Archive for March, 2008

50 Movie Western Classics, Disc 8

Posted in Movies and TV on March 18th, 2008

Blue Steel, 1934, b&w. Robert N. Bradbury (dir.), John Wayne, Eleanor Hunt, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Edward Peil Sr., Yakima Canutt. 0:54.

As one-hour Westerns go, this is better than most. Sure, some elements of the plot are standard. The leader of the bad guys is the most prominent person in town: Check. The cute young woman winds up with the hero—even though, in this case, he really hasn’t talked to her except to rescue her once: Check. Despite the quick draw and sure aim of the hero, most fights are fistfights—and they’re incredibly phony: Check.

On the other hand, the plot makes more sense than most. A beleaguered town, Yucca City, is in trouble because shipments of supplies (and money) keep getting stolen, and the ranchers are about to give up and move out. At one key plot point, the Big Man offers to buy their homesteads for $100 each—and, of course, there’s a sinister reason. Naturally, John Wayne saves the day, with the help of a crusty old—not sidekick this time, but sheriff. Wayne is young, handsome, and quite effective. The long final chase sequence is effectively done; the long, largely silent opening sequence (a hotel in a really noisy rainstorm) is also surprisingly effective. Most of the acting is good. The sleeve description almost gets the plot right, but messes up one point big time: It has Wayne as “Sheriff Jake” hot on the trail of the man who appeared to rob a payroll. Actually, Wayne is the man who appeared to do the robbing (he’s a Marshal). The Sheriff is the crusty old coot (Gabby Hayes), “Old-timer” as Wayne consistently calls him. I’ll give it $1.00.

Santa Fe Trail, 1940, b&w. Michael Curtiz (dir.), Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Raymond Massey, Ronald Reagan, Alan Hale, William Lundigan, Van Heflin. 1:50.

Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, a young (29), devilishly handsome Ronald Reagan. Costars like Van Heflin (in a key role). Historic names including George Custer (Reagan), J.E.B. Stuart (Flynn), John Brown (Massey) and many more. This is a big movie—big stars, big historical names, good production values, a major motion picture.

Ostensibly, it’s about the Santa Fe trail, bloody Kansas and building the railroad through to Santa Fe. Really, it’s about John Brown and the prelude to the Civil War—where West Point graduates who would later fight each other fought together to bring down Brown’s uprising. As a historical film, it’s a mess—pro-Southern/slavery, riddled with wild inaccuracies, etc., etc. You may find it unwatchable for that reason.

It’s dramatic, generally well acted and well filmed, including the long battle sequence near the end at Harper’s Ferry. The print’s OK—but the sound is sometimes distorted, bringing this down to $1.25.

McLintock!, 1963, color. Andrew V. McLaglen (dir.), John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Patrick Wayne, Stefanie Powers, Jack Kruschen, Chill Wills, Yvonne De Carlo, Jerry Van Dyke, Edgar Buchanan, Bruce Cabot, Strother Martin. 2:07.

The older John Wayne at his most entertaining in a big, well-made movie that’s mostly a hoot. If you don’t already know the movie (I didn’t), I’m not sure how to describe it. G.W. McLintock is a cattle baron(and miner) in the Mesa Verde of turn-of-the-century Arizona, a territory hoping to become a state. He owns most of the nearby town (named McLintock), treats his employees fairly, drinks a lot, plays chess and has a good time. He’s friends with the local tribes (despite an old battle wound) and mostly dislikes the territorial government people he considers incompetent—and, to be sure, homesteaders he thinks are being sold a bill of goods, asked to make a living on 160 acres of 6,000-foot-high land not fit for farming.

That’s just the setup. His estranged wife (O’Hara) shows up, asking for a divorce but mostly wanting to take her daughter (Powers)—just coming back from college Back East—away with her. McLintock’s having none of that. Lots of action ensues, including a rodeo, various romances, and much, much more. Big fight scenes, more slapstick than anything else—I don’t believe there’s a single injury or death in the movie. A combination of comedy, light drama and a little romance, the movie has fine performances by Wayne, O’Hara, Powers, Van Dyke (as an up-to-the-minute college boy with a Letter—in Glee Club), and most everyone involved, all of whom seemed to be having a ball.

I can’t figure out how this wound up on a set with mostly public-domain movies, unless the studio figured DVD buyers would want the wide-screen version so they could give the pan-and-scan away. The print’s OK—if there’s damage, it never gets in the way of the movie. The colors are a little faded, but that may be the way it was shot. Great fun, and at the end of more than two hours I wanted more. I’m sure it would be better in widescreen and with richer colors—but even so, I can’t give this one less than $2.25.

Sagebrush Trail, 1933, b&w. Armand Schaefer (dir.), John Wayne, Nancy Shubert, Lane Chandler, Yakima Canutt. 0:54.

The plot’s a little different, although as usual shootings only happen from a distance—up close, it’s all badly-staged fistfights. A young John Wayne is a convicted killer who’s escaped and is on the run (hopping a freight train bound west from Baltimore). He’s innocent, of course. He winds up with a good-sized gang of outlaws, hoping to find the real killer, which he does…but decides the real killer’s not such a bad Joe. Meanwhile, he’s trying to be part of the gang while foiling their big robberies, in one case by pre-robbing the stagecoach. All turns out fairly well in the end.

The print’s not great. The acting’s not great, but no worse than the run of these things. Some excellent stunt work. John Wayne underwater breathing through a reed. What the heck: $1.00

Academic library blogs: Average post length

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 18th, 2008

Another in a series of detailed metric summaries (oxymorons r us) on the 231 blogs in Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples, which as far as I know is the only broad objective survey of academic library blogs.

I blathered on about the significance of average post length in the public library blog equivalent to this post. I won’t repeat that.

Once again, the average and median in each case is an “average average” and “median average” (or “average median?”)–that is, an average or median on a set of average lengths. You could determine an overall average post length by dividing all the words in all blogs by all the posts in all blogs, but that’s an unusually pointless exercise. (Right around 137 words per post, if you care.)

Overall, the average (mean) average length per post is 178 words. The median is 144 words.

Quintiles:

  • Q1: Longest posts (“essays”): 235 to 897 words per post.
    Average (mean): 370 words per post.
    Median: 323 words per post.
  • Q2: Longer posts: 164 to 235 words per post.
    Average: 194 words per post.
    Median: 190 words per post.
  • Q3: Average-length posts: 125 to 162 words per post.
    Average and median: 144 words per post.
  • Q4: Shorter posts: 94 to 125 words per post.
    Average and median: 109 words per post.
  • Q5: Shortest posts (“terse”): 11 to 93 words per post.
    Average: 73 words per post.
    Median: 80 words per post.

Compared to public library blogs? Q1 and Q5 are quite similar; for Q2-Q4, academic library posts tend to be a little shorter (e.g., the median point for Q3 is around 94% of the median point for the public-library Q3).

Academic library blogs: Total words

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 17th, 2008

Once again looking at the 231 academic library blogs included in Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples, this time looking at total words during the three-month/92-day study period.

The complete set of posts total 852,930 words. The average blog had 3,692 words. The median was 2,244. Comparing that to public library blogs, the average academic blog was about 10% shorter–but the median academic blog was about 17% longer.

The quintiles:

  • Q1: Longest blogs: 5,656 words to 39,000 words.
    Average (mean): 10,205 words.
    Median: 8,408 words.
    This group includes 55% of the words in all the blogs.
  • Q2: Longer blogs: 2,978 to 5,652 words.
    Average: 4,181 words.
    Median: 4,268 words.
    This group includes 22.6% of the words in all the blogs.
  • Q3: Average-length blogs: 1,733 words to 2,969 words.
    Average: 2,278 words.
    Median: 2,244 words.
    This group includes 12.6% of the words in all the blogs.
  • Q4: Shorter blogs: 888 words to 1,716 words.
    Average: 1,300 words.
    Median: 1,338 words.
    This group includes 7% of the words in all the blogs.
  • Q5: Shortest blogs: 69 words to 886 words.
    Average: 529 words.
    Median: 524 words.
    This group includes 2.9% of the words in all the blogs.

You’d need to take the hundred longest blogs–43% of the total–to include 80% of the words.

Comparing these to public library blogs by quintile, it’s a matter of gentler extremes: the longest academic blogs are shorter (the Q1 average and median are both lower), while the other academic blogs are slightly longer (that is, Q2-Q5 average and median are higher for academic than public library blogs).

Academic library blogs: Doing the quintiles 1, Posting frequency

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 17th, 2008

No long-winded introduction this time. Here’s the comparable post for public library blogs. I used the same sample period and rules for Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples: March-May 2007, blogs had to have started before 2007, blogs had to have at least one post in two of the three months.

In all, the 232 blogs included 6,229 posts, for an average (mean) of 27 posts per blog–about two per week. The median is 14 posts, just over one per week.

The quintiles:

  • Q1: Most frequent posts: 34 to 762 posts.
    Average (mean): 83.4 posts.
    Median: 52.5 posts.
    This quintile includes 61.6% of all posts.
  • Q2: More frequent posts: 17 to 34 posts.
    Average: 24 posts.
    Median: 23 posts.
    This quintile includes 17.8% of all posts.
  • Q3: Average posting frequency: 11 to 17 posts. (The “extra” blog is here.)
    Average: 14.5 posts.
    Median: 14 posts.
    This quintile includes 11% of all posts
  • Q4: Fewer posts: 7 to 11 posts.
    Average: 8.9 posts.
    Median: 9 posts.
    This quintile includes 6.6% of all posts.
  • Q5: Fewest posts: 2 to 7 posts.
    Average: 4.2 posts.
    Median: 4 posts.
    This quintile includes 3.1% of all posts.

What percentage of blogs do I need to include for 80% of all posts (the Pareto number)? Quite a few–95 in all, or nearly 41%. That’s not surprising: After four blogs with 762, 468, 240 and 114 posts respectively, none of the blogs averages one post a day, and the number of posts declines fairly slowly.

Public library blogs: Illustrations per post – the final quintile

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 16th, 2008

Here we are at the end of the metrics for public library blogs (I’m not going to discuss “visibility” or how long blogs have been around): Illustrations per post.

Overall, the average blog in Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples had 0.72 illustrations per post; the median was 0.50 illustrations per post. The quintiles:

  • Q1: Most illustrations per post: 1.0 to 12.8 illustrations per post.
    Average (mean): 2.19 illustrations per post.
    Median: 1.44 illustrations per post.
  • Q2: More illustrations per post: 0.67 to 1.0 illustrations per post.
    Average: 0.87 illustrations per post.
    Median: 0.90 illustrations per post.
  • Q3: Average number of illustrations per post: 0.25 to 0.67
    Average: 0.47 illustrations per post
    Median: 0.50 illustrations per post.
  • Q4: Fewer illustrations per post: Zero to 0.25.
    Average: 0.09 illustrations per post.
    Median: 0.08 illustrations per post
  • Q5: Fewest illustrations per post: No illustrations.

And that’s it. You can identify any blog in the book as to its proper quintile. If your library has a blog and isn’t in the book, you can play along.

Which libraries fit where? Well, for that you’ll have to buy the book–and, since I said I wasn’t pushing it by doing these posts, I suppose I should be gratified that there haven’t been any new sales of either library blog book. Or not.

Soon: The quintiles for the academic library blogs. Same metrics, different results.

Public library blogs: Number of illustrations

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 16th, 2008

Here’s one of two related metrics where I don’t believe it’s possible to draw any conclusions of any sort–the number of illustrations per blog. After all, many excellent blogs have no illustrations at all.

For the three-month period studied in Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples,  I counted a total of 4,691 illustrations in all. Here are the quintiles:

  • Q1: Most illustrations: From 24 to 814 illustrations.
    Average (mean): 73.4 illustrations
    Median: 42 illustrations
    Total: 3,670 illustrations, 78% of the total.
  • Q2: More illustrations: From nine to 22 illustrations.
    Average: 14.5 illustrations
    Median: 14 illustrations
    Total: 727 illustrations, 15.5% of the total.
  • Q3: Average number of illustrations: From two to eight illustrations.
    Average: 4.7 illustrations.
    Median: 5 illustrations.
    Total: 246 illustrations, 5.2% of the total.
  • Q4: Fewer illustrations: From zero to two illustrations.
    Average and Median: One illustration.
    Total: 48 illustrations, 1% of the total.

This one’s as close as you’re likely to get to a Pareto limit: 21.4% of the blogs had 80% of the illustrations.

Public library blogs: Comments per post

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 15th, 2008

When surveying liblogs, I called this metric “conversational intensity”–but I’ll use neutral terminology here.

Across all blogs, the average number of comments per post is 0.3–that is, an average of three comments for every ten posts. Since the median number of comments per blog is zero, the median number of comments per post can’t be anything other than zero.

Here are the quintiles–noting that the blogs with the most comments aren’t necessarily the blogs with the most comments per post. (Indeed, the blog with the most comments is tied for 13th in number of comments per post; the single blog with more than ten comments per post only had two posts during the study period, so it’s a slightly artificial number. It and the second-highest blog in terms of comments per post are both teen or game blogs: This should not surprise anyone.)

  • Q1: Most comments per post: 0.33 to 13.5 comments per post
    Average (mean): 1.3 comments per post
    Median: 0.67 comments per post.
  • Q2: More comments per post: 0.11 to 0.29 comments per post
    Average: 0.188 comments per post
    Median: 0.184 comments per post
  • Q3: Average number of comments per post: 0 to 0.10 comments per post
    Average: 0.02 comments per post
    Median: Zero comments per post
  • Q4 and Q5: No comments.

And here are the “subquintiles”–excluding all the blogs with no comments at all.

  • Q1: Most comments per post: 0.67 to 13.5 comments per post.
    Average (mean): 2.2 comments per post.
    Median: 1.14 comments per post.
  • Q2: More comments per post: 0.33 to 0.67 comments per post.
    Average: 0.49 comments per post
    Median: 0.50 comments per post.
  • Q3: Average number of comments per post: 0.20 to 0.33 comments per post.
    Average: 0.253 comments per post
    Median: 0.250 comments per post
  • Q4: Fewer comments per post: 0.111 to 0.196 comments per post
    Average: 0.149 comments per post
    Median: 0.154 comments per post
  • Q5: Fewest comments per post: 0.016 to 0.111 comments per post
    Average: 0.067 comments per post
    Median: 0.08 comments per post.

Public library blogs: Comments on posts

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 14th, 2008

OK, let’s get to the one that I was postponing for a bit, in this series of detailed notes on aspects of the 252 public library blogs covered in Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples.

To wit, how many comments appeared on posts within the 92-day study period.

That metric certainly isn’t the only measure of a blog’s success. It may not even be a particularly important one. (See this post for a thoughtful discussion of blog metrics and other assessment issues.) But one of the big selling points for library blogs does seem to be a “build it and they will come” assertion–that blogs will get the community actively involved in providing feedback.

In all, there were 1,768 comments on all of the blogs combined (after I excluded a couple of cases with dozens of comments, all of them obviously and regrettably spam). That’s an average of seven per blog–and, as I noted in the book, that’s a wildly misleading average, since nearly a quarter of those comments appeared on a single blog. Two other blogs had more than a comment a day (average); those three blogs represent 37% of the total comments for all blogs. (Four more blogs averaged more than a comment every other day, and five more averaged more than one every three days.)

The median? Zero comments. Only 118 of the 252 blogs had any comments at all, so the median is necessarily zero.

Now, to be sure, some blogs simply don’t allow comments. If a blog consists of nothing but authors and titles for new books, there’s little reason to allow comments. If a blog is the library’s home page (and some pretty impressive blogs are just that), it’s not clear that comments would work very well. In a lot of cases, it was hard to tell why comments weren’t allowed.

Here are the quintiles:

  • Q1: Most comments: From five to 392 comments.
    Average (mean): 32.1 comments
    Median: 14 comments.
  • Q2: More comments: From one to five comments.
    Average: 2.9 comments.
    Median: 3 comments
  • Q3: Average number of comments: From zero to one comment.
    Average: 0.3 comments per blog
    Median: Zero comments.
  • Q4 and Q5: Zero comments.

Just for fun, I did a set of subquintiles–including only the blogs that had at least one comment. If all of those with no comments simply didn’t allow them, that might be a good metric–but, as far as I remember, fewer than half of those lacking comments had comments disabled.

  • Q1: Most comments: From 15 to 392 comments.
    Average (mean): 56.7 comments
    Median: 30.5 comments.
  • Q2: More comments: From six to 14 comments
    Average: 9.8 comments
    Median: 9.5 comments
  • Q3: Average number of comments: From three to six comments
    Average: 4.2 comments
    Median: 4 comments
  • Q4: Fewer comments: From one to three comments
    Average: 2.1 comments
    Median: 2 comments
  • Q5: Fewest comments: One comment per blog, thus the average and median are both 1.

Not surprisingly, this metric fits well within the Pareto principle, only more so: 80% of the comments were in 11% of the blogs.

Incidentally: You could argue that these counts aren’t quite fair–they don’t measure the comments received during the quarter or all comments ever received on that quarter’s worth of posts. They measure all comments received on that quarter’s worth of posts when I did the analysis, which was mostly in July 2007. On the other hand, most legitimate comments on most real-world blogs appear within the first few days after the post, or at least within the first month or so. (I now automatically turn off comments after six months, because most “late” comments are actually spam.)

Public library blogs: Average post length

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 13th, 2008

Conventional wisdom used to say that good blog posts were brief blog posts. That was particularly true for “weblogs”–that is, those blogs that are primarily logs of websites visited, links with little or no commentary. (“Linkblogs” would be a better term these days.) (Modified 3/14/08 to clarify that the term “weblog” doesn’t, in fact, carry the narrower suggested definition, even if some early webloggers think it should.)

Conventional wisdom has gone by the wayside, to a great extent. A good blog has posts that are long enough to say what needs to be said, preferably while being short enough so that readers stay interested. How long is long enough? That depends.

In Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples, I said that typical paragraphs run 75 to 150 words, frequently fewer than 75. I think that’s true for most print paragraphs. Online paragraphs tend to be shorter, for whatever reasons. (The original first paragraph in this post is 44 words long.) The “average average” post length for all blogs was 187.3 words, roughly two typical print paragraphs. The “median average” was 153.8 words–roughly one long print paragraph.

What do I mean by “average average” and “median average”? The average (mean) and median are taken on the set of average post lengths, which only makes sense. The average length of all posts, across the whole set of blogs, is 173.7 words per post–but that’s about as useless a figure as I can think of.

Here are the quintiles:

  • Q1: Longest posts (“essays”). From 251.9 words to 864.7 words per post.
    Average: 378.1 words per post.
    Median: 321.1 words per post.
    Four blogs really do qualify as sets of essays, with the average post being the length of a typical newspaper column (around 800 words).
  • Q2: Longer posts. From 180.1 to 251.1 words per post.
    Average: 217.7 words per post.
    Median: 218.6 words per post.
  • Q3: Average-length posts. From 137.1 to 179.0 words per post (52 blogs).
    Average: 155.3 words per post.
    Median: 153.8 words per post.
  • Q2: Shorter posts. From 95.0 to 137.0 words per post.
    Average: 115.5 words per post.
    Median: 115.6 words per post.
  • Q1: Shortest (terse) posts. From 11.4 to 94.2 words per post.
    Average: 71.0 words per post.
    Median: 74.7 words per post.

Since this isn’t a cumulative metric, the Pareto limit isn’t meaningful.

Next up: The most difficult metric given the supposed role of blogs for improving community involvement.

Public library blogs: Total words

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries, Writing and blogging on March 12th, 2008

In an act of creative procrastination (I should be working on something else…), I’ll toss in a second installment today: Total words in all posts for the March 1, 2007-May 31, 2007 study period. (Yes, I know, that’s not the order of the metrics in Chapter 3. But it’s the order of the columns in the spreadsheets…)

As noted in the book, the complete set of posts totaled 1,038,237 words–roughly ten full-length novels. The average blog had 4,120 words; the median was 1,920, less than half that number.

Consider the quintiles:

  • Q1: Longest blogs: From 5,196 to 53,520 words.
    Average (mean): 13,453 words
    Median: 9,089 words.
    Total: 672,632 words–64.79% of the whole set.
  • Q2: Longer blogs: From 2,66 to 5,184 words.
    Average: 3,672 words.
    Median: 3,485 words.
    Total: 183,603 words–17.68% of the whole set.
  • Q3: Average length: From 1,454 to 2,663 words.
    Average: 2,013 words.
    Median: 1,968 words.
    Total: 104,651 words (52 blogs), 10.08% of the whole set.
  • Q4: Shorter blogs: From 731 to 1,444 words.
    Average: 1,104 words.
    Median: 1,066 words.
    Total: 55,198 words, 5.32% of the whole set.
  • Q5: Shortest blogs: From 89 to 710 words.
    Average: 443 words.
    Median: 469 words.
    Total: 22,153 words, 2.13% of the whole set.

The longest 91 blogs (36% of the total) contain 80% of all the words in all the blogs. Note that word counts do include most internal overhead (“Permalink” and such) but don’t include sidebars.

If you’re tempted to say “Well, the blogs with the most posts are the longest blogs,” that’s only partly true. While the blog with by far the most posts (almost twice as many as the second place) was also the longest blog, the blog with the second-most posts wasn’t anywhere near second-longest: It’s #63 in total length. And the second-longest blog, with almost 95% of the word count of the longest, had the fourth most posts–less than 40% as many as the blog with the most.

Next time, we’ll look at average post length–maybe because I’d rather postpone the “number of comments” discussion a little longer.


Ah. Mission accomplished. It’s too late to get a really good start on what I should be doing, so I’ll put it off until tomorrow. (Fortunately, I’m ahead of schedule. I’m almost always ahead of schedule, as a basic survival technique.)


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