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?