I've heard the same comment five or six times at the Starbucks on Pacific Street in Santa Cruz, each time from a different barrista.
"Five bucks? That's a lot for a newspaper!"
Today, instead of smiling weakly and obediently proceeding to the dark corner near the bathroom where we wait for our caffeine, I replied, "Three dollars is a lot for a cup of coffee. And the Sunday New York Times lasts all day."
Then tipped, smiled, and proceeded to the dark corner.
John Berry of Library Journal recently wrote, "I am troubled when I read all the whining about flaming and 'inappropriate' comments on the various discussion lists to which I subscribe." He encouraged librarians to let it all hang out, and scolded lists where informal rules of conduct preside.
I was reminded of his words this week, as someone took aim at me not once but again and again, on a list where it all hangs out. I believe in allowing adults room to design their own territories, and I haven't enjoyed those discussion lists where a list "parent" was so rigid about the rules that real discussion was impossible. But it once again became obvious to me how valuable a list without any guidelines or management is for people who are not hanging out, but acting out. With no repercussions for their actions, they can do what they cannot do anywhere else in life: say whatever they want, with no accountability or repercussion.
Problems with digital communications are not limited to discussion lists. In the last few weeks, I've seen colleagues I otherwise respect take wild, factually inaccurate shots through their blogs and then privately admit, oh yes, maybe they were wrong. I've seen librarians put their peers on the spot, in ways they never would face to face. I've seen colleagues use e-mail to lie about themselves and not get called on it.
It's telling that the digital environments where this behavior is not the norm are managed by library leaders who are Internet long-timers with extensive online experience, and that the lists that typify the nastiness I'm describing are managed by those who are Internet naifs. A couple of days ago someone tried to "explain" to me that because My Place Of Work is online and visible, these attacks are expected. I have been on the Internet for nearly fifteen years, and I am here to witness, with the fullness of experience, that there is never any reason for this kind of behavior, in any format, in any place, and certainly not on a list for a dues-driven professional association. For this I paid real money?
I've signed off the list in question because life is short and I only have so much room in my life--not enough room for this nonsense. I am sure someone will tell me that this list is "useful," but my response is that it no longer has enough "use" for my purposes. Once too often on this list, I've seen the kind of behavior that would shame me (or prompt me to take real action) if I experienced it in any face to face setting--work, home, church, neighborhood, a BART train. This list isn't an example of intellectual freedom in action. It's an example of what happens when people hide behind "principles" because they are unable or unwilling to do the hard work required to turn a frontier into a town center.
I thank my colleagues who gamely rose to my defense in so many different ways, and I acknowledge that their efforts were not only on my behalf, but on behalf of a much larger cause. And I pity those left behind, captives and captors alike.
I wonder if some of my writing colleagues would be willing to consider a code of ethics for communications in the digital environment--not an iron-clad set of rules, but principles to guide us in our actions in this new world. Or would that be "whining?"
Little did I know that based on my last post, people were watching this blog waiting for an Announcement regarding, well, me. I'm not going anywhere; I've got way too much going on right now at My Place Of Work (MPOW). If I tried to leave, my board would hunt me down and bring me back.
I won't be here forever, but this has already outlasted every other library job I've had, and I'm still not bored. Plus I'm starting an MFA, my roses are just starting to get really established, I just spent way too much on electrical improvements to our condo (including a Hunter Original that whirls and whirls so beautifully!).
Note: Sandy's job ends in June, and if she can't find a job around here, we'll have to go where she does find work (she's a minister in the United Church of Christ, currently wrapping up a position as an interim pastor). But no Plans are Afoot.
The Blessed Event I was mumbling about has to do with upgrades and whatnot. (To software, not humans. I'm not much for using blogs to share the details of my latest dental work.) When we've done the requisite amount of paper-pushing and flurrying of paperwork here and there, you'll know more.
And meanwhile, I'm posting this from Starbucks via my MPOW corporate T-Mobile account. Nice. With my Dell X300 and that service, I'm only a Vente Non-fat Latte away from an afternoon of untethered work.
At my work place, we have a lot of change afoot. (One of you had once commented that I should link to "my work place" from my entries, and I think I'll go back to NOT doing that, thanks very much.) Contracts fluttering left and right, deep discussions with programmers and other gurus, workplans, and more... it's a bustle of activity. I'll blog more when we have more dried ink; right now I'm keeping the details within the organization, for the most part.
But as I watch my buddy Michael Stephens get ready for his PhD program, and as I move down the "back to camp" list for the MFA, I feel how refreshing change can be, particularly when it is realizing a "dream deferred."
I wanted to pursue writing and literature 20 years ago, but I was broke and disorganized and somewhat out of good ideas, so I joined the Air Force. In the same vein, the week after I took over the helm of "my work place," I took my first trip to talk to higher-ups about changes that now, after years of disappointments and cutbacks and "sure-bet" grants that didn't happen, are finally coming to fruition.
Not much to blog, since I've been plowing through work and resting up with good books late at night. I'm alternating between Fenton Johnson's Geography of the Heart and Frederick Taylor's Dresden : Tuesday, February 13, 1945. I had read Johnson's book years ago, and was pleased to see it on the reading list for the first class in my MFA program.
For those of you who can't get enough of me and Sandy in our coordinated dresses (and that crowd could be limited to me, Sandy, and a couple of relatives... I am fast becoming one of those people who bore other people with their wedding pictures), see:
I've updated the Patriot Act presentation to clarify one point, add Mary Minow's CLA article on the Patriot Act to the publication timeline, and provide a presentation-friendly background. The talk (held at UCSD) was a lot of fun--shared the podium with Judith Krug and an ACLU rep.
What's this I hear about Tony Randall dying? What a gent.
Thanks to Liz Lawley's MamaMusings, I caught that Mena at Six Apart is looking for people to tell them how they use Movable Type; see http://www.sixapart.com/log/2004/05/how_are_you_usi.shtml
I just counted, and I have 9 blogs, but only five are really active. I use one blog to host my main site, Blue Highways. It seemed like an easy way to have a main Web page. Then I have the blog for Free Range Librarian, where I do my daily gabbing; another blog for freadom.info, a free-expression blog I set up with some friends for an ad hoc project related to Cuban dissidents; one for a committee I chaired until recently (and I plan to decommission it shortly); and several test blogs of one kind or another, including one that is a very early test site for where Free Range Librarian will move when I roll out its new design and fancy new domain.
I have several abandoned blogs that I really should delete. I also set up a blog for my friend Fred, who is a retired trial lawyer; Fred likes to review movies and chat about our neighborhood. It was easier than trying to explain TypePad. However, I could nudge Fred to TypePad, if need be.
None of my current blogs have more than two authors.
Assuming I get Fred moved to TypePad, my only need beyond my current blogs is to be able to test blogs. I think it's important that above any license agreement, we can create fully valid test blogs that we can use to test CSS and coding. In fact, if Six Apart is thinking about what a test blog should be like, it would be nice if a test blog would have an "inactive" feed so that our too-alert public would not pick up on the test blog's existence. I don't really like to make sausage in public.
I had noted early on that the MT licensing agreement worked fine for me. Although I wasn't a respondent for the Six Apart survey, it sounds as if I represent the group that provided the tragically misleading information for Six Apart. Still, although I fit pretty well into the low-end-user prototype, I'm still topping out at around five blogs, give or take, not including test blogs.
(Note: updated with slightly modified version.) I'm giving a talk about the Patriot Act, and I'm uploading this Powerpoint so I have a place for it in case my flash drive falls out of my pocket on the way to San Diego. This is California-oriented, but if you find it useful, just drop me a note and you can adapt it for local use.
What was I thinking? My G-mail address is bluehighways at gmail.com(not email@example.com). Oy!
Cats always have to be the star of the show!
Update: Note corrected address! I set one up, courtesy of a colleague who had a few to give out. Feel free to write me at bluehighways at gmail.com (first problem: I couldn't use my preferred username, kgs, because usernames need to be at least six characters long).
One part of the user "agreement" gave me pause: "Account Inactivity. After a period of inactivity, Google reserves the right to disable or terminate a user's account. If an account has been deactivated for inactivity, the email address associated with that account may be given to another user without notice to you or such other party."
Maybe it's just as well I didn't use "kgs."
See the New Yorker article: http://www.newyorker.com/critics/skyline/?040524crsk_skyline .
Going by the pictures in the New York Times and other sources, I can't decide if this building looks more like a stapler made of ice or a Gaylord charge machine covered in disco mirrors. Regardless, the new Seattle Public Library is a handsome building with tremendous visual moxie.
No doubt in the years ahead we'll hear about the inevitable punchlist items, the things that should have been done differently, the signage that didn't work, and so on. And we will need to know if it works as a library, for its users as well as its staff. But it's not timid, trite, or boring, and for that, hats off to SPL.
Six Apart responded to the deluge of complaints about its new pricing plan. For the most part I think they had made decisions based on reasonably good information (a survey of their users), but failed to take all of the available information from their environment in account. The missteps are instructive, and--saying this with great fondness for what I think is a good company run by nice people--I would love to build this incident into a library management class called Fatal Errors.
What led to the management equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death? Six Apart had failed to factor in the frustration users feel at the "element of surprise"; the impact of small errors (the original license had a single-CPU restriction, which was simply a dumb error); information right under their nose; the importance of minority constituencies; and--a viper they have nursed to their own collective bosoms--the ability of blogging to dilate and disseminate the opinions of a few.
When I had heard what "everyone" was saying, my manager's ears perked right up; whenever you hear vague references to "everyone," you are often hearing a minority opinion undergoing heavy self-promotion. When I peeked late yesterday afternoon, I saw fewer than 500 complaints. You may think that's a lot, but think about how many people use Movable Type. But due to the capabilities of TrackPad--a technology they invented--the complaints had enormous self-perpetuating power. (Now you know why I was in such a hurry to quickly squelch the Googlehacking incident with LII.)
Then again, the notion of "a lot" is relative. I keep thinking about the 15% of their users who have more than five blogs. (I do, actually, if you count the trashed-out test blogs I use to test features--and the new software should include a non-publishing test capability, so you aren't making sausage in public. In fairness, I don't need more than one or two of these, but I will still have to delete a couple to become compliant.)
Where I work, we just completed a user survey with over 4,000 respondents, and I consider 15% to be a very healthy constituency. After all, these folks are representative of a larger number--that's why it's a sampling, remember? Honing in on those 15% would have been useful for Six Apart.
The other factor they didn't consider, in analyzing the complaints, is that many personal bloggers fall into what the cell phone companies call "family plans." (Asking follow-up questions of the 15 Percenters would have helped here.) A blog with four family members sharing thoughts about their petunia gardens is a much different arrangement than the engine behind major blogs such as Blog for America.
Six Apart recognized this, upped the number of authors to five, and added the capability to add a blog and an author to a license for $10. If your family is Cheaper By the Dozen, get the $100 edition, now on sale for $70 (you're paying that much every week for milk and bread, anyway).
But--oops--don't buy anything for at least a week, since Six Apart is rebuilding its billing engine, they tell us, and who in their right mind would make an online purchase with that information in hand? I can already read the message, "For those of you who created orders between May 13 and May 21..." Six Apart, leave the fuzzy management stuff behind with the steaks and martinis of the Fin de Siecle. Just say you will begin accepting orders by May X, and make sure this capability is available on that date.
Also, they failed to recognize the needs of institutional users, such as educators and library consortia. These organizational elephants often rely on a specific price (which, note, had been "free") to make their decisions. There were several ways to handle this, but suddenly announcing a price structure where the previous price had been "none" was not a good option. Their previous, loosy-goosy "give us what you think we are worth" was ignored by institutions not because Movable Type isn't worth anything or because they didn't want to contribute to this product, but because purchases at the institutional level need to be based on solid prices you can see and touch. And it's agony if the price changes mid-year, which is why so many institutional purchases require some kind of license or contract. Six Apart will still need someone to help them negotiate the complicated world of institutional purchases. (If you're a librarian looking for work, why not pitch this to them as a PT gig? Gee, if I weren't gainfully employed and painfully overcommitted, I'd do it myself!)
They also missed addressing the licensing issue that people create mini-logs to build bigger blogs--a trick touted on their own help forums. They've addressed this, and in doing so have suggested that in terms of how many blogs you actually have to your name, MT will still be on the honor system (which may mean I can continue to create malformed and ugly test blogs that should never see the light of day).
I give them management style points for accepting criticism, addressing the problems as quickly as was reasonable (it took a long time for them to dig themselves into this hole, so a 24-hour rescue is pretty good, all said and done), and appearing to be enormously contrite. Rumsfeld they ain't.
Now can we move on to life's real indignities, such as the Bush administration?
LISNews needs money; Blake needs to upgrade the servers. A worthy cause.
Meanwhile, LISNews was critiqued in Library Juice, a newsletter I stopped reading the week Rory Litwin took a friendly comment I made at a party, twisted it, and then wrote an obnoxious post about it. He later apologized, but that officially put Library Juice on my "what's the point" list.
The gist of Rory's point is that the comments on LISNews are largely conservative. I wouldn't know; I don't read the comments on LISNews (and if people commented on articles in other news sources, I wouldn't read those, either). I just read the news itself, and it's often pretty good. It helps fill a gap between the traditional big-library stuff on LJ and ALA and the bellybutton lint on most library blogs. It's not really "news," in any journalistic sense (any more than a librarian blogger is a "journalist"), but quite often you can read it first on LISNews, and they find fun stuff.
(Updated) Six Apart announced the debut of two major changes for Movable Type: a price structure, and the availability of what they call the "developer's" version of Movable Type 3.0 (a suave euphemism for "so beta you can see the wires poking out of it").
The new price schedule initially took me aback, until I looked again. True, the basic commercial version is almost $200. But the personal version, normally $99.99, is currently discounted at $69.99, and if you donated (and I did), you get credit for your update keys, up to the price of the license. That reduces my costs to $19.99, and heck yeah, it's worth it.
What is a personal user? That may be up for discussion, based on the following blurb on their site, which appears to be missing a few words: "The personal use license can not be used for any , or a web developer purchasing a license on behalf of a client." Whatever that "any" is, I'm sure I'm not doing it. I haven't (yet) figured out how to add a graphic to the banner on my site, let alone peddle Free Range Librarian thongs or sell downloads of my version of "You Can Leave Your Hat On." I'm just another librarian happy for a clean, well-lighted place.
What do you get for $69.99 (or less, if you can boast of earlier virtue)? The entry level personal blog provides for three authors and five blogs, plus tech support, which for me is a major security blanket. Perfect! I have three blogs that are important to me, and a couple of play-around blogs (including the place where FRL will sport its own domain name and a new design within the next month).
Not only that, "accredited" educational institutions are eligible for discounts (that would include libraries, I'd hazard), and if you realio, trulio can't pay for MT, Six Apart will continue to support a one-user, three-blog personal version that won't cost you a nickel (you cheapskate, you). You won't get tech support, of course.
I feel about Movable Type pricing the way I do about Paint Shop Pro: a terrific price for what the product offers.
I'm going to buy a license (as soon as I track down my old license keys) and finally upgrade to 2.66. I'd really like to upgrade to 3.0 and play around with all the cool-beans features, particularly comment registration (I have given up on posting recent comments on my sites because I battle a flood of spam). However, we are warned that stepping forward to 3.0 could result in frequent upgrades at unexpected intervals (which is euphemistic language for "we are hoping the 'developer community' catches the first 500 bugs this week, but don't count on it"). Pioneers get the best territory, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Congrats to Six Apart on this move forward into digital adulthood, and thanks for a wonderful product. Can't wait to see what 3.0 looks like--from a safe distance, behind the cheese.
Half the time, "reader's advisory" appears to mean "recommended fiction." Have you noticed that nonfiction often gets the short end of the stick in terms of reader services?
I'm glad to see that discussion has revived on NMRTWriter, the discussion list for librarian-writers hosted by ALA's New Member Roundtable. NMRTWriter is not a perfect list--I wish it were more private and invitation-only, and that we knew who was subscribed--but many established librarian-writers subscribe to it, something highly in its favor (although the newer writers are important members of this community, too). The limitations of NMRTWriter can be addressed as they are on other ALA lists: by getting to know people, and writing them off-list when you have something delicate or sensitive to share.
It seemed that no sooner had I, in my ignorance, proposed the idea of a list for librarian writers then at least two other lists sprang up like mushrooms after a rain. But the new lists simply repeated the shortcomings of NMRTWriter without offering any clear advantages. If I'm going to share my joys and concerns in a writers' community, it might as well be on a list that has struggled along for awhile.
I would encourage the people who created these lists--and any other librarian writers who feel the need for community and feedback--to bring their subscribers over to NMRTWriter. To subscribe, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following in the body:
subscribe nmrtwriter FIRSTNAME LASTNAME
Unless your mother named you FIRSTNAME LASTNAME, replace those words with your real name.
I admit to feeling a little silly about joining a list founded by NMRT, when I am really more eligible for OMRT, or at least MAMRT. But as Mehitabel said, "wot the hell, Archie, wot the hell." It's a nice group, and I have a feeling it will be a good place for me, particularly during these next two years. And why not for you, as well?
I took a few days' blogging break during and immediately after the high-octane phase of the annual grant I file for LSTA, which is the bulk of the funding for LII. I spent time gardening, sightseeing, seeing friends, and just avoiding computers. Now that I'm refreshed and recharged, I'll resume daily blogging.
Until Movable Type 3.0 shows up, I'll enable the comment feature less frequently... my old entries get spammed to death, even with MT-Blacklist enabled.
Gorgeous. Makes me jealous!
I'm chilling out, post-LSTA. (Almost. Last night I dreamed I had left out a crucial section of the grant, where I should have described how we bus children around Albuquerque, with a continuation plan for supporting this deliverable after the grant period. The grant I submitted supports a Web site--no driving, no cars, and in California, not New Mexico--so go figure. I'm sure it has to do with the upcoming anniversary of the decision for Brown v. Board of Ed.)
Anyway, I have a Gallery installation up and running, and started a photo album for it: http://bluehighways.com/gallery/roses If you read this blog and grow roses, and you'd like to contribute garden pictures, drop me a note or comment on this entry.
CLA member Patty Wong was the leading vote-getter. Congrats to all who ran, whether or not you won--it's good to see people take an interest in the association. Thanks to Ruth Seid for the Excel version of this election report.
PATRICIA PATTY WONG 3354 Elected
KEN HAYCOCK 3134 Elected
BERNARD A. MARGOLIS 3087 Elected
ANN C. SPARANESE 2840 Elected
RITA PINO VARGAS 2745 Elected
THERESE G. BIGELOW 2612 Elected
JUNE PINNELL-STEPHENS 2580 Elected
SUE KAMM 2538 Elected
RUTH J. NUSSBAUM 2527 Elected
S. MICHAEL MALINCONICO 2465 Elected
SHA LI ZHANG 2399 Elected
MAGGIE FARRELL 2373 Elected
SALVADOR AVILA 2318 Elected
KATIA ROBERTO 2318 Elected
NADINE M. FLORES 2278 Elected
JAMES B. CASEY 2271 Elected
LINDA MIELKE 2266 Elected
ROBERTA A. STEVENS 2234 Elected
MARY AUGUSTA THOMAS 2231 Elected
ADA KENT 2224 Elected
MICHELE CLOONAN 2221 Elected
GLADYS SMILEY BELL 2215 Elected
SHARON COATNEY 2209 Elected
BERNADINE ABBOTT HODUSKI 2205 Elected
JOSE AGUINAGA 2186 Elected
GORDON M. CONABLE 2152 Elected
HEATHER MCCLURE 2134 Elected
ROBERT NEWLEN 2122 Elected
ELIZABETH RIDLER 2108 Elected
M. ELLEN JAY 2102 Elected
MICHAEL MCGRORTY 2101 Elected
JOHN DESANTIS 2086 Elected
EM CLAIRE KNOWLES 2057 Elected
STEPHEN L. MATTHEWS 2044 Elected
CAROL HUGHES 2033
REBECCA BROWN 2018
STARR LATRONICA 2010
PATRICIA G. OYLER 2003
ANNE-MARIE (MIMI) PAPPAS 1960
BETSY HINE 1959
SUSAN SCHEIBERG 1919
ELIZABETH SALZER 1904
VIVIAN B. MELTON 1888
JOHN A. MOORMAN 1880
PHIL HEIKKINEN 1872
AUREOLE MARIA JOHNSTONE 1864
ANNIE WEISSMAN 1860
DIANE FAY 1858
PEGGY HALLISEY 1849
JAY STARRATT 1840
DONNA LAUFFER 1835
SANDRA COLLINS 1833
TOM NISONGER 1832
MARY MCINROY 1828
MARY LASKOWSKI 1827
MARK ANTHONY 1826
LYNN SIPE 1824
DAVID ORENSTEIN 1776
BARBARA PICKELL 1760
MARTHA PARSONS 1752
STEPHANIE SCHMITT 1742
MICHAEL J. MILLER 1740
LAWRENCE OLSZEWSKI 1723
VICTOR SCHILL 1707
LACE KEATON 1701
BRAD EDEN 1688
DEBORAH DANCIK 1683
LARRY GRIECO 1675
JOE DAHLSTROM 1669
ROSANNE CORDELL 1664
ANGELA LEE 1651
FANNIE M. COX 1650
RANDOLPH CALL 1639
CLOVER TAYLOR 1621
SAMUEL E. TROSOW 1590
NORMAN ERIKSEN 1585
FRANK BRUNO 1561
DAVID CLARK 1526
FREDERICK STOSS 1503
EUGENE HAINER 1489
JOHN FORYS 1485
KENT SLADE 1466
THOMAS J. TOBIN 1447
CAROL RITZEN KEM 1404
LAMBRINI PAPANGELIS 1398
DAPHNE DALY 1395
MARCY M. ALLEN 1280
SUSAN ROBINSON 1241
DALE POULTER 1225