Archive for: April, 2012

Around the Web: DRM is a toothless boogeyman, Shaking up the lecture, Copyright in Canada and more

Apr 30 2012 Published by under around the web

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The Canadian War on Science: Environmental rules should be better, not easier

Apr 27 2012 Published by under Canada, environment, Politics

David Suzuki is a icon for the Canadian environmental movement. He's like our Al Gore and Rachel Carson all rolled up into one. I read and reviewed his memoirs a while back and they are terrific.

When he talks, sensible people listen.

This blog post by Suzuki and Ian Hanington hit my in box this morning: Environmental rules should be better, not easier

Few people would argue against making environmental review processes and regulations more efficient -- as long as they're effective. But changes announced in the recent federal budget don't do that. Instead, they make it easier for the federal government and industry to push through projects that could harm the environment and the economy, and limit the ability of ordinary Canadian citizens to have a say in matters of national importance.


Eliminating environmental reviews for some projects altogether, shifting responsibility to the provinces, and severely cutting back on staff and agencies that provide management and information are not ways to make processes more efficient; they're ways to accelerate approval of major projects, making the short-term interests of industry a higher priority than protecting the air, land, and water we all need to stay healthy.


We all want a free and democratic country with a healthy environment and strong economy. The best way to guarantee that is to encourage scientific research and knowledge, open discourse, and respect for a range of viewpoints. There are ways we can improve efficiency of decision-making, such as clearer environmental rules. Sometimes -- but not always -- it may take longer to reach a decision, but at least we'd be confident it is made in the best interests of all Canadians.

It's a terrific and compelling call to do environmental reviews the right way -- the way that maximizes human values and not just economic ones. And sadly, that doesn't seem to be the path that the current Canadian government is following.

For those that are interested, I will keep on doing these "Canadian War on Science" posts intermittently. I have ones coming up highlight issues with the fisheries and with arctic research. And more, actually. Sadly this particular government is a bonanza for this sort of thing.

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Friday Fun: How much of a Klouchebag are you?

Apr 27 2012 Published by under friday fun, social media

Klout is kind of evil. Basically, it's the impact factor for the Web, where this random company uses a mysterious algorithm to quantify and rank people's standing on social media -- Twitter, Facebook, etc.

There's been some interesting commentary about it on teh interwebs these lasts few days, such as It's terrifying how important your Klout score has become, Klout Is Important Even If You Aren't Using It and What Your Klout Score Really Means. Lots of interesting and mostly measured and rational commentary and analysis.

And along comes into the fray and blows it all up.

From the home page:

What is this?
This is Klouchebag -- the standard for measuring asshattery online!

No, seriously, what's this?
I got annoyed with the fuss around Klout, the horrible social-game that assigns you a score based on how "influential" you are online. This is the result.

Who made it?
Hello. I'm Tom Scott. I live at, and you can email me or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

It called me names!
Sorry. Don't take it personally. This is about as scientific as Klout's own measurements -- which is to say, it's pretty much a crapshoot. You're probably a lovely person. Although you might want to cut down on the swearing a bit.

What do the ratings mean?
Klouchebag uses the ARSE rating system. Anger: profanity and rage. Retweets: "please RT"s, no or constant retweeting, and old-style. Social Apps: every useless checkin on foursquare or its horrible brethren. And English Usage: if you use EXCLAMATION MARKS OMG!!! or no capitals at all, this'll be quite high.

Isn't "douchebag" a sexist insult?
Opinion is divided. I chose it because it's the only insult that you can put "kl" in the front of and still have it mostly make sense....

Why no achievements? Ooh, or perks?
I don't want people to actually start competing! (And I'm a bit lazy.)

But... but my Klout score is important!
No it's not. It's like search engine optimisation, only for yourself. Ignore it. Concentrate on making amazing things, caring about the people around you, and not being a douchebag. If you do that, then you'll soon realise that it doesn't matter one jot what an algorithm thinks of you.

And to further emphasize the most important point of all:

Concentrate on making amazing things, caring about the people around you, and not being a douchebag. If you do that, then you'll soon realise that it doesn't matter one jot what an algorithm thinks of you.

If you're on Twitter, give it a try. I'm a 39 and a bit of a pratt. Guilty as charged, I guess, though I was a 43 and a bit noisy earlier today.

And of course, there's a bit of delicious irony involved here as well. I tweeted about Klouchebag earlier this morning which inspired a flurry of tweets and retweets with a wide variety of other people. Which is going to end up giving my Klout score a bit of a boost. I'm a 46 and a networker.

So what's your score?

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Around the Web: Even Harvard can't afford everything, The importance of physical campuses, DRM strategy and more

Apr 25 2012 Published by under acad lib future, academia, around the web, open access

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Open Data & The Panton Principles: Thoughts on a presentation to librarians

As I mentioned last week, on Tuesday, April 17 I was part of a workshop on Creative Commons our Scholarly Communications Committee put on for York library staff. My section was on open data and the Panton Principles. While not directly related to Creative Commons, we thought talking a bit about an application area for licensing in general and a specific case where CC is applied would be interesting for staff. We figured it would be the least engaging part of the workshop so I agreed to go last and use any time that was left.

Rather unexpectedly, the idea of data licensing and in particular CC0 licensing for data ended up being the topic that most energized the crowd! So we bumped up my part and I ended up going second-to-last. My section sparked a lot of very interesting conversations and feedback from a pretty packed house.

So much so, that while riding home on the bus on Friday with a colleague, she mentioned that the issues I'd talked about on Tuesday had come in handy at the conference she'd attended on campus earlier on Friday. She'd been able to speak intelligently and provocatively about the usefulness of open data to public policy!

So, a huge win.

Lessons learned? I think if I were doing the presentation over again tomorrow, I'd emphasize the practice of making data openly accessible should be considered as outside the normal scholarly communications system. It isn't just for pirates and thieves. The goal is to make data sharing a standard practice. The means to that end is to ensure data sets are cited in the literature and by extension to have data sharing become an accepted part of the normal academic reward and incentives structure. You create data, you share it, someone else uses it for their research, they cite your data set in their paper, that citation is counted with the same weight as a citation to a paper.

And within that understanding, I think I also would have emphasized more that it's just the right thing to do. Sure, you can fear being scooped with your own data, that someone will replicate your claims and try and take the credit, sure someone might even try and claim that they created your data themselves. But these "risks" should be seen as no different from the risks of publishing anything -- a journal article, a blog post, some code.

But those are far outweighed by the great potential of making scientific data open.

In any case, that's for next time. And hopefully there will be a next time. We're definitely hoping to take our workshop to a conference somewhere.

I don't believe any of the other presentations by my colleagues are online, but I'll link to them here if I find them.

And speaking of presentations, here are my slides:

I'll note that I'm waiving all rights to the slides and releasing them with a CC0 waiver. So have at them!

Also, here are the resources I used for my presentation as well as a few more that have come to light since my original post.

And some new ones:

As before, any suggestions for further resources would be greatly appreciated in the comments.

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Around the Web: Persistent myths about open access scientific publishing, Prepping grad students for jobs and more

Apr 22 2012 Published by under around the web

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Friday Fun: 7 inventors killed by their inventions

Apr 20 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I am somehow attracted to stories that are both incredibly sad and at the same time incredibly hilarious.

A character defect, I know. There must even be some sort of name for the condition, like ludustristophilia. Or something.

Anyways, this one really qualifies: 7 inventors killed by their inventions. It's kind of like the Darwin Awards, but twisted and distorted by a funhouse mirror.

The life of an inventor is not an easy one. First you have to come up with a good idea that solves a problem in a way that no one has thought of before, and then you need to design and engineer your idea to take it from theory to reality. The very nature of invention means that inventors are continuously pushing the boundaries of what's possible...

But invention is a fickle mistress and has proved to be a dangerous undertaking for many a would-be Edison. Things go wrong, inventions break or don't work as the designers intended, and sometimes inventors are killed by the very ideas they brought to life...

And here's one of the stories:

Franz Reichelt

Franz Reichelt was an Austrian-born French inventor who made a living as a tailor but spent his free time working on a flying parachute suit designed to be worn by airplane pilots. Airplanes were a relatively new invention when Reichelt was working on his design, having only been flown for the first time in Kitty Hawk in 1903, and the mechanics of how a pilot would escape a damaged plane were still being worked out. Reichelt's first tests were performed using dummies and were successful enough for him to test the suit himself, which he did by jumping off the lower level of the Eiffel Tower. The 187-foot fall onto frozen ground killed him instantly.

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Around the Web: Some resources on the Panton Principles & open data

As part of a workshop on Creative Commons, I'm doing a short presentation on Open Data and The Panton Principles this week to various members of our staff. I thought I'd share some of the resources I've consulted during my preparations. I'm using textmining of journal articles as a example so I'm including a few resources along those lines as well.

Please feel free to suggest additional resources in the comments.

Update 2013.01.30: Some followup posts with more resources and presentations I've done here, here, here and here.

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Around the Web: Citation cartels, Rooms full of elephants, Doing better and more

Apr 14 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

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Friday Fun: Scientist discovers "being a dog" is key to reducing stress

Apr 13 2012 Published by under friday fun

Yes, well, we've all had days like that, where we've admired our furry friends' abilities to wonder through life, tail-wagging, mouth-drooling, yip-yapping.

Fortunately, today is not one of those for me as I'm quietly at home preparing for a presentation next week and working on an ebooks post which will hopefully see the light of day one of these decades.

Oh, yes, but then I do check my email and want to be a dog.

Scientist discovers "being a dog" is key to reducing stress

'Modern life gives people far too many things to worry about,' claims Dr Nigella Gresley. 'But it may already be too late for some of us to go back and do things differently. By evolving into multi-celled organisms, eventually adopting the class 'Mammalia' and going on to develop self-awareness and a fear of looking a bit fat in a cocktail dress, humans have a lot of ground to make up if they're to devolve back to dog levels of insane, care-free frivolity.'

'I tried attaching our state-of-the-art stress monitoring equipment to a beagle.' explained Gresley. 'Unfortunately, it tried to fight it, mate with it and then bury it in the garden.' This behaviour is of course a 'coping mechanism' according to the scientist. 'And it works: 'Jimbo never cries himself to sleep or clenches his paws in frustrated rage.' said Gresley. 'Even if the neighbour's garden is a disgrace, or there are clues that his owner's husband MIGHT BE HAVING AN AFFAIR.'

Newsbiscuit, you are my new best friend. The Scitech section is hilarity upon hilarity.

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