My travel magazine grumpiness: An example

May 23rd, 2017

Some of you may remember that somewhere (apparently not here) I wrote a brief elegy mourning the death of the Conde Nast Traveler I’d read and loved for years–the new editorial team increasing page size, making it mostly Pretty Photos for Beautiful People, and–most of all–abandoning prices when discussing hotels and restaurants. I didn’t renew what had once been a first-rate travel magazine; I don’t miss it. I believe it’s become a magazine for the eight-digit crowd: those with $10 million or more net worth who can go along with “If you have to ask…” price irrelevance.

More recently, it appears that National Geographic Traveler has been redesigned: still more text, but, well, there go the prices.

Meanwhile, Travel + Leisure has become more substantive since Time Inc. acquired it–with, wonder of wonders, price notes in most hotel/restaurant discussions. What a concept!

I’m reading the March 2017 issue (I’m usually two months behind on magazines) and hit a little item about chefs who have opened up restaurants with a few hotel rooms attached. Consider:

  • Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis wants $58 and up for a three-course meal…and $166 and up for a double room. So that’s $282 plus tax and tips and wine for two people. Not bad.
  • Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall wants $61 and up for a farm-to-table dinner and $215 and up for a double room. Figure $327 plus tax and tips and wine. Also plausible.

And then there’s the nearby one:

  • SingleThread in Healdsburg wants $294 and up for a fancy tasting menu…and $700 and up for a double room. Figure $1,288 plus tax and tips and wine.

See, without prices, I might either believe that all three are “If you have to ask…” situations or ponder whether the Healdsburg place–just a couple of hours away–might be worth a try.

But with prices: well. $961 (the smallest differential) would pay for a pretty decent two-night Monterey vacation. We live in Livermore, only “reasonably priced” by the Bay Area’s odd standards, but at one of our favorite restaurants a good three-course meal (salad, entree with starch and vegetables, bread, and dessert) goes for $23. At another good local restaurant I see the bill for dinner for three, including wine and tip, as $136.

We’re not poverty-stricken, but in planning possible vacations and visits the difference between $327 and $1,288 is decidedly worth noting…and knowing about. A travel magazine that deliberately hides that difference–and the decision at Conde Nast to get rid of prices can’t have been accidental–is doing a disservice to all but the wealthiest readers.

Oh, and if SingleThread is actually a life-changing experience well worth the fee, well, I guess my life just won’t be changed.

Sad.

Cites & Insights 17:4 (May 2017) available

May 19th, 2017

Cites & Insights 17:4 (May 2017) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights,info/civ17i4.pdf

The 80-page issue consists of an introductory page, a final page, and the first seven chapters of GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2017.

It’s a shorter version–unchanged but omitting sections on subjects and regions.

If you’re downloading the free ebook or purchasing the $6 trade paperback (see here for links), there’s no reason to read the issue: you won’t learn anything more.

GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2016

May 18th, 2017

I’m pleased to announce the availability of GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2016, the results of the second comprehensive study of serious gold OA: journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals as of 12:0 a.m., January 1, 2017.

For links to the free (and complete) dataset, the free PDF ebook, and the $6 trade paperback, check the project page at http://waltcrawford.name/goaj.html

Thanks again to SPARC for sponsoring this project.

This edition includes 8,992 fully-analyzed journals that published 523,205 articles in 2016. (A few hundred journals were excluded for various reasons, fully described.)

Additionally, a brief one-time-only discussion, “The Biggest Numbers,” covers the broadest known universe of gold OA, including journals removed from DOAJ in 2016 and journals included in one-time “blacklists.”

The project is not quite done yet: there will be a book-length supplement detailing OA by country (excluding the 12 big publishers in “APCLand”). That supplement will show up on the project page and be announced in posts when it’s ready. It’s likely that a near-future issue of Cites & Insights will add to the subject coverage in GOAJ2, but that won’t appear as a book or separate PDF.

A brief version of the book, the first seven chapters, will appear as Cites & Insights 17:4 in a few days.

Mystery Collection Disc 47

May 11th, 2017

In the past, you could expect about one old-movie-on-DVD post every four to six weeks, and a disc from this endless (OK, 60 disc/250 movie) collection every two or three months. Now…well, the post for Disc 46 was in December 2015 and the most recent post was April 2016. With no further ado, then…

The Swap (orig. Sam’s Song), 1969, color. Jordan Leondopoulos (dir,), Robert De Niro, Jarred Mickey, Jennifer Warren, Sybil Danning, Terrayne Crawford. 1:29 [1:21]

Guy gets out of prison, goes looking for his brother’s murderer, gets warned off by a cop, keeps looking, finds out his brother was making pornos, keeps looking, eventually finds and shoots the killer…getting shot himself in the process.

Put that way, it doesn’t sound that great…and the movie’s nothing special. Maybe the missing eight minutes (which must have had the footage that got an R rating) made all the difference? A young (and, honestly, not very interesting) De Niro stars…or doesn’t. Ah, looking at the IMDB listing and reviews makes it a bit more interesting: De Niro’s the director, and what I saw is a 1979 thing that remakes his 1969 Sam’s Song into a different movie. Still not compelling or very good. Charitably, for De Niro completists, $0.75.

Night of the Sharks (orig. La notte degli squali), 1988, color. Tonino Ricci (dir.), Treat Williams, Janet Agren, Antonio Fargas. 1:27.

Let’s see. I watched this on December 15, 2016. Apparently I watched the previous movie on April 2, 2016. At this rate, I’ll be done with the remainder of this set and the other two megapacks on hand in…about 75 years. Guess I’ll have to pick up the pace. One can only hope that most of the rest aren’t quite as lame as this one is.

Plot? Such as it is: the brother of a laid-back diver had been bugging telephone calls between a crook and the President for years, and has cut a CD with the Greatest Hits: he wants a big payoff to return the disc. He then mails the original to his beach-bum brother (the flick was filmed in the Dominican Republic, so let’s assume it’s set there). From then on, we have occasional spurts of action and lots of underwater and above-water footage, all of it in the daytime, involving this really mean shark who really, really wants our hero. There’s more, of course, but it’s all pretty lame: poorly directed, not very well shot, badly “written.” Oh: I suppose this is the R version, as there’s about 15 seconds of topless women at a swimming pool who are totally unrelated to the plot. Hey, it’s bad Italian cinema. Very charitably, $0.75.

We Interrupt These Mini-Reviews for a Message

My wife asked a reasonable question, given that book reading, OA research, etc., etc. conspired to leave more than half a year between viewing movies that weren’t any good: Why? Thinking about it…I’m raising my standards. If after fifteen or twenty minutes the flick doesn’t seem likely to be at least at the $1 level, I’ll stop and do one of the “not viewed” write-ups. That should help. Now, back to the flicks.

Beyond Justice, color, 1992. Duccio Tessari (dir.), Rutger Hauer, Carol Alt, Omar Sharif, Elliott Gould. 1:53 [1:46]

A wealthy young businesswoman’s son (sort of a rotten kid, kept in private school only through her frequent donations) is kidnapped by her ex-husband (his father), the son of a Moroccan Emir. There’s some nonsense with silver boxes planted in both their houses—all of which leads up to The Situation: the Emir wants the grandson to become the next Emir (Omar Sharif), since his son is too Westernized or something.

Meanwhile…the mother (Carol Alt, with Elliott Gould as her lawyer who also wants to marry her) hires a mercenary (Rutger Hauer) to find and rescue the son—and insists on accompanying them. After which we get lots of intrigue, lots of shooting, an enormous amount of Moroccan desert scenery, a feuding desert tribe that gets involved at the last minute—and an ending that leaves me wondering why the whole bloody mess was necessary in the first place, as the still-alive Emir gives his grandson the choice of how to proceed and he goes with his mother. (The father’s kaput.) Oh, and the mother falls for the handsome mercenary.

Great cast (but Gould’s completely wasted). Great scenery. Ennio Morricone score. Bizarre and ultimately pointless plot. There must have been dialogue and direction, but…. I watched the last half of it double-speed, which kept it moving. Not a great movie by a long shot, but possibly worth $1.

Cold Blood (orig. Das Amulett des Todes), color, 1975. Günter Vaessen (dir), Rutger Hauer, Vera Tschechowa, Horst Frank. 1:20 [says 1:30 on sleeve, actual runtime 1:14]

The original title makes a little more sense, but not a lot. The “plot”? A young woman has gone off to a country house—where she has the key oh-so-cleverly hidden by leaving it on the sill over the door, because nobody would ever think to look there. Anyway, she takes a shower, hears shots, and see that three men have been chasing another man who’s headed for her house…and shoot him, while seeing her.

So they’re going to take her with them so she won’t call the police and can bind up the guy’s wounds. Of course, she drives her car with The Boss of the little gang and the guy who’s been shot (Hauer). Of course, The Boss either falls asleep or has been stabbed and she easily eludes the other car, gets the guy worked on by a doctor, and goes with him to a semi-deserted country estate…where, equally of course, she jumps into bed with him (after a display of nudity which pleases one of the gang watching with binoculars—because, of course, they’ve found where she’s driven to and she disrobes in front of an open window).

What can I say? The explicit sex scene is the most complicated acting in the flick and makes no more sense than anything else. Of course she’d jump in bed with a guy she’s never met but who’s endangered her life and is probably a criminal because…well, Rutger Hauer, I guess. $0.50 if you’re a Hauer or Tschechowa fan, $0.25 otherwise.

 

GOAJ: April 2017 update

April 30th, 2017

It’s April 30–the last day of the month, when I fetch usage statistics for my websites (as always, omitting part of that last day), so here’s an update on GOAJ. (I might have stopped doing these, but the GOAJ download numbers are still astonishing, so…):

  • Paperbacks: No change. Two copies of GOAJ itself sold. So far, none of the others.
  • Dataset: 8 more views, 1,067 total views; 410 total downloads.
  • GOAJ:  45 total Lulu copies, 2,741 more (total 21,330* copies from my site: total 21,375. Actual number of human downloads probably around 500 for April.
  • Subjects: 20 total Lulu copies, 58 additional, 433* other copies, 453* total.
  • Countries: 8 total Lulu copies, 206 additional, 1,793* total other copies, 1,801 total.
  • C&I: New totals 1,463* copies of the excerpted GOAJ version (16.5) and 4,259* copies of “APCLand and OAWorld” (16.4.)

*Missing downloads from 11/13-11/30/16 and, for C&I, 11/13-12/15/16.

Gray OA

Gray OA 2011-2016 (Cites & Insights 17.1) shows a total of 1,263 downloads to date, and no apparent recognition anywhere else that the Shen/Bjork “predatory articles” numbers are demonstrated to be so dramatically wrong; the dataset shows 258 views and 68 downloads.

Notes on comments

April 7th, 2017
  1. By default, comments are off (quite a few posts don’t really need commenting, and every post draws robospam). I don’t always remember to turn them on in cases where feedback is desirable.
  2. The spam software I formerly used allowed me to review all the spam, which I did. That software isn’t compatible with current WordPress. The software I’m using now does not show me spam, so it’s difficult to rescue a comment.
  3. The solution in both cases: send me email (waltcrawford@gmail.com), and if the comment is supposed to be attached to a post, say so: I’ll do that as appropriate.

Cites & Insights 17:3 (April 2017) available

April 6th, 2017

Cites & Insights 17:3 (April 2017) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights.info/civ17i3.pdf

The 32-page 6″x9″ single-column issue* includes two essays:

The Art of the Beall   pp. 1-20

[Hat-tip to Phil Davis for the title.] The blacklists have “disappeared,” but not the blather. Almost entirely material from January 16, 2017 to April 3, 2017. And remember that a comprehensive study of journals that were on the lists and their article counts from 2012 through June 30, 2016 is available as C&I 17.1.

Libraries and Communities  pp. 21-32

If the first essay’s all recent material, this one’s not: items date from October 2009 to May 2014. Some thoughts on libraries and/in their communities, mostly by people better qualified to write about these things than I am

*Reminder: Cites & Insights is now optimized for online/tablet reading. If you’re printing it out, I recommend having your PDF software print as a booklet, which should require 8 sheets of paper. Very slightly smaller type, good paper efficiency.

The Problems with Shen/Björk’s “420,000”

April 3rd, 2017

[This is Chapter 4 of Gray OA 2012-016, a comprehensive study of journals on “the lists.”]

 

Cenyu Shen and Bo-Christer Björk published “‘Predatory’ open access: a longitudinal study of article volumes and market characteristics” in BMC Medicine 13, October 2015. (I’m bemused at the idea that this is a medical paper, but that’s a separate discussion.) I started questioning the paper’s conclusions as soon as it appeared, and continued to do so in my blog and in Cites & Insights.

Quite apart from the apparent assumption that Beall’s word is gospel when it comes to journals being “predatory”—an assumption I found, and find, appalling—I thought the numbers were implausible. The authors used a sample of 613 journals to assert that there were around 8,000 active “predatory” journals in 2014 and that those journals published around 420,000 articles in 2014 (up from around 310,000 in 2013 and 212,000 in 2012).

Being presented with a case for the implausibility of the numbers, the authors responded that the article was peer-reviewed and used proper statistical methods. As I was writing this, I took the time to read open reviewer comments on the article and the authors’ responses. Notably, all of the reviewers said they weren’t qualified to review the statistics—and there were certainly questions raised about the assumption that to be on Beall’s list was to be predatory.

The authors are right about one thing: looking at all the journals is a ridiculously large task. But that task showed that gray journals are just as heterogeneous as I thought they were, making it easy for a 6% sample to be wildly off base.

The First Cut

Now that I’ve done the work, the first note could be that the article’s 2014 figure has the first two digits reversed: it’s closer to 240,000 than to 420,000. Of course, the authors did not accidentally transpose digits; they came up with too-large results. Instead of 420,000 for 2014, 310,000 for 2013 and 212,000 for 2012, the figures should be 255,000 for 2014, 189,000 for 2013 and 125,000 for 2012 (rounding to the nearest thousand)—consistently between 59% and 61% of the article’s figures.

“255,000 questionable as compared to 560,000 DOAJ” isn’t as astonishing as “nearly as many predatory as not.” That 420,000 figure has been cited a lot, mostly by critics of open access in general.

But there’s more to say…

The Second Cut

The authors were working from an earlier and much smaller pair of Beall lists than those that I worked from. I used the Wayback Machine to download versions of the list as close as possible to the versions they used (in both cases, later and presumably a little larger). Flagging publisher and journal listings from those earlier versions yield the figures in Table 4.1, including “UA” journals but excluding X-coded ones.

2014

2013

2012

Journals

2,692

2,222

1,370

Articles

113,996

87,325

55,303

Table 4.1. Journals and articles based on Beall lists at time of Shen/ Björk article

Now we’re down from 8,000 active journals to 2,692—and from 420,000 articles to just under 114,000. The percentages are still clustered: now the real numbers are 26% to 28% of those reported in the article. Even if you added 50% to my figures to account for a few dozen not-fully-counted journals (rather than the 5% to 10% I consider plausible), you’d be nowhere near 200,000, let alone 420,000. And, of course, 114,000 is a pretty small fraction of 560,000—just over one-fifth.

Even those numbers involve the odd assumption that Beall’s tagging is definitive. What happens if we reduce the universe to those articles and publishers where Beall’s actually made a case?

The Final Cut

2014 2013 20*12
Journals

936

781

488

Articles

29,947

21,500

13,198

Table 4.2. Journals and articles where Beall made a case

Table 4.2 shows the results: fewer than 30,000 articles in 2014—about 7% of the article’s estimate. (The 2012 and 2013 figures are 6% to 7% of the article’s estimates.) These are cases where Beall not only listed a publisher or journal at the time the authors downloaded the lists, but actually made a case for the journals or publishers being questionable or “predatory.”

Those numbers are too low—but they’re arguably what should have emerged from the study. As noted in Chapter 3, I believe realistic numbers are on the order of 120,000 for 2014; 90,000 for 2013; and 56,000 for 2012—still a lot of articles appearing in questionable journals, but not quite so alarmingly high.

What Went Wrong?

How could these two scholars be so far off? First there’s the assertion that all journals on Beall’s lists are actually predatory. Second, the “stratified” random sampling method involves some tricky assumptions, based on a “suspicion” that was “verified” by sampling all of ten journals—the suspicion “that journals from small publishers often publish a much higher number of articles than those of large publishers.”

The sampling used in this study yielded a much lower percentage of empty journals than my 100% survey. The article estimates that 67% of listings represent active journals; my 100% survey (admittedly of a larger list) shows 40% active journals. That’s an enormous difference: instead of 8,000 active journals from the smaller list, you wind up with around 4,800. That’s probably about right (I show 5,988—but that’s from a much larger list).

Beyond that, it appears that the sheer heterogeneity of journals makes projection from a small sample so dicey as to be useless. Unfortunately, I believe that to be the case.

GOAJ: March update

March 31st, 2017

It’s March 31–the last day of the month, when I fetch usage statistics for my websites (as always, omitting about 6 hours of that last day), so here’s an update on GOAJ. (I might have stopped doing these, but the GOAJ download numbers are astonishing, so…):

  • Paperbacks: No change. Two copies of GOAJ itself sold. So far, none of the others.
  • Dataset: 25 more views, 1,059 total views; 4 more downloads, 456 total downloads.
  • GOAJ: one additional Lulu,  45 total Lulu copies, 4,066(!) more (total 18,689* copies from my site: total 18,734 (actual total almost certainly over 19,000). Here’s the thing: not only does that 4,066 figure represent more than 90% of all data (by bandwidth) from waltcrawford.name–it’s mostly from spiders and other robots, not from people directly downloading. The latter appears to represent perhaps 700-800 copies, still a lot.
  • Subjects: Oneadditional Lulu, 20 total Lulu copies, 43 additional, 375* other copies, 395* total.
  • Countries: No additional Lulu, 8 total Lulu copies, 242 additional, 1,587* total other copies, 1,595 total.
  • C&I: New totals 1,352* copies of the excerpted GOAJ version (16.5) and 4,154* copies of “APCLand and OAWorld” (16.4.)

*Missing downloads from 11/13-11/30/16 and, for C&I, 11/13-12/15/16.

Gray OA

Gray OA 2011-2016 (Cites & Insights 17.1) shows a total of 1,120 downloads to date, and no apparent recognition anywhere else that the Shen/Bjork “predatory articles” numbers are demonstrated to be so dramatically wrong; the dataset shows 228 views and 58 downloads.

Cites & Impasse: feedback desired

March 17th, 2017

In the most recent W.a.R. post, I said this:

In the meantime, other than various other stuff, there’s a possible Cites & Insights (if anybody cares–and based on recent readership levels, I’m not sure) and the question of following up on 3,300-odd journals that were in DOAJ on 1/1/16 but not on 1/1/17. And slowing down a bit.

I’m still unsure–and the title of this post, which started out as a typo, may be meaningful.

Here’s the numbers:

  • The January 2017 Cites & Insights, Gray OA 2012-2016: Open Access Journals Beyond DOAJ, shows 1,043 total downloads, but 975 were in 2016 and only 68 are in March 2017. I’d hoped that this study–which I wasted spent way too much time on–would get, say, one-fifth the readership of Gold Open Access Journals 2011-2015 and might have some small effect on the discussions regarding “predatory” journals. (I’d really hoped that somebody might acknowledge that the “420K 2014 articles in predatory journals” figure was provably wrong–but I keep seeing that figure repeated.) [Remarkably, GOAJ  2011-2015 has another 2,099 downloads in the first half of March 2017!]
  • The February 2017 Cites & Insights, a fairly ordinary issue, has a total of 408 downloads to date, but only 82 in March: not terrible, but not impressive.

Readership is way down–and so is my motivation to write the [March? April? May? Spring?] issue–but not just because of declining readership, and partly for one reason that I think may be related to declining readership. So I’m offering up a couple of possible reasons and asking for feedback. C&I isn’t entirely going away [yet], but could become a mostly-OA-supporting-material outlet. Or not.

1. Dystopia Fatigue: 45 for the Loss

The reason that is definitely reducing my interest in writing and may be reducing others’ interest in reading C&I is that so much mental and emotional energy is spent trying to cope with the dystopian situation that could be summed up as 45–not only an administration that appears set on making America a mean-spirited, post-science, pathetic nation relying on bloated armaments to push actual great nations around, but also the newly-empowered racists and bigots who seem to feel that it’s now American to loudly proclaim the shameful feelings they once tended to keep to themselves.

It is draining to read the news. It is worse than draining to read some of the reactions. It is draining to try to determine what (other than the usual PPFA, ACLU, AU etc. checks) to do about it–and whether drastic actions are warranted.

I can only assume that others also find it draining, and may not feel like reading secondary/apolitical stuff like C&I that isn’t actually good “escapist” reading. (I’m just over halfway through The Devil’s Brood: is that escapist?)

For British readers, there s a separate-but-related dystopian present going on.

It’s hard to argue with a lack of remaining energy. I will surely agree that real action that might help preserve what’s left of America’s greatness is a whole hell of a lot more important than reading (or writing) my stuff.

Now, getting off the soapbox:

2. Old, Repetitious and Largely Irrelevant

That’s the quick way of putting it.

I’m trying to do stuff that nobody else is doing, since I gladly affirm that younger, more energetic and probably brighter people can and should be doing the kinds of things I used to do. Without mentioning my age directly, I’ll note that our taxes for 2016 are heavily impacted by being required to either take certain payments starting last year or losing half of that money to the Feds.

The GOAJ studies are good examples of stuff nobody else is doing. I’d like to think that most C&I essays also fall into that category–but they may not be worth doing. As for repetitious and irrelevant…perhaps.

So…

[A few of you will wonder whether my continued lateral-nerve problem, being reduced to six-finger typing, is also a factor. No, the nerve still hasn’t recovered, and may or may not ever do so. But I managed to write all three booklength portions of GOAJ2011-2015 despite this problem, so while my typing continues to be much slower and less accurate than before March 2016, that’s not a major factor.]

  • Should I spend most of the “pause”–the next three or four weeks, before Phase 2 of the GOAJ2011-2016 research and then all the analysis and writeup–on revisiting the 3,000-odd “departed” journals for a supplemental chapter and just let C&I lie dormant? And use leftover time to catch up on reading…
  • Should I try to split the time between that revisit [which turns out to be reasonably fast because I’m only looking at 2016 availability and article counts, not APC levels] and doing a C&I issue? [Which would probably consist of one medium-length roundup on access & economics and one relatively brief roundup on the disappearing blacklists.]
  • Other suggestions?

Comments are open. I’m interested in your feedback.


Updated March 22, 2017:
I’m still looking for feedback of all sorts. If your comment doesn’t show up, it may be awaiting moderation or possibly deleted as spam–I’ve had to change spam control (from Spam Kismet 2, which no longer seems compatible, to WP-SpamShield), and I no longer see spam-trapped comments. You can always email me your comment (waltcrawford@gmail.com), if it doesn’t show up within a day of posting…if you note “Intended as a post comment” I’ll add it here.