Archive for July, 2010

Being a pro at crastination: Liblogs 2010 Update 3

Posted in Writing and blogging on July 30th, 2010

Remember this post, all of–what–two days ago? Which was “an update to “The new project: update 1,” which was an update to “We grow too soon old..”?

Toward the end of the post, there’s a section “What’s next?” beginning with this paragraph:

Right away, nothing at all–I’m going to do some other work.

Then I say that I’ll probably pick up directories from LibWorld, eventually…and maybe even try some liblog blogrolls to see whether they yield anything.

Well…what hasn’t really happened is “some other work.” That’s not quite true. I’ve dealt with a number of small projects, household chores, discussing a Big Trip (one night, two days, but it’s a start), etc…

The other work that’s still being neglected? Writing stuff for the September Cites & Insights. I haven’t done any of that since the August issue came out, which was almost three weeks ago. And, for some reason, I’m resisting starting again, even as I get some great new possibilities for essays.

Maybe it’s a summer slump. Maybe it’s distraction. Maybe I just need a longer break from that particular style of writing.

Oh, I will be starting some other writing–definitely, probably Monday, maybe even earlier. But, you know, the September issue could come out as late as August 31…or, for that matter, as late as September 30. (Or I could have a nice chunky issue that y’all might find worthwhile and that really doesn’t require any new writing…)

Anyway, instead of forging ahead with other writing, I did look through the book for liblog directories, and found fewer than I remembered. I picked up those plus Libdex (almost forgotten but not quite gone). Sorted the 681 candidates, checked for duplicates and blogs already covered, resulting in 275 possibilities. I knew that a big chunk of those were Iranian, and that probably very few of the Iranian blogs were in English…so, instead of setting it aside, I decided to give it a “what the heck” hour or so this morning.

I’m done–and the whole 275 probably took less than 3.5 hours total (maybe 4). I got a slightly better yield than I expected, actually: 49 new liblogs (most of them for the broad look, not the deep look; most of them Australian) and 223 more exclusions (mostly Iranian–and, I think, more disappeared blogs than non-English blogs). I also looked at the Google Directory of personal library & information science blogs; I don’t know how many are in the directory, but exactly one [1] of them was new to me.

The status

So, as of now, the broad look includes 1,071 liblogs, and I have a list of 720 others that appear in one directory or another but are either defunct, non-English, official, or not a liblog at all.

Now to spend the weekend doing, well, weekend stuff [farmer's market, mowing, vacuuming, reading, eating, walking over to buy some olive oil from the nearby producer, with luck deciding on a trip date & making reservations...]. And the week ahead getting a strong start on a project that I’ll talk about when it’s done.

Eventually–after the project is at a pause stage and I’ve decided what to do with C&I for now–I’ll come back to this and decide whether to try 50-100 blogrolls, and whether or not to add the GPR 3 blogs with 2+ current posts to the deep look pool.

At a later eventually, sometime this fall, I’ll start the data massaging and writing.

One thing I’m sure of: Whatever results from this process will not include writeups or profiles of individual blogs. If you want those, you need to buy But Still They Blog (and maybe The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008). Oh, and if I publish portions of BSTB in C&I (one option for September, if I want to stick with other writing even longer), those portions will not include profiles.

Now, off to the weekend. Enjoy yours!

Truly peculiar spamments

Posted in Writing and blogging on July 29th, 2010

I’m not going to do the Spam Comment of the Day (with 40+ each day to choose from, it would be one way to have lots of posts, but not a great one)…but sometimes, well…

  • Someone trying to build linklove for a comic-book site says “I’m damned relieve that they dropped ed norton. What a pompous $#. Time for a new hulk.” That’s a comment on “But Still They Blog: Four more profiles and a rationale.”
  • Someone else–no, make that three people in a row–all tell me “I’m going golfing! It was way to nice out to be in the office all afternoon.” No, Will Manley wasn’t one of them–he doesn’t go to an office and he knows the difference between “too” and “to.” These three “people,” all with different names, UK email addresses, and different golf thingies they want to sell, responded to “Does every librarian need to be an involved expert on everything?”
  • And here’s the killer–the reverse compliment: “This post is useless without pics :)” – somebody trying to get me to watch online episodes of a TV show I have no interest in.

Procrastinating? What an accusation! (I can say this: There really weren’t many liblog directories in the LibWorld book. Since another task ran short, I did pick up one or two, plus the old Libdex directory and something else, for a candidate pool of 681 blogs, which yields 275 actual candidates. I’m pretty sure 2/3 of them are Iranian blogs in Farsi or other scripts; if that’s true, it will be a very fast scan. When I get around to it.)

Liblogs 2010: Update 2

Posted in Liblogs, Writing and blogging on July 28th, 2010

What’s that you say? How can this be Update 2 when you haven’t seen “Liblogs 2010″ as the title of any previous post? All I can do is quote ol’ Ralph Waldo:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

Yes, I know, I’d thought it was the more general (and more nonsensical) “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds”; this version has the virtues of (a) apparently being the correct quotation and (b) making a lot more sense.

Anyway…this is an update to “The new project: update 1,” which was an update to “We grow too soon old...”

I guess calling it “Liblogs 2010″ means I’m fairly certain I’m not going to abandon the project. Which, at this point, is true–barring some wonderful new paying opportunity that requires too much time. (I hope to start on one paying project very soon and to convert something else into a paying project–but both of those would leave enough time to continue this project after some delay.)

The candidates

I’ve completed the scan of 868 “candidates” from LISWiki, the ODP list of librarian blogs, the LISZen source list, Meredith Farkas’ “Favorite Blogs” list, Davey P’s “HotStuff” list and the Salem Press list–which began as 2,911 possibilities that boiled down to 868 after eliminating duplicates, items among the 606 liblogs (and 71 exclusions) that were either in previous studies or already identified from my Bloglines subscriptions, and items obviously not in English. The breakdown of those directories before deduping:

  • Salem Press: 318
  • LISWiki: 743
  • ODP: 138
  • LISZen: 795
  • Hot Stuff: 748
  • Farkas: 179.

The results

I found 415 more liblogs for the “broad look”–that is, English-language (or predominantly English-language) blogs by “library people” or somehow related to libraries, that aren’t official blogs (or at least don’t function as official blogs) and have at least one post visible on the web, no matter how old. The running total is now 1,021 liblogs for the broad look.

I also added 426 excluded candidates–names/addresses that aren’t visible (either deleted or password-protected), blogs not in English, official blogs, blogs with no apparent relation to libraries or library people, and blogs that have been incorporated into newer, renamed blogs.

Hmm. 426+415=841. The other 27 cases were either my mistakes (failing to delete blogs already there) or naming differences (the same blog appearing two or three times under different names).

Slightly more detailed results

Here’s how the 497 excluded candidates break down by reason, as I recorded them:

  • Ten empty, blank, or dummy pages–some of them potential blogs but with no content at all. One had a single picture, nothing else.
  • One malware site, popping up all sorts of windows asserting that my PC has viruses: Thanks a lot, Information Knot.
  • 26 sites that aren’t blogs–including aggregators, newsletters and a variety of other things.
  • 58 blogs that aren’t in English (as judged based on the first page of posts, except for all the posts in Farsi where the page title was enough… in one or two cases, where there are a handful of English posts among mostly-non-English posts, it was a judgment call)
  • 62 blogs for which I could find no plausible library or librarian connection, either in the author info or categories or posts. I tended to err on the side of inclusion.
  • 164 not viewable–mostly sites that have simply disappeared, but with a large handful of password-protected sites. I’m guessing that nearly all of these were liblogs at some point.
  • 99 official blogs, including both library blogs and association/company blogs that appear to function as official publications. I also tended to err on the side of inclusion here, that is, if a blog had a library abbreviation (or ALA division or whatever) in its URL but was clearly the work of individuals who disclaimed organizational responsibility, I left it in the broad look.
  • 77 renamed–blogs that have been incorporated into, or in a few cases, followed by, newer liblogs with different names.

I think that adds up to around 241 “former liblogs,” but that number might be high, since some not-viewable blogs may also be excludable for other reasons.

What about the broader look? Here’s an early summary:

  • 597 liblogs have two or more posts during the March 1, 2010-May 31, 2010 test period. Another 63 have exactly one post during the quarter; at present, I don’t plan to include those in the deeper look.
  • Of that 597, 417 have a Google Page Rank of 4 or higher–and, currently, those are the 417 I plan to use for the deeper look. Which is to say: I’ve recorded count, length, and comments for March-May 2010 (and going back to 2007) to the extent feasible for each of those blogs. I could add another 71 blogs with GPR 3, if I’m willing to do the extra metrics for those (in 19 cases, most of the metrics are there from earlier studies). It’s very unlikely that I’d add the 21 blogs with GPR 2, the six with GPR 1 (something I’ve almost never seen before, actually), or the 75 with GPR 0 (which can happen because a blog changes platforms or because it’s a corporate-platform blog and gets no link love on its own).
  • So it appears that at least 660 liblogs are at least marginally active in 2010–and that a deep look could involve anywhere from 417 to 492 liblogs. There were 449 liblogs with countable posts in the 2009 study (including some two dozen with just one post), as a point of comparison.
  • I have recorded blogging software when that was visible, but I’m going to recheck two dozen of the blogs where I recorded “other” as the software, before I started viewing source in cases where the software wasn’t obvious….and maybe 26 “unknown” that didn’t seem to be using any canned package.
  • I recorded the country in which the blog was being written, when that was clear, and show 25 different countries.

What’s next?

Right away, nothing at all–I’m going to do some other work.

Then, well, it depends on other projects and energy.

  • I’m likely to do the cut-and-paste trick with the some or all of the directories noted in LibWorld – library blogging worldwide. Although it’s fair to assume most of those blogs are either already in the spreadsheet or are non-English, there might be some exceptions.
  • If I have loads of energy, I might cut-and-paste the first, say, 50 library-related blogrolls from blogs already in the deep study (or otherwise current), and see whether there’s enough yield to be worthwhile.
  • I know that it’s not possible to say “here’s the universe”–but I suspect it will be fair to say that the final broad look will represent a very large majority of the English-language non-official liblog universe, at least of those blogs that have left any trace at all…
  • And then, probably late this fall, possibly in early 2011, I’ll start working with the spreadsheet to prepare a new report, one that will probably come out as a (not quite so thick) book, with some details emerging here or in Cites & Insights. There’s quite a bit to be said about the broad range–after all, all I’m missing is length of posts and comment count for 2010, and pre-2010 metrics–and even more about the deep range and comparisons between the two.

Casual observations

I seem to have encountered a lot of blogs this year that I never encountered or at least didn’t include in earlier studies. I’m guessing that’s partly because blogs tend to gain GPR over time, partly because the Salem list actually includes quite a few blogs that aren’t in other directories, partly because the other directories have improved.

Quick observations:

  • “PLN” seems to be a term that’s automatically understood to mean Personal Learning Network by many (most?) school library bloggers–and not, I think, by most others. I can assure you that the PALINET Leadership Network would not have had “PLN Highlights” as its alert blog name if that TLA (three-letter acronym in this case) was universally understood–or even prevalent outside of school librarianship.
  • Either Will Manley or one of the commenters on his blog made a comment about this being the golden age of book reviews. Quite apart from Amazon and LibraryThing, I think that’s true, based on the number of high-quality, prolific book-review liblogs I’ve encountered this time around…particularly for YA and children’s literature, but also for books in general.
  • Oh, in case you didn’t catch that: I did not require “active since December 2009″ this time around, and I’ve recorded the starting month and lifespan for a good many blogs that weren’t around very long. Yes, Will Unwound is part of the deep study despite its January 2010 start date…and a total of ten liblogs that began in 2010 are part of the broad study. Of course, they had to have begun by May 2010, since May 31 is the cutoff point for all observations.
  • What I’ve derided as The World’s Worst Blogging Platform, the LJ/SLJ construct, now turns out to be built on what I regard as the world’s best blogging software–but also the software that can be used to screw up a blog’s presentation perhaps more thoroughly than any other. That’s right: the LJ/SLJ blogs now use WordPress. So does this one, and I have no intention of changing. (I’ve encountered exactly one liblogger who explicitly moved away from WordPress–to Blogger. There may be others.)

Whew. That’s a lot more than I intended to say. So far, my promotional posts for But Still They Blog have been a total washout, with zero additional copies sold. So, you know, I’m aware that doing this 2010 study is unlikely to be remunerative…but it is fascinating.

New life for fair use?

Posted in Copyright on July 26th, 2010

Just a quickie, but this one’s too good to pass up.

Every three years, the Copyright Office considers exemptions to DMCA (it’s part of the law).

This time, there were some fairly dramatic exe,ptions–ones that allow circumvention of DRM (in some cases) to protect fair use rights–oh, and for ebooks, read-aloud features.

There’s also a provision that allows circumvention in order to unlock a cell phone. Ars Technica views that as a big loss for Apple. I’m not going to go there at all (the AT story is a good overview; I think it has an unfortunate headline, since that’s really not what most of the exemptions are about).

Interesting stuff. It’s been a while since fair use had any wins…

Starving to death on $200 million

Posted in Books and publishing on July 26th, 2010

Another “not really a book review”–I can’t resist this time, because I liked the subject matter so much during its brief existence.

To wit, The Industry Standard–a weekly magazine devoted to “the internet economy” that lasted about three years, from April 1998 through August 2001. It was well-written, much more skeptical than most magazines and trade papers related to dotcoms…and it went under rapidly and dramatically.

In my semi-random library borrowing, I sometimes turn to the 330-340 section to read about interesting or alarming business stories. Thus it was that I encountered Starving to Death on $200 Million: The Short, Absurd Life of The Industry Standard by James Ledbetter. Checked it out. Finished reading it last night.

It’s an odd and sad story. At its peak, the magazine was selling more ad pages than any other magazine and producing some thick, remarkably content-filled issues. Between September 2000 and February 2001, it even included an extra monthly issue, Grok (yes, a stupid name), devoted to a single theme each issue.

Maybe the magazine’s fate was sealed by the dotcom crash of 2001. Maybe it was corporate shenanigans. Maybe it was foolish long-term leases (including one lease for a substantial quantity of pricey New York office space that the magazine never used). Maybe it was all those things and more.

The book’s a good read, and Ledbetter’s fairly up front about his insider status (and possible lack of objectivity). He gets one simple fact surprisingly wrong for someone who moved to England and was in charge of the magazine’s foolish attempt at a “European edition” based in England–namely, he says that A4-size paper is taller in Europe than in the U.S., where it’s 8.5×11. Well, no: The standard “letter paper” in the U.S. is just that–letter paper, 8.5×11. It’s not called A4. A4 is a standard metric size paper used in most other countries; it’s taller and narrower than letter paper. What Ledbetter says is like saying that the liter is larger in Europe than in the U.S., where it’s 32oz… (yes, a liter is a little larger than a quart; no, nobody in the U.S. calls a quart a liter–and they don’t call 8.5×11″ paper “A4″ either).

That’s trivial, although a good copy editor should have caught it. I wish there was another book on the subject with a different perspective, but I don’t find one, and that’s not surprising.

Oh, one point in passing: This book is seven years old and only held by 240+ libraries on Worldcat.org. I could see some libraries weeding it because, you know, it’s old news. For larger libraries, I think that’s a shame–and I was saddened by the Awful Library Books blog naming Megatrends as a book that should be weeded. In that case, at least for larger libraries, weeding old futurist books full of bad projections by Gurus is a great way to help assure that Gurus will never be called to task: Their old bad projections simply disappear. I love reading the old projections; it helps provide insight into the quality of current work. I’d hate it if the public libraries I use made a practice of weeding such books simply because they’re old. (Yes, I know weeding has to happen in most public libraries. I just hate to see it being at the expense of being able to follow contemporary history.)

The new project: Update 1

Posted in Liblogs, Writing and blogging on July 23rd, 2010

I thought I’d update this post, now that I’ve spent a few hours days on the scan of 868 possible candidate blogs.

Then

I started out with 606 liblogs (English, visible–that is, reachable on the web, not official, somehow related to libraries or librarians) and 71 “rejects” (blogs that had been on my radar at some point but were either non-English-language, had wholly disappeared from the web, or were actually official blogs)–and 868 candidates, combined and filtered from 2,911 listings in six directories.

I guesstimated that I’d find 200 to 400 more liblogs from among those 868, but had no idea what the number would actually be. I also had no idea whether the process would be so grueling that I’d give up partway through–after all, there’s no economic incentive to complete this, just curiosity.

Now

I’m now almost through the “I”s in that crude-alphabetic list of 868 (“crude-alphabetic”: there were several “A something” blogs and there will be a LOT of “The something” blogs).

  • There are 551 candidates left to check, so I’ve apparently done 317. In other words, I’m a little more than a third of the way done.
  • It’s clearly feasible to do this. It’s not fast–I haven’t been doing any other writing this week–but it’s not so grueling as to be hopeless. I’ll certainly finish this scan, although not necessarily this month.
  • It’s essentially impossible to estimate the time required, particularly since I’m backfilling data for newly-discovered blogs that go back more than one year. I might be able to check 30 blogs in one hour (if half of them are non-English, official, or disappeared and most of the rest were only there briefly); I might require more than half an hour just to handle one blog (say a 5-year-old Kidlit or YA lit blog with an enthusiastic audience). I’m guessing it averages about 20/hour overall, but that’s a very crude guess.
  • At this point, there are 749 blogs on the broad-survey list and 229 excluded candidates. That’s an increase of 143 blogs and 158 exclusions. If the same ratio runs through the rest of the candidates, I’ll wind up adding just about 400 total (plus another almost-300 exclusions). That would mean roughly a thousand liblogs in the broad survey.

Future

Since I’ll start working on C&I again soon, and I hope to begin another (more lucrative) project in a week or so, this might go on the back burner–but I’m also interested in seeing how it goes (e.g., what percentage of those 1,000-or-so liblogs will turn out to be currently active?).

Assuming I come back to this, it now seems likely that I’ll make up a new list from the various national liblog directories in LibWorld (assuming some of them are still around and updated) and check that list. It’s less certain that I’ll try blogrolls, but who knows? It’s clearly not possible to be sure I’ve seen the whole universe; it’s not clear whether assembling blogrolls from 100 or 200 or 500 liblogs will yield any significant number of blogs not otherwise discovered.

Meanwhile, I suspect that I will include portions of But Still They Blog in Cites & Insights–but almost certainly not the whole non-profile manuscript, at least not in one big issue. So far, my new attempts at publicizing the book have yielded exactly zero sales, but that could change…

But Still They Blog: Platforms, Currency and a few more profiles

Posted in Liblogs on July 22nd, 2010

More bits & pieces from But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009–this time, pages 9-10 and part of 11, plus three blogs from page 19.

Blogging Platforms and Programs

How do library people blog? Any blanket statement will be wrong, particularly since the whole universe of liblogs may be unknowable. For the blogs in this study, here’s the breakdown.

Program Blogs Percentage
WordPress 245 47.2%
Blogger 190 36.6%
TypePad/MovableType 48 9.2%
Other 24 4.6%
Drupal 7 1.3%
LiveJournal 5 1.0%

Table 1.2: Blogging platforms and programs

WordPress is close to a majority and certainly accounts for a large plurality of the blogs. Oddly enough, as compared to the 2008 study, Blogger has precisely the same percentage (36.6%) albeit of a smaller universe, but WordPress has jumped from roughly 38% to roughly 47% (and increased in real numbers), while TypePad and MovableType decreased in real numbers and increased from 8.8% to 9.2%. (I’ve lumped MovableType and TypePad together since both are similar products from the same company.) “Other” includes a few identified programs and platforms with no more than two blogs each—and a number of blogs that are either handcrafted or shorn of brand identity.

My guess—and it’s only a guess—is that a broader study, including short-lived and less visible blogs, would show a higher percentage of Blogger blogs, most of them on blogspot.com. While it’s trivially easy to set up a hosted blog at Blogspot.com, WordPress.com or Typepad.com, I believe Blogspot is perceived as being the fastest and easiest of the three. (Some Blogger blogs above are not hosted on Blogspot.com—and I’d guess most of the WordPress liblogs use WordPress software on other sites.)

There has been a slow migration of blogs to WordPress. I believe it’s safe to say that WordPress software is the preferred blogging platform for most long-term “serious” bloggers. I see very few people migrating elsewhere (except, for example, forced migrations to MovableType because people move blogs to shared services such as ScienceBlogs). But I have nothing more than anecdotal evidence—that, and the near-majority numbers above.

If you’re a numbers person, you may note that the numbers above don’t add up to 521. In the two weeks between completing the scan of blogs for metrics and doing a second scan for blogging platforms, two blogs had become unavailable, temporarily or permanently.

Currency

How current are liblogs? I used March-May 2009 for metrics—but I recorded those metrics in September 2009. To get a checkpoint, I checked each blog on September 30, 2009, looking for the most recent post but rounding down to week intervals—and beyond that, to spans that seem indicative.

Here are the results, which require some explanation.

Weeks Blogs Percentage Cumulative
1 218 42.0% 42.0%
2 51 9.8% 51.8%
4 56 10.8% 62.6%
8 49 9.4% 72.1%
13 24 4.6% 76.7%
17 14 2.7% 79.4%
26 22 4.2% 83.6%
52 34 6.6% 90.2%
99 29 5.6% 95.8%
Ceased 22 4.2%

Table 1.3: Currency of most recent post as of September 30, 2009

I marked a blog as Ceased if there was an explicit declaration that there would be no new posts—no matter how recent that declaration was. (Here again, the universe is 519, missing two blogs that seem to have vanished.) Other than that:

  • More than 40% of the blogs are robust—they had a post within the most recent week.
  • Just over half the blogs are active—with a post somewhere within the most recent fortnight.
  • Stepping back at larger intervals, it’s interesting that the number with posts sometime during the month (but not in the most recent fortnight) and those with posts sometime in August are fairly close to the “week before last” group.
  • “13” indicates sometime within the last quarter (13 weeks). More than three-quarters of the blogs had a post within the summer quarter (July-September).
  • I include “17” (actually four months) because Technorati uses that cutoff for blogs that could be considered alive. Roughly 80% of liblogs had a post between June 1 and September 30, 2009.
  • The next two levels are half-year and year marks—in both cases representing blogs that are neither active nor clearly dead.
  • “99” really means “more than 52”—that is, blogs that haven’t explicitly ceased but haven’t had a post in more than a year.

Profiles

Lady Crumpet’s Armoire

Began July 2002.

Metrics 2007 2008
Posts 12 2
Quintile 4 5
Words per post 130 40
Quintile 5 5
Comments per post 0.8 0.0
Quintile 3 5

No announcement of hiatus or dropping the blog, but the most recent post was on August 20, 2008.

beSpacific

“Accurate, focused law and technology news.” By Sabrina Pacifici. Began August 2002.

Metrics 2007 2008 2009 C08-09 C07-09
Posts 736 770 733 -5%% 0%
Quintile 1 1 1 2 1
Words per post 122 133 137 3% 13%
Quintile 5 5 5 3 3

Purely professional with no distinctive authorial voice. Does this belong in a liblog study? It’s a prolific set of very brief descriptions of, and links to, news items done by a special librarian. But it’s in blog form, Pacifici calls it a blog, and she is a librarian, so. Note the remarkable consistency over the years.

etc.

“the last, since 2002” By Amanda Etches-Johnson. Began August 2002.

Metrics 2007 2008 2009 C08-09 C07-09
Posts 11 10 1 -90% -91%
Quintile 4 4 5 5 5
Words per post 257 289 250 -13% -3%
Quintile 3 3 3 4 3
Comments per post 3.2 6.8 4.0 -41% 26%
Quintile 1 1 1 4 2

When Etches-Johnson posts, she usually has something interesting to say. Lately, she hasn’t posted much (the single post for this quarter is about the lack of posts and an experiment in “lifestreaming”).

Go buy it!

Lots more in the book–PDF or paperback. And free shipping during the summer.

We grow too soon old…

Posted in Liblogs, Writing and blogging on July 20th, 2010

…and too late smart.

The setup

Four times, I’ve done analyses of liblogs (blogs by library people, as opposed to library blogs)–twice within Cites & Insights, twice as books.

Still available, still great bargains: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008 and But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009. Note that Lulu’s still offering free shipping for any order over $19.95, making these even better bargains.

If you’re wondering: The two C&I analyses were Investigating the Biblioblogosphere in September 2005 and Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle in August 2006.

In each case, and particularly for the two books (which attempted to cover a very large portion of the English-language “liblog landscape”), one of the biggest time-sinks in the project was the process of finding new liblogs–ones I hadn’t already included in a previous study.

There are several sources for such blogs, and the sources tend to repeat one another (as you’d expect)–and once you’re dealing with more than a hundred blogs or so, there’s no way I could remember which blogs I’d already looked at. I used a variety of techniques to make the situation somewhat manageable–after all, we’re talking about several thousand listings in the primary sources–but it still took scores or hundreds of hours, particularly when I started looking at blogrolls.

Last year, I concluded that, if I ever did do another similar study, I’d probably give up on blogrolls altogether: Too much work for too few new discoveries.

The occasion

Based on sales to date of the two books, it would be insane to do another study.

On the other hand… well, there were still things I wanted to know about the progress of (English-language) liblogs.

So I decided to start another, somewhat different, project and carry it out if it seemed feasible and didn’t get in the way of more directly-useful projects (such as a non-self-published book I hope to be doing later this summer and early fall).

The new project differs from the last two in two key respects:

  • If there’s a book, it’s going to be much shorter–and the obvious way to do that is by leaving out individual blog profiles. Clearly, at least 90% of blog owners aren’t going to pay for a book that includes a profile of their blog, and those profiles are a lot of work (and take up a lot of space).
  • The new project has two levels of inclusion, the first of which makes the project particularly interesting to me.

The two levels

  • The broad look: As comprehensive a survey as possible of English-language blogs by library people (excluding official blogs) that have any visibility at all on the web in mid-2010. I can’t claim it will be a comprehensive survey of liblogs, because (a) quite a few have disappeared entirely, (b) a few are password-protected and won’t be included, (c) there will certainly be dozens or hundreds of blogs that I won’t encounter. But it will be the broadest look I’ve taken–albeit with less information on each blog:
    Birthdate: When it began (year and month)
    Lifespan: How many months it operated (through May 2010)
    Currency: The most recent post (prior to June 1, 2010)
    Nationality: The country (when obvious)
    Program: The blogging software (when obvious)
    Frequency: The number of posts from March 1, 2010 through May 31, 2010.
  • The deep look: A deeper look at a large subset of those blogs, defined as:
    Blogs that have a Google Page Rank of 4 or higher (fairly visible blogs)
    that have at least two posts between March 1, 2010 and May 31, 2010 (active blogs).
    For those blogs, I’m also tracking the same metrics as in last year’s study (when available): Frequency, comments, and total post length–for March-May 2010 and, for blogs new to this year’s study, going back to March-May periods in 2009, 2008 and 2007.

The first part is more ambitious, in that I’m including–potentially–a lot more blogs.

The second part is less ambitious, both because I’m not doing blog profiles (a decision I could only change with up-front sponsorship–it’s a lot of work) and because I’m limiting that level of statistical analysis to blogs that are currently active.

(One difference: I’m not requiring that blogs have started before January 1, 2010. They must have started before June 1, 2010.)

To do this project, I once again need to dive into the directories, at least as a first cut, recognizing that I’d probably pick up some additional blogs from blogrolls…but only if I could take the time.

The breakthrough (the forehead-slap moment)

Last year, I used some teeny-tiny printouts to try to cut down the amount of extraneous checking, but it was still an enormous pain. This year, I was determined to avoid superfluous printouts, even if they only used a page or two of paper.

I had one small bright idea–at each stage (where I’ve finished a pass against a source of blogs), peel off copies of the blog names and excluded blog names to a separate spreadsheet, sort them, and use that spreadsheet in a narrow little column alongside the browser window when I’m looking at a new source. That worked nicely to add new blogs from my own Bloglines list–the process took half a day or less and yielded 43 new blogs (and nine new exclusions).

Well, so, I could do that with the other primary sources (LISWiki, the ODP list of librarian blogs, the LISZen source list, Meredith Farkas’ “Favorite Blogs” list and Davey P’s “HotStuff” list, the Salem Press list)–but that would still be an ordeal.

Or… I could cut-and-paste each of the directories, with HTML included, into a Word document; use global edits to normalize them, sort the blogs…and trim that document by comparing it to my existing list of already-included blogs. Then cut-and-paste the document back to a webpage to make it easy to check new candidates.

Why didn’t I think of this last year or the year before? Maybe because I never thought of Word and HTML in the same space…maybe because I’m getting old.

The results (so far)

This morning–after the usual Friendfeed time and editing for another project–I did the cut-and-paste for these six sources (the Salem Press list required more work than the others, but still not much); within an hour, I had a sorted Word document with–gasp–2,911 candidates.

This afternoon, after lunch and some errands, I trimmed that sorted document by comparing it to the spreadsheet, including special passes for Idiot Sorting (I’m being lazy this time, so there’s lots of blogs in the “A ” and “The ” areas–and some directories normalize those articles away). The process took about two hours, maybe less…and I now have a webpage (private) with 868 liblog candidates.

Which is still a lot of checking to do, but little enough to be feasible. How many of those 868 will I add to the 606 (not including “excluded blogs”) in the current list? I have no idea; I’d guess somewhere between 200 and 400, but I could be wrong.

If this process does turn out to go reasonably smoothly, I might–after taking an appropriate break and working on other stuff such as C&I–even change my mind about blogrolls. After all, they mostly use a consistent format, and I could cumulate a whole bunch of them in a Word/HTML document and… well, we shall see.

No promises

Am I certain there will be a 2010 survey? Not really. I’d say the odds are pretty good, but if paying gigs come up or there are other things that interfere, it could take a long time–and, frankly, I haven’t invested so many hours in it that I couldn’t just abandon it. (Although my track record for abandoning projects doesn’t suggest that this is highly probable.)

And for those of you who say “You idiot, you could have done this much more easily this time and the last two times by…” Well, you may be right. I certainly could have saved a lot of boring and annoying work in 2008 and 2009 if I’d thought of this. There may be an even better way, but this is a good start.

Legends of Horror, Discs 5 and 6

Posted in Movies and TV on July 20th, 2010

Two discs this time—because three of the four movies on Disc 5 are Alfred Hitchcock movies and not rereviewed here.

Disc 5

The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Previously reviewed. $1.75.

The Lodger.

Previously reviewed. $0.75.

The Farmer’s Wife.

Previously reviewed. $1.50.

Legacy of Blood (orig. Blood Legacy), 1971, color. Carl Monson (dir.), Rodolfo Acosta, Merry Anders, Norman Bartold, Ivy Bethune, John Carradine, Richard Davalos, Faith Domergue, Buck Kartalian, Brooke Mills, Jeff Morrow, John Russell. 1:30 [1:22]

The setup is familiar: Hated wealthy father dies, children (four, two of them with spouses) and servants (three) gather to hear the will…and find that they must all live in the mansion for one week in order to inherit anything. Oh, and if any of the children die, the others will split the remainder—and if they all die, the servants (otherwise rewarded a peculiar annuity) get it all. (The peculiar annuity: Each servant gets $1 million in the form of $500 a month as long as they keep maintaining the house—but at that rate, and with no interest at all, the payments would last 166 years, which seems absurd. As it happens, $500 a month in 1971 is roughly equal to $2,600 now—not a fortune, but since they also get room and board, not terrible. Still, exchanging that for the $136 million to be split among the offspring does provide one solid motive for multiple murders.)

They’re quite a collection. One servant, Igor, is nutty as a loon and a masochist to boot (or whip); the cook is a sober woman who served as a substitute mother; the third, a handsome chauffeur, has a lamp made from a Nazi who stuck him with a bayonet and a large collection of Nazi memorabilia. As for the children…well, there’s a strong hint of incest in one case, leaving one attractive (and married) woman who’s a basket case and a young man who’s loonier than the butler.

I won’t bother with the plot. You can guess how it works out (or doesn’t), and to the extent you’re wrong it doesn’t much matter. The few gory scenes are shown multiple times to emphasize the gore. Otherwise, this is a remarkably slow-moving and dull story (and I like slow and dislike gore).

The print varies between mediocre and bad, but it’s decidedly better than the script, acting and direction. A reasonably strong cast is wholly wasted in this nonsense. Fortunately, this version is missing eight minutes—which means it was only an hour and 22 minutes that I’ll never get back or use for some better purpose like, say, Gilligan’s Island. Even fans of John Carradine will be disappointed: His dismal little role only take a few minutes. I’m being charitable to give this awful, incompetent picture $0.50.

Disc 6

The Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman (orig. La noche de Walpurgis), 1971, color. Leon Klimovsky (dir.), Paul Naschy, Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, Andres Resino, Yelena Samarina, Patty Shepard. 1:35 [1:21]

Right off the bat, this film shows a rare level of intelligence among its characters. A medical examiner and friend go into this creepy place, at night, against the wishes of the friend, to do an autopsy on a body that’s been shot with two silver bullets because the townspeople believe it to be a werewolf. So the medical examiner, instead of conducting a usual autopsy, immediately digs out the two bullets to demonstrate how ridiculous the whole werewolf notion is, then turns away to have a cigarette…as the now-revived man turns wolf, kills the two, then goes off on a howl.

That’s right, it’s another cheapo horror flick where people demonstrate that they’re too dumb to live…and, with rare exceptions, don’t. Two young women (one, charmingly, named Elvira) working on their dissertation go off to the wilds of northern France looking for the grave of a centuries-old vampire/witch, get lost, wind up at a remote house with no electricity where a handsome “writer” is working on a manuscript. Before you know it (well, there’s some nonsense involving the writer’s deranged sister, but never mind), they’ve combined forces to locate the probable gravesite—at a crossroads, where all good witchgraves are located. The cover says clearly that the grave should not be disturbed until judgment day, so…of course…they remove the cover. Since this disturbs one of the women, she goes off (alone) to explore the abandoned church as the other two open the coffin…and, since they know that the only thing keeping the vampire dead is the silver cross piercing her body, the other woman pulls out the cross.

The rest of the picture’s pretty much consistent with this “we know that the worst possible thing to do is X, therefore we’d better do X right away!” approach. It features vampires sort of drifting across the ground, dream sequences, a touch of cheesecake and what passes for a happy ending in this nonsense. Badly filmed, poorly directed, badly scripted, generally poorly acted, and the lead does a nice job of ducking out of camera range for transitions from human to werewolf. The full version might be more coherent, but seems unlikely to be much better. (Based on IMDB reviews, I’m guessing the full version mostly has a lot of nudity, where the version here has perhaps half a second of partial nudity.) Charitably, $0.50.

The Phantom Creeps, 1939, b&w. Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind (dir.), Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley, Regis Toomey, Jack C. Smith. 1:18.

This review, written before looking anything up on IMDB, is valid only if this flick—certainly not a horror flick—is an edited-down version of a serial. In that case, the absurd jumps in logic and knowledge and general frenetic atmosphere make sense. Otherwise…well, let’s not go there.

Lugosi is Dr. Zorka, a mad scientist who has discovered an element (from a meteorite) with apparently unlimited and wildly varied powers, and intends to Rule The World with it, with the help of his henchman (who he rescued from prison and clearly regards as a tool). Let’s see: He has a very strange tall robot with the world’s worst face and the ability to very slowly claw somebody into brief submission; he has a device that can do painless surgery; he has a semi-invisibility device (it turns him into a big shadow), he has a bizarre combination of little discs and spiders that can set off little explosions that turn people or plants “dead” but not really (or, rather, comatose until brought out of it), he has a two-part combo of invisible gas and Z-ray gun that kills people, er, knocks them out, er… but can also destroy the lock on a safe. Oh, and there’s a neometer, which cops and spies both immediately know is a device to track the location of the secret element they’ve never heard of. It’s that kind of movie.

That’s right: Zorka has a big box of Unobtainium, and he’s out to either rule the world or destroy it! All else in this helter-skelter plot flows from that, with a climax in which he’s cackling like a proper Mad Scientist and tossing little capsules out of a plane that destroy a Zeppelin (!), explode a warehouse or two, and send a couple of ships to their doom.

Lugosi’s acting seems well-suited to this kind of live-action cartoon. There’s nothing in any sense coherent or sophisticated here, but it’s good cheap fun. And, yep, IMDB confirms that this was a serial, originally running 4:25 in 12 episodes. I suspect it would be a lot more fun spread out over three months. On that basis, maybe, $1.25.

A Scream in the Night, 1935, b&w. Fred C. Newmeyer (dir.), Lon Chaney Jr., Sheila Terry, Zarah Tazil, Philip Ahn, John Ince, Manuel Lopez, Richard Cramer. 0:58.

Not in any way a horror film, this is a mystery of sorts with Lon Chaney Jr. as a master of disguise. In this case, he plays two roles: The hunched-over, one-eyed (the other having been knifed), swarthy, not too bright owner of a grog shop in a lesser area of an Asian port town and a police detective—who then disguises himself as the bar owner. It’s all in service of catching an international thief who grabs his victims with nooses—and who’s now stolen the Tear of Buddha, a very special ruby, and kidnapped the girl who was trying to put the ruby in the bank.

Unfortunately, the movie is an incoherent mess, possibly because of missing pieces (although IMDB shows the same running time as what I saw), possibly because it’s really badly made. The rest of the police act in slow motion, resulting in a long action seen that shouldn’t have happened (and, of course, somehow has armed villains never using their weapons); the soundtrack’s a mess, and the movie’s sometimes barely visible. The plot can barely sustain a 15-minute featurette; at 58 minutes, the movie’s actually too long.The title seems random. At best, I’d give this $0.50.

The Crimes of Stephen Hawke, 1936, b&w. George King (dir.), Tod Slaughter, Marjorie Taylor, D.J. Williams, Eric Portman. 1:09.

Another Tod Slaughter melodrama, with Slaughter as an over-the-top villain (this time “The Spinebreaker,” who’s also a lovable old moneylender) busily chewing the scenery and laughing his evil laugh at the most inappropriate times—but this time with a twist.

To wit, the whole melodrama is cast as a recollection during a radio show—a radio show that begins with a very strange “singing the news” pair, Flotsam & Jetsam, and continues with an interview with a “pet butcher” who’s provided horsemeat—obtained one way or another—for cats for the last half century. Then the announcer welcomes Tod Slaughter, known for slaying hundreds and being executed hundreds of times in his many melodramas. Then…the show begins. And (not to give away the ending, but it’s not the real ending anyway) at the end, we cut back to the studio…where the announcer’s fallen into a deep slumber, leaving Slaughter to walk off by himself.

This “we know this is all tiresome and silly” frame somewhat inoculates the movie from what I might say otherwise—that is, Slaughter’s so over-the-top that it’s hard to deal with the movie. This one’s also an unusually good b&w print, and the story is certainly no sillier than usual. I’ll give it $1.

But Still They Blog: Four more profiles and a rationale

Posted in Liblogs on July 17th, 2010

Here’s what you’ll find at the bottom of page 15 and all of page 16 in But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009: (with one subheading eliminated)

The Rabid Librarian’s Ravings in the Wind

“Born, like other comic book characters, out of an otherwise trivial but life-changing animal bite, the Rabid Librarian seeks out strange, useless facts, raves about real and perceived injustices, and seeks to meet her greatest challenge of all–her own life.” By Eilir Rowan. Began October 2001.

Metrics 2007 2008 2009 C08-09 C07-09
Posts 211 170 176 4% -17%
Quintile 1 1 1 2 2
Words per post 170 237 204 -14% 20%
Quintile 4 3 4 4 2

Impressively active, varied, personal blog on all aspects of life and libraries. (There were comments in 2009, but slightly fewer than 0.05 per post.) These aren’t high quarters, by the way: Annual posting totals were 663 for 2008, 653 for 2007, 808 for 2006…and more than 1,000 in 2004.

wiredfu

“another wretched hive of scum and villainy” Began December 2001.

Metrics 2007
Posts 5
Quintile 5
Words per post 53
Quintile 5

The most recent post is dated February 1, 2008. A sidebar item is a little clearer—wishing people Happy 2008 and saying: “I’ve made a New Years resolution to post more. But then again, I made that same resolution in 2007 and 2006. So, at this rate, I hope you enjoy 2009 as well.”

rawbrick.net

“A personal weblog.” Began January 2002.

Metrics 2007 2008 2009 C08-09 C07-09
Posts 58 40 35 -13% -40%
Quintile 2 2 2 2 2
Words per post 225 277 213 -23% -5%
Quintile 3 3 4 4 4
Comments per post 0.1 0.2 0.03 -84% -79%
Quintile 4 4 4 5 5

Mostly, but not entirely, movie (on DVD) reviews, including placeholders.

The Shifted Librarian

“Shifting libraries at the speed of byte!” By Jenny Levine. Began January 2002.

Metrics 2007 2008 2009 C08-09 C07-09
Posts 86 34 8 -76% -91%
Quintile 1 2 4 4 5
Words per post 546 374 342 -9% -37%
Quintile 1 2 2 4 5
Comments per post 2.2 5.9 6.3 6% 184%
Quintile 1 1 1 3 1

This blog has shifted over the years—from a primary focus on “shifted” librarianship, to a primary focus on gaming in libraries, to a mixture of topics.

Who cares? Won’t there be a replacement?

As to whether you should care or not, that’s your call. I’m doing some additional promotion and excerpting from the book to remind people that’s still around. I believe it’s the best look at liblogs (or the biblioblogosphere, if you prefer)–and the only one with brief comments on most, but not all, blog profiles.

To some extent, this book does replace The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008–but only to some extent:

  • The 2009 book does not include measurements on use of illustrations in liblogs.
  • The 2009 book has somewhat more stringent requirements for blog inclusion.
  • If you’re looking for a particular blog profile, you may find the 2008 book–with its 145-page final chapter consisting of all the profiles in straight alphabetic order–easier to use. Profiles are scattered throughout the 2009 book, for logical and stated reasons; you can find them through the index, but that’s a little slower.

As to there being a replacement: Maybe and no.

  • Maybe: I’m thinking about (OK, working on) a new liblog survey that is in some ways more ambitious than the 2009 project, but in other ways much less ambitious. Phase 1 is nearly complete. Phase 2 might take a few weeks or several months (depending on other projects). This survey might yield a (considerably smaller) book. It might not.
  • No: One of the ways in which the new project is much less ambitious is that there will not be profiles of individual blogs, and the index will not include the names of bloggers (I’m not even recording those). The only way there could be a new set of profiles, covering up to four years of blogging activity, is with direct advance sponsorship for the work required; the probability of that happening is somewhere close to the probability of, say, the Dow reaching 20,000 by the end of Summer 2010.

When the 2008 book emerged, a couple of people said they’d find it a lot more interesting if they had my comments on individual blogs. The 2009 book has those comments–brief ones, and omitting any absolutely damning comments, but still. And, of course, I did not include the 2008 profiles in the Cites & Insights version of the 2008 book.


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