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Librarians After Hours, Part 3
by
Posted On April 2, 2024
Thomas Pack writes the After Hours column for Information Today newsmagazine, which features a quick look at sites info pros might not know about, but should. It reflects when readers would typically have a chance to dig into the sites covered—that is, after work hours. 

Here are excerpts from Pack’s columns from January/February 2023 to November/December 2023, which have been lightly edited and condensed for the web. You can read the full columns five times a year in Information Today, starting with the January/February 2021 issue.

Here are the other parts of this series: Part 1 Part 2


RumorGuard Debunks Gossip While Empowering Fact-Checkers

A story spread across social media recently that schools were installing litter boxes for students who identified as cats. This rumor is one of many that have been thoroughly debunked on RumorGuard, a new platform from the News Literacy Project, which notes that RumorGuard “goes beyond traditional fact-checking efforts by also walking users through the process of evaluating how and why a rumor might be false.”

RumorGuard’s homepage is filled with recent rumors revolving around politics, celebrities, and current events. The website’s primary approach is to dispel viral misinformation by providing a short summary of the known facts related to each rumor. The editors select a range of rumors to debunk, including those that highlight common misinformation tropes, patterns, and trends; those that illustrate key news literacy concepts and skills; and those that demonstrate helpful verification techniques.

To debunk the rumor that schools were providing litter boxes for students, RumorGuard found that the story had not been posted or confirmed by a credible source. There was no evidence to prove the claim, and it was not based on solid reasoning. The site notes that “when a lie is repeated often enough, it can create an illusion of truth. This psychological tendency—also known as the illusory truth effect—was on full display throughout the summer of 2022 as [the student litter box] rumor made its way from the fringes of social media to school board meetings to political campaign events to a podcast with more than 13 million subscribers.”


Canva Does Word Processing Too?

For anyone who needs presentations, social media posts, fliers, business cards, T-shirts, posters, or just about any other type of communications material, Canva is a powerful but easy-to-use graphic design platform. Canva now has word processing in the form of Canva Docs, so the platform is now taking on not only such applications as Adobe’s InDesign and Microsoft Publisher, but also Google Docs and Microsoft Word.

To get started with Docs, you simply click an icon on the Canva homepage. Multiple templates are available, including a meeting agenda, project overview, social media strategy, onboarding plan, letterhead, and quarterly financial report. Besides familiar text editing and formatting tools, Canva Docs includes a Plus (+) button that lets you quickly add graphical elements to your document such as images, charts, and checklists. You even can embed other Canva designs and documents by copying and pasting the project link or dragging and dropping. To collaborate on a document, just click the Share button and invite someone to join.

In December 2022, the platform added AI-powered Magic Write to Canva Docs. You may want to use Magic Write to generate drafts of thank you notes, social media posts, memos, news releases, business plans, and many other types of personal and professional documents. You even can use it to produce a new version of existing text, and you can specify the tone you want, from playful to formal. A Fast Company article points out, “The prompt you write in Canva will not produce a full school paper on climate change or pen a recipe book or write a script for a TV pilot. Instead, Magic Write is designed to break writer’s block the same way the graphical templates in the rest of Canva’s design suite break ‘designer’s block.’”


Alternative Investments, Part 1: You Could Be Part Owner of a Multimillion-Dollar Painting

Looking for something to put your money in besides the stock market? Several websites can help, and they focus on the types of assets that used to be available only to the wealthy, such as art or fine wine. A good example is Masterworks, which boasts that it’s “the only platform that lets you invest in multi-million dollar works of art by artists like Basquiat, Picasso, Banksy, and more.”

“Contemporary art has outperformed [in] the S&P [stock market index] for the past 26 years,” founder Scott Lynn notes on the About page, “but there has been no way to invest in it. Masterworks is the first company to offer art investment products to the retail investing public.” To date, the company has purchased 239 works of art. It has more than 675,000 members worldwide and manages more than $720 million in assets.

The Masterworks research team uses its proprietary data to research artist markets and determine which ones have the most momentum. An acquisitions team locates and purchases works identified through the research. Masterworks securitizes art by filing offering circulars with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which lets anyone buy shares in specific works. It lets members buy from and sell to each other, but there’s no guarantee other buyers will be interested when you want to sell—and prices on the secondary market depend entirely on demand from other Masterworks members.

Note that you can’t just go to the Masterworks website and create an account. Membership requires a phone conversation with a representative to talk about your investing goals, risk tolerance, and investment minimums. In an interview with Fox Business, Lynn says, “We structure our minimums around each investor. We have investors investing $1,000. We have investors investing $25,000 [in] a painting, depending on the person.”


Alternative Investments, Part 2: Fine Wine and Rare Whiskeys

Vinovest employs both wine and technology experts who help everyday investors put their money in “blue-chip wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux, and beyond.” It boasts of 650,000 wine bottles under the company’s care, more than 150,000 “Vinovestors” in 44 countries, and $100 million in assets under management. In 2022, the company launched Whiskeyvest, which lets you add rare whiskey to your portfolio. Whiskeyvest authenticates, stores, and insures casks for you, but you can request a sample of your whiskey—or a bottle of your wine—whenever you like.

When you sign up with Vinovest, you complete a questionnaire to help the company build your personalized portfolio. Vinovest has four investment tiers, beginning at $1,000. In the Starter and Plus tiers (Plus requires a $10,000 minimum investment), an algorithm selects your portfolio. If you invest $50,000 to reach the Premium tier or $250,000 for Grand Cru, you get more options to build your portfolio in addition to the company’s proprietary algorithms, and you get access to rarer wines. Whichever level you join, you’ll pay an annual fee.

After you fund your account, it takes 2–3 weeks to build your portfolio as the company authenticates your wine and ships it to its nearest bonded warehouse. You’ll get ownership certificates for your bottles. For Whiskeyvestors, the minimum deposit depends on the cask you want to buy. American whiskey casks start around $1,750. For ultra-rare Scotch whisky, cask prices begin at about $15,000. Management fees are similar to those for Vinovestors. According to a review on the Money Armada website, Whiskeyvest “makes it easy to get started with investing in whiskey in the best brands and casks available, all with access to an expert team to help you with the sales process.”


Yelp Adds New Review, Search, and Customer Satisfaction Features

Yelp recently launched several new features designed to make its reviews even better and finding businesses even easier. Most of the new features aren’t necessarily earthshaking or game-changing. Still, there are a number of small improvements and some nice tweaks that enhance both the reviewing and searching experiences.

Reviewers now can enhance their reports by posting high-resolution videos (up to 12 seconds) along with text and photos. Yelp also added new topics for reviews of food and nightlife businesses to make writing easier and the reviews more in-depth. The topics “food,” “service,” and “ambiance” help make sure reviewers cover all the basics.

A new navigation bar on restaurant, food, and nightlife business pages now makes it easy to jump directly to such information as a restaurant’s menu or a listing of its amenities, and readers have more ways to respond to reviews besides the “Useful,” “Funny,” and “Cool” reactions that have become synonymous with Yelp over the years. The new reactions are “Helpful,” “Thanks,” “Love this,” and “Oh no.” Soon after launching this feature, Yelp reported that its staff saw six times more reactions to reviews with the new expressions.

Yelp has expanded its investments in AI and large language models (LLMs) to improve the site’s search experience. “By leveraging LLMs,” says a company blog post, “Yelp can better understand the nuance in your search intent and highlight relevant information from reviews in new snippets that appear under each business listing in your search results.” For example, if you search for “tennis courts,” you’ll see highlights about the facilities from the reviews (such as “reservations required”) under the listings in your results.


Thomas Pack (thomaspack9@gmail.com) has written for Information Today, Inc. publications for more than 2 decades.

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