Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why Clifford Stoll is RIGHT about the internet

Clifford Stoll is a kook.  And I'm sure he'd be the first to admit it.  But he was right about the internet.

"No, he's wrong," you say,  "He even admitted he was wrong in a comment on BoingBoing."

No, I think he was being kind.  Like when someone really really stupid manages to accomplish some remedial task and we say, "Good.  Good, for you."  What he really tells us is here, the saddest part about how our lives have been influenced by the internet, "important aspects of human interactions are relentlessly devalued."

You can laugh at his naivete, but you can't deny that the internet has devalued our interactions.  And I'm assuming that you've ever "Like"d  something or tweeted your feelings in 140 characters.

But technologically, Stoll was way, way off.  Everything Stoll claimed computers couldn't be, computers have become. They are small; they are fast; they store more data and perform more complex and esoteric functions than he could have conceived.

In 1995, Stoll wrote that
  • no online database will replace your daily newspaper,
  • no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and
  • no computer network will change the way government works.
source: Newsweek

And he was wrong on all 3 counts.

But that's only because technology gives the appearance of his wrongness: replacement never truly happened .  Ask any librarian if online databases are easier to use than newspapers and you won't get a clear consensus. And teachers use technology to teach, but the teacher is still essential to the learning process.  And government is tied to computers in ways we could never understand, but government progress still moves at the traditional bureaucratic glacial pace.

I think how Stoll could see what we can't is based on his perspective on the evolution of the internet.  He is someone old enough to see it from outside.  He could compare it to a different world and didn't like what he saw.  But fewer of us know his world.  We've been deep in the internet for almost 20 years.  For many, the internet can't be removed from real life. But someone his age would have seen the doorways and windows to the internet from outside, whereas most of us have never stood in his place.

Stoll predicted wrongly because he underestimated people and how people actually wanted all that "unfiltered data."  People became the filter.  Wikipedia is one result.  

I like to use the movie The Matrix to think about how we view the internet.  Neo was born into the matrix and didn't know there was something outside of it. And when he learned, it changed him.  But Cypher knew that the matrix wasn't real, and he didn't care.  To him, the real world sucked.

And in our world, computers have replaced human interaction.  Virtual people have replaced people.

And this is absolutely where Stoll predicted correctly.  He concluded in his Newsweek article, "What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact."  He could never have imagined that in the 10 years following those words that we have successfully replaced physical contact with emotional contact and that emotional contact would be derived from tweets and pokes and updates and texts.

Those people Stoll spoke to in 1995 are dead.  If I had the time, I might argue that they died in 2001 when the people of the world decided they were too afraid to go outside.  And I don't I'd be wrong.  One day, some other weirdo will prove that 9/11 influenced the iPhone.

Apart from technology, mobile devices, wifi, broadband internet and HD video, everything Stoll said is true:
  •  "Cybershopping" is dangerous. That hasn't changed. Probably never will.
  • We continue to buy more and more "expensive toys"while convincing ourselves they will change our lives.
  • And sifting through data on the Internet is still difficult just as it was 2 years before Google.

All true. But also untrue.  The internet has changed us.  We are all willing to do things online in 2012 that not one of you would have imagined you would do in 1992 (the first year I went online).  Simply, you play computer games.  You play games with people you've never seen or met.  The movie WarGames was from 1983 and even 10 years later, computer games were still only for nerds.  Now you find attractive people tapping away at games on their phones, beautiful people, people who should be fucking each other!  What happened to us?

We have been changed by the internet.  You laugh at Stoll, but you are not the same species.  He is analog and you are digital.

So where is this leading? There is discussion today about whether the internet has anything new left to offer.  As if innovation has stagnated behind the Apple-Amazon-Google-Facebook turf wars.  These companies seem to want to keep their users locked into proprietary domains.  From where will innovation come when these innovators won't share?

But maybe that's where the next generation of innovation will happen -- in breaking down those walls.

Yet for his goofs, Stoll gave me one of the wisest pieces of wisdom, ever.  On one television program, he espoused having two computers, one for online and one that never touches an outside network. Because that was the only way to guarantee that your data would be safe. One day, you'll wish you'd listened to him.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


At the start of Season 7 ("Meet the New Boss") in the television show Supernatural when Castiel releases all of the souls back into Purgatory, what they shoulda done is make Castiel also damage the flow of time itself.

So that for part of the season, these distortions in time catch Sam and Dean and they could time-travel and fight Nazis and dinosaurs and just have fun with the episodes. 

And on one episode, they could end up on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. 

And DEAN would say, "Oh, Sam, I think this is the ..."

SAM: Don't say it.


DEAN: No.  This IS ...

SAM:  Don't say it.  This cannot be the [gestures to everything].  Because that's not real.  That's just a TV show; it's not real.  So if we were there, then that would mean that we weren't real, that we're a TV show.  And that's not true because we're real.


And the usual sexual double entendres follow. 

That episode would have been a blast.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Nude Model's Library

Surprise, I look at online porn.  But it's for research.

And, as if you didn't know, there are naked ladies on the internet.  As you yourself might be a naked lady on the internet.  I'd like to think so.

But sometimes, when I'm not looking at naked ladies, for research, I look around the naked ladies for books.  There are many naked lady photos online where they pose with or near collections of books.  And I often wonder how this collection was acquired, whether by random used bookstore bargain bins or if this is an actual collection from some personal library.  In many photos, the book tittles, ... oh, look, I accidentally wrote "tittles" instead of titles.  Silly me.  Many of the book titles are in Russian or German or some other language I don't really need for my research, so I don't pay too much attention.  But then there are books in English and I take notice.  I don't have any research on what the Nude Gentlemen are reading. 

IN THIS ONE PHOTO which I won't post (okay, I will) , I can read some titles clearly:

Connelly, Michael. Brass Verdict, The
Coonts, Stephen. Disciple, The
Douglas, John. Anatomy of Motive, The
Flynn, Vince. [can't read title]
Green, Simon R. Daemons Are Forever
Green, Simon R. Unnatural
Lansdale, Joe R. Captains Outrageous
Marshall, Micheal. Intruders, The
McGarrity, Micheal. Death Song
Morrison, Helen. My Life Among the Serial Killers
Neuro-linguistic Programming for DUMMIES
Parker, Robert B.  Pale Kings and Princes
Parker, Robert B. Back Story
Parker, Robert B. Chance
Parker, Robert B. Cold Service
Parker, Robert B. Hugger Mugger
Parker, Robert B. Hush Money
Patterson, James. Double Cross
Rosenberg, Joel C. Twelfth Imam, The
Thomas, Ross. Cold War Swap, The
Thomas, Ross. Money Harvest, The
Thor, Brad. Last Patriot, The

Do these book titles say anything about the nude model?  Are they meant to convey some meaning?  Am I looking at the entirely wrong area of the photo?

So my question is this, and this for research:
As a librarian, when you see images of naked people posing with books, do you look at the titles to see what the naked people are reading?

Is there a future in pursuing this area of library research?  Do you think I could earn a Ph.D.for recording and analyzing the books found in nudie and porn photos and videos?  Because I probably already have enough research for three.


Since the NBC television show 30 Rock is ending soon, it's too bad they never included this scene.  But this is what they shoulda done:

Tracy should have won a Nobel Prize so he could wear a chain with a pendant that says NEGROT (Nobel, Emmy, Grammy, Razzie, Oscar, Tony) and be proud while Liz is appalled.

LIZ: Do you see what that says, Tracy?

TRACY: Nobel. Emmy. Grammy. Razzie. Oscar. Tony.  N-E-G-R-O-T.  Damn.  The "T" is silent, isn't it,  Liz Lemon?  Damn.

LIZ: Yes, Tracy.

TRACY:  As I already had my other awards, it just shows that the Nobel Committee is racist.

Monday, April 23, 2012

When Netter and Anti-netter Meet: KABOOM!

A recent Pew Internet survey shows that 20% of Americans don't use the Internet.  The same survey also shows that 19% of American adults own tablet computers.  Twenty percent looks like a bigger number than nineteen percent.  But when did you last hear from a librarian about the importance of reaching out to their member anti-netters?

Yet many libraries will devote larger portions of their limited resources toward "engaging" with those mobile users while trimming the budgets for supporting the resources preferred by the non-internetters.

I guess it's like putting your parent in a retirement home.  At some point, you just have to tell dad he can't live alone anymore.  And he can't come live with you.  He's going to become someone else's problem from now on.

So we allow this caste system to continue.  In America. 

Yes, the problem is mainly from old people.  And in a generation, they'll all be dead and we'll have 99% of Americans online.

But some day, you'll also be old.  And then they'll be some new technology that you won't be able to afford or care about.  And you'll be part of some 20% that the librariandroid (yeah, isn't it awesome how everything sounds futuristic when you add "droid" or "bot" or "cyber" to it?  I wonder what the futuristic words will be in the future?) won't want to deal with when you can't get your 3rd-grade memories uploaded to Facebook and she complains, "Really? Again?"

Whenever a librarian sees that any area of their local population is under-served, she should ask, "How can I fix this?"  But that librariandroid is a total bitch, isn't she?

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I understand that someone has probably already proposed this, but this is what they should have done on the HBO television show Game of Thrones:

When Daenerys Targaryen was given the wedding gift of the three dragon eggs, they should have been eggs from the movie Alien.

Then later, when Drogo was in his comatose state, she could have put the eggs with him, the witch (Mirri) and herself.  And as the eggs hatched to release the "facehuggers," they would attach to each of the three characters.

Then at the final scene of Season 1, the first two Alien would burst from Drogo and the witch's chests and crawl over to Daenerys just as her chest explodes.  And as her Alien creature emerges from her chest, she cries out, "It's a Queen.  I am The Queen!"

So the dragons in Game of Thrones would be Alien creatures and whichever army has them would be considered invincible.  But since we know that these creatures can't be controlled, the rest of the series would have been very short.  And a total bloodbath.

That's what they shoulda done.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I don't exist.

In the digital world, nothing has shape. nothing has permanence. Nothing has value.  Money changes hands, surely.  But money always changes hands.

How many digital files do you own? With how many have you interacted recently?  How many songs or photos sit on some drive somewhere collecting the digital equivalent of cobwebs, their electrons trying to maintain order, to maintain bonds and fighting against inevitable dispersal.  Would you notice if some were lost?

In every generation prior whatever the most recent two are, people collected objects.  Some were photos.  They held those photos as precious.  They were memory; they were family; they were part of their lives.

Some of those objects were books.

But now we have files.  And I don't know anyone who prints out photos, anymore.  I haven't for 6 years.  Without some form of computer, the last six years of my life don't even exist.

Yes, all my files are on a computer or online, somewhere.  But without permission, a password, most of them remain hidden.  I try to store some of my stuff under "effinglibrarian" accounts, but I have lots of accounts under various usernames.  If I were to bump my head and develop amnesia or die, would anyone ever learn who I was?  I don't have scrapbooks with photos of my trips to ... see? I can't even rememeber without finding the folders with the files.

Without account names and passwords, there is nothing to find.  I will disappear. 

Physical objects are a burden. Books are a burden.  And we only have towns and cities because of our burdens.  In the old days, people walked until they got tired, then when enough people got tired in the same place, someone put up a shop or a shrine.  And that's why we have cities.  Without your burdens, you just wander as nomads.  The internet is turning us into nomads.

A printed book never judges you back.  It's static; it can't.  But an ebook can, and will.  An ebook will tell you whether you read too slowly or too quickly.  An ebook might make you reread something until it's convinced you got it.  An ebook will compare you to others who have read it.  If you need to look up a word, the dictionary will tell you that only 4% of other readers needed to look that up: What the fuck is wrong with you?

Every footprint you leave online is something said for or against your nature.  Every statement, update or comment you make can become corrupted under the unforgiving all-seeing eye of internet trolls and anonymous ridicule.

The internet is changing me.  And I don't know who I am becoming.  Because I don't have physical objects, I don't have a past.  Because I have so many online identities, I don't have a present.  And because I don't have anyone to care for my files after I'm gone, I don't have a future.  I am nothing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Unlimited, but not "Unlimited" Unlimited.

From the, "Just because you can, it doesn't mean you should" department.

In the library, product licenses are time-based, or licenses are use-based, or both. And sometimes licenses start out time-based, but as use increases, the publishers add use-based limitations.  I'm not going to call them greedy bastards.

But let's assume you're a greedy bastard. If you own something, even an intellectual something, *especially* an intellectual something, you're likely to want to be paid for its use, every single time.

Artists, writers, musicians, computer programmers, all want to be paid each time their works are viewed, read, heard or accessed. Which is the way it ought to be, I guess. If you were a greedy bastard.

But others don't get paid over and over again for the same labor. Teacher don't demand a cut of your salary for teaching you useful information. Chefs don't demand payment when their nutritious meals get you through a productive day.  A hooker won't take that bonus you scored because you were so relaxed when you cut that deal.

Intellectual property is different from commodities in that the value of intangible property can't be established by normal means, while consumable goods can have a fair market value. Eggs are a dollar a dozen while watching Titanic can have a value of $8 or $50,000, depending on whether viewing it was done legally or as an infringement on the owner's rights.

This is the same for services. Unlimited access to something is NEVER meant to alter your behavior. Unlimited means that you are allowed "the usual amount" for the average person.  But no company calls their service The Usual Amount. These same rules apply to all-you-can-eat buffets.  So no filling your plastic bags with shrimp.

That's why some Internet users get pissed when they hit a wall in their data usage. Because they interpreted "unlimited" to mean they can hook their device to every computer and TV in the house and suck bandwidth like... a thing... that sucks... a lot.

I don't know if you remember what it was like before the internet, but THERE WAS CIVILIZATION back then and I lived through it. There was a time when there was no "cloud" storage and library magazine and newspaper databases ran from CDs that you got in the mail. When a library patron wanted to find a newspaper article, you'd load a CD on a computer and search for it. If the patron wanted another article, you'd load another CD. And if you had the money, you'd buy a stack of CDs drives and run the service from the "tower."

And it was a cumbersome load of fuck.

And way back then I wanted to take all the data from all those CDs and copy it to a server and find an interface and host it all on our website. I didn't know if it could be done, but I was willing to give a try.

But I knew that doing so would be a violation of our license. Even back then, without the benefit of the internet, I knew some stuff. So I never did it.

Even now, I look at some of the content we supposedly own, and want to rip it all and keep it because we've paid for it, but I know that our licenses don't allow us to do that. "Stealing" is a word I've heard used.  So when I heard that there was a library that was attempting this "sharing," I thought, good luck with that.  Because I knew that the data provider wouldn't see it as sharing at all.

Libraries, and everyone, have to learn that if it ain't a cookie or a sandwich or a puppy, you won't own it.  You don't own your electronic databases, ebooks, television programs stored on your DVR, streamed music, etc. If it moves over a network as a digital signal, it ain't yours.  

I'm sure there's more I can say about this, but I'm afraid I've depressed you enough already.  But if it helps, the one piece of advice I can offer is this: if you want to understand how a system works, steal something from it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Facebook is the reason you don't have a job.

I've blamed Facebook for the Decline of the American Empire before, but I have an entirely new reason today.

American companies are not hiring because you have too much free time. When companies look at all the time their workers are spending on Facebook, the clearest picture they see is that their employees don't have enough to do. And if the current American workforce can afford to spend hours a day on Facebook, then why should any company create more jobs?

And don't go telling me that Facebook is great because your mom uses it and she's retired, so how could the economy be screwed up because of all the retired people who use it?

Fuck you. 700 million people are using Facebook, so yes, your mom story is a great example to refute my theory. 699,999,999 other people don't matter. Facebook isn't valued at $50 billion because your mom uses it.

If you don't believe me, look at the fucking chart:

Those things don't lie.

But ever since THE INTERNET became a thing, companies have been able to see a much clearer picture of the habits of Americans and it turns out that we don't slave away at making more and more money for our billionaire masters as they think we should.

After all, so few Americans farm their own food. And slightly more than that a few grow weed or cook crank or whatever those magicians do to make illegal drugs. So the rest of us are lucky that anyone is willing to give us any money at all for the little work that we do.

I mean, ask Apple why they took their manufacturing to China and the answer would be "an unlimited supply of cheap labor who will work any time we say, for as long as we require and never takes time off to take their cat to the vet."

Before computers started talking to each other, your boss could only guess at how much time you were wasting while she was providing you with the means to support a home and a family, two cats and a dog.

But now the cat is out of the bag.

Because you had two cats. And you tried to sell one to the butcher by disguising it as a pig. But the butcher knows to never buy a pig in a poke. So he let the cat out of the bag and exposed your fraud.

Let me get off topic for a second because Snopes claims that this explanation is False, simply because the author doesn't believe that anyone would mistake a cat in a sack for a pig. But yet, the author accepts the "pig in a poke" phrase for exactly the same reason, that some unscrupulous merchants would sometimes substitute another animal when you purchased livestock, so you should always look at what you're buying before you conclude your transaction. The author accepts this origin, but doesn't think that what was in the poke/sack/bag would ever be a cat. Definitely not a cute, fluffy little cat. So let me restate, But now the squid is out of the bag.

There is no job that you can have that your boss can't find someone else to do it: better, as well, nearly as well, or with a minimum level of competence, FOR LESS MONEY THAN YOU.

Even in the library, I could FIRE EVERYONE and still provide library services well enough that most of your customers wouldn't care. Volunteers would line up to have SOMETHING TO DO to fill their otherwise wasted time. And some of those people would be very qualified to fill library positions. EVEN FOR NO MONEY. BECAUSE THIS IS THE NUMBER ONE RULE OF BUILDING A WORKFORCE: if you can fill their most basic needs, there will always be someone to take the job.

I absolutely believe that Americans are about one step away from rounding up people to do a job then killing them before payday. Again. Because we've done this in the past.

 I'm always surprised by people who think that since we learned to be civilized, to have civilized society, that it's here to stay. Like you get it and it's with you forever. Like herpes. When civilization is more like genital warts. Civilization will often spontaneously rise up within cultures, but it can be beaten back with a proper applications of ointments. And gunfire.

So Facebookians, stop fucking up this country. Every computer knows every minute you waste and they share that information with each other. Every day you spend screwing around online is another minimum-wage job-that-will-never-be. Each wasted month equals one blue-collar job. And every three months equals one white-collar job that doesn't get budgeted over to HR.

 If you really need to kill time, read a book. But not an ebook because they spy on you there, too.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Identity Dilemma.

I'm at the point where the digital status of my real self is gaining on the digital status of my fake self.

Yet my fake self is still way ahead in popularity.

The problem that comes from this is that I often have professional questions to ask where I could use some feedback. If I use my fake identity to ask it on Twitter (this identity), more people will see the question and someone might answer. But I probably won't get the answer I need because this identity is fake. And people don't seem to want to waste brain power answering to a fake person.

But if I ask on my real account, hardly anyone replies and the question languishes like some lost message in a bottle, waiting to be freed. But the question will be taken seriously, eventually.

So I never know what to do. I can't ask the same question in both accounts because someone might actually notice and then my pseudonymity will be lost.

All I can ask is that if you see a question from a librarian asking for your opinion on some professional library stuff, it could be me. SO ANSWER THE FUCKING QUESTION.