Archive for January, 2007

PDF Specification released to AIIM/ISO

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Seen (via Slashdot) in Technoracle:

Adobe announced it will release the entire PDF specification (current version 1.7) to the International Standards Organization (ISO) via AIIM. PDF has reached a point in it’s maturity cycle where maintaining it in an open standards manner is the next logical step in evolution. Not only does this reinforce Adobe’s commitment to open standards (see also my earlier blog on the release of flash runtime code to the Tamarin open source project at Sourceforge), but it demonstrates that open standards and open source strategies are really becoming a mainstream concept in the software industry.

So what does this really mean? Most people know that PDF is already a standard so why do this now? This event is very subtle yet very significant. PDF will go from being an open standard/specification and defacto standard to a full blown du jure standard. The difference will not affect implementers much given PDF has been a published open standard for years. There are some important distinctions however. First – others will have a clearly documented process for contributing to the future of the PDF specification.

(See full article at source.)
Does this have implications for the takeup of XPS in the future?

100 Alternative Search Engines

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Seen in Read/Write Web (by Charles S. Knight):

Ask anyone which search engine they use to find information on the Internet and they will almost certainly reply: “Google.” Look a little further, and market research shows that people actually use four main search engines for 99.99% of their searches: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and (in that order). But in my travels as a Search Engine Optimizer (SEO), I have discovered that in that .01% lies a vast multitude of the most innovative and creative search engines you have never seen. So many, in fact, that I have had to limit my list of the very best ones to a mere 100.

But it’s not just the sheer number of them that makes them worthy of attention; each one of these search engines has that standard “About Us” link at the bottom of the homepage. I call it the “why we’re better than Google” page. And after reading dozens and dozens of these pages, I have come to the conclusion that, taken as a whole, they are right!

Worth investigating these. There used to be several search engines that touted themselves as academic resources (Northernlights?), or as having cleverer algorithms than the big ones (Teoma?). I wouldn’t know what to look for any more, though. Do we actually need cleverer search engines, or is raw power all that matters?

Online “Middle English Compendium”

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

See on Humanist posted by Paul Schaffner |

The University of Michigan announces that under new arrangements worked out between the University Press and the University Library, all components of the online “Middle English Compendium,” including the online version of the Middle English Dictionary, are now freely accessible without fee, password, or any other impediment to access:
The MED has hitherto been available only on a subscription or password-protected basis, till the Press recouped its substantial contribution to the original conversion costs. This has now been accomplished, and we are grateful for their agreement that the time has come to liberate it.

It was always our hope and intention to open the MED when we could, both in the general interest of public access (to which as a public university library we are dedicated), and with the expectation that open access will facilitate eventual interlinking amongst sibling dictionaries and between MED and other projects (e.g. online editions, which are now free to link lexical lookups to the appropriate MED entry).

The official press release is here:

Visualizing Bibliography

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Bill Turkel has been hacking on his Readings in Digital History list to see what he can see. He visualizes and discusses the signatures of monads, dyads, clusters of “classics,” bridges and the subclusters they link to, and bestsellers.

Humanities Computing Links from TAPoR

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Geoffrey Rockwell has put up a collection of tagged links to online works about humanities computing. It’s a good complement to Bill Turkel’s Readings in Digital History. And, best of all, it’s TAPoRized, so you can search the collection and run its contents through any of the TAPoR text analysis tools.

Google maps and millions of books

Friday, January 26th, 2007

It was only a matter of time: Google has added overview maps for full-view books in Google Book Search.

Even though Google is not the first organization to employ geoparsing technologies and autogenerated maps in the interface to a digital library, they certainly are the biggest media darling to do so. Consequently — and because of the prominent role Google plays in web search, earth visualization and on-going mass digitization efforts — the average person is likely to be introduced to this class of information interaction via Google’s new feature.

But what good is it? Will it get better? Why should humanists care?

I’m contemplating a series of posts offering some idiosyncratic answers to these questions … but first off, let’s just focus on what it does …

“For God sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia”

Friday, January 26th, 2007

What’s all this fuss about? The Middlebury College History Department’s so-called Stand Against Wikipedia is just an implementation of the seven-month-old advice of Wikipedia’s own founder.


Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Seen in Humanist:

Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2007 06:46:56 +0000
From: Michael Fraser
Subject: e-Learning events at Oxford

22nd and 23rd March
Said Business School

The Shock of the Old 6: The Shock of the Social
One-Day Conference on Educational Technologies

Said Business School, University of Oxford, March 22nd 2007

The Learning Technologies Group at Oxford University Computing
Services is pleased to announce its sixth annual one-day conference
on educational technologies.

Shock 6 will explore the issues arising from the rise of social
networking tools, Web 2.0 software and related collaborative
technologies, and how best to make use of these innovative tools in
teaching, learning and research.

For more information and online booking please visit:

Beyond the Search Engine

Said Business School, University of Oxford, March 23rd 2007

Beyond the Search Engine continues the successful ‘Beyond…’ series
of talks and debates hosted by the Learning Technologies Group at the
University of Oxford. This year the theme is plagiarism and academic
integrity in the modern world of social networking and private learning.

* Does the ready provision of information in the public sphere
detract from students’ ability to develop their own knowledge?
* Does the pressure to perform undermine students’ academic integrity?

The day will consist of talks by experts in the field, and two debates.

This event follows on from the Shock of the Old conference on ICT in
Teaching and Learning, 22nd March 2007, held at the same venue and
with similar charging.

For more details and online booking please visit:

Second Life experient in social copyright

Sunday, January 21st, 2007
I spotted this several weeks ago in Wired magazine, but have only just gotten around to taking it in fully. The scenario:

Businesses in Second Life are in an uproar over a rogue [ed. note: modified from Open Source] software program that duplicates “in world” items. They should be. But the havoc sewn by Copybot promises to transform the virtual word into a bold experiment in protecting creative work without the blunt instrument of copyright law.

Linden Labs, the owners of Second Life, decided against employing DRM (which “won’t work”) or adjudicating copyright disputes themselves, but instead have added creator and creation-date indicators to all items.

The next phase of Linden’s response is more interesting. The company plans to develop an infrastructure to enable Second Life residents and landowners to enforce IP-related covenants within certain areas, or as a prerequisite for joining certain groups. In effect, Second Life’s inhabitants will self-police their world, according to rules and social norms they develop themselves.

There are some interesting comments in the full article about the innovation incentive value of copyright, and the possible success of social norms as against enforcible law as a means of controlling this.

8 things about e-books

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Charlie Lowe just blogged about the Educause Learning Initiative‘s helpful introductory 2-pager entitled 7 Things You Should Know About E-books. It’s a decent tool for introducing colleagues to some of the key issues surrounding, and potential benefits involved in, electronic publication methods.

But it also pains me to find that the document, which contains the following valid observation …

E-books have been slow to break the pattern of simply being digital copies of paper books with a few added features

… is only available as an Adobe PDF file, laid out in two columns that I’m sure make it pretty and easy-to-read on paper, but that render the document highly annoying to try to read on-screen.

Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Seen in Humanist:

**Conference Announcement**

Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology
Meeting of the UK Chapter: January 24th – 26th 2007

Tudor Merchants Hall, Southampton

The CAA UK chapter is intended as a forum for research in the area of archaeological computing and quantitative methods. In this the final meeting in a series of five hosted by the Archaeological Computing Research Group at the University of Southampton we have joined together with colleagues from Southampton City Museums. The conference will take place in the beautifully restored 15th century timber framed Tudor Merchants Hall.

CAA UK meetings are intended to reflect the considerable breadth of computational activity within archaeological practice, whether in research, cultural resource management or private consultancy. In addition this year we also look towards our colleagues within museums for insights into the role of computational practice in that sphere. The programme for CAA UK 2007 (overleaf) includes more than 30 papers and posters drawn from a wide range of topics, including maritime and terrestrial GIS, archaeoacoustics, CAD and VR, field survey, multimedia technologies, heritage management, archiving, data standards and dissemination, mathematical modelling, archaeological theory, and landscape design.



Another Reason for Opening Access to Research

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Seen in the Creative Commons feed, an article in the British Medical Journal by John Wilbanks, executive director of the Science Commons, on why scientific research needs to be Open Access (and his arguments apply to all academic research, of course):

Summary points

Authors should be prioritising open access to their works—for the good of other scientists and to ensure that the full benefits of the internet and advanced technology may be realised

Open access is rapidly becoming a mainstream idea in scholarly publishing, with more than 2000 open access journals and more than a million author self archived open access papers

Legal and technical barriers to open access are easily overcome using freely available tools

Full article at

Mellon Post-Doc at Tufts

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

See on the Tufts website (see full ad). This might be an appropriate post for a digital classicist to apply for; interested candidates are encouraged to contact Gregory Crane ( as soon as possible.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has generously provided Tufts University with funding to bring two postdoctoral fellows each year for four years to pursue new collaborative research projects with Tufts faculty in the Humanities. Two fellows will be appointed in fall 2007.

Each fellow will be housed for two years in a particular department or interdisciplinary program, and will be associated with one or more Tufts faculty members who will serve as advisor/mentor(s). Fellows will be expected to teach one course in the spring semester of their first year and two in the second year of their residency. Applications will be competitively evaluated by the Mellon Postdoctoral Committee There is no requirement that the fellows be U.S. citizens. Applicants for the fellowships must have received their PhD within the past five years. The stipend for fellows will be $46,440 plus benefits, and a research allowance of $6,000 per year.

Recipients of the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowships will appointed by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, upon the recommendation of the Mellon Postdoctoral Committee and in consultation with appropriate departments. All applications must be received no later than February 1, 2007.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Mellon Administrator David Proctor at or 617-627-3213.

See the full advert, with application forms, online at

What’s all this about furr-burr?

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Greg Crane wants me to think about Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR). Steven MacCall’s lecture slides on Historical Overview of Information Organization, AKA The ‘From Tablets to FRBR’ Lecture (requires Flash) seem like a good place to get started.

William Denton’s FRBR blog (by way of code4lib) brought this to my attention, along with a couple of other useful looking starting points:

Readings in Digital History

Monday, January 15th, 2007

By way of Dan Cohen’s blog, I discovered Bill Turkel’s list of nearly 100 books relevant to digital history. The meme is a comps reading list for an imaginary digital history sub-field. I was psyched to see geographic history and GIS for history getting plenty of coverage, and python too!

I’m ashamed that I wasn’t subscribed to Bill’s blog feed until this morning.

Code of Conduct for Internet Censorship

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Seen in last week’s New Scientist:

Internet companies are poised to launch a code of conduct governing their operations in China.

Web firms have faced sustained criticism for their activities in China, which include censoring websites. So Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have been working with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford and Harvard universities, alongside Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to develop an ethical code of conduct. A spokeswoman for Yahoo indicated that it will probably be launched in the next few months.

The code will include an undertaking not to censor a website or search term unless ordered to do so in writing. This is in response to criticism from Human Rights Watch and others that companies have been “more royal than the queen” in censoring words before being ordered to. The firms will also pledge to keep information on users for the shortest time possible, and to inform people …

Full article (subscription required)

This is good news for those of us web geeks who were dismayed at Google and Yahoo’s behaviour in China last year. But it needs observing and enforcing–and not just in China but also in the West, of course.

Identifiers and authority records

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Lately, Sean Gillies and I have been thinking hard about persistent identifiers and simple URLs for the names, locations and places in our conceptual model for Pleiades. It’s just one thread going into the communal attempts of computing classicists to produce a strong-but-flexible interoperability fabric for our information systems. Greg Crane was pounding the round table about this issue during the Pleiades meet-up last weekend at the Blue Ginger in San Diego. I was reminded of the conversation when I ran across Ed Summers’ interesting post on identifiers and authority records.


New Journal: Open Access Research

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

A new journal entitled Open Access Research (OAR) is now accepting submissions and plans its first issue (thereafter, thrice a year) in August 2007. It’s described as “a peer-reviewed, open-access journal that will enable greater interaction and facilitate a deeper conversation about open access.”

By way of Dorothea Salo’s Caveat Lector and

Open Course Ware

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Seen in Slashdot, a comment by Kent Simon:

“Many people may not know that MIT has initiated OpenCourseWare, an initiative to share all of their educational resources with the public. This generous act is intended (in classical MIT style) to make knowledge free, open, and available. It’s a great resource for people looking to improve their knowledge of our world. OpenCourseWare should prove exceptionally beneficial to those who may not be able to afford the quality of education offered at a school like MIT. Here’s a link to all currently available courses. It is expected that by the end of the year every course offered at MIT will be available on the OpenCourseWare site, including lecture notes, homework assignments, and exams. OpenCourseWare is not offered to replace collegiate education, but rather to spread knowledge freely.”

Googlian hegemony?

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Stuart Weibel blogged Mike Keller’s OCLC presentation entitled “Mass Digitization in Google Book Search: Effects on Scholarship.” Weibel says:

For those unsettled by the rapidity of Googlian hegemony in library spaces, Mike constructs a vivid and compelling argument for embracing the revolution … Google Book Search (GBS) is likely to revolutionize access to books more than any single factor in the library world … Could we (the library community) have marshalled either the vision or the resources to accomplish the task on our own?  It is unlikely.

Read more, including his comments about digitization competion and the cows from the dark side.

By way of

Creative Commons helps authors terminate copyright transfers

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Nathan Willis, by way of NewsForge, writes:

Still seething over that bad book publishing deal you entered into in 1981? Good news … Creative Commons (CC) … is beta testing a Web-based tool … that helps authors through the tricky legal maze required to terminate a copyright transfer.

Read the whole story.

A Companion to Digital Humanities online

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Seen in Humanist:

I’m pleased to announce that the complete text of A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004) is now freely available online, at —please forward this announcement to other lists and communities who may be interested in the news. Thanks very much to Blackwell for agreeing to this arrangement, and to Jonathan Gorman of the UIUC libraries (and the UIUC Gradaute School of Library and Information Science) for modifying XTF (from the California Digital Library) so that it works with the Blackwell DTD. The editors encourage you to consider buying the paperback when it comes out in the fall of 2007. Also, if you spot typos or other errors in the text, please send them to John Unsworth [].

As far as I can see there is no special provision for downloading or printing the articles, but the advantage of course is being able to search and cite (and if you want it on paper, buy it!). The volume includes Harrison Eiteljorg’s ‘Computing for Archaeologists‘ and Greg Crane’s ‘Classics and the Computer: An End of the History‘.

Second Life to open code

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

I’ve posted here several times about the educational fun to be had with ancient and other reconstructions in Second Life (see e.g. 3D Egyptian Archaeology in Second Life). Now more good news from Linden Labs, which may make SL an even more user-designed and progressive virtual word environment. This announcement seen in Lawrence Lessig’s blog:

I’ve been a long time supporter of SecondLife. Yesterday, they made me proud. SecondLife announced it will GPL its client software. And it committed itself to freeing the back-end as well. How significant is SecondLife? Here’s a really interesting empirical study by Tristan Louis about SecondLife activity.

Thesaurus linguae Latinae CD-Version workshop

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Something of interest for all Latinists in or near London:

The Centre for Computing in the Humanities and the Digital Classicist would like to invite all those interested to a workshop on the CD-Version of the Thesaurus linguae Latinae.

Dr Bianca Schröder (Munich), will be giving a seminar titled: A Traditional Dictionary in a New Medium (abstract) as part of the Humanities Computing series at CCH on 15th February at 1 pm.

In addition to this Dr Bianca Schröder will be running two workshops to be held in the seminar room at CCH (address below):

13:00 to 16:00 on Wednesday 14th February


14:00 to 17:00 on Friday 16th February

Workshop description:

The Thesaurus linguae Latinae is the most comprehensive dictionary of the Latin language; it covers every author and work from the first
items of Latin up to 600 AD. The long-term project, situated at the
‘Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, took up the work in 1894 and the first fascicle was printed in 1900. At the present moment, the
staff at Munich are treating words beginning with the letter ‘p’. The
articles are still published in printed form, but they are now also
available in a CD-Version.

After an introduction into the highly elaborate, principally
dichotomic, structure of the articles and a short exercise in using
the articles, the participants of the workshop will have the
opportunity to work on a lemma by themselves. We will look at material
illustrating the Latin verb ‘computare’ and think about the general
questions of lexicography : about the meaning of a word in different
contexts, about the various syntactic usages, about the change of
meaning and usage throughout the times, and about the presentation of the development of a word in an TLL-article. One important issue will be to compare the printed edition with the digital version and to
discuss the questions and needs that can be served by a digital Latin

If you wish to book a place on one of these workshops please contact:
I will send out further details to those registerd nearer the time.

Simon Mahony

Centre for Computing in the Humanities
King’s College London
Kay House
7 Arundel St
London WC2R 3DX

Integration Proclamation

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Many authors and readers of content on this blog are deeply concerned about issues of ineroperability, data integration (and similar terms) as applied to humanities computing. Greg Crane’s recent response to the draft statement of the joint APA/AIA task force on Electronic Publication puts this issue center-stage. Under the leadership of Neel Smith and Chris Blackwell, the Technical Working Group of the Center for Hellenic Studies is pushing forward efforts to identify and develop (when necessary) mechanisms for data interchange and actionable digital citation. My own work, with many collaborators, on EpiDoc and Pleiades places a high value on interoperability. I could go on with more examples …

In light of all this concern, it’s worth noting a signature drive that has just started: The Integration Proclamation. It looks like this effort originates from the community action, advocacy and non-governmental organization community, but the basic issue is the same: too many of our systems and datasets are walled gardens; until we can share data and behaviors seamlessly, we’ll be hobbled in our attempts to do good stuff.