A link roundup

So, yeah. Not doing so well with keeping up with the external blog. Let’s give this another try, and I’ll do a big roundup of links I keep meaning to share. (Which go back quite a few months.)

History and Memory:

  • A fascinating piece from the NYT about the challenges of the 9/11 museum.
  • An amazing take on why Machiavelli was so important to modern political thought.
  • Make your own Bayeux-style tapestry story. (done in HTML and JavaScript)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has released PDF versions of many of their out of print exhibit catalogs. Many many many awesome things. I’d apologise for the hours of productive time you will lose from them, but it’s art. It’s gorgeous. It’s fascinating.
  • Wil Wheaton is generally thought-provoking, but I keep coming back to this recent piece from him about personal history and remembering.

Libraries, search, finding information: 

  • I think I originally bookmarked this piece from Dear Author for the discussion of ebook agreements, but it’s also got a great infographic of how important public libraries are.
  • Some really interesting comments on letting go of Boolean operators and other new approaches to teaching research.
  • Solving impossible research problems has some really interesting advanced tips. (It still does not solve a years-old problem for me, which is identifying a flower from a remembered smell. But.)
  • A nice intro to creating screencasts
  • Get your PhD in Googling. (Well, not really, but it’s fun).
  • The Pew study on libraries, library patrons, and ebooks (bunches of you have probably seen this.)
  • A fascinating article on a professor who set an assignment for his class to fool Wikipedia – and how he got caught.
  • An amusing library intro video, Lord of the Libraries.
  • Librarian in Black takes on the problems of ebooks and libraries. (She’s done it before, but this version is excellent.)

Books:

  • Dear Author takes on the question of authors putting up not-entirely-final copies of books, and the larger question of author/reader interaction.
  • Five Books takes on the History of Reading. (as in, reading books, not the place.)

Technology:

  • Joyce Valenza had an interesting piece on how we approach using technology, including comments and video from Sherry Turkle.
  • Vintage advertisements for modern technology. (You may have seen these already, because they have been all over the Internet. They’re still amusing.)
  • A really interesting look at how one piece of technology leads to a whole new interest and set of connections.
  • The complications of two-step verification (with a nice look at both pros and cons, and a personal story)
  • Doug Johnson has a great reminder of the proportional risk in online interaction (bullying, not predators).
Information:
  • I rather liked this Lifehacker piece on how to determine if controversial statement is scientifically true.
  • Historical notes on some widely-known songs. (Fascinating!)
  • I’ve been reading a lot of articles from Longform, which collects both current and older long-form articles on a huge variety of subjects. I’d handwave at a bunch of them, but really, go dig for yourself.
  • Rip currents are sort of fascinating. And lethal. Here, have a video about them.
  • A good friend did a roundup of links on Scandesotan  (I am moderately fluent in the dialect these days. Twelve years of living in Minnesota does that to you if you hang out with certain crowds. I’m still recalibrating for New England, which has some similarities and some differences.)
  • Turnitin.com has a sort of interesting study on the plagiarism they most often see.
  • Finding the first emigrant processed at Ellis Island.

And because I’ve been eyeing aurora borealis photos recently, have some gorgeous shots. Oregon. Northern Minnesota.

Links of interest: April 8th, 2011

Problematic editorial responses:

There’s been a lot of discussion in the past week or so about Wicked Pretty Things, a young adult anthology focused on ‘dark fairy romance’. Seanan McGuire, originally part of the anthology, posted a very good summary of the problem: namely, that the editor had rejected a story that included a gay romance (in ways that were otherwise tasteful and appropriate to the age group.) As Seanan says:

And here’s the thing. There is absolutely no reason to censor a story that was written to the guidelines (which dictated how much profanity, sexuality, etc. was acceptable, as good guidelines should). If Jessica had written hard-core erotica, then rejecting it would have made perfect sense. Not that kind of book. But she didn’t. She wrote a romance, just like the rest of us, only her romance didn’t include any girls. And she didn’t get a rejection; she got her story accepted, just like the rest of us. Only while we got the usual editorial comments, she got “One of your characters needs to be turned into something he’s not.” And that’s not okay.

She continues to talk powerfully about why she feels the need to stand with the people who resist bullying through exclusion.

But the story doesn’t end there: along with a lot of other online discussion, and statements from the anthology editor (not particularly satisfying) and the publishing house (ditto), the publisher used an opinions essay in Publisher’s Weekly to scold the original author (misrepresenting what she’d done, for people who didn’t know the background, in the process.) That part? Really not cool. Good thing there’s a ‘Net with more information, really.  Dear Author has a post about this, including a link to the essay and additional background.

Cleolinda has been doing a series of posts with far more exhaustive links: part 1, part 1.5, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

Professional challenges and changes:

Joyce Valenza links to a great project from the librarians at McPherson College, who came up with a short graphic novel called Library of the Living Dead to explain library services to new students. It has me thinking of all kinds of great ideas (and glad that generally libraries are not zombie-infested.)

Doug Johnson has a post on the reality of paraprofessionals taking on roles previously filled by MLS-degreed professionals brought on by an email asking for help. This is one of those painful situations where everyone’s got a point, but I always wonder who we’re serving by pushing people into a role they’re not prepare for. Many paraprofessionals (as I was, when I was one) are great at the day to day stuff, and I suspect everyone reading this knows places that would never work without them.

But where the MLIS degree focuses is on looking at larger issues and how to navigate them over years or decades. As with most things involving learning a new way to look at the world, that’s not an easy thing to pick up on the fly, while trying to do two people’s jobs. Some people will manage – but what happens to those served by the people who don’t? I’m not just talking here about them not offering the kinds of services our students need and deserve – but also about the costs to them in trying to do a complicated job without adequate staffing, support, training, or time for reflection and renewal.

Jessamyn West, Fiona Morgan, and Justin Grimes did a presentation at SXSW 2011 on the digital divide in rural areas. Lots of great notes and resources, too.

Brian Herzog talks about some of the challenges and triumphs of dismantling their reference section – and why they did it.

Social media:

Troy Swanson has a great guest post at Tame The Web about how libraries need to look at how they use social media a bit differently – and how it can bring employees in a library who don’t get to see each other in person into a common community.

Denise, one of the co-founders of Dreamwidth had two great posts recently. One, in her formal managerial hat, is about development decisions there, and specifically how they’ve been spending a lot of time paying down technical debt (that’s the stuff you do because you need to get it done, but knowing it’s going to need to be fixed later). It’s got me thinking a lot about the equivalent in the library world (and I hope that’s going to gel into some writing sooner than later.)

She’s also made, from her personal account, a very powerful post about recent issues with LiveJournal, where she worked for a number of years (and where I volunteered under her direction.) I’ve had a number of online homes over the years, but LiveJournal is one of the longest-lasting: I’ll have had an account there for 10 years in May, during which time I’ve posted thousands of entries that help me follow threads of information and connection through my life. (These days, I focus more on Dreamwidth, because I want to specifically support some of their priorities, but due to cross-posting and other tools, still am around LJ a lot.)

Anyway, LiveJournal became, for various reasons, the pre-eminent free press outlet in Russia, both before being bought by the Russian company SUP, and since. Denise explains some of why this was, how it raised complex issues questions on a practical level, and how the site’s contributed to free expression in Russia in a variety of ways. (The reason this is relevant this week is that LiveJournal’s been under substantial DDOS attacks and other problems that have made use of the site more complicated (like lots of spammers.))

Thoughts about copyright

I’m currently working, in another tab on my browser, on a resource page of videos about copyright. As part of that, I realised there’s a bit of personal background I wanted to talk about, but that doesn’t fit the goal of that page. So, here it is.

My contradictory background:

I spend a lot of my personal life in several communities where resources and wonderful stuff are widely shared (generally with an ethic of respecting the creator’s preferences) while recognising that current copyright law has some pretty serious flaws. And of course, my professional life is in a world where use of copyrighted work in an educational context is terribly confusing and often contradictory, even though some kinds of use clearly improve learning, understanding, and connection with amazing resources and creators. The current methods for using a work while respecting the effort of the creator are confusing, complicated, and often too expensive (both in time/energy and in things like licensing fees) for individual teachers or smaller schools to negotiate well, even with the best of intentions.

I’m also the child of a father whose published and unique creative work created a meaningful financial benefit for his family (though it was never his primary income). As an adult, I have created a variety of material, some of which I share freely, some of which has more restrictions for various reasons. I have friends and acquaintances who spend time creating creative work for many and various reasons, but who need to sometimes use the law to protect their livelihood, or use of their material in ways that can be anywhere from confusing to utterly misleading or even risky (for example, I have friends who’ve had instructional materials copied without the relevant safety or background information.)

I recognise that copyright does help with the creation of works of larger scope and time, as well as giving creators some legal options if their work (and time, and effort) are abused. (And I have some book-length projects I’d like to tackle where committing that kind of time and energy is only sensible for me if I have some control over the finished product’s distribution.)

And I’ve handled DMCA removal requests in multiple settings over the years. I think the DMCA is an even more flawed law than copyright in general, because the practicalities of the law make certain kinds of legal responses anywhere from effectively impossible to very expensive – something most individuals can’t address. I’ve also seen it used as a club to shut down responses to discussion, to make life difficult for someone on the wrong side of an online argument, and much more in that vein. And yet, it’s currently the only real tool for handling online situations where one person copies another person’s work without permission.

What I’d like:

I’d like a world with reasonably consistent copyright terms, limited to a length of time that allows the immediate personal heirs to benefit (20 or 25 years, perhaps, rather than the current complex system of 50 or 75 years from various dates.) Enough time that the infant child of an individual creator could reasonably have their needs as they grow supported by sales of the work. Not so much time that they are relying on it rather than making their own way in the world.

(I have friends who disagree with me on this one, and think copyright should end at death. I’ve known enough people – including my father – who were working on various projects while dying of terminal illnesses that I think something that protects rights for a period of time after death is only sensible. Otherwise, these people will be more likely to go do something else like spend all their remaining time with their family, and everyone else loses out on their take on that project.)

I’d like a world where corporate copyrights were handled more sensibly. I want companies who do great research, and create wonderful works of art, and do other nifty things, to be rewarded. That’s only sensible. But I think that copyright law should also recognise that they have a certain benefit of scale that individual creators do not have the same access to.

I’d like a world where tracking down the copyright holder was a pretty simple thing to do – a central registry that could be accessed in a relatively trivial manner. (The technology’s there for it now: we just don’t have the collected data stored in a way that makes those connections easy.) Such a registry would also make it easier for people who, for example, were fine with non-profit uses to give quick permission.

And I definitely want a system where handling misuse of someone’s material online were much improved – in terms of the creator identifying their own work, in terms of having misused material removed quickly and easily, and in terms of handling malicious and incorrect complaints well. Again, the technology is there: I would cheerfully pay a yearly fee to dump my blog posts and other submitted materials into a third-party registry that date and time stamps them, so that any future complaint could be compared against that registered material, if it meant I knew I could handle any material used without permission quickly and easily.

I’m a realist: I don’t think I’m going to get any of these things, any time soon. But one can hope – and more importantly, one can take steps towards all of these things over time.

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.)

Links of interest: July 2, 2010

Many fun things this week:

First, the things that need little commentary:

Visual Economics takes (financial) information and synthesises it into fascinating pictures and infographics. Check out their graphics for the cost and effect of the BP oil spill, and how the world spends its time online.

My web host posted a nice summary of spam filtering techniques – you might check it out to see if anything in there applies to your web host (if your host uses CPanel, chances are good, but there’s some other useful info in there.)

A fascinating post from Geek Feminist titled “Scientists are ‘normal’ people, some children discover“which has some really intriguing data about how taking children to meet scientists (at least in this particular iteration) drastically increased the number of girls who drew their idea of a scientist as a woman. (There’s some interesting discussion in comments about why this might be the case, and some thoughts about why it was not true for the boys.)

danah boyd publishes a draft of the 2010 literature review of risky behaviors and online safety that builds on the 2008 literature review done for the Internet Safety Task Force. As she says, unsurprisingly, not much has changed. I’m looking forward to digging into the material.

And finally, a story from this year’s Merritt Fund banquet at the ALA conference. The Merritt Fund is designed to provide support to librarians dealing with freedom of information related legal issues, and this year’s winner (Carol Brey-Casiano) told a story about a Patriot Act issue that’s chilling.

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 Information Technology Librarian at the University of Maine at Farmington, the small liberal arts college model campus in the University of Maine system.

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