March 6, 2013
This is the sort of [slides] we like
(For you and I are very small),
With pictures stuck in anyhow,
And hardly any words at all.
You will not understand a word
Of all the words, including mine;
Never you trouble; you can see,
And all directness is divine.
Stand up and keep your childishness:
Read all the pedants’ screeds and strictures;
But don’t believe in anything
That can’t be told in coloured pictures.
(Inscribed in the front of a child’s picture book, around 1906.)
June 17, 2012
It’s five to ten on Saturday night. Matt and I are in New York City. We could be at the all-you-can-eat sushi buffet a couple of blocks down from our hotel, or watching a film, or doing all sorts of cool stuff.
Instead, we’re in our hotel room. Matt is reformatting the bibliography of our neck-elongation manuscript, and I am tweaking the format of the citations.
June 15, 2012
I am finalising an article for submission to Palaeontologia Electronica. Regarding the acknowledgements, the Contrubutor Instructions say: “Initials are used rather than given names.”
WHY?! What on earth is gained by forcing authors to thank R. Cifelli instead of Rich Cifelli for access to specimens?
And of course this is the tiniest tip of the pointless-reformatting iceberg. Do not get me started on citations and reference, tables, figure captions, headings and all the rest.
The utter, utter pointlessness of such rules is irking me more with each submission I make. It’s indicative of the long-entrenched power-balance that we’ve all internalised, where authors are supplicants to journals, of whom we craved the boon of publication.
This. Is. Stupid.
We take highly trained scientists and put them to work doing tedious, time-consuming, error-prone clerical work which has the net result of reducing the utility of the paper.
Bring on the revolution.
May 8, 2012
Question. I am supposed to be meeting up with Mike Taylor at the conference, but we’ve not met before and I won’t recognise him. Do you know what he looks like?
Candidate Answer #1. He’s a bit overweight and has white hair.
Candidate Answer #2. He exhibits mild to moderate abdominal hypertrophy and accelerated ontogenetic degradation in the pigmentation of the cranial integument.
You wouldn’t use answer #2 in Real Life, so don’t use it in your papers. It’s not big, and it’s not clever.
March 6, 2012
Folks, you should all stop reading this blog right now, and get yourselves across to What’s In John’s Freezer?, the awesome new blog of biomechanics wizard and brachiosaur-cervical scan facilitator John Hutchinson.
Oh, and if you wonder about the blog title, and can’t see how the contents of someone’s freezer could be very interesting, here’s a photo of two of John’s many freezers that I took when I was visiting:
March 3, 2012
In among all the open-access discussion and ostrich-herding, we at SV-POW! Towers do still try to get some actual science done. As we all know all too well, the unit of scientific communication is the published paper, and getting a submission ready involves a lot more than just the research itself. One of the most important aspects is preparing the illustrations — indeed Matt once told me that he thinks one of the best ways to put a paper together is to start with the illustrations, then write the text around them.
[Illustrations are often referred to as "figures". I don't know how the tradition got started, but since that term also means numbers, I will try to avoid it. If I tell you "I am working on the figures for my diversity paper", you don't know if I am accumulating statistics or preparing illustrations.]
Done well, illustrations can be things of beauty as well as scientifically informative.
There are a few things to be said about preparing good illustrations, so we’re kicking off a short series on the subject. This is the first.
But the zeroth was published here a couple of years ago. Since the most important illustrations in many palaeontology papers are those of the specimens, the base you’re working from is your specimen photographs. So you might want to refresh your memory by reading Tutorial 8: how to photograph big bones before we proceed.
There are various steps in getting from a photo to a finished, publishable figure, and we’ll look at those along the way. But somewhere along the line, if you’re publishing in a conventional journal such as the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, you’re going to flatten your colour images down to greyscale. Postpone that step till the last possible moment.
That should be too obvious to need saying, but I’ve got it wrong myself. When I was preparing the specimen photographs for the Xenoposeidon paper, destined for Palaeontology, I flattened the images too early in the process, with the result that the greyscale versions of the figures that were included in the paper are the only versions in existence. The upshot is that if you look at the full-resolution illustrations in the unofficial supplementary information, you’ll see that the version of Figure 3 available there is greyscale, just like the one in the paper.
By the time the three of us did our neck-posture paper in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, we weren’t quite so dumb. So although the illustrations in the published paper are all greyscale, the two that are based on specimen photographs, rather than assembled from previously published greyscale components, were prepared in full colour, then flattened as the very last process before submission. As a result, the full-resolution illustrations in the unofficial supplementary information have figures 1 and 2 in colour:
So we were pretty happy with that. But by the time we came to submit the Brontomerus description a couple of years later, we’d had a rather obvious (in retrospect) thought: just because we can’t have colour in the printed journal, does that mean we can’t have it in the PDF? We asked the good people at Acta Pal. Pol., and they agreed that we could submit colour illustrations, they’d use them in the PDF, and then flatten them to greyscale themselves for the printed edition.
Since about fifty times as many people see the PDF as see the printed journal [yes, I just made than number up out of my head], that solution suited us very well. The outcome was the the PDF has gorgeous figures like this one:
(I’m slightly sorry to be displaying all our own illustrations here, but they do make the point and frankly I like looking at them. Especially that beautiful caudal vertebra.)
Why am I making such a big deal about colour? Because colour is information, and as scientists we love information. When you flatten a colour image to greyscale, you lose information, and that should never be done without regret. It’s perfectly possible that adjacent regions of a fossil will be a different hue but the same brightness: flatten the image and the two colours look the same, but in the original you can see a distinction. That’s valuable.
So in this day and age, The Right Thing is:
- Prepare your figures in colour
- Submit them in colour
- If the journal has a printed edition (and charges extra for colour printing, as most do), tell them to flatten to greyscale.
On the other hand, if you’re submitting to an open-access journal — and you should be, if you want to be widely read — there’s a good chance that it’s online-only (as with PLoS ONE and Palaeontologia Electronica), in which case the use of colour is a complete non-issue. The only reason to prepare monochrome figures then is (as with the Taylor et al. 2011b sauropod-neck bestiary above) when you’re constructing them from pre-existing greyscale images.
Taylor, Michael P., Mathew J. Wedel and Richard L. Cifelli. 2011a. A new sauropod dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation, Utah, USA. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 56(1):75-98. doi: 10.4202/app.2010.0073
Taylor, Michael P., David W. E. Hone, Mathew J. Wedel and Darren Naish. 2011b. The long necks of sauropods did not evolve primarily through sexual selection. Journal of Zoology 285:150-161. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2011.00824.x
February 20, 2012
Folks, just a short post to let you know that, together with my colleagues in the @access Working Group, I have just launched a new web-site.
One of the problems we have in promoting Open Access is getting non-scholars involved. So the whole enterprise can feel like an ivory-tower issue, one that just doesn’t affect the great majority of people. But that’s not true.
The new site is called Who needs access? You need access?. Its goal is to tell stories of many different kinds of people — teachers, doctors, artists, politicians, entrepreneurs — who need access to research papers. Some stories are positive ones about how access has helped; others are more negative, about how lack of access has hindered. We have just three stories on the site as we launch; we want to add more, quickly. Each story needs to be specific, not too long, and have a human face.
Please check it out, contribute, and tell your friends!
February 18, 2012
An interesting conversation arose in the comments to Matt’s last post — interesting to me, at least, but then since I wrote much of it, I am biased. I think it merits promotion to its own post, though. Paul Graham, among many others, has written about how one of the most important reasons to write about a subject is that the process of doing so helps you work through exactly what you think about it. And that is certainly what’s happening to me in this series of Open Access posts.
Liz Smith: Director of Global Internal Communications at Elsevier
Mike Taylor: me, your co-host here at SV-POW!
Andy Farke: palaeontologist, ceratopsian lover, and PLoS ONE volunteer academic editor
In a long and interesting comment, Liz wrote (among much else):
This is where there seems to be deliberate obtuseness. Sticking a single PDF up online is easy. But there are millions of papers published every year. It takes a hell of a lot of people and resources to make that happen. You can’t just sling it online and hope somebody can find it. The internet doesn’t happen by magic.
And I replied:
Actually, you can and I do. That is exactly how the Internet works. I don’t have to do anything special to make sure my papers are found — Google and other search engines pick them up, just like they do everything. So to pick an example at random, if you search for brachiosaurus re-evaluation, the very first hit will be my self-hosted PDF of my 2009 JVP paper on that subject. [Correction: I now see that it's the third hit; the PDF of the correction is top.] Similarly, search for xenoposeidon pdf and the top hit is — get ready for a shock! — my self-hosted PDF of my 2007 Palaeontology paper on that subject.
So in fact, this is a fine demonstration of just how obsolete much of the work that publishers do has now become — all that indexing, abstracting and aggregation, work that used to be very important, but which is now done much faster, much better, for free, by computers and networks.
Really: what advantages accrue to me in having my Xenoposeidon paper available on Wiley’s site as well as mine? [It's paywalled on their site, so useless to 99% of potential visitors, but ignore that for now. Let's pretend it's freely available.] What else does that get me that Google’s indexing of my self-hosted PDF doesn’t?
Liz is quite rightly taking a break over the weekend, so she’s not yet replied to this; but Andy weighed in with some important points:
To address your final statement, I see three main advantages to having a PDF on a publisher’s site, rather than just a personal web page (this follows some of our Twitter discussion the other day, but I post it here just to have it in an alternative forum):
1) Greater permanence. Personal web pages (even with the best of intentions) have a history of non-permanence; there is no guarantee your site will be around 40 or 50 years from now. Just ask my Geocities page from 1998. Of course, there also is no guarantee that Wiley’s website will be around in 2073 either, but I think it’s safe to say there’s a greater likelihood that it will be around in some incarnation than a personal website.
2) Document security. By putting archiving in the hands of the authors, there is little to prevent them from editing out embarrassing details, or adding in stuff they wanted published but the reviewers told them to take out, or whatever. I’m not saying this is something that most people would do, but it is a risk of not having an “official” copy somewhere.
3) Combating author laziness. You have an excellent track record of making your work available, but most other authors do not, for various reasons.
It is also important to note that none of the above requirements needs a commercial publisher – in fact, they would arguably be better served by taking them out of the commercial sector. My main point is that self-hosting, although a short-term solution for distribution and archival, is not a long-term one.
Finally, just as a minor pedantic note, search results depend greatly on the search engine used. Baidu – probably the most popular search engine in China – doesn’t give your self-hosted PDF anywhere in its three pages of search results (neither does it give Wiley’s version, though).
And now, here is my long reply — the one that, when I’d finished it, made me want to post this as an article:
On permanence, there are a few things to say. One is that with the rate of mergers, web-site “upgrades” and suchlike I am actually far from confident that (say) the Wiley URL for my Xenoposeidon paper will last longer than my own. In fact, let’s make it a challenge! :-) If theirs goes away, you buy me a beer; if mine does, I buy you one! But I admit that, as an IT professional who’s been running a personal website since the 1990s — no Geocities for me! — I am not a typical case.
But the more important point is that it doesn’t matter. The Web doesn’t actually run on permanent addresses, it runs on what gets indexed. If I deleted my Xenoposeidon PDF today and put it up somewhere else — say, directly on SV-POW! — within a few days it would be indexed again, and coming out at or near the top of search-engine results. Librarians and publishers used to have a very important curation role — abstracting and indexing and all that — but the main reason they keep doing these things now is habit.
And that’s because of the wonderful loosely coupled nature of the Internet. Back when people first started posting research papers on the web, there were no search engines — CERN, famously, maintained a list of all the world’s web-sites. Search engines and crawlers as we know them today were never part of the original vision of the web: they were invented and put together from spare parts. And that is the glory of the open web. The people at Yahoo and AltaVista and Google didn’t need anyone’s permission to start crawling and indexing — they didn’t need to sign up to someone’s Developer Partnership Program and sign a non-disclosure form before they were allowed to see the API documentation, and then apply for an API Key that is good for up to 100 accesses per day. All these encumberances apply when you try to access data in publishers’ silos (trust me: my day-job employers have just spent literally months trying to suck the information out of Elsevier that is necessary to use their crappy 2001-era SOAP-based web services to search metadata. Not even content.) And this is why I can’t get remotely excited about things like ScienceDirect and Scopus. Walled gardens can give us some specific functionality, sure, but they will always be limited by what the vendor thinks of, and what the vendor can turn a profit on. Whereas if you just shove things up on the open web, anyone can do anything with them.
With that said, your point about document security is well made — we do need some system for preventing people from tampering with versions of record. Perhaps something along the lines of the DOI register maintaining an MD5 checksum of the version-of-record PDF?
You are also right that not all authors will bother to post their PDFs — though frankly, heaven alone knows why not, when it takes five minutes to do something that will triple the accessibility of work you’ve spent a year on. This seems like an argument for repositories (whether institutional or subject-based) and mandatory deposition — e.g. as a condition of a grant.
Is that the same as the Green OA route? No, I want to see version-of-record PDFs reposited, not accepted manuscripts — for precisely the anti-tampering reason you mention above, among other reasons. Green OA is much, much better than nothing. But it’s not the real thing.
Finally: if Baidu lists neither my self-hosted Xenoposeidon PDF or Wiley’s version anywhere in its first three pages of search results, then it is Just Plain Broken. I can’t worry about the existence of broken tools. Someone will make a better one and knock it off its perch, just like Google did to AltaVista.
And there, for the moment, matters stand. I’m sure that Liz and Andy, and hopefully others, will have more to say.
One of the things I like about this is the way that a discussion that was originally about publisher behaviour mutated into one on the nature of the Open Web — really, where we ended up is nothing to do with Open Access per se. The bottom line is that free systems (and here I mean free-as-in-freedom, not zero-cost) don’t just open up more opportunities than proprietary ones, they open up more kinds of opportunities, including all kinds of ideas that the original group never even thought of.
And that, really — bringing it all back to where we started — is why I care about Open Access. Full, BOAI-compliant, Open Access. Not just so that people can read papers at zero cost (important though that is), but so that we and a million other groups around the world can use them to build things that we haven’t even thought of yet — things as far advanced beyond the current state of the art as Google is over CERN’s old static list of web-sites.
February 6, 2012
Here’s an excerpt from a Google chat conversation that Mike and I had last May. I’m posting it now as a break from the OA Wars, and because it’s annoying to have to keep track of stuff that we know about but haven’t talked about publicly.
Matt: Something occurred to me the other day, and I can’t remember whether I’ve discussed it with you or not. So sorry in advance if it’s a dupe.
Matt: You had pointed out that a pers. comm. is a link that goes nowhere. Obviously one of the concerns with citing blog posts is their permanence.
Mike: True. The only REAL concern, in fact. And 4wiw, a concern just as valid for other web-based resources.
Matt: The failure mode of a blog citation is a pers. comm.
Mike: Oh, good point. It degrades gracefully, as we say in programming.
Matt: Yes, exactly. Citing a blog post is better than a pers.comm. while the post is up, and no worse if it goes away.
I’ll break in here and point out that the same is true for pers. obs., unpubl. data, in prep., and other citations that don’t point to resources available to the reader: IF there’s a relevant blog post (and there may not be), citing the blog post gives readers more info than one of those “link to nowhere” modes of citation, and no less info if the blog post ever goes away. Obviously there are times when you’d prefer to keep unpublished data and in prep work out of the public eye until you’re ready to deploy it. But for people doing true open notebook science, there is no need to ever cite “unpubl. data” because there’s no such thing. I wonder if that’s the shape of the future? Also, if you have a blog, there’s no need to ever do a pers. obs. citation. Just blog about it and then cite your blog. If an editor or reviewer gives you grief, point out that the alternative pers. obs. citation would have been objectively inferior to putting the information online and then citing it!
The conversation continues:
Mike: I’ve had another thought on this.
Matt: Do tell!
Mike: At the moment, the article “How big was Amphicoelias fragillimus? I mean, really?” lives at http://svpow.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/how-big-was-amphicoelias-fragillimus-i-mean-really/ BUT if that web-page ever goes away, it’ll be because we’ve moved SV-POW! elsewhere. The article will still be out there, just in a different location. So citing blog posts by URL is a bit like citing the specific copy of The Dinosauria that’s on the shelf behind me, and which will go away if my house burns down. That citation doesn’t bother anyone because they know they can just look at another copy. But actually, I’ve many times found copies of web-pages I wanted, after they’ve gone away, just by googling the titles. So I think we should just encourage a lot of copying and mirroring and PDFing of pages and passing around copies of the PDFs and suchlike.
Matt: Yeah, that would be good.
This is an attempt to deal with the problem raised in the first part, which is the possible impermanence of web sources. DOIs and WebCitation and so on are other approaches to the same problem.
I think this is a big deal. Right now we–as in, humans, or at least the wired world–are going through a revolution wherein, to a first approximation, all of human knowledge is becoming available to anyone anywhere with a computer (or tablet, smart phone, etc.) and an internet connection. Things like SOPA and PIPA and RWA and paywalls and RIAA lawsuits against filesharing sites and Elsevier lawsuits against libraries are all attempts to either stop this revolution or put limits on it. I say ‘attempts’ because none of those specific instances look like they’re going to be successful. In fact, I don’t think there is way to stop it, except to withdraw from the wired world. And even then, if you’re passing information around on hardcopies, there’s no guarantee that someone won’t scan them and post all the information to the ‘net without your permission (e.g., WikiLeaks).
Okay, none of that was news for anyone who is alive and awake. But there’s more.
Coming along hand-in-hand with the access revolution is the permanence problem. Anything particularly entertaining, valuable or salacious will be copied and shared until it cannot possibly be suppressed (the Streisand effect). But what about stuff that is valuable to only a few, or only accessed rarely and by specialists? Say, a monograph from the 1920s on some obscure insect order. The disappearance of that information would be potentially crippling to the specialists who work on that order or on related clades. One answer is to just scan everything and make sure that copies are widely distributed; as Mike has pointed out, PDFs are not going away. The amount of scientific literature that has been produced in the last four or five centuries is finite; given how inexpensive storage is these days, I could probably buy enough external hard drives to store ALL of it in PDF form and still make rent next month (if it was all openly available, which it ain’t).
That will get us caught up to now. But if we’re worried about the permanence of blog posts and so on, we have a bigger problem, because unlike published literature few people are archiving blog posts (that we know of), and without backups somewhere the information really can be lost. And that’s what Mike was getting at in that conversation when he suggested PDFing valuable pages.
(Along those lines, I note that Blogger now has a feature where posts can have a PDF button at the bottom, and clicking the button saves a formatted version of the post as a PDF. That seems incredibly useful, and a lot better than the copy-and-paste-into-Word-and-then-save-as-PDF thing I’ve had to do for the times when I’ve wanted a permanent portable version of a WordPress post. Maybe WordPress has the same function and I just don’t know it; I’ll look around and if it doesn’t exist yet I’ll agitate for it to be added.)
At least for now, for the practical problem at hand, I can’t think of a better solution than PDFing useful pages and posts and passing copies around (which doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better solution). The point of the post is just that even in the absence of a better solution, or any solution at all, blog citations are better than pers. comms. at best, and precisely equivalent to pers. comms. at worst. So, IMHO, any individual or journal that accepts pers. comm. citations but not citations of blog posts is just being silly; consistency should dictate either accepting both, accepting neither, or, if you’re only going to accept one, accepting citations of blog posts, which are better unless and until they get deleted.
Finally, we shouldn’t lose track of the fact that this is yet another instance of “how do we deal with useful information that is not published [in the traditional sense]?”–or, in short, “what counts?” And the answer is, we don’t know yet. Both questions are symptoms of the ongoing collision between traditional forms of scientific communication with the realities of the newly wired world, in which everything is open, amateurs can have public, automatically archived high-level technical conversations about published work (that the authors probably can’t afford to ignore), and nobody knows what the landscape will look like in another decade.
I’ll give Mike the last word, in another quote from that Gchat conversation:
Mike: I know all this is just more riffing on What Counts?, but that theme is proving to be a profound and complex one. [...] I truly don’t know (A) what WILL happen, (B) what SHOULD happen, or even (C) what I WANT to happen.
I don’t know either. But I have a feeling that we’re in the process of finding out.
January 9, 2012
Most of you will know that the major US science-funding agencies require the work they fund (from the public purse) to be made available as open-access to the public that funded it. And it’s hard for me to imagine anyone sees that requirement as anything other than straightforwardly just.
But you may not know about the Research Works Act, a truly vile piece of legislation being proposed by two Elsevier-funded shills in the US Congress, which would make it illegal for funding bodies to impose this perfectly natural requirement. It may not be surprising that a corporation as predatory as Elsevier wants legal protection for its exploitative business model of stealing publicly funded research; but it shocked me to find that this preposterous Act ever got out of committee (unlike two earlier failed attempts to overturn open-access mandates).
The good news is that there is something we can do. The Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP) has issued a Request For Information — basically, it wants your opinion — on public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research. You can read about this in (too much) detail here, but the bottom line is that you should email your comments to email@example.com, before the extended deadline of 12th January.
Here is what I just sent:
From: Mike Taylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 9 January 2012 11:26
Subject: RFI: Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications Resulting From Federally Funded Research
Dear Science and Technology Policy Office,
Thank you for extending the deadline for comments on Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications Resulting From Federally Funded Research. The Research Works Act has only very recently come to the notice of scientists, and it is because of this extraordinary proposal that it is now apparent to us that we need to reaffirm what we thought was settled: that OF COURSE scientific work funded by the public should be freely accessible to the public. I do not understand how this can even be a matter for discussion. The public pays: the public should benefit in every way possible.
The language in the RWA is highly misleading, attributing to publishers far more input into the scientific process than they really have. The truth is that scientists (often funded by public money provide the underlying research, the writing and the figure preparation that result in a manuscript submitted for publication. Other scientists then provide the editorial services and (contra publishers’ claims, as can be easily verified) the peer review. Publishers’ contributions are limited essentially to typesetting, the provision of web hosting, and sometimes a very limited amount of compensation for senior editors only (usually not the handling editors who actually deal with authors’ works). The notion that such a minor contribution should suffice to hand publishers, rather than the public, the right to determine how, where and under what regime the resulting works are disseminated, is ludicrous. It would be laughable if it were not so iniquitous.
Dr. Michael P. Taylor
Department of Earth Sciences
University of Bristol
Bristol BS8 1RJ
Much more about the Research Works Act here, here, here, here, and all over the Internet. Please, do your bit today: send your comments to the OSTP. Don’t let Elsevier and their cartel steal publicly funded science.
Matt here. Emailing the OSTP takes all of 5 minutes and you should do it right away if you haven’t yet. They ARE listening; in my initial message I mentioned that the profits from a handful of the big commercial publishers could fund all scholarly publishing worldwide, and cited this post. Within 19 minutes I received a personal response from someone in the OSTP, saying, “Thank you Mathew. Would you be so kind as to submit your linked evidence in the body of an email to ease processing and ensure it is fully considered?”
So I did. If you’d like the same ammo, see the post linked above and especially updates and comments, and this post on the insane profit margins of the big commercial publishers (hat tip to Mike). You should also include Peter Murray-Rust’s argument that open access saves lives, outlined in this post and more briefly in this comment.
As long as I have your ear, I am curious at the absence of leverage being brought to bear on the politicians to sponsored the Research Works Act: Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
Issa is a corporate lackey and social policy atavism of the first order, and as long as the publishers keep the campaign funds flowing he’s unlikely to budge–unless his followers start asking why he is sponsoring legislation that would allow a mostly-foreign-based publishing industry to monopolize the results of US-funded research. Maybe someone should. Issa’s webpage is here; in a crowning irony, the big banner at the top currently says, “keep the web #OPEN”.
Carolyn Maloney is a Democrat from New York, she ought to know better. Like Issa, according to her Facebook page Maloney has maxed out on friends and isn’t accepting any more. Not surprisingly, things are dead silent there, and mostly just dead. Fortunately you can reach her at her official House of Representatives webpage. Maloney sponsored the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act; since she cares about health care, it would be worthwhile to point out that open access saves lives. One of the rotating photos on Maloney’s webpage shows her touring a small business incubator, so it would also be a good idea to emphasize the plight of the scholarly poor.
Two things: obviously comments from these politicians’ constituents will carry the most weight, so if you’re in their districts, please take the time to write to them. That said, if you’re a US citizen you are in the legislative footprint of these people, and you should let them know what you think. And if the RWA passes the repercussions would be global, so don’t stay quiet just because you’re outside the US.
Second, if you do write to either politician, please be respectful, on point, and brief. Sure, they may be craven corporate shill morons, but you won’t do our cause any favors by pointing that out in those terms. Don’t soft-pedal the immorality of the proposed legislation, but don’t be a name-calling abusive jerk, either. That’s what blogs are for ;-).