Archive for: February, 2010

Friday Fun: Vote for oddest book title of the year

Feb 26 2010 Published by under friday fun

Via Boing Boing, this is my kind of prize!

You can vote for the Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the year.

The shortlist:

  • Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter by David Cromptons (Glenstrae Press)
  • Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich by James A Yannes'(Trafford)
  • Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina (A K Peters)
  • Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots by Ronald C Arkin (CRC Press)
  • The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Ellen Scherl and Maria Dubinsky (SLACK Inc)
  • What Kind of Bean is This Chihuahua? by Tara Jansen-Meyer (Mirror)

More related posts about the prize over at The Bookseller.

2 responses so far

OLA 2010: Our Job in 10 Years: The Future of Academic Libraries

My Lakehead University colleague Janice Mutz and I reprised the session I did at OLA two years ago this morning for an active and engaged crowd of about 50 librarians -- a great crowd for the very first session of the conference since a lot of people are still trickling in after arriving and registering.

This time around, we really put the emphasis on engagement and conversation, running the session like a combination Information Literacy and unconference session. Overall, we were really pleased with how it went and enjoyed the input from so many great librarians. Of the 20 or so "provocative question" slides we prepared, we only got through the first five or so, which was more or less what we expected. We'd budgeted about 30 minutes for that section and six minutes of discussion per slide seems right. We had a bunch more prepared just in case. The little "active learning" exercise we did also went very well.

In any case, here are the slides.

At the end of the session a number of people asked about us getting the slides up as a kind of anchor for conversation about the session, so here they are. Session attendee Bruce has already beaten me to the punch, commenting on an older post here.

The slides are also in our Institutional Repository here.

Finally, I'd like to thank Sarah Forbes for doing such a great job convening the session, especially for going with the flow in a slightly unusual session format.

4 responses so far

Michael White's Patent Database Review for 2009

Feb 24 2010 Published by under engineering, scholarly publishing

Queen's University engineering librarian Michael White runs The Patent Librarian's Notebook, a very important resource for anyone interested in finding and making sense of patent information.

He's done a very comprehensive review of the important 2009 developments in public patent databases and related websites.

An example:

Canadian Patents Database (CIPO)

The Canadian Patents Database, which is maintained by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, contains more than two million Canadian patents and published applications from 1869 to the present. Full-text images are available from 1920 forward. Recent improvements include a few aesthetic changes to the search interface and the inclusion of a representative drawing (if available) displayed in the bibliographic record. In addition, as of January 29, 2010, abstracts in both English and French are available for applications filed under the PCT. (Approximately 75 percent of patent applications received by the CIPO are filed via the PCT system.)

The other databases he covers include PatentScope (WIPO), Esp@cenet (EPO), USPTO, Patent Lens, FreePatentsOnline, Boliven Patents, PatSnap and Intellogist. He also discusses International Patent Classification (IPC) and IP5 Initiatives.

A year or two ago, I attended a day-long workshop on patent searching that Micheal lead and it was well worth it. If you get a similar chance -- take it!

One response so far

Panton Principles: Principles for Open Data in Science

Here's what they're about:

The first draft of Panton Principles was written in July 2009 by Peter Murray-Rust, Cameron Neylon, Rufus Pollock and John Wilbanks at the Panton Arms on Panton Street in Cambridge, UK, just down from the Chemistry Faculty where Peter works.

They were then refined with the help of the members of the Open Knowledge Foundation Working Group on Open Data in Science and were officially launched in February 2010.

Here they are:

Science is based on building on, reusing and openly criticising the published body of scientific knowledge.

For science to effectively function, and for society to reap the full benefits from scientific endeavours, it is crucial that science data be made open.

By open data in science we mean that it is freely available on the public internet permitting any user to download, copy, analyse, re-process, pass them to software or use them for any other purpose without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. To this end data related to published science should be explicitly placed in the public domain.

Formally, we recommend adopting and acting on the following principles:

  1. Where data or collections of data are published it is critical that they be published with a clear and explicit statement of the wishes and expectations of the publishers with respect to re-use and re-purposing of individual data elements, the whole data collection, and subsets of the collection. This statement should be precise, irrevocable, and based on an appropriate and recognized legal statement in the form of a waiver or license.

    When publishing data make an explicit and robust statement of your wishes.

  2. Many widely recognized licenses are not intended for, and are not appropriate for, data or collections of data. A variety of waivers and licenses that are designed for and appropriate for the treatment of data are described here. Creative Commons licenses (apart from CCZero), GFDL, GPL, BSD, etc are NOT appropriate for data and their use is STRONGLY discouraged.

    Use a recognized waiver or license that is appropriate for data.

  3. The use of licenses which limit commercial re-use or limit the production of derivative works by excluding use for particular purposes or by specific persons or organizations is STRONGLY discouraged. These licenses make it impossible to effectively integrate and re-purpose datasets and prevent commercial activities that could be used to support data preservation.

    If you want your data to be effectively used and added to by others it should be open as defined by the Open Knowledge/Data Definition - in particular non-commercial and other restrictive clauses should not be used.

  4. Furthermore, in science it is STRONGLY recommended that data, especially where publicly funded, be explicitly placed in the public domain via the use of the Public Domain Dedication and Licence or Creative Commons Zero Waiver. This is in keeping with the public funding of much scientific research and the general ethos of sharing and re-use within the scientific community.

    Explicit dedication of data underlying published science into the public domain via PDDL or CCZero is strongly recommended and ensures compliance with both the Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data and the Open Knowledge/Data Definition.

Authored by:

Peter Murray-Rust, University of Cambridge (UK)
Cameron Neylon, STFC (UK)
Rufus Pollock, Open Knowledge Foundation and University of Cambridge (UK)
John Wilbanks, Science Commons (USA)

With the help of the members of the Open Knowledge Foundation Working Group on Open Data in Science

And you can endorse them here.

(via Chris Leonard on Friendfeed.)

8 responses so far

Friday Fun: The Lie of Star Wars as Entertainment

Feb 19 2010 Published by under friday fun, science fiction

John Scalzi is one of my guaranteed Friday Fun go-to guys. Always amusing, always entertaining and occasionally controversial and provocative.

He's definitely in the controversial and provocative mode here in a 2006 blog post entitled The Lie of Star Wars as Entertainment.

The post is scathingly funny, cruel and vicious and sarcastic and brilliant. And spot on.

So let's not pretend that the Star Wars series is this great piece of entertainment.

Instead, let's call it what it is: A monument to George Lucas pleasuring himself. Which, you know, is fine. I'm happy for Lucas; it's nice that he was able to do that for himself. We all like to make ourselves happy. But since he did it all in public, I just wish he'd been a little more entertaining about it.

BTW, I just picked up the paperback of Scalzi's collection of blog posts from the first ten years of Whatever: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008. I've dipped into it a bit so far, reading and revisiting a couple of posts here and there and the book is fantastic. I know it's all available for free online and that I don't have to pay to read all these wonderful posts's really nice to see them all together like this and I really appreciate the opportunity to send a little cash over Scalzi's way to reward him for a job well done.

It was reading the introduction that reminded me of the Star Wars post.

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My Job in 10 Years: Social Media and the 21st Century Classroom

On Thursday, February 4th, I attended the Social Media and the Modern Day Classroom session that's part of Social Media Week Toronto. It was hosted here at York and most of the presenters were local faculty or staff.

It was a very interesting session in which all the speakers brought something different and valuable to the table.

Neel Joshi moderated and gave an overall shape to the session, asking provocative questions and mostly focusing on Twitter as a learning and community building tool. Laura D'amelio is the Manager of Print & E-Media Content here and she talked about how York is using it's Twitter account to reach out to students and faculty. I also appreciated that she gave a nice shout-out to the work we at the York Libraries are doing in social media. Bryan Brock and Tyrone Edwards of 1LoveTO brought a social media marketing and brand development perspective.

York Computer Science & Engineering professor Andrew Eckford (Twitter) gave the most interesting and perhaps the most relevant to the actual title of the session. He posts about the session on his blog here.

In the presentation, Andrew basically outlined his attempts to integrate social media platforms into his courses: Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Youtube -- he tried them all and is still innovating and trying new things. I find it interesting and enlightening that the platform he found the most useful for supplementing traditional lectures is blogging.

My idea was to replace the standard course website with a blog: the unchanging details of the course (schedule, location, etc.) could still be hosted in some static place, but the blog would communicate the day-to-day details of the course. My first attempt, still online, can be found here. It was an incredible success: the blog formed the core of a vibrant community, which allowed the students to communicate both with me and among themselves. One student was even inspired to start his own blog, transcribing my course notes after each lecture.

Which is really cool. I'd love to try doing a guest post in one of his more advanced courses and I'll probably mention it next time I run into him in the halls (the CS building is right next door to the library). Of course, anytime you open things up in social media, it can get a little rough and tumble and it's obvious that Andrew was willing and able to take the heat and make the most of the free-flowing blog environment, complete with the occasional negative or critical post. And he was very open about that -- he welcomes it all and sees it as part of the process. [1]

Even more interesting are Andrew's musings on the possibilities for social media to replace tradiditional classroom education:

It's worth considering whether social media can replace the university classroom, and I'm going to cop out by answering "yes and no". For one thing, social media is unlikely to replace the small undergraduate class. To form a community based on social media, you need a critical mass highly committed "community builders", who are willing to jump in and participate in whatever media is in use -- be it a blog, facebook, or Twitter. In small classes, there simply aren't enough people to form a critical mass, so anyone trying to participate is left to feel awkward. However, for larger classes, social media does indeed pose an alternative to the traditional classroom order. We have already noticed the trend towards distance learning, so students are already willing to miss out on the impersonal 200-student lecture, even without social media tools at their disposal. A well-thought-out social media strategy, coupled with a high-reputation distance-learning program, could indeed recreate much of the classroom experience, and pose a viable alternative (or threat?) to the traditional university experience. The comparison between traditional universities and traditional media is chillingly apt.

I think he might be on to something: the idea that the availability of open courseware learning objects online -- syllabi, blogs, wikis, Twitter feeds, Facebook groups, video, PowerPoints, etc. -- could be a completely disruptive force for higher education. As he says, the big undergrad survey course with hundreds of students seems particularly vulnerable, as do very practically oriented professional programs.

Of course, people attend brick and mortar universities for a lot of reasons and online is unlikely to replace all of those any time soon. But, it's entirely possible that online educational opportunities will start to draw a critical mass of students away from traditional educational institutions starting very soon. In fact, it's already starting but enrollments are strong enough to mask the issue so far. If it does start to happen, it will significantly weaken the things that traditional universities are good at: graduate education, research, network building. We live in interesting times.

Which brings me to Stop selling scarcity. What universties have "sold" their students in the past was a scarsity of expertise. You had to learn in the physical presense of experts.

In education, we're fooling ourselves if we think that we can maintain our scarcity-based economy: only so many chairs to soak in the wisdom of that teacher. It's a wildly inefficient system -- especially in our industrial-age knowledge factories that try to turn out people who memorize the same answer instead of invent new ones.

Earlier, I've speculated about the idea of an educational ecosystem with star professors whose lectures are widely available (as is the case with MIT and Stanford) and who gain value (books, speaking gigs) through being broadly distributed. Then we have local tutors who give us the specialized instruction and consultation we need.


If you're not the star performer (or professor), if you're the consultant (or tutor) who works much more locally, you do indeed have a scarcity: your own time. That scarcity works against you. So it's in your interest to scale as best you can. That is why people like me blog. The more we share our ideas, the more attention we draw, the more business we can get, the more efficient we are.


The real story in nonphysical goods is one of deflation. Value in once-scarce -- well, once-controlled -- commodities like news, information, and advertising decline as the internet explodes creation and competition. The internet also destroys the ability of many to control distribution and thus value. But at the same time, the internet drastically increases efficiency thanks to platforms and open distribution and the ability -- no, the need -- to specialize and collaborate.

In many ways, it's a depressing and ugly vision of education -- commodified, data mined, commercialized and marketed to the lowest common denominator, with not much room for free inquiry.

In other ways it's incredibly liberating and democratizing, free and open to everyone with the best ideas winning. To be successful going forward, finding what the scarsity is in the educational landscape is the key, helping students learn what they need to know, in the diversity of ways that makes the most sense for each individual. Education is social and connected, not hierarchical. What scarsity do students have?

For libraries embedded within educational institutions, success revolves around finding the right scarsity and meeting those needs for students and faculty.

(More or less an excerpt from Chapter 1, to be continued.)

[1] Just because it's funny, I'll quote the negative comment that Andrew pointed out in the session: "goto hell proffessor bullshit." Really, how seriously can you take a comment from a computer science student who can't spell the word "professor." And, even more damningly, uses the goto statement!

2 responses so far

Recently, all about me.

A bit of self-promotion. Forgive me. I'll be brief.

  • My TAIGA fisking post from a while back is featured prominently in Walt Crawford's most recent Cites & Insights (March 2010) (pdf, html) with quite a bit of value-added comment from Walt on TAIGA, the Darien Statements and other topics. Thanks, Walt.
  • I'm flattered to be mentioned in Graham Lavender's presentation at the recent Web2.You conference in Montreal. His very fine presentation was on Blogs and Twitter for Individuals and Institutions. No doubt referring to my 2008 presentation at Web2.You, on slide 3 he mentions that "Everything I know about blogging I learned from John Dupuis." An exaggeration to be sure, but I appreciate the thought. Thanks!
  • For those of you attending the Ontario Library Association Super Conference 2010 next week, Janice Mutz and I will be partially reprising my 2008 OLA presentation on My Job in 10 Years. Janice and I met after that presentation and started a dialogue about redoing and re-imagining the session as something less of a presentation and more of a unconference-y conversation. And that's what we're aiming for this time around and we've tried to reflect that in the title of the session -- Our Job in 10 Years.

    We're up on Thursday, February 25th at 9:05 am.

    Our Job in 10 Years: The future of academic libraries

    John Dupuis, Science Librarian, York University Libraries;
    Janice Mutz, Information Literacy Librarian, Chancellor Paterson Library, Lakehead University

    Time to look into those crystal balls! The world is changing, libraries are changing, students are changing. This volatile environment is challenging academic librarians to evolve our practice in unexpected ways. The best way to prepare for change is to think about it, discuss it, and maybe (this is a big maybe!), anticipate the way things might change. This presentation is just such an exercise. Join this panel of front-line academic librarians as we explore these issues and come prepared to give us your two cents worth!

    Convenor: Sarah Forbes, University of Toronto Scarborough

    (BTW, thanks, Bruce, for the kind words!)

6 responses so far

Jenkins, Mark Collins. Vampire forensics: Uncovering the origins of an enduring legend. Washington: National Geographic, 2010. 303pp.

Feb 17 2010 Published by under book review, science books, science fiction

I've always been a huge vampire fan -- I watched my first Dracula movie when I was about 8-10 years old, on TV, one of the vintage Hammer films with Christopher Lee. I read the original novel when I was a teenager and was a fan of the Marvel comic versions as well. Since then, I've read a zillion vampire novels, read more comics and watched a ton of vampire movies and TV series -- Dark Shadows, Buffy and more. My favourite Dracula will always be Lee though I've also appreciated Lugosi, Louis Jordan and especially Jack Palance. The more romantic versions by Gary Oldman or Frank Langella have always left me a bit cold.

I prefer my vamps menacing rather than cuddly, although I can manage it when a cuddly vampire is embedded in a more evil vampire milieu, like Angel and Spike within the Buffyverse. A couple of my favourite vampire novels include the brilliant Fevre Dream by George RR Martin and Anno Dracula by Kim Newman and the underrated Blood of the Impaler by Jeffrey Sackett. Some more recent ones I've enjoyed include Fat White Vampire Blues and it's sequel Bride of the Fat White Vampire. I've tended to stay away from the current crop of vampire romance.

Not so much recently, but I've also read a fair bit on the historical and cultural aspects of Dracula and vampires: In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires, American Vampires: Fans, Victims, Practitioners, Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen, A Dream of Dracula: In Search of the Living Dead and Vampires, Mummies and Liberals: Bram Stoker and the Politics of Popular Fiction. You get the picture.

This is all to say, I've come to Mark Collins Jenkins' Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend as an experienced vampophile.

The stated purpose of Jenkins' book is to explore the scientific, historical and cultural roots of vampire myths and legends, and given all that I've read before on the subject, I have to say he's done a pretty good job of it. Not great, but good.

I think part of the problem is that he goes into too much historical detail on the various myths and legends of various countries and time periods without directly relating them to more concrete forensic or anthropological details. It's not so much Vampire CSI as Vampire TMZ.

Not that there's anything wrong with that -- there isn't. In fact, Jenkins does a good job on the historical material, making stuff that might be dry or boring very lively and interesting. He has a good sense of humour and shows flashes of understanding about how slightly absurd and ridiculous the whole project is (and I mean absurd and ridiculous in a very positive sense, of course), but I think the promise of the title is a bit more balance on the science side. There are some chapters that deal with possible diseases that could have started the legends (ie. porphyria), as well as epidemiological investigations of how the Black Plague may have been the root, but overall I was hoping for more.

Overall, a very entertaining book, if slightly mislabeled. I really appreciated the very fine bibliography, one that would be well worth looking at for anyone wishing to build a collection on vampire and related folklore.

One unfortunate typo that made it through the copy editing, in fact one that was probably introduced by the author's or editor's spell checking software, is rather amusing. On page 48, refering to the original novel, Collins mentions that Lucy Westenra comes back as the "Blooper Lady" when of course it should be "Bloofer Lady." Rarely is a blooper so appropriate.

I would definately recommend this book for anyone interested in vampire folklore as a great place to start their investigations. It would also be a good pick for most larger public library collections. As for academic libraries, unless there were particular courses or programs that the book would be relevant for, I would probably give it a pass.

Jenkins, Mark Collins. Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend Washington: National Geographic, 2010. 303pp.

5 responses so far

The axe falls at CISTI

As a follow up to my previous posts about the situation at Canada's national science library, NRC-CISTI, here, here and here, this was in the Ottawa Citizen today, NRC to lay off 86 workers in April.

The National Research Council is laying off 86 people as part of cuts announced last year to reduce costs at the country's leading research organization.

The layoffs begin in April and will affect employees at the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI), the country's national science library and leading publisher of scientific information. By the time it is over, CISTI, which used to employ about 350 people, will be down by close to 70 per cent, union officials say.


NRC president Pierre Coulombe told employees in a memo last year that two research groups of the Institute for Information Technology and another in the Institute for Microstructural Sciences would be phased out in a major reorganization. CISTI would be downsized, and its publishing arm privatized. The cuts were in response to a program review ordered by the federal government to reduce costs in the public service. Coulombe warned at the time that the changes "will have significant impact" on jobs and some feared that up to 300 jobs would be lost.

But NRC and union officials say the number affected is 86.

NRC spokeswoman Leslie Meearburg said most of the people being laid off are information specialists and administrators.

"No scientists have been affected by the CISTI transformation," Meearburg said.

For "information specialists" read librarians. It's too bad we have a government that doesn't value science or information very much -- much less scientific information.

I'd also be curious to hear what the scientists inside the NRC have to say about what's happening at CISTI.

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Friday Fun: The Onion on the iPad

Feb 12 2010 Published by under friday fun

Following up on my Onion post a few weeks back on a Frantic Steve Jobs Stays Up All Night Designing Apple Tablet I thought I'd do an update on The Onion's article Apple Finally Unveils iPad.

Here's most of what they say:

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled Apple's new tablet computer, the iPad, during a presentation in San Francisco last week. Here are some of its features:

  • Awkward name enables Twitter users to make the same joke over and over and over again
  • Super slick design makes it impossible to hold, pick up, or stop from sliding down the street
  • Softly whimpers if left alone for too long
  • Photo album of the Jobs family summer vacation in Aruba
  • Free pair of black-rimmed glasses, turtleneck, and position at New York City architecture firm
  • To ensure that its users receive the constant public attention they crave, the iPad will emit the phrase "Hey, does that guy have an iPad?" every eight minutes

(No, I'm not dead. I might actually have a real post later today.)

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