Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Washington Post Introduces Interactive Knowledge Maps


The Washington Post started testing a new "Knowledge Map" feature that is available online. It gives readers a sense of context around articles and stories by giving you background information.

"We wanted to experiment with providing background information as a user reads a story to help bring context to a complicated topic, and we designed Knowledge Map to work in a way that would not interrupt the reading experience," Sarah Sampsel, director of digital strategy at The Post, said in a prepared statement. "Knowledge Map makes reading the news a more personalized experience, giving readers access to additional information as they need or want it."

The first story that incorporates the feature is titled "Why the Islamic State leaves tech companies torn between free speech and security." It uses the tool to supply historical context, show timelines, link the reader to relevant graphics and elaborate on the key people mentioned in the story.

I think this tool is fairly exciting. Most blogs and newspapers have tags, that give you a sense of how the story is supposed to be categorized. The Washington Post though is taking context to an entirely new level.

Your eBook Might have a Virus called candy.js


If you have an e-reader issued by Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Kobo your reading habits are being tracked. These companies want to monitor what books you are buying and how long it takes you to get through them. When ebooks are sold on other platforms, publishers and authors are normally kept out of the loop, until now. A new tracking script is currently being implemented that totally negates privacy.

Jellybooks has created a new a piece of code called candy.js, which is embedded inside an ebook to track how users actually read. Penguin Random House UK was among their earliest partners in a pilot program. Currently this code shares your personal information not only with Jellybooks, but also any publisher taking part.

Currently this technology by Jellybooks is included in Advanced Reader Copies (ARC), which basically is only available to book reviewers or people who are participating in focus groups. Normally these books are read on 3rd party apps for Android or imported into Apple devices, such as iBooks. While reading the ebook, Jellybooks collects reading data for each individual reader based on unique tracking software embedded inside the ebook. The collected data is stored inside the ebook and the user can be reading online or offline. In return for receiving the free ebook, readers are prompted to upload the data with a single click form inside the ebook. Jellybooks then distribute the results as online data graphs and figures to authors and publishers.

Sure this technology is limited to ARC e-books at the moment but Jellybooks wants to bring it mainstream. They want publishers to know what genres are hot right now and what apps people are using to read e-books on. The funny thing is, once this does go mainstream readers won’t get discounts on books that track your reading habits, it will just be another piece of software that shares your personal information with publishers.

Do You Want Page Turn Buttons on Your eBook Reader?

Several years ago when ebook readers were just starting to become popular, they all used to have physical page turning buttons. Then touchscreens started taking over a few years ago and page buttons started getting phased out. Now it’s gotten to the point where physical page buttons on a new ebook reader is a rarity. […]

Autonomous recording for marine ecology

Cetacean species, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, are considered indicators of the health of marine ecosystems around the world. While a number are known to be endangered, a lack of data means that the population size and conservation status of many species are impossible to estimate. These animals are vulnerable to the effects of human activities and the noise they cause.

In Brazil, researchers carry out underwater acoustic monitoring to assess the ecological impact of industrial activities on the coast. As well as quantifying human‑generated noise, this type of study is very useful for scientists studying cetaceans, because the efficient transmission of sound in water means the tones and clicks they produce can be detected hundreds of kilometres away. However, commercial underwater recorders are expensive and inflexible, with proprietary software and hardware that is difficult or impossible to modify. Earlier this summer, though, a team from the University of São Paulo in Brazil published a paper about the flexible, low-cost autonomous recorder they have built, based on a Raspberry Pi, in open-access journal PLOS ONE. This is what it looks like:

The hydrophone – an underwater microphone – is on the top, protected by the cage that you can see, which is made of stainless steel; when deployed, all of the other components are inside the 50cm PVC case on the right. With walls approximately 9.5mm thick, this enclosure successfully withstands pressures of up to 10 bar, equivalent to those experienced almost 100m underwater, in pressure‑chamber testing.

Output from the hydrophone is passed via a signal-conditioning board and then a USB audio codec including an analogue-to-digital converter before being processed and stored by the Raspberry Pi. There’s a battery pack of five ordinary D-size Duracell batteries, with room in the enclosure to add four more such packs in parallel, and a power management module including a real-time clock.

So that the device doesn’t have to consume power during transport to the deployment location, the power management unit incorporates a Hall effect latch, controlled by a magnet on the outside of the enclosure, to connect or disconnect the batteries via a relay. Once the unit has been deployed, the real-time clock can control the relay to power the Raspberry Pi on or off at scheduled times. For their tests, the team used a 128GB SD card, one of the largest compatible cards they could find, although the limiting factor for autonomous functioning of the recorder proved to be power rather than data storage capacity.

The team deployed their autonomous recorders to locations on the eastern and southeastern coast of Brazil for field-testing, and they all performed satisfactorily, monitoring marine traffic and whale and dolphin populations. From the results of their tests they estimate that with the maximum number of five battery packs, the devices could provide almost two weeks of continuous recording, or over four months of recording at one hour per day. They used a Raspberry Pi Model A; the Model A+, smaller and with even lower power consumption, would eke out the power for longer.

The recorder has various settings that users can alter to optimise for different mission requirements: the scheduling of recording times and the nature of any automatic post-processing can be adjusted, as can the recording sample rate (the whistles and clicks of dolphins are best captured at a higher sample rate than low-frequency whale vocalisations, for example). At an estimated cost of US $500, it should be an attractive option for research groups faced with the alternative of splashing out six times as much on a less customisable commercial device.

It’s very good indeed to see Raspberry Pi used to build low-cost open hardware for research and study. The last time I poked around the web looking for open labware, there were some encouraging examples, but they were a little thin on the ground; now the most slapdash of searches returns a clutch of exciting results, from OpenTrons’ crowdfunded liquid-handling robot to a <$100 fluorescence microscope via my personal did-they-really-make-that? favourite, 3D-printed Raman spectrometer ramanPi. Setting up a research group or a teaching lab in a few years’ time might be a very different thing to what scientists have been used to.

The post Autonomous recording for marine ecology appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Learn how to tailor your curated collections to improve your circulation


On Thursday, August 20th OverDrive will be hosting two live webinars as a part of our quarterly Hot Topics seminar series. This time around the session will be Curated Collections 101: Help patrons find their next great read. You can sign up here to join us at 11:00 am or 3:00 pm (ET).

In this session you'll learn how to use Marketplace to curate collections for your digital library website. We'll also share ideas for how to get more of your staff involved in curation and tips on how you can use the Readers' Advisory initiative to grow circulation and increase the impact of your collection. Don't miss it!

BBC Radio Wants you to Pitch Stories on Twitter – Hilarity Ensues

Last week agents from Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh received more than 2,000 pitches for books on the first inaugural #PitchCB day. Authors had to sum up their book in 140 characters or less and used Twitter. Due to the success of this event, BBC Radio 4 began soliciting pitches on Curtis Browns behalf and hilarity has ensued.