Preliminary speaker: Clifford Stoll

‘”Why is it that drug addicts and computer aficionados are called users?”
Clifford Stoll is an extremely energetic and passionate man who rarely stayed in one spot for more than a few moments. And while in the introduction it was said that Stoll was deeply ambivalent about computer culture, I found that he bluntly understood the trials and tribulations to quickly finding answers.
Stoll discussed several conversations he had with librarians and had many portions at hand—literally, he wrote notes of these conversations on his palm. Even after taking a shower last night, there were still ghostly traces of ink on his hand.
He kept returning to one particular conversation about why M (the initial of the librarian he talked with, which he proved by showing his palm) was a librarian: “innovation, curiosity and a real yearning to find out what’s going on and a wish to help.” This is something that all librarians can all relate to, and I understand his “jealousy” with our profession. He has the same desires, which he expressed was why he became an astronomer and is a stay-at home dad.
Stoll referred to an old clique “they always taste better when you roll them yourself” when describing canning plums. I enjoyed this unusual analogy, which continued throughout the lecture. Essentially, there is an information trilemma (trilemma is my terminology, just imagine a triangle) that librarians face: Information that is Good, Cheap, and Fast. However, information cannot be all three, thus making is a trilemma (a similar analogy is a common theologcal triadic relationship—how can God be all knowing, all good, and all powerful?). Information cannot be retrieved quickly, cheaply, and still have quality. With regards to canning plums, he grows his own plums and his kids pick and then boil those plums. So, he has quality plums that were cheaply obtained, but the process was not fast.
Google, however, one can retrieve results quickly without any cost. But, those results are not necessarily useful quality information. The fast answer is not necessarily the best answer. To Stoll, this is a fraud, worse that a lie, and it is simply a myth that one can type any question and get the “right” answer.
If you want good information fast, it will not necessarily be cheap. In reference to the vendors, Stoll related the quality in information to editing. He said that he is willing to pay an editor to filter out the “stupidity.” What’s missing from the internet is the lack of quality editing; so, one is willing to pay a vendor to increase the quality information.
Inevitably, answers have something to do with, but not necessarily, understanding. Health science patrons want answers, not understanding. Understanding takes time to process and is expensive. Stoll stressed that what we should be searching for is understanding.
I agree
Ultimately, there isn’t a resolution to the information trilemma. But as librarians, we share this common problem and we are seeking what Stoll is seeking: understanding in a galaxy of questions

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