Blog Archives

Genealogy, Japan, Wales, More: Afternoon Buzz, July 10, 2012

Harvard Metalab has a blog post reflecting back on the first week of beta release for the Digital Archive of Japan’s 2011 Disasters. “Now, through the power of this custom implementation of the Zeega Engine, anyone can browse, annotate and visualize the 884,669 items (current) indexed by the archive; they can also use these items to build and share collections.”

Dick Eastman hips us to new offerings from FamilySearch: “76 million much-anticipated state census, naturalization, immigration, and vital records were added this week for 22 states, including Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.”

More genealogy: censuses from Iceland.

Wales gets crazy organized with the plants: “Wales has become the first country in the world to DNA barcode all of its flowering plants—a scientific breakthrough that opens up vast potential for the future of plant conservation and human health…. The Barcode Wales project was led by Dr. Natasha de Vere, head of conservation and research at the National Botanic Garden. Working closely with Dr. Tim Rich of the National Museum Wales, and with significant commitment from Garden volunteers and staff, she and her team have created a reference database of DNA barcodes based on Wales’ 1,143 species of native flowering plants and conifers, assembling more than 5,700 DNA barcodes.”

LifeHacker has a quick article on TopHQBooks, a search engine for free PDF books. Well, PDF items — I saw a catalog when I was poking around. But there are still over 5.5 million items here. Search or browse by country.

NSF.gov, the National Science Foundation Web site, has gotten a redesign. “The updated home page features a number of changes that include new graphics, more ‘white space,’ fewer overall links and a larger area for highlighting stories important to the work NSF supports.”

More Creative Commons por voo: “For anyone interested in Greek and Latin manuscripts, the scholarly landscape changed dramatically last week when the e-codices project announced that all its material is now available under a Creative Commons license.” Good afternoon, Internet…

Looking for Creative Commons Music? Dig.ccMixter

Are you familiar with ccMixter? It’s a web site for samples and remixes that are released under various Creative Commons licenses. Nowthe site has a new addition: dig.ccMixter, available in beta at http://dig.ccmixter.org/.

Dig allows people who are looking for music to find it more easily, whether you’re seeking theme music for a podcast, or background music for a YouTube video, or whatever. And you can tell that from the front page: here you can explore podsafe music, free music for commercial projects, etc.

I did a search for instrumental. I got well over 650 results. Yow! Pulldown menus let me restrict my search results to just those songs that are free for commercial use, while another menu let me zero in on party music, coffeeshop music, etc.

Narrowing the search to “Cubicle Music” got my results down to over 250, but that’s still a lot. An “advanced dig” would allow me to search further by genre, instrument, and style.

Search results include track name and artist as well as license type. Additional buttons allow you to stream the song, download it (the downloads I looked at were in MP3 format), or get an informational window that provides details on the song. I was surprsied at how many different genres were represented here.

If you just want to taste the music available without doing a lot of searching, visit the Featured Page, which has both curator’s picks and popular music. This page also has several podcasts, so getting a quick 40 minutes of groove is as easy as subscribing to The Mixin’ Kitchen or Cool Music.

What a fun visit! Hmm… maybe ResearchBuzz needs a theme song…

Search Engine for Creative Commons and Public Domain Images

After watching major search engines develop way to search for Creative Commons images, it’s no surprise to discover that there’s a search engine dedicated exclusively to Creative Commons and public domain images. It’s called Sprixi and it’s available at http://www.sprixi.com/. What it finds is rather limited (at the moment it finds only items from Flickr and OpenClipArt as well as any images that are uploaded to Sprixi) its presentation is excellent.

The site has a basic keyword search; just enter a couple of words that describe what you’re looking for. I did a search for snow. Sprixi divides its search results into two panels: the first has thumbnails of the results and the second has a larger version of a chosen image, with even more data if you hold your mouse over the image.

Along with viewing the image, you have the option of specifying whether you think the option is a good result for your keyword search, which will help Sprixi give better results over time. If you click on the larger image in the right panel, you won’t get anything. But if you look at the bottom of the second panel, you’ll see there are direct links both to the image and to the Flickr user who uploaded the image. Beneath that you’ll see a notice of public domain or the picture’s Creative Commons license, as well as the original dimensions of the image.

If you like what you see here and find a picture you want to use, the next step is to click on the image, then click on the green “Use” link at the far right of the search results. You’ll see a screen that looks like this:

As you can see you’ll get a link to the image, an option to download the image (and when you download the image, credit/attribution information will be added to it) and details about the use license in plain English. (“you must give credit to the author / commercial use allowed …”)A “more options” link lets you download the image without the credits/attribution text, as well as get image HTML and credit text.

I really like the presentation of this search engine. The two panel results make it easy to browse results as well as provide feedback on the relevance of the images to the keywords. And the “Use” link makes it easy to get the images and the attribution and use information you need. Nicely done.

I have three concerns, however. The first is the name — I thought initially “Sprixi” might be hard to remember. But I never misspelled it once in this writeup, so maybe it’s all right. Next, the direct links to Flickr image pages do not open in a new browser window. This means a lot of flipping back and forth unless you can remember to consistently open interesting Flickr pages in a new window. And finally, Sprixi might get run over by the large general search engines offering much bigger pools of CC and public domain images. Hopefully the site will expand what’s available via this great search and presentation.

Google Books Opens Up Archives to Creative Commons Works

Google Books announced last week that it was opening up the Google Books site to authors and publishers who have made books available under Creative Commons licenses. As you can see from the additional information provided here, the books must be made fully browsable and downloadable from Google Books, which is good for us, the end user.

Unfortunately the ability to limit your search to just those items published under a CC license is not yet available at Google’s advanced search. (Google notes in its blog post that this will bean option that will become available as more publishers/authors make their books available this way.) You can narrow down your searches to those materials that provide access to full content only, which will help you find Creative Commons works.

One of the things I learned while I tried experimenting with this is that Google Books has added a LOT of magazine content — I don’t see talk about it much but it has. So you might want to narrow down your search results to just books as well.

55 Ways to Have Fun With Google is one of the Creative Commons books, and you can see its page at http://books.google.com/books?id=-XDkb3htVikC. Look on the lower-left corner for the book’s CC badge.

I’m looking forward to seeing a CC-specific search option once a critical mass of CC books have been added to Google Books’ database. I also hope that this will spur Google to start some kind of “Google CC”, one spot to search for CC-licensed books, images, Web pages, and maybe even more…

Creative Commons Launches Education Search Engine

Creative Commons has announced the launch of DiscoverEd, a search engine of “open” educational resources. Open as in as having a CC or other license that makes them more available for use. DiscoverEd is available in beta at http://discovered.creativecommons.org.

The materials in the search engine were not gathered from an open Web crawl; rather they were assembled from third-party repositories like the Open Courseware Consortium and the National Science Digital Library. This means that you won’t get as many results from a general search (and that it’s generally okay to do a more general search) and that the results have somewhat better details.

I did a search for physics. Information about the search results was in German (huh?) but the results themselves were in English. Results include the title of the result, a brief summary, education level (which I wish had been more helpful; I didn’t see any levels that were grade- or age- specific) and sometimes information about usage license. Some of the data fields have magnifying glasses next to them; click on the magnifying glass next to an entries field and you’ll get a refined list of results whose information that field matches the one you clicked. For example, I could click on the magnifying glass next to a CC-BY license and get only those results that had a listed CC-BY license (an attribution license.)

Actually considering where this material was gathered from I’m very surprised there were not listings with licenses included. I think this just might be an issue of metadata not being complete or properly indexed. When I did a more specific search (for momentum) there were more results with CC licenses on the front page, and when I did a level-based search (kindergarten) I also got a pretty good number of results with CC licenses.

There is some gunk in the search results (moved pages, indexes, etc.) but not much. There’s an RSS feed icon at the bottom of the search results but when I tried to use it I got an error. The summaries and resource titles are good, and I found all my searches got plenty of results. A nice education resource search, though of course I’d love more metadata.

Google Images Allows for Filtering by Reuse License

Wow, first Yahoo Images and now this! Google Images recently announced that searches will now be able to filter their searches by a variety of use licenses, including Creative Commons and GNU Free Documentation. Searchers will also be able to find items that are in the public domain.

For this one you’ll want to skip the Google Images front page and go directly to the advanced search at http://images.google.com/advanced_image_search?hl=en. At the bottom of the advanced image search page you’ll see an option for Usage Rights.

Google Image Search for Reuse Options

Note that you can search for everything from “labeled for reuse” to “labeled for commercial reuse with modification”. And note that you can run this search in conjunction with other Google Images search modifiers. You could, for example, find all medium sized black and white photos returned with a keyword search for “cow,” labeled for reuse. Which is what I did.

When Yahoo Images released its Creative Commons search modifier it was limited to Flickr (not that Flickr isn’t a huge repository of images.) I expected to see a lot of Flickr results with the Google reuse search, too, and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I also saw results from other large depositories like Wikimedia Commons and Openphoto. I also saw some images from regular domains which look like they had administered sitewide Creative Commons licenses. There were about 169 results overall.

Due to its sheer size, though, Flick does tend to overwhelm the search results when you get fairly specific. Medium sized green photos responding to the keyword “cow” and licensed for commercial reuse? Most of the results will come from Flickr. Blue clip art responding to the keyword “icon” and available for commercial reuse? That’s all Flickr — all four results of it.

Google’s image search has gotten a lot stronger in the last year or so as Google has added more search options, and I love being able to use those in conjunction with a license search. The disadvantage to doing this kind of search across the Web, though, as opposed to a single environment like Flickr is that it’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. Google makes it clear that it’s up to you to confirm that the images you’re finding are actually available for reuse and that the licensing information is accurate.

Yahoo Images, Now With Creative Commons Search

I’ve always kind of liked Yahoo! Image Search because its variety of search options let you REALLY narrow down what you are looking for. Need a black and white, 200×300 picture of a barn owl? No problem! Yahoo has recently added another search filter: the ability to find Creative Commons images. The good news is that you can search for commercial-reusable items as a subset of CC material. The bad news is that you can only search Flickr content at this point.

Y!IS’ advanced search is http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/advanced. The Creative Commons filter is near the bottom. Note that you can specify two types of CC content: “Commercial use,” and “Remix, Tweak, Build Upon”. While the Flickr-only restriction is a bit of a bummer, there’s enough Flickr content to keep you busy for a long time.

Back to the barn owl search. Searching for barn owl in all CC content found me 854 pictures — wow! Even limiting the search to those pictures which allowed commercial use found me 236 pictures. And thanks to Yahoo’s extra set of search options on the results page, I could easily come up with several large creative commons pictures of barn owls. And while you often have to accept some goofiness in image search results, I found only a couple of images in my search results which weren’t, well, barn owls. (your mileage may vary, of course. Be sure to be as specific as possible.)

It’s frustrating, once you’re playing around with Y!IS, to note that Google’s image search can’t do the same thing. And Google’s advanced image search has some crazy options — find clip art, faces, line drawings, specific colors, etc. But no creative commons filter. I did find that if I ran a query for image keywords first, then the phrase “this work is licensed under a creative commons”, I had some luck. At the very least I found blogs which were CC licensed and were either using CC images or gave image sources. I think I’ll use Y!IS for my initial CC image searches, with Google search and some unique phraseology as a backup…

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