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HASTAC 2015 Friday notes

June 1, 2015
flickr, kathryn greenhill

flickr, kathryn greenhill

HASTAC was a great event. Well run, with worthwhile sessions from a range of perspectives. As always, my editorial comments are in italics where I remembered to do this. Hopefully it’s obvious as well where I forgot to add it.

Panel: Tales from the Library Basement: Doing Digital Humanities as CLIR Fellows

Digital Humanities at UC Santa Cruz
Rachel Deblinger

Started by noting how well hidden some of this can be. Used the walk to her office, down stairwells and through locked doors, as a metaphor for that. Her role is to do outreach, but she literally has to go out since people cannot get to her.

Showed a useful definition of DH: “Using digital resources, methods, and tools to do good transformative humanities research” (Lorna Hughes, at That site, incidentally, shows a different definition each time it loads. Read more…

HASTAC 2015 Thurdsay notes

May 29, 2015
flickr, Chuck Holland

flickr, Chuck Holland

HASTAC 2015 was held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. As always, I’ve tried to put my editorial comments in italics.

Connecting the Dots (opening plenary)
Scott Weingart, Carnegie Mellon

Used a visual model (a circle) to describe the extent of human knowledge. Noted that when doing a PhD, the idea is to nudge out a little bit from that circle and expand the scope. As he noted, while it may seem like a small contribution, it’s an “uplifting narrative.” Another way to think of it is that the knowledge is already known, just not to scholars, so what the scholar does is give it shape and form that adhere to the rules of research. Example: an anthropologist may ‘discover’ things about a given population, but the members of that community live those practices and traditions. I think of my own PhD research in this light. Unearthing, sorting, and creating a narrative are in their own ways about creating new knowledge. Read more…

CNI spring 2015 notes

April 17, 2015
flickr, runner310

flickr, runner310

This spring’s CNI moved west to lovely Seattle. As always, I’ve offset my metacommentary on the talks with italics. If you find these notes useful, or have further thoughts, please leave a comment.

What price Open Access?
Stuart Shieber, Harvard; Ivy Anderson, California Digital Library; Ralf Schimmer, Max Planck Digital Library

Shieber started with a thought experiment of what it would cost Harvard to pay APCs for all of the articles its faculty publish. Not surprisingly, this would be a staggering sum at ~$3,000 per article (8000x$3000 = $24,000,000). Their spend on subscriptions was around $5,000,000, so clearly the APC route is not feasible.

Stepping out of the university context, he notes that in 2011, the publishing industry had $9.4 billion in revenue, which produced 1.8 million articles, which is about $5,222/article. In that light, even the high cost of the APC route seems reasonable at $3,000/article. Read more…

CNI Fall 2014 notes

December 9, 2014

IMG_0966My editorial comments are in italics.

Improving the Odds of Preservation

David S. H. Rosenthal, LOCKSS

Various studies have shown that large portions of the digital world are not archived. Over 50% of the journals we hold are preserved, most content linked from e-theses are no longer available, etc. He refers to this as the ‘half-empty archive’ and notes that the bad news is that this is overly optimistic. It’s actually worse. We tend to prefer archiving information that’s easy to access and presents no technical hurdles, e.g.- archiving Elsevier’s output isn’t doing anything terribly useful since it’s well situated content. We do not skew our activities to risk, in other words. Put simply, large, obvious, and well linked collections of information are more likely to be preserved, while all of the smaller yet critical portions go unpreserved.

More issues: we look backwards, not forwards, in other words, we prefer books and journals as preservation objects to more modern forms of information such as social media output and Web content in general. Dynamic and ephemeral content has little chance of being preserved. Read more…

Access 2014 Calgary Thursday notes

October 2, 2014
flickr - davebloggs007

flickr – davebloggs007

Tuesday notes
Wednesday notes

Under the Hood with OpenStack

Steve Marks, Amaz Taufique, ScholarsPortal

Showed the specs for the hardware being used for the Ontario Library Research Cloud. McMaster is part of this project, so I’ve seen these specs before and wasn’t taking close notes during this stretch. It’s a ton of hardware, suffice to say, with the goal being a 1.25PB array.

The software layer is based on OpenStack. Showed a graphic that explained how this works. Key to the design is no central database; also the whole setup is hardware agnostic. When an object is written, it needs to be written to two nodes for a successful write, but in testing it was common for all three nodes to write immediately, even with large and complex transfers. Were only one node to write, an error is returned. After being written, they are replicated across the other nodes. Amaz also showed what happens when a node becomes unavailable, which is that objects are written to handoff nodes until it recovers.

The initial pilot was done using GTAnet, which encompasses the three universities that participated in testing: UofT, Ryerson, and York. This testing was necessary to see what kind of traffic is generated during both routine and stress scenarios. Ultimately, there were four nodes, one each at Ryerson and York and two at UofT. The fourth was necessary to observe the aforementioned handoff (i.e.- what occurs when a primary node is unavailable). Read more…

Access 2014 Calgary Wednesday notes

October 1, 2014

calgary pano

Tuesday’s notes
Thursday’s notes

We’re All Disabled! Part 2: Building Accessible Web Services with Universal Design
Cynthia Ng, BC Libraries Coop

Offered an introduction to the topic, asking the audience to contemplate their own practices and sites. Then shifted to a more practical or applied section, where she reviewed a number of tools and practices that will help us build accessible sites.

This was the second talk I’ve seen here that mentioned ARIA, something I had not heard about previously. ARIA is Accessible Rich Internet Applications, a suite of tools to create accessible Internet applications, rather than–I gather–offering users who need accessible sites just a stripped-down text version of your content.

Showed us a media clip that had a visual description, i.e.- a verbal gloss that explains the non-verbal action in the video. Also noted that media that autoplays is a problem, including carousels. Her conclusion: “death to the carousel.” She admits one can create an accessible carousel, but that these are rare, and when used, often in an inaccessible fashion (autoplay again).

Repeated what many of us have preached for years when it comes to content, which is to be brief, use solid structure, avoid tables, etc. This is perhaps the worst Achilles heel of library websites, namely, our collective tendency for prolixity. Read more…

Access 2014 Calgary Tuesday notes

October 1, 2014
calgary olympic oval

Should have brought the speedskates …

As always, it’s a pleasure to be at Access, reconnecting with colleagues and learning about exciting new developments. This year’s version also has the distinction of being the first, and likely only, library conference I will ever attend that’s taking place within a stone’s throw of a 400m speedskating oval. The missed opportunity–my Viking klaps are at home buried in the basement–will sting for a while, but I suppose I could have looked before I got on the plane, since I knew quite well that Calgary has an oval.

As always with my notes, editorial comments are in italics to distinguish them from the speaker’s points.

Wednesday’s notes
Thursday’s notes

Public Digital Humanities Center
Kim Martin, Western U

Was interrupted by a critical IT issue at work, so had to jump into this talk a bit late and my notes are correspondingly vague.

Showed how the DHMakerBus has been a way to work with a wide range of organizations and entities, which is a manifestation of her mantra “network by doing.” This stands in contrast to asking them “how can you help us” and replaces it instead with “how can we work together.” She ran through a number of sample events with some of these groups, noting how varied and successful they were.

This was a rare talk at an academic conference where children figured fairly large in the narrative. It occurred to me that this is a welcome departure, and if we’re talking about engaging people in the humanities via the digital humanities, we’ve missed the boat if we think we can achieve this with students who have already arrived at university. It needs to start much younger.

With regard to making DH public, she asked how we in libraries can make the artifacts of DH work permanent and accessible, using Minecraft worlds as one example. Read more…


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