Saturday, September 23, 2006

I have to start bloggin in french, as soon as I get home

I realized yesterday that I had to start blogging in french. I plan to go to france next summer to do some research, and I'm practicing speaking, listening and reading, but not writing. Writing provides another opportunity to learn. It's very different from speaking. In speaking, when you don't know how to say something, you create a "work-around." You find another way to say it, maybe not precisely what you wanted to say, but you get the idea across. In writing, however, you have a dictionary by your side and you look up the word or way of saying something that you prefer to use. They involve different and complementary skills and I need to do both. I'm in DC right now and I don't have my dictionary, so I won't start today, but tomorrow I will. Maybe I'll blog at least one or two paragraphs in french, as a start. Eventually, I should do it all in french. It's a way to preserve my thoughts about this experience *and* practice french at the same time.

And that, indeed, is the essential problem I need to solve right now. How to get more efficient about what I need to do because I don't really have time to do it all however I feel like. It's got to get efficient.

So, for today, a summary of my trip to DC. I came to talk with other copyright attorneys in higher ed about an education initiative of the ARL, but we also talked about digital delivery of educational materials, Google Book Search, and many other things. I visited with UMUC about being their Visiting Scholar and they worked very diligently with me to come up with a plan that benefits us both. I was very happy to find that they were flexible enough to accomodate my current state of panic about being unable to do everything I already have commited to do, let alone new commitments. The Kims were superbly calming. I so appreciate that. I really need that right now.

Anyway, the connections are just amazing. Everything is connected (duh). I am not worrying so much anymore about projects and specific readings. I just do the readings and then liberate the connection-detector and go from there. I seem to go from the specific, the detail, to the general very quickly, sometimes too quickly I'm afraid. I seem to be much more comfortable with the big picture firmly in mind. Context.

So, specifics. Norman's Design of Everyday Things had basically one thing to say and he said it over and over and over and took 200 pages to do it and it's not really a total waste of time, but it could be said so so so much more succinctly and without all the stupid examples. Let's move on. Preece, which everyone seemed to hate at first (and I wasn't that enamored of it either) now seems to me like a much better resource, more practical for the project-oriented approach of Luis' class.

For KMS, our readings are more like good background reading so far, but I can see that we are getting deeper and deeper into the specifics of different kinds of KMS and it's going to become maybe way too dense to be able to stay on top of it all. I need to know this and want to learn it, but it is too much too fast and that usually ends up meaing that nothing really gets into long term memory. Ultimately, I feel that's wasteful. I need more time to think about things and work with them and get them into meaningful contexts or else it's just an exercise with no real long-term utility. I wonder whether it's just me? I wonder whether professors care? I know when I was a professor that I felt students needed at least some exposure to a wide range of subjects or topics within the course framework, but now I wonder if the overload defeats the very purpose of that exposure. Does exposure count if there's no film in the camera? If the end result of exposure is forgetting everything, it's just like exposure without film in the camera. But what to do about it?

Well, this is *my* graduate school experience. There's no reason that I should accept someone else's definition of what success is. There is some level of accomplishment implied in attaining the degree, I accept that, but I am not at all convinced that the level or type of accomplishment defined by the professor is or should be the *only* accomplishment that is adequate to earn the degree. Maybe I'll talk to Mary Lynn about this. I know I'm not going to change anyone's idea about what graduate school should be like. And there's probably no small amount of "if it was good enough for me, it's good enough for you" going on. I don't want to do less, I just want to do more of one thing than of another. I want to do more thinking and reflecting, and less reading for exposure and moving on to more reading. Too much reading leaves no time for reflecting. Is that not true? If the standard full time course load leaves no time for thinking, then something is wrong with this picture. The reflecting is what I came her for.

Well, I have to get the efficiency thing fully implemented before I make the judgment that there's no time for thinking. So, I'll give it another couple of weeks. Then I'll reassess.

Friday, September 15, 2006

More connections

I was chatting with a professor about a class project when he asked a question that seemed like it should have come from a professor in a different class. The question was about what was in it for the users of an interface, to interact with the site, to add value to it. This was the Users' Class. The question had been the focus of my Knowledge Management Class (knowledge is exchanged pursuant to market principles, just like other types of goods, assets, services, and its efficient exchange requires the perception of value on both sides of the transaction -- not just because it's a good idea to do it) for a whole week.

So it's all one big class. I wonder if it makes any sense to try to keep them separate for any purpose. I tend to want to organize things, keep them clearly delineated. They aren't clearly delineated. They are very much intertwined and inter-related. The readings for one could just as easily be the readings for the other. Good user-centered interface design is critical to knowledge management. But it's not enough. People don't visit or use sites just because they are easy to use. What's in it for them? Why give up the only thing they really have these days, their time and attention?

We assume so often that people will be motivated to come get what we put out there because it is relevant to them, to their work, to their interests. Publishing is just that -- putting stuff out there for the public -- to do with it as they will (the ideas). We don't usually expect readers of published material to do more than just read it and use it as they decide. But websites, interactive websites propose a different deal: come here, get the stuff, but don't leave and never come back. Give me more of your time. Come talk to me. Talk to other users. Tell me what you think about what you found here. Add to it. Be an active contributor. And be smart. And be creative. And thoughtful. Give me good stuff, not just junk.

so, why would a 16 year old Kuna Indian high-schooler do any of that?

but why would he or she create a space on myspace? Why do people contribute to Wikipedia? Why do they get involved in blogs? Why do they publish their own websites at all? Can it all be understood purely in terms of benefits and costs? Even if it can, is that the most helpful way to look at it?

There are intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Clearly, the former are more powerful. Maybe that's what's going on with some forms of contribution. There's no explicit reward: contribute and I'll give you x or y. Rather, it's contribute because our society will reward you with recognition, prestige, maybe it will lead to financial reward at some point, maybe it's part of your job and so you're getting financial reward but it's indirect. Etc.

So are there any intrinsic rewards for our Kuna Indian 16 year old? I guess we'll have to raise this with Daniel when we talk about our theoretical user. If there aren't likely to be any, what would be an appropriate extrinsic reward? What about other users, like the teachers who might use the site to teach the language or use the language to teach other things? What is their reward? Do the Kuna really care about their language? I'll google it and see what I come up with...

Hmmm. Well, I read the beginning of a paper on the evolution of language ( and it had a good observation right up front: "that languages, to exist, must be learned by the young." p.2. But overall, there were only a few sites that explained who the Kuna were, what their language was, and after that it was all scientific, anthropological, linguistic, etc. For researchers, by researchers. May I conclude that the Kuna do not use the Internet to keep their language alive, and maybe don't need to? the few sites I saw said that they all speak it. They still have their tribal culture and all. So, what exactly is our goal? What do our users want? Who are our users, the archive, or the Kuna? And if the Kuna, the kids, or the teachers of the kids? What is the goal of making the archive accessible?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Second Day of Future of the Research Library in the 21st Century Symposium

The second day was just as impressive as the first. Much longer with alot more input. I have pages and pages of notes to read through and digest. I'll post more on this after I've done that, but for now, for me the most important things I took away from the symposium is that people are definitely thinking about this and very seriously. The best and brightest are on top of it. The people with the most experience are at the helm of the ship and they are very aware of the challenges they face. They are not sitting idly by.

And it's not all talk. There are good examples of innovative decision-making that takes libraries off beaten paths and into the future. But when we talked about some of the practicalities "off-line" during breaks, the braking power of politics, of decentralized decision-making, of the unweildy beast that a single research library within a single university can be, to say nothing of the entire research library community, well, it became crystal clear that this is not going to be easy, even if it is inevitable.

I also got a very good feel for the quandry we are going to face of trying to do this on a state library's budget. Without partnerships with the for-profit world, like publishers, google, etc., it will not get done at all. But there is that looming sense of dread that we'll make another faustian bargain, for example with Google (or whomever down the road), that will drastically limit our options in the future. The problem with the publishers' holds on us is that they have an unnatural monopoly in copyright, and it lasts for nearly forever. Handing a key player a monopoly over a key asset is a big mistake. We should not repeat that mistake. I wonder if we're poised to do just that with Google? It's not copyright this time, but a contractual limit on what we can do with what they give us in return for our contribution to their database. It can be understood in very down-to-earth ways: if they give us a copy, they don't want that copy "out there" for anyone to use commercially, b/c that would compete with their services potentially. But that asks us to tie up public domain works in ways that run completely counter to what we ought to be doing with public domain works. When google makes its copy available on the web, do they restrict what someone can do with it? Is it just restricting the use of large chunks of the pd works, or even a single work? I have to get at this idea. I don't think we ought to sign onto something we'll regret.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Future of the Research Library in the 21st Century Symposium

I attended the opening sessions of UT Austin's Future of the Research Library in the 21st Century Symposium today. It was really good. Lots of really wonderful attendees from all over the country. Lots of research libraries represented, of course, but publishers such as Elsevier and AAUP and several university presses were there too.

Clifford Lynch's comments were very insightful, as usual. He made a connection between the failure of scholarly presses to get out in front of the need for more versatile methods of scholarly communication and the emergence of the library as the partner of choice for faculty who need more innovative publishing services. He noted that if libraries move into this arena, it's a pivotal decision, one that will change their path for the next 10 to 20 years. But what are they to do other than to move in to fill the void created by the absence of meaningful contributions to the new genres of scholarly communication?

He also made the point that the demands on the university to meet the needs in both sciences and humanties for data management would be a pivotal decision. If we move into that, it fundamentally affects the role of the research library.

So, he was envisioning different paths for different libraries, depending on what challenges they took up and what challenges they declined to take up. But in the end, he framed the question much more broadly: what roles does the research *university* see itself playing with respect to the creation, organization, access to and preservation of the scholarly record, for it's not just a library question, it's got to be dealt with across the entire community.

I would add, across the entire nonprofit and for profit field of participants in the enterprise of scholarly practice.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Getting the hang of it

The last couple of days I have been finally beginning to get the hang of this. It is such a different pace and rythm from work as an attorney in an established practice. New is good. Shaking things up is good. The effort to figure out how to handle something new, how to apply old approaches to new things, or to toss them and find new approaches, all of that feels very energizing. But, you still have to get the work done in there somewhere and it's (surpise!) taking me longer to do that than I thought it would.

What I really like though is the variability, the changes of pace from one activity to the next: at attention for awhile, then relaxed and doing something physical like walking or planting something in the garden. I don't sit around nearly as much as I did before. That feels really good.

So, connections. My group (Understanding and Serving Users Class) settled on a project for the design of a user interface. We're going to work with Heidi Johnson in the AILLA, and her graduate research assistant, Daniel, who is from Panama and is Kuna Indian, to design a native-speaker (of Kuna) interface to the tons of materials Joel Sherzer has collected (audio) over the years. It will be fun, and directly relevant to other projects I want to do, including redesigning the Crash Course interface, which I have committed to do as part of my continuing OGC responsibilities on my outside counsel contract. I have put on hold thinking about a KMS project. I need to do a bit more thinking about that, in light of the realization I had earlier that I need to stop focusing on law practice.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Have to stop relating everything to practicing law...

Geez. I just spent about an hour and a half chasing down web pages that had to do with knowledge management in law firms. Then it was legal blogs, then other blogs. I suddenly realized that I really need to forget about practicing law and the problems of that life. I need to focus on other things. Maybe it's normal to continue to think like you've been thinking, but I suddenly feel that it's not a good thing. Like turning a corner and finding yourself on the same block you just left. Working on the same issues but from a slightly different perspective. So maybe I should just drop the idea about doing projects that relate to copyright law, law practice, etc.

Project Ideas

Both my user class and KMS class require a major culminating effort, in one case a project (done in a group) and in the other, a research paper. I'm beginning to see how my research paper could really be the basis for another project, and a project that actually works into a backburner project I've been wanting to take on for some time -- the redesign of the Copyright Crash Course into something more interactive, more designed to pass on more of the subtleties of how one practices copyright law. I can see a sort of knowledge management system for lawyers that would aid the process of bringing those new to the practice along by leveraging the knowledge and processes of established practitioners. So it focuses on KMS, but also on designing a service for different kinds of users.

My reading today makes a really great point: that expecting people to peruse repositories of information in their spare time or share with others in their leisure is unrealistic. You have to integrate knowledge management into the work process. It has to just be a part of what you do for every matter you handle. Just dumping answers into a directory on your computer and hoping someone will take the time to read them doesn't pass on anything.

I talked with Carlos Ovalle yesterday and he suggested that the focus at first just needs to be on what the new site would do. Functionality. I don't need to think about software or platforms at this stage -- just what I want people to be able to do with the site and the information on it (both as users of the info and contributors to it). For example, one thing I really want it to be able to do is enable discussions about different outcomes when two attorneys undertake a fair use analysis and come to different conclusions -- not the long-winded rambling esoterica of a law school debate, but rather, a candid look at how one came to one's conclusion, what one assessed, what one didn't assess, what one gave short shrift to, what one assumed away, etc. I've seen conversations go on and on discussing some result when it seemed to me that because of some fact in the scenario they were discussing, none of the points of view were really relevant. There was the one fact, not noticed, that totally undermined each person's analysis. If that kind of thing is discussed, it might go a long way towards helping both lawyers and their clients understand the subtleties and get better results.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Connections b/t Users Class and KMS Class

After attending the first session of Users Class and KMS, I can now see connections between the two. The user focus will be central to the KMS class. To evaluate any KMS, you have to look at it from the user perspective. So everything I learn in Users class is directly relevant to what I decide to do in KMS, from the eval of a KMS to my research paper.

Both classes are very loosely controlled. There seems to be alot of (sufficient) flexibility for people to do what makes sense to them. It's a bit foggy at first, of course, but nothing like law school was. I was in a total fog for the first two weeks. No idea of what we were doing. It's not like that, thank goodness. And there doesn't seem to be any intention that it should be that way, as it seemed in law school.

So far, it's just plain fun. But it is moving really fast and I find that deadlines are already creeping up on me. I need to ramp back up to speed. The last 3 weeks at work before retirement I spent almost entirely on getting out. I didn't have a set schedule. I just did what seemed to be needed at the moment. I have to get back to a schedule, clearly, or I'm not going to meet some of these deadlines.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Users Class Project: It's Practice

This class project really was confusing at first, but I managed to get the big picture from the first assigned reading and suddenly I saw that, as with our first class, Luis had arranged the activity, in this case the class project, to allow us to practice what we are learning, to actually learn by doing. So, it's practice. And any project will do nicely. I'll be set for my next project, which will likely be more real-world as I have lots of services I need to be thinking about providing, both at the Library and for OGC in the contract capacity. Ah, life. I love it when it makes sense...

Knowledge Management Systems Class Inspires Real-World Musings

9/3/06: first class readings were introductory pieces explaining the history of this relatively new field and to some extent, where it might be going.

I noticed that the “state of the notion” article about KMS was dated 1998, so I googled knowledge management and tons of stuff came up. I read a lot of it and it got me to thinking about projects I could do for this class:

A KMS for developing and sharing copyright expertise (or any other legal expertise) among attorneys in a firm, and facilitating delivery of better, faster answers to clients than one person acting alone can deliver.

I found a blog entry (Rajesh Jain, July 2, 2002) called Google + Blog = Personal Knowledge Management System at Very interesting idea. I should implement it for this class, maybe for all my classes and for work: From the blog:

I have realised that I now use the blog as an extension of my own memory: articles I
like, ideas that interest me, excerpts, comments are all being posted on my
blog. With Categories and Search, it now strengthens my memory. I can look up
things much faster, review recent ideas or thoughts in much more detail. I used
to make notes in my notebook when I read articles, but now I find myself doing
so on the blog. The attractive features are the ability to excerpt the part from
the article that interested me, the ability to comment and then later search.

What I would like is a private blog, which becomes a superset of the
public blog and a part which I only keep to myself. This way, I can post all my
notes, meeting summaries, etc. on this blog, knowing fully well that I can find
them again (and get the context). Searching paper notes can be quite hard --
they become like a black hole, difficult to get anything out of them. So, now, I
am using my notebook (the paper one) for doodling and thinking. When I am
somewhat ready, I post on my blog (like I am doing now).

I think there's a much bigger idea here...that of using the blog and
the other Digital Dashboard components (RSS Aggregator, outlines, directories
and filters) as a "personal knowledgement management system". This does away
with the weakness of the primary memory (our brain) -- aging. The blog becomes
our tertiary memory, since Google won't be able to index our private blog. So
now, I can note down all kinds of things on my private blog, knowing it will
never age or forget. (Well, sometimes, it may be better to forget some things,
so then we go hit the delete button!)

How do you even create a blog? Let’s see…

And here I am at the blogger site.

Well, enough about process. So, tomorrow is the first class meeting and we'll see how real world it can be (or will it need to be more theoretical to pass muster?)