Archive for the 'Metablogging' category

Syllabus machine

Jan 12 2011 Published by under Metablogging, Research Data

Sorry for the radio silence this week; I thought it might be a good idea to finish my syllabus for this spring's digital-curation course, seeing as how class starts next week and all.

It's pretty much done, finally; I'm working on stuff in the course-management system now. I do intend to post the syllabus online when I'm committed to it sure I'm finished. Since this is an all-online course, I'll be doing a fair few audio lectures and screencasts, and I may post a few of those as well over the course of the semester. (Not all of them by any means; the classroom is a sacred space where I can tell horror stories and not get in trouble, but Book of Trogool is not a sacred space.)

This is the first time I've taught this course; it should be a pretty wild ride!

Also, how in the world did anyone do syllabi before there were DOIs? I love DOIs. Find the article, copy-paste the DOI into the syllabus with in front of it, done. All the messy access bits get dealt with by library proxy servers and CrossRef infrastructure.

4 responses so far

Huh? What'd she mean by that?

Jan 08 2011 Published by under Jargon, Metablogging

So in response to a plaint in a BoT comment, I've made a glossary of often-used jargon and acronyms on Book of Trogool.

It's assuredly not done yet! Please feel free to suggest things I've missed in the comments, on this post or any post. Librarianship, open access, and data curation are no less prone to jargon than any other field of endeavor. As a librarian and a teacher, though, it's my business to make the obscure and obtuse less so.

3 responses so far

Spotty posting ahead

Oct 26 2010 Published by under Metablogging

My personal life just got immensely more complicated and fraught. I hasten to say that my own health, personal situation, and job are all to the best of my knowledge just fine, so don't anybody worry—it's a Big External Thing, around which I absolutely can't and shouldn't draw a Somebody Else's Problem field.

I will still try to post to Book of Trogool as inspiration (or something) strikes, but posting is liable to be spotty for a while. I apologize.

One response so far

Hosting issues: no comments for now

Sep 01 2010 Published by under Metablogging

Faithful readers may have noticed that Scientopia's hosting provider pulled our plug again today. We're working on fixes, but in the meantime, we've been asked to shut off comments, which I have duly done. With luck, this restriction will be lifted within a week or so, and I do apologize for it.

You can always get hold of me at dorothea.salo at gmail. And while I'm mentioning that, I want to thank Lynn Yarmey of Stanford, John Doyle of the National Library of Medicine, and Dave Nichols of the University of Waikato with all my heart for cogent and useful comments on my data-management presentation via email and Twitter. I have incorporated many of those comments into the presentation; expect a revised version shortly!

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Open access, open data... open discourse

Aug 26 2010 Published by under Metablogging, Open Access, Tactics

At the end of "Who Owns Our Work?" I pointed out that content vendors no longer own the discourse about their products and about scholarly communication generally. (It didn't fit the article very well—I swear it made more sense in the presentation—but it struck me as important enough to shoehorn in anyway.)

JSTOR found this out in a big way yesterday, as it got egg on its interface (points to Inside Higher Ed for that wonderful headline) and got called on it in public, promptly and bluntly, on Meredith Farkas's blog and elsewhere.

Now, here's a dirty little library secret for you: we librarians complain about software and vendors all the time among ourselves. Constantly. Most of the time, all that complaining doesn't amount to a hill of beans, even when it's smart and cogent. Vendors rarely hear it, and when they do hear it, they don't feel any particular pressure to respond. It's not as though libraries can walk away from them, and it's not as though our grousing makes them lose face.

Except now it does. At least a few library bloggers and groups of librarians among the online public have enough weight to make a difference.

Consider also California vs. Nature Publishing Group. The probably inevitable conclusion has been reached: the parties are going back into a smoke-filled back room to hack out an agreement. Even so, words have been said that cannot be unsaid. California yanked the curtain away from the Wizard of Nature's corner, and quite a few people saw and heeded. This, too, is a shift in discourse.

Making the open-access case to researchers usually means trying to induce a specific lightbulb moment: the moment when they realize that the agreements they sign with publishers mean that they can't do what they thought they could, what they think they should be able to do—whether it's accessing an article they want or putting it on electronic reserve; republishing an article they wrote in a book or putting it on the Web. I get a sense that the lightbulb's gone off for quite a few more people lately. Look at the second comment here, if you will. Sure, it gets a couple of material facts about the JSTOR situation wrong. Still. I didn't think I'd live to see the day when an emeritus professor of European literature, for heaven's sake, would froth at the mouth about scholarly publishing and access!

On the data side of things, Climategate and the Marc Hauser case are leading to calls for open, or at least opener, data. And with regard to peer review, many eyes make bugs shallow, even in the humanities. The discourse shifts even a little more… it's not where we want it to be, but it's moving in good directions.

So what should we do, we librarians, we folk of all stripes working toward open access and open data? How about a third leg on the stool, open discourse? Let's throw open our smoke-filled rooms, the way California did. Let's duel in press releases as well as at negotiating tables. Let's take the ARL's excellent advice and stop signing NDAs. Let's throw our acquisitions numbers out there for all to see (and yes, this means consortia too, reluctant though they may well be to disclose). Let's slug all this out. Openly. On the web. Because we can already see it makes a difference. Really, what do we librarians, the original advocates of freely-available information in a civic cause, have to hide?

Recognizing my own significant bias in this matter, I do still want to suggest also that the library profession recognize good library bloggers and social-media adopters as a strategic asset. Today JSTOR, tomorrow the world? More lightbulbs, more places? This course of action is not without risk to balance reward, of course; good library bloggers turn their laser eyes on their own profession as well as on vendors, because good bloggers are generally honest even when honesty hurts. On balance, though, aren't good bloggers worth protecting? Certainly from vendors, but how about from their own workplaces too? ARL, ALA, this is for you. Library blogs are shutting down and going underground, and as my own blogging history demonstrates, library employers themselves are often the proximate cause. If you want to keep this strategic asset, you need to help protect it.

(All of this is also true of good academic bloggers; adjuncts and those with young careers could particularly do with some protection. I just don't happen to have any particular leverage to exert in that realm.)

For my part, I'm trying to walk my own talk. In Book of Trogool's short history, I've come within an inch of going dark two or three times. Book of Trogool is harder to keep up than Caveat Lector was, because its subject matter is much more circumscribed (which taxes my powers of invention some days) and because I'm eternally, unhappily aware that BoT is being watched with suspicion and distrust from within my own circles.

Even so. I saw a lightbulb flicker on here on this very blog in the comments the other day. I connect researchers with their librarians pretty regularly on FriendFeed and Twitter. I'm reaching the circle of scientists on Scientopia by being an active part of that circle—and no, I don't proselytize open access behind the scenes, of course I don't, but I build credibility for it as I build credibility for myself. None of this is part of my job, but it's part of my work, if you catch the distinction.

So scarred and bruised though I am, afraid though I am, I keep working, working toward open access, open data… and open discourse.

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Brief hiatus

Aug 18 2010 Published by under Metablogging

Things are a bit slow in my neck of the work woods; I have a syllabus to finish revising, but the worst of that is over.

Therefore I have taken the rest of the week off, and will likely be exploring bike trails. (I bought myself an Electra Townie. Her name is Pleione. Points for anyone who knows what color she is based on her name without using a search engine—and no fair if you follow me on FriendFeed and already know.)

Blogging from me will probably not happen, though my illustrious co-bloggers may fill in a blank or two.

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Welcome back!

Aug 02 2010 Published by under Metablogging

Greetings again, gracious readers. We're back, in new digs. I apologize for the lengthy silence, but in my own defense, I did use it to fight my writer's block victoriously enough to get two writing assignments off my desk for good and all (or until the edits come back, whichever comes first).

I also used the breathing space to ask myself why I'm still blogging, considering how much trouble it's gotten me into, and how allergic I am to that particular sort of trouble. I can't speak for my illustrious co-bloggers (and they are more than capable of speaking for themselves), but for my part, I believe what I said about librarians needing to get out from behind their desks and engage with teachers and researchers on their own turf.

That's important enough to be worth getting called on the carpet a few times. So here I still am.

Why here? Well, as I pondered leaving ScienceBlogs, I looked around at several other blog networks. Several were actively discouraging: if you don't do bench science, you are not welcome here, so go away. Others were one-man bands, much as ScienceBlogs was, and after the Pepsi fiasco at ScienceBlogs, I'm hesitant to trust one person's vision to be compatible with mine. (Also, ScienceBlogs's latest quasi-corporate conquest is the American Physiological Society. If you know anything about open access and its detractors, you'll understand why I'm cringing and glad to be gone from there.)

Scientopia isn't a pharaoh's pyramid; it's a barn-raising. We're all in this together. We may fail, but we're too strong a mesh to be brought to our knees by any one person's bad decision. I can live with that, quite happily.

2 responses so far

Small fry, blogging networks, and reputation

Jul 08 2010 Published by under How Libraries Work, Metablogging

So, the PepsiCo blog thing. Right.

Advance disclaimer: this is me talking, not either of my illustrious co-bloggers. We have not yet made a decision about what to do; one co-blogger is across the pond at a conference and the other is vacationing, so that discussion will have to wait a bit. This is just my take.

Book of Trogool is very small fry at ScienceBlogs. Very small. SB was a bit dubious about it at the start, to tell the truth, and if their info-science stable had been better-established I doubt they'd have taken it on. I'm very grateful that they did, because I needed them.

One of the reasons SB's info-sci stable isn't larger is that librarianship is a very difficult profession to blog in. It doesn't like blogs or bloggers, or social media generally, much less trust them or those who engage with each other and the world using them. Because libraries and librarians feel beleaguered, they especially don't like discourse critical of libraries or librarianship in social media coming from one of their own. Library vendors aren't fond of critical discourse in librarian blogs either. For individual librarian bloggers or public social-media figures, this has absolutely meant trouble at work. I'm one example, but very far from the only one—and I earned my problems more than most folks I know in similar straits.

This leaves the beleaguered library blogger who wishes to continue to blog with a few options. One is to be part of a group blog to create strength in numbers; In the Library with the Lead Pipe is a sterling example (and a fabulous blog; if you're interested in libraries from the inside, this is not one to miss). Another is to adopt some of the trappings of the formal library professional literature, such as length, exclusivity, and beta-reading-oops-I-meant-peer-review. ItLwtLP does this as well. A third option is to find a blog home with enough accumulated strength of character and good reputation as to afford some protection—and now you know why I chose ScienceBlogs.

Insofar as letting PepsiCo cadge cachet from SB's stable of bloggers damages SB's reputation (never mind strength of character) it causes me pressing difficulty. I'm not happy about that, because my sense watching events unfold is that SB has seriously damaged its reputation, both by casting its processes into doubt and by losing quite a few talented, brilliant bloggers. Moreover, based on the trajectory of other sellout properties like LiveJournal, unless Adam Bly learns a lot from this experience—and signs point to "not so much with the learning" at this juncture—he will likely err seriously again. And again. Until SB is not only not a shield, but an actual stain on a blogger's escutcheon.

These are petty, selfish concerns, to be sure. They are the tiny concerns of a small-fry blogger. Given that SB is rapidly alienating its big-fish bloggers, however, SB would be advised to heed these concerns, if it wishes to rebuild any sort of a stable.

To be perfectly clear, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with an individual industry scientist or big-pig-publisher employee coming to ScienceBlogs to blog on his or her own initiative. (Me vs. big-pig-publisher employee could be amusing!) I would hope that SB would provide such individuals the exact protections (from their workplaces not least) they have afforded me and other SB bloggers. What's wrong is selling a corporation the chance to trade on the collective cachet accumulated by SB's blogging stable by emitting corporate newspeak under the SB label—and I don't credit for an instant that Dr. Khan or Dr. Mensah or anyone else from PepsiCo will be blogging freely and uninterfered-with. I don't believe all the "advertorial" drapery fixes that basic wrongness.

So I labor under a dilemma. SB has been unique; there are other science-blogging stables, but none of them quite fits Book of Trogool. (Catch me blogging at Nature Networks! Not in this lifetime.) I sincerely doubt any of the group library blogs would take me on; I'm a bit Tabasco for this profession. I can't go back to solo blogging. If SB folds (a possibility, the way things are going), if my co-bloggers are too affronted to continue here, if I decide that I am too affronted to continue here—well, chances are I just hang it up, retreating to the slow, ponderous library literature to get my licks in.

That's not what I want. (Ask my writer's block why. I have named it George...) I hope, instead, that SB can get its managerial act together.

7 responses so far

Introducing co-bloggers!

Jun 24 2010 Published by under Metablogging

I am bursting with pride to introduce Sarah Shreeves and Elizabeth Brown as co-bloggers here on Book of Trogool!

(You'll have to excuse me if I go over my exclamation-point quota. I'm just so excited about this!)

I will let them tell you about themselves; I'll just say that Sarah works for the University of Illinois, and Elizabeth works for Binghamton University, and they're both fabulous librarians I'm very proud to know.

Please expect some dust over the next few days or weeks as I fiddle with the templates to make them co-blogger-friendly and ensure that it's clear who's written what. And please welcome Sarah and Elizabeth in the comments!

5 responses so far

"It's quiet—too quiet;" with a digression into online social media

Jun 15 2010 Published by under Metablogging, Tactics

Other people are doing NPG vs. CDL link roundups better than I am, so I'll limit myself to a few links:

Official press-release salvos have ceased for now; I can only assume that heavy-duty negotiation is going on behind the scenes. I'm well content with the last public word being CDL's. It's quiet—very quiet.

In the meantime, NPG is leaving boilerplate comments on blogs that have discussed the matter. Two such comments have appeared here on Book of Trogool, apparently left by different NPG employees. Their substance is identical.

Boilerplate comment shellack is a poor substitute for genuine engagement with online critics. (I note with raised eyebrow that even NPG's official Twitter news outlet is avoiding this contretemps aside from bare news tweets.) Fair warning, NPG: any more boilerplate comments, like or unlike the previous two, will be deleted as spam as soon as I see them. Also, I have removed the link to your press release that your second commenter left as your URL, not wishing to give it any more Googlejuice, and I recommend that my fellow bloggers do likewise. If your employees wish to engage here, responsively, as human individuals with human rather than corporate voices, I welcome that.

Now, this is not the worst reaction NPG could have, not by a long shot. At last count, I know three library/higher-ed bloggers who have had their work supervisors contacted by vendors over posts critical of the vendors on non-work blogs. (Just to eliminate any potential confusion, I myself am not one of the three. Also, I will not identify or link to any of them; one wrote me via a private Twitter feed, and given the sensitivity of this issue, I don't feel comfortable identifying the others.) I shouldn't wonder if the count were much higher. I congratulate NPG for not being stupid enough to do this… and I hereby leave NPG be for the nonce, to talk more about vendors and online social media generally.

I shan't argue that going up a blogger's chain-of-command behind the scenes is meanly vindictive, though it is; vendettas are anything but unusual either online or in the Just Bidness crowd. I argue, as I did at UKSG 2010, that doing it is bad tactics, liable to backfire.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this isn't a blogger easily ignored—not rabid, not penny-ante—and the issue at hand is substantive, not contentless. Let's also leave the "who's right?" question off the table; disagreements are normal, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle, and all that good philosophy and sociology stuff. Let's just follow what happens when our vendor goes up the chain.

The first thing that happens is that word gets around. Perhaps the blogger is too intimidated to blog the contretemps himself; that doesn't mean he doesn't tell ten, a hundred, or a thousand of his closest professional friends via Twitter or Facebook. That's a lot of people who now have a personal bone to pick with our vendor.

The next thing that may happen is that someone who isn't the original blogger blogs the contretemps—I've seen this! How many more people are now angry at our vendor, over and above those who are upset over whatever was being blogged about? Was it worth it? Truly?

The next thing that happens at most workplaces (and all intelligent workplaces) in libraryland and higher-ed-land is that the supervisor does nothing to her blogger employee. No reprimand on file, no punitive action, nothing. Leaving aside that libraries are vendors' clients and usually not under any obligation to hush a problem up for a vendor's sole benefit, libraries and universities are not run as straitly as businesses. For most, freedom of expression (especially off the clock) is a major professional value; others recognize the tactical outreach value of bloggers saying openly what the strictures on official institutional communication organs might otherwise forbid. In many cases, in fact, the supervisor (who may wield budget power, let's not forget) will herself become displeased with the vendor: for trying to scare her employee, for wasting her time, and for whatever the problem is, as likely as not. How's this tactic looking now?

And finally, if this happens often enough (and it may only take once), the vendor attaches the adjectives "secretive," "manipulative," and "retaliatory" to its brand in the general consciousness. I'm guessing this is not ideal, especially if negotiation and reputation for fair dealing are a major aspect of sales.

Note what does not happen in most (though admittedly not all) cases of vendor-blogger conflict I know of: the critical blog post does not come down. Vendors, you do not and cannot control the conversation about you any more, if you ever did, and you cannot stop that conversation going public on the Web, as many conversations have. You can, if you choose, participate in the conversation, but note well that this is an open conversation. There's no way I'm aware of to participate in an open conversation privately. This doesn't stop people from trying, of course, but I don't know of any successes.

Well, but look, says our vendor, I'm only trying to repair a troubled client relationship here! Fine, but you're going about it the wrong way. The gold standard is public participation in the conversation, but if you can't bring yourself to do that, the way to proceed is to contact the blogger out-of-band first. If you and the blogger can reach a mutually beneficial arrangement, the blogger will rehabilitate your brand all by himself by posting something about your fantastic service. If the blogger isn't the right person to resolve the problem, he will (if he thinks it worthwhile) point you to the right person himself, and will not think any the worse of you for it.

Finally, if you don't have any way to resolve the problem, and you are pretty sure you'll lose if you engage about it publicly, the right thing to do is clam up. Anything else makes the black eye you're suffering worse.

My advice is worth what you're paying for it. As for NPG, comment spam is the least of their worries just now, but that doesn't at all mean they are improving their situation by engaging in it.

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