Entries tagged as coding
Friday, September 2. 2016
For libraries, proxying user requests is how we provide authenticated access--and some level of anonymized access--to almost all of our licensed resources. Proxying Google Scholar in the past would direct traffic through a campus IP address, which prompted Scholar to automatically include links to the licensed content that we had told it about. It seemed like a win-win situation: we would drive traffic en masse to Google Scholar, while anonymizing our user's individual queries, and enabling them swift access to our library's licensed content as well as all the open access content that Google knows about.
However, in the past few months things changed. Now when Google Scholar detects proxied access it tries to throw up a Recaptcha test--which would be an okay-ish speed bump, except it uses a key for a domain (
Folks on the EZProxy mailing list have tried a few different recipes to try to evade the Recaptcha but that seems doomed to failure.
If we don't proxy these requests, then every user would need to set their preferred library(via the Library Links setting) to include convenient access to all of our licensed content. But that setting can be hard to find, and relies on cookies, so behaviour can be inconsistent as they move from browser to browser (as happens in universities with computer labs and loaner laptops). And then the whole privacy thing is lost.
On the bright side, I think a link like https://scholar.google.ca/scholar_setprefs?instq=Laurentian+University+Get+full+text&inst=15149000113179683052 makes it a tiny bit easier to help users set their preferred library in the unproxied world. So we can include that in our documentation about Google Scholar and get our users a little closer to off-campus functionality.
But I really wish that Google would either fix their Recaptcha API key domain-based authentication so it could handle proxied requests, or recognize that the proxy is part of the same set of campus IP addresses that we've identified as having access to our licensed resources in Library Links and just turn off the Recaptcha altogether.
Thursday, September 1. 2016
Yesterday, just one day before the anniversary of the 1.1.2 release, I published the 1.1.3 release of the PEAR File_MARC library. The only change is the addition of a convenience method for fields called
You can install File_MARC through the usual channels: PEAR or composer. Have fun!
Saturday, June 11. 2016
On Friday, June 10th I gave a short talk at the OLITA Digital Odyssey 2016 conference, which had a theme this year of privacy and security. My talk addressed the evolution of our public and loaner laptops over the past decade, from bare Windows XP, to Linux, Windows XP with the addition of Deep Freeze, to the decision two years ago to move to Chromebooks.
Given that Snowden made it clear that multinationals such as Google, Apple, and Facebook co-operate with government agencies to make user data available, we did not make the decision to adopt a product that emphasizes cloud storage and thus potentially compromises the privacy of our users lightly. Rather, we made that decision in the context of a resource-constrained institution that had already adopted Google Apps for Education for its student population--and with a reflection on the vulnerabilities to which our particular implementation of Windows 7 + Deep Freeze was exposing our users.
I've made the presentation, with the speaker notes surfaced as callouts, available, and embedded it below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Sunday, May 8. 2016
For a recent strategic retreat, I was asked to prepare (as homework) a story about a subject that I'm passionate about, with an idea of where we might see the library in the next three to five years. Here's one of the stories I came up with, in the form of a brief scene as we observe a researcher at work:
Scene: a cluttered home office. Faculty member LISA stands at her desk, tapping at a keyboard. She is distilling some of her recent findings into a proposal for an upcoming conference. At the top of the screen in front of her is the working title “Deliberate practice and mining accidents: an inverse relationship”; the paper will tie leading ideas from two different disciplines together.
At the moment, she is working on the second paragraph, which lays the groundwork for her novel approach by drawing on some of the classic works in each field. She types:
The concept of “deliberate practice” was introduced by Ericsson et al
Taking the cue from the invocation phrase “OK EasyWriter”, the microphone in one of her computing devices wakes up her AI research assistant (AIRA) which accesses her personal bibliographic database. She has been compiling a list of the papers she has been reading, along with annotations. AIRA also has access to her research team’s extended bibliographic database, which holds the citations, papers, research data, and general wisdom accumulated by the core researchers of her team since they set it up in 2016. AIRA also knows what subject-specific databases she normally searches and which papers she has bookmarked, downloaded, read, previously cited, or have cited her. It taps into general online databases like BinGooHoo Academic Scholar for citation trails, recent publications, and a comprehensive overview of the available copies of a given paper, whether through freely available versions online or those licensed by her library. As a fainter signal, AIRA knows what she has commented on in social media channels SnapTwitFaceSlackBook and uses sentiment analysis to determine whether those comments were favourable or snarky.
LISA hovers over the top entry. The citation information expands to overlay more information, including the abstract, number of citations, and annotations from her own copy of the paper. She clicks the top entry for a 1993 paper.
LISA finishes the quick synopsis of Ericsson’s thesis but wants to show that she is aware of his current thinking. Hovering over the citation again, she checks Ericsson’s recent publications and finds a 2018 entry that is reflecting on the 25th anniversary of his seminal paper. Scanning the abstract, she notes with satisfaction that Ericsson still considers the basic thesis sound and adds the citation to her personal bibliographic database, which displays a green check indicating that a copy of the paper has also been added to her personal reading list from one of the library-licensed or reputable open access sources.
LISA also wants to acknowledge at least the leading critical reaction to the thesis. Hovering over the citation and the “Cited by” list breaks those citations down into rough categories such as “Supportive”, “Critiques”, and “Non-substantive”. Topping the “critiques” list is a 2007 paper by Hill that, according to the abstract, finds no significant correlation between hours of deliberate practice and accomplishments of spelling bee contestants competing in their second language.
LISA then drills into the “critiques” list for Hill’s paper, and finds that the defenders of Ericsson’s thesis have pointed out important limitations to the breadth of Hill’s findings and overly broad assertions. They accept that the lack of correlation holds for rote vocabulary memorization, but point to studies that have repeatedly demonstrated as having a significant impact on skills combining cognitive and physical tasks--such as would be related to LISA’s overall thesis concerning mining-related incidents. LISA adds Hill’s critique to her personal reading list, as well as two of the selected counter-responses.
From a technology perspective, all of the pieces are pretty much in place and just need to be pulled together—Zotero group bibliographies, linked open data, voice recognition, artificial intelligence and agents, and the likes of Google Scholar and Google Doc's ability to provide citations upon demand—and I think most or all of it will inevitably happen. So an interesting aspect to consider is what role we as librarians will play as this comes to pass. I believe one role is to help researchers make the most of the tools that are available; those who adapt and harness the power of these tools have the potential to be much more productive than their peers.
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