Archive for January, 2006

LITA at Midwinter: Not quite three strikes

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

I make a habit of trying at least one LITA Interest Group at each ALA Midwinter Meeting that I’ve either never attended or haven’t been to in two or three years. That’s partly a matter of wanting to broaden my horizons, partly a matter of “playing new member”–seeing LITA the way someone new to the division, or who hasn’t yet joined, might see it.

After all, I always advise people that Midwinter is the perfect time to find out about new IGs, new committees, etc.–you don’t have all those programs to compete with, and you get more of the nitty-gritty of a group.

So, this time around, I attended three LITA IGs.

And if I’d been a new member, I’d have been pretty discouraged by the time I got to the third one.

First Interest Group: Ejournals and Epublishing. A live topic, to be sure. Half a dozen people were there by the announced starting time. Only one problem: none of them was from the Interest Group: no chair, no vice-chair/chair-elect, no one who would admit to being a member. So the six of us (I believe one or two more came in “late”) had an interesting conversation, which probably wasn’t reported because, well, there was no Official Meeting.

A note to IG chairs out there: It is vitally important that someone from the IG be there during the Midwinter meeting slot that’s in the program (the same is true for Annual, to be sure). If you can’t make it, make sure someone else does.

Second Interest Group: Personal Computers. OK, so that’s a tricky one–at this point, other than “How to lock them down,” PCs almost rank as equivalent to the Electricity Interest Group, and LITA doesn’t have one of those. I wondered what the group would talk about. Turns out the “group” was the chair and me. And one item on the agenda was whether the group should file a renewal for the next three years. I asked how many people had been at recent meetings; “up to four” was the reply. I suggested that this might answer the agenda question. I believe this group will sunset, and that’s probably appropriate.

So it’s now halfway through Midwinter. There’s really only one more meeting slot with IGs.

Third Interest Group: Emerging Technologies. I’ve been there within the past two or three years, and this was as well-attended and lively as other meetings. I counted at least 50 people; there were officers; there was an agenda; a sign-up sheet was passed around; discussion took place. OK; this was all good.

One out of three. I suppose it could be worse.

Of course, for $60, the highest dues in ALA, it could also be better. I renewed my LITA membership because I’m a former president (and wore the Former President ribbon right above my ALA Editions Author ribbon). Otherwise…well, I’m not sure.

Tripping out, tripping back

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

No, I didn’t write the copy in Cites & Insights 6.3 after returning from ALA Midwinter–partly because I didn’t exactly return from ALA Midwinter. Instead of a nice gentle four-night trip to San Antonio and back, I had a somewhat exhausting six-night journey from San Jose to San Antonio to Seattle and back to San Jose.

The Seattle leg was MSN Search Champs V4, an interesting event that I won’t have all that much to say about–partly because most of it took place under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), the first NDA I ever remember signing. Of the portions that were not under NDA, Charles W. Bailey, Jr. has already posted a discussion of one of the most interesting–a talk that actually had me thinking “I might be interested in working on this…”

Another portion was a somewhat impromptu discussion of the MSN part of the Google story regarding the Department of Justice and search records. MSN didn’t accept the initial subpoena (some months ago), but eventually did provide a large sampling of MSN searches–stripped of IP addresses and all other personally-identifying information [PII]–to both sides in the trial. What they did was probably just fine, particularly since there are plans to make such search aggregations available for researchers in the future. What they didn’t do was to let MSN users know this had happened; the people at Search Champs (this was toward the end of lunch) generally felt that they should have. I’m guessing that, next time something like this happens, there will be an alert on the MSN home page (and, if they’re paying attention, on the Yahoo! home page under similar circumstances).

Anyhow, the result of all this (noting that I still travel sans technology) is that I was out of touch for essentially a full week, from 6 p.m. Thursday 1/19 through 7 a.m. Friday 1/27. It took an hour or two at work (out of a four-hour Friday workday) to catch up with email; it took about 90 minutes at home to catch up with 990 blog posts (most of which I didn’t read in full, any more than I would any other time). Oh yes, and I had a week’s worth of newspapers and 5 hours of taped TV shows to deal with (I’m only halfway through the TV shows).

So this is the first real chance I’ve had to post since before Midwinter. It’s still a little haphazard, to be sure. I don’t know that I have a whole bunch to say about Midwinter, although there might be one or two later posts. Attendance seemed on the light side (given the lack of overcrowding in hotel lobbies and bars and the relative lack of queues in restaurants). Weather wasn’t quite up to San Antonio norms. The C&I gettogether went very well (10 people?). The OCLC Bloggers Salon went swimmingly (maybe half repeats from last summer, half new people). My experiences with LITA IGs…well, that might be another post. I don’t remember all that much new in the exhibits. As always, I had a good time in San Antonio (and in Seattle, but that’s not “as always”).

So when did I write C&I 6.3? Before Midwinter. Some of it was written before the special issue came out; the three-day weekend provided enough time to do the rest and do initial editing (not quite enough editing: I really should know that Steven M. Cohen’s name does not contain “ph”!). I put it all together and did copyfitting yesterday and today; tomorrow I’ll update the volume index and then take a few days off writing (except maybe blogging) before starting on another column and stuff for C&I 6.4. (Except, of course, that there’s already some material for the next issue…)

To those of you I met for the first time at Midwinter: It was a pleasure. (To those of you I met for the first time in Seattle: Ditto.) To those of you who I only see twice a year and renewed acquaintance with: Also a pleasure. That’s one reason I keep going. And even though I groused a little bit the 15th or 20th time I heard the line, “I read the Library 2.0 issue on the flight here” was good to hear (repeatedly!): It means people are reading C&I.

Cites & Insights 6:3 available

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Cites & Insights 6:3, February 2006, is now available for downloading.

The PDF issue is 22 pages long. Each section except “My Back Pages” is also available in HTML, with links on the C&I home page.

This issue includes the following essays:

  • Followup Perspective: Beyond ‘Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0″‘ – A few comments on posts since 5 p.m. January 6–and brief notes on what I believe is happening now, and why C&I probably won’t be covering it extensively.
  • ©4 Perspective: Analog Hole and Broadcast Flag – Recent activity around the Broadcast Flag (a bad idea that refuses to go away) and recently-introduced legislation to enable an even worse idea, closing the analog hole.
  • Library Stuff Perspective: Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources – A few comments and criticisms of this generally first-rate 296-page OCLC report.
  • Interesting & Peculiar Products – seven of them, one of which is fortunately only a somewhat creepy idea.
  • ©2 Perspective: What NC Means to Me – Commenting on an article that attacks Creative Commons NC (Non-Commercial) license, a proposed set of guidelines for interpreting NC–and my own added permissions to those apparently granted by NC.
  • Trends & Quick Takes – Four trends.
  • My Back Pages – A baker’s dozen.
  • The essential Bob Dylan

    Thursday, January 19th, 2006

    This probably is the last post before Midwinter, and it’s not a “library post.”

    Nope, this is about TV and music, sort of.

    We tried out the premiere of Love Monkey last night. (Yes, it was on Tuesday–but it was 10-11 p.m., and I just don’t stay up that late. Our S-VHS recorder still works just fine, though–no DVR, not yet…) We loved Tom Cavanaugh (sp?) in Ed, and the premise seemed promising (although it’s odd that it’s on so late), so…

    Overall conclusion: We’re not sure. It’s part of the record list for the period in which I’m gone; we’ll give it another try. We’re slow to add new TV shows, but this one may have promise.


    Twice in the episode–once as a, shall we say, odd choice as a baby shower gift, once as an offhand gesture as Tom started his new job–there was a handoff/gift of The Essential Bob Dylan. And on both occasions, Tom (who’s supposed to be a great A&R man with a golden ear and encyclopedic knowledge of music and the recording industry) made a comment about “Every song he ever recorded.”

    The trouble is, The Essential Bob Dylan isn’t like all those “555-” phone numbers. It’s one of many Sony “The Essential…” twofers (here’s the Gracenote search result, look at Disc 1 and Disc 2–the third link is either wrong or for some bizarre single-disc version), one of the reasons I can’t quite bring myself to boycott Sony entirely.

    “The Essential…” sets provide well-chosen, usually well-mastered cross-sections of an artist’s Columbia-related career in two very full CDs, usually 70 to 75 minutes each, typically as many as 20 songs per CD; some stores have sold the sets for as little as $12 to $14, making them incredible bargains for artists that aren’t well represented in your collection. I’ve probably purchased a dozen of them over the years. (The qualifier above is important: if most of an artist’s work was not with Columbia-affiliated labels, you’re only getting an odd chunk.)

    But, geez, “every song ever recorded” by Bob Dylan would be a pretty big box set, unless it was released on Blu-ray discs (in which case, with 50GB capacity per disc, you could theoretically put the equivalent of 130 CDs in a two-disc set, and I think that would be more than enough for all of Dylan’s recordings).

    And the CD box was sufficiently visible to lead me to believe that it actually was The Essential Bob Dylan. It was the thickness of a typical “Essential” two-disc set.

    Why does this matter? Maybe it doesn’t–but suspension of disbelief in a “normal” TV show or movie is a tricky thing. I winced both times Tom made the ludicrous claim. I strongly suspect that both mentions were “in-show advertising,” paid for by Sony; otherwise, a made-up name like “The Bob Dylan Universe” would have avoided the break with reality. Sort of a shame, really.

    Assistant librarian?

    Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

    OK, I’m game… and, lo and behold,

    Assistant Librarian

    You scored 75% on knowledge of librarianship.

    You seem to be a librarian, but you are not as knowledgeable as your more devoted colleagues in some of the library lore, trivia, technical details and social knowledge that can give depth and perspective to ones professional identity; but your practical knowledge of your job may be quite excellent.

    Which, given that I’m not a librarian, have never attended library school, and know very little about library lore, isn’t bad.

    Or, come to think of it, maybe it’s terrible…

    [Was there a way to find out which ones I got wrong? If so, I didn’t see it. I know that I was entirely guessing in a few cases…but the coffee mug on my desk is a dead giveaway as to when ALA was founded…]

    Bookending “Library 2.0”

    Monday, January 16th, 2006

    I dipped my toes into the stream of Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” discussion on December 8, 2005.

    On December 30, I issued a call to add to an examination that was already “issue-length” (but an 18-page issue at that point). Several of you responded, as did everyone (I believe) who received separate email on the issue.

    On January 8, the issue hit the fan–and in some ways what didn’t happen is almost as interesting as what did happen. (A lot of you really do want to point to the 42-page HTML version instead of the 32-page PDF. Whatever.)

    Enough happened pretty rapidly to justify the first portion of this three-part post. But that just touched on a bit of the reaction.

    • What didn’t happen (so far at least): Nobody accused me of raising straw men. (OK, so I went out of my way to preclude such accusations.) Update 1/17: Given one post I saw today suggesting that nobody talking about Library 2.0 could possibly have meant to exclude anyone else or suggest that today’s libraries are failures, I’m very happy that I went through the excruciating cross-referencing process…maybe nobody meant those things, but some of them certainly said things carrying such implications.) Nobody among those advocating Library 2.0 attacked me personally–the only attack came from the most ludicrous of sources and had nothing whatsoever to do with anything in the issue.
    • What did happen (and is still happening): More people have gotten involved in several overlapping conversations about improving libraries. Fewer people are involved in bandwagon-building. I take no more than incidental credit for either change.

    What’s next, as far as my own involvement? Less than you might expect, for reasons that should become clear in the February Cites & Insights (which I assure you will not under any circumstances emerge prior to January 29!). Not because I’m not interested, and certainly not because reactions so far have scared me off–but because I don’t feel that C&I is the right place for the ongoing conversations and real-world developments or that I’m necessarily able to add much value to those conversations and developments.

    The bookend will either appear as a Followup Perspective in the February issue or as the majority (maybe 100% majority) of a Bibs & Blather section. I haven’t decided yet. A rough draft is in place (a week’s absence encouraged me to move forward with some writing now, as did the three-day weekend). The rough draft is just over one-thirteenth as long as the special issue. I’m inclined to believe that the appropriate length for that bookend is around one-twentieth the issue length–that is, roughly 1,300 words. Changing it to Bibs & Blather may accomplish that.

    In the rough draft, I glance at some of the first wave of posts and comments just before and just after the issue was published, but I don’t examine them closely or engage in lengthy commentary or argument. (That’s the part that might get even shorter.) I explain in a little more detail why I probably [shouldn’t | don’t need to] be a major ongoing voice in these conversations and developments. And I point people to a couple of sources that could and perhaps should serve as clearinghouses or centers for successful (and failed?) implementations (Meredith F. won’t be surprised, I don’t believe).

    No, I’m not saying “That’s the last I’ll ever have to say about this bandwagon or the concepts behind it.” That’s ludicrous. This isn’t even the classic western scene where I mount up, say “My work here is done,” and ride off into the sunset. (Lovely though such a thought is, my head’s too big for most white hats and there is no way on Gaia’s green earth that you’re getting me on the back of a creature that probably doesn’t want me there….) It’s just a recognition of where I can add value, where that’s less likely, and where time, space, and energy limits really do come into play.

    So that’s the announcement of a bookend of sorts.

    On a mostly different issue: I don’t know whether this will be my last pre-Midwinter post. Probably not–but if so, don’t be surprised if comment moderation slows to a crawl for about a week between January 19 and January 27. I travel without technology, and a surprise two-day trip was recently added to Midwinter. I might turn 100% moderation on, given the amount of spamment I’ve been getting, but I might not. As for Midwinter schedules: I’m not likely to post one–it’s so sparse as to be odd to post–but sure, I’ll be at the OCLC Blogger Salon, and a couple other predictable spots, and of course my own “small group of people sitting around chatting” (for which no advance work will have been done!).

    Midwinter nostalgia (and suggestions)

    Saturday, January 14th, 2006

    Nostalgia? For a conference? Yes–although technically, ALA Midwinter isn’t a conference. It’s the ALA Midwinter Meeting, and the terminology is significant, as you’ll discover if you blow into San Antonio looking for lots of thoroughly-described formal programs with speaker panels and the like.

    You won’t find many of them. Only the ALA President and a few ALA offices are allowed to hold formal programs during the ALA Midwinter Meeting, I assume because the intent is that most people shouldn’t have to pay for two conferences a year–and to clear the way for Midwinter’s formal purpose. Which is business meetings and informal discussions. Thousands of them (quite literally).

    Midwinter is a time for committees to get their work done (although they also meet at Annual, and those with serious agendas almost certainly carry out online work between conferences). Midwinter is the time most awards committees meet and make decisions (although they’re the one class of committee that could meet entirely “virtually,” since awards committees are exempt from ALA’s open-meeting policy). Midwinter is when interest groups (LITA), discussion groups (every other division), and committees firm up formal program plans for Annual and start working on program ideas for the following year’s Annual.

    Some IGs and DGs also have topical discussions during Midwinter; sometimes those discussions loosely resemble programs. (I’m afraid LITA’s Top Technology Trends “trendspotters” Midwinter session has moved too far from a bunch of folks tossing around ideas and chewing on them to a fairly formal set of presentations, although I understand that San Antonio may see some moves to deal with the situation. I’m no longer part of the group, so that’s all I know.) Some divisions do a good job of publicizing the plans of their IGs and DGs at Midwinter, so that people can see which ones they’d like to drop in on. Some don’t. The new handbook may do a better job in this regard (any descriptive material would be a better job); we’ll see.

    Midwinter exhibits tend to be relatively heavier on technology and services, mostly because they’re lighter on publishers, at least in the past. They’re a lot lighter (in the past, at least) on author signing sessions and thousands of people hauling carriers through the aisles picking up free posters, which can make Midwinter exhibits a much less frenzied affair and much better time to actually look at what’s happening with systems and services.

    A bunch of bloggers offered good advice for conference-goers right around the time of ALA Annual 2004. I covered some of them in Cites & Insights 4:9 (July 2004)–if you just want that essay, it’s here. Most of the advice works for Midwinter as well, but not all of it, since there basically aren’t formal programs and panels.

    I like ALA Midwinter. I’ve always thought it was the easiest way to explore possible committees and interest groups–to see what would make sense to get involved in. It runs at a less hectic pace than Annual. And San Antonio is, in my opinion, the ideal city for Midwinter: The weather’s usually fairly good, and most of the the hotels and conference center are conveniently joined by the Riverwalk, along with loads of restaurants and several miles of scenery. (By the way, I submitted material to a wiki for the first time in conjunction with Midwinter–the San Antonio “radical reference” wiki subset. I submitted the original “Getting around conference sites,” which has since been enhanced by “jp,” who–among other changes–found the Riverwalk map that I was unable to find. “The Riverwalk is your friend” is something I firmly believe, if you’re able to walk with no difficulty and across sometimes-less-than-smooth paths.)

    So what’s the nostalgia? When I started going to ALA, almost exactly 30 years ago, Midwinter was a small event. I particularly remember the ones held in Washington, D.C., near the zoo: Almost everyone stayed in two hotels across the street from each other, and the claim was that if you sat in the Sheraton’s lobby bar (a true lobby bar, right out in the middle of the lobby) long enough, everyone you knew in ALA would come by. It seemed like the truth at the time. Chicago Midwinters were also memorable (and not for the cold).

    Midwinter with 3,000 or so participants was a very different animal than the current Midwinter, which is about as large as Annual was a couple of decades ago. I won’t say “better” or “worse”–just different. (So was Annual, to be sure, but mostly in terms of scale; even back then, it was too big and complicated to get my head around.)

    Do I miss those Midwinters? Not really. but there’s a little nostalgia.

    Suggestions? I don’t have much to offer that isn’t already on that wiki site or in the 2004 C&I piece. Don’t overschedule. Do try at least one new group (I plan to!). Do enjoy the city, at least a little bit. If you get a chance to visit the Big Enchilada, San Antonio’s main public library, it’s worth a visit. (I do remember the all-conference reception at the first San Antonio Midwinter after that library opened: A wonderful event at an impressive facility.) (Once you see it, you’ll know why it’s been called the Big Enchilada.) Do stroll the Riverwalk–see how many friends you encounter at the various riverfront bars and restaurants, and along the surprisingly long walkway. The wiki offers some suggestions for other parts of San Antonio, and could certainly use lots more suggestions (including more non-vegetarian restaurants).

    Oh, and if you’ve never done so, attend one ALA Council meeting. I think every ALA member should do that once–and for most of us, once is enough.

    C&I: A little more analysis

    Thursday, January 12th, 2006

    This post discussed some aspects of C&I volume 5 (2005), based on statistics for visits beginning 1/1/2005 and running through the end of the year. I noted that I was waiting for a cumulative set of stats, and might have more to say.

    That cumulative set is ready, covering December 18, 2002 (when Cites & Insights moved to the Boise State platform at the start of volume 3) through January 6, 2006.

    I won’t go into nearly as much detail. A few overall items are sort of remarkable: visits from 87,336 unique IP addresses during that three-year period, including visitors (real or imaginary) from 177 country-equivalents, 109 of which had 10 or more visitors, 62 with 100 or more visitors (Bahrain with 103, Serbia and Montenegro just below with 99), 15 with more than 1000 (US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Norway, Australia, China, Netherlands, Japan, Italy, Spain, India, Sweden, Korea–Taiwan, Israel, Belgium, New Zealand come next, with 670 to 974 visitors).

    I combined numbers for the 50 most popular HTML pages (45 articles plus the 5 site pages) and 50 most frequent PDF downloads, then did the same calculation as for the single year, figuring one reader per HTML and 1.5 per PDF. I added PDF counts for 2005 alone for the four volume 5 issues that weren’t among the 50 most popular overall (excluding separate HTML downloads).

    Highest readership overall: No contest. 3:9, the CIPA special, more than 11,000 estimated readers. Second highest and highest article: Also no contest, 5:10b, Investigating the Biblioblogosphere, just shy of 10,000 estimated readers.

    Then it gets weird–or maybe not: the next four, all between 7800 and 8000 readers (and the only ones between 7000 and 9500) are one of the Offtopic old-movie roundups, a Copyright article, a Wikipedia perspective, and a Products roundup–but all four were in 4:12, and it was mostly full-issue downloads.

    In general, it appears that copyright is popular, as are some scholarly access pieces–but so, to a lesser degree, is almost everything else. The range between 5,000 and 7,000 estimated readers includes 8 articles and 12 pre-volume 4 issues (almost all of volume 3 and three volume 4 issues that didn’t have highly popular article downloads–in one case, the glossary 4:2, because there was no HTML version). Two of the “less popular” issues of v.4 also didn’t have HTML (the Broadcast Flag and Copyright specials).

    Only three issues since the move to Boise State don’t show at least 3,000 estimated readers, at least for part of the issue–and two of those three (5:12 and 5:14) are too recent for a good count, since it’s clear that readership for old issues continues at a reasonable pace. No issue failed to hit the 2,000-reader mark.

    The lowest readership in the past three years? Volume 5, Issue 9, the July/August 2005 issue. Still more than 2,000, but just barely. Still way more readers than I ever expected for this ejournal, to be sure. What about that issue? Well, it came out during the summer (I notice that other relatively-lower issues are also summertime issues). It lacked any really hot issues or perspectives; the longest essay, on the Grokster decision, was basically a “move along, there’s nothing to see here” essay. Apparently my lumpy little perspective on “Predicting the Future of Academic Libraries” was not a hot item. Last summer was a fallow time. Those times also have their uses.

    Clarifications, changes, and an update: Three posts in one!

    Thursday, January 12th, 2006

    A coffee-break quickie that probably should be three separate posts, but…

    1. Libraries as information places: For someone who grumps about “the library” being an artificial construct that sweeps too much into one pile, I fell right into it in the Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” essay. I should have been much clearer about two things:

    One, that I was primarily talking about public libraries (and secondarily academic libraries)–and that school and special libraries are very different creatures (lots of kinds of very different creatures);

    Two, that I wasn’t at all saying that libraries shouldn’t be information resources, just that public libraries aren’t primary everyday information resources for most people and that “information” seriously understates what public libraries do well.

    Three, that narrative can be in almost any medium and delivery system (I heartily approve of DVD and CD collections in libraries, and of audio ebooks and…, not that it’s my role to approve or disapprove)–although print books have real and sustaining virtues for certain forms of long linear narrative. Which is only one kind of narrative.

    [No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. If that reference makes no sense, ask.]

    2. Banning and civility: I just love the conversations that take place on this blog, even if they are sometimes “dangling” and certainly one-sided to some extent. I do not believe that yelling at people constitutes conversation. But I may have overreacted to what I believe to be a deliberate, escalating form of inflammatory and defamatory comment. So: Nobody’s entirely banned from commenting–but I do reserve the right to put certain email addresses into “always moderate” status, and to delete without comment any comment that I regard as offtopic, hateful, or deliberately inflammatory.

    Disagree with me all you like. I’m frequently wrong (there’s no halo above this head, and continued learning means changing one’s mind and becoming better informed) and expect to continue to be frequently wrong. I have never, ever deleted a comment because the person disagreed with what I said.

    But I will delete, or fail to approve, comments that constitute yelling rather than conversation. And comments that are personal attacks (on me, or anyone else) rather than disagreements with what’s been said. And comments that slander entire groups of people.

    And if other blogs choose to interpret that insistence on civility as suppression of dissent…well, you know, it’s still a free country, and intellectual dishonesty is part of that freedom.

    3. If you’re attending Midwinter and knew Ilene Rockman: see this comment about a Sunday 5-6:30 gathering. I won’t be able to make the gathering (prior commitments, oddly in a very light Midwinter schedule), but will be there in spirit.

    Blogs I read, if you care

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

    I had a partial blogroll in the first couple months of this blog. My original intent was to replace the dozen or so lesser-known/worthwhile blogs with a different set every few months.

    Instead, I eliminated the blogroll as a waste of space and a practice I didn’t particularly want to indulge in.

    On the other hand, there may be a couple of geeky or curious people who really do wonder who’s in my Bloglines list.

    So, what the heck: There’s now one more link in the “Places” sidebar. It takes you to the public portion of my Bloglines list–which at the moment is about 98% of the total list.

    These aren’t all blogs I love or even like. They are all blogs where I have the desire to check the posts, even if that usually means doing no more than scanning the subject lines in Bloglines.

    Note that I don’t include LISNews because I visit it daily as a website. Note also that Shush would be on this list–but it doesn’t seem to have anything that Bloglines can recognize as a feed. (Greg?)

    Blogs will be added; blogs will be removed; once in a great while, blogs will be marked private.

    I don’t pay much attention to Other People’s Blogrolls. I don’t see why anyone would care about mine. But if you’re curious, there it is.