Saturday, June 14, 2008

Caution: Toll Road Ahead

Link to June 15 New York Times article, "Charging by the Byte to Curb Internet Traffic".

Internet metering is a throwback to the days of dial-up service, but at a time when video and interactive games are becoming popular, the experiments could have huge implications for the future of the Web.

Millions of people are moving online to watch movies and television shows, play multiplayer video games and talk over videoconference with family and friends. And media companies are trying to get people to spend more time online: the Disneys and NBCs of the world keep adding television shows and movies to their Web sites, giving consumers convenient entertainment that soaks up a lot of bandwidth.

The culprits:
Time Warner Cable. “Internet metering” plan is introduced in Beaumont, Texas.
Comcast goes after "bandwidth hogs".
AT&T says limits on heavy users are inevitable.

Google Ups the Ante on Net Neutrality

Link to June 13 Hot Hardware post, "Google To Develop ISP Throttling Detector".

Quote: Google has been very vocal on its stance for net neutrality. Now, Richard Whitt--Senior Policy Director for Google--announces that Google will take an even more active role in the debate by arming consumers with the tools to determine first-hand if their broadband connections are being monkeyed with by their ISPs.

The best summary of net neutrality is not found, unfortunately, at the American Library Association's website, but rather at the ACLU. (ALA needs to learn that sometimes less is more; its summary is a prime example of logorrhea.)

The Place To Be

A long line of people snakes around the James Predergast Library Association in Jamestown, New York, for the start of the annual book sale. (Jamestown is located 20 miles north of Warren, Pennsylvania. If you've read my profile, you'll know the reason why this bit of information caught my attention.)

Silicon Valley Companies Study Worker Productivity

Link to June 14 New York Times article, "Lost in E-Mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made Beast", by Matt Richtel.

The onslaught of cellphone calls and e-mail and instant messages is fracturing attention spans and hurting productivity. It is a common complaint. But now the very companies that helped create the flood are trying to mop it up.

Some of the biggest technology firms, including Microsoft, Intel, Google and I.B.M., are banding together to fight information overload. Last week they formed a nonprofit group to study the problem, publicize it and devise ways to help workers — theirs and others — cope with the digital deluge.

A typical information worker who sits at a computer all day turns to his e-mail program more than 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times, according to one measure by RescueTime, a company that analyzes computer habits. The company, which draws its data from 40,000 people who have tracking software on their computers, found that on average the worker also stops at 40 Web sites over the course of the day.

[I received a "Service Temporarily Unavailable" message when I tried to access the RescueTime website. They also have a blog, but the last entry was May 15.]

The graphic below is included with the article.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Congratulations are in Order -- and What a Great Idea!

Link to June 12 JS Online post, "Library team wins bee".

Quote: The Waukesha County Federated Library System has the best corporate spellers in Waukesha County, after successfully defending its title at the Literacy Council of Greater Waukesha’s 16th annual corporate spelling bee Thursday night.

According to the article, the spelling bee raised $13,000, which will be used to support the literacy council’s tutoring programs in reading, writing, spelling, math and English as a second language.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Advice to List Makers

Full disclosure: I'm an inveterate list-maker. Sometimes nothing is too rinky-dink to be included. Maybe I can learn something here.

Link to The Huffington Post, "Is it Time to Retire the Never-Ending List?" by Linda Stone.

Stone's initial suggestions for managing your attention instead of managing your time.

1. Each evening or morning before you start your day, make a short list of your intentions (the result and feeling of something you want) for the day and by each, write the related to do's for that day. Try to keep your list to 5 intentions. Consciously choose what you will do and what you will not do. Keep a different list of what you will review for inclusion on other days.

2. List only what you really expect to do that day. As other things come to mind, write them on a separate list. By putting these items on a separate list, you are creating the space to be in the moment with each of your day's priorities. Review that list as you plan for the next day and determine how they fit in to your plans. Give yourself some down time, enjoy your successes at the end of the day.

3. Give yourself meaningful blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on each intention. Turn OFF technology each day during those blocks and focus on your intentions.

4. At home, be clear about what technology you'll use and where. Computer in the kitchen? Maybe not. A friend of mine just removed the computer from her kitchen and said she is now far less likely to stop to constantly check email or news. In the kitchen, she pays attention to her family and prepares food. Sometimes they do group family activities at the kitchen table. When she heads into her office to work on her computer, her children know not to disturb her while she works.

Today's Required Reading: Is It Free Speech or is It Hate Speech?

Link to June 12 New York Times article, "American Exception: Unlike Others, U.S. Defends Freedom to Offend in Speech".

Maclean's is a Canadian national newsweekly that, like its U.S. counterparts Time and Newsweek, provides current events coverage. The magazine is now on trial for an article that some felt stirred up hatred against Muslins.

Quote: A couple of years ago, a Canadian magazine published an article ("The Future Belongs to Islam") arguing that the rise of Islam threatened Western values. The article’s tone was mocking and biting, but it said nothing that conservative magazines and blogs in the United States do not say every day without fear of legal reprisal.

The article cites the book Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment by Anthony Lewis, a former New York Times columnist. Mr. Lewis has called for a re-examination of the Supreme Court's only justification for making incitement a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence. This term is glossed in the article as follows: "the words must be meant to and be likely to produce violence or lawlessness right away."

Not so fast, says Harvey A. Silverglate, a Cambridge Massachusetts civil liberties lawyer.

“When times are tough,” he said, “there seems to be a tendency to say there is too much freedom.”

“Free speech matters because it works,” Mr. Silverglate continued. Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech than censorship, he said, and all the more so in the post-Sept. 11 era.

“The world didn’t suffer because too many people read ‘Mein Kampf,’ ” Mr. Silverglate said. “Sending Hitler on a speaking tour of the United States would have been quite a good idea.”

Mr. Silverglate seemed to be echoing the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., whose 1919 dissent in Abrams v. United States eventually formed the basis for modern First Amendment law.

I think it's safe to assume that Mr. Silverglate subscribes to the philosophy held by many librarians. A good library collection should have something to offend everyone.

After Mr. Silverglate's Hitler illustration, the following example is admittedly trivial.

Last week Fox News personality E. D. Hill blitheringly compared the fist bump to a "terrorist fist jab."

The appropriate reaction: ridicule.

The actual reaction: ridicule.

Call me a Pollyanna, but I've always felt that unwise and ill-formed ideas will always wilt under the glare of a strong and constant light. It was the philosophy I learned from my dad, a Lutheran minister and a lifelong Republican.

Related reading:
Link to Human Rights Watch World Report 2007, "New Twists on Old Offenses: Hate Speech and Blasphemy ".

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

UW-Superior Library Renovation Project Underway

Link to June 11 Superior Daily Telegram article, "Jim Dan Hill Library renovation begins".

The University of Wisconsin-Superior launched its $7.7 million renovation project at Jim Dan Hill Library with a wall-breaking ceremony this afternoon.

The renovations will update the library, erected in 1968, for the 21st century.

Remodeling Your Children's Area?

Or just need a new piece of furniture?

Link to June 11 boingboing post, "Kids' furniture shaped like giant books".

(Sorry, Svetha & Lori, I'd probably balk at the white vinyl. We'd need a huge supply of Mr. Clean magic erasers.)

Believe It Or Not: Study on Instant Messaging and Worker Productivity

Believe it.

Link to June 10 Hot Hardware article, "Study Finds Instant Messaging Helps Productivity".

Quote: The results of a recently published study of workers' instant messaging (IM) use shows that IM can actually improve workplace productivity. This contradicts a widely held belief that IM in the workplace is a hindrance to productivity. IM is often perceived as an interruption, and as such, "it can significantly hinder productivity by disrupting thought processes and work flows, causing individuals to take longer to complete tasks."

Or not.

A Slashdot post expresses skepticism of these findings: Also another study recently found that water is wet, and a third study found that most studies waste money.

Scholastic Report on Children's Reading Habits

Link to PW online article, "Scholastic Report: Kids Still Read for Fun—Teens, Less So".

A new report released today from Scholastic corroborates the findings of the company’s 2006 report on children’s reading habits, finding that pleasure reading in children begins to decline at age eight and continues to do so into the teen years.

The study found that a majority of children (68%) think it is “extremely” or “very” important to read for pleasure, and “like” or “love” doing so.

However, that number decreases with age: 82% percent of children ages five to eight “like” or “love” reading, compared to 55% for children ages 15 to 17.

It also found that although children can readily envision a future in which reading and technology are increasingly intertwined, nearly two thirds prefer to read physical books, rather than on a computer screen or digital device.

Additionally, a large majority of children recognize the importance of reading for their future goals, with 90% of respondents agreeing that they “need to be a strong reader to get into a good college.”

Link to the full report.

Link to ALA Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) webpage "Summer Reading and Learningfor Children".

Changes at U.S. News & World Report

Link to June 11 New York Times article, "U.S. News Plans to Publish Biweekly and Expand Consumer Focus ".

Critics have carped for some time that U.S. News & World Report had stopped being a newsweekly — that both “news” and “weekly” were questionable descriptions.

Now the magazine, which will print just 32 issues this year, has made it official: come January, it will publish every other week, while continuing to expand the consumer reporting and product rankings it has bet its future on.

Link to pics of U.S. News & World Report covers, 2004-2007.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

June 2008 "Governing" Magazine Features Two Articles on Libraries

For those of you unfamiliar with this monthly publication, here's a description from the 2007 edition of "Magazines for Libraries".

The men and women who set policy for and manage the day-to-day operations of cities, counties, and states, as well as such governmental bodies as school boards and special districts, are the primary audience for "Governing".

(Two questions you should ask yourself at this point. What do my policymakers know about my library? What am I doing to keep them informed on a regular basis?)

Link to "Revolution in the Stacks".

Highlights and excerpts:

The article opens with a vignette about Studio i, a multimedia production studio that is part of the Time Warner Cable Tech Central at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenberg County (PLCMC).

(Read about ImaginOn, a collaborative project of the Library and Children's Theater of Charlotte.)

Excerpt: The Charlotte-Mecklenburg library system hasn't always tried so hard to appeal to teenagers. For a long time, public libraries everywhere viewed teens as unreachable — too old for story time, yet too rowdy for the reading room. Now, libraries are beginning to see serving teens not as a nuisance but as a critical test of whether they can survive in the 21st century.

The article goes on to note that, despite the challenges of the Internet, library use continues to grow.

Excerpt: Nationally, circulation of books and other materials at libraries keeps edging up each year, despite the Internet revolution. Currently, many cities are seeing big increases in visitation, as is common during economic downturns. And in many libraries, the public-access computers are in demand from open to close — a reminder that even if the universal library seems closer to reality, universal broadband access is still a long way off.

Instead of making libraries obsolete, as we first heard predicted in the mid-1990s, the Internet has reinvigorated their mission.

The author notes some examples of libraries taking their cues from retail.

1. The Perry Branch of the Maricopa County library system in Arizona scraps the Dewey Decimal System and arranges it collection by areas of interest. See Library Journal article here. (If I weren't retiring, I'd love to experiment further with this idea at Middleton. We already use a bookstore approach with our career and education titles. Graphic novels, too.)

2. The proliferation of library cafes and coffee shops.

3. Comfortable seating and "living room" areas.

Kennth J. Mack Reading Room at the Middleton Public Library

4. The library as the "third place" -- not home, not the office, but a place where people want to spend a lot of time. (Salt Lake City Public Library) Excerpt: "It's not about the building," says Nancy Tessman, the recently retired Salt Lake library director who was most responsible for getting it built. "It's about letting people explore and learn on their own terms." (But what a beautiful building it is.)

The trend of creating content -- not just offering it.

1. Ann Arbor Public Library. Website as blog.

2. Hennepin County Library. Customer comment feature within online catalog.

The article concludes with another look at Charlotte and Mecklenberg County and includes this thoughtful observation.

Excerpt: "A lot of people say we need to serve teenagers because they're future taxpayers," says Michele Gorman, who manages the Loft. "I think that's the worst way of thinking of teens. They deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy and we need to be inviting so we can pull them in. Adolescence is one of the craziest times in life. They're trying to figure out how to fit into society, and we need to give them a place to do that."

A companion article in the June 2008 issues of "Governing" focuses on the success of PLCMC's "Gaming Zone" events but notes that there are differences in opinion among librarians regarding gaming in libraries.>

"The Sporting News" Attempts a Comeback

Link to June 10 New York Times article, "A Venerable Sports Paper Plays Catch-Up".

On July 23, the company will introduce a daily digital newsletter, Sporting News Today, that will deliver scores and stats to subscribers’ in-boxes every morning.

In September, the print edition will be reintroduced as a twice-a-month magazine, with more color, better paper and a slew of name columnists. The cover price will be the same, $3.99 an issue, and the digital newsletter will be free.

The idea is to try to restore what Sporting News was half a century ago: a place avid fans go for the full spectrum of news from the world of sports (no, there won’t be a swimsuit issue).

"Half a century ago". OK, I admit it; I'm old. That's why I'm the Retiring Guy. And that's why I can recall, back in the early and mid-1960s, spending 35 cents (or thereabouts) each week during baseball season for a copy of The Sporting News. Its statistical coverage of the sport was unparalleled.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Slight Change of Heart at Encyclopedia Britannica

Link to June 9 PC Pro post, "Encyclopaedia Britannica dips toe in Wiki waters".

The encyclopaedia Britannica website is rolling out a new system allowing readers to potentially contribute to articles.

Britannica has long been a vocal critic of Wikipedia's user-generated content, and has repeatedly attacked the accuracy of its articles. Unsurprisingly then, it is keen to stress that its new website will not be following the Wiki-model, describing it "as a collaborative process but not a democratic one."

Beta version of Britannica website is found here.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"The Library in the New Age"

Link to June 12, 2008, New York Review of Books article, written by Robert Darnton, head of the Harvard University library.

Darnton sums up a typically lengthy NYRB essay as follows:

Meanwhile, I say: shore up the library. Stock it with printed matter. Reinforce its reading rooms. But don't think of it as a warehouse or a museum. While dispensing books, most research libraries operate as nerve centers for transmitting electronic impulses. They acquire data sets, maintain digital re-positories, provide access to e-journals, and orchestrate information systems that reach deep into laboratories as well as studies. Many of them are sharing their intellectual wealth with the rest of the world by permitting Google to digitize their printed collections. Therefore, I also say: long live Google, but don't count on it living long enough to replace that venerable building with the Corinthian columns. As a citadel of learning and as a platform for adventure on the Internet, the research library still deserves to stand at the center of the campus, preserving the past and accumulating energy for the future.

Website Worth a Look

Link to The Future of the Internet -- and How to Stop It

Quote about the author: Jonathan Zittrain holds the Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University and is a principal of the Oxford Internet Institute. He is also the Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Visiting Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, where he co-founded Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in 1996. With students, he began Chilling Effects, a web site that tracks and archives legal threats made to Internet content producers. Google now sends its users to Chilling Effects when it has altered its search results at the behest of national governments.

Politics 2.0

The old rules of politicking don't seem to apply anymore. And the new rules have yet to be fully formulated.

Here are a series of quotes from today's New York Times that stitch together an over-the-shoulder look at the 2008 Presidential campaigns.

Link to June 8 New York Times article, "For New Journalists, All Bets, but Not Mikes, Are Off".

The woman, Mayhill Fowler, who calls herself a citizen journalist, wore no credential around her neck and did not identify herself, her intentions or her affiliation as an unpaid contributor to Off the Bus, a section of The Huffington Post. While her digital audio recorder was visible in her left hand during that encounter last Monday, she says, she did not believe Mr. Clinton saw it. “I think we can safely say he thought I was a member of the audience,” she said in a telephone interview on Friday.

The incident, widely mined on the cable news channels as fresh evidence of Mr. Clinton’s volcanic temper in the waning hours of his wife’s presidential campaign, has prompted an entirely different discussion — this one among political reporters, journalism teachers, public relations strategists and bloggers themselves — about the dos and don’ts of ethical reporting in the YouTube age.

And then we learn this little tidbit about Bill Clinton here: "The Long Road to a Clinton Exit. Undone by Old Rivalries and a New-Style Opponent".

Quote: Mr. Clinton vented frustrations and, still not one to use e-mail, much less a BlackBerry, [my emphasis] found his famed instincts inadequate in a blogosphere age that amplified every intemperate outburst.

A summary of other comments is found here: "The Wiki-Way to the Nomination".

Barack Obama is the victor, and the Internet is taking the bows.

Commenting on the Democratic presidential primary campaign, the blogger Andrew Sullivan praised Mr. Obama’s success in mastering “Facebook politics.” Roger Cohen, writing online [registration required]in The New York Times, likened the rapid success of Mr. Obama to that of a “classic Internet startup.” And The Atlantic Monthly, in a much discussed article titled “HisSpace,” described what Mr. Obama’s impressive online fund-raising apparatus owes to the enhanced social networking of sites like MySpace, Twitter and YouTube.

Here's a prescient article on Politics 2.0 from a January 24, 2007 "Politico" post.

...a closer look at the 2006 midterm election reveals that bottom-up political action using the Internet is dramatically altering campaign dynamics.

As we head into 2008, one big question is who will have the upper hand: top-down campaigns that see technology as a tool to better game the existing system or grass-roots activists who have discovered their power to change it.