University of Alberta’s RSS Feeds

Geoff Harder posted about the Univeristy of Alberta’s RSS feeds, which connect to various new book lists from their library catalog. That’s wonderful, I thought… and then I looked closer, and realized they’re a SIRSI site (we’re also a SIRSI site).

Now I’m excited. Excited enough to pester Geoff to post an explanation of how they accomplished making those feeds! Apparently, the U. of A. people were pestered by more than just me, so Kenton Good has posted an explanation of how they’re creating the feeds (thanks!). Lots of food for thought!

How about Video Podcasting?

I was just thinking about podcasting (’cause it’s been coming up alot lately in the “li-blogosphere”). And it dawned on me – “well heck David, if you can audio podcast, why can’t you video podcast?”

So I poked around on Google, and believe it or not, that’s the “next big thing” in podcasting (well, at least according to the video dudes).

Here’s some info to check out about Video Podcasting – first, a couple of quotes:

on this page – “Wouldn’t it be cool to sync video to a PMC or Smartphone? Instead of just podcasting, it’s video-podcasting. PT just sent me an RSS feed to a video cast. Newsgator sends it to a monitored folder on the computer which auto syncs to any WM10 device. I can even play it back on MCE. Now what we need is to add channel nine and take it all on the go automatically.” Posted by Michael Gartenberg…

Another quote – “Where audio leads, video follows. We are already seeing the beginnings of video podcasting. Video podcasting, of some form, to some device is almost certainly going to be a major influencer in the way people consume media. Think about it. The programs you want to watch will be automatically delivered to your media server ready for consuming on your schedule. Should ever Apple do a video iPod that would be a logical place of consumption, but failing that, a Mac Mini as home media server has got to be on the horizon. Already video podcasts are being directed at video-equipped 3GPP cell phones.”

And a whole article from Wired News – Video Feeds Follow Podcasting.

Think of the way cool possibilities for video podcasting! Automatically downloadable classes, seminars, book review sessions, visual and audible training on finding info, online story hour, downloadable when (or soon after) it happens…. how cool is that?

I’m actually tempted to try this out – I have a webcam installed on my PC… hmm… we’ll see.

Wiki’s mentioned on CNN

The article Tools to ease Web collaboration is up right now at CNN.com, and it’s very cool!

The article is an introduction to Wiki’s and what they can do for your company. Translation? Staff Intranet… wiki’s can be great for that.

Possibly, they could also be used by us librarians for a teens website, where teens ould be in charge of their own content? How cool would that be?

Filtering at the library – how it’s going

Update: Skagirlie posted a comment – she says “Yeah, I like that my library blog is blocked at work just because the URL has “girlie” in it. Bess apparently doesn’t like to look at meta tags, or it would know that it’s a library blog, not a “girlie” site.”

That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Her site was marked “Porn” by Bess – even though IT’S NOT. It’s a way cool library techie blog. Thankfully, I just checked Secure Computing’s (they own Bess) URL Checker, and Skagirlie’s blog is now categorized as a “Message/Bulletin Board.” Not technically correct, but much better!

Bess has an option to review websites that are incorrectly categorized. I know I reported this one (I imagine Skagirlie did, too :-). It’s comforting to know that Secure Computing DOES check those requests, and correct categories when warranted!

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My library filters – we have since July 1, 2004. We use Secure Computing’s Bess product for our filtering software, and we filter at a pretty low level – we’ve been filtering the category of Pornography, and we’re allowing all the exceptions possible (the exceptions are Education, For Kids, History, Medical, Moderated, and Text/Spoken only). We have also just started filtering the Gambling category (more on that below). You can find the complete list of the categories that Bess uses on their website.

How the Process Works
I currently have the utter joy of checking websites out when a library customer submits a Site Review Request. here’s what happens:

  • the library customer goes to a website that is filtered, and gets the “you’ve been blocked” warning page.
  • He/she has the option to send a “site review request” to the library, so a staff member can review the website to see if it really should be filtered.
  • I get the “site review request,” and then check each website to see if it should be filtered or if it can be unblocked (all hopefully according to Missouri and CIPA laws).
  • And then I unblock the site if it “passes go.”

Although I’m currently “in charge” of this process, it will soon transfer over to various public services departments. I’ve been doing it to make sure everything works and to set up procedures for the whole filtering process.

Gathering Some Statistics
But since I have to do this, I thought I’d have some fun with it (now, now – I know what you’re thinking…). Once we install the full version of this software, we’ll supposedly be able to get statistics (I’m guessing it’ll report things like what website categories patrons have been browsing, and how many library customers and/or websites have been filtered). But until then, I have kept my own stats on the Site Review Requests: I have kept each filtering request since July 2004 (don’t worry – no names are attached to the requests so privacy is preserved), and have dumped each request into categorized folders so I can sift some statistics out of this heap.

These statistics show how many websites, categorized as Pornography by the filtering software, are really porn sites. But only for websites that a library customer has asked the library to review. Make sense? Not sure how scientific these stats are, but they are rather interesting….

My Findings
So – that adds up to 7 months worth of statistics. That totals 855 requests (through January 2005) for the library to review a website that was lumped into a certain category. How accurate do you think it was? Hmm? Can you guess? Try this percent on for size: 42%. Yep, that’s right. 42%! Out of 855 requests to review a website categorized as pornography, only 42% of those websites have REALLY been porn sites. Dang!

So what have the other 58% been? (I’m rounding the percentages, fyi):

  • 9% – broken sites (they either don’t exist, were turned off, or the server was down when it was accessed)
  • 9% – dating and/or social networking types of sites (all those russian dating websites)
  • 3% – music sites. Especially hip-hop artist pages
  • 20% – redirect pages, marketing forms, and domain name placeholder pages
  • 17% – the rest of the “non porn” sites

Conclusions?
Actually, I’m going to make two conclusions:

1. The official “I have an MLS degree” conclusion: The filtering software isn’t doing a good job of filtering by category, because it lumped 58% more websites into a certain category than it needed to… and I was just looking at ONE category. There are a lot more categories, and I’m guessing the statistics would be similar in those categories, too. So that’s bad!

2. Non MLS, “it is helping staff and customers” conclusion: The filtering software, while it’s being a bit “over zealous,” IS categorizing a lot of sites correctly. Our public services staff aren’t having to play “web police” as much since we installed the filter. And a large percentage (29%) of the incorrectly categorized pages aren’t useful websites – they’re either broken sites, sites that no longer exist, redirected marketing scam pages or domain placeholder pages – all pages that most likely weren’t what the library customer had in mind in the first place. So both of those are good.

Plus, we’re also able to use the filter to enforce a library policy. Per our library’s policy, people can’t gamble in the library. So we decided to turn on the Gambling category, too. We just did this, so I don’t know what it’s going to filter. But still, I think it’s pretty cool that we can use the software that we were required to buy (we wanted the E-rate money) for other non-CIPA stuff.

I’d love to hear how other libraries are dealing with filtering! Feel free to comment on this blog or email me!

Pivot

Pivot looks cool. It’s like WordPress et al, but apparently doesn’t need a back-end database. Hmm… where do the posts go? Not sure. But I’m throwing it out nonetheless.