mukurtu – content management with cultural protocols

My absolute favourite presentation of the IFLA Indigenous Knowledges Conference came on Saturday afternoon, when Kim Christen talked about Mukurtu an indigenous community-focused open-source content management system they’ve been developing. It’s based on Drupal and has cultural protocols (those issues of who can see what kind of information in a culture that I talked about earlier) baked right into the system. The Plateau People’s Web Portal is a site built with the system, and the

Whereas in many museum and archive settings knowledge is “given,” here we have sought to create a space to open dialogue and allow many perspectives to sit side by side. Instead of “finding” information, the portal seeks to be a space where knowledge is created in constant conversation.

I love this kind of thing, all using the technology to build something to satisfy the community’s requirements instead of fitting the community into the tech. So fucking good. Oh and wait, there’s more.

The Mukurtu project is also developing Traditional Knowledge licenses (and labels for now). These are being designed to apply to knowledge that is out of copyright and in the public domain (which has traditionally been a way for white folks to use traditional knowledge artifacts out of context and in kind of terrible ways) and to give more information about how that knowledge should be used respectfully. Our little corner of library school students in the back was giddy and cheering at this point.

Myron and I talked to Kim Christen after her talk and she talked about how Creative Commons is great for artists and writers working today, but it falls apart with traditional culture (and copyright has never worked). The fact that people are working on this kind of issue, and not just making vague blanket statements is exciting and is the kind of thing that library schools (like UBC’s SLAIS) should be getting involved in.

game review: pandemic

Friday was our last SLAIS potluck for a majority of the cohort of students I began library school with, and our friend Jonathan (who isn’t graduating just yet) brought boardgames. He always brings games. It’s good to have him around. One of the games he brought was Pandemic, a game of trying to save the world from ravaging epidemics through science and cooperation (you do not need to be a scientist to play Pandemic).

There are four strains of disease which are spreading around the world. To win you have to cure all four strains while keeping the diseases you haven’t cured from spreading around the globe. The board is a map of Earth, with major world cities as the sites of infection. One side effect of this play area is that there’s a bit of an American bias, since they get a pile of cities to cover North America, while Asia gets about the same number. So it’s not quite as realistic as it might be. It didn’t bother us too much, except when we noticed the casual disregard we had for certain areas (“Meh, Justin can handle Asia” was a common comment). Also, the assumption that we’re all American researchers from the CDC in Atlanta is a little ethnocentric.

In the game, every player has a different role and special rules. I was an operations manager, which meant I could build research stations more easily, and you need research stations to research cures to the diseases. Megan was a dispatcher, helping move our scientists around to hotspots, Kerry was a troubleshooter, and Jessie was a generalist so she just got a few more actions per turn.

The way the game works is a player does some stuff, draws some mostly helpful cards (which if they run out means you lose the game) and then flips cards that tell you what cities have been infected next. Every time a city is infected, it gets a cube of the disease’s colour. To cure a disease you need one player to have 5 cards of the disease’s colour in the same city as a research station. This makes the game a careful balancing of shifting people around and collecting cards. You never have quite enough resources to do everything you need to.

While some players are working on collecting cards to cure a disease, some people need to be temporarily getting rid of disease cubes in infected cities. You need to keep those numbers down because if a city has three disease cubes of the same colour and a fourth needs to be added, it instead spreads to all the cities connected to it. If that would push any of those cities over 3 cubes, disease explodes again. It’s fucking terrifying.

Adding to the stress is the way Epidemic cards make you reshuffle the cities that have already been infected and put them on top of the deck to draw more from. These epidemic cards come up randomly and can have a huge impact in making you see a city get infected a pile of times in what seems like a row (our early hot zone was Milan). It’s a great mechanic for upping the tension and Pandemic is definitely filled with tension. I completely loved it.

It’s difficult. We ended up winning, but discovered we’d been cheating by having a few too many expansion cards in our deck, which gave us a few extra cards worth of time to cure all the diseases.

back to school

Online school, for a few weeks. I’m enrolled in an online SLAIS course on social media taught by Dean Giustini. You may remember Dean from me mentioning his social media discussion we had back in the heady days of libr500 when he came to talk to the class in an optional lab.

Instead of just sliding the course-talk in here amongst the book reviews and work-related things, I’ve been convinced to give it its own blog on the UBC system. I called it Librarianautica since I have no imagination/like to keep my branding a little bit consistent. I’ll most likely end up bringing all those posts over here when the course is done, but who knows. Maybe I’ll just scatter blogs behind me wherever I walk, never integrating, always containing multitudes. Selah.

introduction for libr559m

From the Vista Blackboard discussion forum thingy, a piece of software I am not too big a fan of, for LIBR559m.

I’m Justin and I’m in Sydney Australia doing a SLAIS co-op term – two terms in a row, I guess – as a systems librarian doing tech support for piles of special libraries. I started at SLAIS last September.

I’ve had a blog since 2002 (Wil Wheaton made me do it). When I was in journalism school in 2004 we had a New Media class and talked about how the world was changing ad nauseum. And then I participated in the change (doing interviews about crowdsourcing from the citizen-journalism fringes). So when I talk about this stuff here I’ve totally got my journalist hat on. Fair warning. I see journalism and librarianship being pretty intimately connected and like getting paparazzi flashes in their faces during their private times.

I’ve got my blog for this class set up here, but my more general library/bookish site is Librarianaut.com, my personal blog is The Dubious Monk and I’m @jjackunrau on Twitter. Those’d let you know me a bit better and from some different angles (though I cuss in all of them – again, fair warning).

Looking forward to meeting you.

If you came over here from that you’ll notice there are several months worth of other stuff on this blog already. I imported some Librarianaut posts about library school and SLAIS over because, having blogged for nine years it felt really really naked to not have an archive.

the matter of experience

I see training in Koha as one of my most marketable things I do at Prosentient. It also feels weird to be thinking about how things will look on a resume, but whatever, the job market I’m going into is competitive. If I want a job some day thinking about this stuff is probably going to be a good idea. I’ve been terrible at selling myself in the past, and while there’s a kind of bravado in saying “they didn’t hire me because I was honest” it’s probably good to be honest in positive-about-my-abilities ways along with my standard self-deprecation.

So last week I went out to the Gippsland region in Victoria to train a couple of librarians in using Koha. This is another one of those instances where working for a small company is fun. I was given a lot of trust, some accommodations and a breakdown of how long to spend on each section of the software.

The librarians I was training are attached to hospitals, and very much in the special libraries are a one-person show kind of mould. They knew each other and were very good at asking detailed questions, which was great for me, since I’m more of a responsive teacher than a dictator of holy writ. We pushed the edges of what Koha is capable so they knew what was possible and what wasn’t. I hit the limits of my knowledge several times and brought back questions to answer later.

After our two days, which felt pretty intense on my end, they’ll be going live with their new systems this month. They seemed happy with what I could teach them. It was really fun to be a field agent for a few days. I find that hanging around the office doing so much on the computer is a touch painful. I feel nerves pinching from all the sitting, so it was good to get out into the world and crouch next to some folks who don’t like MARC records but have to use them, and show them how we can make their lives easier.

I do like how directly a couple of my SLAIS courses I took impact my work here (those courses would be Cataloguing and my Instructional Role of the Information Professional). The Instructional one is kind of obvious when I’m talking about going out and running a two day workshop, but even though I’m not hardcore cataloguing, knowing that lingo and how the rules work is really goddamn useful when you’re trying to teach someone how to use the software to do it. I do find that my knowledge of the Acquisitions module of Koha is less extensive since I haven’t had the experience with acquisitions (beyond troubleshooting Koha) that I have with Circulation and Cataloguing.

So yes, I join the chorus of people who say library school students both need to get experience and need to take a fucking cataloguing course. Use. Ful.

the distant future’s course selection

Apart from the shortness of the days around here, January seems a long way away. But late last night I signed up for my January courses.

The plan is to take four and a third courses. One is in Automation and Systems, which is basically the stuff I’m working with day in and day out here at Prosentient. And I have to take the Management course. I decided to take the 1 credit Risk Assessment course because it’s about insurance and stuff I know little about, and the classes are right at the beginning of the term which means it won’t add to the late-term crunch (and since I’ve taken one 1 credit course already it’d be a waste not to take a couple more). And I’m taking a YA services course, taught by my favourite SLAIS instructor so far.

The big choice I made was in taking another Children’s Literature course instead of Database Design. Technically speaking databases are much more practical. I’ve read kids’ books before and probably don’t need special training in dealing with the literature. But fuck it. I’m working with databases now and for the next six months. I want a course where I get to read good books.

And then I’ll still have 2 1/3 courses left for next summer before I’ll have a degree that says I’m a librarian.