Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

What’s wrong with this picture?

Saturday, 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

Monday, 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

Saturday, 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?

Thursday, 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.

Google Book Search and egosearching (redux)

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

A while back (19 months, to be precise), I posted a multitopic post that included my response to Dorothea Salo’s suggestion that Google Book Search might have enough current books to make egosearching worthwhile. I was pleasantly surprised, finding 26 books (none of them my own) referring to me.

So what’s changed? I tried it again today–using [“walt crawford” OR “crawford, walt”] as a search term.

Impressive. 219 results (which turn out to be 160 results when browsed through). That does include four of my own books, the three from ALA Editions and, thanks to scanning at the University of Michigan, my very first book. (I don’t know how I’d get Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change into Google Book Search….or, wait a minute, maybe I’ll sign up for that one of these days.)

Of the 160, three are false drops–e.g., a list of Hollywood names with Joan Crawford adjacent to Walt Disney, separated by commas. Five are other Walt Crawfords, as far as I can tell (race car driver, ornithologist, etc.). One is probably a false drop, but I couldn’t see any context to be sure–but it almost certainly wasn’t me.

Whew. That leaves, lessee, 160 minus four minus nine, 147 references in other books. Some are, of course, to Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality. [If you’re wondering, I always use the subtitle because another Future Libraries–without the subtitle–came out right around the same time.] Most aren’t.

I think I’ve seen at most half a dozen of the books that quote me or my stuff. Most of the rest I’ve never heard about. As far as I can tell, none of the quotes is in the context of saying “What an idiot!”–but sometimes you can’t see the context. (Actually, I’d expect at least 10%-20% of the citations to be in the context of disagreeing with me, and maybe the percentage should be higher.)

So writing a lot does lead to getting quoted a fair amount. Count me delighted. (And happy that what I seem to remember as a hundred-result limit on GBS result displays has gone away.)

YouTube, Viacom, Safe Harbor and the Big Media Bait-n-Switch

Friday, March 16th, 2007

A quick post because a C&I copyright essay’s not likely for at least a month or two…and because today’s SF Chronicle TV column leaves out crucial things, not at all surprising given the writer’s predilections.

Admission up front: I’m no fan of Tim Goodman. We had a great local TV commentator before Hearst bought the Chron. The great TV writer retired. We’re left with…well, Goodman.

Today’s piece is about who’s “right” in the Viacom infringement suit against YouTube. And, big surprise, Goodman says there’s no question: Viacom’s right, YouTube’s wrong, fair use isn’t even an issue. Because, you know, Viacom produces all that Content, while YouTube does nothing but distribute. By implication, nobody watches anything on YouTube except clips pilfered from Big Media productions.

On its own, it’s a seriously muddled column. He says, and I agree, that most people are going to watch most shows on TVs and get them from traditional sources for a very long time to come–that most people don’t much want to watch long-form video on handhelds or cell phones or even PCs. Which, of course, means that YouTube is an attractor for Viacom and friends, to the extent that people watch Big Media stuff on YouTube. He doesn’t really discuss that.

The reason for this quick post, though, is what Goodman leaves entirely out of the lawsuit equation. YouTube’s primary defense isn’t Fair Use (although it possibly could be). It’s the DMCA Safe Harbor provision. One tiny little “pro-consumer” piece of that vastly pro-Big Media bill basically says that digital carriers can’t be held liable for infringement as long as they remove copyright material upon request (and aren’t actively encouraging infringement, and take reasonable efforts to discourage infringement).

YouTube famously removes material as soon as it’s informed that the material infringes copyright–probably without even checking whether that’s a legitimate claim. (Fair use provisions do mean that, in some cases, it’s legitimate for a YouTube video to contain elements of broadcast TV.) In practice, safe harbor provisions favor copyright holders: The digital sites respond immediately to take-down requests, not negotiating the reality.

But, of course, that’s not good enough for Big Media: Now that it has the extreme copyright protections of DMCA, it wants to undermine the balancing clauses. To do so would mean that video-sharing sites would have to require some sort of proof that each uploaded video wasn’t an infringement. Good luck with that. Realistically, Big Media doesn’t want sharing sites to be around, unless it controls them or at least gets paid everytime somebody watches a clip that might be under its control.

Actually, take away the safe harbor provision and every web service that stores any user-generated content is in trouble. Upload a vcast that happens to have the TV or radio on in the background? That could be claimed as copyright infringement (rightly or wrongly). Heck, quote a line of a pop song in a blog entry? Some writers and publishers claim that even a single line of a poem is too much for fair use.

This isn’t new. The Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) was a pro-copyright compromise, that explicitly legalized copying music digitally from radio (etc.) for your own use, while “rewarding” copyright holders by adding a surcharge to recorders and blank media and distributing that surcharge to copyright holders. That’s why “audio CD-Rs” cost more than data CD-Rs and standalone CD recorders won’t record on data CD-Rs: AHRA.

Now, of course, Big Media’s taking legal action to prevent people from intelligently recording XM or Sirius radio (that is, recording individual songs), claiming it’s copyright infringement and carefully ignoring AHRA. It’s the same bait and switch: Bait an unbalanced law with supposed consumer protections, then switch back to claim that the protection is excessive and either ignore it or try to get it reversed.

Wikipedia: A bigger problem than supposed liberalism

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

I don’t do many linkposts, but in this case it makes sense.

OK, every librarian knows that Wikipedia should only be a starting point toward verifiable answers. (No emoticon, but how many of you actually verify supposed information you see on Wikipedia, if you’re just answering a question rather than writing a formal paper? Not many hands up, are there? But let’s assume for this discussion that you all do what you know to be proper.)

Let’s suppose that you’re a faculty member who’s nervous about Wikipedia’s quality in a given area and tend to prefer that it really not be taken seriously in that area. Until you’re assured by another PhD. faculty member that, yes, the sources are excellent–and this faculty member should know, as he’s one of the People With Power at Wikipedia.

Then let’s assume that it turns out this faculty member actually has no advanced degrees and his faculty membership is part of his Wikipedia “identity” with no basis in the real wor.d

Problem? Well, Jimbo Wales didn’t think so, and neither (apparently) did lots of Wikipedians.

Until Jimbo was informed that this would-be-PhD was using his faux credentials to make points within the Wikipedia universe.

In other words: It’s OK to lie to outsiders about your credentials. It’s OK to lie to major media about your credentials. (How OK? Wales actually hired this guy after the external lies were exposed.) But it’s not OK to use your faux credentials to win points within the magic circle.

But that’s a short and probably faulty summary. Seth Finkelstein has put together a bunch of stuff (as has Nicholas Carr, but I’m linking you to Seth): here [1], here [2], here [3], here [4], here [5], here [6], here [7] and here [8], so far.

There may be earlier pieces I haven’t picked up. It’s an interesting story, and I tend to agree that the implications are more interesting than the facts. Do note that, if you want to find all the background, you’ll have to work from Finkelstein’s posts or some other set of posts–in the spirit of full disclosure as practiced at Walesopedia Wikipedia, big chunks of the background have been disappeared from the various discussion pages.

Wikipedia too liberal for you?

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Plug: The current Cites & Insights includes another set of comments and controversies related to Wikipedia. If you prefer mediocre HTML to well-designed PDF, you can get the article by itself..

I have a number of misgivings about Wikipedia. Liberal or “anti-American” or “anti-Christian” bias wasn’t one (or three) of them.

But one of the Schlafly clan of True Americans knows better. The result is Conservapedia. (You may have trouble getting through. The site appears to have none too robust servers. Or maybe someone came to their senses…) [Oh, and thanks to Mark C. Chu-Carroll at Good Math, Bad Math for the tip!]

I kid you not. As of right now (February 21, 2007, 5:15 p.m. PST), the entry for “kangaroo” ends with this wonderful science under “Origins”

Like all modern animals, modern kangaroos originated in the Middle East and are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah’s Ark prior to the Great Flood. It has not yet been determined whether kangaroos form a holobarmin with the wallaby, tree-kangaroo, wallaroo, pademelon and quokka, or if all these species are in fact apobaraminic or polybaraminic.

After the Flood, kangaroos bred from the Ark passengers migrated to Australia. There is debate whether this migration happened over land — as Australia was still for a time connected to the Middle East before the supercontinent of Pangea broke apart — or if they rafted on mats of vegetation torn up by the receding flood waters.

I’m not making this up. Evolution–or, rather, “The Theory of Evolution”–is fairly strange, and the discussion and debate pages are nothing short of magnificent. For those of you interested in religion, you’ll want to know this fact, from the main page’s “”Today in History” for February 2:

Did you know that faith is a uniquely Christian concept? Add to the explanation of what it means, and how it does not exist on other religions.

What’s wrong with Wikipedia? Prime examples seem to be that some articles use CE instead of AD for dates after 0 and that some articles use British/Canadian spelling. Both of which sound pretty suspicious to me.

Assuming this site stays around, I’d expect conservative scientists and other thinking conservatives to denounce it or at least separate themselves from it. But maybe that’s giving it more attention than it deserves.

Maybe I just had the wrong video

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Two posts back, I did a semi-random semi-blind (I just wrote “semi-bland,” and that’s true too) post lamenting my inability to “get” the greatness that so many other libloggers were seeing in a five-minute video.

Which I deliberately didn’t link to, as I didn’t feel the need to give it yet more link love.

Since then, three things have happened:

  1. Lots more libloggers (and others) have acclaimed the video in question. I’m clearly in the minority on this one.
  2. The semi-blind post, which I expected to be ignored as all good blind posts should be, yielded a really wonderful set of comments–one of which did include the link (which is OK), and a couple of which yielded plausible reasons why I don’t get this particular video.
  3. The eminent David Rothman–this David Rothman, that is–linked to this five-minute video. (I’m new at this video linking stuff. If that doesn’t work, here’s Rothman’s post with the video embedded..

This one I get. I was just watching the wrong video.

On not getting it, or YMMV

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

There’s a five-minute YouTube video that’s all the rage with libloggers over the past couple of days. It’s so hot, it’s scorching–and no, it has nothing to do with ninjas, StarWars fanflicks, music videos, any of that.

This one’s serious, apparently. Heck, it’s by a professor. It’s about “Web 2.0.” I think.

And it’s so meaningful and important that people are suggesting it should be used to open meetings…

I’m not linking to it. If you read any range of liblogs, you’ve already seen it or will when yet others link to it and praise its wonderfulness.

I’m not linking to it for the same reason I’m not going to criticize it.

I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.

I tried. I watched it twice.

To me, criticizing it would be like punching a big mound of mud: Not harmful but not terribly enlightening either.

I’m certainly not willing to assert that all of those who think this is hot stuff are wrong; some of those links come from people I admire. (Admittedly, the list of “people I admire” is long and growing, but still…) (And yes, people I admire can be wrong. I’m planning a post on “being wrong”–when I have the evening/weekend time that isn’t spent writing and reading. Any day now.)

So if they’re not wrong, then it must be me. Maybe I’m insufficiently visually literate.

Yep, that must be it. (I don’t get Jackson Pollock either. And I’ve tried.)

I won’t say “we all have our limits.” That’s a generalization, and likely to be false. I’ll just say I have my limits (“Well, duh,” I hear those of you who know me saying). And this video didn’t expand them–which is also something I try to do fairly frequently.

As always, your mileage may vary. If you really believe said video is hot stuff, don’t let me discourage you. Just don’t ask me to watch it a third time. I do have my limits.

Update: Quite apart from the fascinating and informative discussion in the comments, here’s a video that’s stunning in its clarity and production values. (via Betsy Bird, thus the indirect link)