While I knew some of the Firefox story, this recent Wired piece has one of the best descriptions of this phenomenon that I have seen so far. Check it out - and if you don;t use Firefox - download it now!
I Love It!! This is what art is all about - showing us how stupid we can be sometimes. Steve Mann created a chair that retracts a set of spines on the seat when the "sitter" places a card in the debit system. Once your time runs out, the spines return. He also likens his seat to a similar set of licenses from companies like Microsoft, with their use of "seat" for a software license. I love it when something new (software) becomes ubiquitous (chair) - the surrounding business model gets turned on its head...
I found a recent post on c|net by Declan McCullagh a little too naive and corporate-centric to miss responding to. It is also of interest given the University of Winnipeg's goal to establish an open wireless corridor in the downtown core (i.e. free to all). While not a new idea, most examples I have seen are still in the planning stages, with relatively few cities actually having something in place. [I would be interested to know if anyone knows of a city that has done this already.] If opinions like Declan's are common we will see another example of the public right to a free and open digital commons squashed in the interests of big corporations. Why would Internet access be any different than roads, sewers or water? In countries where these fundamental requirements for health and security are turned over to corporations, the poor always suffer. Internet access should be no different. If we want an educated and democratic society, then the freedom to go wherever we please, read whatever we please, speak to whomever we please are fundamental rights. Without them we loose another cornerstone to the foundation of a free and open society. Projects like Philadelphia's (and hopefully Winnipeg's) should be supported and encouraged - the digital divide is real only when you are on the losing side of the line.
I received a number of books for Christmas this year, so have been in that "6 books on the go" frame for the last few weeks. Not that that's a bad thing, I'm just not sure I like that feeling of not being able to decide which book to finish first. I did manage to finish Rarest of the Rare: Stories behind the Treasures at the Harvard Museum of Natural History by Nancy Pick and Mark Sloan. This is a beautiful book - wonderful photographs of specimens in the Museum collection, some of them part of key events in the history of science. Seeing one of the 1st Trilobites described in North America (found by Charles Walcott to boot) or a turtle shell and cranberry collected by Henry D. Thoreau is one of the main treats of the book. The photo of the glass diseased apple model made by Blaschka was a particular treat and reason alone to go to the museum. The descriptions, while a bit uneven at times, are a great addition to the visual main course. As a biologist in a previous life, and still an avid naturalist, I enjoyed Rarest of the Rare: ideal for those days when you can't decide which of the 6 books you have on the go to finish...
Like may others out there I review a lot of listservs and blogs - one that has been having an energetic conversation of late is the ILL-L list. I thought I would both respond to some of the discussions there as well as make some broader observations and recommendations on software development. William Melody has created an excellent post on this same topic in his BIBLIOTHEKE blog.
I had commented on this issue in an earlier posting, so thought an update would be a good idea. The Treasury Department in the U.S. has reversed an earlier decision that meant many U.S. publishers, including a number of academic houses, were facing the possibility of legal action if they published and/or edited material from certain countries, such as Iran. According to a piece from IPSM, "the Treasury Department abruptly reversed its interpretation of the TWTE Act and largely exempted writers, publishers, editors, translators and literary agents from rules on the publication of information materials -- including medical and scientific publications as well as books -- from countries subject to U.S. trade embargoes." Now, if we could only get the U.S. government to stop changing/quashing the scientific output of their own scientists...
If you value your intellectual freedoms and the fundamental right to inform yourself, take a look at The Truth About Copyright Revision and sign the online petition. All Canadians stand to loose, and loose big, if the current one-sided corporate lobbying effort to make Canada a copyright backwater is a success, so please take the time to look.
Mark Jordan (Simon Fraser University) has started a new blog on digitization news on interest to libraries, museums and others. Mark is a first-rate systems librarian and developer, so I'm sure he will provide a lot of useful info. Check out digitizationblog.
Craig Anderson wrote one of the more interesting stories in Wired recently called The Long Tail. Anderson has started a blog to pass on additional info and updates on the concept. Well worth a look. I was quite intrigued by Anderson's article and understand he has committed to writing a book on it. I would describe The Long Tail with a whale and plankton analogy. Nature lovers enjoy looking at the great whales, but they often don't know what they are missing in the diversity and beauty of the plankton. In the same way music lovers enjoy listening to the top of the charts, but often don't know what they are missing in the amazing diversity of artists and musical styles in the stuff that doesn't get flogged by the big conglomerates. Smart retailers are just starting to understand immense wealth/interest in the plankton, or the long tail. While bricks and mortar stores are not able to take advantage of the tail (because they can't keep that much stick), e-retailers just have to load it online once and it is there for all to see.
As someone who spent a few years studying the amazing critters in zoo/phytoplankton I can appreciate the immense hidden value in the long tail. I'm looking forward to Anderson's expanded analysis of this fascinating natural phenomenon.
There's a great discussion at boingboing re DRM, spearheaded by Cory Doctorow. Doctorow is one of the most important IC bloggers of the day and his descriptions of the DRM issues are boing on. His description of how Apple will have to buckle in at the request of the big studios and cripple your iPod and a lot of that paid-for-once-already music should make any iTunes downloader pause. He also highlights the most important issue in the current debate: the DRMsphere is about giving the big corporations unparalleled control over what we have always been able to do - make personal copies of information for our own personal use. The digital environment will seal our fate unless we continue to insist on retaining the basic rights and freedoms we have always had.