Friday, February 26, 2010

Food Environment Atlas - a nudge in action

From Resource Shelf:
USDA Demonstrates New ‘Food Environment Atlas’ Unveiled as Part of Let’s Move! Campaign

USDA officials today highlighted one of its newest web-based mapping tool, Your Food Environment Atlas, which will enable researchers, policy makers, and the public to find information on a range of factors that affect access to healthy, affordable food, and will allow users to map the data by county.

The map will provide highly detailed information on local food environments and health outcomes, including grocery store access and disease and obesity prevalence.

The demonstration of the new mapping tool follows First Lady Michelle Obama’s launch of the Let’s Move! campaign, a high-priority initiative to address childhood obesity within a generation. The food environment atlas will help to jump-start a national discussion on childhood nutrition, health, and well-being.

(from Food Atlas)

Food environment factors—such as store/restaurant proximity, food prices, food and nutrition assistance programs, and community characteristics—interact to influence food choices and diet quality. Research is beginning to document the complexity of these interactions, but more is needed to identify causal relationships and effective policy interventions.

Objectives of the Atlas:
  • To assemble statistics on food environment indicators to stimulate research on the determinants of food choices and diet quality
  • To provide a spatial overview of a community’s ability to access healthy food and its success in doing so

What can users do with the Atlas?

  • Create maps showing the variation in a single indicator across the U.S.; for example, variation in the prevalence of obesity or access to grocery stores across U.S. counties
  • View all of the county-level indicators for a selected county
  • Use the advanced query tool to identify counties sharing the same degree of multiple indicators; for example, counties with both high poverty and high obesity rates

    Check it out, pretty amazing resource! And, most interestingly, a practical example of Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler's behavioral economics tool the "nudge".  Michelle Obama is employing "nudges" in her LetsMove campaign to reduce obesity in children. (legal scholar Sunstein is a friend of Barack Obama, and currently in charge of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He has also written insightfully about conspiracy theories....a topic Knowbodies will revisit to soon...) Read about nudges at the Nudge blog (another example of a nudge, familiar to us all, is the auto-suggest function found in Google and other search engines!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


If there's one particular segment of a YouTube video you find particularly important and wish to highlight - like Gordon Brown's bullish entrance here, his excellent work on the snare drum (unfortunately with hands hidden), and the concluding impassioned plea -  you can snip off all the superfluous stuff using TubeChop

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Unspeakable Truth

Here's a refreshingly frank, pithy and occasionally witty article on the "death of libraries" theme. Writer Ned Potter thinks  we are nowhere near the point where libraries are no longer needed yet, and that "there’s plenty we can do in the meantime to ensure we never get there. The first thing is to ensure everyone knows what we can already do for them, and the second thing is to adapt to what they need us to do for them." Not sure what it is - if anything - they will need us to do for them, but the article concludes sensibly that The unspeakable truth is that we should not try and outlive our usefulness. We certainly shouldn’t try and prolong that usefulness by effectively sabotaging our users’ ability to empower themselves.[ie. by resisting technologies, such as e-books, that might contribute to the obsolescence of libraries]


 Fun and contrast how often words have been spoken by presidents in campaigns, inaugural speeches and State of the Unions. Obama leads the pack in frequency (as % of speech) on "education", and also does well on "library."

Another interesting site, but focusing only on the State of the Union speeches, is 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stamping out homophily at LibraryThing

LibaryThing, bravely acknowledging the homophilic tendencies that such communities encourage, has a feature called the tells you what books are least likely to appear in personal libraries that contain the book you happen to be reading. Seems to work just dandy - I entered Nabokov's astonishing Lolita, and the UnSuggester unsuggested The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die by John Piper. (naturally, LibraryThing also has a Suggester).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Report on digital creep (ie.a phenomenon, not a person)

Forthcoming April 2010 from Council on Library and Information Resources (sign up for notification of publication here) See also related article (and lots of comments) in Inside Higher Ed 
A three-report volume will examine key issues in the research library's transition from an analog to a digital environment for knowledge access, preservation, and reconstitution.

The volume will include an introductory essay by CLIR President Charles Henry, followed by three reports:

Can a New Research Library be All-Digital? Lisa Spiro and Geneva Henry

On the Cost of Keeping a Book, Paul Courant and Matthew "Buzzy" Nielsen

Ghostlier Demarcations: Large-Scale Text Digitization Projects and their Utility for Contemporary Humanities Scholarship, report of a CLIR investigation

Backchanneling again

In my dotage, or vigilance, as I like to think of it,  I have occasionally railed against the notion of backchanneling, e.g. here and here and here. But hey, if this is the future, who am I etc?

Now the superb Educause Learning Initiative series "7 Things You Should Know" addresses this concept - so repugnant to old-school geezers like me - in an attractive 2-pager.  Here's a summary, certainly much fairer than anything I could muster.  ("add another dimension to learning"  - yeah, right):

Backchannel communication is a secondary conversation that takes place at the same time as a conference session, lecture, or instructor-led learning activity. This might involve students using a chat tool or Twitter to discuss a lecture as it is happening, and these background conversations are increasingly being brought into the foreground of lecture interaction. Digital technologies allow background discussions—which have always been a component of classes, conferences, and presentations—to be brought out of the shadows and, perhaps, incorporated as a formal part of learning activities. Instructors and presenters alike should be aware of this dynamic and the opportunity it presents to add another dimension to learning. 


Friday, February 12, 2010

Buzz off

If you feel Google's Buzz is just an unwelcome intrusion, here's advice on how to disable it.

dvdp takes vision to a new level

dvdp is the creative director and founder of the design atelier volll. A genius, in my humble estimation. See some stunning stuff in his visual chinatown. I spent about an hour there, and vowed never to drink again. You can also get your daily dose via Twitter

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The future of reading

Haven't read this article in Fortune yet, but it has generated a fair amount of commentary. Radical Patron - who follows these things closely - says it's the best thing she's read on the topic.

Do school libraries need books?

Do school libraries need books? Nicholas Carr and some other people I've never heard of weigh-in:

James Tracy, headmaster, Cushing Academy
Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, English professor, University of Maryland
Liz Gray, library director, Dana Hall School
Nicholas Carr, author, “The Big Switch”
William Powers, author, “Hamlet’s BlackBerry”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

World's top think-tanks

Here, following up last year's post on the same, are the Global Go To Think Tank Ratings for 2009

From the introduction by James G. McGann, Director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, at the University of Pennsylvania:

The Global Go To Think Tank Rankings was launched in 2006 in response to the never-ending
requests that I received from journalists, scholars and government officials to provide a list of the
leading think tanks in a particular country or region of the world. When I first designed the
project it was intended to identify some of the leading think tanks in the world in an attempt to
answer these inquiries in a more systematic fashion. Over the last 4 years the process has been
refined and the number of institutions and individuals involved in the project has grown steadily.

I was chagrined to see Norway trounced by our Nordic neighbors in last year's survey, with only 15 think tanks as compared with 26 in Finland, 30 in Denmark and 67 in Sweden. That seems unfair, with all the money we have here, and this year it's even worse; there are now 34 in Denmark and 74 in Sweden, but still only 15 in Norway. We've always been told by the U.S, "you may be a small nation, but you punch above your weight in foreign affairs," but perhaps the U.S. says that to everybody. Anyway, here's a point of light: Norway's PRIO, the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, is ranked 20 in the category "Top 50 Think Tanks Worldwide (non-U.S.)." The only other Nordic think-tank in that august company is Sweden's Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), at number 4.  First three spots in the U.S. and Non-U.S. category go to Chatham House, UK, Transparency International, Germany, and  International Crisis Group, Belgium.

The top 15 think-tanks all told are (according to this survey)
1. Brookings Institution, US
2. Council on Foreign Relations, US
3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, US
4. RAND Corporation, US
5. Cato Institute, US
6. Chatham House, UK
7. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), UK
8. Heritage Foundation, US
9. Center for Strategic and International Studies, US
10. Peterson Institute for International Economics, US
11. International Crisis Group, Belgium
12. American Enterprise Institute, US
13. World Bank Research Department, US
14. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, US
15. Amnesty International, UK

Monday, February 8, 2010

“This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All”

Here's a short interview with Marilyn Johnson, author of "This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All." It explores, among other things,  "the secret underbelly of librarianship"(Mary Roach, author of Bonk) and "offers  insight into the wildness behind the orderly facade of the humans who are at the controls of our information  (Pete Dexter, author of Paris Trout) God preserve me, I'm retiring to my oxygen tent to read this thing right now!!!

Here are a couple of reviews: Judy Bolton-Fasman in the Boston Globe and Christine Rosen (she of "People of the Screen") in WSJ.

Incidentally, Rosen contends in her review that "as several recent reports have made clear, the browsing, skimming and multitasking of this younger generation also leads to less retention of what it is reading" - but aren't there as many reports/studies that indicate that today's browsing, skimming, and multitasking enhances the ability to learn and retain information?

Open Thesis

This is how Open Thesis describes itself:

OpenThesis is a free repository of theses, dissertations, and other academic documents, coupled with powerful search, organization, and collaboration tools.
As the first free database of its kind, we hope that you will take a moment to upload your theses, dissertations and other publications -- and ask your colleagues to do the same!

Friday, February 5, 2010

"That pregnant, mental pause of reading has come under threat like never before...."

Tell me about it, Alan Bisset. And bloggers and Twitterers and Facebookers are just too busy writing to read. In an article in Seed magazine, Denis Pelli and Charles Bigelow trace the explosive rate of authorship over the years, from 1400 to 2013 - when  Twitter will have turned us all into published (defined as having a readership of 100) writers. As readers, we consume. As authors, we create. Our society is changing from consumers to creators. That has a nice ring to it, but if the creating comes at the expense of consuming  - and talking/writing comes at the expense of listening/reading, then perhaps not. (Pelli/Bigelow reference from 3:17 a.m)


TweetGrid presents itself:
TweetGrid is a powerful Twitter Search Dashboard that allows you to search for up to 9 different topics, events, converstations, hashtags, phrases, people, groups, etc in real-time. As new tweets are created, they are automatically updated in the grid. No need to refresh the page!
For more, see the FAQ. This appears to be a very useful tool for following multiple topics (as many as 9) in real-time!

Is the iPad a game-changer for libraries?

The Radical Patron   thinks so, and makes a compelling case. She urges us to "Check out the video below from Sports Illustrated to get a glimpse of what's to come in the next few years. Then, think about tablet devices in a few years when competitors have entered the market, features have been added, publishers have created richer content and prices have dropped." Gosh, it's pretty amazing stuff.