Obligations of a failed researcher?

Another honest question–looking for advice here.

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 is about as clear a failure as I’ve ever had (well, other than losing my job, twice). The most ambitious and difficult of any of the research projects I’ve carried out, it’s not only had the lowest sales by far, it’s the only case where people have explicitly told me they don’t even want to see the results if they’re free–that, basically, nobody gives a good, well, I won’t finish that sentence.

(Just read a post by someone who seems to feel that a slender self-published book is a failure because he’s only made $9,000 in net revenue after three months, along with thousands of free downloads. $9,000? It doesn’t look as though I’ll see $90 in revenue from this book, and it sounds like this one was a lot bigger job. For me, as a library writer, $9,000 net revenue for any project, over several years, not three months, is an enormous success!)

I know: I screwed up. Let it go. If you want to be sensible, let more than that go… But:

The person who purchased the sixth copy of the book (as a download–I think maybe two print copies have been purchased) sent me email asking for the complete list of blogs and for lists of blogs in each of the four groups.

I responded that most of the blogs are, in effect, listed in alphabetic order as the index to the book (which is entirely blogs), and that the lists weren’t readily available, as it was difficult to justify putting more effort into such a disastrous failure. (Every time I touch it, I wonder about continuing C&I unless I find sponsorship…although I must admit that there have been donations this year, although not yet reaching a three-digit total.) The purchaser responded with disappointment, said that it would be normal for (all raw data for a project?) to be included as appendices, and…

So here are the questions:

  • Am I being remiss in not going to the extra effort–probably a few hours to clean up the master spreadsheet, maybe a little more if I post it as anything other than an .xlsx file–to make all the data in this failed project freely available?
  • Is there any beneficial outcome to expending that effort, for a project where I’ve been told to go away and stop bothering people?

Advice welcomed.

 

3 Responses to “Obligations of a failed researcher?”

  1. Steven Kaye Says:

    “The most ambitious and difficult of any of the research projects I’ve carried out, it’s not only had the lowest sales by far, it’s the only case where people have explicitly told me they don’t even want to see the results if they’re free–that, basically, nobody gives a good, well, I won’t finish that sentence.”

    I think that says more about the people than the value of your research, frankly.

    Considering that this project is a continuing source of stress to you, I think you’d be fully justified in charging a small fee for the effort of organizing the data, if you even wanted to do that. And you certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to put more effort into it.

  2. Ivan Chew Says:

    First, the direct responses (I dare not say ‘advice’) to your questions: (1) If the data is in a usable form as it is, there’s no need to spend more efforts cleaning it up if you don’t quite feel up to it. You can always publish the ‘cleaner’ versions successively. Or not. (2) Your detractors will still have negative things to say, regardless of what you do. So don’t do it for them. The benefits are less of monetary value but something else, and perhaps larger.

    An indirect response: Your “Liblog Landscape” may not have met your financial expectations, but it is certainly not a failure from the research viewpoint. Realistically, few are interested in statistics and trends, let alone stats on Library related blogs (an even narrower subset of Social Media). I know my National Library here acquires your series systematically. But I can’t see many individuals wanting to buy the series per se, as a matter of personal interest. And I’ve to say I’m one of those who prefer to borrow/ refer to the library’s copy.

    But while I don’t buy your series, I go around telling people to look up Walt Crawford if they are interested in social media use and practice by librarians. Is this a beneficial outcome to someone in your position? I think it depends on one’s expectations. Perhaps Liblog Landscape has benefited your reputation rather than your bank account. Then maybe the real question is how to leverage on that subsequently. Cheers! And thanks for your work.

  3. walt Says:

    Thanks both.

    Ivan: They’re not “detractors” as such–they’re virtual friends who are letting me know that, if they’re at all typical, there’s just not much interest.

    Realistically, most copies should be library purchases. Factually, that’s not happening to any extent. Such is life.

    As to leveraging and indirect benefits–well, if I was a lot younger and had chosen One Big Topic to focus on, preferably oversimplifying my message so that it became The Word, then there probably would be significant indirect benefits: the speaking circuit and being the go-to person for snappy quotes. But I’ve always covered too much ground, and now I’m apparently either a bad speaker or too old to be bothered with, since my speaking invites (with the necessary expenses paid: on my $0 salary I sure can’t afford to subsidize speaking trips!) dropped from 8/year (1992-2000, roughly) to 4/year (2001-2005, roughly) to 1/year (2006-2009) and now down to none whatsoever. That is what it is.

    Oh: As to the immediate request for the details–turns out it was for just two columns of one section of rows, basically the names and URLs of the group 1 blogs. Since it would only take me 5-10 minutes to prepare that subset and since the research project envisioned sounded interesting (and not some sort of ripoff), I sent the edited spreadsheet to the person who made the request.


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