Amazon Meets the FAIL Whale

So, this whole Amazonfail thing is pretty wacky. For those of you not emersed in the Internet, the short version goes like this: A bunch of LGBT/feminist and sex ed books listed on Amazon were reclasified as “adult” and omitted from the search rankings. This meant that if you did a subject search, you wouldn’t find Heather Has Two Mommies or It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments unless you did a title search. However, if you searched for” Girl Scout cookies” you’d also find recommendations for stripper costumes, wolf urine, and a vaginal speculum. Naturally, some people were a bit concerned. Others went apeshit, calling for Jeff Bezos’ head a stake. On Twitter, #amazonfail became the biggest thread and the one with the most up to date info, proving Twitter’s worth in tracking news in real time. Some said this was a coordinated effort by astroturfing Famly Values Mafia types trying to drag LGBT books down to Bantown. Amazon released some standard boilerplate about a glitch and then later released a statement saying that this was all, “an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error.” I’ll say.*

Anyway, this is all still a brewing haha. I reccomend following the news as it unfolds on Making Light, who, as usual, have the most levelheaded comments and thoughtful analysis for all your Internet-related WTF needs.

________

* Good to know it’s not just us little liberal arts schools with wacky cataloging errors and that the gods of the Catalog sometime shit on the big boys, too.

Call Me SparticusLover626

I’ve been using Twitter and Facebook for a few months now and my general assessment is that these tools are useful for now. That’s about as good as it gets when evaluating technology, especially web apps that are doomed to obsolescence by the time you reach the end of this sentence. Do not misunderstand me: I’m not complaining. I like my shiny new web toys. They’ve allowed me to get back in touch with people I thought lost forever (hi, Joe and Amy!). They’ve even allowed me to find some of the people I tried to escape after High School and shown me that they turned out to be, 15 years later, fully grown adults who have mellowed and matured into interesting people with fully developed lives and hopes and dreams. Who knew?

As this blog approaches it’s sixth anniversary and it occurs to me that I’ve have had an online presence for more than a decade,[1] I look back and am amused and amazed at how things have changed. I’ve seen various incarnations of social networking come and go. Some new technology has truly revolutionized the way we communicate to the point where we no longer even realize how much they effect us or what the world was like before them.[2] Meanwhile, other pieces of tech have become momentary novelties that have eventually fallen away.[3] One thing I have recently realized is that, as these newish types of communication become more refined and their usefulness accepted by the general public, there is one problem that is becoming very apparent. I’m talking about those poor fools who still use Internet Handles.
Continue reading “Call Me SparticusLover626”

Writing Software

I’ve been having problems finding a good, reliable open source word processing program. MS Office is a bloated piece of crap, so naturally it’s the industry standard, even if you have to rejigger the preferences as it was not intended for creative writing. Also, not OS. OpenOffice 3.0 was just released and there are plans to port it to Aqua for Macs… eventually. All previous versions require installing X11 so it can run in a Unix environment, which is a pain, especially if you want to run a browser at the same time. NeoOffice, the Aqua-native version of OpenOffice, is buggy.

I’ve had mixed results using online word processors. Google Docs, besides having a silly EULA, doesn’t support footnotes* and requires mucho reformatting once it’s exported. Zoho does support footnotes but still requires reformatting, isn’t quite WYSIWYG and ever since they mysteriously upgraded last week, has been buggy.

Even if Zoho gets it’s act together, I’ll still need a program to prep a manuscript for print. Preferably a free one but I’d be willing to pay for an inexpensive program if it worked for my needs. Any ideas?

UPDATE 10/20: I found a nifty little app called JDarkRoom, a light little Jav-based word processor that runs in full screen mode with no distracting tabs or buttons. Just a black screen with green monospaced text, like the old MS Works used to be. It’s simple, elegant and creates a nice environment to play in, just you and the words.

Still have to use MS Office or OO to format text after the fact but that’s not so bad actually. It’s weird: I didn’t realize how much I missed the old green text on black screen. It’s really engaging. Like how you dream about words. How I do, anyway.

Makes me wonder if there will be a minimalist computer renaissance: eschuing all the fancy designerly polish for green on black screen, low rez, minimal GUI and 8 bit design. Functionality and form over excessive processor speeds and pointless Flash doodle. I’d buy that for a dollar.

__________

* Which I use quite a bit.

It’s All Very Technical

I usually refrain from discussing work or job-related things on the blog, but I have to share the good news: having been unemployed for less than a month, I have a new job! Starting August 4, I will be head of Technical Services and Systems at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.

I am super excited about this job! At the interview, I felt like I was talking to people who really got what I was saying about using new technology (all that web 2.0 stuff you may have heard about) in the Library. That’s a good feeling.

Posting around here will continue to be light as we look for a new apartment (a new new one, closer to work) and continue with the whole “I’ve just moved across country, where the hell am I,” feeling that has been our life for the last week.

But!

We’re still going to Comic-Con at the end of the month! So there will be pictures. And reviews. And blood. OK, not blood. But powerpoint slides! I’ll have the presentation I did for my job interview, on using web 2.0 tech in the library, online before too long. Won’t that be fun.

Not-So-Balanced Libraries

Previously on The Invisible Library: After discovering that a two year old blog post of mine had been citied in a book on how to make libraries work better in the web 2.0 world, I wondered aloud about the context of such citations and the weird gray area inhabited by blogs in the academic world.

Like any good librarian, I did a little more research. Naturally, I found Walt Crawford’s website and a link to his book, Balanced Libraries, which is self published on lulu.com. This in no way invalidates his book, or thesis, but neither does it really inspire much confidence. Let’s be honest–and this is coming from a fellow Lulu author–self published academic work tends to have a certain… charm, shall we say. It’s good to know others are getting their work out there independently and for all I know, Walt Crawford is the unsung, Tom Paine of the library world. But seriously, Walt, $29.50 for a paperback is bad enough but $20 for the download? Downloads are free. I could understand maybe asking for donations. Charging a buck or two is acceptable, if you want to be a dick. But $20 for a PDF is madness. Like, RIAA suing tween music downloaders for their parent’s retirement fund level of madness. Cory Doctorow explains why. Bad form, Walt.

The only thing worse than not making an ebook available (especially when self publishing the book on Lulu, where that option is free and as easy as clicking a single button) is charging such a ridiculous price for it. This is one of those really easy web 2.0 ideas that often get ignored by library administrators because they either can’t or won’t change their minds about access and distribution models. If charging people for ebooks is part of your idea of creating a balanced library, I’m not impressed. And neither am I willing to spend $30 bucks for some out-to-lunch academic’s pet project.

Hay You Kids, Get On My Lawn!

Stephen Fry on the much vaunted Web 2.0 and it’s Social Networking Voodoo:

I am old enough to remember Prestel and the original bulletin boards and “commercial online services” Prodigy, CompuServe and America Online. These were closed communities. You paid a subscription, dialled in and connected. You made new friends and you chatted in “rooms” designated for the purpose according to special interests, hobbies and propensities. CompuServe and AOL were shockingly late to add what was called an “internet ramp” in the 90s. This allowed those who dialled up to go beyond the confines of the provider’s area and explore the strange new world of the internet unsupervised.

[…] My point is this: what an irony! For what is this much-trumpeted social networking but an escape back into that world of the closed online service of 15 or 20 years ago? Is it part of some deep human instinct that we take an organism as open and wild and free as the internet, and wish then to divide it into citadels, into closed-border republics and independent city states? The systole and diastole of history has us opening and closing like a flower: escaping our fortresses and enclosures into the open fields, and then building hedges, villages and cities in which to imprison ourselves again before repeating the process once more. The internet seems to be following this pattern.

If MySpace and Facebook are the walled in citidel’s, I suppose blogs (at least this one) are the equivalent of the tumble-down shack in the woods with the weird, creepy person standing on the porch, ranting into the wilderness, heard only by the odd passing stranger or concerned friend who, like Red Riding Hood, comes by fortnightly to see if we’ve been devoured by some wolf yet. Which is fine by me. I see little point in FaceBook type networking sites; seems like an awful lot of work just to let poeple know what you’re doing. If I want people to know what I’m doing, I’ll let them know with an email or phone call. Why would anyone want to know how often I visit the organic produce store or when I’m at work, which is where I usually am? I thought we were all hyperventilating about the Government tapping our phones because it meant they were keeping to close an eye on us and now we want to let every damn fool “friend” we met on the internet know when and where we took a shit last?

Networking’s great and all, if you’re trying to make a movie or sell the Middle Class up the creek to Corporate Republicans. But in general, if people want to find you, they can pretty easily. Google makes sure of that. And Ma Bell. So what I’m saying is, call your mother because she worries and doesn’t know how to log on to your MySpace page. And would be scared if she did.