Searching the Past

Internet ArchiveThe Internet Archive has received a lot of attention recently, and if you haven’t read this New Yorker article, I urge you to do so. If you’re not already in love with the Internet Archive, you will be after reading that piece, as well as this one titled “Never Trust a Corporation to Do a Library’s Job.”

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is an indispensable tool for historians, journalists, and investigative researchers of all types. One handy tool that I use often is Memento Time Travel, which provides point-in-time searches on the Wayback Machine as well as a number of other online archives. It is also available as a Firefox and Chrome add-on.

Another useful tool for searching things as they appeared in the past is the sliding time scale for Google Maps’ Street View images. Once you have your target address showing in Street View, notice that there’s an information box at the upper-left corner that shows the address, city, and date of the image you are looking at. Click on the date and you’ll get a slider showing all the available images for that address, which can date back several years. When you click on the image from a previous time, you’ll not only get the target address as it appeared then, but you can rotate the view and see the surrounding area.

Given Google’s tendency to constantly change its offerings, who knows how long this feature will last (and that’s why we need non-profit organizations like the Internet Archive!), but for now, it’s a unique and handy historical search tool.

Photo source: Beatrice Murch, Flickr

Be Safe Online in 2014

ones and zerosOver at Slaw, Dan Pinnington has a series of posts (which originally appeared in LAWPRO Magazine) about protecting yourself online from the myriad scams and security risks that can afflict the unsuspecting or careless internet user. He tackles the dangers lurking in email, how to recognize and avoid surfing dangers, and how to avoid infections with anti-virus and anti-malware software. The posts are aimed at the legal profession, but anyone who needs a basic introduction to online security can benefit from them.

Just what can criminals do with your hacked email account or computer? Brian Krebs has a couple of eye-opening posts describing the value of a hacked email account (iTunes accounts sell for $8 each!) or a hacked PC. This post provides some excellent advice for defending your PC against attacks.

For additional reading, Lifehacker has some good articles on online security as well. And if you’re a Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome user (you should be), here are some resources for securing your browser:

So start the year off right by reading up on cybercrime and taking some simple steps to make sure you don’t fall victim to it.

Photo source: Mario & Amanda, Flickr

Roundup of Subject Guides and Directories

Gwen Harris’s post about the WWW Virtual Library — a directory of recommended web resources in various subject areas started back in the day by Tim Berners-Lee — inspired me to do a quick roundup of a few of the most useful and well-kept subject guides and directories I’m aware of.

In the early days of the world wide web, when the number of websites was small, directories were common and extremely useful in locating websites in an organized way. Perhaps the best-known one was Yahoo!, which was a hierarchical directory before it was a search engine (it still maintains a directory). Today, with billions of websites online, directories and subject guides are arguably even more important to help direct us to vetted, high-quality sources of information and save us from flailing around on search engines. As Gwen notes, however, subject guides/directories are a dying breed because of the amount of work involved in their upkeep.

Some of the guides that are updated regularly include:

  • The Virtual Private Library: A massive (almost overwhelming!) list of resources, branded as Subject Tracers, on a number of research topics. If you’re looking for comprehensiveness rather than curation, these lists are chock-full of links in various subject areas.
  • Toddington’s Free Online Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Resources: A compendium to their paid knowledge base, this page lists links to useful resources in a number of categories, to help online research and investigative professionals.
  • University library sites: University libraries sites provide wonderful guides and pathfinders to reliable research resources. While the material tends to be academic and scholarly (obviously) and is often limited to the library system’s holdings, they can provide research direction for an unfamiliar subject area, and with a little resourcefulness, one can often access the material in other collections. The University of Toronto Libraries Research Guides and the Harvard Library Research Guides are two good ones, or search for “LibGuides” and your subject area of interest to find others.

What are some of your favourite subject guides and directories?