Archive for December, 2010

Free as a cloud!

Posted in Technology and software on December 17th, 2010

Maybe we need blunt reminders from time to time of things we should know but some of us forget:

  • Free is a tricky business model: When you’re not paying for something directly, it’s useful to consider whether you see indirect means of support (Gmail’s ads, Google & Bing ads…actually, “ads” are going to be the most common answer). If not, best not to place too much faith in the ongoing existence of the wonderful thing you’re using for free.
  • Clouds dissipate: Sold on the cloud model of computing? Really? Do you actually know where your cloudy data is being stored–and who’s paying for that storage?
  • A name no more identifies a reality than a map always describes the territory: When services are sold or acquired, they can change realities suddenly and disconcertingly. The name may be the same, but the reality may be quite different.

Personal examples

I got hit with two reminders this week, which–taken in tandem–could be interpreted as a sign from The Internet Gods saying “Time to shut down Cites & Insights; the party’s over.” I’m not interpreting them that way, since neither reminder has anything to do with me personally. As for the “free” issue…well, you know, that’s a different discussion.

First example: Bloglines

Its owners told us a few months ago that they were planning to shut down Bloglines, which I’ve used for years as the way to keep up with 500 or so liblogs–which, along with a few dozen other blogs, serve as key sources for most of the stuff I write about.

I exported my feed list and imported it into Google Reader. I was not as happy with Google Reader as I had been with Bloglines.

Then the owners told us that somebody was buying Bloglines, and it would continue. Hooray! I went back to using Bloglines.

This week, the new owners forced us to migrate to The New and Improved Bloglines.

Blecch.

The new version has all the “ooh, let’s make this look very live” Java stuff that bothered me a little about Google Reader–but with some twists all its own:

  • It apparently stopped recognizing that you’d read things. Go back a day later, and it would start showing the same items. Over and over…and the numbers would keep mounting up as you tried to read them.
  • There seems to be no way to alphabetize or otherwise organize feeds–or at least none I could find.
  • About the third time I tried to clean things up, Bloglines just plain hung Firefox–so badly that I couldn’t even close the window without shutting down the system and doing a Forced Quit on Firefox. I have never had to do a Forced Quit in Windows 7, and maybe once in all the time I used Vista. Somehow, I don’t believe that Firefox has suddenly become unstable software.

So I’ve deleted the Bloglines bookmark in Firefox, restored Google Reader to its position (actually, I never took it away) and just finished going through the hundreds of unread posts (I didn’t just mark all read without glancing at them, as that would miss a day or so of posts). The minor infelicities of Google Reader are as nothing compared to the degraded nature of Bloglines.

Of course, it’s still a freebie…

Second example: Delicious

Most of Cites & Insights is based on synthesis and commentary, relying on posts and articles from other people. Until 2009, I just printed out posts and articles I thought I’d want to use later–and, at some point, changed to printing out “leadsheets” (just the first page).

After trying out Delicious, I decided to save some paper (and some money–paper’s cheap and recyclable, but inkjet ink is expensive) by tagging items in Delicious, using it as a virtual file cabinet. I’m a “bad user” of Delicious, since many of my tags are C&I-specific, not much use to other users (e.g., “miw,” “tqt,” “mbp,” “sn-twitter”). Delicious’ overview also helps me discover when I have more than enough items to consider a writeup, or so many that I need to subdivide them. As of now, I think I have around 1,200 items in Delicious.

As you may have heard, Yahoo! is shutting down Delicious. They haven’t said exactly when, and there’s always the possibility that it will be sold to some other company, but that’s the current state.

A number of sources have provided lists of Delicious alternatives. Phil Bradley’s done a fine writeup, and I’d suggest that post as a good starting point.

For now, I’ve started a Diigo account. Since I’d already exported my Delicious file (yesterday), the Diigo import-from-Delicious directions were easy (they basically boil down to: 1. Export the file in Delicious. 2. Import it here. 3. Wait for us to process it.) Since my library hasn’t been processed yet, I don’t know what it will look like and whether I’ll be happy with it. I have managed to move a Diigo bookmark button up to the single toolbar I prefer to have visible, although it appears that I need to click it twice to actually add tags to a bookmark (the whole point of bookmarking!). I may be missing a setting.

And, of course, I hope that I’ll remember to export the Diigo bookmarks once a quarter or once a month or so. Will I?

Ah, it’s so easy to trust the cloud and the wonders of freedom…

Not directly related, but…

At the moment, C&I has no direct or indirect support. I’m hoping that will change.

In addition to the Paypal donations that could be a direct form of support (total to date since providing that option: $240.00), indirect forms include buying the limited edition disContent: The Complete Collection or, if you think liblog studies are worthwhile, buying The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010.

You could also, to be sure, buy the 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, or 2006 paperback versions of C&I itself.

To date, three of the 100 potential copies of disContent: The Complete Collection have been sold–none in December.

To date, exactly one copy (a download, not a printed book) of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 has been sold–necessarily in December, since that’s when it appeared.

Or, you know, you could just tell me directly that you regard C&I and the liblog research as worthless, as in “not worth spending any money on.” Or, more optimistically, “it should all be free, it’s up to somebody else to pay for it.” For now, I’m not listening to indirect messages of this sort. It’s December, and things tend to look better in the new year.

Comparing potatoes and truffles

Posted in Media on December 13th, 2010

Remember Wired Magazine‘s absurd “The Web is dead” cover article (September 2010)?

I can’t think of anything that was right about the article. One of the things that was most wrong was the big graph that showed how the web was dying–by plotting all internet traffic, in bytes, on a market-share graph (that is, one where the Y axis is always filled, since it goes up to 100% and the segments show percentage of each area over time).

One thing that was wrong with it is that this kind of graph is almost always misleading or meaningless when an overall space is either growing or shrinking, since it represents percentages, not absolutes. If Amazon goes from selling 90% of ebooks when ebook sales are $1 million per year to selling 30% of ebooks when ebook sales are $1 billion per year, I can assure you nobody at Amazon is saying “Damn. We’ve died in the ebook space.” But that’s what a market-share graph would show: A dramatic, awful, terrible decline in Amazon ebook sales.

The other is even more absurd, and is where I get “potatoes and truffles.” Well, you know, they’re both edibles that come from the ground, so clearly truffles are dead, since the weight of potatoes sold each year must surpass the weight of truffles by several orders of magnitude. Actually, they’re both tubers, so what’s the difference? (“Several orders of magnitude”: I can’t readily find the current total production/sale of truffles, but it apparently peaked at “several hundred tonnes” early in the last century, so I’d guess it’s no more than, say, 314 tonnes now. Which is a deliberate choice because 2008 worldwide production of potatoes was 314 million tones. So figure at least a million times as many potatoes, by weight. And there’s even the time element, since truffle production has dropped enormously while potato production continues to rise.)

The other fallacy? Choosing one measurement and assuming that it’s meaningful in other contexts. In this case, choosing data volume (bits or bytes) and assuming it relates somehow to “where people spend their time.”

I choose that quotation because here’s how Wired responded to the criticisms of their chartjunk in this case:

While not perfect, traffic volume is a decent proxy for where people spend their time.

Bullshit.

Last Saturday, we had a friend over and spent a wonderful two hours and 31 minutes watching the glorious Blu-ray version of The Music Man. I felt as though I’d never really seen the picture before. It was great. It was also 2.5 hours.

I’m guessing The Music Man probably took up around 40GB (a dual-layer Blu-ray Disk has 50GB capacity).

Today, I’ll start reading a mystery novel that I’m certain is going to be enormously entertaining as well. At 250 pages, the text in it would probably occupy about–well, let’s call it 80,000 bytes, although that’s probably on the high side.

By Wired‘s “reasoning,” it’s a fair approximation to say that I should spend around 0.018 seconds reading that book, since it has only one-five hundred thousandths as much data as The Music Man–and “traffic volume is a decent proxy for where people spend their time.”

In the real world, I’ll probably spend three or four hours reading the novel, maybe a little longer.

An extreme case?

OK, so a Blu-ray Disc is an extreme case. Internet traffic almost never includes 30mb/s streams, which is roughly BD level. But it does include loads of video, probably at traffic rates between 250kb/s and 6mb/s, and audio, at traffic rates of at least 64kb/s for anything with halfway decent sound (“halfway decent” is the operative term here).

So if I watch a one-minute YouTube clip, it’s likely that the traffic amounts to at least 1.9 megabytes (at the lowest datarate supported by YouTube) and more likely at least twice that much.

How much time would it take me to read 1.9 megabytes worth of text, even with HTML/XML overhead?  Without overhead, that’s about 300,000 words, or the equivalent of three long books. With PDF overhead (which, for embedded typefaces, is considerably more than HTML overhead), that’s four typical issues of Cites & Insights–but for the text itself (with Word .docx overhead), it’s at least a year of C&I. I pretty much guarantee that anybody who reads C&I at all spends more than a minute doing so, even though the data traffic only amounts to a few seconds worth of  YouTube.

Equating “traffic” for text, or even still photos, with “traffic” for sound or video, as being in any way meaningful in terms of time spent is just nonsense. Wired says “We stand by the chart.” That says a lot about Wired–and almost nothing about the present or future of the web.

Two tiny book items

Posted in Stuff on December 11th, 2010

Item One

I gave up on a book yesterday. For some reason, probably decades of indoctrination, I find that difficult to do. No money was involved: It’s a library book. I reached the traditional PearlPoint, page 50, rather than the new & improved PearlPoint, which for me is currently page 35.

The book and author aren’t important (well, the author clearly thinks that he’s extremely important and that almost everybody else is a mediocre fool). It’s nonfiction, but supposedly “literary” (whatever that might mean).

After suffering through the first 50 pages, I did a little online searching to see whether there was any reason I should finish the book–whether I’d learn something useful from it. The answer is Maybe.

But I couldn’t do it. The writing style, the sheer jackassery of the author, the “I’m the only Real Thinker in the world” approach countered the book’s best-seller status (which never means much anyway). A review of the discussion page for the author’s Wikipedia entry was very revealing; the page itself reads like a hagiography, apparently because of the continuing efforts of the author’s minions.

So I gave up. And feel very relieved. That’s 250 pages of insulting, egomaniacal writing I won’t have to endure.

Item Two

I won’t dwell on sales for The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 or lack thereof; these are early days. I will just note that “Liblog Profiles” in the category list points to all of the liblog-profile posts I do as a result of book sales, at the rate of one post (and four liblogs) per sale. I am currently (as of December 11, 2010) up to date on doing those posts; I would prefer to be a little backlogged.

The blog in review

Posted in Writing and blogging on December 10th, 2010

Dorothea Salo, one of the most thoughtful and worth-reading libloggers around, has an annual tradition I’d forgotten: posting and commenting on the first sentence of the first post of each month that year.

What a good idea! A post that isn’t me pushing books (a generally futile but unamusing exercise) and might actually be fun. So, here, goes.

  • January: “I’d like to call your attention to this post by Jennifer Macaulay on Just Another Day (you may know Macaulay from her previous blog, Life as I Know It).” Pointing to the first and, AFAIK, the only review of But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009. [Apropos the final paragraph in that post, I downloaded OpenOffice yesterday and may see whether it gives me a reasonable road to ePub. Meanwhile, BSTB is up to almost 20 copies sold...]
  • February: “When last I discussed the possibility of a book combining all 33 of the Open Access-related essays in Cites & Insights from 2001 through 2009 (plus one “disContent” column from EContent Magazine), the issue was whether it was worth doing an ePub version: Whether anybody would want it.” Raising the question of whether it was worth doing Open Access and Libraries if it didn’t have an index. Comments convinced me the answer was Yes. I did. I have no idea how many PDF freebies were downloaded, but hope it’s a few and that people have found them worthwhile. (Since this book was done with no expectation of sales, I’m not even recording them.)
  • March: “Maybe I need to learn something from mainstream merchants: That is, the value of constant, repetitive advertising.” I didn’t, and it didn’t seem to matter anyway.
  • April: “This blog began on April 1, 2005–five years ago.” So it did.
  • May: “Last weekend, Safeway had a really good price on Ruby Red grapefruit from Texas–and they looked like pretty good grapefruit as well.” Ah, good: A post that has nothing to do with PoD books. Not much to do with libraries, either–it’s about my changed expectations for what constitutes “great fruit” after going to Farmers’ Markets. Specifically, while good Ruby Red grapefruit from Texas via Safeway is still good fruit, the yellow organic grapefruit from Lone Oak Farms at the local Farmers’ Market is great–and that’s a good reminder that I can look forward to that grapefruit in another month or four. (Local navel oranges are just starting to get really good about now.)
  • June: “Maybe that’s too broad a question.” What question? The post title: “Does every librarian need to be an involved expert on everything?” My contribution to a discussion in which a certain library guru directly insulted any librarian (or “info pro”) who chose to quit Facebook because of its appalling privacy practices. Remember the money quote from the guru? Here it is:

I also would expect to be able to receive informed, current and excellent advice and training on how to deal with the emerging social tools from my professionals in the social institutions I frequent (public libraries, schools, univerisities, colleges, etc.).

[That's a direct cut-and-paste.] I’ll stand behind everything I said in that post, particularly concerning the guru’s response (where he seems to say that HR departments would reasonably reject applications from librarians who aren’t where “the majority of users” are–which, among other things, means rejecting any non-Christian applicant who isn’t part of a heterosexual marriage and anybody who believes in evolution).

Oh, go read the post…and the comments. I’m proud of this one.

  • July: “Very short post, with the heart of it in the title above, so as to encourage FriendFeed participation.” Again, that’s meaningless without the post title: “What year did downloaded music start outselling CDs/vinyl?” Most commenters were way ahead of me on this one.
  • August: “The good news: I’ve started in on The New Project (a fast-turnaround, relatively brief book for a real library publisher, on a topic I’m quite comfortable with–more later).” The start of a post on progress/regress on various fronts. That project is in production right now; it will be my first traditionally-published book in quite some time. Eight years, actually…
  • September: “Not much blogging lately.” The post title is “Arggh: A quick update,” and much of it has to do with the perils of sorting an Excel spreadsheet while some columns are hidden.
  • October: “Just for fun, and in the absence of anything serious to say (hey, I’m 99% finished with a Real Book Project…), here’s some great stuff from today’s spamments:” Another one worth reading–some of the most remarkable attempts at spam comments I’ve run into, before or since, including one that begins “Go screw yourself!!!” and goes on from there.
  • November: “Available immediately–but only for four months or 100 copies, whichever comes first: disContent: The Complete Collection.” Still available, but only 97 copies and 2.6 months left. The first and quite possibly the last hardbound (casebound) book from C&I Books.
  • December: “If you’re somebody who might remotely consider buying The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, I have a question for you–and answers don’t in any way obligate you to buy the book when it comes out.” The question had to do with the separate PDF with larger versions of the 34 figures/graphs in the book.

One caveat: It’s possible that the posts for January, February and March weren’t actually the first posts in those months. I removed posts–something I rarely do–that were nothing more than publicity for the Library Learning Network after I was summarily dismissed from my position with that project, which was later shut down. (If you’re wondering, I do plan to post about the status of the related project–the status being “nothing’s happening, and I’m probably going to delete the archives.”) It’s possible that those posts came earlier. But those were mirror posts anyway, so I don’t think they count.

I love Netflix, but not so much…

Posted in Movies and TV on December 8th, 2010

…as I used to before the company decided that “free” streaming was such a wondrous thing that they should raise the prices for those of us who actually want discs.

In our case, even though we only watch one movie a week, we watch old TV on DVD–typically two series at a time in addition to ones we’ve purchased–so we’re on the three-DVD plan. And since we can tell (and appreciate) the difference, we get Blu-ray when available. As of January, that puts us up to $24/month (oh, sorry, only $23.95).

Which, frankly, given that we usually require about six or seven (at the most) disc swaps per month, seems a bit high.

Why not use streaming?

Because when we’ve tried it on our HDTV, using our AT&T DSL Pro broadband, the quality was awful–perhaps VHS-quality, certainly not up to S-VHS quality, not even in the same ballpark as DVDs. Any comparison with Blu-ray or broadcast HDTV would be ridiculous.

At this point, I’d love to sign up for a disc-only Netflix. Ideally, that should cost $16/month (since streaming-only is $8/month–you can subtract the $0.05 if you prefer), but even $20/month would be OK.

But Netflix doesn’t offer disc-only service. You get streaming “free”–whether you find it usable or not.

Just get faster broadband?

That’s one solution. Only it’s not really. AT&T won’t even sell us their 6Mb DSL: We’re too far from the central office. AT&T U-verse isn’t available yet either–and if it was, it looks as though we’d need to pay something like $90/month for basic cable-equivalent and true high-speed broadband. Right now, we’re paying $30/month (as part of a bundle) for DSL and $15/month for basic basic Comcast. Doubling that so that we can get roughly DVD-quality streaming from Netflix doesn’t seem like a great deal.

Comcast broadband? Also considerably more money to get the speed we’d need, and, well, Comcast.

Just lower your standards?

I think that’s the Preferred Answer: We shouldn’t give a damn about picture quality. We should settle for lqTV: a big screen with a crappy picture.

I’m seeing a lot of people saying The Future of All TV is streaming, even though it’s pretty clear that 20mb cheap broadband isn’t going to be universal or affordable any time soon…which says to me that these people don’t think picture quality is important. Are these the same people who think 64k MP3 is all the music quality you need, and that nobody can really tell the difference between Sennheisers and the earbuds that come with MP3 players? Dunno; I just don’t want them telling me that I have to lower my standards.

Letting Netflix know

Consider this a message to Netflix. We’ve been subscribers for a very long time. We like the way Netflix has operated, and I think we’ve always been low-volume enough to be profitable. We still like the way Netflix operates, and have no real desire to switch to Blockbuster or Redbox or whatever.

I would send email to Netflix, but you can’t really do that any more, except to a report a specific problem. I find that worrisome: It’s always unnerving when an internet-based corporation, or any customer-oriented company, makes it impossible to contact them via email.

I checked the Netflix blog. The post announcing the rate hike had more than 1,200 comments. Of those I looked at, at least one out of four of the literate comments (man, there are a LOT of people who can’t spell, punctuate, or whatever) was from somebody in our situation. I added mine.

We’re not anxious to leave. We’re not threatening to leave, for that matter–at least not yet. But we also aren’t thrilled about paying for something we have no use for. That’s why we dropped our cable to “limited basic”–we didn’t feel like paying $35/month more for 100 (or whatever) channels that we might watch for a total of one or two hours a month.

Liblog Profiles 1-4

Posted in Liblogs on December 8th, 2010

As promised, here are profiles for the first four liblogs in The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, where “first” is based on Excel’s sort order with punctuation, special typefaces and initial articles included. For each copy sold, four more profiles will be posted.

One additional and probably useless clue on the mystery liblog (the one and only liblog that is in the first quintile for all three key metrics for all four years): If I post a profile on this blog, I will be happy with total sales of the book.

“Self-plagiarism is style”

“Dave Pattern’s blog” By Dave Pattern. UK. WordPress. Began May 2005, lasted 61 months (so far). Group 3 (because no posts March-May 2010).

Overall Posts

369

Per Month

6.05

Quintile

2

Quintile

2

2007 2008 2009 2010
Posts

34

18

23

0

Quintile

2

3

2

Words

8,842

3,668

6,357

Quintile

2

3

2

Post length

260

204

284

Quintile

3

4

3

Comments

119

56

89

Quintile

1

1

1

Conv. Intensity

3.5

3.11

3.87

Quintile

1

1

1

:: The Patent Librarian’s Notebook ::

By Michael White. Canada. Blogger. Began November 2005, lasted 55 months (so far). Group 1.

Overall Posts

282

Per Month

5.13

Quintile

2

Quintile

3

2007 2008 2009 2010
Posts

9

20

11

14

Quintile

4

3

4

2

Words

1,141

3,902

1,525

2,093

Quintile

5

3

4

3

Post length

127

195

139

150

Quintile

5

4

5

5

Comments

3

8

19

14

Quintile

4

3

2

2

Conv. Intensity

0.33

0.4

1.73

1.0

Quintile

4

4

2

3

::schwagbag::

“dishing up library and technology related miscellany” By Sherri Vokey. Canada. SixApart/Movable Type. Began November 2004, lasted 33 months. Group 4.

Overall Posts

252

Quintile

2

Per Month

7.64

Quintile

2

2007
Posts

1

Quintile

5

Words

53

Quintile

5

Post length

53

Quintile

5

Comments

0

Quintile

5

Conv. Intensity

0

Quintile

5

@ the library

By Rhoda Gonzalez. US. WordPress. Began August 2006, lasted 36 months. Group 4.

Overall Posts

109

Per Month

3.03

Quintile

3

Quintile

4

2007 2008 2009 2010
Posts

22

3

3

0

Quintile

3

5

5

Words

3,980

496

694

Quintile

3

5

5

Post length

181

165

231

Quintile

4

4

4

Comments

5

2

0

Quintile

4

4

5

Conv. Intensity

0.23

0.67

0

Quintile

4

3

5


50 Movie Comedy Kings, Disc 1

Posted in Movies and TV on December 7th, 2010

Colonel Effingham’s Raid, 1946, b&w. Irving Pichel (dir.), Charles Coburn, Joan Bennett, William Eythe, Allyn Joslyn, Elizabeth Patterson. 1:12 [1:10].

The setting is a Georgia town of 30,000 in 1940, where a good-ole-boys group of genially corrupt politicians has run things for generations, thanks to an apathetic population (less than 20% bother to vote). There’s only one party, and the town still smarts because it didn’t get burned down on the way to Atlanta in the Recent Unpleasantness. Into this, a long-time Army Colonel (born in this town) retires and Takes an Interest.

The narrator is this Colonel’s young cousin (who really never knew him), a bright young reporter on one of two daily newspapers who doesn’t feel the need to cause trouble—he goes along without much thought. There’s also the pretty young society editor, daughter of the former editor/owner of the paper (now part of a chain run out of Atlanta).

The basis for the plot: The power group wants to rename the Confederate Square to honor a former mayor, well known for taking the town for as much as he could. The Colonel, who’s wangled a war column, takes umbrage and makes a counter-proposal, to plant a circle of 13 trees to honor…well, you know, this is the unrepentant South. The good ole boys figure to play this to their advantage: They’ll plant the trees, but also build a new courthouse with, of course, the mayor’s brother-in-law getting the contract. The Colonel doesn’t see the need to replace the 150-year-old courthouse, brings in his friend who’s the retired head of the Army Corps of Engineers to offer a second opinion, and things take off from there.

It’s amusing and well played, nothing terribly serious but reasonably good fun. The motivations of the narrator are a little odd: After he sees all of the society editor’s calves and two inches of thigh, he discovers she has legs—and this brings him to join the Georgia National Guard (which then gets called off to WWII) and become an advocate for reform. Truly. There are also a couple of mildly amusing running gags. Sometimes distorted music on the soundtrack, but a very good print with rich tonal range. I’ll give it $1.25.

Country Gentlemen, 1936, b&w. Ralph Staub (dir.), Ole Olsen, Chic Johnson, Joyce Compton, Lila Lee, Pierre Watkin, Donald Kirke. 1:06 [0:56].

How you feel about this one depends mostly on how you like shtick and the duo of Olsen & Johnson (whom I don’t believe I’ve previously encountered). The two play con artists on the lam with a bunch of worthless gold-mine bonds who wind up with an oil-well scheme and…well, it’s mostly an excuse for a remarkable series of lame jokes. Certainly fast moving and lots of punch lines; if the high-pitched laugh of Olsen doesn’t drive you nuts, you might enjoy this. I’m not sure what the missing ten minutes might have added. I give it $0.75.

Freckles Comes Home, 1942, b&w. Jean Yarbrough (dir.), Johnny Downs, Gale Storm, Mantan Moreland, Irving Bacon, Bradley Page. 1:05 [0:59]

A bank robber needs to get out of town, so gets driven out and takes a bus…where he sits next to a college kid going home to his 500-person burg, Fairfield. The bank robber figures this is a great place to hide out. Ah, but the reason the college kid’s come home is largely that his pal has done something incredibly stupid that endangers the family-run hotel he’s temporarily managing.

That’s the setup. The reality? On one hand, there’s the ever-charming Gale Storm. On the other, there’s not really much to redeem this flick. I won’t go through the rest of the plot (such as it is) or the ethnic-humor byplay (featuring Mantan Moreland and Laurence Criner). Let’s just say that, what with sound problems and occasional dropouts, I wasn’t impressed. Would the missing six minutes help? Well, I dropped off during the last quarter for a few minutes—it’s really exciting throughout—and when I rewatched it, it made no difference. At best, and being very generous, $0.75.

Goodbye Love, 1933, b&w. H. Bruce Humberstone (dir.), Charles Ruggles, Verree Teasdale, Sidney Blackmer, Phyllis Barry, Ray Walter, Mayo Methot. 1:07 [1:05]

This one reminds me that comedies, perhaps more than most genres, are very much creatures of their time and setting. I’m not sure whether this is a farce or an odd American version of a bedroom comedy, but it’s all a little strange—and I suspect Charlie Ruggles was the chief draw in 1933, given his eccentric mannerisms and the credits.

The plot has to do with alimony, “alimony jail” (which seems to involve lavish lunches with most of the inmates dressed to the nines, while other inmates scrub floors), assumed identities, stock manipulation, a businessman finally Discovering his secretary and…well, I think there’s more. Portions of the plot seemed mysterious to me, but that may be my fault. Not really knowing what to make of it, I’ll give it $1.00.

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: Now Available

Posted in Liblogs on December 6th, 2010

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010

The most comprehensive study of liblogs (and, I suspect, the most comprehensive study of blogs in any specific field) is now available–and discounted from now through the end of ALA Midwinter 2011.

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 looks at every English-language liblog

[that is, blog by a self-identified library/archives/museum person, or blog about library/archives/museum issues, that isn't an official blog offering an institution's or groups views]

that had a presence on the open web in early summer 2010 and at least one post before June 1, 2010.

That’s 1,304 liblogs in all, from more than two dozen countries.

Even though this book doesn’t include profiles for individual liblogs (unlike The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008, now out of print, and But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009, still available), it covers so much ground and with so much analysis of the recent history of English-language liblogs that the book is still a fairly thick paperback–241 print pages (including 4 pages of front matter and a 20-page index of blogs).

The book looks at key metrics for March-May 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010: Primarily number of posts, average length per post and average comments per post, as well as changes in those metrics and patterns of metrics, but also total length and total comments.

Additionally, the book includes discussion of the overall lifespan, number of posts, and posts per month for most of the blogs–and other secondary metrics such as the software, country in which the blog was (apparently) written, when blogs began and how current the most recent post was (as of May 31, 2010).

On sale now

The 241-page 6×9″ (trade) paperback, on 60# cream book paper, costs $35.00–or you can buy the PDF download for $22.50.

From now through the end of ALA Midwinter 2011, both versions come with an early-bird 25% discount, for a final price of $26.25 (plus shipping and handling) paperback, $16.88 (no shipping or handling) PDF.

But wait! There’s more…

I didn’t include individual liblog profiles this time around because the book would have been far too thick (at about three profiles per page, that’s another 430+ pages!) and because the profiles are too much work for the apparently limited audience.

But the profiles are also interesting. So here’s an offer:

For each copy sold, I’ll post four individual blog profiles on Walt at Random…doing them in absolute alphabetic order. (I’d probably post four profiles at a time.)

“Absolute alphabetic order” is the sort order Excel provides including initial articles, punctuation and all.

So if the book sells 326 copies, I’ll post all the profiles…sooner or later.


Wondering when the first Cites & Insights for 2011 (volume 11) will appear?

The most I can say at this point is: Almost certainly before ALA Midwinter 2011. Certainly not this week, almost certainly not next week, maybe not in 2010.

disContent: Dear AT&T Broadband…

Posted in Passé on December 6th, 2010

Have you ordered your copy of disContent: The Complete Collection yet?

It’s a unique publication, signed on the title page, perhaps the only hardbound book I’ll ever self-publish, and limited to 100 copies (or four months, whichever comes first).

It’s also a serious attempt at “freemium”–the idea that some of you care enough about my writing to pay something for a unique publication, enough so that I’ll be encouraged to keep doing most of my writing/publishing for free.

As another tease, here are the first few paragraphs of the July 2001 column. For the whole column and an updated postscript (the postscripts for at least half of the columns will never appear except in this limited-edition hardbound), buy the book.

Dear AT&T Broadband,

I’m a little confused. I hope I have the name right this month. ‘Dear striped blue deathstar’ seems too informal (and may infringe on a high school classmate’s intellectual property—sorry, George). “AT&T” I understand; “Broadband” I’m not so sure about. But never mind. I’m one of your customers and, I suspect, a hot prospect to get where you and other convergence operators need to be—and I just don’t see it.

The Goal?

I’m no businessman, but I read the business section. Don’t we all? As I understand it, you and your primary competitors are investing tens of billions in infrastructure and content with the expectation that you’ll get it back (and more) in monthly fees. I’ve seen a target number floating around $150 to $170 per month for a middle-class household, for a full range of “broadband” services and content.

Maybe your goals are more modest. Would $120 per month be enough? I know you’re not the only ones in the game; the frequency with which they tear up El Camino Real to lay new fiber demonstrates that.

The Quandary

Here’s my question: How do we get there from here? To put it another way, what combination of services and content will convince a moderately skeptical, college-educated, literate householder to pay you $150 to $170 per month?

Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: Item along the way

Posted in Liblogs, Writing and blogging on December 3rd, 2010

The book is nearing completion–I’ve prepared the index of blogs (the only index, but it is 13 pages) and done a second pass checking the layout, etc.

Next comes the cover, another doublecheck, final PDF.

Probably some time next week: Upload, make it available for sale…and then take the earlier Liblog Landscape off the market.

Just one item along the way

There are a few miscellaneous facts about the book that won’t appear in the book itself or in Chapter 1 (the portion of the book that will never appear in Cites & Insights, even if the other 10 chapters might eventually appear, one at a time, sort of like a serial novel except nonfiction).

This one does appear in the book, although it doesn’t jump out at you. I’m giving you the item without the actual blog that’s involved…

  • As in the earlier books, I use quintiles to show most metrics–that is, the top 20% (by whatever metric is under consideration), the second 20%, and s0 on.
  • There are three key metrics in addition to many other metrics, and four quarter-long testing periods (March 1-May 31, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010). The key metrics: Frequency (number of posts), Average post length, Conversational intensity (average comments per post).
  • If blogs were random in where metrics fell, there would be one chance in 125 of a given blog being in the same quintile for all three metrics (this is easy: one over five to the third power), and one chance in 625 of a given blog being in the same quintile for a given metric for all four years (one over five to the fourth power).
  • The odds of a given blog being in the first quintile for all three metrics in all four years would appear to be one in 78,125.
  • But of course blogs aren’t random, particularly in year-to-year characteristics, so the odds are better, but still not particularly high.
  • One–and only one–blog is in the top quintile for all three key metrics for all four years. It’s probably not one that would immediately spring to mind for most of you.
  • The only thing I’ll say here is that it’s not a U.S. blog–which actually narrows things down quite a bit, since 880 of the 1,216 blogs for which I had country of blogger are from the U.S.. You’ll find it in the book, of course.

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