Category Archives: Internet

Search-dominance and NYPL’s home page redesign

An earlier version of this post appears on the New York Public Library’s blog. I’m highlighting it here as a success in applying generalized web UX research to the specific needs and content of an institution.

Among my first tasks upon taking leadership of the Website Department at New York Public Library in late 2012 was to update its old and ineffective home page. Driving the strategy were a few important points that distinguished NYPL and its web site from many others:

  • a huge proportion of visitors used the home page simply as a pathway to catalog searches, leading to book-checkout transactions.
  • With 88 branch (neighborhood) libraries, and four large research libraries, NYPL was a HUGE institution, with a TON of great events and classes going on all the time, that hardly anybody knew about.

I wanted to support that aggregate search-dominant visitor behavior, but also to make people aware of all the other amazing things the library did (and still does). We needed a great, beautiful home page that didn’t make search any harder, but put those events right in your face.

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List of Public Domain (Free) Books for Kids, by Grade Level

[EDIT Oct 2016: changed link to Reading Library to new website]

I’m a frequent user of Project Gutenberg, which distributes free eBook versions of books in the public domain.

Be A Learning Hero, a site I administer, has great lists of suggested books for kids to read at each grade level, and guides to aid parents in discussions with kids about those books. In working on getting that launched this summer, I wanted to know if any of our books were available at Project Gutenberg, so we could just link to them (none were, but we added WorldCat links to make it easy to find them at a local library).

Anyway, while working on that, I realized that there is no convenient online list of free books for kids, organized by grade level. There are lists of public domain books for kids, and there are lists of books for kids by grade level, but nobody seems to have combined it all in one place. So I thought: SEO gold!! And then I put this together.

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DuckDuckGo–the Search Engine You Should Be Using



The original version of this post is available at ARLIS/NA Multimedia and Technology Reviews. I am very grateful to Emilee Mathews, whose editorial work contributed immeasurably to the readability of this article.

DuckDuckGo is a Web search site that competes with Google, Bing, and other major players. DuckDuckGo’s premise, and its major competitive advantage, is its commitment to user privacy—and backs up that commitment through its powerful, accurate, and flexible searching capabilities.

DuckDuckGo ensures privacy for users because it does not do the following:

  • collect any personal information
  • log any CGI data that identifies your computer
  • save your search queries
  • share your search terms with the sites you visit from DuckDuckGo’s results pages.

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What are you watching?

[Edit: this turned out to pretty much be a red herring.]

Let’s say a lot of people follow this blog. A lot of them probably wouldn’t remember when cable TV was rolling out in the 70’s and one of the BIG DEALS in their marketing rhetoric was how they don’t know what we’re watching and the cable doesn’t send info about what we’re doing back to them. It was the first time it was possible, and privacy, apparently, was important to TV viewers.

Now lots more of what we do is recorded, analyzed, and shared. What I was wondering is, now that we’re all sick of cable (we are semi-cord-cutters in our house, and mostly watch streamed shows), what do our Internet-connected TV set-top devices know about what we watch?

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News about the “Simian Selfie” is missing the point.

There’s a lot of talk this week (nice haranguing article in El Reg) about the unfortunate photographer, David Slater, who got a black macaque to take a great picture of itself a few years ago, and how Wikipedia editors can’t agree that the photo should be copyrighted to Slater, since it was actually taken by the macaque.

The tension in the story lies in the fact that Slater takes a lot of pictures but makes money off of relatively few of them. If you’ve used a camera since about 2001, you know what this is like: since the death of film we all can take zillions of pictures and some of them come out great. Slater tries harder and is making a career of it. He claims that the fact his most popular picture is being treated as a public resource is costing him tens of thousands of pounds annually.

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