21 February 2013

Doing what is right, or following Aaron Swartz' example

Please watch this lecture by Lawrence Lessig on Aaron's Laws - Law and Justice in the Digital Age.

It is a really moving address about our obligation to try to do what is right for humanity.
It is about the need to reform dumb law.
It is about how we can honour Aaron's legacy.
It is about Aaron's form of civil disobedience and whether he actually caused any real harm.
It is about celebrating his hacking activity to advance the public good.
It addresses Aaron's pursuit of social justice and his fight against corruption.
It is about the absurdity of our continuous promotion of the knowledge elite who have privileged access to publicly funded research through their membership of "elite institutions".
It is about publishers selling access to research that is funded by governments.
And it is also about those who have not so much access to this knowledge.
It is about Aaron's Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.
It is about whether Aaron's crime was to hoard vast amounts of research material that he downloaded from JSTOR at MIT; or whether he wanted to use it for research purposes; or whether he wanted to liberate it for the Third World; or whether he wanted to liberate it for the whole world.
It is about what real harm can be cause by computer crime in cyber-space.
It is about a government bullying an individual and playing the example justice game in their disproportionate response to his "crimes".
It is about what we should do under unjust laws when the remedy is worse than the evil (apologies to Henry David Thoreau).
It is about recognising the cause of corruption and fixing the system.
And it is about fixing the obliviousness of our daily lives when we work within such systems and laws.

19 February 2013

Researchers & social media

In early February I was asked to participate in a discussion on the use of social media by researchers for our 2013 Research Week. I was joined by @jennaprice and we mostly agreed with each other. Mostly ...

I based my talking points on the content of two presentations that I have uploaded to SlideShare. They are among the most popular of my 30 or so uploads and here is the most recent version: Make me famous with social media

For those who prefer the most recent discussion, here are a few words based on the rough notes that I used.

I started by saying that I recognise the ephemeral nature of almost all social media posts. I am not really sure that any institutions needs to try to record all of it. A lot of it is complete rubbish and quite meaningless without the context of time, place and others participating in the same conversation or open discussion. As Clay Shirky has said though, it does represent a connective tissue that fuses both public and personal media and that is what makes it so significant, at least in our time. For researchers it can assist in connections, communication, the provision of sometimes instant feedback or responses, increased reach and in finding your own "voice". One of social media's key and perhaps most valuable characteristics is that it allows and encourages us to share; it helps facilitate altruism and that is a real benefit (as long as it lasts).

So, if we take a quick look at three key platforms as an example for researchers and what they can do with them:

  • TWITTER - helps with connections, asking for help, news, "voice", sharing and searching.
  • ACADEMIA.EDU - basically Facebook for academics (without the ads). It is not as well used here as it seems to be in the US, but has huge potential to facilitate better academic social networks. (Jenna didn't agree with me on this one.)
  • BLOGS - allow you to test ideas and to share, practice, ideate and form or contribute tio various communities of research practice.
My tips and advice for researchers who want to use social media:

  • Start with your own community
  • Keep it in perspective (see the note above re the ephemeral nature of social media and social networks)
  • Listen (it is a two way street, not simply a public broadcast media)
  • Engage - I doubt you'll fully realise the potential benefits by just lurking
  • Play, fail, learn - most social networks are very forgiving
  • Respect others and their acknowledge their generosity
  • Be real - I'm not at all a fan of anonymity on the social web
  • Be careful how much you reveal about yourself and your long term research (Jenna reminded us that most researchers, like journalists like to be the first to publish)
  • Don't feed the trolls!
  • Be patient - it isn't always instantaneous and not everyone is always connected and always paying attention
Finally I said that for some researchers in a highly competitive market for research funding that social media can lead to the creation of a higher public profile (which then needs some management). This might be combined with sharing (via Open Acces publication), clever use of social networks and altmetrics to deliver crowd-funding for your research.

15 February 2013

Sketch-notes - Swing is the Soul of the Groove

Dick Rijken keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013
Dick Rijken's keynote Swing is the Soul of the Groove was one that I arranged, so again, maybe I am biased here, but I loved it. It seemed to me at least that the whole week flowed into his final keynote and he nicely wrapped up many of the main themes. He stressed culture over the vogue words: creativity and innovation. He illustrated his points with visual and musical storytelling and I was in two minds as to whether I should just watch of try to record some thoughts and reminders.

It was fantastic to hear someone of his standing reminding us of the importance of things like ambiguity, not knowing or understanding, romanticism, aestheticism, experimentation and trusting our intuition. All are hard to tie down, to justify or to measure quantitatively, but in the end are they not some of the things that distinguish us from robots or automatons? And certainly I think they are critical to our sector. For too long I think we've been obsessed with making things more efficient, more specialised, less connected and easily measured. We need to rediscover the underlying meaning in what we do. As Dick said, an artistic mentality can be very helpful to us in finding that meaning and in truly understanding what we are supposed to be doing.

I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Dick last week and to present a workshop with him last Friday. Not only did I learn a great deal from him, I was stimulated and energised by the many discussions we had.

Sketch-notes - Pirate Party

Anna Troberg keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013
Anna Troberg leads the Swedish Pirate Party and she gave us very strong encouragement to raise hell about quite a few issues. We are "too passive and too nice!". She sees information and culture as wealth and reminded us that we have a key role in preserving access to them. Anna said that culture always finds a way forward, but outdated Copyright law needed reform as it now served to block cultural flow and even to hide cultural assets.

So what are we all waiting for? Let's raise some hell!

Sketch-notes - social media in public libraries

Kathleen Smeaton's study
ALIA Information Online 2013

Sketch-notes - NBN and libraries

Warren Cheatham
ALIA Information Online 2013
This was an interactive awareness-raising session led by Warren Cheatham from Townsville. It showed us the librarian as advocate for government programs and how to assist in understanding. He encouraged debate about many of the differing perceptions of something many of us simply do not fully understand and I think he also got us to think about its potential for libraries (if it isn't killed with a stick by a different governing party). Thanks Warren.

One thing Warren and I discussed was the potential of the NBN to provide a catalyst that unites the whole Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector on a new path towards cultural digital collaboration. This is an area in which Australia is sadly lacking and perhaps the power of the NBN could bring our sector together.

Sketch-notes - Charles Leadbeater

Charles Leadbeater's keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013
Charles Leadbeater is described as a leading thinker on the future of learning and his Skype presentation really lived up to its promise. Again we were reminded that solutions cannot be found by looking only or primarily at technology or systems. He encouraged us to empathise with our clients and to facilitate connections and develop and facilitate meangingful relationships. He said that eventually technology would bother us less and simply help support those social relationships. His keynote was one of the main highlights for me.

14 February 2013

Sketch-notes - Sue Gardner, Wikimedia

Sue Gardner's keynote at ALIA Information Online 2013
Sue Gardner from Wikimedia left us with some very important reminders about the importance of a free and open internet and how libraries must participate in that as advocates and by helping others to understand more about it. She encouraged us to do what we can to make knowledge freely available, just as Wikipedia does.

Sketch-notes - Open Linked Data

Roy Tennant, Jon Voss and Ingrid Mason
Keynote for ALIA Information Online 2013
This was one presentation that I felt I should attend, but I was also fearing because it is a serios and technical subject that might be hard to present in an entertaining and lively manner. Well that certainly was not the case with these three presenters. They grabbed our attention after lunch with well selected personal musical introductions for each.Then they managed to pass on some key messages about the benefits of open linked data along with some powerful examples of what data can do when it is shared, open and then linked. A very memorable presentation!

Sketch-notes - Sarah Drummond

Sarah Drummond's keynote
ALIA Online 2013
Sarah Drummond provided a great deal of inspiration at ALIA Online, particularly for younger librarians who could identify with her in so many ways. She really engaged by participating in the New Librarians Seminar the weekend before the conference itself and then by running a one day workshop on design, that emphasised the importance of understanding and mapping your customers' journeys, after the conference. She was one of several keynoters who urged us to start with people and not technology and she was brave enough to tell us that we hold too much fear and that results in our attachment to too much command and control. We need to let go more.

Sketch-notes - Designing Better Library Experiences

Zaana Howard's session at ALIA Online 2013
Zaana gave a very short session on designing better user experiences in libraries. Her key messages (above) were few and short, but memorable and wise. I think they were timely reminders and her research is evidence based. She had a verysignificant influence on the under current of service design in this conference and I thank her for her input on that.

Sketch-notes - Business Model Innovation

Tim Kastelle
Keynote at ALIA Information Online 2013

This is the first of a series of sketch notes from the ALIA Information Online conference held in Brisbane during February 2013. I have to declare that I was on the Program Committee for the conference, so maybe you'll read some bias into my comments here. I'm trying to be objective.

The sketch notes above are from one of the first keynotes by Tim Kastelle from the University of Queensland Business School. I think one of his best messages for libraries (which you can see above) was to aggregate, filter and connect. I also liked his suggestion that obscurity was worse than piracy for content creators. He urged us to consider innovation in our business model (i.e. behavioural change), not simply in or through technology.

I think that keynote neatly set us off on what the Program Committee hoped would be a series of rather different messages and themes for the conference. These included:

  • Designing new services for people.
  • Finding and providing more meaning in what we do as cultural institutions.
  • Finding our voice and becoming better advocates for the public good (e.g. Open Access, Copyright reform and a sustainable future).
  • Putting people before technology.
  • The importance of empathy and user experience research.
  • Reassurance of the value in play, fail, learn as a strategy.
I'm still learning about the use of sketch-notes. They do force you to think more deeply about the messages you are hearing and how to represent them visually. I'm being mentored in this by one of my colleagues @thelibrarykim so I thank her for all of her tips and assistance. Her sketch-notes are always grand!

07 February 2013

Ebooks, the future of research & cultural preservation by libraries

Closed stacks

I read this post from O'Reilly TOC this morning and I was glad that someone finally raised these issues that have been bothering me for some time. I almost posted about the same issues a few weeks ago, but was distracted. The post raises some real concerns about the preservation of knowledge for future research. For me it is wider than that and goes to cultural preservation for our communities. Is it right that for our e-content we should just rely on someone else to have a copy (like Apple or Amazon as the article suggests)?

I had been worried about this, because like many other libraries we have been e-preferred for some time now. Is it also right that cultural material we collected and provided for our own communities could be unavailable for them in the future because the e-content is no longer available via our library? I don't think it is and I don't think we should simply hope for the best, divest ourselves of this responsibility and rely on others doing it for us, like say the National or State Libraries and certainly not the publishers because it isn't really their role and it really never has been. Don't we have an obligation along these lines (i.e. cultural preservation) for those in our communities? I think the rush to e-preferred has possibly led us to a focus on the now, the most convenient, the most efficient, and the least expensive alternatives, but quite probably at the expense of our obligation to preserve knowledge and culture for future generations.

I had been running around asking everyone who was involved with ebooks a lot of questions about what happens when the providers go bust, when we cease subscribing, or in the case of other inconvenient but worrying events (like hacking, file corruption, etc.). I am told that it varies with different ebook providers. Some regard it as a lease of those ebooks, others allow you to download the content in their proprietary format or in xml, but this ultimately isn't a solution. Encrypted formats offer a whole other dilemma. Many contemporary publications are in danger of disappearing, becoming untrustworthy or inaccessible in the future if we don't seriously consider this issue now. My own view is that there is actually more to cultural preservation of publications than simply preserving the xml. Books have always had other features, like covers, layout, typography, illustration, decoration, way finding assistance, etc., that add to the reader's experience. In our relentless hunt for efficiency and convenience I think we've progressively discounted the value of these features for our readers.

Perhaps this will be addressed by those talking about ebooks at the 2013 ALIA Information Online conference in Brisvegas next week.

This was originally posted here: