Plagiarism in Blogs

February 24, 2007

I’ve been thinking alot about plagiarism on the Internet. I have always thought of plagiarism in the specific context of people taking information off the Internet and replicating it into the paper they turn in for class w/o crediting the source.

Recently, though, I have been thinking of plagiarism that takes place when a blogger takes the content of someone else’s blog and posts it into their own blog without crediting the source. How could plagiarism even be verified in this case? Who is to say that the plagiariser didn’t come up with the content first, and the other person copied it? Who is the original creator? Who owes what to whom?

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Searching iTunes

February 24, 2007

I have had iTunes for more than a year, and it is the main software I use to buy and organize my music.  My information science courses have begun to make me think about how “information packages” are indexed.  In other words, what parts make up the information package, what are those parts named, and what level of granularity?

From the interface, I can ascertain that the songs are indexed by name, time, artist, album, price, popularity, and genre.  These elements/fields and the content in them can be though of as metadata, and together, these parts desribe the entire song.  However, users are not able to search all of these fields.  The search box does not allow users to limit their searches to song name, or album, or anything else.  Users are forced to type something into their search box, and whala, all of these things pop up.  The results you get could be because your search term is part of a song title, an album, or whatever.  Either way, it is all mixed up.  Try searching for “beetles” and you’ll see what I mean.

Besides allowing users to search the fields that iTunes already indexes, it should also index the lyrics of songs (just the keywords), so that users can search by lyrics.  How many times have you known the lyrics of the song you wanted, but couldn’t remember the title?  The access points to song records should not exclude keywords in the lyrics.


Our PCs a digital library? Is every PC owner a digital librarian?

February 16, 2007

For one of my classes, groups are suppose to build and manage a digital collection of “information packages” using Contentdm. It’s almost like a miniature digital library. It got me thinking about how much digital content we all have on our computers and how, in a way, we each have created our own digital library, thus becoming digital librarians. We all probably have the following on our computers: Word documents, PDF docs, HTML files, graphics, photos, music collections, audiofiles, video, bookmarked web sites, cookies, viruses(?), personal data, browsing history, format/display settings, clipboard items, etc. It’s also interesting how we all try to organize and manage all of this information using folders, creating hierarchies of folders, specifying locations (desktop, folder, recycling bin, etc.). We create metadata by naming these files and folders that we create. We also control that information because we, ourselves, make the decisions on what is collected (i.e. saved), what it is named, where it is stored, when it gets deleted, who has access to it (user names and passwords–admin. rights).

So are our computers a digital library? Are we digital librarians? Well, let’s take a look at the definition of a digital library. Arlene Taylor in her book The Organization of Information defines digital libraries as “a collection of information packages in digital form that are selected, brought together, organized, preserved, and to which access is provided over digital networks for a particular community of users.”

I would say that we each fit that definition pretty well. Congratulations.


Skills Needed for Informatics

February 12, 2007

Very often I am asked what informatics is when I  tell people that I am studying informatics.  Really, it concerns itself with the non-technical side of computer science (if you will).  When I began this program, I wasn’t sure what skills and knowledge I would need to have, but as I’ve gone through this program, I believe there is an ideal skillset.  So what is that ideal skillset?  Well, as long as you have developed good critical and analytical thinking skills, you shouldn’t have a problem.  However, I do believe there is an ideal background.  This is what I belive that background is . . .
1.  Well-rounded academic background (I hope you paid attention during those general requirements courses during undergrad years).

2.  At least a couple of upper-division courses in all fields of study:  humanities, social sciences, hard sciences, arts/performing arts.  This will give you insight into the “culture” of each of these academic areas:  how information is created, how their practitioners think, how they use information, their values, work practices, etc.

3.  Competence in computer programming, networking/data communications, office productivity software, and arts/design software (DreamWeaver,  Photoshop, etc.)  Although informatics is about the non-technical, you will be required to interact with techies in your future informatics job.  It’s a good idea to know what they are talking about . . . also it’s a good idea to be well-informed of the abilities and constraints of technologies (after all you are designing these info. solutions).

4.  Any job/career experience.  As you take classes and are exposed to theory, career experience will get you thinking abot the information problems, technological impacts, user needs, information problems, etc. specific to your former profession.  As a former teacher, I am always thinking  about the impact of technologies on the teaching profession, its impact on student learning, information problems, possible IT solutions,  etc.  It’s nice to have a point-of-reference.

5.  A course or two in statistics.  Surprisingly, many academic subjects rely heavily on statistics to validate information.  Scientists will not say that they know anything for sure . . . it’s all a matter of statistics, and the statistics suggest that their hypothesis is correct.  You can’t seriously think you can properly evaluate information if you don’t have any competence in this area.


Health Outcomes Project

February 8, 2007

For my “Information Architecture” class, my group and I took on a project created by the School of Public Health here at UCLA. They are trying to crate an information system that provides Health Forecasting similar to the economic forecasting business schools like the Anderson School of Managment (UCLA) conduct. They envision that public health advocates (lobbyists, community activists, etc.) in California could use the forecasting models they create to advocate for funding of certain health programs for their community. For example, a public health advocate could use the demographic data the IS system has for thier community, zip code, etc. to calculate/model the effects of eliminating vending machines from elementary schools on Body Mass Index (BMI). Another example could be the effect of increasing the number of fruits and vegetables in local grocery stores on coronary heart disease 10 years from now. These projections will  be for their specific communities because the database will eventually have demographic data for small geographic areas (the forecasts could be for the entire state of CA, or for a specific county, or even a specific community within a city).   The advocates could then use these projections when applying for grants or when lobbying for legislation.

If this system is successful, public health advocates in California will have a tremendous advantage over others when applying for grants. In addition, they will have reliable evidence specific to their community to support their argument.

My teammates and I are very excited about this project. It is one of those projects that we feel will really make a difference, especially for low-income communities. I will write more about this project as we continue to work on it.


Information System in the Gym

February 6, 2007

The sources of information and the information problems at JWC are numerous. One of the biggest sources of information (and I believe the most useful) are the exercise machines. Some of the exercise machines have digital interfaces that record information such as calories burned, distance, speed, heart rate, difficulty of exercise, etc. Once a person finishes using the machines, the information is erased. I saw one individual who recorded his exercises, the number of repetitions and sets he completed, and the weight. Another person I spoke with said that she does not really pay much attention to the information displayed on the machines; instead, she just exercises until she feels that she had a good workout. The personal fitness trainer I talked with emphasized how important it is for exercisers to keep track of their progress if they have fitness goals. If exerciser’s do not record the data the machine displays or remember it, the data simply becomes lost.

The solution I envision is a system that automatically records all your exercise information and stores in on a database. If each of the machines were connected to a database, a person could swipe their BruinCard at a machine before they begin exercising. When they are finished exercising, they could push a button, and the machine sends all the data to that person’s record: calories burned, distance run, resistance level, repetitions, etc. At a later time, the exerciser could simply login to MyUCLA and retrieve all their information. Perhaps a computer program could be designed to “crunch” the data and output graphs, charts, etc. Such a system would be beneficial in helping exercisers keep track of their progress without having to worry about remembering, writing the information down, or “crunching” the numbers themselves.

One of the issues raised was security and privacy of this personal data. I believe this concern could be mitigated if a unique login and password were required for an exerciser to access his or her information. As long as that exerciser did not share his or her login ID and password with a third party, there should be no security threat. Also, the database administrators could adopt a policy by which the data would be deleted automatically after a given amount of time or under certain circumstances or conditions. Of course, this could be an “opt-in” system and there should be no requirement to swipe a BruinCard to operate and use the machines.