File management: naming

Time for the next installment on “How I manage files”, this one on naming. As with the other parts of this series of posts, there’s stuff that works for me that may not work for you, and vice versa (feel free to share in comments!)

Continue reading File management: naming

File management: self-awareness and philosophy

Welcome to part 1 of the “How I manage my files” reports. (You can read the prequel, in my previous post: My Computer Geography)

A few starting principles:

I work on the following theories. I list them so you know where my preferences are, and can adjust to whatever your preferences are (as yours are almost certainly different.)

  • Huge piles (well, lists) of files are not my friend.
  • I like seeing what I’ve done when it’s done.
  • I like to focus on the current thing, not see all the other stuff I should think about.

Continue reading File management: self-awareness and philosophy

My computer geography

Before I get into the series of “How I manage my files” that people seem to be interested in, I thought it might be a good idea to talk a bit about some very general structure of how I use my computer. Geography is really sort of the right word, except that this geography, I get to move things around, at least within broad limits.

Continue reading My computer geography

Links of interest: November 19, 2010

Still mulling over some of the other posts I want to do, but this week there are lots of lovely links!

Bullying and other relational aggression problems.

danah boyd has a great piece on how talking about bullying with teens might not be working because many teens don’t see relational aggression as bullying – they don’t call it that, but instead, as danah says, “They’d be talking about “starting drama” or “getting into fights” or “getting into my business” or “being mean.”

And, related, Tor.com just published a chilling and powerful short story about the costs of seeking acceptance: “Ponies” by Kij Johnson.

Web design:

The San Jose Public Library system launched a brand new website this week, and it’s been getting a lot of attention. They’ve made some very deliberate choices.

Sarah Houghton-Jan, the Digital Futures manager at SJPL talks about the project at her blog Librarian in Black. And of course, links to the new site.

Emily Lloyd, at Shelf Check, highlights one very cool thing, where Sarah says in that post “Every single staff member at SJPL has been asked and empowered to create blog posts for the new site.  That means everyone.  No limiting by classification, specialization, or degree-holding nonsense.  We’re all smart.  We all have things we know about and want to share with our library users.  We currently have over 300 staff set up to create content and I couldn’t be happier.” They’re also not pre-moderating either posts by staff or comments by library users.

Their posting and commenting guidelines are over here, for the curious, and seem pretty solid.

And Brian Herzog has a great roundup of web design links and tips – focused on libraries, but with lots of general application.

Intellectual integrity:

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a piece on the 12th from someone who says he’s had a quite lucrative business writing papers for pay. The article itself is interesting, but I also recommend the extensive discussion at Making Light that goes into various aspects in more depth (especially since the regular comment base includes a number of educators at various levels.)

Facebook news:

One of the big pieces of news on Monday was Facebook’s new messaging system. TechCrunch has a summary. And there’s another piece from Business Insider about how the complexity of the system might not be so useful. But if you’re still curious, Boy Genius Report has screenshots and other details of how it actually works.

There was also a bug which disabled a number of user accounts – apparently, all of women. SFGate has an overview and ReadWriteWeb has more. Boy Genius Report has some commentary, and also asked about the problematic request to submit government ID to get the account reinstated.  Gawker has a bit more. I’m seeing mixed reports about whether accounts have been reinstated, and will be keeping my eyes open for more this week.

One of the things I’m mulling about Facebook is their assumption that everyone uses the technology and tools and resources the same way. Which is. .. erm, not so much true. Even without getting into the topic of fake accounts, what about authors and artists who create under pseudonyms, those who use a maiden name professionally and a different name socially (or vice versa), people in the midst of name changes for any and varied reason. Any system that fails to allow for this is going to have problems. Ditto the thing about how people use different kinds of messaging for different reasons and with different people, and combining them might not actually work for a number of people.

General links:

The Carl Brandon Society (focused on authors and characters of color in speculative fiction) is holding a drawing for five e-readers.The funds raised will benefit the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship, a fund that sends two emerging writers of color to the Clarion writers workshops annually. The e-readers come pre-loaded with an amazing array of reading material from writers of color in the speculative fiction field. More details and the link  to buy ($1) tickets at their site.

Iris at Pegasus Librarian has a great post on being a guest lecturer in a class rather than a librarian. I had another conversation this week that reminded me how powerful being there, being flexible, and not trying to do everything can sometimes be the most powerful learning experiences.

And Jenica has a wonderful post about what good service actually looks like.

Ideaplay has a detailed commentary on Nicholas Carr’s new book: The shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains. (Haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on my reserve list at the library.)

WebJunction has a brief (5 minute) video with David Lee King from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library system on 5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patrons on the Web.

In the comments on danah’s post below, I discovered a new blog: Beyond Netiquette, which focuses on how we actually behave while using all these technology things, with some thoughtful posts and specific ideas.

The New York Times had a great piece on how digital resources and tools are deepening our understanding not just in the sciences, but also in the humanities, with links to some specific projects.

The EduBlog awards are out, with some great links to educational blogs asking great questions and sharing wonderful resources. Related, Doug Johnson has a really interesting post on what kind of value librarians and technology staff offer compared to, say, a slightly smaller class size. (He is a passionate advocate for libraries and technologies, but he’s also looking at the budget challenges.)

And in follow-ups from previous weeks, Cooks’ Source has apparently called it quits, according to a local area newspaper (and in fact the site is now down.) I continue to be bemused by the fact that Griggs keeps focusing on the initiating event, while ignoring the fact that a number of other pieces (including from much larger organizations) were also copied and taken without permission. I don’t think it’s fooling anyone.

Links of interest: November 12, 2010

Back for another round of links. (I do have some other things in the works, but they’re not quite gelling the way I’d like yet. I hope for next week; topics include a post on tech I use and why, and on the broad question of being a good librarian.)

I came across the In the Library With A Lead Pipe blog/journal due to their posts on librarian workspaces, but I’m thinking even more about about their post “X”, which is about pseudonymity and anonymity in professional (specifically library) communities.

Living online:

Anne Collier and Larry Magid have released a new version of their (free) Parents’ Guide to Facebook. Doug Johnson has a nice summary, with links to the PDF book. It’s got some great advice on specific privacy settings and considerations, and is well worth reading whether or not you have kids, if you use Facebook.

I caught an interesting piece on Talk of the Nation yesterday on NPR as I was driving, on how much employers can limit worker’s behavior – in particular, in online settings. You can read the transcript or listen to the piece (about half an hour) at the NPR site.

danah boyd wrote a fascinating piece on teenagers choosing risk reduction behaviors for online interaction that seem really odd at first glance (in one case, deleting everything posted after a short period of time, in another case, disabling the account entirely whenever she’s offline.) And yet, as danah points out, they make perfect sense in context.

Followup on last week’s stories about Cooks Source:

And other links of potential interest:

Links of interest: October 15, 2010

General links of interest:

The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom sponsored a machinima contest in Second Life (for those not aware, a machinima is a video or film shot using digital footage from inside a game or virtual setting.) They’ve posted the winner and two runners up.

A great resource on making a website more accessible can be found at Dive Into Accessibility.

When you delete an image, is it really gone? Apparently not on Facebook. In July 2009, the Ars Technica blog did a piece on this. 16 months later, the photo is still there.

A discussion on cyberbullying included a link to what one of the poster’s wives did when she discovered bullying in her classroom. (I can think of situations where it might not have worked so well, but in this case, it was a great solution.)

And of seasonal interest, Kerri Miller, the host of the Minnesota Public Radio show Midmorning, just did a great hour called “Vampires and Zombies and Werewolves, Oh My!” talking about the recent (and not so recent) rash of books featuring them. The link takes you to the page for this show, where you can listen or download, but you might also want to to check out the list of titles that came up during the discussion (currently the second bold heading down.)

Harassment, Internet spaces, and reality

Someone I care about is having problems with a stalker who’s both harassed her in physical space and online. That reminded me that I haven’t talked recently about my approach to dealing with that kind of situation.

It’s a subject I’ve been thinking about every since I got online, 16 years ago now. I’ve had my share of mildly worrying experiences (people who just wouldn’t give up), but I’ve also had more friends than I can count who’ve had everything from persistent harassment and fixation to outright threats of major violence.

I also spent about 18 months as a volunteer on LiveJournal’s Terms of Service (Abuse) team, which handles everything from DMCA copyright reports to concerns about harassment to requests from the police, to parents trying to figure out how to handle their child’s online interaction. (And I did this in 2003-2004, when there was a lot less info out there on most of these topics.) Add to that ten years working in a high school library and helping educate parents, kids, and teachers about different issues, and you get a lot of interest in the subject. It also means I have a lot of opinions – but I’m always interested in learning more.

It’s all real:
You’ll notice that below, I don’t say ‘real world’ and ‘online’. This is, in my experience, a particularly damaging way to look at it. Many people have very meaningful connections with others online. Whether those are old friends who live far away now or people they’ve met online through shared interests, the emotions, conversations, and interactions are still very real. When they go wrong, they still hurt just as much.

Beside that, online harassment, insults, and threats do affect us in our physical lives. They add stress, they take time to deal with, they may require changes in our behavior and where and how we spend our time. How is that not ‘real’? So, here, I use ‘online’ and ‘physical world’. A little clunky, but much more clear.

Harassment is the fault of the person doing the harassing.
If you are being harassed, it is not your fault, and you are not to blame. That said, knowing some things can make your life easier if you do have a problem. You have a better idea what steps to take, you know what information you need to have ready to make a report, things like that. Sometimes information and specific tools can help you descalate a situation or make you less appealing to a stalker, too.

Continue reading Harassment, Internet spaces, and reality

Link post: August 27, 2010

An interesting post – with links to other ideas – from Joyce Valenza about things she wishes school librarians would unlearn.

I definitely agree with several points on her list, including the Wikipedia one. My comment on it to students has always been that it is a starting place. From there, you can learn:

  • useful terms and phrases common in that subject area (fantastic for me when someone asks a reference question about a topic I’m not already familiar with.) Better terms = better searches.
  • names and dates of relevant people involved (useful for getting broader context)
  • links to further sources, so you can go look at the initial material yourself.
  • and sometimes other things, like recent books about a topic or other resources that can help you dig deeper.

The search that brought this home to me was comparing the Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia a couple of years ago (right around the time The Other Boleyn Girl movie came out) on the subject of Anne Boleyn – scarcely a minor figure. The Britannica version was 500 words, didn’t mention most of her family by name, didn’t give any background on a number of topics – her brother and sister, her interest in religion and philosophy, background issues and politics of the time.

In contrast, the Wikipedia article (at something like 2500 words), gave all of that, plus included links to current biographies with a summary of their main focus and theories, a link to an analysis of the choices that Phillippa Gregory had made in her writing of the book (and the subsequent changes in the movie) and how that fit in with different scholarly theories.

Which one do you think is most useful to high school students who got interested in Anne because of the book or the movie? And which one do you think starts a better conversation about how we study history, and how our own interests and focus and choices affect what we see in that history? Even more importantly, the Wikipedia article showed that real people – people like them – could do that kind of analytical work too, and contribute to understanding how all the historical fragments might fit together in various ways. Not bad for 2500 words.

I think a lot of people remember what Wikipedia was like initially, and forget (or don’t know) that in the past few years, they’ve done a lot to improve citation requirements, address some of the problems of prank edits, and other such things. It’s not perfect (and like all online sites, there are still quirks) which is why you still need to go look at the original sources.But that’s always been true, regardless of your tertiary source. Growing up in an academic family, I’ve long been aware that the ‘authoritative published sources’ (like traditional encyclopedias) have the potential for flaws. There are politics and person wrangling and pet projects, and all sorts of other things that introduce bias and inaccuracy there too. They’re just much more hidden from the end reader.

Michael Stephens shared an updated assignment for the class he teaches on Participatory Service and Emerging Technologies: to read one of the selected books and either do a report (the old fashioned option) or to do a media presentation (podcast, video, all sorts of other options.) That part’s great – but the list of books is also useful (and a good reminder to me: I’ve read about half of them, and should read the rest.)

And to go with my post earlier this week, LifeHacker has a top ten list of Facebook fixes you might want to look at. (including videos on how to adjust privacy settings, if you prefer that to text instructions.)

Locational privacy

There have been a number of posts recently about the issues of locational privacy with the rollout of Facebook’s new Places feature. (There are other sites out there that do similar things: FourSquare is one of the better known.)

The issues with locational privacy are complicated. Some are fairly obvious (people who have stalkers or other people harassing them obviously don’t necessarily want to be found.) Some are related to pranks that can have long-lasting effects (being ‘checked in’ to a location that would look bad to your boss – even if you were nowhere near there.) And some are complex: no one really has the stats on whether burglaries happen more to people who ‘check in’ far away from home, but do you really want to trust that one?

And even if you do want some people – your closest friends, the people you’d want to tell anyway – that doesn’t mean you want to tell the whole world. If you only friend people on Facebook that you are quite close to, no problem. But if you have people friended who you’re not as close to – or maybe don’t even know very well – then you probably want to change things from the default ‘Friends Only’ setting. Here’s a great article on changing the Facebook Places privacy settings.

There’s a great article from the EFF about the issues of locational privacy (that go far beyond these kinds of ‘checking in’) sites – they also talk about the implications of transit passes, electronic toll paying devices, and other ways to match up a specific person with a specific location. The Center for Democracy and Technology also has a good article.

And finally, if you’d like a totally different way to understand some of the issues with locational privacy, I recommend Cory Doctorow’s YA novel Little Brother. You can download a copy for free from Cory’s site – or, of course, get it from your local library or bookstore.

Myths of the benefit of ‘real names’ (‘real’ names: part 3)

Myth 1: Using a ‘real name’ reduces problematic behavior.

This myth is a myth because it makes having a ‘name that looks like a real name’ equivalent with ‘name associated with a history that the poster cares about’. The problem is, these are not necessarily the same thing. (And thinking they are won’t solve your problems.)

Reality: There’s nothing to stop someone making up a name that looks ‘real’. Unless, of course, you start requiring things like linking it to a credit card (which is not appropriate for many uses and has significant security concerns if you don’t want there to be major risk of identity theft. More understandable if you’re Amazon.com, but not so good for small sites.

Reality: It’s also not solely the legal name that prevents harassment – instead, it’s the link to an identity that someone cares about. Someone using a persistent pseudonym often cares about its reputation. Someone using their legal name may not for whatever reason (no matter how foolish that might end up being for them in the long run.)

Truth: Realistically, people who really want to harass will find ways to do it. For most circumstances, your average reader is not going to check out that Jane Doe is actually Jane Doe. What they’re going to care about is whether Jane Doe is interesting, thoughtful – and consistent with Jane Doe’s past history. Those things don’t require the name. They do benefit from history.

There’s also the problem of verifying the ‘real name’. There are ways this can work – Amazon’s process, which uses the name on the credit/debit card you have on file with them. But even there, there are problems, and in other settings, it gets even more complicated. For example, looking at Blizzard, many teens have accounts under their parent’s name – so the verifiable name on the account would be the parent, not the person (theoretically posting.)

Myth 2: Anything worth saying can be said using a legal identity.
Well, no. Really not.

If you force people to use a legal name, what you tend to hear are things that are socially acceptable to say. But there’s a lot that goes unsaid. People who are in the minority in that community will be less inclined to speak up (whether that’s due to gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, relationship preferences, background, or whatever else.)

People with health issues (their own, or their family’s) may not be willing to share useful information with others – for fear that employers or health insurers will take their comments out of context. People who have good reason to avoid being identified (those with stalkers, violent exes, etc.) won’t comment either.

While hurtful and trolling anonymous comments (those meant solely to disrupt a conversation) are a problem, I tend to think that not hearing all those other voices is even more of one. And there are other good and thoughtful ways to reduce the problematic comments, while allowing people to select a name that represents them – but that doesn’t reveal more than they’re comfortable with.

Myth 3: You can stay out of trouble online, just avoid saying anything that causes offense.

When you figure out what that topic is, please share. Pretty much anything can cause offense to someone, somewhere.

Plus, you’re assuming that all people out there are reasonable. Many people *are* reasonable. But there are people out there who aren’t – people who for whatever reason can fixate on someone (or something – it can be a topic) and be anywhere from extremely bothersome and disruptive to dangerous.

Myth 4: Privacy (and related settings) can fix the above concerns just fine.

Not so. Too many sites have gone along with one set of privacy settings only to change them fairly rapidly (and not always with advance notice to users) to make this one believable anymore. A site can’t share information it doesn’t have. It might share what you did. (So our internet history tells us, and we all know the line about those who don’t know their history being doomed to repeat it…)

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

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