issues paper (in response to our I: drive woes) about this much earlier in the year for Heather and Kent and came across this quote from Kari Barlow, Assistant Vice President, University Technology Office, Arizona State University along the lines of ‘Internet services are no longer a cottage industry, not every institution has to build their own from scratch anymore’. ASU have partnered with Google to provide their students with email accounts.

Kent noted that we already are using this model for some services, SpendVision and Serials Solutions are examples.

Kent wasn't presenting it as a fait accompli but it was certainly worthy of consideration. Very cool to see our IT people take the possibilities seriously.

Bought the T-Shirt? See the movie. A 6 minute intro to cloud computing - clear and simple:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Drowning in the Possibilities

I've been prepping for the Professional Development Day (Library 2.0) in Townsville in November and for the Library Planning Days (Rethinking the Virtual Library) the week after and all the reading is making my head feel like a glass of dirty water - I'm just waiting for the sediment to settle.

If I was a tag cloud the big words would be:
usability, information architecture, EBL, and user-centric design.

The CMS project rumbles along in the background and the ninjas are currently working on removing references to pages on the old site. There are still publishing issues which are proving difficult to track down. Remember that my monthly reports are on the Intranet as are all the managers' reports and the management committee minutes.

What I've Been Reading

Google Reaches Settlement with Publishers on Google Book Search
"Three years ago, the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and a handful of authors and publishers filed a class action lawsuit against Google Book Search.

Today we're delighted to announce that we've settled that lawsuit and will be working closely with these industry partners to bring even more of the world's books online. Together we'll accomplish far more than any of us could have individually, to the enduring benefit of authors, publishers, researchers and readers alike.

It will take some time for this agreement to be approved and finalized by the Court. For now, here's a peek at the changes we hope you'll soon see."

Of course there is no indication what this means for the theworld outside United States borders. Nor do I see how the plaintiffs can make an agreement on behalf of publishers and authors who are not domiciled or citizens of the US.

What if Google did go broke? Where would all that scanned data go? The answer is Hathi.

Jarvis, Jeff. Let's junk the myths and celebrate what we've got. The Guardian, September 29, 2008.
"It never fails. I'll be talking with a group about the amazing opportunities of the internet age and inevitably someone will pipe up and say, 'Yes, but there are inaccuracies on the internet.' And: 'There are no standards there.' ...There the conversation stalls....Once and for all, I'd like to respond to these fears and complaints."

"Reinforcing its place in the scientific community, the arXiv repository at Cornell University Library reached a new milestone in October 2008: Half a million e-print postings -- research articles published online -- now reside in arXiv, which is free and available to the public."

Bibliographic Software Wars? EndNote vs Zotero/Thomson Reuters vs George Mason University Proprietary data formats in an OpenSource world

Nature reports on the $10 million lawsuit Thomson Reuters (makers of Endnote) have filed against George Mason University (GMU), the birthplace of Zotero (the Firefox plugin that "allows researchers to share their digital information, iTunes style, whether it is in the form of ciations, documents or web pages.

The article discusses the case and the wider implication it has - what if OpenOffice can no longer save or open documents stored in Microsoft's proprietary format?

The ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2008
This 2008 ECAR research study is a longitudinal extension of the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 ECAR studies of students and information technology. The study is based on quantitative data from a spring 2008 survey of 27,317 freshmen and seniors at 90 four-year institutions and eight two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 75 students at four institutions; and analysis of qualitative data from 5,877 written responses to open-ended questions. In addition to studying student ownership, experience, behaviors, preferences, and skills with respect to information technologies, the 2008 study also includes a special focus on student participation in social networking sites.
Released in time for the Educause meeting, I'm very interested to hear what Heather has to report back - hopefully we'll get a taster at the Professional Development Day.

Express printer solves problem of out-of-print textbooks
Kate Elder passed this one on - but what an eminently cool idea. Books printed at point of need, no overruns being pulped by the pallet load. No global shipments of books by freight, reducing the publishing industries carbon footprint.

No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century
PDF free, print version available for a fee.

How should we be rethinking the research library in a swiftly changing information landscape?

In February 2008, CLIR convened 25 leading librarians, publishers, faculty members, and information technology specialists to consider this question. Participants discussed the challenges and opportunities that libraries are likely to face in the next five to ten years, and how changes in scholarly communication will affect the future library. Essays by eight of the participants—Paul Courant, Andrew Dillon, Rick Luce, Stephen Nichols, Daphnée Rentfrow, Abby Smith, Kate Wittenberg, and Lee Zia—were circulated to participants in advance and provided background for the conversation. This report contains these background essays as well as a summary of the meeting.