Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ithaka report on sustaining online academic resources

The Ithaka project has released a report called “Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources.” The Chronicle of Higher Education explains the core issues succinctly and bluntly:

"So you got a startup grant to get your digital monograph, e-journal, or wiki up and running. What kind of impact will that nifty new project have, and how will you keep it going once the grant money runs out?"
I've seen many, many digital scholarly projects in varying states of their life cycle. New projects flush with enthusiasm, cash, and vision. Projects where a limited scope is envisioned that grow beyond the scope with no plan or resources identified for scalability. Projects in that panicky stage where the money has just run out, hoping for institutional support for the future. Projects where someone has responsibility for care and feeding as an added side job with no recognition of what it might entail. Projects where no staff remained to keep the content -- even just the links -- current, degrading from a vibrant site to a side note. Projects set up using technologies that become problematic for support after time passes. Projects that take up institutional resources but get little or no use. And institutions stretched to the limit of what they can support, having to make very difficult decisions about what to do with the resources on its servers.

The report presents a lot of discussion about identifying targeted users and user needs, and revenue models. The report is aimed more at sustainability for new initiatives than scholarship, but it's worth reviewing by folks in both communities.

copyright renewal records

The Inside Google Book Search blog announced the availability of U.S. copyright renewal records as an XML file. Google created the set by taking advantage of scanned and keyboarded versions created by the Carnegie Mellon Universal Library Project and Project Gutenberg. Google cleaned up the files for improved parsing, and now they're available for download.

Google thinks that this set is "the best and most comprehensive set of renewal records available today." I am not sure what the difference in data and temporal coverage is between these records and the ones from the U.S. Copyright Office copyright registration database made available through the efforts of DLF and Public.Resource.Org. It is useful that Google has put these out as parsable XML.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Strategies for Sustaining Digital Libraries now in print

I am pleased to announce that the volume Strategies for Sustaining Digital Libraries, edited by Katherine Skinner and Martin Halbert is now in print. I'm pleased because 1), it's a Emory University Digital Library publication, and 2), I have a chapter in the book.

This collection of essays on sustaining digital libraries is a report of early findings from member of the community who have developed ongoing services and collections intended to be sustained over time in ways consistent with the long-held practices of print-based libraries. The essays address a variety of issues in advancing innovative information services to an ongoing programmatic mode of sustaining digital libraries for the long haul.

It's available in print and as a free PDF version, under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License. For more information, please visit the Emory web site.

Friday, June 20, 2008

one can be too available

I loved this post of O'Reilly Radar: Phone in the Toilet?

Yes, I have a cell phone. I do carry it everywhere because it's a Palm Centro, and without it I would not know where I need to be and when. For the first time in years I am actually keeping the phone turned on all the time because my house in Charlottesville is on the market and one needs to be on call for Realtors. BUT, I don't give the number to too many people and I never use all my minutes. I do not feel the need to call people wherever I am just to chat. It's mind-boggling to me when I witness someone having a phone conversation in a public restroom. And I've seen this lots of times. And there's the woman who rides the same Metro shuttle I do that's planning her wedding: she and her mother have serious issues. I should not know this about a woman whose name I do not even know.

I also do not regularly check my email when at home, and I can go hours without going online (which isn't true of everyone in my household ). And my kitchen is where I cook, not go online, even to check recipes.

As my friend Liz would say: there's no kidney in a cooler, people. Take some time away from constant connectedness.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fedora and DSpace meeting

There was a developer meeting last week with representatives of the DSpace and Fedora communities, and notes from that meeting are available. I am pleased that there was a focus on identifying and solving the needs of the community. I saw a lot of mention of work flows. There was a recognition of the need to get the communities TOGETHER to have discussions about these common needs. There was a brief mention of the upcoming RepoCamp as one such potential venue for discussion.

I also loved the final sentence: "Michele, Sandy, Brad, and Thorny will have a beer together to summarize ideas generated in this meeting and conceive of next steps." That's friendly collaboration at its finest.

Fedora 3.0 Beta 2 released

The second beta release of Fedora 3.0 is now available for testing. This release completes most of the features planned for the general 3.0 release this fall. I'm personally most excited by the new Content Model Architecture (CMA), an integrated structure for persisting and delivering the essential characteristics of digital objects in Fedora, which replaces the previous architecture for binding objects, behaviors and mechanisms. Formal instantiation of content models opens up interesting new avenues for work flows and validation. That this new architecture also allows for easier modification of mechanisms is a huge operational boon.

Read the announcement for more details on the release.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

changed my del.icio.us

For the three dozen people who subscribe and might care, I've changed my public del.icio.us from uva_digital_library to lljohnston. I've turned uva_digital_library over to UVA -- I don't know who might be taking it on. All the links remain at uva_digital_library, but I have also copied them to lljohnston. I may have missed some network connections when I was recreating them.

To vent a bit about one thing, while it was easy to export from the old account into the new account, the default is that all imported links are NOT shared, and there is NO batch sharing function, so I manually marked all 498 as shared. That took a while ...

Friday, June 13, 2008

save the date for RepoCamp!

RepoCamp will be a one-day event where folks who are interested in managing and creating digital repository software and their contents can gather and share ideas. RepoCamp will take place on July 25, 2008, at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. PLEASE NOTE: Due to space constraints, there will only be room for 30-ish people.

For those of you who are familiar with the concept, this will be a "barcamp," where the sessions are proposed and scheduled by the attendees the day of the event. Having participated in beCamp the past couple of years, I'm very excited to see this opportunity for the repository community.

Visit the wiki for more information: http://barcamp.pbwiki.com/RepoCamp

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

book publisher's manifesto

I've been reading Sara Lloyd's "Book Publisher's Manifesto for the 21st Century."

It's a very interesting essay. These sections stood out to me:

We will need to think much less about products and much more about content; we will need to think of ‘the book’ as a core or base structure but perhaps one with more porous edges than it has had before. We will need to work out how to position the book at the centre of a network rather than how to distribute it to the end of a chain. We will need to recognise that readers are also writers and opinion formers and that those operate online within and across networks. We will need to understand that parts of books reference parts of other books and that now the network of meaning can be woven together digitally in a very real way, between content published and hosted by entirely separate entities. Perhaps most radically, we will have to consider whether a primary focus on text is enough in a world of multimedia mash-ups. In other words, publishers will need to think entirely differently about the very nature of the book and, in parallel, about how to market and sell those ‘books’ in the context of a wired world. Crucially, we will need to work out how we can add value as publishers within a circular, networked environment.
Publishers need to provide the tools of interaction and communication around book content and to be active within the digital spaces in which readers can discuss and interact with their content. It will no doubt become standard for digital texts to provide messaging and commenting functions alongside the core text, to enable readers to connect with other readers of the same text and to open up a dialogue with them. Readers are already connecting with each other – through blogs, discussion forums, social book-marking sites, book cataloguing sites and wikis. Publishers need to be at the centre of these digital conversations, driving their development and providing the tools for readers to engage with the text and with each other if they are to remain relevant.
The idea that texts exist as networked content that can be broken down into components that can be recombined with other networked content in a multitude of contexts is a huge focus in digital humanities scholarship. Remixing and recontextualization through mashups isn't just a scholarly activity by any means. Anybody who has bought a song from iTunes and added it to a playlist has taken a single component from a larger whole that was once considered the only possible unit of distribution (an album) and recontextualized it (a personal thematic playlist).

Publishers are finally beginning to understand that the "book as unit" model is no longer the only model for distribution -- in fact, that will soon no longer be the dominant model for any media distribution.

That said, I hope publishers don't throw the baby out with the bathwater in the rush to identify new paradigms for digital distribution and reading on the screen. I still buy and read books. They are still a content unit with meaning. Publishers need to think about how they will continue to distribute books, but in a way that they can be consumed and retained as a whole OR broken down into components for consumption and re-use.

Another major topic in the manifesto is one that I have never given any conscious consideration -- do book buyers give any thought to publisher brands? Her answer is no, they do not. I sometimes take note of the publisher or line -- Vintage Crime for example -- because I have come to associate their line with titles that I have enjoyed in the past, so I'm more likely to look at one of their books on the shelf now and in the future. I have a lot of books from Tuttle and Kodansha because they publish Japanese fiction in translation. Anyone who has shopped at the New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, knows they arrange their stock by _publisher_, so you'd better have that noted in your WTB lists when you go there. But why else would anyone ever give any thought to the publisher?

My recognition of Vintage Crime, Kodansha, and Tuttle is proof that one of Ms. Lloyd's suggestions for publishers -- deep genre niche brands -- is not far off the mark. And she suggests that publishers need to market directly to their consumers rather than letting the next link in the distribution chain, e.g., booksellers, become the recognized brand through their marketing efforts. Publishers need to learn the basics of digital promotion in addition to digital distribution. I can think of a lot of book promotion experts I know: Bella Stander, Kevin Smokler, and M. J. Rose -- who would agree.

Friday, June 06, 2008


A press release went out this week on digitalpreservation.gov about the BagIt format specification. BagIt is a lightweight specification for the description of data packages meant for transfer between institutions. The need for such a standard was initially identified in working with NDIIPP partners such as CDL (John Kunze of CDL played a major role in the format development and testing and is one of the principal authors). Other partners have expressed interest, and we are moving forward with a prototype submission web app that will take advantage of BagIt.

My colleague Ed Summers has posted a fantastic overview of the specification to which I can add nothing except reinforcing the kudos deserved by everyone involved.

There is an official Internet-Draft and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


I've been chewing on an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about the "edupunk" movement that just might be coalescing. The term was apparently discussed publicly for the first time only 10 days ago by Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington (scroll to the bottom to see an extensive list of trackback links to discussions), was covered less than a week later in the above article, and now has a brief wikipedia article. From Jim Groom's blog post:

" ... in my mind the technology is often the means through which the communal acts are traced, recorded, and archived. The learning happens not as a by-product of the technology, it is, or rather should be, the Raison d’ĂȘtre of the technology. The teaching and thinking happen within the medium of texts, videos, film, images, art, conversation, game playing, computers, etc. Technology may provide new ways of delivering and accessing this information, and mark the basis of many a medium, but the idea of a community and its culture is what makes any technology meaningful and relevant.

This is why the idea that “it is about the technology” makes BlackBoard 8 so troubling to me. If it is about the technology, then capital can quickly recognize this fact and co-opt all the hard work by so many to move outside of the taylorized vision of educational technology grafted upon our institutions. If the technology is what is important, than what do we say if a faculty member or student notes that Bb can do what del.icio.us can, or can “mash up” YouTube, Flickr, and Google Earth maps like WPMu, or can make content at long last open, or has a slick AJAX interface, then we what what can we say about the technology?

...if we reduce the conversation to technology, and not really think hard about technology as an instantiation of capital’s will to power, than anything resembling an EdTech movement towards a vision of liberation and relevance is lost. For within those ideas is not a technology, but a group of people, who argue, disagree, and bicker, but also believe that education is fundamentally about the exchange of ideas and possibilities of thinking the world anew again and again, it is not about a corporate mandate to compete—however inanely or nefariously—for market share and/or power. I don’t believe in technology, I believe in people. And that’s why I don’t think our struggle is over the future of technology, it is over the struggle for the future of our culture that is assailed from all corners by the vultures of capital. Corporations are selling us back our ideas, innovations, and visions for an exorbitant price. I want them all back, and I want them now!
To quote Leslie Madsen Brooks blog, "In short, edupunk is student-centered, resourceful, teacher- or community-created rather than corporate-sourced, and underwritten by a progressive political stance." And check out D'Arcy Norman's edupunk heroes.

What I found most interesting -- in addition to its viral spread -- were the comments on the Chron article and Jim Groom's original post. Issues of ownership of content, the closed nature of some learning management systems versus open source, tools such as Edusim or ScholarPress, the value of common tools for supportability (I've heard that so often to stop oh-so-scary innovation), and whether Edupunk itself is technology for technology's sake.

The critiques are equally interesting. That edupunks need to grow up. That an edupunk movement isn't the right answer. And, in a lighter vein, that appropriating the word "punk" and its associations isn't, well, appropriate.

While Jim Groom might like to deny it, it's a full-fledged meme. It's official when it bleeds into another discipline -- Libpunk.

Regardless of whether the term is a good one or not, whether this is a movement or not, or how an organization is going support a thousand educational technology flowers blooming, I am glad to see a conversation about new pedagogies, innovation in educational technologies, open sourcing of tools and content, and the role of a Maker/DIY community in higher ed.

If it's anything at all, this blog post speaks to me perhaps the most: Edupunk is a mindset, not a technology movement.