A History of OCLC’s Ohio Tax Exemption Status

The Disruptive Library Technology Jester has an interesting look at A History of the OCLC Tax-Exemption Status. As the author points out, it is but one version of the history. However, it is the best one I have seen and worth a look if you are interested in these sorts of things.

Call for chapters: Getting started with cloud computing: A LITA guide

Dear Librarian Colleagues:

Consider writing a chapter for the forthcoming book, “Getting started with cloud computing: A LITA guide”.

Edward Corrado and Heather Moulaison, editors, are looking for 8-12 page (double spaced standard font) chapters on either:

1. Applications and services used by librarians in the cloud and how they might be used in a variety of libraries, including information on:

a. The tool itself (what it does, why it could be of use to libraries)
b. Why librarians should know about this application or service

2. Descriptions of best practices/ok practices/not good practices in using cloud services, including information on:

a. The background to the project: Describe your library, your collection, your resources, or any other element that will be necessary to understand what you did and why

b. The project: Describe what you did, why you did it, who did what, and how, being sure to mention any special funding you needed or resources you used

c. The assessment: How have you assessed your project and what are the results of that assessment

Possible topics: Using Amazon S3 for backups/storage, Hosting Websites, blogs, wikis, etc., in the Cloud, Hosting Library Subject Guides in the Cloud, Using Google Docs and other Google Applications, etc.

Examples can focus on all kinds of libraries, including public, special, museum, academic, etc.

Projected deadline for chapter: Nov. 1, 2010.

Authors will receive a copy of the book as compensation.

If you are interested in submitting an idea for consideration, please send a rough outline of your proposed chapter to ecorrado@ecorrado.us before Sept. 15, 2010. Clearly indicate in your email your name, contact information, and any other information the editors should take into
consideration about the context of your proposal.

Little Things Matter

Dear Open Source Software developer,

Little things matter. If you want me to take your project serious, doing the little things right can make a big difference. Here are just a few things you should try to do, IMHO. I know that some of these are not as fun as coding in your favorite programming language, but if they aren’t done, your project will less likely be chosen for me to use, and possibly contribute back. Instead of making a long list, I will give you my five of my pet peeves about Open Source projects. These are some little things that I have seen with a number of projects that could easily be rectified.

  1. Include complete install instructions. Don’t assume people know what you mean by things like create a database and grant CREATE, UPDATE, DROP, etc. means. Just tell people how to do it. People with more skills can read between the lines if they want to do it differently. You need to design documentation for people who are just learning. Also, don’t make me download the whole package to see the instructions. I tried to use one project that had instructions for install the project on MySQL/Linux but was written on Solaris/Postgres. I naively assumed that they actually tested the Linux instructions. Wrong! After struggling with it for a day, I e-mailed the project’s list and learned they weren’t even tested ans I should use Solaris/Postgres. I have nothing against Solaris/Postgres, but it would have been nice to know I should use it before wasting a day following instructions that weren’t even tested. I went elsewhere even though I would have probably used the project on Solaris/Postgres if I knew that in the begining.
  2. On your Website include (at least) basic operating instructions and screen shots. I recently saw an announcement for a new Open Source project that I thought sounded interesting, but when I went to the URL and it was basically just a place to download the code. I at least want some idea what it looks like and what it does beside being a statistics package, a time management package, or _____.
  3. Respond to posts on your forum/blog/e-mail list. Nothing screams dead project like questions and inquiries not being answered. It is possible they are answered in private, but someone investigating your project won’t know that. If it is asked in public, answer it in public or at least post something saying you contacted the person privately).
  4. Keep people informed/updated. I went to a OSS project Web site last week and found a new version of the software to download posted about a month ago with absolutely no mention of how they got there or what was different about the new version from earlier versions. A quick post saying new files are available would have been nice. The same project’s home page says beta software for a new version is coming in Spring 2009 (it is now Summer 2010!). I think the beta version was actually version 1.1 and was posted in March, but who knows? Even if you are not actively releasing new code, a blog post with a hint or tip every now and then will add confidence.
  5. Treat users (even newbies) with respect.
  6. Not everyone is an expert with Open Source, but you should treat them with respect. If they ask a dumb question don’t attack them, ask them for more information in a friendly manner Karl Fogel in Producing Open Source Software describes this as treating every user as a potential volunteer. He writes:

    A corollary of this is that developers should not express anger at people who file well-intended but vague bug reports. This is one of my personal pet peeves; I see developers do it all the time on various open source mailing lists, and the harm it does is palpable. Some hapless newbie will post a useless report:

    “Hi, I can’t get Scanley to run. Every time I start it up, it just errors. Is anyone else seeing this problem?”

    Some developer—who has seen this kind of report a thousand times, and hasn’t stopped to think that the newbie has not—will respond like this:

    “What are we supposed to do with so little information? Sheesh. Give us at least some details, like the version of Scanley, your operating system, and the error.”

    This developer has failed to see things from the user’s point of view, and also failed to consider the effect such a reaction might have on all the other people watching the exchange. Naturally a user who has no programming experience, and no prior experience reporting bugs, will not know how to write a bug report. What is the right way to handle such a person? Educate them! And do it in such a way that they come back for more:

    “Sorry you’re having trouble. We’ll need more information in order to figure out what’s happening here. Please tell us the version of Scanley, your operating system, and the exact text of the error. The very best thing you can do is send a transcript showing the exact commands you ran, and the output they produced. See http://www.scanley.org/how_to_report_a_bug.html for more.”

    This way of responding is far more effective at extracting the needed information from the user, because it is written to the user’s point of view.

    These are just a few things that I think, if followed, will give a project a much better chance of being successful. Also, by doing this you may have a better chance of growing community who can assist with things like documentation and answering questions from other users.



    P.S. Anyone have their own pet peeves to share?

Staying Free from “Corporate Marketing Machines”: Library Policy for Web 2.0 Tools

The presentation, Staying Free from “Corporate Marketing Machines”: Library Policy for Web 2.0 Tools, that Heather Lea Moulaison and I gave at the Marketing Libraries in a Web 2.0 Worldd IFLA Satellite conference is available on codabox. Here is the citation:

Moulaison, Heather Lea and Corrado, Edward M. (2010) Staying Free from “Corporate Marketing Machines”: Library Policy for Web 2.0 Tools. In: Marketing Libraries in a Web 2.0 World, 7-8 August 2010, Stockholm University, Sweden. Available at http://codabox.org/66/

New Article: SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces File Antitrust Suit Against OCLC

I just had an article, SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces File Antitrust Suit Against OCLC, published as an Information Today NewsBreak. The introduction states:

SkyRiver Technology Solutions filed a complaint for Federal and State antitrust violations and unfair competition against OCLC in United States District Court, Northern Division of California on July 28. The suit [1] alleges that OCLC is “unlawfully monopolizing the bibliographic data, cataloging service and interlibrary lending markets and is attempting to monopolize the market for integrated library systems by anticompetitive and exclusionary agreements, policies and practices.” Innovative Interfaces, Inc. is listed as a co-plaintiff. OCLC released a statement on July 29 saying that it hadn’t reviewed the complaint yet and after it reviews the complaint and “have had an opportunity to review the allegations with its legal counsel, a statement in response will be forthcoming.” This suit could have major implications in the library software and technology services industry. If the suit is successful, OCLC may have to provide for-profit firms access to the WorldCat database and there could be implications for OCLC’s status as a non-profit cooperative.

Please go to the Information Today Web site to read the whole article.

SkyRiver files antitrust lawsuit against OCLC

When the SkyRiver bibliographic utility was first announced, I thought this would eventually lead to some sort of legal action. What I didn’t know is who would be the first to bring legal action and against whom. Well, now we know. SkyRiver, joined by Innovative Interfaces, has filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco.

The likelihood of a lawsuit seemed more certain after the fees OCLC wanted to charge some of the first customers of SkyRiver like Michigan State University and California State University, Long Beach, to upload holdings. According to SkyRivers’ press release about the lawsuit (pdf) OCLC quoted them a price increase of over 1100%. I’m not a legal scholar and don’t know any details of the actually filling, so I don’t know what will happen, but it certainly will be interesting and will be a game changer. I also don’t expect it to have a quick outcome.

I didn’t see a press release from Innovative Interfaces yet, but I am sure that one of the reasons the company joined the lawsuit was the new OCLC Web-scale Management Services which directly competes with the traditional ILS.* Honestly, I was really surprised that the new OCLC system didn’t create a bigger buzz because in my mind it is a game changer. OCLC with control of so many bibliographic members created by members via there WorldCat platform is in a position to leverage WorldCat and a tremendous amount of data in ways other vendors simply can’t, especially if SkyRiver’s anti-trust claims are accurate. I also think the whole WorldCat record use policy fiasco over the last year or so has also added to the factors leading to this lawsuit.

As far as I know, OCLC also hasn’t made a public response as of yet.

I plan on following this story closely because I believe however it turns out, as I mentioned earlier it will be a game changer. If OCLC prevails, startups like SkyRiver won’t have a fair chance. If SkyRiver prevails, we can see a major restructuring of services that OCLC provides and possibly even a breakup of OCLC.

For information about the lawsuit from SkyRiver, check out the Web site they created about it, called Choice for Libraries.

* Yes, I know that SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces are owned by the same people, but they are different companies.

DHCP to Static IP and hostname

For some reason whenever I install Ubuntu or a derivative it finds my DHCP server and automatically configures a DHCP client. This is great but usually not what I want so I end up going back and changing to a static IP. I’m sure if I did an advanced install, I could get these options at install time, but it is easy enough to change afterwards so I just do it then. However, I usually forget what files I need to edit to make the change. Luckily, there is a good post about Ubuntu Networking Configuration Using Command Line on Ubuntu Geek. For details, follow the above links, but in short you need to edit:

/etc/network/interfaces (for IP Address, Gateway, etc.)
/etc/resolv.conf (for DNS)

Also, you may have to change the hostname using the following command:

sudo /bin/hostname newname

After this you can restart networking using:

sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

However, I prefer to just reboot to make sure the changes stick.

WordPress Theme Kerfuffle

People reading this blog outside of an RSS reader will notice something different with my blog. I changed the theme. I was using the Coppyblogger theme by Chris Pearson which I really like. However there has been a bit of kerfuffle that Chris is in the center of. The developers of WordPress feel that themes are part of the WordPress code base and therefore subject to the GPL as a derivative work. Chris feels differently. I don’t know from a legal standpoint who is right, except to say that if any WordPress GPL code is in the theme (which is true of many themes, including Thesis which Pearson wrote and is at the center of the kerfuffle), than it would definitely by GPLed.

For a convincing argument about why the developers think that it themes are subject to the GPL, see Mark Jaquith post about Why WordPress Themes are Derivative of WordPress. Whether or not it is legal to distribute themes under a license other than the GPL, after thinking about the issue, I feel not distributing themes under the GPL is unethical, or at least shows a lack of respect now that this issue has come to light.

The Copyblogger theme is free and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5. Outside of this kerfuffle the CC Attribution Share Alike would be fine by me. Still I decided to at least temporarily change my theme since it was developed by Chris Pearson. I mostly did this as a tiny signal of support for the WordPress developers. I may change the theme again soon because I didn’t do a lot of searching/experimenting for a theme – I just took the first one that looked good.

E-mail Signature Files

I decided to update my work e-mail signature file to reflect my new job title and at the same time make it automatically attach via my e-mail clients (Mozilla Thunderbird and the Gmail interface). While doing so I decided to look at what the prevailing thought on e-mail signatures is. Using a Google Search I picked out about ten Web pages/blog posts to review on this subject and this is what I found.

Things that all or almost all of the posts agreed upon:

  1. Name (obvious, no?)
  2. Professional Title / Position
  3. Website URL (One or two people said it wasn’t needed but most thought this was good. Personally I think unless it is a small company with a minimal Web site you should include it. For example, finding the Library Web site on a large University site can sometimes take a while).
  4. Phone number (Possibly also Mobile and Fax numbers. Joshua Dorkin pointed out “If you’re not willing to include a phone number with an email, then who on earth can take you seriously?“).
  5. Keep the signature from 4 to 6 lines

Her are some things that some people thought were appropriate and others not:

  1. E-mail Address (Some people said it is in the header, but others pointed out that some e-mail clients hide it and once the mail gets forwarded, the e-mail address may no longer be there. Personally, I decided to include it).
  2. Instant Messaging Names (I didn’t see anyone say not to include it, but only a few mentioned it. Nathan Jones pointed out you should only include one. I would just say if you use IM all the time it makes sense, but if you are a light or even moderate user, probably not.
  3. Mobile Note (As with IM, I didn’t see anyone say not tto include it, but not everyone mentioned it. Nathan Jones writes “I think it’s a good idea to add a small note at the bottom of the signature that indicates that the email is being sent from your mobile phone.” The thought is that people will be more forgiving of small typos and short responses.
  4. Sig Separators (Again, no one said not to use them but I was surprised by how many didn’t mention them at all).

Here are somethings with more disagreement where the leaning was to not include the following:

  1. Business address (More people in my small sample didn’t like the idea of a street address then did, but it was up for debate. Joshua Dorkin wrote “While it helps to know where someone’s physical presence is, in the current day and age people aren’t using snail mail as often as they used to. Mailing addresses are great to have, but not 100% necessary.” Others thought it depended on how hard it would be to find out the address or if people are likely to want to come visit you. Personally I included it because people may not know where Binghamton University is otherwise, and If I’m going to include “Binghamton NY, USA” I might as well add a PO Box and Zip code. Besides, how often do a see complaints about job postings that don’t include addresses or people getting schools with similar names confused?).
  2. Quotes, mottos, etc. (Judith at Netmanners.com specifically pointed out not to “use inflammatory quotes in your signature file.” I see a lot of professional e-mail with quotes that might not be inflammatory, but definitely could turn some people off. On your personal e-mail to friends and family that is your choice but I don’t think it is appropriate for professional e-mail. I just say no to quotes in professional email signatures).
  3. Branding via color or images (Some thought minimal levels of branding such as fonts matching the organizations color or a small image are okay, but all agreed that too much is too much)
  4. Closing sentiment (Some posts mentioned that the “first line of an email signature should be a closing sentiment, such as ‘Thank you,’ or “Sincerely.’” Personally, I don’t agree. If I want a closing sentiment, I’ll type it myself and make sure it is appropriate for the situation).
  5. Formatting (Surprisingly not too many people mentioned formatting. One person that did was Judith at nermanners.com who said you should “align your sig’s text with spaces rather than tabbing […] Also keep in mind that you want to keep your sig file to 70 characters or less, as that is the set screen width default for most email programs.” I think the 70 character wide rule is a good one to keep in mind.
  6. Degrees (Most people thought listing things like MBA looked arrogant if for no other reason then because it is uncommon – at least in the United States. However, these people didn’t work at Universities as far as I could tell. I think the attitude in academia about this would be different than in corporations, so I see no harm in listing MLS, MBA, EdD, PhD, etc in the library world. I chose not to list my MLS, but if I had a doctorate I might have choose differently).

Anyway, if you are interested this is what I came up with…

Edward M. Corrado
Assistant Director for Library Technology
Binghamton University Libraries
P.O. Box 6012, Binghamton, NY 13902 USA
Phone: +1-607-777-4909 | Fax: +1-607-777-4848
ecorrado@binghamton.edu | http://library.binghamton.edu

Preserving Electronic Records in Colleges and Universities workshop

On Friday, July 9 I went to a Preserving Electronic Records in Colleges and Universities workshop held at Cornell University and sponsored by the New York State Archives. The workshop was presented by Steve F. Goodfellow, President, Access Systems, Inc. The workshop was well organized and Steve Goodfellow did a good job presenting the material. In some respects, I can’t say I learned a real lot, especially on the technology side, but the workshop was more the worthwhile, if only to have some of my thoughts on the issue reinforced by an expert. I did learn about some policy considerations and retention schedules however.

During a break I talked with Steve and we agreed that while the technology is important and their are technological challenges, really electronic preservation is more of a policy challenge then a technological one. If the policies are in place and carried out (which included the proper funding), the technology can be worked out. That is not to say the technological solutions are always worked out properly. During the first part of the workshop we discussed items when it didn’t. One example was a client of his had an old student records system and they thought they migrated everything. However, they kept the old system around for old lookups “just in case.” Well, a new CIO came in and asked when was the last time it was used. The answer was not in a long time, so the old system was removed. Guess what happened? Not everything was moved and now they didn’t have it any more.

One of the big take aways for me was the Fundamental Goals of an electronic records preservation system identified during the workshop. The three are:

  1. Readable of electronically stored records
  2. Authoritative & trustworthy process
  3. Maintain a secure and reliable repository

These to a large degree are obvious, but if you are embarking on a electronic preservation program, you should identify how you are accomplishing these goals.

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