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Librarian Blog

To catch a plagiarist

Data nerds are heading in the right direction as they develop programs to detect telltale clues to a writer's works.

A story in a recent edition of The Wall Street Journal tells about two Polish researchers who have used their software to analyze the words and style used by Harper Lee in both To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, her novel just released.

They assert that their study confirms she wrote both of them. Truman Capote did not. Nor did some third-party editor.

That's an interesting bit of information.

What's intriguing, though, is the idea that such software might be made available to professors so they could run works by their students through the algorithmic filters and see whether a student has plagiarized something turned in as original.

Plagiarism is a huge problem created by high-tech progress. Maybe high-tech progress could move in the direction of stopping plagiarism.

The reader as coach

I don't follow college basketball, so were it not for a sharp-eyed volunteer I may never have read about the coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Seems that Steve Kerr is not your usual coach. Yeah, he likes to win. Yeah, he pushes his players hard. Yeah, he talks tough.

But, he is also a reader, and not just of bios about other famous coaches.

Kerr reads all kinds of stuff, from articles in The Atlantic, to New Yorker profiles, to essays in the Economist.

I figure this must be unusual for a college coach because Kerr's reading habits were the subject of a feature story that appeared in The Wall Street Journal in mid-May.

The story by Ben Cohen says that Kerr is so proud of his reading that his PR staff keeps track of what he reads.


That sounds a little weird to me.

But, I guess ... whatever it takes to keep your name out front.

Won't be reading it

I won't be reading this summer's hottest release, Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman."

I was all prepared to read it; I even re-read "To Kill a Mockingbird" last spring just to be up on the subject.

Now, though, I understand that the book just released today undermines the premise of Harper Lee's "Mockingbird" and leaves us with an Atticus Finch who is a racist, thus undoing 40 years of stiff-backed uprightness on his part.

I'm not reading "Watchman" because I'm disappointed. I'm not reading it because I'm not convinced that Lee wanted the book to be published. Had she wanted it to be in print, she would have turned it over to an editor and publisher long, long ago.

I'm just not in favor of taking writers' unpublished works and getting them into print so someone down the line can get rich.

That's why I never read the novel found after Hemingway died. I figured if he'd wanted it to see the light of day, he'd have given it to his publisher while he was still alive.


Another way we help

The Digital Divide is narrowing, but it is still a factor in American life.

The Council of Economic Advisers issued a report this week looking at the Digital Divide in its latest iteration.

The facts are these: The more money you make, the more likely you are to have internet access; the more educated you are, the move likely you are to have internet access; and the more rural American you are, the more likely you are to have internet access.

If you're black or Hipanic, you're less likely to have internet access.

As of 2013, the year for which data was gathered and presented, nearly 75 percent of U.S. households were hooked into the internet. Only 44 percent of those without a high-school diploma were hooked up.

So, we can help. For those in our community who cannot afford or do not have equipment, we can get you onto the internet, and we can show you what to do once there.

Come by!

You could see it coming

Another disruptive technology bites old-school communications solutions in the you-know-what. The area is in photography.

You could see this coming for a mile.

Today, Apple is stating the obvious in a new campaign: You don't need a bulky traditional camera any more; you just need your iPhone.

It's so true. (Last Christmas I gave my son a small, demure Nikon. I don't think it's ever been out of the box. He uses his iPhone for everything. Now, he and his wife have a new baby, and the iPhone is conspicuously omnipresent.)

Bloomberg reports that Nikon sales were down 15 percent last year, and Canon sales wer edown 7 percent. I'm surprised the drop wasn't more radical.

Most people just don't need a "good" camera.

There is a notable exception, and that's the action camera. There, GoPro has the market entirely to itself.

For a relatively small amount of money, you can strap a GoPro unit on your helmet and jump off the cliff.

Which is probably what Nikon and Canon CEOs are contemplating right about now.

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