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Tom Peters's Posts

Fractional Dimensions

Submitted by Tom Peters on October 12, 2008 - 11:42pm


When I was in grade school in the 1960s, we learned the basics about the dimensions. It must have been math class. For a string of years there, every math teacher I had used an overhead projector with water-soluble colored pens as a pedagogical aid. A one-dimensional thing was a line, such as the x axis on a graph. A two-dimensional thing had height and width, but no depth, such as a sinusoidal curve drawn on an x/y graph. A sheet of paper was, for all practical purposes, two-dimensional, even though you could add a z-axis to your graph to create a sense of depth. A three-dimensional space, such as a classroom, had height, width, and depth. The fourth dimension, which always seemed a little suspect to us, was time.  The fifth dimension, of course, was a musical group. It was the Age of Aquarius. 

Recently I have been experiencing and thinking about virtual worlds and how librarianship is evolving and might continue to evolve in light of these virtual worlds. There are scads of them out there: Second Life, Active Worlds, Lively, Whyville, and hundreds more. Some of these virtual worlds seem to be basically two-dimensional, like cloth figures on a felt board. Other virtual worlds seem to be essentially three-dimensional, similar to the real world. One day a new idea hit me: Dimensions may include fractions. There may be 2.3-dimension virtual worlds, or even 3.3-dimension virtual worlds. Let me explain. Read More »

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Meeting Technologies

Submitted by Tom Peters on September 11, 2008 - 12:51pm

How many meetings do you think occur every weekday in the United States involving staff members from libraries and library-related organizations? For our purposes, let’s define a meeting as a real-time interaction between three or more people for a stated purpose. Two people have a conversation; three or more people have a meeting. I realize that excludes two-person meetings like annual performance meetings and that some library-related meetings occur on weekends but the definition above will keep things in this context neat, clean and clear.

According to ALA calculations there are roughly 123,000 libraries in the U.S. Many of those are one-person libraries, so we can estimate that on each working day there are approximately 100,000 meetings involving librarians and library staff. Of course, at large libraries the number of daily meetings will be high. With approximately 250 workdays in a year, that yields an annual estimate of 25 million library-related meetings in the U.S. alone. Read More »

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Digits are Mightier than the Sword, and the Buck

Submitted by Tom Peters on August 28, 2008 - 10:41am

The last half of August is a transition period.  For many people it is the end of summer as a human experience, regardless of how summer is defined in national holidays, meteorological averages or the wobbling of the earth on its axis.  It's time to get back to school and buckle down--time to work.

I've found that a transition period can be a good time for reflection.  During much of the year we are caught up in the "sturm und drang" of programs, policies, procedures, personnel, and pecunia, but occasionally a few days crop up when you can think about larger issues, trends and opportunities.
During these last days of summer, as I have been strolling down the straight and narrow lane (it truly is straight and narrow) that leads to my house, I keep coming back to the same thought:  Ultimately, inevitably, digits are mightier than the sword and the buck. 

  Read More »

Confessions of a First-Time Exhibitor

Submitted by Tom Peters on July 10, 2008 - 11:55am

After attending 20 ALA Annual Conferences (Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta, NYC, shaky LA, Chicago...) as a rank-and-file librarian, I arrived in Anaheim late last month in a new role as a first-time exhibitor.  It was an interesting experience, to put it mildly.  I opted to start with a regular 10 x 10 booth exhibit, rather than a table.  Because it was all new to me, I had to learn about costs, who provides which conference services, and generally how to not make a fool of myself.  I think I succeeded, but I have my doubts.

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American Tech Idol

Submitted by Tom Peters on June 28, 2008 - 4:07am

Remember David Cook? He was the guy who won the American Idol competition last month. Throughout the merry month of May the citizens of Beautiful Blue Springs, Missouri were all a-twitter (in the pre-Twitter sense of a-twitter) about David Cook's candidacy, because he is a graduate of Blue Springs South High School. Most of the local businesses had "Vote for David" signs, and several local charities were auctioning off David Cook memorabilia even as the memories were forming.

Until May I was a denizen of Blue Springs myself. It was surreal watching a national TV phenomenon play out locally. Even some of my local BBQ joints jumped on the David Cook bandwagon -- or chuckwagon. The whole thing got me thinking about the nature of fame. Even information technology seems to experience something like an idol syndrome.

The craze got me thinking about the nature of fame. Even information technology seems to experience something like an idol syndrome. We have our top tech trends discussions, which draw huge crowds yearning to learn more about the current tech idols. Read More »

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Today the Users, Tomorrow the Objects

Submitted by Tom Peters on April 22, 2008 - 5:42pm

About forty years ago Sunsweet Pitted Prunes ran a famously funny TV ad, written by Stan Freberg.  It featured a stuffy British character actor complaining about the fact that prunes contained pits and were wrinkled.  Once you have a prune pit in your mouth, there is no graceful way to extricate it.  All wrinkled fruit is abhorrent.   

Then he is offered a new Sunsweet pitted prune.  He displays some interest and enjoyment, then reminds the off-screen pitchman that the prunes still contain wrinkles.  Cut to the punchline: "Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles. Sunsweet marches on."  Read More »

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Robin Williams Joins the TechSource Blog Team

Submitted by Tom Peters on March 26, 2008 - 10:30am

Robin Williams is the newest member of the ALA TechSource Blog Team.  Welcome, Robin!  Recently she and I met and chatted on ALA Island in Second Life, the 3-dimensional virtual world.  The text chat transcript of our conversation is pasted below.  Greylin Fairweather is the name of Robin's avatar in Second Life, and Maxito Ricardo is my avatar. Read More »

Planning a Virtual World Conference

Submitted by Tom Peters on March 3, 2008 - 12:06pm

VW LEM conference venue as seen by a flying avatar.For the past two months I have been involved in a fascinating team effort to plan a one-day conference that will be held in a virtual world environment on Saturday, March 8th. The official name of the conference is "Virtual Worlds: Libraries, Education, and Museums" -- VW LEM for short. Although the conference will be held in Second Life, the speakers will be discussing other virtual worlds as well. As the name implies, the participants in this conference will explore how similar but distinct "public good" institutions -- libraries, educational institutions, and museums -- are using virtual world environments to pursue their missions. Read More »

Free and Fleeting

Submitted by Tom Peters on February 11, 2008 - 12:27pm

chained book, yearning to be freeOne of the pressing questions in the current publishing era concerns the effect of offering free online digital versions of books on the sales of the print versions.  Does a free digital version increase print sales, decrease print sales, or have no effect at all?  Only Rupert Murdoch's hairdresser knows for sure. 

The answer to that question probably depends on many other variables, such as: Read More »

Amazon Buys Audible

Submitted by Tom Peters on February 5, 2008 - 9:23am

Pork bellies as haute cuisineWe all have our pet industries, those quirky little eddies in our massively flowing economy (although it's not flowing well at the moment) that for some reason we love to watch and ponder.  For example, in the Eighties I became interested in the pork bellies market.  Maybe it was my Iowa upbringing, although I never lived on a farm and slopped any hogs.  Several times a week I would check in on pork bellies futures -- the old fashioned way, in a printed newspaper, as I trudged barefoot six miles through a raging blizzard to class.  Truth to tell, at the time I was in graduate school and working part-time at a restaurant-bar, so I never actually invested any money in pork bellies, but for some reason pork bellies captured and held my attention for awhile.  Read More »

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