The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Thursday, June 27, 2002

Links and NPR: Two Ships Passing In The Night

I'm going to highlight NPR's revised linking policy once and (hopefully) only once. As Cory notes over at Boing Boing and as David notes over at TeleRead, NPR still doesn't seem to "get it." Apparently the form for formally requesting to link is gone, but they still reserve the right to withdraw the permission they aren't formally giving anymore.

Here's how I think the folks at NPR should think of linking: news sources. When NPR does a story about any given subject and they interview someone, it doesn't imply an endorsement. Their reporters don't stop using quotes or audio excerpts because in a sense, that's journalistic linking. You get to hear that person's words from the horse's mouth, in context. And that's all linking is - providing a direct route to the horse's mouth. A linker might add commentary around the link, but the link itself points back to the original without the commentary. Therefore, no endorsement.

So if the NPR staff takes a moment to think about linking in that context, they'll realize how unrealistic and restrictive their policy is. Imagine NPR without external sources for their stories. It's difficult to do because it would pretty much become talk radio. Better yet, imagine an interviewee in an NPR story calling them up after a segment airs and saying, "I disapprove of what you said, I don't endorse your story, and I demand that you take it down from your site immediately." All of a sudden, NPR calls journalistic smackdown on the interviewee, cries ethics, and refuses. As they should - no self-respecting capital "J" Journalism outfit should ever rescind a story because the subject doesn't like it.

Same thing with the web. Why should bloggers or anyone else have to get sanction from NPR in order to link to the horse's mouth? The web without unrestricted linking is like NPR without external sources - it just doesn't work because it removes the very foundation upon which the service is built. It takes away the connectedness, context, and flow.

Hopefully NPR will eventually come to this realization, because all they're really going to do is waste their own time and resources tracking links, sanctioning links, and paying lawyers to send threatening letters, all the while becoming the butt of an ever-growing web joke meme. You can bet that every story about linking ever will refer to NPR and that it will become the poster child for web cluelessness.

I don't think that's the end of the horse NPR wants to be seen as.

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Set Your DVRs

Cruel Summer

"Amateur Whitney Houston covers! 'Baywatch' babes turned low-rent spokesmodels! Obscene crank calls! If you found the prime-time season too taxing, summer TV is for you." [Salon.com]

This article highlights two shows that were recommended to me by others, both of whom were right. Don't miss Pet Psychic (Mondays at 7 p.m. CST) and Crank Yankers (Sundays at 9:30 p.m. CST)!

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The Realities of "Minority Report"

In Future, Ads Could Rely on Eyes

"In 1999, Spielberg convened a three-day think tank to pick the brains of 23 futurists about likely changes technology would bring during the next 50 years.

'The futurists that I assembled around that table didn't agree with each other on every point, but one of the several things they did unanimously agree on was that the entire advertising industry is going to recognize us as individuals, and they're going to spot-sell to us,' Spielberg said. 'They will sell directly to you....'

In one key scene in "Minority Report," detective John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, is fleeing agents of the Pre-Crime police unit chasing him for a murder he is foretold to commit. As he runs down a street, electronic billboards scan his retinas and hurl personalized pitches his way....

In the future, it seems, the eyes are the window to the wallet....

'It's amazing how events have caught up with us after Sept. 11,' said Alex McDowell, the production designer for "Minority Report" who began imagining the world of 2054 in 1998.

'We know we want security, and we're willing to give up some of our civil liberties to have that,' he said. 'And Pre-Crime is really, in the end, the total loss of civil liberty. That's the extreme of it and the consumer-driven part of the film is the parallel extreme.' " [Excite News, via LibraryPlanet.com]

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RSS Tutorial

Publish and Syndicate Your News to the Web

"In this workshop you'll learn how to create, validate, syndicate, and view your own RSS news channel. The emphasis will be the practical application of RSS XML/RDF metadata for dynamically publishing...." [via Serious Instructional Technology]

Now this is an excellent resource! Put up by the Government Information Locator Service (GILS) folks in Utah, this one-page tutorial gives a brief overview of RSS, what it looks like, aggregators (they call them "viewers"), how to locate feeds, how to create your own feeds, how to validate your RSS, and more.

I'm not sure what impresses me the most - the link to Metabrowser (their "recommended tool for creating and editing UtahGILS and Dublin Core metadata"), their Metabrowser tutorial, the reminder about David Carter-Tod's Javascript code for embedding an RSS feed in a web page, that they're doing RSS with meta tags, or that it's the library folks doing it!

I r-e-a-l-l-y need to get these people to talk to the folks at the Illinois State Library so that they'll understand my vision of news aggregation for Illinois libraries.

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I "Pledge" Not To Talk About "Worldcom"

Web Gadgets for News Junkies

"Finding what you want on the Internet is only part of the problem. The other part is keeping up. I've got bookmarks galore in my Web browser, so many that working through them on a daily basis is all but impossible. What I need is a way to download my Net reading automatically, clustering each item by topic in a single desktop program.

This is where RSS (Rich Site Summary) software comes in. Techies call what these programs do 'content aggregation.' Available in free and commercial versions, RSS programs let you choose news sources and arrange them by topic, with automated, adjustable downloading of the latest stories so you're always current....

The model of content aggregation has changed dramatically over the past few years. From centralized news gathering on Web portals, we're moving to a flexible, decentralized model open to alternative forms of content. In my own work, I keep up with many Weblog writers whose commentary often rivals more conventional sources in quality and isn't tamed by corporate constraints.

But I want to mix those insights with solid reporting from the wire services and industry publications. I'm after the kind of overview that comes from seeing how a wide variety of sources interpret the same facts. That's hard to achieve online, but RSS software filters out the noise, making it a serious option for Net-minded newshounds.
" [Nando Times, via Fagan Finder Blog, via Library Stuff]

Amen, hallelujah, and pass the salt! This is a good overview of why you want RSS in your life, a complement to Steven's article that goes into more depth (another good electronic handout). And the author is right that it's the fact that I get to choose the links (the mix of capital "J" Journalism, little "j" journalism, flotsam, jetsam, and favorites) that's the key.

Here's the thing, though. I need a second generation aggregator, like, yesterday. I need to be able to filter my aggregator the way I do my email, and today was a perfect example of that. I need to be able to send every post with the word "Worldcom" or "pledge" into a trash folder. Oy vey already.

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"Minority Report" Report

Just got back a little while ago from seeing Minority Report. I'm trying to think of something witty or profound to say about it, but the only word I can think of at the moment is "wow." Ernie - go tomorrow! It's easily the best movie I've seen in the last year or longer, and it's definitely the best science fiction movie to come along in quite some time (probably since The Matrix). Why? Because the science is integrated, integral yet in the background, and consistent. Well, except for one thing that is the movie's one major weakness, but I won't go into that because it could spoil a plot point for others.

Naturally, I was enjoying the realizations of e-ink, animated ads, and wireless.

I don't even like Tom Cruise and I give this one three thumbs up!

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Muse Media Manager

From the site itself: "Muse.Net is a personal media manager brought to you by the forces for good along with a motley crue of programmers and designers that span four countries, two continents, and nine time zones. With it, you can play the digital music on any of your computers, to any of your computers, from any computer anywhere on the internet. Think of it as a green organizing force for the wasteland and chaos that is digital music on the web.

Not only does Muse.Net give you organization, management, and playback of your music, it also gives you more information about the tunes you listen to. It retrieves album art, artist biographies, and liner notes in real time so that you can have something to look at while you wait for James Brown to take it to the bridge."

I wish this was available now!

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Darwin Devolves

Librarians at the Gate

"E-books are killing the happy marriage of libraries and publishers. Libraries can now lend the same book to thousands of readers simultaneously. Publishers say it’s not fair. What’s the answer?

For the past 100 years, publishers and public libraries have had a cordial, if complicated, relationship. Publishers like libraries because libraries buy books. But then, of course, the libraries allow anyone with a library card to read the books, reducing the likelihood that cardholders will become book buyers. It’s a tradeoff that publishers have been happy with, largely because of the mathematical limitations of library lending. That is, libraries lend one book to one reader for several days, so over the course of a year, even the most popular books might be read by fewer than 50 people.

Now, however, technology has fouled the waters in the form of e-books, which make it possible for a library to lend a single book at one time to, say, everyone in Manhattan. Big publishers, most of whom live in Manhattan, are no longer happy with their relationship with libraries. And they are particularly unhappy with e-publishers....

Now, while Random House is contemplating more legal action, RosettaBooks is selling more than 100 titles in e-book form on its website, www.rosettabooks.com. The e-books can be bought individually by consumers for $8.99, or—and this is the scary part—they can be bought by libraries, to whom RosettaBooks offers unlimited access to classics for as little as $200 a year. Those library, in turn, can offer that e-book for download from its website to as many readers as can fit in the pipeline. That can be a very large number. The University of Virginia, for example, which has the country’s largest collection of digitized books, claims that 5.8 million e-books have been downloaded by users in more than 100 countries.

Until a few months ago, most libraries with e-book databanks have been considerate of publishers’ preferences, and have issued e-books to one reader at a time....

Unless some long-established business models change, library lending to multiple readers could clobber big book publishers, who have been hurting for years." [Darwin Magazine]

Can someone please explain to me why all of a sudden the media has chosen this exact moment to note that digital files can be circulated to more than one patron at a time? This is not new(s). Then please find me a single example of a library doing this, on its own, with copyrighted material. netLibrary, eBrary, Books24x7, Audible, etc. are companies, NOT LIBRARIANS, and these companies impose strict restrictions on simultaneous use. With each one, libraries can let more than one person at a time use a file ONLY IF THEY PAY FOR SIMULTANEOUS ACCESS.

In other words, libraries have to buy multiple copies of digital files if they want to circulate multiple copies of digital files. It's no different than in the print world, thanks to the companies behind these services. I challenge you to find a single library that is circulating copyrighted content to more than one patron at a time without paying for the privilege of doing so.

And by the way, the 5.8 million ebooks downloaded from the University of Virginia - they're all public domain works at their Electronic Text Center, not titles from the library's catalog. It's disappointing to see Darwin fanning the flames of a fire that doesn't need to exist. The author would have had no foundation for this article if he'd bothered to even talk to a librarian.

Shame on him and shame on Darwin for publishing this.

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Preserving The Past For The Future

World's Oldest Photo Analyzed

"The image acknowledged as the world’s first photograph — taken by a French inventor in 1826 — has passed its first full-scale analysis with flying colors and is now awaiting an airtight case that will keep it safe for centuries to come, scientists said Wednesday.

The faint 8-inch by 6.5-inch (20-cm by 16.5-cm) image of the French countryside, captured by Joseph Nicephore Niepce on a thin pewter plate, has been undergoing a high-tech check-up by scientists at the Getty Conservation Institute in a joint project with French photo conservationists....

Using X-rays, multi-spectral imaging and infra-red spectrometers, the scientists sought to unlock the mysterious chemical processes by which the image was made....

On completion of their experiments, the image will return to its home at Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin and go back on display in 2003." [MSNBC, via Slashdot]

I'd post the picture, but I'm afraid of copyright violations (is the photo copyrighted?), although you can see it on MSNBC's site. Besides just being cool, this story highlights the problems faced by preservationists. How much of the content that was on 5-1/4" floppies has been preserved? Not that anyone saw it as a serious format for historical preservation, but anything contained solely on those disks is probably gone. The more you lock something up in one format - especially one that is encrypted and proprietary (yeah, I'm looking your way, Mr. Entertainment Industry) - the less of a chance there is that it will be around in ten years, let alone 50 or centuries.

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Play If You Want Me To Pay

Pay to Play

"Looking for a more reliable and ethical online music experience than that of peer-to-peer Napster wanna-bes? Tired of iMesh and LimeWire? It's time to consider a for-pay option.

For the standard price of about $9.95 per month, you can join a subscription music service and discover some breaking new bands or reconnect with swinging oldies. The growing field of subscription services offers a surprising degree of variation, too.

To help you navigate this expanding collection of pay-to-play services, we reviewed every option on the market, from BurnItFirst, with its Christian music bent, to Listen.com's Rhapsody, which stands out with its stellar online radio stations. For now, no single service offers everything that your wallet desires, but read on to find out which will appeal most to your particular taste." [CNET]

This round-up of online music services illustrates perfectly the problem with this industry. Here's the service they recommend:

"The perfect music service offers a wide variety of genres, plenty of new releases, and every track on the albums in its catalogs; and it lets you burn songs to CDs or transfer tunes to portable players as often as you wish. Unfortunately, such a service doesn't exist yet. The closest alternative is eMusic, which lets you download as many songs as you want, with absolutely no copy protection. Unfortunately, eMusic carries only independent labels and won't interest those who prefer mainstream bands. For tunes of a more popular variety, turn to RealOne MusicPass or Pressplay."

Check out the RealOne review, where CNET rates the service a 7 out of 10. That's generous, compared to the 93% of 63 user opinions that give it a thumbs down. One of the positive reviewers doesn't even use RealOne for what should be the main purpose - purchasing and listening to digital music. Instead, the person says it's "not a bad subscription to preview music before you buy the CD." Talk about missing the point. I shouldn't have to pay to preview any music, thank you very much.

Then head over to the Pressplay review, which gets a 6 out of 10 rating. At least more users like the service than not, but check out CNET's list of bads for this product: "Limited music selection; CD burning is limited; awful search function; no Macintosh version; low streaming bit rates; no premium content." Tell me again why I would pay them money?

The handy dandy Feature Comparison Chart is nice, and CNET even tested the catalogs of each by comparing holdings of 10 artists from multiple genres. They used some interesting selections, too. Unsurprisingly, only one service had titles from half of the artists (BurnItFirst didn't have a single one). Of sixty boxes in the table, 17 say yes, they have content by that artist. I'll do the math for you - that's 28%, which is pretty sad.

So even if you want to be a legitimate consumer, there's really nowhere for you to go to hand your money over to the record labels. If that "perfect music service" ever comes along and you switch to it, you will most likely lose the majority (if not all) of the titles you've accumulated to date with one of these existing services.

Here's a tough call: which is in a sorrier state at the moment - ebooks or online music services? Difficult to say, although at least there's a market for online music right now. Too bad the record labels don't want to exploit it.

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