Webmentions for Improving Annotation and Preventing Bullying on the Web

Replied to Preventing abuse – Hypothesis by Dan Whaley (Hypothes.is)

There are potential solutions to the recent News Genius-gate incident, and simple notifications can go a long way toward helping prevent online bullying behavior.

There has been a recent brouhaha on the Internet (see related stories below) because of bad actors using News Genius (and potentially other web-based annotation tools like Hypothes.is) to comment on websites without their owner’s knowledge, consent, or permission. It’s essentially the internet version of talking behind someone’s back, but doing it while standing on their head and shouting with your fingers in their ears. Because of platform and network effects, such rude and potentially inappropriate commentary can have much greater reach than even the initial website could give it. Naturally in polite society, such bullying behavior should be curtailed.

This type of behavior is also not too different from more subtle concepts like subtweets or the broader issues platforms like Twitter are facing in which they don’t have proper tools to prevent abuse and bullying online.

A creator receives no notification if someone has annotated their content.–Ella Dawson

On March 25th, Ella Dawson wrote a blog post in which she requested that Genius disable its Web Annotator for her site.

Towards a Solution: Basic Awareness

I think that a major part of improving the issue of abuse and providing consent is building in notifications so that website owners will at least be aware that their site is being marked up, highlighted, annotated, and commented on in other locations or by other platforms. Then the site owner at least has the knowledge of what’s happening and can then be potentially provided with information and tools to allow/disallow such interactions, particularly if they can block individual bad actors, but still support positive additions, thought, and communication. Ideally this blocking wouldn’t occur site-wide, which many may be tempted to do now as a knee-jerk reaction to recent events, but would be fine grained enough to filter out the worst offenders.

Toward the end of notifications to site owners, it would be great if any annotating activity would trigger trackbacks, pingbacks, or the relatively newer and better webmention protocol of the W3C which comes out of the IndieWeb movement. Then site owners would at least have notifications about what is happening on their site that might otherwise be invisible to them. (And for the record, how awesome would it be if social media silos like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Medium, Tumblr, et al would support webmentions too!?!)

Perhaps there’s a way to further implement filters or tools (a la Akismet on platforms like WordPress) that allow site users to mark materials as spam, abusive, or “other” so that they are then potentially moved from “public” facing to “private” so that the original highlighter can still see their notes, but that the platform isn’t allowing the person’s own website to act as a platform to give safe harbor (or reach) to bad actors.

Further some site owners might appreciate gradable filters (G, PG, PG-13, R, X) so that either they or their users (or even parents of younger children) can filter what they’re willing to show on their site (or that their users can choose to see).

Consider also annotations on narrative forms that might be posted as spoilers–how can these be guarded against? For what happens when a even a well-meaning actor posts an annotation on page two which foreshadows that the butler did it thereby ruining the surprise on the last page? Certainly there’s some value in having such a comment from an academic/literary perspective, but it doesn’t mean that future readers will necessarily appreciate the spoiler. (Some CSS and a spoiler tag might easily and unobtrusively remedy the situation here?)

Certainly options can be built into the annotating platform itself as well as allowing server-side options for personal websites attempting to deal with flagrant violators and truly hard-to-eradicate cases.

Note: You’re welcome to highlight and annotate this post using Hypothes.is (see upper right corner of page) or on News Genius.

Do you have a solution for helping to harden the Internet against bullies? Share it in the comments below.
Related stories:
Replied to Support » Theme: Academica » Surprised by all the bad reviews..! by Adam_Murphy (@adam_murphy)Adam_Murphy (@adam_murphy) (WordPress.org)
Wow, I came on here to download this theme for a second time – only to see that all the reviews given were 1 stars. I have used it with great success on my website vondt.net (sorry, its in norwegian – but you should be able to see that the design works flawlessly). I haven’t used the slideshow function though, as I see most negatives are aimed at that function. Yes, it did have some hickups in the original source code, but these were quite easy to fix.. feel free to contact me via the website or otherwise and maybe I can help you out.

I agree wholeheartedly with Adam, though I don’t think I’d really seen any small issues except perhaps for an odd CSS issue in formatting an <h2> tag somewhere. (Note: This comment applies to v1.2.3 of Academica as on 4/2/15, the theme publisher made a DRASTIC change to the theme, so take caution in upgrading!!)

I have created a child-theme with one or two small customizations (slightly larger headings in side widgets and some color/text size changes), but otherwise have v1.2.3 working as perfectly as it was intended to. This includes the slideshow functionality on the homepage. See BoffoSocko as an example.

For those, perhaps including Adam, wanting to get the slider to work properly:

  • Go to your WP Dashboard hover on the menu tab “appearance” and click on “customize”
  • On the “Featured Content” tab, enter a tag you want to use to feature content on the homepage of your site. (In my case, I chose “featured” and also clicked “Hide tag from displaying in post meta and tag clouds”.)
  • Go to one or more posts (I think it works on up to 10 featurable posts) and tag them with the word you just used in the featured content setting (in my case “featured”
  • Next be sure to actually set a “Featured photo” for the post–930×300 pixels is the optimal photo size if I recall.
  • Now when you visit your home page, the slider should work properly and include arrows to scroll through them (these aren’t as obvious on featured photos with white backgrounds).
  • Note that on individual pages, you’ll still have static header image(s) which are also customizable in the “customize” section of the WP dashboard, which was mentioned in step 1.

I hope this helps.

@DuttonBooks What?! No appearances in his own back yard in Los Angeles? Let’s fix this…

Replied to a tweet by Dutton Books Dutton Books (Twitter)
Want to discover #TheBigPicture? Secure your spot now for one of @seanmcarroll's book tour events this May! pic.twitter.com/JvEMoW6j45

@DuttonBooks What?! No appearances in his own back yard in Los Angeles? Let’s fix this…

Reply to What is the Bibliotheca Fictiva?

Replied to What is the Bibliotheca Fictiva? by Isabelle Kargon (The Sheridan Libraries Blog)

From antiquity to current times, there have always been writers devising literary forgeries of all kinds, either copying an existing book from the classical period or simply creating a fake original edition to trick collectors and scholars into purchasing a book that would be difficult to compare to any other. Some forgers do it for financial gain, some for ideological reasons, and some probably because of an impish instinct to prove that they can fool respectable scholars into believing an item is genuine.

There are some famous examples of forgeries, like The Donation of Constantine, a document supposedly written by Emperor Constantine (285-337 AD) and granting to Pope Sylvester I large territories of the Western Roman Empire as a token of gratitude for having converted him. Actually, the document was a forgery from the eighth century. This was not revealed before the 15th century, when Lorenzo Valla published the Discourse on the Forgery of the Alleged Donation of Constantine, in which he revealed numerous anachronisms. The Catholic Churchsuppressed this work for many years before conceding, centuries later, that the Donation was a fake.

Pope Sylvester receiving imperial power from Emperor Constantine.

The Johns Hopkins University recently acquired one of the most comprehensive collections of literary forgeries: the Arthur and Janet Freeman Collection of Literary and Historical Forgery, also called the Bibliotheca Fictiva. Arthur Freeman is an antiquarian book dealer. He and his wife Janet Ing Freeman are scholars who wrote a book, reviewed here, about John Payne Collier, a nineteenth-century scholar and literary forger who published a number of fake documents on Shakespeare. Their collection includes 1,200 items covering many centuries, and they wanted it to belong to a research library, which is how these astonishing books are currently being made accessible for consultation in the Sheridan Libraries Special Collections. You will be able to discover works by Joannes Annius de Viterbo, by Thomas James Wise, and many others. Enjoy!

Any intention of acquiring the new text Bibliotheca Fictiva by Freedman as well? http://www.quaritch.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2014/09/Bibliotheca-Fictiva.pdf

I’m not seeing it available on Amazon yet…

Information Theory is the New Central Discipline

Replied to Information Theory is the new central discipline. by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (facebook.com)

INFORMATION THEORY is the new central discipline. This graph was from 20y ago in the seminal book Cover and Thomas, as the field was starting to be defined. Now Information Theory has been expanded to swallow even more fields.

Born in, of all disciplines, Electrical Engineering, the field has progressively infiltrating probability theory, computer science, statistical physics, data science, gambling theory, ruin problems, complexity, even how one deals with knowledge, epistemology. It defines noise/signal, order/disorder, etc. It studies cellular automata. You can use it in theology (FREE WILL & algorithmic complexity). As I said, it is the MOTHER discipline.

I am certain much of Medicine will naturally grow to be a subset of it, both operationally, and in studying how the human body works: the latter is an information machine. Same with linguistics. Same with political “science”, same with… everything.

I am saying this because I figured out what the long 5th volume of the INCERTO will be. Cannot say now with any precision but it has to do with a variant of entropy as the core natural generator of Antifragility.

[Revised to explain that it is not *replacing* other disciplines, just infiltrating them as the point was initially misunderstood…]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb via Facebook

[My comments posted to the original Facebook post follow below.]

I’m coming to this post a bit late as I’m playing a bit of catch up, but agree with it wholeheartedly.

In particular, applications to molecular biology and medicine are really beginning to come to a heavy boil in just the past five years. This particular year is the progenitor of what appears to be the biggest renaissance for the application of information theory to the area of biology since Hubert Yockey, Henry Quastler, and Robert L. Platzman’s “Symposium on Information Theory in Biology at Gatlinburg, Tennessee” in 1956.

Upcoming/recent conferences/workshops on information theory in biology include:

At the beginning of September, Christoph Adami posted an awesome and very sound paper on arXiv entitled “Information-theoretic considerations concerning the origin of life”  which truly portends to turn the science of the origin of life on its head.

I’ll note in passing, for those interested, that Claude Shannon’s infamous master’s thesis at MIT (in which he applied Boolean Algebra to electric circuits allowing the digital revolution to occur) and his subsequent “The Theory of Mathematical Communication” were so revolutionary, nearly everyone forgets his MIT Ph.D. Thesis “An Algebra for Theoretical Genetics” which presaged the areas of cybernetics and the current applications of information theory to microbiology and are probably as seminal as Sir R.A Fisher’s applications of statistics to science in general and biology in particular.

For those commenting on the post who were interested in a layman’s introduction to information theory, I recommend John Robinson Pierce’s An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals and Noise (Dover has a very inexpensive edition.) After this, one should take a look at Claude Shannon’s original paper. (The MIT Press printing includes some excellent overview by Warren Weaver along with the paper itself.) The mathematics in the paper really aren’t too technical, and most of it should be comprehensible by most advanced high school students.

For those that don’t understand the concept of entropy, I HIGHLY recommend Arieh Ben-Naim’s book Entropy Demystified The Second Law Reduced to Plain Common Sense with Seven Simulated Games. He really does tear the concept down into its most basic form in a way I haven’t seen others come remotely close to and which even my mother can comprehend (with no mathematics at all).  (I recommend this presentation to even those with Ph.D.’s in physics because it is so truly fundamental.)

For the more advanced mathematicians, physicists, and engineers Arieh Ben-Naim does a truly spectacular job of extending ET Jaynes’ work on information theory and statistical mechanics and comes up with a more coherent mathematical theory to conjoin the entropy of physics/statistical mechanics with that of Shannon’s information theory in A Farewell to Entropy: Statistical Thermodynamics Based on Information.

For the advanced readers/researchers interested in more at the intersection of information theory and biology, I’ll also mention that I maintain a list of references, books, and journal articles in a Mendeley group entitled “ITBio: Information Theory, Microbiology, Evolution, and Complexity.”

Venn Diagram of how information theory relates to other fields.
Figure 1.1 [page 2] from
Thomas M. Cover and Joy Thomas’s textbook Elements of Information Theory, Second Edition
(John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006) [First Edition, 1991]

Response to “Path: A Twenty-First Century Geotagging Journal”

Replied to Path: A Twenty-First Century Geotagging Journal by Adeline Koh (ProfHacker | The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Below is my response to Adeline Koh‘s article “Path: A Twenty-First Century Geotagging Journal” which appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Prof Hacker Blog on August 29, 2012.

path-image-242x300-scaled500

Adeline, Path might be a reasonable tool for accomplishing what you’d like, but it’s original design is as a very small and incredibly personal social networking tool and therefore not the best thing for your particular use case here. Toward that end, it’s personalization ability to limit who sees what is highly unlikely to change as they limit your “friends” to less than your Dunbar number in the first place. Their presupposition is that you’re only sharing things with your VERY closest friends.

For more functionality in the vein you’re looking at, you might consider some of the Google tools which will allow you much more granularity in terms of sharing, tracking, and geotagging. First I’d recommend using Google Latitude which will use your cell phone GPS to constantly track your location at all times if you wish of the ability to turn it on and off at will. This will allow you to go back and see exactly where you were on any given day you were sending them data. (It’s also been useful a few times when I’ve lost/left my phone while out of the house or in others’ cars and I can log in online to see exactly where my phone is right now.) Latitude will also allow you to share your physical location with others you designate as well as to export portions of data sets for later use/sharing.)

Unbeknownst to many, most cell phones and increasingly many cameras will utilize GPS chips or wifi to geolocate your photo and include it in the EXIF data imbedded into the “digital fingerprint” of your photo (along with the resolution, date, time, what type of camera took the photo, etc.) For this reason, many privacy experts suggest you remove/edit your exif data prior to posting your photos to public facing social media sites as it can reveal the location of your personal home, office, etc which you may not mean to share with the world.) There are a number of tools you can find online for viewing or editing your exif data.

You can then upload those photos to Google Plus which will allow you to limit your sharing of posts to whichever groups of people you’d prefer with a high degree of granularity, including using email addresses for people who aren’t already on the service. (They actually have a clever back up option that, if selected, will allow your phone to automatically upload all your photos to G+ in the background and making them private to you only for sharing at a later date if you choose.) I’m sure that with very little work, you can find some online tools (including even Google Maps perhaps) that will allow you to upload photos and have them appear on mapping software. (Think about the recent upgrade in Craigslist that takes posting data and maps it out onto the Openstreetmap.org platform).

Finally, as part of Google’s Data Liberation initiative you can go in and export all of your data for nearly all of their services including Latitude and from Picasa for photos.I think that playing around with these interlocking Google tools will give you exactly the type of functionality (and perhaps a little more than) you’re looking for.

Their user interface may not be quite as beautiful and slick as Path and may take half an hour of playing with to explore and configure your workflow exactly the way you want to use it, but I think it will give you a better data set with a higher degree of sharing granularity. (Alternately, you could always develop your own “app” for doing this as there are enough open API’s for many of these functions from a variety of service providers, but that’s another story for another time.)

Reply to Feed Your Research

Replied to Feed Your Research by Ellen Keith (The Sheridan Libraries Blog)

All props to the graduate student in Sociology who alerted me to this wonderful time saver. I knew that researchers could set up RSS feeds and e-mail alerts for tables of contents, but I wasn’t practicing what I preached. I’ve got my e-mail alerts set up for tables of contents of favorite library science journals (an oxymoron, I know), but truth be told, those were starting to feel a little old school. I’ve got RSS feeds set up in Google Reader for all my favorite library blogs (NOT an oxymoron). But, although we promote this, I hadn’t set up any RSS feeds from our databases. When a student in the Soc department asked me a question about his RSS feed, I finally set one up myself to see what he was seeing.

You can do this in almost any database but my example above is from two databases we get via ProQuest: Sociological Abstracts and International Bibliography of the Social Sciences. These databases can be searched simultaneously and an RSS feed set up for their combined results. New citations that match my search show up in my feed reader, and as a bonus, the feed results import Find It links so if the articles are in full-text, I’ve got immediate access to them. Best of all, my time is saved by setting up this feed. I’m not constantly checking these databases for new articles on my topic. Instead, they’re delivered to me!

To take it a step further is there an easy way to integrate it into other social tools like Instapaper, ReadItLater, et al or to have the full journal article results emailed to my Kindle’s address so that the papers all show up for instant reading on my Kindle, tablet, e-reader?!

Thanks for the tip Ellen!

Reply to Library Shop Classes | The Sheridan Libraries Blog

Replied to Library Shop Classes by Robin Sinn (The Sheridan Libraries Blog)

Library shop classes? Of course!

wrenches & pliers by Ron Wiecki via Flickr

The Sheridan Libraries offers many tools to help you with your library research. While you can always stop at the Reference Consultation Office on M Level, use our Ask a Librarian service, or contact your liaison librarian with any questions you may have, we also offer workshops about specific tools. These tools include databases and citation management programs.

Below is a list of our Fall Workshops, with links for registration.

Refworks 2.0 Workshops
Tues., Sept. 20, 2011, 11:00-12:00 Wed., Sept. 21, 2011, 4:00-5:00 One class can help trim hours off your time spent researching and writing. Come learn the secrets of organized citations and easy, quick bibliographies.

Citation and Organization Tools
Wed., Sept. 28, 2011, 2:00-3:00 Wondering what tools can help keep you and your papers organized? We provide a comparison and overview of several popular tools. RefWorks, Mendeley, Zotero, and Papers will be included.

Scopus and Web of Science
Wed., Sept. 28, 2011, 4:30-5:30 Help your research and save your time: learn to use these two powerful tools in the most effective ways. Feel free to bring topics that we can use as search examples!

Making the Best of Google
Tues., Oct. 4, 2011, 4:00-5:00 You seek. But do you find? Join us for a tour of Google, Google Scholar, and Google Books. Learn how they really work and how to make the best use of each.

E-Books for Academics
Wed., Oct. 5, 2011, 4:30-5:30 We love reading our fun fiction on our mobile devices, but the JHU libraries have 1 million academic e-books as well. Bring your e-readers, tablets, and any mobile device that you use to read books. Find out which e-books can/can't be downloaded directly to your e-device, and practice while the librarians are there to help.

Copyright and Fair Use 
Wed., Oct. 12, 2011, 10:30-11:30 With the increasing use of images, music, and other kinds of audio-visual resources as well as the delivery of course content through online course management systems like Blackboard, scholars and academic institutions are facing challenges as to what constitutes fair use and what does not. Therefore, the aim of this workshop is to create awareness about some of the challenges related to copyright and provide an electronic toolkit for the participants.

History Detectives: The Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition
Wed., Oct. 12, 2011, 6:00-7:00 Want to impress your friends and professors alike with research skills that would surpass those of Sherlock Holmes? Detective-Librarians Chella and Heidi will lead you on a madcap journey through Victorian London as we discover the secrets of the Crystal Palace. Gumshoes will have the opportunity to put together their own case files explaining the who, what, when, where, and whys of the Crystal Palace!

PubMed
Wed., Oct. 26, 2011, 5:00-6:00 Great tips for using the tools within PubMed that will help you find exactly what you want, much more quickly. You'll be able to practice online, too, while the librarians are there to help!

I hope that some discusses LibX in some of these presentations. It’s my favorite new research tool!

Synthetic Biology’s Hunt for the Genetic Transistor | IEEE Spectrum

Replied to Synthetic Biology's Hunt for the Genetic Transistor (spectrum.ieee.org)
How genetic circuits will unlock the true potential of bioengineering

This is a great short article on bioengineering and synthetic biology written for the layperson. It’s also one of the best crash courses I’ve read on genetics in a while.

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Reply to Mythbusters | The Sheridan Libraries Blog

Replied to Mythbusters by Margaret Burri (The Sheridan Libraries Blog)

Ever walk past a campus tour and wonder how much of it is true? While most of it is, and we love the plug for “your own librarian,” there are a couple of long-standing inaccuracies that we’d like to put to rest:

“No building on campus can be taller than Gilman Hall because that’s what’s in Gilman’s will.” Wrong. Decisions about buildings’ heights, including that of the library, have been made based on the scale of the campus and the architecture of Homewood House. Stand at the middle of the lower part of the beach, and look through the glass windows of MSEL. Notice anything? That’s right–Gilman Hall is beautifully framed in the center.

Gilman died in 1908, and mentioned nothing in his will about buildings. In 1912, the Trustees began to plan a new “Academic Building.” This was completed in 1915, and formally named after Gilman in 1917.

“The library sank three inches when they put the 2.5 million books in it in 1964.” Wrong again. I often wonder how many parents, when they hear this, would like to end the tour right there. First, there weren’t 2.5 million books in 1964; we didn’t reach that milestone until the 1990s. When the new library opened on November 15, 1964, there were just over 1.1 million books on the shelves.

Second, no sinking occurred. The weight of the thousands of shelves and books had been calculated into the plan, and the foundation was, and remains, more than adequate to hold the weight.

One thing that is true about the library is that when the hole was dug, an underground stream was discovered, and had to be rerouted before work on the building could continue. John Berthel, the library director at the time, poses in the recently dug hole with some of the books that would later grace the shelves.

Did Winston go down into the new hole for the BLC while they were digging and take a similar photo with a pile of books? The two photos would make great “book ends!”

The Decline Effect and the Scientific Method | The New Yorker

Replied to The Truth Wears Off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method? (The New Yorker)

Jonah Lehrer’s New Yorker article “The Truth Wears Off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method?” is an interesting must-read article. In it he discusses the “Decline Effect” and outlier statistical effects within scientific research.

Among other interesting observations in it, he calls attention to the fact that, “according to the journal Nature, a third of all studies never even get cited, let alone repeated.”

For scholars of Fisher, Popper, and Kuhn, some of this discussion won’t be quite so novel, but for anyone designing scientific experiments, the effects discussed here are certainly worthy of notice and further study and scrutiny.

Nicholas Bourbaki and Serge Lang

Replied to Scientific Fiction – The Bourbaki Mystery by Sue Vazakas (The Sheridan Libraries Blog)

In the 1930s, a French mathematician began writing journal articles and books. His name was Nicolas Bourbaki. He didn’t exist.

Bourbaki was and is actually a group of brilliant and influential mathematicians, mostly French but not all, whose membership changes but whose collective purpose remains the same: to write about mathematical topics they deem important. Between 1939 and 1967 “he” wrote a series of influential books about these selected topics, collectively called Elements of Mathematics.

A mysterious, mostly anonymous group of writers publishing momentous things under a single name is just really cool. But don’t try to read any of his stuff unless you are an expert mathematician.

Instead, read a wonderful story by novelist and award-winning chemist Carl Djerassi, called The Bourbaki Gambit. What do you think happens when a group of scientists, being discriminated against for various reasons, team up and use the “Bourbaki” approach to try to get their latest discovery taken seriously?

There’s an old mathematicians’ joke that goes like this:

Q: When did Nicholas Bourbaki quit writing books about mathematics?

A: When (t)he(y) realized that Serge Lang was only one person!

Twitter Changes Rules on Users. No Auto-Follow. | Kyle Lacy

Replied to Twitter Changes Rules on Users. No Auto-Follow. by Kyle Lacy (kylelacy.com)
(hat tip to ZDNEt and Chris McEvoy for the lead) From ZDNet: “With no notice, Twitter yesterday “pulled the rug out from under its developers” one developer says, by discouraging auto-following and imposing 1,000 person-per-day following limits.” Now… this is not news to me because of the “pulling the rug out from under its developers” thing or the 1,000 person-per-day following limit… The news to me as a Twitter user… I don’t really remember getting a message or alert that the new limits were going to be enacted. I use Twitter on a daily basis. It seems fairly odd that I would not know about the change.

I’m personally glad they’d be implementing something like this and wish they had done it about a month ago. Eventually without any controls the site would have become a waste land. In the spirit of using it as the tool it has become, they needed to implement changes like this as the site scaled up to more and more people. It’s very similar to the changes they instituted in the fall of 2008 when they created a cap of being able to follow more than 2000 people when your own number of followers wasn’t commensurate with that number. As a game theorist, I’m sure that people will somehow find some other way to artificially game the system.

As a separate note, who really wants to waste the time building thousands and thousands of followers when none of them are really going to ever pay attention to you? Yes, it’s great to have a high number, but really what is your ultimate reach? How many people are you engaging?