Tag Archives: Digital Culture

Sirsi-Dynix vs Open Source Software

There was a bit of a firestorm online this past weekend, when an Open Source Position paper distributed by Sirsi-Dynix, and authored by Steven Abram, hit the web. This paper was originally believed to be a “leak”, and was even published on wikileaks before Abrams put a link to it directly from his blog, and wrote an entry outlining why the paper was put forward to begin with. From his blog:

Some have expressed surprise about the position paper. Some call it FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt. I call it critical thinking and constructive debate – something that everyone in libraries should embrace and engage in.

I do not hope to fully outline my thoughts about this here in a single post. Suffice it to say that I think the paper significantly mis-characterizes Open Source software in general, and Open Source library systems specifically. I am currently aware of three different efforts to annotate and answer the recently released, one of which I started in Google Docs in hopes of getting refutations together for the various points brought up in the Sirsi-Dynix piece. There is also an Etherpad collaborative refutation began by Tim Spalding of Librarything, and the Code4Lib group’s version on their wiki.

I’m going to give just a few excerpts here, and brief responses. I respect Stephen a great deal, but even viewing this paper in the loosest sorts of ways, there are just blatantly misleading statements scattered throughout. So, a few thoughts:

Nevertheless, it should be noted that it is rare for completely open source projects to be successful.

This is only true in the same way that saying “it is rare for projects to be successful” would be true. Many things fail…it’s just that in the open source world, you get to see the failures, whereas in a closed/proprietary world you don’t.

It is very unlikely that an open source solution is any less expensive than a proprietary solution. In fact, in all of the data SirsiDynix has collected, we are not seeing quotes that conflict with this assertion. Indeed there are very few green fields in the ILS marketplace. Most libraries already have an ILS and receive upgrades as part of their maintenance contract from us or other proprietary vendors. These maintenance contracts are a small percentage of the initial price.

I do not have numbers at my fingertips, but I feel very, very certain that if you actually calculated TCO in any rational way, open source wins. Why? Because it’s a difference of where you are choosing to put your money…instead of paying for support, the typical library that moves to open source solutions has chosen instead to put its money into personnel, and while short-term the cost structures may look similar, paying for a position is far, far more flexible than paying on a maintenance contract. You can’t get that contract to do other things you might need done, while a technical support position can be repurposed.

Plus, while maintenance contracts are “a small percentage of the initial price”, that doesn’t mean that they are in any way a small amount of money. MPOW is a small academic library, and what we pay in yearly maintenance would go a long, long way towards another staff position.

In many markets, there are major systems in accounting, intranets, e-learning, and so on that must tie in to the ILS. In many cases, open source is still the minority solution because, for example, the number of Linux desktops is meager compared to Microsoft Windows desktops. By choosing a Linux desktop, a user closes the door on some software because it may never be created for or ported to Linux. Add to this the major changes in allied systems that require an adaptation for the ILS and the issue grows exponentially.
So for libraries that choose an open source system, the opportunity to integrate different systems into the solution is limited, at best.

This is just a mess of an argument. Why would anyone knowingly choose any software solution that wasn’t compatible with the remainder of their infrastructure? And the advantage of an OSS solution is that the data is yours, and can be massaged into whatever format you’d like…you don’t have to wait on the vendor to decide to add the connector that you are looking for. This is just _wrong_, and I’m not even sure how you structure an argument like:

Windows is more popular than Linux on the desktop.
Some software doesn’t run on Linux.
Therefore, Open Source ILS solutions are bad for libraries.

What?

Proprietary software has more features. Period. Proprietary software is much more user-friendly.

Proprietary software often does have more features…as an example, Microsoft Word has _thousands_ of features, compared to…oh, Open Office. But Open Office has the 20 features that cover 99% of the use-cases for word processing. To argue that proprietary software has more features that no one will ever use doesn’t strike me as a particularly good argument.

And user-friendly? Again, that’s just a statement with no backing…I’ve used tons of proprietary software that had horrible usability. In my experience, it’s almost always the niche proprietary software designed for very specific solutions (like, oh…library systems) that has the worst usability of all.

I could spend many hours digging through this, but I’ll let the collaborative documents tell the rest of the tale. I completely agree with Stephen that all libraries should carefully examine their needs and resources when deciding on what solutions to move to. But this document paints with far too broad a brush, is misleading at best on many points, and simply fails to any test of accuracy. I understand that this is a sales brochure, but I am disappointed at the tone taken….you can critically evaluate without hyperbolic statements like “jumping into open source would be dangerous, at best.” This is more Fox News than CNN, more USA Today than New York Times. I hadn’t hoped for more from Sirsi-Dynix, but I had hoped for more from Stephen Abrams….whether that is fair or not.

I’ve embedded the Google Doc that I started below, but you should definitely check out both the Etherpad and the Code4Lib wiki to see how a large number of librarians are responding. Not everyone put in their thoughts, but the list of people with access to edit is: Nicole Engard, Chris Cormack, Toby Greenwalt, Kathryn Greenhill, Karen Schneider, Melissa Houlroyd, Tara Robertson, Dweaver, Lori Ayre, Heather Braum, Laura Crossett, Josh Neff, and a few others who have usernames that I can’t decipher. ๐Ÿ™‚

Yahoo Mash

Yahoo recently launched a new beta service, mash.yahoo.com, which seems to be their attempt to enter the social networking fray.

mash.yahoo.com

Similar in style to iGoogle, you have blocks of content (modules) that are available to add to your page. These act as you expect AJAX sorts of pages to work: you can drag and drop them around your two-column layout. To customize your page you can also add a background image (similar to Twitter) and manage the colors of your modules (background, border, text). All the expected modules are around: Flickr, Twitter, a generic RSS module.

Here’s where it gets weird. Your friends, by default, can edit your page…move modules around, etc. They can also affect it in other ways…one of the default modules is a “pet” (represented by a line drawing) that you can interact with…feed, pet, etc. You can also lick, smack, kill, and snorgle it. And you can do so to other people’s as well.

In the end, this ends up being a sort of aggregator for your virtual life, but others have tried that (correlate.us) and failed to gather speed online. The addition of a social networking component to that is interesting, but I’m not sure whats gained other than the potential strength of viral growth from spread from friend-to-friend.

It’s interesting to see what Yahoo is doing here, trying to leverage their way into the social networking world. They own two of the most popular (and most original) social sites on the ‘net…del.icio.us and flickr. I would expect them to do more cross-pollination, but at the same time I hope they don’t. Del.icio.us and flickr are two of my favorite things online, and I don’t want to see them change too much. I’m already frightened by the upcoming delicious 2.0.

If anyone wants an invite, leave your email in the comments.

Sony Rolly

In case you didn’t know, Sony is a Japanese company, and Japan is the home of all things cute. Thus, the Sony Rolly.

Kawaii!!!!!!!

It will be launching soon in Japan, and yes, it is a dancing MP3 player.

According to a recent press release, it will have 1gig of internal memory, but be able to play tunes via Bluetooth from your cell or laptop as well. And dance, of course. And flap its ears.

I have no idea why I would possible want one, but I do.

Here’s a FAR better video, that really shows it in use.

It looks like quite a little tech marvel: bluetooth music streaming, the video makes it look like it has an accelerometer, and given the Sony.jp page it looks like there is a motion editor for programming movement yourself. Sony has tried and tried to bust into the home robotics market with the Aibo, and they show off Asimo to people all over the world….is Rolly the next step?

And when are they going to release him in the US? Do I have to import one? ๐Ÿ™

Google Book Search: My Library

Google has made an interesting move with Book Search…they just added a “My Library” component, which allows you to catalog your home library using Google.

Now, if you do a search in Google Books, one of the options is “Add to My Library”

Google My Library

If you click the link, and are logged into Google, it starts your collection:

Google My Library 2

The links on the side give an option to Import/Export you library, but the import options is woefully weak…it only allows you to paste in a list of ISBNs. No CSV or Delimited files, no xml, no other formal metadata. Just ISBNs.

Export is possibly even worse. Google My Library exports an XML file with the following structure:

<book>
<id>drYIAAAACAAJ</id>
<url>http://books.google.com/books?id=drYIAAAACAAJ</ur>
<title>Pattern Recognition</title>
<contributor>William Gibson</contributor>
รขห†โ€™
<identifier>
<type>ISBN</type>
<value>0425192938</value>
</identifier>
</book>

Google? What’s with the non-existent metadata? I can do better at Amazon, not to mention a real library tool like LibraryThing.

Google My Library also has the ability to display just the cover view of your library, but there doesn’t appear to be any ordering/sorting options…although it will limit a search to just your library, it would still be nice to be able to order. How about some faceted browsing, Google?

Google My Library Cover View

This is an interesting product from Google. It is yet another set of information they can use to target advertisements (if they know the contents of your library and 982734987234 other people, they can cross reference that and target ads). But as a product from the consumer’s view, this seems way less useful than LibraryThing, which has given serious thought to what people want to do with their own books, and gives a nearly obsessive number of tools to the user.

On the other hand, this is Google. They are likely to gather a huge number of users from their existing base, even when there may be better tools out there for the given job. Haven’t seen this over at the Thingology blog…Tim, what do you think about this?

Oh, the decisions

iPod TouchiPod Classic

Oh, the humanity.

So Apple launches a completely new swath of iPods yesterday. I, like most of us, drooled over the iPhone when it was released, but now we have the choice between the iPhone (8GB, $399) or the Touch (16GB, $399). Confounding that choice is the still-mind-boggling 160GB iPod Classic. 160GB.

The Touch is clearly the technological marvel of the group…wifi, safari, touchscreen allows for infinitely variable UI upgrades…but with the classic, for the first time I could actually carry all my music in my pocket. That’s pretty nuts. But the screen on the Touch is really marvelous.

So what say you all? Touch or Classic? At some point my old 40GB 4th gen (over 3 years and still kicking) will give out, and I’ll need a replacement.

Twopointopians

Last week the Annoyed Librarian started a somewhat interesting conversation with the wonderfully caustic post “The Cult of Twopointopia“. I won’t respond fully to the post (plenty of people have weighed in, both in the comments and on their own blogs…see Meredith, KGS, and David Lee King for more). I did want to comment briefly on the AL’s followup post, “An Alternative Voice in Librarianship“. In it, the AL says (heavily edited for length, read the original if you think I’m missing anything important here):

…I can’t just ignore things when I’m bombarded with them in the premier publication of the American Library Association, now can I? That seems to be the twopointopian strategy. Never say anything critical. Don’t engage the opposition, because the opposition just isn’t on the “cluetrain,” so we can ignore them. Don’t analyze, just proselytize. Sorry, baby, it doesn’t work for me. I like evidence and argument, not mantras and affirmations.

They publish stupid “manifestos.” They ignore criticism and never seriously engage with any opposition, because they think they can ignore the opposition. The opposition is too timid and well mannered to take on the regressive thugs. The opposition (sometimes) is too poorly informed to take the twopointopians on on their own ground.

I find this to be a bit disingenuous, especially after reading things like:

the twopointopians “get it,” while the rest of us just don’t understand. They’re like religious converts preaching the gospel of 2.0 to everyone, and they just can’t understand either that nobody cares, or that everyone already knows about it.

For the diehard twopointopians, their way is the way. They don’t like criticism or discussion, because they’re not up to it. They like captive audiences of neophytes who they can impress with their speeches about all this great new stuff. They like to use the mystique of social software and new technologies to impress upon their crusty colleagues how hip they are. They like to pretend that people who aren’t impressed with how righteous and “user-centered” they all are are just ignorant clowns who don’t know anything about how libraries ought to be run.

That’s a long way around to get to my own thoughts, but here goes: The AL rants about wanting the “twopointopians” to produce “evidence and argument” for Library 2.0. I’m not a fan of the phrase “Library 2.0”, but as shorthand for “the use of web-based tools with a social bent for informational exchange, rating, searching, and creation” I think it works. Even if I don’t like the nom de guerre of the concept, I certainly count myself as one of the “twopointopians”. At least, as I think the word is being used. I will happily count myself in the company of David Lee King, KGS, Jessamyn, Meredith and others.

What I want to know is: Where is the evidence and argument from AL? Given the above quotes from AL, it appears that we are all religious zealots. I can’t say that AL reads anything like a well-reasoned and cogent argument for…well…anything. It looks like a lot of hyperbole and name calling to me. What exactly is the argument for “Not-library-2.0”?

Here’s my argument FOR Library 2.0: Alexa’s Top Websites for the US. Out of the top 10 most visited sites on the ‘net, 8 of them have some type of social facet. What’s your argument for Not-Library-2.0…whatever that might look like?

Fabjectory

Check THIS out:

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It’s Mii!

A long time ago, I blogged about a company who would take your Second Life avatar, and create a little 3d render of it using a 3d printing process. Then, a bit later, I blogged about getting a Wii.

Unbeknownst to me, the president of the company, Fabjectory, had noticed my blog posting, and had been reading me (or at least skimming my feed) since then. When he saw I got a Wii he emailed me to let me know that Fabjectory was now making mini-statues of Mii’s, and he offered to make me one gratis. After a few emails back and forth to assure me he wasn’t joking, and for me to assure him that I wasn’t guaranteeing that I’d blog about it, etc…I took him up on it.

The process was really simple: for a Mii, you just take a few full-body shots of your Mii right off the TV screen. You can do that from the Mii edit screen…here are the two I sent in:

Mii_Jason_head.jpgMii_jason_body.jpg

From that, the Fabjectory guys recreated my Mii, printed it using a Z-corp color 3d printer, and shipped it my way. My only negative about the process was that my initial discussion with them was in March, and while I checked in a few times to make sure the photos came through ok, it’s August now…better than 4 months since my initial order. Still, it’s a freebie, and almost certainly wasn’t given the priority that a paying customer would be given.

I’m really impressed with the detail of the fig…it’s so well done, with the colors being dead-on. Overall, it’s just amazing to see this once virtual piece of me now as a physical item. I would definitely recommend this as a cool gift…Betsy nearly fell over when I gave her the one of Mii, and I think it will be quite cute on her desk at work. My fig is one of the 3 inch figures, and at a retail of $50 is a bit on the steep side to order on a whim. On the other hand, it’s a great little object d’ arte, and if you’ve gotten as many comments on your Mii as I have, it might be a small price to pay.

Here’s some detail shots of the figure:

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I’d recommend Fabjectory after seeing the quality of the work, and just the intrinsic coolness of holding your Mii. I’m considering pushing my Dean to pony up for a SketchUp model of the new library, once the plans are finalized…how cool would it be to show off a model to the students?