Sunday, November 28, 2010

online ads

O.k., by now we all know that cookies and spyware track our every move on the internet, hoping to figure out our likes and dislikes to show us ads for things we might want to buy. And more and more, these are cross-referenced over many websites, so one gets advertising that has nothing to do with one's activity on a particular site. Buy a gag gift, or a serious gift for someone with opposite tastes, and you're mislabeled for months. And even accurate labeling can be contrary to those buying impulses we actually respond to when we're on a spending spree.

One thing this model doesn't take into account is the fact that the web is now used for everything. Wait a minute -- isn't that good for these advertisers? Maybe not. The fact that the web must be used undercuts its predictability for the user's true tastes. In the early days, the web was an adventure, a playground. Now many people spend most of their online time doing necessary things they don't want to do -- the busy housewife doing online business chores, the student doing homework.

But it's still also a playground -- an escape from those business chores, etc. -- and yes, an escape from the very core of one's identity. While playing an online asteroid-shooting game, I want to be able to fantasize that I'm an astronaut on a dangerous mission, not be constantly reminded that I'm a middle-aged housewife in the midwest. And while this cross-webpage advertising is annoying to me, it's downright cruel to people who have been searching online for help with serious health problems. Imagine not being able to spend an hour, or even a few minutes, relaxing without a reminder of your illness always in some corner of the screen.

For the things we need, we probably already have sources. Or, if we don't, we'll search for them. It's mostly the fun stuff, the luxuries, we don't know we "need." And the things we get for fun, for luxury, for show, tend to correspond to our imagined selves more than our "real" selves. Basing advertising on our physical limitations, or the limitations other see in us -- even if these identifiers can be kept accurate -- doesn't make sense.

We should have some control over what ads -- or at least what general types of ads -- are shown to us, perhaps even situationally. An impotent man, for instance, could forbid impotence products from being shown when he's playing online shooting games and wants to feel macho. A person who has just lost a loved one could completely forbid any ads about funeral, cemeteries, or any other-death-related products and services. (Again, merely an annoyance when the deceased was old and sick and had lived a full life, but horribly cruel for parents who has lost a young child to have in their face all of their online time.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

imho -- some modern composers who should be recognized (pop/rock)

Using popular music forms should not be a barrier to recognition as a serious composer. After all, Chopin wrote mazurkas and Johann Strauss wrote waltzes -- the popular dance music of their time. And song cycles are likewise respectable, e.g. Schubert's "Die Winterreise' and Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde." In such cases, the story (or poetic scene) is part of the art.

With that in mind, I would like to suggest a couple of 20th and 21st century "rock" composers for posterity to consider seriously (in addition to the obvious Lennon and McCartney and Harrison): The Moody Blues (actually several composers) and Janelle Monae. Listen carefully to The Days of Future Passed, or To Our Children's Children's Children, or Metropolis, or The ArchAndroid and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, November 12, 2010

more free e-books online (if you're australian)

For my Australian readers, Project Gutenberg Australia and Free Read make available books that are in public domain in Australia, but are not available on the main Project Gutenberg site because of the United States' ludicrously controlling copyright laws. These would include many classics from the early 20th century.

Note: These books are only legal for people residing in Australia or other countries where public domain begins fifty years after an author's death. For people living in the United States, or other countries which have legally determined that authors may need their royalties even after they've been mouldering in the grave much longer, it is illegal to download these books. I'm not a lawyer, so I can't even say whether it's legal for Americans to read them online.

However, if you feel like quietly protesting ridiculous copyright restrictions, go to your public library and check out a book by an author too dead to enjoy his or her royalties. It's completely free and legal.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

public access to information -- you're doin' it right

Grant Allows U.Va. Press to Make Founders' Documents Online Free to Public
(October 11, 2010 UVA Today)

A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.
-- James Madison

Information is the currency of democracy.
-- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, September 26, 2010

read 'em while you can

Here's a sample of what will be disappearing Sept. 30:

SPAN (architecture)

DZgunrock (music)

Kazakov Maksim (photography)

a time tourist's thinklings (history, science fiction)
(I'll admit that this one is mine.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

another one bites the dust

Vox, a blog hosting site, is going the way of Yahoo's free photo-hosting service, AOL's free web hosting service, and even what was once the biggest and best-established free web host of them all, Geocities. It's closing at the end of this month.

Monday, June 28, 2010

a tall order, but no technological reason why it can't be done

Why do so many games have to suck in exactly the same way the real world does?

The stereotypical dweeb gamer is socially inept, always broke, and generally klutzy and incompetent. Contrary to stereotype, most dweebs don't want revenge in a sudden blaze of glory. They just want to get away to someplace where they won't be bugged. So why are most roleplaying videogames set up in a world full of taunting bullies, where you have to earn money and buy everything you need, talk to lots of strangers, and prove your worth -- usually with an element of small-motor coordination -- before you can even go certain places?

Don't tell me, "That's life." The whole purpose of amusement is to escape "life." I don't want to fantasize about overcoming the hassles; I want to eliminate the hassles. I want to be able to ignore the wound, not pick at it. No game can show all aspects of real life, anyway. (When was the last time during gameplay your character had to clip his toenails?) So why not have games that ignore money, social interaction, and the need for competence?

O.k., I'll admit that beating up, beheading, shooting, and exploding evil things is fun, but I'd like to do away with the rest of it. And even so, it would be nice to be able to stop shooting long enough to fully appreciate the gorgeously rendered scenery of modern games.

So here are some alternate modes I'd like to see built into every game, to make games more enjoyable for everyone.

Non-commercial Mode: No money. You don't have to earn it; equipment doesn't have to be bought. This doesn't necessarily mean no stuff. Treasure and useful items can be found, but you've automatically got the basic equipment.

Loner Mode: You don't have to interact socially at all. You still slay bad guys, of course, but you don't have to talk to anybody.

Tourist Mode: Access to all places without having to earn it; you don't have to possess or do anything special to get to any level or corner or room of the game. You can roam freely everywhere, looking at everything, interacting as you choose, without being in any danger or having to do anything you don't want to. You can approach nonplayer characters, but they leave you alone unless you do. Some games have a limited version of this, but it should be available at all levels, with everything unlocked.

Ghost Mode: Like tourist mode, except that as far as the game world and its inhabitants are concerned, you're invisible and non-corporeal. It's sort of like watching the game as a movie, except that you move your character through it, going where you want to go.

Hero Mode: In the classic age of adventure shows, the hero couldn't be killed. 'Nuff said.

Except for a few games in which the main character is a star, like Laura Croft or Leisure Suit Larry, character choice should be flexible, with mix and match physical features including sex, age, height, weight, coloring, style of hair, clothing, and name. Some games have this to some extent, but in many, "choice" just means a choice of a handful of characters, all of whom you'd rather not look like. There should be a couple of stock characters for people who don't want to take the time (or want a throwaway character while learning the game). There should be an anonymous mode -- especially useful if you have trouble thinking up names, don't want to use up a name on a character you plan to kill off quickly, or you can't stand the computer overusing your name like an annoying salesperson. Both male and female player characters should have the choice of dressing for comfort, practicality, and yes, modesty. All characters should be revivable upon replaying the game.

And all this with a look and feel that appeals to the inner adolescent, rather than the inner preschooler -- think superhero comics (and the darker ones at that) rather than cartoons. I like Sonic and Mario, but I can't take seriously being Sonic or Mario.

Other requests:

More creativity with settings. Much as I like standard outer space, future dystopias, and Celtic-based fantasy lands, I'd like to go somewhere else for a change. I sorely miss Heart of China (1930s China), Inca (Incas in space), and Space 1889 (steampunk).

No sappy stuff in hardcore adventure games. No child characters. No family, either living or recently dead. No romance. No emotions except fear, anger, and the glorious joy of blowing baddies up.

All non-online games should be, once installed, available at a click. No special discs to insert, no passwords, no copy protection challenges, no special boot-up or screen resolution changes. It should be possible to save at any time, and to store several saved points in case you want to go back.

And one more thing -- make all games always available for every version of every platform in existence. I want to play the original, wireframe Star Wars on my Mac.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

webpage so-called "authoring"

O.k., so this website is experimental, a first attempt at playing with a template-based website. I knew it would be restricting (so was switching from DOS to Windows), but not this much. Is there really no way to make the backgrounds of subsequent pages different from your home page? Whatta drag.

audio books (thing 22) revisited

Been there, didn't do that. The original objections remain. I'm afraid my only new activity on this one was to check back on the list of what's available and find that there still aren't enough interesting books out there to borrow -- even fewer in these borrowable audiobooks than there are in commercial ebooks for reading -- and I'm not much for listening to books, anyway. The video and music might be more appealing in a service like this, but my device doesn't support those formats. Ditto most (if not all -- it's too discouraging to check them all) of the language courses, which would be useful in this format. It would be nice to have a primary filter by device, so people don't have to search down long lists of items that they can't use.

podcasts (thing 21) revisited

This time adding the RSS feed to the reader (Google Reader) went smoothly. I chose podcasts from BackStory With the American History Guys, a highly interesting and entertaining radio show about various topics in American history.

However, in this case as in many others, it's more convenient simply to have the page marked and go straight to the source, rather than signing in to the reader.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

a fine dilemma

In Chapter 5 of his book, Cognitive Surplus, about the sharing of information online, Clay Shirky talks about human motivation in general, and, at one point, moves into a discussion of an issue of interest to librarians -- fines. A fine, by its monetary nature, changes a transaction or situation from one of purely social and emotional motivations to a commercial one. If policy is changed, and a fine for noncompliance is imposed in a situation that had previous been operated on the basis of honor, the fine will be seen as "payment." Misbehavior now has a price, and curiously, gains some legitimacy because of it. Furthermore, that attitude of a paid transaction remains even if the fine policy is revoked. He also recalls an encounter with an airline agent in which he referred to the extra money to be paid for changing the date of a ticket as a charge, while she firmly called it a "penalty," thus insisting that it was a punishment, not merely a shame-free payment.

All of this gives some insight into why so many people carry large and/or persistent fines on their library card. (The fact that some refer to checking out videos, and sometimes even books, as "renting" gives another clue to the same phenomenon.) At five or ten or twenty-five cents a day the price for keeping an item beyond the due date is an incredible bargain. The social contract of giving the next person a turn may never enter their minds at all.

Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions for a library, which is, by nature and mission -- and rightly so -- a "good guy." As the book points out, getting rid of fines won't turn people into selfless angels. After generations of issuing fines, the concept of a commercial relationship in people's minds would not disappear. Making fines high enough to be a significant deterrent would not necessarily deter those who could comfortably pay, but would be a serious burden on poorer people, the very ones who need public libraries most. So what about making it clear that a fine is a penalty, not a shame-free payment for rental or the extra convenience of extended time? The problem with that is that too harsh of a judgement makes people feel bad. And libraries are about empowering the disempowered, which often means being kind and unjudgmental toward people who are judged unkindly in almost every other public transaction. Some people desperately need to be cut some slack by the one institution that's compassionate enough to cut them any at all. But other people have an inflated sense of entitlement, or enjoy seeing how much they can get away with, and some only respond to strict rules. And many people just float through life with a blind self-centeredness, not even aware of the needs of others. Somehow, the needs of all patrons (and of the library itself) have to be met with the same rules, impartially applied.

And no, I don't have any ideas.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

conundrum embedded within

O.k. so here's a picture. It's a link, not a physical copy. Yet it's embedded in a way that it shows up as a picture.

Question, is this legally a link (which doesn't need permission from the "owner") or a copy (which does)?

(Note to any do-gooders who want to turn me in: I have full permission from the artist's estate to post this.)

A similar question: is it fully legal to embed items which, on their original page, freely give code for embedding, or is it to be understood that even that requires separate, explicit permission to be given any time someone actually uses the code?

[Note: Sometimes the graphic doesn't load. Sometimes if you hover over it, get the URL, go directly to the link (by typing or pasting the URL in the address bar -- when this stuff happens clicking on the blank spot where the graphic should be takes you to the host service's page), then go back to the blog, it will load. Really weird.]

Saturday, June 19, 2010

vids (thing 20) revisited

O.k., I've put this one off long enough. The problem, oddly enough, is not reluctance to do an unpleasant assignment, but rather guilt about doing a too pleasant one. YouTube has become one of the more wasteful timesucks in my life. So I suppose I can at least post one of the higher quality offerings (believe it or not, there is some high culture on teh interwebs) here.
Peter Arnstein, a pianist about whom I've posted before, has some more vids, including this one with violinist Michael Antonello:

(YouTube tip: If you like the topic or performer of a video you're watching, click on the poster's username in the info under the video. This takes you to that person's "channel" (i.e., page). Check the playlists. Often the person will have a collection of similar videos.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

web 2.0 tools (thing 19) revisited

A year later and most of the web 2.0 sites I've been able to find (and which hold any interest for me) still have the problem of requiring registration. I reached sign-in fatigue long ago, in part because of the inherent hassle of doing it, and of coming up with yet another username and password (and remembering them). And in part because the very act of signing up, of giving my name (even a pseudonym), feels like one more commitment to keep up with.

Friday, May 7, 2010

levels of privacy

Some people advocate that one shouldn't say anything over electronic media that one wouldn't say on prime time t.v. Others believe that no strangers can ever see anything sent to or posted for a specific individual or group of individuals. Neither view is accurate.

"Public" forms of electronic communication, such as web pages and blogs, are the most like broadcasting. Or, for most people, like a small press publishing a book on an obscure topic. Probably only your friends and family will be interested in reading it, and only those you tell about it will even know it exists. But unlike a book, it never goes out of print, it 's available to anyone in the world, and search engines can link to it, so the chances of unintended readers increases.

"Private" forms of electronic communication -- e-mail, texting, chat, personal social network pages, photo sharing pages, news groups, small, private blogs -- are more like talking quietly in a restaurant. For the most part, nobody's listening, but stray bits might be overheard, and nosy people may be able to hear as much of the conversation as they want with a little effort.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

privacy: the intersection of technology & culture

Just in time for Choose Privacy Week.

I may have made a terrible mistake last weekend. I published something on the internet I should not have. Oh, nothing illegal or sexual or cruel to someone else. It was a light piece, a humorous version of a recipe -- for an alcoholic beverage.

This in spite of being well educated and internet savvy. Nor was it for lack of thinking over the consequences and making a choice. For one thing, it was put up as a "Note" on Facebook, and my Notes are set to be visible to friends only. But, knowing that privacy settings are neither foolproof, nor hackerproof, nor unchanging, I asked the test question: Would I be willing to publish this, under my own name, in a print magazine (if I could find a magazine willing to pay for it)? Is it appropriate in subject and tone for a respectable, middle-aged female in the United States in the early 21st century? Given that humor was clearly intended (even if some readers might happen to not find it personally funny), and that in the 21st century it's o.k. for women to joke, I decided to go ahead. (BTW, at least three of my friends were amused.)

The problem is that internet "speech" (including writing and even including reading (think Google searches)) has more possible consequences than speech in the meat world had before the web let everybody watch everybody all the time. -- More consequences than digital natives, much less digital immigrants (like yours-elderly-truly), can predict. Material on the web is potentially available to everyone -- including irrational people, mistaken people, people who need to judge others poorly to feel o.k. about themselves, mean people, people who can profit from another's detriment.

Furthermore, culture values are changing, evolving along with the technology and any previous choices society has made regarding the technology, not to mention other influences. Even a decade ago, no employer (except for very sensitive jobs, such as the CIA) or educational institution would think of invading a prospect's private parties in order to judge character. Now checking for social media revelations of party behavior is becoming commonplace. Part of this change is due to a growing lack of respect for the concept of privacy, and part to a growing insistence on moral perfection, untempered, as in earlier "puritanical" eras, by built-in loopholes or mercy.

And there seems to be a growing seriousness. Some people would rather see a person as vicious (in the sense of "full of vice") or insane than joking. Making one's statements increasingly outrageous in order to signal "this is a joke," only increases the judgement. People like this either have no concept of humor, or feel that it is invalid, always a cover-up for the "true," unacceptable feelings. And it seems that there are more and more of these super-serious people. Or maybe the percentage hasn't changed much, but every person, and every comment, comes into contact with so many more people, that the sheer numbers and frequency of fringe opinions can cause harm.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

an annoying trend

I hope this isn't going to be a real trend; I hope it's just the luck of the draw, but three books I've read recently have had open endings. Two -- The Amanda Project: Invisible I, by Melissa Kantor and Skeleton Creek, by Patrick Carman -- are Young Adult novels, and one -- The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale, by Lora Innes -- is a graphic novel) It's not that these books end with an ambiguous twist, which would be annoying but valid, but rather, the plots simply stop in the middle. When I put in the time to read a whole book, I want, well, a whole story. There's an unspoken expectation in a book-length text that the reader will feel some sense of closure at the end.

Yes, comics (if I may use a taboo colloquialism) often have cliffhanging endings. That's why the graphic novel format usually contains about four to six issues bound together. That way it can contain the entire story -- climax, denouement, and all.

Yes, a series may have a grand plot that spans all of its volumes, but each volume usually has a fully-resolved subplot or secondary plot. Or perhaps the ending will bring the conclusion of one story and the beginning of a new one. If two mysteries are presented, as in Invisible I, the reader expects one to be solved by the end of the book, even as the other continues through the series.

The one of these three that bothered me least was Skeleton Creek, which ends with the main characters in mortal danger. In other words, it's a classic cliffhanger. It's still a bit of a dirty trick on this scale, though. Cliffhanging chapters come to a conclusion with a flick of a few more pages. The serial movies and comics of my youth were made bearable by the fact that the next installment would come in a week, or at most, a month. But the wait for the next book to be published is awfully long.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

overlap of things 17 & 18

Since the first go-round of the 23 (now 28) Things, I've become more familiar with wikis. I've also been using Google Docs, a cloud-based word processing app, for several months, using it not just as an exercise but writing real documents together with real people for real-world purposes. Yes, together. Unlike word processors that reside on a hard drive, documents in the cloud can be shared; anyone with permission can log on from any computer and make additions and other changes, sort of like a wiki. A lot like a wiki. A wiki by any other name ...

Then there's Google Wave, released in beta last year, which was supposed to be even more wiki-ish, but which has faded into the background. Maybe people were embarrassed by the idea that their typing, and therefore typos, could be seen in real time. Maybe the problem was just that the limited, by-invitation-only release didn't provide enough of a quorum for such a specifically social medium. In my corner of the Wave world, we just sent a few messages back and forth saying things along the lines of, "Hey, cool." -- "Uh, yeah. So what do we do with it?" -- "Write something." -- "O.k. What?" -- until we got bored and returned to texting, Facebook, and e-mail. The person with whom I was already collaborating on a document didn't see the need to subscribe to yet another service with another login and password just to do what we were already.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

wikis revisited

I'm finding that wiki editing (or should I say, getting my head wrapped around the idea of wikis) went more smoothly on this go-round.

Being somewhat bored with the available topics, which all have to do with (yawn) reality, I started a new page, "Late at Night in the Library," a story which one and all are welcome to continue. The dragons are waiting for your input.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

off-topic but too long for twitter -- "hidden" fast food

Tried a couple of the fast-food off-menu items trending on teh interwebs.

Burger King Rodeo Cheeseburger (cheeseburger with bbq sauce): Tastes good, but unimpressive in these days of super-whoppers with fried potatoes, bacon, etc.

McDonalds Land, Sea, and Air Burger (burger, fish, and chicken, with cheese, fish sandwich sauce, and ketchap): The tastes tend to cancel each other out. If anything, it all has a slightly fishy taste. And a fried taste, of course. (But then, the main reason we frequent these places is for a fried taste.)

I encountered no resistance, in Tulsa, toward either. The BK cashier knew what it was and rang it up without comment. The McD cashier had vaguely heard of it somewhere, and put it together, without argument, from a description of a picture I'd seen on the internet.

What I noticed most about both of these was how small they were compared to some of the more recent burger inventions. (This growth of the average burger has been mentioned before in books about nutritional trends.)

(Disclosure: My idea of size may be skewed; my usual order, on those rare occasions I crave junk food, tends to be two of the biggest, sloppiest sandwiches, and an order of fries or onion rings.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

reflections on video games

What makes a cartoonish game palatable to adults? Recently I had an insight into why, in spite of my general preference for computer games set in dark, brooding, realistic worlds, or else consisting of abstract patterns, I like Sonic and Mario. It's because, by now, they have lost some of their kindergarteny image. They have become cultural icons. It's the same reason adults who generally would be embarrassed to watch cartoons have no problem with Mickey Mouse (can I mention his trademarked name without paying royalties?) or Bugs Bunny.

For teens and adults young enough to have played these games in their childhood, of course, there is an added dimension. Whether there is a glow of nostalgia or an avoidance because the game seems all the more personally childish is an idiosyncratic reaction which is unpredictable from person to person.

How does this tie in at all with libraries? More and more libraries now have added game-playing to their offerings. This is something to consider when looking for games that might appeal to multiple age groups.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

a visionary

"We say most aptly that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves."
-- Ada Lovelace (1843)

Ada Lovelace Day

Thursday, March 11, 2010

technorati revisited: site categories

When you register your blog with Technorati, you must choose 1-3 preselected categories to describe it.

There are special categories for "Anime" and "Hockey" but none for "History" or "Biography" or even a vague "Social Sciences." Or for that matter, "Education." My blog is pure history/biography. I wound up choosing "Home" (I do talk about Thomas Jefferson's home life and sneak in a recipe now and then), U.S. Politics" (even though this is completely about the years after he retired from politics), and "Celeb" (even though most people would understand that to mean gossip about living or recently dead celebrities, rather than serious biography about founding fathers).

technorati revisited: blog registration

Went to Technorati today to register my Jefferson blog. The process has become less error-laden but more complicated since I registered this blog doing Thing 14 last year.

What they don't tell you is that after you fill out the first part, you've got to go back to your profile, and under "My Claimed Blogs" click "Check Claim." Since you've just been told your status is being processed, so there seems to be no reason to check it. Good thing I got curious. It takes you to a page with a code you have to insert into a post. Yep, a silly , distracting, confusing, random string of letters and numbers to put up before your public audience. It's especially glaring in a blog like the one I was registering, which is built on the conceit that it was written 200 years ago. Really messes up the mood.

Friday, March 5, 2010


O.k. So I finally gave in. Got a Twitter account. Sold my soul for a couple of course credits. Not that I had anything specifically against Twitter, but I have enough trouble keeping my Facebook status reasonably up to date. I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY. Certainly nothing that fits into 140 characters. Yes, it's because I have no "life." Not an interesting life (i.e., no adventure, no wild sex -- I've been married 25+ years), anyway. The interesting stuff is in my imagination, and takes more than 140 characters to explain.

if you want to be bored.

Friday, February 19, 2010

another useful thing

Gravatar is a free service that lets you create an avatar linked to one (or more) of your e-mail addresses, so that it shows up when you comment on blogs, even ones hosted by sites that you don't have an account with.

This Youtube video shows what it is.

This one shows how to set it up.

Another explanation, with some good screen shots and a bit more about managing multiple picture choices.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

increasing increments of sharing

There's a movement toward modes of communication opening up to a wider circle. Google has added a controversial feature called "Buzz" to its Gmail. E-mail has generally been considered to be for private communication between two people. Or if sent to several people, the sender deliberately chooses them. Buzz automatically broadcasts certain aspects of one's profile, including a changing status statement, to a group of contacts. There's been some controversy about how those contacts are chosen. Here's the latest.

(Feb. 16, 2010 WJLA)

Buzz is trying to imitate Facebook in its degree of openness, and Facebook has recently changed to allow it to imitate (and encourage) the openness of Twitter, which broadcasts not only to a select group of "friends," but to the public at large.

(Dec 9, 2009 TechCrunch)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

on "friending"

Supposedly mediating relationships through a computer makes it easier for the socially challenged. Not necessarily so. For one thing, there is more pressure now to post pictures of yourself as you really look. For some of us, that's sure to subtract social points.

But the biggest problem is that it's a new type of social interaction, with new rules. Or rather, with the rules in formation, constantly changing. (Rules are always present; people always have expectations.)

For instance, "friending" is not the same thing as "befriending." But there's no rule as to where to draw the line to avoid being cold and unpopular, or, at the other extreme, foolish and unsafe.

For now, my compromise is to limit my Facebook "friends" to family and real friends (which includes not only close friends, but also coworkers and some people I know through long correspondence).

the things are back -- facebook

The library where I work has added more lessons to its former 23 Things course, a series of lessons about Web 2.0 tools and issues. I can't resist a chance to play online during work hours, so I'll be continuing with the new lessons of what has become 28 Things.

For the first of the new Things, I've explored Facebook, skipping over Twitter for now. (More about why when I actually do the Twitter lesson.) This really isn't fair, since I've been on Facebook for about two years now. In fact, I was certain I'd done everything in the lesson long ago. But there was that bit about becoming a fan of the library system. Sure -- one of the first things I did. Ooops. I was merely a fan of the branch where I work. How provincial.

By the time I signed up for Facebook (and Myspace) I'd had web pages, and even a couple of blogs before -- but all were under pen names. This Web 2.0 business of using one's real name and picture (with a preference for candid pictures yet!), and showing at least a semblance of one's real-world thoughts and activities, well, that was something else entirely. After all, hasn't the modern era tended toward more and more anonymity? The 20th century began with a great migration to big cities, where no one knew your family or your past, or watched your daily activities, and continued until ...

But this is the postmodern era. It sometimes seems as if we're headed back to the social expectations of the village, where everybody knows your name, and your friends' names, and where you go, and what you had for lunch. Cyberspace is becoming public.

The way to preserve a good reputation in a village (for you will have some sort of reputation, no matter what you do or don't do) is not to be too standoffish. The thing to do is to be seen in public, to mix with people, and in that way to have some control over your public image. In the cyber village this is done, in part, by creating and maintaining social pages.

There does seem to be a growing trend to try to re-close the curtains a bit. This may be in part because of the harsh judgements some have encountered when they fully bared their "true" selves. It may be, in part, simply because older people, with the caution of experience and the values of an earlier time, are invading the party.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

e-books in the news (part 2)

Apple vs. Amazon: The Great Ebook War Has Already Begun
(Jan. 30, 2010

Combine this with incompatibility. It's no big deal to buy some physical books from one bookstore and others from another. But to have to buy two or more multi-hundred-dollar machines just to be able to choose books from all the major publishers is unacceptable.

Amazon shares slip; Macmillan titles still missing
(Feb. 1, 2010 KTUL)

e-books in the news

Here's another reason to be less than enthusiatic about e-books.
(Feb. 1, 2010 The Independent)

Maybe the multiple inconveniences that these companies are imposing on readers will cause the whole e-book concept to fail before it gets a good chance to begin. Or maybe the industry will succeed in changing the way people think of a "book" from something that one reads anywhere over and over throughout one's lifetime, to something that's tied to one special device and becomes unavailable after it's read once or a few times.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

e-books (part 2)

There does seem to be one use where an e-book (on a small device with a backlit screen) is handier than a paper book -- reading in bed. It's small, it glows, and it keeps your place if you fall asleep holding it.

And because it can lie flat and you can scroll through the pages with one finger, it's good for reading at the table, too. (Just avoid greasy finger foods if you don't want to smear the screen.)

Monday, January 18, 2010


I've been trying to give e-books a try, really I have. I can't justify paying the price of a dozen or so hardbacks for a machine to do what can be done for free with a lamp or a sunny window, but the library has e-books that can be read on a home computer and now there's a free Kindle reader for the iPhone.

Actually, I've been reading e-books since the early days of CD-ROMs. One of the earliest apps for the new (and at that time still very slow) format was a CD full of plain-text public domain works. And as any follower of this blog knows, I'm a big fan of Project Gutenberg. The difference with the new systems is that they include new books. And they scroll from side to side instead of up and down.

Supposedly, e-books are cheap, around ten bucks a pop. But that's not truly cheap to someone who remembers 65-cent paperbacks. For that matter, I strongly resist paying anything to read any book just once. I pay money for books I want to keep -- for the rest of my life, and be able to pass down to any great-grandkids I might have in the future. So for e-books I need to find modern books I'll want to read over and over, but only in the next few years. Or things I'd like to have a second, portable copy of. The problem is, every time I think of such a title, it turns out not to have an e-book version. Or it's one of the over-ten-dollars books.

The public library subscribes to netLibrary, which allows patrons to check out books to read on their home computers for a limited time. Sounds like a good deal, except that they have next to nothing I want to read even once -- except for public domain titles I can read at Gutenberg without the hassle of signing in, and download to keep for more than two weeks. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but browsing for books less than a year old brought up nothing at all, and I couldn't find any fiction, either.

So for now I'll go back to reading Poe's "The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal" for free online.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

brevity is the soul of ...

... broadband being down.
(sent from a cell phone, which is awkward to type on)