A late entry to the fray

I’ve tried to keep my head out of libraryland over the holidays, so although I was dimly aware that Will Manley said something inflammatory about ALA’s new conference Statement of Appropriate Conduct, I hadn’t bothered to read it or much of the social media activity. Here’s why I did just now.

Last night a couple of Twitter friends had a conversation about this, one (a woman) arguing for the policy, one (a man) arguing that it was too vague and subject to personal interpretation.

This morning I wandered into another Twitter thread. Gina Trapani, a developer and startup founder tweeted at Michael Robertson, a serial entrepreneur, “Men are not innately better at being startup founders. Full stop.” Robertson and several other people chimed in to disagree, suggesting among other things that she read some neurobiology. It seems to me that if you can’t cite the scientific article conclusively proving that point (which doesn’t exist), what you’re saying is that women are innately inferior to men. If you can’t prove it, you’re just being nasty.

The substance of the two threads is very different, but the dismissive tone felt similar to me. That’s why I’m writing. Here’s what I think.

Manley is arguing that his right to be provocative trumps other attendees’ right to feel comfortable speaking at all. That’s bullshit.

Given that all of the people I’ve so far seen objecting to the policy are men, and given that social norms are such that men are generally more comfortable speaking their minds in public, and given that every time I look into a comment thread on a feminist topic online I see a bunch of guys acting like asses (seriously, check the comments on Manley’s post or my previous look at Adria Richards and Pycon), and given that my female friends who have spoken at conferences have lots of stories of being harassed, and given that the previous non-policy has resulted in actually favoring some speech over others,

As a middle-aged white male conference speaker and attendee in a predominantly female profession I am happy to err on the side of making everyone comfortable with speaking and conference-going. I’d love it if we could leave it at The Golden Rule, and I wrote the code of conduct for an event I’m helping organize with that in mind. But every time I look more closely at this issue I see why we can’t. That’s OK. A policy which makes women more comfortable speaking doesn’t threaten me unless I’m being a jerk.

System requirements for books

A friend posted a link to a review of a really interesting ebook edition of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. It includes a bunch of extras: a recording of Eliot reading the poem, several versions of the text, including one with comments by Ezra Pound, his editor. It’s by Touchpress, who did The Elements, which was one of the original arguments for buying an iPad in the first place. It’s gorgeous. And it’s a $14.95 app for the iPad. I’m a librarian, I work with the English Department, this would be cool to have. But I don’t have an iPad, and it would be awkward to get onto our departmental one. Which got me thinking about the pros and cons of different formats.

I’m not sure I agree this is what a next-generation classic should look like, because it has a five hundred dollar prerequisite. Touchpress has decided to make the (famously incomprehensible) Waste Land more interactive, and to include a variety of means (audio and text) to help you understand it. This is good.

The Poetry Foundation version, though, comes with the whole web. That is, if you can get to their website you can open another window and easily find Eliot’s audio as well as other readings of it and explanations of the inscrutable parts and the parts in foreign languages. That requires a computer and a web connection, which you could get from your local library if you didn’t have your own.

I also have a copy of it I bought for a dollar on the shelf behind me, the Dover edition. It only requires that I know how to read. I’m not sure that makes it superior, but it does mean that every library can have a copy. And, delightfully, that sometimes stationery stores have a rack of Dover editions as well.

Part of why something becomes a Great Book is that it is widely read and discussed. I tend to think that the web or a cheap printed book are still the ways to reach the largest possible audience.

This Is Not a Book: Thomas Jefferson & Apple’s App Store

This Is Not a Book: Thomas Jefferson & Apple’s App Store – ProfHacker – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ebook vs. app is an interesting conundrum, and the ease of use of Apple’s tools for creation makes a lot of academic projects default to using them. This is a self-limiting flaw, which sometimes creates bizarre situations like this: An app presenting Eliot’s Waste-Land in annotation layers is OK; an app presenting a work by Thomas Jefferson in annotation layers is not.

The web works on everything.