The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Blogging 101

"Saint Leo University is giving wireless-network-equipped laptops (with built-in video editing capability) to every residential student and faculty member." [DV for Teachers]

Imagine what could happen if they also gave each student blogspace and software. What a way to chronicle your college years, and you could come out of it with an incredible portfolio for job interviews.

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I missed this EPN World Reporter story about the Revenge of the Blog conference when it came out. Nothing new, but lots of use of the word "bloggy."

"A blogger, in essence, is a bit like powdered soup mix. Combine a computer, a user with something to say, and the low cost of publishing on the internet and--voila--insta-journalist. However, the quality of the product is largely dependant on the core ingredients."

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Barlow Talks Libraries

Library Journal has a great interview with John Perry Barlow.

"LJ: The Internet has certainly attached itself to libraries—and so, not surprisingly, your work is popular with librarians…

JB: Well, then it's a mutual admiration society. Libraries are one of my most favorite things....

LJ: How did the Deadheads inspire the world's first Internet guru?

JB: Well, Deadheads had a lot of characteristics of, say, a medium-size town. They were a tight community. But what I couldn't understand was how they had achieved that aspect of random interaction that is so essential to community. You know, meeting at the public library or the village square. Until someone suggested to me that the continuous space Deadheads inhabited was called the ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the forerunner of the Internet. The ARPAnet was a government network mostly for defense contractors. It just so happened there were a lot of Deadheads among defense contractors, and they had set up newsgroups on the ARPAnet. A lot of the random interaction in that community was taking place there. When I first got on the ARPAnet and a community bulletin board called the Well, I immediately felt like I was dealing in a social space....

LJ: As cyberspace develops, do you think libraries will maintain a physical role in their communities?

JB: Oh, absolutely. In fact, I think physical libraries will be even more important in the future. Communities need that physical element. But libraries will have to be places where people do more than go to get books, because a lot of what people want they will be able get online. Libraries will be places where people will go to exchange ideas, and librarians will be even more essential than they are now, guiding people to information, knowing where to find it. I look at the potential for librarians and for libraries as being venues for all manner of salons, where the objective is not silence but conversation....

LJ: One line you wrote that has always stuck with me is, "information is experienced not possessed." What is the Internet teaching us about the nature of information?

JB: I think cyberspace is gradually teaching us that information is a verb, not a noun. This is a very important thing. Information is a relationship. It is something that exists in the space between two minds or many minds. It is not something that is merely encapsulated and collected into some physical object. But we have a lot of habits that were developed out of an industrial economy that make it very difficult for us to imagine things any other way.

LJ: So what does the idea of viewing information as a verb mean for libraries?

JB: Even with their physical books in their traditional libraries, librarians have always had a holy mission to see that information was available. Now they have the opportunity to see that information is everywhere. That is enormously exciting. The problem is, for some, especially administrators, that they have to think a lot about legal issues—which is their job, in fairness. They have to be concerned about copyright violations, keeping pornography from minors, and all the other kinds of proscribed materials that are, as many librarians would argue, still part of the overall ecology of ideas. So, unfortunately, right now there is also a great deal of tension....

LJ: You cofounded the EFF, which has fought on the front lines in a number of battles important to the library community. What's your message to librarians on behalf of the EFF?

JB: I hope more librarians will join us. Librarians' entire raison d'être is up for grabs. The American Library Association has been extremely helpful, especially with the [Child Online Protection Act] case and other legislative issues. But librarians still have a culture that is kind of polite, circumspect, maybe a little reticent. If librarians really care about what they do, they need to become more politically involved. These issues in cyberspace are not going to go away, and they could turn out very badly. I would love to see more librarians ready to charge the battlements, because you can't be confident that this is all going to work out and virtue will prevail. Not now."

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Archos Still on Top

MP3NewsWire.net has a review of the Archos Multimedia Jukebox camera module. Within the bounds of the few days I had one that was working, I agree wholeheartedly with their conclusions. I don't expect to use it as my primary digital camera, but I do think I'll catch a lot more of life's fun little moments with the kids, especially videos. And it sure did catch people's eye when I took pictures with it.

It's a pretty sweet package that will blow away the competition when they release the direct feed video recorder module. Although, I can't help but eye the bigger video screen (four inches) on the Portable ReplayTV device that SonicBlue is looking to roll out next year. (I can't seem to find a picture of it online, although I did see one in a magazine.)

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I've been really swamped at work, and I'm writing my next Product Pipeline column for LJ's netConnect when I'm home, which means I spend most of my time playing catch up on news, rather than actually blogging. Hopefully this will change next week. Well, not the swamped at work part, but I hope to crank up the blog output next month. I'm also still trying to figure out the lapses in internet service that have suddenly reappeared at home. Amazingly, I won't even be traveling anywhere in December.

As I read through posts in my aggregator, I usually keep around 20-30 posts for each day, hoping to get to them that night. Obviously, I've had trouble doing that lately, so I've decided that what I really need is a way to take a daily snapshot of my aggregator. Saving as HTML isn't working well, never mind the trouble trying to archive them manually. Mark Paschal's Kit is nice, but it makes me count backwards in hours. Is there another way to do this?

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Dear Jon... Can We Talk?

Amazon and the Local Library

"I ordered three books on Amazon earlier today. Later, I got to wondering which of these might have been available at my local library. I live in Keene, New Hampshire. The town's public library and that of the local college, Keene State, are linked together, and can be explored at the Keene-Link website. I've known this for long enough to have forgotten about it. Until just now, it never occurred to me to do the obvious thing: use Amazon to investigate books, but check the local libraries for availability before ordering anything.

As it turns out, one of today's 1-click purchases is indeed available at the college library. It's apparently too late to stop the order, but I'll certainly check next time.

Of course, I immediately began plotting an app that will merge Amazon and my local libraries into a single search experience. This would make a great project for the new Sherlock SDK -- if it weren't such a hideous Frankenstein monster, that is.

Next, I got to wondering whether the local service is XML-enabled (unlikely), how many different variations on this theme are exibited by other local libraries around the world (zillions), and when all these stuff could be expected to work seamlessly together (don't hold your breath).

So it's hopeless, right? Hardly. As I contemplated asking the library's tech nerd about the possibility of an XML API, I did some noodling around. Given this Amazon URL:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0738206679/

all you really need to do is grab the ISBN (ASIN) and tack it onto the end of a Keene-Link URL, like so:

http://ksclib.keene.edu/search/a?a&;searchtype=i&searcharg=0738206679" [Jon's Radio]

Okay, first - way cool! Will Cox and were discussing this whole thing last month, although we weren't able to achieve world peace. I had planned to delve further into this bookmarklet for searching a highlighted book title in the SWAN catalog (scroll down towards the bottom), but I haven't had time.

Second, my System uses Innovative (as does Keene), so I'd like to see where we could take this. Diane might kill me, but I'll volunteer us to be a guinea pig. We'll never build Earth's Largest Library, but maybe we can do something good anyway. I'd especially like to see a Google-like toolbar for the SWAN catalog.

And third, your local library is always happy to help.  :-)

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One Reason I Own ReplayTVs

If TiVo Thinks You Are Gay, Here's How to Set It Straight

"A phone call the machine makes to TiVo, Inc., in San Jose, Calif., once a day provides key information. As these men learned, when TiVo thinks it has you pegged, there's just one way to change its 'mind': outfox it.

Mr. Iwanyk, 32 years old, first suspected that his TiVo thought he was gay, since it inexplicably kept recording programs with gay themes. A film studio executive in Los Angeles and the self-described 'straightest guy on earth,' he tried to tame TiVo's gay fixation by recording war movies and other 'guy stuff.'

'The problem was, I overcompensated,' he says. 'It started giving me documentaries on Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Eichmann. It stopped thinking I was gay and decided I was a crazy guy reminiscing about the Third Reich.'

He mentioned his TiVo tussle to a friend, who told an executive at CBS's 'The King of Queens,' who then wrote an episode with a My-TiVo-thinks-I'm-gay subplot....

Many consumers appreciate having computers delve into their hearts and heads. But some say it gives them the willies, because the machines either know them too well or make cocksure assumptions about them that are way off base. That's why even TiVo lovers are tempted to hoodwink it -- a phenomenon that was also spoofed this year on another TV show, HBO's "The Mind of the Married Man...."

Mr. Everett-Church, a privacy consultant for businesses, predicts that as techno-profiling increases, more people will purposely muck up their profiles. They'll fear ordering books on mental illnesses or sexual preferences because they'll wonder if they'll somehow be publicly identified.

All techno-profiling companies contacted for this article said that information gleaned is for the customer's personal use only. Still, even Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos knows the potential mortification factor.

For a live demonstration before an audience of 500 people, Mr. Bezos once logged onto Amazon.com to show how it caters to his interests. The top recommendation it gave him? The DVD for 'Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity.' That popped up because he had previously ordered "Barbarella," starring Jane Fonda, a spokesman explains....

Virginia Heffernan, TV columnist for Slate.com, doesn't understand why some people are resistant to techno-profiling, or find it creepy. She didn't look for any deep meaning when her TiVo kept giving her TV shows in Polish. And after buying self-help books on Amazon.com, she accepted that every time she logged on, the site pitched products to make her a more self-fulfilled human being.

'I like the idea that someone cares,' she says. 'Even a machine.' " [Wall Street Journal, via MetaFilter]

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