a librarian’s guide to watching the Olympics

So I like the Olympics. Not like I wait for it all year, but I enjoy the spectacle, fresh-faced athletes, international competition, and an excuse to watch TV with friends. I also enjoy, from a nerd perspective, trivia in the making such as this being the first year that all attending countries have had female athletes on their teams or wondering what Muslim athletes are doing during Ramadan. I’m also fascinated by what I can and can’t see Olympicswise, versus my friends in other countries. Anyone who wants to watch stuff the normal way will have no problem though I do suggest the Easy Read version of the London 2012 site because it’s more straightforward and has less cruft.

So if you’ve been following along, you know that there was a big social media aspect to the opening ceremonies, which had some live tweeting which was already ancient in internet-time by the time the show was broadcast in the US. There was also some controversy concerning some parts of the opening ceremony that were edited out of the US broadcast. I have been sitting at home healing from a sprained ankle so I have been a little more immersed in the meta-story than I might be otherwise.

Anyhow, in my sometimes-role as the internet’s librarian, the question I’ve been seeing a lot is “How do I watch an Olympic thing when I can’t because of $_REASONS?” Now that reason may be because you’re in the US and so you can’t stream the BBC, or because you’re in an African country and don’t have cable, or in the US and allergic to Bob Costas.

It’s not super clear how to do some of these things, and less clear how much end-running these things is problematically extralegal. I will not be addressing the second part, you can consult your own moral compass for that. In any case, I’ve made a little guide which I’ll be updating which help answer some of these questions. The BBC even made two versions of their Opening Ceremonies coverage available, one with the BBC commentary and one without. For people who only saw the goofy NBC version of the ceremony, this English guide to the ceremony (pdf) may be helpful as well as this songlist. Note: I’m linking to MetaFilter, my employer, both because I feel like this sort of international social discussion can be helpful during times like this and because I feel that the information has been the most helpful to me personally. I have no other affiliations with the things I linked to. If there are other things you’ve found, please drop them in the comments.

Also notably: I haven’t said anything about bit torrent because I have not-that-fast broadband and I don’t use it much, but most recorded Olympic events are available for download from the usual places.

Jessamyn’s Guide on How to Watch the Olympics

A few relevant Ask MetaFilter threads



- Get someone with a UK VPN to let you borrow it and watch BBC coverage via YouTube(what is a VPN? nerdy VPN details)
- Pay money for a good UK VPN [suggested: what's on the box, unblock-us.com, VyperVPN]
- BBC Player or Expat Shield if you have a PC , TunnelBear if you have a Mac
- I was watching Olympics on BBC1 earlier via this link
- YouTube’s Olympic coverage is free for Asia/Africa, best place to start if you have the UK VPN working
- In the US, use a friend’s cable account login and watch NBC online
- this Deadspin thread seems to have ongoing new links in the comments, notably [www.vipbox.tv] which seems to work

Other “cord cutter” guides (what is a cord cutter?): GigaOm, reddit, iamnotaprogrammer pictorial (discussion on hackernews)

And if you’ve just had it already? This browser plugin might be for you.
Can’t keep up? Consider this IFTTT recipe (What is IFTTT?)
Just the facts? The cross-linked medal table at Wikipedia should help. Someone is doing a bang-up job writing stubs for many of the atheletes.

talk: adventures in virtual reference

I went out to Oregon to give a talk to the people who staff L-net, the 24/7 virtual reference service for the state of Oregon. They have a yearly conference which is a lot of fun. Video from the talks will be available at some point, but I figured I’d link to my talk now. I talked about Ask MetaFilter and a little bit about what we do there and how it is and is not like other forms of virtual reference. Lots of stats. Lots of anecdotes and sample questions. The Slideshare version doesn’t seem to have the notes attached and functional (attached yes, accurate, no), so while I hammer that out from them, you can also go to the talk’s page on librarian.net and download whichever version you want. Thanks to all who attended on Friday.

Thomas Mann interviewed by Joshua Kitlas

Library student Joshua Kitlas interviewed LoC reference librarian Thomas Mann for one of his classes at Syracuse. I am a Mann Fan, so it was fun to get to read this.

“The profession is radically getting dumbed down. There is so much more to search than Google or OCLC. You need to see relationships between subjects and their headings. Tags by users are simply no substitute. They’re okay as supplements to controlled vocabularies–but not substitutes. There’s a need to go beyond the internet and look at the systems librarians and publishers have developed that are not accessible by Google or the other engines.”

OED no longer “in print”?

The Third Edition is a mutation. It is weightless, taking its shape in the digital realm. To keyboard it, Oxford hired a team of 150 typists in Florida for 18 months. (That was before the verb keyboard had even found its way in, as Simpson points out; not to mention the verb outsource.) No one can say for sure whether OED3 will ever be published in paper and ink. By the point of decision, not before 20 years or so from now, it will have doubled in size yet again. In the meantime, it is materializing before the world’s eyes, bit by bit, on line. It is a thoroughgoing revision of the entire text, expected to cost around $55 million, involving a permanent staff of 70 plus hundreds of freelancers, consultants, and volunteers in Oxford and around the world. Whereas the Second Edition just added new words and new usages to the original entries, the current project is researching and revising from scratch-preserving the history, but aiming at a more coherent whole.

The new Oxford English Dictionary, currently 28% completed, is expected to be done in approximately ten years. There’s been a bit of hubub in the news lately because when asked if they’re going to publish the newest version on paper, the response was “I don’t think so.” which was clarified with a statement saying that the completion was still a decade off and “a decision on format will be taken at that point.” Makes sense right? I’d love an OED that was keyword searchable even though I will always have fond feelings for the 20 volume set that I rescued from a dumpster [discarded because it could not be sold, thank you my unnamed librarian accomplice!]. In the short-but-growing discussion on MetaFilter, someone mentions that what are really precious are the original plates used to print the first edition. Simon Winchester tells a story about those plates in an Author’s Note to his book The Professor and the Madman. I am personally more interested in the Vault of Failed Words.

There’s an app for that – ask a librarian

“The [Washington] state library says it’s the first in the nation to offer an app for online reference service, although technically the app switches users to the phone’s browser for the online chat). The Ask-WA service, also available through a traditional web browser, makes use of more than 60 libraries and hundreds of librarians. A national cooperative of librarian helps answer questions after hours.” I like how the “other services” page that you get to if you’re not coming from a WA state IP address (I’m not) shows the Library Success Wiki, one of my favorite “stuff that works” wikis. [thanks david!]

on advice giving

David Weinberger points to Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution and the idea of “advice as process.” I’m going to keep this idea close to me as I move through another year of moderating Ask MetaFilter: “giving advice is a social activity, not merely a transfer of purported knowledge.” How much of what we do as librarians is reference and how much is advice?

a librarian’s worst nightmare?

I don’t know about you, but my worst nightmare is more along the lines of someone vomiting (or worse!) in the overnight book drop, but Slate has an article about Yahoo Answers and how librarians hate it. Of course the writer doesn’t seem to have talked to any librarians, he just likes to rail against the wisdom of crowds — with some valid points, certainly — and make fun of stupid answers on YA which is of coruse the opposite of what any decent librarian would do. There is a lively back and forth in the disucssion section which is hard to follow and hard to find but if the topic is as near and dear to your heart as it is to mine, I suggest you dig it out. I commented. [thanks alexandra]

if you come by my place of work on september 10th

I sort of like the “Slam the Boards” idea of librarians showing up on “answer sites” on September 10th and indicating that the answers they give are by librarians. It’s a neat idea. It shows librarians interacting with social communities and (hopefully) providing good quick reference. We shine when we’re giving answers, and less when we have to exert control over complicated real life situations. I would like to say, however, that if you come to my place of work, that being Ask MetaFilter, arguably one of the more awesome “answer sites” currently in existence, you’ll need to know a few things.

1. We have many great librarians already, over 50 at last count, though it may be more like 100, and these are only self-identified librarians library workers and library students.
2. You’ll have to pay $5 to join. One of our great techniques of keeping the riffraff out is out $5 lifetime membership fee. Works amazingly well.
3. You should learn the culture some, learn how to give answers, how to not tell people to JFGI (as if you would!), not to sign your posts and not to get in fights or make stupid jokes in AskMe threads.
4. Don’t toss up a bunch of bibliographic citations when a decent URL will do. You’re online, act like you’re online.

I think this idea is a neat one, but could backfire if we spazz out into every existing community and assume that because we’re librarians every bit of advice we offer is like manna from heaven. If I were planning to participate in this — and I’m not because I’ll be working — I’d spend some time between now and 10sep07 learning a bit about the places i was planning to go. Nothing says you really care like getting to know your patrons. Go. Be awesome.

dorky library humor: why spellcheck is your friend

This is one of those misheard lyrics things that we deal with on the reference desk frequently, but this particular treatment of it made me laugh.

naked reference

This is a two part post.

The first part is an interesting reference idea called Reference in the Raw an experiment where reference staff bring nothing to the desk, no other work, no projects, nothing. Yes, they are clothed. The idea is to be approachable and available and patron oriented. I didn’t see a follow-up post, I’d be interested to know how the experiment worked.

The second part of this post was spurred by my looking at my Google Sitemaps statistics and realizing that the Naked Librarians page over at jessamyn.com is the third hit on Google for the words naked photos (seventh if you put the words in quotes). So, with great power comes great responsibility, I guess. I decided to update the page, purge the old links using the W3C link checker and maybe go trolling around for some new…. data. If anyone has some images they would like to send my way, or preferably links to other sites, I’d appreciate it. As always, naked pictures of yourself are unwelcome in most cases, unless you are standing in front of a bookshelf.