Archive for: May, 2011

Twitter is clean, expressive and human

Twitterers of the world.

We've all heard the questions. The murmurs. The doubts and whispers.

"Twitter is a waste of time," they say.

"People are just talking about what they ate for breakfast, or what their dog is doing."

"No good can come of it, no way to spend work time, turning us all into ADHD cases."

The mother of all social media doubter articles came out a little while back, The New York Time's Bill Keller on The Twitter Trap:

I don't mean to be a spoilsport, and I don't think I'm a Luddite. I edit a newspaper that has embraced new media with creative, prizewinning gusto. I get that the Web reaches and engages a vast, global audience, that it invites participation and facilitates -- up to a point -- newsgathering. But before we succumb to digital idolatry, we should consider that innovation often comes at a price. And sometimes I wonder if the price is a piece of ourselves.


As a kind of masochistic experiment, the other day I tweeted "#TwitterMakesYouStupid. Discuss." It produced a few flashes of wit ("Give a little credit to our public schools!"); a couple of earnestly obvious points ("Depends who you follow"); some understandable speculation that my account had been hacked by a troll; a message from my wife ("I don't know if Twitter makes you stupid, but it's making you late for dinner. Come home!"); and an awful lot of nyah-nyah-nyah ("Um, wrong." "Nuh-uh!!"). Almost everyone who had anything profound to say in response to my little provocation chose to say it outside Twitter. In an actual discussion, the marshaling of information is cumulative, complication is acknowledged, sometimes persuasion occurs. In a Twitter discussion, opinions and our tolerance for others' opinions are stunted. Whether or not Twitter makes you stupid, it certainly makes some smart people sound stupid.

While I don't necessarily disagree with every point that Keller makes, I think the thing that bothers me the most is the unspoken disdain for different ways of being social and engaged in the world.

I don't think Twitter people are less engaged with in-person socializing -- in fact, my overall social media presence has made me a ton of new in-person friends both in my home city and institution as well as around the world. And Twitter has been a bit part of that in the last couple of years. In particular, I have to say that Twitter has been an amazing tool for building contacts and relationships within my institution. And even real friendships. And I have a hard time believing I'm alone in this.

Twitter has also become an incredible source of ideas and provocation and engagement. Interestingly that engagement and learning usually happens one of two ways.

Either in a short, bursty exchange with one or more people. Or via a link to a more indepth blog post or article. So in a sense, Twitter is quick and superficial but it often leads to something deeper and more meaningful -- but not on Twitter itself.

Sure, Twitter is the source of an awful lot of shinyshinyshiny distraction for me. Is it something I have to work at keeping in check? Of course. But that's not Twitter's fault, it's my fault.

So, where did I get the wonderful title for this post?

A wonderful and subtle defense of Twitter in particular and social media in general, Thoughts on Twitter.

Here is my experience, and what Twitter has done for me: I have never been as well informed or strategically connected in my life. I have never been as current with those I care about and are interested in. I have never been able to identify what people are talking about, across the world and a universe of possible topics, as quickly or easily as I can today, through Twitter. I have never been as consistently entertained or amused, by the regular observations of some very smart people who are now, effortlessly, in my orbit. It is as fundamental a communications tool for me as e-mail and one that, in many ways, is much more powerful.


Twitter is clean, expressive and human. 140 characters, right there. Things to know, reasons to laugh, thoughts or notions to share, updates to consider, information that is helpful or silly, exchanged on your own terms, with people you have chosen to hear from. A link to the most moving or intelligent blog post you've ever read, right down to word that some guy on a plane just ignominiously broke out a tuna and onion sandwich, pre-takeoff, which makes you smile.


That's another great and fundamental thing about Twitter, you build your own experience, to suit your interests and needs. As I've said before, in a Tweet, it's like the most interesting room in the world, because the whole world is in the room - and you can hear the conversations you want to, talk to the people you choose... Twitter is the frame, not the picture, what's inside is largely up to you.

That's another key line: "Twitter is the frame, not the picture, what's inside is largely up to you."

Twitter is what you make of it, for good or ill. There's lots of ill, no doubt, but I think there's way more in the good column.

No responses yet

Books I'd like to read

May 30 2011 Published by under books i'd like to read

A very, very long time since I've done one of these...

For your reading and collection development pleasure:

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

In a sense, The Information is a book about everything, from words themselves to talking drums, writing and lexicography, early attempts at an analytical engine, the telegraph and telephone, ENIAC, and the ubiquitous computers that followed. But that's just the "History." The "Theory" focuses on such 20th-century notables as Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener, Alan Turing, and others who worked on coding, decoding, and re-coding both the meaning and the myriad messages transmitted via the media of their times. In the "Flood," Gleick explains genetics as biology's mechanism for informational exchange--Is a chicken just an egg's way of making another egg?--and discusses self-replicating memes (ideas as different as earworms and racism) as information's own evolving meta-life forms. Along the way, readers learn about music and quantum mechanics, why forgetting takes work, the meaning of an "interesting number," and why "[t]he bit is the ultimate unsplittable particle." What results is a visceral sense of information's contemporary precedence as a way of understanding the world, a physical/symbolic palimpsest of self-propelled exchange, the universe itself as the ultimate analytical engine. If Borges's "Library of Babel" is literature's iconic cautionary tale about the extreme of informational overload, Gleick sees the opposite, the world as an endlessly unfolding opportunity in which "creatures of the information" may just recognize themselves. --Jason Kirk

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser

An eye-opening account of how the hidden rise of personalization on the Internet is controlling-and limiting-the information we consume.

In December 2009, Google began customizing its search results for each user. Instead of giving you the most broadly popular result, Google now tries to predict what you are most likely to click on. According to board president Eli Pariser, Google's change in policy is symptomatic of the most significant shift to take place on the Web in recent years-the rise of personalization. In this groundbreaking investigation of the new hidden Web, Pariser uncovers how this growing trend threatens to control how we consume and share information as a society-and reveals what we can do about it.

Though the phenomenon has gone largely undetected until now, personalized filters are sweeping the Web, creating individual universes of information for each of us. Facebook-the primary news source for an increasing number of Americans-prioritizes the links it believes will appeal to you so that if you are a liberal, you can expect to see only progressive links. Even an old-media bastion like The Washington Post devotes the top of its home page to a news feed with the links your Facebook friends are sharing. Behind the scenes a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking your personal information to sell to advertisers, from your political leanings to the color you painted your living room to the hiking boots you just browsed on Zap

The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan

In the beginning, the World Wide Web was exciting and open to the point of anarchy, a vast and intimidating repository of unindexed confusion. Into this creative chaos came Google with its dazzling mission--"To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible"--and its much-quoted motto, "Don't be Evil." In this provocative book, Siva Vaidhyanathan examines the ways we have used and embraced Google--and the growing resistance to its expansion across the globe. He exposes the dark side of our Google fantasies, raising red flags about issues of intellectual property and the much-touted Google Book Search. He assesses Google's global impact, particularly in China, and explains the insidious effect of Googlization on the way we think. Finally, Vaidhyanathan proposes the construction of an Internet ecosystem designed to benefit the whole world and keep one brilliant and powerful company from falling into the "evil" it pledged to avoid.

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Consider Facebook--it's human contact, only easier to engage with and easier to avoid. Developing technology promises closeness. Sometimes it delivers, but much of our modern life leaves us less connected with people and more connected to simulations of them.

In Alone Together, MIT technology and society professor Sherry Turkle explores the power of our new tools and toys to dramatically alter our social lives. It's a nuanced exploration of what we are looking for--and sacrificing--in a world of electronic companions and social networking tools, and an argument that, despite the hand-waving of today's self-described prophets of the future, it will be the next generation who will chart the path between isolation and connectivity.

The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom by Evgeny Morozov

"The revolution will be Twittered!" declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran in June 2009. Yet for all the talk about the democratizing power of the Internet, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. In fact, authoritarian governments are effectively using the Internet to suppress free speech, hone their surveillance techniques, disseminate cutting-edge propaganda, and pacify their populations with digital entertainment. Could the recent Western obsession with promoting democracy by digital means backfire?

In this spirited book, journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov shows that by falling for the supposedly democratizing nature of the Internet, Western do-gooders may have missed how it also entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder--not easier--to promote democracy. Buzzwords like "21st-century statecraft" sound good in PowerPoint presentations, but the reality is that "digital diplomacy" requires just as much oversight and consideration as any other kind of diplomacy.

Marshaling compelling evidence, Morozov shows why we must stop thinking of the Internet and social media as inherently liberating and why ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of "Internet freedom" might have disastrous implications for the future of democracy as a whole.

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

Visionary game designer Jane McGonigal reveals how we can harness the power of games to solve real-world problems and boost global happiness.

More than 174 million Americans are gamers, and the average young person in the United States will spend ten thousand hours gaming by the age of twenty-one. According to world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal, the reason for this mass exodus to virtual worlds is that videogames are increasingly fulfilling genuine human needs. In this groundbreaking exploration of the power and future of gaming, McGonigal reveals how we can use the lessons of game design to fix what is wrong with the real world.

Drawing on positive psychology, cognitive science, and sociology, Reality Is Broken uncovers how game designers have hit on core truths about what makes us happy and utilized these discoveriesto astonishing effect in virtual environments. Videogames consistently provide the exhilarating rewards, stimulating challenges, and epic victories that are so often lacking in the real world. But why, McGonigal asks, should we use the power of games for escapist entertainment alone? Her research suggests that gamers are expert problem solvers and collaborators because they regularly cooperate with other players to overcome daunting virtual challenges, and she helped pioneer a fast-growing genre of games that aims to turn gameplay to socially positive ends.

In Reality Is Broken, she reveals how these new alternate reality games are already improving the quality of our daily lives, fighting social problems such as depression and obesity, and addressing vital twenty-first-century challenges-and she forecasts the thrilling possibilities that lie ahead. She introduces us to games like World Without Oil, a simulation designed to brainstorm-and therefore avert- the challenges of a worldwide oil shortage, and Evoke, a game commissioned by the World Bank Institute that sends players on missions to address issues from poverty to climate change.

McGonigal persuasively argues that those who continue to dismiss games will be at a major disadvantage in the coming years. Gamers, on the other hand, will be able to leverage the collaborative and motivational power of games in their own lives, communities, and businesses. Written for gamers and nongamers alike, Reality Is Broken shows us that the future will belong to those who can understand, design, and play games.

One response so far

From the Archives: The trouble with physics: The rise of string theory, the of a science, and what comes next by Lee Smolin

I have a whole pile of science-y book reviews on two of my older blogs, here and here. Both of those blogs have now been largely superseded by or merged into this one. So I'm going to be slowly moving the relevant reviews over here. I'll mostly be doing the posts one or two per weekend and I'll occasionally be merging two or more shorter reviews into one post here.

This one, of The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, is from August 14, 2007.


This one of those very rare books, books that make you truly smarter and more knowledgeable than when you started. What does Lee Smolin, physicist at Waterloo's Perimeter Institute, make us smarter and more knowledgeable about, you ask? First of all, the history of theoretical particle physics and the search for a theory that unifies classical physics and quantum theory. Second, the progress of String Theory as a unifying theory and it's alternatives. Third, the culture of the physics community and how it influences the first two.

It's also one of those books that just stops you in your tracks every once in a while. An insight or a story provoking intense reflection and concentration. I'd be sitting there, reading, and suddenly, staring off into space. It makes for a slow but worthwhile reading experience. Since the book treats a lot of fairly advanced topics in theoretical physics, it's also a pretty mind expanding experience, requiring a fair bit of comprehension to soak it all in. Any previous knowledge of string theory or other physics concepts will only enhance the enjoyment (and comprehension) of this book. My general physics knowledge is probably above average and there were a couple of parts where I struggled a bit. There were times when things seemed to make perfect sense while I was reading; then, after putting the book down for a bit, all comprehension simply vanished. On the other hand, as will become apparent later in the review, the hard-core physics stuff isn't really the main payoff of the book so if you find yourself skimming some of the particularly hairy parts in order to keep up your momentum, that's OK.

The main topic of the book has to do with the lack of really productive research in physics since the mid-1970s, when the Standard Model was set out. Since that time, the main focus of theoretical physics has been String Theory. However, as advanced as the theory is, there has been no experimental proof that it is valid. In this sense, compared to the insane pace of advances in the previous century (from atomic theory, to relativity to Quantum Theory to the Standard Model), physics is in a crisis. Smolin attempts to understand that crisis, both from a scientific viewpoint and from a more sociological/philosophical viewpoint as well. Now, there's no more hoary a cliche than the brilliant scientist that turns to philosophy of science in his dotage, mostly to his embarrassment, but Smolin is no geezer and he definitely doesn't embarrass himself is his attempt to understand why the incredibly bright community of physicists has failed to make significant progress in such a long time. Smolin is certainly not afraid to criticize the String Theory community for being too single-minded, for refusing to entertain alternative ideas about theoretical physics, or the physicists themselves for being a bit arrogant or dismissive of their colleagues.

This is a brave and worthwhile book. Read it to learn a lot of physics. Read it to learn a lot about the culture of physics. But definitely read it.

Two blogs to check out in relation to this book, one pro-String Theory and one more skeptical are the group blog Cosmic Variance (example here) and Not Even Wrong (here).

Smolin, Lee. The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 392pp.

6 responses so far

Friday Fun: A Letter to God Following the Cancellation of the Rapture

May 27 2011 Published by under friday fun

Yep, the promised Rapture from this past weekend didn't materialize. Or more precisely, I didn't de-materialize and ascend into heaven this past weekend.

I don't know about you, but I was pretty pissed. Disappointed that I wasn't able to join all my childhood pets at the left hand of god. Or whatever.

Anyways, I totally agree with the sentiments from A Letter to God Following the Cancellation of the Rapture from that noted religious publication, my favourite source of divine wisdom,

Here's what the author of the letter, Soren Bowie, has to say:

Dear God,

You screwed me. Not in a literal sense -- though I suppose your omnipresence raises interesting questions about our shared levels of intimacy. But that's outside the point. You gave the Earth a terminal prognosis -- a window of certain death on May 21st -- and then on a whim, you just changed your mind and canceled it. So while you bask in praise over the next few weeks for saving millions of people, I also want you to remember that you made me look like a complete idiot. That's on your shoulders now and you have to live with that. I put a lot of stock into your promise of that rapture, and certainly didn't anticipate seeing anyone I know ever again. Yet here I am ... still, left with nowhere to go and standing on the opposite side of awkwardness from girlfriends, neighbors and coworkers, watching what's left of a bridge burn between us. I think I deserve to know what happened.


I quit recycling too. I gave it up completely. I stopped separating plastics or buying energy-conscious products because I assumed it was pointless now. Well it wasn't pointless, was it? Now I look like a dick. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to invite a woman to your house with whom you'd like to sexually fuse, and to have her notice that your bulbs are not florescent? I'll save the trouble of guessing and tell you that the answer is: Very. It's very embarrassing. Now I have the hassle of hiring someone to pick through my trash and re-separate everything. Plus, I genuinely have no idea how many six-pack rings I let slip into landfills and oceans, uncut, over the past two weeks. Your lies make me feel terrible about myself and that's not something that friends do to one another. Couples maybe, but not friends.

Hear, hear. You tell 'm Soren!

One response so far

Don't discard the librarians?

A very nice article by Ian Brown in this past Saturday's Globe and Mail, Don't discard the librarians.

He very nicely summarizes the recent library/librarian angst that's been free-flowing around the media and blogosphere over the last little while.

The world of librarians was thrown into a tizzy this week - it doesn't take much these days - when the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board announced it will shut its school libraries and dump all but four of its library technicians.


That was the tip of the iceberg. While Windsor defended its slash, top-level librarians attended a symposium at McMaster University in Hamilton on the future of academic libraries. Discussion whirled around the radical proposals of McMaster's university librarian, Jeff Trzeciak. Mr. Trzeciak is the mad dog of research librarians: His deeply digital vision is one in which shrunken libraries are staffed not by librarians, but by information technologists and (much cheaper) post-doctoral students. Those aren't just ideas, either. The University of Denver library recently put 80 per cent of its books in storage.

And so on.

He even makes a nice case for the role of librarians in the future, as good as any such explication I've seen in the popular media.

Here is the case for human librarians: You, the information consumer, don't want to go insane.


Librarians know what's available in a field, where to find it, whether to use it. You, on the other hand, have to write a paper about the self in Hamlet. Try Googling that without the help of a professional librarian: 12.3 million results.

Brown's performed a very valuable public service in this article, making a case that the information universe isn't only simpler than it used to be, but it is also in some ways more complicated. And that librarians can play a role in helping people negotiate that complexity.

As David Weinberger so aptly puts it, Remember what it was like to be dumb? Although I guess I wouldn't have put it exactly that way. I would have said, "Remember what it was like to be ignorant?"

Once upon a time, libraries and librarians concentrated as much on making us less ignorant as they did on making us less dumb.

Now, I think we as librarians have to concentrate on making us all, as individuals and as parts of a larger social context, less dumb.


A couple of supplemental points. First of all, when you read the Brown article please do take some time to read over the comments. It's quite a lively "Librarians FTW" vs. "Fire 'em all and let Google sort 'em out" debate. Which I think a few commenters have interestingly tied to valuing social vs. commercial aspects of community life.

As well, I'd like to express a fond wish that Brown had gone beyond a such a strong Toronto (particularly a University of Toronto) focus in the preparation of the article, disappointing in a national newspaper but not really that surprising.

No responses yet

From the Archives: Sharing, Privacy and Trust in a Networked World by OCLC

I have a whole pile of science-y book reviews on two of my older blogs, here and here. Both of those blogs have now been largely superseded by or merged into this one. So I'm going to be slowly moving the relevant reviews over here. I'll mostly be doing the posts one or two per weekend and I'll occasionally be merging two or more shorter reviews into one post here.

This one, of Sharing, Privacy and Trust in a Networked World, is from November 19, 2011.


OCLC's newest state of the library world/environmental scan report was published a few months ago: Sharing, Privacy and Trust in a Networked World. This one focuses on the potential roles of social networks for libraries and the implications they might have on our practices and norms.

It's an extremely interesting and provocative report, one that inspires us to move forward with new initiatives while at the same time setting some pretty daunting challenges before us.

The practice of using a social network to establish and enhance relationships based on some common ground--shared interests, related skills, or a common geographic location--is as old as human societies, but social networking has flourished due to the ease of connecting on the Web. This OCLC membership report explores this web of social participation and cooperation on the Internet and how it may impact the library's role, including:

  • The use of social networking, social media, commercial and library services on the Web
  • How and what users and librarians share on the Web and their attitudes toward related privacy issues
  • Opinions on privacy online
  • Libraries' current and future roles in social networking

The report is based on a survey (by Harris Interactive on behalf of OCLC) of the general public from six countries--Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States--and of library directors from the U.S. The research provides insights into the values and social-networking habits of library users.

As it happens, I was lucky enough to receive a print copy in the mail a month or so ago without even asking, no doubt with the idea that I'm some sort of opinion leader in these things. Be that as it may, as with most of the free books (and there's not many) that come through here I feel compelled to comment.

In this particular case, I do have some overall ideas about the implications of the report but I'll get to those later. First off, I think I'll tackle some of the statistics that are presented, highlighting what struck me as interesting, surprising or unusual. I'll also comment on some of the interviews with their librarian panel of experts: a good list, rounding up some of the usual suspects but also quite a few voices that were unfamiliar to me.

The sections include the survey responses (sections 1-3), interviews with US library directors (4), libraries and social networking survey responses (5), interviews with the panel of expert librarians (6), report highlights (7) and conclusion (8).


  • Page 1-6: Interesting that 20% of those surveyed had created content online. A bit larger than I would have thought, but if you include flickr, commenting on blogs, etc., not that surprising.

  • 1-20, 21. People are reading more but increasingly online. Exactly what I would have thought. The web is still largely a text medium and reading text will remain an important part of an increasingly diverse online experience.

  • 2-12 to 2-15. Combining the various language/national groups on the reporting of the favourite social networking site is probably not useful. Comparing the raw percentages for Mixi and MySpace is like comparing apples to oranges.

  • 2-17. No surprise. We use the social networks our friends use. It's like hanging out at the same mall that our friends hang out at.

  • 2-38. In the last two years, it seems only a small percentage of people have actually stopped using a particular social networking site after initially joining in the last two years. Somehow I thought that people would be trying out a bunch of different sites and only sticking with the ones they liked or where they discovered most of their friends.

  • 3-6. It seems that most people use the same password on all the sites they inhabit. There is a significant number (16%) that always use different passwords. I use a small number of configurable passwords over and over and find that the best for me. For example, I never have to write a password down anywhere, I can just remember them all.

  • 3-11. Most people are more comfortable showing their true personality in person while a significant minority are more comfortable showing their true personality online. But what does it mean to share your true personality online. Does it mean that the trolls are totally liberated to be the idiots they truly are? Do they feel constrained by civilized society in person? On the other hand, do shy or awkward people find a healthy and constructive freedom to express things online that they don't in person?

  • 3-36 to 3-38. Really interesting numbers here about how people feel about disclosing their personal information to the library and the trade-offs between privacy and personalized services.

  • 4-13. Interesting. Most people join social networks because they are fun or because that's where their friends are. Library directors join them because they are useful; fun and friends come later.

  • 5-3. Although the population expresses a low level of interest in participating in library hosted social networking activities, I'm not too concerned. After all, a small percentage of a large population can be quite a few people. If only 10% of the 55,000+ population of York publishes creative work or contributes to a discussion group, well, that's 5-6000 people.

  • 5-4 to 5-7. Only 10-20% think the library should build social networking sites. We should be learning or information centres. As if there can be no learning or information in social networking sites...

  • Section 6. Lots of interesting commentary here by the panel of librarian experts. Mostly about how libraries have no choice but to engage students in social networks, that if we don't find a role in the 2.0 world we will lose a generation. Also about the conflicts between security and access. Good, thoughtful stuff here, a nice range of opinion, some dissenting voices to what otherwise might have been groupthink.

  • 7-8. Both users and library directors are skeptical about libraries' role in social networks. Not surprising. We're in the middle.

  • 8-2 to 8-3. I like that concept that they mention here, messy participation. Social networks are diverse and chaotic, not interoperable in any meaningful way. But they are also incredibly compelling and engaging, almost as a function of their messiness. Privacy and security are evolving concepts, perhaps even in opposition to the messiness.

  • 8-6 to 8-8. The message? We have a challenge facing us.

The twin challenges we face:

  • My core assumption is that libraries can have something compelling to offer our patrons in social network spaces. Unfortunately, any entry into social networks won't be exploiting a need that that our patrons are clamouring for. We'll be ahead of them here, and that's always a challenge. We need to find a way to make the library messier and looser, to encourage participation, to open the doors and engage these new spaces in a way that our patrons will find compelling. There's nothing sadder than an empty social network. We'll need ingenuity and patience, a willingness to try things, a tolerance for failure. The idea nurture a lot of different ideas, some of which grow into successful programs. We'll need a willingness to find partners on our campuses and within our broader communities. We need to work with those partners to build the social spaces that our students will need and use.

  • The second challenge is privacy. We need to reconcile the clean, secure, private library with the web of messy participation and customized services. We've always seen patron privacy as one of our core, bedrock values but we're going to need to think about putting more of the privacy decisions into the hands of our patrons. If we want them to trust us, to open up to our spaces, we going to need to trust them a little bit too. And we'll probably need to make the first move on this one too.

From page vii of the report:

What is it that motivates, even inspires, millions of users to spend hours online, not searching for information, but creating information, building content and establishing online communities? What drives users to not only contribute information, but to contribute "themselves," creating detailed personal profiles on social sites and sharing that information to establish new relationships with hundreds of new virtual friends?

It's the same thing that motivates people to contribute to open sources software projects. It's fun. They (we) enjoy the "work" we do on the web. We find actively contributing and participating more enjoyable than most TV or films or books or newspaper or magazines that are out there so that's what we choose to spend our time on. How do we make contributing to our social spaces that much fun?

So, read the report. Think about it, engage with it very closely and carefully. There's lots of information to digest and ideas to ponder. The path to the future may or may not be in the report but it certainly has a lot of food for thought about one path forward: making libraries socially networked teaching and learning spaces where students can share and discover. Actually, I don't think that strays too far from what we've always seen as our core mission.

(Review copy of report supplied by the publisher)

2 responses so far

Friday Fun: University Appoints Twelve Efficiency Czars to Streamline Bureaucracy

May 20 2011 Published by under friday fun

One of the reason I love the Cronk News so much is that sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry at one of their stories.

This is definitely one of those cases.

Oh, higher ed, you poor, poor deluded little dear.

Take a gander and read the whole article: SUNC Appoints Twelve Efficiency Czars to Streamline Bureaucracy.

"Our organizational chart is currently 70 layers deep, which is why I'm recommending we trim down to something the legislature will view as more reasonable, like 65 or 66," Brescia offered. "Unless the legislature continues to provide 40 percent of our funding SUNC won't stay afloat."

One response so far

McMastergate in chronological order, or, Do libraries need librarians? (Updated!)

So, here's the story. A week or so ago, McMaster University Librarian Jeff Trzeciak gave an invited presentation at Penn State, tasked by the organizers to be controversial.

To say the least, he succeeded. Perhaps the most controversial idea in the presentation was that he would basically no longer hire librarians for his organization, only subject PhDs and IT specialists.

As you can imagine, the library blogosphere and Friendfeedosphere has had a field day with this one.

You can see the slide in question here and get a bit of a background on the situation of librarians at McMaster here.

What follows is a chronological list of all the relevant posts I've been able to find.

There's a pretty lively debate on The Future of Librarianship going on in this Google Doc. Join in!

As usual, if you know of any relevant posts or other online documents that I've missed, please let me know in the comments or at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.

I'm still ruminating about my own response to this and will probably get something up in the not-too-distant future.

(And yes, this is somewhat related to that Future of Academic Libraries conference mita and I wrote about recently.)

Update 2011.04.15: Added a few new posts from April 14 & 15.
Update 2011.04.16: Added a couple of new posts from April 15 & 16 and a link to the Google Docs debate.
Update 2011.04.19: Added a couple of new posts up to April 19 & reposted with that date. I've also backloaded some posts on the Future of Academic Libraries Symposium which I think is related enough to include here.
Update 2011.04.20: Added another item from April 19.
Update 2011.04.21: Added a couple from April 20.
Update 2011.04.24: Added a couple covering up to April 24. I've also expanded the topic to include some posts on online civility that grew out of this and other controversies.
Update 2011.04.28: Added a couple up to April 28.
Update 2011.05.16: Added a couple up to May 16, as the McMaster conference approaches. Also added a straggler from April 21.
Update 2011.05.17: Added a few more from May 15-17. Also, reposted to today's date for the McMaster symposium.
Update 2011.05.20: Added a few more up to May 20.
Update 2011.06.01: Added a few more up to May 27 and a few earlier stragglers.
Update 2011.07.07: Added a few more up to July 5 and a few earlier stragglers.
Update 2011.12.14: Added a few more up to December 14, including a link to another link dump post on the The Academic Librarianship -- A Crisis or an Opportunity? symposium. I may copy those symposium-related posts here at some point.
Update 2012.02.29: Brought up to date with the announcement that Jeff Trzeciak is leaving McMaster.

22 responses so far

Academic librarians are the future

May 16 2011 Published by under acad lib future, academia, education, librarianship

From the University of Toronto Academic Librarians' blog:

i-bc4bf13983a37dbb95e6cac4fcfd31ea-macbutton2.jpgIn response to McMaster University and their Library's recent treatment of their academic librarians and the notable gender imbalance at the May 17 conference at McMaster University (given that 80% of librarians are women), entitled "The Future of Academic Libraries" and which does not include McMaster University librarians, CAUT has produced a button which the UTFA Librarians Committee is urging all who support the role of academic librarianship to wear when attending the May 17th conference. For those from other universities who wish to silently show their support, contact, for some buttons.

Also from the University of Toronto Academic Librarians' blog, a Letter to President and Provost and Vice-President (Academic), McMaster University, for which you can find the full text here.

You might also be interested in reading the McMaster University Academic Librarians' Association review of their university librarian here.

Related to all this is my recently updated post, McMastergate in chronological order, or, Do libraries need librarians?.

I'm hoping to have a post responding to the themes in the symposium up tomorrow or very shortly after.

(via Dean Giustini)

One response so far

From the Archives: Debunking 9/11 myths: Why conspiracy theories can't stand up to the facts by Dunbar and Reagan

May 15 2011 Published by under book review, engineering, science books

I have a whole pile of science-y book reviews on two of my older blogs, here and here. Both of those blogs have now been largely superseded by or merged into this one. So I'm going to be slowly moving the relevant reviews over here. I'll mostly be doing the posts one or two per weekend and I'll occasionally be merging two or more shorter reviews into one post here.

This one, of Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts, is from February 24, 2008.


This is one of those books that I picked up at a the train station cheap remaindered books kiosk. I do that every once in a while, find a quick read for a long train ride. And this short book is certainly a short and involving read. It's an expansion of a long article in Popular Mechanics a few years ago which took at a bunch of different 9/11 conspiracy theories, looked at the facts from a science and engineering perspective and decided if the theory had any real basis. Guess what? None of them did.

This may be a quick read, but it's still a very important one. There's a lot of stupid stuff on the Web, a lot of it pet theories about what really happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. This book will, I hope, start the process of setting at least some of them straight.

What are some of the myths that are debunked? That not enough damage was caused to the buildings to cause them to collapse. That puffs of dust visible while the buildings were collapsing were the results of planned explosions. That nearby seismographs detected those planned explosions. That WTC 7's collapse was also the result of a controlled demolition. That the Pentagon's blast-proof windows could not have survived a real crash. That Flight 93 was shot down by jet fighters. Well, the list goes on.

And on that topic, in my opinion, are the myths effectively debunked? They certainly are. Some of them are so loopy that it's hard to even believe that some people out there give them any credence at all.

I would recommend this book without hesitation for all public, school and academic libraries.

Dunbar, David and Brad Reagan, eds. Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts. New York: Hearst, 2006. 170pp.

Update 2011.05.16. I should have noted that there's a new, expanded edition of this book coming out in August. Check it out here.

4 responses so far

Older posts »