Evolving notes, images and sounds by Luis Apiolaza

Category: meta (Page 1 of 6)

Taylor & Francis made me do it

Today I received an email from Taylor & Francis letting me know that the final volume and pagination for one of our papers was available, and telling me that I should share this paper with the world. I should, as the open access (OA) costs are USD 3,000+. The article is here, by the way.

Today Elsevier sent me an email as well, confirming that OA fees of USD 3,400+ for our new accepted article were covered by our university’s Read and Publish Agreement.

Also today (it was a busy day!), MDPI sent me an email, stating that the authors of a new review were sharing their new OA article with me. It cost them 2,600 Swiss Francs or roughly USD 2,900 to do so. I consider MDPI Forests borderline predatory, so I wouldn’t pay to go there, but “cada loco con su tema”, as we say in Spanish.

I am part of a priviledged group, who works at one of the members of CAUL, an organisation for university libraries in Australia and New Zealand. We have access to big bucket agreements with publishers (the usual suspects like Elsevier, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, etc). We have a quota of articles, first-in, first-served, that are published open access “for free”. Not quite, the universities pay for that quota, but researchers are not charged individually.

This situation creates funny incentives: OA publishing in journals run by big publishers has no direct cost to me. OA publishing in journals that I like—Annals of Forest Science, for example—but that are not part of my university agreement is unaffordable. I literally have no funding for it. As Annals of Forest Science only publishes OA articles, that’s bye, bye for me. A good alternative, in forestry at least, is to publish for free in an OA journal like the New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science. Give them a  try.

Today I was left with the horrible feeling that we are burning money for no clear purpose in the current publication environment. We could easily pay for better PhD scholarships or postdoc salaries with that money, although is not available for those purposes. We can only use it to keep on feeding publishers with insanely high profit rates. Crazy.

Anyway, if you are interested in essential oils from eucalypts, read the article. I mentioned this work before but now comes with fresh, shiny, cineole-smelling page numbers. Either that or the article smells like burning money.

Keeping track of my links

I have been using internet since 1993, which means thousands of browsed sites, broken links, storing and losing information for over three decades. One obvious point of the exercise is that every time I have relied on someone else’s system I have ended up losing lots of information.

Delicio.us, Twitter, etc. have consumed my data and time without an ability to maintain a good archive of my information. The only data that has remained is the one I have personally stored under my own system/payment. I have been a slow learner in this respect, so I have started another section of this site, Aleph, just to store bits and pieces of information I am collecting while browsing.

The first post in Aleph briefly documents the rationale; actually it just links to Cory Doctorow’s post to that effect.

Looser social media

On 5th May I wrote something very simple and not new in Mastodon, which appeared to resonate with a few people:

I don’t understand the idea that the Fediverse HAS to grow to compete with service X or it will be irrelevant.

Firstly a network has to be useful to its members, who do not necessarily want to be driving the news cycle.

The need for continuous growth and influence comes from investors looking at making a profit, independently of how damaging the network becomes to members and overall society.

It is a simple position that predates the current dominant social networks, and I am sure people involved in the Fediverse for over a decade already had it in mind.

The quoted post was part of a much longer set of exchanges with other Mastodonians. Missing that context, some readers misinterpreted my post, thinking that I opposed any growth. Just to be clear, I am not arguing that the Fediverse should not growth, but that its success should not be primarily evaluated by how big it gets. Moreover, I have two additional considerations:

  • Grow *should be* distributed across many instances rather than over a few enormous ones. This improves the resilience of the network by increasing diversity and improving the ability to have meaningful moderation.
  • We should think of more diverse “social media” beyond clones of the current dominant commercial offers. Part of this could be going back to the origins of internet, loosely linking static pages, wikis, blogs, etc.

I have a strong preference for diversity of approaches towards online communication. There used to be multiple blogging software, a very large number of wiki versions and we have been confronted for multiple waves of consolidation. Not everything has to be federated and I envision a revival of RSS.

Social everything buckets

In 2009, Alex Payne wrote an article about the proliferation of Everything buckets, at least in the Mac universe. Software like Yojimbo, Bento, Eaglefiler, Devonthink, etc. Virtual scrapbooks with all sorts of information that does not necessarily belong together. Part of the complaint was about having applications that do everything poorly, instead of dealing with different types of data in separate programs.

In real life, when we are off-line, we rely on contexts. If I meet with friends or acquaintances of a social or sports club I tend to talk about whatever social or sport activity is behind the meeting. I can talk about other things, but people could be less interested or even prefer not to talk about that. I may know a few people I am willing to talk about anything with them, but I can count them with my fingers.

My gut feeling is that well-known social media completely ignores context and they are big social everything buckets. You throw any topic in and the expectation is that people should take it. Some sites develop filters, block lists, folksonomies for which one can opt-in or opt-out, but that still leaves open a good part of the bucket. In the Fediverse there is also another bucket restriction: Content Warnings, which reveal only part of the post and hide the rest. Depending on the instance, there is more or less enforcement of content warnings, with highly variable rules about what, if anything, should be behind a warning.

Some communities, say victims of sex abuse, prefer CW. Others, say people affected by racism, prefer not to have warnings. I think there is no technical solution, because it is not a technical problem. It is a social problem coming from sharing a context-less everything bucket. Communities are not identical to instances; some instances (especially the large ones) host many communities. There are instances, usually small, that host a single community.

There is an element of intersectionality/commonality behind (some) of the problems for which we use content warnings. There also are different ways of coping/grieving with those problems. Someone may have been affected by sex abuse and be OK to discuss the abuse. Someone else may be often exposed to racism but prefer not to talk about that. We also have variability within communities for each of these issues.

Personally, speaking as the brown immigrant with a non-native English accent, I have faced racism and xenophobia quite a few times*. Sometimes I like to share a few of those experiences, but I find it tiring to speak of them too often. I would prefer not to read about it al the time, because I’m already affected by it in real life. But that’s me, others prefer to share it all the time, which is another option. Personally, I have no way forward to “solve” this problem, except to acknowledge that there is no single way to make everyone happy while sharing in a place where context is absent.

*I almost wrote the typical “my fair share of” but the only fair share is zero.

I’m not a content creator

I struggle with the word “content”—as used in “content creator” or “content producer”—to refer to creative endeavours. Content as something included or contained into a blank space. Content as fungible filler, writing, sounds, images that can be easily (unnoticeably) replaced with something else.

“Content” diminishes creation. As an amateur I create writings, pictures, code and sounds for the sake of it, because I love (amare) doing it. Likely it is not at the same level as a professional who does it for a living, but these activities are a part of me.

“Content” reduces creation to units of commercial exchange, which are the opposite of why I, and probably many people, spend time creating and sharing what I do.

I’m a creator, but not of content, and I share my creations for free.

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