Join 3,372 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Revenge of the Blog People
February 25, 2005 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Blogs suck according to Michael Gorman, incoming president of the American Library Association.
posted by gimonca (70 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Some people really don't take criticism well.
posted by smackfu at 7:47 AM on February 25, 2005


"My [LA Times Op-Ed] had the temerity to question the usefulness of Google digitizing millions of books and making bits of them available via its notoriously inefficient search engine... Hailed as the ultimate example of information retrieval, Google is, in fact, the device that gives you thousands of "hits" (which may or may not be relevant) in no very useful order."

I can see why he got flamed.
posted by anthill at 7:47 AM on February 25, 2005


I agree.
posted by Captaintripps at 7:52 AM on February 25, 2005


Where did he say 'blogs suck'? I would have agreed with that.

As for Google, his Google-fu must be at the beginner's level.
posted by mischief at 7:54 AM on February 25, 2005


He's brilliant in that he covered his ass from any further attacks. Now he can just call anyone who doesn't agree with him unintelligent 'bloggers, who aren't "in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts."

I'm going to go worship my Google god now, thanks Mr Gorman, you ass.
posted by freudianslipper at 7:54 AM on February 25, 2005


It is obvious that the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote. Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.

Sounds about right for a variety of topics.
posted by loquax at 7:55 AM on February 25, 2005


I thought his point about how the money would be better spent was not an unreasonable one, and highlighted an issue I hadn't thought much about. Libraries are awfully underfunded right now. Library budgets were being cut everywhere in the past couple of years, in blue states as well as red. What good does getting all the books online do if there aren't any freakin' libraries? It's not as everyone in America has Internet access. Poor kids, however, can get to libraries - and now they're closed all over the place on weekends and after 5, or their selection is crappy, or the library is too damned far away.
posted by raysmj at 7:57 AM on February 25, 2005


Figured I'd see this here sooner or later. Here's the slashdot thread about it as well. If you want to read what the ALA Council is saying about it, here's a link to that. My take on the article comes from following the story somewhat before this happened. I voted for Michael Gorman for ALA president and he's a pretty progressive and smart guy. Like any blogging community, the library bloggers have some opinionated loudmouths, some of whom have been hounding the guy for a while. My guess is that Gorman doesn't know too much about the blogging thing [his opposing candidate had a blog on her campaign site, he did not] and reacted to some reactions to things he had written in a "wide brush" sort of way. I must admit, I did take it a little personally since he discusses "the absurd idea of giving them press credentials" to political conventions, and I went to the DNC. I don't know any other library bloggers who did. His response to ALA Councilor emails taking him to task for this article is online here.

It's a bit of a bummer really. We all know that ALA doesn't quite "get" technology as much as we'd like them to sometimes, but mostly I've been hoping that this is just a factor of time, that as people learn, they will see the value that some of the new technological offerings have for libraries and information dissemination. I know that me and some other Councilors have been trying to slowly and postively be good examples for the value of technology adoption, where appropriate. However, when something like this happens, and people get pissed off on all sides, it sets the whole process back months, if not years. I'm not afraid to say I'm a "blog person" whatever the hell that means, I just disagree with Gorman's take on the situation, and, more importantly, I'm disappointed in the way he chose to address it.
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 AM on February 25, 2005


Wait, so those result-like things I get from Google are called "hits?" I did not know.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 8:03 AM on February 25, 2005


For being such a smarmy elitist asshole he's not a very compelling writer.

Just a thought.
posted by cloeburner at 8:03 AM on February 25, 2005


It is obvious that the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote…

…It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.

Hung by his own petard.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:03 AM on February 25, 2005


An article in the Detroit News this morning regarding the changing character of public libraries is interesting in light of this conflict.

Libraries are trying to find a new niche, and they are struggling to figure out what that is. On one hand they need customers, on the other they want (need?) to restrict access.

Libraries have to be in panic mode as the route of access to information changes drastically day by day, and the enemy has to be (in their eyes) the web. The web is to libraries (and librarians) what robotics was to the union worker.

I think Mr. Gorman is a bit frightened.
posted by HuronBob at 8:11 AM on February 25, 2005


Maybe the problem isn't the blogs, but how the reader uses them? Blogs are a starting point...giving blogs that much emphasis would be like throwing out the newspaper but getting all your news from the OpEd page.
posted by rzklkng at 8:15 AM on February 25, 2005


Gorman isn't the only one recoiling from bloggers — it seems Ted Rall is as well.

With the wide variety of blog content, why is it that right-wing blogs seem to be taking over as what people predominantly associate the word with?
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 8:19 AM on February 25, 2005


The Luddite label is because my mild remarks have been portrayed as those of someone worried about the job security of librarians (I am not) rather than one who has a different point of view on the usefulness of this latest expression of Google hubris and vast expenditure of money involved.

If a fraction of the latter were devoted to buying books and providing librarians for the library-starved children of California, the effort would be of far more use to humanity and society.


What an ass.
posted by attentionwhore at 8:21 AM on February 25, 2005


What are these 'libraries', and how can I link to their content?
posted by nyterrant at 8:21 AM on February 25, 2005


Where's is the "Google and God's Mind" latimes piece? Not here anymore. I'd like to read it as Michael is making some sense to me. "My sin against bloggery is that I do not believe this particular project will give us anything that comes anywhere near access to the world's knowledge."
posted by dabitch at 8:22 AM on February 25, 2005


> why is it that right-wing blogs seem to be taking over as what people predominantly associate the word with?

Because they shout the loudest.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:23 AM on February 25, 2005


rzking touched on something I think about often at work, and that is the terminology. Too often people hear the word "blog" and immediately think of something like:

"I had peanut butter sammiches for dinner. J called to say that dspite sleeping with K he still loves me."

And then proceed to lump everyone with a blog into that category of writer.

At my office we are trying to decentralise how materials are added to the Web site. And I remind my staff to avoid using the word "(web)blog" so that people don't automatically create this sort of image. I ask them to use terms such as "publishing tools" but it is an up-hill battle.
posted by terrapin at 8:26 AM on February 25, 2005


With the wide variety of blog content, why is it that right-wing blogs seem to be taking over as what people predominantly associate the word with?

Honestly? Because that's what you're afraid of. Or what the people you're talking to are afraid of. I don't think right-wing blogs are taking over as the default association for "blog" any more than, say, Escalades are taking over as the default association for "car." They're one subset among many.
posted by COBRA! at 8:27 AM on February 25, 2005


I've been studying Mr. Gorman's geneology and apparently he an ancestor who maintained the collection of governmental scrolls for the Roman outpost in what is now northern England. It seems that his ancestor is now most remembered for his assertion that "Codices Suck" and were merely a passing fad.
posted by spock at 8:27 AM on February 25, 2005


If anyone wants to aggravate his ulcer, just email him with the details of the post tagging process here.
posted by trondant at 8:38 AM on February 25, 2005


Gorman's comments about Google were specifically regarding scholarly writing. As a person who reads scholarly writing (and marks undergrad essays) for a living, I have to agree with him there. It is possibly the most inefficient way to search for scholarly work. It's great for news, business, blogs, and random wierd stuff, but it's crap if you want, say, a peer reviewed article. They've launched Google Scholar, which is okay, but my library and archive searches still beat the pants off it.
posted by carmen at 8:45 AM on February 25, 2005


Hey, most blogs do suck. That's why you find the ones you enjoy and ignore the rest.

I think his issue is more about bloggers than blogs. The kind of people who write incessantly about things they know little about, and send out threatening (or at least hostile) email to people they've never spoken with or met. That does NOT describe all bloggers, not by a long shot, but it certainly describes more than a few.

Just sayin'.
posted by davejay at 8:52 AM on February 25, 2005


Where's is the "Google and God's Mind" latimes piece?

Here you are.
posted by mlis at 9:01 AM on February 25, 2005


Like carmen I don't disagree with what he's saying but I'd really like to read the LA Times piece as well to see what "the bloggers" misunderstood in that one. Found it! Cool.
posted by dabitch at 9:02 AM on February 25, 2005


ah, thanks for the help MLIS. :)
posted by dabitch at 9:03 AM on February 25, 2005


Blogs do suck. Blogging software sucks. Blogging presentation sucks. Infinitely long sidebars suck. Bloggers' narcissim, piss-poor writing abilities, and boring content suck.

Know what also sucks? Driving to the library, only to find that their one copy of Great Piece of Literature has been checked out for the past three years. That sucks.

But Google does not suck. Digitizing books to open scholarship to the world (and offer data redundancy and several orders of magnitude more content distribution) is one of the most beautiful uses for technology that civilization has come up with so far.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:06 AM on February 25, 2005


I noticed that Google's sponsored ads on this site were all for "Start your own blog here!"

Nice to see that irony isn't dead.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:08 AM on February 25, 2005


There's compelling evidence for calling a lot of them "blahgs" -- but to naysay this incredibly powerful self-publishing tool (that's really still in its infancy) is a bit naive and silly at this point in the game.
posted by landscapelover at 9:15 AM on February 25, 2005


Both carmen and davejay have valid points here.
I know that MeFi has many members who are bloggers so I hastily erect my "bullshit deflector". Many are the blogs which seem to be just ego stroking or electronic fanzines about aspects of contemporary life.
Herein is an interesting discussion with reservations about the google bookscan project; via vieweuropa 17 feb.
posted by adamvasco at 9:24 AM on February 25, 2005


From the French piece, his worriesabout Google are "..a crushing advantage to English, over the languages of other
cultures."
posted by stbalbach at 9:47 AM on February 25, 2005


I was not truly aware of them until shortly after ... December 17, 2004.

And after 2.5ish months of being "aware" of (not experiencing, mind you) these newfangled "blogs," Mr. Gorman has been kind enough to grace us with his verdict!

The ALA continues to asymptotically approach irrelevance.

carmen, his comments are not about using the regular Google search for scholarly writing. They are about Google's partnership with several large libraries to digitize scholarly books — a project that is not yet complete. Whether or not this will be useful is anyone's guess (I tend to think not, because of the crappy DRM-ish nonsense which the rumor mill says will be involved).

I agree with Mr. Gorman that the Internet, contrary to some opinions, does not make librarians less relevant. Unfortunately, librarians seem to be doing an excellent job of that themselves.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:50 AM on February 25, 2005


Actually, he's saying no such thing.

He's a librarian and he's lamenting the lack of organization of the explosive volume of information available on the internet. If people could get by the knee-jerk, there is a lot of room for discussing ways and means of making the internet a thoroughly useful tool for academic researchers.

Because right now it really is a crapshoot. Sure you can find _something_ about what you're seeking in almost every search.

But is it everything you're seeking?
And is it the most recent, and is it the best?

There's nothing to answer the "How do you know?" question that a serious researcher needs.

Now before someone jumps all over _me_, I hasten to add that I love the internet and my search engine of choice is Google. But man, it has its major weaknesses!

It's definitely best treated like a screwdriver in a toolbox. Not like a fully-stocked handyman's van, complete with tradesman at the wheel.

I still haven't found a valid reason to disagree with a description I read once -- "like being given the entire card catalogue of the US Library of Congress, only to discover that it's piled in a huge heap in the middle of the floor".

Most librarians, including the incoming President of the ALA, would probably agree.
posted by Mike D at 9:52 AM on February 25, 2005


The Special Libraries Association tends to be much more technology-friendly than ALA in my experience, if not downright technophilic. (In fairness, to excess sometimes.)

I let my ALA membership lapse a few years ago because I wasn't getting much out of it. I had recently thought about re-joining, but statements like this from the president-elect don't encourage me. Sorry, jessamyn.

HuronBob, I don't see how the article you linked relates to the point you're making.

Libraries have to be in panic mode as the route of access to information changes drastically day by day,

I wouldn't say "panic mode." I would say that libraries (and librarians) have to be highly adaptable as the route of access to information changes drastically and frequently. Libraries and librarians which are not highly adaptable are right to be worried, but that's nowhere near all libraries or all librarians.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:54 AM on February 25, 2005


What a grumpy old tool. He can't figure out how to use Google, so it must be broken, and anyone who doesn't admit that must be an illiterate whiner.
posted by LarryC at 10:05 AM on February 25, 2005


There's nothing to answer the "How do you know?" question that a serious researcher needs.

I don't get it. Are you implying that information you find on the Internets might be misleading Or even false?
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:12 AM on February 25, 2005


Driving to the library, only to find that their one copy of Great Piece of Literature has been checked out for the past three years. That sucks.

I check status on-line while wearing my fuzzy bunny slippers, then reserve it if I like. If they do have it I hop on my bike and ride over there.
posted by fixedgear at 10:28 AM on February 25, 2005


Okay, so this seems like a classic case of some older authority whingeing about something he just barely understands enough to hate and/or fear (at a ratio of like five unfounded reasons to one legit reason).

So might I make the modest proposal of turning this discussion into something more productive that pointing out that this guy doesn't know much about blogs?

mischief wrote: As for Google, his Google-fu must be at the beginner's level.

So what are people's favourite Google tricks? Myself, I think I'm about a green belt (it goes white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and finally black, I'm told), but I'm much more adept at the Boolean-style Lexis-Nexis search and could always use new skillz.

Or should I take this to AskMe?
posted by gompa at 10:45 AM on February 25, 2005


Because right now it really is a crapshoot. Sure you can find _something_ about what you're seeking in almost every search.

But is it everything you're seeking?
And is it the most recent, and is it the best?


Unlike libraries, which, of course, always provide everything you're looking for, are always up-to-date, and never fail to contain only the purest and most accurate information.

Right.

I think the point here is: if you want infallibility, talk to the Pope. If you'll settle for a resource besmirched by human frailty, both Google and your local public or university library are excellent choices.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:54 AM on February 25, 2005


I mean, come on people -- he's certainly guilty of generalizing way too much, but there is certainly a nugget of truth to what he's saying. For any evidence, pick any issue that has generated controversy in the blog world in the past two weeks, and look at the posts and comment threads. (Example: the Google Toolbar.) An uncomfortably large proportion of the posts are reactionary, based on the posters either having no firsthand knowledge of the issue whatsoever or interpreting what they do know in a way that allows them to continue to believe whatever opinions they already held. (Example: there are currently a few bloggers who continue to claim that the Toolbar violates Title V of the DMCA, and refuse to acknowledge that Title V specifically and exclusively deals with the design of boat hulls.) And an even larger proportion of comments to those posts continue to forsake debate for a more and more steadfast statement of an undebatable opinion.

I'll be the first to decry Gorman's overbroad interpretation of the behavior of bloggers, and near ad-hominem about the ability of bloggers as a class to read and comprehend complex texts. That being said, though, I won't deny that there's more than a kernel of truth to the fact that that there've been many, many instances of late where it's clear that some blogger either wasn't able to understand, or more likely didn't even try to understand, the complexities of the issue he or she is addressing before getting up on the soapbox and shouting to the world.
posted by delfuego at 10:54 AM on February 25, 2005


gompa: Wouldn't hurt.
posted by abcde at 10:59 AM on February 25, 2005


Google could be better. So could libraries. So could blogs. So could metafilter.

Oh, and anyone who disagrees with me is an asshole.
posted by Slagman at 11:01 AM on February 25, 2005


*swoons at fixedgear's fuzzy bunny slippers*

I see the nugget in what he's saying and I'd never fully trust Google to provide the information I desire. However, couldn't the same be said of libraries? As far as academic searches, wouldn't one be better off with Lexus/Nexus anyway? It'll would be a cold day in hell before I trust anything from bigsexE1.blogspot.com.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:04 AM on February 25, 2005


"It'll would be"?? Yeah, I meant to say that.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:05 AM on February 25, 2005


Books are the internet for poor people.


I don't believe that; in fact I am in love with books.

But that's about as valid as what this guy is saying.
posted by exlotuseater at 11:09 AM on February 25, 2005


I tend to read more books post-internet simply because I am exposed to more recommendations through, umm, blogs. The Internet actually increases my book consumption. Wikipedia even more so. It is not a zero-sum gain.
posted by stbalbach at 11:14 AM on February 25, 2005


I think that there will always be a need for libraries, simply because they provide something that the Internet doesn't - books! Actual real live books. Let's face it - it is annoying to try to read something truly lengthy on a computer. Staring at a monitor for hours is still the equivalent of looking into a lightbulb, and mice/keyboards want to absolutely destroy my hands and wrists. Don't get me wrong - as an avid web surfer and generally curious person, I spend a lot of my time reading things on the web (especially news). But when it comes to my pleasure reading, I'll take the old-fashioned tree-killing technology any day of the week.
posted by afroblanca at 11:28 AM on February 25, 2005


FYI: AskMe thread on improving your Google-fu.
posted by gompa at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2005


I find it mildly amusing that it required an advanced Google search to track down the background source for an article about how Google sucks for tracking down important information.
posted by me3dia at 12:06 PM on February 25, 2005


jessamyn: We all know that ALA doesn't quite "get" technology as much as we'd like them to sometimes, but mostly I've been hoping that this is just a factor of time, that as people learn, they will see the value that some of the new technological offerings have for libraries and information dissemination.

Perhaps I'm around some exceptionally progressive librarians, but it seems to me that librarians probably "get" technology better than many other groups.

The problem is that Slashdot, along with most of the rest of the Blogosphere (a gross but true generality coming up), appear to be the worst combination of technology advocates: early adopters still trying to mentally live in the early 90s bubble. They still have not quite grasped that technology is just one part of socio-technical systems, and their approach to technology is very much along the lines of, "this is the solution, now what is your problem?"

HuronBob: Libraries have to be in panic mode as the route of access to information changes drastically day by day, and the enemy has to be (in their eyes) the web. The web is to libraries (and librarians) what robotics was to the union worker.

You don't hang out much around libraries and librarians do you?

Here is how I read the piece. He expressed skepticism about some of the hype baloon that is google. Given that the last 10 years of history has proven the skeptics partially right, and the hype mostly wrong, I'm quite inclined to lend an ear to the skeptics. Then the predictable happened, the million monkies banging on keyboards that we call "blogging" started throwing poo at him while chittering about each other's poo throwing: "anti-technology," "luddite," "horse and buggy maker." So he takes a forum and starts throwing poo back. Not the best way to respond, but what he says is probably not half as bad, and probably twice as accurate, as the things the monkey brigade says about technology and libraries.

Civil_Disobedient: But Google does not suck. Digitizing books to open scholarship to the world (and offer data redundancy and several orders of magnitude more content distribution) is one of the most beautiful uses for technology that civilization has come up with so far.

Well, whether it sucks or not depends on what kinds of information and reading material you are looking for. He raises a valid objection that Google, in it's current form, is probably not the best way to go about offering access to long-form works.

Historians, biographers, and scientists don't write 400 page works for the hell of it. They write 400 page works because some claims take 400 pages to describe, develop and defend. He has a valid objection that Google is likely to drop you smack dab in the middle leaving you without a clue as to where the discussion as been, and only a slight inclination of where the discussion is headed.

If you read the piece that inspired the whole tempest in a teapot, he's actually very positive about digitizing collections of short-form works (like dictionaries and encyclopedias.) But, he has a very strong point that a system that drops you onto a keyword in the middle of Beyond Good and Evil, Paradise Lost or Origin of the Species unlikely to be broadly useful.

gompa: So might I make the modest proposal of turning this discussion into something more productive that pointing out that this guy doesn't know much about blogs?

Actually, I think he is raising ire not because he doesn't know much about blogs, but because even without much research, he's managed to accurately characterize the majority of what happens on blogs.

gompa: So what are people's favourite Google tricks? Myself, I think I'm about a green belt (it goes white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown and finally black, I'm told), but I'm much more adept at the Boolean-style Lexis-Nexis search and could always use new skillz.

I think the basic issue is that if Google requires a mastery of "fu" in order to get to the information you desire, then it has serious problems.

For me, my favorite Google trick is to not use Google. Sometimes, it is better to use Ingenta, ERIC, or Medline. Sometimes it is better to get off your ass and go to the library, Buns and Noodle or Bounders and browse through the bookshelves on a topic. Sometimes, you are better off starting with a good article on a topic and then spider out from it's bibliography. Sometimes, you can get the answer quicker and easier by posting to a newsgroup or mailing list.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:08 PM on February 25, 2005


KJS: I get my ass to the library quite frequently. Sometimes, though, I want to know what it is that Jeff Tweedy howls near the end of "Misunderstood" right now, and I'm looking for this, not dozens of sites like this. (Warning: second link spawns pop-ups.)
posted by gompa at 12:18 PM on February 25, 2005


Perhaps I'm around some exceptionally progressive librarians, but it seems to me that librarians probably "get" technology better than many other groups.

No, I couldn't agree more. It's the organization, ALA, that sometimes needs to get a little more up to date on technologies generally. Since they represent many of the country's librarians it would be nice if they could at least seem to know what they were talking about on many positions, not just this one. However, Gorman says he's not speaking from his ALA pulpit. I'm not against Gorman's position on this one, I just think resorting to name calling and snarkiness in an editorial and then falling back and saying "hey I'm just a private citizen" when people complain that it reflects poorly on ALA isn't a helpful tactic. I'm seriously reconsidering not running for ALA Council again and working more closely with my state organization which has a better website than ALA any day, even if it is only about ten pages.
posted by jessamyn at 12:27 PM on February 25, 2005


What afroblanca said. When I was at library school five years ago, there was a lot of Chicken Little / " the death of libraries is nigh" talk. This will never completely come to pass because people love books. They love the look, feel and smell of them, and curling up in bed or your favourite armchair with a laptop is just never going to cut it. It's analogous to vinyl records, which people still search out and happily pay for in a day and age when you can fit a few months' worth of music into an MP3 player that weighs less than a single old 45.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:29 PM on February 25, 2005


Oh, and speaking as a librarian who has encountered dozens of patrons who believe a) that if they can't find it on Google, it doesn't exist, and b) that anything they find by using Google is undoubtably true, I second anyone who voiced their reservations regarding the usefulness of Google as an academic research tool.

Google definitely has its good points, and I use it all the time, but I'm sure there are a ton of high school teachers out there who would back me up when I say that Google/the internet have seriously degraded the research skills of an entire generation of students.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:39 PM on February 25, 2005


When the university library where I live transferred its catalogue from tangible cards that could be retrieved by ocular data recovery units to silicon that could not, they put little stacks of those stupid and useless old cards by all the computers to be used as scratch paper. Sometimes I would find one by an author I had heard of or even read. Most of the time it was a book by some idiot with a foreign sounding name that I had never heard of.

When all the books are online they will probably do the same with them. The egyptians used to use their old books to wrap mummies in. That seems apt. When we go entirely online it is sure to save on heating and cooling costs for the areas where those books are stored. In four years at the university most students don't ever actually venture up there, I have seen the studies and surveys to prove this. Soon it will finally be possible to turn the library into something useful and hopefully profitable.

I think that they should turn the library into another wing of the rec center. That way people can work on their abs more.

Sometimes I wonder about what they will do with all those dirty and decaying books. Maybe poor people can make shoes out of them.

I also wonder what would happen if all the power went off. Unless you owned plenty of books you would probably have a really hard time finding useful or interesting information. Come to think of it, in that case, now that there is no actual physical catalogue, it would be almost impossible for most people even to find a book that they are interested in anyway.

That Michael Gorman guy sounds like an old man. I think we should call him gramps.
posted by mokujin at 12:46 PM on February 25, 2005


Hrm, something I said on slashdot about google and blogs that bears repeating here:

Very few blogs offer access to primary sources. Instead, what is most typically the case is that blogs are simply collecting references to secondary or tertiary sources. The UK publishes census data, Roger Smith discoveres something interesting in census data, Roger Smith publishes in trade journal, news magazine New Scientist reads paper and gets quote from Roger Smith, 500 blogs link to New Scientist and each other swamping access to the data. Perhaps two will actually read the reviewed paper and realize that New Scientist was a bit misleading, and it's a rare year when one will actually look at the data and repeat the analysis to see if Roger Smith got it wrong. In the end, what we have is a room full of monkies gossiping about what some other monkey has said about a reporter's summary of a technical article about some actual data.

It would be different if blogs were actually about information but 99% of them are about hearsay and rumor. The problem is that blogs are a piss-poor medium for transmitting information rarely containing something better than an abstract. The dataset I'm working with runs over 1,000 pages. Even condensing that down to a summary is going to take most of the next 6 months, and I don't know yet if I'm going to have what Gorman considers important, knowledge.

Of course, I rely on my own room full of monkeys in the form of mailing lists, conferences, and conversations. The difference is that they tend to be better informed and more trustworthy monkies.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:05 PM on February 25, 2005


Substitute "Web" for "blogs," and its the same argument. What's the difference?

Horribly written article, btw. I'd be embarrassed if this guy represented my organization.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:09 PM on February 25, 2005


Wow.The American Library Association is a friggin monster. .I think it's important to note that as the head of the ALA, this is the guy that represents many (most?) public librarians in the US. The ALA accredation of library schools can make or break your career. In a lot of public libraries (I want to say MOST), if you don't have an ALA approved Masters Degree in Library or Information Science, you're not allowed to sit at the desk and google for the public. Or if you do, it's for half the pay of the "librarian".

Now, there are lots of awesome librarians who do their best to keep up with the changing times. The new graphic novel collections in many public libraries show they're finally accepting comics. Heck, the VOYA newsletter just published an article on introducing gaming (video and RPG) into your library. So they're slow on some fronts.

Unfortunately, there are also lots of lots of ALA accredited librarians who got their degree before 2000 and are inept at various computer tasks. I (as a paraprofesional, a reference associate, a non-MLS holder) have had to explain to the professional librarians who have had their jobs for 10 years or more, what a MP3 is, how to copy and paste, how to find images on google etc. in the past month.

So I'm not at all surprised this guy got voted as the pres., but his attitute certainly highlights why I've choosen NOT to get my MLS from a ALA accredited school (or get a MLS at all, there are non accredited programs, which will place you in public schools).
posted by GlitterBum at 3:10 PM on February 25, 2005


Perhaps I'm around some exceptionally progressive librarians, but it seems to me that librarians probably "get" technology better than many other groups.

Haven't used an OPAC lately, have you?

I was doing some WorldCat searches the other day. I kept getting zero results for certain items, which made no sense, because they were in our local catalog and we are OCLC members. Finally I figured it out: for foreign language titles which begin with non-filing characters (for the non-MARC-geeks: that basically means an article, i.e. le) , including the non-filing characters in a title search will not match the item.

For English-language works, you can include or not include the "The"s and "A"s and "On"s, and it will match just fine.

I can't imagine what sort of asinine algorithm they have at OCLC that causes the inclusion of a part of the title to not match the title. Nor do I understand, if they insist on doing something so utterly braindead, they would fail to do it consistently across various languages (we're not talking Quechua or Nahuatl, here, we're talking French and German). Nor do I understand why it's necessary to indicate the non-filing characters by specifying the character number at which things ought to be alphabetized, rather than, you know, teaching the computer not to alphabetize by "The" and "A" and all the other AACR2 rules, which would be trivial and which would mean that when AACR changes you could just change the programming rather than manually fix the MARC indicators for billions of records.

These people "get" technology? This is WorldCat, the shining jewel in the library-tech world's crown, Mr. Gorman's "Universal Bibliographic Control" that he's so bloody proud of.

I think the basic issue is that if Google requires a mastery of "fu" in order to get to the information you desire, then it has serious problems.

You really haven't used an OPAC lately, have you? Let alone a scholarly-publishing database? Because if you think they don't require "fu," well, I have got one hell of a bridge at a bargain-basement price, one-time offer, too good to pass up.

Historians, biographers, and scientists don't write 400 page works for the hell of it. They write 400 page works because some claims take 400 pages to describe, develop and defend. He has a valid objection that Google is likely to drop you smack dab in the middle leaving you without a clue as to where the discussion as been, and only a slight inclination of where the discussion is headed.

As hard as I try, I can't figure out what this has to do with anything mentioned here. Presumably Google will allow you to read the pages of the books in order? Is it the ability to access specific bits of a book to which you object? Death to indices!
posted by IshmaelGraves at 4:19 PM on February 25, 2005


IshmaelGraves: These people "get" technology? This is WorldCat, the shining jewel in the library-tech world's crown, Mr. Gorman's "Universal Bibliographic Control" that he's so bloody proud of.

Meanwhile, google has decided that English words don't end in 's' and these are the people who "get" technology? This is the shining jewel in the geek's crown that causes demands such knee-jerk responses when criticized.

But, the fact that just about all software has usability glitches is rather aside from the point. Librarians for the last 20 years have been at the forefront of making technology useful in public settings, and have been doing the best work in Human-Computer Interaction research. These are the people who recognize technology as a facet of socio-technical systems rather than as an end to its self (a fact that most "luddites" understand but the blogopshere does not.) These are the people who actually talk about the hows and whys of standardization and adoption while geeks are still clueless about why Linux and OSX are still minority technologies.

You really haven't used an OPAC lately, have you? Let alone a scholarly-publishing database? Because if you think they don't require "fu," well, I have got one hell of a bridge at a bargain-basement price, one-time offer, too good to pass up.

If I'm looking for intelligent, evidence-based, well-argued articles in a field, I can find them in an academic database, quicker, easier, and using fewer operators than trying the same search using google. Google is excellent when you want to find some kinds of content, and horrible when you want to find other kinds of content. It's just the nature of the beast.

As hard as I try, I can't figure out what this has to do with anything mentioned here.

I think it is pretty obvious if you RTFA'd (or the original essay posted twice). This whole debate got set off when Gorman raised some serious questions about how people can actually make use of the massive stores of data that Google is indexing. What is so wrong with considering whether Google's current design that works great with short-form works, might be a usability problem with long-form works? A serious problem with the way google does things currently is that it rips segments of information out of context. I can't count the times that a google search has dropped me into the middle of a set of presentation slides, or a thread in a mailing list. For short works, this is not a big deal, but for long works...?

Presumably Google will allow you to read the pages of the books in order? Is it the ability to access specific bits of a book to which you object? Death to indices!

No. My concern is that an interface that drops you in the middle of page 119 of a long-form work is not the best interface from which to understand that work. Indices and concordences are mighty fine on a second-reading, but are of limited use on a first reading. This is one of the reasons why the table of contents comes first, and the index comes blast. But if the google plan is any indication, the index may be all you get.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:23 PM on February 25, 2005


"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." - Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Does reading blogs count as "good books"?
posted by stbalbach at 6:06 PM on February 25, 2005


I've been following this discussion with great interest. The tone of Gorman's article is too formal, a little off-putting. I'm a computer librarian and just started a blog. Blogs are a part of my information diet and there are many interesting and informative blogs written by librarians (including Jessamyn's, which I have read for several years). Perhaps if he had taken the time to read some of them.

And Google is part of my information research toolkit. One of my tools, not my sole tool. But it is a challenge to get students to see there is a research universe beyond Google and the big legal database services, Lexis and Westlaw.

I wonder if there's anyone in Chicago clever enough to check the discussion about this using Technorati, etc. Perhaps not. I wonder if anyone will print out this thread and send it to him.
posted by gleenyc at 7:05 PM on February 25, 2005


MetaFilter: Michael Gorman can suck my blog!
posted by billsaysthis at 7:12 PM on February 25, 2005


He laments people digitizing stuff? Does he realize that all books these days start out digital on the author's hard drive? And lack of scholarly info on the Web? What about arXiv? I bet he considers only The Humanities as being "scholarly" -- he equates these with "complex texts" that are entirely missing in most physics journals.

Anyways...

Libraries try for quality over quantity. They've mostly succeeded, but their distribution system sucks.

The Web (because Google is just a search engine for the Web, not the Web itself) evolved out of people's need to share and distribute information better. And because the web is an organically growing corpus of information, it naturally tended to quantity over strict quality. It became a victim of its own success. Blogs are just the next wave of the "digitization" craze, with authors of varying expertise and competence trying their hand at the new medium.

Is it not the height of laughable pomposity to 1) not understand that the Web is a natural consequence of people valuing information-sharing and retrieval -- almost the definition of "librarian", and 2) it's extremely bad form to criticize those (Google) who are trying (and arguably succeeding) in their fight to make the Web's information more accessible and more relevant? If we succeed in taming the disorganization of the Web, it can only raise the bar for everyone.
posted by growli at 7:44 PM on February 25, 2005


growli: He laments people digitizing stuff?

No. RTFA.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:52 PM on February 25, 2005


In other news, this newfangled 'printing press' will never replace the illuminated manuscript.
posted by darukaru at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2005


Sunday morning I read on LISNews.com that Michael Gorman issued a statement to the ALA Council list that his piece was satirical....

My blog entry
posted by gleenyc at 11:40 AM on February 27, 2005


Meanwhile, google has decided that English words don't end in 's' and these are the people who "get" technology? This is the shining jewel in the geek's crown that causes demands such knee-jerk responses when criticized.

And the problem now appears to be fixed on Google. Any bets on how long it takes WorldCat to fix the problem IshmaelGraves brought up?

(I'm not in the "Google is God," camp; I recognize that Google is one tool among many, with its own significant limitations, but it's a damned useful tool.)

When I was at library school five years ago, there was a lot of Chicken Little / " the death of libraries is nigh" talk. This will never completely come to pass because people love books.

When I was at library school seven years ago, I heard very little "the death of libraries is nigh" talk. We understood it would never completely come to pass because libraries are not only about books.

They love the look, feel and smell of them, and curling up in bed or your favourite armchair with a laptop is just never going to cut it.

"Never" is a very long time. If you said "within the next twenty years," or even fifty, I'd agree with you. Ask me whether books will still be published in a hundred years, and I'm not so sure. Don't confuse "books are better than electronic texts for reading in bed, given current technology," with "books are better than electronic texts for reading in bed, given any conceivable technology."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:40 PM on February 28, 2005


This is *way* late, but....fair point, DevilsAdvocate, but I'd say books have a pretty good track record of withstanding advances in technology. I wouldn't care to bet against them for quite some time. Our lifetimes, anyway.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:48 AM on March 2, 2005


« Older The Ice Wall Project....  |  Beware the Coming Propaganda J... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments