Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gresham's Law

Jeffrey Beall, who has done invaluable work identifying predatory publishers and garnered legal threats for his pains, reports that:
Hyderabad, India-based open-access publisher OMICS International is on a buying spree, snatching up legitimate scholarly journals and publishers, incorporating them into its mega-fleet of bogus, exploitative, and low-quality publications. ... OMICS International is on a mission to take over all of scholarly publishing. It is purchasing journals and publishers and incorporating them into its evil empire. Its strategy is to saturate scholarly publishing with its low-quality and poorly-managed journals, aiming to squeeze out and acquire legitimate publishers.
Below the fold, a look at how OMICS demonstrates the application of Gresham's Law to academic publishing.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Star Wars Storage Media

At Motherboard, Sarah Jeong's From Tape Drives to Memory Orbs, the Data Formats of Star Wars Suck is a must-read compendium of the ridiculous data storage technologies of the Empire and its enemies.

Its a shame that she uses "formats" when she means "media". But apart from serious questions like:
Why must the Death Star plans be stored on a data tape the size of four iPads stacked on top each other? Obi-Wan can carry a map of the entire galaxy in a glowing marble, and at the end of Episode II, Count Dooku absconds with a thumb drive or something that contains the Death Star plans.
absolutely the best thing about it is that it inspired Cory Doctorow to write Why are the data-formats in Star Wars such an awful mess? Because filmmakers make movies about filmmaking. Doctorow understands that attitudes to persistent data storage are largely hang-overs from the era of floppy disks and ZIP drives:
But we have a persistent myth of the fragility of data-formats: think of the oft-repeated saw that books are more reliable than computers because old floppy disks and Zip cartridges are crumbling and no one can find a drive to read them with anymore. It's true that media goes corrupt and also true that old hardware is hard to find and hard to rehabilitate, but the problem of old floppies and Zips is one of the awkward adolescence of storage: a moment at which hard-drives and the systems that managed them were growing more slowly than the rate at which we were acquiring data.
So:
the destiny of our data will be to move from live, self-healing media to live, self-healing media, without any time at rest in near-line or offline storage, the home of bitrot. 
Just go read the whole of both pieces.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Transition (personal)

After eighteen and a quarter years I'm now officially retired from Stanford and the LOCKSS Program. Its been a privilege to work with the LOCKSS team all this time, and especially with Tom Lipkis, whose engineering skills were essential to the program's success.

I'm grateful to Michael Keller, Stanford's Librarian, who has consistently supported the program, to the National Science Foundation, Sun Microsystems, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (especially to Don Waters) for funding the development of the system, and to the member institutions of the LOCKSS Alliance and the CLOCKSS Archive for supporting the system's operations.

I'm still helping with a couple of on-going projects, so I still have a stanford.edu e-mail address. And I have the generous Stanford retiree benefits. Apart from my duties as a grandparent, and long-delayed tasks such as dealing with the mess in the garage, I expect also to be doing what I can to help the Internet Archive, and continuing to write for my blog.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Error 400: Blogger is Bloggered

If you tried to post a comment and got the scary message:
Bad Request
Error 400
please read below the fold for an explanation and a work-around.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Travels with a Chromebook

Two years ago I wrote A Note Of Thanks as I switched my disposable travel laptop from an Asus Seashell to an Acer C720 Chromebook running Linux. Two years later I'm still traveling with a C720. Below the fold, an update on my experiences.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Walking Away From The Table

Last time we were buying a car, at the end of a long and frustrating process we finally decided that what we wanted was the bottom end of the range, with no options. The dealer told us that choice wasn't available in our market. We said "OK, call us if you ever find a car like that" and walked away. It was just over two weeks before we got the call. At the end of 2014 I wrote:
The discussions between libraries and major publishers about subscriptions have only rarely been actual negotiations. In almost all cases the libraries have been unwilling to walk away and the publishers have known this. This may be starting to change; Dutch libraries have walked away from the table with Elsevier.
Actually, negotiations continued and a year later John Bohannon reported for Science that a deal was concluded:
A standoff between Dutch universities and publishing giant Elsevier is finally over. After more than a year of negotiations — and a threat to boycott Elsevier's 2500 journals — a deal has been struck: For no additional charge beyond subscription fees, 30% of research published by Dutch researchers in Elsevier journals will be open access by 2018. ... The dispute involves a mandate announced in January 2014 by Sander Dekker, state secretary at the Ministry for Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands. It requires that 60% of government-funded research papers should be free to the public by 2019, and 100% by 2024.
By being willing to walk away, the Dutch achieved a partial victory against Elsevier's defining away of double-dipping, their insistance that author processing charges were in addition to subscriptions not instead of subscriptions. This is a preview of the battle over the EU's 2020 open access mandate.

The UK has just concluded negotiations, and a major German consortium is in the midst of them. Below the fold, some commentary on their different approaches.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Reference Rot Is Worse Than You Think

At the Fall CNI Martin Klein presented a new paper from LANL and the University of Edinburgh, Scholarly Context Adrift: Three out of Four URI References Lead to Changed Content. Shawn Jones, Klein and the co-authors followed on from the earlier work on web-at-large citations from academic papers in Scholarly Context Not Found: One in Five Articles Suffers from Reference Rot, which found:
one out of five STM articles suffering from reference rot, meaning it is impossible to revisit the web context that surrounds them some time after their publication. When only considering STM articles that contain references to web resources, this fraction increases to seven out of ten.
Reference rot comes in two forms:
  • Link rot: The resource identified by a URI vanishes from the web. As a result, a URI reference to the resource ceases to provide access to referenced content.
  • Content drift: The resource identified by a URI changes over time. The resource’s content evolves and can change to such an extent that it ceases to be representative of the content that was originally referenced.
Source
The British Library's Andy Jackson analyzed the UK Web Archive and found:
I expected the rot rate to be high, but I was shocked by how quickly link rot and content drift come to dominate the scene. 50% of the content is lost after just one year, with more being lost each subsequent year. However, it’s worth noting that the loss rate is not maintained at 50%/year. If it was, the loss rate after two years would be 75% rather than 60%. This indicates there are some islands of stability, and that any broad ‘average lifetime’ for web resources is likely to be a little misleading.
Clearly, the problem is very serious. Below the fold, details on just how serious and discussion of a proposed mitigation.