StephenK's blog

Before I forget...

I mentioned previously that some of the guests would be a surprise in the series. One of our guests will be Steven K. Bowers, director of the Detroit Area Library Network. You can see a list of his consortium's member institutions here: http://www.dalnet.lib.mi.us/members/index.php. Another guest to join us will be Vye Perrone, the Immediate Past President of the Library & Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa.

As the series was designed, I am merely the warm-up act. For the guests who will be joining us, I am here to help facilitate their posting rather than dictate editorial policy at them. This is a test and the goalposts are not quite within sight yet.

-- Stephen Michael Kellat, MSLS

Scripting, oh scripting...

This is a small tool I am working on:

#!/bin/bash
#
# Snatch -- Script to take a show post URL and derive PDF, PS, TXT,
# and sanitized HTML versions for deposit at Internet Archive. The script
# also downloads the related MP3 podcast file and creates an Ogg version.
#
# This script assumes that Enscript dumps its output to standard out
# instead of the default printer. Lynx and Ghostscript must also be
# installed for this to work as well as sox and aria2c.
#
# 7 July 2009 -- Stephen Michael Kellat
#
# This script is released under a BSD license variant. To review it,
# visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/BSD/
#
# Usage:
#
# snatch.sh [Text URL to download] [common file name for derivative formats] [Podcast URL for download]
#

lynx -dump $1 | enscript --margins=50:50:50:50 --word-wrap -G --color --media=letter -o - | ps2pdf - $2.pdf
lynx -dump $1 | enscript --margins=50:50:50:50 --word-wrap -G --color --media=letter -o - > $2.ps
lynx -dump $1 | enscript --margins=50:50:50:50 --word-wrap -G -whtml --color --media=letter -o - > $2.html
lynx -dump $1 > $2.txt
aria2c --split=16 -o $2.mp3 $3
sox $2.mp3 -C8 $2.ogg

Inch by inch, row by row the need to archive the run so far of LISTen grows. The likely depository besides LISNews itself would be Internet Archive.

Yes, the script is a wee bit messy. It is a work in progress. While I hope I will not have to use it, I am not holding my breath either while waiting for Godot.

Facing The One-Armed Bandit

Things continue to prove horrendous in Ohio. A continuing resolution is in place that funds state operations at 70% of last year's budget. In effect, Ohio libraries already get to feel the burden of the proposed cuts.

On Twitter, the Save Ohio Libraries folks are now pushing for the Ohio Republicans to drop their objections to Governor Strickland's budget and get it passed. It was already reported that state offices are looking at possibly not being able to make payroll under the thirty percent across-the-board cut the continuing resolution has created. Also noted was Republican objections to the installation of video slot machine terminals at Ohio's seven race tracks.

Governor Strickland's financial estimate contemplates the installation of video slots generating revenue of nine hundred and thirty three million dollars. That is problematic. Gaming revenue at established locations is already facing problems. Revenue is down in Macau as well as at certain properties in the entire Las Vegas Valley. The group behind the Sands is losing money on their latest acquisition in the Pennsylvania community of Bethlehem. A gaming trading index also recently lost ground. An editorial writer with the Hartford Courant had few positives about gaming in Connecticut. While an analysis in The Plain Dealer seemed to approve of slots it also notes that the horse race tracks that would receive those slots are not in the best of financial health themselves.

The Republican opposition seems rooted in cold reality. If the Governor of Ohio were trying to put slots in at a business he owned here in Nevada under similar circumstances, the Nevada Gaming Commission would have rejected the permit application. A key principle in Nevada gaming is that while you can add slots and other such things to places like grocery stores and restaurants, such is not supposed to be used as a financial crutch to keep operations going during lean times. Outside outright casinos, gaming activity is only supposed to be a supplemental activity rather than an integral part of business.

Putting hopes into gambling as a way of resolving budget deficits is akin to hoping people smoke more cigarettes so that a sin tax could bridge the gap. This is a fairly unstable budget fix. Other possibilities do exist.

Some possibilities for cuts to bridge the funding gap instead of video slots:

  • Consolidate graduate programs across state institutions of higher education. Does every institution have to offer graduate instruction at the doctoral level in certain subjects? NEOUCOM can be used as an example for inter-institutional collaboration in offering a single program in lieu of three institutions offering duplicative programs.
  • Consolidate institutions and create savings through reducing administration. With Cleveland State University, University of Akron, Youngstown State University, and with all its branch campuses Kent State University operating within the same multi-county region, consolidation into a single administration would help reduce duplication and save money in the end.
  • Stop offering remedial coursework to students in the universities. If those students are not up to par, they should be at the community colleges which are funded off of property taxes instead of state dollars. There is nothing shameful about 2+2 transfer.
  • Reduce the amount of state offered scholarships
  • Scale back the academic offerings of The Ohio State University and leave such programs to other institutions. Move faculty to other institutions as possible.
  • Consolidate the profusion of school boards throughout the state by merging local boards into their county level boards and reduce the amount of state money to be transferred downward.
Those are merely ideas for alternatives to slots. Ohio is known for having quite a large higher education sector with a rather large number of public and private institutions to be found in the state. Due to the maintenance of effort requirements enunciated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, even those possibilities are going to be limited. Other areas may be possible for cuts consideration but that is left for the creativity of others.

A rush to slots may well result in returning to the chopping block. With casinos noticeably less occupied in Las Vegas, gambling may not necessarily be a cure-all. There are no easy answers to this dispute that continues.


Creative Commons License
Facing The One-Armed Bandit by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

"Is It Broken?"

I wind up asking that question when it comes to the American Library Association. The ALA is an organization with a long history. In looking at its current actions today, I just wind up with feelings of dread foreboding when I wonder if something may be wrong structurally.

The big worry that rises now is promotion. There are plenty of campaigns one can seen in print, hear on the radio, and watch on TV promoting green initiatives as well as public safety. In Nevada the Department of Public Safety does have ads distributed that help promote safety messages. Markedly absent from that marketplace of ideas, though, is libraries.

The current mess that Ohio libraries find themselves in helps illustrate this problem. It is hard to establish your credibility with voters if they don't think you exist or otherwise would not notice you. Mass protests in places like Iran quickly gain attention. What tools do libraries and librarians have to raise such hordes to make a point a heard? This whole line of thinking, though, reflects a reactive mindset. When you have to react and play defense, somebody else is able to define the situation in ways that may end up being adverse to you.

The odds are not always in your favor when you have to play defense. When it comes to matters of funding via tax dollars, a key danger is that the other side could smear you as being devoted solely to your own paycheck instead of the public good. In a situation in which libraries are being cut in addition to other sectors of governmental activity such as community-based mental health services, the possibility also exists of those playing defense being turned against each other. An unfortunate turn of events that thankfully has yet to occur would be library advocates, mental health services advocates, and food bank operators turning on each other over how deep each was getting cut.

Is it the lot of libraries and librarians in life to always play defense? Should libraries always be thankful for what they get and be silent about any need for more funding? That's not a healthy way to live whether it is a person or an institution. Only ever playing defense can perhaps lead to always accepting defeat.

Although it may surprise some librarians out there, some of the stronger and more vocal supporters of Ohio libraries are Republicans. Yes, that's right. A Democrat Governor submitted to a legislature in which Democrats dominate a budget that would hurt libraries. Through the actions of Republican members of the legislature's conference committee, the cuts are presently being stalled on the road to enactment.

One lesson that can be learned from this incident underway is that it is necessary at times to think in the long term. How do people regard libraries in our communities? Do citizens even remember that they are patrons of libraries through their tax dollars and have available to them a valuable resource? What is the image of the profession in communities?

While there are ALA outreach efforts in existence like ilovelibraries.org, a major problem with it is that if I only learn of the site's existence through reading ALA committee documents how would the average citizen find it? Serendipitous searching resulting in a patron stumbling upon advocacy materials is not a proactive strategy. Blanketing airwaves with public service announcements in addition to print advertising would be far more of an active strategy.

A common complaint about blogging and blog posts is that there rarely are constructive steps forward suggested. At this point it would seem prudent to mention a few strategies. These are initial thoughts others should feel free to build upon.

For those academic institutions home to ALA accredited graduate programs in library science, there are likely journalism and mass communication programs also contained therein. How difficult would it be to get a couple top seniors in public relations to develop a series of public service announcements libraries could seed with local radio and television stations? This does not necessarily have to be a national thing as regional flavor would help emphasize more the local nature of libraries.

The LISNews Netcast Network can also serve as a proving ground for talking to media. If you've never done a telephone interview before, you could see about arranging a bit of a live-fire practice round with the network. LISTen always seeks new stories and if you want to talk about something cool at your library you just have to ask. Talking to the Network is going to be in many cases the easiest practice possible before you have to face more mainstream journalists.

The last possible strategy is to continually assess who you serve. Demographic shifts do happen. Economic downturns can accelerate them.

In the end, though, a question must be raised: Where is the ALA in all of this?

Creative Commons License
"Is It Broken?" by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at erielookingproductions.info.

Unintentional Consequences of Legislation

"Hell is paved with good intentions" – Attributed to Cicero

To say that this has been a wild week would be quite the understatement. Ohio libraries are presently locked in a struggle to survive. Weeks like this are things that work against the weekly format of LISTen. For now there have been uploads of pre-release audio to the Internet Archive under a Creative Commons license appropriate to "free cultural works". This is quite unusual for the podcast production team in Nevada to do, mind you. According to what I have seen from the statistics given by the Internet Archive, somebody thought it appropriate to download the audio files made available.

There is perhaps a key to the whole story that is being missed. Sometimes it is necessary to step away from the state or local level and look for any pressures from the federal level. With the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the United States federal government has become increasingly involved in the operation of even the most local of governmental functions. Forgetting to include them in any analysis is fairly dangerous due to money being involved.

A key concept when the federal government gives money to states is called "maintenance of effort". With respect to funding for health grants the Public Health Service defines that term as: "A requirement contained in certain legislation, regulations, or administrative policies that a recipient must maintain a specified level of financial effort in the health area for which Federal funds will be provided in order to receive Federal grant funds. This requirement is usually given in terms of a previous base-year dollar amount."

One area where this arises in the full text of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is Section 14005. In that section, the requirement is made upon any state receiving money from that portion of the act that they must not reduce state funding for K-12 education below its 2006 level for fiscal years 2009 through 2011. The same requirement exists for public institutions of higher education except that capital projects as well as research and development could still be cut. Waivers of the maintenance of effort requirement are possible as Nevada sought one relative to higher education funding. Such waivers are not automatically granted and can be opposed like the opposition raised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid against his own state. Recent reporting indicates that Nevada's waiver application has yet to be decided.

Keeping this in mind, one can look at the Ohio situation again from a different perspective. In an undated letter issued on June 26th, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland noted that cuts to libraries were unavoidable. What is stated indirectly by Governor Strickland in his letter is that while he supports libraries, there are other programs that have a higher priority for funding. For the areas identified by Dr. Strickland as things that must be protected, there happens to be some amount of correlation with funding areas of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that have maintenance of effort conditions attached.

Libraries were left out of the stimulus package in terms of any real funding except for a broadband build-out program in which libraries are just one stakeholder group among many. Cutting libraries entails no penalty under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 when it comes to maintenance of effort requirements. Slashing funding for education or transportation cuts off federal funding and raises the possibility of being cut off from any future offers of federal dollars.

From that perspective, a truly unfortunate choice is presented to legislators. Triaging potential losses is part of any legislator's thinking when it comes to money bills. This situation in Ohio is likely not a one-off situation but something that we may see develop in other states.

The cruelest part of this for Ohio libraries is that the bursting of the housing bubble cut revenues from property tax levies and this bailout rooted in that bubble's bursting is forcing reductions in other revenue streams.


Creative Commons License
Unintentional Consequences of Legislation by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunset for NTSC

The sunset of analog television will be coming soon. Only full-power stations are affected by this, though. The Las Vegas Valley has a number of low power television stations that will continue analog broadcasts. KTUD is one of them:

LPTV Example

KVVU is the designated analog night light station. This is the station that will stay on the air with an analog signal for a period designated by the FCC to ensure nobody is left behind. The night light station goes off the air on June 26th here. Here is an example I caught of their analog signal earlier within the apartment complex:

Sample of the Las Vegas Analog Night Light

KVVU's digital signal was able to pierce the walls better:

DTV Example

Of course, subsidiary program streams like this are a key benefit of the switch from NTSC to ATSC for over the air television transmission:

Photobucket

With luck, the DTV transition tonight should go quite smoothly. Only time will tell. ATSC is an outdated standard nowadays that the implementation of which was delayed multiple times. For those with cable television or satellite television service, this should not impact you at all.

The screen captures above were created using an elgato EyeTV Hybrid. The USB stick is a rather good television receiver.

LISNews Netcast Network Summer 2009 Schedule

The LISNews Netcast Network schedule for this summer:

June 1: LISTen #74
June 8th: LISTen #75
June 11th: Hyperlinked History
June 15th: LISTen #76
June 18th: Tech for Techies
June 22nd: LISTen #77
June 25th: Hyperlinked History
June 29th: LISTen #78
July 2nd: Tech for Techies
July 6th: LISTen #79
July 9th: Hyperlinked History
July 13th: LISTen #80
July 16th: Tech for Techies
July 20th: LISTen #81
July 23rd: Hyperlinked History
July 27th: LISTen #82
July 30th: Tech for Techies
August 3rd: LISTen #83
August 6th: Hyperlinked History
August 10th: LISTen #84
August 13th: Tech for Techies
August 17th: LISTen #85
August 20th: Hyperlinked History

After August 20th, all network programs will be on hiatus. The hiatus will conclude on September 7th with the return of LISTen. Dates remain tentative as changes can happen. If news breaks out, unannounced specials may be released as necessary.

On Futuristic Door Stops

Recently, I faced the hideous situation of dead hardware. I had gotten dependent upon my Palm T|X. That model of personal digital assistant ("PDA") was great as it had built in 802.11b WiFi as well as Bluetooth. As long as I was within range of a wireless access point that I had rights to use, I had the Internet in my pocket. Early on, it worked quite well with a wireless infrared keyboard. I had a precursor to a netbook in basic form as I could use the keyboard to compose Word-compatible documents on a small screen. The device was great for trying to read online content such as Mobile Twitter, The Dysfunctional Family Circus, Instapundit, and more.

Unfortunately the PDA got stuck in a soft reset loop. It was showing its age. Three years of dutiful service is beyond what would reasonably be considered "mean time between failure". Although I was able to eventually break it free of the soft reset loop, it is now stuck at the digitizer calibration phase of initial setup. After multiple efforts, the digitizer could not be re-calibrated. I had a very futuristic looking doorstop.

Replacing it was an interesting battle. Initially I was carrying a legal pad and pen with me. While my "analog PDA" worked well for me, it was not small. It also looked quite anachronistic in today's world. That did not work well in the end.

Getting a smartphone was out of the question. Nobody calls! As it is now, I don't really have a cell phone simply because the usage for inbound calls was so light. For outbound calls, I use Skype. While devices like the Palm Centro, the Android G1, and the iPhone exist they really do not meet my needs. If I get a phone, I want one that makes calls. I would much rather have a separate PDA let alone a separate camera.

Getting a replacement PDA is a complicated adventure. The market for stand-alone PDAs is virtually non-existent as of late. I visited retailers like Office Max, Office Depot, Best Buy, and even a pawn shop in search of something comparable. Nothing was available as the trend today is the marriage of the PDA and the cellular telephone.

In the end, I had to turn to eBay. In addition to securing a Terminal Node Controller for certain projects, I picked up a replacement. Instead of getting a Nokia N800 as was sought, I wound up with a Palm IIIx. The Palm IIIx, while serviceable, is a very old device. This PDA is actually old enough that it has a battery door to replace the AAA batteries it runs on. I did get a keyboard to go with it but I need to get a suitable cradle to hook it up to a host computer. The device not only does not have Bluetooth, it does not have 802.11b WiFi either. IrDA-compliant infrared is the most the device has for signalling.

With these recent travails in replacing a PDA, I had given quite a bit of thought to eBooks. How truly valuable are eBooks? How do they compare with an old-fashioned RadioShack book light? As neither my paper books nor the Kindle have any backlight in them, such cannot be curled up with in bed without a booklight. Having to shine a booklight on the screen of the Kindle would be no different from shining one on the Palm IIIx. In that situation, you have a better chance of seeing your own reflection than seeing what you want to read. I am twenty seven years old and should not need "The Clapper" to be able to use an eBook device effectively in bed.

While the eBook may seem to be the way of the future, it does seem to be excessively involved and expensive compared to picking up something from the shelf. For those that feel the need to have everything available to them in one place, I suppose eBooks have a place. Right now I am finding print material to be easier and more enjoyable than the eBooks promoted today.

What is important to you: cute or practical?

Creative Commons License
On Futuristic Door Stops by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Hard Figures Finally

I was happy to get some hard data in my inbox today. It is one thing to say you want to do a relay of LNN programming on shortwave. Having figures from a big broadcaster helps make it more real.

The station concerned contracts month to month and requires 30 days notice of termination.

To have a single 15 minute program aired weekly would cost USD$65.00 per week. That would be a cost of USD$260.00 per month presuming a four week month. A single segment highlight could be aired this way.

To have a single 30 minute program aired weekly would cost USD$110.00 per week. That would be a cost of USD$440.00 per month presuming a four week month. Highlights from across the network could be aired this way. There is an example of how such could be structured.

To have a single 60 minute program aired weekly would cost USD$150.00 per week. That would be a cost of USD$600.00 per month presuming a four week month. Most network programming could be aired as a block although we might have problems filling all the time allotted occasionally.

The station we got the quote from has fairly reliable coverage of Europe, Canada, and elsewhere. The other programs already on the station can equally offend both sides of the aisle, alas. If you don't like far-right or far-left programming, we could be an interesting alternative.

Do we have funds to do this on-hand? Heck no! What little that has come in has gone to equipment replacement. Equipment failures over the past two weeks have been dismaying as it is. I spent a significant chunk of today sourcing replacement hardware that could be purchased out of the tiny pool of funds available.

The network cannot, for now, act upon this. Putting this out in the open at least lets others think about it. People interested in putting up money, for whatever reason, should not contact me but instead should contact Blake.

Production isn't simple

Here is Molly Wood, an Executive Editor at CNET, screwing up reading a viewer's e-mail for her Mailbag program:

Yeah, this isn't as simple as it may seem.

Why TTYtter is a cool Twitter client

One thing I like about the current version of TTYtter is its ability to give you threads of microblogs.

Here is an example of what that looks like:

v9> <@gamerchick02> @alpacaherder: There's a reason I prefer identi.ca. :)
TTYtter> /thread v9
z0> #reddit: Twitter Blog: The Replies Kerfuffle: submitted by gamerchick03 to reddit.com [link] [0 comments] http://bit.ly/Mhood
z1> <@alpacaherder> @gamerchick02 Saw that. It really did not enthuse me.
z2> <@gamerchick02> @alpacaherder: There's a reason I prefer identi.ca. :)

Unfortunately, that was on Identi.ca and not Twitter. Twitter's recent internal change means that I cannot follow back even my own discussions with others. Here is an example from today:

TTYtter> /thread v7
z0> [Wed May 13 21:32:42 +0000 2009] @alpacaherder agreed. I hope after they bring it back so you can opt not to see @replies, and you can opt not to broadcast your @replies.

With the current version of TTYtter, seeing one side of a conversation was never a problem. TTYtter could follow such back so I could see roughly the whole picture. In my replies log, there is a general point where Twitter made the switch and I cannot follow things back. As for older threads of tweets, that functionality remains instead. How strange.

The team behind LISTen talked to the author of TTYtter, Cameron Kaiser, just under twenty episodes ago. TTYtter can be found here.

On The Twitter Brouhaha

Tuesday was a unique day. As the 12th day of May and its second Tuesday, I had appointments to keep within civil society. While I was out and about interacting with other human beings in-person, Twitter launched a change. Download Squad reported that Twitter changed part of their core functioning. UX specialist Whitney Hess railed against the change. Gregory Pittman linked on Twitter to a blog post where Twitter explained that the change was due to engineering limitations related to system stability.

This presents a core problem in the Twitter debates. Twitter may be where people hang out. Is it structurally capable of handling the load, though? Are there reasonable assurances of consistent system behavior? Today's blog post dances around the problem of scalability somewhat by relegating it to being the 800 pound elephant in the room.

Twitter, at its core, is a fairly limited service. External bolt-ons like TwitPic, Twibes, and more were created to make the service do more than was ever intended originally. Re-tweets, "Follow Friday", and other such things are more limited now which practically prevents serendipitous discovery. Unless service was contracted by a library with Twitter, there could be no guaranteed service level which could potentially annoy patrons that might seek help via Twitter.

Twitter is not the only game in town for microblogging, though. In December 2008, LISTen talked to Evan Prodomou who is a principal designer of the Laconica software platform. Identi.ca is the flagship site for the Laconica service while others like TWiT Army and Dungeon Twitter also exist. Group functionality that Twibes provides Twitter is also integrated into Laconica itself. Twitpic, Twitterfeed, and more can now interact with Laconica-based sites just as easily as they can interact with Twitter.

It seems a technically superior choice to Twitter exists. With the weeping and gnashing of teeth observed Tuesday over changes in functionality, the question is raised as to what constitutes the bright line that has to be crossed before someone will switch services. At the least, you can control your own local Laconica installation far more readily than you can impact engineering decision-making at Twitter. With federation possible through the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, there is less of a need for the monolithic microblogging platform than before.

The biggest question seems to be, though, what the next move is for Twitter users.

Creative Commons License
On The Twitter Brouhaha by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Contingency Planning

One of the problems in podcasting is that it is inherently more complicated than broadcasting. In broadcasting, you create your program and then feed it to a transmitter. Radio waves are generated by the transmitter which can then be picked up by a receiver properly tuned and within appropriate reception range. Podcasting definitely does not work that way. With such being files of pre-recorded material traversing the Internet, there are many potential points of failure. Podcasting is slightly more resistant than streaming multimedia to failure but neither is as easily understood by the consumer as broadcasts are.

To receive content, you should not have to be a specialist to receive it. Turning on a transistor radio to tune in your local NPR affiliate requires knowing how to turn a radio on, tune it to the station you want, and set your volume appropriately. Podcasting adds weightier layers of complexity when you have to have hardware that can process the received file, have to know how to subscribe to the feed, have to ensure that the files are in formats you can actually use, and more. These are major barriers to be surmounted.

Librarians face this conundrum every day. While librarians might like patrons to understand the joyful intricacies of Library of Congress Subject Headings or even Sears Subject Headings, that is the creation of an expectation that users could become specialists. The reference desk serves as the mediating layer that keeps the peace and otherwise makes things work.

The biggest drive as of late is to help push LISNews Netcast Network content over to radio. In case there are errors or bottlenecks preventing people from accessing podcasts, alternative access means would be appropriate. Whether it is low bandwidth availability, filtering, throttling, or worse there are possible cases where the Internet is not a wide open vista for some users. This is partly why the LNN Experimental Feed was inaugurated Sunday night to see if that could get around some of those problems.

How can the network get on radio? That is tricky if you have no money. The current kitty of funds for network operations is made up more of moths than hard currency. That precludes us utilizing "brokered airtime" arrangements at present.

The most viable step we can take is the Public Radio Exchange. This is a way NPR affiliates can license content. This also allows the network a tiny amount of revenue. Most pieces we have posted cost a station five dollars to license. This is a competitive marketplace for us to operate in but, according to the stats PRX has given us, nobody knows we exist.

For those worried about any talk of money changing hands in this, let me put your fears to rest. Trips to Cancun are not being planned. The battery in the audio editing laptop bit the dust Saturday after a hard life of three years. The non-smartphone PDA that was used for cueing sound effects in the past may or may not be brought back from the dead where it seems to be as I write. Replacing the laptop battery alone is likely to cost around a hundred dollars while the PDA cost will be between double to triple the cost of the battery. Maintaining equipment is a larger priority than junkets.

I wish I could do a whistlestop tour of the United States to promote the network to station program directors. We do not have the resources to fund that. We do have listeners who can help with our outreach.

How can listeners help? Call your local NPR affiliate and ask for the Program Director. If they have time, tell them about the LISNews Netcast Network and how we can help serve a niche in your community. If you get their voicemail, you could leave a message like this: "Hi, I'm (insert name here) and I think you should check out the L-I-S-News Netcast Network on Public Radio Exchange. In today's knowledge economy, they have material that you might be able to license for air. Check them out!"

Podcasts are normally resident on one server alone in being served up to end-users. If that server flickers, there become problems with distribution. Radio alternatives may help in the long run with resilience. Amidst the winds of hope and change, utterances by appointees leading the FCC and the FTC relative to Internet regulation tend towards this being a prudent course of action to start pursuing.

Creative Commons License
Contingency Planning by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at erielookingproductions.info.

Submitting pieces for LISTen: An LISNews.org Podcast

It has been possible to submit audio pieces for consideration for LISTen: An LISNews.org Podcast. That such was possible was not advertised or really disclosed. In the interests of transparency, it is perhaps best to outline submission guidelines. Such guidelines cannot cover all situations and the decisions of the air staff are final.

Main Tech Specs

1. Files may be submitted in MP3 format but must be encoded at a sample rate of 44.1 kHz with a bit rate of 128kbps or higher. Files are preferred in WAV format recorded at a sample rate of 44.1 kHz at the highest quality level.

2. Segments should have a running time between five minutes and ten minutes.

3. Segments must be in English.

4. Content must be licensed under the relevant Attribution-Share Alike Creative Commons license for your jurisdiction without additional restrictions. A signed, dated, written declaration that the submission is irrevocably covered in that way must be on-file before a segment can air. This is a move to ensure that we have certainty that the rules by which we can use your work don't have sudden changes.

Things Not To Do

1. Sound like Billy Mays promoting a product. That is a commercial and has to be paid for.

2. Sound like the Sham-Wow guy, Vince Offer. That's just not our style.

3. Be anonymous or pseudonymous. It helps listeners appreciate you better if they know who you are. We don't need life stories. An NPR-style closing bit like this could work well: “For the LISNews Netcast Network and Public Radio Exchange, this is Stephen Michael Kellat in the Las Vegas Valley.”

4. Use excessive jargon or use jargon needlessly. Patrons are presumably listening so make sure you include them.

5. Submit a segment that requires more than simple edits on the production end. We try to keep editing to the utmost minimum. Downloading editing work to us is a bad thing.

Things To Do

1. Be vibrant and witty.

2. Look at old things from new angles.

3. Entertain, if the piece is for entertainment.

4. Be timely.

5. Reach out across the various specialties. An example of that is making an advance in cataloging interesting for reference librarians and children's librarians.

6. Keep it connected to librarianship. Topical matter like history and so on are appropriate as long as they're geared towards broadening the horizons of generalist reference librarians.

Air staff will evaluate pieces. Rejection does not mean we hate you but rather a submitted piece just might not fit our needs at the time. Submissions are started by hitting the contact form, selecting the podcast, and then proposing a segment for consideration preferably before you get too far along recording on your own.

Creative Commons License
Submitting pieces for LISTen: An LISNews.org Podcast by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Thoughts - A Grab Bag Posting

Many things are going on so this is a consolidated post. Reader discretion is encouraged.

I. The LISNews Netcast Network Operating

So far, so good operationally. We're providing audio content for those who want it. We've been gaining non-librarian listeners for Hyperlinked History and Tech for Techies. A beautiful thing is when they outright tell me via Identi.ca that they're subscribing.

Network content always needs to grow. Our main focus in terms of content areas is to bring up matters with an applied focus. Pure library science is fine but we already have LISTen: An LISNews.org Podcast covering that somewhat. Some subject areas that are desired to get applied programming on include as examples: science in our lives, health science, transportation systems.

II. The Nature of the Network

Is the work of any network producer in creating programs an act of librarianship? I would definitely say no to that proposition. In the disciplinary spectrum, what the producers do is more appropriately mass communication and/or journalism. There is not a librarian way of podcasting or a nurse's way to podcast or a civil engineer's way to podcast. In the end, it is an art of mass communication.

III. The Network And The Public Radio Exchange

We've been trying hard to get pieces posted to Public Radio Exchange. The problem is getting stations to buy what we produce. I would love to have Hyperlinked History broadcast on National Public Radio stations across the United States as part of a block with Tech for Techies and highlights of LISTen. While we can get ourselves in front of stations, listener demand is far more important and useful. If you want to share the network with people beyond your wired-in, cloudy community then contact your local NPR affiliate today and ask their program director to pick us up.

IV. The Network And Listeners Abroad

Quotes have been sought for how much it would cost to get network programs relayed via shortwave to places abroad. For covering Europe we have a viable option with one US shortwave broadcaster. The cost of that will run about one hundred US dollars per month. For the Pacific, we're not so lucky. The quote we just got for relay coverage was for just under one hundred and ten US dollars per week. For those abroad with bandwidth restrictions, such as in Australia or New Zealand, this may be better in the long run in terms of one's cost in listening.

This is still very much a work in progress. We do not have the funds on-hand to approach this at this time. To reach European listeners, we'll have to pay out at least USD$1,200 for airtime. To reach listeners in the Pacific, we'll have to pay out USD$5,720 for airtime. As for operating our own station, frankly we could not afford the cost of that at all let alone secure the requisite license from the Federal Communications Commission.

Why the worries about listeners outside the United States? In many respects, there are apparently far more listeners outside the United States than within it. We're not the only ones in this state of affairs either, too.

Creative Commons License
Thoughts - A Grab Bag Posting by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at erielookingproductions.info.

LISNews Netcast Network Programming Advisory

Due to extenuating circumstances beyond our control, Hyperlinked History will be delayed this week. The program will post by Thursday morning UTC at the latest.

The so-called Darien Statement bothers me...

The so-called Darien Statement can be found at http://www.blyberg.net/2009/04/03/the-darien-statements-on-the-library-and-librarians/. I'm going to express a few of my thoughts here. There are some areas where the statement bothers me.

The statement is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. The statement of responsibility indicated in the relevant blog post indicates that John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor came up with this. I'm going to restate some of it here. I will attempt to interleave replies.

Purpose

"The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization."

How does that square with enabling legislation in most cases? Public libraries are public institutions and normally are creatures of statute. Libraries can only do what is authorized by statute. I imagine that the integrity of civilization is not something allocated as a responsibility of libraries in enabling legislation.

"The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change."

History has shown instead that the purpose of the library has in fact changed. With the rise of "third space" theory and more, libraries have shifted in focus from being only storehouses to additionally being commons.

"The Library is infinite in its capacity to contain, connect and disseminate knowledge; librarians are human and ephemeral, therefore we must work together to ensure the Library’s permanence."

How this can be read depends upon your definition of "The Library". As for that definition, there seem to be multiple possibilities.

"Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict."

That cannot happen in a public institution. Insubordination is a firing offense in most government bureaucracies and librarians generally do not have tenure protections that might insulate them in these cases. There are normally only two choices when faced with instructions you cannot follow: resign or comply.

"Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will."

Over time, the "why" does change. LCSH was arbitrary until Lois May Chan was contracted to study its systemization. We still assign subject headings, but the reasons underlying those headings and our choices are different now compared to thirty years ago.

"A clear understanding of the Library’s purpose, its role, and the role of librarians is essential to the preservation of the Library."

I would think effective public communication would be more essential as the Nebraska video game case showed. If people had communicated, that whole mess would likely not have happened. Without keeping lines of communications open, taxpayers and those who oversee libraries are likely not to care about the library's role and instead prefer to cut budgets for better favored pet projects.

There is more to the statement but I won't address that at this time. In the end, it reflects a view of professional practice I've rarely encountered. What the statement aspires to seems to not be the norm in the US.

Twitter Trends Tonight

Tonight's trending topics on Twitter according to the search in TTYtter are:

TTYtter> /trends
<<< TRENDING TOPICS >>>
/search "North Korea" OR "N Korea"
/tron "North Korea" "N Korea"
/search SNL OR #SNL
/tron SNL #SNL
/search DSI
/tron DSI
/search "Flutter Mocks You"
/tron "Flutter Mocks You"
/search "Our Microblogging"
/tron "Our Microblogging"
/search Adventureland
/tron Adventureland
/search At&t
/tron At&t
/search Twilight
/tron Twilight
/search Easter
/tron Easter
/search Furious
/tron Furious
<<< TRENDING TOPICS >>>

Interesting. Most of the topics seem to be entertainment-related.

Good News

It is my pleasure to announce that the LISNews Netcast Network is finally offering pieces for licensing via Public Radio Exchange. This is a very unique opportunity for the crew. Public Radio Exchange ("PRX") is the main means by which we can offer content to National Public Radio affiliates for licensing. Others, such as a couple Canadian Broadcasting Corporation programs and Audible, are also set up to license through that system.

What does this mean to the average LISNews user? Probably not a whole lot. You can go about your merry way and not worry about this, if you so choose.

If you want to get LIS-related content out on NPR affiliates and others, this opens up a new avenue for you. If you want early paid access to some of the content we record, this opens up a new avenue for you. If you think that the Great Western Dragon/Faceless Historian should really be on the radio instead of restricted to just podcasts, this opens up a new avenue for you.

Most content through the PRX is not available for free. This heavily relates to insuring that rights holders for music are in fact compensated for their toils as there is a deal worked out to bypass much of the bureaucratic nastiness found in music use outside PRX. In part it also ensures that content creators get fair compensation within the confines of the present copyright regime in the United States. This is the sort of deal that helps generate a revenue stream to allow parts of the network to cover equipment and telecommunications costs, for example.

What can you do to make this happen? On the network's end, we've been increasing our visibility as of late. While that is a good thing itself, it is not a complete action. If you want us on the radio airwaves, you have to contact your local NPR stations to tell them. The program directors at the stations are the folks you want to talk to. Unless they feel there is any demand for programming in this area, all the efforts at raising visibility frankly are worth nothing.

Most stations using PRX are found in the United States. Stations outside the United States can license content but have to set up as an outside licensor. That matter is for PRX to resolve, not us.

You can find the LISNews Netcast Network profile online at: http://www.prx.org/group/lisnewsnetcasts.

Creative Commons License

Good News by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at lisnews.org.

Talking Audio

(Cross-posted)

In light of a glitch that happened late Sunday with TWiT 187, it is perhaps appropriate to talk about digital audio structuring.

There are three main sampling rates used with digital audio. Those rates are:

  • 11.025 kHz -- Wireline Telephone Quality
  • 22.050 kHz -- AM Radio Quality
  • 44.100 kHz -- Compact Disc Audio Quality
A typical sample rate that programs from Erie Looking Productions stick with is 44.1 kHz if file size caps permit. For the longest time such was not possible as the Drupal implementation LISNews ran on had a ten megabyte cap. At this point, the current Drupal implementation lets us get away with files up to twenty megabytes in size. Our sample rate and bit rate change every week as we try to optimize content to sound good within the cap we have to work with.

Something we try to avoid is using the 11.025 kHz sample. In most respects such sounds awful. It can be useful, though, if you have a sizable audience operating with lower than average bandwidth. Last night the folks at the TWiT Cottage mistakenly released in the main MP3 feed their low-resolution file encoded at the 11.025 kHz sample rate with a bit rate of only sixteen kilobits per second. Such works great if you have to be in the American Pacific on a slow link and still want content and have a high tolerance for distortion and digital artifacts.

At this point, there is no plan to release programs from Erie Looking Productions in such a low-bandwidth version. It does not seem that such will serve the audience well. If there is demand, such as getting a version of the program available under the ten megabyte cap iPhones cope with for over-the-air podcast downloads, then reconsideration may be possible.

Creative Commons License
Talking Audio by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Syndicate content