Monday, February 16, 2009

Inventing iBiblio

In a recent edition of WUNC Radio's The State of Things, ibiblio founder Paul Jones shares some interesting tidbits about the history of the Internet As We Know It. Some that caught my attention:
  • Jones's mouthful of a title is worth mentioning: Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications and Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Information and Library Science. In his view this cross-listing has only become more relevant over time. Now if I only knew what a Clinical Associate Professor was ...
  • He says in as many words that Al Gore invented the IAWKI, not by any technical innovation, of course, but by re-directing the military-based ARPANet to an NSF-funded model and thence into the commercial world. So throw that in with my previous take.
  • In talking about WXYC, the first radio station to stream on the internet, he basically says it was a good thing that streaming audio strained the bandwidth limits at that time. It led both to more bandwidth being deployed and to smarter ways of distributing the bits.
  • Critics at the time warned that streaming audio would kill the internet -- a recurring theme in tne Streaming audio as we know it now (much less YouTube, or streaming movies and TV) would absolutely have been impossible on the internet in those days. But Jones's implicit point (I gather) is that the internet is, by design, a moving target.
  • One crucial aspect of the streaming of WXYC was that it was software-based (as opposed to the MBone, a more hardware-based alternative for multicast) and, being open, allowed others to innovate without WXYC being involved or even knowing it was happening. This again is a recurring theme.
  • Jones repeatedly picks up the theme of re-mixing, mashing-up or otherwise re-appropriating existing ideas and putting them together in new ways toward new uses. This flows into (and from) his discussion of the Creative Commons license, another innovation at whose birth he was present.
  • Jones quips that the Creative Commons license has three forms: Human readable, machine readable and lawyer readable "because lawyers are neither humans nor machines". Come to find out, he's married to a lawyer.
  • ibiblio's usage statistics are interesting. As ususal, there are a few collections that get much more traffic than the others (a handful out of about 2500). However, even these only account for a small fraction of overall traffic. No 80/20 rule here, but rather a real live case of the "long tail". I think it's significant here that iBiblio is non-commercial; I may expound on that point later, right after I manage to disambiguate what "long tail" means.
There's a fair bit more, including an openly fannish plug for Roger McGuinn's folk song archive, on ibiblio of course, and some poetry that I didn't get to, though as it turns out he has an MFA in poetry. As the host points out, you can pull it off the internet and listen to it yourself -- and Jones had a large hand in making that possible. In particular, WUNC's archives are hosted on ibiblio.

1 comment:

earl said...

Can you parse "come to find out"