June 30, 2009

Academic Publishing

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,Open Access — Biella @ 5:56 am

Last spring I secured a Creative Commons license for my book, which is under contract with Princeton University Press. It was was a huge relief for me as I want to publish with PUP but knew there was a serious contradiction if I published a book on Free Software under a copyright license (sort of like printing a Hindu prayer book on leather…).

This article in the chronicle Saving Texts From Oblivion, which opens with a fascinating though unsurprising finding, points to other reasons why an open license is a sensible thing to do, that is, if you want students to read your book:

At a focus group in Oxford University Press’s offices in New York last month, we heard that in a recent essay assignment for a Columbia University classics class, 70 percent of the undergraduates had cited a book published in 1900, even though it had not been on any reading list and had long been overlooked in the world of classics scholarship. Why so many of the students had suddenly discovered a 109-year-old work and dragged it out of obscurity in preference to the excellent modern works on their reading lists is simple: The full text of the 1900 work is online, available on Google Book Search; the modern works are not.

The article, written by Oxford’s editor, has an interesting set arguments about why to support the Google book settlement. It does not, however, really address the question of book piracy, which if anyone has taken a minute to explore, will notice that it is a booming underground economy and the quality of the books is utterly fantastic.

Given these conditions: what will the academic publishers do? No one, at least in academia, wants them to go under and yet conditions have made it difficult for them to survive. I do hope that some interesting solutions, with the financial aid of university support (after all, many are calling for open access) are hacked up.

Calling for tighter copyright controls as this famous judge has done in the case of newspapers is not the path that I hope anyone entertains. In fact, releasing books after a year or two under a CC license might be one path to take, along with providing affordable e-books so that those who do want to support authors and books buy them instead of hitting the pirate stands.

June 27, 2009

Biella’s Guide to Puerto Rico: El Yunque, The “Rock” and Luquillo

Category: Biella's_Guide_to_Puerto_Rico,Puerto Rico — Biella @ 5:04 pm

El Yunque, The "Rock", originally uploaded by the biella.

Every island kid has been dragged at least once, probably multiple times, to the meandering roads that eventually lead to the Puerto Rican National Rain Forest, El Yunque. One can leave the bustling capital and in about 1 hour find yourself in the smack middle of a tropical rainforest. Once there, you can check out the falls, take a dip in one of the pools “charcos” or take a more challenging hike to reach one of the handful exposed rocks where there are stellar views of the forest and beyond.

I have many memories of this place, most of them great. My parents used to drag me and my sister there at least once a year to “ohh and ahhh” at the small waterfalls on the side of the roads. On occasion we would hike for all of 20 minutes before heading to the beach. In high school, my friends would visit occasionally and then when I worked for an environmental camp after I graduated from high school, I found myself there for days, sleeping under the soggy skies and amidst the unbelievably loud coquis (who sing to mark their tiny territory and attract the ladies, naturally).

Now, like most things on this island, there are serious mistakes to be made when doing anything, whether it is going to the movies (as Micah and I found out last night) as well as hitting the rainforest. All of this is due to one problem: this island is uber-populated and everyone also naturally loves to do stuff…. so the name of the game is often crowds and crowds and crowds.

So, first lesson about El Yunque: If you can avoid going on the weekend, absolutely do so, especially during the summer. It will be much easier to find parking (which is often on the side of the road) and the trails will be less crowded (though that means less chance of hearing some 13 year old kid screaming that he found the Chupacabra, as we were so lucky to hear today). But if you plan on swimming in one of the watering holes/falls, I would avoid the weekend like the plague. Well unless you love swimming in the midst of screaming, though admittedly quite joyful, kids.

Once you enter the preserve, it is worth your while to go to the visitor’s center, which costs a few bucks per person (the park cost nothing to get in, but well, giving a few bucks to a rainforest seems like right thing to do). There you can learn a little more about its history, get a map, and get a first view of the forest since the center is architecturally as it should be: open and airy so it basically bleeds into the canopy of trees.

If you want to hike, there are a handful of trails and many are paved but the longer, more challenging ones are not. The two I recommend are The Trade Winds Trail (which is like not officially kept up, but is kick ass) and El Yunque Trail.

Finding the Trade Winds Trail is a little tricky as it at the end of the road behind the yellow gates and then you have to walk a few more minutes until you see this sign. Here are some more detailedinstructions for finding it. I have slept on this trail, have hiked for 5 hours on it without seeing a soul, and apparently it is even longer…

Another trail, which is definitely worth a whirl, is the El Yunque Trail. There are great instructions if you follow the previous link so I won’t repeat them here. What I like about this is that there is 1) a pygmy forest (I just like saying that phrase) and a grand slam ending, with a beautiful view and when it is totally clear (today was not so clear as the Saharan sands, for reals, were in the air), you can see to the ocean. If it is not clear, it is still pretty nice and in fact, being in the middle of a cloud is just as enchanting as a clear sky and good views.


Biella’s Guide to Puerto Rico

Category: Biella's_Guide_to_Puerto_Rico — Biella @ 5:04 pm

Although I really appreciate sites like Wikitravel, I often find the entries frustratingly thin. Everything is noted but without much emotion or elaboration,which is of course their stylistic format, which makes total sense. But let’s face it: it is hard to read through the lines and figure out what one MUST do in the three days they are in whatever location. There is just very little meat to sink your teeth on, especially when needing to make some quick decisions about what to do and what not to do.

Since I am in Puerto Rico for the rest of the summer and I have traveled up and around the island many times, I thought I would dedicate part of this blog to Biella’s Guide to Puerto Rico. For those that will never visit, you can ignore the series of posts though I do plan on peppering with information that might nonetheless be interesting or not, depending, I guess on my narrative.

I will mostly concentrate on what I will be doing this summer, which is only a small fraction of what I have done and what there is to do since I am for the most part, parked in front of this very computer writing a book. But the mind needs its rest and for me rest means playing at the beach, in the forest, in caves, and listening to some good music. So in this spirit, I will start with today (separate post) as I went on a hike in the national rain forest of the island, El Yunque and the beach Puerto Rican’s love to frequent, Luquillo.

June 23, 2009

If you ever have wondered

Category: Academic,Anthropology — Biella @ 8:04 am

Fieldwork: it is THE method used by anthropologist and is often treated as a loosey goosey set of experiences and techniques, partly because it is. But only partly. If you have ever wanted to read more about fieldwork, my friend Alex Golub has written an interesting account of fieldwork in terms of two realizations.

June 21, 2009

Slides/Video Open Video

Category: Academic,Events,Open Video — Biella @ 6:27 am

Here are my slides from the Open Video Conference. I am not sure they are intelligible on their own but I imagine the video of the talk will be up on the site at some point in the near future. It is a basic overview of an article coming out in August in Cultural Anthropology entitled “Code is Speech: Legal Tinkering, Expertise, and Protest among Free and Open Source Software Developers (no lolcats in the article though, sadly).

The conference was a real interesting event with some great keynotes, panels, and conversations. I was, at first, surprised at the level of attendance, but it is a testament to the vibrancy of the state and promise of open video. I have a feeling that it will be the first of many.

update Videos of the talk are being uploaded here and a host of the recordings are already up here, which are in a non-flash format and apparently for my talk, they were able to capture a plof (that made me laugh early this morning when i could barely even open my eyes):

“More important: the official registration didn’t capture the sound of a bag of crisps that opened with a loud ‘plof’ on the third row.”

June 20, 2009

Cross-Cultural Memes

Category: Events,Memes — Biella @ 12:00 pm

The talk on memes and especially cross-cultural memes at open video conference has been great. Def worth watching.

June 18, 2009

Politics and Poetics of DeCSS

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 4:17 pm

Poetics and Politics of DeCSS, originally uploaded by the biella.

My slides are thankfully done for open video conference. Thankfully so I can go see the talks tomorrow, which you all should do if you are in town!

June 17, 2009

drwxr-xr-x or -rwxr-xr-x (Sherpa RoMeo)

Category: Academic,IP Law,Open Access,Wholesome — Biella @ 11:42 am

Permissions. Unix geeks know them well as they are constantly handing them out, taking them back. Academics, when it comes to their publishing rights, don’t know what permissions they have or given away. Once you signed the contract you may also have no idea where you filed it, if you filed it.

But now if you want to know, it just got a heck of a lot easier. I was just alerted to a website Sherpa RoMeo that helps you figure it all out! As they report on their front page:

“Use this site to find a summary of permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher’s copyright transfer agreement.”

Now that is a nifty tool!

June 16, 2009

Free Wireless in PR

Category: Puerto Rico — Biella @ 1:55 am

San Juan is not teeming with free hot spots but there are certainly a few one can tap into.
Perhaps my favorite place to get wireless is a newish coffee shop on Avenida De Diego in Santurce by the name of Hacienda San Pedro. Their coffee is good, roasted in the shop and a cup of cappuccino is only 1.65.

The other place to get free wireless, which is hard to believe, is Starbucks. Their cappucinos are more like 3+ and usually you have to pay for wireless. For some reason and this has been the case for 5 years now, in every Starbucks I have been to here, including the airport where I am now struggling to stay awake, have provided free wireless with a company called Blue Cenntenial.

The thing is when you fire up your computer, you would never know it was free because you are directed to a log in (or sign up page) where you think that they will of course ask for your credit card information. Well when you sign up, you give your information, which can be fake and under the credit card section, there is sort of nothing there, you finish your transaction and vaulla, free account. They don’t bother to tell you on the page or in the shop this is the case, so you just gotta know. If you don’t have a computer and are bored in the airport, you can also play Galaga, which are located at nearly every gate.

So for those in PR needing free wireless, two coffee shops that reside on the opposite side of quality both have it.

June 14, 2009

Open Video Conference

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 9:08 am

This summer I swore off travel, conferences, etc and promised I would sit in front of my computer as much as humanely possible. Well, by making a promise I guess it sets you up for breaking them as well. But no regrets, as the promise was broken for a good reason: I decided to attend and give a (short) talk the The Open Video Conference, which looks like it is going to be quite an event, being held June 19th and 20th at NYU law school.

Why hold a conference about video now? As stated on their website:

As internet video matures, we face a crossroads: will technology and public policy support a more participatory culture—one that encourages and enables free expression and broader cultural engagement? Or will online video become a glorified TV-on-demand service, a central part of a permissions-based culture? Web video holds tremendous potential, but limits on broadband, playback technology, and fair use threaten to undermine the ability of individuals to engage in dialogues in and around this new media ecosystem.

The organizers are not taking what we have now as a given but want to make sure the gifts that keeps on giving and the democratic potential of open video will surive in the future. They have assembled an incredible (and diverse) line up. I am particularly excited about Amy Goodman, DVD Jon (my talk is partially about him) as well as the hackers behind VLC (cuz VLC has saved me on SO many occasions!).

The organizers have made sure to also include some fun, so there is a Friday night after-party, movies, and an informal Hackday on Sunday.

If in the area, *do* drop on by!