Archive for February, 2010

A metrics update

Posted in Technology and software, Writing and blogging on February 26th, 2010

For those who care about the issue of Google Analytics metrics vs. Urchin (5) metrics–which is either “quite a few people” (if you believe Urchin) or “pretty much nobody” (if you believe Google Analytics), here’s an update:

  • It was pointed out to me that GA won’t track if the user doesn’t have cookies enabled and Javascript enabled. Nothing I can do about that.
  • Seth Finkelstein thought it might have to do with HTML errors, and noted that the W3C Validator found a bunch of those on the Walt at Random home page.

So I thought I’d see how tough it was to correct those errors–and whether it made a difference. (I also thought I’d see whether the errors were mine or were in the templates & addons I used.)

There were a bunch of errors, but that includes cascading errors (where one apparent error is really the result of another error–boy, do I remember those from programming, especially in PL/I!). It turns out that about 80% of the “errors” were mine, mostly because I’m used to HTML parsing being fairly forgiving–namely:

  • Using all-caps operators where HTML requires all-lower-case.
  • Using <br> as a standalone, rather than <br />–but that was both in my own code and in a portion of the template.

I managed to fix them all, although in one case that made the right sidebar a bit less attractive (Validator just wouldn’t accept one particular nested-list). Took me 2, maybe 2.5 hours. Except for the added infelicity in the right margin, it made no difference to the average viewer, I believe, since the visible results were the same. But, presumably, it would make Google Analytic results a little more plausible. Maybe?

Depends on your definition of “a little.”

The changes have been in place since February 23. I’ve had a chance to look at two full days running on a clean, zero-errors home page vs. the same days on Urchin.

There may have been a little increase in pageviews and visits logged by Google Analytics–but not much of one. Here’s what I see for comparisons on the 22, 23 and 24:

  • Sessions: February 22: Google Analytics 58, Urchin 1,492.
    February 23: Google Analytics 79, Urchin 1,439
    February 24: Google Analytics 81, Urchin 1,398.
  • Pageviews: February 22: Google Analytics 77, Urchin 4,455
    February 23: Google Analytics 115, Urchin 3,213
    February 24: Google Analytics 132, Urchin 3,093.

And, mysteriously, the second-highest post in a full page reports on Google Analytics is a post from the very first year of the blog (on mondegreens), with 34 views…where that post is not even in the top 50 on Urchin.

Possibilities

I do note that none of the GA reported pages is a /feed/index page, where quite a few of the higher ones in Urchin are (these presumably being RSS views of pages?). That could account for some of it–since the GA code is, as recommended, right before </body> in the page, it’s part of the footer, which doesn’t get fed to RSS. Since I regard readers-via-RSS as fully equivalent to readers-“in person,” I’m not thrilled about losing those counts.

But if I filter the Urchin pages report to eliminate everything with “feed” anywhere in it, that eliminates less than one-third of the views, still leaving them way more than 10x as high as GA shows.

I’m not sure what else might be going on. I flat-out don’t believe that 90% of Walt at Random viewers have either cookies or Javascript disabled. (But I could be wrong.)

Resolution

For me, for now, for my own sites, the solution is simple: I’ll take the Google Analytics tracking code out of the template and rely on Urchin for my statistics, since it’s actually (presumably) looking at logs. The GA code is extra overhead for the internet; why waste it?

For my work? They’re looking into it. (There, I think the “plausible to reported” multiple is nowhere near as high…)

Google Analytics v. Urchin 5: A Metrics Quandary

Posted in Technology and software on February 23rd, 2010

Ever since I’ve used LISHost for various purposes–this blog throughout its history (except for a few months last year), Cites & Insights since mid-June 2006, my personal site since its inception–I’ve used Urchin to track site usage (unless Blake added Urchin more recently). Currently, my sites use Urchin 5. (Apparently, some LISHost sites on another server use Urchin 6, and none of this necessarily applies to them.)

I like Urchin. It defaults to a weekly view with a nice range of options, and you can expand it to a much broader timeline (although it runs into trouble if the timeline is too long or the logs to be analyzed too large: I’m not sure which). I’ve done reports on an entire year. For the reports I mostly care about–for C&I, file download figures (for PDF) and pageview figures (for HTML)–exporting reports works well. Robots (spiders) are separated out into a separate subsection. The number seem consistent–that is, there’s nothing in any of the numbers to suggest faulty logic, and at least some download/pageview numbers are consistent with what I’d expect from other sources.

Recently, I decided to try Google Analytics as an alternative (without disabling Urchin, to be sure). Urchin’s now owned by Google, and I believe Urchin 6 distinctly reflects that–and the ownership does mean that Urchin help is mostly not working very well. Unlike Urchin 5, Google Analytics doesn’t analyze server logs: You have to put tracking code on every page you want it to track, and it relies on calls to Google’s own servers. I only wanted to try it for Walt at Random, and since very page uses the “footer” code, it was easy enough to put the GA code segment into that portion of the site’s HTML–just before the “</body”> tag, as suggested by GA. (This clearly wouldn’t work well for Cites & Insights, where the numbers I’m most interested in are PDF downloads.)

I wanted to try GA partly because that’s currently the tracking method for use of the new Drupal Library Learning Network. (The old one used MediaWiki, which has strong usage-reporting built right into the system.)

The code went active on February 15, in the morning, and has now been active for a little more than a week.

And I don’t believe the results.

Some Quick Comparisons

Here’s what I find, comparing GA’s report covering February 15 through February 22 with Urchin’s for the same period–but noting that Urchin’s daily run was apparently yesterday morning, covering a small fraction of yesterday’s use and presumably making GA’s numbers higher by default:

  • Sessions: GA reports 491 “visits.” Urchin reports 11,287 “sessions.” (No, there are no typos there: GA is reporting 4.3% of the number of sessions reported by Urchin–just over 1/25th.)
  • Pageviews: GA reports 633 pageviews. Urchin reports 29,306. The difference here is even larger: GA is reporting 2.2% as many pageviews as Urchin.
  • Visitors: GA reports 406 visitors (which means almost nobody came back–82.69% new visits). Urchin reports 2,005 IP addresses, which I take to be the same thing as visitors. A much smaller difference here, since Urchin seems to find people returning. Still, GA’s reporting only 20% as many different IP addresses as Urchin.
  • Popular pages: GA says that only two current posts were visited 20 times or more–the “Social Networks/Social Media Snapshot” with 31 visits and “Open Access and Libraries: Be My Guest” with 29. (Things drop rapidly after that, with, for example, “Catching Up (sort of, a little bit)” getting 11 views.) By comparison, Urchin shows 206 pageviews for the Open Access post, 162 for Social Networks and 110 for “Catching Up”–and an LLN repost with 151 views in the middle.

At Least One Of These Must Be Wrong

So which is it? Does this blog have a very small readership with very active commenting, which would have to be the case for the GA numbers to be right, or is GA massively undercounting for various reasons?

While it wouldn’t much bother me if the first was true, it does seem a little out of proportion to the 830+ Feedreader subscriptions for this blog as of today–and, frankly, with the number of downloads for the Open Access and Libraries PDF. (28 during that same period.)

I’ve already been told (a) that Google Analytics won’t work if a user doesn’t have Javascript enabled or doesn’t allow cookies, (b) that GA is apparently intolerant of less-than-perfect HTML. It’s also quite possible that (c) I somehow mangled the code cut-and-paste–but in that case you’d expect no stats at all, or at least not the kind of stats I’m seeing. (161 pages visited during the 8 days–but visited very rarely.)

For the blog, I really don’t care. I’ll probably remove the GA tracking code after a while, and I’ll certainly rely on Urchin for numbers. For Cites & Insights, where there’s a reason to care, I can’t really use GA in any case–I’m not going to add tracking code to all the HTML articles, so all I’d be tracking is visits to the site, not readership for the publication.

For Library Leadership Network…well, there I care.

Spaghetti Westerns Disc 4

Posted in Movies and TV on February 23rd, 2010

It Can Be Done…Amigo, 1972, color (orig. Si può fare… amigo and actual screen title Can Be Done, Amigo). Maurizio Lucidi (dir.), Bud Spencer, Jack Palance. 1:40 [1:38].

I first saw and reviewed this in 2008, as part of the Classic Westerns set. At the time, I was watching it over four days, while exercising, on a 15″ screen. Here’s what I had to say at the time:

I’m not quite sure what to make of this one. Before the title, we get Bud Spencer’s and Jack Palance’s names, arranged in a circle, rotating. Spencer’s character, Coburn, is a huge beefy type who seems gentle enough and somehow keeps getting into trouble—well, he is a sometimes horse thief. He typically deals with trouble by staring, slowly putting on a pair of glasses, and then pounding his opponents into the ground—almost literally. They punch him a few times with no effect, then he either hits two opponents’ heads together or hits them over the head and they go down. He’s involved with a kid whose uncle is taking him to a western town—but the uncle gets bushwhacked and, when Coburn finds him dying, gives Coburn an envelope to pass along to the kid. The envelope turns out to contain $50 (a lot of money) and the deed to a run-down house just outside town. Meanwhile, there’s Palance’s character, Sonny Bronston, a fast-shooting eccentric who runs a group of female entertainers (in, apparently, more than one tradition of that word) and who’s after Coburn. Why? Seems Coburn sullied the virtue of Bronston’s sister (a case of mistaken identity)—and now Coburn needs to marry her so she can be an honorable widow (since he’ll get shot as soon as he gets married.

The town’s priest is also the sheriff and judge and generally doesn’t want Coburn around—and has designs on the kid’s house and land, for unclear reasons. There’s a strange guy who eats dirt—and who starts paying people $2 a bucket (one bucket per person) for dirt that he tastes. Which pastime leads him to the kid’s place. There’s lots more plot, and it mostly winds up with a remarkable six-minute free-for-all: No bullets fired (lots of guns fired, but all blanks), lots of fists, and mostly Coburn putting people out of action.

It felt as though I was joining a conversation partway through. The odd title refers to one of Coburn’s sayings. The plot line between Coburn and Bronston seems to go back quite a ways. It’s a spaghetti western, to be sure—but it’s also a comedy and pretty decent. It’s also a decent print (missing just a minute or two), a fair amount of fun, and with a lot fewer killings and shootings than some—only one, as I remember. I’ll give it $1.25.

I’m pretty sure this is the same print, but I found myself watching the whole thing—this time, in one day on a great 32″ TV. And found myself enjoying it even more—as a spaghetti western farce. One thing I noticed: In some early scenes and in most of the last 20 minutes or so, the color’s odd, as though this was a partly-colorized black-and-white movie, with some natural colors and lots of bright blue-green, a sort of teal. That may be a print problem; it might be intentional, but it adds to the surreal quality of the film (when Coburn stops a bank robbery—only because they wanted to take his money as well—the bank proprietor complains that his head-bashing and consequent furniture damage has turned a nice simple bank robbery into a disaster). This really only works as farce, but works very well in that regard. (In fact, there are no killings—the one death is a heart attack with a Monty Pythonesque quality to it, as the dead man—the uncle—keeps waking up to provide further instructions to Coburn.) The title song is, well, very strange. It’s decidedly an odd one, and an easy $1.75.

God’s Gun (orig. Diamante Lobo), 1976, color. Gianfranco Parolini (dir.), Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance, Richard Boone, Sybil Danning, Leif Garrett, Robert Lipton. 1:34 [1:37].

The good stuff: An impressive cast—not only Lee Van Cleef, but also Jack Palance, Richard Boone, Sybil Danning and Leif Garrett. (Oh, and Peggy Lipton’s brother.) Also, there’s clearly a plot, hinted at right at the start of the flick and carried through to its conclusion.

That’s the good stuff. The other list is considerably longer—including the print itself, which is soft and almost seems to have been digitized from 8mm.. But that’s the print. In this case, I have zero interest in seeing a better one because—well, if this had been the first true spaghetti western in the package, I might have thrown the entire package away on the spot.

What’s wrong? First, there’s almost no humor, usually a staple of spaghetti westerns. Second, the villains—the Clancy gang, headed by Palance—are apparently on drugs or just crazed, notably including Palance. It’s not just that they’re gratuitously violent and sadistic; they’re nuts. Third, unlike spaghetti westerns where the body count may be high but it’s largely cartoon violence (you hear a shot, someone cries out, spins around, falls down), this one seems to linger lovingly on the violence, with a fair amount of blood and close-ups. Ditto sexual assault—a lot of time spent on this as well. Fourth, the acting (Van Cleef, in a dual role of twin brothers, one a priest, one a reformed gambler/gunslinger, aside) is somewhere between horrendous and nonexistent. I’ve never seen Palance this bad, Richard Boone is a shocking waste, Leif Garrett made me wish for stronger child labor laws. The hostesses in the saloon seem to think that standing around sort of swaying back and forth to music is hot stuff.

Fifth, the logic—even by spaghetti western standards, this one’s loony. The kid (Garrett) is apparently the owner of the saloon/gambling hall that seems to be the only business in a town specifically founded by the priest, in which everybody—everybody—attends daily Mass. At one key plot point, the bad guys tear down the rear wall of the jail one evening…and the next morning, everybody goes off to Mass as though nothing at all has happened. The priest seems to think the right way to arrest one of the gang members is to sneak up on the gang while they’re sleeping—and successfully remove every rifle and pistol, including holsters, without disturbing them. Oh, and then confront them…without a weapon. He’s also apparently convinced that a clearly vicious gang of 20 or so thugs won’t make any attempt to rescue one of their leaders from a local jail with one guard and an incompetent sheriff.

Oh, there’s more. The kid flees on horseback, then, after defeating a bad guy who’s after him, goes the rest of the way on foot. (He finds the priest’s twin brother, who’s “somewhere in Mexico,” in less than two days of walking. Right.) There are some plot twists that could be interesting in a better flick; I won’t spoil them for any sap determined to watch this. I’ll stop there, leaving out the lack of good scenery and the absurd sound effects and production values.

Apparently this turkey was filmed in Israel. I’m not sure that explains anything. This is a nasty little film, one that gives trash a bad name.

What a waste. Checking other sets (some free, some purchased), I’m appalled to find that I now own three copies of this turkey. For my own taste, not worth a cent—but I’ll reluctantly, and only for Van Cleef fans, give it $0.75.

The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe (orig. Il mio nome è Shangai Joe or My name is Shanghai Joe), 1972, color. Mario Caiano (dir.), Chen Lee, Klaus Kinski, Gordon Mitchell, Claudio Undari, Katsutoshi Mikuriya, Carla Romanelli. 1:38 [1:34].

Unlike most earlier Mill Creek collections, with main menus consisting of a still from each of the flicks and your choice of play or scenes, this set has a clip from a film—wide-screen, scenic, with a first-rate Spaghetti Western theme song—that runs for a few seconds and then has the particular disc’s menu superimposed. I’d wondered which movie that great theme came from.

Now I know—but it’s a peculiar situation. The theme is from this flick, but the clip used for the main menu is widescreen, where the movie is pan-and-scan (full-frame). That seems odd, particularly since some of the movies in this set are presented widescreen. (The movie was filmed in full Cinemascope ratio—that is, very widescreen.)

Ah, but what of this movie? Well, first, the title as presented is actually The Fighting Fist of Shangai Joe—note singular “fist” and odd spelling of the city. Second, it is indeed a Eurowestern with a mild-mannered Asian protagonist played by Chen Lee, who never uses a gun (at least not as a weapon) but has somewhat superhuman abilities in the martial arts and several other areas. He shows up in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1880s, having come from China and dressing in Chinese garb. He buys a stagecoach ticket to “Texas” and has to ride up top (for predictably racist reasons, and that seems all too likely in terms of historical accuracy). He gets in various kinds of trouble in Texas, all of which leads up to the finale, a long showdown with a would-be assassin who happens to be the only other Chinese in the U.S. from this mysterious organization of superheroes. (OK, that could be a spoiler, but it’s both obvious and doesn’t detract from the movie.)

All in all, very good. Chen Lee (I don’t think we ever learn the character’s name) does a first-rate job. With one exception (a massacre of Mexican peasants handled cartoon-violence style, but still), the only victims of violence are Bad Guys (although I could have done with less explicit gore). The action and dialogue are over the top in some interesting ways. It’s fun and it has probably the only ending it could have without being a total downer. Pretty good print, very good sound. I’ll give it $1.75.

Between God, The Devil and a Winchester (orig. Anche nel west c’era una volta Dio or Even in the West once upon a time God or God Was in the West, Too, at One Time), 1968, color. Marino Girolami (dir.), Gilbert Roland, Richard Harrison, Ennio Girolami, Folco Lulli, Raf Baldassare, Dominique Boschero, Robert Camardiel, Humberto Zempere, Luis Barboo. 1:38.

Another widescreen presentation, with a pretty decent print (although the sound’s sometimes a bit distorted on music)—and an unusual plot, with a lot more travel than usual. It really seems to be two different films, although the progression makes sense in terms of plot. The first quarter involves a fat outlaw, combinations of not enough trust and too much trust, a treasure map and an outlaw gang: Fast-moving, violent…and winding up with one nameless hero, a mild-mannered type who saves a kid from fire and also saves another victim.

The rest of the movie involves that hero, the kid, the treasure map and a whole collection of bad guys—some of them people the hero’s hired to lead a wagon train (to find the treasure, which they’re not supposed to know about), some of them an outlaw gang. The ending is, well…the ending. The plot partly involves the Civil War, partly involves religion, and is partly inspired by Treasure Island.

I’m not sure what to say about the plot or the acting. The film works reasonably well, has mostly cartoon SpaghettiWestern violence (not lots of closeup blood), has a fair amount of humor along with lots of scenery—lots of scenery—and, after the first quarter, has only one innocent victim. This may be too generous, but I’m inclined to give it $1.50.

A Social Network/Social Media Snapshot

Posted in Technology and software, Writing and blogging on February 18th, 2010

How much (and how) is each of us involved with social networks and social media?

You can get glib answers from a number of sources–answers that I always find a little suspicious in their specificity and broadness. But those answers are only for some large group as a whole–and, increasingly, I think it’s clear that “large group” is both a virtue and a problem for social networks.

Yes, I think Metcalfe’s Law is fundamentally wrong–and always have. For social networks in particular, there’s strong evidence that there’s a crossover point at which more linkages cease to add value and start to dissipate value and relevance. That’s a much more complicated issue, one that others are looking at, and certainly way too complicated for an ‘umble post.

There is one thing I’m reasonably certain of: If there’s a crossover point, it varies by network and by person. How could it be otherwise? What I might consider a maddening flood of chatter might, for you, be a pleasantly active set of conversations. What I might consider a reasonable flow of activity might seem to you like nobody’s quite bothered to turn out the lights (but the tumbleweeds are rolling across the stage).

Avoiding the Big Picture

So any generalized statements I might make would be even more suspect than usual. Heck, I don’t even think everyone else should be like me–I certainly don’t believe other people are like me.

And yet… I’ve found it interesting and, in some cases, worthwhile to see how others handle their virtual lives and how that correlates to what I understand of their personas. So maybe one or two of you will find this breakdown useful.

Incidentally, I’m talking about both social media and social networks. Here’s the distinction as I see it:

  • A social medium is a publishing medium that encourages direct feedback and interaction–but that typically involves some significant multiple of readers to those providing feedback. I’d put blogs and wikis in this category. (Realistically, lists also belong here. I think Google Reader and Bloglines also do, but aggregators are tricky…)
  • A social network is a conversational medium–one that is fundamentally about interaction, not about messages as such. I’d put Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn and others in this category. Ditto Buzz, if Buzz becomes anything other than a botched experiment in opt-out implementation.
  • Yes, you can use a social network as a social medium (I’d say that’s the case for any Twitterer with more than 10 times as many followers as follows, or any FriendFeed participant who just feeds in stuff from other sources and never participates in threads.) You can use social media as social networks, sort of, but with considerably more difficulty. (Some wikis might be crude social networks, but not most.)

And that’s way too much overhead for a simple exercise (that could yet turn into a piece of a C&I essay, a ways down the road…) (Oh, and speaking of Cites & Insights: It’s neither. It’s an online publication, impure and complex–impure because in its PDF form it’s really a print publication distributed via the web, which is what I’ve said since its founding.)

So here’s where I think I am, today–noting that I’m a fairly extreme introvert, but that I also write a lot.

Where I Am Right Now (I Think)

Here’s where I believe I am with regard to social media and social networks as of today–including what I believe to be the typical time I spend on each, and how I feel about it.

Social Media

  • Walt at Random: My primary social-media outlet. I’ve been here just under five years (really? sometimes it seems less; sometimes much more). My long-term goal has been “roughly two posts a week,” but that was before the automatic post-a-week from my day job. This appears to be post #1,226, so I’m actually averaging just under five posts a week. I’ve had 3,144 comments so far (plus more than 34,500 spam attempts!), which is just about 2.5 comments per post: Terrible for a Name Blogger, not terrible for a liblog. Of course, if I turned off Spam Karma 2 (and extended the time limit for comments, or turned that off as well, and maybe even accepted linkbacks), I’d have more than two dozen comments per post, but the comment facility would also be useless since it would be almost all crap. Let’s see: the blog has a Google Page Rank of five, which is neither strong nor weak. Checking Technorati, I see an Authority of 495 (wow: that’s a lot higher than I expected–but I no longer have much sense of what Technorati Authority actually means); Popurious says I have an Alexa rank of around 2.26 million and some 30,000 Yahoo BackLinks. Of course, it also says I have zero Bloglines subscribers, where Bloglines shows either 104 or 479 (two different feeds). Feedburner (which I’ve learned never to check on the weekend, as numbers seem to dive, then return) shows 827 subscribers, which is astonishing from my perspective. As to measured traffic–well, it depends on who you believe. I added Google Analytics code to track pages (because that’s what’s used for the new Drupal Library Leadership Network, and I’m a little surprised by the low numbers)–and, after a couple of days, I seem to be showing maybe 100 visits and 130 pageviews per day. But Urchin, which actually analyzes server logs (I believe), shows an average of 1,700 visits and just under 5,000 pageviews a day for the past week. So is the site rarely visited at all, or does it have fairly robust numbers? Obviously, I’d like to believe Urchin…and I really do wonder what’s going on with GA. (Maybe I added the code incorrectly?) All in all, I’d call it moderately successful (decent posting frequency, decent level of conversation, more than adequate readership), but then it’s really secondary to C&I, my primary publishing outlet. How much time to I spend on it? This post will take more than an hour to write (it actually took almost exactly two hours); I’d guess I average 15-30 minutes a day on the whole.
  • C&I Updates is my oldest blog, but has only one purpose, described in its name. (It’s not actually oldest by much: The oldest post appears to be from August 12, 2004.) 99 posts to date, just a little more than one post per month. No comments. 295 Bloglines subscribers, so I’m guessing maybe 400+ overall? No GPR. I probably spend two minutes per month on this one, since I create the issue announcements in Walt at Random, then copy-and-paste the HTML into C&I Updates. For its very specific purpose, it works just fine…but it’s sure not very social.
  • Oh, there’s a “blog” in LISNews too, but that’s almost entirely a mirror of C&I Updates. And LLN Highlights is my “work blog,” just as–until today, when I finished moving the last article to the Drupal LLN–the MediaWiki LLN was my “work wiki.”
  • What else? I’ve contributed (rarely) to Library Success Wiki. I’ve contributed (even more rarely!) to Wikipedia. I’m on some unknown but small number of lists–PubLib, Web4Lib, LITA-L, JESSE, and probably a couple of others. Other than issue announcements on the first two, I’m mostly a lurker on these.
  • As for aggregators, I’m still using Bloglines and now find that I have even less desire to turn over more of my virtual life to Google tools. As of today, I see 510 feeds in all, of which roughly 470 are library-related. I probably spend 30 to 45 minutes a day going through the aggregator and reading posts as needed, also tagging some in delicious. (My use of delicious doesn’t qualify as social use.) Part of that time is work time. So I read a lot of blogs and comment whenever I think it’s appropriate–I’d guess maybe 2-4 comments a week?

I think that’s it for social media. By and large, I’m OK with the time involved, and I know I get a lot out of the blogs I read. I’d like to think this blog contributes something; I’m certain C&I does.

Social Networks

Here, things get more confusing. Here’s what I believe to be the case–but, just as I’m a permanent ghost in Second Life (you can’t actually delete your account) and probably have a ghost account in Orkut and Ning, I may be a ghost in several other venues…and some people would consider my presence in one other network essentially ghostly.

I’ve almost always used my full name (as one word) for all social networks, and I’ll probably keep it that way.

  • Twitter: I’m not there now. I was once upon a time, but it didn’t work, for me, for then. I might be back: Anyone who says “Walt Crawford thinks Twitter is useless” has a reading comprehension problem.
  • LinkedIn: I’m there–sort of. Says here I have 140 connections and one recommendation. I’ve treated it as a passive involvement–if people ask me to join their network and I have some vague idea of who they are, I’ll usually accept. LinkedIn didn’t work at all for me when I was looking for a new job, but I wasn’t using it properly (I guess). Best guess: I spend five minutes a week on LinkedIn matters, and that may be too high.
  • FaceBook: Sure, I’m there. “Isn’t everybody?” is still grossly off the mark, but the behemoth of social networks is about as universal as they get. I probably check FaceBook twice a day, but I rarely have anything to say–my current status is from February 5. “Checking FaceBook” is tricky, because I’ve also been reasonably passive here–that is, if anyone asks me to friend them and I’m vaguely aware of who they are (or they’re a library person), I’ll probably confirm the request. That means I have 215 “friends”–and that’s just nonsense. Since I don’t spend more than about 10 minutes on FaceBook at a time, I just glance at the first page of Home, then check two “Friends” lists (you know, the actual friends among your friends): one family list (currently eight people) and one “libclose” list (currently 19 people). Those lists, I actually check. Oh, I’m apparently also one of 7,842 members of ALA Members and 10.747 members of Library 2.0 Interest Group: I never check those at all. I never, ever, ever respond to games, suggestions, applications…that “let us bug all your contacts” message always stops me cold. I’m pretty sure my FaceBook network is too big for me to handle, possibly because it’s symmetrical.
  • FriendFeed: I spend way too much time here–probably 15 minutes in the morning, but probably over an hour in total during the day–but I also find this one valuable and workable. Let’s see: I currently subscribe to 101 folks, and 157 people subscribe to me. I’m in three groups: LSW (427 people), Librariology (?) (268 people) and LITA & Bigwig (121 people). I’ve made 2,599 comments; I feed in titles of blog posts but nothing else (as far as I know); I offer direct comments once in a while (usually to deafening silence), but mostly take part in existing conversations. I like FriendFeed a lot, but I can’t have it “unpaused” and I can’t have it running if I’m trying to write, to think clearly, to read…but that’s true of any online medium. (Yes, I always run FriendFeed paused: it’s easy to hit Home if I want to refresh it. The “running” version just makes me crazy.) So “I spend way too much time here” has to be balanced against “I find this one valuable and workable”–which I do. It would take a lot to get me to leave FF; it’s a source of valuable pointers, even more valuable ideas, some inspiration and some virtual friendships.
  • Meebo: I probably still have an account in the LSW room, but haven’t actually been there in a long time. When it’s active, it’s just too real-time for my asynchronous/introverted nature… (Another way of saying: I realized I was spending as much as an hour at a time there, and that I was getting less done elsewhere. Maybe making the wrong choices, I had to let Meebo go.)
  • ALA Connect: I joined early on (I think). It seems like a great idea. In practice, I might touch base here once or twice a month. I’m not sure what the problem is, and I’m willing to believe I’m using it wrong.

I think that’s it…and even looking at that short list (explained in an absurd 2,000 words), I’m getting tired. (If I’ve left things out, maybe someone will remind me…)

For me, that’s just about as much virtual interaction as I can deal with. But that’s me. It’s partly my lack of multitasking competence (I really can’t write well or read deeply with social stuff going on). It’s partly that I really sort of like being truly offline most of the time.

Note again that I’m not offering advice. This is just my own snapshot–partly because others might find it amusing, partly so I can check back in a few months or years and see what’s changed.

Nobody in their right mind…

Posted in Language on February 18th, 2010

Once in a while, I get accused of uncharitable reading. Once in a while, the accusation is right on the money.

On the other hand, I will assert that, any time an article or column or post starts with the five words used as the title for this post:

  • The writer is itching for a fight.
  • The writer is not interested in logical argument.
  • The writer is likely to be wrong–unless, of course, the writer gets to decide who’s sane and who isn’t.

Heck, “I think most sensible people would agree” may be strong, but it’s in a whole different ballpark.

The particular story that prompted this mini-post? Not important. I didn’t read the whole thing. Why bother? The first sentence told me that the writer considers me to be insane or deluded.

And if that’s uncharitable reading, so be it. When faced with uncharitable writing–with monolithic, “my way or the asylum” statements, I’ll go for fisking and lack of charity.

Auditory Memory

Posted in Media on February 17th, 2010

Now that the flood of responses on my quick quiz has slowed down…

Which is to say: Now that it’s become pretty clear that nobody gives a damn…

It’s time for the answers, and for the post that I was holding off on–but that post may have less to it than I originally thought.

The Answers

The song’s penultimate line was, as noted:

And everybody knows that the very last line

  • The last line is: “Is the doctor said, give him jug band music, it seems to make him feel just fine.” (Presumably, everybody knows that because–with changes in the first word–that’s the last line of each verse.)
  • The name of the song: “Jug Band Music.” (There’s more than one song with that title. This is one that doesn’t happen to be jug band music.)
  • The name of the writer: John Sebastian.
  • The name of the lead singer: John Sebastian.
  • The name of the group: The Lovin’ Spoonful
  • Bonus answer: The song was on Daydream, released in 1966. That was apparently the Spoonful’s best-selling album: It reached #10 on the charts.

The song is a hoot, as are the lyrics–it’s very much a wacky story-song. It’s also, in some ways, a classic earworm–as are several other Spoonful songs. I finally picked up a good copy of a decent selection of Spoonful songs from SecondSpin, a 2000 “Greatest Hits” CD that was remastered from the masters–the earlier CDs I had were made during an extended period in which the master tapes were apparently lost or unavailable.

Auditory memory

Anyway…while I was listening to this, I found that I was hearing a John Sebastian song that was not a Lovin’ Spoonful song–and a song that I probably hadn’t heard in at least 25 years, namely She’s a Lady.

The song appeared on Sebastian’s first solo album (John B. Sebastian) in 1970. (Now that I check it on Wikipedia, I see that there weren’t all that many other memorable tracks on it–and that Sebastian had to make it with a bunch of nobody session players: Some unknowns named Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Dallas Taylor, Buddy Emmons…life is tough when you don’t have connections in the music industry.)

It’s a beautiful little ballad (“little” is right–the original is under two minutes). I could hear it plain as day, including the low-key orchestration…

I suspect everybody’s a little different when it comes to auditory memory. Sometimes, I can hear pieces, fully arranged, that I haven’t heard in years (or in this case in decades). Sometimes, I can even manipulate the arrangements.

Are earworms like that? When a song gets stuck in your head, do you just hear a melody, or do you hear the whole arrangement?

There’s another question: Is my auditory memory accurate? There’s no good way of knowing, I suppose.

Nothing momentous here. I will say that having a good if flakey auditory memory is helpful when someone mentions one of the really annoying earworms: I can usually drive it out with something I like.

Catching Up (sort of, a little bit)

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 16th, 2010

I reached a milestone of sorts about half an hour ago–one I might typically discuss in the Bibs & Blather section of Cites & Insights, but I’m thinking that most Bibs & Blather stuff (the “editorial/how we do it good” section) may belong here, rather than in C&I itself.

[Would that truly ungainly sentence/paragraph be any better if I was writing it for C&I? I'd like to think so, but I would be reluctant to make such an assertion.]

The milestone? I’ve emptied the “Trends & Quick Takes” manila folder–which is to say, I’ve dealt with all the stuff from days before I started using delicious to flag future source material for C&I.

Yes, that means another T&QT essay in which most, if not all, of the source material is fairly old–but it does bring things up to at least March 2009. It’s a start. (It’s also about 5,000 words long…)

The danger with delicious, of course, is that it’s easier to tag an article than it is to print out the first page–and I may be tagging way too much stuff as a result. But that’s OK; I’m now doing second passes and filtering out stuff (and reorganizing it) periodically.

The great thing about delicious, in addition to ease, is that I can use it for work and for C&I–the same piece may be appropriate for both venues. That could happen anyway, but it’s more likely this way.

(When I do a scan of my tags, which I do at least once a week, I can also see “looming” situations, where one tag is getting awfully big–noting that I delete delicious items once I’ve dealt with them. Right now, for example, there’s a huge “loom” in amongst the almost-1,000 total items: “gbs”–short for Google Book Search/Google Book Settlement, currently at more than 150 items. I might do a theme issue, I might do an essay…or I might decide that I have little useful to add and untag all 150+ items. We’ll see, most probably after this week’s hearing.)

Open Access and Libraries: Be my guest

Posted in Books and publishing on February 14th, 2010

Post removed as no longer relevant.

Open Access and Libraries: Essays from Cites & Insights 2001-2009 is now available as a free PDF and a $17.50 trade paperback from Lulu.

Nonce post: Double-checking corrections

Posted in Stuff on February 14th, 2010

I’ll hold off on the post I was going to write, in the (probably forlorn) hope that some reader will actually take a crack at the previous post. I can almost hear the silence…

Meanwhile: Started reading the February 2010 Fast Company (in print, and I’m usually about a month behind on magazines). Here’s the first item in the “Fast Fixes” spot at the end of the Letters column–FC’s version of, you know, corrections:

In the October 2009 issue, the China graphic in the Now section misstated the country’s 2009 GDP. The correct number is $4.3 billion.

I vaguely recall the October graphic–I think it showed China’s GDP as $43 trillion, which is clearly improbable.

$4.3 billion, on the other hand, isn’t improbable–it’s flat-out impossible. I’d guess it’s off by three orders of magnitude: That the right number is $4.3 trillion.

Actually, turns out that’s wrong also–according to China’s own numbers, 2009 GDP was $4.9 trillion. (They know their 2009 GDP by February 2010? Really?) But an error of 20% is a whole lot better than being off by a factor of 1,000!

Heck, FC doesn’t run that many corrections; you’d think they’d have someone double-check them…

A pre-post post

Posted in Media on February 13th, 2010

Some time this holiday weekend (it is a holiday weekend, isn’t it?) soon (giving the legions of readers both a chance to weigh in on this!), I’ll probably do a post about one particular kind of memory.

Before that post, here’s a quick quiz–one where I suspect old fogies have an advantage.

There’s a song in which the penultimate lyric is:

And everybody knows that the very last line

What are:

  • The last line
  • The name of the song (if you know the first, you’ll know the second)
  • The name of the writer or lead singer, your choice
  • The name of the group for the original recording
  • Bonus answer: The year in which it was released.

Using a search engine to find the answer is just plain tacky. So is using a lyrics site.

Updated February 17, 2010: The answers are in this post.


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