The Journal Subscription Doomsday Is Upon Us

November 11, 2018

China might have the great firewall when it comes to blocking access, but another infamous digital wall is the great academic paywall a.k.a. subscription paywalls that block access to scientific and academic journals. That could all be changing. Researchers everywhere are shocking and gasping at the thought of have free access to expensive research materials. Could this be the sound of celebration? Nature fills us in on the details in the story, “Radical Open-Access Plan Could Spell End To Journal Subscriptions.”

The celebrating would only take place in Europe, however, as European research funders have banded together for a radical open access initiative that could revolutionize science publishing. The publishers are already angry over this. The European funders are eleven agencies that spend over $8.8 billion annually in research grants. From 2020 and onward, they want all research papers resulting from their grants to be available under a liberal publishing license. The idea is that science should not be kept behind paywalls. The endeavor is called Plan S.

Plan S would change the current publishing model:

“As written, Plan S would bar researchers from publishing in 85% of journals, including influential titles such as Nature and Science. According to a December 2017 analysis, only around 15% of journals publish work immediately as open access (see ‘Publishing models’) — financed by charging per-article fees to authors or their funders, negotiating general open-publishing contracts with funders, or through other means. More than one-third of journals still publish papers behind a paywall, and typically permit online release of free-to-read versions only after a delay of at least six months — in compliance with the policies of influential funders such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

We also noted:

And just less than half have adopted a ‘hybrid’ model of publishing, whereby they make papers immediately free to read for a fee if a scientist wishes, but keep most studies behind paywalls. Under Plan S, however, scientists wouldn’t be allowed to publish in these hybrid journals, except during a “transition period that should be as short as possible,” the preamble says.”

While eleven scientific organizations support Plan S, other European science organizations are still on the fence. These organizations are unsure of how the open access would alter their funding measures and affect their research. The publishers are even more concerned, because it disrupts their entire business model. While they support increasing access to journals, they do not want to get rid of hybrid journals. The publishers think it is better if they all act as one large conglomerate, instead of smaller groups so their goals align. Moving to entirely open access would diminish the quality, peer review, and research of papers.

Plan S would mean the end to subscription paywalls and allow more access to scientific research. The bigger question is who will pay the bill and will research suffer in quality if it becomes “free”?

Whitney Grace, November 11, 2018

Sensational Development from Real Publishers

October 5, 2018

You thought I was going to offer a comment about the Bloomberg report about Supermicro motherboards. Wrong. Frankly when one purchases hardware from sources which operate in far off lands, one often may not know exactly what functions and features those semi magical devices harbor. That is one reason why some law enforcement and intelligence organizations use Faraday cages and approach hardware with a bit of skepticism. How true are the Bloomberg allegation and the subsequent verbal arabesques like this one?

The hair on fire reaction to the allegedly accurate and then allegedly accurate information suggests that some people are concerned.

Nope, the big news from the world of real publishers and real publishing is different. Navigate to this Chicago Tribune report. The write up explains that the Tronc organization is changing its name back to Tribune Publishing.

Personally I liked the word Tronc. The judgment of the real publishing management professionals was on display.

Sadly Tronc has been retired. The article reported (accurately, I assume):

“We are excited about the company rebranding to Tribune Publishing,” spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said in a statement. “It’s a nod to our roots, and a reinforcement of the journalistic foundation on which all of our news brands stand.”

Yep, a journalistic foundation which Tronc did not suggest.

Stephen E Arnold, October 5, 2018

Manipulating the Google: A Reputation Management Method Revealed

October 1, 2018

I don’t want to go through the procedure described in “Data from the Lumen Database Highlights How Companies Use Fake Websites and Backdated Articles to Censor Google’s Search Results.” The article does a good job of explaining how Google’s weak time and date function makes it possible to neutralize certain content objects. The lever is the DMCA takedown notice.

Works most of the time in our experience with Augmentext and some related methods.

I thought it would be useful to highlight what Lumen is.

Straightaway it is a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The group, however, is an independent third party research “project.” The third parties collect and analyze requests to remove material from the Web.

These data are gathered in a database and analyzed.

Who works on these objective investigations?

There is the EFF and law school clinics. Help for the unit was provided by Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law.

What’s interesting is that Lumen is supported by “gifts from Google.” Others kick in, of course. There are no promised deliverables. The pursuit of knowledge is the goal.

More info is here.

How surprised will Google, reputation management firms, and those who want certain content objects disassociated from their name?

Pretty surprised was the consensus around the cast iron stove here in Harrod’s Creek. We just burn magazines, books, and journals hereabouts.

Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2018

Tracking Facebook: The Job of a Real Journalist Is Stressful, Alarming

September 30, 2018

Want to know what the life of a “real” journalist is like? Navigate to “Exposing Cambridge Analytica: ‘It’s Been Exhausting, Exhilarating, and Slightly Terrifying.” Here in Harrod’s Creek we believe everything we read online, whether from Facebook, the GOOG, or the Guardian.

The write up is unusual because on one hand, the virtues of being curious and asking questions leads to “terrifying” experiences. On the other hand, the Guardian is just a tiny bit proud that it made the information available.

I learned:

Cadwalladr’s reporting led to the downfall of Cambridge Analytica and a public apology from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who was forced to testify before congress. Facebook has since lost $120 billion from its share price.

That’s nosing into Elon Musk Tweet territory.

I knew social media was a force, but these are big numbers. Perhaps newspaper advertising will reach these heights with “stressful, alarming” assignments for the “real” journalists?

I learned:

It’s got easier every time I’ve published – sunlight is the best disinfectant etc.

Interesting idea in a world which seems to be emulating the fiction of 1984.

I learned what lubricant allowed the “real” journalist to move forward:

I have to say that the support of readers was absolutely crucial and was one of the things that enabled me to carry on. Not just because it helped give me the confidence to keep going, but also because it helped give the organization confidence. It takes a huge amount of resources and resolve for a news organization to keep publishing in the face of the kind of threats we were facing, and the support of the readers for the story and what we were trying to do really did help give my editors confidence, I think. And I’m really grateful for that.

Does this mean that the “real” newspaper was the motive force?

If so, then “real” newspapers are positive forces in today’s world and not conduits for popular culture, sports, and informed opinion.

My thought was, “I wonder if the Babylonian clay tablet brigade voiced similar sentiments when writing on sheepskin became the rage.”

Probably not.

Rah rah for the “real” journalist. Rah rah for the newspaper.

Any rah rahs for Facebook? Nah. Bro culture. Security laughing stock. Sillycon Valley.

But Cambridge Analytica? Yeah, British with a lifeline from some interesting Americans.

Stephen E Arnold, September 30, 2018

The European Commission: On the Job with Fake News

September 28, 2018

Yes, I wondered if the giant Thomson Reuters was a victim of fake news when I read “Tech Companies Agree to Take Measures to Tackle Fake News.” Of course, TR would not fall victim to fake news; therefore, the information in the write up is spot on.

I noted this statement:

Tech companies have agreed to measures to tackle fake news and concerns that it can influence elections, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

Okay, but what “tech companies.” The TR article pointed to this story titled “Tech Companies Agree to Measures to Tackle Fake News.” Is there a list of tech companies at the link destination? Nope, it’s the same story.

So the report about fake news refers to itself.

Not fake news, but it does raise these questions:

  • What companies agreed to fight fake news?
  • How will the companies fight fake news?
  • What is fake news?

Obviously self referential information is not fake, right. What’s good for traffic is definitely “real” and countable.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2018

Modern Journalism: Fact or Fiction or Something Quite New

September 21, 2018

I read the information on this New York Times’ Web page. The intent is to explain how the NYT can learn a “secret” from a helpful reader. I noted this statement:

Each tip, be it from a submission or from a source, is rigorously vetted and probed.”

I find that interesting. I wonder how the anonymous editorial about the “soft” revolt within President Donald Trump’s staff was verified.

Probably not important. “Real” journalists do not have to reveal sources when a secret tip is rigorously vetted and probed.

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, where real journalism is embodied in the local newspaper, the difference between reality and fiction is blurred. It is not thinking here; it is bourbon that does the trick.

Stephen E Arnold, September 21, 2018

Tips for Dealing with Content Stealers

September 17, 2018

Content on the Internet gets stolen. It is a Reddit trademark, i,e, memes. If you inhabit any part of the fandom community (visit 4chan if you want to have nightmares), then copyright content is plagiarized in fanfiction, fanart, and fan videos. Some cases of fan content have become Internet legends. What do you do, however, if you do not want your content to be stolen and how do you prevent it?

Hacker News Hosted at Y Combinator has a post about, “Dealing with a Competitor Who Is Scraping My Content and Ranking Higher.” Here is the situation:

“One of my competitors has been scrapping my site and providing service to their users without paying anything. And now they surpassed me on Google ranking. I’ve created a website which gets around 5K unique hits every day. It’s a free service for users but I’ve to pay a monthly fee to a third party service provider. Because my site is free for users and doesn’t require users to register it’s been very hard to keep up with this guy. If I change certain things, they counter it immediately and make it work. And they use several proxies to send the request, it’s virtually impossible to block based on IP. Please suggest, if there is anything I’m missing that can be done.”

There are some suggestions such as trap sheets, which is similar to paper towns, where mapmakers include fake streets and towns to identify if any steals their work. Google used something similar when they suspected that Bing was stealing its search results. The proof was in the search results pudding, Bing did scrap the results.

Google also might be helpful in getting them delisted, because the competitor is stealing the content which is illegal. Another suggestion is that the original content writer have the competitor license the original content as an extra revenue stream. Will any of these work?

Whitney Grace, September 17, 2018

Social Media and the Violence Thing

September 11, 2018

I read “Can Facebook Really Drive Violence?” Interesting question for some. The write up states:

Recent reporting has probed the link between virtual hate and real world action. But the connection remains murky.

I recall a trick one of my professors at the one horse university I attended. She substituted other words in an assertion and then asked the same question, stood back, land let the logic of 18 year olds prevail. For instance:

Does the telephone drive teenage smoking?

Intriguing because substitution can reveal the tenuousness of human logic.

Set aside the collegiate penchant for rediscovering logical reasoning. A trend can become more obvious thanks to social media and fake news. With careful selection of facts and suppositions, it sure seems as if behavior can be organized and amplified when certain types of information flow. NBC News reported that “Social Media Rumors Trigger Violence in India; 3 Killed by Mobs.”

According to the story:

“Mobs of villagers killed at least three people and attacked several others after social media messages warned that gangs of kidnappers were roaming southern India in search of children, police said Friday.

And NBC added:

“Authorities said there was no indication that such gangs actually existed.”

This “event” caught the attention of some. The Indian Government has reached out to WhatsApp and demanded that they begin filtering out fake news stories. Google and Facebook have already begun attempting to police themselves. If the Indian government’s move to take control over fake news proves successful, expect to see other nations to follow suit and put stronger demands upon social media outlets.

Ah, perception. Information flow can have an impact, just not what some anticipate.

Stephen E Arnold, September 11, 2018

Newspapers and Their Web Sites

September 10, 2018

I have no recollection of who told me this bit of folklore, but I thought of it when I read “Why Are Newspaper Websites So Horrible?”

Take a beaver from its habitat. Maybe a stream in the woods in northern Wisconsin. Put the beaver in the Chrysler Building’s old observation room with some wooden furniture. Come back in about four hours. What will the beaver do? Answer: Try to build a dam. Moral: Beavers do what beavers to regardless of the location.

Take a print newspaper with the baggage that entails. Put it in a digital environment which has been around since the New York Times put content on the LexisNexis news service AFTER it failed with its own online service in the 1970s. Think the NYT is a success? Yeah, but what if the NYT management had supported Jeff Pemberton and his team? Yeah, success might look different. Ah, what if?

The write up focuses on the implementation of the “beavers do what beavers do” behavior.

That’s lighting the garden when I need light underneath my car when I am changing its oil.

Newspapers do ads. An enlightened and wealthy owner like Barry Bingham could generate a newspaper and some electronic products of quality. But once the Bingham properties when to new owners, understand the beaver thing kicks in.

The problem is how traditional journalism, reporting the news, financing the operation, and creating the gatekeeper role with some influence.

The crazy Web sites of newspapers illustrates that result of the management of these interesting business properties. User experience? Sure.

Beavers do what beavers do.

Stephen E Arnold, September 10, 2018

Gray Literature May Face a Backlash from Professional Publishing Companies

September 3, 2018

I read “Read Research Papers Trapped Behind a Paywall With This Chrome Extension.” The write up describes a Google Chrome extension which helps a user locate a pre-publication version of a journal article. This makes veering around a paywall a little easier for some people. Here in Harrod’s Creek, we just ignore articles for which someone has assigned a price tag. We believe that ignorance is bliss, and we wouldn’t want to have our halcyon life disrupted.

The write up explains:

the extension searches for the article to see if the author has posted a free version anywhere as well.


The write up explains in a somewhat labored manner:

Important to note: This isn’t getting you around the paywall or stealing the content. Instead, what it’s doing is seeing if there’s another legal version online that you can read instead. Emphasis on the “legal” in that sentence. If there is another copy online, you’ll see a green tab on your screen letting you know.

The visual clue is a green tag. Click it and, in theory, you will see the so called pre-publication, gray version of the write up.

Beyond Search believes that some of the professional publishers will note this innovation. We hypothesize that some of these savvy executives will come up with some ideas to nuke these unauthorized versions of the publishers’ for fee articles.

Some professional publishers charge authors for the work required to take their drafts and convert them into professional publishing recurring revenues.

Authors, some of whom are academics, often have zero choice about publishing in journals owned by professional publishing outfits. Do gooder researchers often have different ideas.

Professional publishers can make life difficult because most have outstanding legal teams, a keen desire to keep the recurring revenue flowing, and a need to make sure another Google-type existential threat does not blindside them. To be fair, some professional publishers were not able to perceive how disruptive, Google-type outfits could affect their businesses until they were in the hospital after being hit by the digital trains.

If you want the Chrome extension, navigate to the source article. We don’t use Chrome, and, as I said, we don’t use content in peer reviewed journals. Why?

Sorry, like some of the work I did in my 50 year working career, I won’t talk. Move forward I say. But here’s a question for you, “How much are those must have medical and engineering journals either in dead tree or digital form?” That’s a fact worth knowing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 3, 2018

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