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?