Joho the BlogJune 2011 - Page 2 of 5 - Joho the Blog

June 25, 2011

Interesting reading abounds

Ever since I ended my paper-based relationship with the Boston Globe, I’ve done my breakfast reading in front of a monitor on our kitchen table. Today, I spent a little longer, and read some excellent articles:

  • Stephen Metcalf writes about Robert Nozick’s legitimizing effect on Libertarianism, and the philosophical weakness of the case he made for it. I have not heard anyone else make Metcalf’s critique of the Wilt Chamberlain argument (so far as I recall).

  • In Scientific American, John Horgan defends Stephen Jay Gould from the charge that his brilliant example of personal bias affecting scientific outcomes was itself based on Gould’s own biases. It’s actually a weak defense, with Horgan instead defending a related point SJG was making: “Maybe Gould was wrong that Morton misrepresented his data, but he was absolutely right that biological determinism was and continues to be a dangerous pseudoscientific ideology.” By coincidence, a couple of days ago I came across my old copy of an anthology titled “The Sociobiology Debate” that was compiled in 1978 when the idea that evolution shape ours our social behavior was not just controversial, but to many of us (including me) seemed quite threatening: it implied a lack of free will (which I no longer care about) and it was sometimes used to give a sheen of inevitability to the most conservative and even oppressive of social behaviors. Unfortunately, Horgan’s argument against sociobiology consists of the following single paragraph:

    “Biological determinism is a blight on science. It implies that the way things are is the way they must be. We have less choice in how we live our lives than we think we do. This position is wrong, both empirically and morally. If you doubt me on this point, read [Gould’s] Mismeasure [of Man], which, even discounting the chapter on Morton, abounds in evidence of how science can become an instrument of malignant ideologies.”

  • Also in Slate, I disagree so sharply with Jack Shafer’s criticism of Jose Antonio Vargas that I think I must be missing something obvious. Jose is the former Washington Post and Huffington Post journalist (and Pulitzer-prize winner, by the way) who came out as an undocumented immigrant in an article in tomorrow’s NY Times Magazine. Shafer declares himself to be an “immigration dove”: “I believe in open borders and detest our current laws and their enforcement.” If you hate the law’s enforcement, how can you also get in a snit about someone who lies to evade that enforcement? Or perhaps it’s only journalists who shouldn’t lie to their employers about their immigration status because there needs to be a special bond of trust between the editor and the journalist. So, which jobs does Shafer think do not require trust? Or is this just journalism dealing with its self-esteem issues again? Jose didn’t lie about his credentials, and he didn’t lie in his stories. He lied about the thing the bad laws Shafer “detests” made him lie about, just as forty years ago he likely would have had to lie about his sexual preferences. If Shafer thinks Jose’s admission makes him unreliable, then go through his work and find where this lack of reliablity manifests itself. If it doesn’t, then salute Jose for his honesty and courage. (Disclosure: Although I haven’t talked with him in a year or two, I count Jose as a friend, beginning in his pre-Pulitzer WaPo days. He has struck me as an honest, open-minded, and impassioned inquirer. I like him a lot.)


June 24, 2011

Tagging the National Archives

The National Archives is going all tag-arrific on us:

The Online Public Access prototype (OPA) just got an exciting new feature — tagging! As you search the catalog, we now invite you to tag any archival description, as well as person and organization name records, with the keywords or labels that are meaningful to you. Our hope is that crowdsourcing tags will enhance the content of our online catalog and help you find the information you seek more quickly.

Nice! (Hat tip to Infodocket for the tip)

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June 23, 2011

Interview with Dan Cohen of Zotero

My interview with Dan Cohen about what libraries can learn from Zotero has gone up at the Library Innovation Lab blog Dan’s a really interesting guy, and Zotero is a great app that models openness.

Here’s the complete list of podcasts on the site>

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British Library and Google deal: Some of the fine print

The British Library has announced a deal that has Google digitizng 250,000 works, and that will allow users to access the out-of-copyright work on both the Library’s and Google Books sites. David Dorman of Marlboro College posted the following on the DPLA mailing list. (Reposted with his permission.)

I recently had the following exchange with Miki Lentin, Head of Media Relations, at the British Library:

David: I would like to see a copy of the agreement between the British Library and Google. Is it being made publicly available in either full or abbreviated form? If so, could you let me know how I could obtain a copy? If it is not being made available, I would appreciate your responding to the following questions I have about the agreement:

Miki: The contract is commercial in confidence so can’t be released.

David: What are the digitization specifications? I am curious to know if they conform to digital preservation standards.

Miki:The exact digitisation specifications for the project are commercial in confidence; however Google’s technical standards do meet the standards that Library would put in place for any digitisation activity. The Library has carefully considered the long-term digital preservation issues for this project and will be ingesting the digitised content into our Digital Library System for preservation purposes.

David: Will the British Library have its own copy of each resource, or will it need to rely on Google’s copies for access?

Miki: The Library will have its own copy of each item and there will therefore be two copies. A Google and a Library copy.

David: Does the agreement give Google exclusive digitization rights, or restrict digitization rights in any way, for these resources?

Miki: The contract is non exclusive and the Library is able to partner with whoever they choose.

David: Does the agreement put any restrictions on the distribution or use of the digitized resources, or their potential methods of access? For example, if I wanted to provide my own access system to the resources, as well as to parse the resources for enhanced usability, would it be consistent with the agreement for the British library to provide me with descriptive metadata for the resources and bulk download accessibility to the resources, so that I could obtain my own copies of the descriptive metadata anat all d the resources for the purpose of providing access and use as I see fit? Please note that I am not inquiring whether or not it is the policy or practice of the British Library to provide such services for digitized resources. I am asking only if providing such services would be prohibited by the agreement with Google.

Miki: The material may be used for a range of non-commercial purposes under the terms of the contract. The contract allows for a range of re-uses. For text mining for non commercial ends will be taken on a case by case basis.

David: Will the British Library be receiving any compensation by Google in connection with access to the resources?

Miki: Other than our copy of the digital asset, no.

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June 22, 2011

Ethanz to head the MIT Civic Media Center

Ethan Zuckerman has been named the new director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media.

This is fantastic news for the Center. There is no one imaginably better for this position than Ethan. Plus, Ethan and Joi Ito [twitter:joi] (new head of MIT’s Media Lab) will be working together, which promises a type of quantum energy not seen since the Big Bang.

Ethan of course will have less time to spend at the Berkman Center, where he is an irreplaceable source of heart and brains. But, he’s actually going to be in Cambridge considerably more than he has been (he commutes from western Mass.), and the two centers are already discussing deeper, richer collaborations.

I am privileged to count Ethan as a close friend, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Plus, the collective, collaborative energy emanating from Cambridge is about to multiply. Woohoo!

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Cultivating New Voices – An event to remember Persephone Miel by

The Berkman Center is hosting what should be a fantastic discussion on July 11 at 5pm.

The participants (from an email announcement): Colin Maclay (Berkman Center), Ivan Sigal (executive director of Global Voices), Fatima Tlisova of Voice of America, Dele Olojede of Nigerian newspaper 234Next that focuses on connecting Persephone’s Media Re:public work with cutting-edge projects in journalism around the world, and Ethan Zuckerman (Berkman, Global Voices.)

The topic: “In an age of shrinking news budgets, American newspapers and broadcasters are producing less original reporting of international stories. And while gripping events like the Arab Spring capture the attention of the public, many important international stories fail to capture widespread attention. The challenges for international reporting are both ones of supply (who reports the news from around the world?) and demand (who pays attention?)”

Inspired by, in honor of, remembering: Persephone Miel, an open-hearted, tireless, worker for the dignity of all, who is so deeply missed.

RSVP here.

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June 21, 2011

The Argument against Word, Reason #513

Here’s what’s happening with Microsoft Word 2008 on Mac. Note that I am not looking for help. I am merely venting.

1. Redefined heading2 so that it begins with an auto number.

2. Now when I select Normal paragraphs and apply the “number me” button to them, they all turn into heading2’s.

3. Create a new element called Normal-List, defined as beginning with an auto-number.

4. After the fourth instance of heading2, begin my fourth set of Normal-List items.

5. That fourth set continues the numbering from the third set. Select the first item and choose “Restart numbering.” It is a no-op.

6. Try every thing you can think of. Nothing works.

7. Re-open it in LibreOffice (nee Open Office) and fix the goddamn autonumbers.

Q: How many years will it take for Microsoft to get auto-numbering right?
A: How many years are there?

This is especially frustrating since the software company I worked at from 1986-1994, Interleaf, got this right about twenty years ago. AAAaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh.


June 19, 2011

Ragged right for Kindle

Full justification of a page — so the page margins are flush to both the left and right edges — sounds like what you want in a professional book, but when computers are laying out pages on the fly on small screens, and especially when they are under the constraints of having relatively few words per line to play with, it can result in ugliness.

When I first got my Kindle 1, it let you decide whether you wanted left justification (= “ragged right”) or full justification. Then Amazon upgraded the software and took away that option, which was not my favorite upgrade ever. (Maybe I just failed to find the hack to restore it.) I just got a Kindle 3, on the occasion of my Kindle 1’s screen losing a valiant battle against pressure in an over-stuffed backpack. There is a hack for the Kindle 3 that has restored the option, except where publishers have explicitly created fully justified texts. Go here and follow the advice in reply #1 scrupulously. (If you don’t know about UNIX line endings, you might not want to try this.)

I also altered one of the existing lines to “JUSTIFICATION=left”, which may be having the effect of setting the default to ragged right, but I’m not sure. At least it didn’t obviously break my Kindle. (Which reminds me: You’re responsible for whatever damage following the advice here may cause. What are you doing following advice in a blog, anyway?)


June 18, 2011

An argument for loosening copyright

Culture does not exist simply to enlighten us.

Culture’s far more common role is to give us something to talk about.

If we have nothing to talk about, nations divide over unreasonable differences, communities reduce to parking regulations, and marriages end in dinnertime squabbles.

To talk about things in a depth that binds requires freely accessing, citing, quoting, pointing, and linking.

Therefore, for the sake of our nation, communities, and marriages, we need to loosen copyright’s hold.



June 17, 2011

Berkman Buzz

This week’s Berkman Buzz:

  • The Citizen Media Law Project explains Rakofsky v. Internet:

  • Samuel Klein helps introduce Afghan families to Wikipedia:

  • Dan Gillmor defends anonymity online, even after #Amina:

  • Ethan Zuckerman reflects on #Amina:

  • Weekly Global Voices: “Cuba: Activists, Bloggers on the Cuba Money Project Vimeo Channel”:

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