Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Look At Tagging � Life as I Know It

Very interesting note about tagging, directly relevant to our class this week in organizing and providing access to information: A Look At Tagging � Life as I Know It. It appears that Library Thing contains 10x the number of tags as Amazon with a tiny fraction of the traffic. Jennifer refers to an article written by Tim Spalding that looks like it might shed more light on the usefulness of tags. I had recently uncovered David Weinberger's article on leaves and trees that compared tags with faceted search and hierarchical searches, very helpful. I'll have to send a note about this to the class list. Another connection here: my good friend Peg O'Donnell and I are exploring Library Thing as we speak. It just doesn't stop, the connections...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Information Wants To Be Free � Blog Archive � Lead, follow or get out of the way

A very interesting and encouraging note at, "Information Wants To Be Free � Blog Archive � Lead, follow or get out of the way." Blogger, Meredith Farkas notes:

Our mission may not change, but the way we fulfill that mission must and will continue to require new methods. Let’s be change leaders rather than following Kodak’s sad example and waiting too long in spite of all the signs telling us that the things around us are changing.

This is the policy question I've been posing for myself: what has been the role of the library in implementing the public policy to make information available to all citizens, in an economical and reasonably efficient way? And what will that role be when virtually all the information to be made available is available digitally? And, of course, how do we get from here to there?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Another of Lorcan Dempsey's weblog posts: QOTD: A new literacy?

In this post, Lorcan Dempsey points to an author who complains about the demise of the influence of the humanities, and he suggests that the new literacy should be based on understanding mathematics, music and architecture: Lorcan Dempsey's weblog: QOTD: A new literacy?. As seems to be typical for me, this doesn't really pique my interest in learning about the demise of the influence of the humanities, even though by definition I am a humanist, studying a field in the humanities; rather, it occurs to me that the idea of architecting the future of libraries could be a stronger focus of my research. I have been including this angle for a long time (well, what is a long time when you just started school 5 months ago...), but really, maybe it's more important than just an angle. Maybe buildings will speak louder than words in answering the question of what we expect of libraries in 30 years. No doubt, I'll probably discover that too much has already been written on this subject, so I'll go on to something else, but it would make a much more interesting study than other things I've thought about.

Maybe I would find that people are spending millions of dollars of public money on a fantasy, without any clear idea about what kind of physical space will be needed to fulfill the social policy of providing a shared resource for the community served by the building. It's not at all unlikely that we could get away with that kind of thing. On the other hand, maybe I'll find, well, that's just the point. What will I find?

Lorcan Dempsey's weblog: The anxiety of influence

OCLC being a catalog aggregator, already knows an awful lot about the possibilities of serendipitous discovery when you take information out of context. A recent example is the Identities function, still in beta, but discussed at Lorcan Dempsey's weblog in several posts, among them this one: Lorcan Dempsey's weblog: The anxiety of influence. He notes the power of this type of exploration, this kind of discovery, of who or what is most influential in this case, but for me, this points to the fundamental importance of the many projects underway today that provide the fodder for these new ways of using what's been with us for a long time.

This is part of my wonder about the complaint about Google Book Search, that scanned books, searchable at the word level, strip those books of their context -- one would think that they no longer existed in any form on earth except as disaggregated words in a database somewhere, but actually, they still exist in full contextual forms. Today those contexts include, among other things, shelves in buildings. Yes, they actually get returned to the very buildings from which they came (surprise!). But digitizing them makes them amenable to so much unimaginable connecting-up. What will we learn from them tomorrow, in addition to what we learn from their text and their context today?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Apple - Pro - Profiles - Neal Ashby & Matthew Curry

I am just so fascinated by the fact that I can think of any question I want at any time I want and if I'm on (connected), I can just ask it. Damn. This is just so incredible. But even more incredible is that the answers as often as not connect things that seem totally unconnected at first glance.

I was reading my homework assignment for Survey of Digitization (honest) and listening to Mirror Conspiracy at the same time (I didn't used to be able to do that but my coffee house experiences have made a big difference in my ability to love more than one input at a time) and suddenly I had this question about when Thievery Corporation might be coming to Austin again and I Googled it and ended up, through a few clicks, finding a site that I must refer my Survey of Digitization prof to: Apple - Pro - Profiles - Neal Ashby & Matthew Curry. She is into the art of album covers and wonders about what's happening to all that information that used to be a part of an album experience. And so is Thievery Corporation and its artistic designers for its most recent album, Versions (who just picked up a Grammy for this one).

So Thievery Corporation loops back around to my Survey of Digitization class, but that's not the only connection. The article about the album cover for Versions just happens, at its end, to talk about the future of the digital album cover. So there it is again, my interest in the future of the book running through everything I think about and do. One big circle of connection and relationship and integration. And I actually have the time to think about all this and write about it and maybe get a Ph.D. in the process... Wow. Please do not wake me up. This is such a neat dream!

Eek! I have to go pick up my mom and take her shopping.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Differentiating Google's Book Search and Other Digital Initiatives

Today I was reviewing the readings for my two ISchool classes for the next couple of weeks. Of course, no surprise, they merge almost completely, both delving into metadata. I have a feeling I'm either going to come to a real understanding of how important it is, or I'm going to never want to hear the word again after this semester...

But anyway, that wasn't my point. In skimming digitization readings over the next couple of weeks, it occurs to me that Google comes at this whole thing (Book Search) from a decidedly "no metadata" point of view, so now I'm beginning to get some of the complaints that were early on mysterious to me. Those who complained about how searching a book's words would reveal little bits of the book without its context, and this was a very bad idea. As I read more about how much metadata contributes to the preservation of context (in myriad ways, I'm about to learn all about), it seems all the clearer that Google isn't at all about that. It's not that Google fails to take context into account, it's that context is simply and completely irrelevant to its goal: to get the text into the stream. What libraries have provided, the rich resource of context, and continue to provide even in the digital environment with metadata-rich online collections, is simply a completely different thing, a horse of a different color, apples and oranges, etc. It does not follow at all that all use of digital materials requires context. In fact, it is one hallmark of creativity that artists take things out of context, seeing them in new ways never before imagined.

So if libraries believe that context is important in the digital environment (no argument here), it's not that Google must be stopped, but that Google just does not add anything to the mix regarding *that* value. To suggest that it adds nothing to the mix at all goes way further than seems justified. To say that because Google does not further this need, it does not further any need is a non sequitur, no? But isn't that what many in the library community were, are saying?

Something else to explore.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Joe Huck's great idea: cScroll

I was just chatting with a friend named Joe Huck who is working on an idea related to the readability of online text, the idea that it can scroll from left to right instead of (not in addition to) from top to bottom: A Lesson from Alexandria. I got a demo of the alpha version today and was really amazed. Readable online text, not because of crispness or clarity, that's another issue, but because of the way your eyes work reading things without having to track all over the place and lose your place and up and down and over and around... This is an idea that I hope will get around and get the attention of some developers who can take it and run with it, which Joe is just fine with!

Friday, February 09, 2007

if:book: ecclesiastical proust archive: starting a community

This fascinating post, if:book: ecclesiastical proust archive: starting a community got me thinking about the nature of my research at UT's ISchool. If I want to study the future of the book, and I want to explore it not only theoretically, but practically, every paper I do while there should be in some way a step forward with that process. Blogging "On the Case for Fair Use" was helpful and I learned a lot, but I don't necessarily want to just repeat that for each paper. What is the next step?

I've been casting around for a paper to write about the Google Book project, now that UT is a participant, and I am just so constantly thinking of how the library can further Library 2.0 projects, somehow it seems like this could integrate into a very nice paper that actually exists in a collaborative space. For example, what are the other research libraries participating in Google Book thinking about the issues that concern me? How do we see Google Book fitting into our overall "library future?" I should be collaborating with them, instead of trying to figure it all out myself. But how interested will they be in collaborating in a more open conversation? If they are exploring Library 2.0, they will certainly be very interested, I would think.

There's the issue of Google's confidential information, which we all must honor, but I am confident that there is much to discuss that does not delve into trade secrets. We have this obligation with all the companies with whom we collaborate on projects that look to the future, or involve us in the company's business operations (beta testing, for example).

Oddly, I have an attorney's role in the Google project, but it's a library's perspective that I want to explore, so my first instinct, which is to approach my lawyer buddies at the other universities, is probably not the right approach. On the other hand, we may have much to discuss too, but it's probably not going to inform my paper.

I also want to talk with the folks at the Institute for the Future of the Book, since they are working so steadily on the applications that would make this kind of collaboration easier, but it seems to me to be too early. I am still focused on absorbing, reading everything I can get my hands on, thinking, talking. I'm far from the point of even having a subject on which to write. But, seeing future step, directions, etc. is very exciting.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Pam Sameulson's, Can Copyright Survive the Web by Lightening Up a Little?

Pam Samuelson's recent talk on her 5 year project to rewrite the copyright act is online: Can Copyright Survive the Web by Lightening Up a Little?. What a fabulous project. It will be very interesting to see how it develops and what effect it has.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Apple - Thoughts on Music

I know there's more to the story than this, but this is the guy who convinced the major labels to put their toes in the water, what was it, 5 years ago? If anyone can talk them into the pool, my money would be on Jobs. Read his plea to common sense: Apple - Thoughts on Music.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Turning point in copyright infringement cases | Stanford Center for Internet and Society [beta site]

In a very poignant post, Turning point in copyright infringement cases, author Balazs Bodo at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society lays out what he terms a "lose-lose" choice for Bill Gates. He's got a high profile request to intervene in a prosecution of a teacher in Russia for copyright infringement -- use of MS software without a license.

Interestingly, beyond Bado's commentary, two of the four arguments being made on behalf of the Russian teacher are arguments I outlined in one section of the paper I blogged here over the fall semester, On the Case for Fair Use, about the viability of a fair use claim for electronic reserves and digital distribution through courseware platforms like BlackBaord. A third argument has been floating around for awhile, the idea that remedies are out of proportion to the harm to the copyright owner.

I referred to the argument generally as a dysfuntional market argument, but in the paper, I concluded that in an American court today, the argument that educators shouldn't have to pay (ie their uses of others works in large-scale digital distributions to students should be fair use) if they can't afford it, isn't likely to be a winner. To read more than just the one section of the article referenced above, pull up the posts labeled copyright and that should retrieve them all (and a few other things no doubt).

I wonder whether, if such a claim succeeds in any forum, it is more likely to succeed in other fora. There would, in any event, still be considerable problems with it, as I suggest in the article. An interesting choice for Mr. Gates.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Class assignment: play around on LibraryThing and Amazon...

Yeah, that's really the assignment. This is pretty amazing. The class is organizing and providing access to information. I'm quite wary, being a Googler from way back, and having done all my legal research for the last 20 years on either the open Web or on Westlaw. So, full text is my mantra. But I'm taking this class and I'm going to figure out what the deal is with catalog records, Dublin Core, xml, metadata generally, etc. etc. So, with the intro to xml readings, we are instructed to check out LibraryThing and Amazon as two different approaches to recommender systems. LibraryThing is just so much fun, it's hard to relate it to xml and metadata. I can't get below the surface of just being amazed at all the cool information I get back for having entered 31 titles into my "library" with a couple of tags on each one. Too easy. So, I just want to read and read and read now. Of course, I have to read, tons of stuff. So this is working out really, really well!

Friday, February 02, 2007

if:book: back to the backlist

What a great story, back to the backlist, over at Institute for the Future of the Book. This is so amazing, seeing such wonderful examples of how the pie can be envisioned as having more pieces and getting larger. I had read something similar on the front page of the Financial Times this morning (yes, I read a hard copy of it) about how over 1.3M Disney videos have been purchased from iTunes in the 3 months that they've been available, and how Disney is telling its retail partners (ie, those who sell DVDs) that overall consumption is up. Others are still trying to protect DVD sales, seeing it as a win-lose game. It isn't turning out that way in many cases.