Current Cites

Current Cites, November 2005

Edited by Roy Tennant

Contributors: Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Terry Huwe, Leo Robert Klein, Jim Ronningen, Roy Tennant


Editor's Note: I'm happy to announce that Current Cites is slouching into the 21st century by finally adding an RSS feed. We now have three channels by which Cites can be consumed: the web, email, and RSS. Just pick your preferred flavor (or all three! they're free). We have also recovered searching of our citation database, from July 2002 (when we began marking up cites in XML) to the present.

Abram, Stephen. "32 Tips to Inspire Innovation for You and Your LibrarySirsiDynix OneSource  (October 2005)(http://www.imakenews.com/sirsi/e_article000458643.cfm). - I'm cheating a bit on this cite, which points you to the final part of a three-part series that stretched from July to October. I did this since only the third part points you to the two previous parts. Enough of the mechanics, as usual Stephen Abram rocks in this pithy, well-written and inspiring set of tips. Each tip is a phrase such as "Iteration is everything" and "Good not perfect", accompanied by an explanatory paragraph. Those who keep up with business literature may find some tips familiar, but such street wisdom is unfortunately much less prevalent in the library literature. So if you don't get out much, and even if you do, don't make the mistake of overlooking this series simply because it is a vendor's newsletter. Feel free to overlook the obligatory references to SirsiDynix products. This is certifiably great stuff, period. - RT

Boeder, Pieter. "Habermas' Heritage: The Future of the Public Sphere in the Network SocietyFirst Monday  10(9)(5 September 2005)(http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue10_9/boeder/). - I've always enjoyed a well-constructed attempt to update philosophy and sociology in the context of the current digital era, which is unfolding as we write. In this piece, Boeder offers a lively (if dense) analysis of public discourse and its importance to society in the Web era. Drawing on the work of Habermas, he charts the Internet's growth, the ongoing consolidation of media, and the growing need for an independent sphere of public discourse in the face of these massive forces. He is not a pessimist, though; the public sphere was never a static state, whatever media it relied upon, which have ranged from coffee houses to editorial pages. Habermas argued that as mass media has mutated into monopoly capitalist forms, the role of public debate has shifted from the "dissemination of reliable information to the formation of public opinion." Arguably, this is exactly what MoveOn.Org has been doing, and countless Blogs and Podcasts as well. This article is interesting because it serves as a reminder that the forces that shape society weren't created just yesterday, and that a fresh look at classic philosophy and sociology is not only a good idea, but can actually help us understand the subtle changes the Internet has begun in our public lives. - TH

Fichter, Darlene. "Web Development Over the Past 10 Years"  Online  29(6)(Nov/Dec 2005): 48-50. - The fruit of ten years' experience, Darlene Fichter lays out a number of important guidelines for designing websites. Noteworthy advice includes having to make "tough choices" as to what the user sees first and foremost, how help screens aren't all that helpful and that we ignore website conventions at our peril. I was particularly heartened to see her inclusion of "aesthetics matter", something that back in the old days used to get scant attention, perhaps because it was so hard to measure. I'd tone down the Jacob-worship myself but who wouldn't agree that we've learned a lot in 10 years? - LRK

Geist, Michael. "Sony's Long-Term Rootkit CD WoesBBC News  (21 November 2005)(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4456970.stm). - In this article, Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, overviews the Sony BMG "rootkit" fiasco. In this sad tale, one of the planet's largest entertainment companies deploys digital rights protection software from First4Internet on some of its music CDs. Noted computer security expert Mark Russinovich discovers this, is alarmed about the risks involved, and posts "Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far," which triggers a firestorm of subsequent criticism against Sony. The rootkit, which has no uninstaller, proves very difficult to remove, and it has security holes that hackers start to exploit (e.g., see "First Trojan Using Sony DRM Spotted"). Making matters worse, the EFF posts an analysis of the 3,000+ word license that governs use of the protected CDs, which has novel provisions such as: "If you file for bankruptcy, you have to delete all the music on your computer" (EFF's wording). Then came the lawsuits (e.g., see "Sony Sued For Rootkit Copy Protection" and "SonyBMG Litigation and Rootkit Info"). Sony BMG stopped production (see "Sony Halts Production of 'Rootkit' CDs"); however, it planned to continue using a second DRM software package from SunnComm on CDs that some analysts feel is spyware (yes, they were using two: see "Sony Shipping Spyware from SunnComm, Too"). The IT industry ramped up efforts to eradicate the rootkit (e.g., see "Microsoft Will Wipe Sony's 'Rootkit'"), and Sony BMG offered a First4Internet uninstaller. Unfortunately, the Sony BMG uninstaller created new security holes (see "Sony's Web-Based Uninstaller Opens a Big Security Hole; Sony to Recall Discs"). And the uninstaller for the SunnComm MediaMax RRM system also opened security holes (see "Not Again! Uninstaller for Other Sony DRM Also Opens Huge Security Hole"). To top it off, Sony BMG's rootkit may be violating some copyrights (see "Does Sony's Copy Protection Infringe Copyrights?"), and Sony BMG may have known about security issues before in advance of the Russinovich disclosure (see "Sony BMG's Costly Silence"). Believe it or not, there's more to the story. Geist's recap is the best I've seen so far. While the focus has been on the inadequacies of the DRM technologies Sony BMG deployed, don't lose sight of this: music CDs are now being licensed by major companies. Bye bye first sale rights. Bye bye fair use rights. The license rules. (If you want to see if you have bought a rootkit CD, check out the Sony BMG list.) - CB

Hiltz, Starr Roxanne, and Murray  Turoff. "Education Goes Digital: the Evolution of Online Learning and the Revolution in Higher Education"  Communications of the ACM  48(10)(October 2005): 59-64. - With so many articles about digital technology's role in higher education, one hesitates to recommend another, but this is worth a look for its plausible thesis that a transformation will occur through a gradual process of substitution. Blending face-to-face and online learning is already occurring in many courses, and the authors project that digital methods which were first used to augment lecture will be adopted eventually for delivery of core content. They do take for granted a point which is currently the subject of heated debate - the effectiveness of computer-mediated education being equal to that of human interaction - but win or lose that argument, they make a convincing case that the tools are there and will be used in ways that will increase accessibility to higher education and are likely to revolutionize teaching. This October issue is themed "The Digital Society" and includes many thoughtful pieces on the social impacts of computing and communications. - JR

Jacso, Peter. "As We May Search - Comparison of Major Features of the Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar Citation-Based and Citation-Enhanced DatabasesCurrent Science  89(10)(25 November 2005): 1537-1547. (http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/nov102005/1537.pdf). - Announced to wide acclaim a year ago, Google Scholar remains a bit of an enigma. The scholarly search service provides little or no information that can be used to evaluate it as an information source, and therefore people such as the author of this article are left to do the best they can to determine the coverage of the service, its accuracy, and user options. Jacso has published previous evaluations of Google Scholar, but this one is the most in-depth review I've seen, and the comparison with similar commercial services is also instructive. If you have read Jacso's earlier articles, his criticism of Scholar will comes as no surprise. But anyone who is pointing users to Scholar or who use it themselves would do well to read this article. - RT

Jones, Steve, and Camille  Johnson-Yale. "Professors Online: The Internet's Impact on College FacultyFirst Monday  10(9)(5 September 2005)(http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue10_9/jones/). - The authors assess the findings of a nationwide survey of Internet use by American professors. The goals of the survey were to find out about the impact of the Internet on the professional lives of faculty -- not just in the classroom, but in research contexts, personal information use, etc. As such, it covered wide terrain: email, instant messaging, Web use, and instructional technologies. Unsurprisingly, college-based academics like the Internet and use it heavily, but the survey also reveals some perennial concerns. Infrastructure is a constant issues, and it's hard to stay current when technologies change fast, and are costly. Professional development is more important than ever, but is also a high-ticket fringe benefit in higher education. Finally, teaching and research are influenced in both obvious and subtle ways by the Internet; there's a need for more study on how to optimize the challenge of integrating the Internet into academic culture. - TH

Martell, Charles R.. "The Ubiquitous User: A Reexamination of Carlson's Deserted Libraryportal: Libraries and the Academy  5(4)(October 2005): 441-453. (http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/portal_libraries_and_the_academy/v005/5.4martell.html). - Sober look at the decline in traditional library stats (e.g. circ., gate counts, reserve) at a number of academic institutions. The author believes things will plateau out though the declines in his view "have the earmarkings of a bona fide crisis". In such circumstances, he argues, it's essential to clearly distinguish between traditional and electronic use so administrators will know where best to direct resources. While the terrain is changing, the author points out that "our users need our assistance as never before." He goes on, "our challenge is to discover the roles we must develop in order to be of greatest benefit to them and to society." - LRK

Miller, Paul. "Web 2.0: Building the New LibraryAriadne  (45)(30 October 2005)(http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue45/miller/). - If you haven't noticed already, we're living in a Web 2.0 world. The network is our platform, information is disparate, the user has control. The author of this article readily acknowledges the hype but still sees characteristics that are significant for libraries. More than anything, the article serves as a jumping-off point for considering how exactly libraries are going to fit in. - LRK

Minielli, Maureen C., and S.  Pixy Ferris. "Electronic Courseware in Higher EducationFirst Monday  10(9)(5 September 2005)(http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue10_9/minielli/). - The authors analyze electronic courseware with two objectives: first, to explain, define and chart the components for those who might not know all there is to know about it, and second, to call for a systematic, pedagogical evaluation of how best to use such software. Their topic is timely, since the rising cost of higher education has fomented an ongoing exploration of "online universities." The change from "space-and-time bound institutions" to purportedly cost-effective online degree programs may not be such a simple task, if considered as a social experiment. But the focus here is on what formats new courseware programs might take, not their social impact. The authors argue that in order to utilize electronic courseware in the classroom, educators need to conduct research and analysis that would help practitioners learn and adapt their teaching styles to an online medium. - TH

Surratt, Brian E.. "ETD Release Policies in American ARL Institutions: A Preliminary Study  (2005)(http://txspace.tamu.edu/handle/1969.1/2483). - This interesting eprint of a paper presented at the ETD2005 Conference at the University of New South Wales examines the policies at US ARL institutions that govern the accessibility of electronic theses and dissertations. Surratt looks at 28 such policies that are Web accessible, and he groups them into six categories based on whether ETDs are available through either open access or restricted access or they are withheld. In addition to his paper, Surratt makes available the Powerpoint of his presentation and both an Excel spreadsheet and an Access database with his data. This is a unique, valuable resource that will be of special interest to those engaged in developing ETD policies and procedures. - CB