Monday News: Rebuilding Mosul library, Mastodon, reading books you hate, and the odour wheel
Students host book drive to help recreate Mosul library – The 2014 destruction of the University of Mosul library included at least 100,000 rare books and manuscripts, and while most, if not all, may be irreplaceable, a historian at the University started a campaign to collect 200,000 books to begin rebuilding the library. The story linked above details the efforts of students at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona to collect books and monetary donations (for shipping costs) for the Iraqi library. You don’t have to be local to donate (there is contact info below for shipping cost donations), but if you are interested in donating books, the overall campaign, including contact information, can be accessed here. There may even be a local donation project in your area.
To help supply books, Embry-Riddle students have organized a local book drive throughout the month of April. All books collected through this effort will be sent to Mosul, where they will be organized and shelved by Iraqi librarians. Books in any language and of any genre are welcomed.
If so inclined, please consider making a financial donation to help with shipping costs. Contact Dr. Jonathan Gallimore by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 928-777-3941.- Daily Courier
Like Twitter But Hate the Trolls? Try Mastodon – With more than 140,000 users, and growing rapidly by the day, Mastodon is perceived by its creator, Eugen Rochko, as a place where users can have “more nuanced conversations, with less misunderstanding.” User created “instances” (there are currently more than 400) provide networks for conversation, with a 500 character limit per post. So a bit like Reddit without the moderators? I do love the idea of a real competitor to Twitter, and I agree that Twitter has been slow to respond to actionable content. It’s going to be interesting to discern whether a bunch of different conversations on one platform constitutes true ideological diversity, and whether user-policed conversations are ultimately going to be friendlier (I remain unconvinced of this).
Mastodon has created a diverse yet welcoming online environment by doing exactly what Twitter won’t: letting its community make the rules. The platform consists of various user-created networks, called instances, each of which determines its own laws. One instance could ban sexist jokes and Nazi logos, while another might practice radically free speech. (In this way, Mastodon is not unlike a network of discretely moderated message boards crossed with a Tweetdeck-like interface.) . . .
Mastodon’s decentralized architecture makes for a more democratic user experience. On Twitter’s turf, you’re subject to the company’s rules. On Mastodon, you choose your own instance, but still send messages to users in other ones. (Rochko compares instances to email. You might prefer Gmail, but you can still send a letter to that uncle who stayed on AOL.) Rochko even shut down the flagship instance—mastodon.social, which he created—to prevent it from monopolizing the platform. – WIRED
Why You Should Read Books You Hate – We’ve had many discussions of this variety over the years, but I still enjoyed this piece from Pamela Paul, even though I don’t completely agree with her (or more accurately, I don’t think you can make this as a blanket argument). At one point she discusses the joy and “stimulating excitement of finding someone else who hates the same book as much as you do,” which is just so very true. Yes, it’s fun to talk about books you love with fellow fans, but talking about a book you hate with other haters often gives rise to very passionate exchanges (and hilarious barbs). And while she’s clearly talking about qualities like empathy and understanding (including self-understanding) that can arise from contemplating discordant points of view, how much time should we devote to an activity that can potentially undermine the pleasures of reading? At that point the exercise seems counterproductive. Still, a lot to think about here.
This is not about reading a book you know is bad, a pleasure in its own right, like an exceptionally dashing villain. It’s about finding a book that affronts you, and staring it down to the last word.
At a time when people are siloed into narrow sources of information according to their particular tinted worldview — those they follow on Twitter, the evening shoutfest they choose, AM talk radio or NPR — it’s no surprise most of us also read books we’re inclined to favor. Reading is a pleasure and a time-consuming one. Why bother reading something you dislike? . . .
In earlier, blithe days, I’d simply allowed the contents of books to gather agreeably in my head as I read and then file out when I was done. Either I enjoyed a book or I didn’t. It was only by burrowing through books that I hated, books that provoked feelings of outrage and indignation, that I truly learned how to read. Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view. – New York Times
This Historic Book Odour Wheel pinpoints scent of ancient tomes – Boing Boing provides a graphic of the colour wheel used to describe the smell of old books that researchers have been working to capture. Although the wheel will change as research continues, it looks pretty comprehensive in its current form. If you want to read the entire article on the process, you can access it here.
With the main categories in the inner circle and the descriptors in the outer circle, the aroma wheel also features the likely chemical compound causing the smell. In this case, the data has been matched using the information provided by the descriptions from the museum’s public, the categories from the urban aroma wheel and the data from the GC–MS analysis of the historic book, referenced by established odour description databases . . . – Boing Boing