Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

The Continuing Adventures of WorldCat: Conditions, not Restrictions

I won’t blame you if you haven’t been following the librarian/blogosphere coverage of the new OCLC/WorldCat use policy. Long story short: OCLC, the non-profit that controls the database of books that most libraries use and contribute to just released a new policy that makes reuse a lot more restrictive. There has already been a lot of Orwellian, corporation-like and pre-Internet thinking from the OCLC. Now for some more.

The OCLC released the newest version of the policy, but only as a PDF. Library-bloggers had already run ‘diff’s on previous HTML versions to see how each successive version changed, but now with the differently formatted (and harder to manipulate) PDF, the OCLC must be clicking their telegraphs in joy at how they foiled the new-age blogger librarians. Not so fast.

There’s already a ‘diff’ with the new version– and it gets more Orwellian. Instead of any change in actual policy, the newest version simply replaces every occurrence of the word ‘restriction’ with ‘condition’. Oh, that makes it so much better.

ALSO: the OCLC policy is nothing like Creative Commons, so I would advise them to stop making that comparison. CC does not require approval for reuse.


UPDATE: I can haz Worldcat?!?

The Barefoot Criminal of the Future

shoe print

Threat Level blogger Ryan Singel writes about Dr. Sargur Srihari, a computer science professor at Buffalo University, who is building a search engine to allow police to search shoe prints.

It would work by allowing forensic units to submit a photographs of a print and have the system figure out the gender, size and brand. No, CSI: Boise, that problem hasn’t been solved yet.

Of course, says Srihari:

Still Srihari says any would-be criminals would be smart to avoid sneakers. “Go in a suit if you commit a crime — there are no prints on dress shoes,” Srihari said.


Matthew Lasar at Ars Technica makes a point I’ve been thinking about for a while now– that looks like it was designed 10 years ago and has not been changed since.

Lasar makes five recommendations. The first four are actually about the usability of the web site, the fifth is about how FCC operates in general. Improving the ease of search and commenting is obvious– but the suggestions about RSS and requiring indecency complainers to certify that they’ve actually seen the program are inspired. Good stuff.