Showing posts from October, 2016

2016-10-31: Two Days at IEEE VIS 2016

I attended a brief portion of IEEE VIS 2016 in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday (returned to ODU on Wednesday for our celebration of the Internet Archive's 20th anniversary).  As the name might suggest, VIS is the main academic conference for visualization researchers and practitioners. I've taught our graduate Information Visualization course for several years (project blog posts, project gallery), so I've enjoyed being able to attend VIS occasionally. (Mat Kelly presented a poster in 2013 and wrote up a great trip report.)

This year's conference was held at the Baltimore Hilton, just outside the gates of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  If there had been a game, we could have watched during our breaks.

My excuse to attend this year (besides the close proximity) was that another class project was accepted as a poster. Juliette Pardue, Mridul Sen (@mridulish), and Christos Tsolakis took a previous semester's project, FluNet Vis, and generalized it. WorldVis (2-pager,

2016-10-27: UrduTech - The GeoCities of Urdu Blogosphere

On December 12, 2008, an Urdu blogger Muhammad Waris reported an issue in Urdu Mehfil about his lost blog that was hosted on Not just Waris, but many other Urdu bloggers of that time were anxious about their lost blogs due to a sudden outage of the blogging service UrduTech. The downtime lasted for several weeks which has changed the shape of the Urdu blogosphere.

Before diving into the UrduTech story, let's have a brief look into the Urdu language and the role of the Urdu Mehfil forum in promoting Urdu on the Web. Urdu is a language spoken by more than 100 million people worldwide (about 1.5% of the global population), primarily in India and Pakistan. It has a rich literature, while being one of the premier languages of poetry in South Asia for centuries. However, the digital footprint of Urdu has been relatively smaller than some other languages like Arabic or Hindi. In the early days of the Web, computers were not easily available to the masses of the Urdu speaki…

2016-10-26: They should not be forgotten!

I remembered his face and smile very well. It was very tough for me to look at his smile and realize that he will not be in this world again. It got worse for me when I read his story and many others who had died defending the future of my home country, Egypt, hoping to draw a better future for their kids. Ahmed Basiony, one of Egypt’s great artists, was killed by the Egyptian Regime on the January 28th, 2011. One of the main reasons that drove Basiony to participate in the protests is filming police beatings to document the protests. While he was filming, he also used his camera during the demonstration to zoom on the soldiers and warn the people around him so they take cautions before they had gunfire. Suddenly, his camera fell down.

Basiony was a dad for two kids: one and six years old. He has been loved by everyone who knew him.  I hope Basiony's and others' stories will remain for future generations.

curl -I 
HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found 
Date: Tue, …

2016-10-25: Web Archive Study Informs Website Design

Shortly after beginning my Ph.D. research with the Old Dominion University Web Science and Digital Libraries team, I also rediscovered a Hampton Roads folk music non-profit I had spent a lot of time with years before.  Somehow I was talked into joining the board (not necessarily the most sensible thing when pursuing a Ph.D.).

My research area being digital preservation and web archiving, I decided to have a look at the Tidewater Friends of Folk Music (TFFM) website and its archived web pages (mementos).  Naturally, I looked at oldest copy of the home page available, 2002-01-25.  What I found is definitely reminiscent of early, mostly hand-coded HTML:

Of course the most important thing for most people is concerts, so I had a look at the concerts page too (interestingly, the newest concerts page available is five years newer than the oldest home page—this phenomena was the subject was of my JCDL 2013 paper.).

Clicking my way through the home and concert page and mementos, I found littl…

2016-10-26: A look back at the 2008 and 2012 US General Elections via Web Archives

Web Archives perform the crucial service of preserving our collective digital heritage. October 26, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Internet Archive, and the United States presidential Election will take place November 8, 2016.  To commemorate both occasions, let us look at the 2008 and 2012 US General Elections as told by Web Archives from the perspectives of CNN and Fox News. We started with three news media - MSNBC, CNN and Fox News in order to capture both ends of the political spectrum. However, has redirected to various different URLs in the past (e.g.,, and the result is that the site is not well-archived.
Obama vs McCain - Fox News (2008) Obama vs McCain - CNN (2008)
Obama vs Romney - Fox News (2012) The archives show that the current concerns about voter fraud and election irregularities are not new (at least on Fox News, we did not find corresponding stories at CNN).

Obama vs Romney - CNN (2012) We appreciate the ability to tell th…

2016-10-25: Paper in the Archive

Mat reports on his journalistic experience and how we can relive it through Internet Archive (#IA20)                            We have our collections, the things we care about, the mementos that remind us of our past. Many of these things reside on the Web. For those we want to recall and should have (in hindsight) saved, we turn to the Internet Archive.As a computer science (CS) undergrad at University of Florida, I worked at the student-run university newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator. This experience became particularly relevant with my recent scholarship to preserve online news. At the paper, we reported mostly on the university community, but also on news that catered to the ACRs through reports about Gainesville (e.g., city politics).News is compiled late in the day to maximize temporal currency. I started at the paper as a "Section Producer" and eventually evolved to be a Managing Editor. I was in charge of the online edition, the "New Media" co…

2016-10-24: 20th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries (TPDL 2016) Trip Report

"Dad, he is pushing random doorbell buttons", Dr. Herzog's daughter complained about her brother while we were walking back home late night after having dinner in the city center of Potsdam. Dr. Herzog smiled and replied, "it's rather a cool idea, let's all do it". Repeating the TPDL 2015 tradition, Dr. Michael Herzog's family was hosting me (Sawood Alam) at their place after the TPDL 2016 conference in Hannover. Leaving some cursing people behind (who were disturbed by false doorbells), he asked me, "how was your conference this year?"

Day 1

Between the two parallel sessions of the first day, I attended the Doctoral Consortium session as a participant. The chair Kjetil Nørvåg, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, began the session with the formal introduction of the session structure and timeline. Out of the seven accepted Doctoral Consortium submissions, only five could make it to the workshop.
Õnne Mets from the Unive…