Archive for the 'Media' Category

Google Book Search and egosearching (redux)

Posted in Books and publishing, Media, Writing and blogging on 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

Posted in Copyright, Media, Movies and TV on 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

Posted in Media, Writing and blogging on 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?

Posted in Media, Stuff, Writing and blogging on 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

Posted in ALA, Libraries, Media, Movies and TV, Writing and blogging on 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

Posted in Media, Writing and blogging on 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)

The power of the [e]press

Posted in Cites & Insights, Media on January 18th, 2007

All links are good (I guess). Some links are better than others.

I picked up on that last May 3, when Library Link of the Day pointed to a 13-year-old speech on my personal website. For January-April 2006, that site averaged about 150 sessions per day, and the talk had been accessed 104 times during those four months–quite a bit, considering how old it was and how obscurely it was linked.

On May 3, there were 1,388 sessions. On May 4, there were 276. Then it went back down to roughly 150 a day. During May 2006, that speech was accessed 1,966 times. (From June 2006 through yesterday, it was accessed another 711 times–but that’s over 7.5 months.)

So let’s come forward to, oh, last week, when I posted Cites on a Plane as a goof of sorts, and gave the non-issue the same casual publicity I give regular Cites & Insights issues: A Topica post, a post on two blogs (this one and the special C&I Update blog), and the same post in my vestigial LISNews journal. Forwarding the Topica post the next day to three lists and a couple of people.

I’d figured that maybe 50 to 100 people would find the goof amusing enough to download. C&I averages about 200 sessions a day–issue readership grows over time–with predictable spikes on the two days in which a new issue is publicized. That was the case this time, and although the spikes were a little lower, I was surprised by their size: 564 sessions on January 11, 347 on January 12. Through January 16, COAP had been downloaded 518 times–a lot more than I’d ever expected.

Then came AL Direct. Yesterday’s issue had a little mention of COAP.

There were 854 C&I sessions yesterday. Eight hundred and fiftyfour. A handful of those came before 5 p.m., which is about when people got AL Direct. 262 were between 5 and 6 p.m. 117 between 6 and 7, trailing off from there.

COAP was downloaded 582 times yesterday. The running total is now 1,100–just about what a typical issue of C&I gets over the first week or so. But in this case, it’s pretty clear that most of those downloads can be traced directly to AL Direct.

I’ll update this post next Wednesday, the day after I kill the goof. I’m guessing that today will see a few hundred additional downloads and that it will trail very rapidly after that.

Final download figure: 2,082…nearly three-quarters of which came after the AL Direct item.

And, as I said in email to George Eberhart, I’ll think carefully about what I want to do with C&I for Annual 2007 and Midwinter 2008!

[This is probably the last post before Midwinter, although who knows?]

Updated January 23, 2007: Hyperlink removed, since COAP no longer exists. My guess above was a little off (depending on how you define “a few hundred”), but I’ll add the final figure tomorrow–and it will be in “Bibs & Blather” in the February 2007 Cites & Insights. [Final: 2,082, as noted above--so "a few hundred" equates to 982.]

Friday fun: The perils of editing

Posted in Media, Technology and software, Writing and blogging on November 10th, 2006

I was going to do this post about the wonders of PR–but after checking it out, I see it’s really about the perils of editing.

The San Francisco Chronicle business section includes “The Tech Chronicles”–portions of a similarly named blog, one of a bunch of blogs that the Chron runs on SFGate (which has a fair amount of original content). Most of today’s stuff comes from the Web2.0 conference, not surprisingly. One short item begins something like this:

Switching back and forth between e-mail and instant messaging is annoying, to say the least. Yahoo plans to address that frustration by giving users access to the two services in the same browser window. The free Yahoo Mail service, to be released in the next few months, will meld e-mail and instant messaging. No download necessary.

…and goes on to note that the revised Yahoo Mail will show you who else is online at the moment, so you can chat with them right from the mail application!. What a neat idea.

Now, I like Yahoo, really I do–and, apart from search, it’s beating Google on most fronts (mail, social space, overall visits). But, you know, the combined mail/IM application had a certain ring of familiarity to it, something like Gmail.com.

So, I was going to say, “isn’t that great! PR can make ‘we’re going to do it TOO’ sound like a brand new idea!”

Except that the newspaper version left out the final paragraph of the SFGate item:

Google, which has far fewer e-mail users than Yahoo, recently combined its Google Talk instant messenger with Google Gmail.

So the reporter, Verne Kopytoff, got it right: It’s still a good story, given the reach of Yahoo Mail, but it’s not an entirely new idea. Too bad that last para. didn’t make it into the paper (or at least not my copy).

Ozymandias and Orkut

Posted in Media, Technology and software on November 2nd, 2006

There’s a good article in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle about social networking fatigue. This one’s locally written and, remarkably, begins on page one (slow news day, I guess, other than bs politics).

The story speaks for itself, and I don’t think it means “Social networking is dead” or anything close to it. Most of the people interviewed have no plans to shut down entirely; they’re just getting a bit less enthusiastic and finding a need to balance online and offline life. That is, I believe, a good thing.

My post title raises a point I found interesting, particularly given the sense some commentators have offered that anything Google does must necessarily succeed and dominate. It’s another “dog that didn’t bark” story, to wit:

The term Orkut does not appear anywhere in this lengthy story.

Friendster gets a tiny mention, but Orkut–which, after all, is the Google social network and therefore invincible–is nowhere to be seen. (I may still have an Orkut account. I wouldn’t know; I neither know nor want to know my account name or password.)

And before overinterpretation sets in:

  • I’m not opposed to social networks.
  • I was an Orkut member (and may still be, for all I know).
  • I am a LinkedIn member, albeit not a terribly active one.
  • I’m not in a library, but if I was, I’d assume social networks should be handled the same as any other legal websites.
  • If libraries have had success in having their own spaces in social networks, more power to them.

Printability: It’s not just for Firefox anymore

Posted in Media on October 24th, 2006

The current Cites & Insights begins with a brief Bibs & Blather (the secret real name for C&I, but you already know that) grumping about bloggers who use Six Apart software, write posts more than a few hundred words long, and don’t realize (or care) that, without some tweaks to the templates, Firefox users can’t print the posts except by copying the text into Word or some other program. I questioned whether such writers really didn’t want to be taken seriously…and noted that, of course, one solution was to mark-as-unread and once in a while use IE instead.

Whoops. Along the way, I ran into one interesting blog where that doesn’t work–where, apparently, the width of the banner (or some other setting) causes printed lines in IE to be about half an inch wider than the margins of the paper. And you typically won’t notice that th enough missing every s in the text (sample of phenomenon: “that there’s just enough missing every so often in the text” is what should be there) so as to make the document useless until after you’ve printed it off.

It’s happened again, this time on a very long post with loads of comments (pointed out by StevenB at ACRLog).

I did print preview in IE: 15 pages. Then I looked closely…at the missing ends of lines. Sigh. Mark, copy, paste to Word, print the resulting 17 pages. (8 for the post, 9 for the comments).

I really, truly don’t get it: Do these bloggers never actually look at their own pages? Do they assume that eight-page posts won’t ever be printed out? That advice that’s clearly been thought through and carefully worded isn’t worth printing and saving/savoring?

Of course, Six Apart’s mostly at fault. TypePad doesn’t have to work this way. WordPress certainly doesn’t (although, sigh, I’m seeing more bloggers who manage to screw up tweak their templates sufficiently that the text of a printout won’t start until the second or third page).

End of followon grump.

By the way, I thought I’d start my series of posts commenting on presentations at Internet Librarian, based on what I see in the blog postings on those presentations.
And now I’ve finished my series of posts doing third-hand commenting. Live and learn.


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