Category Archives: Actively Reading

Actively Reading Mainstream Media about Blogging

Like Gregory Kohs, I’ve learnt not to “wrestle with a pig.” And “I know you shouldn’t feed the trolls.” But Diigo makes it easy for me to comment through annotation. So I’ve done so. As an exercise.

Besides, Jason Calacanis‘s call to the “JasonNation” was too funny not to be heeded.
Just don’t expect me to take the linkbait. Now, if Boutin were French-Canadian, that’d be a different story… 😉

  • tags: no_tag

    • anthropologically isolated subculture of elite bloggers,
      • In what sense is that group isolated? By virtue of being an elite or by lack of links with other people? The first is tautological, the second is absurd. – post by enkerli
    • Blogging has entered the mainstream
      • Probably the core point of this piece. Apparently the one which finds the most support among commenters. Yet “the lead” is so “buried” that this specific point gets almost lost. – post by enkerli
    • every new medium in history
      • To enhance a text, statements like these would probably require the apparatus of an actual historical perspective. Chances are, the person who wrote this thought about some analogue or two but failed to really think about the complete history of media. – post by enkerli
    • Twitter messages, usually sent from mobile phones, are fewer than 140 characters long and answer the question “What are you doing?”
      • Fairly appropriate description of one form of microblogging. But this would have been an excellent opportunity to discuss what the implications of this potential shift to microblogging really are. Given the source of this piece, one would have expected some insight into the financial implications, at the very least. – post by enkerli
    • Google, the Wal-Mart of the internet
      • Such an off-hand comment is a very inefficient way to bring about real discussion. It’s either superfluous or incomplete. – post by enkerli
    • runs Twitter
      • Given the context (with Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone as other key figures), this statement is too ambiguous to be really useful. Yes, Williams is CEO and a CEO “runs” a company. But the immediate context for this statement makes it sound as if Williams had single-handedly taken control of Twitter, as a direct consequence of the Blogger buyout. – post by enkerli
    • These “new media” firms are now suffering from the same advertising slowdown as their offline rivals. Gawker, a gossip-blog empire, has already begun laying off bloggers.
      • Surprising that such an important part of the story should only merit two sentences in the article. Especially in The Economist. What’s more problematic is that it seems to imply that the Gawker layoffs might be representative of the inexorable effects of the advertising slowdown. In a business-oriented publication, such an assertion merits thorough analysis. – post by enkerli
    • just another business tool
      • Sounds dismissive. Did strumpette write this? – post by enkerli
    • any sense that
      • Absolute statements like these are enough to make critical thinkers cringe. – post by enkerli
    • Now they are gone, but they are also ubiquitous, as features of almost every mobile phone.
      • Brief description of something which could lead to actual insight. Underdeveloped as is, could merit its own article. Too fragmentary in this context. – post by enkerli

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Actively Reading Open Access

Open Access

I’ve been enthusiastic about OA (open access to academic texts) for a number of years. I don’t tend to be extremely active in the OA milieu but I do use every opportunity I can to talk about OA, both in formal academic contexts and in more casual and informal conversation.

My own views about Open Access are that it should be plain common-sense, for both scholars and “the public.” Not that OA is an ultimate principle, but it seems so obvious to me that OA can be beneficial in a large range of contexts. In fact, I tend to conceive of academia in terms of Open Access. In my mind, a concept related to OA runs at the very core of the academic enterprise and helps distinguish it from other types of endeavours. Simply put, academia is the type of “knowledge work ” which is oriented toward openness in access and use.

Historically, this connection between academic work and openness has allegedly been the source of the so-called “Open Source movement” with all its consequences in computing, the Internet, and geek culture.

Quite frequently, OA advocates focus (at least in public) on specific issues related to Open Access. An OA advocate put it in a way that made me think it might have been a precaution, used by OA advocates and activists, to avoid scaring off potential OA enthusiasts. As I didn’t involve myself as a “fighter” in the OA-related discussions, I rarely found a need for such precautions.

I now see signs that the Open Access movement is finally strong enough that some of these precautions might not even be needed. Not that OA advocates “throw caution to the wind.” But I really sense that it’s now possible to openly discuss broader issues related to Open Access because “critical mass has been achieved.”

Suber’s Newsletter

Case in point, for this sense of a “wind of change,” the latest issue of Peter Suber’s SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

Suber’s newsletter is frequently a useful source of information about Open Access and I often get inspired by it. But because my involvement in the OA movement is rather limited, I tend to skim those newsletter issues, more than I really read them. I kind of feel bad about this but “we all need to choose our battles,” in terms of information management.

But today’s issue “caught my eye.” Actually, it stimulated a lot of thoughts in me. It provided me with (tasty) intellectual nourishment. Simply put: it made me happy.

It’s all because Suber elaborated an argument about Open Access that I find particularly compelling: the epistemological dimension of Open Acces. Because of my perspective, I respond much more favourably to this epistemological argument than I would with most practical and ethical arguments. Maybe that’s just me. But it still works.

So I read Suber’s newsletter with much more attention than usual. I savoured it. And I used this new method of actively reading online texts which is based on the social bookmarking service.

Active Reading

What follows is a slightly edited version of my Diigo annotations on Suber’s text.

Peter Suber, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, 6/2/08


June 2008 issue of Peter Suber’s newsletter on open access to academic texts (“Open Access,” or “OA”).

tags: toblog, Suber, Open Access, academia, publishing, wisdom of crowds, crowdsourcing, critical thinking

General comments

  • Suber’s newsletters are always on the lengthy side of things but this one seems especially long. I see this as a good sign.
  • For several reasons, I find this issue of Suber’s newsletter is particularly stimulating. Part of my personal anthology of literature about Open Access.

Quote-based annotations and highlights.

Items in italics are Suber’s, those in roman are my annotations.

  • Open access and the self-correction of knowledge

    • This might be one of my favourite arguments for OA. Yes, it’s close to ESR’s description of the “eyeball” principle. But it works especially well for academia.
  • Nor is it very subtle or complicated
    • Agreed. So, why is it so rarely discussed or grokked?
  • John Stuart Mill in 1859
    • Nice way to tie the argument to something which may thought-provoke scholars in Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • OA facilitates the testing and validation of knowledge claims
    • Neat, clean, simple, straightforward… convincing. Framing it as hypothesis works well, in context.
  • science is self-correcting
    • Almost like “talking to scientists’ emotions.” In an efficient way.
  • reliability of inquiry
    • Almost lingo-like but resonates well with academic terminology.
  • Science is special because it’s self-correcting.
    • Don’t we all wish this were more widely understood?
  • scientists eventually correct the errors of other scientists
    • There’s an important social concept, here. Related to humility as a function of human interaction.
  • persuade their colleagues
  • new professional consensus
  • benefit from the perspectives of others
    • Tying humility, intellectual honesty, critical thinking, ego-lessness, and even relativist ways of knowing.
  • freedom of expression is essential to truth-seeking
  • opening discussion as widely as possible
    • Perhaps my favourite argument ever for not only OA but for changes in academia generally.
  • when the human mind is capable of receiving it
    • Possible tie-in with the social level of cognition. Or the usual “shoulders of giants.”
  • public scrutiny
    • Emphasis on “public”!
  • protect the freedom of expression
    • The problem I have with the way this concept is applied is that people rely on pre-established institutions for this protection and seem to assume that, if the institution is maintained, so is the protection. Dangerous!
  • If the only people free to speak their minds are people like the author, or people with a shared belief in current orthodoxy, then we’d rarely hear from people in a position to recognize deficiencies in need of correction.
    • This, I associate with “groupthink” in the “highest spheres” (sphere height being giving through social negotiation of prestige).
  • But we do have to make our claims available to everyone who might care to read and comment on them.
    • Can’t help but think that *some* of those who oppose or forget this mainly fear the social risks associated with our positions being questioned or invalidated.
  • For the purposes of scientific progress, a society in which access to research is limited, because it’s written in Latin, because authors are secretive, or because access requires travel or wealth, is like a society in which freedom of expression is limited.
  • scientists who are free to speak their minds but lack access to the literature have no advantage over scientists without the freedom to speak their minds
  • many-eyeballs theory
  • many voices from many perspectives
  • exactly what scientists must do to inch asymptotically toward certainty
  • devil’s advocate
  • enlisting as much help
  • validate knowledge claims in public
  • OA works best of all
    • My guess is that those who want to argue against this hypothesis are reacting in a knee-jerk fashion, perhaps based on personal motives. Nothing inherently wrong there, but it remains as a potential bias.
  • longevity in a free society
    • Interesting way to put it.
  • delay
  • the friction in a non-OA system
    • The academic equivalent of cute.
  • For scientific self-correction, OA is lubricant, not a precondition.
    • Catalyst?
  • much of the scientific progress in the 16th and 17th centuries was due to the spread of print itself and the wider access it allowed for new results
    • Neat way to frame it.
  • Limits on access (like limits on liberty) are not deal-breakers, just friction in the system
    • “See? We’re not opposed to you. We just think there’s a more efficient way to do things.”
  • OA can affect knowledge itself, or the process by which knowledge claims become knowledge
  • pragmatic arguments
    • Pretty convincing ones.
  • The Millian argument for OA is not the “wisdom of crowds”
    • Not exclusively, but it does integrate the diversity of viewpoints made obvious through crowdsourcing.
  • without attempting to synthesize them
    • If “wisdom of crowds” really is about synthesis, then it’s nothing more than groupthink.
  • peer review and the kind of empirical content that underlies what Karl Popper called falsifiability
    • I personally hope that a conversation about these will occur soon. What OA makes possible, in a way, is to avoid the dangers which come from the social dimension of “peerness.” This was addressed earlier, and I see a clear connection with “avoiding groupthink.” But the assumption that peer-review, in its current form, has reached some ultimate and eternal value as a validation system can be questioned in the context of OA.
  • watchdogs
  • Such online watchdogs were among those who first identified problems with images and other data in a cloning paper published in Science by Woo Suk Hwang, a South Korean researcher. The research was eventually found to be fraudulent, and the journal retracted the paper….
    • Not only is it fun as a “success story” (CHE’s journalistic bent), but it may help some people understand that there is satisfaction to be found in fact-checking. In fact, verification can be self-rewarding, in an appropriate context. Seems obvious enough to many academics but it sounds counterintuitive to those who think of academia as waged labour.


Really impressive round-up of recent news related to Open Access. What I tend to call a “linkfest.”

What follows is my personal selection, based on diverse interests.

Technology Adoption and Active Reading

Giving Diigo a fair shake. Turns out, it might be cool for active reading. I still have issues with it (comments are private by default and they don’t disappear on pressing "enter"), but the main usage pattern seems to make sense.
So… Actively reading this Dare Obasanjo blogpost about technology adoption. Found the link thanks to @audio on Twitter.
All of it is very "knee-jerky" («réactions à chaud»), on my part. I like that. More RERO. And more efficient, I think.

BTW, a major point developers should understand: users should be allowed to be lazy, sloppy, careless, and thoughtless. Can’t remember the term but Blacktree’s QuickSilver had a whole explanation about "not thinking." I think enough already that I don’t want to think about my use of tools while I’m using these tools. A good example of where a problem may appear: forcing users to add tags or forcing them to edit a preview version of their comments. I see why it would make sense to "incite" people to do this. But there’s a context for everything and forcing users one way or another is very patronizing.

  • tags: technology adoption

    • Pragmatists might be willing to use new technology, if it’s the only way to get their problem solved.
      • I try to adopt this strategy. – post by enkerli
    • Early Adopters are risk takers who actually like to try new things.
      • Of course, they’re the most vocal. Especially online. And the most fickle. – post by enkerli
    • Laggards pride themselves on the fact that they are the last to try anything new.
      • I do that a lot. The Swiss or Amish version of the "wait-and-see approach." Works really well with updates. – post by enkerli
    • they listened too intently to their initial customer base
      • This seems to be well-understood, now. Of course, it appears to be the focus of this post, but it’s probably not the most interesting point. – post by enkerli
    • heralded as the next big thing by technology pundits which actually never broke into the  mainstream because they don’t solve the problems of regular Internet users
      • Again, well-known. But good to keep in mind. – post by enkerli
    • aren’t many people who need a specialized feature set around searching blogs
      • And specialized searches have two unwanted side-effects: separate blogging from the mainstream and emphasize the echo-chamber effect. (This was well-discussed on TWiT, at the time.) – post by enkerli
    • Social bookmarking:
      • My sense is that it can still take off because the best solution hasn’t come up yet. Diigo (!) appears to be a good start. But there’s a lot which could be done to improve it. For instance, send pings or trackbacks when users comment on a blogpost. Importing RSS feeds from other bookmarking services should be (IMVHO) Diigo’s #1 priority. Making commenting more seamless with less button clicking would make the Diigo experience more bearable. Better auto-tagging and more obvious batch-tagging would also help. Some support for a kind of ubiquitous link clipboard would make it easy for both bloggers and "normal readers." Merging comment-tracking (à la cocomment) with Diigo’s approach to "highlight and comment" could really make sense. All in all, social bookmarking could be much bigger than it is but people do rely on it remaining geeky. I want it to be workflow. This is not a niche approach to social bookmarking. Even people who are relatively passive as readers (i.e., the statistical mainstream) would use social bookmarking if it’s really seamless. – post by enkerli
    • key technology which powers a number of interesting functionality behind the scenes (e.g. podcasting)
      • Excellent point. Podcatchers have it right, in terms of RSS. I sometimes wish RSS readers would be more like podcatchers and/or podcatchers could integrate more content types. Although… One reason podcatchers work for me is that I eventually found the right number of podcasts to subscribe to. I haven’t been able to do this with blogs and other non-podcast RSS feeds. – post by enkerli
    • RSS reader has not become a mainstream activity of Web users
      • Yup! I don’t use them. – post by enkerli
    • read so many blogs and news sites
      • Information overload (IO) in general is a big issue. Yahoo! Pipes could help, but I haven’t really been attracted to it enough to go on its learning curve (despite @ericbaillargeon talking about it so much). Some new RSS readers take a more radical approach to reducing IO, but they still don’t seem to work so well. I guess what I need is an adaptive RSS reader which will help me be more selective in the number of things I read. The reverse of StumbleUpon, in a way, though SU could probably help. Put simply, I want an RSS reader which "knows" me and which can help me decide what I want to do with a given piece of text: put on my "to read" list? Send to someone who might care? Keep on the backburner as a potentially interesting idea? Read actively? Blog about? Respond to? Send to my handheld for reading or listening while I do something else? Add to a "pile" with auto-indexing so the next time I want some info about this, the full text of the original will come up? – post by enkerli
    • How many people who aren’t enthusiastic early adopters (i) have this problem and (ii) think they need a tool to deal with it?
      • Well… I do have this problem and I do think I need a tool to deal with this. But RSS Readers don’t work, for my needs. My interests are too disparate, my attention to the blogosphere is too occasional… This is actually one context in which Twitter is helping me focus. – post by enkerli
    • harness the natural need of young people to express their individuality yet be part of social cliques
      • I don’t really like the wording (too fake-science-y) but I agree with the principle. We can probably now go into the "listening to what users need" tirade but I would prefer it if it were more ethnographic/insightful in terms of the relationship between technology adoption and innovation (invention+adoption=innovation), in social terms. It’s not a "natural need" for "young people." It’s "a common practise in a significant portions of different populations." – post by enkerli
    • flexible options
      • YES! Options, not features! – post by enkerli
    • solve problems that everyone [or at least a large section of the populace] has
      • Too bad it’s such an absolute/quantitative statement. Sure, adoption numbers matter, in meetings with investors. But what’s more important in terms of the adoption timeline may be based on the network effect and on the social butterfly effect. The same tool can be used differently by different people (unintended uses are the killer app?) if they already adopt that tool for some other reason. If it’s out of peer-pressure or just because of the invisible influence of an acquaintance, it still matters a lot in terms of making the thing "viral." We’re talking about networks, here, not a standardized population. – post by enkerli
    • Everybody wants to get laid
      • Cheap and misleading. – post by enkerli
    • are we building a product for Robert Scoble?"
      • Not a bad point and somewhat funny given the whole "make Robert Scoble cry" jokes of a few months ago. But, at the same time, Scoble is fairly good at being a cog in the wheel. People think of him as a direct influence on his "followers" (not just on Twitter). What seems to be more important, from his work, is that he has been able to get some people to think differently about some tools and companies. He’s definitely not like a journalist but it’s not accurate to think of him as the central point of a pack of geeky early adopters who would adopt those tools anyway. He’s someone who says a lot of things and some of them "don’t fall on dead ears" (is that the expression in English?). The reason he influences people, very often, is because there’s a fit between what he says and what people are open to hear. Not that he "says what people want to hear." But he says things which find a fertile ground, partly because those who first hear them run with it. Much of this about Scoble is "old." I get the perception that, at this point, he’s mostly getting "followers" who are following him because of his notoriety. Especially marketers and social capitalists. Problem with this is that these people don’t necessarily listen so much. They don’t really adopt. They sell. – post by enkerli