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Who needs candy or soda when you could get a paperback? August 9, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Of Interest, reading.
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Instead of candy – this early vending machine dispensed Paperback books. Called the Penguincubator, and developed by the founder of Penguin books, it was designed to help cheaply distribute books to the masses.

Story at Publishing Perspectives, via the always fascinating Mental_Floss.

Should the Digital Divide Be Closed? June 23, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in education, InformationIssues.
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Interesting bit from the Freakonomics blog on the New York Times website, pointing to a new study that is showing a statistically significant DECREASE in math and reading test scores among students with home computer and internet access.

Meanwhile, students with limited access to computers and internet did not experience this statistical decrease. Does this mean that we should not be working to close the digital divide? That we should not be trying to make computers and internet accessible to every child?

Another point found in the study was that students who had computers and internet at home, but were limited in usage due to “more effective parental monitoring” did not experience the same negative effect on test scores. Perhaps the children in these households put the technology and internet access to more productive uses?

This study is seems to indicate that computers, internet and technology are not only not a magic pill to increase test scores, but without the proper guidance, may be a distraction and hindrance to students’ academic performance.

Does this mean that we should not close the “digital divide”? What do you think?

Chatroulette- Another great concept to be abused. February 16, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Technology can do anything.
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I recently discovered that one of my favorite bands from college has a Twitter feed.  Oddly, not many of their tweets are music related, including one this morning about a new obsession. It was a link to an article from last week’s New York Times BITS column about a relatively new web service called Chatroulette.

Chatroulette is a web-based video-chat site that once you log in, matches you randomly with another user to video-chat with. Perhaps I’m a little paranoid or cynical because my first thought was “but you never know who you’ll be matched with, it might be a crazy pervert,” instead of the intended “this is so cool, I might make contact with someone from another country and learn about their culture”. However, some of the comments to this NYTimes article by people who tried the service suggest that my first instinct is not too far off base.

I make absolutely NO COMMENT on what you might encounter if you check this out, and in fact, doubt that I will try it myself. But, the NY Times article is worth a read because it features an interview with the creator of the site, allegedly a 17-year old Russian teenager, who thought teens might like to “party with” other teens. There have been a few discrepancies pointed out that make the validity of the teen’s claim of creation questionable, but if he DID, I’m impressed, despite the creeps!

Microsoft Surface: the future of tables February 11, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Technology can do anything.
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I like games. Pretty much all games of any kind. Tabletop, board, video and card games. I like puzzles too, even those tricky logic puzzles with the strange grids full of dots and crosses. So, every once in awhile I pick up the current issue of Games Magazine. I grabbed one the other day, and I’m so glad I did because (besides the hours of nerdy puzzle solving pleasure) the first article was a preview of the Microsoft Surface.

I haven’t come across this before, although I’m sure I must have at least seen the idea in some sci-fi movie. It’s essentially a table, the surface of which is a sort-of touchscreen, but which can interact with objects, as well as fingers. There’s tons of potential applications, a few of which you can see in this video:

The article in Games Magazine of course, was more focused on how the Microsoft Surface could revolutionize tabletop games – with digital boards and physical pieces. One idea is to use digital pieces as well, especially for table games in bars, where pieces inevitably get lost. The units are still extremely expensive, so I doubt I’ll get to try one anytime soon, though the article mentions some hotels (such as Sheraton Hotels) are starting to buy them for guest use. If you didn’t already feel like we’re in the future – this is sure to do it!

Niche Blog Friday: The Leila Texts January 15, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Niche Blogs.
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Oddly intriguing and somewhat voyeuristic, comes a blog based on a technological glitch — the Leila Texts. Leila, a young woman living in New York, receives many texts on the Verizon network intended for other Leilas. Why? No one knows. But she decided to compile them and for some reason and I can’t stop reading them! It’s an interesting way to start a Friday. Check the blog out here.

A Little Irony on a Thursday December 17, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in Just for Fun.
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I have to share this short, funny video of a student at Georgia Tech using a typewriter to take notes in a Computer Science class. It put a smile on my face! (via Open Culture)

Publishers Put Up a Fight November 30, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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It’s nice, for a change, to see publishers attempt to innovate and meet the changing demands of their tech-savvy readers instead of complaining about decreasing sales and demands for free content. This article by the New York Times discusses the attempts of powerhouse publishers like Conde Nast to create a centralized portal where both electronic and print copies of publications can be bought. This model, which the consortium plans to reveal in early December, will be loosely modeled on the iTunes store.

While I laud the attempts of these companies to keep payroll up and their writers employed, I cannot help but to believe that people will find a way, once again, to circumvent payment. If anything, this development is just another reminder that libraries are not doing outreach correctly (or at all). Most public libraries (and all public libraries in New York State) already provide free access to these publications through databases provided by their own tax money! Is it our job as librarians to spread the word about this amazing access to information, or should we keep in on the DL? Is being overlooked what has kept us in business? Is our biggest downfall our secret savior?

Speaking of AI, Meet Cleverbot November 18, 2009

Posted by dataduchess in Uncategorized.
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Cleverbot is a chatbot program, that simulates a conversation between a user and the computer. Remember the unsophisticated ELIZA, who roboticly parroted back your own thoughts? Well, Cleverbot has been designed using an algorithm based on the thoughts of thousands of users, to respond in a more “human” way.

This article begins a fascinating philosophical discussion about the artificially intelligent being, by explaining the thought experiment known as the “Chinese Room“and the difference between understanding and simulated understanding.

I played with the program for a little while earlier today, and was somewhat impressed at its ability to respond, however it could only handle one thought at a time. There was no cohesion from one thought to the next. For example, I had the following conversation:
Me: have we talked yet?
Bot: We have, have we?
Me: I think we have
Bot: You think we have what?

Check it out – it’s kind of fun. But watch out, don’t let this happen to you:

(source: xkcd.com)

(via Nerdabout)

AI was just the beginning November 18, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in Amazing.
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To prepare you for Friday’s niche blog post I’ve found this video on TED.com that shows David Hanson’s newest robot prototype–one that can read and mimic facial expressions, or as he states it, a robot that can “empathize with you.” Videos of some of David’s other robots (he has made 20 in the last eight years) are astounding and quite spooky. It would also seem, from this presentation, that you can find much more of his work on YouTube. He ends the video with the prototype of a toy-robot designed as a “childhood companion for kids” and priced at $299. Whatever happened to the kid next door?

World Usability Day is fast approaching! November 3, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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World Usability Day will be celebrated on November 12th, 2009. I had never heard of this day before, but I think the mission sounds great. in short:  “World Usability Day was founded in 2005 as an initiative of the Usability Professionals’ Association to ensure that services and products important to human life are easier to access and simpler to use. Each year, on the second Thursday of November, over 200 events are organized in over 43 countries around the world to raise awareness for the general public, and train professionals in the tools and issues central to good usability research, development and practice.” Check out more about the day and how you can make a difference here.