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University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 2/8/21: The Big Short squeeze

The world of information - in Fun Size!

UMSI's Fun Size digest features tiny, delicious news tidbits relating to information and library topics. Reach us at [email protected].

The Big Short squeeze

By now, we’ve all had a crash course in what selling short means, even if we couldn’t quite follow the economic shenanigans of the 2015 movie. CNET has a nice clear explainer on the GameStop war between Wall Street and the “little guy” day traders. TL;DR: Some folks are gonna lose a lot of $$$, while others are cashing in and laughing as they stick it to the man.

The people’s library

The largest humanities foundation in the U.S., the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is shifting towards humanities grants with a “social justice lens,” according to the New York Times. One recipient is the Library of Congress, which has received a $15 million grant to expand its collection, encourage diversity among future librarians and make it easier for members of minority groups to access the LOC’s digital archives.

Another initiative reflecting the foundation’s new focus is “freedom libraries,” 500-book collections of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and other writing sent to 1,000 prisons across the country.

Ducking surveillance

Users tired of having their every search noted and sold to advertisers are helping to boost the popularity of DuckDuckGo, says ZDNet. In January, the privacy-focused search engine surpassed a record 100 million user queries in one day. That’s just a tiny fraction of Google’s 5 billion daily hits, but still worth quacking about.

O brave new world

Under Mark Lore’s e-commerce leadership, Walmart became second largest online store in the U.S. after Amazon. Now he’s leaving to pursue his vision of the ideal city of the future: as vibrant as New York, as safe as Tokyo and as socially secure as Sweden, Vox reports. Yes, please!

Brave new words

Alien. Bot. Droid. Mutant. Warp speed. Wormhole. Our everyday dialogues are filled with vocabulary from science fiction. Now there’s an online dictionary that not only defines these terms but traces their origins and development throughout the decades, says online SF and fantasy mag The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction is an offshoot of a project begun by the Oxford English Dictionary, no less.

Where to get shot

“Hey, Google, where’s a vaccination site near me?” In addition to pledging $150 million for vaccination education (which is apparently needed: see next item), Google has announced it will soon include vaccination locations on Google Maps and Search features.

Shot? Not so fast.

TV news programs show aerial footage of long lines of cars at vaccination sites, A leading conversation opener is whether you’ve gotten the vaccine yet. But it turns out a lot of people don’t want that shot. MIT Technology Review has a map of the U.S. based on county-by-county data of how likely residents are to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Can you spot the college towns?

Hot shots

Surprise! Flickr is still a thing and attracting some very talented photographers. In 2020, the photo-posting platform held a Your Best Shot contest and selected 40 finalists from 18,000 submitted photos. The top 10 winners received one-year subscriptions to the Adobe Creative Photography pack. And bragging rights.

Heave-ho, me hearties

Sea shanties are having their day in the sun, thanks in part to a Scottish singing postman. Nathan Evans’ a cappella rendition of “The Wellerman” has gone viral on TikTok and hit No. 3 in the UK singles chart, according to The Guardian. Now every landlubber wants to ride the wave, with mashups a-bounding.

Best of CES 2021

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held virtually, but still managed to include the new and future tech gadgets, tools and innovations that inspire reporters to catalog their favorites. WIRED came up with its “Best of CES 2021,” as did Esquire, with “15 Coolest Tech and Gadgets.” Curiously, only one item appeared on both lists, the 8K Roku TV. Even curiouser: neither one had the hamster robot. Guys!

News from UMSI

“We can’t be the place where people come to be angry.” Professor of Information Cliff Lampe, in an interview with Michigan News, discusses the decision of major platforms like Twitter and Facebook to remove or suspend Donald Trump’s social media accounts and actions by Google and Amazon that led to the shutdown of Parler.  Read more.