Freesteel Blog » High Horses

High Horses

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007 at 12:26 pm Written by:

There’s a caving club called UBSS who have the best caving library in the country. Unfortunately, none of their catalogue is on-line even slightly, because they have to wait till they have enough volunteer money and time to do it properly.

Might I suggest that a series of digital snapshots of the shelves taken with a good camera would provide an impression, which could perhaps raise some interest? Or would it look too cavalier to a grant awarding authority. Maybe they can’t find anyone who’s willing to take snapshots without sticking big fat copyright notices all over the print to protect the world from gaining any benefit from their creativity instant — pressing the button whilst holding the expensive box in the appropriate direction.

The UBSS takes its implied copyright notices very seriously. Back in the good old days of 1981 there wasn’t such a thing as the internet, so if you wrote an article, you had to get it published in print in some journal before anyone could find it and read it. Many corporate-owned journals used their control of this gateway to require that copyright be transfered from its rightful creator to themselves in order to obtain a legal monopoly over the information. That’s because corporations are interested in maximizing their profit, and nothing else.

The owners of The American Journal of Malaria, for example, don’t give a toss if making all their articles open access could save a considerable number of lives by enabling wider dissemination of critical information, if it could possibly cut into their bottom line. Lives aren’t part of the equation.

…but …but …Julian, if they can’t make a profit, then the journal will go out of business, and no one will get to read these articles.

Who said anything about going out of business? The problem is maximizing the profit. Gouging. Screwing for as much as you can those who are willing to pay in order to optimize the revenue stream. Not taking any interest in the lives of those on the other side, who might in the future benefit you, but don’t have the cash or sufficient curiosity to bother with it today. It’s the laws of business. Each unit has to maximize its local income as much as it can and take advantage of any outside weakness.

That’s why we’re in favour of child labour. Children aren’t born with any money, so they certainly start with a disadvantage there. As long as we don’t care that we get a generation of illiterate young adults in twenty years time, it’ll all be fine.

So, the UBSS publishes a learned journal called Proceedings. If you type in one of the articles published there, which someone in your club authored about a caving region your club goes to, and you post it on the web, someone will eventually come round in ten years time and bust you. Apparently, the CUCC response wasn’t humble enough. (I must remember that if attempts to charge me for the contents of the blog I wrote on their server, then I should refrain from telling them to get lost.) Hosting the article on-line potentially interferes with their “revenue stream” which, circa 1981, is £3.00 an issue, and there even any of those particular yellowing volumes for sale.

According to the accounts on page 5 of their June 2007 newsletter (paid for by an irrelevant advert from Wards Solicitors), the club made £969.90 from sales of publications. How this breaks down between subscriptions from libraries who take everything that looks learned by default plus old members who are forced to buy copies as part of their subs, and the rip-roaring trade in the back catalogue, I am told is something I have to contain my curiosity about, since the information would not be accurate and there’s no intention of being misleading. (Something very Civil-Servant-ish about that excuse, isn’t there?)

So, in absence of that, I just allow myself to be mislead by the superficial crappiness of the back-catalogue system — not much helped by the attempt to contract it out to ArchLib at £2.50 per article — the listed printing and postage expenses of the journal, £1450 and £265.55 respectively, and suspect that most of it is due to the latest issue. Incidentally, the printing and postage expenses were half that which they were the year before, and while printing might have radically changed in price, postage won’t have done. Hmm. I wonder what’s going on here.

The club also made a surplus of £2108.13 which, due to changes in accounting procedure, was hard to disguise. Also hard to disguise is the £20,054.60 of cash in the bank from which the club derived £553.55 of interest.

Now, getting back to the issue of maximizing the bank balance at the expense of all other activities, and not spending money that’s sitting around on anything cool and in support of speleology due to an apparent attitude that it’s better to keep hold of every grubbing penny in a tight Scrooge fist so that the exact same cash is still there in two hundred years time when all the caves are under water due to sea level rise, where does that put us today?

Well, it makes it hard to raise money.

According to page 7 of the May 2006 newsletter, there are thousands of historic photographic glass slides dating back to the 1920s peacefully rotting away waiting for some grant giving body to give something so that no one need dip into the 20 useless grand in the bank. Like hell, anyone would. The point about giving a money to an organization is that it’s supposed to be spent, or have plans to be spent. If it’s still sitting in the bank 30 years later, then there’s been a misunderstanding. That’s not what I’d give money for. And I don’t think anyone else would either.

So far, none of these lovely glass slides have been scanned or uploaded onto, say, Wikimedia Commons. What are they waiting for? Is it that the entire set has to be perfectly scanned to a million pixels per inch before the first image is available? Maybe we ought to watch the library to catch fire one day so we can see the librarian running out empty-handed, claiming that he he couldn’t save the entire collection intact, he chose not to bring out one book.

To be fair, the UBSS has put up on the web scans of some very old logbooks, which is pretty cool. See page 27 of that 1946-1947:

Note: When Hon. Sec. arrived Hut in Revolting Mess – Everything Lying Around – VERY BAD Not good enough!

More like that please. Ranting! Less boring f*** money, Commercial Confidentialities, Intellectual Property hang-ups, Rights, Wrongs, Respect. It’s a caving club. Not a Mickey Mouse Club. How do you think we took on the Government? By asking for permission?

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