Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Word of the day and a technical vocabulary

Today's word is Caledonian antisyzygy. I'll come to it shortly.

Today we also feature a technical vocabulary. and thank you to Christopher Brookmyre: "sleights and subtleties, shuffles, false cuts, drops and palms, vanishes, transpositions, penetrations." Put these words into the Google books search engine, and you do not find a book, even though the words are a quote from Brookmyre's A Snowball in Hell (Little, Brown, 2008). Put them into Google web search, and you find a new world of conjuring and its vocabulary.

Brookmyre is, of course, one of that loose group of writers described as tartan noir, contemporary Scottish crime fiction. According to the Wikipedia entry, "These works dwell on the duality of the soul; the nature of good and evil; issues of redemption, salvation and damnation amongst others. "Caledonian antisyzygy" - a Scottish phenomenon of the duality of a single entity - is a key driving force in Scottish literature, but appears especially prominently in the Tartan Noir genre."

So I'm taking an Ian Rankin and a Christopher Brookmyre on holiday with me, and a couple of Val McDermids. With best wishes to all of the readers (the reader?) of this fairly occasional blog - enjoy your holiday in your own way, too.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Happy Birthday John Milton

Yesterday is the 400th birthday of John Milton - or today for the American readers of this blog . Why a mention in a library-focused blog? Because Milton, one of our greatest poets, was also the great pioneer of freedom of speech.

Milton's Areopagitica, written in 1644 during the English civil war, is an articulate and passionate case for the liberty of speech. The ideas were not new when Milton published them: the title comes from the name of a hill in Athens, and from a speech by Isocrates in the 5th century BC.

Many of the statements about freedom of speech that we all half-know are from this book, like this one

"As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye."

and this one

"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat."

Milton believed that right will out, and access to good and bad argument was integral to this. He believed that freedom and choice we central to what it means to be human - "religion, if not voluntary, becomes a sin".

Areopagitica was written in the contest for freedom of religion that was fought between the armies of Parliament and of the King. Milton was a republican, a supporter of the "good old cause", the uprising of Parliament in the 1640s. He worked for the government of the Commonwealth in the 1650s, and was arrested on the return of the king in 1660. He was imprisoned for a time, but released. And went on to write his great poetic works.

Others are celebrating, too, although the Grand Paradise Lost Costume Ball would seem to miss the point of Milton. The program at Christ's College, Cambridge is more tasteful, quite reasonably, since Milton studied there 380 years or so ago. And for the domain name afficionados, Milton-L is there for you too. I guess for the rest of us, reading Milton is the best way to celebrate, and it is all online.

Happy birthday John, we owe you lots.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Censoring the Internet

There is growing opposition to the plans of the Government to censor the internet. Almost twelve months ago, following a statement by the Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy, ALIA issued a press release. It was headed ALIA's Ten questions on censorship for Senator Stephen Conroy. But we still don't know the answers to ANY of the questions.

Senator Conroy said in a recent interview on Radio National's The Media Report (30 October) that the government will first determine what kind of filtering or blocking of internet content is feasible, and then decide what will be blocked. He said ". . . a whole range of people have said, 'Hey, lets expand this', That's a debate that we will come to. What we're trying to establish at the moment, we're no further than establishing at the moment, whether it's technically feasible." So we don't know what the government plans to censor, and neither yet do they.

In the meantime, a number of organisations have taken up the issue. The No Clean Feed website and blog is organised by Electronic Frontiers Australia, which also covers internet censorship on its own site. Another site is the blog Somebody Think of the Children: discussing censorship and moral panic in Australia, and another very thorough personal site is Irene Graham's long-established site. Australians Against Internet Censorship, a Facebook group, is planning a nationwide protest on 13 December. There is also a Getup! campaign on this issue, and 89,000 people have signed their petition. Getup! has an interactive widget you can embed on your web page or in your blog. So there is a lot of action.

ALIA is a player in this, and we have an online content site. Let me know what you think ALIA should be doing. This is an issue which is very important to us, because libraries have always taken a strong stand in opposition to censorship.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Grown Up Digital

For those of you interested in generational stereotyping - and who isn't? - there is a new book by Don Tapscott, Grown up digital: how the net generation is changing your world (McGraw-Hill, 2008). I assume that the ambiguity of the term "grown up" in the title is intentional. Tapscott coined the term "the net generation" in 1997.

Reading a review of the book in a recent issue of The Economist, I was interested to read that "eight norms . . . define Net Geners". This generation, we are told
  • values freedom and choice in everything they do
  • loves customisation and personalisation
  • scrutinises everything
  • demands integrity and openness
  • wants entertainment and play in education and work as well as social life
  • loves to collaborate
  • expects everything to happen fast
  • expects constant innovation
These all seem to me to be good values and preferences and characteristics of a reasonable person in contemporary society. Nice checklist! I wonder what it means for libraries?

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is librariany. OK, it's not that much of a word, more logically obvious than essential, and Google only indexes 350 instances. But I was checking it out because I need to use it in a presentation and I couldn't think of a synonym. Browsing through the examples that
turned up on the search, I did come to the conclusion that librariany is a useful word - and Australia's leading
library blogger found it useful too. The usage includes some positives (used for library skills), some negatives (used for librarian stereotypes) and some fairly neutral or descriptive used.

What I also found curious was that when the Google search results came up they were accompanied by advertisements for library courses at Charles Sturt (you came top, CSU, well done), RMIT and UniSA (being there was good, too), as well as something called the Wallace Foundation. Uncanny. And lucrative.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Publish and Be Wrong

For those of us interested in the scholarly journal literature, the recent piece in The Economist headed Publish and be Wrong, was particularly intriguing. The argument reported in the article is that of Neal Young, John Ioannidis and Omar Al-Ubaydli, writing in the Public Library of Science Medicine. "In economic theory the winner's curse refers to the idea that someone who places the winning bid in an auction may have paid too much." In the same way, with competition for space in the highest ranking journals, the winners could be those most likely to oversell themselves, it is argued. Or, are the editors of the world's most prestigious journals aware of the winner's curse and alert enough to its dangers to counteract them?

Dr Ioannidis is an epidemiologist who attracted attention three years ago for his suggestion that most published scientific research is wrong. Already, the issues have been taken up thoughtfully in Peter Suber's Open Access News, and a little more robustly by Stevan Harnad and others on the liblicense-l list, as well as by a cacophony of bloggers.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is lifewide, as used in recommendation 2 of the final report of the Australian ePortfolio Project. Lifewide is a term which parallels lifelong (as in "lifelong learning") using another adjective indicating dimension, and forming a runtogether. Browsing the Web, it's use is becoming quite common, most often in the eportfolio context. And there are only three uses recorded for an Australian search, one of them in a Swinburne thesis. Plenty of scope yet. And it was about time lifelong learning broke out of its straitjacket.

The scope for new coinages is as extensive as the number of relevant adjectives. Why not register www.lifedeep.com.au - now? It is still available, and Google is only able to locate a few hundred instances of its use to date. Or www.lifehigh.com.au - the international domain is gone, but the Australian domain is still available, and the term is almost brand new, hardly ever used.

The eportfolio report makes quite an interesting read, too. The next stage will be an eportfolio toolkit.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Venturous Australia

Last night Dr Terry Cutler gave a particularly engaging lecture for the Faculty of Business and Enterprise at Swinburne. He headed the Review of the National Innovation System, and the report of the review, entitled Venturousaustralia: building strength in innovation, was released by the Minister, Senator Kim Carr, on September 9. On the night, Terry was backed up by a panel consisting of Dr Richard Hames, Professor Murray Gillin and Professor Andrew Flitman, as well as lots of questions from the very interested audience.

Terry Cutler's consulting business, Cutler & Company, has been a Melbourne fixture for over a decade, as has Terry. I came across him as a member, briefly, of the Library Board of Victoria, and later when he did some work for the State Library of Victoria - a project on developing a new way of looking at the business of libraries.

Starting with a few basic if sometimes eclectic facts - did you know that out of 16,000 Australian centenary medals, four were for innovation? or that Australia has a massive trade deficit in intellectual property, and the deficit is widening? - the presentation took a high level approach to the issues in Australian innovation, without summarising or repeating the report.

Equally eclectic, but definitely heartwarming for libraries, was his reference to Australia's failure to enact legal deposit legislation for digital publications as a potential point of failure in our innovation system, and his comments on the neglect of national collections and their digitsation.

The presentation concluded with a cartoon, which took a minute or two to read and was headed "Innovation is all about incumbency and challenge" - itself a challenging statement for a room full of incumbent academics, as well as an incumbent university librarian.

I am not going to review what is becoming known as the Cutler Report, but please do download a copy. Ignore the copyright statement, which the principal author is constantly apologetic about. The report is meant to be read and then acted upon.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Word of the Day

Today's word is apologology, and thank you to The Economist, which claims to have coined the word. It describes the study of apologies, and an apologologist is one specialising in this study - specifically, Melissa Nobles of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This is certainly relevant to Australia, which made a notable apology for an undoubted wrong which took place against Australia's indigenous people. But the article also notes the proliferation of apologies, which reduces their impact - the recent apology by the Danish minister for culture for the depredations of the Vikings in Ireland a millennium ago, for example. And some events are particularly rich fields for possible apologies - the example of Hank Paulson, the US treasury secretary and former head of Goldman Sachs was given.

Did the Economist coin the word? Alas, not quite. A Google search shows one previous use in the online universe, in a blog called Little Green Footballs.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Open Access and Research

Although this is not a word of the day entry, it does use two related expressions to bookend a very interesting conference, the Open Access and Research Conference, held in Brisbane on 24-25 September, and organised extremely effectively by Queensland University of Technology.

In one session, Professor Bernard Pailthorne of the University of Queensland asked a question about repositories of research data, along the lines of "do you really realise just how much storage space will be needed?" - an issue which he described as "deeply non-trivial." A very fair question, and quite an appropriate word of the day. A major focus of the conference was the management of research data.

Its antonym, from a a post by Professor Stevan Harnad on 1 October to the American Scientist Open Access Forum is "monumentally trivial", uttered in one of Stevan's regular sparring eposodes with Jean-Claude Guédon. The discussion was about the meaning of the term postprint, and that was indeed a term which had come up at the conference. "Postprint" is a term in the harnadian vocabulary - although not in extensive use - to refer to a journal article which is identical to the published and refereed version, but not in the published format. Another major focus of the conference was open access repositories of research outputs, such as journal articles.

A good conference - the big picture from several angles, the Cutler Report (and Terry Cutler for good measure), repositories, research data, open access, eresearch infrastructure, legal issues, government policy, the ARC and NHMRC - even the large hadron collider made several appearances.

I will put out a post on harnadian as a word of the day, too, since I raised the topic.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is DiReCt, which I understand is a relatively new service developed by the University of Southern Queensland, a kind of digital reserve or course readings service. Thank you to the Australian Library News for the reference. It is an acronymn for Digital Resource Collection using a mixture of capital letters and lower case letters, as many such acronyms do nowadays.

The word is provided here as an object lesson in the principle that, in spelling words, the big letters go at the front, and the little letters follow them. This is a pretty simple principle, one would think. It can be modified sometimes to use just big letters, especially in acronyms. Mingling upper and lower case letters to demonstrate the origin of an acronym - rathering than going for nice clean typography - is a practice which has proliferated in recent times. If it had existed in the past, then we would have had such things as MaRC and GeStaPo.

There is a nice article on acronyms and initialisms in Wikipedia. It has one defect - in the section on use of upper and lower case, there is no discussion of mixed case acronyms such as this word of the day. So here are four reasons not to use mixed case acronyms: (1) they look ugly, (2) they take slightly longer to type, (3) they look laboured and pretentious, and (4) case still often matters in searching.

Please feel free to send me your favourite examples of mixed case acronyms, and I will develop the argument further.
And please enjoy October. Its a very nice month, especially down here in Victoria.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Acronym of the day

When the Commonwealth Government was the new government, it changed the names of all the departments. We had become familiar with DCITA (which we pronounced d'keeta), the Department of Comnmunications, Information Technology and the Arts, and DEST (the Department of Education, Science and Training). Their pronounceable acronyms somehow humanised them.

But the new government, apparently unaware of the humanising effect of pronounceability, gave its new departments a different style of name - DCITA morphed into the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), and it was quite clear that it couldn't be pronounced at all. So it was heartening, at a Canberra meeting, to hear people referring to it as BACARDE (or perhaps Bacardi). Not strictly an acronym, since the D for Department has been dropped, and vowells have been changed in order to turn the acronymn into a homonym of a well known spirit (you can find out about it here, but you have to be over 18). But more human. Up to a point.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is frolleague, which is a work colleague who invites you to be an online friend. Thank you to Tom for spotting it.

The Inquirer used the word in a scare story run recently: "A frolleague epidemic is upon us." But how can friendship be seen as a threat to us all? Apparently this sort of thing "runs the risk of damaging careers" or "could be absolutely life-threatening", according to

"Although rather alien now Frolleagues is expected to become a far more familiar term soon enough, as due to the epidemic in Britain, the Oxford English Dictionary is considering it for inclusion in its next revision."

The Urban Dictionary provides some further definition and this example of usage "My Frolleague, Bert, is really connected but I would not be seen dead with him at a bar, so I'll invite him to join my LinkedIn network. While I drink and work with Betty so she gets the Facebook invite." In the absence of better grounded advice, that's the latest word on frolleagues.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Striking achievements from the National Library

I was so immensely impressed by the National Library of Australia's new Australian Newspapers BETA search service that I sent a message out about it in the irregular newsletter I send to staff. Someone found a relative in a newspaper overnight (they wouldn't do that kind of searching at work) and reported in. And since then I have come across several more happy users.

The service - see http://ndpbeta.nla.gov.au/ - is available and working now. It is freely available to the public and currently (several weeks ago) contains 73,000 out of copyright newspaper pages (approx 730,000 individual articles) from 1803 onwards. Another 20,000 digitised newspaper pages will be added each week to the service. The goal is to provide the full text of a daily newspaper for each state and territory up to about 1955, in both image and machine-readable form. You can also go and look at the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program (ANDP) website for more information – at http://www.nla.gov.au/ndp/project_details/ The site has a huge amount of information about the program.

Most of you, I assume, will just want to go to the site and try it out. One of the great strengths of the ANDP is that it is national; if your subject of interest is not nailed down in a specific state, the default search is national, across multiple newspaper titles. The text of the newspapers appears in all cases both as an image, and as scanned text using OCR. And because of the vagaries of OCR, if you spot errors (and there are plenty) and itch to correct them, you can. You can register as a user, and this enables you to correct the text - more crowdsourcing. The service even has a list of Top Text-Correctors.

You can add tags, ask questions, and use facets to refine your search, which is relevance ranked. In other words, the tools for accessing information through the Australian Newspapers service are definitely superior to the average library catalogue.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is crowdsourcing, and thank you to Rebecca for pointing it out, and to the JISC posting which we both saw. I was sure that I had used it before in this blog, but I haven't. I have just remembered where I did use the word, which was in the text of this library's IT Strategic Framework, developed early in 2007. So the word has been around for a while.

According to the Wikipedia, it means "the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call." Crowdsourcing has been coined along the lines of outsourcing, with which it is compared and contrasted. For us, crowdsourcing is most often applied to user-contributed keywords, or tags. There is an interesting article in Boingboing about the Library of Congress "using Flickr to crowdsource tagging and organizing its photo archive." And Flickr is the great example of user-generated subject descriptors - billions of them.

There are discussions amongst librarians about whether user-contributed tags are "better" than structured subject headings. Here is the definitive answer to that question: yes, and no. They do different things, both useful.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is wetware. This was created in the 1990s by analogy with hardware and software, and refers to the human brain. Merriam-Webster dfines it as "the human brain or a human being considered especially with respect to human logical and computational capabilities." Wikipedia has a much more complex definition, which refers to the way in which mind and brain interact.

The Merriam-Webster definition has the virtue of simplicity, but the disadvantage of particularly annoying pop-ups. It refers the user to Britannica Online, which has absolutely no information, but even more annoying pop-ups. You may well be able to do without this word, but if you do want to use it, the financial side of Wikipedia (a very small request for donations) is easier to handle.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is vagueing up, from yesterday's article in The Age by Michelle Grattan, headed "Nelson fudges 2012 date for start of carbon trade." Grattan uses the term in this sentence: "This is a vagueing up of the line of recent months, which said the scheme should start "not later than 2012". One Liberal later said the 2012 date was now "aspirational"." The alternative spelling, vaguing up, occurs in an article by Roger Clarke on research ethics. Roger refers to "withholding and/or vaguing up" research information to preserve a commercial advantage.

However, this invaluable term seems to have been coined anew by Michelle Grattan - yet another in her many contributions to the expression of Australian political life - I can
think of many possible uses already. I guess that a definition of the term would run something like "redefining a policy or course of action so as to make its meaning less clear". The expression has been formed by analogy with similar expressions, like dressing up or sexed up.

As for the spelling, that is a dilemma. Related words like queueing can be spelled both ways (with or without the e). I'm not sure which I prefer - simplicity would lean me to the version without the e, but the version with the e looks righter. And I'm a Gemini. You decide.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Request for Advice

One of the things Roxanne Missingham gave me when she handed over the ALIA presidency in May this year was the ALIA Facebook Group. Go to http://www.facebook.com and then to the group ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association). We have 272 members and nine photographs. This is about 5% of our membership (assuming they are all members) – a start, but a long way to go.

I was hugely impressed to hear of the success of Michael Geist’s Facebook group, Fair Copyright for Canada, which has grown to 88,000 members in a short time. The group has been so successful that members have actually met in, well, groups of people, physically. The Facebook group now has chapters. Have a look.

I asked Kathryn Greenhill, Murdoch University’s - and Australia's - online guru, and she suggested that photographs might work. So how about it? One of the features of the more lively Facebook groups I belong to is the proliferation of photographs, which bring people together.

In fact the liveliest group I belong to is the Swinburne Chapter of the Golden Key Society. This is a student society, and its members are mostly undergraduate students (my role is Advisor, liaison with the University). It is quite clear that they use Facebook in quite a different way to the way, er, librarians do. They use it daily as a primary means of communication.

But bear in mind how librarians use Facebook, and please send me your suggestions as to how we can make the ALIA Facebook group lively and relevant.

Why not start by putting a nice photograph of a horse in a library onto the site on Friday? Its their birthday (horses, not libraries), and you'll have great fun taking the picture, too.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Oxymoron of the day

OK, this is not a word of the day. However, those familiar with my collecting directions know that I collect oxymorons, and this is a borderline oxymoron. It is the definition of "digital heritage collections" developed by the Collections Council of Australia (sorry, Margaret) for its Australian Framework and Action Plan For Digital Heritage Collections.

The definition is "Collections of digital materials that, individually or collectively, represent significant (often unique) resources of human knowledge and expression." The bolded words are oxymoronic, to my mind. How can something digital be unique? I am advised that it can be rare (if no-one ever looks at it) but the terms digital and unique just sit at odds.

I have had questions about the nation's digital heritage collections ever since the Australian library world refused to match the term "born digital" (meaning created originally in digital format) with my own coinage, "born again digital" (meaning created originally in analog format, and digitised). The reality is that the idea of unique digital works or materials (in the sense of only one of them) misses the point, semantically and practically. There is no limit to the number of copies we can all have. Leaving aside copyright, of course.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is unfriended, and thank you to Jenny for this one. Unless I have remembered it wrongly. The term refers to your removal as someone's Facebook or Myspace friend. I guess in Linked In the synonym would be unconnected or unconnectioned.

The word is pretty well attested, and the Wiktionary even adds comparative and superlative - more unfriended and most unfriended. The Urban Dictionary, always useful, gives exactly the definition one would expect, and this example "
Wow, all I did was post a slightly suggestive picture in his profile and next thing I know I'm unfriended."

And as you would expect, friended, from the verb to friend, meaning to add someone as a Facebook friend. This is also now fully entrenched as a word, according to the Urban Dictionary - the best guide to the language of modern life in the west.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is gossipsize, and thank you to Dilbert for this one. In fact, this looks like a Dilbert original, and others clearly think so too - "Gossipsize: futuro neologismo? Striscia di Dilbert di ieri: Ancora una volta sono ammirata dall'incredibile flessibilità della lingua ..." As the author goes on to point out, this word is made up of the words gossip+downsize, coined by Catbert, "il malefico direttore del personale." It is also picked up by the wordie website - "like Flickr but without the photos." And the last word goes to another curious site, Proinsias: quelque chose se dit, which is subtitled "Learn some English with Dilbert." Gossipsize is defined as "jeu de mot (le mot n’existe pas en réalité): se débarasser d’un employé en employant le gossip."

Well, good news Proinsias, the word does exist now, and a very useful word it is.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Word of the day

Thanks to Kathryn for creepy treehouse. There is a great definition of the term by Jared Stein, and as I read it I realised that this was a term we in the education industry need. It is said to have been coined by Chris Lott in January this year, and to be current amongst "ed techs".

The definitions in Flexknowlogy (above) are "n. A place, physical or virtual (e.g. online), built by adults with the intention of luring in kids." You can substitute the words teachers and students for adults and kids, or for that matter anything similar - lawyers and laypeople is another. And

"n. Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards." There are more, and Mr Stein returned to the topic later.

My own non-educational example is the possum box that Peter the Possum Man installed in an old pear tree after he had removed the possums from the house roof, to their disgust. The possums climb past it every night, but never use it. Too creepy, I guess. Is that like a teacher setting up a Facebook group for the class? Or not?

Friday, 6 June 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is RLUK. Yes, it is not a word, but an acronym. And I just can't believe that my colleagues in the UK have changed their collective name from CURL (Consortium of University and Research Libraries) to RLUK (Research Libraries UK). The new name is even a phonemic anagram of the previous name.

You can read all about the new organisation at their new website. Naturally, being university librarians they do a lot of interesting things.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is backscatter, and thank you to Kerry Webb, of ALIA, Incite and Kerry's blog. Backscatter refers to one more category of the detritus which litters the Internet. It is those messages which you receive from systems administrators telling you that your message was undeliverable, or some such. In fact, you didn't send a message. Someone has forged your address in spam. There is a good definition in the Wikipedia, and the topic is covered on spam sites like Spam Resource. And Computerworld has an interesting piece about it, too.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is footer-mullet, and thank you to Dana for this one. The word is described in the Userslib web usability blog. A footer mullet is a website that has the business, the main content, at the top, and the news and "fun stuff" hanging down at the bottom - like a mullet. You can see an example at the site above.

If you are confused by the word mullet, which describes a hairstyle, then the best thing is to look at Mullets Galore, a website providing more illustrations of mullets than any reader of this blog could possibly want to see.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Barry and Clarke

The Future Australian Race is a wonderful play, currently being performed at the State Library of Victoria until 24 May. It has also had great write-ups in The Age and The Australian, among other places. Its authors, Sue Gore and Bill Garner, have a track record of dramatising libraries and librarians - something we do so poorly for ourselves - with their 1999 play The Terms and Grammar of Creation, performed in the Domed Reading Room of the State Library of Victoria, and dealing with the introduction of the Dewey Decimal Classification system.

Do see The Future Australian Race if you can. Defiantly nerdy. Definitely chic. Ring commonplace to book.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Cool librarian: where do you look?

This was the heading on a recent article in The Age - a review of a show (Librarian Idol) by Andrew Finegan, a Darwin librarian.

"There are some professions which are quintessentially cool", the article (by Fiona Scott-Norman) begins, and even this early in the piece, we know where she is headed. "And then there are professions . . ." such as librarian, definitely uncool. I guess that there is good news and bad news here. We are always banging on about being recognised as a profession, and in this piece we are. On the other hand we are not seen as a cool profession.

But Andrew suggests that "being nerdy is becoming cool these days. Look at Harry Potter."

Rebecca, in a comment on a post last December, when I first used the term nerd chic, suggested: "I have heard less flattering terms than 'nerdy chic' used to describe librarians' unique style, Derek. Perhaps we should embrace the 'nerd chic' phenomenon. There certainly seem to be a lot of Dr Who / David Tennant fans in libraries ..."

Leaving aside the issue of Dr Who and his fans, should we as librarians embrace the nerdy chic tag? Is that the way we wish people to see us? As Rebecca says, we could (and often do) do worse, and I think we do need to embrace it, although not necessarily every exponent and exemplar of the style.

Now that I am about to assume power (almost certainly the wrong word) as President of ALIA, perhaps I will be able to use the formidable powers of the position (almost certainly a self-delusion) to nudge Australian librarians along the nerdy chic road. But how? I will put it as one of five goals in my first columns in our monthly journal, Incite. But how will we achieve it? I agree with Andrew that it is about the journey rather than the destination, and concepts like "arriving" and "victory" are not really relevant.

How about some suggestions of what we should be emulating? In clothing, the whimsical nerd style seems to have taken off - and here too. Librarians are often mentioned in this connection, as exemplars. But its not all about clothing (and glasses, of course). Librarians are curious and know things too. Like Harry Potter and Doctor Who.

Word of the day

One of the words which arose at the IATUL Conference was reverse mentoring. As many younger people look at me pityingly when I disclose ignorance of some absolutely fundamental, axiomatic, known-to-every-child-over two technological skill, the need for this expression becomes plain. Mentoring makes sense, but it works both ways, and isn't only an older to younger (or experienced to inexperienced) thing. How do you start it off? There is already a website dedicated to it, run by a US company which "offers products, training and tools for organizations with a mix of a younger and older generations in the workplace." There are lots of articles like this one in the Financial Review. I'm sure a sensible enterprise could work out the principle and some strategies for itself.

IATUL, of course, is the International Association of Technical University Libraries, and it met in Auckland Next year Ludo Holans is organising its meeting, which is at the University of Leuven, in Belgium.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is linguistic whateverism, and thank you to The Economist for this word. The last issue of The Economist included a wonderful supplement, Nomads at last, on mobile telecoms, and it has lots of perceptive and valuable things to say. But its conclusion is uncharacteristically gloomy: As language goes, so does thought. The point being that mobile telecoms have led to a decline in language as it is abbreviated and attenuated in the way we use text.

Quoting Naomi Baron's book, Always On (the ultimate source of this word of the day) the article suggests that "For about 250 years, the consensus in Western societies has been that grammar, syntax and spelling matter, and that rules have to be observed. That consensus now appears to be at risk." If the contemporary digital nomad writes and reads in snippets, does this mean that thinking is reduced to snippets - "which is to say incoherently" - as well? The conclusion of The Economist, as always, is unbeat - there will be a correction, as there always is with technology.

Meanwhile, out in whateverism land, the world wide but often shallow web, the concepts of whateverism, and more specifically its linguistic version, are growing. There are efforts to define the concept. For example David Lundin refers to it this way: "Whateverism is about accepting things as they are, it’s about reaching the point when you realize that you can’t change it, and therefore is not in need of mourning." As an older person who is proud of overcoming early tendencies to unnecesary linguistic pedantry and taking on some linguistic permissiveness, it is nevertheless impossible to be a whateverist. There is a point where linguistic standards are necessary.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Word of the day

Thank you to Rebecca, for wikidemia. This term is used to describe 'an academic work passed off as scholarly yet researched entirely on Wikipedia'. Brilliant, and another triumph for the Urban Dictionary, from which the definition comes.

In the meantime, I'm afraid, the term appears also to have been coined to describe something else. Wikipedia now uses the word wikidemia to refer to a project which is "a space for articles related to academic research about Wikipedia." In all, 42 people have signed up as members of this project since it began in December 2004, or about one a month. I suspect that the number of wikidemics, in the sense of the first definition above, massively outnumbers the genuinely academic 42 - although you can't tell who they are, because most use netonyms.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is from Dana, who refers to Open Reading Frame, Bill Hooker's blog. Commenting on a blog post by Gavin Baker (to Open Access News), he says: "I realise that netonyms have been passé among the hipsterati for some time . . ." and makes some comments about the use of pseudonyms on the internet.

But which is the word of the day? Definitely netonym I think. It is certainly a new coinage, and there are few uses of it online so far. It is also a word which we can use - Langmaker defines it as an online identity or handle, constructed from internet and pseudonym. Dana might have used it in her own post on net pseudonymity, or not.

The Urban Dictionary defines hipsterati, which is pretty much as you would expect. Curiously, the definition also includes an unrelated picture of Vegemite - click on that, and find fifteen definitions, some funnier than others, as well as the full text of the Vegemite song.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Copyright, CAUL, Cadets and Citations

This has been a busy week.

The ALIA Education and Workforce Summit was held on 28 March in Melbourne, and I'll provide more information next week. Some of the outcomes included the need to focus on strategies for recruiting to the library sector, the need for university educators to meet together and the need for employers and educators to meet together.

The first post-Mullarvey Universities Australia (UA) meeting for copyright officers was held last Monday, in the shadow of John Mullarvey (the former chief executive), as we discussed the new agreement signed with the Copyright Agency Ltd at the end of 2007. The substantial interest in the cost of the deal enhanced interest and engagement with the issue, to put matters politely. I am a member of the four-person expert group set up by UA to think about the next agreement, in 2010.

Research metrics and nice research databases are one thing all Australian universities are thinking about; Swinburne is convening a group looking at integration of repository data with research data. On Tuesday we had a chat to colleagues from the University of New South Wales and the University of Newcastle on how we could achieve some better consistency in the forms of names of researchers. Others are interested in these issues - usual suspects like Thomson Scientific (producers of the Web of Knowledge database) and Elsevier (Scopus), as well as the National Library's People Australia program, currently in planning.

Thomson Scientific held another of their citation awards sessions, along with a Research Day, at the National Press Club on Wednesday, followed by a widely-reported address by Alan Robson, president of the Group of Eight universities.

CAUL is always interesting and worthwhile, because university libraries are very similar to each other, and the meeting is an opportunity for the rest of us to learn from those of the 47 (New Zealand is included) who are out ahead. Just a matter of finding them. CAUL met in Sydney on Thursday and Friday, and its papers are available online in great detail. There was heaps of interest - for example, a great presentation from Felicity McGregor on the Wollongong library cadet program for new graduates.

No blogs this week either - I'm heading off to the woods and water to walk around a bit. I'll give alliteration a rest, among other things.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is point-virgule - OK, its really semicolon, but in deference to the efforts of the French to defend it, we have used their word. The Australian reported on April 4 on a campaign to save the semicolon from extinction "because the media, authors and the French people no longer understand its use." An April Fool's Day joke reported that President Nicolas Sarkozy had created a government commission to save the semicolon, and that in future the mark would have to be used at least three times in all official correspondence. The joke appeared on the French news website Rue89. According to the reporter for Rue89, the President had entrusted a government MP, Benoist Apparu, with the task of saving the point-virgule; the plight of the semicolon was attributed to the spread in France of English styles and habits of expression.

You can read all about the semicolon, as always, in the Wikipedia. For those inclined to use longer sentences, the semicolon is indispensable. For others, essential.

The hidden issue is, of course, how to spell semicolon. I have adopted the style used by The Australian, but of course the hyphenated form semi-colon is also possible in English, as in French.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

ALIA Education and Workforce Summit

As we approach the summit, and the excitement mounts, I thought that I would highlight a few of the issues. In fact, the excitement is not really palpable, I'm afraid. Those excited about attending are by definition limited to 50-60 people (it is a summit) and as for those not attending, no-one has yet attempted to bribe me in order to attend, and even the polite requests are limited to several.

However, the issues are particularly important for us. We have isolated six issues in particular, and they are
1 What areas of skill shortage exist in libraries, and will exist in 5-10 years time?
2 What recruitment strategies should we be using, and who should be doing this?
3 What changes are need to our course recognition processes?
4 What can employers most usefully do in workforce planning and development?
5 How can we better integrate the current binary qualifications structure? What should be the qualification to be a librarian?
6 Can we provide "clear and feasible pathways for future non-professional participants in the LIS workforce who seek to attain professional status"?

Wondering what to do over Easter? Have a look at the summit home page, where there are 15 submissions, 4 issues papers and a background paper.

Word of the day

Today's word is churnalism, and thanks to Lorcan Dempsey and his blog for this one. The word comes from Nick Davies's book, Flat Earth News, about the state of British journalism; here is a review in the Guardian, and another in the London Review of Books. Davies says that churnalism has replaced journalism, and defines it as pseudo events manufactured by the PR industry and news stories generated by a new machinery of international propaganda.

Dempsey provides as an example the many lists which are generated one way and another, such as the recent list of the world's 50 most powerful blogs; he links back to
another list, of British writers, which had the distinction for librarians of including one, Philip Larkin.

And although this column is flexible about what might constitute a word, the following, contributed by Gary, is not eligible since it is an idiom or it is a piece of extremely sound advice - "always keep another horse in the bushes." Gary attributes it to Jeff Leeuwenberg.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Unlocking IP

One of the roles which I have taken on recently is chair of the board of the Australian Digital Alliance. The ADA is the Australian organisation which exists to lobby for a balanced copyright regime - balanced between the rights of copyright owners and copyright users.

This wonderful image was developed for and used on a badge, I think distributed at a forum on technological protection measures which we held a couple of years ago. Jamie Wodetzki, the then chair of the ADA, was the inventor. What I love most about it is the use of boltcutters to provide a visual take on the concept "unlocking." The image is, of course, about copyright, and the point that Jamie was making was that without usable exceptions to copyright, much information is locked away, and innovation stifled.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Mandated Filtering

Lately there have been many ideas about what kinds of things might be screened from the Internet user by their ISP (internet service provider), or perhaps monitored. Suggestions include things that are illegal, content which infringes other people's rights, and things that others just don't like.

Within Australia there has been recent discussion around the so-called "clean feed" has been based on requiring ISPs to block some categories of material. The focus has been on material which is refused classification - banned - in Australia. A recent report in The Australian (26 February) outlines plans by the Commonwealth Government to test ISP-based content filters.

One of the ambiguities in the whole debate about clean feeds and other filtering approaches is the lack of clarity over just what would be filtered out. The use of vague terms like "harmful and inappropriate material" compounds confusion and rightly attracts derision, according to a recent piece in Business Week.

In fact, ISPs already filter out a great deal of material, and you may not have a clear idea of what they do filter out. They may not.

Discussion of what may be monitored or filtered out from your internet experience is much wider than pornography. It has extended to the copyright sphere.

Michael Geist has an interesting post on mandated filtering in relation to copyright here. He points to recent developments in Belgium, France and the UK where music and movie interests are seeking mandatory filtering of Internet content by ISPs to identify and block "copyrighted content." "Such an approach", Geist suggests, "would be an enormous threat to the free flow of information online, it would curtail consumer rights, place new burdens on education and research, and create great harm to personal privacy."

An interesting piece in PC World discussed the work between AT&T and the Motion Picture Association of America on a fingerprinting system that could identify copyrighted material on the network. AT&T has no current plans to be "an enforcement agent or a policeman for content transported on our network", according to AT&T, "and in fact, there is no technology solution available at this time."

Plans for filtering are not just confined to pornography and copyright infringement - here is another example. ACMA (the Australian Communications and Media Authority) produces a blacklist of web pages which are refused classification, and sends this list to Australian ISPs. These are sites which it is, generally speaking, illegal to possess. The Australian reported recently that ACMA has also recently sent out a list of illegal gambling pages for ISPs to block. ACMA clarified that they normally send out a list (about 800 web pages) which combines illegal online gambling sites with other illegal material. The term "inappropriate" was used the describe the gambling sites.

There are so many things on the internet that someone thinks should be blocked to everyone. The new government has issued statements about access to information on the internet, but they are all about blocking things. Where is the balancing statement about our right to access information? Does the Government have a point of view?

Friday, 29 February 2008

Boards, Ex-Boards and Copyright Again

Well, there is a busy week coming up, coinciding with the end of summer today. The first meeting of the ALIA Board is on Monday, and we are all heading to Canberra on Sunday. There is lots going on, and the Board meets in the shadow of the current election campaign for new directors and a vice president. This is enlivened, more than ever before, by the adoption of the blog as the primary communication method for candidates; I have them all in my RSS reader, but traffic slow so far.

On Wednesday evening I fronted a CAL (Copyright Agency Limited) celebration in Melbourne of their achievement in handing out $500 million to CAL members. My university, like all universities, is a member of CAL, although, regrettably, we are massive contributors to the $500 million, not net recipients. This is despite the fact the universities and their staff are huge creators of intellectual property. One would expect them to be beneficiaries? Alas, no.

The CAL celebration was a nice opportunity to catch up with quite a few old friends, and it is nicely balanced by the meeting on 6 March of the board of the Australian Digital Alliance, and afterwards the AGM. This is the Australian organisation which lobbies in support of a balanced copyright regime. Unfortunately, while CAL has over 100 staff, we have one.

On Thursday I attended a meeting of the NetAlert Advisory Council, successor to the board which managed NetAlert from 1999 to the middle of 2007. This was the first meeting of the council since the change of government, so we were all interested to find out what new and interesting ideas Senator Conroy, the relevant minister, has had since his thoughts on new years eve. Certainly the indications are that there are plenty of ideas for new measures to control access to the internet. I will do a posting in a few days about the many things which have been suggested lately for ISPs to filter out of their customers' internet experiences.

Feel free to provide input on any of these matters, and enjoy the rest of summer.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Best of Careers - Librarian?

The Annoyed Librarian has a recent post on libraries as a career, on the occasion of librarianship making the US News and World Report list of best careers. The list was compiled using these criteria - job satisfaction (high), training difficulty (not too long, not too much science/maths), prestige (based on a survey), job market outlook (government data plus likelihood of offshoring) and salary. The executive summary for "librarian" is folksy in style, but that's the house style. There is a nice piece of hyperbole which puts us where we might want to be (and also includes a classic mixed metaphor, for those who look for these things) - "high-tech information sleuths, helping researchers plumb the oceans of information available in books and digital records".

In another post, the Annoyed Librarian, in upbeat mode, lists five things she likes about being a librarian. They seemed to me to apply in Australia, too. There is lots of appeal about being a librarian, so much so that we have a skewed age structure, partly because we attract so many people deserting other careers to become librarians. Our national library educator of choice (not a value judgement, other library schools, just a headcount), Charles Sturt University, caters particularly well to this group.

Nevertheless, it does appear that we are failing to attract new entrants to the library workforce. So it is time to remind everyone of the ALIA Workforce and Education Summit being held in Melbourne on 28 March this year - have a look at the website, there are several papers there now. And more to come? Please.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is courtesy of the past, and is the term vanity network publishing. I used (invented) this term in a paper I gave at a national conference on web publishing and legal deposit in 1995. I pointed to the plenthora of published work that was possible in an open and networked environment. I unkindly described this as vanity network publishing. I see from my Google search on the term that Tony Barry took it up at the Online conference in 1997.

I said, in a legal deposit context: "Some publishers demand that their material be accepted and retained - there will be many more of these as the vast new possibilities for vanity network publishing are exploited. We will not be able to make everyone happy."

In fact, although I was right about the proliferation of vanity network publishing - I am indulging in it now, as so many of us are - I was not right about people demanding that the National Library preserve it. Perhaps they fondly imagine that it will remain just where it is now, on a server somewhere in the United States that will remain on the Web forever. But I know that that is unlikely and (looking back on that paper from 1995) I wonder whether I should ask the National Library to archive this blog. The question gains added relevance as the Government ponders the responses to the Attorney-General's discussion paper on legal deposit released late last year.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Word of the day

Thank you to Gary for providing the term traffic shaping. This is now applied to the many ways in which ISPs, telecommunications carriers and corporate IT departments might manage Internet traffic - by filtering out things they don't want.

In fact, traffic shaping is a term used for many years to refer to management of internet traffic to optimise performance. It has recently been extended to refer to eliminating low priority bandwidtgh-heavy uses of a connection, such as media, non-work related sites, file sharing downloads and the like. While the original term related to management of bandwidth, people are increasingly demand that internet traffic be managed on other grounds too.

For example, the Sydney Morning Herald has a piece on The Rudd government contemplating a three strikes policy. ISPs would monitor access by their users to pirated music, TV shows and movies; on the third offence, they would cancel the offender's internet access. Another projected government policy aimed at traffic shaping was the policy announced by Senator Conroy before the election for mandatory filtering of Internet content to remove illegal and inappropriate material such as pornography.

If you don't like something, see if the government can make ISPs eliminate it.

Friday, 15 February 2008

International Year of Languages

This year has been proclaimed the UNESCO International Year of Languages, and there is a wonderful piece by Michael Clyne in The Age recently to tell us why. Michael is the author of many books but, for libraries, most notably of Multilingual Australia (1982), which has a great coverage of the contribution of libraries to achieving a multilingual society.

Another great contribution has been made by the Open Road Conferences. The 4th Open Road Conference is coming up soon, and is Open Road 2008: Multilingualism and the Information Society. Like its predecessors, it is run by Vicnet, and provides a forum to discuss and showcase innovative ICT developments in this area. It is on 15-16 May at the State Library of Victoria Conference Centre, and you can find out how to register and what is on here. These conferences have been a great means of bringing together technology and language issues, and the Open Road website is invaluable.

The International Year of Languages has as a major goal celebrating and maintaining language diversity; the IYL is being launched next week (21 February) on International Mother Language Day. Within Australia, an interesting place to go is the Transient Languages and Cultures blog, which comes out of the PARADISEC project to document endangered languages. Australia is, of course, famous for its endangered languages. Something to be sorry about, too.

Word of the day

Today's word is incent, used as a verb - thanks to Dilbert, where the verb is used as a synonym for motivate - ironically, needless to say. An interesting way of creating new words is to fill in gaps in forms of speech for existing words. A long-standing noun, like incentive, can also give rise to new (or rediscovered) verbs and participles, in multiple forms - incentivise, but also incent. Language is a wonderful thing, and this is the UNESCO Year of Languages.

According to the American Heritage Book of English Usage, we have had incentivise since the 1970s and incent since the 1980s. Alas, 96% of the book's Usage Panel reject a basic use of incent and prefer other words, leaving the use of this valuable emerging verb to small niches like "business leaders", according to the AHBEU. What would they make of

Friday, 1 February 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is continuous partial attention, a term used by Courtney Gibson, from the ABC, at the National Library's Innovative Ideas thing last year. Courtney Gibson was then the head of Arts, Entertainment and Comedy at ABC TV and has since moved up. She was quoting Linda Stone a decade before (in 1997) and the term appears, from an online search, to have been heavily used since then. In fact, Linda Stone has her own website, which resolves to another website dedicated to the term continuous partial attention. Wow.

The term has an established definition - Wordspy defines it as "a state in which most of one's attention is on a primary task, but where one is also monitoring several background tasks just in case something more important or interesting comes up." Its clearly a useful term - how did we get on without it?

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is knol, and thanks to the indefatigable Peter Suber for that. Knol is Google's answer to the Wikipedia, and Peter quotes a Google blog posting which describes knol, launched on 13 December, and standing for " a unit of knowledge." "Our goal" the blog goes on, " is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only." Wikipedia, to which knol is a rival, has an entry on knol, as one would expect. The BBC has an interesting item on the knol, too, ending with a quote from Nicholas Carr, who suggests that the knol project is a head-on competitor with Wikipedia. "He said it was an attempt by Google to knock ad-free Wikipedia entries on similar subjects down the rankings."

This blog is a friend of Wikipedia, as previous postings have indicated. but as a librarian, the more information the better. Surely?

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Word of the Day

Thank you to Sue for today's word, which is glitching. Glitch is a common word, especially used in relation to technology, but I haven't seen it as a verb before - although according to Wikipedia it is derived from a German adjective meaning "slippery", or I guess now "glitchy", which is also pretty widely used. The context is ". . . the list seems to be glitching today." Wikipedia defines it as a bug, or a "short-lived fault in a system."

But it has migrated from computing and electronics to the real world now, and is used in any context. There is even a Glitchipedia. I like the way language is used to bring the vagaries of personality into technology, which is on the whole boring and predictable. In many cases, of course, the glitch is in the user, rather than the software, but the use of the term gently shifts the blame. Last week's transport ticketing glitch in Brisbane, which held up the Go Card, is a nice case study in the use of the term.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Word of the day

Thank you to Julie for today's word, which is webinar, as featured recently in the comic strip, Unshelved. A webinar, according to the strip definition, is a seminar held on the web. Like electronic card last week, this is close to oxymoronic, like so many e-versions of analog nouns.

The Wikipedia defines webinar in this way: "A webinar is a type of web conference, that tends to be mostly one-way, from the speaker to the audience with limited audience interaction, such as in a Webcast, which is transmission of information in one direction only, like watching a concert on the internet. A webinar however, can be very collaborative, and include polling and question & answer sessions to allow full participation between the audience and the presenter. A webinar is 'live' in the sense that information is conveyed according to an agenda, with a starting and ending time . . . There are a few web conferencing technologies on the market that have incorporated the use of VoIP audio technology, to allow for a truly web-driven presentation, removing the need for any external devices, such as a telephone."


Monday, 7 January 2008

Word of the day

Thank you to Tom for today's word, which is yo, used as a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun in place of "he" and "she". It is in an article from a journal called American Speech (2007) v.82(3):262-279 - "A new gender-neutral pronoun in Baltimore, Maryland: a preliminary study / Elaine M Stotko and Margaret Troyer. Here's an example of this new usage, from the article "Yo handin' out papers" = She [the teacher] is handing out papers."

The Wikipedia defines the normal role of the word as an American slang interjection, or a greeting (like "hey") but with other meanings according to tone, context and situation. It can also be an exclamation at the end of a sentence.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Odd Alliance

In his piece in The Age yesterday, Peter Chen refers to "an odd alliance of librarians, libertarians, industry hard-heads, IT geeks and computer experts." He refers to this odd alliance as backing Senator Kate Lundy some time ago in her opposition to internet censorship. At the same time, an editorial in The Australian reinforced Peter's comments on internet censorship and made many of the same points.

These articles are two of many which have appeared in response to the recent announcement by Senator Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Information Technology. The Minister announced that the Government proposed to require all internet service providers to provide "clean feeds" - internet content that is "free of pornography and inappropriate material." This would be mandatory for all households, schools and libraries.

Although there have been many critical comments, it is not at all clear what the Government plans to do, or whether what it plans to do can be done - depending on what it plans to do (this is a circular statement, yes). If the government plans to filter the internet for all Australians without slowing down response times, then it won't be filtering out much; as Peter Coroneos (Internet Industry Association) points out, the more you filter out, the longer it takes. Logical and true.

At these stage there seem to be a couple of logical steps. First, it might be a good idea to put together that odd alliance to which Dr Chen refers. And second, we must ask questions and see if we can find out what the Government plans to do, if "plans" is not too precise a term for its intentions.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is electronic card. This is, you would think, a clearly and obviously oxymoronic term. "Card" describes a type of stiff paper which can be used for a variety of purposes, such as conveying a tasteful greeting, being rigid enough to be stood up on a mantlepiece, and incorporating sufficient space to write a few appropriate words somewhat short of a letter. Cards are also slightly cheaper to send, at about $1.45 for a reasonable quality card and a stamp. An electronic card can do none of these things, and the term therefore qualifies as an oxymoron - one term negates the other. Most electronic cards are not tasteful, not rigid, and not writeable.

Although what we really need is a new term for an electronic card, and a different function, we are likely to have to live with the oxymoronic term we now have. Here is a
charming card from the University of Queensland Library which although called an electronic card, does something quite different to the things a card can do.

It is easy to be taken in by a statement that the money which would have been spent on cards has been donated to a charity. For a university library sending out, say, 70 cards, this amounts to $101.50. Nice electronic cards cost a lot more to create - perhaps a programmer and/or software developer for a day or so, at least. I did say a nice card.

Happy new year, too.