Thursday, October 30, 2008

Notes from a Rare Books Library

I'm conducting some research on the papers of an author I rather like. Part of the papers I'm looking at today involves the reading, books and related themes. Thus, here is a quote of the day:

"Those who can read, see twice as well."
- Menander, 400 BC

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ALA Midwinter Conference (Denver, 2009)?

I'm wondering about whether or not to attend the mid winter (late January 2009) conference of the American Library Association in Denver, Colorado. Mainly, I was interested because I happened to get a lead on a fairly cheap flight down there. On the other hand, I'll have to give up a week's income to attend (such is the bane of a part time job; if one isn't physically present and working, then no pay...).

I'm curious to know if any readers out there have attended ALA conferences lately. How does the midwinter compare against the "primary" conference held in the summer?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Internet Librarian, Remix

Recently, I came across a mention of the Internet Librarian conference. It looks like a great event and I think I may try to attend next year. It covers all the sorts of things that I am interested in.

A few days ago, I picked up a copy of Lawrence Lessig's latest book, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.

Some of the arguments and examples I've seen thus far feel recycled from his earlier book Free Culture (full text available via Creative Commons license), but I am finding the work to be very stimulating thus far. The main innovation in this work compared to the earlier one is that Lessig is seeking show not only that the current copyright/intellectual property regime is harmful and counter-innovation but that new business models (and indeed, cultural non-commercial models) can be developed.

The central metaphor that Lessig uses in this book is inspired by the computing world; the notion of Read-Only (RO) and Read-Write (RW). My first encounter with this in computing dates back to 3.5" diskettes where one could simply flip a switch between RO and RW. Anyhow, Lessig argues that most current content industries are heavily invested in RO methods, whereas RW culture offers so much potential for new creativity, and yes, business gains.

I wonder how this metaphor can apply to information institutions however. Most libraries, as I have experienced them, are very much "Read-Only" in their culture. What do I mean by this? Well, the policies and collections of the institution are "broadcast" to users who have little input in how they are designed and few easy avenues of communicating and producing with other users. This is where the future of archives (libraries and museums too!) lies in my estimation - fostering a space where people can come together and colloborate.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Futher experiments in Web 2.0: Wikis and Second Life

I've used Wikipedia for some years, of course but only in the past year or two have I experimented with other uses for wiki software. One of my courses is making use of the Encore system and I set up a wiki for my podcast on Friday using PBwiki; according to the website "250,000 educators" used the system (I wonder if users are defined broadly to include all educational users or if it means just teachers and professors?). I'm finding wiki software to be a useful way to manage colloboration so far and did not find it at all difficult to get started. That said, I find it works best as a supplement to in-person interactions and meetings; it might be more difficult to sustain participation if the project was online only.

On another web 2.0 note, I started using Second Life a few days ago since the SLA was holding a student event there. I find the interface a bit challenging to use compared to similar environments I've used MMORPGs are mainly what I'm comparing Second Life to. Compared to podcasting, blogging, social cataloguing/tagging, the immersive environment presented by Second Life has required the most time to learn. At this stage, I'm not seeing much there to bring me back as a regular user. That said, I am planning to visit it periodically to see what I can make of it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thinking about policy and podcasting

On a typical day, I find myself thinking about practical technology matters (how can I get this podcast off the ground?) and policy matters (how can copyright policy be reformed to protect the role of libraries, archives and museums?). I wonder if I can have this same mix of working on policy problems and dealing with practical technology problems in the workplace?

In the process of developing my podcast, I've started to come into some interesting problems that require solutions. I'm trying to figure out what sort of preamble would work in the podcasts. I'm also quite curious to see how the podcasts will be received.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Redefining the dictionary (a TED talk)

Through Stephen Abrams' blog, I came across a fantastic TED talk by Erin McKean (biography, blog) on redefining the dictionary. As somebody quite passionate about dictionaries, I found this to be quite interesting.

One memorable way that McKean describes modern dictionaries as "a Victorian design with a [modern] engine on it." The old pursuit of authority is considered to be unimportant. The video is well worth watching for anybody who is interested in words.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Evaluating impact in the blogosphere

In order to indulge some idle curiousity, I've been searching to see which websites have linked to this humble blog. It is certainly interesting to see; at one point, the blog was mentioned as a rare example of archivist discussing Web 2.0 technology. I plan to do a post later chronicling where this blog has been linked to and how it has been discussed.

This is no exercise in vanity. I am genuinely interested to see to what extent these writings have been of use or inspiration for those in the information community. I am also curious, more generally, about the development of professional networks and why not start by considering my own networks? Can I be more thoughtful about the use of this blog or blogs I may start in the future? Those are some thoughts to ponder.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Podcasting, Globe and Mail Tour

It has been a busy few days for me. On Friday, I had the opportunity to meet the information professionals who staff the Editorial Research department (i.e. special library) of the Globe & Mail newspaper. It was a pleasant experience and interesting to see how this special library supports the organization's activities. I was mildly to surprise to learn that the department has an evening staff of students, but I probably shouldn't be given how the news business works.

I'm also making steady progress in publishing my first podcast. On Friday, I recorded the lecture and I've also put together some basic RSS to describe it. It is so invigorating to learn a new technology like this. I also very much enjoy the prospect of sharing content through podcasting technology. I hope this project will be continued by others when I graduate.