The steakhouse blog

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on March 13th, 2014

When I finished editing “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall,” the lead essay in the April 2014 Cites & Insights*, I didn’t worry about the fact that I failed to reach clear conclusions about Beall or his list or blog. As with most essays of this sort, I was trying to paint a picture, not come up with a Declaration of Belief.

But I did think about why I found the situation so troubling–especially since it was and is clear that many librarians continue to assume that Beall is a reliable and worthy source. Last night, it came to me.

The steakhouse blog

Let’s say someone with some credentials as a judge of good meat starts a blog called Steakhouses. (If there is such a blog, this has nothing to do with it: I didn’t check.**) It gets a fair amount of readership and acclaim, even though every post on it is about bad steakhouses. After a while, there’s even a Bad Steakhouse List as a page from the blog.

Some people raise questions about the criteria used for judging a steakhouse to be bad, but lots of people say “Hey, here’s a great list so we can avoid bad steakhouses.”

The big reveal

After a couple of years, the author of the blog–who continues to be judge and jury for bad steakhouses–writes an article in which he denounces all meat-eaters as people with dire motives who, I dunno, wish to force other people to eat steak.

I will assert that, to the extent that this article became well known and the blog author didn’t deny writing it, the Steakhouse blog would be shunned as pointless–after all, if the author’s against all meat-eaters, why would he be a reliable guide to bad steakhouses?

Bad analogy?

So how exactly are the Scholarly Open Access blog and Beall’s List different from the Steakhouse blog and Bad Steakhouse List? And if they’re not, why would anybody take Beall seriously at this point?

Note that dismissing the Steakhouse blog and the Bad Steakhouse List as pointless does not mean saying “there are no bad steakhouses.” It doesn’t even mean abandoning the search for ways to identify and publicize bad steakhouses. It just means recognizing that, to the Steakhouse blog author, all steakhouses are automatically bad, which makes that author useless as a judge.

Full disclosure: I haven’t been to a steakhouse in years, and I rarely–almost never, actually–order steak at restaurants. I am an omnivore; different issue.

*Just under 2,900 downloads as of right now. Amazing.

**I’ve now done some crude checking. There are a number of blogs that include “Steakhouse” in their titles, I don’t find a Steakhouse blog as such, I don’t find a “Bad Steakhouse List,” and the blogs about steakhouses that I did find don’t appear to be uniformly anti-steakhouse.


Posted in Cites & Insights on March 11th, 2014

A little follow-up to last Friday’s “Popularity?”–posted at the point where the April 2014 Cites & Insights had about 1,030 downloads, remarkably high for the first six days after publication. I guessed it was mostly because of the first essay, “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall.”

I’m now fairly certain that’s the reason. A number of people had mentioned the essay before last Friday (I didn’t see most of the mentions; I don’t follow that many people on Twitter and only track about 500 blogs with Feedly). Since then, there’s been quite a bit of tweeting and retweeting, with John Dupuis and others calling it an important essay. I am, of course, grateful for this.

(If you’re interested: around 2,450 as of midafternoon today, Tuesday, March 11–I suspect it will hit 2,500 some time today or tomorrow.)

I want to note three things here, I hope briefly:

  1. To be honest, I didn’t think this was all that strikingly important as an essay; I mostly just rounded up some articles in a fairly coherent article. Although I do admit, when I read it today, it reads reasonably well. However, I believe the May 2014 Cites & Insights will have a more important article–Ethics and Access 2, including some original pseudo-research–and I’d like to believe that quite a few essays and books over the past two or three years have been more important, especially for libraries. None of the (self-published) books reached even 10% as many people. That’s a shame… And for those interested in OA, I’ve done a lot of writing about it in the past (some of it collected in a free ebook).
  2. Any opinions regarding Jeffrey Beall stated in tweets or other commentary do not necessarily reflect my own opinions, except for those in non-quoted portions of the article. I’ve seen a couple of unfavorable opinions that I would probably disagree with.
  3. I love having more readers. I’d love having a little more support–either book purchases or direct support of C&I or, dreaming once again, finding an actual sponsor for the publication (and for related original research: I have an idea in mind that’s somewhat related to the April essay, but it would involve 50-100 hours of work, and at this point I can’t justify the time for $0 return, given that I don’t have a job that I’m doing all this in addition to). Full sponsorship (which I had for a few years) would be wonderful; if any of you are in a position to help, great. (It would cost $10K/year, and I’d be happy to work with any company or operation that’s not typically covered in C&I–e.g., a library distributor or services company like Ebsco, Gale, etc., a group like OCLC, a foundation like Gates (but I’m too small-scale for them), an automation vendor like Innovative. There are firms I would not work with, presumably including those I do discuss in C&I and one or two special cases, but not all that many.)

But mostly: I do appreciate the readership and the direct appreciation in tweets. The rest of this–other than maybe #2, where it really may be important to say that other people’s opinions are, obviously, their own–is secondary. Oh, and that I believe the May 2014 issue will be worthwhile.

Finally: one correction to the Beall essay, pointed out to me by a reader: Hindawi is headquartered in Egypt, not India. Sorry about that.


Posted in Cites & Insights on March 7th, 2014

Here’s something mildly interesting, or not.

  • In (roughly) the first month after it appeared, the January 2014 Cites & Insights (“Books, E and P” and “Gunslinger Classics”) had around 880 downloads. I was pleased.
  • In the first month after it appeared, the February 2014 Cites & Insights (“E and P: What I Ignored,” “Ebooks as Textbooks,” and “Ebooks and Libraries”) had around 550 downloads. I was OK with that, too.
  • In the first month after it appeared, the March 2014 Cites & Insights (“Toward 15 and 200,” “Thinking about Magazines” and “The Back”) had around 420 downloads. That’s not too bad either.
  • and, wait for it…
  • In the first week since it was published–well, actually, not quite a week yet, but up to roughly 3 p.m. this afternoon, so a little more than six days–the April 2014 Cites & Insights (“Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall” and “The Middle: Forecasts and Futurism”) has around 1,030 downloads.

I draw no conclusions. The May 2013 issue will definitely include Ethics and Access 2, and this one includes some original “research.”

As to the fundraising campaign…not a whole lot of progress to report. But y’all must love forecasts and futurism. Or something like that…


A deadline and an apology of sorts

Posted in C&I Books, Cites & Insights on March 4th, 2014

First, the deadline:

If you (or your library or consortium) haven’t yet purchased a copy of The Big Deal and the Damage Done–either the $16.50 paperback, the $9.99 PDF ebook or the $40 campus/site/consortium-“licensed” ebook (the $40 version includes explicit permission on the copyright page for simultaneous usage/downloading from a single server, campus or consortium), you should do so soon.

On or about May 14, 2014, all three versions will go out of print: they will become wholly unavailable. (Since neither PDF version has any DRM attached, this will not have any effect on any purchased versions.)

[Why? Because shortly after that a more up-to-date, but briefer, sequel will be published as a Library Technology Reports issue, distributed to subscribers and available for individual purchase from ALA.  While I believe the original book continues to have separate value, I’m choosing to shut it down at that point. Some time later, probably in June, there will be a complementary self-published book looking at other aspects of academic library book purchasing and circulation: note that’s complementary, not complimentary–the self-published book won’t be free.]

As an aside, the trio of public library books appear to be dead in the water. Only Your Library Is… has sold any copies since November 2012, and that hasn’t sold any copies since January 2013. I’m a little sad about that, but have pretty much given up. (So far: 11 copies of that wonderful little book, and fewer than half a dozen of either of the others. Such is life.)

Then there’s the apology. A Cites & Insights reader let me know that, in some cases where I’ve said [Emphasis added] at the end of quoted material, there doesn’t actually seem to be any emphasized material in the quote. This reader thought this was an artifact of the single-column version and the way I converted it from the two-column.

Turns out it’s true of the two-column version as well, and is apparently an artifact of how Word 2010 creates a PDF using “Save/Send to PDF.” It’s maintaining italics and, I think, boldface in some circumstances, but seems to be losing it in some.

I can fix this in one of two ways, and currently plan to do it in the second–but if there’s significant reader desire, I can do it in the first and maybe retroactively for this year’s issues:

1. I can Print using Adobe PDF as a printer, rather than using Word’s function. That may also result in a smaller PDF. Unfortunately, because I haven’t spent the $$$ to upgrade to the most recent Acrobat, that works as a printer, not an Acrobat-in-Word function, with the result that you don’t get bookmarks for essays and headings within essays.

2. I’ll probably replace my 5-year-old computer some time this year, maybe, perhaps, depending partly on support for C&I…and if/when I do, I’ll probably also upgrade to Office360/Office 2013. I’m guessing it has much better built-in PDF support and will probably handle the boldface properly.

Of course, it’s possible that nobody actually uses the PDF bookmarks, in which case solution #1 is an easy fix…

I’ll open comments on this post. If you have an opinion on this matter, please do comment or send me email at the usual (waltcrawford at gmail dot com).

Another sidenote: Either it’s Charles W. Bailey, Jr.’s mention–thanks, Charles–or word gets around when I’m dealing with certain topics. The March C&I, with an essay that means a lot to me but possibly not to you, had only about 450-500 downloads in its first month. The April issue, with the Beall lead essay, has more than 740…in its first four days!

Cites & Insights 14:4 (April 2014) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 1st, 2014

The April 2014 issue of Cites & Insights (volume 14, issue 4, whole # 172) is now available for downloading at

The print-oriented two-column edition is 22 pages. Those reading online or on a tablet may prefer the 6×9″ single-column version, which is 41 pages long, at

This issue includes two essays:

Intersections: Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall  (pp. 1-14)

The saga of Jeffrey Beall going from self-appointed investigator into “predatory” open access publishers and journals (and, notably, only OA journals) to ludicrous analyst of serials pricing and the reasons for OA–and beyond that to denouncing OA and its advocates? It’s an odd story, and my version includes some really good ideas on avoiding sketchy journals (mostly from a notoriously worthwhile pseudonymous feathered library type) without buying into vigilantism.

The Middle: Forecasts and Futurism (pp. 14-22)

After skipping a year, it’s time for another set of forecasts (short-term predictions) and futurism (long-term “predictions”), including some thoughts on the whole trendspotting game.

Does that number in the title of the first essay suggest something? Why, yes, it does–probably two things, one of them almost certain to appear in the May 2014 issue, and involving another “B.”

To go or not to go…

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 24th, 2014

One of these days, I’ll start blogging again about a range of topics. To some extent, I’m still recovering from the compressed project of early February–and a followup to that project that occupied most of last week. Now, I’m polishing the next Cites & Insights…but also trying to make a decision, preferably by March 3.

Namely, to go or not to go? To ALA Annual in Las Vegas, that is.

The question is linked to “Toward 15 and 200: Your help wanted,” my attempt to establish a pool of sponsors and supporters for Cites & Insights–with perks for those who sponsor or support the direct and indirect costs of C&I, based on their sense that it’s worthwhile to them.

I believe it’s worthwhile to go to at least one library conference at least every couple of years, as part of an effort to stay involved in the library community. (The LSW FriendFeeders are obviously my primary involvement, but there’s worth in more general awareness, face-to-face conversations, seeing what vendors are up to, etc. as well.) The cost of attending is probably the major indirect cost of C&I–especially since it’s one I can certainly avoid (unlike domain registration, hosting, printer supplies and once in a while software/hardware: for example, this may be the year I give my five-year-old budget notebook its own retirement party).

Vegas would be a relatively inexpensive ALA Annual–the hotel prices are bargains, and it’s possible to get there for a reasonable price (on an unreasonable airline, but that’s a different issue). I’m a valley boy, so the heat of Vegas in June/July isn’t an issue. And it’s been a couple of years…

Anyway: I’m trying to make that decision. The level of support for C&I will help make it. If you find C&I to be moderately worthwhile, I invite you to chip in–with suggested levels of $30/year for supporters, $50/year (or more, of course) for sponsors, and perks at both levels. (The first such perk will go out this week to early donors–early notification of the next C&I.)


C&I sponsorship: Reminder and progress report

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 18th, 2014

On January 6, 2014, I posted “Toward 15 and 200: Your help wanted,” a request for donations to support Cites & Insights at two levels and with mild perks for support.

That request also appears in the current Cites & Insights (March 2014).

Briefly: If you regard C&I as worthwhile–both for the last 13 years and in the future–I could really use some evidence of that. Publicity (posts, etc. linking to issues that you’ve found worthwhile and think other people should read) is always helpful. Direct support–I’m asking for $30 or $50 in this case–is, of course, also helpful, to cover the direct expenses and encourage me to keep up the major expenses (which are indirect).

I’m targeting enough revenue to justify going to one professional conference a year–either ALA or something else–at least partly to stay in touch with people in the field and “the buzz.” But the perks would also provide an advisory panel, which could be mutually beneficial (I think).

The minimum target for this fundraising drive is 50 supporters & sponsors.

As of now, after roughly six weeks, the results are greater than 0% but less than 10%.

Your help would be greatly appreciated.

If, of course, you believe I’m another useless old white man who should shut up and go away, you could let me know that directly or simply ignore C&I and these requests. I’m getting some evidence that this blog itself is being ignored, at least as a source of worthwhile (linkable) comment*, and it’s certainly true that I’ve spent most energy recently on C&I and on research/writing that actually pays a little.

Right now, I’m looking at what I’ve tagged for future discussion in C&I and considering two sets of possible topics:

1. Those that are either fun or topics I feel really strongly about and feel I can add something worthwhile on.

2. Those I feel I can add something worthwhile on, but are perhaps more work than fun–and are perhaps more important for the field.

The growing temptation is to go through and strike #2 altogether. Some level of support may change that.

*For example, I thought “Favoring the ALA Statement of Appropriate Conduct” was an at least mildly useful addition to the commentary on that issue. As far as I can tell, nobody ever linked to it, certainly including one long list ‘o’ links on the issue. The other indications of this are the total lack of comments hereabouts–not atypical for blogs these days–and the fact that the most-“viewed” pages when I look at site stats are almost never either recent or anything other than random. E.g., for February so far, the top actual post is “What’s on your Firefox search dropdown?” from October 2006, and of the top five none are from 2014 and the only one from 2013 is about 2.5-buck-Chuck.

Some days you gotta dance

Posted in Stuff on February 12th, 2014

Emerging from the projecthole I’ve been in, at least a little, with an odd post…

Vacuuming today, wearing ear protectors with built-in headphones, playing the “mix tape” 6GB of my favorite 380-or-so songs (on a Sansa Fuze). I don’t much dance, and I don’t have much rhythm…but one tune got me going, at least a little. Not necessarily dancing, but moving at least.

You can see the title above (“Some days you gotta dance” if it’s too much work to look), but not the backstory.

To wit: I knew the version I was listening to was James Taylor’s cover, from his Covers album–but I didn’t know what it was a cover of. And with the tight Tower-of-Power-style horns absolutely driving the song, I assumed he was covering some black group, possibly mid-60s, possibly Oakland, certainly with horns.

So I finally checked today. And, sure enough, it’s urban blues–woops, country? Really? First recorded by Keith Urban, best known from a Dixie Chicks recording? From the ’90s?

Taylor comes by it honestly: Look at Youtube and you’ll find a Crossroads episode with Taylor and the Dixie Chicks, which begins with that song, Taylor singing lead. (Apparently Keith Urban played guitar on the Chicks recording: everything connects to everything.)

And, you know, now that I’ve listened to the Dixie Chicks version(s) (the recorded one and the Crossroads one) and Keith Urban’s version…

Damned if I still don’t think this is a horns-driven urban pop song from the ’60s or ’70s. There’s just an edge to that version that the guitar-driven versions don’t have. (Also: Urban rushes the song.)

I’d point you to the James Taylor version, but the ones I see on Youtube are live versions without the tight full horns. They’re OK, but not the same.

Update next day: I don’t know genres for s**t and I’m not particularly up on recent music. Could be late ’50s rockabilly but with an infusion of more recent horn sections. Or not. In any case, to me, Taylor’s version (a) isn’t country and (b) is superior. Nothing against good country, to be sure.


Mystery Collection Disc 41

Posted in Movies and TV on February 5th, 2014

A Dangerous Summer, 1982, color. Quentin Masters (dir.), Tom Skerritt, Ian Gilmour, Ray Barrett, James Mason, Wendy Hughes, Guy Doleman, Kim Deacon. 1:28 [1:29]

Set in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, this fiery movie starts with fire, ends with fire and is about firebugs and insurance fraud. It’s also deeply disappointing, in that it can’t seem to decide whether it’s a heavily plotted situation—or just an insane young man. Mostly, I guess, it was a paid Australian vacation for James Mason and Tom Skerritt.

It’s set in December (summer in Australia). We open with brush fires and school fires simultaneously, so that when Skerritt—the American co-developer for a supposed resort hotel that never seems to be much more than multistory wood framing—sees smoke from a (set) fire nearby and asks for firefighters, he’s told they’re all busy. We learn a bit later that the chief of the brush fire squad is absolutely convinced the resort will eventually burn down, and apparently not too unhappy about that. Meanwhile, a lawyer at a local insurance company is a bit concerned that the place is insured for $10 million—but only through the end of the year—even though it can’t possibly be worth more than a fraction of that. So is the co-developer, who is told by the person putting up the money that, well, a bit of the bank’s money went to “other little projects” like the money guy’s yacht. Oh, and the local insurance company, which has reinsured with Lloyds of London, either owns the company that owns most of the resort or vice-versa.

We wind up with a drowned insurance company lawyer who was an excellent swimmer (we see the drowning in some detail, and apparently the drowner felt the need to rip off the top half of the lawyer’s swimsuit: she was an attractive young woman). We get various other stuff, including the train the co-developer is on running right into a fire zone and catching on fire. And eventually the partial wood framing that’s supposed to be a big hotel burns down (this time through direct arson on Christmas day)—taking the firebug with it. (First, he sets the co-developer’s house on fire, with his girlfriend—the co-developer’s daughter—upstairs, naked and partly bound. Her father does save her.) And that’s it: We get no resolution of any plot other than the firebug himself.

I found it disappointing and, frankly, not all that well done: poor photography, mediocre directing, poor sound, mediocre acting, incoherent editing. Really nothing special. I’m being generous (mostly for Mason and Wendy Hughes) by giving it $0.75.

Mitchell, 1975, color. Andrew V. McLaglen (dir.), Joe Don Baker, Martin Balsam, John Saxon, Linda Evans, Merlin Olsen. 1:37 [1:31]

This feels like the pilot for a TV series—but it also appears to be filmed wide-screen (but displayed pan & scan), so maybe not. Joe Don Baker is Mitchell, a slob of a plainclothes detective who doesn’t get along with much of anybody, seems largely incompetent, drinks too much, lives in a studio apartment and seems to be sort of a wreck. He’s warned off one case that’s called justifiable homicide but that he thinks is murder (because the killer’s subject of a big FBI investigation) and told to tail another crook; things start out from there. He’s very obvious about tailing, winds up having drinks with the crook and saying what he’s supposed to be looking for (the crook’s been set up by an associate), and…well…lots’o’plot. None of which makes much sense, any more than Mitchell’s defective, er, detective work

We have Linda Evans as a $1,000/night hooker who shows up at Mitchell’s door as a Christmas present (he chooses the wrong crook as the likely donor) and shows up again—the second time, he busts her for pot. But he asserts that he’s clean, as in, he doesn’t take cash bribes. Some interesting car chases; some interesting interactions; and in the end all of the low-level bad guys are dead, which doesn’t help the FBI or anybody else get to the bigger crooks.

But never mind: it’s mostly just a hoot. Great cast, and if you suspend disbelief a little it’s fun in its own cornpone way. For that, I give it a credible $1.25.

Please Murder Me, 1956, b&w. Peter Godfrey (dir.), Angela Lansbury, Raymond Burr, Dick Foran, John Dehner, Lamont Johnson, Denver Pyle. 1:18 [1:15].

Raymond Burr and Angela Lansbury. In 1956. When Lansbury was a stunning young (31-year-old) femme fatale, and Raymond Burr was (39-year-old) Raymond Burr. It starts with him buying a handgun at a pawnshop, then going into a dark office, turning on a lamp, putting the gun and an portfolio into a desk drawer, then starting a tape recorder in the other desk drawer—and telling the story of how he’s going to be murdered in 55 minutes.

It’s quite a tale, involving best friends, apparent love, pure gold-digging, a dramatic murder trial and acquittal—and people with and without integrity. Talky, to be sure, but compelling enough. I downgrade it somewhat because the print’s jumpy at times, with missing frames and words. Still, $1.25.

The Squeeze, 1978, color. Antonio Margheriti (dir.), Lee Van Cleef, Karen Black, Edward Albert, Lionel Stander, Robert Alda. 1:39.

Great cast (Lee Van Cleef, Edward Albert, Karen Black, Lionel Stander, Robert Alda and more). Interesting concept—retired safecracker (Van Cleef) lured into one more job to help an old friend’s son, who soon finds out that the folks he’s helping are Bad Crooks (that is, they’d rather shoot helpers than share the loot). Odd side-story that leads up to an interesting triple-cross finale. (There are a lot of movies entitled “The Squeeze”—this one’s from 1978 and stars Lee Van Cleef, and was filmed on location in seedier parts of New York City.)

Also not anywhere near as good as it could be—but not bad. Unusual to see Van Cleef in something other than a Spaghetti Western, but his looks and personality work here as well. Not a great print, but not bad. On balance, $1.25.

Cites & Insights March 2014 (14:3) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 1st, 2014

Breaking the silence of project preparation to announce:

Cites & Insights 14:3 (March 2014) is now available for downloading at

That’s a 32-page two-column PDF optimized for printing. If you’re planning to read it online or on an e-device, I suggest the 61-page single-column 6″ x 9″ PDF optimized for viewing (and much smaller as a download) at

The issue includes:

The Front: Toward 15 and 200: Your Help Wanted  pp. 1-3

Cites & Insights is in its 14th year and has passed Issue 170. I’m asking for help to encourage keeping it up to at least 15 and 200–and offering perks for donors.

Media: Thinking about Magazines  pp. 3-24

Think print magazines are disappearing–or, worse, are just miscellaneous collections of articles? Think again. If you want a sense of the continuing importance of print magazines, maybe four words will suffice: World Wildlife and STAND–the new glossy print magazines from, respectively, World Wildlife Fund and the ACLU, both of which recognize the special power of a good magazine. This roundup includes some numbers and some perspectives. (No, Cites & Insights isn’t a magazine; it’s closer to a newsletter. And while a few journals are also magazines–Science, for example–most journals aren’t magazines and most magazines aren’t journals.)

The Back  pp. 25-32

A baker’s dozen of minisnarks (or, if you prefer, a dozen with lagniappe) on sound, prices, TED, silliness and casual (or ignorant) tech-sexism at “the newspaper of record.”

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