Archive for the ‘Writing and blogging’ Category

As close as I’ll get to NaNoWriMo

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Or, as I like to think of it, the Misspelled Robin Williams Memorial process…

Anyway, you could think of the December 2015 Cites & Insights as my NaNoWriMo with just tiny little deviations. After all, it is novel-length (as defined by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, SFWA, as far as I know the only list of lengths for this sort of thing: if it’s over 40,000 words, it’s a novel), and it’s appearing in November.

The only little tiny deviations from NaNooNaNooNoWriMo:

  • The issue isn’t quite 50,000 words long–it’s 48,012.
  • It’s nonfiction.
  • Although it appears in November, I wrote it in October, and OctNonWriMo doesn’t exist. Yet.
  • A large portion of it isn’t my writing, it’s excerpts from other writing. (How large a portion? To my surprise, apparently less than half–deleting every quoted paragraph that’s not quoting me brings the word count down to 26,851 words.)

But hey, other than those four tiny quibbles…

In any case, it’s as close as I’m ever likely to get to NaNoWriMo.

Gold OA: The basis for going on (1 of 2)

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

At this point–seven weeks after The Gold OA Landscape 2011-2014 was published–it seems like a good time to discuss the issues surrounding possible continuation of this full-survey research for another year (that is, covering 2015, done in 2016).

Part 2 will deal with finances: what it would take to make it happen.

This part deals with a related question: Since I’m not depending on this revenue to keep meals on the table or a roof over our heads, why do I need any revenue for it at all?

[No, nobody’s said that quite so flatly. Still: every time somebody says “there’s something wrong with charging for a writeup about open access or the research it took to do that writeup, because OA’s supposed to be free,” or something of the sort–which has happened every time I or ALA (or MIT) has published something on OA that carries a price–once I calm down, I turn it into the question above.]

Turns out, this is a philosophical question of sorts: Namely, what motivates me to do anything (other than lie around the house, do some housework, read books, watch TV, go for walks and like that)?

That question’s been clarified in my own mind over the years since it’s become clear that Cites & Insights itself is unlikely to attract significant contributions (the total has never reached the high three figures in a year, much less four figures). Here’s how I’ve worked it out in my own head, although I’m sure it’s an incomplete model.

I see four factors: Fun, Interest, Worth/Usefulness/Effectiveness, and Appreciation. Two are internal, two external.


I do some essays in Cites & Insights because they’re fun or amusing to me. Certainly true of The Back, The Middle, most Media essays (esp. old movies). That’s part of why I started looking at liblogging, library blogging and library slogans (and, for that matter, library use of social media): it was fun.

“Fun” and “interesting” can overlap in slightly unpredictable ways. It was, initially, fun to unveil the realities behind Beall’s lists, and in some ways it’s been fun to see how well Chrome/Google does or does not translate non-English journal websites (and to appreciate some of the blank verse generated by some translations).


I have lots of interests, and I’ll pursue an interest to what might possibly be considered extremes–I’m a completist in some areas. It has certainly been interesting to examine the Gold OA landscape in detail, and once I got well into it I realized that I wanted to see it through.

Interest certainly explains some ongoing features in Cites & Insights. I don’t find copyright discussions particularly amusing, but they’re interesting, just as one example.

But I have lots of interests, and could readily cultivate more. And time eventually does become a limiting factor. At this point, I don’t expect to live for more than 30 years or so–possibly quite a bit less, probably not much more. (For a long time, I’d pegged 93 as my desirable stopping point; I’ve moved that to 98–which gives me 28 more years–as long as I’m im good mental and reasonable physical health. I have no desire to live to 103 or 108 or some extreme old age–but ask me again 20 years from now, I suppose.) There are a lot of books I’d like to read and quite a few I wouldn’t mind rereading; there are a lot of movies I want to watch; I read and enjoy quite a few magazines (and one daily “paper”); there’s a fair amount of TV I enjoy watching (although probably very little by most people’s standards); lots of music to pay attention to; and… and… and…

So at a certain point I have to balance competing interests, especially since time is finite and some significant portion of it is taken up with household maintenance, family life, sleep (yes, I get 7.5 to 8 hours a day; no, I’m not willing to reduce that much), vacations, exercise and long walks/hikes, etc…

Balance isn’t much of an issue when I’m choosing a book that may take 4-5 hours to read or an essay that may take 5-10 hours to write. It’s a lot more of an issue when I’m contemplating a project that would probably take 500 to 600 hours over the course of six or seven months.

Which is to say: I find the ongoing story of gold OA interesting. Do I find it interesting enough to give up 500-600 hours per year of other stuff? Which brings us to:


When something’s fun and not too time-consuming, this and the final factor don’t come into play.

When it’s a question of balance and which projects are worth starting or continuing, this and the final factor definitely do come into play.

To wit: what is this worth (and how useful is it) to me and other people?

(Yes, this and the final factor overlap a lot. That’s how life is.)

I look at readership, citations, and things like that as indications of worth and usefulness. If an issue of C&I is only read 200 times over the course of three months, it apparently wasn’t found to be worthwhile or useful; if it’s read 2,000 times over three months, it apparently was worthwhile or useful.

Of course, worth can also have a financial aspect, which gets more into appreciation: do people find something sufficiently useful or worthwhile to pay for it?

I recognized that my series of books on liblogging had ceased to be worthwhile/useful about a year too late, when sales declined to pretty much nothing and readership for related C&I issues declined substantially. But I did eventually recognize it and stopped doing the series. (A ten-year recap might or might not happen; if it does, it will be at a “this might be fun/interesting” level, not a “people might be willing to buy this” level–there wouldn’t be a book.)

There have been other themes in Cites & Insights that have disappeared because it appeared that people didn’t find them useful or worthwhile. Indeed, I stopped doing individual HTML essays because there didn’t seem to be much demand for them (and it was clear nobody found them worthwhile enough to pay for) and they were never interesting or fun to do–while the single-column version of C&I has proven to be useful enough to keep doing.

As to effectiveness: that’s so hard to measure that I generally ignore it–but I do have to mention it within this discussion.

So how does the OA research fall on the interesting/worthwhile axis?

Journal Readership

Looking at OA-related issues of Cites & Insights over the past two years, including research-based ones and others, I find the following download numbers through this morning at 5:30 a.m. (but missing most of the last day of each month):

  • April 2014 (“The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall”): 10,576, one of the highest total downloads figures ever — but in terms of effectiveness, I look at how often the lists continue to be used as the basis for policy or, sigh, “research,” and have to wonder whether there’s been any real effect at all.
  • May 2014 (“The So-Called Sting”): 4,126 downloads, a high figure.
  • July 2014 (“Journals, ‘Journals’ and Wannabes”): 5,121–a high figure, and since this was a full-issue essay, I can reasonably assume that the readership was entirely related to this essay.
  • August 2014 (“Access and Ethics 3”): 1,643, a decent-but-not-great figure.
  • October/November 2014 (“Journals and ‘Journals’: Taking a Deeper Look”): 1,704, another decent-but-not-great figure.
  • December 2014 (…Part 2): 1,669, another decent-but-not-great figure.
  • January 2015 (“The Third Half”): 2,783, a good solid figure, especially since it represents less than a year.
  • March 2015 (“One More Chunk of DOAJ”): 2,281, a good solid figure, but in this case the essay taking up most of the issue–“Books, E and P, 2014”–probably accounts for much of that, since that’s always been a hot topic.
  • April 2015 (“The Economics of Open Access”): 2,476, a good solid figure–and this one’s a single-essay issue.
  • June 2015 (“Who Needs Open Access Anyway?”): 1,595, a decent figure for five months.
  • July 2015 (“Thinking About Libraries and Access, Take 2”): 839 downloads–and this one’s a little disappointing because that essay was my own take on/beliefs about OA. This suggests that people are a lot less interested in what I think than in what I’ve found out through research. That’s OK, of course…but…
  • October 2015 (“The Gold OA Landscape 2011-2014”): 2,169 downloads in the first seven weeks or so, which I regard as very good numbers, especially for the first couple of months.



This shows up in citations elsewhere, tweets and the like, but also in donations and sales (and, heck, speaking invitations–one of the coins of the realm, but there haven’t been any in a couple of years–certainly none related to this research).

When it comes to citations, I don’t have any real complaints; ditto tweets.

As far as donations: still in the low three digits, and that was mostly when I was offering a free ebook and production-priced paperback. None since the project was completed (other than two very small recurring donations that are for C&I, not OA research.)

As for sales…

Book Purchases

For the same period–the books appeared a couple of days before the October 2015 issue did–here’s what I show, not including my own copy: Seven paperback copies, one site-licensed PDF ebook. Total: Eight copies.

In other words, not even one-half of one percent of those who’ve downloaded the October 2015 issue have, so far, found the research sufficiently worthwhile to buy the full story.

Of course, there could be dozens, nay, hundreds of orders just waiting to go to Amazon or Ingram.

So where does this leave me? Wondering whether the effectiveness and demonstrated worth is enough to justify doing it again.

(If you’re wondering, I’d say total revenue counted toward this project–including all donations and all self-published book sales of any sort since September 1, 2015–is more than one-third of the way, but considerably less than halfway, toward being enough to make the anonymized spreadsheet available on figshare. It’s a bit more than one-fifth of the way toward making me think seriously about doing it again.)

Which brings us to Part 2, later today or maybe another day.



A little egocheck with Google Scholar

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Fair warning: no real significance here, just a little fun–engendered by Robin Hastings’ Facebook status giving me a shout-out for being mentioned in one of her LIS textbooks (a reference based on “Here’s the Content–Where’s the Context?” in the March 2000 American Libraries–an article, not a column).

Which, for some reason, caused me to go look at my Google Scholar page, for the first time in a while. (I dunno if that link will work. If not, not.)

I’m sure every scholar with even half an ego knows that Google Scholar uses the term “scholar” loosely, since neither the things it cites nor the citations it counts are in any way limited to Proper Scholarly Literature. Which is a good thing for me, as I’ve only written two or three refereed articles in my entire career, and I’m not even sure they’re among the–good grief, 479!–items listed on that Google Scholar page. (Really? 479? I guess so; apparently, even some Cites & Insights issues are included, as are many of my columns and even CD-ROM reviews. I just now deleted one, from the second page of 20 each, that’s by some other W. Crawford.)

Anyway: it’s an interesting list, in its own way. I have no idea what h-index and i10-index scores are supposed to mean, but mine are 17 and 21 respectively (or 7 and 4 since 2010), based, I guess, in part on 1,378 citations (298 since 2010–and I find the latter much more gratifying, since it means I’m not entirely old news.)

Then I get down to “what gets cited most?”

First, not surprisingly, I can’t entirely count as my own: Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality with 355(!) citations. I’d guess Michael Gorman’s fans are directly responsible for many of those. Still, I’ll take it.

Second, not too surprisingly: Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” (Cites & Insights 6:2) with 120 citations.

Third, an oldie but a goodie, MARC for Library Use, with 97 citations.

The rest are in some ways more interesting, because some of them are a trifle unexpected–e.g., #5, Being Analog: Creating Tomorrow’s Libraries, and #10, “Starting Over: Current Issues in Online Catalog User Interfce Design” from a 1992 issue of Information Technology and Libraries. Come to think of it, #8 may be surprising as well: Patron Access: Issues for Online Catalogs–a book that was, I believe, important and current when it was written, in 1987. Today, not so much. That five of the citations (of 32) are from the 21st century, and that two are within the past three years, is a little surprising.

Gratifying, in its own way: #4: “Paper Persists: Why Physical Library Collections Still Matter,” from Online in 1998. That date and the fact that the article was needed tell you something: if a few librarians are now complaining that they don’t want to read any more articles about print being superior to digital, you might remind them that for twenty years or more we’ve been reading seemingly endless accounts of how all-digital was inevitable, from N. Negroponte on down. (Being Digital appeared in 1995. The Wikipedia article on the book is “neutral” in that special way that start-class articles about Digital Gurus and their work tend to be…)

Enough; I’m certainly not going to slog through citations for the 100+ items that actually have citations.



Ten Years of W.a.R.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Ten years. I’ve been doing this for ten years.

The first post on Walt at Random appeared on April 1, 2005; the date was intentional.

Back then, I still worked at RLG. (Back then, there still was an RLG.) I was still writing two columns, one in EContent and one in Online. Cites & Insights was in its fifth year. And the blog seemed like a good idea at the time.

Since then? More than 2,000 posts (the dashboard says 1,990, but I’ve deleted some posts such as announcements of Lulu sales). 4,118 posted comments (almost none in recent years), plus 105,113 spamments and counting.

Here’s a look at posting frequency—counting only posts that are still available:


Maybe you can see a pattern in that graph, other than things completely falling apart in 2014. I can’t.

Major categories: Writing and blogging; Cites & Insights; Movies and TV; Books and publishing…and Stuff, which is partly posts I forget to categorize.

I’d link to the very first post, but I keep getting the fourth post when I try to do that. Not very interesting anyway.

Looking back ten years, I do notice one thing: there are several minor items I’ve thought about blogging about…and it turns out I already did. Ten years ago.

As for overall statistics: I haven’t a clue. (Yeah, I know, but also not about overall W.a.R. statistics.) The program that’s currently running only shows statistics for the current month. As of yesterday (when I’m actually writing this), March 31, 2015, at about 5 a.m., here’s what I see:

6.213 unique visitors. 2,2690 visits from people, with 57,291 pages. Another 183,181 pages (192,745 hits) of “not viewed traffic”—robots, worms, etc.

The summary does show other months for the current year; turns out uniqwue visitors is nearly constant, at 6,189-6,298 per month.

As for the most visited pages for March 2015? That’s an odd lot. Excluding overhead (/feed/ and the like):

  • Signs of Spring (April 16, 2011), 2,420 views—a post about our photovoltaic system. Really?
  • Post-OCLC: A midterm update (August 7, 2007), 1,359 views—now that’s just sad. (I should note that I got lots of kind words during the process, but also that there’s one library director I hope never to encounter again, as he made a point of saying how wonderful it was that RLG had been merged, resulting in my job loss—and that was all he—and of course it was a he—said. Apparently simply not responding wasn’t an option, where gratuitous salt-rubbing was.)
  • The Open Access Landscape: 1. Background (March 3, 2015), 649 views—finally, a current post.
  • The Open Access Landscape: 2. Agriculture (March 6, 2015), 415 views

And a mix of old and new with fewer than 400 views.

The #1 search keyphrase: “what is a peachcot”

Which seems like an ideal place to end this blogiversary post.

Starting a tenth year of randomness

Tuesday, 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

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

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


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

Monday, 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)

Monday, 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, 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.


Thursday, 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.

Thursday, 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.