Friday, August 31, 2007

Is iPhone Unlocking Legal?

Today is the day that George Hotz is planning to trade in his unlocked iPhone for a Nissan 350Z sports car and three new iPhones. Hotz figured out a ten-step process to unlock his iPhone so it can be used on other cell-phone networks. Most cell phone service providers electronically 'lock' the phone so that it can only be used with their service.

An article in Business Week suggests that Apple can not stop individuals from unlocking the iPhone. Individual users are already allowed to unlock their own phones under an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that the U.S. Copyright Office issued last November. The exemption, in force until 2009, applies to:

"computer programs…that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network."
While lawyers for Apple and AT&T have tried to deter hackers from unlocking iPhones to protect the monthly service charges they receive, it does appear that individual may be within their legal rights to unlock an iPhone, until the exemption runs out. The two firms are expected to claim that the DMCA protects the iPhone from being unlocked because it is a copyrighted work:
'No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.'
It could also be argued that the practice of locking of cell phones only protects access to a carrier's communications network. While such services may be protected by other intellectual property laws, they aren't copyrightable and do not fall under the DCMA.

Individuals who unlock their phones will still need to pay AT&T network charges, or pay the $175 early termination fee if they move to another carrier . Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

GooglePhone OS to be Released in Early Sept?

Word from Engadget is that the much anticipated Google mobile device platform may finally be revealed in early September. Rumors suggest that Google has plans to invest $7-8 billion in its development, although there has been no confirmation from the company.

The word is also that Google isn't necessarily working on a hardware device of its own, but instead is working with OEMs and ODMs to get them to put the linux-based platform on upcoming devices. Speculation that they may build their own device increased after Google acquired startup Android Inc., along with founder Andy Rubin. One of his companies launched the mobile Hiptop device, marketed as the T-Mobile sidekick. So, they do have the talent to make a device.

This also sheds some light on Google's release of the Short Message Service (SMS), which sends text-based localized information to mobile users from sports scores, driving directions, to weather forecasts. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

CAUTION: Paradigm Shift Ahead

As a librarian inclined to think that libraries are at risk, I am one of those open to many of the more radical ideas about how libraries need to change. Several of the other librarians I work with may gravitate towards ideas that support the traditional core values of librarianship and will reject those that involve redefining reference, circulation, and cataloging services. The resulting discussions are very intersting, if not polarizing.

I was just rereading a John Blyberg post about how librarians are drifting into two camps – those that believe libraries are in peril and those that don’t.
"Like two distinct brands of the same religion, librarians are drifting into two camps–those that believe libraries are in peril and those that don’t. Those who find themselves as a member of the former tend to feel that their libraries need to change in a number of fundamental ways in order to remain relevant. Those who identify with the latter group feel that good old-fashion librarianship is still what their users want or need. They’re the purists."
This brought me back to Thomas Kuhn's 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, where he discusses paradigms as they relate to scientific discovery and evolution. It is the work which popularized the term 'paradigm shift.'

A scientific revolution occurs when an older paradigm is replaced whole or in part by an incompatible new one. When a new paradigm is revealed, the supporters of the new and old paradigms naturally argue in defense of their position. The emergence of a new paradigm affects the structure of the group that practices in a given field.

This is exactly what we are are experiencing in library science. We have the emergence of a new technology driven/focused definition of what a library is and is contrasted with the existing traditionalist definition highlighted by reference librarians sitting at desks. These are the two camps that John identifies.

According to Kuhn, scientific paradigms before and after a shift are so different that their theories are incomparable. It is impossible to construct a language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms, because the very terms used belong to a the paradigm and are therefore different. In essence, a new paradigm cannot build on the preceding one, it can only supplant it. Advocates of mutually exclusive paradigms are in an impossible position:

"Though each may hope to convert the other to his way of seeing science and its problems, neither may hope to prove his case. The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proof."
When an individual or group produces a synthesis that attracts the attention of the next generation of practioners, the older schools gradually disappear. In part, the disappearance is caused by the members conversion to the new paradigm:

"a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
The next generation of library scientists graduating from library school will be hardwired to naturally accept the technology driven/focused definition of a library. If Kuhn is right, as the profession's retirement bubble bursts over the next few years the next generation should help complete the library science paradigm shift.

That is, until the next paradigm emerges. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rattlesnakes on an Email List?

I stopped subscribing to email discussions lists years ago. They are so, well, 1992.

Too many email lists generate too many messages. Some individuals still do not know how to use lists (how many private messages or responses such as "me too" or "see you there" are STILL being sent?). I tried to use digest mode but it made topic threads too choppy to follow. I also tried mailbox filters. I ended up marking most email list messages as read or just deleted them as they piled up.

In his editorial column in the June 2007 issue of Information Technology and Libraries, John Webb writes about his desire to have more individuals submit manuscripts to the journal. I am a bit perplexed by his decision to compare email list discussions to the peer review process of ITAL:

"A typical discussion thread on lita-l happens in 'real time' and lasts two days at most. A small number of participants raise and "solve" an issue in less than a half dozen posts. A few times, however, a question asked or comment posted by a LITA member has led to a flurry of irrelevent postings, or, possibly worse, sustained bombing runs from at least two opposing camps that have left some members begging to be removed from the list..."

"Some days I wish that lita-l responders would referee, honestly, their own responses for their relevance to the questions or issues or so-whatness and to the membership"

"do you have the "-" to send your ITAL editor a manuscript to be chewed upon not by rattlesnakes, but by skilled professionals who are your editorial Board Members and referees."

I see nothing wrong with a problem being raised and then solved within a few posts. Email lists such as lita-l are meant to be tools for quick questions and responses. Bombing runs and irrelevent postings exist on every email list, unless the list becomes moderated and filtered, which seems to be contrary to some core librarianship values.

I suspect few lita-l list subscribers view the list as an alternative to a scholarly communication tool such as ITAL. ALA members that join LITA are generally technology oriented individuals. I also suspect that most understand the shortcomings of all email lists and take them for what they are worth. Any LITA member that keeps up with the latest in library technology happenings using email lists over publications such as ITAL, or even blogs, may be in the wrong professional association.

There are also many questions that librarians have that simply do not warrant the full treatment of a typical ITAL article. Besides, blogging and the gray literature poses much more of a threat to the future of ITAL than the lita-l list ever could. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Two Hour Meeting to Plan A One Hour Meeting?

I just read Alexander Johannesen's resignation from a library in Canberra, Australia. Mr. Johannesen is not a 'librarian' by training and admits that he is leaving libraries due to an incompatibility. So it goes.

"Every time I see a glimmer of hope or a flash of something exciting going on in the library world, it usually fast fades into a charades of politics and committee-shuffle. I'm too impatient for this, and I seriously think the world is, too ; it will race past us as we decide on who's going to chair what committee, who'll take notes, and how we're reporting progress to what group. Also since these glimmers of hope usually is attached to specific people more than institutions or organizations, whenever that person goes or moves, so does the glimmer. Again, because we're not traditionally in the business of technical development, we're so fragile..."

It is unfortunate that Mr. Johannesen is so frustrated. Yet, I do think that the perspective he offers as a programmer coming into the library profession is an important one. One could try to argue the culture and problems he encountered are unique to his library, but we all know better.

This quickly brought to mind Stephen Abram's quote:

"librarians like to process things to death, and death wasn't the original goal."

Just yesterday, I had lunch with a colleague who is not a librarian, but whose current and previous positions have allowed her to work closely with libraries and librarians. Our various discussion topics always seemed to loop back around to the culture of libraries, resistance to change, and the need to process EVERYTHING.

Another colleague also told me yesterday that earlier in the day they were in a two hour library meeting to discuss plans for a one hour meeting.

What's the deal with us, folks??!!

What also concerns me is that Mr. Johannesen is a self admitted "mid-life-crisis-aged" individual. What will happen when the younger generation begins to enter the profession? The next generation of library scientists graduating from library schools will be hardwired to naturally accept the technology driven/focused definition of a library. Will this culture embedded in the 'legacy' librarians reaching retirement bubble simply be handed off to the next generation, or, will the next generation finally force a culture shift?

I am fairly confident that Mr. Johannesen is not alone in his frustration about the library culture and maybe even with his unwillingness to wait for that shift to occur. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, August 17, 2007

Open Source Scholarly Publishing

It is fairly clear that a growing number of librarians (other than myself!) are frustrated with publication lag time. I also find that many of my ideas can't be stretched into a full length papers. The lag time and the fact that not all ideas warrant a full treatment are the primary reasons I began this blog.

There are many librarians out there with interesting and innovative ideas that are important to the profession and should be disseminated. Many of these librarians may not want to a develop full blown manuscripts. Sometimes a concept doesn't immediately lend itself to a manuscript. Perhaps there that a librarian wishes to throw a theory or concept out there so it can be poked at and prodded. Some of those concepts could evolve into a manuscript, maybe most don't.

One possible model I came across is called open source publishing, a concept being proposed by Dr. Eric Mockensturm, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.
"The system will allow authors to submit papers, reviewers to immediately comment on them, and authors to immediately make revisions in a very dynamic way. The ultimate goal is to not only have open access to the papers but also make the reviewing process open (i.e. not anonymous) and the papers open source so that anyone can make revisions."
This publishing model allows anyone (registered) to submit a manuscript or even an concept outline. Access to this manuscript can be closed to all but the submitter, open to a group of users, or open to all. The first option allows the author to submit something not ready to be viewed and critiqued by others. The author(s) can continue to work on the manuscript for as long as they wish. The second option allows specified individuals to view and comment on a manuscript. The authors can continue to revise it as needed.

Once the article is ready and opened to all it is considered published, but not necessarily accepted for publication in 'traditional' static journal format.

The model makes use of a rapid review process that creates real-time communication between an author and reviewers. Authors can solicit reviews, respond to comments, and revise their manuscript accordingly. Comments are organized in a hierarchical structure to make it easier to locate discussion topics that may result in multiple threads.

When an author decide the article is ready for official review for the 'traditional static publication', a request is sent to the editor, who then assigns formal reviewers. The assigned reviewers can post quick, short comments for rapid response from the authors, without waiting to write an extensive review. The rapid communication between the authors and reviewers can significantly accelerate the review process. The manuscript remains open for discussion by the community throughout this process.

Once official reviews are submitted and sufficient discussion has occurred, the editors decide to either accept or reject the manuscript. This process is different from traditional journals because, hopefully, the author has been revising their manuscript during the review process. There would be no need for an ‘accepted with revisions' option. Reviewers will be able to post follow-up comments about any revisions which are made. If the author and reviewers cannot agree on changes, an editor can personally review all the comments make a publication decision.

If the manuscript is rejected, the author decides to keep it in the dynamic section for further revision, or pull and submit it elsewhere (all submissions are protected by a Creative Commons License). Should the author decide to leave the manuscript in the system, they can request that the editors to reconsider it after additional revisions. If a breakthrough occurs the author could inform the editors to consider it.

If the author pulls the manuscript the comments and reviews remain so a history of the discussion and credit for reviewing the paper will be retained in case reviewers would like to cite their reviews. If subsequent work does not validate the idea, the authors could retract the work, or leave it posted indefinitely for further comment and the education of others who might be considering similar ideas.

There are several characteristics that I like about this model.

- It maintains the pre-publication peer review process and generates a static final version of traditional publications which could help satisfy promotion and tenure committees. There is no reason the author can not remain anonymous through the review period to satisfy double blind review.

- The dynamic environment allows authors to present their ideas rapidly, even in 'half baked' unfinished form, and then fill in material as it becomes available. The manuscripts can evolve based on the comments and grow only to a length needed to effectively communicate an idea rather than being bloated to meet minimum manuscript length requirements.

- Subsequent study might also show that the original idea was not good from the start. Such submissions could be maintained in the dynamic section for comment, dissemination, or revision. The result is a forum for ideas that did not work out. Partial or failed concepts could even be revisited later by the original authors or others might try to determine why a seemingly good idea just did not materialize into something useful. This is what makes this model 'open source.'

- The model makes use of a ranking system that allows readers to rate reviews (or manuscripts) based on their intellectual merit. Such reader-based ranking systems exist on in community-based sites such as A community ranking system could lead to a more objective rating with the accumulative rating of a review being considered regardless if it is signed or anonymous.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Where is My Manuscript? Part 2

Last month I detailed the saga of a manuscript I submitted to a traditional publication. In summary, the post detailed the long strange trip taken by a manuscript I submitted on December 21, 2005. Yesterday, much to my surprise, I received a package from the publisher containing reprints. Yes, my manuscript has been published!

The saga deepens.

When I compared the print version to my copy of the manuscript there were several noticeable and significant typographical errors. The special issue editor indicated that neither her or the journal editor had received galley proofs. Any changes we likely made by an editor at the publishing house or their 'typesetter.' Unfortunately, readers will likely question my writing skills - not the publisher's editing skills. Such errors pose a bit of a problem for tenure track librarians going up for a promotion since publications are often critiqued by 'external' reviewers. The reviewers could comment about such errors which in turn could be intepreted by a local review committee as a weakness.

While I respect the role that traditional publication plays in archiving our professional communications, I still can't help but to feel that they can no longer be the trusted source for the dialog and communication going on in our profession today. Libraries are largely dependent on and are competing with technologies that change every nine months. How are we supposed to progress as a profession in such a changing environment when it still takes a year and a half for an article to move from submission to publication? Waiting until 2009 to read about the wiki approach that Kathryn Greenhill is using to write two conference papers just won't do.

The fact that you are reading this blog means you 'get it.' Perhaps the only way that I will reach those that don't 'get it' is to write a peer reviewed paper about the impact of blogging that may be published near the end of the decade. If I am really lucky, that manuscript may actually be published while blogging is still the valuable communication tool that we view it as today. At the very least, I guess, it would make an interesting historical piece. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 06, 2007

Is There a Portlet I Can Use?

Portlets are pluggable user interface components that are managed and displayed within a traditional web page. They are mini-applications that run inside regular applications and are completely independent of the rest of the application. For example, a travel website can include a weather portlet.

Portlets have actually been around for a while and were once touted as the next big thing. With a conventional portlet, the browser needed to reload the entire page every time any change occured, but this changed with the advent of Ajax technology. The Java Portlet Specification 1.0, Java Specification Request (JSR) 168 creates a web services standard that allows for the "plug-n-play" of portlets from disparate sources.

Bremner, Naidoo, Sandell, and Vickery offer up the following advantages of using portlet technology in the creation of a portal:

Personalization – Customers of portals have the ability to select the kinds of information that they require and have it presented in a layout of their own choosing. This allows a level of customisation so customers can maximise their productivity.

Single Sign On – Customers should not have to login to services after their initial portal login. Credentials for the initial portal login are propagated to the portal services, which can then be used to authenticate a customer to the service in the background.

Aggregation – Customers can access a multitude of services from a single location. Instead of having to check out multiple pages on a web site, or even multiple web sites, a customer can have the information they seek presented to them on a single page if desired.

Information Management – Management of the content distributed to our customers can be managed more effectively and efficiently, allowing a much better level of reuse without duplication.

Information Targeting - Content can be targeted to specific groups of people such as Academic staff and/or Postgraduate students doing research or Library staff. This gives a much more granular level of control for content distribution which saves customers from being bombarded with irrelevant information.

Multiple Device Delivery – Portals have the ability to be rendered independently of the data that they contain. What this means is that using a different ‘style sheet’ for rendering can enable the same information and even similar functionality on devices such as PDA’s and mobile phones.

So, has anyone out there built any neat library-oriented portlets they wish to share? Sphere: Related Content