Episode 26 – Free for All

At a time when everything seems to be trending toward being freely available online, how can education and digital resources and tools for academia, libraries, and museums sustain themselves? Tom, Dan, and Mills discuss models for sustainability in the age of the free in the feature segment of this week’s podcast. In the news roundup, we cover the RIAA’s newfound love of the lawsuit and the University of Chicago Law School’s newfound hate of the laptop. Picks of the week include a proportional mapping tool, a thesis repository, and a site that helps non-techies understand and use RSS.

Links mentioned on the podcast:
Mills on free education
Laura Dewis, “Money makes the world go… open?”
Harvard Thesis Repository
World Mapper

Running time: 43:07
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Episode 25 – Get With the Program

Tom and Dan are joined this week by Bill Turkel and Steve Ramsey, who provide fascinating insights into the nature of computer programming and how those in the humanities, museums, and libraries can get started with this foreign language. Bill and Steve were also kind enough to add their comments to our news roundup discussion of the launch of Google App Engine, which raises questions about outsourcing, and myLOC.gov, which raises questions about whether digital collections should have their own personalization tools. Picks for the week include two books on programming, an organizational tool for Thunderbird, and a map for browsing American history.

Links mentioned on the podcast:
The Programming Historian
Google App Engine
Network in Canadian History & Environment
Social Explorer
MIT Simile’s Seek
Beautiful Code
The Mythical Man-Month

Run time: 48:17
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Episode 24 – Running from the Law

In the feature story of this episode, Tom, Mills, and Dan finally get to vent about the increasing annoyances of legal restrictions and threats that face those trying to do digital work in academia, libraries, and museums. Copyright—both in its traditional form and in modern incarnations like the DMCA—has made it more difficult than ever to figure out how and when to post something online, and for those creating digital tools, the further threat of patent lawsuits awaits. In the news roundup we talk about another threat—that of online predators and a new Virginia law intended to thwart them—and note the launch of offline Google Docs, which now provides a more compelling alternative to Microsoft Office. Links for the week include a museum podcast that’s good for the classroom, a tech blog for students, and a declaration for open access to educational materials and technology.

Links mentioned on the podcast:
Virginia Schools Start To Teach Internet Safety
Fair Use
Open Access News
NIH’s Public Access Requirement
Restriction: No Text Mining of PubMed
Professor Sues Student Over Lecture Notes
Elsevier Lets MIT Use Copyrighted Materials
Patent Office Rejects Blackboard’s E-Learning Patent in Preliminary Ruling
Google Docs Launches Offline Support
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum @ iTunesU
Hack College blog
Cape Town Open Education Declaration

Running time: 47:24
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Font Creators Need To Make Up Their Minds – Fast – About Fonts on the Web

Last week I attended a one-day conference on "The Business of Type" organized by the Font Designers' Rights Coalition - a body which concerns itself with helping to ensure font designers' IP is protected and they get the proper return for the investment they make in time and expertise.

As anyone who reads this blog will know, it's a goal I strongly support.

I was a little disappointed that at least some of the designers who spoke still seemed "stuck in the 20th Century", and more concerned about graphics and print service bureaux keeping and using illicit copies of their custom fonts which they'd received from customers to output their print jobs, than the potential threat the Web poses to their future unless they act quickly.

Talk about not seeing the wood for the trees! While that is an issue, it's totally dwarfed by the risk to font IP from the Web, and especially the proposal from the Opera browser folks to the WorldWideWeb Consortium (W3C) that Web designers should be able to point to any font put up on a server as a raw font file.

In public, the Open Source folks will confirm that they know this means web designers can use only freeware fonts (most of which aren't very good, because they haven't had the time and money invested in them).

But like a lot of the Open Source statements, it's impossible not to get the impression that what they really mean is "wink,wink - we know you'll copy commercial fonts up there and our proposal will let you do that, but we can't say so in public".

A large proportion of them believe that fonts, like all other software, should be free, and this proposal would erode font value in no time.

Today, the font industry does a pretty good job of policing font piracy. If you put commercial fonts up on a server for illegal sale, it's almost certain they'll find them and take action, first with "cease and desist" letters and later if necessary with stronger measures.

But if fonts begin to be routinely put up on servers in much greater numbers to service millions of Web pages, the policing system will break down because it's not set up to handle issues on that sort of scale.

Our friend Thomas Phinney from Adobe also spoke at the conference. He unveiled data from a survey Adobe just completed which made it clear that web designers want to be able to use the fonts they know and love for print - in other words, commercial fonts - and not freeware ones. At the same time, Tom had encouraging data which showed that most designers understood the value of font IP, would be very reluctant or completely opposed to pirating fonts, and wanted a system which would make it easy for them to do the right thing.

I think we're all indebted to Thomas and Adobe for carrying out this study.

The font industry hasn't really helped matters with its attitude so far. Microsoft has had a reasonably secure Internet font embedding technology in Internet Explorer for more than a decade, but many font houses don't allow their fonts to be used in this way because of paranoia about the risk to their IP of fonts being used on the Web. Then again, we made mistakes, too. We kept it a proprietary Microsoft format instead of opening it up as a Web standard (a mistake we've now rectified).

We had a good, lively discussion at the conference. I pointed out that failing to speak out against the "raw fonts on a server" proposal could well lead the industry down a dark and dangerous road. If they did not oppose this measure and adopt and support a reasonable alternative, they might find that they ended up in the worst of all possible worlds, in which fonts become free.

Once a font is posted on a server, anyone can point to it - or even worse, download it and use it on their computer system. Our Embedded OpenType (EOT) technology was designed to put obstacles in the way of people casually pirating fonts in this way just because it's so easy.

Some of the font designers who spoke still seemed to have this quaint idea that their customers were the "printing and publishing industry". While that may have been true in the past, the reality is that now, with the Web and email, everyone's a publisher. Instead of a (substantial in size but proportionally small) subset, there are a billion potential customers out there - if the font industry can figure out how to support them in the right way.

Fonts on the Web need to behave just like fonts for print. If I'm a designer of a magazine, for instance, I can buy one legal copy of a font, and use it to create as many copies or editions of that magazine as I like. Everyone who reads that magazine gets to "use" the copy of the font it contains - no matter if the magazine sells millions of copies.

It should work just the same on the Web. If a website designer buys a legitimate copy of a font, he or she should be able to use it on their site, and everyone who visits that site ought to be able to read it in the typeface the designer specified. But they shouldn't be able to use that font in any other task or document on their own computer system, unless they themselves buy a legitimate copy.

You can't do that today. There's no standard system for "embedding" a font in a webpage. The only way a reader will see it - unless you use one of the "common" webfonts - is if they have an actual copy of that font on their own machine. That's the issue EOT embedding was designed to address.

This needs to get fixed soon - before fonts go the same way as digital music, and the font industry hits the same problems with which the music industry is now struggling.

There's bound to be a way of leveraging the needs of a billion publishers into a decent return on investment. High volume, low cost is the business model on which Microsoft was founded, and we haven't done so badly. Maybe the font industry needs to take a leaf out of that book.

Episode 23 – Happy Birthday

On the first birthday of the podcast, Tom, Mills, and Dan discuss how they produce the podcast and reflect on what they’re doing right, what needs improvement, and what they might do in the coming year—and ask the audience to write in with their own criticisms and suggestions. The news roundup looks at a new campus gossip website, the expulsion of a student for using a Facebook study group, and the significance of iPhones coming to campuses in the fall along with the new iPhone SDK (software development kit). Links for the week include an easy way to collaboratively markup and critique websites, a detailed description of a good web design and development setup, and one journal’s take on Web 2.0.

Links mentioned on the podcast:
Call Recorder
Jeremy Boggs’s Design and Development Setup
First Monday issue on Web 2.0

Runtime: 44:38
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Episode 22 – Demanding Print on Demand?

Can print on demand shake up academic publishing, book buying, and reading habits? Another terrific guest joins us on the podcast for a feature segment on the promise and perils of print on demand: Yakov Shafranovich, a software developer who specializes in print on demand services including PublicDomainReprints.org, covered in several prior Digital Campus episodes. We spend most of the news roundup debating the impact of the Harvard faculty vote in favor of open access scholarship, while also covering Blackboard’s victory in a flimsy patent case. Picks of the week include a good new podcast, a flashy historical website, and an easy way to add images to your blog posts.

Links mentioned on the podcast:
Harvard Open Access Policy
New Academia Press
European Navigator
First Monday Podcast

Run time: 58:32
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Episode 21 – To Read or Not To Read

Is reading declining in the digital age, or is it simply changing? The Digital Campus team is joined by two guests in our feature segment, Sunil Iyengar of the National Endowment for the Arts and Matt Kirschenbaum of the University of Maryland, to debate the future of reading—and its past. The news roundup covers Microsoft’s courtship of Yahoo and what it means (if anything) for campuses, provides an update on a problematic U.S. House of Representatives bill, and covers the new Horizon Report on digital technologies that will affect universities in the coming five years.

Links mentioned on the podcast:
2008 Horizon Report
College Opportunity and Affordability Act
Today’s Front Pages at the Newseum
Amistad Digital Resource

Running time: 50:49
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Episode 20 – Open to Change

Are open educational resources such as iTunes U and thought-provoking dot-coms such as BigThink.com a distraction from the mission of professors and universities, or the wave of the future? Tom, Mills, and Dan debate the merits of “open access” intellectual content in the feature story. We also follow up on Dan’s experience with buying a book from PublicDomainReprints.org, compare the MacBook Air with the small, cheap laptops discussed on the last episode of Digital Campus, and discuss the launch of Flickr Commons. Our picks of the week point to three great ways to use RSS feeds more effectively.

Links mentioned on podcast:
Flickr Commons
MacBook Air
iTunes U
Berkeley’s YouTube Channel
Google Reader Sharing
Yahoo Pipes

Runtime: 51:15
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Episode 19 – Big Things in Small Packages

On our first podcast of the new year, we look at the rise of the small, cheap laptop and its significance for education and cultural sites. In addition to a full rundown of the latest news about the One Laptop Per Child project and its $188 XO laptop, we cover the wildly popular Asus Eee PC and the forthcoming Everex CloudBook, both costing under $400. In the news roundup we note the end of the line for Netscape, mention the darker alleyways of social networking, and congratulate ourselves for predicting the decline of Second Life. And at the end of the podcast we highlight a great new word processor for the Mac, a service to print out-of-print books, and the digitization of a gigantic medieval bible.

Links mentioned on the podcast:
One Laptop Per Child
Pixel Qi
Asus Eee PC
Everex CloudBook
Codex Gigas
Public Domain Books Reprints Service

Running time: 45:48
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