Category Archives: rumination

tagging and filing

Just how to manage one’s own troves of Information is a perennial problem, and I’ve never managed to be consistent over time or systematic (let alone rigorous) with any organizing scheme. I have drawers full of manila folders, boxes of [essentially unreadable, so why the hell do I keep them?] floppy and semi-floppy disks, piles of data-packed CDs and DVDs sporting idiosyncratically named files and directories, a bunch of disk drives that are more or less current, a vast array of archived directories and files at, and vinyl records and CDs and MP3s and videotapes and DVDs galore. And negatives (partially digitized) and digital photography images (on drives and backed up on DVDs), and of course books (though they’re at least listed at LibraryThing). All of this stuff is more or less meaningful, some of it is in active use and a lot more might be… and some is simply dead storage. I pretty much know what’s where, but finding any particular remembered thing can take a while and there’s always the danger/joy of being diverted along the way by a shiny something else. And more keeps arriving.

Of course I like it this way.

A current problem: I’ve used Delicious and Zotero and Evernote to collect links to webstuff that I found interesting and thought I might want to get back to sometime. Each of those services offers organizing features –collections, folders, tagging– and I’ve used them with my usual idiosyncratic abandon. There’s an argybargy collection at Zotero, bibliomania tag at Delicious, and on and on. Just to extract a list of my collections or tags would be interesting/valuable/useful, but so far I haven’t been able to figure out any way to get Zotero or Delicious to spit out just those classifiers (some little voice in the back of my brain is muttering about grep and exporting xml files, but I’m ignoring it). Sure, I could do it by hand, and that’s probably the fastest way to find out just what I really have. Such a list would be a mapping of my kaleidoscopic interests, and might inspire some ringmastering that might result in better access.

So about an hour later here’s the Delicious tags and Zotero collection names I’m living with. What to do next?

addendum: …and it’s happening again with the new blog. I can tag each post with a category (or more than one –this one is geekery/media/rumination) and add new categories ad lib. The current set for the blog is

anthropology/ argybargy/ biblio/ cartography/ casting/ desiderata/ education/ entanglement/ ethno/ geekery/ geography/ H5N1/ images/ language/ libraries/ media/ metastuff/ musics/ photography/ pome/ quote/ rumination/ tempora/ Turkey/ uncategorized/ vernacular/ weather/ Zeitgeist/

but that will expand as I need new descriptors, and I can guarantee that they’ll be …erm… idiosyncratic.

Thinking through

What follows is just another in a long series of attempts to write my way out of a puzzlement, placed here so that I can find it again someday, so that I can point others to it, and so that I can stop thinking about it. It’s digressive and mostly self-serving, but I hope not without interest.
Here’s the problem that inspired the screed: my beloved brother John lives in Mexico, far enough away that visiting would be daunting even if I liked to travel. And I don’t. I’ve been wondering what technologies might make us better connected and enable the kinds of exchange we might have if we were in the same place at the same time. It’s not a simple question –his interaction with computers is idiosyncratic (he’s a retired geek, but he doesn’t have an email address, and uses the medium only by proxy); while Skype might fill part of the bill, I’m not sure that he’s really a Skype sort of person (phone conversations aren’t something he enjoys, and adding visuals might not help much). I’ve been thinking about resorting to letters, except for the fact that much of what I’d like to communicate to him is really via links to Web materials (images, documents, sound files) which are best enjoyed asynchronously. This has led me to thinking about just what the overlap in our lives and interests really is, and so to thinking about what MY distributable interests are. And ‘distributable’ is probably the most important qualifier.

I am a lifelong finder-and-redistributor, always on the lookout for the Interesting, and generally inclined to pair up the things I find with people who should, or just might want to, know about them. Twenty-odd years ago I was fortunate to find myself a perch as a Reference Librarian, where find-and-redistribute is the basic mandate, and doubly fortunate to find the perch just as the Web emerged as a communication medium. I am also a lifelong Enthusiast for an ever-expanding roster of subjects and pursuits, though I especially prize my status as Amateur and student-of, and generally dodge the mantle of Expert. I’m generally content to suggest links that my interlocutors might make something of: I’m fonder of the hunt and the gathering than of the hard work of distilling and integrating, so ‘finishing’ projects has always been of lesser importance than finding more new stuff. I have vast volumes of (literal and figurative) stuff squirreled away in Collections that could absorb eons of organizing.
So what’s the Method? How do I find stuff, and what do I do with found things? My main inputs are (1) the hundreds of blogs I monitor via RSS feeds, (2) the print sources I allow into my ken [lots of books, several periodicals], (3) searches I do because of things I read/encounter, and (4) the backlog of the library and the archives –stuff I’ve accumulated in a lifetime of collecting and sorting and not-discarding. Processing the river of new stuff isn’t very systematic or consistent, and involves the old technologies of file folders and shelf placement as well as the evolving spectrum of electronic organizing methods (currently, Zotero for links to Web documents, sometimes oook blog for items I’m inspired to rediffuse, sometimes textfiles that summarize the outcomes of searches, and always more clusters of downloaded documents, images, videos, and sound files). I’ve gone through bouts of digitizing (music, 35mm negatives, image scanning) and betimes I make stabs at reorganizing sectors of the maze of electronic file folders that decorate the computer’s desktop and hard drives. And some found things go immediately into email to a half dozen or so like-minded others (Kate, Nick, Ken Stallcup, John-the-son, Daniel Heikalo, Broot…).
In the days when I had roomsful of students to entertain and inform, much of my preparation time went into the organization of coherent narratives for real-time delivery, generally illustrated with cases-in-point, often images or (in the case of Cross-Cultural Studies in Music) sound. I would work on constructing an engaging story line and then improvise on the plan, ad libbing as the tale unreeled. It was always a bit of a high-wire act, never to be exactly repeated and prone to non sequitur asides that amused me but probably didn’t succeed very well with most of the audience. I loved the preparation part (just an excuse to learn more), often enjoyed the vaudeville of classes, positively abhorred the grading, was permanently at odds with institutional pomposities, and had far too little in common with faculty colleagues. It was a great relief to discover my Vocation as a Reference Librarian
When I defected from classroom to library, I outran the (sometimes baffled) audience and changed my own focus to teaching how to find answers to questions, and then how to broaden the search into unanticipated territory with new questions. This teaching was generally 1:1, and was in fact (and consciously) an explication of how to learn, conducted by demonstrating that I was continuing to learn myself. The Web provided a platform upon which I could construct (hyper-)textual narratives of search and discovery, many of which still exist in the ‘logfiles’ that I built with HTML and placed in my own Webspace (these can be explored via timelines of logfiles and wherewhen). Oook blog also provided a platform, from March 2004.
The task with blog reading is to decide where any particular bit of new information might fit in the existing structures of found things. Many bits just don’t fit, or don’t resonate such that I follow up on the proffered lead, and quite a few are of only tangential interest but still make it into the fragments/clippings realm. Thus, a moment ago I checked the blog stream and found a posting about Green Screens for which I have no immediate use or destination, though my curiosity is piqued and I know that I could easily be diverted into half an hour or so of reading and further exploration… This happens many times a day, and one is never bored.
Some of the media forms I enjoy are essentially solitary pleasures. I read a lot of novels, many of them in the borderlands between sci-fi and fantasy, some definitely cyberpunkish and some flavored with alternate realities. My affection for these works isn’t particularly transitive or even defensible, and I don’t usually resort to recommending books to others. The long-form narrative just takes too much time unless the prospective reader is already down with the author’s agenda or familiar with related works. Likewise, I watch a lot of video that isn’t easily shared with others, or that’s simply outside the interests of those nearby (I think of Scandinavian Noir like Forbrydelsen, Bron, Borgen… fascinating to me, but of no interest to Betsy, and ditto my affection for British police procedural drama). I’ve been more interested in the dramatic potentials of foreign malfeasance than in most of the American versions (I’d make an exception for The Wire and Treme, both of which I really enjoyed). Thus, yes to the original Swedish versions of Dragon Tattoo and its sequels (and the novels, which I read before I saw Noomi Rapace and company) and no to their American remake; no to the Seattle version of Forbrydelsen, or a possible remake of Engrenages.
And then there’s music. I have never been able to figure out a legal and practical means to share my vast holdings with others who might be interested. There are certainly workarounds (essentially digital mixtapes) that might be semi-legal, and there’s the potential of playlists based in electronic distribution services like Spotify (though Spotify isn’t available in Mexico or Canada).

Back to the question of what I’d like to communicate with brother John, which is really a corner of the broader question of content and audience.
A number of us share in appreciation of a style of repartee that our brother-in-law Wickham has (not admiringly) labelled ‘Blackmer whimsy’: it dwells in allusion, obscurity, and verbal crinkles; assumes irony as a foundation; and takes abundant pleasure in skewerings and Schadenfreude. Brother John is the regnant master of the genre, and nephew Nick is that mantle’s inheritor in the next generation. Just whence it is sprung isn’t at all clear (neither parent was much inclined to its hallmarks), but quite a few of us know that it separates us from the rest of humanity. I don’t know if such whimsy can survive conveyance via the medium of Skype, though Nick is especially good at stoking the fires via email.

The danger for me is that whimsy sometimes skates too close to misanthropy where the follies of others are concerned. There’s a lot to be outraged about, scornful toward, to decry and bemoan. Sometimes I notice that my irritation has precisely no effect upon the continuing supply of provocations and idiocies, but I’m easily sucked in when the next preposterosity is announced. And sometimes the outrage is clearly justified, not misplaced, and demands some response beyond ‘not really my business’… and what then? Pointing out error to like-minded others doesn’t do much but reinforce one’s own sense of rightness; engaging with those who are not like-minded invites the very sort of disputes I’ve spent my life avoiding. And yet I know there’s good and evil, greed and generosity, progress and retrogression, honesty and deception, the open and the closed, multifaceted truth and multifaceted falsity too. The Emperor is Nekkid, dammit.

A subject area that John and I share an interest in is the general realm of Technology. My own take tends to the historical and the problematic: how various clevernesses evolved and spread, and how our species gets into trouble via the unanticipated effects of clevernesses (case in point: the career of Thomas Midgley, developer of tetraethyl lead and freon). I’d really like to understand more of John’s lifelong entanglement with computers, and I wonder what he misses now that he’s retired from the fray. How can he resist playing around with Arduino and Raspberry Pi?
So here are a few bits for Brother John, extracted from the slipstream of recent Webstuff, and generally concerned with upshots of current technologies

A case study in argy-bargy with data:
Tesla and NYTimes and continued and further
Big issues upon which one has taken a side:
an hour of Jacob Appelbaum via YouTube

a Doc Searls fragment

The whole thing is worth reading, especially if your vision is headed for the suboptimal, but this passage has particular clarity:

All vision is in the brain, of course, and the world we see is largely a set of descriptions we project from the portfolio of things we already know. We can see how this works when we disconnect raw sensory perception from our descriptive engines. This is what happens with LSD. As I understand it (through study and not experience, alas), LSD disconnects the world we perceive from the nouns and verbs we use to describe it. So do other hallucinogens.

Vernacular Architecture of Midcoast Maine

Here’s a bit of text I wrote a couple of days ago, while walking to the post office:

A local landscape is a palimpsest of building history, and any wall or roof or chimney or porch or doorway is a product of choices make by somebody, or a succession of somebodies. Untangling the history is no simple task, even for a single property, but general patterns do emerge if one is attentive to local variation, and local knowledge can be eloquent if the investigator is patient.
The work of architects and builders is ‘vernacular’ insofar as it incorporates local tastes and predilections, and departs from the vernacular to the degree that its design and particulars use other (exogenous, not-popular) design items and materials. The vernacular is ‘popular’ in the sense that it’s how things are done in local tradition and practise.
Architectural history is a fruitful arena for the skills and tools of an anthropologist: there are observables and objective facts, but also plenty of room for the values and notions and delusions of the people who inhabit the architecture. People build houses with materials and tools and ideas congenial to climate and locality. Localities have styles, and variation within stylistic parameters, and the same is true of temporal eras. While uniformities may be imposed by sources of supply (e.g., window styles, shingle patterns, modular construction), there’s plenty of room for the expression of individual tastes and, for any particular feature, a fair bit of variety in details and alternatives. In the search for regional style we surely look for variation and hope for corroboration and patterned consistency at the core of variation, but we also expect and enjoy inconsistency and innovation.
Every house is to some degree an expression of the values and aspirations and preferences of the inhabitants. The dimensions of variation are not simple or without inconsistencies, and every house in the landscape has its own story, awash in accident and exception to whatever rules may seem to apply to the general situation. While occupants surely impress their own personalities onto properties, there are emergent patterns if one looks for long enough and listens carefully to the stories people construct to narrate their surroundings and doings. Even the most ungainly or prosaic doublewide fits somehow into the emergent grand scheme, and every bit of variation in decorative embellishment is potentially a jumping-off place for an essay that may reveal some deeper truth.
As one walks along a road looking at houses, a lot of repurposing is evident. A shed may be linked to a house to create a kitchen in one decade, and sometime later the barn may be liked to the shed and insulated to create more living space. A roof may be raised, dormers may sprout, and the porch may be enclosed to make more space for domestic redeployment. And at the other end of a building’s life cycle, the barn or shed may decay as bits of the roof succumb to time and neglect. Paint peels, stone foundations heave and slump, wood rots and warps, maintenance is deferred. The cribbing beneath an old barn bespeaks rotten sills to be replaced with a new foundation, poured in one afternoon by a cement truck, but probably by next summer nobody will be able to see the vestiges of the repair.
Even windows have complex histories, reflecting changes in construction methods, materials, and the evolution of continent-wide marketing (Pella windows come from Iowa…) as well as style preferences and price considerations. An entirely exogenous force like technological change in the glass industry can shift local parameters quite dramatically –after WWII, plate glass windows became fashionable; in the last decade double-glazing has made storm windows obsolete…


I’ve used this blogspace mostly as a means to collect and rediffuse stuff of passing interest, to an audience that I’ve never really defined but generally thought of as my very own self and a few like-minded others who might be following my doings. Beyond its status as a personal lectern, I haven’t really explored what the medium can do as a composition environment, but a couple of days ago it occurred to me that I might use the space as a venue for gathering the ongoing bits of a new project.

I have a glorious history of begun but uncompleted projects, some of which resurface now and again, to be augmented and then maybe shelved again. Files are opened and then closed as my attention is diverted, but I assure myself that gradual progress is made. Since nobody is waiting on me for anything, I can please myself in the matter of what I choose to do from day to day. It All Counts, as Allen Smith once averred.

One of the threads I’ve been following off and on for about 50 years has to do with architecture, or perhaps more broadly with the human activity of building and occupying living spaces. The work I did as a progress photographer on the State Street Bank building in Boston (mostly in 1964) is an example of something I’ve returned to and found new possibilities in (see the building, the first column, construction details). I’ve also pursued a series of renovations and augmentations of my own living spaces, and have kept a weather eye on other people’s building activities, sometimes photographing them but never systematically.
A chance conversation with John Rosenbloom a few nights ago got me thinking about vernacular architecture and I hatched a plot to explore the built environment of Midcoast Maine. Refinements of the scheme are occurring to me with every passing hour, and I need a place to put stuff. And why not the blog? Far better to use the space productively than to let it languish, and it doesn’t need to be polished. Indeed, an omnium gatherum is just what the blog medium is best at: tagging, date-stamping, URLs for fragments, a way to link photographs and other texts… So that’s what I think I’ll try.
And for whom? The primary audience remains my own very, very self, but others might find some of the process of interest, and who knows but what Posterity may even be amused.


I dunno how healthy it is to read a lot of ‘dystopian’ fiction (or non-fiction, for that matter), though I guess I’m pretty much guilty of participation in that schadenfreudian excess. Stefan Raets’ review of Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse catches the poignancy very well:

The real sadness of Soft Apocalypse is seeing normal people operating under the illusion that life will still go back to what it used to be. They try to hold down a job or complete a post-grad degree, and even though the world falls apart around them, the changes are too gradual for them to lose hope completely. It’s like watching rats in a maze, unaware that their paths are slowly being closed off around them and the maze is starting to catch fire at the edges. A soft apocalypse, indeed.

A longish rumination on Learning, sound, information management and such-like

(Some think-out-loud stuff that’s been accumulating for a while, and might as well get blogged, and added to via the blog as I progress. Responders might email to since something seems to be amiss with the blog’s Comment facility)

For several years (at least a decade) I’ve played with the idea that Learners need (better, more flexible, purpose-built) management tools for their information universes. Innovations like Tagging have come along to provide some of the wherewithal for what I’ve been imagining, and it’s clear that portable devices (originally mp3 players, now the mobile computing platforms of iPhones and the like) figure into the picture I’ve been developing. A desktop or laptop computer should be fully able to serve as the platform for pretty much anything a Learner wants to do, and the advent of cloud computing in wireless environments goes a long way to making these activities ubiquitous, especially if a Learner’s devices are interoperable (that is, if information in its various guises and formats can be moved seamlessly from desktop to portable device and back again).

My own interests and concerns have wandered pretty widely in the last decade, the interest in GIS and visualization of spatial data waning as fascination with music waxed, and as I became entangled with a growing archive of digitized images. I still think mostly in the frames of alphanumeric text and static images and flowing audio, though I’m ever more aware of the possibilities of video as a means to mix and distribute multiple media types. Throughout that decade I’ve been focused on the distribution of Learner-created material to audiences, via Web pages, blogs, wikis and Web services, with the thought that the main incentive for Learners to create new materials and mashups of old materials is the expectation that there are audiences to hear/see/respond to what the Learner produces, and that such interaction is both gratifying and heuristic (this is certainly an optimistic view of the varied morass of the Web, but I’m more interested in the positive than the defensive).

Aside: postings in the blogosphere are forever inserting themselves into my streams of thought [the Prepared Mind and all that, and perhaps the personal taste for Digression that seems eternal], case in point being one from Jason Scott’s ASCII that just crossed through the RSS membrane with this nugget:

Most people who visit me for the first time walk into my office where I do most of my work for the websites and projects and they stop dead because they are confronted with The Wall. The Wall is this collection of racks that take up a full side of my office. Where most people might have a couple shelves and a desk and some on-tap books and materials, I have this gigantic goddamn tsunami of papers, equipment and media going up and down the horribly-expanded enclosed deck that I took over when I moved into the house…

A bunch of stuff streams into my house, stuff which sometimes asks for attention but doesn’t get it, instead ending up on a to-do pile and then the to-do piles get combined into should-really-do pile and then a bunch of should-really-do piles end up in some sort of mega-meta-super-plus-4000 mecha-pile that makes my room look like I died in it somewhere. So part of this effort was to get a handle on it. Some papers are just obviously mementos or older artifacts; those are bagged into little plastic pouches and prepared for archiving. (In the future I will then take out all archived items of a certain nature and do something with them; or someone beyond me will.) Others are in need of scanning or being handled in some transcriptive manner. Others are just in the room because I like having them around. It ranges. There are still pockets of stuff in this room that will get yet another sorting, and I am sure I will discover many things of the “huh” variety – as you might surmise from the photos, I have an energy drink can collection which needs a more formal presentation environment and I have a few plastic bins of papers which should be sorted through and given the bag treatment. But I will get it all, I promise, and maybe a few people waiting months for me to get back to them will suddenly find themselves with e-mail or webpages. We can only hope. The Wall looks more imposing than it is; it just makes sense to have this X-Y outlook on my stuff and as time goes by it’s helped me keep track of a lot more than I’d have done otherwise. (see the original, with pictures of managed chaos)

((It’s a feature and not a bug that this medium facilitates synchronous call-outs like this))

Back to the main stream of this rumination… which has to do with organizing and working productively with information universes.

So I’ve been wrangling a simply enormous universe of recorded musics, legacy of my packrat tendencies and hydra-headed enthusiasms, trying to figure out how to make some sense of what I’ve accumulated in 50-odd years of collecting and adventuring in the jungles of coordinated sound. There are uncounted vinyl albums, boxes of reel-to-reel tapes, wallsful of cassette tapes and CDs, more and more hard-drive folders of mp3 and other digital formats, a growing shelf of DVDs and a heap of videocassettes, a couple of tightly-packed file drawers of notes and photocopies, any number of groaning shelves of books on more musical genres than I could possibly list, scores of instruments on various hooks and in cases, and a roiling mental stew of bits of information, opinion, preference… Is there any hope for this trove? I stumble around in it myself, with pretty good success when it comes to locating an item I’m searching for, but it fairly screams for audience. In the past, I’ve commandeered audiences by teaching courses in Cross-Cultural Studies in Music, and I’ve occasionally thought of doing a radio program, or of mounting some sort of Web-based distribution utility. The tentacled strictures of copyright make it difficult to imagine a street-legal route to Web promulgation. And in any case the first priority is to organize the whole thing for myself –to make a more orderly study collection of the resources.

I’ll invoke another happenstance of the day, a posting at ReadWriteWeb that greeted me when I fired up Google Reader this morning, Yahoo’s New VideoTagGame Lets You Tag Within Videos, describing “a game that encourages participants to tag sections within a video for better retrieval”. Here’s the nubbin of a problem I’ve been considering for several years: how can a Learner mark a moment or a section of an audio stream for later retrieval, and/or for annotation? What I want is a utility that facilitates transquotation (see the Xanadu sense of the term), and it already exists in video realms via Splicd, which allow you to call out a segment of a YouTube video and encode it in a URL. Jon Udell was working on this problem for audio streams 3 years ago (see his delicious tag ‘soundbite’), but I haven’t found any practical products that developed out of his beginnings. There are (so far as I know) no mp3 players that allow the user to mark a moment of an audio stream for return; there are no schemes that marry tagging with URL-specifiable moments within an mp3 file. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine an interface that would satisfy the requirements, and wouldn’t it have to be server-side anyway? (thus running headlong into the copyright problem).

If I had a URL-based mark-and-retrieve utility, I could work it into a suite of tools that would permit me to annotate a hypertext-based narration of my collections. A clumsy workaround could snip out a bit of a soundfile and save it as a new file, adding to the management problem. What I’d like is to use the original soundfile’s ID3 metadata to store a pointer to the annotation… and here the scheme gets all fuzzy as my imagination outruns my technical knowledge of the media involved.

So that’s what’s on my mind at the moment. I’ll continue this thread as inspiration piques, and/or others contribute comments.

On Rearward Horizons

Two years after the moment of Retirement, a glance in the rear view mirror suggests that Things are indeed Larger Than They Appear, in the sense that they’re disappearing into the distance. They may be Larger, but increasingly I don’t much care, or anyhow don’t care in the ways that I once did. Reform Teaching and Learning? Faugh. Take on and remediate the technological cluelessness of librarians and college administrators? I thumb my nose in your general direction. Carry on campaigns for GIS and Web 2.0? Somebody else can break their teeth on those bones. But still I occasionally find statements that stir some of those former enthusiasms, usually in the edublogs I’m still following (though in ever more desultory ways). Today’s case in point: don’t miss the beloved Stephen Downes’ latest, Stager, Log and Web 2.0 for its array of home truths and eloquent Aux Armes! that are his specialty. A few crisp outtakes:

…the main lesson is, I would say, school reform won’t work. Schools were designed for a particular purpose, one that is almost diametrically at odds with what ought to be the practices and objectives of a contemporary education, an education suited not only to the information age but also to the objectives of personal freedom and empowerment…

…it’s not just that the textbook is an inefficient paper-and-ink publication. It’s the whole idea of standardization and lesson plans and curriculum that the textbook brings with it. We should stop using textbooks because they cost too much. We should stay off textbooks because we get a better education as a result…

As Dave Pollard says, “Bucky was right: ‘You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’ We won’t win zoning battles or economic control battles or electoral system battles or proportionate representation battles in the courts or the election campaigns or the markets that are controlled by the elite. We must instead walk away from these corrupt and dysfunctional systems and build new ones, responsive and responsible and sustainable alternatives that others can look at and say ‘yes, that works much better’.”

…people have pretty much given up on trying to reform the existing institutions. We’ve seen a lot of people try. Meet the new boss… same as the old boss. Why bother to fight the restrictions. School web is blocked? Just use your iPhone. Policies are overly restrictive? Just ignore them. I mean – what are they going to do, fire you from your $25K job? Why rock the boat when it’s going over the waterfall?

People are not just opting out of traditional education. They are also opting out of traditional business and traditional government. Making their own decisions instead of trying to sway bodies that purport to make decisions for them.

Trouble is, I’m not so sure myself who should be caring about this. I used to think I knew…

Of hoards, troves and legacies

One of the nicest things about being Retired is the greatly increased latitude to choose amongst the things one might do, but there are still nagging reminders of things one has been meaning to get to Real Soon Now. In the last couple of years I’ve been pawing at various collections [Nova Scotia Faces, my various Webstuffs, a friend’s grandfather’s jazz 78s (digitized and databased on a DVD), my own photographs from various eras, a whole lot of file drawers of remnants from my several academic careers, etc.], imagining glorious ways to organize their contents and transform them into distributable resources, and experimenting with assorted media and technologies that might help me realize my heart’s desires. Those desires seem to come down to telling the stories contained in the collections, for whatever audiences might find them interesting.

The Elephant in the Room is my vast musical holdings, the vinyl and CDs and tapes that I’ve been working with and augmenting for most of my life. How can I make Sense out of that, and how can I make its wonders into a distributable resource? Or even a resource more accessible for my own use? The obvious impediments are (a) sheer size of the task and (b) copyright restrictions, and there are daunting questions of format (mp3? audiophiles may sneer) and approach (review Nick Hornby on the subject).

Case in point: I think I can reconstruct the sequence of my fascinations with several European folk music streams (Celtic, Scandinavian, Hungarian, Greek, Klezmer…) through about 30 years of collection, right down to the order of acquisition of records/CDs and the uses I made of their contents. And likewise with American guitar and mandolin, and with blues. And similarly with the various World Musics that fed into courses I taught. Most of those recordings have liner notes, reading of which was essential to my musical education. Wouldn’t it be nice to make all of that accessible, ideally on the Web but perhaps more realistically as private-distribution DVDs with html interface… surely a MegaProject.

It seems pretty obvious that a landscape of hyperlinks would grow pretty quickly once construction was begun, and that it would be wise to think carefully before plunging in, in order to minimize the amount of hand-coding and repetition. I probably need to develop some database and CSS skills that I dimly grasp. I certainly don’t envision digitizing all the vinyl and tape –just the truly significant bits, those that help to tell the story and/or epitomise something. It would be desirable to implant lots of metadata into the headers of those mp3 files, and to ensure that items can be tagged as seems most useful, and that tags can be displayed and searched, and augmented too. It would be convenient to find models to build upon… but I don’t know of any.

What else should I be thinking about as I design this Leviathan?