Category Archives: writing

The Case for Open Hardware in Libraries

Over a year ago, I was approached by Ken Varnum to write a chapter for a book he was editing, at the time called Top Ten Technologies for 2017. He was persuasive, and I had this crazy idea that had been bouncing around in my head for some time about libraries and open hardware. I told him my idea, and described the argument I wanted to make, and he told me to go for it.

So I did.

The book ended up being called The Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know: A LITA Guide and my chapter in it The Case for Open Hardware in Libraries. I’m pretty proud of it, as it’s as close as I’ve been able to come, after a couple of years worth of thinking and speaking and writing, to distilling why I think this is an important thing for libraries to be doing.

Click the above link to download a copy for your very own, or take a look below for a quick skim. Either way, I hope that it starts or continues some conversations on this front in libraries. As always, if there are libraries out there that want to do this sort of thing, build their own hardware, create their own measurement tools, I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to help you. Just let me know.

The Journal of Library Administration

On Feb 14, I got an intriguing email from Brian Matthews about a special edition of the Journal of Library Administration he was editing. It was a request for a chapter for an edition of the journal called Imagining the Future of Libraries, and the Brian’s pitch to me was enough to make me very interested:

[Brian]I’d love for you to contribute an essay around the topic of technology. Beyond most digital collections. Beyond everyone and everything mobile— what unfolds then?

I mean, if I have a specialty, this is it. I love nothing more than I love a good dose of futurism, and told him so. My one concern was the Journal’s publisher, Taylor & Francis, and the fact that I refuse to sign over my copyright on work I create. I’m happy to license it in any number of ways that gives the publisher the rights they need to distribute the work, but I won’t write something for someone else to own. From my reply email to him:

[Me]…there are definitely some details that I’d love to know before I commit. Just to check, this is the same Journal of Library Administration that’s published by Routledge/Talor & francis, correct? What is their author agreement like? I’m pretty dedicated to OA, and wouldn’t be willing to agree to any publication restrictions beyond something like a very short exclusivity clause.

Brian replied with a link he found to Taylor & Francis’ author agreement, which I read…and then responded, a bit more pointedly:

[me] I’ll be blunt: there is no situation in which I’d sign copyright over the T&F…or, frankly, anyone. I’m very happy to sign a license of limited exclusivity (say, 30-90 days) for publication, or license the work generally under a CC license and give T&F a specific exemption on NC so they can publish it. But their language about “Our belief is that the assignment of copyright in an article by the author to us or to the proprietor of a journal on whose behalf we publish remains the best course of action for proprietor and author alike, as assignment allows Taylor & Francis, without ambiguity, to assure the integrity of the Version of Scholarly Record, founded on rigorous and independent peer review. ” is just…well, bollocks.

I am very interested in the topic, and I’ve got a ton to say about it…would love to write it. But we’d have to work out the copyright issue.

Brian’s response from a week or so later indicated that the combination of speed of production (the deadline for the chapters was May 1) and the lack of communication from Taylor and Francis meant this wasn’t going to work out for me to be involved. I was bummed, but totally understood and let him know that I’d love to work on something else with him when the stakes were different.

Our conversation lasted just a couple of weeks, from Feb 14 to Mar 1. Imagine my surprise today when I saw a tweet from Meredith Farkas that said the editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration just resigned because of T&F practices.


Turns out that Brian himself seemingly broke the news in a blog post. From that post:

“A large and growing number of current and potential authors to JLA have pushed back on the licensing terms included in the Taylor & Francis author agreement. Several authors have refused to publish with the journal under the current licensing terms.”

“Authors find the author agreement unclear and too restrictive and have repeatedly requested some form of Creative Commons license in its place.”

“After much discussion, the only alternative presented by Taylor & Francis tied a less restrictive license to a $2995 per article fee to be paid by the author. As you know, this is not a viable licensing option for authors from the LIS community who are generally not conducting research under large grants.”

“Thus, the Board came to the conclusion that it is not possible to produce a quality journal under the current licensing terms offered by Taylor & Francis and chose to collectively resign.”

Between this, and Chris Bourg’s blog post about this event, it sounds like the editorial board had been working for some time to convince T&F of how much they needed to change their expectations for author licensing. Since their requests seemingly fell on deaf ears, they took the only step really offered them, and withdrew from their positions.

I applaud them this decision. I fully understand that I speak from a position of privilege, as I have the ability to turn down writing opportunities such as this without it effecting my career negatively, and that what I’m about to say is said from this same position, but: No scholar should be producing work, whether that work be the creation of content, editing of content, or other, for entities which insist that they are doing you a favor by taking away your rights or the rights of those you represent. I could not in good conscience write a piece that I would have very much enjoyed writing for a publisher that was intent on depriving me of my ownership of that selfsame work. And I am incredibly pleased that the editorial board came to that same conclusion, and that they could no longer support said deprivation.

Brian: if you would still like my participation in that collection, and you find another outlet for it that does respect author’s rights, I’m all ears. To the editorial board, and especially to Damon Jaggers: Bravo! Let us hope that all of you move on to journals that respect the makers of the work they rely on.

Packing, Technology, and Covering CES2013

This is my 4th trip to the International CES, and as I packed for the trip, I was amazed at the difference in the technology that I’m taking with me. Each year I’ve tried to bring along any technology that I thought I might need to report something that happened at the conference, whether it be creating text, photos, videos, or some combination of the above. In my estimation, I’m now able to do better content creation with about ¼ of the equipment as 4 years ago.

4 years ago, if I wanted to capture decent photos and videos, I had to have a camera and a video camera. There were cameras that did well at both, but they were largely SLR or other extremely expensive and hard to use pieces of equipment. They were also well and out of my budget. So at that point, I traveled with a Canon point and shoot for still shots, and a Flip camera for video. To edit what both of these captured, I needed to carry a laptop, and at the time I had a 13 inch Apple Macbook. I also carried a Zoom h2 audio recorder, because neither of those were any good for pure audio capture, and my cell phone at that time (the iPhone 3G) didn’t have the best audio either.

Now? My iPhone 4S can capture HD quality video, is an amazing still camera, and is a great audio recorder. I am carrying my laptop, but at this point it’s a 13 inch Apple Macbook Air, at half the weight of my old Macbook. If it really mattered to me, I could edit the audio, video, and photos exclusively on my iPhone and leave the Air at home…or compromise, and trade the Air for my iPad just for the screen size. The “stuff I need to carry to cover an event” is now totally capable of fitting in my pocket, even if I decide to bring along a better microphone for the phone. It’s a bit easier with other gadgets in the workflow, but it’s an amazing change in just the last 4 years.

Writing, ownership, and blogging

I don’t remember the last time that I went an entire month without writing something here. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that my blogging here at Pattern Recognition has suffered as a results of many things. Some of those reasons are simple;: I’ve got other platforms that I’m using now, including other social networks (Twitter, Google+, Friendfeed, Tumblr) and other blogs (ALA Techsource and American Libraries’ Perpetual Beta). I use some of these because they are easy, some because I like the conversations/community, and some because they pay me.

What I don’t like is that my writing, thoughts, interests…the comprehensive set of my online self, really…are distributed and scattered. I was ok with it for a long time, and I’m becoming very much not ok with it anymore. In the past, I’ve dabbled with pulling things from those other networks back here, but that doesn’t actually bring any of the reasons I use them here….it just brings the content. Which isn’t always what it’s about.

When I started writing here at PatRec back in 2003, none of those other networks even existed. It’s possible that if I were to start writing online these days, I wouldn’t even think of hosting my own blog, and one of the possibilities is that it’s time to let PatRec die a natural death. It may be that a distributed presence is the future of personhood on the ‘net….except I don’t think that’s true. I believe strongly, more than ever, that it’s important to own and control your own words, both in presentation and in regards to copyright/legal control. So I’m confronted with this tension: I like the tools that I don’t own, but I want to own the stuff I make with those tools.

I’ve been thinking a LOT about this. And I’m going to start experimenting with some ways to change things, starting with a post that I’m working on now about iCloud and Lion and the future of the filesystem. I would love to start a conversation about this, and see how others are dealing with this tension. Because I think I’m going to start reeling things in, reducing my contributions to other channels, and try to re-center my online presence.

Privacy and Freedom of Information in 21st-Century Libraries

CoverI’m really priviledged to be a part of the latest ALA TechSource Library Technology Report, Privacy and Freedom of Information in 21st-Century Libraries. When I was given the opportunity to contribute to an issue with Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Barbara M. Jones and Eli Neiburger…well, I said yes.

I wrote the chapter entitled “Social Networking and the Library”, and the general thrust of the chapter can be seen in this excerpt:

The central tension between libraries and social networks is simple: a social network gains usefulness when you are identifiable (people know who you are) and you share information about yourself (people know what you like). Libraries have, for years, operated under the general guideline that both of those pieces of knowledge are no ones business but yours….Taken at face value, as they relate to social networks, library ethical policies can be interpreted as directly contradictory with…privacy statements. Libraries have chosen, at times, to value privacy over access to social networks when these are in conflict. If the privacy of the patron is compromised via social networks, one possible answer is to attempt to limit access to those networks, which flies in the face of open and free access to information.

If you’re interested in the topic of Freedom of Information and how difficult holding on to library’s traditional values becomes in the 21st century, this issue is a great read. Head on over to Techsource and pick it up.

1500

This post is the 1500th here at Pattern Recognition, a monstrous amount of content by any measure, and easily the longest writing project I’ve been a part of. The first post to my blog was on February 10, 2003…2858 days ago. That’s better than 1 post every two days, or conversely, half a post a day, every day, for almost 8 years.  I decided to dig in and see how many words this thing has. The number left me gobsmacked: 189,299…at least 3 decently sized novels worth of text.

Blogging has been very, very kind to me over the last decade. From the early days when a post about my Master’s Paper was picked up by BoingBoing, to being asked by Karen Schneider to take part in a panel about library blogging at ALA Annual 2006 in New Orleans. Another member of that panel was Karen Coombs, and it was after that presentation that she and I were approached to write Library Blogging. Being introduced to Karen C. and working with her on the book was how I met Michelle Boule, and the three of us joined forces to create the BIGWIG Social Software Showcase in 2007. The vast majority of any success that I’ve had in my career, I owe in part to these three amazing librarians.

So happy 1500th post to this crazy blog. It’s been on BoingBoing 4 times, made the Digg homepage once, and has generally been the place I’ve gone to vent, to think, to critique, and to speak my mind on all sorts of things. My attention may have wandered to other pastures (thanks, ALA TechSource and Perpetual Beta) but the home for my writing is here.

Thanks to everyone who has ever read my writing, and thanks to those for whom Pattern Recognition was my introduction. I hope that I can write another of these at 2000, 2500, and 3000 posts.

Serialized Literature makes a comeback

Way back in 2008 at the Online Information conference in London, I talked a little about where I thought we’d see writing in general go, given the technologies that were mature/maturing: eReaders (the Amazon Kindle had been for just a year at that point), blogs and blog software, and more. I predicted that we would see a revitalization of the sort of serialized long-form content that was prevalent in 19th century literature, like Dickens and Doyle. It made sense to me at the time, given that one could subscribe to an ongoing series, have it automatically delivered as written/released, enjoy it on your container of choice (eReader, mobile phone, etc).

While there have been a few attempts at serialized writing in the last few years, it’s only very recently that I think authors have hit on a model that might work well. There are two that I’m aware of that take slightly different paths but are, in the end, paving a path to an old way, but a new channel, of publishing.

The first, and most exciting to me, is The Mongoliad. From the wikipedia entry:

The Mongoliad is an experimental fiction project of the Subutai Corporation, scheduled for release in 2010. The corporation is an application company based in San Francisco and Seattle, whose chairman is speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson. Stephenson is the guiding force of the project, in which he is joined by colleagues including Greg Bear.

The work is intended to be distributed primarily as a series of applications (“apps”) for smartphones, which the Corporation views as a new model for publishing storytelling. At the project’s core is a narrative of adventure fiction following the exploits of a small group of fighters and mystics in medieval Europe around the time of the Mongol conquests. As well as speculative fiction authors Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo and others, collaborators include filmmakers, computer programmers, graphic artists, martial artists and combat choreographers, video game designers, and a professional editor. In a departure from conventional fiction, much of the content of The Mongoliad will be in forms other than text, not bound to any single medium and not in the service of the central narrative. Once the project develops momentum, the Corporation envisages fans of the work to contribute, expanding and enriching the narrative and the fictional universe in which it takes place.

So this is collaborative, multimedia, world creating…which just happens to be led by two of the biggest names in genre fiction. I’m a complete sucker for Stephenson, and I signed up as soon as the site went live. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this project goes.

The other interesting serialized novel being done is also in the genre fiction realm, the DragonsBard project by Tracy & Laura Hickman. Tracy Hickman is probably best known for being half of the Weiss & Hickman writing duo that gave fantasy the Dragonlance world of novels. Unlike the Foreworld stuff above, which is a subscription model, the DragonsBard publishing model is a single price upfront, which gives you access to the ongoing story and a limited-edition signed & numbered hardcover of the story when it’s over.

There are two things that I find interesting about this model of publishing. The first is it’s leveraging of technology to provide not only different sorts of distribution, but also different types of content completely (images, video, etc). The second is how it allows for the complete disintermediation of the publishing house.

I look forward to seeing if other authors take this approach. I also look forward to seeing how these sorts of works get cataloged. :-)

Ebook (in)sanity

I just had a brief piece published over at Library Journal entitled Ebook Sanity. It was something that just poured out of my head unchecked one day, and I was lucky enough to find a home for it as a part of the build up to the upcoming Library Journal Ebook Summit. Here’s a very short teaser:

…consider the idea that the First Sale principle doesn’t apply to ebooks and other digital content. Maybe this is the fact: information in the digital age is such a different beast than in the print age that we not only shouldn’t draw analogies but we actually can’t.

I hope that you head over and read it. Also take a look at the other excellent essays linked off the side from Eric Hellman, Barbara Fister, and Char Booth (holy hell how did I end up in a set with those people? I’m so not worthy). I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on the topic…I’m still forming my conclusions around some of these issues. How do you think libraries can and should react to ebooks?

Gadgets & Gizmos

Gadgets & GizmosI am so thrilled that my issue of Library Technology Reports, Gadgets & Gizmos: Personal Electronics and the Library, is now available. Of all of my recent writing projects, this one was the one that I had the most fun with. I also think it has a ton of good information in it to help Libraries and Librarians make some decisions about gadgets that they should be examining. I spend a little time at the beginning talking about why I think that we need to be worrying about personal electronics in the library:

Libraries have always been the democratizers of content. We step in to distribute the economic burden of informa- tion and allow access to those who could not afford to own the information themselves. As our content becomes increasingly digital, these gadgets give us the delivery mechanism for the content. In the traditional library, the content and the delivery device were one and the same: the book, the magazine, the journal. In the digital world, the two are distinct, but that doesn’t give libraries the liberty of continuing to be interested in only one of the two pieces of the access puzzle.

I’m even more thrilled that it’s available electronically through ALA in a ton of formats (PDF, Epub, prc for Kindle). I’m reading through it on my iPad, and the ePub version looks great.

If you are interested, I am also doing a companion webinar on the topic THIS THURSDAY, April 22, at 2pm EST. Register for the webinar, and you’ll get $10 off the print version of the LTR!

As always, I’d love to hear from anyone that has questions or feedback!