Subscribe to

Archive for March, 2007

23 tasks for librarians

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The last thing we want is for people to come into our libraries and ask about Flickr or Second Life and be met with a blank look,” says Christine MacKensie, director of the Yarra Plenty Regional Library in Melbourne, Australia, to a reporter for Wired News. That’s why Ms. MacKensie’s library, like many others, put employees through a training process called Learning 2.0. The project, a primer on interactive Web tools conceived by a public-library official in North Carolina’s Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, gives library staffers a list of 23 tasks to complete over a period o f about nine weeks. Learning 2.0 starts by teaching participants how to create blogs, and it then asks trainees to use those blogs to record their thoughts on a bunch of other tech tools — like folksonomies, wikis, and podcasts — that they also try out. The primer was designed with public libraries in mind, but a decent share of college libraries have also used it, according to Wired News. For librarians wondering how Web 2.0 will alter information-literacy training, it’s worth a look, at the very least. –Brock Read

Harvard Forum on Social Tagging

I’m at [well, I was yesterday when I wrote this] a session at Harvard’s Lamoint Library (one of the 90+ libraries here) about Web 2.0 and social tagging. I just gave a 20 minute opener on why tagging matters.

Michael Hemment, the host, begins by showing tag clouds from 50 students who were asked to tag some particular resources. The group quickly guesses that the first tag cloud refers to the libraries, the next is Google, and the next is Jon Stewart. Very amusing,

Michael talks about why slocial tagging matters to libraries. He mentions some initiatives, including PennTags , Stanford IC, and the Steve Museum. Harvard has the CRT (Collaborative Research Tool) and EdTags initiatives. He also mentions iCommons (exploring iSites metadata and tagging) and ARTStor .

He takes a closer look at, showing how easy it is to enter titles, organize them, tag them, and get suggestions.

PennTags was created by the U Penn library to enable university members to tag books. (The site is open to anyone, but only U Penn members can add tags.) It begins with a tag cloud of tags used at least 58 times, Users can also create folders to organize bookmarks into projects. [I blogged about it here.]

The Stanford Library Information Center combines tags, blogs and wikis. It includes tagging by librarians who organize resources in a somewhat more orderly way.

Harvard could, Michael says, enable tagging of the libraries’ resources, and the Lib-X tool (a browser add-in that gives you access to Harvard’s onloine resources) could be used to tag sites, adding to what Harvard knows.

Carla Lillvik, Research and Distance Services Librarian at the Gutman Library of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, looks at “social tagging and bibliographic management.” She says you want not only to find resources and organize them, but also to cite them.

She uses as her example the site Five Weeks to a Social Library. She adds it to her page at Connotea and tags it. She could also post it to But what about resources she finds in research databases, e.g. EBSCO Host? She could add it to Connotea, even though the URL doesn’t look persistent. But Connotea doesn’t pick up any of the bibliographic info from the database. (Connotea has agreements with a long list of such systems, including BioMed Central, PLoS,, and, but not with all of them.) She can instead make a folder in EBSCO, which does indeed pick up all the info. [Sounds like we need a standard API for university e-research systems.] Harvard’s RefWorks has the advantage, Carla says, of enabling batch tagging [LibraryThing does too] and enables output in a variety of bibliographic styles [yay!] RefWorks folders can be shared, even with people who don’t have an account; they can be shared as an RSS feed, too. (RefWorks works with Google Scholar — you can set a preference so that results can be imported into RefWorks.)

Michael Hemment presents Prof. Dan Smail’s Collaborative Research Tool (CRT), a social tagging tool that works within Harvard’s e-environment. In Smail’s course on Medieval Europe (History 1122) , students are put onto teams (e.g., “France, Germany and italy”) and are assigned sources. They create virtual note cards that are tagged, annotated and entered nto a database. Class discussions, lectures, and final papers are based on these cards.

The cards tend to include the passage, comment, related links, and tags. It’s easy to navigate by tag.

Pedagogical implications, according to Michael: Students have to reflect on their tagging schemes. [meta learning] They cards “form the basis of complex intertextual discourse on a broad range of medieval topics.” E.g., you could see how Ulysses appears through multiple literatures. Also, tagging develops a personal relationship to the source material.

[Excellent. But we still need a way to write a document based on cards, so that adding info from the card automatically creates the right footnote and bibliographic entry in the document, and notes where the card has been used. I blogged about this here.]

Adam Seldow, a grad student at the Harvard School of Education, works on It’s a social network to connect people who share interests in education. It’s open to anyone. You can tag a site, vote on bookmarks, email them, blog them, or find related blog postings. You can upload your papers, photos, presentations, etc.

Q: How does tagging fit with scholarly resource? Is there a way to cite where and how a resource is tagged?
A: (Michael) Not in the major tagging sites, e.g., The lack of rules has been one of the advantages of these sites.The noise introduced can often be negated at least in part by the good rising to the top.

Q: How about privacy?
A: (Adam) EdTags lets you set the level of privacy. And it’s an actively managed site.

Q: What types of resources does EdTags tag?
A: (Adam) Mainly “gray literature” — blog posts, preprints, Web sites, course-generated papers.

Q: (me) What do we do about the fragmentation of the tagging space? I can tag in, Connotea, EdTags…
A: (Adam) A condition when we built EdTags was that it has to be able to talk wth or export to an XML file. Personally, I use different tagging sites for different types of research.

Q: What are the patterns of use at EdTags?
A: EdTags has been live for a little over a year. (It started as TeacherShare.) First year doctoral students, who were trained on it, use it. It’s being used in some specific courses and teacher education programs, plus a community of faculty members interested in emerging trends in education technology. The person who uploads the most bookmarks is a woman from Slovenia. There are about 400 users. About 100,000 hits/month.

Q: Did you build it from scratch?
A: It’s a mashup of Scuttle, an open source platform, with lots of custom work.

Q: HW and SW behind it? How did you finance it?
A: (Adam) A Harvard Provost Innovation Grant financed it.

Q: How to encourage the use of social tagging at a library?
A: (Michael) I don’t know that we want to encourage it. We’re exploring. [Tags: ]

Twitter Updates for 2007-03-23

  • working on some net neutrality, etc., stuff. sort of fun. #
  • Created acct: Adulterous relationship with twitter? #
  • sitting outside, writing. Pretending it’s spring. #

Powered by Twitter Tools.

Twitter Updates for 2007-03-22

  • Jogged for the first time in 3.5 months. Ow. #
  • Worried about Eliz. Edwards. Loved her book. Love her. #

Powered by Twitter Tools.

[berkman] Mary Wong on Copyright and human rights

Mary Wong of the Franklin Pierce Law Center is giving a Berkman talk titled “Copyright & Access to Knowledge: Rights/Rhetoric, Openness/Opacity, Future/Fears.” [As always, I’m typing too quickly, missing stuff, getting stuff wrong, paraphrasing wildly…If you want verisimilitude, the event itself is webcast and recorded in multiple ways.] She’s going to talk about copyright policy and the a2k (access to knowledge) movement and how some important terms that, in their use in rhetoric, have been misunderstood.

She points to the simultaneous increase in openness and opacity. The “existing regimes” have put up roadblocks. “What is the future if we have rights battling rhetoric, openness fighting opacity?”

Copyright began as a tool of censorship used by the Crown, became a type of trade regulation, and then was established as a private property right, Mary says. The tropes we use to talk about it derive from that history. These tropes have been deconstructed by people like Foucault and Barthes. Mary says that she’s not going to examine today deconstructionist issues such as whether the author is a myth.

She says she’s not going to suggest stopping treating copyright as a private property right because she’s trying to come up with workable solutions. Rather, what can we do about the expansion of copyright in order to increase access to knowledge? “Reconize the spectrum of alternative property rights?” E.g., the commons, the public domain. “Establish balance through ‘user rights'”? E.g., elevate and reconfigure Fair Use, and treat it as a right. “Create flexible mechanisms within property?” E.g., Creative Commons.

On alternative property rights: We can all agree that a we need a robust public domain for democracy and for cultural, social and economic development. [No one here exclaims in shocked outrage :)] But how do you turn that into a concrete policy proposal? We don’t even have good definitions of public domain and the commons in a way that would let them serve as alternatives to copyright. Usually the public domain is defined more in terms of what it is not than what it is. Are the commons something unowned or owned by a group of people? Is it owned by society in generally? All of these uses are used in the law, and sometimes they’re used interchangeably with “the public domain.” We don’t have a consensus on a definition for either of these terms, but both have gained currency in the copyright debate, she says. “While they’re useful hooks and very important direction indicators, they’re not necessarily at this stage…the solution.” “How can the current discourse be refocused?” (Mary is encouraged by the fact that NGOs and civil society groups are participating in this debate, worldwide, rather than confining it merely to lawyers.)

Our traditional conception of the author is Romantic and has been affecting copyright law for a couple of hundred years. But this is “inadequate to deal with collaborative, communal and social forms of creativity.” The term “author” shows up all over the Berne convention. But it’s a one-size-fits-all notion that doesn’t work in many of the newer forms of creativity that involve “sharing, collaboration and openness.” “Can we at least try to reconfigure or manipulate the notion of the author to better serve the understanding of what it means to create something?”

She suggests considering this in terms of human rights rather than property rights. She points to Art. 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. UDHR says that if you create something, you have rights over it. But in a case in the UK, the court decided that that property right needs to be balanced with the rights of users and readers. Canada has also talked about “users’ rights.”

She is not saying that copyright is a human right. She is suggesting (she says) adopting the human rights framework to bring in more broad and flexible considerations, to give a foundation to users’ claims. Even within the US’s utilitarian claims (i.e. copyright enables the advancement of the arts and sciences) there is room for natural law claims. And she points to WIPO’s acknowledgement of the special needs of developing countries.

Q: (Charlie Nesson ): I’m completely taken by your initial approach. Asking what we can do rather than just talk about it, and the idea of user rights resonate. The user I’m most interested in at the moment is the university. What would be thread that we can pull to effect change? Right now, the burden of proof of Fair Use is on the user, which is tremendously constraining. How about if we (universities) got behind a law putting the burden of proof on the copyright holder? It doesn’t require changing the basis of copyright law. It could be a focal point…
A: I’m with you on that totally. To do this, we need to change the mindset. Maybe have the university focus on the human rights frameworks.

Q: If we focus on the users, how do we do it? Do we list things you can’t do, or the things you can?
A: We talk about Fair Use as an exception to copyright. What do we do with the existing language?

Q: (J Palfrey ) I love the idea of the university as the user and focal point. But suppose we think of the user as a re-user. Could rethinking who the author is help? Creating isn’t just standing on the shoulders of giants but standing on the shoulders of everyone. [Nice.]
A: The reconfiguring of authorship fits in this paradigm, and fortifies it.

Q: (me) How would this play out when it comes to making the world’s books available on line?
A: Prof. Nesson’s idea of changing the burden of proof would work well here. It would be an opt-out scheme, rather than opt-in, for the publishers. We’ll see a battle between the copyright right holder and another right holder.

Q: (Doc Searls) Terms like “user” implies subordinate status. We’re still using real estate metaphors, e.g., sites. This stipulates the Web as a series of places, and places are owned. So we have to change our metaphors.
A: Copyright came from literal property. We do need to move past that.

Q: (ethanz): I like reframing it, but I worry about doing it on human rights, which is one of the shakiest of foundations. The Declaration of Human Rights is a huge intellectual battlegrounds, with a number of Islamic nations saying it’s incompatible with their views, conservatives in the US objecting, etc. You’re building it on one of the most disputed and least binding of “law.”
A: I’m trying to distance my suggestion from wading wholeheartedly wading into that particular fray. I’m not saying it should be a full-fledged human right. But that framework provides a good “hook,” Article 27 gives us ammunition because it recognizes both the rights holder and the user. .And then maybe tap into WIPO’s new interest in copyright for developing companies.

Q: (ethanz): You’re being aspirational, and the UDHR is the paradigm of aspirational thinking. A different approach is to ask what we’re actually doing as users, and then figure out the legislation we need. E.g., in universities we photocopy chunks of text (“No we don’t!” yell several of the law professors, who are also chuckling) and hand them out to students.
A: Yes, it’s aspirational. I’m hoping that if you change mindsets, you can change policy. Lawyers like starting points that are definable, neat and can be generalized. But if you have fair use for universities, you end up with various laws for various domains.

Q: how do you get people to see rights as community based?
A: It’s a challenge.

[Tags: ]

Ranganathan’s fantasy

From Ranganathan, the founder of library science:

“Since multiplicity of helpful order among specific subjects is a fact independent of library classification – a fact to be reckoned with in arrangement – how are we to provide for it? It is a case of arranging concrete materials – books and other kindred materials – in such a way that one kind of arrangement presents itself to one person and another kind to another person. To secure this by pressing a button is obviously possible only in the world of fancy; it is not possible in the world of reality.”

Ranganathan, Philosophy of Library Classification (1951)

Via Tim Spalding via Jacob Glenn [Tags: ]

Candidate tag

Jon Udell suggests the government have an opt-in $3 Citizen Media Fund (to complement the already-existing Presidential Campaign Fund) to pay for the aggregation and tagging of raw video footage of the candidates so that citizens can “slice and dice what politicians and pro pundits say, by candidate and by issue, across venues, recombine that material to support a whole new level of scrutiny and analysis.” Every question and every answer ought to be tagged, as Jon suggests elsewhere.

I of course like the prospect of having a huge pile of well-tagged candidate videos — it’s so miscellaneous! — but I think there’s zero prospect of this coming through the government. Nor should it. We’ve got the pile, thanks to YouTube and the candidate’s own sites. If we get it tagged well enough, someone will build a site that lets us search through them and cluster them. And if someone builds a site, we’ll tag ’em well enough. It could be a citizen group, a media site, or YouTube or Technorati. One way or another, this is likely to happen no check-off boxes required. [Tags: ]

Britt Blaser: The People Law trumps the Power Law

Usually the first economic argument presented for the importance of the Long Tail is that the area underneath the tail is far greater than the area underneath the Short Head. And since that area represents people with whom the point on the curve communicates, the Long Tail represents a far greater economic opportunity. But, that argument thinks of the points as mini-broadcasters and markets as homogeneous aggregations of consumers. Such a simplistic vew misses the knotty nature of the Long Tail. The points are engaged with one another and with their readers (as Chris Anderson makes clear in his nuanced book, The Long Tail). Yes, Long Tails are conversations, too.

Britt Blaser puts this differently and quite nicely in his most recent post: The People Law trumps the Power Law. Here’s how it begins:

There are five principles I’m playing with lately:

1. The size of your audience confers limited power

2. A network’s value is the square of its nodes (Metcalfe)

3. Network nodes are significant only when they’re verbose

4. Most conversation is among nearby nodes

5. Only interactions count, and the richest count most

He goes on from there…and ends it with a nice motto:

Where there’s folk, there’s fire.

[Tags: ]

On March 21, at 6:30, I’m holding a Berkman “Web of Ideas” discussion of whether and how participatory culture encourages participatory democracy. The discussion is open to all. (The Berkman Center is at 23 Everett in Cambridge: Map.)

It’s not obvious that just because we’re participating in our culture more, our democracy will also change. Certainly, politics and culture are not distinct realms, so our expectations in one should affect the other. But not necessarily. Take some prototypical objects of cultural participation. What would you choose? Wikipedia? Blogosphere? File sharing? Second Life? AssignmentZero ? What is our participation in those and what does that participation teach us? How much of that is political? And do the lessons transfer? For example, Wikipedia teaches us — well, those of us who think Wikipedia is awesome — that credentialed authorities are not the only ones who can be trusted. But does that apply beyond building encyclopedias? Does it affect our view of, say, policy experts in the government? What are we learning and does it apply?

I don’t have answers to these questions. I’m not coming in with an hypothesis. I’m hoping you’ll come and remind us of what Henry Jenkins, Lawrence Lessig, and Yochai Benkler have to say on the topic. And who else?

So, let’s talk. [Tags: ]

I’m all a-Twitter

Next »