Archive for the 'Media' Category

Farewell, ExLibris: It was a good ride

Posted in Media, Writing and blogging on April 25th, 2008

I missed it by a week, but Marylaine Block has announced that she’s formally ending ExLibris. That announcement comes as #309–which includes a list of “my favorite ExLibris pieces.”

For years, I checked every Thursday afternoon to see what Block had to say this week. ExLibris was a founding member of the failed COWLZ initiative–indeed, Marylaine Block probably started the whole notion. ExLibris wasn’t always weekly (there were 309 issues over nine years), but it was fairly regular until the last year or so.

Back in the day, there were the Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues, Current Cites, Library Juice (as a periodical), ExLibris, NewBreed Librarian and Cites & Insights. Now…hmm, maybe there’s something about “Cites,” since Current Cites and Cites & Insights are the sole survivors. (Or maybe there’s something about California, or a monthly schedule…)

Marylaine Block provided a real service. I was honored to be one of the 29 “gurus” she interviewed.

Thanks, Marylaine.

Chris Anderson redefines “media”!

Posted in Media on February 25th, 2008

I wouldn’t have read this Wired article at all, except that Peter Suber quoted a chunk of it…including portions of these two paragraphs.

The most common of the economies built around free is the three-party system. Here a third party pays to participate in a market created by a free exchange between the first two parties. Sound complicated? You’re probably experiencing it right now. It’s the basis of virtually all media. [Emphasis added.]

In the traditional media model, a publisher provides a product free (or nearly free) to consumers, and advertisers pay to ride along. Radio is “free to air,” and so is much of television. Likewise, newspaper and magazine publishers don’t charge readers anything close to the actual cost of creating, printing, and distributing their products. They’re not selling papers and magazines to readers, they’re selling readers to advertisers. It’s a three-way market.

Virtually all media. Isn’t that interesting? So, just to make it clear:

  • Media: Commercial broadcast TV and radio. Most magazines and newspapers. Portions of the web.
  • Not media: Books. Sound recordings. DVDs. Movies in general. Premium cable (HBO, Showtime, etc.) Other portions of the web.

OK, so he said virtually all Hmm. Let’s see what the government figures are for 2002 (they’ve changed since then, to be sure–but not enough to throw the percentages off all that much):

  • Broadcast TV and radio, magazines, newspapers: $134 billion.
  • Books, motion pictures and sound recordings: $106 billion.

I’m not sure that I can come up with any usage of “virtually all” that would fit $134 out of $240. Maybe my command of the English language is lacking. Or maybe my command of absurd generalizations is insufficient for me ever to get a job with Wired. I can live with that.

Update: For some reason, I missed the Statistical Abstract when I was at the Census Bureau’s website. StatAbs has more recent figures–for 2005.

  • Newspapers, periodicals, broadcasting: $149 billion
  • Books, motion pictures, sound recordings: $120 billion

The percentages haven’t changed significantly: just under 45% of “the media” are paid for.

Giving in to MP3–on my terms

Posted in Media on January 6th, 2008

Faithful readers may know that I’m somewhat of a troglodyte when it comes to portable electronics–particularly when I used to fly a lot, I really liked (and still like) to travel light, I have no desire for 24×365 availability, I find it difficult to listen to music and actually read or think at the same time…

The first crack appeared last summer at ALA when I tried Twitter via a cheap Virgin Mobile prepay cell phone with a tiny QWERTY keyboard. Twitter didn’t do it for me (by the way, for those of you continuing to sign up to follow me: I’m not there–but Twitter doesn’t actually allow you to leave)–but the cheaper cell phone made sense if I needed to call home. Since that was the conference where I wound up spending a night in DFW’s American terminal, it was just as well. (And I’ll have the same phone with me in Philadelphia, usually turned off…)

Actually, though, the first crack appeared maybe three (or four) years ago. I picked up a $15 portable CD player to try on a couple of speaking trips, thinking it might be nice to have music in the airport waiting lounges or if I needed cheering up in the hotel. (Actually, it was a $25 player, since I immediately replaced the crappy earbuds with adequate $10 Sony half-in-ear earclip units.) Mixed results: Yes, I liked having music once in a while–but the CD player, little coin purse for the headphones, and wallet full of CDs was a little bulky–particularly since I’d use it for maybe 2-4 hours on any given trip.

Meanwhile, I’d digitized my CD collection–twice. First at 196Kbps, then at 320K, since I found even 196K MP3 tiring after 15-20 minutes. I’ve burned loads of compilation CDs over the past five or six years…

I’d been following reviews of portable MP3 players for a while. I knew the issues with hard disks. I knew that most players come with poor earbuds but already had a decent set of replacements. And I knew which brands had decent reputations for value and good-quality electronics.

So when Office Depot had a sale the week before Christmas on a unit from a brand I recognized, that seemed to meet my basic criteria, from a series that had gotten decent reviews and at a price that was too low to quibble over, I pounced.

No, it’s not an iPod. Why would you even ask? I didn’t plan to spend $100 or more, I don’t plan to watch videos, I don’t use iTunes…

It’s a SanDisk Sansa Express 2GB player–basically a slightly oversized, fairly thick USB Flash Drive. 3.1 by 0.9 by 0.7 (at thickest) to 0.4 inches, maybe two ounces, four-line display (one orange line for battery and current song #, three blue lines for selections), simple control pad. 15-hour lithium rechargeable battery (not apparently replaceable), charges via the same USB 2.0 port you use to transfer music. (Turns out the case is just a little too wide at that end for the front USB ports on my 5.5-year-old Gateway–but SanDisk includes a short USB extender, which works just great. When/if I get a new Gateway, this won’t be an issue.)

Selling points? Well, SanDisk should know something about flash memory, being one of the biggest producers. I knew 2GB was enough for what I wanted, even at 320K–I have about 320 of my favorite songs (pretty much everything I’d want to hear on the road), with about 100Meg to spare. (Yahoo! Jukebox immediately recognized the Sansa–no software install–and handles it flawlessly: Just drag-and-drop, or synchronize if my Jukebox library was small enough.) I wanted flash disk for durability. A small and slightly chunky design suited me better than the thin-and-flat but taller-and-wider designs. And at $49, who could argue with the price?

Of course, it wasn’t really $49. It was really $64–because I don’t travel with a notebook computer, so just in case I use it a lot, it makes sense to add a tiny little AC-to-USB plug ($15 at Fry’s)–which, oddly, is marketed as an iPod accessory, even though (most?) iPods require an adapter cable to use it.

I’ve tried it out with the superb titanium-element over-the-ear headphones I have at home: The sound quality is just fine, comparable to a regular CD player. It has shuffle play, which is how I’ll usually use it–I trimmed my first load of songs a little, so that I’m basically going to enjoy listening carefully to whatever comes up. (That’s less than 10% of what’s in the music library. So it goes.)

I was quite amused to see an announcement of an $80 microphone plugin so you could use an iPod for voice recording. It’s a good idea–but this $49 Sansa already includes voice recording. Haven’t tried it, don’t know whether I’ll ever use it, but (as with most non-Apple MP3 players) it’s there, and integrated into the software. And, as with most others, there’s also an FM tuner, which I might or might not ever use.

I’m not a lanyard person, and I don’t expect to be using this on the exhibit floor or during walks or while reading or dining…but I sure can see using it while waiting for or riding on a plane. Turns out it fits nicely in the little coin purse that holds the Sony headphones, and that just drops in any pocket with not much bulge.

Nothing momentous here. Love your iPod? More power to you; so do my brother and sister-in-law and millions of other people. This just suited my own needs better. (Oh, and if I ever do decide that 2GB isn’t enough…well, there’s a microSD slot on the Sansa Express also, so I could upgrade to 4GB for, what, $20 more–or have several loaded 2GB microSD cards.)

Hmm. I’ve got 100MB left. I don’t do well with podcasts at home but there’s at least two Uncontrolled Vocabulary episodes I’d really like to hear. Maybe I’ll load them and see whether Midwinter allows enough downtime…

Wikis, authorship and collaboration: A question

Posted in Media on November 8th, 2007

I have a serious question, particularly for those of you who contribute to or maintain wikis:

Does it violate the “wiki way” for signed content pages–that is, essay contributions with prominent signatures–to be locked against edits (but have open Talk pages)? As a wiki user, would you be offended by such locked pages?

This isn’t a hypothetical. I’m working on a fledgling wiki that should become a major resource. It’s clear that much of the content will consist of signed essays. Some of those essays will be contributed directly to the wiki. Others will be contributed indirectly (by people who’ve already written them or are unwilling to deal with wiki markup). Still others will come from third-party sources and those must be locked (as a general rule).

Every locked page will have an open Talk page, open for contributions by anyone with an account on the wiki. We’ll try to make the Talk content more visible in a number of ways. When people have substantial alternative viewpoints, we’ll link to those content pages from the locked pages.

What do you think?

  • As a writer, if you contribute something that should be (and is) signed–anything in the first person, anything with a strong voice, anything that’s primarily opinion or your own experience–would you prefer that page to be open to edits by others or would you prefer it locked, edited only by the wiki’s editor(s)?
  • As a wiki user and contributor, would you be offended by frequent locked pages when they’re always accompanied by live Talk pages?

Thanks! Comments by December 1 will be most useful, but comments will stay open for the usual 6 to 12 months…

Missing videos and photos: A minor mystery

Posted in Media on November 4th, 2007

It could be Bloglines–well, no, probably not.

It might be Firefox.

It might be something else entirely.

Whatever the cause, I’m finding that in many but not all cases where bloggers either incorporate a photo or a video into a post, or even link to a site that has such a video, the photo or video is nowhere to be seen.

(Never mind the irritating curiosity of Travelin’ Librarian’s feed, which includes lots, lots of titles that are apparently for missing photos–and if you go to the blog itself, neither the titles nor the photos are there. I’m guessing TL is somehow merging a Flickr feed into his RSS feed, and surely wish there was a way to turn that off…)

Today was particularly odd: A link from a blog to a Slate column that incorporates a video, No video screen. No button to bring up the video. And that’s a site where I’ve watched videos before.

In one sense, it’s fine: I’m starting to fall behind on writing and reading anyway, so spending less time plowing through blogs and watching videos is probably a good thing. But it sure is mysterious…especially because it’s not all videos or photos. Not even close.

Convenient catch-all grumpy old man post

Posted in Books and publishing, Language, Media, Technology and software on October 22nd, 2007

First, there’s “privatization.”

Here’s the quote (from an article that’s appeared in NYT and IHT):

“Google could be privatizing the library system by offering a large, but private interface to millions of books,” Kahle said.

Brewster Kahle’s certainly not the only one to misuse the language this way–just the latest.

I’m not in love with Google by any means. I think OCA is a great idea (although I wonder where the “alliance” has gone, given Yahoo’s almost-total silence and Microsoft’s diverging effort).

But “privatizing the library system” or, which I’ve also read, “privatizing the public domain”–I’m sorry, but horespucky.

If Google negotiated exclusive contracts, maybe.

Otherwise, that language is like saying that, if I check a book out from my library that happens to be in the public domain, scan it, and return it to the library, I’ve “privatized” the book.

Google is borrowing books from libraries (in large quantities thanks to special arrangements), scanning those books, and returning them to the libraries with the promise that the books won’t be damaged. Its deals are nonexclusive. Google’s scan does not in any way modify the terms under which the book itself can be used.

Google Book Search absolutely expands findability for books and in no way restricts anyone else from building and maintaining book-search systems. Google Book Search for public domain absolutely expands access to the text within books, and in no way restricts anyone else from providing similar access. (For that matter, Google’s silly first-page “conditions” are suggestions for use of their PDFs, not legal restrictions.)

How can expansion be viewed as contraction? How can improved access be regarded as privatization?

Want to attack Google? Fine. But is it necessary to debase the English language to do so? Or does it just make a great soundbite?

Then there are the Wesch videos. Oh, you know them: The absolute must-see videos that will transform your thinking about… whatever.If you love them, that’s fine. More power to you.
On the other hand, if you find some of them nearly incomprehensible and generally think they’re mostly form without much content…well, you’re not alone.

Hey, maybe I’m just not a visual learner, particularly with this particular kind of visual.

Not that I’m ever going to “get on the cluetrain,” but I sometimes find it amusing to read “world-changing” books and those renowned as representing the true future a few years after they’re published. (Yes, I know, the general absurdity of Being Digital hasn’t hurt Negroponte’s rep as The Man–in general, being boldly wrong seems to work as long as you’re wrong at least three years out. Now cheap computers are more important to the children of third-world countries than sanitation, medicine and actual teachers. Maybe so.)So I finally checked out the cluetrain manifesto: the end of business as usual a couple of weeks ago, fully intending to read the whole thing so I could critique it.

I gave up halfway through, since I wasn’t going to scribble notes in the margins of a library book and my notecards were filling up too rapidly. Noting the apparently self-loathing Apple marketer decrying (a) marketing (b) companies that keep their futures secret, noting the more recent history of one of the authors, noting that…well, I’m sorry, but most business in 2007 is pretty much like most business in 2000 (when the book came out): As usual. Most marketing in 2007 is marketing, again pretty much business as usual. If you think you’re having a conversation with your bank or your supermarket or your fast-food joint or at least 80% of those from whom you buy things…well, you’re welcome to your beliefs.

Of course, I never have been much for manifestos.

And just for the giggles, here’s a blast from the past, courtesy of Cites & Insights 2:7, May 2002. In addition to one of Negroponte’s famous quotes (1996: “we will probably not print many [words] on paper tomorrow,” I picked up one of Wired Magazine‘s “bets on the future” from 2002:

Here’s one $1,000 bet: “By 2010, more than 50 percent of books sold worldwide will be printed on demand at the point of sale in the form of library-quality paperbacks.” That’s Jason Epstein’s bet (with NYPL getting the proceeds); he sees PoD as “the future of the book business.” Opposing: Vint Cerf, who bets that “by 2010, 50 percent of books will be delivered electronically.”

I wonder who gets the $2,000 in the remote possibility that, two years and just over two months from now, the vast majority of the books sold worldwide are (a) physical objects that are (b) printed in large quantities using traditional methods? A remote possibility that I’d guess has about a 99% chance of being the case.

Now that this obviously Luddite individual has put together this blog post, time to go do some other work that happens to involve wikis and other web software. I don’t live on the web, but I sure do take advantage of the good tools and media available there…when they suit my purposes.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Posted in Media on September 8th, 2007

Making a mistake is human. Being wrong is quintessentially human.

Failing to admit that you’ve erred, failing to correct a clear mistake–also human, but a whole lot less admirable.

I’ve discussed this before and probably will again.

Right now, there are two examples that I find troublesome, both relating to the same story–that is, the AP/Ipsos poll that showed 27% of adult Americans not finishing a book last year. A poll with no historical context that resulted in a surprising number of doom-and-gloom stories–even though the only obvious context (the NEA “reading at risk” survey of 2002 reading habits) seems to show a substantial increase in the percentage of American adults who read at least a book a year–from 57% in 2002 to 73% in 2006, an increase of 28%.

The first example will, for now, remain anonymous–because I still have hopes that this blogger (affiliated with a very prestigious university) simply isn’t getting her email and will eventually correct the story. A blog entry got the story 100% wrong, reporting that only 1/4 of Americans did read a book last year. That would be pretty appalling, taking us back to pre-WWII numbers (supposedly, a 1937 Gallup poll showed 29% of Americans reading books, that percentage dropping to 17% in 1955). Fortunately, that’s simply not what the story says. (This particular blog only accepts comments from some in crowd; I’ve sent email but the post still has it wrong, several days later.)

The second example isn’t a blog, and the professional journalist has had two days to fix it, so I’m going to name it explicitly: Michael Rogers’ news item at LJ Online, posted early Thursday morning. The brief story is OK–but the headline is simply not supported by either the poll or any other information provided in the story:

“Book News: AP Poll Says Reading Is Down”

The poll said nothing of the sort.. I know. I’ve read the entire report. It simply does not provide historical context. Go read it yourself if you don’t believe me (or search “AP/Ipsos Reading” at Google if you want an HTML version instead of the PDF just linked to).

I left feedback Friday morning pointing out the error. That feedback has not been acknowledged; neither has the unjustified headline been changed.

Postscript, 9/14/07: It’s been a week. Neither case has been corrected. I will henceforth assume that LJ Online’s “feedback” mechanism isn’t actually intended for feedback–or at least not feedback that questions the original report. As for the blogger who got the story 100% wrong: She still has it 100% wrong; maybe she doesn’t read email. Or maybe she just doesn’t care. Sad either way.

A book reading meme

Posted in Books and publishing, Media, Writing and blogging on July 23rd, 2007

No, I’m not going to tell you “what book I am.”

But I just encountered the only book reading meme I’m likely to pass along any time soon.

Say no more.

Social software/social networks: YMMV

Posted in Libraries, Media, Technology and software on June 9th, 2007

That’s obvious, though. Some of us find some spaces and tools more natural. Some of us have more time and affinity for “life online.”

When I’m wriitng anything substantial (some posts, all columns, most Cites & Insights pieces, certainly any books), that’s all I do. No minimized email window(s), no music, certainly no chat rooms or anything else.

At work, there’s always at least one minimized mail window (Outlook) and generally two (Gmail)–although we don’t have speakers, and I usually have headphones plugged in but lying there, so there’s no audible announcement of new interruptions. Still, it’s harder to get the kind of concentration at work that I can at home–good writing probably takes at least 50% longer.

The current stuff I’m doing as the transition winds down frequently does not require (or reward) complete concentration, but requires enough attention that you really can’t focus on any other major task. That’s particularly true for the 2nd through 10th working day of the month (more or less).

What does all this rambling lead up to? Well, the relatively unfocused nature of this post may suggest–correctly–that I’m multitasking: Checking in on a Meebo room as I write this. And it turns out that, for me, for now, for times when some attention is available, this particularly library-related Meebo room is a pretty good form of socialization.

It’s certainly not a secret clubhouse. (It is passworded, but only because a pr0n spambot was attacking any Meebo room with more than a couple of participants, which made it useless.) If anything, it’s a little like Cheers–a welcoming place where, once you’ve been there once or twice, everybody knows your name. Or at least your screen name. Some people use transparent screen names (the abbreviation of their blog). Some need asking to relate screen name to real-world name (and, of course, they don’t have to answer). Quite a few–myself included–just use their full names as one word. You can change your nickname any old time, but that’s not a big problem.

In this particular room, I’ve found lots of interesting idle chatter–and a fair amount of useful professional advice (some received a little given). There’s an air of full equality in the room: No leaders, no followers. People drift in and drift out. Sometimes there’s a round of “Hi X” when X shows up on the sidebar. Sometimes there isn’t.

If this particular room is indicative (and I have no reason to believe it is), things work best when there are anywhere from five to ten people in the room. Fewer than five, conversation tends to dwindle away. More than ten, the flood of overlapping conversations can get hard to deal with, although it’s certainly interesting. There are, to be sure, rooms where that’s simply not a problem: I know of two library-related rooms that almost never have anyone in them at all. That’s the way things go sometimes.

I’ve never been much for chat. I got introduced to it by default: Gmail now comes with its own chat client automatically enabled. Used it once in a while (rarely). The Meebo Rooms are a little different, because they’re occupied by several people all of whom see what everyone says. I guess they’re like IRC, but since I’ve never used that…

As for other social networks/social spaces, here’s where I stand now, if you care:

  • Ning (specifically Library 2.0): I think you need to spend a lot of time there and/or be enormously patient to get much out of it. It’s the most, um, leisurely online application I’ve dealt with. I’ve been in the Library 2.0 and Library Blogger Ning spaces for some time, mostly passively, accepting “friends” upon request, sending some invitations. For me, it seems not to work very well, My current guess is I’ll remove myself from Ning following ALA. It may be the greatest thing since artisanal bread for others.
  • Second Life: Didn’t work for me at all. Oh, I tried it and managed to get around, but felt like it was a complete waste of time for me, for now.
  • MySpace: Haven’t tried it. Yet. Might.
  • LinkedIn: I’ve had a profile for some time and have a pretty good network built up, largely since a former colleague told me she’d gotten three interviews (and her new job) through LinkedIn contacts. When I was doing an emailing on my future availability, first two people whose addresses I knew from gmail contact, I thought I’d add more names from my LinkedIn network. Turns out there was nobody in that group who I could conceivably send the email to who I hadn’t already sent it to. So, for me, it’s just not clear whether LinkedIn works. (They now operate in much of the rest of the building I work in.)
  • Twitter: Not yet. I may set up an account for use during ALA, just as I picked up a text-oriented cell phone for use during ALA. Guess I’d better do that within the next week or so…if it’s going to be of any use at all. In general, though, I don’t think I’m a twitter kind of person.

Of course, there are other social networks that just don’t work the same way. I’d call the loose collection of libloggers a network of sorts, connected through posts, comments, linked posts–and all those background emails that don’t quite work as comments. To some extent, lists can be vague social networks. LISNews has elements of a crude network. I’m probably missing some.

Will I keep up with Meebo Rooms in the future? Hard to say. I have to admit it’s made writing this post slow and clumsy–but that’s partly because I did it wrong (two Firefox tabs instead of two overlapping windows).

No real point here. I think each person needs to figure out their own comfort level and appropriate set of social spaces. Some hardy souls seem able to handle them all and revel in the process; I think that would drive me (even more) nuts. Some people avoid the whole concept, not an unreasonable choice. I just thought I’d say a few words about my current choices.

How many weeks does it take the scum to show up on a social medium?

Posted in Media on May 31st, 2007

It’s a little like “change a lightbulb” jokes, but even less funny.

How long ago did Meebo add Rooms? Two weeks? Three weeks? More?

There’s a “group” (or “ungroup”) that I tried out–partly to see how this chatroom stuff works when I’m doing stuff that requires my presence but that really can’t take full attention (there is some of that in my soon-to-depart job–a LOT during the first six days of a month–and sometimes at home), partly because people I know and like were already there.

It’s been great: A random mix of “anything goes” posts and actual problem-solving/topical discussions. Of course, it’s multitasking, at which I stink, but I stop when I’m doing Serious Thinking and Writing.

And today, we, and apparently every other Meebo Room with any popularity, got hit with driveby not-safe-for-work spam: apparently scripted accounts that show up, post a link, and disappear within less than a second total.

Once every two or three minutes. Rotating through different usernames and domain links, but always the same message and eventual destination (I suspect).

This is truly sad. Either Meebo Rooms will have to engineer some new protections, or the specific room will have to be password-protected, or it will just disappear.

The good people on the net far outnumber the scum. But one scumbag with a script can make life miserable for a million good people.

No moral to this story.

Postscript at the next coffee break: A new password-protected room has been created. In the real world, I don’t much want to live in a gated community (and we don’t). But in the real world, you don’t get people storming through neighborhoods at 60mph throwing bags of…well, whatever…onto every window once an hour, or there would be a lot more gated communities.

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