Author Archives: pfanderson

Bots, Part One: Of bots, and bleeps, and other things

First published at the UMIT Newsletter as “Bots, Part One: Of bots, and bleeps, and other things.”


Screenshot of the ELIZA Talking website, showing an old VT100 digivox terminal with keyboard, microphone, speaker, and vox (voice) dial button. There is text on the monitor which provides a description of the project ("ELIZA is a mock Rogerian psychotherapist), credits, and instructions for use.

E.L.I.Z.A. Talking (www.masswerk.at/eliza/)

Last December, I was turned on to the importance of bots while attending the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN) Annual Meeting in Arizona. Since then, I’ve been digging into the topic, trying to learn more, and hoping to get a bot implemented on our departmental website, but there is just so much to talk about! We decided to break this into a few parts, beginning with defining terms and a snippet of history — what’s a bot?

Bots, as in…robots? Not exactly

My first question was, “What do they mean by ‘bots’?” No, not robots (even though we have several wonderful robotics initiatives going here on campus), NPCs in games, spiders, spambots, malware bots, botnets, zombie computers, or any other geeky gore. The folk at MCSMN were focusing solely on chatbots, also known as chatterbots, website chatbots, AI bots, intelligent agents, intelligent bots, talkbots, Twitterbots, or messenger bots on Facebook, or even just broadly as social bots. According to Chatbots.org, there are over 160 terms describing the idea of a chatbot!

I am old enough to think of these generally as AI conversation bots, like the original ELIZA, which I marveled at the first time I encountered it. We’ve come a long, LONG way since then…in some ways. Eliza is available in a javascript clone of the old terminal interface, and has a new version that will talk to you, but…in other ways, we still have a long way to go.

Bots then and now

Bots have a fascinating back story, with mind-blowing applications going on right now. They are on web sites and Facebook pages, in apps, and are used for everything from marketing and jobs to social justice and health interventions. New examples appear almost every day. Sometimes a bot is fairly simple, more of a script to automate tasks, while others edge into the areas related to artificial intelligence.

About the background of AI bots, there is some justification for saying they go back to Ancient Greece, which was a surprise to me. More recently, they took off again in the 1960s with bots like Eliza, and the 1970s with MYCIN, finally reaching the general public in the 1990s in games, and now we all know about Siri and Google Assistant, right? Futurism has an infographic on bots history, and it’s a topic that has really been growing.

In recent months, chatbots have been profiled in a variety of major media outlets, include Ad Week, CIO, CNBC, Forbes, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and Wired. Believe it or not, there are even a few magazines devoted to chatbots, including Chatbots Magazine, Chatbot News Daily, Chatbots Journal, and probably others I haven’t found. The short message is that if you haven’t been paying attention to bots for your websites or apps, now may be the time to change that.

Here at the University of Michigan, there are a lot of people studying bots and using bots to make interesting things, but you’ll hear more about that next time, in “Things to Do With Bots.”

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Storify Is Gone. Have you tried Wakelet?

An abbreviated version of this was originally published at the Michigan IT News site as “Tech Tip: Wakelet turns many links into one.”


From 2011 to early 2018, Storify had dominated the niche of tools to harvest, collect, and organize social media and related content into meaningful collections, a.k.a. stories. There were other tools, like Lanyrd which collected conference and event content in a similar but more robust fashion with a freemium model, however Lanyrd appears to have vanished around the same time that Storify announced it would be closing. The market was wide open for a replacement, and Wakelet came to the forefront. Wakelet is what we’ve started using, and here we’ll give a quick overview of why, some of the differences, as well as pros and cons [See the sidebar].

Wakelet began in 2016 as a tool for the multiple-URL concept, making it easy to collect a few links on the same concept into a single short URL. MultiURL and OpenMultipleURL were similar tools at that time, but Wakelet didn’t stop there, and has expanded dramatically, adding Twitter import tools, alerts, shares, notifications, and ways to customize and personalize the visual display of collections. With the opportunity provided by the closing of Storify, Wakelet appears to have made an intentional effort to build and integrate new functionalities similar to those provided by the now defunct Storify, but having also added many desired functions that Storify lacked. They add new features and functions so rapidly that we anticipate some of the lacks we describe in this short article will have appeared by the time it’s published. That’s happened multiple times already while we’ve been researching this article!

Wakelet has a number of features that Storify never offered. Foremost among these is the export feature that Storify only made available as they were sunsetting. Wakelet didn’t have that until recently, but it was requested so often, they added it to their to-do list, and within six months it was available as a baked in option. Wakelet allows embedding of elements that Storify did include (such as Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Soundcloud, Tumblr, and YouTube) as well as services that weren’t easily included (Google Maps, Spotify, Amazon, Meetup, Behance, Medium, & Dribble). Wakelet also includes some features that Storify had at one point, but which broke towards the end of their lifecycle, like embedded PDFs or interactive Slideshare content. For Wakelet, many of these services do not have easy import tools, but need to be added through a copy and paste of the URL for the desired item. Other attractive new features from Wakelet include save-as-you-go collection building without requiring that you publish, a variety of privacy levels, and private collections for personal-only use.

There are some features Storify had which we miss in Wakelet. One of these is the descriptive URLs based on the title of the collection. In Storify the collections were referred to as stories, and in Wakelet they are called wakes, but we may use any of the three terms in this article. The descriptive URLs were a big plus for search and discovery, as well as for improving the SEO of the collection. Another feature we miss is being able to automatically sort all of the items in a collection. In Storify, we could toss in all the tweets for a hashtag, all the Instagram pics, Flickr images, YouTube videos, and then tell it to sort them into chronological order. That was super handy. In Wakelet, you need to sort them by hand, and it is slow going because of the infinite scroll. Wakelet does provide a minimalized display to make sorting easier, but it’s still a pain. It would also be nice if Wakelet had import tools like the one for Twitter content but for other popular social media services.

Things we wish Wakelet had? Well, there are a few. We wish there was built in collaboration, that we could invite someone else to partner on a Wakelet in progress. There is a hint of this functionality in some of their documentation (Terms of Service and Privacy Policy), where they mention “Group Registered User,” but we couldn’t find anything else about it. [UPDATE 09/27/2018: They DO have this functionality, FREE, and let us know about it: How Do I Invite Contributors To A Collection?.] Wakelet and Storify both included the option to ❤️ or like a collection, but it’s challenging to find a way to browse the items you’ve hearted. You can follow an author or account, and it is easy to find those, but not so for the wakes that have been favorited. It would be lovely to have a kind of a playlist function built in, similar to YouTube’s “Watch Later” or “Favorites” lists. We also wish it was easier to find their help, tutorials, and similar information. [UPDATE 09/27/2018: They helped us find this, too: Wakelet Help.] The wakes they’ve made are wonderful and helpful, but a wake doesn’t yet have much to support SEO, and with the poor searching within the site and the lack of Google clout, it can be difficult to find or refind a wake, or to find wakes on topics of interest or emerging events.

Last but not least, accessibility and intellectual property stuff. Wakelet does a pretty fair job with accessibility, at the level of code elements and passing automated browser tests, but there are still things they could do with accessibility tests at the user level. The basic editing interface (especially the drag and drop features and the sliders) can be problematic for people with fine motor control as well as for users with vision challenges. Infinite scroll is popular right now, so it’s not unexpected that Wakelet would use it, but it causes problems both with certain kinds of users and in browsers or computers with limited memory. In addition, the ‘bounce’ that goes with infinite scroll can be distracting for persons with certain kinds of learning or attention disabilities.

Regarding intellectual property and legal information, Wakelet offers a fairly open license:

“Wakelet does grant you a worldwide, non-exclusive, non-sublicensable, and non-transferable license to download, store, view, display, preform, redistribute, and create derivative works of Content solely in connection with your use of Wakelet, and in accordance with, these Terms.”

It’s important to remember that Wakelet is based in the UK, and that their licensing and copyright laws are not based on United States legislation.

In closing, this is a thing that happened while we were writing this. “Wakelet has already responded to my question from six minutes ago! This is how to run a company. This is fantastic.” Yeah. Not bad. Not bad at all.


SIDEBAR: Wakelet (08/27/2018):

Access
PRO: Runs properly on modern computers/browsers
CON: Possible problems accessing shared content on older computers

Accessibility
PRO: No known problems via AChecker
CON: Drag and drop, infinite scroll, and issues for users with sight and fine motor control limitations

Browser extension
PRO: Save and organize links to articles, videos, tweets, & more. Available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
CON: Links to extensions are difficult to locate, as they are in a collection and not a page on their website.

Collaboration
PRO: Paid, commercial accounts may create group registered users
CON: Only available for paid accounts and very limited information on these accounts is available

Content
PRO: Supported: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, Google Maps, Spotify, Amazon, Slideshare, Meetup, Tumblr, YouTube, Behance, Flickr, Medium, & Dribble
CON: Some content must be manually added via URL

Display controls
PRO: Customizable banner and background images supported by Unsplash
CON: —

Mobile
PRO: App available for iOS & Android
CON: —

Reordering
PRO: Drag and drop individual items or move to top/bottom
CON: Cannot auto-sort after adding content

Saving
PRO: Auto-saves drafts and can save privately before publishing
CON: —

Search
PRO: Available
CON: No advanced search: can only search by keyword

Social media
PRO: Very present, active, & responsive
CON: —

Update cycle
PRO: Rapid! iOS: 17 updates in past year. New feature alerts via Twitter and collection.
CON: —

URLs
PRO: Unique URLs for each collection and profile
CON: No descriptive URLs for collections

Library Twitter Chats Collection

I’ve been trying to keep an eye out for the various library-oriented Twitter chats, and recently what I’ve noticed is that some of the resources I’ve previously depended on for this are disappearing. It’s kind of frustrating, so I’m making this post as a placeholder to make it easier for me to find them. Chances are I may not be able to keep this updated myself, and personally, I think we really need a wiki for collaboration on this. There is a Padlet I link to at the end, so perhaps that will do the job?

Because this is going to be archival in nature (and kind of a dumping ground), there may be chats that aren’t actually active anymore, or which have irregular schedules, and I may (when possible) substitute Archive.org links for links that have gone dark. While most of these do have a regularly scheduled time, I’m also throwing in links where people regularly ask for help or share solutions.

Oh, and the “Core” group is the ones I personally tend to use the most, so they are all up at the top, easy to find. This is not a recommendation, but just personal. I can’t try them all out, you know?

Links will be spelled out, again because of the archival nature of the post. Who knows? I might want to print it out and post it in my office for quick reference or as a conversation starter.

You’ll also notice that most of the hashtags are being provided in mixed upper and lower case. This is called “CamelCase” and is an accessibility best practice to make it easier for screenreaders to read the hashtag aloud as something pronounceable. This may not actually be the standard practice of the community using that hashtag.

Many of the resource lists I collected on this include various educational Twitter chats as well. I’m not including those here unless I see an explicit library focus. I was sorely tempted by the various book chats, but I didn’t want to do the work of multiple codings for them. Some of them are organized by and for librarians (they are included), while others are broader in scope and origin. So I’m just going to leave those here (#1book140, #FridayReads, #gayYA, #KidLitChat, #LitChat, #pblitchat (picture books), #Poetry, #SciFi, #SciFiChat, #SciFiFriday, #SciFiSaturday, #SciFiSunday, #StoryAppChat, #TechnoRead, #YALitChat).

Last but not least, as of today (August 9, 2018) I have not made live links for the tags. This is a vacation day for me, and I have other things to do. I hope to later, but no promises. In the meantime, you can search the hashtags in either Twitter or Google to find tweets using them or to get to more information about them.

Go to:
Core | Alphabetical | Location or Geographical | Topic or Theme | Resources


CORE

#canmedlibs
#critlib
#libchat
#medlibs


ALPHABETICAL

#AisleChat
#ArkTLChat
#AslaChat
#AusLibChat
#BibChatDE
#CanMedLibs
#CritLib
#ePubChat
#InalJChat (“I Need a Library Job”)
#LibChat
#LibFaves
#LibLeadGender
#LibraryLife
#LibrarianProblems
#LisProChat
#MashCat
#MedLibs
#MNItem
#MWLibChat
#NDLibChat
#NJLibChat
#PubLibChat
#SchSDSLP
#SnapRT (archives)
#TASLChat
#TitleTalk
#TLChat
#TXLChat
#UKLCChat
#UKLibChat
#UKMedLibs
#VaslChat


BY LOCATION/LANGUAGE

Library in popular languages

#Library
#Biblioteca
#Bibliothek
#Bibliothèque

Unspecified (Usually North America)

#medlibs
#critlib
#libchat
#LisProChat

Australia

#AusLibChat

Canada

#canmedlibs

Deutschland / Germany

#BibChatDE

United Kingdom (UK)

#UKMedLibs
#UKLibChat

United States

* Regional

Midwest – #MWLibChat

* States

Alabama – #AslaChat
Arkansas – #ArkTLChat
Minnesota – #MNItem
New Jersey – #NJLibChat
North Dakota – #NDLibChat
Texas – #TXLChat
Virginia – #VaslChat


BY THEME

Critical Librarianship & Library Activism

#critlib

General Librarianship

#libchat
#uklibchat

Medical Librarians & Librarianship

#medlibs
#canmedlibs
#ukmedlibs

School Librarians & Librarianship

#AisleChat
#ArkTLChat
#MNItem
#MWLibChat
#NDLibChat
#NJLibChat
#SchSDSLP
#TASLChat
#TLChat
#TXLChat
#VaslChat


RESOURCES

Included in this resources section, links and posts, a calendar, infographic, librarians & other.

Links & Posts

20 Essential Twitter Chats for the Library Crowd http://newsonrelevantscience.blogspot.com/2012/06/20-essential-twitter-chats-for-library.html

Library Twitter Chats: Part One https://www.hklibconnect.org/blog/2016/7/6/library-twitter-chats-part-one Library Twitter Chats: Part Two https://www.hklibconnect.org/blog/2016/7/8/library-twitter-chats-part-two

School Library Live Twitter Chats Are Cropping Up All Over! (2017) http://www.nikkidrobertson.com/2017/04/school-library-live-twitter-chats-are.html

Top Twitter Hashtags for Librarians https://hacklibraryschool.com/2014/05/27/hashtags/

Twitter For Librarians: Getting Your Library on Twitter! https://www.smore.com/9t6zp-twitter-for-librarians

Calendar

Dead Link: https://christianlauersen.net/library-twitter-chats-calendar/
Archive.org copy: https://web.archive.org/web/20180129054601/https://christianlauersen.net/library-twitter-chats-calendar/
About: https://rbfirehose.com/2017/06/17/library-lab-library-twitter-chats-calendar/

Infographic

Librarian Twitter Chats [infographic] by EasyBib:
dead link at Piktochart: https://create.piktochart.com/output/2617218-library-twitter-chats-2
Archive.org link (but doesn’t display the image): https://web.archive.org/web/20171003153032/https://create.piktochart.com/output/2617218-library-twitter-chats-2
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/144537469267409110/?lp=true
Content transferred to a Padlet for archiving and updating by Ashley Cooksey: http://agingerlibrarian.blogspot.com/2018/03/curation-teacher-librarian-twitter-chats.html
Direct link to the Padlet: https://padlet.com/ashley_cooksey2/2wvpnbjn28pu

And, in case that disappears, here are screenshots of the bits and pieces of the historic (and outdated) infographic.
Librarian Twitter Chats, Title

Librarian Twitter Chats, Monday

#TLChat, #EdTechChat, #TLNewsNight, #CollabEd, #PubPriBridge, #INALJChat

Librarian Twitter Chats, Tuesday

#SMedChat, #EdChat, #MakerEd, #Patue, #PBLChat, #CritLib

Librarian Twitter Chats, Wednesday

#LibChat, #YALitChat, #EduCoach, #Web20Tools, #EdTechBridge, #LitChat

Librarian Twitter Chats, Thursday

#ALSCChat, #BYOTChat, #FlippedPD, #DENChat, #WhatIsSchool

Librarian Twitter Chats, Friday

#EdBookTalk, #ConnectedPD, #ePubChat, #FridayReads

Librarian Twitter Chats, Saturday

#SatChat, #SaturdayLibrarian

Librarian Twitter Chats, Sunday

#TechEducator, #YALove, #TitleTalk, #21stEdChat, #CCSSChat, #1to1Chat

Librarian Twitter Chats, State Specific

#VASLChat (Virginia), #TxLChat (Texas), #IAEdChat (Iowa), #CAEdChat (California), #NCTLChat (North Carolina)

Librarian Twitter Chats, Footer

“Want to use Twitter as a teaching tool? Find out how: http://hubs.ly/y071Kt0 For a full list of educational hashtags, visit http://bit.ly/officialchatlist compiled by Thomas Murray, Chad Evans and Jerry Blumgarten.

Librarians & Other Links

2016: 19 AWESOME LIBRARIANS TO FOLLOW ON TWITTER https://www.quirkbooks.com/post/19-awesome-librarians-follow-twitter
2014: 200 Librarians To Follow On Twitter http://www.mattanderson.org/blog/2014/12/13/200-librarians-to-follow-on-twitter/
2013: 75 Of The Coolest Librarians To Follow On Twitter http://librarysciencelist.com/75-of-the-coolest-librarians-to-follow-on-twitter/


KUDOS

Thanks to Andrew Spencer and Leigh-Anne Yacovelli.

On Facebook and Uncomfortable Ideas

Last night’s moonlight through the window, filtered to make the black photo visible

I’m going to say something unpopular and uncomfortable. Mark Zuckerberg is getting a lot of flack for his comment in the Recode interview about Holocaust deniers. As a librarian, I see that what he’s really talking about is CENSORSHIP.

“I also think that going to someone who is a victim of Sandy Hook and telling them, “Hey, no, you’re a liar” — that is harassment, and we actually will take that down. But overall, let’s take this whole closer to home…

I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened.

I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong, but I think-… It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent.” Mark Zuckerberg, Recode Interview

People are latching onto the small concept and missing the big picture. It was an example, not necessarily a specific. It was an example of something that deeply offends him, but which he is refusing to censor. It was about trying to create a place for unpopular and uncomfortable ideas and conversations, about embracing differences. Ideally, that would be a safe place, an open space, a respectful place, but there’s a lot of people in the world, and I don’t know that very many of them are consistently able to have conversations that are safe, open, and respectful on topics that connect to their fears and wounds.

Think for a minute about ideas that each of us hold which are problematic for others, and what would happen if we applied the same criteria for exclusion to our ideas and voices as we do to the ideas of others that make us feel bad. I have friends who are right wing, and left wing; LGBT, and conservative Christians; scientists, and astrologers; kink aficionados, and asexual survivors of child sexual abuse; highly educated researchers & writers, and people with learning disabilities or from underprivileged and under-resourced backgrounds and communities. My hope is this diversity of people will encourage conversation and awareness across the divides, that we can and will LEARN from people whose thoughts and experiences are different from our own, that we can encourage flexibility and examination and questioning of what is or is not a good trusted information source and why.

So, Facebook isn’t perfect, and people aren’t perfect, and Mark Zuckerberg isn’t perfect, and I’m not perfect. I respect that Zuke is trying. I respect that it is basically impossible to define a conceptual boundary, a line in the sand, for what can and can’t be posted here, without causing harm. There is harm if the line is too loose or too tight. It needs to be a blurry boundary. We need to give people the benefit of a doubt. We need to assume that most people are at heart good people with good intentions, and create opportunities to inform them and ourselves, hopefully creating opportunities to change minds and hearts.

If we tell people they can’t be here, they’ll go somewhere else, and we won’t know who they are, or what they think, or why they think that. We won’t know what they are doing, or what they are planning. We will be creating additional darkness, for unwelcome ideas to fester and turn dangerous.

Zuckerberg had a great response that isn’t getting as much attention as the original remark.

“Our goal with fake news is not to prevent anyone from saying something untrue — but to stop fake news and misinformation spreading across our services. If something is spreading and is rated false by fact checkers, it would lose the vast majority of its distribution in News Feed. And of course if a post crossed line into advocating for violence or hate against a particular group, it would be removed. These issues are very challenging but I believe that often the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.” Mark Zuckerberg Clarifies, Recode

I don’t know about you, but I’m on Zuckerberg’s side with this.

On Plastic, Straws, Food, Climate, and Culture — Impacts of Technology Change on Individuals and Communities

Seeking a Middle Ground Between #WarOnWaste and Accessibility (#a11y / #SpoonieLife)

This is not a new topic. We know plastic is bad. Bad for us, bad for animals. Bad for the environment. And then there is the whole deal with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, comprised primarily of plastic waste. So, bad. However, we’ve spent a couple generations now creating a culture that revolves around bad things like plastic and gasoline, and more. You can’t turn it over in a heartbeat. Because we know it’s bad, we want to fix it RIGHT NOW, but if we try to do that we really need to ask who is going to be impacted and how. This is part of how we need to be thinking about bringing in new technologies, and about replacing old technologies, and the whole spectrum of what are we doing with tech.

If we get rid of plastic straws (as some cities and even countries are doing, along with other single use plastics), who does it help, how does it help them, does anyone get hurt, again how, what are the alternatives, … we need to ask all these questions. We also need to ask what arrangements or substitutions are being put in place BEFORE the change is made, and what are the low hanging fruit with the biggest impact that we should be targeting first. I’m not sure these questions are being asked. It turns out that getting rid of plastic straws has a really big impact on the quality of life and the safety of people with a variety of disabilities. Here’s a wonderful infographic that is getting a lot praise on Twitter.

There are a lot of people who tweet about plastic waste, and the hot new hashtag for this is #WarOnWaste. Several people I know, including several with disabilities, have been responding to these. One in particular has been getting attention lately, a tweet by Elysse Morgan, an Australian news anchor.

I did not read through all the replies to her tweet, which has kind of gone viral in a bad way, but I read a lot of them. They bring up so many issues about how pre-cut foods help to prevent food waste and empower people with disabilities broadly, people in food deserts, amputees, single parents, the elderly, those with fine motor control, reduced upper limb strength, and on and on. A great many issues were brought up, a great many personal stories were told. I collected several of these in a Wakelet collection (Wakelet is the best replacement I’ve found for Storify, but that’s a different blogpost). Here they are if you’d like to scan through them.

Endorsement/Response

Seeking a Middle Ground Between #WarOnWaste and Accessibility (#a11y / #SpoonieLife)

Are systematic reviews and meta-analyses still useful research?

Systematic!!!

If you haven’t already seen this trio of articles on the validity of the systematic review methodology, these are a must read. Each of the three articles (Yes, No, and Not Sure) are short – three pages. This is a topic that has been frustrating an awful lot of librarians for a really long time. Basically, from my own point of view, it isn’t that the systematic review methodology is bad, but that it’s been over-hyped, mis-used, applied in ways that never should have happened; that peer reviewers don’t know how to review these, don’t know what a good systematic review should look like or should include, and that means a lot of published articles called systematic reviews AREN’T (and should never have been published. In the words of my colleague, Whitney Townsend, they’ve been watered down. I think she’s being overly gentle and diplomatic.

For now, take a look at these, read them, and in a few weeks (if I’m lucky, and can find time to blog!) I’ll come back to this with a few more cogent thoughts. Who knows? I might go out and collect reactions from some of the librarians around here! (I said I’d have to be lucky!)

Are systematic reviews and meta-analyses still useful research? We are not sure
Morten Hylander Møller; John P. A. Ioannidis; Michael Darmon
Intensive Care Medicine
April 2018, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 518–520
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00134-017-5039-y

Are systematic reviews and meta-analyses still useful research? No
Sylvie Chevret; Niall D. Ferguson; Rinaldo Bellomo
Intensive Care Medicine
April 2018, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 515–517
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00134-018-5066-3

Are systematic reviews and meta-analyses still useful research? Yes
Djillali Annane; Roman Jaeschke; Gordon Guyatt
Intensive Care Medicine
April 2018, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 512–514 | Cite as
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00134-018-5102-3

Coding and tech comics & coloring books

First posted at https://michigan.it.umich.edu/news/2017/12/19/comics-coloring-books/


We are coming up quickly on the winter break, with families gathered and children out of school. With that in mind, it might be fun to have some some (slightly eccentric?) options for family activities and young folk distractions. Even better if these are options that promote learning, or just understanding more about what the old folks do with their days, eh? Here are a few highlights from my collections of (mostly free) comics, coloring books, and games around the world of geekery, coding, and tech. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find something that tickles your own funny bone!

A FORTRAN Coloring Book

Coloring Books

The first coding coloring book I could find dates from 1978 — Roger Kaufman’s FORTRAN Coloring Book, actually published by MIT Press and used as a textbook, back in the day. I was tickled pink when I found it, in part because I remember by Dad coding in FORTRAN when I was a young thing. (Yes, I have a copy on paper in my office. Honest!) It is robustly humorous for actual coders, and probably not as much fun for kids today. It is, however, available in the fabulous Internet Archive (but you might have to wait your turn to get access, since it is still under copyright).

Another rather amusing tongue-in-cheek (optionally NSFW) geek coloring book comes from the infamous Oatmeal. Check out 404 Not Found (and 404 Not Found NSFW). Not free.

With coloring books about coding going back so many decades, I thought there must be more, and oh my, there are.

ABC++ [PDF] (free)

The Coder’s Coloring Book [PDF] (free)

Kevin’s Python Coding Coloring Book (usually around $7)

Lady Ada’s E is For Electronics Coloring Book [PDF] (free as PDF, or you can buy a copy for $9.95)
(You might want to see also Lady Ada’s R is for Robots, which is not free.)

Programmer’s coloring book (About) [PDF] (free)

The SELinux Coloring Book (Github) [PDF] (free)

Soldering is Easy (free, but no PDF, only individual page downloads)

The Imitation Game, by Jim Ottaviani

Comics, Graphic Novels, Zines, Etc.

– About Coding & Tech-

These include comix for kids and comix for pros, but even those for kids are so well done I get a giggle out of them.

BubbleSort Zines. (Includes zines like “Hip Hip Array!” as well as t-shirts and jewelry such as “BYTE ME!”) (not free)

Code Cartoons (such as A Cartoon Guide to Flux and more) (free)

Google Chrome comic by Scott McCloud (free)

Grokking Algorithms: An illustrated guide for programmers and other curious people (~$17 onAmazon)

Hello, Ruby (for ages 5 and up) (not free, but free stuff available for downloading at the site)

How DNS Works (start here) (free)

Linux comics, a small zine. Others from the same author include “Let’s Learn tcpdump,” “Spying on your programs with trace,” and “Networking! ACK!” (free)

What Makes a Clock Tick (free)

Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby (free)

– About Geekery Other Than Coding –

We are very lucky here to have Jim Ottaviani on campus as a hard core science geek who loves and loves to make comics. I could hardly talk about comics and coding without mentioning his collaboration with Leland Purvis, The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded! But there are more comics and graphic novels about coders, geeks, and the work and culture they love. This is just a few selected titles, not at all comprehensive (try searching cyberpunk graphic novels to see what I mean). [NOTE: These are mostly NOT free, but for sale at bookstores both analog and virtual.]

Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics

William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (Pantheon Graphic Novels)

Tom Clohosy Cole’s Space Race

(And if this isn’t enough to keep people busy, you can always make your own, one way or another.)