Archive for the 'Stuff' Category

How Not to Be the Expert

Posted in Stuff on October 28th, 2013

Some tips for those who really, truly want to avoid becoming known as The Expert on any single topic (or The Guru, or The Obvious Speaking Choice…) while being professionally active.

These tips come from decades of experience.

1. Don’t specialize

You’ve prepared an important article or book or blog post on a significant topic in your field?

Time to try something else!

Delving deeper into that topic, refreshing your work for newer audiences, or—worst of all—showing how that topic applies elsewhere (even if it’s stretching a point): Don’t do that. You’ll wind up on the speaking circuit, in demand, known for your expertise.

Repeat as necessary: If you do important work in two fields, you may still wind up known as The Expert on one or both.

Better to change topics frequently. Mark Lindner owns the phrase “habitually probing generalist,” but that’s the general idea.

2. Don’t broaden your exposure on a single topic

You’ve done that significant piece—call it a book, just for fun.

The obvious next step would be to do a related article, and maybe propose some speeches on the topic.


This is related to Rule 1, but not quite the same. It’s also related to Rule 3:

3. Don’t propose speeches on your topic(s)

If you show up at CIL/IL, Charleston, state library conferences, ALA, ASIST speaking on your topic, you’re likely to become known as The Expert even if you have other topics.

If somebody really wants to hear from you, let them come to you: Don’t go looking for trouble!

4. Don’t go on the speaking circuit

If you’re following Rule 3, you’re halfway there—but if you’ve made the mistake of doing a couple of good speeches or papers on your topic, you may find a stream of speaking invitations coming in.

If you accept as many as you can plausibly handle (and if your workplace favors professional activity), that can wind up being quite a few…maybe to the point where you’re on the speaking circuit.

Set an annual limit. (I used eight trips or ten speeches a year. That seemed to work effectively. Depending on the situation, you might still consider that being on the speaking circuit—four speeches might be a better limit. Don’t worry: If you’re following the other rules, you won’t have to turn down invitations after two or three years—they’ll shrink on their own.)

5. Don’t act as though you’re The Expert

Rule 5 may be key.

The expert makes sure that her knowledge is available for interviews, etc., and pipes up whenever somebody posts or says something related to his topic.

6. Prefer precision to hyperbole

Avoid “all” when the facts say “most” and “most” when the fact say “some.”

Avoid speculation about certain futures when you really don’t have much basis for such speculation.

Never say “inevitable” unless you’re talking about mortality.

Don’t confuse anecdata with studies, and be aware of the limitations of most studies.

7. Avoid the bleeding edge

Focus on topics that need further exploration and explication, rather than the Hot New Topics.

It’s particularly useful to do something deep and comprehensive at roughly the point that an area is becoming irrelevant or obsolescent. (I would say obsolete, but that’s really tough…and you might become the Expert on curiosities of the past.)

If you are compelled to look at The New, try to make it something people don’t really care much about.

8. Be an introvert

This is a valuable addition to all of the tips above; it will help you to avoid the spotlight.

Where are #9 and #10?

To be a proper listicle, this post needs to have at least 10 items.

A proper expert would always find a couple more things to say, if only by repeating an earlier rule with slight rewording.

But, what the hey…

9. Don’t create or promulgate infographics

What more need be said?

10. Understand your data, and make sure your readers get plenty of it

Numbers! Librarians love numbers! You can never have too many numbers!


These rules have stood me in good stead, as evidenced by the fact that, after 16 (or so) professionally published books, half a dozen (more than that) self-published books and several hundred articles and columns, I am the recognized Expert on…nothing.


Maybe, possibly, Gaia willing and the creeks don’t rise: A multipart discussion of how some books (all on topics about which I am not The Expert) came to be written.

Unless, of course, I decide to read Crime & Punishment instead. (Then again, maybe not…)

Dear Fed: Why do you hate us (and other savers) so much?

Posted in Stuff on September 18th, 2013

This is a serious post. Probably the most serious I’ll post all year.

My wife and I did what we were told we should do. We saved our money. We lived less considerably below our means so that we could save our money.

Now we’re retired (somewhat earlier than planned, through no fault of our own, but never mind…)

And now the Fed is essentially saying “Screw you. We hate savers. You are required to invest and borrow. Saving is for idiots.”

Which is to say: We can’t get decent rates on CDs or other guaranteed savings–because the Fed plans to keep interest rates at essentially zero for what sounds like pretty much forever.

Would we be happy to get interest rates equal to inflation? Not really–but I don’t even believe we can count on doing that at this point.

We don’t much like risk. We spent less money–a lot less money–so we wouldn’t have to cope with risk.

That apparently offends the Fed.

As far as I can tell, the methodology being used by the Fed basically enriches Wall Street, as it forces more people to invest regardless. It’s doing a pretty good job for bankers, too. Basically, those who were already getting richer are getting even richer.

I don’t believe it’s bringing lots of people back to work. Companies that can borrow at no interest seem to keep enriching their owners, managers and shareholders, and hiring the absolute minimum number of workers they can. (If zero-interest loans were only for small businesses, which create most new jobs, that would be different.)

But for us and, I believe, a few millions or tens of millions of other people, it looks like direct punishment for not being massively in debt and for not being gamblers: Making sure that we can’t earn decent return on savings.

And I think it stinks.

I forgot to add this crucial point:

If we could get decent rates on savings, we’d spend more.

As it is, fear of long-term major issues and knowledge that we’re getting crap on our savings–and that it’s likely to get worse, not better–is keeping our optional spending lower than it should be.

The public library benefit scene in 2010: inCompleat Give Us, an FAQ

Posted in Stuff on September 13th, 2013


What is it?

The most complete book I know of to understand public library funding and service data in FY2010–more complete and detailed than the more recent $4 to $1. The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, a 433-page 8.5″ x 11″ paperback, combines the text and tables from Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four with all of the commentary added in Cites & Insights–and all of the graphs in Graphing Public Library Benefits that work in a black-and-white publication.

That’s why it’s inCompleat: It’s lacking some multicolor line graphs that don’t make sense when rendered in grayscale.

Who should find this worthwhile?

Libraries serving library schools, for one.

Some larger public libraries.

State library associations.

Some library consultants.

A few librarians who want a fairly detailed understanding of the situation.

How is it available?

The paperback version costs $26.99 plus shipping from Lulu.

There is no ebook version.

While there are sales to justify availability, The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 1: Libraries by Size includes all but Chapter 21 (libraries by state) and also includes all of the multicolor line graphs. The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 2: Libraries by State directly replicates Chapter 21 of The Incompleat… but in 6″ x 9″ PDF page images. Both ebooks are $9.99; both are also available in site-license versions ($39.99 and $34.99 respectively).

Will the book get cheaper over time?

No, but it will disappear when there are no sales.

Will it be replaced with a newer version?

No. The “newer version” already exists ($4 to $1…), but it doesn’t replace this because it discusses fewer measures and breaks libraries down into fewer groups in order to attain a reasonable length.

68 by 68?

Posted in Stuff on September 11th, 2013

I hadn’t thought about it, but it might not have seemed an unreasonable goal:

68 by 68.

That is, 68 sales of new/recent Cites & Insights Books by the time I turn 68 (coming very soon now). Let’s say, 68 starting either August 26 (when the new books were announced) or, heck, August 1. After all, enough people had committed money in advance to account for somewhere between 17 and 36 sold copies right off the bat…

Barring miracles, that goal seems highly unlikely.

How about $68 by 68–that is, enough sales to generate $68 in net revenue, starting August 26?

Well, I’m about a third of the way there.

The good news: I’ll definitely have enough net revenue to pay for my own dinner on my birthday. Since we’re going to Campo di Bocce, a restaurant I like quite a bit…that offers free dinner on your birthday. I think there’s even enough net revenue to cover the 20% tip on what the dinner would have cost. Maybe.

Oh, and Blake? Yes, I’ve updated to 3.6.1.

Silence, partial or full

Posted in Stuff on September 5th, 2013

There might not be any posts here for a few days, quite possibly not until September 10.

There are some things I care about that seem to have gone into a total stall, and I suspect my best course is to try to ignore them and definitely not talk about them. (Nothing health-related, marriage-related or otherwise real-world seriously important!)

So: I’m still around, I’m reasonably healthy, I’m even working on an essay now and then. And that’s about it.


Posted in Stuff on September 3rd, 2013

Apparently “I” just sent email to 192 people inviting them to view my book recommendations on goodread.


I finally decided to join goodread, both to see what’s being said about my own books (what? you wouldn’t do that? really?) and maybe eventually to store book notes & recommendations. Or not.

As I read the description of the function, I thought it was using my Gmail contacts to build a set of “your friends recommends” items to me. I guess I needed to read it more carefully: It was actually sending out canned email to all of them. Which I would have never done if I realized what was happening.

Again, sorry.


Posted in $4, Stuff on August 19th, 2013

Maybe that’s all I need to say. The $4 to $1 campaign failed. Big time.

Thanks to the 18 folks who supported it. (I thanked each one by email when the pledge came in. I may do another email round later.)

I might do a post mortem later on. I might not. It’s a Monday sort of Monday.

On a completely different topic:

What the *B(#^ is it about infographics that causes people to take “facts” seriously even when there are no sources given and the “facts” are wildly improbable? There’s an “awful facts about reading” infographic making the rounds that has no sources, includes wildly improbable “facts” that are refuted by, well, every other survey that’s been done–and turn out to be based on a ten-year-old statement from some group I’ve never heard of that, itself, doesn’t really provide sources. But hey, it’s an infographic: It Must Be Taken Seriously. Arggh…

Or does this mean that I should scrap $4 to $1 and turn it into a series of, what, 400 infographics, so that it’s taken seriously?

Go read this.

Posted in open access, Stuff, Writing and blogging on August 15th, 2013

Dorothea Salo has a new article out in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication.

You should read it, especially if:

  • You care about open access
  • You care about scholarly communication in academic institutions
  • You would like to see a healthy future for scholarly communication and for scholars, including independent scholars
  • [This bullet removed as, well, a spoiler for those who don't read thoughtfully.]

The title: “How to Scuttle a Scholarly Communication Initiative.”

The remarkable thing about this article is that it appears to have been used as a blueprint by any number of institutions before it was published.

One consequence of Salo’s article: My planned article-in-installments, “How not to be the expert,” a series of autobiographical musings, may be postponed indefinitely. Once you’ve seen a master at work, it’s easy to recognize one’s own limitations. But that’s me. For you: Go read it. Now.



Raining on parades

Posted in Stuff on July 4th, 2013

I try to avoid grousing about people who rain on my parade, put down something I’m enthusiastic about, or otherwise buzzkill. I’m not sure I always manage that.

One reason to avoid bitching about buzzkill: If you then put down other people or groups for their enthusiasms, well, you come off looking like a hypocrite.

Looking like one because you are one.

I know, I know: You’re harshing my mellow, where I’m just pointing out the flaws in what you appreciate. It’s totally different.


[I was going to comment on the flood of liblog posts in Feedly this morning--more than 300, compared to the usual 110-150--but it turns out one specific blog burped up its entire history, accounting for more than half of the posts. So: Never mind.]

Bing problem (apparently) fixed–for the record

Posted in Stuff on July 1st, 2013

For the record, the search problem I blogged about a couple of days ago now appears to be fixed.

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