Archive for the 'Stuff' Category

Sunday silliness: Two meaningless miniposts

Posted in Media, Stuff on November 4th, 2012

If you’re looking for significance, librarianship, or any of that stuff, you’ve come to the wrong place (and look! there’s an Oxford Comma, which I normally don’t use).


Part 1: Really? A 72-page Section?

The San Francisco Chronicle Sporting Green section (yes, it’s on green paper–or, rather, has green as a background except when printing color photos/ads) has been doing a bang-up job of covering that local baseball team, including a remarkable series of full-page (broadside, 11″ x 21″, good-quality color printing albeit on newsprint) action photos of most of the team, with each photo as a single sheet (backed with a full-page color ad, of course) during the post-season. It doesn’t hurt that the paper recently added first-rate writer Ann Killion to its already superb sportswriting staff. There’s been a ton of orange ink along with all that green…

So Friday the paper noted that it would have a 72-page special section commemorating the World Series in today’s Sunday paper. First reaction: Really? 72 pages? That’s as much content as a fairly substantial book. Of course, lots of it will be reprints of front pages or Sporting Green front pages from the post-season, but still…

Then I thought: How is the Chron going to print a single 72-page section? None of its sections are ever more than about 20-24 pages: Can the presses even handle that big a wad of paper?

Got the answer today. You redefine “section”–it’s actually four sections, two 24 page and two 12 page. No, haven’t skimmed through it yet. (I’m not much of a sports fan, but I read a fair amount of the Sporting Green for the same reason I once subscribed to Sports Illustrated: I love quality writing.)

Part 2: “You would have won…”

Some of you know that I enjoy playing video poker–and until the past decade or so (my wife’s asthma has gotten a little worse and we’ve both become more sensitive to smoke, especially as sane states outlaw smoking in hotels and restaurants), we went up to Reno two or three times a year, spending half of each day visiting places in Northern Nevada, half getting cheap entertainment at the poker slots.

(It’s not gambling in our case, it’s gaming: Neither of us had any expectation of winning, since we’re both very numerate, and we set our limits such that it really was cheap entertainment, never more than $100 a day for both of us combined. Playing quarter or nickel video poker one or two coins at a time, with a 96% or better payback–not 98% or better, because you don’t get the 4,000-coin royal flush payback unless you play five coins–$50 per day per person goes a long way.)

It’s been years since we’ve gone to Reno for a vacation (that may change, and would certainly change if the casinos would listen to 80% of their customers…), and the last time I played for money was during ALA in New Orleans, spending two or three very profitable hours in Harrah’s. Meanwhile, thanks to (a non-gambling site run by the maker of most multihand video poker slot machines), I’ve enjoyed video poker whenever I need a break from whatever I’m doing on the computer–for no money, with of course no money to be won either.

Technically, I pay $29/year to avoid lots of flashing third-party ads. And technically, there is money to be won–there’s a daily contest with a $50 first prize, which I won once and, based on normal odds, might win again in about 10-12 years. The last few days of each month, there’s a monthly contest with several cash winners up to $500. None of this is gambling because paying either the $29/year silver membership or an $8/month gold membership–which lets you chat and do other things–improves your chances of winning in any way whatsoever, much to the chagrin of some gold members.

Anyway: The daily and monthly contests–and the site as a whole–are designed to expose people to different variations on video poker and, presumably, encourage us to be more adventurous next time we’re in a real casino. (It also helps thoughtful people figure out what they should or shouldn’t hold, to actually get the 98%-101% payback that’s possible on some video poker variations in casinos with Nevada odds.)

It’s backfired for me, I think: I find the video poker almost as much fun as the real thing, with the advantage of no smoke, my choice of background music (if any), my choice of whether or not the slot machine makes noise, my choice of “free” drinks…and the ability to enjoy a five-minute or fifteen-minute session as often or as occasionally as I want, with no effort. My desire to go to real casinos is considerably less than it was before I started playing at the site…although, if I go to ALA 2014, I’ll certainly drop in to a few of the casinos there. Briefly.

And, after all this digression, here’s the point. The daily and monthly contests are hundred-hand rounds (of which you can play up to five or eight, depending on whether you played five the previous day), always at maximum bet. Instead of the way the site usually works–where you start with 10,000 points and the total goes up or down depending on your play–in this case, you start with zero and gain whatever you win. At the end of the round, your score is reported and you land on another screen.

If your score is higher than the nut–the amount you’d actually bet if you were playing with real money–you get a big Congrulations! and the amount you would have won if you’d been playing at a quarter machine in an actual casino. (As some of the gold members have commented during monthly contests, some of the high scorers really need imaginary wheelbarrows to cart off all that imaginary money.)

This is all amusing, and keeping track of won/loss for a particular variation is one thing I do (and I’m sure others do), and would probably guide what I actually play if/when I do go to a real casino. But…

Last month’s monthly contest was a new variation: Hundred-hand poker (that’s not new: one hand is dealt; you choose which cards to hold; those cards show up on 99 other hands, and each of 100 hands is dealt out)…with Super Times Pay, which means that about 6% of the time your hands are worth anywhere from 2 to 10 times as much. (“About” is key: I’ve seen as few as zero and as many as 14 out of 100 hands get the STP multiplier, although it’s usually from 4 to 8.)

With Super Times Pay, max bet for each hand is six rather than five.

Doing the arithmetic…six times 100, carry the…you can see that you’re wagering 600 coins. On each hand.

So when, on my best session last month, I was informed that I would have won $7,370 or so…I found it hard not to laugh. Sure, if I was willing to wager $125.00 on each play. Let’s see: My total voluntary exposure is $50 per day. So I could play one play every 2.5 days… And, by the way, on the round just before that (which was far and away my best round–and about 5% of what I’d need to win the monthly contest), I would have lost $2,848.50.

Not. Gonna. Happen. Not ever. Oh, I’ll play 100-hand poker: It’s a great way to test out the odds of various holding strategies in real life. But I won’t play it in a casino: Even at a penny machine, that’s $5 per hand (without the Super Times Pay nonsense).

Let me amplify Not. Gonna. Happen. There are, I’d say, three categories of video poker:

  • Versions I would play in a casino once in a great while: Mostly versions where the total exposure on each hand is, say, $1 or less. That could include three-hand poker (the most common multihand option) with maximum wager on a nickel machine ($0.75/deal).
  • Versions I might play if I’d won Super Lotto or the Publisher’s Clearing House megaprize and was really bored, but probably not for very long: Those are games like my favorite online, Multi-Strike Poker (my favorite mostly because it’s visually and sonically superior to most others), where you’re betting 20 coins per deal.
  • Versions I wouldn’t play even if I won both Super Lotto and PCH, unless somebody else was paying for all the wagers and giving me some portion of the winnings. That’s basically anything involving a wager of more than $2 or so per deal. Which puts $600 per deal way out there.

All of which means I’ll never be a casino’s favorite customer. I don’t gamble: I game. And I only game as cheap entertainment, where I assume that I’ll lose all of my allotted funds and stop. Even if I was wealthy, it would offend my sensibilities to redefine “cheap” in a manner that made spending $5 on a single deal plausible.

As for actual real-world winning and losing: The odds say that, even if you play perfectly, you will spend money in the long run…and, of course, most slot players don’t even play close to optimally. A 1.5% house edge adds up over the long run.

But the long run is the long run. In fact, I’m up overall for at least the past decade, because other than a little gaming on cruises and the New Orleans sessions, I really haven’t spent much time playing with actual money in the past decade–and I was extraordinarily lucky in NOLA, including the first royal flush I’ve ever had. Was I disappointed that I only got $62.50 for the royal flush instead of $1,000 because I’d bet one quarter, not five? Not at all. I was gaming, not gambling.

And that’s it: some Sunday silliness. Now to get back to a project. Or maybe try one round of today’s free contest, where I can neither win nor lose any actual money.

Rude language and the heat death of venting steam

Posted in Stuff on October 26th, 2012

No, this isn’t about Jenica Rogers and the American Chemical Society (the topic of the second essay in the December 2012 Cites & Insights, although it’s really too fresh for C&I–but it follows so neatly from the first essay in that forthcoming-in-November issue).

Or maybe it is, in a way. A big chunk of that whole brouhaha came about because the PR person at ACS felt it appropriate to attempt to derail the discussion of ACS pricing by pointing out that Jenica Rogers had used strong informal language…on a casual network where she believed she was talking to friends and acquaintances. She was venting steam.

And I’ve just been called out on one social network for using rude language on a casual network where I believed I was talking to friends and acquaintances (and, by the way, deliberately “spoke” to the subnetwork rather than the whole network): where I could vent some steam. (That steam-venting has also been linked to from the comments of the project I was venting about, but that’s appropriate, and the person making the link didn’t explicitly call me out.)

There’s a huge difference, of course. Jenica Rogers, a talented university library director who should have even more influence than she does, was frustrated about a truly ridiculous situation with a vendor. She had every reason in the world to indulge in a couple of strong words. I, on the other hand, am a semi-retired library person (not a librarian) who was frustrated about something that’s probably my own damn fault–my inability to gain any kind of institutional or other support for what I regard as valuable work–and coupled that with a quick reading of a very strongly-worded essay that did achieve institutional support, and vented steam rudely. My bad.

No more comparisons with Jenica Rogers. They’re not fair to her.

Let’s look a little at what happened here.

Somebody linked to Beyond Literacy, “Exploring a Post-Literate Future.” Which appears to be sponsored by ACRL and the Ontario Library Association….the kind of institutional sponsors I’d love to have.

I went to take a look. And immediately encountered what I regarded as (and still regard as) intemperate, absolutist declarations that struck me as absurd. E.g.–quoting exactly as the leadoff goes:

Reading and writing are doomed.

Literacy as we know it is over.

Welcome to the post-literate future.

Although the next paragraph does mention “thought experiment,” the writer certainly doesn’t write as though it’s something to think about. The third non-BigBrotherish paragraph (sorry, but that’s how those boldface centered sentences look to me):

Writing about the end of literacy is certainly ironic and probably slightly foolish. However, literacy is doomed and this is the best way available to chart its decline and replacement.

Not “literacy might be doomed.” Not “print literacy may be joined by other forms of literacy.” (That happened long ago: If you’re planning to build a skyscraper or dance a ballet, I guarantee that text literacy isn’t the only literacy you need.) That last sentence is pretty damn absolute.

After reading–OK, skimming–the page, I reacted. OK, I overreacted. I blew off a little steam to my friends in the Library Society of the World on FriendFeed. (The same group Jenica Rogers blew off steam to, not at all coincidentally.) I called the project a euphemistic term for BS.

LSW’s an interesting group. It’s open (more than 800 members at this writing), although I’d say only about 50-75 people comment with any frequency. It’s on Friendfeed, which is somewhat of an orphan social network, but one that handles conversations beautifully–better than any other network I’ve tried–and one whose semi-orphan status may be an advantage: The conversations I care about aren’t lost in a flood of other conversations, and there’s relatively little spam and trolling.

Relatively little.

The folks at LSW–most of them actual librarians, but a few hangers-on like me–are entirely willing to point out that one of us is being stupid or rude or missing the point, or simply to disagree. A moderately lively discussion on this particular topic began.

I think it’s fair to say that one or two people sort of agreed with me; more disagreed, with varying amounts of dissension and humor. One of the participants in the project also commented, politely and at some length. (If the original text had had the nuance and air of examining possibilities that Farah Chung’s comment showed, I would certainly never have made my rude comment in the first place.)

And then a troll arrived, a troll who I’m absolutely certain has no connection to the Beyond Literacy thought experiment.

By this time, I’d recognized several things:

  • The Beyond Literacy project is one I probably wouldn’t comment on or participate in seriously, just as I never participated seriously in Lankes’ “Library as conversation” project. It just doesn’t float my boat, although the idea of using nothing but text to explore the apparently desirable and inevitable death of text is at least amusing.
  • I was responding as much to my failure as an entrepreneur–my failure to gain institutional backing for my projects–as I was to this project. Although I still find the tone of the first chapter so offputting that I can’t get past it.
  • With the arrival of the troll, the Friendfeed thread was an obstacle to possible useful discussion of the Beyond Literacy project.
  • Tempting as it was to edit my original comment to remove the rudeness (you can do that in Friendfeed), it would be wrong.

So I wrote an appropriate comment, created a new thread for other people to discuss Beyond Literacy (of course, they can also do so at the site itself–easier now that the project’s gone back to WP commenting), pointed to the new thread from the old one, and turned off commenting. I did not edit the original post, even though it may cause me some harm. I don’t plan to.

Now, today, I’m informed by Twitter that someone called me out for the rude comment, linking to the Friendfeed post. Pointedly, since the first part of the tweet is saying that this person will be commenting on Beyond Literacy. There’s simply no reason for the second half of the tweet other than to scold me for being rude.

In case it isn’t clear: I apologize for being rude. I don’t apologize for finding the wording of the project overview far too absolutist to make for a good thought experiment or discussion. When I’m told “This is the inevitable future. Discuss” and I find the stated future neither inevitable nor desirable, I’m not inclined to think further about it. I guess different people have different approaches to engendering thought and discussion–and since the person making the absolute statements is a library school professor who got cosponsorship from two library societies, he’s probably right and I’m probably wrong. So it goes.

If I was posting again, I’d probably say “I find this bemusing and way too absolute, and I’m surprised it’s cosponsored by ACRL and OLA.” Same message, less rude.

Oh: Farah Chung also pointed to the Friendfeed thread while repeating her comments (in that thread) within the project itself. That linkage was totally appropriate; she didn’t explicitly criticize me; all good.

What do I learn from this? That you’re never really only* among friends any more? I should probably have learned that years ago. But hey, I’m old, and sometimes I’m slow. I’m also, I suppose, a little stupid: I haven’t made any of my social network spaces wholly private, and I use my real name, the same real name, on all social networks. So I should expect the consequences.

Will I say something heated and stupid in the future? Probably. Will I remember that there’s really nowhere to vent steam any more? Probably not.

Will I be commenting further on Beyond Literacy? Probably not; it’s just not my thing. Doesn’t mean it might not be yours. I duplicated the link in this paragraph in case it is.

Update: I could not resist the urge to edit the Introduction to Beyond Literacy to make it nonconfrontational–to see what that would do to my feelings about it. Consider it an editorial experiment. Here’s the result.

*Update 2: I added “only” to the phrase “never really among friends,” since it’s still true that I feel that I’m mostly among friends and friendly acquaintances on LSW/Friendfeed. That was at the suggestion of another LSW person, Joe Kraus; thanks for the suggestion!

The X for X: How to succeed without facts

Posted in Stuff on August 16th, 2012

I was going to write this brief comment about a specific book I borrowed from the library–and, after reading it, wondered why it was in the 620s rather than the 0-something “UFO and similar stuff” class. (Hey, I’m no Dewey expert. I find it amusing that librarianship is right next to UFOs.)

But I’m not going to name it after seeing some of the Amazon reviews. The true believers might choose to hound me.

What I found interesting was the methodology–whether intentional or not–used to get from, um, sketchy “facts” to assured conclusions.

  1. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” If enough people are asserting something, it must be true! (The birther theme song…)
  2. “If there’s not much smoke, it’s being suppressed.” When it turns out that a rather small number of people are asserting something, and most people with appropriate backgrounds are dismissing it as nonsense, there must be Some Important Group Silencing People.
  3. “You can tell all about a person from two words in a transcript.” This one’s fairly specific, but the general idea is there–all it takes is a couple of words (in this case, “I see”) to allow a really good “nonfiction” author to tell us somebody is clearly honest and well-informed, or whatever.
  4. “If a person seems likable, he or she must be correct.” There are no crazies with good social skills.
  5. “Observe the progression: Anecdata becomes Possible truth becomes Probable truth becomes Known facts.” This takes place over several chapters of a book…and sometimes the anecdata is actually lack of anecdata because, well, see #2.
  6. “Where there’s smoke there must be fire.” This one’s important enough to repeat. Over and over.
  7. “If your pet theory is associated with the lunatic fringe, it’s because The Powers That Be are putting out disinformation.”
  8. “Scientific laws are just theories, and mostly wrong.” This one has to be kept lowkey, but it’s always there.
  9. A respectable journalist in one field is qualified to make scientific and political judgments in all other fields.
  10. And, in the end, “where there’s smoke there must be fire.” Rinse and repeat.

There are more that are somewhat specific to this case….and to some similar cases. I won’t go into them.

But, of course, face The Facts: My brother worked for Lawrence Livermore Laboratory for several decades, which means that my own security-clearance possibility was investigated, which means I’m probably Part Of The Powers That Be. So this is just more disinformation standing in the way of The Truth. Who knows? Maybe all of Livermore is affected by mind-altering drugs, probably spread through the water by Zone 7, our water supplier (which, of course, is a pseudonym for Area 51).

A matter of degrees

Posted in Stuff on July 25th, 2012

Two matters, actually–and if you’re looking for thoughts on the ML[I]S or anything like that, you’ve come to the wrong place.

104? 40

Matter the first: I’d noticed a few news stories over the past week or so mentioning how difficult life in (Europe, Australia, wherever) when it was over 104 so often. And in my hindbrain, something started saying “104? Why 104? Why such a specific number?”

Then I read an interview with a Melbourne official talking about their various climate problems–flooding after a long run of 104-degree days. “104? Why 104?”

And then it hit me.

The Melbourne official didn’t say “104.” Neither did those non-US press reports when originally written.

9×5 + 32.

They were all saying “40 degrees.” Centigrade. Which is, aha, 104F.

And which is a perfectly good slightly vague version of “HOT,” although not, say, 50C (“TOO DAMN HOT FOR ANYBODY TO DEAL WITH“–or 122F, if you’d like).

Sometimes three or four degrees makes all the difference

Matter the second: Yesterday, our 7-year-old Honda Civic was due for the Dreaded Maintenance that comes at 7 years if mileage doesn’t get there first (and our car has less than 32,000 miles on it).

Namely, replacing the timing belt. And the water pump, ‘cuz it’ll probably go not too much later, and now that the engine’s half-disassembled… And the other drive belts, because they’ll age out soon also.

I won’t mention the overall price, which in our case also included new spark plugs and the usual 30,000-mile maintenance. (It was three digits, but high three digits. But at least it was three digits, not four…and in a relatively expensive market. Independent mechanic that only works on Hondas, Acuras and a couple of other Japanese makes.)

A sidebar that’s even less relevant than the main post: A local Honda dealership with extensive maintenance facilities had some online service coupons. Including a great one: They’ll give you the timing belt free when you replace the timing belt. So I looked at the detailed invoice for our maintenance. Out of, well, more than $700 and less than $1,000, the timing belt itself was a whopping $21. What a deal!


So anyhow: For most maintenance, I bring in the car, bring along some reading, and wait until it’s done–usually an hour or two. But that didn’t make sense for what’s a most-of-the-day service.

The shop provided transportation back to my house.

At 3 p.m., they called and said the car was (or soon would be) ready. My wife said I should call a cab, ‘cuz it was too hot to walk. I looked at the outdoor thermometer: 86F-87F. Said, ‘Nah.’ Put on sunscreen, filled my water bottle, and took off–I already knew it was 3.4 miles walking. Promised I’d take it easy. Took our emergency cell phone just in case.

A good walk, although unfortunately the path is one where there’s very little if any breeze–unlike our daily neighborhood 1.4-mile walk, which usually has somewhere between a strong breeze and VERY strong wind. I got there right around 4 p.m.–as promised, I wasn’t pushing it at all. (Yes, I did accompany my wife on the neighborhood walk later. This 3.4 miles wasn’t like a typical Wednesday hike: Maybe 50 feet total up & down, all sidewalks except for one block, 3.4 miles instead of 4 to 6 miles–and since it was sidewalks, I was wearing my usual “business” Rockports instead of my inexpensive hiking shoes, and the Rockports are much better walking shoes.)

Here’s the thing: Monday around 3 p.m. was also around 91-92 degrees (F, of course: short of the sun going nova, it’s not ever going to get up to 92C!).

Monday, I would have called a cab and paid the $12-$15 (most of the cabs here are Prii, or whatever the plural of Prius is).

Sometimes three or four (or five) degrees makes all the difference–in this case between “warm but walkable” and “too hot to voluntarily walk 3.4 miles.”

Deep significance of this post: I posted something this week.

Possible disruption

Posted in Stuff on July 17th, 2012

If there’s anybody who comes by here on a regular basis, you might see some disruptions today.

I’m trying to fix an issue with the “collapsing” archive on the sidebar–which no longer collapses–by deleting and reinstalling it.

That means that, for some period, there won’t be any collapsing archive or there will be a call in the HTML that isn’t referenced.

This should all be fixed by this evening. Or not.

Update, a little bit later:

Deleting and reinstalling had no effect.

I’ve replaced Collapsing Archives with Moo Collapsing Archives (an updated fork). It sort of works–the “sort of” being that months won’t collapse into years. That makes the sidebar longer than I’d like. I’ve coped, sort of, by moving categories to come before the date archive (and pages to come after).

I guess this will do for now, until I have time to find something better. Meanwhile, on to get something accomplished…

Transforming Your Library Through Strategic Dynamism

Posted in Stuff on June 19th, 2012

Maybe that should be the theme of my next effort.

Heck, maybe I could become a Strategic Dynamism guru.

Or, you know, maybe not.

[Although Strategic Dynamism has the considerable guruhood strength of being a wholly meaningless bit of bafflegab, as far as I can tell. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep a straight face long enough to Earn Big Bucks as a Strategic Dynamism Guru.]

Which one if either? A Kickstarter trilemma

Posted in Books and publishing, Stuff on June 18th, 2012

Regular readers (if such an animal exists) will know that I’ve been enthusiastic about two research projects, both related to public libraries, either of which involves money issues and either of which could potentially be funded via Kickstarter.

[There’s also The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing, which could leader to speaking invitations, and Open Access: What You Need to Know Now. And, for that matter, Successful Social Networking in Public Libraries, which will emerge from ALA Editions later this year. That last is directly related to the first of these two projects.]

There are still other possible routes through which I could get enough funding to maintain some level of research (and keep my hand in librarianship, including attending at least one conference a year most years), but there’s no real progress on those routes.

So I’m at a decision point of sorts–a trilemma: Do I try for a Kickstarter project on the first project, the second project or neither?

Here’s how I see the situation right now. Your advice & suggestions are very much invited. You might find this post to be useful overall background, although it preceded the preliminary example of the second project.

Update, Tuesday, June 19, 2012: Given the new American Libraries Summer 2012 Digital Supplement, “Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2011-2012,” and given responses to this post to date (none), I now believe that Project One is off the table. The study doesn’t cover quite as many libraries, and I’m not sure I believe the 70%-social-networking figure (that represents enormous growth in the past eight months, or maybe the other 12 states have 100% participation to balance the just slightly over half of libraries in 38 sates), but I just can’t see people contributing to an expensive survey that slightly extends a freebie. The 38-state study formed the basis of what I believe will be a good book; barring miracles, I’ll leave it like that. So the question really is:

Is it plausible to attempt a Kickstarter project for #2, or isn’t it?

Silence constitutes a perfectly reasonable answer: It isn’t.

Project One: Social Networking Survey

Background: Primarily this prospectus, with additional notes here and here.

Short version: The first year of a possible ongoing external survey of all public libraries in the U.S. (systems and standalone, not branches) and their social networking activity, specifically looking at Facebook, Twitter and Google+, including (for the first year) changes over time for libraries in 38 states. Also, as part of the first-year project, gathering “library mottoes” that appear on library websites toward a little “A library is…” book.

Size: The Kickstarter project would need to be for $18,000 to make sense, given the overhead of Kickstarter itself and the incentives needed; the idea would be to net $15,000.

Results: A booklength study of the results, plus an available spreadsheet. The spreadsheet would be CC 0 (it’s data in any case, even though it springs from hundreds of hours of labor); the PDF of the book would be free or nominally priced, while the print version (or EPUB version if done) would be priced so as to yield some revenue for a second year’s study. Also, the “A library is…” book.

Incentives: Probably a free PDF version of “A library is…” for sub-$100 levels, probably a print version for $250, a signed print version (or a hardcover version) for $500, and a signed print version and $500 discount on a future speaking engagement (if desired) for $1,000 or more. Alternatively, print versions of the study itself could be offered.

Pluses: The output would carry forward and enhance what I believe will be a worthwhile book (based on the 38-state 2011 study); this would be interesting and possibly worthwhile documentation on how (and the extent to which) public libraries are using social networks and how that’s changing over time, which should be useful to public libraries; the “A library is…” would, I think, be charming and fun, although perhaps not deeply meaningful.

Minuses: It’s a huge amount of work–data gathering alone would involve several hundred hours of the kind of work you can’t keep doing without lots of breaks. And, frankly, it’s never been clear how many public libraries are interested in studies of change over time or of having actual objective evidence of their use of social networks.

Project Two: Give Us a Dollar…

Background: The best background is the preliminary edition of the book itself, Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. But there’s also a four-part post (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), the fourth part of which suggests an alternate vision for the next time around. (Note: These links do work–the Tuesday one was mangled in Part 3 and Part 4, and those have also been fixed.)

Short version: This study would happen after IMLS releases the 2010 public library database. I’d massage the data, creating a benefit ratio and several derivative measures, and prepare a book-length study that should allow libraries to help prepare their cases for better funding (or at least to avoid funding cuts), by showing that they’re good stewards of public funds, how they compare with “similar” libraries and where they could provide even better value through added funding.

Size: If I used Kickstarter, it would be to create an ebook (yes, I’d get it into EPUB format) that was available at nominal prices (the least Lulu would allow for distribution purposes, and free as a PDF from Lulu itself) and a print book (priced to yield about $1.50 net per copy). I’d say $8,500: Basically, a dollar for each library fully included in the study (assuming that about 700 libraries fall out in 2010 as they did in 2009). Note that this price includes my promise to email data lines for libraries on request; I don’t want to mount the whole database because I’m not interested in making it easy to do invidious comparisons.

Incentives: Not clear. If the $8,500 is to free the ebook, then what do I send people that doesn’t wind up chewing up the revenue?

Pluses: I think most public libraries could benefit from this, and for several thousand libraries, it’s a better deal than paying for a consultant or priced library data services. Also, since I’ve already done some of the prep work, it’s not an enormous project–maybe 50 to 100 hours of data analysis and a couple hundred hours to put the book in proper shape. Plus, to be sure, five minutes for each library that asks for a data line…

Minuses: I’m not sure that public libraries are interested. After an initial six sales of the preliminary edition on the first day, there have been exactly zero since, even though the price was as low as $24 for a while–and two open calls to request free PDF review copies have, to date, received exactly one request. If 10% of American public libraries thought this was worthwhile, no Kickstarter or other funding would be required. If 1% (90) were interested enough to try the preliminary edition and provide feedback, I’d probably proceed in any case (if the feedback says I should). On the other hand, if less than 0.1% are interested, well, there’s really no point. Oh, and I’m really not sure what to offer as incentives (other than thank-you notes).

Third Option: Neither

When I was thinking about Kickstarter for the first project, I was also reading Jason Scott’s notes about successful use of Kickstarter, including the absolutely mandatory nature of the “optional” video. That bothered me a little, ’cause I’m not a visual artist or videographer. Sure, I have the minimal equipment (my notebook has a camera and microphone), but…

Then, as I was ramping up to make a decision, I was pointed to this post on “How to Run a Successful Kickstarter Campaign.” Which sets the bar even higher than Scott did–and which seems to be pretty sensible.

Since I’ve been dealing with “four factors” a lot this past week (writing Part 2 of a Fair Use roundup, which will make up most of the July 2012 Cites & Insights), I’m tempted to look at each factor and see where I stand.

  1. Back Other Projects Before You Launch. Fail. I haven’t.
  2. Three Things One: Only a very small portion of your network will back your project on Kickstarter. The author says not to think like “if only half of those who read my blog each month contribute…” and I’ve pretty much learned that already. If only 10% of those who apparently read Cites & Insights kicked in $25 a year, I’d already have enough funding to attend one conference a year; as it is, I don’t have enough this year to cover my domain charges and hosting fees (which total less than $200). And while Walt at Random seems to have between 700 and 1200 readers, I’m not sure that it actually has more than a few dozen. Realistically, the FF LSW community is the closest thing I have to a large network, and that’s only about 700 people. This has always been a questionable aspect for me of Kickstarter–while thousands of library people “know my name,” they’re not really a network. (They’ve already done more for me than I could have ever expected, for which I’ll always be grateful.)
  3. Three Things Two: People will tell you that your idea is stuipid or that you are the wrong person to bring the idea to life. That’s already happened, more or less, with the second project–but most feedback, such as it’s been, has been positive. So I think I’m OK on that one.
  4. Three Things Three: [Paraphrased: Will I do it whether Kickstarter succeeds or not?] A good question. I don’t have a great answer, although for Project One the answer’s pretty clearly “without some form of backing, it’s way too much of a time sink.”
  5. Make a kickass Kickstarter video. Fail, big time. If that’s the rule, and Scott also seems to suggest this, then I’m dead before I begin.
  6. Money, Money, Money, Money. (You need to read the original post–but that’s true anyway!) Not sure what to say here.
  7. Rewards Matter and They Take Time and Money to Fulfill. Understood, and more of an issue for Project Two. In my mind, the biggest Kickstarter funding to date was really a whole bunch of people paying for $100 watches in advance. I don’t have such enticing rewards. Not sure about this one.
  8. Give People a Reason to Trust You. Within the library community, I believe I win on this one–if my reputation for honesty & transparency isn’t clear, it’s too late.
  9. If You Build It They Won’t Just Come. This basically says to me that I need to be an extroverted social network champion to have a chance at this. That’s a big problem.

There are three more discussions, but I’ve probably let this run on too long as is. I see one reasonable win (#8), a couple of big hurdles (#9, #5, #2, maybe #1), and…well…I’m not sure.

Advice? Feedback? Right now, the third option seems most plausible, but maybe I’m overreacting. Not that I would ever do that, of course…



Open Access: One easy thing to do now

Posted in Stuff on May 23rd, 2012

Assuming I have any readers at all that haven’t already done so:

Go sign the petition to the White House to

Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.

You’ll need to create a account if you don’t already have one; that takes maybe 2-3 minutes (mostly waiting for verification email).

The petition was mounted Monday. It’s almost halfway to the required 25,000 signatures already. It won’t–by itself-change anything, but it couldn’t hurt.

Oh, and if you’d like to know more about open access itself, you could buy my book (from ALA Editions): Open Access: What You Need to Know Now. It’s a reasonably quick read with lots of good resources.

Accepting one challenge

Posted in Stuff on May 17th, 2012

In a thread elsewhere, somebody faulted me for suggesting that most Big Business Books, especially those claiming to identify The Secrets to Success through Statistical Analysis of What Works, are largely bogus…especially for not having actually read Jim Collins’ Good to Great, which, I was assured, was The Real Stuff, deeply inspirational and not to be missed.

OK, I’m paraphrasing and probably exaggerating. But…I certainly got the sense that the book would be life-changing and all that.

So I borrowed the book from the library. And read it.

Of course, it got a little odd along the way, frequently being reminded that Circuit City is one of the (only 11!) “good to great” companies assured of everlasting super-success due to its following the set of new cliches offered in the book (there has to be a Snappy Phrase for everything, of course).

Since, y’know, Circuit City is bankrupt.

I wasn’t entirely convinced that Fannie Mae was a sterling example of lasting greatness either. Since, y’know…well, Fannie Mae is a complex story.

And, yes, I’m among those who has trouble regarding a huge peddler of legal poison (lifestyle products that tend to kill their users when used as directed) as being a lasting great company.

But, hey, that’s only three out of eleven. The other eight must be prime examples and prove the theses of the book.

Hmm. One company’s agreed to pay more than $1 billion for illegal marketing. Another no longer exists, having been bought out by another company.  But hey, that still leaves six, more than half of the original group.

But the book only seems to pertain to companies that plan to plod along for 20 or more years, then take on a different path: There’s nothing to indicate that it offers lessons for companies planning to be the next Intel or Microsoft or Apple or… (and at least one of its lessons absolutely, positively rules out Apple or Microsoft!)

And as I was reading and thinking, I started hearing a little voice:

“Correlation does not equal causation.”

Overall? I’m afraid I didn’t find the book life-changing. Nor did I find it a plausible Recipe for Greatness (even if “Greatness” is defined by profitability/stock market success, which bothers me more than a little).

And, well, I think I need to read The Halo Effect.

But I will say this: The book wasn’t quite as padded as a great many Big Business Books are. And Collins is a reasonably good storyteller.

Trends 2

Posted in Stuff on May 4th, 2012

On April 27, I posted a mystery graph with four data points: “a real-world graph, representing honest information about a current situation.” I asked some questions based on the graph.

I got one guess, from Michael Golrick, and it was an excellent set of estimates based only on the information available in the graph.

I said I’d provide more information later, and so I shall. But not, just yet, a lot more information–although what I provide here just might be enough to give away the mystery.

More data points

Here’s the same real-world graph–but with nine additional data points added preceding the four in the previous graph. For consistency, I’ve numbered the new points 0 through -8.

At this point, asking for guesses as to data points 5, 6, 7, and 8 may seem absurd…as may asking when it will hit 100.

But I’ll take whatever comments you have, for about another week. Although this may be enough to note that even legitimate subsets of data may be wildly misleading…


This blog is protected by dr Dave\\\\\\\'s Spam Karma 2: 105827 Spams eaten and counting...