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ALA Equitable Access to Electronic Content: Mr. President: Libraries are rungs on the ladder of opportunity

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-01-29 20:15

Photo by Senator Claire McCaskill (via flickr).

In a statement released today, American Library Association (ALA) President Barbara Stripling connected the dots in her response to President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address. Key themes from the speech that form the basis of library services in communities across the country include:

The need to create and bolster ladders of opportunity;
Early learning is one of the best investments we can make in our future; and
Connecting students to high-capacity broadband is an immediate priority for supporting 21st Century education.

All of these are core to the library mission of ensuring equitable access to information, technology, and learning in the Digital Age,” said Stripling. “It is vital for policy makers at all levels to recognize libraries are part of the solution in achieving our shared vision. Libraries are a critical partner in opening the door to equality in opportunity.” Read more:

“Libraries provide the vital “wrap-around” support that allows learning to happen within and beyond the school day, especially for non-traditional students. Public libraries are the leading providers of public internet access; 77 million people use public library internet access every year. Unfortunately, residential broadband remains out of reach for many people in communities across the country.

Providing all libraries and schools with high-capacity broadband internet connections is a wise investment in the nation’s future; broadband is the essential ingredient that brings all these innovations and applications to life. Senator Jay Rockefeller captured a critical concept when he talked about creating opportunity for students and their communities by providing access to the “transformative power of next-generation broadband and wireless technology.” Libraries are also committed to “expanding the success of the E-rate program.”

“We agree with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler that ‘harnessing the power of digital technology is central to improving our education system and our global competitiveness.’ The American Library Association and our nation’s librarians look forward to continuing our work with the Commission in its reforms to the E-rate program to ensure everyone is able to succeed and thrive online.”

Read the full statement

The post Mr. President: Libraries are rungs on the ladder of opportunity appeared first on District Dispatch.

ALA Equitable Access to Electronic Content: Mr. President: Libraries are rungs on the ladder of opportunity

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-01-29 20:15

Photo by Senator Claire McCaskill (via flickr).

In a statement released today, American Library Association (ALA) President Barbara Stripling connected the dots in her response to President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address. Key themes from the speech that form the basis of library services in communities across the country include:

The need to create and bolster ladders of opportunity;
Early learning is one of the best investments we can make in our future; and
Connecting students to high-capacity broadband is an immediate priority for supporting 21st Century education.

All of these are core to the library mission of ensuring equitable access to information, technology, and learning in the Digital Age,” said Stripling. “It is vital for policy makers at all levels to recognize libraries are part of the solution in achieving our shared vision. Libraries are a critical partner in opening the door to equality in opportunity.” Read more:

“Libraries provide the vital “wrap-around” support that allows learning to happen within and beyond the school day, especially for non-traditional students. Public libraries are the leading providers of public internet access; 77 million people use public library internet access every year. Unfortunately, residential broadband remains out of reach for many people in communities across the country.

Providing all libraries and schools with high-capacity broadband internet connections is a wise investment in the nation’s future; broadband is the essential ingredient that brings all these innovations and applications to life. Senator Jay Rockefeller captured a critical concept when he talked about creating opportunity for students and their communities by providing access to the “transformative power of next-generation broadband and wireless technology.” Libraries are also committed to “expanding the success of the E-rate program.”

“We agree with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler that ‘harnessing the power of digital technology is central to improving our education system and our global competitiveness.’ The American Library Association and our nation’s librarians look forward to continuing our work with the Commission in its reforms to the E-rate program to ensure everyone is able to succeed and thrive online.”

Read the full statement

The post Mr. President: Libraries are rungs on the ladder of opportunity appeared first on District Dispatch.

LITA: Jobs in Information Technology: Jan. 29

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-01-29 17:33

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

Access Services/Instruction Librarian, The Pennsylvania State University Libraries,  Hershey, PA

Director – McCormick Educational Technology Center (METC) ,  Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL

Knowledge Manager,  Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service,  Baltimore, MD

Library Systems and Applications Specialist, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, OH

University Librarian, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.

LITA: Jobs in Information Technology: Jan. 29

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-01-29 17:33

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

Access Services/Instruction Librarian, The Pennsylvania State University Libraries,  Hershey, PA

Director – McCormick Educational Technology Center (METC) ,  Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL

Knowledge Manager,  Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service,  Baltimore, MD

Library Systems and Applications Specialist, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, OH

University Librarian, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a  job posting.

Tennant, Roy: “The MarcRecord”

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-01-29 17:01

A while back (just about a decade ago actually) I gave a presentation wherein I used a number of quotes and illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. One of my favorites is this exchange:

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, but you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

I had used as inspiration for that talk a document I had written back in the 1980s at UC Berkeley about moving from print to electronic circulation.  Some things just never go out of style.

For whatever reason I pulled up that old presentation and looked at it again. I had forgotten that I had changed some words in Carroll’s famous poem to speak to my library audience. With just a couple minor tweaks I reproduce it here.

The MarcRecord

‘Twas internet, and the slithy toves
Did google and yahoo in the wabe:
All mimsy were the catalogers,
and the library directors outgrabe.

“Beware the MarcRecord, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the RDA, and shun
The frumious Vendor!

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the metadata foe he sought–
So rested by the bookdrop,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in cataloger thought he stood,
The MarcRecord, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And bibframed as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And has thou slain the MarcRecord?
Come to my arm, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! On METS! On MODS!
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas internet, and the slithy toves
Did google and yahoo in the wabe:
All mimsy were the catalogers,
and the library directors outgrabe.

What were the library directors doing? According to this source, they were doing “something between bellowing and whistling, with a sneeze in the middle”. Well, duh.

In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: Häuserkämpfe: An Inside Look at Researching in DIY Archives

planet code4lib - Wed, 2014-01-29 11:00

In Brief: This article is an interview with Jake Smith, a PhD student at the University of Chicago who spent over a year in Germany conducting his dissertation research in archives. Many of the archives he visited in support of his project, “Häuserkämpfe: Squatting, Urban Renewal, and the Crisis of Dwelling in West Germany, 1970-1995,” were small, do-it-yourself (DIY) collections curated and cared for by motivated individuals within squats. This interview delves into his experiences conducting research in this environment.

Introduction

In a recent conversation with a colleague she stated, “We are all amateur archivists in our own right.” Of course she is right. We all have something that we keep and cherish, whether they are memories or physical objects. But what happens when amateur archivists are just a bit more organized, when they are a bit more official, yet still unofficial? When they are do-it-yourself (DIY) archives?

Many DIY archival collections exist, whether they are kept by a family member, community historian, or an unofficial archivist as part of a grassroots organization. What is it like for researchers to use these unofficial, DIY archives? This question popped in to my head while catching up with a college friend in Chicago during ALA Annual 2013. My friend, Jake Smith, a classmate from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, had recently returned from living abroad in Germany to pursue research for his dissertation. As he explained more about his project and research, I became inspired to figure out how to share his experiences with Lead Pipe readers and our professional community.

Jake is currently working toward a PhD in History from the University of Chicago. His dissertation project, “Häuserkämpfe1: Squatting, Urban Renewal, and the Crisis of Dwelling in West Germany, 1970-1995,” took him to Germany for over a year to conduct research. Much of the research Jake conducted while living in Germany was archival, both in official archives and in more unofficial DIY archives. The following interview with Jake is an extension of our conversation that I hope will shed light not only on an archival researcher’s perspective, but will also bring to the fore the existence and importance of DIY archives.

Interview

Emily: I love the title of your dissertation project. It sounds very much like a project that would be suited to the Urban Studies discipline. Could you briefly describe your dissertation research?

Jake: In my dissertation, I trace the emergence and development of a peculiar form of pan-European spatial activism from its origin in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and London, to its radicalization in the crucible of the 1980/81 European youth revolts, and finally to its partial diffusion in the spatially-circumscribed “scenes” of the late 1980s and 1990s. Focusing primarily on the squatting movement, I argue that these forms of spatial activism should be resituated within the context of a larger “crisis of dwelling” in postwar Europe, a crisis of the built environment and its effects on practices of sociability, community, and being-at-home.

E: You lived in Berlin for a year (or more) to conduct research for this project. Could you talk about how you approached research in a foreign country? What was your biggest unexpected challenge?

J: Although it should not have been unexpected, my biggest challenge was mastering the bureaucratic language necessary to navigate German institutions. Indeed, while my conversational German was perfectly adequate I was ill-equipped to deal with the institutional jargon that was necessary not only to gain access to sensitive archival material but also to procure a residence visa, sign a lease, and register with the police.

E: This reminds me of a Kafka-esque experience I had in Munich. My mother sent me my knee braces (a product of my surgeries) so that I could feel comfortable playing frisbee and not worry about re-injuring my knees. She marked the package “medical equipment” so of course that raised suspicion. I had to go pick up my package and open it in front of a customs officer. The package was held in an enormously and surprisingly empty building that reminded me of the Wayne Estate. I had to walk through a series of empty rooms to find where I needed to be. But I digress. You mention that part of the challenge was dealing with institutional jargon to access archival materials. Did you encounter any strange policies in the archives you visited?

J: Ha! I had a similar experience with customs in Berlin in which I was forced to open a box of Halloween candy in front of a small group of officials who, after much discussion, decided that the candy was of no value and that I would thus not be required to pay any extra fees. As to strange policies in the archives, this was certainly not the case in the DIY archives where anything reeking of official policy was deemed distasteful. In the official archives, by contrast, there were some hurdles such as the requirement that I fill out official request forms to view sensitive materials and then wait weeks for them to be approved. Ultimately, though, I was given access to the vast majority of the archival collections I wished to consult so my complaints should be taken with a grain of salt.

E: You mentioned that you visited squats with some DIY home archives and little libraries. How did you find these libraries? Did you have to go hunting for them or were they out in the open? What challenges did you encounter in trying to gather information from these one-of-a-kind collections?

J: The DIY archives, or Bewegungsarchive [(social) movement archive] as they are known in Germany, are open to the public however they can be difficult to find since they are not as well known as the more official archives. While developing my research topic, I came across the website for the archive at the Rote Flora in Hamburg and quickly found that there were similar archives in Berlin, Freiburg and other cities throughout Germany and Europe more broadly. Indeed, it turns out that there is a surprisingly extensive network of alternative archives throughout Europe. I think it would be highly productive for academic libraries and archives to forge closer connections with this vast network of DIY archives.

E: My colleague, Hugh Rundle, sent me an article to read entitled “The Librarian as Insider-Ethnographer,”2 which discusses the role that some individuals play in squat/DIY libraries. What do you think is the motivation for these individuals to act as a community’s archivist or librarian?

J: I thought about this issue while doing my research but was not able to come up with a definitive answer. I think, in part, their motivation comes from the fact that they were — and oftentimes still are — involved with progressive activism in Germany and believe that more effective forms of activism must necessarily emerge from a historically grounded understanding of the activist past. Thus, instead of constantly reinventing the wheel each time a new problem emerges, German activists can – theoretically at least – utilize these archives to look back on the legacies of 1980/81, 1968, and even the Communist resistance to the Nazi State. Another possible motivation may simply be the sheer joy of collecting personally resonant artifacts. Such archival collections – be they alternative or mainstream – facilitate, I would argue, feelings of historical embeddedness, feelings that one has a legible place in the broad sweep of historical time.

E: Interesting. Do you think either of these reasons mirrors your passion and drive for the topic as a historiographer? Do you feel a particular emotional connection to your research on the topic– aside, of course, from the normal feelings and obstacles of writing a dissertation?

J: I do feel an emotional connection with much of the material. On a very basic level, I sympathize both with the political positions and the cultural products of many of these activists. It is, after all, hard not to be enthralled with German punk music, wacky public art projects, and critiques of racist violence. I was also, however, moved by their emotionally resonant critique of social isolation in modern cities, their desire for interpersonal warmth, and their persistent attempts to forge connections with very diverse urban populations. Walking around Chicago, I’m oftentimes struck by the utter coldness of urban life, the uncanny feeling of being surrounded by strangers. I do realize, of course, that this is simply the nature of the urban experience, however, I can’t help but to wish for something more. The desire for social warmth within the West German Left – what some have referred to as a “Sehnsucht nach Nähe” [literally “yearning for closeness”]  – is, in my opinion at least, really quite moving.

E: What do you think is the challenge for historians such as yourself when it comes to conducting research with materials that are “underground” or “DIY”? And how do you think those challenges spread to librarians and archivists? Did you sense any tension between the academy and less traditional systems? How did libraries and these DIY archivists react to your inquiries?

J: By and large the archivists at these alternative archives were extraordinarily welcoming. They made coffee, engaged in small talk, and seemed genuinely interested in my project. I found this conviviality to be rather astounding given the fact that I was an American PhD student with progressive views but without an activist pedigree. The warm welcome I received at these alternative archives was all the more surprising in light of my experiences at official archives, which, though not at all unpleasant, lacked a sense of interpersonal warmth. There are, of course, tensions between the academy and alternative archives, many of which revolve around funding. Indeed, many of the archivists expressed a quiet sense of frustration that they received little to no funding while mainstream libraries with far smaller collections received an abundance of official funding. These feelings were, however, never made explicit — the archivists were simply too friendly to engage in such overtly hostile attitudes.

E: Did you learn any more political or policy oriented insights as to why and how these archives have been underfunded?

J: It’s possible that there is still a fear that such material is incendiary in some sense, that it has the potential to incite the youth to revolt. It does, after all, often advocate for the overturning of capitalism and state power. It is also possible that official sources of funding simply distrust the organizational abilities of the DIY archives and worry that they would be ineffective in the preservation and acquisition of archival documents. I would argue that both of these fears are misplaced though I’m sure many would disagree with such an assessment.

E: How did you gain trust from collectors in order to conduct your research and see these unique collections? Do you continue to have relationships with these collectors and collections and if so, is there anything in your background or identity that you think enables collectors to trust you?

J: A good question to which I, unfortunately, must answer: I have no idea. I simply laid it on the table, told them what I was working on, and then tried to be as courteous as possible. I’m not sure they ever fully trusted me but they certainly got used to me and gave me access to their materials. Part of this goes back, I believe, to the tendency of radical leftists in Germany to focus on interpersonal connections and more “authentic” forms of community. Part of it also probably stems from the simple fact that spending time with people tends to result in collegiality — though I may be a bit too optimistic on this front. In any case, I don’t think they had any real reason to trust me with their collections but they did so nonetheless.

E: How do you think your experience may have been different if you were a part of the “authentic” community?

J: I don’t think they would have treated many any differently, though I do believe that I would have been looking for different types of material.

E: Did anything about the academic libraries you visited in Germany surprise you?

J: I was most surprised by the fact that, in official German libraries, it was next to impossible to browse the stacks. When you enter an institution like the Staatsbibliothek [national library] in Berlin you first have to leave all of your personal belongings in a locker outside of the main reading rooms. Once in the reading rooms you then have the option of perusing a limited number of reference books or placing an order for the books you wish to look at, some of which can then be taken off site. Too often, we take for granted the extraordinary freedoms offered by something as basic as open stacks.

E: So how did you know what books you wanted to request? Do you feel like using the library catalog was a good enough way for you to do that?

J: I think that by the end of my stay I was becoming somewhat more adept at finding the books I needed but most of the time I found myself groping in the dark. They have search engines but as anyone who has ever used such tools well knows, they are not a substitute for good old-fashioned browsing.

E: Did you have to modify your research approach based on availability of resources or the kind of library you were visiting?

J: To a certain extent, yes. Initially, I intended to use official documents such as police records and government reports but quickly found that these are highly restricted. In some cases, I was able to gain access to these documents by applying for special privileges and assuring the archivists that I would not be publishing any names or other personal data. Reflecting back, I should have expected this given that many of the documents detail illegal activities and could be used for all of the wrong reasons.

E: Would you mind giving an example of the kinds of activities you were able to uncover and what those protected documents told you?

J: Primarily these were police documents describing criminal activities during riots such as breaking storefront windows, throwing rocks at police, and generally causing havoc. There were also official documents created during police stake-outs of the squats which detailed the activities surrounding the houses. The activities described in these documents are not really surprising, however the fact that they include names make them highly sensitive.

E: If you had to pick one pamphlet that was your favorite, which would it be and why?

J: It would probably not be a pamphlet at all but one of the many documentary films produced by and about the movement. One of my favorites is Paßt bloß auf, which documents the squatting movement in Freiburg in the early 1980s. The film is exceptional not only for its documentary footage of demonstrations and life inside of the squats but for its artistic innovation as well.

E: What is your favorite story from visiting the squats?

J: I can’t say that I actually have a favorite story or experience. Not because I didn’t enjoy my time visiting the alternative archives in Germany but because there were many small moments in which I felt infinitely lucky to be in such archives. For example, when the heat went out at the Rote Flora archive in Hamburg and everyone went about their work in hats, gloves, and coats. Or sitting and drinking a cup of coffee with the archivist in Freiburg. Or the wonderful sound of the teakettle at the Papier Tiger archive in Berlin. Fantastic experiences, fantastic places, fantastic people…

E: Thank you for sharing your experiences, Jake.

Conclusion

After my discussion with Jake I was struck with how little I know of DIY archives that may exist in the United States. Certainly I know of Docs Populi, Lincoln Cushing’s project that brings “documents to the people,” but I am woefully uninformed of much else. As library workers we  engage with our communities, and discovering and supporting DIY archival projects seems a natural fit. Do you know of any DIY archives? How do engage with them?

Many thanks to Jessie Lymn, not only for her inspiring article but also for helping review these interview questions and review the final interview. Additional thanks to Lead Pipe colleagues Brett, Hugh, Erin, and Ellie for providing additional feedback.

  1. in German this translates to “urban warfare”
  2. this article was written by Jessie Lymn, who graciously provided feedback on the questions I posed to Jake, and also the final interview

Tennant, Roy: The Life of a High-Functioning Introvert

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-01-28 17:17

Please forgive me, upon occasion I dip into highly personal topics that do not focus on digital libraries. Since this is one of those times, you may wish to avert your eyes.

Yesterday at ALA Midwinter I ran into someone I knew who was active in LITA and she asked me why I didn’t show up at the LITA Happy Hour, an event that I have frequently attended in the past and have enjoyed.

I was forced to confess that I am an introvert – a highly functioning introvert, but an introvert nonetheless. In the previous days and nights leading up to the event I had been out with people every night. I badly needed some down time.

Left to my own devices, I might not have been out at night at all. But I was either wise enough or lucky enough to marry an extrovert who has had a very positive effect on my natural tendencies to shutdown socially. Between her extrovert nature and my desire to make a public impact on my profession, I find myself in more social situations than I would naturally participate in. And that is a good thing.

But it also means that sometimes I must simply withdraw. I can’t always be “on”. I can’t always be in a crowd. In fact, I find being in a crowd to be extremely off-putting. During this same trip I had other opportunities to socialize with large groups of people. You can call it whatever you want, but I call it a challenge.

Thus is the life of a high-functioning introvert.

I speak to large audiences. I do things that any self-respecting introvert would shrink from doing. And yet I do it nonetheless. Many of these activities I enjoy, but I can only take them in small doses.

So if I spurn your event or politely decline your invitation out, please don’t take it personally. It is likely that I really do enjoy spending time with you and your friends. It’s just that I sometimes need to not be with anyone. An introvert gathers strength by being alone, an extrovert gathers strength by being with others.

I might be inclined to think that this trait is a serious deficiency have I not seen the other side. I know that the opposite of my situation is no better. When you need to be in the company of others to be happy it leaves you unable to be content alone. I doubt that is better, in the end. It is simply different.

I acknowledge the benefit of not being a hermit. Those who are very extrovert might also want to acknowledge the benefit of being sufficient within yourself. Perhaps then we can all exist with more mutual knowledge and respect of some very different ways of being ourselves in a society that recognizes a variety of ways of being.

There are times where I will push myself to be among a large group of people. I am often happy that I did. Every now and then, if you are a serious extrovert, you may want to push yourself to take a long walk alone. You may be surprised that you are happy that you did. Maybe even one day you could aspire to be a high-functioning extrovert.

Equinox Software Incorporated: Double (and a half) Trouble

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-01-28 15:38

With the holidays, new year, vacations, travel, and the attendant digging out from said, I let slip my duty to brag about all the awesome (and often under-appreciated) work that my Equinox coworkers did during our last two (and a half) community days in December and January.  Sorry, folks!  But work they did, and brag I will, without further ado.

December 2013 January 2014 (Two days!)

Due to the new year break, and the need to catch up from vacations, we decided to do two short community days in January, on the 9th and the 16th.  Lots of great stuff was spread out over those (and surrounding) days:

Of note are a set of bug fixes,  inspired by support requests from our customers and issues identified during customer upgrades that could affect others in the community:

Lots of great stuff here, both in bug fixes and forward momentum.  As always, I’m impressed by how much extra effort the folks here at Equinox put into community-focused improvements.  Thanks, team!  I couldn’t be more proud!

Add to:

Bisson, Casey: MySQL performance tips from around the web

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-01-28 14:15
Gospel: use InnoDB, never MyISAM

It seems everybody on StackExchange is singing from the same gospel:

Use smaller INTs and fixed-length CHARs Don’t use MySQL for that query

Do reads, both full-text searches and selections by attribute (think tag queries in WordPress) on Sphinx instead of in MySQL.

Optimize your filesystem interactions

Monitis offers the following:

  • Mount filesystem with noatime and nodirtime if available – no reason to update database file modification times for access.
  • On Linux systems, use NOOP or DEADLINE IO scheduler – the CFQ and ANTICIPATORY scheduler have been shown to be slow vs NOOP and DEADLINE scheduler.
  • Use innodb_flush_method=O_DIRECT to avoid a double buffer when writing.

Open Knowledge Foundation: Britain ‘shines light of transparency’ on secret lobbying. Just kidding.

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-01-28 13:00

The following article is cross-posted from OpenDemocracy.

David Cameron’s lobbying bill exposes the hollowness of his muscular claims about cracking down on crony capitalism. Britain’s democracy remains under corporate capture.

Image: Government wants to register Lobbying Agencies alone (Alliance for Lobbying Transparency)

Today the government’s proposed Lobbying Bill will go into parliamentary ping-pong between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. If this Bill passes without significant amendments it will do nothing to stop secret corporate lobbying, making a mockery of the coalition’s open government aspirations.

Every year an estimated £2 billion is spent attempting to influence decisions in Westminster, an amount that is topped only by spending in Washington and Brussels. Even more than its counterparts across the channel and across the pond, London’s lobbying industry has been able to operate in the dark, free from scrutiny and interference: unregulated, unrecorded and unimpeded.

Four years ago next month, just before the 2010 general election, David Cameron announced his intention, if elected, to tackle the “unhealthy influence” of “secret corporate lobbying”. He pledged to “sort out” what he called “crony capitalism”, to shine the “light of transparency” on lobbying, and to force our political system to “come clean about who is buying power and influence”.

The theme of his speech was “rebuilding trust in politics”. He attacked then Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s “secretive, power-hoarding, controlling” government, and its handling of the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal.

Transparency has since become a major theme of the coalition government under Cameron, who has claimed repeatedly that he wants to “fix our broken politics” and make the UK “the most open and transparent government in the world”.

Fast forward to the government’s proposed lobbying bill, tabled for discussion in parliament today. The second part of the bill has been widely criticised for gagging charities during election periods. The first part, which outlines plans for the lobbying registry, has received less public attention.

Far from shining a light on the activities of the influence industry, the proposed registry would exclude the vast majority of commercial lobbyists, covering as little as 5 per cent of all lobbying activity. Among the excluded, all ‘in-house’ lobbyists — those based at major corporations, banks, consultancies, law firms, accountancy firms. Even the registered lobbyists would not be required to give the public information about what they are asking for, who they are meeting with, or how much they are spending.

How do the government’s proposals compare with a real statutory register of lobbyists? Here’s an illustration from The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency:

Unless it is scrapped and rewritten or major amendments are made – both exceedingly unlikely – the lobbying bill will make a mockery of the UK’s open government purported aspirations. It will leave the British public none the wiser as to how big money and big business are distorting the fabric of public political discourse and decision-making, and to what end. It will do nothing to shed light on how powerful corporate interests are exerting their influence to shape what is politically possible and politically likely – from inaction on climate change and corporate tax avoidance, to fracking, energy prices and the privatisation of public services.

Even a decent registry of lobbyists would give us just a faint sketch of the impact of corporate lobbying on our democracy. The fight for transparency is just a first step that must not distract us from the bigger and more important fight to push back against the malign, distorting, anti-democratic influence of big money and big business on politics.

The passage of the proposed lobbying bill into law would represent a manifest failure of the current government to take even the most elementary of steps to live up to its pre-election promises to tackle secret corporate influence. It will no doubt be remembered as an historic missed opportunity and an astonishing defeat at the first hurdle – making the UK’s claims to global leadership in government openness and accountability look like a joke.

The Open Knowledge Foundation and the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency have launched a petition asking the UK government to scrap and rewrite the lobbying bill. You can sign here. It is endorsed by Access Info, the Campaign for Freedom of Information, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Watch, Greenpeace, Integrity Action, Involve, the Open Rights Group, Spinwatch, the Sunlight Foundation, Unlock Democracy, War on Want and the World Development Movement.

Bisson, Casey: Transcend WiFi SD card hacking links

planet code4lib - Tue, 2014-01-28 04:30

http://www.fernjager.net/post-8/sdcard:

As a 400 MHz Linux system with 32 MB of RAM, using only ~100 mA @ 3.3 V, the possibilities are endless!

http://haxit.blogspot.com/2013/08/hacking-transcend-wifi-sd-cards.html:

This post is written with the intention of exposing not only the exploits which will allow you to root (or jailbreak) the device, but also the process of discovering and exploiting bugs, some of which are a dead end, while others lead to the holy root B-)

http://hackaday.com/2013/08/12/hacking-transcend-wifi-sd-cards/:

As he suspected that some kind of Linux was running on it, he began to see if he could get a root access on it… and succeeded.

Eaton, Alf: Publishing research on the web

planet code4lib - Mon, 2014-01-27 21:37

In one day, two separate authors demonstrated that they’ve solved the problem of “how to publish your research on the web”.

Dominic Tarr analysed the performance of different JavaScript cryptographic libraries, and Jure Triglav collected tweets mentioning sunny weather and correlated them to actual weather reports.

The reports are online for anyone to read, and the code and data are in version-controlled repositories, with instructions for anyone to reproduce them.

What’s so good about these reports?

JS crypto benchmarks (Tarr)
  • All the code, data and documentation is in version control.
  • The README file describes the purpose of the project, the dependencies, what was tested, how to reproduce the experiments, and what license the project is released under.
  • All the data is published as CSV files.
  • The process for generating the data (a Bash script that calls node commands) is present, and its usage is documented in the human-readable README.
  • All the machine-readable metadata needed for the project, including the list of dependencies, is present in package.json.
  • The results are written up as a paper in Markdown (including figure images directly from the output folder).
  • For “maximum credibility”, a HTML version of the paper is typeset from the Markdown. This is most likely what people will see first, so it links to the code repository for all the information needed to repeat the experiments.
  • The paper is hosted with GitHub Pages, so any changes show up almost immediately, are tracked in version control, and can be accessed and compared to previous/subsequent versions.
Weather Tweets (Triglav) Notes on hypertext

Note that neither of the reports have “references” sections at the end, for the simple reason that they don’t need to: if they need to refer to anything, they just need to link to it in the (hyper)text.

LITA: 2014 Election Slate

planet code4lib - Mon, 2014-01-27 19:39

The LITA Board is pleased to announce the following slate of candidates for the 2014 spring election as follows:

Candidates for President-elect

  • Adriene Lim
  • Thomas Dowling

Candidates for Directors at Large, 3 elected for 3 year terms

  • Jenny Emanuel Taylor
  • Evviva Weinraub Lajoie
  • Jason J. Battles
  • Susan Sharpless Smith
  • Ranti Junus
  • Bohyun Kim

Candidates for Board of Directors, 1 elected for 1-year term:

  • Dale Poulter
  • Aimee Fifarek

The slate was recommended by the Nominating Committee. Mark Beatty, chair is chair of the Committee and Michelle Frisque, Abigail Goben, and Breanne Kirsch are the Committee members. The Board thanks the Nominating Committee for all their work.

Rochkind, Jonathan: Anecdote for when metrics go bad

planet code4lib - Mon, 2014-01-27 16:25

More and more parts of our society are metric-obsessed these days.

While I’m in theory in favor of science, scientific approaches based on observation, data-driven decisions, etc.—I am also more and more cautious of the ways that metrics can be abused, be gamed, be interpreted incorrectly, and generally be insufficient proxies for the thing meant to be measured.   There are a bunch of possible reasons this can happen.

Just an anecdote, here’s a real phone call I just got:

“Hi, this is [X] calling from [Honda Dealership]. We’d like to thank you for bringing your car in for service the other day. You may be receiving a survey from Honda about your satisfaction. We just wanted to let you know that if you rate us 100% in all categories, then your next oil change will be free.”

Ah, yeah. Clearly the survey is from corporate Honda America or whatever; the phone call was from the dealer; and I’d guess that both the dealer as a whole and the individual staff at the dealer have various kinds of compensation pegged to these survey results.

(Incidentally, after seeing how over-priced the service was for the oil/filter change, air filter change in both cabin and engine, wiper refills, and checks of various lines and fluids — it’s very unlikely i’ll be going to the dealer again. It was at least 2x what it probably should have been, I am feeling serious pain in the wallet).

This kind of blatant manipulation certainly isn’t the only way that metrics-based approaches can end up misleading.  Talk to any teacher about “School Reform”, for issues with similar “performance-based compensation” — the problem isn’t just intentional abuse, but that the operationalized measurements may simply not validly measure what you really want to measure, for all sorts of reasons.  Inept application of statistical methods (which I think is awfully common even among scientists, let alone among Car Companies and Libraries) can compound the issue.

Then a larger philosophical issue is how choosing to look at things only in terms of quantitative measurements effects our judgements and perspectives. Someone recently recommended Michel Foucault to me on this topic, although I’m not sure which work of his would be most pertinent.

Use metrics for sure, but don’t be ruled by them, and don’t assume that just because something is reported to you in a quantitative fashion that automatically means it’s objective, accurate, or valid. (Or that any of those categories, ‘objective’, ‘accurate’, or ‘valid’, are simple yes-or-no, rather than questions of degree).


Filed under: General

Grimmelmann, James: Speech Engines Goes Gold

planet code4lib - Mon, 2014-01-27 13:55

Speech Engines, my article on Google, search bias, and the First Amendment, has just been published in the Minnesota Law Review. As you may recall from last year, my argument is that we should think about search engines not so much as conduits for others’ speech or editorial speakers in their own right but more as advisors for users. This unabashedly listener-centric view of the speech in search inverts many of the usual arguments about Google, and it gives what I think is a genuinely satisfying theory of search bias. I claim that disagreement over the right search results is not a proper basis for search regulation, but that regulation to prevent dishonesty is permissible. The key is whether the search engine is deliberately underplaying its hand and returning results that it itself thinks are less relevant to users than others it knows of.

Even if you’ve read a previous draft, I hope you’ll look at this version. It takes a village to write a law review article, and I had excellent neighbors. My editors were perceptive and thoughtful, and a number of colleagues were characteristically generous with their suggestions. I substantially reworked key parts of the article during the editing process, including a much more precise discussion of falsity and the First Amendment. The article is 85 pages now, but trust me, it feels shorter.

LITA: LITA Town Meeting, January 27, 2014

planet code4lib - Mon, 2014-01-27 06:40

The LITA Town Meeting will take place on Monday January 27, 2014, from 8:30-10:00 am, EST. If you are able to attend in person, great! I’ll be happy to see you there! If not, I encourage you to participate remotely.

Here are all the links you’ll need, no matter how or when you want to participate.

Additional online resources for remote users:

I want to emphasize that this activity is very different than the types of activities that we’ve previously done at Town Meetings. Here, we’re trying to capture some real stories, pictures, and thoughts from members about how LITA has helped make their life awesome. This content will be shared with the LITA Membership Development Committee and our Emerging Leaders to shift through and find the shining examples that can aid in membership recruitment. There’s the potential for articles, pictures, or even a recruitment video using a variety of content.

On behalf of the LITA Board and the Membership Committee, thanks for participating, and I truly appreciate your time.

Rachel Vacek
LITA Vice-President
2013-2014

Grimmelmann, James: A Conspiracy of Paper

planet code4lib - Mon, 2014-01-27 03:36

The Volokh Conspiracy is a group blog of more-or-less libertarian law professors. It is a senior statesman of the legal academic blogging world: brothers Eugene and Sasha Volokh started blogging together in 2002. As with any group blog, the topics can be eclectic. So while predictable themes like federalism, economic liberty, and gun rights dominate, there are also Eugene Volokh’s love of puzzles and Orin Kerr’s love of jazz.

And now all of it—the federalism and the jazz—live at the Washington Post. The Volokh Conspiracy’s bloggers retain sole editorial control, but the blog will live behind the Post’s “rather permeable” paywall after a six-month transition period and the bloggers will share in the advertising revenue.

The move strikes me as regrettable for all concerned. Blogging and journalism are different enterprises with different goals and different values. They can be married, but this particular combination is less love match than joint venture; the Volokh Conspiracy, content otherwise unchanged, now appears on the Post’s website, with a Post URL and with the Post’s branding. I fear that rather than sporting the best features of blogging and journalism, the combination will sacrifice both.

For the Post, the move blurs an important line about journalistic accountability. The Volokh Conspiracy bloggers join the Post as Wonkblog editor Ezra Klein is leaving for a mysterious new venture. But there is a crucial difference: the Wonkbloggers are Washington Post employees; they are responsible for maintaining the Post’s standards. The Volokh Conspiracy bloggers are independent contractors and have complete control over their blog’s contents.

To be clear, I am glad that the Volokh Conspiracy’s authors will continue to decide what to write; their distinctive voices make the blog what it is. But I do not see this going well for the Post. In trademark law terms, the Post is engaged in naked licensing: putting its brand on a product over which it exercises no quality control.

Take accuracy. The Post is a newspaper and proud of it; it has a detailed corrections policy that includes sections on blogs and social media. But the Volokh Conspiracy’s editorial independence means that the Post’s writ does not run to the /news/volokh-conspiracy/ directory on washingtonpost.com. (Note: it’s in the “news” directory, not the “blogs” directory.) This is a blog with twenty-three authors, some of whom court controversy. If one of them gets a story wrong, the Post’s reputational custodians could rightly ask who gave the car keys to the new kid.

Then there is the matter of journalistic neutrality. When Timothy Lee joined the Post, he sold his Bitcoins “to comply with WaPo’s strict conflict of interest policies.” (Those policies are available here.) It seems unlikely, however, that Todd Zywicki will give up his consulting work (already a matter of public controversy). Nor does it seem likely that Randy Barnett will give up the tireless public advocacy that nearly brought down Obamacare. Indeed, the Volokh Conspiracy’s “we’re joining the Post” post emphasizes that the bloggers will keep their day jobs.

The Post will “pass along” Volokh Conspiracy posts to its readers. Those readers are entitled to know whether a given item on the website is subject to its editorial and conflict-of-interest policies or not. I am reminded, and not in a good way, of AOL’s similarly arms-length relationship with Matt Drudge. Editorially, the Volokh Conspiracy bloggers are in every way outsiders to the Post, but it also seeks the cachet and page views of being associated with them. The issue is not unique to the Volokh Conspiracy, or to the Post. Such questions also arise in relation to Post’s The Monkey Cage, as they arise in relation to outside contributors to blogs at other publications.

Again, my point is not that there is something wrong with using the Volokh Conspiracy as a soapbox for personal and professional views. Soapboxing makes for memorable blogging. My point is that the Post’s norms as a newspaper are much stricter about when and how writers can use its pages as a soapbox, and that this tension has not been squarely addressed. Unless I am mistaken, David Bernstein doesn’t call Human Rights Watch for a comment every time he criticizes it; as a polemical blogger, he is not expected to. But journalists do call for comment, and the Post has done little to explain when, how, and why its usual rules are suspended here.

The move to the Post is also, I think, bad for the Volokh Conspiracy. It has an integrity of its own, one that comes from authenticity and clarity of vision. Its authors have been generous in their engagement with the blogosphere. Even at their rantiest (which by Internet standards is usually quite civil), they are generally quite good at linking to and responding seriously to opposing points of view. They have shared, freely and openly, enormous amounts of insight with the world over the years.

Moving the blog behind a paywall is antithetical to these values. There will still be ways for dedicated readers to get past the paywall: it’s free to those with .edu and .gov addresses, and the blog’s RSS feed will still be full-text. But the message is clear: the front door is being closed, even if the back door will remain unlocked for now to those who know the secret knock. I know as a blogger that linking to articles behind paywalls frustrates my readers. Sometimes I have to, but it always feels like putting weight on a twisted ankle.

The goal is a “broader reach for our ideas” but I suspect the result will be just the opposite. Volokh Conspiracy posts will be less often linked, less often debated, less often significant. Fewer people will ponder Orin Kerr’s thoughtful breakdowns of Fourth Amendment developments; fewer people will read Dale Carpenter’s play-by-play coverage of same-sex-marriage cases; fewer people will watch Will Baude make federal courts actually seem interesting. The platform that helped Randy Barnett lead the charge against Obamacare may fade away. I may not agree with all or even much of what is said there, but I for one would regret the loss.

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