• Commentary,  Writing

    Pro and Amateur

    Dave Winer and Glen Reynolds posted about a conversation regarding blogging they shared with a journalist. Since the context is not completely clear from their blogs, I’m going to hazard a guess that the distinction they each make between professional and amateur is really between journalists versus amateur blogging journalists, but I’m quite possibly wrong. In any case, their posts, and a coincidence I describe below, got me thinking about blogs and credentials, and the meanings of amateur and professional.

    Yesterday Dave linked, kindly and unexpectedly, to this blog.

    As you can probably imagine, I got a lot of hits, more than my site has ever had in a single day in the five years it’s been up (shocking, I know, but apparently there aren’t a lot of people interested in medieval Celtic literature). I also got mail, including four people inquiring about my credentials. Three were largely interested in my scholarly credentials, one in my geek cred. In other words, they wanted to know, am I a professional or an amateur?

    Etymologically, amateur is derived from Latin, amator, or “lover.” Profession, from the verb profess, is derived from Latin via French, professus, to affirm openly, with the historical denotation of taking vows. There is an implication, pointed up by the third definition of amateur, that an amateur is not to be taken seriously. I think that’s an unfortunate error, both socially and linguistically (it is the third definition; check out the word history note).

    Now, if I were applying for a job, sure, I’d think credentials are important since they provide public external validation. But this is a public “opinionated” blog. You don’t have to read it, or believe anything I say.

    It seems to me that the quality of the data, the information itself, is more important than knowing the “credentials” of the poster. It’s pretty clear when I’m offering my opinion, and I am just careful on the web to include citations in the form of links to the sites I’m quoting, using as sources, or just pointing to for more information, as I am about documenting my sources in conventional publishing via footnotes and bibliographic citations. Frankly, I think there’s not a whole lot of difference between a link and a foot note or an in text citation. Maybe because I’m a medievalist, I tend to see links as akin to footnotes, glosses, and annotations, and the web, like manuscripts or codex books, as just another kind of container for text and other data. The link back strikes me as normal courteous scholarly behavior.

    Certainly there are learned skills (just ask your local information professional, the librarian) involved in evaluating sources, in being able to decide if a source, whether a person, a blog or book, is “good.” But credentials don’t really indicate an individual’s data worthiness, or ability to provide “authenticated,” data is better than someone else’s.

    Buy me a Coffee! If you find this post or this site interesting, and would like to see more, buy me a coffee. While I may actually buy coffee, I’ll probably buy books to review.

  • Apple,  News

    Apple QuickTime 6 Preview, Broadcast, OS X 10.1.5, eMacs for Everyone

    Apple has released a public preview (pre-beta) of QuickTime 6 . New features include MPEG-4 File Format (.mp4), MPEG-4 Video, AAC Audio, Instant-On, Skip Protection, Updated User Interface and more. The standalone installer for Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, and Windows is here. There’s even an uninstaller that removes QT 6 Preview, and reinstalls QT 5.

    In tandem with the QT 6 Preview, Apple has released a preview of their free live streaming server software, Broadcaster. It looks like the licensing issues with MPEG-4 will be solved. The Preview supports MPEG-4 audio and video, as well as the associated audio codec, AAC audio. The quality of the sound and audio for these codecs is astonishing, especially when you realize how small the files are, and how much control you have over the quality. Here’s Apple’s comparison gallery for AAC, and comparison for MPEG-4.

    Apple has also released OS X 10.1.5, a 22.4 megabyte free update, available via Software Update. 10.1.5 includes lots of support for devices, like more cameras, CD burners, card readers, and “enhancements” which improve the reliability of Mac OS X applications, improved networking, and security. iTools and Mail.app, and Sherlock are all specifically mentioned in the release note, as are improvements to Chinese and Korean language support (an improved input method), improved battery life for many G3 powerbooks, support for 2D and QuickTime hardware acceleration for Rage Pro (a big deal for older G3 hardware).

    We’re still waiting for the new OS version, code name Jaguar, which is promised late this summer, and looks very good indeed for both users and developers, with lots of support for standards.

    CNET has an interview with Steve Jobs, where, among other things, he discusses the importance of open standards like MPEG-4, LDAP and others to Apple’s future strategy, and reveals that the eMac, the $1099.00 all-in-one 17 inch CRT Mac originally available only to education customers can now be purchased by anyone, at $300.00 less than the stunning flat-panel iMac.

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  • Commentary,  Pedagogy,  Software,  Writing

    Weblogs, Outlines, and Writing

    Dave Winer has posted aboout a new tool he’s working on, his Weblog Outliner.

    I want this.

    I think the ability to outline and post has enormous potential for not only blogging and writing, but for teaching writing. I don’t require students to turn in or use an outline, but I do require them to use any of a variety of pre-writing tools and techniques before they start. List-making and outlines are two that students seem particularly drawn to.

    The virtue of doing the outline/listing publicly over the net are:

    • Public writing, shared writing, is taken seriously. Students are eager to revise.
    • If the writing is by its nature public within the defined community, then the temptation to plagiarize is less, since the source will be known to others of the community.
    •  I can help and interact with students “on the fly.” They can help and learn from each other.
    •  Structure, of piece of writing, and of individual paragraphs and sentences, is one of the hardest things to explain to students. Outlines and lists help make the structures of an essay and of individual paragraphs much easier to understand and manipulate.
    •  The web and good technology are intriguing, and fun, and their use in writing can help seduce students to write, and to find that they enjoy writing and communicating in and of itself.
    •   Having students post the final version in a non outline form, publishing their essays on the web, of course shares many of these virtues. Web log tools can make that much easier.

    The problem is that Radio as it stands is too unfinished, too arcane and poorly designed in terms of UI to use widely in education. It’s too hard for consumers to set up and use, the documentation is awful, the Mac UI violates several basic Mac standards, and is needlessly arcane. OPML has potential, but it needs to be freed from Radio Userland’s bowels and set free so professional developers can employ it as a standard. Left to Userland’s developers, it will languish and choke.

  • Tips


    I’ve added a link to my neighbors over there on the left, or you can see my weblog neighborhood here. It’s a new tool added to Radio. This is a Good Thing.

    Why, you ask, is this A Good Thing? For a variety of reasons, including courtesy to the hardworking bloggers I read, to let them know that they are doing A Good Thing. But an even better reason is that allows me, and you, to find sites and blogs we did not know about, and would like to, and even should.

    Already I have newly subscribed to Future of the Book News, the blog of a really neat site that I didn’t and should have known about.

  • Commentary,  Software


    I’ve started using, or trying to use the Story feature in Radio. Writing the Story was fairly simple, and submitting it was equally clear. I’d like to add a link to the story I just wrote to my Navigation links on the left. It’s listed in the Story page , but clicking the link there points to my local file, not the one on the web. Supposedly if I use the name of the Story in double quotes like this “About this Blog” Radio will transform it into a link.

    Well, that worked. Now, in order to get the link and add it to my Navigator settings, I went to the page and copied the URL. There’s probably a much smarter way to do it than that, but it works.

  • Culture and Society

    It’s about *teks-

    Ted Nelson via Scripting News:

    Today’s nightmarish new world is controlled by ‘webmasters’, tekkies unlikely to understand the niceties of text issues and preoccupied with the Web’s exploding alphabet soup of embedded formats.

    Nelson makes some good points about the uses of text. Later though, in his discussion of linking, he makes some troubling assertions.

    I want to write a more thoughtful post in response, from the stand point of someone with a lot of experience with digital and analog text, and the worlds of vellum and and silicon. I’m going to have to find some time to sit down and write a bit about hypertext, and glosses, and manuscripts, and linking and annotation. This is a good opportunity to try using the Radio Story feature, for longer posts.

    But in the meantime, I want to point to the proto Indo-European root for text, and subtle and architect and technology (but probably not badger)—they all come from *-teks. Yes, that’s right, Nelson’s “tekkie,” an epithet that always irritates me, is in fact derived from the same linguistic DNA that gave us his revered text.

    And while you’re waiting for my magnum opus[sic], go read Stalking the Digital Rhetoric. It’s about text.

  • Culture and Society

    Hypertext and Mackers

    Wired has a review of multimedia artist dlsan’s HyperMacbeth. dlsan’s web-based piece of interactive performance art uses phrases from the play and places them against an annoying Flash annimation. He has also translated the Macbeth bits into Italian, and accompanied the production with music from Nine Inch Nails and others.

    I hate it. Yeah, I know, it’s non-linear, it’s hypertext electronic literature, it’s art. I think it’s annoying and ugly and silly. I’d much rather look at and listen to the Mackers à la Eminem parody.

    And for those of more scholarly bent, why then, you can’t do better than the Voyager Macbeth E-book CD-ROM.

  • Commentary,  Security

    Real Names

    Much to my amusement, I discovered a faculty member who typically located items on the web by opening up Internet Explorer and typing in words or phrases she thought would be “reasonable.” Just the words, no scheme/protocol heading, and no www or domain suffix.

    More often than not, her search strategy worked. That’s because of Real Names’ keyword technology, licensed by content providers and deployed by Microsoft via I.E. It was a clever technology, and was particularly good in that it supported non-Roman writing systems like Japanese and Korean.

    Microsoft, the key invester (Verisign was another), decided to shut down RealNames earlier this month, and not for money reasons, or a lack of faith in the technology (oddly, they recently registered a patent of their own that’s strikingly similar in intent to Real Names), or the company. You can read about it on former Real Names’ CEO Keith Teare’s web log, though Microsoft doesn’t want you to.

    This strikes me as a suspicious set of circumstances, but even if you’re not a cynic like me, the technology is a good one for both naive uses, users who want to browse the web in lanuguages other than English, and smart companies with a desire to market their products and services

  • Commentary,  Writing

    It’s About Writing

    Dave Winer, in an old Wired interview he doesn’t much like, is quoted as saying:

    To me, the Web is not about getting rich. It’s about users, designers, stories, and pictures. It’s a writing environment..

    I think he’s exactly right. Blogging, for all the ability to add or link to images, is one of the ways the primacy of text is still apparent on the net. Text is an efficient low-bandwidth form of data, and writing is an artform (well, other people’s writing is).

    The next time I teach, whether it’s a freshman composition class or a literature class, I’ll definitely be blogging, and I’ll do my best to incorporate blogging into the syllabus. People take their writing far more seriously when they know they have readers, and when writing is made public, it suddenly is taken far more seriously.

  • Commentary,  Scholarship

    SCORM and Modules

    The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article about standards for courseware and CMS allowing “mix and match” development:

    For the first time, evolving technical standards for software are making it possible for colleges to customize distance-learning programs by easily mixing online-learning software from multiple companies.

    This is of course exactly the approach to a CMS system that makes the most sense to me. One of the standards the article refers to is SCORM, “the Sharable Content Object Reference Mode.” Here’s a good overview of SCORM. The difficulty is that talking about a standard is one thing; actually adhering to it is another, far more important step.