David & Charles: A tidbit

Originally written as Publishers, then changed to Some British Publishers.

I am happy that there were many publishing houses in the world. Variety was the staple of the book trade, and much needed in today’s uniformed world. In this post, I thought I would reminisce about one of the publishing houses that influenced me over many years, David & Charles.

David St John Thomas and Charles Hadfield started David & Charles at Newton Abbot, Devon in 1960. I found their titles on Britain’s canals and railways fascinating, and in particular their works that incorporated industrial archaeology. It did not hurt their reputation that the company was based in the Newton Abbot railway station building or that the locomotive shed was used as a warehouse. They also published travel books, including an Islands series and the Light and the Land photography books by Colin Baxter. In 1971, the company bought Readers’ Union, with book clubs for even more enthusiasts such as needlecraft and other handicrafts, gardening, horses and photography. The company was sold to the American F+W Publications in 2000. F+W were similar specialist publishers, but for the American market.

Note: This post was intended to provide information about several British publishers. The others to be included were: Faber & Faber, Observer Books and Pelican Books. It was originally written 2018-02-08 and saved at 02h07m41s. It is published in this inferior state to acknowledge that the topic is no longer being prioritized by this writer, and to encourage others, who may have an interest in the subject, to create related, but more interesting, in-depth weblog posts.

A tidbit is can be defined as: 1: a choice morsel of food. This usage dates from about 1640; 2: a choice or pleasing bit (as of information). In the context of this weblog, tidbits will refer to shorter draft posts, that have been waiting to be edited and expanded for at least six (6) months.


Cut/Copy and Paste

The most influential computer ever made, original Xerox Alto featuring bit-mapped black and white display sized 606×808 (the same dimensions as a regular 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper, aligned vertically; 5.8 MHz CPU; 128kB of memory (at the cost of $4000); 2.5MB removable cartridge hard drive; three button mouse; 64-key keyboard and a 5-finger key set. It was on such a machine that Bravo and Gypsy were developed, and cut/copy and paste invented. (Photo: Xerox PARC)

Larry Tesler (1945 – ), invented cut/copy and paste. Between 1973 and 1976, Tesler worked at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), in Palo Alto, California, on the programming language Smalltalk-76, and especially the Gypsy text editor, referred to then as a document preparation system. It was on this project, he implemented a method of capturing text and inserting it elsewhere.

Xerox PARC was initiated by Xerox Chief Scientist Jacob E. “Jack” Goldman (1921 – 2011) who previously worked at Carnegie Tech and directed the Ford Scientific Laboratory, who hired a physicist, George Pake (1924 – 2004) to create it in 1970.

Xerox PARC was largely responsible for developing laser printing, the Ethernet, the modern personal computer, the graphical user interface (GUI) and desktop paradigm, object-oriented programming, ubiquitous computing, electronic paper, amorphous silicon (a-Si) applications, and advancing very-large-scale integration (VLSI) for semiconductors.

For a more complete story, see: Larry Tesler, A Personal History of Modeless Text Editing and Cut/Copy-Paste (2012)

While most people focus on the cut/copy-paste tool, the concept of modeless software had even greater impact. A mode is a distinct setting within a computer program, in which the same user input will produce different results, because of other settings. Caps lock when pressed puts the user’s typing into a different mode, CAPITAL LETTERS. If it is pressed a second time, the original made will be reactivated, resulting in lower-case letters.

Most interface modes are discouraged because of their potential to induce errors especially when the user is expected to remember the mode state the interface is in. The situation is somewhat better if there is an on-screen state/ mode indicator, such as a change in the colour of an icon, when a mode change is made.

If the user is unaware of an interface mode, there may be an unexpected and undesired response. Mode errors can be disorienting as the user copes with a transgression of user expectations. Not all mode changes are initiated by users,

Mode changes can be initiated by the system, by previous users or by the same user who has disremembered the state change. In such a situation, an operation with the old mode in mind, will disrupt user focus as the user becomes aware of the mode change. This is especially important when a user cannot find how to restore the previous mode.

Prior to Gypsy, Butler Lampson (1943 – ), Charles Simonyi (1948 – ) and others developed Bravo at Xerox PARC in 1974. It was a modal editor where characters typed on the keyboard were usually commands to Bravo, except when in “insert” or “append” mode. Bravo used a mouse to mark text locations and to select text, but not for commands.

Although similar in capabilities to Bravo, the user interface of Gypsy was radically different. In both, a command operated on the current selection. But Bravo had modes and Gypsy didn’t. In Bravo, the effect of pressing a character key depended on the current mode, while in Gypsy, pressing a character key by itself always typed the character.

In the Wikipedia article on Gypsy, the difference between Bravo and Gypsy is illustrated by three examples:

  1. Insert In Bravo’s Command Mode, pressing “I” entered Insert Mode. In that mode, pressing character keys typed characters into a holding area (“buffer”) until the Escape key was pressed, at which time the buffer contents were inserted before the selection and the editor returned to Command Mode.
    In Gypsy, no command or buffer was needed to insert new text. The user simply selected an insertion point with the mouse and typed the new text. Each inserted character went directly into the document at the insertion point, which was automatically repositioned after the new character.
  2. Replace In Bravo, to replace existing text by new text, the user pressed “R” to enter Replace Mode. That mode was just like Insert Mode except that the buffer contents replaced the selection instead of inserting text before it.
    In Gypsy, to replace text, the user simply selected the old text and typed the new text. As soon as the user began to type, Gypsy deleted the old text and selected an insertion point in its stead.
  3. Copy In the then-current version of Bravo, the user selected the destination, pressed “I” or “R” to enter Insert or Replace Mode, selected the source (which highlighted differently from the destination), and pressed Escape to perform the copy and return to Command Mode. While in Insert or Replace Mode, the user could scroll and could select a source, but could not invoke another command, such as opening a different document. To copy text between documents was more complex.
    In Gypsy, the user could select the source text, press the “Copy” function key, select the destination text or insertion point, and press the “Paste” function key. Between Copy and Paste, the system was, as usual, not in a mode. The user could invoke other commands, such as opening a different document.

Fewer modes meant less user confusion about what mode the system was in and therefore what effect a particular key press would have. Gypsy and Bravo both used a three-button mouse, where the second and third buttons were intended for experts.

New users could learn to work with Gypsy in only a few hours. Drag-through selection, double-click and cut-copy-paste were quickly adopted elsewhere, and have become standard on most text editors.

This text was originally written in June 2009 as a draft for a weblog post. It was removed from the weblog, but subsequently revived without the original date and time stamps. New text was added at irregular intervals, including 13 May 2016, 23 April 2018, and 06 May 2019. The publication date of this weblog post celebrates the 10th anniversary of this weblog.

Norwegian Culture in 16 words

Trøndelag patriots claim Trøndelag is a miniturized version of Norway. Nature and technology, with lots of space. Here, Trondheim’s Fjord, the Fosen Peninsula and Skarnsund Bridge as seen from Inderøy, in January.

Welcome to a Norwenglish lesson, designed to help you learn a few Norwegian words, and some aspects of the Norwegian culture.

Identity

  1. Personnummer (identification number) This 11 digit number is the equivalent of an American Social Security number or Canadian SIN. It provides the owner’s date of birth in clear text in the first six digits, but cannot distinguish the century. It also codes for binary gender in the ninth digit – odd numbers for males, even numbers for females. Not particular appropriate in a society where people face age and sex discrimination.
  2. Folkeregister (population register) This is a database that tells where every resident lives. One of the newer iterations of this was to encode street addresses, so that emergency services could find their way to every building in the country. From the start of a street, odd numbers are on the right hand side, even numbers on the left. Our house number, 82, indicates that our driveway starts somewhere between 820 and 840 meters from the start of the road, on the left hand side.

Possessions

  1. Hus (house) also referred to as an enebolig (single family dwelling) is the standard occupancy unit for families. Apartments are far less common than in Sweden, for example.
  2. Hybel (dorm room) takes what would be storage space in a house and transforms it into rental accommodation, typically for students. In addition to providing a place to live, it also gives the house owner a number of tax advantages.
  3. Garasje (garage) is a building used to store anything and everything, with the exception of a car. Building a garage is a side effect of renting out dorms.
  4. Bil (car) is a public display of outdoorsmanship, rather than wealth. While Norwegians are increasingly becoming more European, and buying more SUVs, they have for many decades prioritized station wagons, where other nationalities would choose sedans, or at least hatchbacks. In an idealized world, a car is used to transport people to the mountains or the seashore – for recreational purposes. Unfortunately, in the real world, it is most often used to commute. The word bil itself shows how many Norwegian words are created. In this case take automobil, discard the front, and use the tail of the word. In contrast, Germans use the front, Auto.
  5. Tilhenger (trailer) has two related meanings. Literally, it means follower, sometimes translated as believer. However, it also refers to a poor person’s pickup truck. Most cars are equipped with a krok (literally hook but implying hitch or tow bar). These are used for trips to the local recycling center as well as visits to Ikea. One would never dream of buying a car, without knowing the mass of trailer it is allowed to pull. Ordinary mortals are allowed to pull 700 kg, but with a special license higher weights are permitted. We have a trailer with a weight limit of 2 000 kg, but our Mazda 5 is only allowed to pull 1 200 kg. The trailer weights almost 400 kg, so we can take 800 kg of junk to the dump at a time.
  6. Båt (boat) today usually refers to something made of fiberglass, powered by a 9.9 hp outboard motor. Fishing is the common excuse used by people to explain their presence on the water. People born in 1980 or later, need to have a boat operator certificate. Those born before are grandparented in.
  7. Naust (boathouse) comes from an age before boat trailers became common. It is a building at the edge of the shore used to house boats, fishing equipment and all things nautical. Nausts don’t like to be alone, so there are often several of them in a line. Like a garage it has an alternative use as a bar and dance floor used specifically on Sakthans (Saint John’s Eve). Celebrations start at sunset on 23 June. This closely coincides with the Midsummer solstice. In addition, the celebration features burning of pyres, the higher the fire, the better.
  8. Ski (skis) are wooden sticks used to propell a person across the countryside during the winter. Purists will only reluctantly admit alpine (or downhill) skiing, favouring a Nordic (or cross-country) variety, or ski jumping or the biathon which combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting. Many of the best competition skiers come from Trøndelag, including Inderøy.
  9. Hytte (cabin) is home away from home. If this is to be used at Easter (or during the winter) it should be located in a mountainous area. If it is to be used during the summer, it should be located by the sea. Increasingly, people are finding it more convenient to rent an apartment in the mountains for a week, or to buy a boat with live-aboard accommodation. Since we live in a hyttefelt (cabin community) we feel no need for an extra cabin.
  10. Julebord (Christmas party) is one of those obligatory events featuring excessive amounts of traditional Christmas foods, that vary according to the region, and – optionally – excessive amounts of almost anything else. Foreigners are never quite sure if jul (pronounced yule) is a Christian or a pagan celebration, for it seems to accommodate liberal amounts of both.

Obsolescence

  1. Postkontor (post offices) have closed down, but reopened as post-i-butikk (post-in-the-shop), moving to a large grocery store in each area previously served by a post office. Hours have expanded to match that of the shops, which for us means from 7:00 to 22:00 (10 pm) Monday to Friday ; 9:00 to 21:00 (9 pm) on Saturday; closed on Sunday. This is where we come to pick up most on-line purchases, although if we were willing to pay more, some can be delivered to the door. Yes, we still have mail delivery, but this has been reduced to five days a week.
  2. Bank (bank) size and services are being reduced. First, the bank bok (bank book) was eliminated. Kontanter (cash) is seldom required any more. Bankkort (debit and credit cards) are used in stores and for on-line purchases. While there was a period when a minibank (ATM/ cash machine) was to be found outside any bank, these have been reduced in number. Most food stores offer cash back when making purchases, since each and every bank card has approved picture ID on its reverse. Sjekk (cheque/ check) was a payment system that was in use when we first moved to Norway. The last check we wrote in Norway was in 1992. We have two 10 kroner mynt (coins) in the car to use at stores that require a coin to be inserted in order to use a handelvogn (shopping buggy). We only shop at one store now, that has this prehistoric condition. In addition, there is Vipps which is cell-phone based payment system.
  3. Fasttelefon (landline) is dying fast. When we first moved to Norway in 1980 there was a ten year waiting list to receive one. When we moved to Bodø in 1985, we were able to get one installed in two weeks. The number of landlines reached a peak of about 2 million in 2001. Since then numbers have deteriorated to 200 000. Last month the telephone company announced that they would no longer repair service to the remaining phones, and said the last ones would be eliminated in 2023. This anouncement was met with outrage. We have not had a landline since the beginning of 2019.
  4. Fjernsyn (television, literally distant vision) is doomed. Nobody under the age of 40, some would say 50, watches programs according to a television schedule. That is performed as a matter of public service to the elderly. Most of the population stream programs at their convenience. The exception, of course, is sports.

Oops

Yesterday, I sent out the fifth installment of an email series about keywords. It should have gone out BCC, but it didn’t so each and every recipient received contact information about all of the other recipients. While this is not the end of the world, it should not have happened. Of course, I have prepared a list of several hundred excuses to explain away this mistake. Yet, for this one time only, I’ve decided to simply admit that this was my mistake, to say I am sorry it happened, and – in this web log post – explain procedures that I have taken to prevent it happening again, as well as other procedures that could be undertaken if it, unbelievably, should ever happen again.

In addition, I am providing some more general thoughts on the challenges facing content creators, and the distribution of their works.

Web-log vs email

I feel more comfortable writing a web-log post, than an email. There are two important reasons for this. First, writing content in a web-log post is almost a pleasure, because of the editing facilities found in web-log software. In comparison, Email editing facilities are second-rate. Second, content written in a web-log post can be updated as required, even after it is published.

This web-log uses WordPress as its platform. Recently, its new Gutenberg editor has been used to write posts. While some features (such as links) still require use of the Classic editor, Gutenberg is a superior editor. Mozilla Thunderbird is used for emails. I work on both a Chromebook laptop and a Linux Mint stationary machine. Both programs allow me to transition between these machines as often as I want, and the updated post or email I am writing follows me.

One of the major differences between an email and a web-log post is that an email is immutable. It doesn’t change. If one has written something foolish it remains in that foolish state, in that email, forever. This is not the situation with a web-log post, which can be edited and updated. This is very useful for a person, such as myself, who has difficulty spelling words correctly.

Please note, that from Keywords 06 and onwards, keywords content will be posted on Brock at Cliff Cottage. Only a link will be sent as an email.

Thunderbird

At Cliff Cottage, the Mozilla Thunderbird email application, runs under Linux Mint. David White, provided a Use BCC Instead add-on for Thunderbird. If the Always Substitute BCC for TO and CC option was enabled, any recipients addressed using TO or CC were automatically changed to BCC before the message was sent. This was a great help for people such as myself who can be forgetful.

Unfortunately, the Use BCC Instead add-on, was not updated when Thunderbird V60 was released in August 2018. TO was the default setting. This meant that every email had to have BCC selected manually. I failed to do this when Keywords 05 Brands was sent out.

Current Fix

The English language recipients of Keywords were stored in an address list titled Keywords. Similarly, the Norwegian language recipients, were stored in Nøkkelord. These two lists have had their respective names changed to BCC-Keywords and BCC-Nøkkelord. Hopefully, when I add the name to the TO: field, this name change will be sufficient for me to change TO to BCC.

Permanent Fix

If I make the same mistake again, a more permanent fix is to downgrade the version of Thunderbird to 57. This version allows Use BCC Instead to function as an add on.

Keywords

V1: 2018-12-31; V2: 2019-03-25

Keywords previously found on this site, including the original text below, have been moved to: https://keywords.mclellan.no There, a new keyword will be posted on Sundays.

The meaning of words changes. This does not present any significant problems if everyone in a culture adapts simultaneously to these changes, and it reflects agreed upon changes in that culture. Unfortunately, this scenario never happens. Rather, elites, usurp particular words, and impose their definitions on others, notably the marginalized, but everyone else as well.

Raymond Williams (1921 – 1988) examined the changing meanings of sixty words used in cultural discussions, beginning with the word culture itself. He intended this to appear as an appendix to Culture and Society (1958). That didn’t happen, but an extended 110 word version, including notes and essays was published as Keywords in 1976. By 1983 a new version added 21 additional words.

Keywords is not an abridged Oxford English Dictionary. It doesn’t include philological or etymological considerations. Instead, its focus is on meanings and contexts.

Culture, published in 1981, continued this work, but focused on this single concept, defined as a realized signifying system” (p. 207). The work is especially concerned with cultural production, and reproduction (p. 206). What is a realized signifying system?

Chris Barker, Making Sense of Cultural Studies (2002), writes: “…a banknote signifies and constructs nationality while at the same time being used for purposes of exchange” (p. 34). Barker has difficulties understanding what an unrealized signifying system could be. Perhaps I can help him. It is best understood using a time machine. Lots of words have the potential to signify something, but do not yet do so. While the Han Dynasty introduced promissory notes in 118 BC, the first attempt to issue banknotes in Europe, occurred in Sweden in 1661. Before these dates, promissory notes and banknotes were unrealized signifying systems. In fact, for most of the world they were only realized much later.

Cultural materialism can best be described as a theoretical movement. Cultural materialists analyze how powerful elites use (historically) important texts to validate or inscribe certain values on the cultural imaginary, that is, that set of values, institutions, laws, and symbols common to a particular social group.

Political Shakespeare, edited by Jonathan Dollimore (1948 – ) and Alan Sinfield (1941 – 2017), is a seminal text of the cultural materialism movement, with four defining characteristics: Historical context, close textual analysis, political commitment and theoretical method. Most of us in the English-speaking world, have been required to read Shakespeare as part of our education and, in doing so, have adopted at least part of Shakespeare’s world view.

Neema Parvini (? – ) writes in Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory (2012) “… culture is irreducibly complex and made up at any given time by numerous cultures which are dynamically linked to each other. At any given time, there is not just one ‘culture’ but lots of different cultures with their own geneses in different epochal moments. Williams gives the examples of ‘feudal culture’, ‘bourgeois culture’ and ‘socialist culture’ which are all part of a cultural process. Culture is not static but processional and its different subcultures are in competition for hegemony. The status of a single subculture is liable to change over time. Williams identifies three different statuses: ‘residual’, ‘emergent’ and ‘dominant’. These are fairly self-explanatory. To use his examples: bourgeois culture is ‘dominant’ because it has hegemony; socialist culture is ‘emergent’, because it is still being created and perhaps may one day become dominant; and feudal culture is ‘residual’ because it is the remnant of a by-gone era, essentially an anachronism, but crucially it is still ‘active in the cultural process . . . as an effective element of the present’.” With reference to Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (1977) pp. 121 -2.

Fintan O’Toole (1958 – ), author and Irish Times journalist, notes, “Best thing that happened to me when I was young was that my father told me that everyone had read the complete works of Shakespeare by the time they were 14. It was life-transforming for me.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/dec/29/fintan-otoole-the-books-interview-brexit-english-nationalism

Unfortunately, I have never found Shakespeare life-transforming. Yes, there are days when even I can appreciate Shakespeare, although not usually at the theatre or even in book form. Much of my understanding comes from Coles Notes/ CliffsNotes, and the odd Classic Comic Book. My preferences are for: Scotland, PA, directed and written by William (Billy) Morrissette (1962 – ), a reworked MacBeth dark comedy made in 2001 in Nova Scotia, but set in 1975 at “Duncan’s Cafe”, a fast-food eatery in Scotland, Pennsylvania; and, Julie Taymore’s (1952 – ) 1999 Italian-American-British film interpretation of Titus Andronicus.

Not all commentators of Shakespeare are Marxist. The right-leaning, Foundation for Constitutional Government, Inc. notes his political importance in these terms, “… Shakespeare seems to have understood the concept of the regime (Greek: politeia) as developed by Plato and Aristotle—the idea that different forms of political organization encourage different forms of human development. Not every human possibility is equally available under every regime; it is difficult to be a Christian saint in pagan Rome (and as Hamlet shows, it is equally difficult to be a classical hero in Christian Europe). A monarchy will inevitably discourage certain forms of political activity (particularly those that challenge monarchy), while a republic may cause the very same activities to flourish. Shakespeare is generally praised for the immense variety of human types he portrays in his plays. Perhaps one of the keys to this success is the variety of regimes Shakespeare covers in his plays—from ancient pagan republics to modern Christian monarchies.” https://thegreatthinkers.org/shakespeare-and-politics/introduction/

Words continue to be important in political discussions. A Raymond Williams Society was established in 1989 to promote related work. Since 1998 it has published Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism. Tony Bennett, Lawrence Grossberg and Meaghan Morris have edited, New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society. In addition, New York University Press has published several related books.

Keywords forAuthor(s)/ Editor(s)
American Cultural Studies (2014)Bruce Burgett, Glenn Hendlerr
Asian American Studies (2015)Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, Linda Trinh Võ, K. Scott Wong
Disability Studies (2015)Rachael Adams, Benjamin Reiss, David Serlin
Children’s Literature (2015)Philip Nel, Lissa Paul
Environmental Studies (2016)Joni Adamson, William A. Gleason, David N. Pellow
Media Studies (2017)Jonathan Gray, Laurie Ouellette
Latina/o Studies (2017)Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, Nancy Raquel Mirabal, Deborah R. Vargas
African American Studies (2018)Erica R. Edwards, Roderick A. Ferguson, Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar

Most recently, in 2018, John Patrick Leary, in Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism, wrote: A keyword, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (hereafer the OED), is “a word serving as a key to a cipher or the like.” In his 1976 classic Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, the Welsh literary critic Raymond Williams laid out the foundational vocabulary of modern British society in a wide-ranging project of critical historical semantics. He defined keywords as “binding words in certain activities and their interpretation,” elements of a living vocabulary that shape and reflect a society in movement. Keywords show what knowledge ties this society together, and how this common knowledge changes over time. As both Williams and the OED make clear, keywords are therefore “key” in a double sense: they are important, and they unlock something hidden.

Where should we be using keywords?

On Monday 2018-11-26, GM CEO Mary Barra announced cuts, explaining them as: “The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient, and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future, …” This transformation involves the discontinuance of six models, closure of five factories, and the lay-off of up to 14 000 workers in North America. This figure includes 3 300 blue-collar workers in USA, and 2 600 in Canada, in addition to 8 000 white-collar workers.

John Patrick Leary responded to this by tweeting, “Language was pronounced dead at the scene.” Resilient and flexible are two of Leary’s 47 keyword topics.

I have just started reading Leary’s Keywords. They are being read as published, in alphabetical order, except where a topic is too tempting to resist. DIY (Do-It-Yourself), is one such seductress. It begins with, “In a 2014 column in the New York Times, architecture critic Jayne Merkel argued that the underfunded New York City Housing Authority could address its vast backlog of unfinished repairs by training residents to make their own repairs.” and ends with “DIY’s present mixture of autonomous self-determination with entrepreneurial self-reliance is what makes propositions like Merkel’s so insidious. Rent-paying tenants of public housing have every right to expect their landlord to “do it” for them; in this case, the enthusiastic voluntarism of “do it yourself” has become more like an indifferent invitation to “do it your damn self.” Is the prospect of student debt preventing you from pursuing higher education? Find a cheaper alternative with “DIY education” in the form of free online classes and Project Gutenberg. Can’t afford a home mortgage? Buy some land and build yourself a tiny house. DIY celebrates individualistic substitutes for state obligations or political solutions, like free public education or affordable housing. In this way, DIY can become, like the more politicized versions of artisanal and maker culture, a practice of consumption masquerading as a practice of citizenship.”

The importance of keywords, by whatever author that attracts a person, is that it encourages everyone to examine how words are being used to manipulate thought processes. We have a duty to ourselves to be critical of everything that we are fed, intellectually, emotionally as well as physically. Some products are nutritious, but increasingly many are simply empty calories.

Enlightenment

Some people may get the impression that I spend my screen time reading  news at The Guardian and its alter ego, The Independent; learning French, German and sometimes Swedish at Duolingo; finding documentaries at mvgroup.org or other videos at Zooqle or Veehd (Yes, I miss Richmond, BC based, Isohunt); as well as technological news at Slashdot (/.) and BC news at The Tyee .

Today, I’d like to suggest four other sites that I visit less often, but which have interesting approaches. These are, in alphabetical order: Aeon, Bella Caledonia, Ello and Kottke.

Aeon

The most prominent characteristic of Aeon is their incessant quest for donations. Despite this, I like them because they do have thought provoking articles. They see themselves in more elegant terms:

“Since 2012, Aeon has established itself as a unique digital magazine, publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. We ask the big questions and find the freshest, most original answers, provided by leading thinkers on science, philosophy, society and the arts.

Aeon has three channels, and all are completely free to enjoy:

Essays – Longform explorations of deep issues written by serious and creative thinkers

Ideas – Short provocations, maintaining Aeon’s high editorial standards but in a more nimble and immediate form. Our Ideas are published under a Creative Commons licence, making them available for republication.

Video –  A mixture of curated short documentaries and original Aeon productions.”

An example of their content is this video about Why racial segregation is a design feature, not a bug, of US cities https://aeon.co/videos/why-racial-segregation-is-a-design-feature-not-a-bug-of-us-cities

Redlined areas keep foreign-born and Afro-Americans poor!

Bella Caledonia

Could an independent Scotland become yet another Nordic country? An attempt to answer that question keeps me reading Bella Caledonia, with its subtitles: independence, self-determination, autonomy.

“Bella Caledonia was formed in 2007 by Mike Small and Kevin Williamson as an online magazine combining political and cultural commentary. Bella is named after a character in Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things (1992). Like Bella we are looking for a publication and a movement that is innocent, vigorous and insatiably curious. Bella is aligned to no one and sees herself as the bastard child of parent publications too good for this world, from Calgacus to Red Herring, from Harpies & Quines to the Black Dwarf.

Poor Things is a remarkable book. Presented as the memoir of Dr Archibald McCandless, it describes his life and that of a colleague – Godwin Baxter. A monstrous proto-Frankenstein, Baxter performs surgical marvels, his greatest achievement being the (re) creation of life: he brings to life a drowned woman by transplanting the brain of the foetus she is carrying. The full-grown woman with the infant’s mind, is Bella.

In Gray’s story Bella is a metaphor for a nation.”

An example of their content is this article by Mike Small, Hostile Environment. https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2018/05/12/hostile-environment/

Bella, a symbol of Scotland.

Ello

Ello was mentioned in the same breath as Diaspora, as an alternative to Facebook.

“Ello is The Creators Network, a publishing and collaboration platform connecting and supporting a global community of artists. Founded in 2013 by a collection of artists & designers, Ello re-imagines the future of creative work by providing a contemporary forum and virtual workplace for artists, brands, agencies, publishers, and their fans.

At Ello we’re committed to advancing the intersection of art, creative opportunity and new media to inspire what only the internet has made possible. We believe that by empowering and rewarding today’s creatorswith visibility, influence and professional opportunity that we can embolden a generation of talent and transform the way creative work gets done.

Learn more about to see how we partner with brands, agencies and publishers to launch creative briefs and harness the power of real-time community collaboration.

Ello is a mission-driven Public Benefit Corporation committed to putting artists first.”

Here is a photograph, from Dark Beauty magazine:

Photographer/Stylist: Ksenia Usacheva 2018 Beauty Intoxication
Hair/Makeup/Model: Julie Demont

Kottke

“Founded in 1998, kottke.org is one of the oldest blogs on the web. It’s written and produced by Jason Kottke and covers the essential people, inventions, performances, and ideas that increase the collective adjacent possible of humanity. Frequent topics of interest among the 26,000+ posts include art, technology, science, visual culture, design, music, cities, food, architecture, sports, endless nonsense, and carefully curated current events, all of it lightly contextualized. Basically, it’s the world’s complete knowledge, relentlessly filtered through my particular worldview, with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails.

kottke.org has helped influence the design and format of social media on the web since its inception. In 2000, the site introduced the permalink as a deliberate design feature, now the atomic element of social media. kottke.org has been cited in hundreds of books and academic publications and was one of the first blogs covered in major media like the New Yorker. In 2005, work on the site was 100% funded using a patronage model that anticipated services like Kickstarter and Patreon. The launch versions of both Gawker and BuzzFeed were partially based, in design and function, on kottke.org. The site has helped discover and popularize many emerging ideas and media forms, including tumblelogs in 2005, about a year and a half before Tumblr launched.

More recently, The Guardian named kottke.org one of the 50 most powerful blogs in the world in 2008. In 2013, Wired Magazine asked me to write about kottke.org for their 20th anniversary issue honoring the people, companies, and ideas that “have shaped the future we live in today”. Slate wrote a robotic blogger to see if the site’s output could be matched algorithmically. Time named me one of the 25 best bloggers in 2013.”

Yes, some bloggers see themselves as more important than others.

As an example of their content, I will mention this brief article about the merger of Essilor (“a French multinational that controls almost half of the world’s prescription lens business and has acquired more than 250 other companies in the past 20 years”) and Luxottica (“an Italian company with an unparalleled combination of factories, designer labels and retail outlets,” including Ray-Ban and LensCrafters). I do this because of my first RyanAir flight (to Sicily), two passengers immediately ahead of me were stopped at customs and fined for bringing fake Ray-Ban sunglasses into Italy.

https://kottke.org/18/05/the-visual-divide Following the link, just takes one back to the Guardian!

Not just a big lens, but two gigantic lenses seach occupying millions of square kilometers!

Seeds: Localized Design

How should an environmental product, in this case a hydroponic vertical “farm” housed in a 15 square meter geodesic greenhouse, be “packaged” so that its design can be localized elsewhere? While the initial product design is intended to be used in Inderøy, Norway, there are many other places in the world where this product might be useful. Thus, this is an exercise in designing “localization” into the initial product, rather than adding it later.

The Inderøy Friends of the Earth group is considering making a prototype of a hydroponic vertical “farm” housed and geodesic greenhouse during the autumn of 2018. One of the designs being looking at is by Paul Langdon. It is shown below.

Paul Langdon may have provided drawings for his Vertical Hydroponic Farm. In much of the world they would be worthless, since all of the dimensions are in non-metric units. The terms gallon and GPH = gallons per hour, cause additional problems, because one is not sure if these are referring to American or Imperial gallons. The referenced website that could provide clarification, is no longer operative. The only hint is an American date, month, day followed by year. https://www.hackster.io/bltrobotics/vertical-hydroponic-farm-44fef9

As can be seen all of the dimensions in the Langdon design are in non-metric units. This means that anyone using this design, will have to translate those dimensions into metric units, then source equivalent metric components or find alternatives.

Theodor Levitt (1925-2006) Harvard Business School professor, editor of the Harvard Business Review, popularizer of the term globalization, definer of corporate purpose, “Rather than merely making money, it is to create and keep a customer.” The Marketing Imagination, (1983) New York: Free Press.

Yes, this is a globalized world, but despite the efforts of Apple, Ford and Macdonalds the world is surprisingly culturally diverse. In the early 1980s Levitt decided that with lessened cultural differences standard products could be provided throughout the world.

John Heskett in Design: A Short Introduction (2005) Oxford: Oxford UP provides the counter-example of Electrolux, convinced that Europe should be a single market for refrigerator/freezer units, like the USA. “[T]he divergent cultures of Europe intransigently failed to follow the American pattern. In Northern Europe, for example, people shop weekly and need equal freezer and refrigerator space. Southern Europeans still tend to shop daily in small local markets and need smaller units. The British eat more frozen vegetables than elsewhere in the world and need 60 per cent freezer space. Some want the freezer on top, some on the bottom. Electrolux attempted to streamline operations but seven years later the company still produced 120 basic designs with 1,500 variants and had found it necessary to launch new refrigerators designed to appeal to specific market niches.” (p. 32)

While gardeners in Inderøy are accustomed to the local climate, as well as weather variations, it is not possible for anyone to have an overview of the climatic situation for everywhere else in the world. Unlike Levitt, we have to assume that other locations will have other needs. Thus, any localized product outside of the bounds of Scandinavia, will undoubtedly need some form of redesign.

It can be debated where localization should start. For a hydroponic greenhouse, it may actually start with a product description on a website, followed by an assembly, operation and maintenance instruction manual wiki. At a slightly different level, it may have to be implemented in the user interface of the hydroponic control unit.

The localization process starts with language, with the goal of making and keeping customers, or equivalent.  Providing a text translated by Google, will only torment consumers. Jargon, idioms and slang have to be understood so that they can be used or avoided assiduously. Local practices have to be recognized, respected, and reflected. Colours impart cultural nuances. In Scandinavia, yellow text on a blue background, may not have a positive impact everywhere in the region! With four prominent languages in Scandinavia, it is important that packaging messages be consistent. Most Finns can read some Swedish, so that equivalent messages have be conveyed in each language. It not, there will be a breach of trust.

If a product is to have a reach beyond the local or regional, informational materials (if not the product itself) must be designed to target locally.  The initial design must allow for flexible and dynamic layout.

Language verbosity means that information must allow text expansion and contraction in different languages. How much to allow is subject to discussion. Here are comments about this topic in one blog: ” … a Spanish document will be 25%-30% longer than the English source …” (Susana Galilea); “… in Finnish the text will become about 30 % shorter, but the number of characters may grow a bit. When translating from German into Finnish the character count decreases by 10 % and word count by 40 %.” (Heinrich Pesch); “… contrary to popular belief, translations are generally longer than the originals, independently of the language pair.” (Óscar Canales). https://www.proz.com/forum/linguistics/17596-document_lenght_difference_between_english_and_other_languages.html

Information design should be flexible, so that design elements can be fitted in appropriately. Fixed sizes may lead to text or other design elements appearing cropped or lost in an excessive empty space. They should be positioned relative to each other but without fixed placements or sizes in order to allow them to realign as required for every language.

The choice of font can impact layout, and in turn, readability. Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text. It covers most of the world’s writing systems, with 136,755 characters and 139 scripts. It is specified in ISO/IEC 10646, which includes code charts for visual reference, an encoding method and set of standard character encodings, reference data files, character properties, rules for normalization, decomposition, collation, rendering, and bidirectional display order.

Google Noto Fonts provide 64 000 of the 136 755 characters defined in Unicode 10.0 which can be used for web as well as desktop applications. Even though 72 755 characters are missing, Noto supports most common languages in the world. Fonts can be downloaded here: https://www.google.com/get/noto/

Since font size varies from language to language, a size that is readable in one language may be difficult to read in another. There is no ideal multilingual font size. Allowing for variable font size is the most appropriate way to provide a give a good user experience across languages and devices. One approach is to use separate language-specific style sheets and define specific styles for each language.

Right to Left languages such as Hebrew or Arabic create their own challenges. Designing packaging so that text can be flipped will accommodate these languages. Yet not everything can be flipped. Challenges arise with: Images, graphs (x– and y–axes are the same in all languages), music notation, clocks, video controls and timeline indicators.

Numerical data, such as calendar-related (startday of week, week numbers, date conventions), clock-related (24 hour vs 12 hour time) are handled differently not just from language to language, but culture to culture. On a website it is particularly important that nominal values are converted into local values. This contributes to a positive user experience.

Languages have their own sorting rules. For example, an alphabetical list of menu items, may not appear in the same order in different languages. Often, it is more appropriate to sort by function.

Texts that are embedded within images, create their own challenges, so these should be avoided. If they have to be used, SVG files support text that can be easily localized.

Icons may mean different things in different cultures. To avoid offensive icons it may be appropriate to use icons that are universally understood and accepted, but these don’t always exist. Unfortunately, images carry cultural baggage.

The Inderøy hydroponic vertical “farm” project, will undoubtedly be open source, with source information provided in a multi-language wiki. If nothing else, English and Norwegian. Many Swedes, as an example, would probably find it easier to translate from English into Swedish, than from Norwegian (especially New Norwegian) into Swedish. In Norway, English is understood by many, and many might consider it unnecessary to localize information into Norwegian. The English Proficiency Index (EPI) puts Norway in fourth place, behind the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden for non-native English proficiency. In 2017, Norway was one of only eight countries to receive the ‘very high’ proficiency rank. Throughout Europe, and the rest of the world, women are more proficient than men in English. The exception is Norway.

As this 2016 map below indicates, not all countries are equally proficient in English, and why localization is necessary.

 

Gender Neutrality

Hello Amig@s!

Gender neutrality, or rather the lack thereof, is a troubling aspect of our times, showing that modern humans are not really that advanced. I found this paragraph when looking up “at sign” on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At_sign

“In Portuguese and Spanish, where many words end in “-o” when in the masculine gender and end “-a” in the feminine, @ is sometimes used as a gender-neutral substitute for the default “o” ending. For example, the word amigos traditionally represents not only male friends, but also a mixed group, or where the genders are not known. The proponents of gender-inclusive language would replace it with amig@s in these latter two cases, and use amigos only when the group referred to is all-male – and amigas only when the group is all female. The Real Academia Española disapproves of this usage.”

Perhaps @ needs to become the 28th letter of the Spanish alphabet. (The 27th is Ñ.)

While English lacks grammatical gender, it still has a pronominal gender system. I am trying to use s/he more often to  refer to people more inclusively, but have not found a shortcut method for her and him. I note that many others are using a  gender-neutral singular “they”.

New site with both old and new content

Welcome to this new site for blogs written by Brock McLellan, the one living in Vangshylla, Norway, not the one living in Michigan.

Unsurprisingly, nobody was able to distinguish the content from the three blogs from each other, not even me. This site has imported content from these, and merged them chronologically. These are:  Brock at Cliff Cottage: brockmclellan.wordpress.org; Unit One: unitwon.wordpress.org; and, Design Needs, Seeds & Weeds: designeeds.wordpress.org

Brock

Dewey-free library classification

In 2007, the Maricopa County Library District announced that its Gilbert Library would abandon Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) in favor of the Book Industry Standards and Communications system of classification system (BISAC). The library district reported the change as a success, with non-fiction circulation increasing six fold.

BISAC is one of many Dewey-free classification systems. Instead of using numerical notation to indicate a document’s shelving location, Dewey-free systems organize documents alphabetically using natural language words. This is because many patrons find numbers intimidating. When words replace numbers, browsing increases. In 1998 Los Angeles librarian Steve Coffman proposed using a “bookstore model” to deliver library services. It can be argued that book store customers, as well as library patrons, are more comfortable with words, than with numbers.

One problem with DDC is that it organizes documents first by academic discipline, and then by topic, leading to materials on the same subject being shelved in different locations. This creates problems for non-academic as well as interdisciplinary works. My feeling is that DDC is WASP-centric. The list of categories marginalized is overwhelming, but includes developing countries, non-Christian religions, non-white races, non-male sexes, non-hetero sexual orientations. Of course, BISAC is in many ways no better. Inclusion requires effort.

Both DDC and BISAC are economic engines. They both want to extract money from libraries using their systems.

Personally, one of the main problems I experience with DCC, is its ability to handle Baha’i materials. An interesting history of classification at the World Centre in Haifa, can be found here: http://bahai-library.com/collins_bahai_classification_schemes In addition, information about the “Phoenix Schedule” by Paul Gerard can be found here: http://bahai-library.com/gerard_phoenix_schedule_dewey

In our personal library system, I cannot imagine abandoning DDC, because of the enormous cost that would entail, especially in terms of time. Changing to a new system would require the cataloguer (Patricia), and and patrons (myself and our children), to learn new categories. This would require not just training, but numerous decisions about cataloguing rules. Despite this, there would still be exceptions, as no classification system can provide descriptions of everything.

Since all four of our library staff and patrons have university education, and are all reasonably proficient with numbers, DDCs use of numbers does not present a problem. The main challenge that can arise, is that a topic is stored under one discipline, rather than another.

At the same time I note that at least one of our local public libraries (Verdal) is supplementing its DCC call numbers, with word-based shelf descriptions. Yes, books with divergent DCC numbers are allowed to occupy the same time shelf!

Authority Control: An aside

Looking up Steve Coffman, I discovered that there are at least two authors, probably three, with the same name. See: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/667862.Steve_Coffman There is one Steve Coffman who wrote: Chicken Justice: And Other Unexpected Lessons in Country Living; Another who co-authored, Establishing a Virtual Reference Service. I also suspect that the author of A Simple Guide to Glass Insulator Collecting is a third Steve Coffman.

Authority control requires catalogers to assign each subject (author, book, organization or corporation) a unique identifier which must then be used consistently, uniquely, and unambiguously for all references to that same subject, even if there are variations such as different spellings, pen names, or aliases. It helps researchers track a specific subject with less effort, and provides more predictable search results.