Skip to main content

University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 4/9/18: This rare book can kill you

Arsenic and old paste
Some collectors might kill for rare books, but it’s rare that a book can kill you. However, a book printed in 1874 contains samples of arsenic-laced wallpaper to warn home decorators what not to use to deck the halls. AtlasObscura reveals that of the four known remaining copies of Shadows from the Walls of Death, one resides at Michigan State and one at the University of Michigan. Under lock and key, one hopes.

Teaching media literacy to teens
The Poynter Institute announced it has received a $3 million grant from to develop MediaWise, a curriculum designed to make middle and high school students smarter consumers of news and information. The program aims to reach over a million students, half from underserved communities. 

Rockin’ the wardrobe
Twitter users may want to slip into the Librarian Wardrobe to see what stylin’ librarians are wearing to work, from top to toe. 

In this corner…
The rumble in the jungle, the thrilla in Manila and now the Grand Digital Computing Race, pitting the grand-daddy of British computers vs. a $15 BBC micro:bit. Which can calculate a Fibonacci sequence faster? TechRepublic has the not-so-surprising results.

Career-boosting MOOCs
Coursera, the online education platform, shares the Top 10 Career-Launching Courses of the past year, based on surveys of actual students who say these courses benefited them professionally. Not-so-humble brag: Three of the top ten were taught by UMSI’s Chuck Severance.

Tech-a-bye baby
One thing driving the Internet of Things (IoT), says, is the increasing number of tech products for baby. Smart diaper sensors, self-rocking cribs and a sock that monitors an infant’s vital signs were just a few of the products at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show designed to help mommy’s and daddy’s peace of mind when bringing up baby.

“Our vegetable love shall grow…”
Low tech, high art: Sometimes a thing is too pretty not to share.  Compliments of comes this stunning gallery of Instagram images by a Japanese chef who carves intricate traditional patterns into apples, carrots and other vegetables. 

Google is shutting down its url shortening service on April 13. Current links will work but new ones can’t be created. Google is replacing its own service with Firebase Dynamic Links, which work better with apps, according to

Fat fingers can cost you
Seems like for every human failing, there’s a criminal waiting to take advantage. Now it turns out that a simple typo–leaving out the “o” in “.com” when typing the url of many popular and legitimate websites like Hulu, Chase and Citicards, to name a few–will produce a blizzard of malware alerts and other misleading messages. This PSA from is worth a look. Along those lines, has a practical guide on how to spot some common online fakes that scammers can use to download dangerous software, steal your personal information or lighten your wallet.

Smartphone blindness
We all know that staring at large and small screens for hours at a time is probably not doing our eyes any favors. (What did mom say about sitting too close to the TV?) writer Virginia Heffernan has a thoughtful article on what our pixilated devices are doing to our eyesight–and some intriguing antidotes involving three dimensions. 

Social security?
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. State Department is proposing to collect social media data from all visa applicants, both immigrants and visitors. Details to be requested include user names, previous email addresses and phone numbers. The two new requirements are posted in the Federal Register for a 60-day public comment period, just in case anyone wishes to <ahem> leave a comment. Comments close on May 29.

News from UMSI

To address the growing concerns regarding the use and misuse of social media, the School of Information has created the Center for Social Media Responsibility,  and appointed Garlin Gilchrist II, former social media manager for President Barack Obama, as its executive director. Read more.