Life on the command line

A grad school classmate of mine, Dianne Dietrich, has created an excellent set of tutorials for librarians who want to learn how to use command line. Here’s why:

If you’re a librarian, and you’re working with lots of information — and I mean, lots, like information overload lots — you need to be equipped with a way to handle this information without resorting to mind-numbing data entry methods. No, really. Every time someone says, “I guess I have to do this exhaustingly repetitive task by hand, I cry a little. It doesn’t matter if you’re one thousand miles away; I know, and I weep.

The tutorials are funny, easy to understand, and created especially for librarians (the examples use the LC Classification Outline!). I’ve been having a great time working my way through them, discovering some of the ways that command line can make my life easier, and it’s just too terrific a resource not to share. If you ever wanted to learn how to use the command line but weren’t sure where to start, look no further.

Another presentation on Slideshare

I’ve uploaded another presentation to Slideshare, and given it its own page here:

Open Access for Subject Specialists

I gave this presentation to a meeting of subject specialist librarians at the University of Michigan, as a part of a larger forum that included a brief statement from University Librarian Paul Courant, and presentations from a number of subject specialists who have worked with faculty on various open access endeavors such as re-releasing an out of print mathematics textbook for free online, depositing in our institutional repository, and doing outreach on author rights. The goal of my presentation was to help bring everyone up to speed about open access, define some of the confusing terms (gold OA vs. green OA, for example), and give people some tools to keep up with new developments. The rest of the forum was dedicated to talking about the many ways that librarians can engage with their faculty about OA.

Collected stories: Paul Krugman on e-books; Science vs. the RIAA; Cory Doctorow is a bestseller; pictures of libraries

I just got back from a week of vacation, followed by a week of post-vacation crunch, so here’s a small assortment of things I would have blogged about sooner, but didn’t.

Paul Krugman says it better In a column titled Bits, Bands, and Books: Paying for Creativity in a Digital World, Paul Krugman describes the impact of the digital revolution on the market for creative content. I think he gets it exactly right. He also calls the Grateful Dead “business pioneers.” Who knew?

Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we’ll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.

Cory Doctorow and Creative Commons are bestsellers Like all his other books, Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, Little Brother, was released online using a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-SA). Unlike his other books, and unlike any other CC-licensed anything, Little Brother has now spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s the first CC-licensed novel to make the list, and excellent news for people like me who argue that giving stuff away for free online doesn’t mean you can’t sell it for profit, too. Also fun to think about in the context of Paul Krugman’s column on e-books.

Science proves the MPAA and the RIAA are jerks A recent piece in the NYTimes Bits Blog points out a study from the University of Washington which showed that the technologies Big Media uses to investigate illegal file sharing regularly produce false positives.

From the Bits blog:

In two separate studies in August 2007 and May of this year, the researchers set out to examine who was participating in BitTorrent file-sharing networks and what they were sharing. The researchers introduced software agents into these networks to monitor their traffic. Even though those software agents did not download any files, the researchers say they received more than 400 take-down requests accusing them of participating in the downloads.

The researchers concluded that enforcement agencies are looking only at I.P. addresses of participants on these peer-to-peer networks, and not what files are actually downloaded or uploaded — a more resource-intensive process that would nevertheless yield more conclusive information.

In their report, the researchers also demonstrate a way to manipulate I.P. addresses so that another user appears responsible for the file-sharing.

This is not the first time flaws in the RIAA/MPAAs’ strategy have been revealed, and librarians and other concerned parties have been calling for more transparency in their tactics for quite some time. Now opponents of file-sharing lawsuits – not to mention the defendants in those lawsuits – have scientific evidence that these tactics implicate innocent people.

Pictures of Libraries When I travel, instead of collecting souvenirs I like to visit and take pictures of libraries. I saw a few very cool libraries on my recent vacation, including the brand new Openbare Amsterdam Bibliotheek, the Amsterdam public library. I was incredibly impressed with the design of the Amsterdam library. It has a lot of good signage, open spaces and tables for people to hang out and collaborate, tons and tons of computers (both Mac and Windows), good light, inviting stacks that weren’t too tall, and seemingly intuitive organization (from what I could understand of the Dutch).

If you’re interested, have a peek at my Libraries set on Flickr. Also check out the page about the new library at the Openbare Amsterdam Bibliotheek website.