Archive for the 'Writing and blogging' Category

Starting a tenth year of randomness

Posted in Writing and blogging on April 1st, 2014

This here blog began on April 1, 2005–a date chosen deliberately.

Which makes today the start of Walt at Random‘s tenth year.

It’s been an odd ten years.

No big message, but a few random facts & figures:

  • There are currently 1,930 posts (including this one), but in fact there have been a fair number of other posts that I deleted because they no longer had any meaning. Some 4,123 comments have been approved–and Spam Karma’s caught (or I’ve moderated out of existence) another 102,910 “comments.”
  • The sidebar says that my most prolific ramblings are on Writing and blogging, Cites & Insights, Stuff, and Libraries. Sounds about right. (I don’t use the Oxford Comma–but nonusers get to add a comma when it’s required for clarity. “Stuff and libraries” would be a charming category, but it isn’t one I use.)
  • Of posts that remain, more first appeared in 2013 than in any other year…but given that I was only posting for the last nine months of 2005, it had a higher average number of posts per month than any other year.
  • The fewest posts appeared in 2011. That is also the year that Cites & Insights very nearly went away. That was probably not a coincidence. (Second lowest: 2012. Also probably not a coincidence.)
  • I can only track usage statistics on a monthly basis (and some of them on a year-to-date basis), but here’s what I find for 2015 and March 2015 through about 2 p.m. on March 31:
  • The blog seems to get 7,000 to 9,000 unique visitors per month (ignoring spiders and the like), about 30,000 to 35,000 visits viewing 84,000 to 110,000 pages–plus, for March, about 268,000 pages visited by spiders and the like.
  • In March, none of the top ten most visited pages were entries created during 2014, and the full list of pages is too long to inspect.
  • Of direct visitors, 61% use Windows, 13% use Linux, 8% use Mac operating systems…and there’s a bunch that aren’t properly identified
  • Of identified browsers, IE counts for 31% (really?), the combination of Mozilla and Firefox adds up to 36%, Chrome accounts for 10%. No other browser gets a two-digit share.
  • None of which means all that much.

Yes, I know, topical posts (as opposed to announcements and begging) sometimes seem fairly infrequent. Such is life. That might improve; it might not.

There will be an announcement tomorrow of interest to C&I readers and OA aficionados. I don’t do announcements like that on April 1, for the usual reasons.

 

 

Temporary oops

Posted in Writing and blogging on March 20th, 2014

If you attempted to comment on yesterday’s post, you may have found that it didn’t accept comments.

Oops.

It does now.

As recounted some time ago, I’ve changed the default setting for this blog so that “Allow comments” is unchecked, because so many of the posts here are not really comment fodder (C&I announcements, etc.) and because I was getting ridiculous numbers of spamments that were clearly “here’s a place we can dump a comment, and just maybe it won’t be trapped as spam” efforts.

My intention is to check the “Allow comments” box any time a post could reasonably have comments.

But I forget sometimes.

By the way, the change seems to have worked: most days spamments are in single digits or low double digits, not high double digits and low triple digits.

Oh, and there were three (count them, 3) immediate comments on my Tuesday post the same day I added it (and allowed comments, only a minute or so after the initial post). All of them were wholly unrelated spamments.

This post allows comments.

Commenting: The new default is off

Posted in Writing and blogging on December 9th, 2013

As with many other blogs, this one has seen a lot fewer real comments in recent months and years than in the past.

As with–I’d guess–many other blogs, this one sees far too many spamments.

In the good old days (waves cane in the air), I would check the spam logs and restore comments that were mistakenly trapped as spam (which happens once in a while, usually because a person includes more than one link in comment).

But once I started getting more than 60 spam attempts a day, I just wasn’t willing to take the time to check each one.

More recently, I’ve sometimes remembered to go back and turn off commenting for those posts for which it’s clearly irrelevant (which seem to attract the most spam elements). That seemed to be helping: I was down to 20-60 spam attempts per day.

Then, last week, things went straight to hell and have stayed there: I’m getting some 200 spam attempts a day (most of them in non-Latin scripts).

Meanwhile, while there are a few actual comments, there are very few.

Giving up

So I’m giving up. WordPress’ interface doesn’t allow me to choose whether or not to allow comments as I’m preparing a post. I have to post it, then go into the dashboard, call up Posts, and do a quick edit from that list. I tend to forget to do that on the “no comments required” posts.

So I’m switching the default. From now on, new posts will not allow comments by default. If I remember and it’s appropriate, I’ll go in and turn on commenting (for 60 days) after publishing the post.

Sorry if this further discourages real comments, but there are so few of those compared to the flood of presumably autogenerated spamments (I particularly love the ones where the spammer doesn’t bother to run the generating software, so you get random-generation clauses rather than text)…

If you actually have a serious response and I’ve forgotten to turn on comments, you can always send me email. If it’s my goof, I’ll turn on comments and post your email as a comment (unless you tell me not to).

Library Publishing Toolkit (and more)

Posted in Books and publishing, Writing and blogging on September 2nd, 2013

In case you haven’t already heard about it, you should be aware of the Library Publishing Toolkit, edited by Allison P. Brown and published by IDS Project Press.

Here’s the brief description from the project website:

The Library Publishing Toolkit looks at the broad and varied landscape of library publishing through discussions, case studies, and shared resources. From supporting writers and authors in the public library setting to hosting open access journals and books, this collection examines opportunities for libraries to leverage their position and resources to create and provide access to content.

The Library Publishing Toolkit is a project funded partially by Regional Bibliographic Databases and Interlibrary Resources Sharing Program funds which are administered and supported by the Rochester Regional Library Council. The toolkit is a united effort between Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo and the Monroe County Library System to identify trends in library publishing, seek out best practices to implement and support such programs, and share the best tools and resources.

You might also want to visit the publication’s page at opensuny.org, since it’s part of the IDS Project.

I would be lying if I said I’d read the entire book (402 pp. 8.5″ x 11″). I haven’t. I will…but I haven’t yet.

It’s pretty clearly a worthwhile project, a collection of essays on real-world aspects of library publishing.

You can get the Toolkit in two forms:

  • PDF ebook, free for the taking, no DRM–and it’s published with a Creative Commons BY-SA license, so you’re also free to pass it along. There appear to be two PDF downloads, one slightly smaller than the other; I’m not sure what the difference is.
  • Paperback (PoD using CreateSpace), list $9.19, currently $8.18; I’m guessing $9.19 is the CreateSpace production cost, and of course Amazon (owner of CreateSpace) can discount that cost. Either price is very low for a handsome 402-page 8.5 x 11 paperback.

It is indexed, to be sure.

How do I know about it? I contributed the Foreword, “Makerspaces for the Mind.” It was a pleasure to do so. I’m pleased with the resulting publication.

(and more)

It’s odd. I rarely contribute to collections–after all, tenure’s never been a possibility (even pay seems unlikely these days) and I’ve always had mixed feelings about most (but not all) edited collections.

“Rarely” isn’t never, to be sure, and as it happens I’ve contributed to two other collected works in recent days. In one case, it was for a modest sum of money; in the other, it was because a long-time friend and colleague asked.

The June 2013 issue of Against the Grain features a set of nine articles on self-publishing, edited by Bob Holley. I contributed “Self-Publish or Traditional? My Experience with Books for Librarians.” (As a sidenote, the sixth essay in the collection is by Rory Litwin, who refers to me twice–by last name alone, that is, “Crawford”–and who might be surprised to know that I agree with most of what he says.)

Using Social Media in Libraries: Best Practices is from Scarecrow Press, edited by Charles Harmon and Michael Messina. I wrote the Introduction. I have no comments on the collection as a whole–except to note that the contrast between my views in the Introduction and Laura Solomon’s views in the Foreword is, shall we say, substantial.

Cleanup

Posted in Writing and blogging on August 22nd, 2013

Just for the record: I’ve deleted a number of recent posts about Lulu discounts and milestones–or lack thereof–on the failed $4 to $1 crowdsourcing project. This is in part because one or two of the latter seem to have become honeypots for annoying spamments, the ones that get by my filters, show up as comments and have to be dealt with.

 

I don’t believe any substantive posts have been deleted.

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.

 

 

Night Sweats: A hard-hitting review

Posted in Books and publishing, Writing and blogging on July 23rd, 2013

I’ve seen a number of really favorable reviews of Laura Crossett’s Night Sweats: an unexpected pregnancy.

Actually, all the reviews I’ve seen of the book have been very favorable.

I purchased the book* and finished reading it yesterday** and felt that I should provide a contrarian review, one that’s hard-hitting and exposes all the book’s faults.

So, here goes:

Major faults and failings in Night Sweats

  • I’m pretty sure I found a copy-editing error.
  • It could be longer.

That’s about it. I’d like to argue about Crossett’s religion, but for a lapsed Methodist to take on an Episcopalian about religiosity exceeds even my capacity for absurd argumentation–yes, she’s more religious than I am, but that strengthens the story in ways I can’t possibly argue with.

Then there’s the other side…

Good points about Night Sweats

  • Crossett’s an excellent and achingly honest writer.
  • It’s a true story and an interesting one.
  • Crossett’s also hilarious, not necessarily what you’d expect in this kind of a book. (Whatever “this kind” might be.)
  • The book’s just plain compelling–even if (like me) you’re someone for whom the story of an unexpected pregnancy might not immediately connect.

Despite the (probable) copy-editing failure, I’d be dishonest to sum this up as anything other than:

Buy this book. Read it. I’m pretty sure you’ll find it worth your while.

Oh, and if you want the ebook, it’s available from the usual suspects, but Laura*** (and Our Bodies Our Selves, if I have that right) gets more of the modest proceeds (it’s $4 if there’s no current sale) if you buy it directly from Lulu.

Notes

*Why did I buy this book? Well… Laura sent me a PDF to see if I had comments on her layout and typographic options, since she used The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing in the project–and gives me credit in the acknowledgments. I did manage to look at the typographic choices, which I find excellent–but it was difficult because I just wanted to read it. And I wanted to read it enough in print to buy it.

**Why so long? After all, the book’s only 93 pages long and it’s so well written that it’s an easy read. Well, there’s a sick cat–which Laura may find amusing, since a sick cat enters into the book–and also I was trying to prolong the experience.

***Why am I sometimes first-naming Ms. Crossett? Because she’s a Virtual Friend. I don’t know whether we’ve ever met face-to-face, but we’ve been chatting on Friendfeed as part of the Library Society of the World for years, and she’s also given me good and sometimes tough advice on the side on some library-related projects. She’s one of many there who I respect considerably and can say that we frequently disagree but not in ways that are disagreeable. She’s a good person. And, of course, one of those writers–like Barbara Fister–who make me recognize the limits of my comparatively crude writing skills.

Tools vs. Emotions and the context of EVIL

Posted in Technology and software, Writing and blogging on June 15th, 2013

I don’t think I’ve ever struggled with a post as much as I have with this one. I’d done three minor rewrites, each time saying “Or I could just scrap the whole thing” but not doing so. This time, I’ve scrapped a whole bunch of it.

What’s left may not make much sense unless you’re in the ALA-TT group on Facebook (which, by the way, has nothing to do with ALA) or unless you saw a certain high-profile blog post and were able to make an unnamed connection. I feel I was badly misquoted in that post–but the writer didn’t actually use my name. So I’ve scrapped most of what I was going to say but will leave portions.

Although, try as I may, I still can’t see how “I can’t believe people still choose to use Microsoft” as a complete statement from someone who hadn’t been in the thread before, tossed into a thread on a new iOS version, is humor. Or is not an attack on people (which, by the way, probably include most Mac owners–e.g., anyone using Office for the Mac or Word for the Mac) who “choose to use Microsoft.”

Anyway, shorn of most of the discussion and the names involved, here’s what’s worth saying:

There’s nothing wrong with loving Apple products, if you’re one who extends love to things other than people and perhaps pets. Enthusiasm is a good thing.

I do not understand, and do not appreciate, how it is that loving Product A makes it commendable or even OK to diss those who choose to use Product B.

I like Honda Civics a lot. In my lifetime, that’s all I’ve driven as a primary car–and the one time we purchased something that wasn’t a Honda, we were deeply disappoint. If I was given to loving object, I could say that I love Honda.

But, you know, it would never occur to me to say “I can’t believe people still buy Toyotas.” Or GM, or Subaru, or BMW, or whatever.

The point at which a preference for A turns into the felt need to put down those choosing B–with the exception of sports teams, where the corporate structure seems to rely on this silliness–is the point at which fan turns into fanatic. There’s at least one broad strain of fanaticism that says “our way is the only way and those who feel differently are wrong (and maybe should be punished).” I don’t much care for it.

The post in question–the one that I’ve decided not to name explicitly or discuss in detail–also gets into tools vs. emotions; the person seems to think you should be emotional about (that is, love) your computer.

Here I plead guilty. I’m a tool-user. I like Word a lot because it’s an exceptionally flexible toolkit; ditto Excel. I like that Windows lets me use any of half a dozen different ways to do something, whatever suits my own habits at the time. I don’t gaze in awe at the desktop or have any desire to stroke my notebook. I use it. A lot. I never worry that what I do with my computer might not be “worthy” of Windows or Gateway. It’s a tool (actually a toolkit).

But, you know, if you love your Mac, that’s OK. I know people who use Macs and iPads and iPhones as tools. They’re good tools. For some people, they’re better tools than Windows PCs or Android-based tablets (of which I happen to have one, a Kindle Fire HD 8.9–I find it a good tool, also, but don’t love it) or Android phones. And that’s their choice. If they develop a more emotional relationship with their Apple devices–well, again, that’s their choice.

I honor their preference. I don’t feign lack of belief that they could make such choices.

I couldn’t do as much writing as I do without Word (and, having tried it, I don’t think LibreOffice would work nearly as well for me). There is no way I could be doing the large-scale analyses I’ve done of public and academic libraries without Excel’s speed, flexibility and feature set. I find Windows a welcoming environment for me.

Of course my computer is my primary creative tool–but it’s still a toolkit, a means of producing something, whether it’s a post, an article, a book, a presentation or a tweet. My computer is a means: the end is the actual expression.

As for love? I love my wife (of 35.5 years so far, and shooting for many more). I love our cats. I tend not to love objects–in fact, I like Honda Civics, I don’t actually love them. I am, admittedly, not the world’s most emotional person. I do not love my 5-year-old cheap Gateway notebook, but it sure has been a good toolkit!

Oh, and for those who did read the other post: I never ever said that Mac fans are EVIL. I would never say that. Not even in jest. Here’s what I said:

…good to be reminded that it’s EVIL to criticize Apple fans, but it’s perfectly OK to trash any of us who prefer Microsoft. Thus it has always been; thus it will always be.

If you can turn this into a statement that Apple fans are EVIL, you’re a more clever reader than I am. Just as, if you can turn “”I can’t believe people still choose to use Microsoft,” all by itself, into humor, you have a much keener sense of humor than I do.

Eight years of randomness

Posted in Writing and blogging on April 1st, 2013

Time for the annual post again–on April 1, because this blog had its first post on April 1, 2005.

No, that wasn’t an accident.

I didn’t expect it to last more than four or five years. In some ways, it didn’t: the peak month for posts was actually May 2005, and the peak year for posts (that have survived) was 2008.

Of course, I didn’t expect Cites & Insights to last more than six or seven years either–and it almost didn’t make it past Year 11.

I’m not going anywhere. The blog continues to be unscheduled, erratic and somewhat random.

A couple of metrics

As of right now, there are 1,739 surviving posts. (I’ve trimmed some, mostly announcements of Lulu sales and other date-specific posts with no other content.)

There are 4,026 comments–not counting the 89,000+ that have been trapped by Spam Karma 2 or that I’ve flagged as spam. That’s 2.3 comments per post, but most posts don’t have any comments…

The blog seems to get a lot of traffic, although it’s never been quite clear whether that traffic has much to do with actual readers.

For the first three months of 2013, through March 31, there have been 146,441 sessions (1609 per day, but an average of 4,771 pageviews per day). I have no idea how many of those represent actual readers; I’m guessing a minority.

On the other hand, the blog has been visited from 22,474 IP addresses over the past three months, and it’s hard to believe that there are thousands and thousands of crazed spiders…

Quiet(er) on the blogging front

Posted in Writing and blogging on July 30th, 2012

For some reason, I thought August was going to be a fairly placid month. After all, I’ve already written (but not edited) the two-part essay that will make up most of the September Cites & Insights and part of the October issue as well; another essay for September’s already in place; and I just finished doing a little recheck of an old spreadsheet that will yield (most or all of) the rest of the October issue. Figure a week to turn the results into an essay (and a new page here, one that LSW members have a head’s-up for).

But there’s also… [Updated 8/2 to correct personal misunderstandings and keep track for myself!]

  • Comments due by the end of August as an external reviewer for a promotion review; I will do that this week (and, given the candidate, it’s a pleasure)\
  • Speaker forms and bio for Internet Librarian speech by 8/26 (slides & draft due September 26; whew)
  • Some specific blogging expectations on a different blog, second full week of August.
  • Almost forgot: I should get proposed editorial changes for my social networking book this month…Later
  • I agreed to do a foreword for a book, also due by the end of the month.
  • Oh, and as noted in the previous post, IMLS just released the FY2010 public library database, and I’d like to at least get started on the real, improved, useful Give Us a Dollar and You’ll Get Back Four in August, so I can finish in September (or at worst October) [This last one is the biggie and drives other deadlines.]

Not complaining. But this does mean that post traffic here is likely to be even lighter than usual. Not that anybody will notice the difference…

 


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