Thanks to everyone who came to my MovieMaker Presentation at the Technology & Curriculum Conference of Aldine! Despite a somewhat awkward setup, I think the presentation was a success and I hope ya’ll all learned something.

If you missed my presentation and would like a copy of the handout, you can get it here.

How do I “rip” video from DVD?

During the presentation, someone asked how to rip video from presentations. I stated that VNC was the program to use, but I actually meant VLC … sorry about that! Here is a tutorial on Ripping DVD’s with VLC. The folks at VLC also recommend using Handbreak and mplayer … so give them a shot too.

How do I “rip” audio from an Audio CD?

Almost all audio players have some sort of ripping feature. You can always use Windows Media Player or iTunes. Just make sure to check that the preferences are set to save audio to MP3.

Remember: Just because you have the DVD or CD doesn’t mean you have a legal right to copy its contents. Make sure to abide by Fair Use guidelines. Here’s a simple chart by Hall Davidson on Fair Use to help you.

Screen Capture of Drumknott Website

Screen Capture of Drumknott Website

A few days ago, I heard a neat piece on crowdsourcing from the Ted Radio Hour. In one segment, Clay Shirky talked about why we collaborate and mentioned a tool called Ushahidi. Ushahidi – both the company and the tool – were created in response to 2007 Kenya Presidential Elections were the software was used to track outbreaks of violence. Since then it’s been used for everything from charting destruction caused by earthquakes to school & road closings caused by snow storms.

The software works by aggregating reports from various channels – Twitter, SMS, email, and submissions from the web – and displaying them on a map.

As our mainstream media channels become more and more homogeneous, it’s very easy for events that might be important for a local community or populous to be eclipsed by national matters. Think about the standard local news broadcast: usually 30 minutes to 1 hour long with commercials. On top of that take away time for Sports, Weather, & local reactions to national stories, and how much time do you actually have left for local news? In a city like Houston, there has to be hundreds of stories that fall through the cracks everyday, each one of them with the potential to change someone’s life.

Up till this point, the consumers’ interactions with news media have been very one sided. Most newsrooms have had some sort of hotline where you can report breaking news for sometime now, and as technology has advanced, have added the ability to comment on various reports on their websites. But in the end, it’s ‘they’ who determine what is broadcast and what isn’t.

I believe that by using tools like Ushahidi, we can catch some of the stories that fall through the cracks and enable a sort of patron driven news reporting. I can envision smaller neighborhood newspapers and action groups using it to keep their constituencies informed on various issues and to solicit reports directly from them.

I’ve set up an Ushahidi instance at It’s very much not production – it’s more than a little temperamental and will probably slow to a crawl if there’s more than a few people looking at it at a time. For the most part, it’s easy to set up. You can download the software at Ushahida also has a hosting service called Crowdmap at Give it a shot and help change the way news is made!


Sometime ago, I read an article in one of the library journals on using Wikipedia to advertise your archives. Since then, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to put it to practice.

In my activities scanning the Milsaps Diaries at the Houston Public Library, I came across a photo W.W. Grayson. Grayson is said to have fired the first shot in the Battle of Manila. With some help from Cecilia Williams, who trimmed the hi-res TIFF image down to a much more manageable sized JPEG, I’ve posted his image to the Wikipedia article on the battle. Go check it out:

Perhaps a neat project for next year’s National Day of Civic Hacking might be to get people together to search for public domain images from various archives which could be added to Wikipedia to improve articles.


Hey! It’s my first bib record. Nothing fancy … just a record for some tripods we’ll be checking out in the future.


How’d I go this long without having to make a bib record? I’m such a bad librarian …


Screen shot of the Diary of Major Milsaps as displayed on HPL’s Digital Archives Website

A while back, the Houston Public Library put out a call for volunteers to help scan physical objects from their archival collections for inclusion in their digital archives, and I signed up. For the last few Wednesdays, I’ve been spending two hours after work scanning the Diaries of Major John Milsaps, and here is the result. This is the first of several of Milsaps’ Diaries.

These diaries are interesting, as they document Milsaps time in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War. They are loaded with photgraphs of people from both sides.

So go and check them out! And while you’re at it, take a look at some of the other stuff in the digital archives.