Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Beyond silly...

Ok. I'm not usually one to dismiss something out of hand as silly. I've definitely become in adulthood a "let's take a minute to look at all sides" kind of person. After that, I'll still tend to develop a strong opinion, but I like to believe I'm always willing to listen. That said, there are some things that I do have an immediate reaction to, consisting of me wanting to yell, "What in the world were you thinking?!?!" I had one of those moments stretched out over the last few days. Feel free to get me off my high horse and engage in real dialogue!

A post on Autocat last Friday asked about what to record in MARC 007 as the playing speed of a CD. The answer:

"Compact digital discs: Speed is measured in meters per second. This
is the distance covered on the disc's surface per second, and not the
number of revolutions.
f 1.4 m. per sec."

WHY, exactly, is this information important to be included in a MARC record? CDs and DVDs only play at one speed. I know that for analog discs (records, remember those?), one needs to know, for example, if it's a 45 or a 33 1/3, but not for the media currently under discussion! (And LP speeds are what they're *supposed* to be, not what they really should be to reproduce at pitch!) It strikes me very strongly as an anachronism, completely unnecessary in a bibliographic record for a CD created in 2005.

The conversation on Autocat then spun into a discussion of why it's not measured in revolutions per second, some technical details about how CD players work, etc. Interesting, certainly. But I'm a bit incredulous that the focus is on the method of measurement rather than the point of including that data in the first place! If and when CD players are historical artifacts, and all information on how they worked is lost, looking in MARC records and interpreting the very complex semantics of 007 is not going to be the revelation reconstructing the speed at which they should play. Even if we should be recording this information for posterity (value for dollar, anyone?), it doesn't have to be in every single bib record for a CD! We record this information at the expense of far more important data, such as analytics for individual musical works on the recording. Please, please, please! Let's step back and think about why we create these records in the first place. AACR3 (oops, RDA!) is trying to do this, but I fear it's not going nearly far enough.

Rant over. I do realize there are lots of practical problems we have with legacy data if we're going to make large-scale practice to cataloging changes. Let's work to solve those problems and not let them scare us off from doing anything. There are lots and lots of folks out there doing just this stepping back I'm pleading for. Good work, all of you! Let's do some more.

UPDATE! I get AUTOCAT in digest mode, and wrote the above based on messages received up to the morning of 6/1. In the digest I received 6/2, there are no less than TWO posters wondering what the heck this stuff is doing in a MARC record anyways. There's also continued endless discussion about linear velocity, how the CD measurements relate to tape media, how they relate to the "48x" speed advertised for CD-ROMs, etc. It's great that folks want to really understand these things, but I'd still argue that preferencing this sort of information over lots of other useful information isn't the right thing to do.


walt crawford said...

I'm not disagreeing (I'm not a cataloger, but recording the linear speed of a CD strikes me as unlikely to help either a user or a retrieval system), but just one note:

Unless I'm badly mistaken, DVDs don't really have a constant speed, linear or otherwise; at least that's true in terms of actual data flow. DVD data rates are variable, with more compression (fewer kilobytes per second) in some scenes, less compression (more data read from the disc each second) in others. Sony "Superbit" DVDs have a substantially higher average data rate than most other DVDs, as do some other premium movies.

So, in the case of DVD, not only is the "speed" data likely to be useless for a catalog user, it's also pretty much certain to be wrong.

Jenn Riley said...

Works for me! While many of us find it interesting to know these details, I totally agree that this exercise is a side trip of intellectual discovery, and absolutely not something every cataloger must do as part of their daily work.