Friday, 27 June 2008

Testing, testing 123

via The Adam Smith Institute Blog on 8 June

On Tuesday, the Rector of a top UK university announced a new entrance test may be used to distinguish between applicants with high marks. Sir Richard Sykes, of Imperial College London, informed the Independent Schools Council's annual conference that while applicants have four or five A-levels, "grade inflation" had "destroyed" the intended role A-levels have in measuring undergraduate acceptance. Surprisingly, 40% of those applicants receive private schooling, from a mere 7% of UK schools.

Read the full article which has some useful links in it.

Learning through ICT-enabled social networks

Liqiong Deng and Marshall Scott Poole in International Journal of Information Technology and Management (Volume 7 Number 4 (2008))

Utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to build effective learning networks in organisations has received attention from both practitioners and researchers in recent years. Going beyond the limited focus on the structural characteristics of networks in prior research, this paper develops a theoretical model that specifies how the structural properties of network ties and the quality of interaction influence the occurrence of single- and double-loop learning within ICT-enabled social networks. It provides insights into how ICT can be utilised to bring people together and form a productive environment conducive to learning. The model is expected to have theoretical and practical implications for the development of ICT-enabled social networks for individual learning.

To Search or to Research?

via Librarian of the Internet by findingDulcinea Staff on 28 May

The term "search" has taken on a different kind of life in recent years, thanks to our companion, the World Wide Web. While so many of us want to believe that Google is not a verb, we all know better. It's too easy; all you have to do is submit a query into the little box in and the world of information is opened up—it's instant gratification at its finest! But, does instant gratification come with a price? In the context of searching on the WWW, it certainly does.

Read the full article

Hazel's comment:
I was going to profusely apologise for the irregularity of posting here which resulted in this not being brought to your attention for a whole month. Gasp! Shock, horror!
But then I thought, what the heck, I've done it now and it's a good article and it's worth reading so maybe, just maybe, it's worth waiting for.
And then I realised that the theme here links in with my having been to a seminar yesterday organised by the International Society for Knowledge Organization on the "Agenda for Information Retrieval". And what a wonderful afternoon it was. Starting with Brian Vickery, who at 90 years of age has seen it all, on the "Issues in Information Retrieval" which was potted history going back some 70 years. Brian's very interesting approach was followed by Stephen Robertson on "The State of Information Retrieval: a researcher's view" which I must admit lost me a bit what with statistical probability theory and the rather stuffy room at UCL. A swift coffee woke me up enough to appreciate Ian Rowlands' talk on "The Google Generation" which the subsequent discussion decided was a myth.
It was great to catch up with Karen Blakeman and when Karen posts about passing a CV through a tag cloud generator I'll link you up to it. Fascinating discussion over the nibbles afterwards.
And as for sitting with Graham Robertson of Bracken Associates -- he thought it had been fifteen years since we'd last met at an ADSET seminar on information auditing. Although I think it was nearer ten years it was still a long time -- and we both still miss Peter Gillman who has left the information scene completely to concentrate on other work.

10 things I thought would interest you: a miscellany of trivia

Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain
via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza on 20 May From The New York Times
When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong. Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.

Arts & Letters Daily 25 May
In Britain, multiculturalism has become a career opportunity and a source of political patronage, says Theodore Dalrymple... more

Arts & Letters Daily 1 June
Pythagoras was right: his universe may not be as simple as he imagined, but it proves ever more comprehensible by the day... more

Arts & Letters Daily 27 May
Shakespeare vs. Milton. Prithee, who is the greater figure in literary history? Nigel Smith thinks he knows the answer... more

Arts & Letters Daily 2 June
"You know, guys," he intoned, "sex is the greatest thing in the world." He paused, and then added with infinite wistfulness, "But... more

Internet-Enabled Piano Could Transform Concerts via Pogue's Posts by David Pogue on 20 May
Just imagine how Yamaha's Internet-connected piano, the Disklavier Mark IV, could transform live performances.

How a trove of priceless antiquities survived in Afghanistan
via 3quarksdaily by Abbas Raza on 4 June
Roger Atwood in National Geographic:
Omara Khan Massoudi knows how to keep a secret. Massoudi is director of the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul. Like the French citizens during World War II who hid works of art in the countryside to prevent them from falling into Nazi hands, Massoudi and a few trusted tahilwidars - key holders - secretly packed away Afghanistan's ancient treasures when they saw their country descend into an earthly hell.
More here. [Thanks to Marilyn Terrell.] The objects in the photo gallery are amazing.

Arts & Letters Daily 7 June
Paris is a miraculous city in no small measure because modern architects have not been able to get their hands on it. Roger Scruton explains. more

Arts & Letters Daily 16 June
It's not just NASA pilots who need to nap. Arts & Letters Daily readers need naps, too. Herewith, a complete guide. more

Arts & Letters Daily 18 June
Why do government efforts to correct problems so often seem to make things worse? Because people are the problems. more
Hazel's comment: People? A problem? Surely not. Just think, if there were no people then there'd be no problem but I'm people so I wouldn't exist -- and anyway I'm not a problem -- it's all those others.

New Research on How the Mind Works
via 3quarksdaily by Robin Varghese on 10 June
In the NYRB [New York Review of Books], Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff review several new books on neuroscience and implications of the research for memory, meaning, representation and reality.
Hazel's comment: This, which is quite a long read, is fascinating. I was particularly taken with the idea, which I had not come across before, that memory plays a part in recidivism of addicts.

Women and science / engineering

Comment first -- link afterwards
Why don't more women go into science and engineering? "Shocking" new research suggests that they actually aren't interested in a career in either of these areas.
Actually the article in by Elaine McArdle in The Boston Globe (18 May) uses "controversial" and "startling" rather than "shocking" but you get the picture. I found this via Arts & Letters Daily -- a source that is very close to the top of my favourites list for interest reading rather than the more serious side of life.
Interesting, which didn't actually shock me, was the idea that although there are many women qualified to take up careers in physics and high-level engineering they actually prefer to go into more "people-facing" work.

Read the full article

Researcher slams Adobe for "epidemic" of JavaScript bugs

Adobe Systems has patched its free Reader and commercial Acrobat software to fix the latest in what one researcher called an "epidemic" of JavaScript vulnerabilities in the popular apps.

Read the full article by Gregg Keizer at on 24 June

Hazel's comment:
And if you must, for whatever reason, continue to use Adobe reader then you will find the patches at the link above.
Alternatively you may wish to do as I have done and dispense with Adobe completely and use Foxit Reader instead.
No commercial connection -- simply a very satisfied customer -- loading is so much quicker and the disk space that it doesn't take up is phenomenal. And yeah, I know that printing takes longer but you can't have everything -- and printing is a background operation!

Teaching kids to cheat smarter

by in PC Advisor Blog on 26 May

Today brought the news that infamously incompetent exam board Edexcel has developed James Bond-style technology to discourage A-Level and GCSE cheats.

Read the full article

Hazel's comment:
Actually this article is not so much about cheating but beating the security systems that are supposed to stop you cheating -- and isn't it fun to prove that you can do it?
And you will note that "no comment from me" is the only thing I will say about the description of Edexcel.

System divide upsets social services strategy

by Janie Davies in Latest updates on 12 June

The split between child and adult services is causing problems among authorities and suppliers
Social services departments face fundamental IT strategy problems prompted by the separation of systems for children and adults.

Read the full article

Hazel's comment:
It's not only the systems that are causing problems and it's not only in social services. This artificial divide that governments create which says you're a child until you reach the age of 19 and then you're an adult until you get to your sixties and then -- the words are different but you're no longer an adult you're a "something else".
Why 19?
Do you know any self-respecting 19-year-old prepared to go to "Children's Services" for help?
Why, oh why, can we not have all-age services for ALL social services?
Careers, welfare, housing -- you name it -- the artificial divide that is imposed is just that, artificial.
On a personal note: I've just had a birthday which moves me up a level in the survey strata and it feels WRONG. And actually as you get older you move down not up the list. Such is the irony of old age!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Tories plan to strip down "dysfunctional" Treasury

by Paul Grant on Accountancy Age 17 June

Shadow chancellor George Osborne has stated that the Treasury would undergo a major restructuring of its "rather dysfunctional" operations, should the Tories win the next general election.

Read the full article

Hazel's comment:
I have been saying for some time that it was wrong to make a revenue collecting department responsible for what is, in essence, a benefit payment function.
Party politics be blowed, I care not -- the government always gets in and whichever administration thought up the daft idea of having HM Revenue & Customs involved in the payment of monies to needy people wants to think again or get out!
This, as you can probably appreciate, is an issue close to my heart since I've been on the receiving end of blunders and changes of procedure with no apparent notification. And if I can't cope with it when I was on the delivery side of benefit for several years then heaven help those with less experience of the mechanisms.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Implementing social software in public libraries: An exploration of the issues confronting public library adopters of social software

an article by Louise L Rutherford in via Library Hi Tech Volume 26 Issue 2 (2008)

The purpose of this paper is to report the results of a research project designed to identify the kinds of social software that public libraries are using and to explore the issues confronting public library adopters of social software.
This research uses a qualitative methodology and takes the form of open-ended interview questions using an e-mail format. The research uses Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations theory as a framework.
The research found that blogs were the most popular social software tool being used in public libraries and that people-related issues were the most important issue for librarians to take into account when implementing social software. Library staff acceptance of social software was the most crucial success factor for social software. Other important issues included staff training, the steep learning curve involved in becoming a social software user, and human resource constraints.
This paper provides public librarians with a basis on which to assess potential adoption decisions for social software and to learn from the experiences of others.

Hazel's comment:
I know, I know, don't tell me -- you aren't working in a public library. Very few readers of this blog are but what is sauce for the goose may be sauce for the gander is an old proverb and like all proverbs may have a grain of truth in it.
Libraries are about imparting information to, in the case of public libraries, the public. However, if you work in any kind of library or information repository you are in the business of imparting information in more, or less, structured and controlled ways. You will be subject to many of the advantages and constraints that are outlined in this article.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Crawley tenants get "poor" service with "uncertain prospects"

via Audit Commission on 4 June

Crawley Council is providing a poor housing management service. Its approach to maintaining homes is weak and less than half of homes meet the Decent Homes Standard. Access to housing services is underdeveloped and residents have not been effectively engaged in developing the service.

Hazel's comment:
Why do I bother with these reports? Because in my experience as an Employment Adviser I found, as I am certain that careers advisers do, that when someone is living in poor conditions their minds are not wholly on the task of finding work or training. If this review of Crawley Council had merely said that the management of the housing service was poor then I probably wouldn't bother but the extract goes on to say "less than half the homes meet the Decent Homes Standard" and that, if my memory serves me right, is adequate rather than five-star.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Migrants win support over jobless fears

Financial Times 12 June

A government study shows that low-skilled Britons are out of work because they lack skills and motivation, not because they are competing for jobs with migrant workers.

Read more »

No comment -- none needed.

More of the same (laptop thefts)

Douglas Schweitzer at Computer World 12 June

Here we go again (how many times do I have to write this same line?); this time the stolen laptop contains the data of some 72,000 people with ties to Stanford University - students, faculty, and staff members. And guess what? There's reason to believe the data wasn't encrypted.

Read more

Hazel's comment:
I'm not sure I can bear to comment. This is rapidly turning into farce and would be laughable were it not so serious!

Monday, 16 June 2008

Is privacy history?

via Ask Bob Rankin on 9 May

What information about you is publicly available on the Web? In the past, only government agencies and businesses with a 'need to know' were able to access personal information. Today, Internet search engines allow almost anyone to find information about friends, co-workers, job applicants, etc. What information that YOU thought was private is available online?

Continue reading

Hazel's comment:

Saturday, 7 June 2008

New books from Policy Press

There were only two in this month's newsletter that I thought might interest you:

Social justice and public policy, edited by Gary Craig, Tania Burchardt and David Gordon, explores the meaning of social justice and examines how it translates into the everyday concerns of public and social policy

Tony Fitzpatrick's Applied ethics and social problems, presents introductions to the three most influential moral philosophies and relates these to some of the most urgent questions in contemporary public debates about the future of welfare services.

Medics top the poll of professions today’s teens want to date

I really, really thought that I'd stopped being critical of the LSC's (Learning and Skills Council's) information management but I haven't.

Background to that statement is that some time ago Dawn and I agreed on a "who does what" policy which meant that she covered information from the LSC except for data issues but because we have realigned responsibilities I got it back and wish I hadn't!

So, I looked at the title of this press release and thought it completely uninteresting and irrelevant but ... thought I ought to go and look since the email notification provides a title (as above) and a link in full but no abstract or other indication of what it's actually about.

Oops, what's that extension? PDF? For a press release? (Please read with emphasis and a disbelieving tone of voice).

Yup, my eyes did not deceive me.

And as for content, this press release, issued on 20 May embargoed until 26 May included in an email which arrived in my inbox on 4 June, is about a survey conducted by the LSC in conjunction with the folks who manage the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) (I thought that was a division of the LSC but what do I know?). The lowest choice for dating is someone who is unemployed -- but if unemployed person had stayed in education and training with the support of an EMA then s/he would rise up the datability scale!

I never saw such contrived marketing in all my born days!

Friday, 6 June 2008


I used not to believe in coincidence but ...
this is too much.

Stop Cyberbullying
via Librarians' Internet Index: New This Week 5 June
This site discusses cyberbullying ("when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted" usually by another child, preteen, or teen, via "the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones") and provides prevention tips and action items. Includes details about the roles of parents, teachers, and police in creating a safe online environment.
From WiredKids, a charity focused on the prevention of cybercrime and abuse.

via Phil Bradley's weblog by philipbradley on 27 May
Jenny, over at Lucacept has written a really useful post on cyberbullying (link takes you direct to the post) and has included a couple of excellent videos from YouTube on the subject. I've included one of them here - very powerful and to the point. See her posting for more.

Reviews of universities and their facilities written by students for students.

Hazel's comment:

I looked at this with the jaundiced eye of "someone of more mature years" since my student reviewer is not currently available. I was disappointed at the underlying structure. I tried my usual information management / library and information science subject search and found nothing in the menus. The advanced search allowed me to look for information science and then proceeded to give me 48 modules at Hertfordshire, a pharmacology course at Ulster and five geographic information science degree courses. Ah well, some of the videos look better made than some of the things I see on facebook and I'm not the one going to university.

Free tools to encrypt your sensitive data

by ResourceShelf Contributing Editor, Dan Giancaterino

from: The Legal Intelligencer

…you spend most of your day lugging around stuff like laptops, USB flash drives, CD ROMs and more. What would happen to the client information on those devices if they are lost or stolen?
Encryption is the answer.

Read the full article -- and despair!

Real job titles for library and information science professionals

via Phil Bradley's weblog by philipbradley on 18 May

This is jaw dropping: Real Job Titles for Library and Information Science Professionals. There are dozens and dozens - screens full of the things. Worth having a look to see if your title is in there.

Hazel's comment:

When Phil says it's jaw dropping you'd better believe it!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Time to make up your mind. Or is it?

via Latest updates by Mark Samuels on 22 May

Technology workers are happy to recommend a career in IT, but the job titles of our children may be very different, writes Mark Samuels

You have a child who is about to make a decision that would dictate its quality of life for the next 40-or-so years.

Read the full article

Hazel's comment:
Mark Samuels wrote this to fellow IT workers but careers practitioners will find it of value -- if only to start understanding how job titles are changing almost daily in this work of ICT.

Charity status of colleges

via The Scottish Government News Online - Latest 20 May

Order laid in Parliament to ensure colleges continue to qualify as charities.

Hazel's comment:

Yet another divergence in the law between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

LaptopLock - freeware security program protects your laptop if it is stolen

via The Red Ferret Journal by Nigel on 7 May


Windows freeware (at the moment!) which you install and configure on your hard disk to protect your notebook computer if it's stolen. Once the machine is connected to the Internet it will connect to a central server and then either delete files, encrypt them, execute a program or go 'yah boo!!