Just one of those weeks…

I planned to do some actual blogging this week. Really, I did.

But somehow…well, I’ve certainly spent lots of time on blogs, but not blogging.

disContent: The Complete Collection

First, I finished up this “freemium” book (described in this post) as a different kind of experiment, a collection of well-edited columns on topics that should interest most librarians, in a form that simply won’t be available for free or through other means. Will it get 100 sales? Will it get one sale? We shall see.

(My own copy was shipped today, considerably faster than I’ve ever seen a casebound Lulu book shipped in the past. Depending on how it looks, there might be a different cover for other copies. Or, who knows, there could be a different cover every week or two. Collect them all! Hey, it seemed to work for TV Guide for a while. OK, Now I’m being foolish…)

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010

Most of my time has gone to this “as universal as I can make it” survey of English-language liblogs, which you could call a research project or an obsession or a hobby. I finished the first draft of Chapter 6 (length of blogs and average length of posts) and figured to edit chapters 2-6 this week, at least enough to be ready to use a draft version of chapter 2 in the next Cites & Insights. That went more rapidly than expected…and I decided to start Chapter 7 (conversations–that is, comments).

Oh yeah, there was half a day in there discussing California propositions and offices with my wife, filling out our ballots, taking them over to the polling place…and, given the current margin in the local Congressional race (last I heard: our preferred candidate is 121 votes ahead of the guy who wants to shut down public schools, with considerably more than 160,000 votes cast…and some absentee ballots, like ours, probably won’t be counted for days yet), I’m even more glad than usual that we did vote. Odd to have California as one of the saner states, but this time around…

Well…Tuesday afternoon, after voting and all that, I was doing the prep work for some of the tables in Chapter 7, and doing some informal consistency checks, and saw something wrong or at least wildly unlikely. Given past problems with data seeming to shift around when I sort spreadsheet pages with some hidden columns and complex links and formulas, I took a belt-and-suspenders approach this time:

There’s a master spreadsheet with all the raw data, links and formulas–discussed here. I have two backup copies of that master spreadsheet. I don’t actually work with that spreadsheet at all.

Instead, I created a “fixed” spreadsheet that’s a page-by-page copy of the master, with one huge differences: Everything’s pasted as values and formats, turning all the links and formulas into simple data. That eliminates one set of potential problems–and if I doubt the Fixed spreadsheet, I can always recopy a page.

But I don’t actually work with the Fixed spreadsheet either. I work with a copy of it, called Work10, on the assumption that Work10 can be repeatedly recreated from Fixed any time I think there might be an issue.

Turns out that, ahem, I screwed up a few thousand of the formulas on the Comments page of the master spreadsheet. (OK, I actually screwed up somewhere between two and eight master formulas, but each formula gets copied-and-shifted 1,304 times, so that’s somewhere between 2,608 and 10,432 problematic formulas.) What really happened was that I copied them from the Length page, but I’d changed the order of other columns…

Anyway: Fixed the formulas, very carefully, checked them twice, did the 1,304-line copies, looked at results, then recopied values to Fixed and Work10.

And went to each other formula-based page in the spreadsheet to check for similar problems. Whew. The rest of the formulas appear to be correct. (These aren’t terribly complex formulas but they aren’t entirely trivial. Here’s an example:

=IF(I4>0,IF(G4>0,((I4-G4)/G4),IF(G4=0,10,0)),(IF(G4>0,IF(I4=0,-1,0),0)))

There’s probably a simpler way to do this, but I’m no Excelpert. (This is basically calculating a percentage change where the denominator might be zero and where either figure might be a special negative figure that means “there was no data here.”)

Wednesday’s hike was a long and good one, and by the time I was back and finished lunch it was 2 p.m., so Wednesday afternoon was entirely spent correcting the problems uncovered on Tuesday.

Ah, but then something else happened on Wednesday…

Today, I finished the draft of Chapter 7. I probably won’t touch the remaining chapters, including the all-important Chapter 1 (the chapter that won’t appear in C&I), until the December C&I is out. (There may be two or three more chapters in addition to Chapter 1. I’m not sure yet. I may also be adding to existing chapters.)

Worthless Writing

“Ah, but then something else happened on Wednesday…”

To wit, an LSW thread on FriendFeed in which someone whose views I usually respect was asserting that books in the library field should be public domain PDFs, given away by their authors. It got to be a strange discussion. I stopped contributing on Wednesday to control my temper, but came back to it today.

I might write a proper post about the implications of all this, but not now, and maybe not ever. It’s certainly not that I don’t believe some library books are overpriced and underdone. (Part of the reason I left the LITA Publications Committee and, now, LITA entirely, has to do with one publisher.) It’s certainly not that I don’t believe the free literature is worthwhile–after all, I probably contribute to it as much as anybody in the field I can think of offhand. As for other thoughts…well, see the subhead above. (For a few hours, I was honestly wondering whether I was damaging the field and setting up unreasonable expectations by continuing to write and give away Cites & Insights. I concluded that I’m not going to think about that. For now.)

I have thought of an interesting analogy, particularly given the suggestion that the Needs of the Many (librarians who can’t afford to pay for professional books) outweigh the “walking-around money” of the few, since, you know, all us writers have cushy jobs that should provide all the money we need (hmm: I must be missing something here). To wit:

Library schools should be free. Most courses are taught by adjunct faculty anyway, and the need of many potential librarians for cheap education outweighs the desire of a few dozen librarians serving as adjunct faculty for walking-around money.

To my ear, that’s an outrageous suggestion. I’m sure someone can tell me that it’s MUCH more difficult to prepare and present a library school course than it is to write a library monograph…or not. In any case, it’s not a serious suggestion…but it is an interesting analogy.

That’s why I haven’t posted much this week…

Sure, it’s only Thursday. But I really should wash the windows here, there’s reading (and laundry) to be done, there are essays to revise, and I clearly need to cool off further.

3 Responses to “Just one of those weeks…”

  1. Angel Says:

    I don’t know about a library school course, but I can tell you prepping a college level class as an adjunct is work (I worked as adjunct faculty for a while), and no, it is not “walking money” given the amount of work I had to do, and at the time I did it because I, oh, I don’t know, needed the money. In other words, it was not just for “walking money.”

    And I did see the thread in question about “giving away books.” Even before you showed up, I knew you’d have something to say. I honestly don’t get the idea that writers (and other creative types) should just “give away” their work.

    Personally, I was more unhappy with the whole management thread since I always get the impression that the moment someone mentions bad manager (or some horror story), the ones who walk on water get defensive. And I say that because I do dislike the idea the bad ones get to hide just because the “good ones” (and I have the jury out on that since I have not worked for those folk. I can only say about the ones I have worked with, a number of which have been, in the words of my teen daughter, “epic fails”) get all defensive.

    Maybe not the best day to be on FF, but there is always tomorrow. You keep up the good work you always do.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  2. walt Says:

    I trust I was clear that my suggestion is outrageous–and that I don’t believe it’s reasonable to assume that money earned by other people is “walking around money.” For me, at this point, money earned through writing, one way or another, is the only earned income I have–and will certainly be part of any decisions on ever going to a library conference again.

  3. Steve Lawson Says:

    The LSW FriendFeed thread in question is here, in case readers are curious as to what got Walt so upset:

    http://friendfeed.com/lsw/d757395c/is-there-any-point-in-continuing-to-print


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