Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth

February 27, 2006

Finding Myself on Pete Townshend’s Blog

Filed under: Sundries and Such — Andy Carvin @ 4:59 pm

Like many bloggers, I try to keep track on what others are saying about my blog, so I subscribe to a couple of RSS feeds from Technorati.com that track references to my name and my URL. Usually the RSS feeds send me links to various blogs related to the digital divide, video blogging, education technology, citizen journalism and the like, but yesterday, I received a notification that caught me off-guard.
One of my musical heroes had mentioned me on their blog.
To be more specific, Pete Townshend of The Who. Along with being the creative force behind one of the greatest bands of all time, Townshend is an avid writer, experimenting with online creative writing on his blog, The Boy Who Heard Music. Over the last six months, Townshend published a novella, one chapter at a time. When one of the chapters was posted, bloggers from all over the Internet would post comments and critiques of the work, which Townshend would review and take into account as he posted future chapters. The result is a 23-chapter story that evolved due to direct interaction between Townshend and the blogosphere.
So why did Pete Townshend mention me on his blog? In the book’s epilogue, he offers up a homeric list of all the bloggers who submitted input at one point or another. That list includes me – and around 500 other bloggers. So it’s not like Townshend dedicated the work to me personally or anything like that. Instead, he’s paying tribute to all the bloggers who offered their support to the telling of the story. Townshend also notes in a “provocation” he posted that these bloggers will all be invited to participate in his next online project – an interactive music composition tool called The METHOD. A partnership between Townshend, programmer Dave Snowdon and composer Lawrence Ball, The METHOD will perform musical works generated by a computer based on interactions with a real person, referred to by Townshend as a “sitter.” Initially the website will feature works generated by The METHOD through interactions with Lawrence Ball and others, but Townshend plans to invite bloggers to “sit” with The METHOD and generate music of their own. At least that’s the way I understand it from his description on his blog. From what I’ve heard of Lawrence Ball’s work, his music is reminsicent of Erik Satie and Arvo Part. Adding Pete Townshend to the mix, along with a community of 500 bloggers, will hopefully lead to some exciting, unusual results.
Personally, I can’t wait for The METHOD to go public. Nearly 15 years ago, I got to interview French composer Pierre Boulez, who was one of the early experimentalists in computer composition. I’ve been fascinated with the concept ever since, and am very excited just pondering the opportunity of getting to try it myself some day…. -andy

Yahoo! Puts the Allah Back in Callahan

Filed under: Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 2:22 pm

John Oates of The Register reports that Yahoo! will no longer block people from creating user IDs with the word Allah in it. The debate began last year when a man named Ed Callahan was blocked by Verizon from registering an email address for his mother because their surname, Callahan, contained the word “Allah” in the middle of it. Verizon was using Yahoo! for its mail system, apparently, and any variation of the word Allah was blocked automatically when you tried to register it, even if Allah was just a row of letters in the middle of a surname.
As noted by Haitham Sabbah last week, versions of the word Allah were banned in Yahoo! email accounts, while words such as god, jesus, buddha and yahweh were acceptable. Apparently, complaints by the Callahans and Muslim bloggers were effective, because Yahoo! has changed their policy:

We continuously evaluate abuse patterns in registration usernames to help prevent spam, fraud and other inappropriate behavior. A small number of people registered for IDs using specific terms with the sole purpose of promoting hate, and then used those IDs to post content that was harmful or threatening to others, thus violating Yahoo!’s Terms of Service.
‘Allah’ was one word being used for these purposes, with instances tied to defamatory language. We took steps to help protect our users by prohibiting use of the term in Yahoo! usernames. We recently re-evaluated the term ‘Allah’ and users can now register for IDs with this word because it is no longer a significant target for abuse. We regularly evaluate this type of activity and will continue to make adjustments to our registration process to help foster a positive customer experience.

So Mr. Callahan’s mom can now have her Yahoo! email address, as can anyone else who’d like to express themselves with the word Allah in their user name. I’m sorry to report, though, that any login name containing the word “Osama” still cannot be registered on Yahoo!. Perhaps there was a concern that Mr. Bin Laden would try to register as himself so he could keep up with colleagues, like Ayman Zawahiri and Abu Zarqawi. (Ironically, if you’re name is Zarqawi or Zawahiri, you’re more than welcome to register; I just tried registering ZarqawiStud and ZawahiriBaby, and Yahoo! congratulated me that both names were available.)
As a test, I tried registering some Osama variants, including osamalamamama63, 4osamarama874d and bigosamashazbot. None of them was available, and I cannot imagine the names were actually taken already. Osama, of course, is simply the Arabic version of the name Samuel, so all the innocent, law abiding citizens of the world who just happen to be named Osama are out of luck when it comes to selecting a personalized Yahoo! email address. What’s puzzling, though, is that my friend Osama Manzar uses a Yahoo! address with his name in it. He must have been grandfathered in by Yahoo! when their anti-Osama policy was created…. -andy

February 24, 2006

Ring My Bell – Generous Benefits Package Included

Filed under: Sundries and Such — Andy Carvin @ 2:00 pm

hand bell ringersOn the plus side of getting laid off recently is the opportunity to immerse myself in jobs-related RSS feeds. Hitting employment websites on a daily basis can be a downright depressing task, particularly when you’re not finding many job descriptions with the term “digital divide” anywhere in its text. Thankfully, I can turn to a variety of websites that generate RSS feeds for particular job searches. Since RSS feeds get updated automatically when a website adds a relevant job listing to its database, your RSS aggregator gets notified promptly. I use Thunderbird for both my email and RSS needs, so a variety of potential job openings arrive in my in-box in a most expeditious fashion.
Sometimes, the job announcements sent to me are quite useful. I particularly like the listings available through the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Sometimes, though, the job postings I get are, well, a little off the mark. For example, this morning I discovered that the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers – AGEHR – is searching for a new executive director.

Established in 1954, the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (AGEHR) is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, with members in all fifty states and several countries. AGEHR is dedicated to advancing the art of handbell/handchime ringing through education, community and communication. AGEHR strives for musical excellence through events, publications, the exchange of ideas related to techniques and composing, and conducting. National AGEHR events bring together ringers and directors from all over the world as a primary source for new ideas, thereby “uniting people through a musical art.”

They’re searching for a new leader with a strong background in nonprofit management, not to mention someone interested in “Igniting a passion for handbells and handchimes.” They’ll pay $80,000 a year plus benefits – and you don’t even have to know how to play handbells!
Maybe I’ll apply. Then again, it doesn’t exactly match my resume. Hmm. The search may just have to continue a little while longer…. -andy

February 22, 2006

Scenes from Dubai

Filed under: United Arab Emirates — Andy Carvin @ 9:04 pm
dubai-montage

Given all the negative press that Dubai has been getting in the US in recent days because of the bungled US ports deal, I thought I’d put together a video montage of some of the scenes I shot in Dubai last May. No matter what people think about having a UAE company involved in US ports, it doesn’t change the fact that Dubai is a wonderful, friendly and safe place for Americans, which I hope I capture in the footage.

Podcast: The MIT Open Courseware Initiative

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 2:38 pm

Anne Margulies, director of the MIT Open Courseware initiative, just finished her speech here in Missouri. Here’s a podcast of her speech, recorded with her permission. It’s 45 minutes long, around 11 megabytes. -andy

Podcast: Open Content vs. Closed Doors (Or Closed Minds?)

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 12:49 pm

Here’s the podcast of my keynote speech at the University of Missouri Scholarly Communications Conference. It’s 16 megs and runs just over an hour. And don’t forget the powerpoint. :-) -andy

Nancy Davenport’s Keynote on Scholarly Communications

Filed under: Edtech — Andy Carvin @ 12:44 pm

Some notes from the latest keynote. Didn’t get everything but it captures the basics.
Nancy Davenport
President, Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)
Scholarly Communications
What are the issues?
What are the options
What are the leadership issues?
Spent much of her professional life in research circles, not academic circles, but has focused more on academic POV in the last two years.
Library: the documentation of human endeavour; an unbroken line in the human record.
A portion of that documentation propels research and scholarship; supports learning.
A collection is the product of cultural movments
120,000 librarians involved in collection development for academic libraries. “A lot of us are collecting the same stuff…. But we have to figure out ways to become a bit smarter for things that are unique to our institutions.”
Scholars are the supply and the demand. Research has to be distributed, through print, e-format, open access, repositories, self-publishing, even blogs.
Who is in the middle, mediating scholarly discussions? Societies, reviewers, publishers – for profit and nonprofit – aggregators, librarians, provosts, administrators, the Internet.
Peer review is what every scholar wants – to be judged as an exemplar by their colleagues.
Publishers started as printers only, but over time, they began to accrue some of the attributes of research societies. They took on the best scholars as reviewers. Later, aggregators came along – companies acting as distributing agents of scholarly work, as opposed to RSS aggregators. These traditional aggregators also do similar work online, customizing services for librarians. Meanwhile, the provosts control the purse strings while librarians ask for more.
Supply: scholars, researchers, reviewers, societies
Demand: scholars, researchers, societies, teacher, public, industry
Motivations:
Scholars have new knowledge to share; stature, impact, tenure, ego – journal as a branding device
Publishers: profit (or not); stature; impact; market share – journal also as a branding device
Libraries: Build collections, satisfy scholars, maximize buying power, institutional stature, personal stature, persistence
Digital scholarship: only way to integrate disparate content, allows new research and scholarship, encourages using material in new ways, creates new fields and communities of practice, creates new knowledge.
CLIR call to action: tells publishers that librarians want independent, third party preservation of your content
“The academic community is built upon a sham. More an more you don’t own your content – you’re paying rent.”
What impedes open access?
The academic reward system. Tenure requires publishing in “the right journals.”
Scientists can put open access fee into their budgets. But in the humanities, you don’t get that kind of funding. PloS.org won’t work for most humanities scholars.
Level of support outside the sciences.
Scholarly style; it took respect to make the Human Genome Project to work. Humanities has a different dynamic. Individual interpretation is valued more than collaborative interpretation. So working in a collaborative environment can be difficult in scholarly humanities research.
U of Virginia: Valley of the Shadow website. Examines two Shenandoah Valley towns before during and after the civil war. They’ve digitized every bit of data they can get their hands on.
Projects like this aren’t easy. It takes stature and authority to make these kinds of changes happen.
Where are we now? We pay a lot of money. Most institutions are paying 24% for digital serial journals in their collections budget. Libraries each pay large fees to access the same material. Meanwhile, libraries are digitizing their own special, unique materials.
Search strategies are becoming even more important – recall and precision.
New research methods within disciplines
Share what is in common; focus on the local, the unique
Get it into the classroom!

Now I Can Relax

Filed under: Personal News — Andy Carvin @ 12:40 pm

Wrapped up my hour-long speech at the University of Missouri just a little while ago; sipping some mint tea to rescue my throat as Nancy Davenport of the Council on Library and Information Resources delivers the second keynote. -andy

At the U of Missouri Scholarly Communications Conference

Filed under: Digital Divide — Andy Carvin @ 9:00 am

This morning I’m in Columbia, Missouri to speak at the Scholarly Communications Conference at the University of Missouri. I’ll be giving a keynote entitled “Open Content vs. Closed Doors (Or Closed Minds?).” I’ll post more about it later; in the meantime, here’s the powerpoint.

February 16, 2006

Scenes from a Blizzard

Filed under: Video — Andy Carvin @ 10:03 pm
blizzard 06

Video montage from the February 12 blizzard that dropped 18 inches of snow in Boston. The first half of the video features me out in the snow and scenes around Beacon Street; the second half showcases a massive Caterpillar bulldozer that was used to scrape away tons of snow from the entrance of our local Dunkin Donuts. Be sure to take note of my ridiculously warm faux fur hat I bought in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2002.
Music courtesy of Kevin MacLeod.

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