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I'm a systems librarian, meaning that I glue together data (preferably open) from lots of different systems (also preferably open).

Why I want WHOIS privacy services to continue

2 min read

I just sent the following email to ICANN in relation to their proposal to restrict WHOIS privacy services:
As a software developer and librarian who has maintained a variety of his own websites for over a decade now, I appreciate the value of WHOIS privacy services.

After my first child was born, I realized that having my home address and contact information readily available through WHOIS records was perhaps a little more transparency than I desired for the kinds of content that I was posting--mostly about open source projects, but occasionally veering into political discussions--and I paid for a PO box at the cost of approximately $120 per year simply to provide a layer of protection of that personal information.
When I realized that WHOIS privacy services were available for free through my domain registrar, it enabled me to save a not inconsiderable sum annually. While I could afford that luxury, I'm concerned that many others are not in such a fortunate position, and would thus either be more exposed on the Internet, or perhaps suffer a chilling effect in terms of their willingness to speak their thoughts freely through their own website.

Having been lightly doxxed in another venue, I am, of course, aware that there are other means to track down identifying information a person in a particular community, but keeping the option of WHOIS privacy services to make that task a little bit more work for the edgecase elements of our society is, I believe, the correct ethical stance for ICANN to take.
Thank you,

Dan Scott

Sudbury transportation plan: open data formats please!

2 min read

I had the pleasure of speaking at Sudbury City Council's public meeting on the draft Transportation Master Plan today; here is (roughly) what I said:

Thank you your worship and councilors for the opportunity to speak to you; I am humbled to follow so many excellent speakers tonight. My name is Dan Scott, and I am speaking independently today. I have lived in the South End of Sudbury for 9 years now, after surviving many years commuting via motorcycle on the Don Valley Parkway and taking public transit (and occasionally cycling) from midtown Toronto to Markham. Now, as a librarian at Laurentian University, I am particularly interested in the availability of information and data for reuse by academics and members of the public. As such, I had the distinct pleasure of being an invited speaker at the Open Government Tour held at City Hall last fall.

Looking, then, at the Transportation Master Plan; the current document contains a number of maps which are available, to the best of my knowledge, only as PDF--a read only format. While this is a useful format for the purposes of reading the plan itself, it does not allow for reuse in other contexts. For example, overlaying the proposed routes with different data layers such as ecological habitats of various species, watersheds, planning zones, commercial centres, cultural entities, parks, or as Matt Alexander painstakingly constructed, the plotting of accident data, could enable new insights into the intersection of these various facets of our city.

Therefore, in the spirit of this Council's recent and laudable adoption of the "open data by default" policy, I would request that the source formats for the data and particularly the maps contained in the plan be made publicly and openly available as soon as possible, in formats such as KML and/or SHP files that support their reuse in the creation of new maps, and that they be kept up to date as the plan undergoes revision in the future.

Excerpts from OLAC 2015-03 newsletter on #BIBFRAME and Zepheira training

2 min read

Came across an interesting peek behind the walls of Zepheira training around BIBFRAME in the OLAC March 2015 newsletter (page 21). On the current training model:

Thus far, there have been a number of surprises. First, institutions are paying for a semi-structured training model where Zepheira is learning from participants to improve and refine future trainings. This has some disadvantages, one being that Zepheira does not really provide feedback to participants, but receives feedback for their product. Second, all were surprised that BIBFRAME is not nearly as done as expected.

There is a lack of consensus as to what BIBFRAME is supposed to be doing. Library of Congress is doing their thing, OCLC theirs, and Zepheira theirs. It was seen in general that in this mix Zepheira is being paid to fine tune their product. This process is just not as open as everyone thought it would be.


However, some of the information in the presentations is out of date and not well produced. It is clear that a definite pedagogy is missing. In its current format, the majority of people would not recommend this training, which needs to be restructured. In short, because of its cost, this training may not be available to all.

I certainly have empathy for Zepheira; it has to be challenging to pull together a solid training regimen when the technology (both the vocabulary and the tools to support it) is still being developed. But if the best and the brightest, leading edge practitioners in the field of cataloguing are coming away disappointed, that's a bit of a blow to the future adoption of BIBFRAME.

Here's hoping future iterations of the training do better.

(Thanks to Jennifer Strover who tweeted about the OLAC newsletter content!)

Update 2015-03-14: Looking at this post again in the clear light of the day, I realize that it reads more negatively than I intended. Zepheira has been great about sharing the tools that they've developed (such as BIBFRAME Scribe and pybibframe) under the open source Apache 2.0 license, and on the training sessions, I meant to say that, knowing some of the people at Zepheira, and how skilled and dedicated they are, I have no doubt that things will improve.