Thursday, March 17, 2005

Day 3

Ok, so the keynote speaker today (yeah, it is kinda weird that they have a keynote speaker every day--how many keys do they have out there?) was the appointed head of the GPO. His talk was cleverly constructed to obscure the facts of his story, because he started out detailing a little bit of the history of the GPO and claiming its value to the nation. Of course, since he was made chief, things have only gotten better. For example, did you realize that he was only in charge for about a month before he decided that the best course for an organization that had survived nearly 200 years was for the US to sell off all that property they use to house its offices and employees? Or that this government agency, whose sole purpose is to publish all our government documents and disseminate them to anyone who wants them, should now instead seek to make itself more "efficient" by implanting managers to decide what should be published and what shouldn't so as to save money? Or that a government agency should be a profit center instead of a public utility? Well, Bruce James sure enlightened me today! Hoooooo Weeeeeee! We made $11 million last year off of sales of publicly funded documents and properties, and the, um, retirements of 600 employees! Yaaaaay! According to James, only 300 were going to be "allowed" to leave (because the GPO employees balked when told of the impending "restructuring") at first, but when he found out that their leaving didn't have the foretold ill effects on workflow, he went ahead and "let" the rest of them retire "voluntarily" as well.
What a tool.
Another highlight of the talks today occurred after the second talk of the day. The Beautiful One and I were enchanted (seriously) by a discussion of the possibilities that Wikis have for the improvement of communal knowledge in the world. As a means of showing how Wikis work (anyone can edit the articles at anytime in many of them, including the Wikipedia, which has shown to be a remarkably accurate and broad online encyclopedia), Will Richardson changed one letter in the "Sickbay" entry in the "Star Trek Wiki". He was obviously only showing a group of information professionals that such changes can be made nearly effortlessly, and guaranteed us that by the end of the presentation it would have been reviewed and fixed by another contributor due to the almost-fanatical devotion to those interested in having a flawless Wiki.
Now, we have all paid a serious amount of money to attend this conference, and I assume that all in attendance are fairly concerned with accuracy and reliability from our information sources, what with our being librarians and all, right? Apparently, though, I'm clearly naive. A member of the audience rose after the talk to remark that Richardson had violated the ethics of the Wiki community by altering the Wiki in such a capricious and carefree manner, and that he should be ashamed for having acted so immorally.
It's now so clear to me that I was being led along the garden path to moral turpitude by Richardson! The Beautiful One and I were immediately drawn to the notion of destroying Wikis all over the Web, and it was all going to be so easy--who could resist? Good thing that scold knows what evil lurks in the hearts and minds of all librarians--we need more people like her in our profession to make sure none of us ever stray again! Hallelujah!
Lastly, the Beautiful One and I decided to exorcise our ideas of wanton digital decimation with some tasty snacks. I was thirsty, so I made myself a carbonated mixed-flavor beverage. The Beautiful One was tempted by the wealth of chocolate-covered and other sweet treats, and she knew that I would also enjoy the sugary goodness, so she asked what I might want: a Snickers bar, a Kit-Kat, or some M&Ms. I mocked my own choice of a Kit-Kat by pointing out the extraordinary dearth of nutrition a Kit-Kat bar possesses. Apparently my exclamation of derision for the benefits of the consumption of a Kit-Kat made quite an impression on the gathering crowd, because a lady in front of us on line immediately spun on her heel to return her intended Kit-Kat purchase to the basket from whence it came, evoking gales of barely suppressed laughter from the Beautiful One and me.
Give me a break, indeed!


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