Friday, September 14, 2007

Games for the Brain

Toys for the weekend--or before. Games for the Brain

If you are at all like me and spend hard time conquering a new technology or wrapping your head around a foreign concept or worrying about your finances, you probably find that taking a vacation or even just a break doing something totally devoid of that specific kind of thinking gives you the distance and perspective to tackle the problem afresh. That's what hobbies and travel and sleep AND computer games are for--aerobics for different parts of the brain.

Try some of these if you just have a ten minute break. They are fun. Each one calls for a different way of coming to an answer. Some require memory, some making odd connections. I haven't tried them all, but I will--though I may skip the memory ones so as not to become too depressed. js

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Old Magazine Articles .com

Old Magazine Articles .com
This site is one of the reasons I can never discourage a student from using the Web. Matt Jacobson, affiliation and credentials unknown, has taken it upon himself to scan old out-of-copyright articles and mount them as pdfs. Old articles are hard to find in library databases with the exception of JSTOR. The articles on this website are of a more popular genre and provide those kinds of primary documents that are so interesting to read because they contain clues to the culture of the time they were written. They are all pdfs.


Here's the "About Us:"
OldMagazineArticles.com is a private undertaking and the effort of one old magazine enthusiast in particular who believes deeply that today's readers of history can learn a good deal from the old periodicals. It is a primary source website and is designed to serve as a reference for students, educators, authors, researchers, dabblers, dilettantes, hacks and the merely curious. The old articles, essays, poetry, cartoons and photographs that can be found on the site have all been collected from a number of different libraries, bookshops and yard sales throughout the United States and Europe. The topics selected reflect the whims of the editor as well as the growing interests of the internet community. To the best of our understanding, all the content is in the public domain . . .


I picked up this website from an email from Research Buzz. Check it out.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Wikiscanner--Whitewashers Are Not Quite Anonymous Anymore

Virgil Griffith, a graduate of Mobile's own Math and Science High School has made big news this week by developing a piece of software that points to who is doing anonymous editing of Wikipedia articles on government or corporate entities. Sorry FBI, FEMA, EXXON and other biggies--you are going to have to work harder to hide your positive spins.

"How does WikiScanner work?
When you make an edit to Wikipedia, you have two choices. First, you can register and leave your username, or you can edit anonymously. But, when you edit anonymously, it uses your IP address, a number which identifies what computer network are you from, in lieu of a username. Wikipedia does this for convenience to distinguish your anonymous edits from someone else's anonymous edits. In essence, WikiScanner combines two databases: (1) The list of all IP adresses that have made edits to Wikipedia, and (2) What IP addresses belong to which companies. So with WikiScanner you can type a company name, and it shows you what edits have come from IP addresses owned by that company."

Virgil Griffith says,

". . . I've found three common kinds of vandalism.
Wholesale removal of entire paragraphs of critical information. (common for both political figures and corporations)

White-washing -- replacing negative/neutral adjectives with positive adjectives that mean something similar. (common for political figures)

Adding negative information to a competitor's page. (common for corporations)"

Try it this weekend. Great fun being a detective.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wikimindmap and Wikirage

Research Buzz is one of the blogs I track to keep up with the new, weird, or even possibly useful, sites on the web. Two items appeared this week one of which is under the "possibly useful" category; the other is more on the weird part of the continuum.

One of the hardest things for any student researcher to do is to find a focus when doing a library paper. Faculty sometimes fail to realize that students have not yet found their interests, their passion. Nothing is more fun for an academic than to hunt and find overlooked or new info on a subject with which they are intimately familiar. They already have a built in skeleton on which to place the new bit.

What happens when a student is assigned a paper in a course about which they only have some rudimentary conceptual framework, if that. They flounder; they doubt; they despair; sometimes they plagiarize. (At least that's the part the librarians see.) I think that anything that will help students find a focus and think about ways to narrow an idea into a workable, researchable, and maybe even interesting, subject is worth mention. Sometime ago I mentioned EBSCO's visual search as one way for a student to find focus. Now someone has found a way to mine Wikipedia for broader, narrower and related concepts. It's called Wikimindmap (http://www.wikimindmap.org/). Here's the "About." Try some general topic like "advertising" and play with the ways one can use it to brainstorm a concept.

The other app is Wikirage--a website that compiles a list of the most edited Wikipedia entries. Like those sites that rate the most frequently accessed or emailed websites, it tracks the Zeitgeist of the hour, the day, the month.

While exploring these sites I also ran across this webpage: Ten Things You Should Know About Wikipedia. Number 6 should probably be on every syllabus.

"#6 We do not expect you to trust us.

It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish. We are fully aware of this. We work hard to keep the ratio of the greatest to the worst as high as possible, of course, and to find helpful ways to tell you in what state an article currently is. Even at its best, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, with all the limitations that entails. It is not a primary source. We ask you not to criticize Wikipedia indiscriminately for its content model but to use it with an informed understanding of what it is and what it isn't. Also, as some articles may contain errors, please do not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Academic Kvetch Site

Kvetch is not quite the right word, but it is lovely! This website listed by Marylaine Block this week is every reference librarian's dream/nightmare. Submissions by libs and academics of books and authors NOT TO USE. Wonder: can one write a book containing all the bad information you need to forget? And what about libel and revenge, not unknown in the academic universe.

Bad Sources - Making Light
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/009280.html
Attention reference librarians: Teresa Neilsen-Hayden invites submissions for reference works scholarly or reference works "so bad that you must never, ever cite them, lest you be cruelly mocked by your fellows." It's a question worth thinking about, and there are many responses here, though librarians will probably discount those that offer no explanations for the selection.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Plagiarism is Easy; Being Original Not So

Hoke Robinson argued on The Humanist Forum:

A single fraudulent grade could in practice make the difference; a series of them certainly could. In this case some other, presumably honest student who would otherwise have gotten the scholarship, admission or job has been wronged. And the higher the level, the greater the wrong, from the plagiarized intro-course essay to the term paper to a masters and doctoral dissertation. The misrepresentation gets you on the bench, and somewhere in the end, in the dark, somebody falls off.


Taken from an excellent webpage called "ACADEMIC PLAGIARISM DEFINED" by Professor Irving Hexham. U. of Calgary.

Now, at the beginning of the semester, is a good time for faculty and students to talk about plagiarism. This website also gives lots of examples of original, plagiarized and properly cited information.

I've also got a site "Plagiarism--A Guide for Instructors" that might be useful for deciding why, when and how plagiarism affects both students and faculty. The University licenses a utility called Turnitin to help detect plagiarism. It's an instrument, sometimes a useful tool, for detection, but does it teach students to think or does it just challenge them to defeat the instrument. The best strategy for both students and instructors is to head it off; design assignments that can't be plagiarized. Takes time, takes thought, takes attention. Being original is hard--on both sides of the desk.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Library Exploration

OK. OK. I know that taking a library tour seems pretty lame. Don't think of it as a tour. Think of it as an opportunity to see where the best conversations in the world take place. There are people in those books yelling at each other about what is true and what isn't--across time and across geography. Love letters too. Sometimes the oldest arguments and love letters are the most interesting. This is really the biggest cocktail party in the world going on this building. To appreciate it you just have to find the intimate conversations and arguments that interest you. Often there is a knock-down drag-out fight going on in current periodicals. If you think that learning is boring, you just haven't found the fight you should be in. Take a tour. See what we have. Browse the stacks. Cruise the hundreds of encyclopedias in Reference. Check out a dvd. Here's the schedule. Surely you are free during one of these.
Tour Schedule
http://www.southalabama.edu/univlib/sauer/opentours07.html