I’m sure you’ve all been following (at least heard of) the DRM/censorship/power of community story at Digg. For those who haven’t, here’s a quick overview:

Hackers, as hackers are wont to do, cracked the the DRM on the HD-DVD standard. This was pretty much inevitable. These nutty hackers have broken every other DRM scheme to date, so this one was probably doomed from the beginning. This crack in the DRM opens the door for people, in a best case scenario, to make back up copies of discs they own. Of course, the industry points of the wost-case scenario: That the sole purpose of these cracks is to steal intellectual property and pirate lots of movies. Personally I think it’s somewhere in the middle, but that’s a discussion for another post or 10.

Anyway, the Digg community got a hold of this code and kept bumping it to the top of Digg’s list of “dug” web pages. Digg, fearful of take down notices and lawsuits under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act DMCA, started deleting these links, but as fast as they could delete them, their community added more links. The battle escalated to the point where ALL the top links on Digg were about either the DRM code or Digg’s censorship of the story.

At that point, Digg capitulated to their user base and let the links stay. Rather than losing the sure-thing (their users) by continuing to remove links and tick off their user base, they chose to make a stand against potential DMCA notices. As Dig founder Kevin Rose noted in his blog (where he actually posted the code in question), “If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.”

Lots of issues here, but I’m interested in the aspect of the community revolt. Were the users successful here because the community is still small enough and homegeneous enough that everyone felt the same way? Is it because Digg founders realize that no matter how cool Digg is, there’s no barrier keeping their community intact. In an online environment these days, these communities have lots of options for their loyalty.

My guess if that the Digg founders realized this and also realized they certainly weren’t going to get rich if they gave into the DRM legal forces and lost their user base. Better to take a risk fighting the take-down notice than just watch your community disappear, I guess. I’m not sure if that’s quite as noble as Rose makes it out to be, but it’s an interesting angle nonetheless.

Some links worth checking out:


I commented on Plone in my “Open Source Social Software” post last week. I still think it’s a great CMS and a great way to go if you can put in the time to get it set up right. What a lot of people don’t know is that a Plone isn’t limited to a plain vanilla interface (like you see by default at Plone.org and with a default install.). I think the default is OK looking, but if people knew what it _could_ be, they might be a little more motivated to embrace a fresh design from the start.

Thankfully, the folks behind Plone have gathered the work of talented designers, coders, and the like, at a nice gallery on Plone.net The collection site itself is a is a step beyond the out-of-the box Plone look. Check it out. Maybe you’ll get some ideas to add a little zing to your vanilla.

David Weinberger, Tim Spaulding (of LibraryThing fame) and Karen Schneider (the Free Range Librarian) were on Radio Open Source yesterday. You can listen to it here. I haven’t listened but I plan to be downloading it to my iPod so I can listen on the bus one day soon. They talked about Daivid Weinberger’s new book and the organization of all digital. Christopher Lydon refers to it as a “new taxonomy of knowledge taking shape”. Tune in. I’m sure it’s a good one.

I’m always looking for the mediating technology that Kathleen mentions (number 4). For a while I thought Plone was going to be my ticket to some kind of librarian-makes-good-via-content-organization consulting goodness. Heck, I even went the conference and got the t-shirt.

I’m still groovin’ on Plone, but you know what? It’s hard. It’s a great tool for managing all your content and maybe for building (and maintaining) a web presence from scratch. But what what about if you already have some stuff going on? You know…. you’ve got an intranet. and maybe some servers with files shares? Or some folks on your team have or want to start their own WordPress or other blog? To make Plone work in a situation like this you either some serious coding ju-ju or you gotta start from scratch.

Sure, a complete Plone site can be effective, cost-efficient, and easy-to-maintain, but starting over is not the answer for everyone. In my past content life I lived with terrible sites I wasn’t allowed to scrap. Many of these, though, these could have been dramatically improved with just the slightest bit of social software love. I suppose that’s why I’ve been thinking lately about ways to integrate some social features into such existing settings.

One potential I’m excited about is the open source tool Elgg. I still need to dig into it more deeply (perhaps in my post-graduation unemployment come June?), but this thing has some potential. According to the blurb at SourceForge, “Elgg is an open source social networking platform developed for LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) which encompasses weblogging, file storage, RSS aggregation, personal profiles, FOAF functionality and more.”

Simply put, it’s a tool that enables you to provide some of those fancy social features all the cool kids today are using — on your existing platform. Want to provide your users a blog? Wiki? Online IDs and messaging? It’s looking to me that Elgg could be your answer. A titillatingly titled Wired article on social software trends in education talks about Elgg is being used at the University of Brighton (UK), France Telecom, and others.

You can get Elgg in a whitebox, open source, customize-it-yourself platform, or you can purchase a ready-to-roll, supported enterprise version. We can talk later about the effective use OSS participation incentives (in this case, the open source developer also runs a company that sells an enterprise version), but that’s another post or two.

So far I’m really taken with the profile page functionality you can provide for users. In many cases that might be all you need (but come on, don’t stop there….). ‘ll dig around in this and report back in a while.

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out where I heard about Elgg — the American Libraries Association! Imagine that…I’m on the web looking for cool stuff all the time and I find this cool software in an ALA email (well, it was actually just a link to the actually pretty poor Wired story, but I think ALA still gets props for sending me in the right direction). Dave Tosh of Elgg and CurveRider posts over at EduSpaces (yes, an Elgg platformed site) clears up some misinformation in the Wired story starts another conversation.

So, anyone out there used Elgg? Have another worthy tool I’ve missed?

Meredith Farkas wrote what looks to be a great book, Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online. I haven’t read it yet but it’s getting some good reviews. There are been some problems with the first print run, so general availability won’t be for a few weeks. (Amazon has one copy for $65!) I hope your library has ordered it already. Based on the quality of Meredith’s blog, it should be a good one.

Tim dutifully posted many, many months ago with his thoughts on Ranganathan. I can barely say the guy’s name, let alone contemplate further theorizing on and updating of his thoughts. I got so overwhelmed by the idea that I decided to wait to post until everyone was so desperate for more discussion on this blog that they didn’t care about whether I responded to Ranganathan or not. I think that time is here.

I’ve been taking an Online Communities class at school and a lot of what we’ve been discussing is what defines an online community. This is an interesting topic to me because I think communities are constantly shifting and its sometimes really difficult to determine who is in a community and who is not. And one person may think he or she is part of a community while another community member might not think so. This dynamic makes it hard to define an online community since it often means something different to everyone. So I’ve been trying to decide on the characteristics of a online community that need to be present in order for me to define it as an online community. Here’s what I think but I’d like to hear from others. An online community is a group of people:

1. with some notion of membership (possibly defined differently by different members)
2. with a shared purpose or goal
3. with communication among members
4. with a communication structure mediated by technology

What does the community think?

Indian classification guru S.R. Ranganathan definitely had it right with his Five Laws of Library Science. His laws remain virtually timeless as written. They don’t need need anything from a hack like me.

But…as an exercise I figure the laws are fair game. To my thinking, anything us students can do to help us frame our thinking as we tackle the challenge of being new information professionals in the 21st century is good, right?

The Service of Information
It goes without saying that we are about more than just books. As our blog title notes, we care about Information. We’re also in agreement on the importance (THE importance!) of Service, so I think it’s helpful to view the Laws through that lens as well. So, with apologies to S.R., I humbly propose Five Little Considerations of Information Service:

1. Information is for use.
2. Every person his or her Information.
3. Every Information its user.
4. Save the time of the user.
5. The library is a growing organism.

I’m having trouble with number 5. Is library (and for those who aren’t familiar with the original laws, I basically just subbed Information for Library) still appropriate? I thought about using web or Internet but what about physical items? I think one of the main roles of libraries (now, but especially in the future), is to provide the service bridging physical and virtual collections, the web, and whatever ever new info sources come down the pipe. Can we just use Information as in “Information is a growing organism” or is that too generic and too much of pathway to those academic but not so useful discussions about what is knowledge, what is information, what is a document, blah, blah, blah….?

What do you think?