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Pegasus Librarian Posts

Google’s newest product

For all of you that remember last year’s Google drinks, here’s today’s new Google product, the beta version of Google Romance. Here’s the Press Release. The FAQs are … informative, and the Tour is insightful. It has all the features we know and love about regular Google web searching, including “Did you mean…” and “I’m feeling lucky.” My favorite is the line that says:

It’s important to all of us on the Google Romance team that the ads you see during your Contextual Date be useful and enjoyable, not intrusive and annoying.

Seriously, you have to read the fine print on the tour and the FAQs.

Previous innovative projects have included MentalPlex (2000), PigeonRank (2002), and job oportunities on the moon (2004).

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Remembering CIL 2006

I don’t remember how I got started on this, but I found myself blog-surfing through the blogs of people who attended Computers in Libraries 2006, the most amazing conference out there. (I even found myself mentioned a few times, which is very new to me.) But anyway, these people are awesome. They’re so engaged and thoughtful, and not stuffy in the least. Marion Librarian, move over!

I’m pretty sure I browsed through at least a few more, but I can’t remember. But if you want some good reading, check these people out. These are truly cool librarians. (The full list of CIL registered bloggers is here.)

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The Croquet Project…. Very Cool

I don’t even know what to call it. It’s not a browser, though you can open browsers inside of it. It’s not really like anything else I’ve ever seen… which is part of what makes it so cool, though it takes more than novelty to get me excited about stuff. No, this is more like an environment.

The technical stuff is, quite frankly, so far over my head that it’s in danger of colliding with a planet or two. But here’s what I do understand about the Croquet Project:

  • Users can create and interact with their 3D surroundings, including opening browser windows, spreadsheets, or any other network-deliverable program.
  • Users can collaborate and interact with each other because everything in the environment is viewable by all the users. This means that if I open a browser, my student can watch me navigate, practice while I watch, or work with me to accomplish a task.
  • The Project accomplishes all of this via peer-to-peer networks… NO SERVERS! That’s right, this is server-less interaction, navigation, and collaboration.
  • Oh, and there are video and audio capabilities, too, so you can actually converse with people who are near you in the environment.

Did I mention that this is very cool? If you want to see a demo, here’s a link to a video featuring Preston Austin and Julian Lombardi (two developers of the project). You can also keep up with the project via the project’s several blogs, wikis, and links.

My biggest question: what does the name mean?

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Google’s Decision Ruled Correct… Sort of

Late last year, the Department of Justice requested that Google and several other search engines (including Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL) turn over a sampling of randomly selected searches that had been run over a two-month period. Now that’s a scary thought… all of our searches suddenly candidates for review by lawyers and who knows who else. Well, Google decided not to give up these searches, and last week federal district judge James Ware ruled that the motion “compelling Google to disclose search queries of users” is denied (see the ruling, last paragraph).

Google is understandably pleased. It sure didn’t take them long to get the ruling onto their blog. But even more imporantly, this is an important ruling for those concerned about the privacy of information gathering. In his ruling, Judge Ware correctly identified “the interest of individuals in freedom from general surveillance by the Government of their use of the Internet or other communications media” as one of “three vital interests” raised by the case.

What is particularly interesting to me, however, is that Google didn’t argue that handing over our searches would violate our privacy… the Judge did. As Ware says on page 6 of the ruling (at the beginning of the Discussion section),

Google primarily argues that the information sought by the subpoena is not reasonably calculated to lead to evidence admissible in the underlying litigation, and that the production of information is unduly burdensome. The Court discusses each of these objections in turn, as well as the Court’s own concerns about the potential interests of Google’s users.

So, sua sponte, the Court had to argue that even though the Government was pretty sure that the text of our searches couldn’t provide enough information to be compromising, Ware realized that sometimes people search for their own names plus other information, or for social security numbers, or credit card numbers.

This is all well and good, but two things mitigate the joyousness of the news. First, the Court didn’t actually express a legal opinion on the privacy matter because the case as it was presented didn’t actually call for a ruling on privacy. Second, if the Government wants the information later, they can always get it via the USA PATRIOT Act (and yes, it’s an acronym… look it up on page 2 of the act).

Still, things could be a lot worse. This is a baby step in the right direction.

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