June 29, 2008

One Big Library Unconference: Thoughts from Friday

Well, it's over. And I think it went very well.

The One Big Library Unconference was this past Friday at the Centre for Social Innovation here in Toronto. We had about 70 attendees who showed up for the event, which ended up being just about perfect. Fewer may not have given us the critical mass for discussions and many more just wouldn't have worked given the size of the venue.

The day of the unconference went very smoothly, without any significant issues or problems. The only problem we had was that the AC for the CSI was a little flaky so some of the sessions were a little too warm. Over all, people arrived and checked-in, had some coffee and muffins, we welcomed them and they voted for the sessions for the rest of the day. We decided on the spot to let Trevor Owens of Zotero take the opening spot while we set the program for the rest of the day.

The program items for the rest of the day are a bit of a blur at this point, but they all seemed to go quite well, with lots of good discussion. We ended up with two tracks, one a bit more on the technology demo side and the other to more open discussion. Hopefully more session summaries will start appearing on the web and we'll be able to read about them. I would like to thank the students and recent grads I hijacked into moderating the Educating for the One Big Library session for being great moderators and such good sports.

Check out the On the Web page on the wiki. There's already a few items out there as well as links to pics on Flickr and tweeting on Twitter.

Will there be another one? There's certainly a feeling of momentum among we organizers and we're certainly grateful for the many kind words of encouragement during and after the unconference, but it's just too early to tell if we'll do this again and, if we do, what form it might take.

I would also like to take this opportunity to salute the efforts of my colleagues, partners in crime and fellow organizers Stacy Allison-Cassin and Bill Denton as well as thanking our grad student assistant Mandy Frake for all her hard work and support. (Yay us!) Further thanks go to our UL at York, Cynthia Archer, for sponsoring the day. She trusted us right away with pulling off this rather strange idea for an event. Further thanks to Yvonne Bambrick and the staff at the CSI and Big Poppa Barista for coffee.

Most of all, of course, for any unconference it's the participation and interest of all the attendees that make the event a success. Thanks to everyone who was there, who suggested a topic, moderated or presented and who contributed to the discussions.

(Don't forget, if you've created any online content related to the unconference please tag is with "onebiglibrary" and let us know about it on our wiki On the Web page.

Also, feel free to let us know about any feedback. You can leave a comment here or email us at onebig at yorku dot ca.)

June 26, 2008

My theory of conferences

I saw this on the Regenerations blog a few days ago:

I have just returned from beautiful Fredericton, where I was a delegate at the 2008 Conference of the Association of Canadian Archivists. This year's theme was "Stemming the Tide: Archives and the Digital World" and although the sessions did focus primarily on electronic records, digital archives initiatives and the implementation of electronic records management systems, there was a lot of information that could be applied to the library world. Many libraries and archives exist in assorted partnerships, such as Library and Archives Canada, and it is a given that these so-called sister professions have a lot to offer each other.

Of course, a line (usually financial) must be drawn somewhere, and it would be impossible for anyone to attend all the conferences that look appealing. What I am wondering is this. Do you ever attend conferences that are not strictly related to libraries? I can think of librarians who have attended leadership events, and IT conferences, but are there others that you would attend that have particular bearing on your jobs? Does plain ol' interest ever win out in your choice of conferences, rather than attending only those that you "should"?

And I thought it might be worthwhile to briefly explain my own theory of conference attendance.

First of all, there seem to be two overall frameworks for conference attendance out there: go to the same one every year or go to a different one every year. The first leads to integrating into a strong community and more solid networking. The later leads to broader networking and more diversity of ideas that you are exposed to.

I started my career more towards going to the same conference every year, mostly attending the Special Libraries Association (SLA) conference with one or two others interspersed due to travel issues. Lately, however, I've tended to want to go to a different "out of town" conference every year to expand my horizons.

So, over all:

  • Local Library Conference. It's really important to try and regularly attend the local, general conference. For me that's the Ontario Library Association Conference. That leads to building a good local network as well as getting exposure to ideas and innovations from across the library spectrum. I'm lucky that the OLA conference is very large and so affords lots of opportunities to both attend sessions and to present your own ideas. I've presented there several times in the past and will be presenting there in 2009 (on Science 2.0, natch).

  • Diversify your library conference experience. Like I said, I used to go to SLA all the time. Not so much anymore. As my work life has moved more towards supporting Engineering programs, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) is becoming more relevant for me, that that's the conference I'll probably be attended more often than not in coming years. But it's not like I'll never attend another SLA. As well, I'm really interested in library computing issues so I'm sure I'll attend another Computers in Libraries one of these days. I've also really wanted to attend the ASIS&T conference for a more theoretical take on issues. Another conference I've been long interested in attending is the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries. So, you can see that my interests are far-reaching and wide-ranging as well as very specific. Getting exposure to all these communities is a good thing.

  • Domain-specific conferences. I'm a science & engineering librarian. So, it's going to be very important to me to keep up with the scientists and engineers -- the state of their pedagogy, how they're communicating with each other, what the main trends are in their various fields, what they're thinking about the future of science. In that case, I also want to try and attend conferences where most of the attendees are scientists and engineers. For me to become part of their communities and to network with them is a huge opportunity, to both learn about them and, hopefully, to educate them a little about my world and what we can do for them.

    In the past little while, SciBarCamp and the North Carolina Science Blogging Conference are examples of conferences I've attended to get that perspective. It's certainly there at the ASEE conference as well, what with over 3000 engineering educators present. Coming up, I'll be attending the Perimeter Institute's Science in the 21st Century conference as well as the successor conference to the NCSBC, Science Online. FSOSS is coming up too. Like I said, these conferences are incredibly important for me. They're both fun and very instructive. After all, we support the education and training of scientists and engineers so their concerns are our concerns, their future is our future.

    Most academic librarians likely find themselves belonging to multiple communities, like I find myself belonging to the library and scitech communities, and it's important to be part of and knowledgeable about those communities. I know several who are attending the ELPUB conference this week which is another great opportunity to stretch out beyond the library world.

Of course, one size doesn't fit all and your mileage may vary. Funding and time are limited, so I take advantage of local conferences of all types as much as I can.

What's your theory of conferences?

June 22, 2008

Off to Pittsburgh

A bit later this afternoon I'll be hopping on a flight to Pittsburgh for the 2008 ASEE Annual Conference. I haven't been to an ASEE Annual Conference in a number of years so I'm really looking forward to this one. I've also never been to Pittsburgh so I'm looking forward to that too.

Since the program and social calendar at the conference are quite full and I'm coming back Wednesday evening, I'm not sure if I'll be blogging too much while I'm there. I'll try and post some short sessions summaries when I get back. As well, Friday is the One Big Library Unconference, so I'll have to hit the ground running for that.

If you're at ASEE and you see me in the hallways or in one of the sessions, please stop me and say "Hi!" As surprising as it constantly is to me that people actually read this blog, I do enjoy getting to meet all of you out there face to face.

Carr, Nicholas. The big switch: Rewiring the world, from Edison to Google. New York: Norton, 2008. 276pp.

This is a book with a profoundly split personality. It's like two books warring in the bosom of one volume. It's a bit hopeful and visionary but it's also cranky and complaining.

And it's not like the author Nicholas Carr is any stranger to controversy. He's famous for stirring up a hornets nest in the business IT community with the article IT Doesn't Matter in the May 2003 Harvard Business Review, followed up by the book Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage. More recently, he's quite infamous for the Atlantic Monthly article Is Google Making Us Stupid?

So, he's a guy that doesn't pull any punches.

So, what's The Big Switch all about? Ostensibly, it a book that compares the rise of utility computing with the development of the delivery of electric power to the USA as a mass utility. In other words, during the late 19th century, electricity went from something that mostly industrial plants provided for themselves in dedicated generators to something that a centralized utility provided for everyone, for a price. And so computing power has evolved as well. Once upon a time, computing power was chained to a single organization via a mainframe computer or to a single desktop via a PC. Carr's book describes the incredible recent developments where so many companies are now outsourcing their IT and raw computing needs to utility-like providers with vast server farms. Cloud computing, it's often called. Computing power and processes are commoditized the same way electricity was a century or more earlier. Amazon Web Services, a lot of what Google does with products like Docs. This was a very interesting part of the book. I knew a bit about utility computing but not that much and I certainly didn't know a lot about the electrification of the continent.

That's the first half of the book.

The second half is a darker look at the world of Web 2.0. Carr takes a very hard look a the wide-eyed optimism so prevalent among web-heads. What about the job losses and dislocations coming from new business models and paradigm shifts? The fallout from the shift in marketing and media production for news and cultural products. The balkanization and narrowing of taste due to ultra-narrowcasting media and the amplification of negativity and trolling. The potential for terrorists and others to use the web for attacks and violence. The tension between privacy and control on the net, particularly the corporatization of virtually every last web space and censorship and control by totalitarian governments. Carr makes a lot of very good cautionary points in this part of the book. However, I didn't find all of it very convincing. As well, in a lot of cases, he's really complaining about something where the horse has already left the barn. There's no going back. It's certainly an interesting counterpart to Shirky's Here Comes Everybody or to Wikinomics, and would make an interesting book to read with those as part of a Web culture course.

Overall, this is a book I would recommend quite highly. The first part has a lot of interesting information and history that leads into some interesting ideas about the future of computing power as a utility. The second part, covering the dark side of the Web 2.0/Web revolution is less convincing but still makes many compelling cases that cannot be easily or lightly dismissed.

June 20, 2008

It's easier to be a jerk to words than to people

Truer words were never spoken, or at least almost the same words (mouse over the image in the comic on the XKCD site).

A nice thought from XKCD for a Friday morning:

Friday Fun: Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book

The Onion is always very funny, if sometimes cutting a little too close for comfort:

GREENWOOD, IN—Sitting in a quiet downtown diner, local hospital administrator Philip Meyer looks as normal and well-adjusted as can be. Yet, there's more to this 27-year-old than first meets the eye: Meyer has recently finished reading a book.

Yes, the whole thing.

"It was great," said the peculiar Indiana native, who, despite owning a television set and having an active social life, read every single page of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. "Especially the way things came together for Scout in the end. Very good."


According to behavioral psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Schulz, Meyer's reading of entire books is abnormal and may be indicative of a more serious obsession with reading.

"Instead of just zoning out during a bus ride or spending hour after hour watching YouTube videos at night, Mr. Meyer, unlike most healthy males, looks to books for gratification," Schulz said. "Really, it's a classic case of deviant behavior."

June 18, 2008

IEEE Annals of the History of Computing

Lots of interesting stuff from v30i2:

June 17, 2008

JCDL/DL: International Conference on Digital Libraries

This is a conference I have to get to one of these days. This year's edition is actually going on right now in Pittsburgh -- ironically, since I'll be in Pittsburgh next week for ASEE. Had I been sufficiently foresightful, it would have made a great two week visit!

You can see the program on the Conference web site here.

The ACM also has the proceedings online already! Here's some very brief excerpts from the TOC:

June 16, 2008

It's all about me

Sincere apologies for so many inwardly focused posts lately, but this is one more.

Last Monday's appearance as the Blogger Blog of Note fortuitously lead to a rather nice little item about the blog and me in today's Y-File, York's internal email newsletter. Thanks to Sandra McLean for such a nice profile!

(FWIW, the blog got got over 12,000 hits in the week following the Blog of Noting -- compared to the 600-700 hits per week I've been getting lately that's quite a jump. Even today, a week later, I'll end up over 1000 hits.)

Update 2008.07.07: the Y-File story was reposted in ylife, the student email newsletter. As well, my sister Michele pointed out to me that the Y-File story was also highlighed on Academica a few weeks ago.

Nature Network Toronto Pub Night: Wednesday, June 18 at 8pm

Check out this event posting on the Nature Network Toronto Group:

There will be a pub night for people in the Toronto Nature Group, and for those thinking of joining, on Wednesday June 18th at the Duke of York (39 Prince Arthur Avenue).

Please pass on the message to your friends and colleagues – they don’t have to be a member to come along! It will be a great opportunity to meet other people in the GTA who are interested in different areas of science.

By a handy coincidence, there will be a Cafe Scientifique on the “Future of Medecine” taking place at the Duke of York from 6 to 8pm, so we’ve moved the time for our pub night back a little to 8pm so that people can go to both.

Organizer Jen Dodd emailed me this little blurb promoting the group. Of course, the longer term goal is getting a Toronto Hub for Nature Network.
To kick off the Nature Network Toronto Group, we're having a pub night at the Duke of York (39 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto) at 8pm on Wednesday June 18.

The Toronto Group is an online community of scientists and people with an interest in science from the Greater Toronto Area. We'll be having online discussions aimed at keeping you informed of local science events, and events to meet and network with each other - such as the upcoming Pub Night.

Check us out on http://network.nature.com/group/toronto!

You're welcome to join us at the pub night whether you're a member or just thinking about signing up - hope to see you there!

Update 2008.06.17
: Forgot to mention the Facebook event.

June 13, 2008

Friday Fun: Summer movie reading

Bookgasm has a great run down of all the trashy books -- novels, comics and nonfiction -- that you can get to accompany your trashy summer movie watching!

There's stuff coming out for Indiana Jones, X-Files, The Mummy, Iron Man, Speed Racer, The Hulk, Wanted, Hellboy and Batman!

I'm probably most tempted by the X-Files stuff, so here's a sample:


Science bloggers out on the town

Alex Palazzo of The Daily Transcript was in Toronto this week for a job interview.

Eva Amsen, Philip Johnson and I all met Alex for drinks and dinner this past Wednesday. Eva has some rather somber and depressing looking pictures up at her site, but really, it was a great time with much laughter and discussion about the trials and tribulations of blogging, life in Toronto and, of course, science and academia.

June 12, 2008

Books I'd like to read

Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0 by Sarah Lacy

Everyone has heard the story of the Internet Bubble. Beginning with Netscape’s IPO in 1996, billions flowed into Internet startups, and companies with no revenues and shaky business plans earned sky-high valuations on Wall Street. It was the era of paper millionaires, $800 office chairs, and Super Bowl ads for dotcoms. Then in 2000 the Bubble burst, with the NASDAQ losing 75 percent of its value and hundreds of companies closing up shop. It was all written off to “irrational exuberance,” and everyone moved on.

Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good is the story of the entrepreneurs who learned their lesson from the bust and in recent years have created groundbreaking new Web companies. The second iteration of the dotcoms—dubbed Web 2.0—is all about bringing people together. Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace unite friends online; YouTube lets anyone posts videos for the world to see; Digg.com allows Internet users to vote on the most relevant news of the day; Six Apart sells software that enables bloggers to post their viewpoints online; and Slide helps people customize their virtual selves.

Business reporter Sarah Lacy brings to light the entire Web 2.0 scene: the wide-eyed but wary entrepreneurs, the hated venture capitalists, the bloggers fueling the hype, the programmers coding through the night, the twenty-something millionaires, and the Internet “fan boys” eager for all the promises to come true.

The Quantum Ten: A Story of Passion, Tragedy, Ambition, and Science by Sheilla Jones
Theoretical physics is in trouble. At least that's the impression you'd get from reading a spate of recent books on the continued failure to resolve the 80-year-old problem of unifying the classical and quantum worlds. The seeds of this problem were sewn eighty years ago when a dramatic revolution in physics reached a climax at the 1927 Solvay conference in Brussels. It's the story of a rush to formalize quantum physics, the work of just a handful of men fired by ambition, philosophical conflicts and personal agendas.

Sheilla Jones paints an intimate portrait of the key figures who wrestled with the mysteries of the new science of the quantum, along with a powerful supporting cast of famous (and not so famous) colleagues. The Brussels conference was the first time so many of the "quantum ten" had been in the same place: Albert Einstein, the lone wolf; Niels Bohr, the obsessive but gentlemanly father figure; Max Born, the anxious hypochondriac; Werner Heisenberg, the intensely ambitious one; Wolfgang Pauli, the sharp-tongued critic with a dark side; Paul Dirac, the silent Englishman; Erwin Schrodinger, the enthusiastic womanizer; Prince Louis de Broglie, the French aristocrat; and Paul Ehrenfest, who was witness to it all. Pascual Jordan, the ardent Aryan nationalist, came uninvited.

This is the story of quantum physics that has never been told, an equation-free investigation into the turbulent development of the new science and its very fallible creators, including little-known details of the personal relationship between the deeply troubled Ehrenfest and his dear friend Albert Einstein. Jones weaves together the personal and the scientific in a heartwarming--and heartbreaking--story of the men who struggled to create quantum physics: a story of passion, tragedy, ambition and science.

The Edge of Reason: A Novel of the War between Science and Superstition by Melinda Snodgrass
It’s difficult, when you’re tackling hot button issues like religion, to avoid writing a polemic. I hope I succeeded. I tried very hard to personalize these questions to the characters. But larger issues do intrude. When three of the ten candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination said they didn’t believe in evolution, when school boards try to force the teaching of “creation science” and allow students to opt out of astronomy classes when the Big Bang is discussed, we’ve got a problem. (via)

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments by George Johnson
Award-winning science writer Johnson (A Fire in the Mind; Strange Beauty) calls readers away from the industrialized mega-scale of modern science (which requires multimillion-dollar equipment and teams of scientists) to appreciate 10 historic experiments whose elegant simplicity revealed key features of our bodies and our world. Some of the experiments Johnson describes have a sense of whimsy, like Galileo measuring the speed of balls rolling down a ramp to the regular beat of a song, or Isaac Newton cutting holes in window shades and scrambling around with a prism to break light into its component colors. Other experiments—such as William Harvey's use of vivisected animals to demonstrate the circulation of blood, and the truncated frogs Luigi Galvani used in his study of the nervous system—remind us of changing attitudes toward animal research. Joule's effort to show that heat and work are related ways of converting energy into motion, Michelson's work to measure the speed of light, Millikan's sensitive apparatus for measuring the charge of an electron: these experiments toppled contemporary dogma with their logic and clear design as much as with their results. With these 10 entertaining histories, Johnson reminds us of a time when all research was hands-on and the most earthshaking science came from... a single mind confronting the unknown.

The Craftsman by Richard Sennett
ennett considers an array of artisans across different periods, from ancient Chinese chefs to contemporary mobile-phone designers, in this powerful meditation on the "skill of making things well." The template of craftsmanship, he finds, combines a "material consciousness" with a willingness to put in years of practice (a common estimate of the time required to master a craft is ten thousand hours) and a strategic acceptance of ambiguity, rather than an obsessive perfectionism. Sennett’s aim is to make us rethink the notion that society benefits most from a workforce trained to respond to the metamorphoses of a global economy. Ultimately, he writes, the difficulties and possibilities of craft can teach "techniques of experience" that help us relate to others, and lead to an "ethically satisfying" pride in one’s work.

June 9, 2008

Welcome to Confessions of a Science Librarian!

Checking my referrer logs this morning I see that I've been named today's Blogger of Note by the Blogger team. It's quite an honour and I'd like to thank them for giving this humble blog that very kind recognition.

Please stick around and check out some of the other stuff you can find here. Probably my most famous and well know series of posts are:

Thanks for dropping by and enjoy your visit!

June 6, 2008

Science in the 21st Century

I've been remiss in blogging about this conference that's happening at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, ON this coming September 8-12.

However, Michael Nielson informs us that there are only a few spots left for registrants!

Well, I'm registered and it would be great if a few more librarians were there as well to fly the flags for our place in 21st Century Science!

Science in the 21st Century: Science, Society and Information Technology

Times are changing. In the earlier days, we used to go to the library, today we search and archive our papers online. We have collaborations per email, hold telephone seminars, organize virtual networks, write blogs, and make our seminars available on the internet. Without any doubt, these technological developments influence the way science is done, and they also redefine our relation to the society we live in. Information exchange and management, the scientific community, and the society as a whole can be thought of as a triangle of relationships, the mutual interactions in which are becoming increasingly important.

Here's the list of topics, most of which are naturals for librarians too:
  • Web/Web 2.0.
    Communication, Social and Information Networks, Wikis, Blogs, Information Overflow, and the Illusion of Knowledge

  • Globalization
    Collaboration and Competition in the scientific community, The Global Village, the Limits of Growth, Science and Democracy

  • Open Access
    Scientific Publishing, Science Journalism, Framing, and the 'Marketplace of Ideas'

  • Sociology
    Ethics, Morals, Trends, and their impact on scientific directions, organization of our communities, fragmentation, feedback, selection, and the ivory tower.

  • Miscellaneous and Other
    Teaching, Information storage, Resilience and the next Generation

There's also a skeletal program and list of participants.

Oh yeah, the Perimeter Institute has been in the news the last few days!

June 5, 2008

Here & There

A bunch of items from around the web:

  • BoingBoing points us to Vanity Fair's How the Web Was Won: An Oral History of the Internet.
    This year marks the 50th anniversary of an extraordinary moment. In 1958 the United States government set up a special unit, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (arpa), to help jump-start new efforts in science and technology. This was the agency that would nurture the Internet.

    This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the launch of Mosaic, the first widely used browser, which brought the Internet into the hands of ordinary people.

    This one jumps right to the front of my reading list!

  • One again, thanks to BoingBoing we see that there's a new book on the future of music: SOUND UNBOUND: Sampling Digital Music and Culture Edited by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, Foreword by Cory Doctorow, Introduction by Steve Reich. Oddly, and ironically, you can't download all the articles for free off the internet. You actually have to buy the book.

  • Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources by Kevin Guthrie, Rebecca Griffiths, and Nancy Maron looks very interesting and important. There aren't too many more important questions in academic librarianship these days than, "What's worth paying for?" Finding sustainable business models for those resources in a world of Free is going to be a challenge in the medium to long term. This report looks very interesting and will merit a close examination.

    I'll excerpt the same bit as Open Access News.
    ...We define ‘sustainability’ as having a mechanism in place for generating, or gaining access to, the economic resources necessary to keep the intellectual property or the service available on an ongoing basis. This does not...presuppose any particular method for revenue generation: an Open Access resource, for example, will have a different set of revenue options available to it than a project that is willing to charge a subscription fee, but both should be expected to develop a sustainable economic model....

    It does not matter if a resource is subscription-based, Open Access, or supported by budgets of a host institution. For any site, users have a choice in what they pay for, where they spend their time online, or whether to volunteer their time to help support a project. Each project must build sources of advantage that make it valuable and attractive to users, and find ways to sustain these advantages over time....

  • Cool article on SciBarCamp by Jim Thomas!
    ‘It’s a huge improvement on the regular science conference format – those usually suck the life and joy out of these things,’ says SciBarCamper Paul Bloore, a local software entrepreuner. His friend Melina Strathopoulos concurs. ‘Its a literal “confer-ence” where people are actually conferring,’ she points out, ‘rather than just an “attend-ance”.

    Thanks to Jim for bringing it to our attention on the SciBarCamp group on Nature Network.

  • What is the Ecological Footprint of Disneyland?
    Having just returned from a visit to the magic kingdom, the above was a question that continually haunted my consciousness. Disneyland was remarkably pristine in that cookie cutter, artificial, yet aesthetically pleasing way, but it must be a major sink in terms of waste, energy consumption, carbon emissions, etc.

    Or is it? Maybe in terms of footprint, by applying its incredible density (>15 million visitors each year!), it comes out not looking so bad?

    It should be noted that Disney appears to be viewing environmental issues in a relatively serious manner, with a number of programs in place. Here are a few factoids I can provide that would support this notion.

June 4, 2008

Why do profs write those scholarly monographs?

Well, Bill Gasarch of Computational Complexity has a few ideas about why he's committed the sin of the expensive, highly specialized, narrowly focussed academic monograph which libraries feel they have to buy but only three people will ever read:

Why do we write high level monographs that very few people will buy? Should we?
  1. We are delusional. We think that a book will sell and make us real money. (I never thought this for my book.)
  2. We want to get a certain body of knowledge out there. (Yes for my book, though I later wrote a survey gems.pdf, gems.ps. that did a much better job. This is partially because AFTER co-writing the book (co-author Georgia Martin) I knew what I wanted to say.
  3. We want an excuse to learn a field. (Yes for my book, and even more so for a book I am working on on van der Warden stuff. See later in this post.)
  4. We write books to help us get promotions. In terms of time spend, papers are much better for Tenure. For Full Prof books may be okay. (This is not why I wrote my book, though I think it helped my Full Prof case.)
  5. We are intrigued by the mathematics that dicates that the book cost $80.00 for you to buy, and for each copy my co-author and I split $5.00.
  6. We like the fact that if there is a mistake it's hard to correct, and once a new result is discovered its hard to insert.

There's more in the post, and more in the comments as well. Of course, it raises a very interesting question: Is the printed scholarly monograph in the STM fields a declining phenomenon?

My answer? I certainly hope so. Certainly, there's little or no original research published in these books. At best, they generally function as very large review articles, which is a valuable function, of course. But it's a function which I think could be performed better by either wiki-like platforms, perhaps hosted by scholarly societies or more targeted, subject-based ebook collections like Morgan & Claypool's Synthesis. I would certainly prefer to spend my limited collections budget on items that provide the best, most current information in a searchable, remixable, dynamic and portable format.

My hoped-for future for edited collections is a topic for another post, of course, as are the futures of historical and popular works. Technical and reference books are still another area of interest where I think the publishing industry is a little further along in meeting the challenges of the web 2.0 age.

Strong opinions, weakly held

Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror ruminates about fame, expertise and influence:

Authority in our field is a strange thing. Perceived authority is stranger still.

I've always thought of myself as nothing more than a rank amateur seeking enlightenment. This blog is my attempt to invite others along for the journey. It has become a rather popular journey along the way, which has subtly altered the nature of the journey and the way I approach it, but the goal remains the same...

When it comes to software development, if you profess expertise, if you pitch yourself as an authority, you're either lying to us, or lying to yourself. In our heart of hearts, we know: the real progress is made by the amateurs. They're so busy living software they don't usually have time to pontificate at length about the breadth of their legendary expertise. If I've learned anything in my career, it is that approaching software development as an expert, as someone who has already discovered everything there is to know about a given topic, is the one surest way to fail.

Experts are, if anything, more suspect than the amateurs, because they're less honest. Regardless, you absolutely should question everything I write here, in the same way you question everything you've ever read online -- or anywhere else for that matter. Your own research and data should trump any claims you read from anyone, no matter how much of an authority or expert you, I, Google, or the general community at large may believe them to be.