Rapping 18 years of news

It is the end of the current school year in the US. I have occasionally had a look at the  The Week in Rap. It has often had an interesting take on the (US) news but it is going have a respite over the US summer holidays.

In their last offering before the end of this educational year they did something a little different. Instead of covering the week’s news they ran with the idea of covering all of the big stories from the last 18 years. This was an homage to the students who were about to graduate from high school and sought to remind them of all the major events in the world during their lifetimes. If you need help with what the stories are there is a list here.

I wonder what our Australian students would come up with for the end of their first eighteen years? It would be a good discussion topic. I wonder if I could interest some of our students in creating their own  18 years as rap?

LazyFeed – more real-time news

Although this has been around for a few months I have only been trying it out for a week. I thought I would give it a try to see how easy it was to use and how useful it might be.

LazyFeed allows you to create real-time, personalized blog searches. Information is gathered all over the blogosphere and sorted by a simple system of tags.  To use it you simply type in a tag or single-word search term and LazyFeed combs through millions of blogs and on-line video and image sites to find the information. LazyFeed returns videos, photos, and blog posts tagged with your topic tag term.

It is very easy and painless to sign on to develop your own list of topics. Once signed you are then prompted to add any term as a topic, which essentially means the search is saved and results will be returned in real time, so you get up-to-the-minute information.

You can enter as many topic searches as you like and then just let the the new feeds roll in. Your own space is called Monitor and each of the searches comes up as a large thumbnail or tile. At any time you can add more or delete those that are not useful.

If you want to view a a particular search more closely just click on the tile and it then enlarges to screen size for easy reading of the extra details about the entry. All contents are sorted by time and the latest contents are always at the top. To see the post click again to take you to the source.

There are also some drawbacks.

  • Users can’t refine searches so you need think very carefully about the  search terms you use.
  • There’s no way to tell LazyFeed to look for certain types of content within certain domains or accounts.
  • There is no way to limit the stream to certain types of media or block certain tags (such as “marketing”) from appearing in the results.

Overall LazyFeed is a neat little tool that you don’t have to do much to use. You don’t have to look at it all the time, just check it when you want/need to.  It does not store up all the changes like the RSS aggregators so you don’t feel overwhemed if you have not looked at it in a while. I have discovered some interesting reading from using it.

2009 from the Big Picture

 As the school year has closes here in Australia, we are looking back at the year 2009. Pictorial records are great and one site that I have always found interesting to look at is The Big Picture (Boston Globe), news stories in photographs.  The editors have begun to look back at 2009 in pictures.  This post is one of 3 dedicated to telling history of 2009 through pictures. There are some great shots, from humorous to poignant, breathtaking to “normal’ but from a particular point-of-view, frightening to reassuring. There will be 120 images in total over the three posts.

The year 2009 is now coming to a close, and it’s time to take a look back over the past 12 months through photographs. Historic elections were held in Iran, India and the United States, some wars wound down while others escalated, China turned 60, and the Berlin Wall was remembered 20 years after it came down. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2009. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Please watch for part 2 and part 3 tomorrow and the next day.

Another Big Picture highlight is the Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar 2009. The Hubble Telescope images are added to each day. It is well worth taking a look at these amazing photographs and reading the paragraph of explanation about each. If you become fascinated you can also go back to the Hubble Advent Calendar 2008 via a link on the page.

From NASAImages - BigPicture

There are also links from each photograph to more information and to Google sky (to help understand the position of the object in outer space. At the bottom you will find other links to further information:

Fast Flip : Google’s news and magazine reader

  • This recently (Sept) released tool from Google Labs offers another way to glean news from the internet.  Fast Flip aggregates news stories from many popular sources and presents them in a format that is very easy for the user to navigate. 

On the Official Google blog, it is explained that Fast Flip is an experiment where people can combine traditional print reading with online article reading to achieve a new and enhanced reading experience. Fast Flip is a new reading experience that combines the best elements of print and online articles. Like a print magazine, Fast Flip lets you browse sequentially through bundles of recent news, headlines and popular topics, as well as feeds from individual top publishers.

Fast flip1

From the homepage you can chose to have information sorted and presented to you by the level of popularity, topic, and source. To navigate through the articles all you have to do is click on the arrows on the page.

It is simple to do a search, in this case tsunami. You can view the resultant pages before opening them up. The searches I undertook were very quick in finding results. It is very clean and neatFast flip2

At the moment Fast Flip has about 40 newspapers and magazines on board, including the NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Business Week, as well as a number that I have never heard of. The content is all English language material at the moment but (non-US source) BBC News has come onboard already and Google promises to work on gathering content in languages other than English. Click on all sources allows you to see links to those sources currently available.

Fast flip3

If you like to read you news off the internet this may be an interesting tool to use.

There are a few points that I summised from reading the Google blog announcement and searching around Fast Flip :

  • Browsing is often what people do in physical libraries, people have always browsed for and through information. Today browsing is an information experience in itself and technology is providing us with the chance to dip into a much larger pool of information than ever before. Those of us in school libraries need to acknowledge browsing as an important skill and we need to teach our students how to do this well so they can navigate their way through the “sea of information out there”.
  • It is interesting that there was a mobile version of Fast Flip available at the launch, albeit that the app is currently available only for iPhones and Android devices. Mobile apps are becoming increasingly important in today’s world and picks up on the idea of people reading their news when commuting or otherwise on the run. If a big company like Google sees that m-devices are critical to success, we who working libraries need to look at our services and what and how we provide them.
  • It is also interesting, especially in light of Rupert Murdoch’s recent statements, that here print isn’t really part of the equation anymore. This rapid online browsing experience is all about the web content.

I know many of my colleagues are grappling with aspects of these three points and what it means to the services we provide/offer to our communities

To have a further look at how it works click on the screencast from Demo Girl below.

DeeperWeb plugin – a useful searching tool

DeeperWebI was playing with a new search engine tool tonight. It is called DeeperWeb Search. It has been around since May but I only came across it recently. It is free and very easy to use. I have again been into classes to discuss how to best search he web and I am always interested in tools that might help students get the most relevant information.

DeeperWeb is an innovative search engine plugin and an essential Firefox addon for Google. Start using us immediately at DeeperWeb.com or download a free search plugin and Firefox addons

This new tool can help Google users to find required information by allowing them to navigate through large numbers of web search results by employing Tag Cloud techniques (called DeeperCloud).

TagCloud techniques for improving search results include the following tabs:


 Tags: that allow you to add (or exclude) a keyword from the original query. Tag Cloud suggests keywords relevant to the search query.

  • Phrases: Offer other (meaningful) phrases hidden beneath the pile of search results thus allowing you to amend the search query by clicking on the relevant phrase. You can both adding or exclude a phrase from the search.
  • Sites: If you clicking on one of the sites in the Tag Cloud it will bring all relevant results from only that selected source.
  • Zones: Zones can help to narrow down and focus on specific domains such as .org, .edu or country specific suffixes.
  • I tried looking up “Cystic Fibrosis” and found it was ver useful have the different options available to narrow down my searching.



    In addition to the above, DeeperWeb’s Topic-Mapping technologies help to reduce the sheer amount of information found by a search by helping to narrow down or refine the search by searching via topic and type (e.g. articles, videos, podcasts, slides, etc.). In the very easy to follow tutorial hey are called “Zoomies” and they act like mini search engines.



    The options for searching include:

    • Answers: Selected resources of “questions and answers”, support discussions and social forums. providing search results to a realm of questions and answers.
    •  Blog: Offers current articles in the Blogosphere relevant to the search query.
    • Metrics: Good if you are searching for relevant results with facts, statistics, percentages, market share, data, tables and graphs.
    • Wikipedia: Provides users immediate access to relevant Wikipedia results.  
    • Resources: For current (and relevant) articles, business articles, recent white papers, research studies or magazine articles.
    • News: Latest relevant news articles 

    It is certainly worth having a look and I think it will be another tool I will be recommending to some of the students I work with.