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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…

Catalogue 2.0: A Book Review

September 8, 2014

book over imageLate last year, the review editor for the German library publication BuB Forum Bibliothek und Information asked me to review the book Catalogue 2.0: The Future of the Library Catalogue (n.b.- I serve on BuB‘s editorial board as the lone non-European). Typically, when I write for German publication, I write directly in German, which kind editors then slightly polish to remove some of my infidelities. This time, it seemed to make more sense to review a book written in English in English, my thought being that I could then post the English original for anyone interested. It took me a while to remember this, but I’ve finally managed to do that. Feel free to download and distribute this review (CC-BY, as noted on the PDF).

An interesting sidenote: this work was published by ALA Neal-Schuman. I wrote to them to request a review copy, noting that the review had been solicited by BuB, which is Germany’s largest circulation library publication. Not only did they not provide a review copy, they didn’t even deign to respond to the request. Despite that–and the book’s $90 price tag, which seems excessive–I’ve linked to their store above because it’s a really excellent volume that should be widely read.

DH2014 day three notes

July 11, 2014
DH2104 had free portraits!

DH2104 had free portraits!

This was a great last day to what has been a rich week of learning and discovery. It was certainly worth the long flight to attend DH2014. The organizers did a great job with the logistics and communication. The professional portraits they offered for free were a great idea; I’ve never had such a nice photo.

Session 6, Friday

The Dog That Didn’t Bark: A Longitudinal Study of Reading in Physical and Digital Environments
Claire Warwick, UCL

Set out to study reading and to address some of the dire statements that are out there around reading on the Web, such as ‘reading is dead’ and so on. In particular, they want to research how behaviour changes in digital environments. It was a five-year study (2009-2013) that repeats year after year, which is unprecedented in terms of studying online reading.

They studied masters students in UCL Department of Information Studies programs. They used a diary study method, where students kept track of everything they read, where they were, the medium, how long, time of day, and made comments about their reading. In all, there were 1261 episodes of reading (628 digital and 633 analogue), with 5.13/student on average (5.11 digital/5.15 analogue). Of the 216 total students, 171 were female, with both sexes having the same response rate (56%). Women had more reading episodes on average, however. Their results also showed that reading habits don’t necessarily follow age assumptions, in other words, there was no trend that showed that older students read more than younger students. Read more…

DH2014 day two notes

July 10, 2014

photoToday featured the panels I’ve noted below, as well as two excellent poster sessions. Saw many things that gave me ideas and/or inspiration, and took numerous pictures that I immediately emailed to colleagues who aren’t here.

Session 4, Thursday

MicroPasts: Co-creation and Participatory Public Archaeology
Daniel Pett, British Museum

All open: open data, open source. All built on a variety of OS platforms: WordPress, Pybossa,, and Discourse. About 15 GitHub repos, which host various parts of MicroPasts. Read more…

Digital Humanities 2014 day one notes

July 9, 2014
flickr - lananab1anca

flickr – lananab1anca

My notes from Digital Humanities will likely be copious, so it seems to make sense to segment them by day. As always, any mistakes are my inability to listen and type and I’m more than happy to correct any botched or twisted points below.

Session 1, Wednesday

Digital Cultural Heritage and the Healing of a Nation: Digital Sudan
Marilyn Deegan, King’s College London

Sudan’s cultural heritage is not well known, although it reaches back >4000 years. Commonly heard: did you know Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt? Its cultural history is as rich as Greece, Rome, Egypt, but suffers from lack of knowledge outside the country. Kush kingdom, Napata kingdom, Meroitic kingdom, Nubian kingdoms: visually and textually related (similar script) to Egypt’s culture. The Nubian kingdom originally resisted Islamic invaders, but eventually fell and an Islamic era ensued, lasting into the 14th century. The cultural influences are varied and profound. Read more…


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