Archive for the ‘Writing and blogging’ Category

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.



Night Sweats: A hard-hitting review

Tuesday, 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.


*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

Saturday, 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.