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Comment Re:Unintended consequences: in astrophysics ... (Score 1) 74

I think the thing you are not considering is that we are currently paying both ways: researchers pay page fees to publish, and their institutions pay subscription fees so the researchers, grad students, etc. can access the journals. Both of these payments come mainly from the same place: research grants from major government science agencies. The researchers get grants and include publishing costs. The researchers' institution taxes the grants ("overhead fees") which generally gets distributed to the library who purchases subscriptions.

So, if all grant-funded research was publicly available, and researchers had to pay higher publishing fees, but the library had to pay lower (or no) subscription fees, it all balances out to roughly the same amount of money. And it's better to have the researchers doing all the payment, so funding agencies can limit the amount of publishing costs they will fund. What do you think the big journal publishers will do if NIH and NSF suddenly say all grant-funded research must be open access from day 1, and they will only fund publishing costs up to $50/page? They will have little choice but to live with lower revenues.

-Esme

Comment Re:Sample size issue? (Score 4, Insightful) 449

I suppose you've looked over their statistics, then? Or maybe you're just completely ignorant of behavioral sciences where a significantly larger sample size usually indicates poor design, lack of understanding of statistics, or a fishing expedition?

Many kinds of experiments require large sample sizes, either because of small effects or large amounts of variance in the population being studied. But not everything needs a large sample. And using a large sample where a small one will do is just wasteful.

Comment Re:As a college student (Score 1) 1259

I am all in favor of helping out people who don't have healthcare, but in order for those people to have healthcare, someone else is going to get screwed.

Not necessarily. Right now, the US spends a lot more money per person on healthcare that most countries that have universal coverage. That's mostly because uninsured people wait until they're very sick or injured and then go to an emergency room. They get treated, and the hospital can't collect, so everybody else picks up the tab. So we're already getting screwed right now.

It would be much cheaper to just pay for basic doctor visits for everyone, which would prevent a lot of expensive procedures from ever happening. Our taxes might be a little higher to pay for this (different people have different ideas about how to pay for it, some want to tax rich people, or very expensive health insurance benefits, etc.). But our health insurance will be cheaper, so it'll be about even.

For education, I don't think an education at a top-50 school regardless of the price is a basic right like healthcare. There are lots of good schools that are still reasonably-priced. I think there are a lot of things we could do to make college more affordable, and I'm all in favor of that, but there are affordable options right now.

I personally think it would be great for state schools to be free in return for service (military, public service, etc.) or for a higher tax rate (which wouldn't be that much different from having student loans to pay off).

-Esme

Comment Re:Pretty Shortsighted Solution (Score 1) 121

I think the fee would have to be uncomfortably high to stop squatters. A commercial developer with a vague intention of making an app at some point might find it acceptable to pay $10, $50 or $100 to reserve good names. But how much would developers of free apps be willing to spend? Not as much, I would expect. So maybe you'd need to take donations to be able to afford the submission fee...

I think the real solution is for a human being to review submissions and either release the submitted app to the app store, or reject the submission and free up the name. There is no good reason to have the names be in limbo.

-Esme

Comment Re:We never needed them before (Score 1) 607

I don't think having an 18-month-old prepares you for what it's like to have an older child. An 18-month-old is still very dependent on you, and having them in your sight (or in the sight of a trusted caregiver) at all times is realistic.

I think devices like this are targeted more at parents with 8-10-year-old children. Depending on your circumstances, they might ride their bikes to and from school. Or walk over to friends' houses to play. They might go to one friend's house and find they can't play, and try another friend a few houses down (or even just wander home the long way around). Or when you're out shopping, they might stop and look at something, or head down a different aisle without telling you. Even if they are only a few yards away, it might take a while to backtrack and find them. Etc. So there will be times when there is uncertainty about exactly where they are. And this can cause a lot of anxiety.

The healthy response to this anxiety is to create circumstances where they can have a little independence, teach them about what to do if things go wrong or they get lost. Work up to more responsibility and confidence (for both child and parent). That's what I'm doing with my 8-year-old. But I can understand why some people might have a bad experience, or be overwhelmed by anxiety and want something like this.

-Esme

Comment Re:Many libraries routinely delete information (Score 1) 144

I'm guessing it's either:

1. They're pulling this info from the current and previous borrower fields.
2. They've developed their own software and haven't thought about the privacy implications of storing this info.
3. The librarian desire to hoard information has motivated ILS vendors to change their systems to store this info. It wouldn't surprise me if the original current/previous limitation started out as a database limitation and the privacy justification was post-hoc.

It's been a long time since I've worked a circ desk, and my library experience is mostly at large research universities that have the budgets needed to buy commercial ILS software, and the inclination to think about user privacy.

Though when my wife and I were undergrads, my wife worked a circ desk, and FBI agents actually approached student workers and tried to get info without warrants. And the library administration was adamant that they not give out what info was there. She only had access to what a user currently had checked out, but doesn't know if staff had access to anything more.

-Esme

Comment Re:Many libraries routinely delete information (Score 1) 144

Most of the commercial library systems store exactly the information you mention: only the current and previous borrowers. When a new person checks out a book, the old previous borrower gets overwritten, and isn't stored anywhere else. So there's no way to get a list of all the people who have checked out a particular book, or every book a user has ever checked out, because the data simply isn't there.

Now web usage is something different. I suspect many libraries store their webserver logs until the end of time. So we couldn't produce a list of who checked out what, but we could probably produce a list of who searched for what on our websites. This is one area where librarians' instincts (keep everything forever) need to be overcome to protect the privacy of our users.

-Esme

Comment Mistakes (Score 1) 149

What are the major mistakes that organizations like universities make?

In my experience, two big mistakes that university IT shops often make are:

  • Centralizing services to reduce costs, without appreciating how much poorer the service is. I've seen this several times where departments were running their own email and/or file servers. They cost a lot of money (esp. the staff to maintain the servers). So the department switched to campus-managed email/storage to save money. Only later did they realize that campus wasn't really providing the same service. POP (or IMAP with a very small quota, which is basically the same) is not the same as shell access with basically unlimited storage.
  • Standardizing on one option (or a small number of options) when there is a huge diversity of users. I've seen hardware purchasing agreements where a few configurations that were perfectly good for general office use were heavily discounted, but anything else (rackmounted servers, workstations, etc.) were basically full price. I've seen other places negotiate for a good percentage discount across the board. So I think understanding that you can't generalize from students or "normal" office users is important -- you really need to talk to people from different disciplines (esp. engineering, medicine, etc.) because different people have different needs.

-Esme

Comment Re:The real question (Score 2, Interesting) 453

I've lived and driven in the US (mostly California, Arkansas, and Florida) and the UK (Brighton), and I'd say that urban and suburban driving in the UK is much more challenging. Though I had driven in the US for 10 years without incident, I had to take driving lessons in the UK to pass the driving test, mostly because of the smaller streets and constant need to pay attention to road conditions. In the US, you can often just assume that you can drive down a street, without having to worry about oncoming traffic, pedestrians, lane markings changing, etc. There is lip service paid to the notion that stuff will happen in front of you and you have to pay attention, but it rarely actually happens. Driving in the UK required constant vigilance.

The US also tends to have a lot more suburban sprawl with multi-lane boulevards and 40-50mph speed limits. Most of the city/country breaks I saw in the UK went straight from 30mph city to 60mph country.

On the other hand, my experience on highways and motorways is that they are roughly the same in lane sizes, markings, signage, etc. But the big difference is that in the UK, people drive roughly the speed limit, give or take 5 or 10 mph. In the US, it's not uncommon for the dominant speed to be 15 or 20 mph over the posted speed limit. I think that's a big reason why we have higher fatality rates.

Comment Re:Use a Wiki to Process Images to Open Format (Score 1) 148

As for indexing them, I can tell you one way not to do it. Don't do the thing that curators of classical music did.

With any decent metadata format, that kind of system (or even more complex) is perfectly fine. Every one of those is meaningful to someone, and maybe they want to search using it. For example, lots of cataloged materials have barcodes which would be a colossal pain to type in by hand (and no one would remember them anyway) -- but they're great for scanning in if you happen to have the thing in your hand and want to look it up.

You probably don't need to show all of the identifiers to most users, but if an item has six different identifiers, indexing them all is the Right Thing To Do.

On a system I'm working on, we've got records with lots of different identifiers (the source system catalog number, the item's barcode, the vendor id (if it was scanned or OCR'd by a vendor), possibly an id from flickr or other systems we've exported the image to, plus our own system's id (because you can't count on any of those others being there for every record)). And that's not counting descriptive fields like titles, call numbers, etc. that people might use to identify the records. They are all indexed and searchable from the default search box.

When you print (or read aloud for radio), you have to pick which identifiers/titles you want to use. I think classical music often errs on the side of including all of them when one would do. But if some people know a piece as "HWV 295" and some as "Organ Concerto #13" and others as "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale", and if a lot of the people were anal-retentive pedants with lots of free time to call up radio stations and complain about not using the "right" identifier, it might just be easier to read them all.

-Esme

Government

Submission + - Obama admin opposing copyright exception for blind (boingboing.net) 1

esme writes: Over at Boing Boing, there's a scoop on the Obama administration joining with other western countries to block a treaty that would create international standards for copyright exceptions for the blind and others who need technology to read. Activists at the WIPO negotiations are trying to get the word out that lobbying from publishers has caused the US, Canada, the EU, Australia, New Zealand, the Vatican and Norway to oppose the treaty.

Comment Re:99% of the answers are going to be Eclipse (Score 1) 1055

If anyone says Emacs or Vi they are insane and have never done 10k lines of code in a modern environment.

I've worked on projects much larger than 10k loc, in vim. Without syntax highlighting, completion, folding, etc. Of course vim can do all those things, I just don't use them. I mostly use 4-8 terminals with a couple dedicated to compiling and/or deploying webapps, and editing files in the rest.

The point is: different tools work for different people. Just because you like one set of tools doesn't mean that set of tools is objectively better, or is going to be good for any particular person.

Comment Re:Point of view (Score 1) 457

Sorry, I get it. Everybody has a point of view. And, in this example, the Chinese point of view is that Taiwan is a renegade province of China. And you can make a map that expresses this point of view -- I'm sure they are hanging on walls throughout China.

But you can also make a neutral map that expresses reality. In this map, Taiwan would be its own country. It's an objective fact that Taiwan is a self-governing country, and no amount of Chinese objection (or other countries' diplomatic niceties, for that matter) changes that.

I believe that every thorny geopolitical problem, from Cyprus, to the Palestinian territories, to Kashmir can be neutrally and objectively represented on a map. Of course many people will produce maps to promote their desired outcome of those conflicts, but that doesn't mean that every map expresses a point of view. It means that maps, unlike those other forms of expression, can be neutral.

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