Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New online law library looks more useful to lawyers than laymen, a new site, is stocking a free, virtual law library by persuading lawyers to do something highly unusual: to post examples of their legal work online for use by one and all, no strings attached. Many of the documents are articles and newsletters that can be understood by ordinary mortals who want more background on a legal issue, or who would like to find lawyers with expertise in a particular area.

It works like this: Lawyers who contribute to JD Supra dip into their hard drives for articles, court papers, legal briefs and other tidbits of their craft. They upload the documents, as well as a profile of themselves that is linked to each document. Site visitors who have a legal problem and are thinking about finding a lawyer can use an easily searchable database to look up, say, “trademark infringement,” find related documents and, if they like the author’s experience and approach, perhaps click on his or her profile.

Contributing lawyers get publicity and credit for the socially useful act of adding to a public database, and visitors get free information, said Aviva Cuyler, a former litigator in Marshall, Calif., who founded the business. “People will still need attorneys,” Ms. Cuyler said. “We are not encouraging people to do it themselves, but to find the right people to help them.”

I performed a general search on the term "copyright" and came up with a number of documents. However, the type of documents listed did not appear to be particularly useful to the average person without a legal background since they are formal motions without concise summaries to aid in the understanding of all of the verbose legalese they contain. Many appear to be motions to amend original motions to add other parties to legal actions filed by someone else. These types of documents contain little useful information about a particular issue and their presence just adds a lot of chaff to sift through looking for something useful (if you are not a lawyer looking for boilerplate).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Google says progress made in automated image recognition

I think Google efforts to automate image search is admirable, but I have doubts that object recognition will produce much improvement in educational searches, even if success is demonstrated in commercial searches. It would be helpful though if search engines would enable you to specify a "thing" parameter like person, animal, plant, or building. Advanced image recognition software should be able to make these distinctions. With this capability, I should be able to get many more relevant hits when I search for "Roman emperor" and not have to sift through pictures of somebody's cat!

Another aspect of a successful image search though, at least to an education researcher, is time frame. With my passion for history, I am constantly writing about historical people, places and things but I am interested in a particular time period. Unfortunately, time dimension is not something that can be determined by image analysis. This is the reason I usually include a century reference, like "1st century BCE" in my Flickr image tags.

Speaking of Flickr, Google should also reconsider some of its own biased search parameters. For example, millions of Flickr images are carefully tagged and represent a wealth of information but few turn up in the top results of a Google search. I can only assume this is because Flickr is owned by Yahoo and either Google purposefully chooses not to search Flickr or does not make any effort to optimize its search facilities to accommodate Flickr's database requirements.

"Although image search has become popular on commercial search engines, results are usually generated today by using cues from the text that is associated with each image.

Despite decades of effort, image analysis remains a largely unsolved problem in computer science, the researchers said. For example, while progress has been made in automatic face detection in images, finding other objects such as mountains or tea pots, which are instantly recognizable to humans, has lagged.

“We wanted to incorporate all of the stuff that is happening in computer vision and put it in a Web framework,” said Shumeet Baluja, a senior staff researcher at Google, who made the presentation with Yushi Jing, another Google researcher. The company’s expertise in creating vast graphs that weigh “nodes,” or Web pages, based on their “authority” can be applied to images that are the most representative of a particular query, he said.

The research paper, “PageRank for Product Image Search,” is focused on a subset of the images that the giant search engine has cataloged because of the tremendous computing costs required to analyze and compare digital images. To do this for all of the images indexed by the search engine would be impractical, the researchers said. Google does not disclose how many images it has cataloged, but it asserts that its Google Image Search is the “most comprehensive image search on the Web.”

The company said that in its research it had concentrated on the 2000 most popular product queries on Google’s product search, words such as iPod, Xbox and Zune. It then sorted the top 10 images both from its ranking system and the standard Google Image Search results. With a team of 150 Google employees, it created a scoring system for image “relevance.” The researchers said the retrieval returned 83 percent less irrelevant images."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Survey Monkey Now Offers Bounce Report Feature

I was glad to see that Survey Monkey now includes a Bounce report feature that not only notifies you have bounced email invitations but lets you export the data so you can use the information to update other dependent databases.

"New Bounce Report Feature

Sometimes when sending survey invitations through our collector, the email addresses may bounce the message back to you because the email is invalid, the receiving server is too busy, the receiving email inbox is full, and so on.

Now when sending your survey invitations through our Email Invitation collector, the messages are delivered by our email server. If the message is undeliverable, the email will be considered a Hard Bounced email in the Edit Recipients portion of the collector.

You now have the ability to do the following:
  • View the Bounced emails.
  • Export them from the list.
  • Remove them from the list.


This will help to ensure that your lists are current and contain valid emails for future survey response collections.

To learn more about the new Bounce Report feature, please refer to the following Help Topics:
Check Bounced Emails
Hard Bounce Tutorial

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Putting the Education in commercial video games

As an occasional gamer I have always been frustrated by some of the convoluted puzzles designed into games. I naturally try to solve the game puzzles by using logic and experience which often does not work. In this article, the author points out that learning in games would be more authentic if real world information could be used to solve in-game puzzles. I wonder if the gaming industry is listening?

"The puzzle is both the challenge that engages players and the hook upon which various kinds of learning can be integrated. Conversation puzzles can require translations, use other languages, present syntax tasks or grammatical queries, or teach standard as opposed to slang forms. Combination inventory puzzles can introduce chemical compounds or genetic fingerprinting and DNA functions. Environment puzzles can offer tasks regarding neutralizing acids, restoring electrical circuits, or maintaining breathable atmospheres. Puzzles and problems need to emerge logically from the narrative structure of the game, and they must be challenging enough to lead users to seek out new knowledge and assimilate it into their existing schema through discovery, trial and error strategies, and seeking knowledge from others.

This last strategy may invoke Vygotskyan social constructivist pedagogy, as well as problem-based learning. Gamers access user communities, cheat sites, and walkthroughs to find the knowledge they need to solve problems that they cannot solve by themselves. In online gaming, the support can be in real time, while play is in progress, and expertise can reside with any player regardless of experience, knowledge, or status outside of the game; a computer science professor may seek the advice of a teenager. Players who are stumped can appeal to the wider playing community, as this DoomEd player did:

First puzzle is pretty rough. Can't figure how to turn on the power to open the rear bay door. Can get it to flash on, but not stay on . . . . (Senator33, Post to mod site, November 12, 2006)

This is where learning occurs beyond an individual’s own problem-solving capability, through dialogue with peers, teachers, or experts. This is Vygotsky's (1978) zone of proximal development, "the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (86)."

I have actually complained to game publishers about puzzles that seemed to me to be totally nonsensical. I realize there is a recognized educational aspect to seeking the answer from others but I find it disconcerting when I have to "cheat" to progress further in the game experience.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Yahoo's new "Shine" site for women a yawner

As a 21st century woman I can't help but be frustrated by the media's continued stereotyping of women and Yahoo's announced "new" website for women is unfortunately no exception. Although I may have some unique interests, I can't believe I am that much different from other women around the world. I personally find such magazines as Redbook, Cosmopolitan, and Good Housekeeping a bore and having a website modeled after them has no appeal to me either. So you ask what kind of website would I find interesting? How about a website about less well-known travel sites and travel experiences, fun technology gadgets, cultural events like upcoming museum exhibits, learning opportunities like seminars and workshops or guided visits to historical houses and sites, interesting hobbies and profiles of people engaged in those hobbies, volunteering, profiles of women in other cultures, profiles of women in nontraditional careers and how they became involved in those careers (and I mean women employed in the entry to mid level positions - enough of the high-powered CEO profiles already!, medical breakthrough and health care product recalls - enough of the diet and exercise articles!, funding opportunities for business startups or educational or research activities, an interactive fashion activity that lets women drag and drop the latest fashion elements onto a model and email the results to friends as fashion suggestions or just an expression of their creativity, a recipe exchange feature where visitors can upload their favorite recipes with images and comment on recipes submitted, etc. I think you get the picture - information that promotes "doing".

"Yahoo Inc. on Monday launched a site for women between ages 25 and 54, calling it a key demographic underserved by current Yahoo properties.

With Shine, Yahoo plans to expand its offerings in parenting, sex and love, healthy living, food, career and money, entertainment, fashion, beauty, home life, and astrology.

Yahoo is working with media companies like Hearst Communications Inc. and Rodale Inc. to develop Shine-exclusive content. Hearst publishes Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and other magazines aimed at women, while Rodale publishes a range of magazines on sports and recreation, including Women's Health."