Monday, August 26, 2013

Post-password future?

Probably the single most frustrating thing in my work with students in the library is seeing them give up trying to use online subscribed resources and ebooks because 'it's all too hard'. This could be in regard to setting up accounts, forgotten passwords, slow or unreliable internet, the perception that it's complicated or too time-consuming, Google search is an easy alternative, uncertainty about how to search within and reference online materials, or a combination of these factors.

This week's ANZ 23 mobile things topic is Adobe ID. Students at the academic library where I work have to create an account with Adobe to access ebooks on the free Adobe Digital Editions software for the desktop or laptop, and also to use an ebook reader app such as Overdrive or Bluefire on a mobile device. The Adobe ID allows them to transfer books protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM) on to their computers. Next, students have to create an account with our ebook provider Ebsco, and then they have to sign in with their college password to access our online resources. That's 3 user names and 3 passwords to download their first ebook. Also, every time there is an update for an app that uses Adobe ID for authentification, the ID password needs to be re-entered. It really takes persistence! I've heard this type of cumbersome process described as a 'usability chore'.

There's no way around passwords. They are needed in the academic library context to limit access to subscription resources to enrolled students, and to connect a student with their personal information such as current checkouts. Students also need passwords to login to Mendeley reference manager, software that is installed on the library computers, their cloud-based email, individual databases in order to receive alerts, and so on - it's never-ending. In an average day at work, I login to around 15 password protected sites or programs. My computer has many of them stored, but for students using the library computers there are no stored passwords.

*A scary note on Chrome's password security - did you know that you can see every password that has been saved in the browser in the advanced settings page? And you don't need a password to get access to that! Just don't leave your computer unattended if you use Chrome and value your privacy...

Some questions circling in my mind:

Is it sensible or bad practice to suggest they use the same password for data that is not especially sensitive/confidential? (The more passwords students have to remember, the more likely it is that they will a choose a single simple password, or no password. Do you password protect your laptop/tablet/phone??)

Has my organisation made it easy to use a single login for multiple services / products?

How often does having to sign up and log in dissuade someone from accessing a service or product?

Why haven't we moved into the post-password future that has been hinted at by the likes of Google and Apple? (fingerprint logins, ring logins, etc.)

Are passwords only about security/access or are they just as much about collecting data?

Are password apps as trustworthy as they claim to be? 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Social Curation

My family and friends think I'm nuts because I don't have a TV and I don't read the paper or magazines (unless they're free!). But I've noticed time and time again that I hear the latest news before they do, and manage to keep hyper-informed about issues that matter to me, be that current news, or things that I'm personally or professionally interested in. I admit I spend a lot of time glued to the screen (either my desktop at work, or my phone or laptop at home) but I'm a very selective consumer of information and I know how to evaluate it. Also I love discovering new sources of information and I'm not overly attached to any one source - if a website that I like starts to fill up with advertising at the expense of content, then they've lost my patronage. To be honest there is another reason why I don't have a TV or pay for content - it's because I can think of a million other things I'd rather spend my (limited!) money on and the internet offers everything I need. I pay for fast and reliable internet and I choose the content. And speaking of choosing content...
content curation tools
Image by Aivar Ruukel on Flickr, creative commons licence
Actually, this post was supposed to be about social curation tools because that's the topic for ANZ23mthings for this week - Thing 14: Curating with Pinterest, Tumblr, and and co-incidentally it also happens to be the week that we are launching our PD reading project at work, using the lovely as a platform. As part of the process of choosing which of the many social curation tools to go with, we analysed and compared a whole bunch of them. We rejected Delicious and Diigo as being old school in the way that they displayed content - visually uninteresting - although they did have better group and privacy settings. We rejected Pinterest on the basis that it was more suited to images and browsing rather than deeper reading, and we weren't that impressed with the web interface although it's great on a tablet or smartphone. Everyone was impressed by Flipboard but felt that it was once again more suited to the touch interface rather than the desktop, and didn't have enough scope for commenting on articles on the desktop version. Although I've decided to use it for my personal use and totally loving it.

We ended up being happy with our choice of although we are still in the early stages of our project. The aim is to get the whole team contributing articles of interest to our work, read the one's that spark our interest, and comment on them. The emphasis is on the reading and commenting part rather than merely collecting. We've got a controlled list of tags to make searching by topic easy. For me, the best part of this project is that we are all working in the same context (i.e. we are aware of the current library landscape outside of our immediate work environment) and we are all engaging in PD which is not daunting and hopefully will become a part of our daily or weekly routine.

The page we've created is pretty much just for our group so I'm not going to provide and links or details. We did notice that there wasn't a visually exciting social curation site that offered exactly what we needed - a space for a private group to collaborate. The trend is social, so you have to share! Let's see if what we have suits our needs...