It’s not called Portentous Posts from the Pacific

Another liblogger, Doug Johnson, wrote a post recently about the failure of his “comment predictor” to work.

I’ll be damned if I can predict which entries will result in an outpouring of reactions and which will create a resounding silence – or just a couple whimpers.

You carefully prepare a series of cogent posts, important to the field, that should yield discussion. Nada.
You slap together a trivial comment on the spur of the moment. Whoa Nelly!
After several comments from bloggers indicating the same curiosity, Johnson suggested this (noting that his blog is The Blue Skunk Blog):

The Blue Skunk Rule of Comments: The more trivial the post, the larger the response.


Between August 17 and August 20, I posted three entries on this blog (and at least one on my “remnant” blog, Walt, Even Randomer). For me, that’s a veritable flood of activity.
One of the posts was a brief, but carefully prepared, tribute to one of the pioneers of open access publishing–a journal established years before “open access” was a known term. Since I’d been involved in the journal, I couldn’t let the 20th anniversary go by–and I thought there might be some comments. Not so much.
Another was, I thought, a fairly substantive post about channels and content–heck, I even threw in a published column (one very few readers will have seen) for free. Not one comment.
The third…well, the third was a prime example of why this blog is called Walt at Random. Tossed together over maybe 10 minutes during a virtual coffee break (I telecommute for my part-time contracting job, so there are virtual coffee breaks; in any case, I normally only drink that one cup of really good just-ground Kauai coffee each morning, so any coffee breaks are virtual), it appeared only because I was a little peeved at what I considered specious threats-to-First-Amendment claims, namely that anonymity should be protected by the First Amendment even if it’s used for legally actionable speech. It was quickly written and quickly posted; it was a brief note.
And it drew a bunch of comments, a couple of them slightly hostile. One of them convinced me to add a clarification–after all, it was a quickly-written post.

Another digression: I can get irritable about free speech issues partly because I was at UC Berkeley throughout The Troubles. The Free Speech Movement was precisely about prior restrictions on speech–at the time, there were whole categories of speakers who could not appear anywhere on the Berkeley campus, thanks to restrictions from the Regents. Understand: I wasn’t directly involved with FSM (although I should have been), but I listened. They were dead on–and they expected consequences. When they were arrested for sitting in, they dealt with it, they didn’t try to duck it. Oh, and they won: the restrictions were lifted.

That’s neither here not there. The most recent comment (other than my own), as I read this, is what triggered this post. The commenter misreads my motivation (and the post, as far as I’m concerned)–but correctly says that the post isn’t all that novel or provocative. (OK, so the commenter also says “everybody understands” something–and if that was true, my post would never have appeared. Actually, “everybody understands” is almost always a false generalization, including “that the earth orbits the sun” or “that the earth was not created 4,000 years ago.” But, again, never mind.)
The commenter gives the post a “meh”–I’ll take that as a Gentleperson’s C-.

Meh. So?

[Not to get into a Sounds of Music moment…]
I started this blog a little more than four years ago, somewhat on a whim.
The first post appeared on April 1, 2005. That date was not an accident. (I actually wrote the post a day ahead of time and used WordPress’ delayed-publishing feature.)
Here’s some of what I said back then:

It’s been a short time coming (and a long time avoiding), but today seemed like the ideal day to start this weblog–the significance of the day matches the significance of the blog.
For those of you who read Cites & Insights and wonder how Walt at Random relates to it, the only possible answer is: I don’t really know yet. The blog may be an extension of (and largely replacement for) my LISNews blog lite. It may add those comments about cruising (on rivers and oceans, for those looking for ambiguity), music, food, and all those other subjects that are still outside C&I’s scope. It may include updates that seem to require immediate attention or comments too snarky for the journal.
It may even wither, like most new blogs. Maybe I really don’t have much more to say than the quarter-million words I typically publish each year. We shall see…

I removed a few of the cruising posts and old-movie posts when I brought the blog over to ScienceBlogs (those are still on Walt, Even Randomer). That doesn’t suddenly make this blog portentous.
Most of my “major” writing appears either in Cites & Insights or in one of the two magazine columns I write…or, these days, on the Library Leadership Network. The blog is for…well, extras. Minor thoughts. Gripes. “Out of scope” notes.
Stuff, in other words.
[Loyal C&I readers can stop laughing: Yes, of course much of C&I is trivial as well. But at least it goes through an editing cycle, which is not true of these little essays.]
There are thousands of serious blogs that contain only novel and provocative entries.

“Thousands” is used advisedly. As far as I know, there are currently anywhere from 1.5 million to seven million active blogs [Technorati 2008 State of the Blogosphere report] depending on your definition of “active.” I’m reasonably certain that at least one-tenth of one percent of those–that is, 1,500 to 7,000–are serious blogs containing only novel and provocative entries. I wouldn’t be willing to assert that, say, a full one percent of them are.

This isn’t one of them.

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