The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Thursday, June 12, 2003

Highlighting The Library's Role In The Commons

I'd be linking to this anyway just to thank her for the plug, but extra points to Donna for the Tommy Tutone reference! I love that song! :-)

Jenny, Jenny, Who Should I Turn To?

"Ms. Levine, I'm thinking this call is for you." [Copyfight: The Politics of IP]

Donna references a post at Larry Lessig's blog that takes up the issue of cutting libraries while killing the commons:

"Commons-blog has a nice link to a story about Milwaukee libraries being defunded. Yet at the same time, extensions of copyright terms simply increase the cost of getting access to content. If every librarian signed our Reclaim the Public Domain Petition, then perhaps we could rebuild a public domain that could make the costs of libraries fall."

In response to the comments on Professor Lessig's post, let me just note that I think online petitions that result in a fax sent to the legislator are probably far more effective than email or web-based versions, so I would vote for providing that option. I'm sure it's more expensive, but then you would get better results. The public domain and commons is just one more excellent service that libraries enrich, and yet one more service we as a society will lose, if we don't start valuing our libraries and librarians more.

In a follow-up post, the Commons-blog seconds the motion for ALA to start "an organized campaign to help people target elected officials and ask them to support library services." We just have to get better at this. Now.

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Start Your TiVos and Replays!

Reality Rapture

"Well, dry those tears, little cowpoke. VH1's 'Reality Wrap-Up' (Fridays at 10 P.M.) is here to save you from the unbearably mundane existence that some people refer to as 'reality.' (Isn't that ironic? I think it is, but I can't be sure, since I don't read books or speak to other humans.) "Reality Wrap-Up" is to reality TV what 'Talk Soup' is to talk shows, only with more jokes and less Craig Kilborn. Host David Hussey runs through the lowlights from the week's reality shows, updating viewers on the latest finalists and eliminations and revealing the most absurd, ridiculous and downright vitriolic moments from each show. Each clip ends with a plug for the show -- required in exchange for the clips, I'm sure -- but even the plugs have an edge: 'Check out more high jinks on 'Girls Behaving Badly' Sunday nights on Oxygen -- but only if you've got absolutely nothing else going on.' " [Salon.com]

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Blogging The Annual Conference?

Marcia K. asks if I know whether anybody will be blogging next week's joint ALA-CLA conference in Toronto. I don't know of any librarian bloggers attending who will blog it - do you?

We really need to fix this, but then we need to get Wi-Fi at library conferences in a big way. I hope Internet Librarian can manage it in November because it would provide a great model.

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Students Evaluate Blogging

While Dave Winer notes an article in the Boston Globe that says  schools may post assignments on Web, Will Richardson has the students doing it already.

"Either Way, She Liked It."

"Early returns are coming in from my kids on their Web log use. Anyone interested can follow along here. I haven't had time to thoroughly read the responses yet, but here's one that I thought kind of humorous:

I showed my weblog to this girl from North to try to impress her with my vast knowledge of journalism and instructional technology and whatever else I could come up with, and she was pretty impressed. She showed one of her girlfriends and she liked it too. I don't know if that's because North doesn't have technology like that or because I just got her to believe me through excessive talking, but either way, she liked it.
They should all chime in by Monday..." [weblogged News]
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InfoWorld Adds Ads To Its RSS Feeds

Phil Windly responds to Dave Winer's post noting that Infoworld is now the first publisher to include ads in its RSS feed.

InfoWorld Ads in RSS

"I view this pragmatically: I'd rather see ads in RSS than not see the RSS at all. I'd rather have InfoWorld and other news sources, including the NY Times show up in my aggregator than have to go to each and every site and search for what interests me. These guys aren't going to just give this content away and as RSS gets more and more popular they might choose not to play. That would be a shame, both for me personally and for RSS as a technology." [Windley's Enterprise Computing Weblog]

With all due respect to Phil, I have to side with Dave on this one, although I will withhold judgement until I see what they look like. I didn't notice any today, but I've been experiencing some funkiness with the feeds in my aggregator and now I'm not sure my subscription to InfoWorld is still working. While it would indeed be a shame for these publishers to take their RSS ball and go home, they're not technically providing the content for free. They're providing the link to the content for free, and that's a big difference.

Here's my take on this: if you are providing me with the full text of the article in my aggregator, then I'm willing  to trade you my eyeballs for an ad. However, if you're just sending me the headline with a one- or two-sentence description, then that's the ad. Your intent is to get me to go to your site to read the full article, at which point I will see the ad (probably lots of ads), and the transaction is complete - I clicked onto your page and became a number you can sell to your advertisers and in exchange you let me view the content.

Obviously InfoWorld sees this differently:

"RSS allows a Web site's top stories to be summarized in XML, then pushed to a user's desktop automatically. While publishers naturally hope an RSS feed will inspire readers to click through to the host Web site, there's the danger some will never delve further than the headlines, cutting into ad revenues. Hence, the desire to monetize the RSS feed itself."

I don't get that last argument - reading their headlines in my aggregator and not clicking through cuts into ad revenues more than me not reading their headlines and not clicking through? I didn't read InfoWorld until I was able to add it to my aggregator, so how did that change cut into their ad revenues? I be confused.

And while I'm willing to acknowledge that InfoWorld is the first BigPub to include ads in its RSS feed, they are most definitely NOT the first to include ads period. I occasionally saw an unobtrusive ad in Glenn Fleischman's feed, and I didn't unsubscribe. Later, Chris Pirillo experimented with ads... too often in the feed, after every post IIRC. I was about to unsubscribe when thankfully they stopped appearing. And when I was subscribed to Mark Paschal's Stapler feed for MetaFilter, it would sometimes include the text ad that appears on the home page. Again, it was unobtrusive enough that I didn't unsubscribe.

Having noted all of this, I'll also note that I subscribe to the MoreStuff4Less Blog and get some great deals through it. It's invaluable, and they've sent a lot of my business to various online retailers. While their posts aren't strictly ads, they are well done and I actually look forward to viewing them.

So InfoWorld and others who may follow suit, the lesson is to tread lightly. Like email, if your advertising becomes too intrusive, garish, distracting, or irrelevant, I'll unsubscribe and then you'll have lost the real ad - the link to your site. I'm not saying it can't be done, but you have to do it right. Consider the trade-off carefully, because I can live without your site in my aggregator.

Update: There's lots of interesting cross-blog talk going on regarding this issue. Here's a sample:

Find lots more pointers from Greg Reinacker's Weblog (he's the guy behind NewsGator, the product in InfoWorld's RSS ads).

Sam Ruby's comments continue to take on a life of their own in general, albeit an educational one, and for this issue in particular.

More importantly, Chad Dickerson and Matt McAlister are contributing to the debate. Why is this such a big deal?  Because they both work for InfoWorld. I'm trying to remember the last time I saw this kind of open, honest debate between a publisher and its audience. Even if I end up disagreeing with what InfoWorld is doing, I admire their ability and efforts to clarify their position, openly discuss it, solicit feedback, and evidence a willingness to evolve their model. I'm trying to imagine this happening at some other level, say in the music industry, book publishers, etc., and I can't think of an instance that is there yet, other than possibly the software industry.

So much respect to InfoWorld, even if I still think you should give me more content in exchange for an ad. ;-)

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