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CODE4LIB  January 2012

CODE4LIB January 2012

Subject:

Re: Why are we afraid to criticize library software in public?

From:

BWS Johnson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

BWS Johnson <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 17:45:08 -0800

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text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (65 lines)

Salvete!

    *Warning Ranty. Brooke's Ideas shouldn't actually be consumed by anyone, ever.*




> Why are we so eager to 'protect the guilty' in discussions like this?
> 
> Our reluctance to share info on problems with software we use (because of fear 
> of offending the vendor?) means that it's very difficult for a library to 
> find out about the plusses and minuses of any given product when evaluating 
> solutions.
> 

    I think the root of evil here is that criticism often runs counter to the Prime Directive of Library Science which is Thou Shalt Be Nice. On the surface, that's a wonderful directive. It makes a lot of sense. We give people stuff, they have no real incentive to give it back, but it works. Because at the end of the day, most people are Nice. Most of the time, there's absolutely no harm in being Nice. It's great for fundraising. It's wonderful for reference and reader's advisory. Nice works probably about the same rate that Dewey avoids scattering. 
    However, you've hit on a rocky patch. Nice does us no good with most vendors. Nice also does not tend to do us any good in advocacy. Nice really sucks in salary negotiations. Nice becomes unhitched and somehow twists into passive aggressiveness when it comes to vendors.  


> Don't even bother googling -- nobody will publically call this stuff out on 
> a blog, or even in a public listserv!  It's on private customer-only 
> listservs and bug trackers, or even more likely nowhere at all.  When you want 


    In the before time, when I was at a medium urbanish Library that was swapping systems, I did bother to do a shotgun google. I simply put in the name of the products + bugs and tripped on a lot of not Nice statements. It was very simple and probably very sloppy. I was not a degreed Librarian at the time, but hey, the ratio of hits bore out. The bad products that we bumped into at the time all had way more documented bugs. Not that more bugs is necessarily a bad thing if folks address them, but a lot of the hits related to lonnnnnnnnnng wait times for fixes.

    So I disagree here. Google away. You might turn up naught, in which case, I'd worry, because you're right about stuff being shuttled behind the vendor curtain.

    Also, it might be an imperfect beast, but the Library Automation Survey does vaguely sketch out who's jumping ship for what and how crap customer service might be. It does evolve every year, but I totally understand if you think a year is too damn long to wait for ILS data.


> to find out the real deal, you have to start from scratch, contact personal 
> contacts at other institutions that have experience with each software you are 
> curious about, and ask them one-on-one in private.  Wasting time, cause 
> everybody has to do that each time they want to find out the current issues, so 
> many offline one and one conversations (or so many people that just give up and 
> don't even do the 'due dilligence'), only finding out about things 
> your personal contact happened to have encountered.
> 

    *nod* This is part of good footwork though. If someone doesn't bother with a Google shotgun search, doesn't bother with Library gossip, does a really sketchy review of a product and then signs on the dotted line, they get what they've got coming. 

    One of the real evils here, all sarc aside, is that Librarians sign contracts with non disclosure agreements. That promotes the way things are currently done, since we're masochistic enough to stick the hello kitty ball gag in our own mouths. 

    You are absolutely correct that it's unnecessarily time intensive and inefficient this way. It's kind of a feudal throwback, yes?

> Why can't we just share this stuff in public and tell it like it is, so the 
> information is available for people who need it?
> 

    We should. If we avoid non disclosure we _can_, which means it's possible in future to move this to we *will*. :)


> If you want to find out about problems and issues with _succesful_ software that 
> isn't library-specific, it's not hard to. You can often find public 
> issue trackers from the developers, but if not you can find public listservs and 
> many blog posts where people aren't afraid to describe the problem(s) they 
> encountered, there's no 'protecting of the guilty.' Hint, this is 
> part of what _makes_ such software succesful.


    Mmm hmm. This also allows for folks to collaborate and fix stuff.

Cheers,
Brooke

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