Archive for October, 2009

Sometimes it’s just a waste

Posted in Cites & Insights, Liblogs on October 30th, 2009

Another pebble on the road to But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009

Status

On October 14, I said I was pausing for breath–stepping back from the project, after finishing the first draft of the first five chapters, to write some essays for the next Cites & Insights and to take a fresh look at what the statistics say about the state of liblogs, at least for the portion written so far.

I wrote an essay–and since it’s more than 22,000 words long and there’s the second half of 50 Movie Comedy Classics to report on, that’s probably it for the December 2009 issue. (Probably out next week. Possibly a little later.)

I also reviewed the chapters, came up with a small number of additional insights, and edited them to 2nd draft status.

And, since then, I’ve prepared chapters 6-9:

  • Chapter 6: Standouts and standards–blogs showing the most consistency in key metrics either across metrics or across years.
  • Chapter 7: Patterns of change, 2007-2008.
  • Chapter 8: Patterns of change, 2008-2009.
  • Chapter 9: Correlations (which turns out to be very short and not terribly interesting).

Shortly, I’ll print out chapters 6-8 to review for better ways to describe what I found–much as I did for chapters 1-5.

But then there’s this, from the October 14 post:

Maybe it would make sense to look at a subset of the 521 blogs that might be called the “common blogs”–ones that have a significant number of posts in all three years, ones that have full metrics for all three years, ones that aren’t current awareness services in blog form–and see whether those blogs, possibly 200-300, show more distinct patterns than the overall set.

Common blogs or the core set

The more I thought about it, the more I thought his would be a neat idea–and added Chapter 10, Core blogs, to the outline.

And prepared a trimmed copy of the spreadsheet, as follows:

  • Deleted blogs that didn’t have at least 3 posts in March-May 2007, March-May 2008 and March-May 2009.
  • Deleted blogs that lacked length metrics (ones where it wasn’t feasible to determine the total length of posts).
  • Deleted “a handful” (maybe 5?) of extremely prolific blogs that seem to function more as current awareness services than as ordinary blogs, and one blog that consists entirely of links.

That left me with 265 blogs. So I began Chapter 10, then started preparing quintiles and other analyses to see whether I’d find anything particularly interesting.

See the title of this post?

Oh, there will be a Chapter 10–but it will be one of two primarily narrative chapters about why people blog, how blogging changes and why/how blogs disappear. The Chapter 10 that I was working on doesn’t exist any longer, although one paragraph (much shorter than this post!) does appear, as part of Chapter 1.

Sure, there were changes in the patterns–but they were all changes that were essentially mandated by the way I trimmed blogs. There was nothing “interesting” at all.

Oh well, only a couple afternoons’ work; in the past, I’ve spent much longer periods on projects that I abandoned or found useless… (Up to and including the very first book-length manuscript I ever wrote, the only one I ever wrote on an electric typewriter, the research for which gave me a lasting hatred of microfilm readers…that was probably close to 1,000 hours of work, and I don’t even have the ms. to show for it.)

Come to think of it, this post isn’t very interesting either. Such is life. It’s Friday, and there’s a skeleton on our front porch with some creepy little spiders on it…


A couple of weeks later: Not so quick, bucko. Note the comments on this post, which I started thinking about. To wit, maybe averages could be slightly meaningful for “ordinary” liblogs–that is, stripping out those that are current awareness services, sponsored, etc.

So I redid a trimmed set, not including the “significant number of posts” but requiring full metrics and removing a very small number of blogs that seemed to be special cases. And, instead of quintiles, I looked at changes in totals and averages from year to year…and came up with some mildly interesting data, which will be added to the Correlations chapter.

Thanks, John: But for your comment(s), I wouldn’t have thought about this a second time.

A tiny little LITA-related post

Posted in ALA on October 26th, 2009

Tiny, as in no more than ten minutes composition & posting time…

So in FriendFeed today, I got involved in a couple of discussions–one involving the worth (or otherwise) of ALA, the other involving what professional groups make sense for a systems librarian.

I’m just going to touch on the second one, where another participant said LITA was not a good choice because it was consistently five to ten years behind the times. I questioned that, and found myself defending LITA–and particularly feeling that, given LITA’s bottom-up nature, something’s terribly wrong if it is “five to ten years behind” (which I don’t believe to be true).

But then, while working on other stuff and taking a walk and doing the weekly recycling/garbage, I thought:

“Why am I defending LITA?”

There are others, who should have been aware of that thread, who are actually active in LITA–and who should be part of LITA not being behind the times. As noted in a number of earlier posts, I’m fairly well burned out on the organization–to the point that I’ll think hard before renewing (since, given my work status, LITA costs me more than ALA does). Oh, I might still renew–as a former president, it’s hard not to–but still.

It was, to some extent, a kneejerk reaction to an attack. I still don’t (necessarily) agree with the attack, but as with some other areas, it’s really not my battle these days.

If LITA is stuck behind the times, then something’s terribly wrong with the IG process–or all the techies have flown the coop. I don’t believe the latter, but I really don’t know.

Anyway, FF friends, just a note that I probably won’t be there to defend LITA next time. It’s up to the active LITA members to do so. Or not, for that matter: I’ve been heard to say that it’s interesting that there’s no Library Electricity Association, and these days IT is just about as omnipresent in libraries as electricity…

Sony’s Ereader should be the Cell

Posted in Movies and TV, Stuff on October 26th, 2009

So it’s Monday, not Friday…

After seeing the name for Barnes & Noble’s ebook reader, and pondering the name for Amazon’s device, I conclude that Sony blew it: The Sony Reader should be the Sony Cell, or just the Cell.

Then we’d have the perfect trilogy: Cell, Nook and Kindle.

For those who don’t get it.

Library Access to Scholarship: More thoughts

Posted in Cites & Insights on October 24th, 2009

Here’s the recent history:

  • On August 25, I posted my thoughts about possibly giving up on Open Access, which would effectively mean shutting down Library Access to Scholarship in Cites & Insights, since OA has probably been 95% of what’s been there. I got a few responses…
  • On September 2, given the lack of feedback, I added another post. I got one memorable comment that I’m afraid is all too true, about how much most scientists care about OA…
  • On September 14, I asked the question within Cites & Insights itself.
  • On September 23, I decided to Punt–doing a “brain dump” on all the stuff I’d accumulated on OA over the last year or so, but postponing a decision on whether to do anything more about OA.
  • That brain dump became a single-article issue, the November 2009 Cites & Insights, published on October 4, 2009. (It’s an ezine. Why shouldn’t it use magazine date conventions?)
  • On October 9, I posted “On the way from the dump“–noting that the one-article issue showed a much larger than usual spike a few days after publication (I’m pretty sure Library Link of the Day deserves most of the credit).
  • A few people commented on the issue. John Dupuis wrote a generous post hoping I’d continue, perhaps on an annual-summary basis.
  • As of today, the PDF of that issue–the real C&I–has been downloaded 1,102 times (and viewed 5,500 times, but I typically ignore PDF pageviews because I don’t know what they mean), and the HTML version has been viewed 2,338 times. Those are strong short-term numbers (for example, the October issue has only been downloaded 594 times to date; the September issue’s up to 1,187 but that’s over 2.5 months).

So?

So I thought about John Dupuis’ comments. A lot. I also thought about some of the secondhand comments I’ve seen. And I thought about one or two people who’ve said my writing about OA is the only OA stuff they read.

And, the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to let it go.

  • The November 2009 issue is not an annual review of OA. Not even close. It wasn’t intended to be. If you want an annual review of OA, go read Peter Suber–he’s qualified to do it and he does a fine job.
  • I have never pretended to provide sound, balanced overall coverage of OA. I’d consider it unfortunate if someone thought my coverage provided a reasonable overview of OA.
  • Some of the negative comments I saw indicate that people who have never read anything I’ve written before will come to something like this and read it entirely without context (e.g., one person who seemed to assume that I have never examined Stevan Harnad’s proposals!). I’m not ready to repeat a decade’s worth of context every time I have a month’s or a year’s worth of notes to add…
  • And, as before, there are other people doing this stuff–some of them well, at least one or two better than I ever will. We have the OA heretics, the OA cheerleaders, the deep OA analysts, the OA faultfinders, the one-note champions and those who cover the field broadly, deeply and fairly. I’m not needed there.

Over the last two weeks, I saw at least two items online that I was tempted to tag “oa” in Delicious. I did tag one item–and I’ve just gone back and added an “lln” tag, since I think that particular item should be used to improve one of the Open Access articles on the Library Leadership Network.

But for C&I? The more I think about it, the less likely it is that I’ll go back to the topic.

FriendFeed, trainwrecks and accelerated discussions

Posted in Media on October 22nd, 2009

Despite the ambitious title, this is purely some early thoughts (that might eventually lead to a Cites & Insights piece–or a column elsewhere–but “eventually” probably means “next year sometime”). (Read on: I have a question at the end.)

Just this week, I’ve seen three very long FriendFeed threads (participating in one of them) that struck me as particularly interesting in terms of implications for issues, reputations and connections. In two of the cases, my own feelings about specific people changed significantly over the course of the discussions; in one, my existing feelings about a category of people strengthened. In all three, the sheer acceleration of FriendFeed threads (and hashtagged Twitter posts, I guess–but I don’t currently use Twitter) strikes me as both refreshing and a little disorienting. I’d use the word “dangerous,” but I think the only real danger is to complacency and artificial reputation, and that’s OK by me.

(Yes, it’s going to be Another Rambling Crawford Post. I don’t have time to hone it down to 450 or 800 well-chosen words; I want to get back to working on But Still They Blog, now that I’ve finished the draft for one humongous Making it Work essay for the December C&I.)

On one hand: OMG! FF’s Dead!

Let’s take the silliest one first–or at least silly to me. Facebook purchased FriendFeed. That’s probably resulted in tens of thousands of messages on FF and elsewhere, including some panicky threads from people and groups who’ve come to rely on FF for their community of interest and fear that FB will shut it down and they’ll have to move elsewhere. I’m not really addressing that particular kerfuffle. (I’ll suggest that if you really depend on a sustained and sustainable community of interest, “you get what you pay for” continues to be a relevant saying, but I’ll let it go at that.)

Nope, I’m addressing the secondary kerfuffle, mostly among Hot Tech Types and Hot Social Marketing Types, after some of the FF people now employed by FB made it clear that FB has no intention of shutting down FF–but, at least implicitly, that new-feature development for FF may not be speedy.

Some people found this reassuring. OK, I found it reassuring: I’m finding FF to be worthwhile as a set of overlapping communities of interest and, with Pause always firmly in place, a social medium that I can handle via occasional visits. I really don’t much care whether any new features are added to FF (I don’t use some of the existing ones); I want it to be fast, stable, and not so popular that I spend all my time finding new categories to Hide.

Personal case: On FF, I currently have 100 subscriptions–geez, how did it get so high, when I thought it was still 77–and 131 subscribers, including 62 that I don’t subscribe to. I can keep up with that, probably spending half an hour to 45 minutes a day on two split across two or three sessions. On FaceBook, where I’m much less active, I have 199 “friends,” a necessarily reciprocal arrangement–and there’s no way I can keep up with the wall in the 10-15 minutes a day I’m willing to devote to it, so I really only look at my family list of 8-10 and a “libclose” list of a couple dozen. I don’t use FB for professional issues at all; I do use FF for that.

Then there were the others–for whom not having rapid development of new features is equivalent to being dead. One social marketing hotshot said he couldn’t be bothered to “develop his network” (which I read as “getting followers for My Brand,” perhaps inappropriately) on a system that wasn’t busy adding new glitzfeatures, and would probably go elsewhere. To which I can only say: Good. For some of us, the point of social networking is social networking and communities of interest–not personal marketing and branding.

In this case, the effect of the accelerated discussion–”accelerated” over what you’d find on a blog (unless it’s something like John Scalzi’s Whatever) or a list–was to verify impressions I already had about many A-listers. Would you turn away from a Craftsman hammer because Sears hasn’t added rhinestones to it or, in fact, changed the design in years? Probably not–but some people don’t see online tools that way.

On the other hand: The trainwreck

There’s this special organization that includes a bunch of librarians and a bunch of other people. And there’s a move afoot to change the name of the organization. It’s a change that, to some librarians, seems to devalue librarian, to other folks seems high-handed and to still others as a great move…away from that dusty old “L” word to a series of buzz words that people supposedly respect more. I won’t say more about the specific organization or change, since it’s not my battle. What I have seen, though:

  • On one of the association’s apparently-official blogs, the word “hater” was used to refer to those who opposed the name change.
  • Apparently, one of the Great Organizational Gurus and frequent speakers sent out email that basically labeled name-change opponents as unprofessional.
  • Twitter and FriendFeed had (and, I suspect, continue to have) lots of comments–mostly opposed. A number of people were really unhappy about the tone of some of the pro-change stuff (see the first two bullets).
  • Some pro-name-change folks seemed to feel that it’s OK for a pro-change bigshot to dismiss opponents as unprofessional, but not OK for opponents to say bad things about the bigshot.

Again, this isn’t my battle. I already left one association around the time a president said that one of its problems was having too many librarians (a different association, one that never did use the L-word), so I’m used to seeing librarians derided by people who should know better. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, even as a non-librarian.

In this case, the acceleration and ease of threading has exposed some issues that were probably bubbling beneath the surface; this is all to the good (I believe) but certainly makes some people uncomfortable. (Could LITA actually pass a dues increase without a member ballot in 2009? I suspect–and hope–not, but back when the Board of Directors took what I felt was high-handed action, there was no good way to get fast, broad responses. Things have indeed changed.)

I believe this particular controversy has damaged the reputations of a few folks. I know it’s clarified my feelings in one case (but not fundamentally changed them) and slightly lowered my estimation in a couple of other cases (where I admired people but without much specific knowledge). And I believe that wouldn’t have happened without the relatively transparent acceleration of the medium.

On the gripping hand: Rockstars!

[Credit to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle for this particular version of a third hand.]

Leaving out some details here because I’m too lazy to go look it up, someone posted a (Twitter?) comment to FF having to do with librarians being, or not being, rockstars in their community…and being a little snarky about the comment. A fast and varied discussion ensued, bringing in the author of the comment and many others–and included a bunch of stuff about whether “rockstar status” is either desirable, is something that every librarian should aspire to, and the like.

But this discussion was far from a trainwreck. David Lee King, who I believe made the Twitter comment, engaged in the discussion in an open manner, even recognizing that the term might not be appropriate in general. Within a day or so, and more than 150 comments, things moved from a terminological dispute to a serious discussion of whether and to what extent all librarians need to be public figures–and, in fact, the difference between doing your job (but avoiding attention) and being complacent and in a rut.

Yes, the conversation got edgy at times–and I don’t believe everybody arrived at a common understanding or agreement. Nor do I think that’s a necessary or always desirable outcome of a conversation. I do believe most of us understood more about what others were trying to say, and why.

In this case, I think a trainwreck may have been avoided–and I do remember a vaguely similar situation, on a blog, that did turn into somewhat of a trainwreck over time. I’m not sure whether the shorter messages required by FriendFeed made the difference, or whether it was simple acceleration, or whether people were simply more off-the-cuff and open in this environment. Maybe a combination; maybe something else.

In this case, I’ll be specific: While I suspect my attitudes about David Lee King and Joshua Neff will always be complicated, this particular thread makes me regard both of them considerably more positively. Doesn’t mean I won’t shoot the sheriff (metaphorically–don’t call the FBI!) if the need arises; doesn’t mean I won’t make fun of DLK. But all in all, I found it an encouraging conversation. (I just read through it again. I still do.) (And, just as a note, Steve L. didn’t gain in my estimation from this discussion mostly because he already ranks pretty high. Ditto John D., who managed to connect the two threads. Ditto Jenica. And others I won’t mention.)

Geez, Walt, 1500 words and still no point?

Well, I said it was a ramble–one that might, eventually, become a thinkpiece, but not on this blog and not this month. I think something is happening here, something interesting, and while I may not know exactly what it is, I’m getting little points of light around the edges. I’m not giving up blogs or ejournals (or lists or email…), and I’m still not sure Twitter would work for me (tried it, didn’t like it, might someday try it again, might not) but the nature of FF as a high-speed conversational tool for communities of interest is intriguing.

But let’s get to a sort-of point, one that raises a question:

  • It’s possible that FF (and Twitter and maybe even FB) yield more honest conversations because we perceive them as being more ephemeral than blog comments and email posts and…
  • If so–if you’re more open and honest there because you don’t think it’s as much a part of Your Permanent Record (down there a few pages past the time you snickered at your first-grade teacher)–then it may be inappropriate for people like me to snatch up whole chunks of FF threads (or Twitter hashtag search results) and use them within commentary articles, the way we (I) use blog posts and the comments on those posts.

The question:

Do you think it’s inappropriate or undesirable for your FriendFeed comments to be used in secondary discussions in the same way your blog posts and comments might be?

Comments–here or on FriendFeed? (I’ll post that question as a separate FF comment as well.)

50 Movie Comedy Classics Disc 12

Posted in Movies and TV on October 21st, 2009

Spooks Run Wild, 1941, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Bela Lugosi, Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall and the gang. 1:05 [1:03].

Since the sleeve says “Starring: Bela Lugosi” I didn’t realize until the opening credits came on that this is another East Side Kids flick, although it doesn’t use that name. And, even by the low standards of those films, this one—despite Lugosi—is poorly plotted and mostly a waste.

We start out with the kids all being rounded up by cops—and put on a bus to go to camp? Really? Meanwhile, in the town near the camp, people are all upset because a “monster killer” seems to be on his way there. Lugosi pulls into a gas station, with his vehicle piled high with boxes that could be coffins and an extremely short sidekick, and asks the way to the long-deserted old mansion next to the cemetery…after which, another car pulls in with a bearded gentleman who claims to be a monster-hunter. Anyone who can’t figure out the plot twist will probably find this movie suspenseful and enjoyable, but really…

Anyway, the kids want to leave the camp’s dorm to go to town, they get shot at in the cemetery, one thing leads to another and the next thing you know, you’ve wasted a little more than an hour. Best line of the movie: Lights out in the dorm, one kid’s reading—in full dark. Another one says “How can you read in the dark?” to which he responds, “I went to night school.” That was the highlight of the film—unless, I suppose, you’re an East Side Kids fan. Charitably, I’ll give it $0.50.

His Girl Friday, 1940, b&w. Howard Hawks (dir.), Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart, Cliff Edwards, Regis Toomey. 1:32 [1:21].

Remake or not remake? Two discs down, the same source material (a play by Ben Hecht)—but a very different flick than The Front Page. Yes, it’s the same plot—an ace reporter wants to leave the paper and get married, the editor tries every trick in the book to keep the reporter on the job, and there’s a hapless prison break in the middle of all of this, with a sadsack about-to-be-executed (but reprieved by the governor, if the mayor or sheriff would accept the reprieve) prisoner in a roll-top desk. No, it’s not the same plot: This time, the reporter’s a woman, the editor’s her ex-husband, she’s actually been away for a month—and there’s a lot more repartee between the two leads.

It’s a better movie. It’s also a very different movie, although 20-30 minutes are fairly familiar. I think I see why the two flicks weren’t adjacent on the same disc, although that might have been interesting. Grant and Russell both do great jobs, and Ralph Bellamy is fine in a smaller role (in which the character is identified as someone who looks like Ralph Bellamy). The flaws this time around? The print’s noisy at times—and I think a few minutes are missing. Even so, I’ll give it $1.75.

Love Laughs at Andy Hardy, 1946, b&w. Willis Goldbeck (dir.), Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Sara Haden, Bonita Granville, Lina Romay, Fay Holden, Dorothy Ford. 1:33.

This one surprised me. I’ve never seen any Andy Hardy pictures and I’m not the world’s biggest Mickey Rooney fan. But this movie was fun, funny, sweet and really quite enjoyable.

The plot: Hardy’s just back from a stint in the Army, and returning to college (still a freshman, and at the same college his parents attended). He plans to ask his girlfriend—with whom he’s just been corresponding—to marry him. Meanwhile, lots of hijinks and physical comedy before he leaves for college, and there’s a South American young woman new in town who seems to have the hots for him (and who sings a truly odd song that mixes polkas and Latin American rhythms). Once at college, the girlfriend’s a little busy, and Hardy gets roped into chairing the frosh get-together with the expectation that every young woman will have a date…which turns out to include a remarkably tall student (the 6’2″ Dorothy Ford, wearing heels besides—Rooney’s 5’2″. One thing leads to another, and he winds up going to the dance with her, a mismatch that makes for some great scenes.

The title probably gives the rest away—but, of course, all works out at the end (for the continuation of the series at least—although this was the last of 15 (or 18?) flicks in the series until one final attempt 12 years later). It’s nothing great, but it’s not bad at all. Also, the print is one of the best b&w public domain prints I’ve seen (apparently re-released as part of an Academy Award collection). $1.50.

Pot O’ Gold, 1941, b&w. George Marshall (dir.), James Stewart, Paulette Goddard, Horace Heidt, Charles Winninger, Mary Gordon, Frank Melton. 1:26.

This tall skinny guy who looks like an impossibly young James Stewart, right down to the speech pattern, is going broke running his father’s unsuccessful music store—and his uncle, who owns a health food factory, wants him to come work for him. After final failure, the young man travels to the factory’s city, and on his way to the factory encounters this boarding house that has really great big-band music apparently coming from the sky—right next to the factory.

Turns out the uncle hates music, and also wanted to buy out the boarding house to expand the factory, and the boarding house owner is letting a just-forming band (Horace Heidt’s band, playing itself) rehearse on the roof, at least partly to annoy the old coot. But the nephew doesn’t know any of this when he winds up listening to the band, quietly taking out his harmonica, and showing himself as a natural talent…

Well, that’s the start. We get tomato-throwing, a remarkable jail musical scene, gaslighting the old man with mysterious band music coming from nowhere (to get him to take a vacation), more musical scenes…and, of course, a contrived happy ending. It’s part musical, part comedy, and all quite good, really. (OK, so the musical number that’s supposedly the fledgling band making its first radio appearance is a bit improbable, as it involves two dozen or so dancers and elaborate scenery, but plausibility and musicals never have gone well together.)

Stewart is, as always, great. Paulette Goddard as a daughter of the boarding-house owner and, of course, love interest is very good. The musical numbers are remarkably good, particularly the jailhouse number and an extended, complex scene at the boardinghouse table (a scene that includes barbershop harmonies, glass-rim playing and more). There are some print problems at times, and some sound problems, but this one still earns $1.75.

How often do they post? A followup

Posted in Writing and blogging on October 16th, 2009

Roughly a month ago, I posted “but still they post…” with the first line “…but perhaps not very often.”

(At the time, the post title was my working title for the book that will may emerge from the 2007-2009 liblog analysis project I’m working on, or, rather, will go back to working on after I write an essay for the December Cites & Insights. I’ve since changed it to “But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009,” since “blog” is probably a better verb for the overall process.)

That post included a challenge of sorts:

Given that:

  • I subscribe to 499500 501 blog feeds, of which 461462 463 are liblogs (defined broadly, including some open access and museum blogs) Note 9/21: In the process of completing the scan, I added one liblog–but it won’t change the overall frequency significantly, I don’t believe. Note 9/24: One more liblog added, but only 10 posts over 3 months, so no big deal.
  • Of the “firehose” blogs, I subscribe to Open Access News but not ResourceShelf or Slaw or, as far as I know, any of the other megablogs–and my 38 “other” blogs don’t include any of the high-frequency magazine-blogs/newsletter-blogs like boingboing, Huffington or whatever. (Well, I do subscribe to Whatever, John Scalzi’s blog, but that’s not a high-frequency blog.)

Then, for the period from September 16 through (say) October 15, what will be the average number of new posts per day?

I could barely cope with the overwhelming flood of guesses–one from Steve Lawson, left as a comment, guesstimating “98,” and another one that I’ve managed to misplace, which I believe was considerably higher (sorry: I can’t find it in Gmail or FriendFeed, but I’m not very good at searching FriendFeed).

It’s been a month, so…

The envelope, please

At the end of the one-month period, I subscribe to 500 blogs, having added a couple and deleted a couple. (If I added one, I subtracted 9 from that day’s count, since Bloglines returns the most recent 10 posts on a new subscription.)

Over the course of the month, the average number of posts per day was 77.2, and the median was 78, so “about 78″ is a good number–and “98″ is pretty close.

That means that, on average, blogs had one post every six days. That’s a little off, to be sure, since I do subscribe to one of several very prolific blogs (Open Access News); I think “about once a week” is about right.

Since I sometimes checked Bloglines twice each day, I can’t really provide numbers for the number of blogs represented in those posts (since a blog might have posts in both checks), but looking at the highest number of blogs each day, the average is 40.8 and the median is 41. (If I do add both checks together, I come up with an average of 50.7 and a median of 50–so you could say that, on the average day, either one-tenth or one-twelfth of blogs had posts.) Hmm. Based on that, you could say the typical blog had one post every week and a half…

Some other numbers:

  • The highest number of posts in one day was 200, but I think that may have been one of two or three occasions where Bloglines did its “you didn’t really read these, did you?” renewal of some posts.
  • The highest firm number of blogs in one day was 75–but it might be as high as 105.
  • Four days had at least 100 posts. 13 had fewer than 70–including five with fewer than 50 (not all of them weekends or holidays).

Update October 17: Coincidentally, I was reading the May 2008 Cites & Insights (I deliberately read the printed issues a long time after they appear), which included a similar “how many posts?” trial done in March 2008–but then, the universe was larger (542 blogs) and included all of the super-prolific current awareness services.

That said, the daily average was a lot higher–around 250 posts per day, or 221 after deleting three of the most prolific blogs, with an average of 60 to 150 blogs updated each day.

Has posting actually declined by 2/3 since 2008? I don’t believe so–and certainly not overall (where the decline from 2008 to 2009 is 15%-20%). There are a lot of very prolific blogs I no longer subscribe to, for various reasons. Looking at the dozen most prolific blogs in the current study (not always the same 12), they accounted for 62 posts per day in 2007, 59 per day in 2008–and 65 per day in 2009!

These results do argue for doing something I’ve been considering: A chapter in the book that trims out a variety of “edge cases” (and blogs with incomplete metrics) and looks at trends within what might be considered the most normal liblogs.

But still they blog: Pausing for breath

Posted in Liblogs on October 14th, 2009

[Another in an ongoing series of posts related to But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009, a project currently in preparation.]

I’m stepping back from this project for a few days, as soon as I write this post–for two good reasons, which I’ll get to in a moment. Stepping back does not mean abandoning, not even close: It means that I won’t do any work on the project for a while.

The second time around

When I wrote The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008 (still available, and it would be lovely to get from the current total of 56 copies sold to, say, 100), I spent a fair amount of time experimenting, rethinking, redoing, futzing around with, and finally deciding on plausible ways to show the metrics and what they might mean. Some of that time was spent in the usual spreadsheet screwups the first time around (what? you’ve never screwed up a spreadsheet? really?); some was spent trying to understand what embedding an Excel spreadsheet in the Word document that includes a graph from that sheet really means (otherwise known as “why there are a series of small partial spreadsheets in addition to the big primary one”).

I wound up with 65 tables and 16 graphs (line graphs and scatter plots), in addition to the somewhat-less-than-607 tables in the individual liblog profiles (a few blogs didn’t have enough metrics to make a table).

The second time around, I understood the metrics better and I scrapped some of them (anything having to do with use of illustrations in blogs, subgroup identifications based on country or affiliation of blogger). The spreadsheet came together a little more rapidly, and plugging quintiles back into individual liblog profile tables was much cleaner and faster than before. (If some of this sounds like gobbledygook, go back and read earlier posts or buy the book: “Quintiles” are divisions of the studied universe into five groups, e.g., the 20% with the most posts, the 20% below that, the middle 20%, the lower 20% and the lowest 20%); “liblog profiles” are individual writeups for individual blogs, including a table showing a group of key metrics. In the existing book, all the profiles come at the end, in a 147-page final chapter.)

That also meant that putting together the metrics-based chapters, or at least the first five of them, was fairly rapid–and I say “was” advisedly, since I just finished the draft Chapter 5 yesterday. This time around, instead of putting all the profiles into one huge lump at the end, I’m including them in other chapters, usually the first time they’re mentioned within a chapter. So, for example, Chapter 1 (which, along with an introduction and notes about choice of software platform, discusses the age of blogs) includes profiles for 87 “pioneers”–blogs that started before 2004. (Actually, 86 pioneers; I use this blog as an example to explain what’s in a profile). Chapter 2, on overall posting frequency, profiles 56 blogs that are among the most frequent in 2009 and weren’t already profiled… and so on.

But…

So here I am, with five  chapters (169 book pages, 41,000 words, 338 profiles used so far of 521 total). That covers all of the base metrics, but not combined patterns of change, correlations and chapters that will be less grounded in metrics.

But…well, the problem with it being faster and easier is that I’m not sure I’ve seen what’s there to see in the results. I may be too close to the numbers at this point.

And, to be sure, even though the final Cites & Insights for 2009 could be as much as six weeks away (but is more likely three to five weeks away), I should probably get started on one or two essays for that issue. (The next due date for my remaining other column isn’t until December, so I won’t work on it until November.)

Stepping back

Those are the two reasons for stepping back for a bit:

  1. To work on “something else”–although it could be related–that will form part of C&I and break away from this for a little while.
  2. To be able to return with a fresh look at what I’ve done so far, and possibly (probably?) beef up some of the chapters with new insights on the data…and, maybe, to modify the remaining outline based on what I see or don’t see.

(For example: Maybe it would make sense to look at a subset of the 521 blogs that might be called the “common blogs”–ones that have a significant number of posts in all three years, ones that have full metrics for all three years, ones that aren’t current awareness services in blog form–and see whether those blogs, possibly 200-300, show more distinct patterns than the overall set.)

So it’s not all process

To reward anyone who’s made it this far (anyone?), a couple of notes about the universe of 521 blogs in this year’s study:

  • I was expecting fewer new blogs from 2008 than there had been from 2007 (which in the earlier study was down about 22% from 2006 and 35% from 2005), but not as many fewer: This study includes a mere 11 blogs that began in 2008, down from 103 in 2007. Either newer bloggers aren’t bothering to add their blogs to LISWiki or it’s getting tougher to gain enough readership and links for a reasonable Google Page Rank–or there just aren’t as many new and sustaining blogs.
  • Oddly enough, for this smaller universe, some earlier years are much closer together: Where The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008 includes 160 blogs that started in 2005, 144 that started in 2006 and 104 that started in 2007, deletions and additions are such that the new universe includes 127 starting in 2005, 123 starting in 2006–and 103 starting in 2007.
  • Checking for the most recent post on September 30, 2009 (a scan completed in one long day), 42% of the blogs had a post within the week, 52% within the fortnight and 63% within the month–but only 84% had posts within six months and 90% within a year.

Now I’ll set the spreadsheets and Word chapters aside and go print and arrange lead sheets for source material for one or more of three likely essays for the December 2009 Cites & Insights, the preparatory step to writing the essays…

Fun with statistics 2: The slightly-less-mythical median liblog

Posted in Liblogs on October 9th, 2009

A few days ago, I posted Fun with statistics 1: Mythical average liblog.

That post, which like this one is part of a non-series leading up to “But Still They Blog,” gave the metrics for the “average liblog” from the population of 521 fairly visible liblogs in the study. In that case, not only was there no such liblog, it would be impossible for there to be such a liblog, as some of the metrics conflicted with others.

So let’s look at the “median liblog,” taking the median instead of the average for those same metrics.

General characteristics

The blog began in November 2005, it has a Google Page Rank of 5 (or had such a rank in the summer of 2009), and when checked on September 30, 2009, the most recent blog was more than one week but less than two weeks old.

2007

The blog had 19 posts in March-May 2007, totaling 4,028 words in posts averaging 206 words each. There were nine comments, or 0.5 comments per post.

2008

The blog had 17 posts in March-May 2008, totaling 4,098 words in posts averaging 230 words each. There were 11 comments, or 0.7 comments per post.

2009

The blog had nine posts in March-May 2009, totaling 1,990 words in posts averaging 202 words each. There were five comments, or 0.4 comments per post.

Changes

There were 23% fewer posts in 2008 than in 2007, 31% fewer in 2009 than in 2008, and 34% fewer in 2009 than in 2007.

While the blog as a whole was 6% shorter in 2008 than in 2007, 31% shorter in 2009 than in 2008, and 35% shorter in 2009 than in 2007, posts were within a percentage point of being the same length in each year.

While there were 31% fewer comments in 2009 than in 2008 and 34% fewer in 2009 than in 2007, comments per post were within one percent of being the same each yer.

I think the individual-year metrics are internally consistent or close to it–but some of the changes aren’t internally consistent. There’s a simple reason for that, having to do with default values for empty cases.

Silliness

This is all silliness, of course–and the project itself does not include any of this. If I did describe a median blog, it would be done using trimmed medians (omitting empty cases)–but I doubt that I will.

One question is more interesting, and I don’t have an answer yet (and won’t for a while): When you divide metrics into quintiles (e.g., the 20% most prolific blogs, the next 20%, the middling 20%, etc.), will there be blogs that are “middling” on all measures–that fall into the third quintile for all metrics? We shall see…

On the way from the dump

Posted in Cites & Insights on October 9th, 2009

A considerable surprise this morning, when checking the last week’s statistics for Cites & Insights

Typically, C&I averages 300-400 sessions per day, except during the first few days after a new issue, when it’s likely to run 500-800 sessions per day. (Average since March 11, 2009, when the domain was moved to a new server, is 376 sessions and 1,098 pageviews per day–but the pageviews are even spikier than the sessions, typically hitting a couple thousand per day right after an issue comes out.)

When the current issue, my brain dump of open access stuff, came out, the initial surge was a little higher than usual, up around 800 sessions (and over 3,000 pageviews). That wasn’t too surprising; among other things, Open Access News and DigitalKoans both noted the single-essay issue.

But…

Yesterday, there were 1,915 sessions. That’s more than twice as many as I’ve ever seen, except for the time ALA Direct linked to an essay.

It’s true that Library Link of the Day linked to the issue–but I only see 31 referrals from LLotD. (On the other hand, it’s possible–even likely–that hundreds of people clicked on the LLotD link in Google Reader, Bloglines or some other aggregator, so maybe this does account for a lot of it.)

I see more than 700 downloads of the issue so far, which is strong but not spectacular for the first four days–and nearly 1,600 pageviews for the HTML version, which is fairly remarkable for four days. (There are some 3,700 pageviews for the PDF version, but I never know what to make of those, so I leave them out of my statistical recording–which may be a mistake.)

Early days, to be sure, but possible conclusions:

  • I should do more single-essay issues. (That one’s tough. The most successful issues have been single-essay issues, but some of them have done poorly–and I generally don’t like to do them.)
  • I should stop doing more sections–maybe people want to see my final comments on something. (That one’s just strange.)
  • Library Link of the Day has an enormous but indirect influence. (This may be the most likely.)
  • No conclusions at all…

I do note that, to date, no open access blog other than OAN and DigitalKoans has seen fit to mention the issue at all–which is in keeping with the history of C&I and the OA movement.

Oh, and as to possible sponsorships for C&I in 2010, which could influence the course of the ejournal: Still batting zero, not that I’ve been pounding the virtual pavement.


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