Archive for the 'Media' Category

Ejournal as blog: A novel experiment?

Posted in Libraries, Media, Writing and blogging on October 9th, 2008

One of the founders told me about In the Library with the Lead Pipe earlier this week–but somehow I failed to blog about it then. Let’s make up for that…since I think this is an interesting experiment off to a good start.

What it is

In the Library with the Lead Pipe is intended to help improve our communities, our libraries, and our professional organizations. Our goal is to explore new ideas and start conversations; to document our concerns and argue for solutions. Each article is peer-reviewed by at least one external and one internal reviewer.

It’s a group of six librarians–all named, all with biographical pages, from academic, public and school libraries.

In addition to essays by its founders, In the Library with the Lead Pipe will feature articles by guests representing special libraries and archives, as well as educators, administrators, library support staff, and community members.

What’s novel

Look at the boldfaced sentence in the first quote (emphasis added). These aren’t traditional blog posts.

They’re articles–and they’re peer reviewed.

They’re not scholarly articles (although I suppose some of them could be), so this isn’t precisely a Gold OA journal. It is, though, an ejournal–it has an overall name, there are individual signed articles, articles are peer-reviewed–in the form of a blog.

No ISSN (yet), but they plan weekly publication (in your reader every Wednesday!), going twice-weekly if there’s enough material.

What’s here

In addition to the welcoming post that explains what this is, there’s the first article: “What happens in the library…” by Brett Bonfield. It’s an article-length review of Pop Goes the Library–and it’s both a good read and, I suspect, a very useful review. (Hey, it’s got me interested in reading the book, and that’s a surprise.)

There are two feeds–one for posts, one for comments.

Minor grumps

The WordPress design is carefully thought out, I suspect, and probably well suited to this experiment.

From my specialized perspective as a sometimes quant analyst of liblogs, it’s not ideal: The home page includes only the first few lines of each article–and, at least for now, the archive shows only the titles (and incorrect comment counts). But, again, that’s from a specialized perspective–for 99% of readers, the design will work just fine.

Closing

This is an interesting idea and I suspect the group behind it has enough commitment to make it a serious experiment. I wish it well–and it’s certainly in my feed list.

You might want to give it a try. You won’t be bombarded with 10 posts a day, that’s for sure. If future articles are at the level of the first one, there’s likely to be some good reading here.

Oh yes: Here’s the subtitle:

The murder victim? Your library assumptions. Suspects? It could have been any of us.

I wish I’d said that

Posted in Language, Media, Writing and blogging on July 15th, 2008

Those of you who read Cites & Insights–and if you don’t, you really should–know that I’ve looked at Wikipedia off and on, from a number of angles.

One aspect of Wikipedia that’s always bothered me is, I believe, built into the model: The more important the entry, the less likely that it will have a coherent voice. From what I’m seeing, the situation at Wikipedia is getting worse as there are more efforts to assure that everything is properly footnoted. I was hoping Citizendium would be different–that requiring signed contributions would encourage coherent essays–but even Citizendium has procedures that work against editorial coherence to some extent, as I discussed in “Citizendium and the Writer’s Voice,” in the May 2008 issue. The essay starts on page 10, but the relevant discussion starts on page 17: “The writer’s voice, the expert’s mind.”

For a one-paragraph factoid, it doesn’t much matter. But for anything much more significant, I’d really like an encyclopedia article to be an essay, something that leads me to an understanding of the subject. My belief is that Wikipedia’s methodology pushes in the other direction, as it discourages commentary and encourages strings of documentable statements. Instead of essays, you get big long sets of sentences and paragraphs with little coherence or narrative flow.

But there you go: I’ve used two paragraphs and not really gotten at what I mean to say.

Then I read Tim Spalding’s post today at Thingology: “Wikimania 2008 (Alexandria, Egypt).” And this comment on an article that requires more than a factual paragraph (in this case, “Alexander the Great”):

It’s lumpy, unbalanced, poorly written and poorly sourced—a bright fourteen year-old child sitting next to you on a bus, telling you everything he knows.* Parts are good. Parts are bad. Parts are just off somehow—their correction requiring un-Wikipedia-esque virtues like restraint, proportionality and style.

“A bright fourteen-year-old child sitting next to you on a bus, telling you everything he knows.” That’s just about perfect.

I’ll add to “restraint, proportionality and style,” one more virtue that may be covered in “style”: narrative coherence.

An encyclopedia article on Alexander the Great should be a story. It should have voice, coherence, style, narrative flow. When I’m done reading it, I should understand something about Alexander the Great. I don’t believe you can get there from a series of factual sentences and paragraphs–and I believe it’s a lot harder when commentary is disallowed and writers are anonymous.

This doesn’t suggest that Wikipedia’s useless–and I’d guess the vast majority of its uses are for quick lookups anyway, where the lack of narrative coherence doesn’t much matter. It does suggest that Wikipedia has real limits and that, in some ways, it will never be as good as traditional encyclopedias, even if it may exceed them in other ways.

Thanks, Tim. I’ll use that elsewhere, and try to remember to give you credit.

Gmail space: Wrong, wrong, wrong

Posted in ALA, Books and publishing, Libraries, Media, Technology and software, Writing and blogging on July 4th, 2008

Back on April 30, 2008, I wrote a speculative post: When will Gmail hit seven gigabytes?

As in, when will the space allotted to each Gmail account reach 7,000,000,000 characters (yes, I know that’s not really seven gigabytes, and I explore that in the post).

Here’s what I predicted:

The Fourth of July, give or take a week.

Actually, if they’re adding space at a steady rate–which is a huge “if”–then it should be either July 4 or July 5, 2008.

I also promised that, if I was wrong, I would double my monthly contribution to Gmail.

I was wrong. And, as a result, I’ll send Google $0, which is twice the usual $0 that I’d send them.

“Give or take a week” ain’t going to do it. Right now, the magic number is at something over 6,893 megabytes. It might (or might not) reach 6.9 gigabytes (let’s just use “disk gigabytes” as our measure, shall we?) within a week.

The lesson here? Google’s magic number doesn’t grow at a constant rate. It’s been growing more slowly over the last nine weeks than it was during the period I observed it. It could start growing more rapidly. Since my insider’s knowledge of the Gmail magic number is precisely the same as my insider’s knowledge of anything else at Google–that is,

Just because I live in Mountain View (where the Googleverse is located) doesn’t mean I know anything about Google’s inner workings.

Oh, and as for Google somehow duping librarians…sorry, but I don’t buy it.

Sure, Google’s librarian-outreach project stalled pretty rapidly–but I still don’t see that Google duped Michigan, UC, Harvard, or anyone else. I still see Google Book Search as increasing demand for library books by providing expanded search capabilities…and I wish Open Content Alliance (by which I mean the Internet Archive) would get their act together on providing a suitable complement, particularly now that Microsoft’s dropped Live Books (which I thought was a superior product to Google Book Search, at least in terms of usability of the public-domain results).

And with that, enjoy the long weekend. Oh, and if you’re one of my two readers anxiously following the “will he or won’t he?” story…more about that later, but the short answer is “Probably.” And a couple of thoughtful remarks at Anaheim have a lot to do with that short answer.

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 Marylaine.com 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.


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