When I finished editing “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall,” the lead essay in the April 2014 Cites & Insights*, I didn’t worry about the fact that I failed to reach clear conclusions about Beall or his list or blog. As with most essays of this sort, I was trying to paint a picture, not come up with a Declaration of Belief.
But I did think about why I found the situation so troubling–especially since it was and is clear that many librarians continue to assume that Beall is a reliable and worthy source. Last night, it came to me.
The steakhouse blog
Let’s say someone with some credentials as a judge of good meat starts a blog called Steakhouses. (If there is such a blog, this has nothing to do with it: I didn’t check.**) It gets a fair amount of readership and acclaim, even though every post on it is about bad steakhouses. After a while, there’s even a Bad Steakhouse List as a page from the blog.
Some people raise questions about the criteria used for judging a steakhouse to be bad, but lots of people say “Hey, here’s a great list so we can avoid bad steakhouses.”
The big reveal
After a couple of years, the author of the blog–who continues to be judge and jury for bad steakhouses–writes an article in which he denounces all meat-eaters as people with dire motives who, I dunno, wish to force other people to eat steak.
I will assert that, to the extent that this article became well known and the blog author didn’t deny writing it, the Steakhouse blog would be shunned as pointless–after all, if the author’s against all meat-eaters, why would he be a reliable guide to bad steakhouses?
So how exactly are the Scholarly Open Access blog and Beall’s List different from the Steakhouse blog and Bad Steakhouse List? And if they’re not, why would anybody take Beall seriously at this point?
Note that dismissing the Steakhouse blog and the Bad Steakhouse List as pointless does not mean saying “there are no bad steakhouses.” It doesn’t even mean abandoning the search for ways to identify and publicize bad steakhouses. It just means recognizing that, to the Steakhouse blog author, all steakhouses are automatically bad, which makes that author useless as a judge.
Full disclosure: I haven’t been to a steakhouse in years, and I rarely–almost never, actually–order steak at restaurants. I am an omnivore; different issue.
*Just under 2,900 downloads as of right now. Amazing.
**I’ve now done some crude checking. There are a number of blogs that include “Steakhouse” in their titles, I don’t find a Steakhouse blog as such, I don’t find a “Bad Steakhouse List,” and the blogs about steakhouses that I did find don’t appear to be uniformly anti-steakhouse.