Briefly Noted for September 25, 2009

What is Cloud Computing? — You know what it is. But have you ever struggled to explain “the cloud” to anyone outside the tech community? The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is here to help. NIST is working on a standard definition of “cloud computing” so it can help provide effective guidance and promote security standards to government and industry. The current revision (number fifteen) is three pages long, so I don’t think it will help your elevator pitch. But I’m glad nevertheless that someone is putting some thought into this.

Google Books Settlement Delayed — According to the New York Times, the a ruling on the Google Books settlement has been delayed indefinitely. The reason Judge Chin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York gave for his ruling: that “fair concerns have been raised” and that the parties in the settlement (i.e. Google, the Authors’ Guild, and the book publishers’ association) were already negotiating changes to address them.

The Shape of Public History Today: NCPH/AHA Survey — Preliminary results of a 2008 survey of nearly 4,000 public history professionals are now available in Public History News (the newsletter of the National Council on Public History) and Perspectives on History (the magazine of the American Historical Association). Among the more startling results: nearly a quarter of respondents were unwilling to identify themselves as public historians. For my part and for all its ambiguity (and with the possible exception of “digital humanist”), it’s the only term that comes anywhere close to describing what I do.

Briefly Noted for September 24, 2009

New Anglo-Saxon Finds: The "Staffordshire Hoard" — The History Today blog has an account of the recent archaeological finds in Staffordshire, England. The site appears to contain the largest cache of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.

Study Finds Students Write Good — Jim Porter at AIMS has a good summary of the Stanford Study of Writing (by way of Wired Magazine), which found that although digital technology is changing students’ writing styles, it’s not necessarily changing them for the worse.

Interview with NEH’s New Chairman — I just finished listening to an Inside Higher Ed audio interview [.mp3] with Jim Leach, the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. A former memeber of Congress from Iowa, Leach emphasized global perspectives, open access, and NEH’s political independence as priorities for NEH moving forward under the new administration.

Umberto Eco on the "Lost Art of Handwriting" — Writing in the Guardian, Umberto Eco waxes philosophical about the decline of handwriting among young people (including yours truly, if I can still call myself young.) Refreshingly, he dates the decline not to the advent of the computer or text message, but to the invention of the ballpoint pen.

57 College Presidents Endorse Open Access — An open letter [.pdf] signed by fifty-seven college presidents calls on Congress to pass the Federal Research Access Act of 2009, reports Inside Higher Ed. The legislation would require peer-reviewed journals publishing the results of much, if not most, federally funded research to make that research freely available on the web within six months of publication.

Briefly Noted for September 23, 2009

Espresso Book Machine at Harvard Book Store — The Harvard Book Store will be the first to offer on-demand printing of public domain Google Books, the Harvard Crimson reported Tuesday. The Espresso Book Machine will be open for business at Harvard starting next week. (P.S. When did they start calling it the “Harvard Book Store?” It’ll always be the Coop to me. Correction: reader @mbattles happily reminds me that the Harvard Book Store isn’t the Coop at all, but rather an independent book shop a few blocks up Mass. Ave. from the Square.)

Tupac Papers Archive — The Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation and the Robert W. Woodruff Library in Atlanta are partnering to prepare the late rapper’s papers for preservation and access, according to a press release [.pdf] by the two organizations. Hat tip @anarchivist.

Texas Instruments Releases iPhone CalculatorGigaOm reports that Texas Instruments has released a calculator application for the iPhone aimed at business professionals. Smartphones have killed the PDA, are well on their way to killing the standalone MP3 player, and now look poised to kill the trusty calculator as well.

Students Get Windows 7 for $30 — Microsoft is offering students deep discounts to students looking to upgrade to Windows 7. For $30 students can get one copy of either Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional when it drops in October.

IE Misses the Wave — Citing the browser’s failure to keep up with “recent developments in Web technology,” the team at Google Wave has decided not to support Microsoft Internet Explorer, even though it is currently used by a majority of web users. I think I know a few developers who would like to make that same decision 🙂

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx" to Ship in April — Ubuntu provided a preview of coming attractions in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, including its code name, “Lucid Lynx” on Tuesday. Lucid Lynx will be Ubuntu’s third “Long Term Support” release. Key improvements will include reduced boot time (10 seconds is the goal) and enhancements to the standard user interface. Lucid Lynx will follow the planned release next month of Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala.

Google’s UFO Logos Explained — On Sunday Google revealed the occasion for the UFO motif in its homepage logo over the past few weeks: H.G. Wells’ 143 birthday. Although I like the nod to science fiction history, couldn’t they have picked a better anniversary?

Practical Training for Art Historians — Recognizing that many—if not most—art historians will eventually end up as museum professionals, the Department of Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University introduced a new track track in its Ph.D. program. In partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the new “Curatorial Track” will offer theoretical and hands-on training in such areas as museum studies, non-profit administration, and fund raising in addition to a traditional art history curriculum.

Briefly Noted for September 21, 2009

FCC Proposes New Net Neutrality Guidelines — The Federal Communications Commission today announced two new principles that will guide its rulemaking going forward. (The agency also announced the launch of a new website at The first would prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating against particular applications (e.g. peer-to-peer clients) or content in allocating bandwidth. The second would require greater transparency from ISPs about their network management practices. Both guidelines would apply to all ISPs, including wireless carriers. Republicans oppose the measures.

NEH Funded Projects Database — Today the National Endowment for the Humanities announced the launch of a new database cataloging every project funded by the U.S. government agency since 1980. Projects can be searched and sorted by date, funding program, NEH division, project director, keywords, and more.

Briefly Noted for September 18, 2009

The Art of Community Available for Free DownloadThe Art of Community, the new book by Jono Bacon, Ubuntu Community Lead, is now available as a free download. Published in hard copy by O’Reilly, the free download is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. I’m working my way through a paper copy fresh from Amazon, and I highly recommend anyone who’s interested in open source community building at least dip into the free version.

CPHDH and Ohio Historical Society Launch Civil War Sesquicentennial Website — The Center for Public History and Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University and the Ohio Historical Society announce the launch of a rich new resource: Ohio Civil War 150. Built on Omeka and WordPress, Ohio Civil War 150 features archival collections, teaching resources, discussion forums, and an events calendar. Kudos to our friends in Ohio on a fantastic looking, timely, and high quality piece of digital and public history.

Speed Bumps for Google Apps on Campus — Last week a problem with Google Apps allowed some students at some colleges employing the service to read each other’s emails. Among the institutions affected was Brown University, which has a lengthy account of the problem in its student newspaper, the Daily Herald. Via ReadWriteWeb, which has technical details of the glitch.

"Community" Online — I haven’t seen last night’s premier yet, so don’t worry about any spoilers. But I have already visited two websites for “Greendale Community College,” the fictional college that serves as the setting for NBC’s new sitcom “Community.” The first is the College’s mock homepage, created by the show’s producers. It’s sort of amusing, including such things as phony admissions policies, faculty profiles, and the student newspaper. The second is more interesting. Created by staff members of at the American Association of Community Colleges, the Greendale Community College blog is designed as a place for critical reflection and dialog about the show and what it says about community colleges and their popular perception. Several layers of clever here: a fake blog for a fake community college produced by real community college professionals containing discussions of real importance.

Briefly Noted for September 17, 2009

DOJ to Voice Concerns over Google Books Settlement — The United States Department of Justice will file a brief with the court hearing the Google Books case, outling its concerns over the proposed settlement between Google and publishers, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The article lists worries about the prices Google and publishers will charge for access to the database as chief among DOJ’s worries.

Two Million Books, On Demand — Google must be feeling pretty darned good about its chances with the judge in the Google Books case. Announcing yesterday that it had acquired reCAPTCHA (see below), today Google is announcing a deal with On Demand Books to make more than two million public domain titles in its Google Books database available for on demand printing on the Espresso Book Machine.

New from CHNM Labs: Mobile for Museums — From CHNM Labs comes a new report, Mobile for Museums. Funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Mobile for Museums assesses how art museums are incorporating mobile technologies into visitor experiences and offers replicable mobile prototypes based on those findings. The report and prototypes (which include some new goodies for Omeka), are the result of some superb research and work by Sharon Leon, Sheila Brennan, Dave Lester, and Andrea Odiorne.

New in Zune — The Zune HD is out. David Pogue has a (fair) review of the new media player, concluding the Zune is no longer a joke: “… it’s every bit as joyful, polished and satisfying as its rival [iPod]. The question is whether Microsoft will stick it out long enough to close the catalog gap, the ecosystem gap and the image gap.”

Funding the Open Access Compact — Implementing the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity announced earlier this week, Harvard and Cornell have established funds to reimburse their authors the processing fees incurred when publishing in open access journals. Berkeley already has a similar fund in place. Via Open Access News.

Android Tablet and More — While Apple users wait for Steve Jobs’ much-anticipated-yet still-unconfirmed tablet, Android users are celebrating the announcement of the Archos 5 touchscreen internet tablet. CNET has a review and slideshow. With Motorola and LG also announcing Android devices and with the release of the version 1.6 “Donut” SDK—all in one week—the open source mobile operating system is really working up a head of steam.

White House Social Media Archives — The White House is seeking a contractor to assist in archiving its Twitter, Facebook, and other social media content. According to the RFQ [.pdf]: “In order to comply with the Presidential Records Act, the White House New Media team is looking for a non personal service contractor to crawl and archive PRA content on all third party sites where the EOP has a presence (i.e., Currently, the Government team is capturing the data and content both programmatically (via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) from social networks) and manually (through daily screen shots). EOP requires a provider to ensure we automatically capture this content in a scalable, efficient and reliable manner.” Via Mashable.

Google Acquires reCAPTCHAreCAPTCHA, the anti-spam cum OCR correction software developed by Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon, has been acquired by Google. Previously reCAPTCHA leveraged the efforts of millions of web users to help correct transcriptions of materials held by the non-profit Internet Archive, among others. Now, according the official announcement, Google will “be applying the technology … to improve our books and newspaper scanning process.” The specifics of the deal are undisclosed.

Google Launches Fast Flip — Looking to improve the experience of reading web content, Google announced the launch of Google Fast Flip. According to the press release, Fast Flip attempts to replicate the experince of reading a print magazine, providing customized content “bundles” and allowing users to “rapidly flip forward to the content [they] like, without the constant wait for things to load.” Fast Flip is also available as a browser-based application for Android and iPhone.

Briefly Noted for September 16, 2009

Digital Campus 43 — We’re back! Digital Campus returns from its summer hiatus with a new show. Listen to me, Mills, and Dan shake off the rust and discuss the Google Books settlement, cameras on campus, Google Wave and the real-time web, and other hot topics in the world of academic, museum, and library technology.

Preserving the Web — In case you missed it, both Harvard and the California Digital Library recently launched web archiving services. While Harvard’s WAX (Web Archive Collection Service) seems to be designed for campus use only, CDL’s Web Archives is available to other institutions, and is currently powering archives at New York University, Stanford, and several UC campuses.

Nature Tests the Waters of Open AccessOpen Access News reports that Nature is launching a new open access journal, Cell Death & Disease. To cover lost subscription revenues, successful submissions will be charged a $3000 processing fee—just the kind of fees the Compact for OA Publishing Equity (see below) encourages universities to pay on behalf of faculty publishing in OA journals. Things seem to be moving right along.

Compact for OA Publishing Equity — Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT and Berkeley announced their “joint committment” to open access publishing through the Compact for OA Publishing Equity. The Compact calls on universities and funding agencies “to provide equitable support for open-access publishing by subsidizing the processing fees that faculty incur when contributing to open-access publications” arguing that “open-access publishing promises to put more research in more hands and in more places around the world.”

The Conscience Un-Conference: Using Social Media for Good

Inspired in part by THATCamp, the Conscience Un-Conference: Using Social Media for Good is now open for applications. Co-hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and the Center for History and New Media, the Conscience Un-Conference is a free, one-day “un-conference” that intends to bring together interesting and interested people to talk about the problems, practicalities, and opportunities of using social media to further the missions of “institutions of conscience”—those concerned with violence and atrocities, human rights, and related issues. I feel very fortunate to be among the great group from USHMM planning the event.


The un-conference will be held on Saturday, December 5, 2009 from 8:30am to 5:30pm at USHMM in Washington, DC. To learn more and submit an application, visit