Some No Cost Electronic Scholarly Books

April 7, 2020

Finding books for many people is a virtual stroll through Amazon. Outfits like Ebsco and other commercial database companies don’t do a very good job of indexing books. When it comes to locating a copy, some of the readers journey to Google Books. That Google project remains controversial and a disappointment. The Internet Archive offers books, but it is remarkable that the effort required to find a book is fascinating.

What do you do if you want to locate a copy of a book published by a university press? Instead of flailing through the sources I mentioned or your favorite bookfinder, navigate to The service provides a catalog of books which are “freely accessible online.”

Continuing the tradition of making books difficult to find, we did not spot a search function. Books are listed by university press. These books are offered through Project MUSE. (Project Muse is located at

Most of the titles are scholarly. Some warrant wider readership. Others are the ravings of a PhD desperate to get a book on his or her cv.

Enjoy free books at least through the end of June.

Stephen E Arnold, April 7, 2020

The US Newspaper Industry: Extinction Event

April 7, 2020

I am in rural Kentucky because of a newspaper. I left the wonderful world of suburban Washington, DC, to live near a mine drainage system. Oh, sure, I worked at a diversified newspaper committed to electronic publishing, but a mine run off is a mine run off.

I read “Local Newspapers Are Facing Their Own Coronavirus Crisis.”

I spotted an interesting statement about the newspaper industry in the US:

Researchers have long worried that the next recession – which economists say is already upon us — “could be an extinction-level event for newspapers,” said Penelope Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies the news industry.

Extinction event. Interesting phrase. The write up offered some factoids:

  • More than 2,100 cities and tows have lost a newspaper (mostly weeklies) in the last 15 years
  • Newsroom employment has shrunk by 50 percent since 2004
  • Twenty global news publishers expect a median 23% decline in 2020 ad sales
  • Lee Enterprises announced salary reductions and furloughs
  • The Tampa Bay Times, owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute, cut five days of its print edition and announced furloughs
  • C&G Newspapers, which publishes 19 weekly newspapers near Detroit, suspended print publication

What snagged my attention was the last paragraph in the article:

Editor, publisher and owner Louis Fortis is keeping the website operating and promises to resume printing at some point, in some form. Yet he’s feeling the same uncertainty as millions of other Americans. “I’m very disappointed,” he said. “On the other hand, you have to look at the big picture. People are dying.”

Interesting. On one hand the person is disappointed. On the other hand, people are dying.

What’s this mean? Gnostic puzzles must be eyeball magnets.

Historical fact: The Courier Journal’s Barry Bingham Jr. understood the change electronic publishing would have in the late 1970s. How did that work out?

Gannett, announced 15-day furloughs and pay cuts for many employees.

Gannett purchased the Courier Journal in the late 1980s.

How did that work out? Electronic information is not a solution. Flowing digits work like a high pressure water stream in the ill fated FlowTex system; that is, high pressure water directed at an object erodes that object, blasting it into tiny particles in some cases. Where once an edifice stood, only fragments remain.

Print newspapers are going to fall over. Money bandages won’t work.

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2020

A Term to Understand: Geofencing

March 25, 2020

DarkCyber has reported in its twice-a-month video news program about companies providing specialized geofencing solutions; for example, our go-to touchstone Geofeedia and others like PredPol. You can find these programs by searching DarkCyber on YouTube or Vimeo.

A news story from a “trusted” source reports “Taiwan’s New Electronic Fence for Quarantines Leads Wave of Virus Monitoring.” The “first” means, DarkCyber assumes, refers to a publicized use of a large-scale geofencing operation applied to numerous citizens.

When you read the story, several questions come to mind which the “trusted” story does not touch upon:

  • What vendors provide the geofencing solution in Taiwan and the other countries mentioned in the write up?
  • What technologies are used in addition to the latitude, longitude, time stamp data generated by mobile devices connected to or pinging a “network”?
  • What additional software systems are used to make sense of the data?
  • How long has the infrastructure in Taiwan and the other countries mentioned been in operation?
  • What was the ramp up time?
  • What was the cost of the system?
  • What other applications does the Taiwan system support at this time? In the near future?
  • Are special data handling and security procedures required?

News is one thing. Event A happened. Factoids without context leave questions unanswered. Does one trust an absence of information? DarkCyber does. Of course. Obviously.

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2020

Mr. Bezos, A 21st Century News Outfit Wants You to Do a Daily Briefing, Just Like a Government Leader

March 24, 2020

I read “It’s Time for a Regular Amazon Daily Coronavirus Briefing.” The title alone is remarkable for two reasons: [a] Amazon is a company talk outputs enormous amounts of information in its blogs, on its Web site, and in its public statements and [b] news organizations are supposed to go and find information, not demand that companies give daily briefings.

What the article demonstrates is that reporting is supposed to be like the second grade. Students show up. A teacher outputs. The student listens, practices, or whatever.

The subtitle to the write up (I am not sure what to call it) asserts:

The company’s distribution network is understandably struggling — and it’s time that Amazon started answering questions about it

It is good to know that a 21st century news outfit can take a parental approach: “Understandably struggling.” Yeah, news flash. Many companies are struggling because employees are falling ill and certain attendant disruptions are amplifying. But “understandably.”

The subtitle also demands, like an old fashioned grade school teacher; for example, “It’s time that Stevie Arnold stops daydreaming in class.” How did that work out? I still daydream, and I am not sure external inputs are going to change me. I had to inform one millennial via a LinkedIn message that I was not looking for a consultant to improve my marketing of my blog. I explained, “Not a chance, gentle millennial.”

What’s the write up “reporting”? Here’s an example:

The company has temporarily stopped taking orders for non-essential items that are shipped through its fulfillment service while it focuses on getting more important items to customers.

The company also suspended Prime Pantry, a service for getting rapid delivery of discounted grocery and household items, amid a surge in demand. And — at the request of local governments — it downgraded the quality of streaming on Prime Video in Europe in an effort to reduce the strain on the internet.

Yep, slower deliveries and downgraded video. News flash: There is a virus problem. That virus is disrupting many things. Next day delivery. Does it matter? Video quality. Why not read a book?

Here’s what the DarkCyber team has noticed about Amazon’s current situation:

  1. Amazon is undergoing forced change. Change is hard, and in the midst of change, there’s confusion and those on duty may find it difficult to do mission critical things at all.
  2. Daily briefings are what governments do. Where’s the daily briefing from the hospital supply company in Nashville? No one cares about a daily briefing even from giant companies. Daily briefings, in case the 21st century news outfits have not noticed, are theater.
  3. Amazon appears to have failed in three critical business functions: Securing its supply chains, maintaining existing services to customers who pay for these services, and managing employees in a way that keeps employees chipper.

My thoughts are:

  1. Find people who have first hand information about Amazon and talk to these people. This is research; it is difficult and time consuming. But the point is the news has to be found, not delivered like cookies and milk in grade school.
  2. Adopt an informed approach to assembling verifiable facts. Skip the woulda, shoulda, coulda approach to a write up. The fact is the write up itself reveals that some people are inconvenienced because Amazon cannot deliver something quickly. Wow. One has to exert effort and manage time without Amazon’s “mom” services.
  3. Provide useful information. That means answering questions like, “What can an Amazon customer do when an order does not arrive?”, “What are the options for obtaining video entertainment?”, “How does one apply for a job at Amazon?” Answers, not complaints, might be helpful, might they not?

Net net: Companies are not eager to be told what to do by people who know zero about a business at a point in time. It is time for “real news” professionals to do old fashioned research, analysis, and reporting in DarkCyber’s opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, March 24, 2020

STM Publishing: A Cross Road or a Cross to Repurpose

March 18, 2020

The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has upended the world. In the face of death, the world has shown its best and worst sides. Despite the global pandemic, society keeps chugging forward and humans are forced to adapt. Humans are washing their hands more and businesses are actively allowing their employees to telecommute. The biggest benefit is that the medical and science fields are actively pooling their knowledge to find a cure and create a COVID-19 vaccine. If profit was the main goal, however, the COVID-19 knowledge would be sold to the highest builder. The Los Angeles Times explains how for-profit science publishing could end, “COVID-19 Could Kill The For-Profit Science Publishing Model. That Would Be A Good Thing.”

Sharing scientific research information in real time is not standard and it is an exception to all practices. The amount information about SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes corona virus) on PubMed now amounts to more than four hundred articles. More information its supposed to help in a crisis.

The US government, however, does not follow the belief that more information is better. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention canceled a briefing with infectious disease expert Nancy Messonnier. The CDC Web site also removed information about the number of people tested for corona virus. It is helpful to know how many people have been tested and infected to determine how fast it is spreading.

The COVID-19 shows how information circulates among medical professionals in a crisis:

“What’s most intriguing about the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on the distribution of scientific research is what it says about the longstanding research publication model: It doesn’t work when a critical need arises for rapid dissemination of data — like now.

The prevailing model today is dominated by for-profit academic publishing houses such as Elsevier, the publisher of such high-impact journals as Cell and the Lancet, and Springer, the publisher of Nature. But it’s under assault by universities and government agencies frustrated at being forced to pay for access to research they’ve funded in the first place.”

Publishers Springer, Elsevier, and other commercial scientific publishers have suspended their paywalls on corona virus information. They explain that the open access will only last the length of the outbreak and will not apply to other research. Researchers, however, want open access for everything be available.

The publishers explain the reason for paywalls and keeping information under lock and key, but researchers, librarians, scientists, and other experts want scientific information shared. Not sharing information, especially about diseases, is not beneficial. China cracked down about the corona outbreak in its media and also locked up its scientific research. This prevented the rest of the world from knowing the true extent of the pandemic and even about the virus origins.

STM publishing? Does the future embrace the models refined since the 17th century?

Whitney Grace, March 18, 2020

STM Publishers: The White House, NAS, and WHO Created a Content Collection! What?

March 17, 2020

DarkCyber is not working with a science, technology, or medical professional publishing outfit. Sure, my team and I did in the pre-retirement past. But the meetings which focused on cutting costs and boosting subscription prices were boring.

The interesting professional publisher meetings explored changing incentive plans to motivate a Pavlovian-responsive lawyer or accountant to achieve 10-10-20 were fun. (That means 10% growth, 10% cost reduction, and 20% profit.)

I am not sure how I got involved in these projects. I was a consultant, had written a couple of books, and was giving lectures with jazzy titles; for example, “The Future of the Datasphere,” “Search Is a Failure,” and “The Three R’s: Relationships, Rationality, and Revolution.” (Some of these now wonky talks are still available on the Web site. Have at it, gentle reader.)


Have professional publishers of STM content received the millstone around the neck award?

This morning I hypothesized about the reaction of the professional publishing companies selling subscriptions to expensive journals to the news story “Microsoft, White House, and Allen Institute Release Coronavirus Data Set for Medical and NLP Researchers.” I learned:

The COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), a repository of more than 29,000 scholarly articles on the coronavirus family from around the world, is being released today for free. The data set is the result of work by Microsoft Research, the Allen Institute for AI, the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP), and others and includes machine-readable research from more than 13,000 scholarly articles. The aim is to empower the medical and machine learning research communities to mine text data for insights that can help fight COVID-19.

The most striking allegedly accurate factoid from the write up: No mention of the professional publishers who “create” and are the prime movers of journal articles. Authors, graduate students, academicians, scholars, and peer review ploughmen and plough women. Yes, professional publishing is sui generis.

Several observations:

  1. Did I miss the forward leaning contributions of the professional publishing community responsible for these STM documents and data sets?
  2. Are the professional publishers’ lawyers now gearing up for a legal action against these organizations and institutions creating a free content collection?
  3. Why didn’t one of the many professional publishing organizations, entities, and lobbying groups take the lead in creating the collection? The virus issue has been chugging along for months.

DarkCyber finds the go-getters behind the content collection a diverse group. Some of the players may be difficult to nail with a breach of licensing or copyright filing. If the article is true and the free assertion is a reality, has an important milestone been passed. Has a millstone been strapped to the neck of each of the STM professional publishing companies? Millstones are to be turned by the professional publishing content producers, not by upstarts like the White House and the World Health Organization.

Not as good as a Netflix show but good for a quick look.

Stephen E Arnold, March 17, 2020

Real News for Journalists: Murdoch and the Wall Street Journal

March 11, 2020

DarkCyber spotted the ad below in a recent Wall Street Journal, dead tree edition. We clipped the ad during the week of March 3, 2020. The ad explains that “Journalists don’t just write stories.” That is true.

The image on the left is the ad from the WSJ for the Dow Jones News Fund. Sincere. Nice person. Picture ID. Word salad. (Note: DarkCyber understands that a foundation is different from a real news operation. But …)

Left, a little bit of revisionism. Right, history, a multi-year history at that.

1 wsj fixed ! cnn murdoch

The ad asserts, “They record history.” No, that is semi true. Journalists make history.

One quick reminder. The article on the right explains a multi year phone hacking operation by a Murdoch entity. Does the Murdoch DNA infuse the Wall Street Journal? DarkCyber is in the dark.

Whom does DarkCyber believe, the ad for the Dow Jones (Murdoch owned) entity, or the report in CNN whose headline reads:

UK Phone Hacking Scandal Fast Facts?

What’s DarkCyber take? History is history. Journalists who generate confections about the wonders of certain publishing enterprises may want to know history. One cannot restate it or reinvent it without a glimmer of awareness of who, what, when, where, and why?

Oh, the why? Money.

Stephen E Arnold, March 11, 2020

Fast Company Offends DarkCyber

March 6, 2020

The write up is “These Are the Reasons Why You Find Something Offensive.” Several facets of the article offended DarkCyber, an entity not known for its keen sensitivity and heightened empathetic responses.

Here’s what offended us in the write up:

  1. Judgment spelled this way: “judgement”. Ah, the editorial acumen of Planet Fitness.
  2. The insight that in-group solidarity accepts and possible encourages offensive language.
  3. The use of the term “foreseeability expectations” in a publication aimed as the Silicon Valley types who did not take sociology in college.

But the major offender is the inclusion of this passage in the write up:

You may not like what others are saying, but the chances are you can take some comfort from knowing that what has offended you might be rooted in the many different experiences and worldviews we all have. If you don’t see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: –>

What code above? What’s the tab? What’s the dead link thing?

Talk about great editing is unlikely to include the Fast Company approach.

Stephen E Arnold, March 6, 2020

New Speak: Editorial Control Becomes Custom Results

March 5, 2020

Just a small thing. Newspapers, magazines, and book editors (well, once in a while) once exercised editorial control. The idea was simple: Reasonably well-educated people who were sober (one hoped) would screen and select content to appear in their respective content outputs. A “content output” in the Okay, Boomer hay day were printed artifacts: A daily paper (no reminders about yellow journalism, please), magazines (no snide comments about multi-year renewal offers a few weeks after a new subscription was started, and books (please, no remarks about samizdat).

Pinterest Is Combating Corona Virus Misinformation with Custom Search Results” says:

The company told The Verge it’s introducing a “custom search experience” to ensure its users can get reliable information when they turn to the platform for information about the epidemic. With the new experience in place, the next time you search for “Corona Virus” and “COVID-19,” Pinterest will surface curated pins created by the World Health Organization.

Yikes, adulting. Now let’s use simple words like “selected,” “editorial judgment,” “controls,” etc. “Old speak” still works.

Progress, modest but still progress.

Stephen E Arnold, March 5, 2020

Machine Learning Solution Would Help Keep Wikipedia Entries Updated

February 27, 2020

In a development that could ease the burden on Wikipedia volunteers, Eurasia Review reports, “Automated System Can Rewrite Outdated Sentences in Wikipedia Articles.” Researchers at MIT have created a system that could greatly simplify the never-ending process of keeping articles up to date on the site. Instead of having to rewrite sentences or paragraphs, volunteers could just insert the updated information into an unstructured sentence. The system would then generate “humanlike” text. Here’s how:

“Behind the system is a fair bit of text-generating ingenuity in identifying contradictory information between, and then fusing together, two separate sentences. It takes as input an ‘outdated’ sentence from a Wikipedia article, plus a separate ‘claim’ sentence that contains the updated and conflicting information. The system must automatically delete and keep specific words in the outdated sentence, based on information in the claim, to update facts but maintain style and grammar. …

We noted:

“The system was trained on a popular dataset that contains pairs of sentences, in which one sentence is a claim and the other is a relevant Wikipedia sentence. Each pair is labeled in one of three ways: ‘agree,’ meaning the sentences contain matching factual information; ‘disagree,’ meaning they contain contradictory information; or ‘neutral,’ where there’s not enough information for either label. The system must make all disagreeing pairs agree, by modifying the outdated sentence to match the claim. That requires using two separate models to produce the desired output. The first model is a fact-checking classifier — pretrained to label each sentence pair as ‘agree,’ ‘disagree,’ or ‘neutral’ — that focuses on disagreeing pairs. Running in conjunction with the classifier is a custom ‘neutrality masker’ module that identifies which words in the outdated sentence contradict the claim.”

Note this process still requires people to decide what needs updating, but researchers look forward to a time that even that human input could be sidestepped. (Is that a good thing?) Another hope is that the tool could be used to eliminate bias in the training of “fake news” detection bots. Researchers point out the system could be used on text-generating applications beyond Wikipedia, as well. See the write-up for more information.

Cynthia Murrell, February 27, 2020

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