Archive for August, 2005

ALA and RLG DigiNews: Two posts in one!

Posted in ALA, Libraries, Media, Writing and blogging on August 16th, 2005

Thanks to this post at beSpacific, I can point you to this article on ALA’s lobbying effectiveness. Well worth reading. You do know that ALA was a prime mover in seeing to it that the FCC doesn’t let Hollywood control the design of future personal computers?

And, while I usually wind up discussing portions of each issue in Cites & Insights, I should provide an immediate head’s-up: the new RLG DigiNews is out and, as always, well worth reading. I say that not because I work for RLG (Cornell actually prepares the publication) but because it’s an excellent resource.

The hornet’s nest round

Posted in Libraries, Media, Writing and blogging on August 16th, 2005

I was expecting this round of reactions to the “biblioblogosphere” piece to happen first (before the positive reactions) and with more force–that’s why I came close to abandoning the essay. But it’s really hard to throw away 50 hours of work and 7,000 words, particularly when you find the results fascinating.

Now it’s happening, on two levels:

Critiques of methodology and limits, including my lack of non-English blogs (an editing error, explained in a previous post), claims that I should be requesting and analyzing server logs from every library weblog, and others.

Posts, two of them long, thoughtful, and even eloquent, that assert that the article is harmful because rankings are pernicious.

What’s also happening, to my delight, is bloggers pointing out specific library weblogs worth looking at and providing their reasons for suggesting a look. Blogrolls don’t do that; blogrolls are just sets of links. (There’s an overlap between the hornet’s-nest posts and those recommending lesser-known blogs.)

I’m printing and collecting all of this stuff (sorry, but that just works better for me than trying to put it all together looking at words on dozens of different web pages). I really do plan to blog about other topics here (one other one today, if time permits). I’ll keep collecting feedback, direct and indirect, and almost certainly put some of it into a C&I essay.

I have no idea at this point how to come to a conclusion for further work. Do I take two long essays that consider the profiles to be harmful more seriously than, say, 20 short reactions that want to see me continue? Is it really true that in every online “community” those who aren’t included in a list will automatically feel bad about themselves and denigrate their own blog? (I find that hard to believe, particularly based on the reactions I’ve gotten from people not profiled…) Are library bloggers really that thin-skinned or that dependent on the roar of the crowd?

Damned if I know.

Biblioblogosphere: Apology and clarification

Posted in Cites & Insights, Libraries, Writing and blogging on August 15th, 2005

I would have sworn that the article explicitly said “English-language blogs.”

The draft did, I think. It must have disappeared as I was madly cutting words to get down from 27 pages (for the issue) to 24.

BiblioAcid quite properly noted that not all library-related blogs are Anglophone (I won’t quote directly, since I had to read Google’s Englished version of the French post, and I’m certain the original is more elegant).

So, here it is:

The informal study of the biblioblogosphere that appears in Cites & Insights 5:10, September 2005 is only a study of portions of the arena, to wit:

1. The blogs must be in English, because I can’t make any sense of them if they’re not. I’m not proud to be monolingual (except for computer languages), but there it is. And I didn’t explicitly state that limitation; my humble apologies.

2. The blogs must be listed in one of several directories of library-related blogs.

3. The blogs must be written by one or a small group of people, where this year’s limit for “small group” is four.

4. The blogs must not be official library blogs.

I was very careful to say that this is not in any sense a study of the Top 50 library-related blogs (if such an animal even exists), but rather a “top 50″ set: namely, “60 of the most apparently wide-reaching English-language non-group non-“official library” blogs written by library people.”

And if I do it again next year, it will have similar limitations, although the group limit might change (as would some of the measures).

Based on most feedback to date, the chances of doing it again are high–although one comment (on another blog), that the only proper way to do such a survey is to ask all the bloggers to turn over their log files and then analyze those log files for readership size, would (if most people agreed that that’s the Right Thing to Do) change the chances of a repeat performance to roughly zero…

It would be lovely to see a more universal study conducted by a group capable of reading all the blogs out there. But that’s not me. If people think it’s wrong to do a limited study, let me know: I’ll drop plans to do a repeat.

The biblioblogosphere: Enabling ego searches

Posted in Cites & Insights, Writing and blogging on August 13th, 2005

I’m impressed (and pleased, and a little relieved) by the volume and nature of feedback (direct to me, but mostly postings on other blogs) on my curious “investigation” of English-language individual or small-group blogs produced by “library people” (not necessarily librarians, and definitely not official library blogs), which takes up half of the current Cites & Insights.

I’m saving all the feedback, direct and indirect. I’ll probably do a followup/feedback item with various corrections (mostly related to the founding date of blogs–and no, I don’t apologize for using internal evidence) and comments. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll renew the study next year, but predicting what will happen a year from now in my life is an exercise in futility–consider that at the moment 80% of my work life is in an entirely new area using tools I hadn’t even heard of a year ago…

Meanwhile, I’m aware that the vast ego network of the web relies more on blog postings than anything else. I’d guess relatively few library bloggers read Cites & Insights the day it comes out (I’d guess relatively few read it at all, and why should they?).

So, as a service to those who may not even be aware they were discussed, here’s a list of all the blogs that received full metrics and brief discussion, in the order in which they’re discussed:

The Shifted Librarian, Library Stuff, ResearchBuzz, librarian.net, beSpacific, mamamusings, Free Range Librarian, Tame the Web: Libraries and Technology, LibrarianInBlack, Catalogablog

commons-blog, Caveat Lector, TechnoBiblio, Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog, The Aardvark Speaks, Open Stacks, SiteLines – Ideas About Web Searching, blogwithoutalibrary.net, walking paper, scitech library question

LibraryPlanet.com, The Days & Nights of the Lipstick Librarian!, It’s all good, The Invisible Library, The Ten Thousand Year Blog, Library Monk – the blog of Dan Greene, Library Web Chic, Confessions of a Mad Librarian, TangognaT, Walt at Random

oss4lib, eclectic librarian, LibraryLaw Blog, Collecting my Thoughts, Phil Bradley’s Blog, BlogJunction, Librarian Avengers, Beyond the Job, ONLINE Insider, The Information Literacy Land of Confusion

A Wandering Eyre, Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog, LibraryCog, Feel-good Librarian, The Pod Bay Door, Information Wants To Be Free, Pop Goes the Library, blogdriverswaltz.com, Librarian’s Rant, LibraryTechtonics

tinylittlelibrarian.blog-city.com, The Distant Librarian, Professional-Lurker: Comments by an academic in cyberspace, dave’s blog, The Laughing Librarian — Library Humor and Stuff, Tales from the “Liberry”, Infomusings Blog, Library clips, Filipino Librarian, LawLibTech

No, I’m not going to make all of those live links. If you have any program that can read Excel, you can get that set of links here, along with all the metrics for the 60 blogs.

The real art of war

Posted in Books and publishing, Writing and blogging on August 12th, 2005

I couldn’t resist.

Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut..

[Well, there goes my average post length...]

Cites & Insights 5:10 available

Posted in Copyright, Libraries, Media, Writing and blogging on August 11th, 2005

Cites & Insights 5:10, September 2005 is now available for downloading–or you can reach individual essays in HTML form from the Cites & Insights home page.

A light & fluffy summer issue would be perfect right about now–but this 24-page issue, with a total of four essays, probably isn’t it. (I address that issue in “Bibs & Blather.”)

What’s here:

  • Bibs & Blather — the usual nonsense
  • Perspective: Investigating the Biblioblogosphere — looking into 238 “library people” blogs, with detailed metrics and brief comments on 60 of them. Not the top 50 (and there are 60), but maybe a top 50 in certain questionable respects…
  • Perspectives: Summertime Blahs — two perspectives in one essay. “Iconoclasm and the Great God Google” comments on–well, Web4Lib readers will know. “Creative Commons: Foe of Copyright?” recounts some remarkable attacks on the Creative Commons concept.
  • ©2 Perspective: Orphan Works — background from the Copyright Office inquiry into this important topic and some notes on the 700+ comments received.

Rating library weblogs: Not really, but…

Posted in Cites & Insights, Libraries, Writing and blogging on August 11th, 2005

In a comment on a posting at FRL, Lorcan Dempsey says:
“Yes, I think that it would be sad if somebody were to start ‘ranking’ blogs, however it is done, in our space.”

Well…it depends what you mean by ranking. As hinted at in an earlier post, I’ve carried out a casual investigation that could be considered doing exactly that.

Not with any intention of setting forth a “A-list library bloggers” list or anything like that, but as a look at the more wide-reaching portions of, sigh, the “biblioblogosphere.” (I dislike neologisms, but this one’s just too handy not to use.)

The resulting Perspective will appear in the forthcoming Cites & Insights 5:10, September 2005, which will be published later today (barring unexpected problems!). (Link-happy folks might actually find a live link there, but I define “published” as “PDF uploaded, index, contents, and old-issue pages modified, HTML portions uploaded, and issue announced on C&I Alerts, W.a.R., and the Topica mailing list.” None of that except the first has been done; I’m now in the habit of uploading the PDF a day early, when feasible, to be sure it downloads and prints properly from some other computer.) Actually, it’s half the issue–and that doesn’t include two spreadsheets.

This isn’t a study of the 60 “best” library-related weblogs. It isn’t even a study of the 60 most widely read library-related weblogs. It’s a study of 60 library-related weblogs, written by one to four people (not big group affairs) as personal effort (not *library* or *course* weblogs), listed in one of three major directories of library-related weblogs, that appear to have fairly broad reach.

As I say in the article, it’s “a top 50 library-people blogs, not the top 50″–and, of course, 60 isn’t necessarily identical to 50. I don’t attach integer numbers to the individual blog descriptions; there’s an obvious #1 library-person weblog in terms of overall reach (by any measure I can think of), but beyond that, I’m only willing to group in three general categories. None of which is by any means certain or foolproof: For example, I used Google’s “link:” results as one of several measures, and I’m now convinced that’s a bad idea.

You may find the article interesting. You may find it infuriating. I hope it points you to one or two interesting blogs you haven’t heard of. As always, comments and suggestions welcome, here or via email to waltcrawford at gmail or wcc at rlg.org, with the note that comments here may be deleted or “moderated to delete” if they’re inappropriate. Disagreeing with me is never inappropriate.

[Trivia: Today should see a rare triple posting...I almost never do three posts a day. I wonder whether admin access to WordPress weblogs will ever become reasonably fast?]

Cruising ads: Shading the truth

Posted in Travel on August 11th, 2005

We got a slick mailer yesterday from Celebrity Cruises. What I say below isn’t an attack on Celebrity Cruises; while their ships carry many more people than we’re used to, we continue to consider trying them out on a San Francisco/Mexico roundtrip (because it’s so convenient)–and they have a good reputation within their general category.

The mailer itself is a little more questionable.

The first inside page has this line in a pseudo-handwriting typeface: “Best Premium Cruise Line”–Conde Nast Travele Readers’ Choice Awards 2004. That’s an interesting combination of fact and interpretation:

Celebrity ranked third among large-ship cruise lines, substantially behind the top two:
1. Crystal 94.6
2. Radisson Seven Seas 94.0
3. Celebrity 85.8
and that 85.8 would rank it seventh in a ranking that ignores ship size (Radisson, uniquely, has both small and large ships, but not for long)

How can they make the claim? Because of that word “Premium”: Crystal and Radisson Seven Seas, two of our very favorite cruise lines, are classifed as “Luxury” lines. “Premium” is a huge step down; Princess and Holland America are other “Premium” lines.

Technically, they’re misquoting Conde Nast Traveler; realistically, to most new cruisers, they’re at best misleading, since most people probably assume “Premium” is top of the line. It’s not.

I’ll buy “Aspiring to offer the finest shipboard dining in the world”…after all, aspirations are good things.

Yes, Celebrity gets high rankings for food within its category, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest that Celebrity’s food is better than Crystal or Radisson Seven Seas or Seabourn or Silversea (or, for that matter, Windstar). Oceania is actually claiming to serve the best food at sea; we haven’t tried them, so we can’t absolutely deny the claim… (There’s a claim that a Cruise Week magazine survey ranked Celebrity #1 for best cuisine; in fact, Cruise Week is a two-page weekly industry newsletter–at $125 a year, we don’t subscribe!–and that means the “survey” is of travel agents. Most travel agents sell mostly mainstream cruises; of the mainstream cruise lines, I don’t doubt Celebrity’s food is best.)

Then the brochure flat-out lies:
“With one staff member to every two guests, Celebrity has the highest staff-to-guest ratio on the sea.”

That’s just wrong, without the unstated qualifier “among cruise lines that we choose to compare ourselves to.” Crystal runs roughly one staff member to every 1.6 guests. Radisson Silver Seas is about the same. So is Windstar. Silversea and Seabourn are even lower, I believe.

The last statement, unqualified as it is, is simply false advertising. Not that Crystal, RSSC, Windstar, Silversea, or Seabourn is likely to sue: They don’t compete directly with Celebrity. (Well, Windstar and Seabourn both compete indirectly, since both are part of Carnival, which also runs the “premium” lines Holland America and Princess.)

As for me: Well, we’re still considering Celebrity, but misleading and false advertising rarely makes me want to run out and buy a product.

Leaving the Buffyverse: Is that all there is?

Posted in Movies and TV on August 9th, 2005

A gross series–that is, there were 144 episodes in all.

Seven seasons (the first one short). That’s probably the perfect length for a show (that’s not a prime-time soap) with a strong sense of continuity and year-for-year aging. The star and the creator agreed that seven years was a good time to stop.

But, of course, the show went off a couple of years ago (2003). I’m leaving the Buffyverse (if that word doesn’t make sense, you don’t know BtVS) now because I just finished watching the last commentary-added episode with commentary–three weeks after we finished watching the last episode of the last season, and then the featurettes and brief wrap filming that finished out the final disc.

It really is “the Buffyverse”: Joss Whedon crafted a strong, complex mythology in the course of producing one of the most soundly feminist TV shows ever aired. (If you don’t get that Buffy the Vampire Slayer–the TV show, not the movie, which Whedon wrote but which was badly weakened by the director–was a strongly feminist TV show, well, I’m not sure what would convince you. The final episode is pretty up front with the message, but in fact, Whedon was leading up to that final episode throughout the series.)

We started watching it from the beginning, bemused at first and convinced by the end of the first episode. Of course, it had no critical cachet at the start: It was on a commercial network (sort of–The WB), and critics mostly fawn over HBO and Showtime shows. It gained cachet later, as it became clear it would never be a big hit (and would never get a richly-deserved Emmy except in technical fields). But it was good. Better than good: It was first-rate.

By the second season, it was already a little late to tout the show to others. (There’s the factor of looking like an idiot, when you’re 50+ and saying “You really should give Buffy a try,” but I’ve not worried about the idiot factor for a long time…) The show built on its remarkable ensemble cast (for one of the four, his first real acting job) and its remarkable mix of humor, the supernatural, and the real evil represented by high school years, but that constant building meant that there was a lot of background within a very short time.

We started buying the DVD sets as soon as they came out. They’re reasonably priced (unlike the absurdly overpriced Star Trek DVD sets), well-packaged, with a reasonable number of commentary episodes in each season and some pretty good featurettes. We didn’t even have to think long about the difficult seasons, partly because we like Dawn, partly because “Once More with Feeling” (a musical, the only wide-screen episode of Buffy ever filmed, all original music by Joss Whedon, and with an entirely logical plot-driven explanation for all that singing and dancing, having to do with an entertainment demon–and Michelle Trachtenberg is a fine dancer) made up for a lot of weakness.

So when Buffy went off, or actually a little before, the DVDs went on: Tuesday night, most weeks, same as Buffy. By the end of the first half-season, we knew we were right: It was a remarkable show, one of the best we can remember on TV.

And now we’ve left the Buffyverse. For a while. I’d guess that we’ll start all over again in another year to 18 months–and that we’ll thoroughly enjoy the shows once more.

[For those in the know: We still haven't decided about Angel. Sure, we watched it, and I love the cast, but my wife reminds me that I was grumbling about much of the show while it was on. Even money as to whether we buy the DVDs. Certainly not up to BtVS. Oh, and one reason we're watching Gilmore Girls DVDs is...well, Gilmore Girls was opposite Buffy, so we never saw it for the first three seasons, and then didn't try it until late in the fourth season. It's also remarkable, in a wildly different way. It's Tuesday night; in a little while we'll watch season 3, episode 9. Which will be all new to us.]

One of these days, I’ll put together a post about the threat to new TV shows posed by all those DVD sets. Although maybe that’s obvious. (Just a hint: Moonlighting is just as good as you might have remembered. Greatest American Hero is fun but definitely a period piece. Remington Steele–with the pre-Bond Pierce Brosnan, but dammit Stephanie Zimbalist was the star–well, too soon to tell.)

The ships keep on coming

Posted in Media, Travel on August 9th, 2005

Daniel Cornwall has posted an interesting set of pictures of cruise ships in Juneau.

He captured the “biggies”–ships from Holland America (such as the Oosterdam) with the blue bottom, Princess, Carnival (all three of those actually being Carnival), and Celebrity (the ships with the big X on the stack, for Chandros, the original owners). Those are all megaships we’re unlikely to be on (though we’re considering Celebrity).

He also caught the Empress of the North (the sternwheeler), which we saw at a couple of ports a few weeks ago (has it only been a few weeks?), a charming little ship almost lost among the monsters, and one of the very small ships that lines such as Glacier Bay run.

He didn’t, as far as I can see, catch a snap of our favorite ship, the Crystal Harmony, which is in the midst of its final Alaska season under the Crystal name; we were on that ship on its first SF-Alaska round trip of this season. He did get what must be the Seven Seas Mariner (the all-white, all-balcony ship), also quite a wonderful ship from the line (Radisson Seven Seas) that’s the closest competitor to Crystal.

The nighttime snaps are stunning.

Generally, Juneau’s a beautiful place–in summer and (from my one experience) in winter. Although it does have a slightly different feel when almost all of the waterfront is shut down!

“Libraries” as a category? Well, Daniel works in a library…


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