Archive for November, 2006

Speaking survey results

Posted in Libraries, Speaking on November 17th, 2006

The Liminal Librarian has posted the results of her “speaking survey.” Interesting stuff for those of us who do or did give speeches from time to time.

I come away from the survey more willing to state an expected fee if the requesting group doesn’t make an offer up front (and if the event isn’t considered part of my job, which changes the landscape considerably)–and probably more willing to question some offers. (It’s been a quiet period, but that could always change.)

Now if “Liminal” (Rachel Singer Gordon) wanted to do a little more work, what I’d love to see are banded results: That is, for a given type of presentation, the top 25% charged between X and Y with a median (not mean) of Z, and so on. Given 90 responses, and that the number who asked for any honorarium ranges from 16 to 42, I can’t imagine taking the analysis further than quartiles, and even that may be too fine.

Hey, Rachel: If you can anonymize the results, I’d be happy to do that breakdown. But it’s asking a lot for you to do more than you’ve already done.

Thanks for doing the survey. It may make the whole bargaining-to-speak process a little more transparent.

Thanks yourself – and a web metrics question

Posted in Cites & Insights on November 17th, 2006

Apologies: This is a blind post out of necessity–but it’s not at all controversial.

I published the final 2006 issue of Cites & Insights Wednesday evening–a few days earlier than I’d been planning, but it was as done as it was going to be.

As with many of the issues these days, I wasn’t sure it had the “right mix” of stuff–but since the highest readership and greatest impact pretty consistently comes from big chunky essays, I didn’t worry too much about it. Some issues flourish, some just sit there, some move along slowly over time.

Yesterday morning, I had two pieces of email, each one thanking me for something in the new issue. I was touched; those two emails, both distinctly personal (which is why this is a blind item), were quite enough to make me happy about the issue as a whole.

This morning, I had a third piece of email thanking me for a third piece of the issue.

I responded privately in each case. Publicly, I’ll just say “You’re welcome, and thanks yourselves–you’re letting me know this is worth doing.”

That’s it. Nothing terribly important (except to me). Call it a six-day-early bit of Thanksgiving.

Oh, and a question for web metrics gurus out there:

Urchin (the stats package LISHost uses) tells me that, for the four months now that C&I has been on its own domain (on LISHost), the first issue published there–the “Great Middle” issue–shows up as:

  • A requested page 21,066 times (through yesterday)
  • A downloaded file 3,352 times (through yesterday)

Suggestions as to how you request a PDF without downloading it? What should I consider the readership of that issue to be–an astounding 21,000 or a great (but not astounding) 3,352?

Advice welcome.

Update 11/20: Blake answered the direct metrics question, but it turns out the answer is “neither.” I’d forgotten the other piece, v6i10a.htm–the HTML version of the essay. So the “direct readership” through 11/17 turns out to be just over 5,000 (adding the HTML copies), which is great.

An SF book meme: I’ll bite

Posted in Books and publishing on November 16th, 2006

OK, I just saw this at Thinking Out Loud (or Mermaid) and I’m willing to play along.

“Below is a Science Fiction Book Club list most significant SF novels between 1953-2006. The meme part of this works like so: Bold the ones you have read, strike through the ones you read and hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put a star next to the ones you love.”

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien *
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov*

3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson[?]
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury*
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe*
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr. *

13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov*
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras[?]
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish*
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett*
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison

18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison[?]
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester[?]
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey *

22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card[?]
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams[?]
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin *
31. Little, Big, John Crowley[?]
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick*
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon*

36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys

41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein

47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer *

I’ve added one more element: [?] means “I may have read this, but can’t remember.”

Don’t take the asterisks too seriously. I loved them at the time, and might or might not again–and could probably add another half dozen. As it is, 34 out of 50 ain’t bad.

Cites & Insights 6:14 available

Posted in Cites & Insights on November 15th, 2006

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large 6:14 (December 2006) is now available for downloading.

This 28-page issue, PDF as usual (but each essay is available as an HTML separate from the home page includes:

  • Perspective: The Lazy Man’s Guide to Productivity – A slightly extended answer to “How do I do all that writing on my own time?”
  • Net Media Perspective: “C&I is Not a Blog” – A section on blogs, mostly metablogging.
  • The Library Stuff – Eight items cited and discussed
  • Library Access to Scholarship – FRPAA and more
  • Offtopic Perspective: 50-Movie All Stars Collection, Part 2 – 26 more TV movies (but one of them isn’t really…)

Please note that, while this is the final text issue for 2006, it does not complete the volume. The index (including title sheet, for anyone printing a bound volume) will be out in a week or two. Or three.

Children’s Book Week

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries on November 13th, 2006

I’m not what you’d call a children’s literature maven, but in honor of Children’s Book Week (November 13-19, thus beginning today), I thought I’d say a few words about one particular book–one that my wife and I have given to a fair number of people over the years.The Story of Jumping Mouse, a Native American legend retold and illustrated by John Steptoe, is a wonderful, wonderful picture book with glorious black-and-white drawings. Chances are good you’ll find it in a nearby library via Worldcat.org, since 2,044 libraries report holdings.

The story is about exploration and compassion. My wife discovered it, and I was as taken with the story (and how it’s told) and the pictures as she was. Here’s a brief plot summary:

Story of Jumping Mouse)

A small, humble mouse sets off on a journey of discovery to reach the legendary “far-off land” told in tales by the old ones. Along the way, he meets fellow creatures in need, and he responds to their needs with great compassion–by giving away his most precious possessions: his sight and his sense of smell. After much hardship, he reaches the “far-off land” and finds that his unselfish spirit of hope and compassion have brought him to an even greater destiny.

The book dates from 1984 and is a Caldecott Honor Book. If you haven’t read it, do. If you get a lump in your throat…well, you’re not the only one.

High-def optical discs: A critical weekend?

Posted in Libraries, Movies and TV on November 12th, 2006

Some of you know that I’m covering the rollout of high-definition optical discs (that is, DVD-equivalents with high-def resolution) on an ongoing basis in Cites & Insights, not because they’re ready for most libraries to acquire yet–they’re not, and might never be–but because I think it’s worth tracking what happens and how it happens. The most recent installment appears in the current issue (or, if you detest PDF and don’t care what else I have to say, as this separate HTML piece).

I offer my current take on the situation with HD DVD and Blu-ray (the two competing and so far incompatible forms of high-def optical disc) as of early October:

If there’s any life at all in this marketplace, Blu-ray is the likely winner–even though the initial players are absurdly overpriced.

I thought that was true because Sony and its Blu-ray partners were (and are) running lots of magazine ads in the magazines aimed at people who will buy a $1,000 player to make their $3,000+ HDTV (at least 42″ diagonal, and 1080i/1080p capable, to get the most out of Blu-ray) more interesting, even if there are only a few dozen movies. Toshiba and HD DVD partners occasionally show up with an ad, but not often. I also noted that HD DVD’s edge (the first HD DVD player appeared two or three months before the first Blu-ray and was half the price) was wasted because the players didn’t show up in the Sunday flyers that tell us what’s actually being promoted.

The last two or three weekends of November are critical for holiday marketing: If stuff doesn’t have a high profile by then, it’s not going to matter. That made today’s Sunday flyers particularly interesting, to an extent I would never have expected:

  • Standalone (set-top) players: Four of the chains had Blu-ray players, and one of them had players from two brands (Samsung and an even more expensive Panasonic, $1300). None of the chains had HD DVD players. Not one. Four to zero: That’s impressive.
  • Players as part of game consoles–which turns out to be the cheapest way to buy either format: Five chains, including Target (one of the mass-market bellwethers), advertised the Sony PSP3, which includes a Blu-ray drive (and costs either $400 or $600, making it by far the cheapest way to get into Blu-ray, gaming aside). One chain advertised the $200 HD DVD external drive for the Xbox360–but the fact that none of the other chains advertising the Xbox360 showed the HD DVD drive makes me suspect its availability. Even if it exists, we’re talking five to one.

How did this happen? According to some reports, Toshiba was losing a couple hundred dollars on every $500 HD DVD player it sold–and it looks as though Toshiba sold enough to get their name out there, then stopped promoting the player. Meanwhile, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and others were gearing up…late to the ball, but with the marketing muscle to stay there.

Frankly, I’m surprised. I would never have expected four chains to be promoting the Blu-ray drive at this point–not at a $1,000 price point. Nor would have I expected HD DVD to do such a thorough disappearing act. The PSP3 is a wildcard: If reports are right, there are “only” half a million of them available for this season in the U.S.North America, and it’s fair to assume they’ll be gone within a week after they go on sale (11/17). But that puts half a million Blu-ray drives into consumers’ hands, along with whatever (probably small) number of set-top drives Samsung and Panasonic sell. That’s almost certainly an order of magnitude more than the HD DVD drives that have been sold in the U.S.

Does this mean Blu-ray will succeed in the mass market and HD DVD will fail? No–and maybe Blu-ray (if they’ve fixed the quality problems) will become a large niche market, selling to those who have the big, high-def, high-quality TVs, sit close enough to them to know the difference between upconverted DVD and true high-def, and care enough to spend the money. In which case, maybe the $999 player price isn’t absurdly high. But if it becomes a large niche market, it’s not clear that most public libraries will need to care…although some might choose to get involved.

I’m still certain 2006 won’t tell the tale. The extent of the one-sidedness this weekend surprises me, and certainly reinforces my earlier prediction. Will 2007 show some real success? I’m no longer ready to discount the possibility.

Friday fun: The perils of editing

Posted in Media, Technology and software, Writing and blogging on November 10th, 2006

I was going to do this post about the wonders of PR–but after checking it out, I see it’s really about the perils of editing.

The San Francisco Chronicle business section includes “The Tech Chronicles”–portions of a similarly named blog, one of a bunch of blogs that the Chron runs on SFGate (which has a fair amount of original content). Most of today’s stuff comes from the Web2.0 conference, not surprisingly. One short item begins something like this:

Switching back and forth between e-mail and instant messaging is annoying, to say the least. Yahoo plans to address that frustration by giving users access to the two services in the same browser window. The free Yahoo Mail service, to be released in the next few months, will meld e-mail and instant messaging. No download necessary.

…and goes on to note that the revised Yahoo Mail will show you who else is online at the moment, so you can chat with them right from the mail application!. What a neat idea.

Now, I like Yahoo, really I do–and, apart from search, it’s beating Google on most fronts (mail, social space, overall visits). But, you know, the combined mail/IM application had a certain ring of familiarity to it, something like Gmail.com.

So, I was going to say, “isn’t that great! PR can make ‘we’re going to do it TOO’ sound like a brand new idea!”

Except that the newspaper version left out the final paragraph of the SFGate item:

Google, which has far fewer e-mail users than Yahoo, recently combined its Google Talk instant messenger with Google Gmail.

So the reporter, Verne Kopytoff, got it right: It’s still a good story, given the reach of Yahoo Mail, but it’s not an entirely new idea. Too bad that last para. didn’t make it into the paper (or at least not my copy).

50-Movie All Stars Collection, Disc 13

Posted in Movies and TV on November 9th, 2006

The New Adventures of Heidi, 1978, color, Ralph Senensky (dir.), Burl Ives, Katy Kurtzman, John Gavin, Marlyn Mason, Sherrie Wills. 1:38.

I like family pictures, at least some of them, but this one’s way too treacly for my taste—and, I’d guess, almost anyone else’s taste in 2006. The plot summary on the sleeve is just plain wrong: Heidi’s separated from her grandfather (Ives) because he’s apparently died—and her “despicable relatives” turn her over to a wealthy-but-busy widowed hotelier (Gavin) whose troubled daughter is a boon companion. They go to New York, and naturally goodness triumphs over all. The sleeve also mentions “ten delightful original songs,” and “delightful” is not the word I would use for the pallid ballads. Ives used to be a fine singer; not on this flick. $0.75, charitably.

The Borrowers, 1973, color, Walter C. Miller (dir.), Eddie Albert, Tammy Grimes, Dame Judith Anderson, Karen Pearson. 1:21.

The first of three TV movie (and one movie) versions of the Mary Norton novel about the borrowers, or rather one family of borrowers: Little people (about six inches high) who borrow space and possessions from the humans in the house. In this case, the house is a mansion and the lady of the house is a lively, bedridden, tippling Dame Judith Anderson, who enjoys chatting with the father of the borrowers (Albert) but assumes he’s a hallucination. The sleeve gets it wrong here too: “Now they must frantically avoid being captured and exhibited as scientific curiosities.” More like they must escape a ferret set to get rid of the vermin the housekeeper assumes them to be. Didn’t anyone at Treeline (now Mill Creek) ever watch these things? I know: Not bloody likely. Anyway, a first-rate cast, well acted, not treacly. I’d give it a higher price but for one bit of cheapness that unfortunately comes in opening scenes: Albert’s scuttling across the living room floor of the mansion to go back under the clock (and under the floorboards, where they live)—but he casts no shadow even when standing next to a heavily-shadow-casting door. Green screen is one thing, but doing it that baldly and badly right at the start… $1, for that and for some damage; otherwise, probably $1.50.

And that’s it for this little box full of TV movies. Next up: fifty “classic” musicals–probably back to mostly black and white, but there appear to be a number of little-known gems here (along with a few repeats from other sets). I’ll provide an overall comment on the TV movie box in the second-half roundup in Cites & Insights, probably the December 2006 issue.

Call it a manifesto if you must, but read it

Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on November 9th, 2006

Some of you already know that I don’t much care for manifestos–not because they’re challenging or uncomfortable, but because they typically oversimplify, make black-and-white out of the gray that is real life, polarize situations, and in other ways substitute absolutes for nuance.

I’m joining with others in recommending that you go read Laura Cohen’s “A Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto” at her (worthwhile, recommended) blog Library 2.0: An Academic’s Perspective. The blog suffers from the SixApart printability problem in spaces (it won’t even print out properly in IE, apparently because the banner’s too wide)–but that’s minor.

Why do I recommend this despite my distaste for manifestos? Because, to my mind, this isn’t a manifesto: It’s a credo. And I love good credos.

The difference? Cohen isn’t making a series of flat statements, Truths that we Must All Recognize (or Be Part of the Problem).

Instead, she’s making a series of personal affirmations: “I will…”

By doing so, she invites others to consider similar courses–but does not imply that those courses are the only reasonable ones to take.

Credos invite elaboration, discussion, nuance: They encourage evolutionary change. They allow us to say, “I see what you’re saying, and my own course may be different; let’s discuss those differences.” They’re humanistic.

Laura Cohen calls it a manifesto. She wrote it; that’s her privilege. She did a great job of writing it. If you haven’t already read it, do–no matter what sort of library or library-related operation you work in.

Vote!

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries, Stuff, Writing and blogging on November 7th, 2006

Other than that simple message, this is a semi-blind (and thus useless, if you like), multipart post:

  • If you don’t like what I’m saying here or what I’m saying, maybe you should… comment on what you disagree with. As long as it’s civil, non-profane, not slanderous, not spam, signed, and within scope, it will appear, I’ll read it, and if appropriate I’ll respond. After all, one way we learn (sometimes the best way, as adults) is to deal with those who disagree with us.
  • The above shouldn’t have to be said, of course. What? You think I’m going to say “if you don’t like what I’m doing, don’t read it”? Who would ever say that? (I heard a rumor, but I’m sure it was just a strawman.)
  • Yes, I’ve been to SecondLife. And to the library. It may be great for others. It doesn’t suit me (that’s not surprising, actually: I’m mostly a text person, I’m not terribly social, and real life suits me just fine). Can’t give you my “avatar”‘s name because I’ve already forgotten it.
  • I’ll make an exception to the first bullet in this case: I’m really not interested in comments from one small fringe of those involved in the SL library, and I’m pretty sure they’re not representative of those sincere librarians who are involved and who use their real-life names.
  • Vote. Did I mention that? With one exception: If you don’t know why you’re voting or what you’re voting for, don’t bother. I don’t believe in mandatory voting. (You can guess how I would vote on one issue if I was in Arizona.)
  • Gr**ny pictures? Whazzup with that? More than 200 spamment attempts in less than 24 hours. Maybe they’re really grainy pictures (historic photographs) and the spammer can’t spell.
  • And, ending this semi-recursive post (gotta get a long-running job going and then go off and vote): If you do post stuff that’s highly disagreeable, I reserve the right to delete your comment (maybe substituting a “comment deleted by blog owner,” maybe not). What I do not reserve the right to do: “Out” your pseudonymous/anonymous comment based on your IP address or your email address. That’s not going to happen. Ever. (If your comment’s vile enough or so disputatious and never-ending, I might flag your account so that every comment goes into moderation, but that’s different.)
  • I happen to think “Books are just the beginning” (Elkhart PL) is a brilliant motto for a public library. It’s called establishing the known story and building from there.

Now there’s a truly random post.


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