Archive for December, 2006

Liblog mortality, Part II – an encouraging end-of-year note

Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on December 29th, 2006

A couple of months ago I posted this commentary about the results of checking on the 213 blogs in this year’s look at liblogs.

At the time, 31 of the 213 had either disappeared or gone dormant, where I used “no post in the last two months” as a marker for dormancy. I scoffed at a strawman straight extrapolation of where the group of 213 would be by next summer, and offered my own WAG as to the likely reality. (Wild-ass guess, just another TLA).

Just finished doing the second two-month checkup, but this time I used a slightly less severe dormancy test: “No post since August 31, 2006 or the site can’t be reached.” Note that any blog marked as dormant in the last round, and with no updates since, would definitely be dormant this time around.
I said in the late October post that most likely a few of the 31 would come back to life. That’s what happened–at least five, and I think more, of the bloggers started blogging again after an extended break.

There were a couple of explicit shutdowns (Max Power Blogs, for example), two cases where the most recent post is September or later but there’s indication that a shutdown may have occurred, and a couple of unreachable sites or ones that are now linklots rather than blogs.

Still, I wound up with only 27 of the 213 blogs marked as dead or dormant.

Innumerate strawman pops up again: “Why, at this rate, all 213 will be in business by next summer!”

Well, no. The cutoff for the October test wasn’t much earlier than the cutoff for this test. (I will say, though, that I don’t think there are more than three or four blogs with September posts but nothing in the last two months.)

I’m guessing 27 will be the low point–that is, I’d expect that very few blogs will resume after a nearly four-month hiatus, and I’d guess a few more will disappear between now and next summer.

But probably not many. All of these blogs have or had decent-size readership. None of them were one-post wonders, the kind you frequently see in classroom or workshop settings. All of them have had a tiny bit of extra publicity, with perhaps 7,000 library people reading about them in C&I.

In that previous post, I guessed that at least 150 of the original 213 would still be around after a year (some, to be sure, with different names or locations–but traceable changes), and hoped that 160 to 170 would still be around. I’ll stick with that guess, and I’m a little more hopeful about the hope.

You know, this one might actually be the last post of the year (or might not). If so, have a happy and see you next year.

50-Movie Classic Musicals, Disc 2

Posted in Movies and TV on December 28th, 2006

I hope this is the most problematic disc in the set. Every movie on this disc poses one problem or another, at least as part of a set of so-called musicals. Read on. You’ll see what I mean.

Dixiana, 1930, b&w (with color finale, but not on the disc), Luther Reed (dir.), Bebe Daniels, Everett Marshall, Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Joseph Cawthorn, Bill Robinson. 1:40 [1:25]

Woman who sings and does other acts in a circus performing in New Orleans meets up with a wealthy high-society fellow right around Mardi Gras. They get engaged. Circus friends show up at a high-society gathering and embarrass her, so she runs away. Sound a little bit like Sunny? (Check out Disc 1.) It’s not.

What it is, is a complete mess—that might have been redeemed by the 15 minutes missing from this transfer, presumably the 2-strip Technicolor finale that includes a three-minute tap dance sequence by Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. That finale might also resolve the plot—but it’s just not here. What is here includes a long Wheeler & Woolsey comedy routine that’s apparently just about the only film of them (and which suggests that tastes in comedy have changed a lot in 75 years!), some other musical numbers of indifferent quality, and a plot that might have been moderately interesting if it hadn’t simply disappeared. A shame. Very generously (there’s some good comic interplay within the movie itself, and some decent music), $0.75. [Strikeout: See first comment]

Palooka, 1934, b&w, Benjamin Stoloff (dir.), Jimmy Durante, Lupe Velez, Stuart Erwin, William Cagney, Robert Armstrong, Thelma Todd. 1:26.

On one hand, it’s a decent comedy based on the comic strip, with Joe Palooka as a sort of accidental boxer (son of a boxing champ who abandoned the family for the high life) and Jimmy Durante as his manager. On the other, it’s simply not a musical: There are two, count them, two songs total. They’re interesting pieces in their own way: One is an odd song-and-dance number by Lupe Velez, wearing an outfit that’s clearly “pre-code Hollywood”; the other Durante’s signature tune. A good cast—and I would have sworn that was a young James Cagney as the champ Palooka (Erwin) defeats and is later defeated by, until I read the credits: It’s his lookalike brother. $1 on its own merits, but it’s not a musical.

Glorifying the American Girl, 1929, b&w (and color, but not on the disc), John W. Harkrider & Millard Webb (dir.), Mary Eaton, Dan Healy, Kaye Renard, Edward Crandall, Eddie Cantor, Helen Morgan, Rudy Vallee, Noah Beery, Irving Berlin, Billie Burke, Texas Guinan, Otto Kahn, Ring Lardner, Jimmy Walker, Johnny Weissmuller, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.. 1:27. [1:34!]

With Dixiana, I didn’t notice the “Technicolor” claims in opening credits, so I was mostly disappointed by the lapsed plot and fact that Bill Robinson didn’t show up as a dancer (albeit claimed on the sleeve). This time, I did notice the claim, so I was disappointed: If there’s any color anywhere in this flick, I couldn’t detect it. There’s plenty of music and comedy, of course: Much of the picture is a Ziegfeld review, including a Cantor comedy routine and songs by Helen Morgan and Rudy Vallee (sax strapped over his shoulder but never touched during the song). The rest of those stars? Mostly cameos, on their way into the theater. The plot, such as it is, lacks resolution, but it’s not all that important anyway. Not great, not bad. $0.75.

Check and Double Check, 1930, b&w, Melville W. Brown (dir.), Freeman F. Gosden, Charles J. Correll, Irene Rich, Duke Ellington and the Cotton Club Orchestra. 1:17.

The most difficult of the four, for reasons that folks knowledgeable with entertainment history may have spotted already. Here’s my advice, if you happen to have access to this disc:

Go to the second scene, to about minute 27 overall. Most of the next 11 minutes are performances by Duke Ellington and orchestra, including a full-length big-band jazz number nicely filmed and one of Ellington’s first (and few) filmed performances. That segment makes the picture worth watching. Consider skipping the rest.

Otherwise, well, there’s a huge problem here in the persons of Gosden, Correll, and another actor, and it’s a problem that makes an otherwise poorly-plotted degrading race comedy into something even less watchable. Ever hear of Amos ‘n’ Andy? If you ever saw the TV series, they were dumb and played as stereotypes, but they were good hearted and the cast was all black. Here, though, the originators and radio stars played the roles—and Gosden and Correll are both white, playing in full minstrel-show blackface. The only semi-redeeming thing I can say about this is that, according to Wikipedia, the two were offered the chance for a sequel and turned it down—and Gosden later called the movie “just about the worst movie ever.” Here’s an appalling factoid if you believe Wikipedia (I see no reason not to): Although the critics and Gosden and Correll hated the movie, it was RKO’s biggest-grossing film until King Kong in 1933. Oh yes: The soundtrack’s noisy, but not too bad during the Duke Ellington sequence. I’d give this a flat zero except for Ellington, which earns it a big $0.25.

Bring out the dead blogs!

Posted in Libraries, Writing and blogging on December 28th, 2006

(Seeing Monty Python, with a blog that hasn’t had a post since October protesting that it’s not quite dead yet…)

One consequence of using an aggregator with the “only show new posts” option–and I find it hard to believe that people would put up with Bloglines without that option checked!–is that moribund blogs stay there forever, since there are no new posts to convince you that the blog’s no longer worth readings.

So, not feeling like writing productively yesterday afternoon, I decided to do a trimming of the 398 library-related blogs in my Bloglines subscription (no, they’re not all public subs), on this basis:

  • If the most recent post is earlier than September 1, 2006, the blog’s moribund enough to go.
  • If the Bloglines link doesn”t work or yields a “parking” or other nonsense page, or it’s now clear that the so-called blog isn’t a blog at all, then it’s worth removing for other reasons.

It’s probably been a year since I’ve done anything like this. I had no idea what to expect.

Results: I unsubscribed from 47 feeds. (Well, actually, I unsubscribed from 48, but one case was a change of address where I subscribed to the new feed, so that doesn’t count.) That’s–let’s see, 398 into 47, carry the 7.2–11.8%.

Which isn’t a bad failure rate over a year, but I’m not sure it means much, since quite a few of the remaining 351 were added during the year–and since I’m unlikely to add blogs that look like short-termers.

Will the subscription list creep back up over 400 total (I have 30 “non-library” blogs in the list as well) within a year? I can’t imagine doing this more than once a year, so the answer’s probably a definite maybe.

Not the final post of the year, by the way…

Instant update with the piece I forgot: I actually had a semi-legitimate excuse to spend this time. A blogger was talking about a book contract. There was some chance that the topic of the book might collide/intersect/overlap with one of several small (print on demand) books I’ve been thinking about. I wanted to contact the blogger, so that if what they’re planning does overlap with what I was thinking about, I could “stop thinking about it”–drop that particular idea to the bottom of the list of possibilities. But I didn’t respond immediately–and I’d forgotten which blogger it was. I found the post during this process and have sent off the email inquiry. Do note that I’m not saying “Don’t do this because I might do it”–I’m saying “If you’re doing this, I’ll avoid a competing book for now.”

Not gone, just quiet

Posted in Stuff, Writing and blogging on December 27th, 2006

Our big holiday plans this year were pretty similar to most years: Quiet, low-key, getting through it. Dinner with my immediate family (just six of us, my generation including spouses, this year) at my brother’s. Come Monday next (our 29th anniversary!), the usual New Year’s brunch with a dear, long-time friend. In the middle…pretty much whatever.

Reading a few posts here and there about gift-receiving issues, I’m happy with the choice my wife and I made when we got married (her idea, I think), one that’s spread–for Christmas, for adults–to both families, at least for general gatherings. The gift is getting together. Period. Or, in some cases, cards noting charitable donations on others’ behalf. (We don’t do the “named donations,” and tend to select no publicity for our larger donations in any case.) If that sounds Grinchy, it isn’t really. It may have something to do with growing up in families where money was always an issue (much more so on my wife’s side, and never obvious on mine when I was growing up–but certainly true) and, once we earned decent money, being wary of excess possessions. (For us, at least, always living in small houses has helped!)

There are those in our neighborhood that overdecorate (aren’t there everywhere?). We don’t decorate at all. Our indoor cats long ago convinced us not to have trees in the house. Walking around the neighborhood–did I mention we live in a real neighborhood, with neighbors we’re acquainted with and all that stuff?–we’ve seen one street with a nice little tradition–a big red boughbow on the largest tree on each lot, and that’s about it. We’ve also seen one place that had a prefab creche, fronted by three inflatable Santas serving in lieu of the three wise men. (When I mentioned that at the family gathering, my brother and sister–both fairly religious–had the same reaction: “That’s disturbing on so many levels.” We just thought it was tacky.)

Otherwise–well, I don’t post with any regularity anyway. I don’t feel any desire to highlight my best posts of the year, and I already covered some highlights of Cites & Insights in the January 2007 issue and this post, although the post was about essay popularity, not necessarily the essays I’m proudest of. (Sometimes the same thing, but not always.) I’m working on the project mentioned in the current issue. I took part in the current meme, and notice that none of the indirectly-invited tagees have joined in. Maybe they’re taking better winter breaks.

We’re watching one TV-show-on-DVD episode a night since there aren’t any new episodes, although we did break sequence to watch a Christmas-themed episode of Remington Steele on Christmas eve (a very strange episode it was, with three Santas, a bombing plot, and Jennifer Tilly as a…well, don’t want to spoil the plot).

[We didn't happen to schedule a Christmas-themed Netflix receipt this year. I wouldn't mind seeing Elf again. I'd love to see Polar Express again. I don't imagine I'll ever want to see Bad Santa (actually the Badder Santa DVD) again, although it was fun in its own way the first time. And, although we own Santa Claus Conquers the Martians as part of a 50-movie Megapack, I couldn't honestly try to sell my wife on its suitability for Christmas eve or any other time. And we'd seen the Moonlighting special Christmas episode just a few months ago.]

I dunno. Maybe I get a touch of SAD. Maybe it’s just the year-end blahs. I’m looking forward to Midwinter (and trust Seattle won’t get another massive storm at that point). The weather outside is…not frightful, but strange. Rainy, windy, clearing, foggy, in reasonably unpredictable succession. (Snow’s never a factor in Mountain View, although there are times when we can see it on some of the coastal range peaks–the mountain views, as it were.)

Anyway, may your holidays be as happy as you desire, and may the new year be better (and more peaceful?) for all of us…

Blogging and RSS: A Librarian’s Guide

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries, Writing and blogging on December 22nd, 2006

Blogging and RSS: A Librarian’s Guide, by Michael P. Sauers (the Travelin’ Librarian), showed up in the mail yesterday–a signed copy, no less.

I haven’t read it yet, so this isn’t a review (maybe later…but there are also two other books that arrived this week or last, that I really should read and comment on, one from CLIR, one from DLF), but I thought a quick note was in order.

The book looks interesting. After a brief introduction to blogs and why they’re worth doing, he offers extensive examples of “librarian blogs” (22 of them), “library blogs” (8) and “miscellaneous blogs” (4), in each case giving the name, the author, the motto or tagline if there is one, and one post from the blog–and he’s got screen shots for a fair number of them.

The next chapter is special: “The Library Blogosphere, Part 2: The Bloggers”–email interviews with eleven of the bloggers whose blogs appear in Chapter 2, all of us (yes, “us”–that’s why Sauers sent me a copy) answering the same questions. Once again (as with search results at one point a while back), I appear in relationship to Lorcan Dempsey–this time because the interviews are alphabetic by blogger’s last name.

Chapter 5, “Creating a Blog,” is fairly long and appears to have about the right level of detail. Even skimming, I can see that the writing is clear, informal, and effective (as I’d expect). Then there’s an introduction to RSS, using an aggregator (also fairly long and detailed), “noteworthy feeds” beyond blogs, a chapter on creating feeds, a brief afterword, and some appendices.

So far, just skimming and reading a few paragraphs here and there, I’m favorably impressed. But then, the afterword focuses on stories and urges libraries and librarians to tell their stories–and you know I’m a sucker for that approach.

Physically: Slightly oversize trade paperback (7×10.5″), justified serif body type (sans for blog posts and some other special cases), good margins. I wish ITI would change their templates so the first paragraph of a chapter or section wasn’t indented–it shouldn’t be difficult and is pretty standard practice for books that are actually designed–but that’s my only real grump here. The book does not have the look of “HTML dumped to a page” and it’s not padded with excess leading and the like. At $29.50 for a 272p. book, the pricing isn’t excessive for the library field.

Are you Bloglining this?

Posted in Writing and blogging on December 22nd, 2006

[Apologies, David, I couldn't resist.]

If you read this post via Bloglines, could you let me know–either via comment or via email>

I don’t seem to be getting my own posts back in Bloglines, for two or three days now…and this might help tell me how general the problem is.

Thanks

Update: Thanks for the fast responses; no further responses needed. There seems to be an intermittent issue…and a little research using another aggregator yields interesting results:

  • It’s not just me–that is, Walt at Random isn’t the only blog where I haven’t received posts since some time on Wednesday.
  • In my case, I’m in very good company: The two other examples are TameTheWeb Tame the Web and ShiftedLibrarianThe Shifted Librarian. But I’ve gotten more recent posts from several other blogs on the same host…
  • Skimming quickly through the alternate aggregator (installed a few months ago when Bloglines was acting up, with a copy of my Bloglines roll from back then), I’m surprised by how many of the subscriptions are moribund–which I’ll define, in this case, as “no posts since August 2006.” If I unsubbed all of those–which I might do at some point when I have nothing better to do (2012?)–I might well drop a hundred or more of the 400+ blogs I theoretically monitor. But, of course, it takes no time to monitor moribund blogs…

No promises here about “final post of the year.” We’re not that big on holidays, although we will get together with family on Monday, and continue a long-standing tradition with a dear friend on the following Monday…

Cites & Insights 2006: A few “popularity” notes

Posted in Cites & Insights on December 21st, 2006

A year ago I did this commentary on the reach and popularity of Cites & Insights volume 5 (2005). Here’s a similar breakdown for volume 6–but with a modest amount of confusion, since volume 6 is split across two domains….using two different log stats systems.

For the old site (where the final issue was C&I 6:8, July 2006), statistics cover the period 12/19/2005 (the day C&I 6:1 was posted) through 12/18/2006–exactly one year. For the new site, which includes all the old issues and began on July 10, 2006, statistics cover 7/10/2006 through 12/18/2006.

Sustaining interest: One clear fact is that readership continues long after an issue has been posted, with much of that readership going directly to issues and essays, not the home page. Strongest indications: Although hits per month at cites.boisestate.edu dropped from an average of 56,753 per month for February through June [January 2006 was abnormally high thanks to the Library 2.0 issue] to 32,364 per month for July through November–a drop of 43%–visitors per month only dropped from an average of 17,805 January-June to an average of 16,766 July-November (a drop of 6%). Basically, the daily visitors graph since the site change, entirely to old issues, looks about the same as it did before the site change, but lopping off the spikes that occur just after each issue is loaded.

Overall readership: C&I was visited from 50,818 unique IP addresses on the old site and 11,374 unique IP addresses on the new site. Combining the two, there were some 663,000 total hits (up about 56% from 2005), with an average of 578 visitors per day on the old site, 172 sessions per day (the closest comparison) on the new.

Geographic distribution: Noting that some of these may be spambots, total countries are about the same as last year (166 vs. 167) on the old site with exactly the same number (143) showing more than one visit. The new site shows 92 for the half year, 72 with more than one session. For the old site, 72 countries show 20 or more visits, 61 show 50 or more, and 49 (same as last year) show 100 or more.

I didn’t look at browsers, OS, and spiders in any detail; I believe Firefox is running about 20% of browsers, Mac OS about 3% of OS–and Yahoo! Slurp continues to be the most hyperactive spider by far.

Popularity: It’s tough to make overall judgments for two reasons: The split between the two sites (with only the 50 most visited pages available for the old one) and the clear sense that a pretty substantial portion of an article’s readership comes some time after it was published–with a significant portion coming more than six months later. It would make more sense to look at popularity for the August-December issues no earlier than next July.

For what I’m willing to conjecture, I’m using the same algorithm as last year: 1.5 readers per PDF download and one reader per HTML page visit. Using that metric, here’s what I can say with moderate assurance:

  • The full-issue essay Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0″ was by far the most widely read essay and issue–nearly 28,000, almost four times the readership of the second highest, and a whole bunch more than 2005′s top piece (Investigating the Blogosphere)
  • Looking at Liblogs: The great middle (6:10) came next, with more than 7,000 readers. This essay was in the August issue, which makes its high readership particularly noteworthy.
  • Folksonomy and Dichotomy (6:4) had around 6,600 readers; Beyond Library 2.0 and (C)2: What NC Means to Me (both 6:3) round out the top five, with more than 6,000 readers each. The July Bibs & Blather (asking for help on liblogs)also had just over 6,000.
  • Six other essays had more than 5,500 readers. In descending order: (C)2: Will Fair Use Survive? (6:1), my commentary on OCLC’s Perceptions report (6:3); Library Stuff from March (6:4); the August Bibs & Blather [meaningless: those are just PDF numbers for people reading Looking at Liblogs]; (C)4: Analog hole and broadcast flag (6:3), and (C)1: Term and Extent (6:4).

More significant, I think, is that readership was strong across the board–every essay prior to September (except the PDF-only 75th issue) shows at least 3,700 readers, and every issue first posted on the new site has already been downloaded as a PDF at least 1,100 times–including 6:14, which hasn’t been out all that long.

I won’t draw conclusions as to popular and unpopular types of articles; it’s not that clear–except, to be sure, that Library 2.0 and liblogging are big draws. Heck, even the silly 75th anniversary issue had close to 1,800 downloads…

Five things you might not know (or care) about me

Posted in Writing and blogging on December 21st, 2006

Hmm. Tagged by Chris Armstrong (who linked to an announcement-only “blog”). I was hoping to evade this particular meme, partly because my life’s been pretty open, with few mysteries of even the slightest interest.

But, what the hey, it’s almost winter solstice, so here are five really boring revelations…

  1. I am seriously fond of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, which I first discovered on a cruise (true), and which I only read when traveling–which means I’m only through the first dozen or so, with around a dozen waiting to be read.
  2. The one time I tried writing fiction was as a teenager. I wrote a science fiction short story and submitted it to Astounding (now Analog). I got a surprisingly kind handwritten rejection note from John W. Campbell, Jr., encouraging me to try again. Later, I looked at the short story objectively…and let’s just say I’ve never tried writing fiction again, and don’t plan to start.
  3. As a youth, I was mildly traumatized by being suckered encouraged by a relative to go to what was supposed to be a Methodist week-long “camp”–and turned out to be a Free Methodist camp. If you don’t know the difference, a little research might help. Let’s say the fun began when they seized my Revised Standard Version Bible at the gate, informed me that it was written by Communists, and substituted the Bible as Dictated Directly by God to King James. Things got worse from there…
  4. In my junior year of high school (same school and class as George Lucas, but I never knew him in high school or since), I was part of a group who–disgusted with the quality of the school’s newspaper–started a rebel newspaper, typeset and all. I believe it was called “Etc.” but could be mistaken. We put out four issues, if I remember correctly, somehow raising the funds (partly by advertising) to cover the typesetting and printing. That group then joined the journalism class in senior year, took over the official newspaper–and it won a regional award the year we ran it. So I do have a background in doing out-of-the-ordinary publications.
  5. My academic “career” basically concluded when a professor in grad school gave the following comment on the major paper for a course (on 17th century British political rhetoric), paraphrased: “Excellent writing, awful research. Maybe you don’t belong here.” I never thanked him for the excellent advice.

Now, as for tagging…well, there are roughly a dozen blogs in all from OCLC employees. I’ll say “any five OCLC bloggers who wish to participate,” and leave it at that. And if none of you do, that’s OK too.

Cites & Insights 7:1 available

Posted in Cites & Insights on December 20th, 2006

Cites & Insights vol. 7, number 1 (January 2007) is now available for downloading.

The 26-page issue (PDF as usual, but most essays are also available as HTML separates from the home page) includes:

  • Bibs & Blather: Navel Gazing Part 6 – the usual start-of-volume essay.
  • Perspective: Book Searching: OCA/GBS Update
  • Trends & Quick Takes – Five trends and three quicker takes
  • Finding a Balance: Patrons and the Library
  • Interesting & Peculiar Products – three products, plus short notes on Editors’ Choices and Best Buys (replacing PC Progress)
  • Perspective: The Death of the Disc?
  • My Back Pages – eight mini-rants.

Happy holidays!

The bewilderments of egosearching

Posted in Books and publishing, Technology and software, Writing and blogging on December 20th, 2006

I don’t egosearch all that much–not because my ego isn’t plenty large enough, but because the main search engines tend to favor older material, date limits don’t work very well, and between me, Walt Crawford Kelly (of Pogo fame), an ornithologist in the midwest, and a baseball player, “Walt Crawford” is well past the visibility limit–which is to say, I generally wouldn’t see new items if there were any.

The blog search engines are a little different story, and I checked Technorati today (not for this blog, which stays handily in the “top 100,000 but far away from the top 10,000″ middle, but for my name in quotes), and ran into a few oddities.
Including this one from May 2006, citing a “disContent” column.

The odd part comes in some of the comments. You get one person swallowing the NEA “reading at risk” line and extending it to non-reading in general. You get another making “my point” for me (for most people, for most books, ebooks are a solution in search of a problem–but don’t forget the for most people, for most books part of that!).

And then you get this:

“Nor do most people care about changing fonts, darkening type, etc… “. Just wait until you’re 60. You’ll care a lot!

Hmm. I’m 61. I don’t care about changing fonts, darkening type, etc. for me, for books, for now. Which isn’t to say that someone else might not. But as baldly stated, it’s another false universalism: “You’re old, so you need large type.”

A later comment, from someone ten years my senior, makes much the same point–and also points out that people on this particular forum are atypical enough that they sometimes need a reality check. And aren’t we all, in some area or another?

Whoops. There’s another one: It’s so easy to make false generalizations.


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