FYI France

File 3: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler,

June 15, 2009 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on June 15, 2009.

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to:

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. And you can pay via PayPal, on the FYI France homepage:

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Biblio-fr, a lament & celebration


Where else, over the past nearly-20 years, to find in one place all the information there is, on one's favorite French topics, digital libraries, the Internet, bibliothéconomie?

Where else better to find out about France, if one already knows a bit but wants to go a little deeper?

How else, to encounter professionals in one's field, scattered across the Hexagone, on a weekly/daily basis, as they do their work in fast-developing areas?

And -- the greatest biblio-fr benefit, endowed by France upon others, if not realized by many of the French themselves -- what a wonderful resource it has been for nous autres, those of us located far from France, who are fascinated with the place!


When I first encountered networked digital information, back in the 1980s, it was not yet "connected", pas encore branchée, certainly not in the globalization-sense we all now take for granted.

Office information systems were in the office, back then: "computers", along with in-baskets, were left behind at the office after 5pm. And the "telephone" was a separate and very different instrument, as were the phonograph, the tape recorder, the radio or tv set, the newspaper or bookstore or library, the movie theater.

Understanding all this, as it has converged, has been greatly helped by "foreigners": for nous les américains, by seeing how the French did it, with their Minitel and accents aigüs and other seeming-oddities -- for les français by watching TCP/IP emerge and explode, and deciphering equally-odd baseball metaphors, and decoding the arcane l'américain of operating manuals.

But the greatest benefit to learning always is discussion, and biblio-fr has provided that. Weekly/daily, since Hervé first sallied forth online, French librarians and others have announced, discussed and debated every aspect of networked information's development in France and in Europe, as it has developed, on biblio-fr.

The discussion has been in French... itself one valuable lesson, taught and learned, of the e-conference: that, no, the "rest of the world" does _not_ all speak English, in fact -- any more than it all speaks French -- that networked information has to learn the users' many languages, rather than expect the users to conform to it. English-speaking US librarians and Internet developers often met their first occurrence of the nets' need for becoming multilingual, there in the French-language postings on biblio-fr.

But there has been communication -- far more than appears even in the enormous and now historically-invaluable biblio-fr archive. Like all e-conferencing, biblio-fr has had many "lurkers", and has generated much off-list communication, derivative discussion. All politics is local, maybe, but all Internet discussion definitely is viral: for every on-list annonce or debate there have been 10, or maybe 100 or perhaps even 1000, off-list or elsewhere on the nets. In my own online work I have received email responses from Tibet and Tasmania and Togo and many other places to which I've never directly posted, myself: this is far more true for biblio-fr, as I am certain any broad-based user study of its true "global reach" would show.


All good things do come to an end -- or, better, they morph, change, and very often they spawn new approaches improved in all sorts of unanticipated ways. If I didn't believe this I wouldn't be so interested in "hitech"... Without its constant spinoff-improvements, hitech would become a frustrating and ultimately self-defeatingly sclerotic place.

Hervé is going on to other new and interesting things, in his writing and public speaking. Sara, too, will do this I expect, as will the many others now whose lives have been touched by The Biblio-Fr Experience, le projet/les débats.

My own personal preference would be for biblio-fr to continue, as it is, a collegial-style community now 17,806 strong. I find it immensely interesting and useful, petites annonces and Jobilise and all.

If that is not possible, my second personal preference would be for the list's/e-conférence's continuation as-amended, somehow: pruning and smoothing, here and there, but at least continuing the global and collegial nature of the current service.

As to third alternatives, well, je suis ni spammeur ni bloggeur, moi: as others here have said, the narcissistic tendencies of the blogosphere do not attract me -- and anyway I find real communication to be difficult at the atomistic individual level, one-on-one, there I miss the synergies of groups, the advantages of scale.

At the opposite mass-media end of the spectrum, tho, the unrestrained demos bothers me as well: like Usenet long ago, Yahoo Groups & Google Groups and political campaign lists (Dean, Obama) host too many nuts, who offer too much heat with too little light -- in such places online I greatly miss the sanity of able and experienced Moderateurs such as Sara and Hervé.

I am more attracted to "community", what some call "peer group" and others "polyarchy": some rules, some restraint, suitable damnation for topic-drift and flame-war crimes -- no discipline or sanction being so efficient as condemnation by one's peers.

I am however old, now: so are we all -- old, at least in Internet terms -- if we remember the world before biblio-fr, nearly 20 years ago... recently I have had friends excuse views and behavior by protesting "but _I_ am only 20!"... ou sont les neiges...

So, alors, if biblio-fr's collegial "community" approach is not to continue, finalement, perhaps it is time for some of us who have resisted change to look toward the more narcissistic and superficial new formats which others among us so loathe, for leadership, going forward: to blogs, Friendster, Facebook, Orkut, hi5, social networking... even (groan!) Twitter... what is it, "je tweet, nous tweetons, vous tweetez"?

I just don't know, where it's all headed. I feel I may not be the "social networking" or "bloggeur" type, myself, and I don't think wikis have their internal politics well worked-out -- I am more a fan of many-to-many than I am of one-to-many, or of a-select-few-to-many -- but I am willing to try them, if biblio-fr activities end up going in those newer directions. The online digital networking e-conference was considered a crazy idea too, back 20 years ago when it first was proposed, and it has turned out to be fun and very, very, useful.

So, kudos to Hervé and Sara: may you both live long and prosper -- and continue to boldly go where no human has gone before -- the rest of us will tag along, sharing the new experiences too. I will greatly miss the old biblio-fr, if now it truly does expire as-recently-announced. But it's like the scientist's nostalgia for an old slide-rule: the new laptop simply works better, and can do more, and does it faster, and it looks really "cool" -- so, who knows?

Maybe Bing will blow away Google -- maybe will be the new e-commerce -- maybe Amazon's KindleApp-sur-iPhone will become The New Reading, and maybe The Book as a Thing will be saved thereby!

À bientôt, j'espère.


Jack Kessler,







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