Archive for April, 2005

Saying it just write

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Just a short quote from William Germano’s “Point of View” on page B20 of the April 22, 2005 Chronicle of Higher Education:

(I find it unsurprisingly easy to view the weaknesses in my own writing as being part of my style.)

Boy, can I identify with that parenthetical comment. (The column’s about passive writing among academics. Worth reading.)

By the way, the title above was a slip of the fingers, but I think I’m going to leave it.

The joy of copyfitting

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Not quite metablogging, but close: Some notes about the process of bringing the latest Cites & Insights to fruition.

Not the writing part. That’s too tedious and strange to discuss, at least for now, combining reading, marking up source material, putting it together in various ways, and writing over the course of several weeks. The (C)3 perspective started out as a section of the (C)3 essay. The “Civilities” essay started out as one or two notes, but it started to come together.

This issue included none of the five “stuff” sections that characterize the journal (some of which is slowly moving here instead), that is, Good Stuff, Library Stuff, Trends & Quick Takes, Interesting & Peculiar Products, and Bibs & Blather. Well, there was a Bibs & Blather section…

This is what I call a “chunky issue”–a few big chunks instead of a larger number of generally-shorter chunks. I never know whether chunky issues are better or worse. They just are.

So: as of last Friday, I had around 22,000 words in five sizable essays and a couple of short sections. Too much for a reasonable-size issue: a 20-page issue can hold at most 15,000-15,500 words (depending on the number of headings and whether I use really short words).

I started by doing an editorial pass on each article. Editing your own stuff is always chancy, and I don’t claim to do an adequate job. That reduced the size by about 500 words…

And on Monday (I believe), as I was starting to put the issue together), Joy Weese Moll’s first-rate report on the ACRL Google & Academic Libraries program arrived. It was clear that it belonged in this issue. The report needed almost no editing (I think I changed one word.) Now I was up to 23,900 words.

Here’s the process from there to here:

  • Big cuts: The 5,000-word Net Media section could be separated from the rest and wouldn’t suffer from being held over. So it’s now part of 5:8 (with probable expansions and further editing). And, sigh, Bibs & Blather really didn’t need inclusion (but was under 1,000 words anyway). So now I’m down to 17,861.
  • Assembling: I chose an order for the remaining essays (seven in all), opened a new instance of the C&I Word template (which includes the banner and issue area, needing slight editing each time), and inserted the files in order (all of them also built with the same template, but only for style handling. Whoops: It comes out to 27 pages. Turning on hyphenation brings it down to 26 pages.
  • Copyfitting 1: I suspect most of you don’t notice that there are very few cases in C&I where the last line of a paragraph consists of a single word, and no cases where one line of a paragraph is either an orphan or a widow (stranded at the bottom or top of a page). Word handles orphans and widows automatically, if you tell it to. Avoiding stub lines (also called widows by those typographers who care about them) takes some doing. The copyfitting process also involves manipulating long URLs so they don’t cause ugly justification problems by breaking to a new line with very little in the previous line (never an entirely successful process) and modifying some headings and subheadings so they’re a little more compact (by changing the wording or reducing the type size). Yes, I’m an old-media type. Note that I produced the pages for most of my published books on my own computers… This process brought the page count down to 24, I think. I could have let it go there, but…
  • Copyfitting 2: I really try to keep issues at 22 pages or less, if at all possible. So I went through eliminating words, sentences, paragraphs–most of it my own commentary that I could label as self-indulgent or peripheral to the discussion at hand (a lot of the latter: geez, I’m an unfocused writer at times!)–and doing special copyfitting when there were significant gaps at the bottoms of pages (thanks to widow/orphan control and instructions to Word to make sure a heading/subheading stays with the first paragraph underneath it: it’s ludicrous to split headings from copy). That process continues until, shazam, the page count suddenly drops to what I want–or until it refuses to, and I have to do something more drastic. This time, it worked. I was now down to 16,352 words–which means I cut 1,509 words in the process of copyfitting. (Actually, that’s wrong: the 17,861 word count, taken from my tracking document, doesn’t include the masthead, which is around 100 words long, while the 16,352 count does.)
  • Final steps: Clicking the make-PDF icon; checking the PDF for reasonable quality and bookmarks. Saving the Word document. Opening it up, stripping the banner and issue line, switching to one column, replacing the template with my “web” template, inserting the web header, stripping extraneous styles out of the template (Word tends to combine and add styles–and every style adds to HTML overhead). Saving that “webtemp” document as web/filtered; opening it repeatedly, stripping out all but one story, assigning appropriate properties, and saving as individual web/filtered pieces. Adding to the TOC document, copying the new issue table to the Index document (replacing the old one), making sure to change the “Current Issue” link in the navigation line, modifying the “old volumes” summary document. Logging on, uploading all the new and changed documents to, writing a plain-text notice on Topica, writing an HTML new-issue notice on the C&I Updates blogger blog, then copying-and-pasting that notice in this blog and my LISNews journal. (The next day, I forward the Topica mailing that I receive to a handful of lists and people after stripping the Topica ad.)
  • Indexing: Yesterday’s final step, and just about the only time I listen to music while working on my PC: Opening the special “ix5” document, adding index elements for each page and story as seems appropriate (very amateur indexing, but better than none), then going back and making each element an index entry (there should be a macro for this, but I haven’t spent the time to do one); generating the volume-so-far index and printing it out for use during the year.

That’s it. Now to start on the next issue, after a day or three off (and some other writing)…

Blaise Cronin emulates Michael Gorman

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

So Blaise Cronin also makes short shift of weblogs and Wikipedia.

Who am I to argue with the respected British dean of an American library school?

I’ll leave it to others, possibly including Tame the web, from which I got the story, and which credits “Skagirlie.”

For now, at least.

Not that weblogs need my defense–or that Cronin’s completely wrong, once his remarks are shorn of [over]generalization.

Update: Since I don’t use emoticons and lots of readers skim over text pretty quickly, I suspect some people may misinterpret this post. Sure, Cronin’s right about some blogs (I don’t think there’s anything negative you could say about blogs and not be on the money for some of them)–but I take his overall comment just as seriously as I did Michael Gorman’s, except that I can’t be spurred to start a blog, since I’ve already done that.

I see the battle has begun here and there. Fun to watch, but I’ll let the MLS-holders comment on the SLIS dean’s silly article.

Cites & Insights 5:7 available

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

Cites & Insights 5:7, May 2005, is now available for downloading. (HTML versions of most essays are also available from the home page.)

This 22-page issue includes:

  • ©3 Perspective: FMA: Watching the Way You Want: a commentary on the recently-passed Family Movie Act, part of the Family Entertainment Act of 2005.
  • Following Up: Four corrections and clarifications.
  • ©3: Balancing Rights: Comments on piracy, infringement, and P2P, DRM, and more.
  • Offtopic Perspective: Family Classics 50 Movie Pack, Part 2: 25 more old movies, including a half-silent/half-sound flick, a silent movie with speaking and sound throughout, and Fred Astaire on walls and ceiling.
  • Ethical Perspective: Weblogging Ethics and Impact
  • Session Report: ACRL 2005: Joy Weese Moll reports on “What’s Next? Academic Libraries in a Google Environment”

In case you haven’t guessed, you really don’t need to subscribe to the C&I Updates weblog if you subscribe to this weblog: I always post new issues on both.

Turning off the TV?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

I guess this is national turn-off-your-TV week, or something like that, and some people think this is a Great Thing. Go get fresh air, read a book, visit your library…

The local TV critic (who I frequently disagree with, and whose habit of putting on the HBO Cheerleader outfit becomes repetitive after a while) wrote a column this morning disparaging the “movement.”

Oddly enough, I agree with his reasoning. Not because I’m a vidiot, but because I get tired of the blame-somebody-else habit. Your kids watch too much TV? Turn it off. Telling them “Oh, just don’t watch this week” makes it a stunt (and I agree with the columnist–the quotes from supposed kid participants in the no-TV week are unbelievable). Working out a “TV budget”–like a game-playing budget, a phone-time budget, etc.–is a different thing, probably good parenting.

You watch too much TV? Turn it off. Figure out why you watch too much TV. What are you avoiding? What would you actually do if you turned off the TV? What makes it better? If turning it off as a special stunt helps, great–but it misses the point.

Do we ever go for a week without watching TV? You betcha: Any time we’re on vacation. But then, we don’t sit glued in front of the tube every evening hoping something interesting will come on. We watch what we want to watch (and have no TiVo to encourage watching more), and don’t watch when we’re not interested. Right now (at this point in the season), that comes out to about four hours a week (not including DVDs); in the heart of the season, it was six or seven hours a week. (Yes, that’s TV–not PBS, not A&E, not Bravo.) Come summer, it will be down to almost nothing.

We also walk 0.5-1.5 miles to and from a restaurant every Saturday night. We also make a point of taking a decent walk on Sundays. We read. We write. We converse. Somehow, having a very nice TV in the living room has never obliged us to turn it on when we first come home or leave it on when we’re not watching something we’re actively interested in.

If you can’t stop watching, having a no-watch week won’t solve your problem. Heck, some people read way too many books for a balanced life, but I’ve never heard of a “No-Books Week.”

Snowball fights in Hades

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005

Read this:

Blogs are definitely not G-d’s gift to libraries, and I don’t think that librarians should “worry” about blogs. I think that librarians should embrace blogs if they feel that they will help their library. I used to think that every library should have a blog and that every library employee should as well. I’ve since matured (a year of Internet time is about 30 years regular time, right?) and understand that you can lead a library/librarian to a blog, but you can’t make them post. So, maybe William is right: not everyone should worry about them. But at the very least they should know what blogs are and how they can possibly improve the way libraries/librarians communicate with their staff and patrons.

Now guess the author.

The third sentence may be a giveaway–it could narrow it to three or four people at most.

Let me just say that I completely agree with the final sentence and the overall spirit of the post, which is from Steven Cohen.

The whole post is worth reading. It’s part of Cohen’s current “information anxiety/information overload” series. Since I agree that information overload only exists if you want it to, if you insist on overloading yourself–which is probably a change for me–I recommend the whole series of posts.

Ads and Evil

Monday, April 25th, 2005

The good people at It’s all good have a little disagreement over Google’s apparent plan to allow graphical ads and ads that aren’t context-sensitive. Alane’s agin it, George not so much.

George’s comment resonates with me, maybe because I’m an “old media” person and understand the economics of most magazine and newspaper publishing (with some remarkable exceptions, e.g. Consumer Reports–and because I’ve seen similar set-tos between readers and editors/publishers of magazines when “irrelevant” ads appear.

So, for example, if Stereophile has a full-page ad for, say, Hotshot Vodka or Snobsail Cruises or Dinosaur SUVs, they’re likely to get a letter or two complaining about this wasted paper. The response is usually some variant of the truth: For many magazines, the subscription price barely covers distribution costs (consider Conde Nast Traveler at $12 a year for 12 fat issues). Everything else–editorial staff, printing, profit–comes from advertising.

If Google starts selling search placements and doesn’t label them appropriately, I’d be upset. If Google starts running ads that get in the way of search results, I’d be upset. If Google’s site becomes one-third search results, two-thirds ads (like one weblog that I try to avoid going to directly these days), I’d be a little upset. Otherwise–well, so far, Google isn’t charging me.

Do you know the way to the Computer History Museum?

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

Much as I love EContent Magazine (well, I’ve written for them since before they took that name), I have to tweak them a little for pages 12-13 of the April 2005 issue.

The “news” article’s interesting enough, about the Computer History Museum and a lecture series this newish museum is sponsoring. But if you read the article, and particularly the headline, you’ll come to a very odd conclusion about where the Computer History Museum is located.

Here’s the headline: “Computer History Living Well in San Francisco.” The article itself mentions place twice, once in the first paragraph, once in the last, both times using “San Francisco Bay Area.”

Here’s the thing: I know exactly where the Computer History Museum is, since I pass it twice a day on the drive between my home (in Mountain View, a city of 72,000 people) and work (in Mountain View, still a city of 72,000 people). The museum is about a 15 minute walk from work–I know that too, since a bunch of us took a field trip to the museum shortly after RLG moved to its new headquarters.

“Well, OK, but who’s ever heard of Mountain View?” Good point. There’s Google, to be sure (about half a mile from RLG). There’s RLG. There are lots of technology firms. It happens to be a great place to live, and managed to turn itself back into a city by revitalizing its downtown. But, sure, 72,000 isn’t Chicago.

So let’s look at distances from major cities. The Computer History Museum (1401 N. Shoreline, Mountain View) is 11.8 miles or 11 minutes away from San Jose City Hall, following MSN directions (which I’ve come to like of late). San Jose is the largest city in Northern California.

CHM is 36 miles or 33 minutes (a wildly optimistic estimate, in my opinion) from San Francisco City Hall. San Francisco is significantly smaller than San Jose.

So how exactly does CHM, primarily supported by Silicon Valley firms and individuals and located in the heart of Silicon Valley, become a San Francisco museum?

That wasn’t what I checked out!

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

Here’s a curious one. (A kid checks a Disney videocassette out from the library, and the cassette contains “hard-core pornorgraphy…)

Curious, actually, on two grounds:

  • The mother chose to call the media and police, not the library–and still hasn’t returned the tape. She talks about “documenting” that this actually happened. To what end?
  • The library person’s assertion that it’s difficult to sabotage a videocassette this way. Hmm. Tape over the open record-protection slot: two inches of adhesive tape and two seconds. Put the tape in a VCR. Record over what’s there. I believe most blank VHS tapes include an instruction sheet mentioning that you break the tab out of the record-protect slot to prevent accidental rerecording; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to enable recording on a prerecorded cassette. Any idiot could do this; some idiot apparently did.

That’s one rarely-mentioned advantage of DVDs over videocassettes. Unless someone went to the trouble of producing a phony DVD and managing to print a label side that was indistinguishable from the commercial release (possible, but a hassle), you can be reasonably certain that what you see is what you’ll get on the screen: There’s no way to “rerecord” a manufactured DVD. (I suspect that you could tell the difference between a faked DVD-R and a pressed DVD visually; I know that’s true for CD-Rs–but I haven’t used DVD-Rs, so can’t say for certain.)

This sort of thing doesn’t apparently happen very often, although it could with any videocassette rental outlet or library, because there aren’t that many sickos out there with this particular bent. Or maybe it does happen, but most people don’t make a big media/police deal out of it.

In any case, there’s not a thing the library could do to prevent it, other than getting rid of all its videocassettes…

[Thanks to Jim Romenesko’s Obscure Store and Reading Room.]

The Family Movie Act: Felten gets it right

Thursday, April 21st, 2005

Ed Felten has a typically-thoughtful post on the newly-passed Family Movie Act (one section of the mini-omnibus copyright bill just approved) and why it’s not a pro-censorship measure.

I was just finishing the initial draft of a “(C)3” essay for the next C&I, which includes a discussion of the copyright bill of which FMA is part. While I didn’t go as far as Felten (who calls FMA a pro-free-speech act, since it explicitly allows a form of speech that might otherwise be prohibited), I did conclude that FMA is a good thing–except that I don’t believe it should have been necessary. Note that FMA allows companies to market devices that let people explicitly choose to watch a modified version of a DVD they legally possess, without permanently altering the DVD and with an explicit “This motion picture has been modified…” screen.

Charles W. Bailey Jr. also discusses FMA at his (scoop?) brand-new weblog. Read the comments as well as the post: I take a favorable view of FMA, and Charles responds with a typically-thoughtful commentary (there’s that typically-thoughtful again!).

I have to say that the comments on Ed Felten’s posting are a strangely mixed lot, most of which have in common that they couldn’t be bothered to read the very-short FMA and understand that it’s pretty narrow.

Anyway, I don’t think the discussion will end here. Ed Felten provides thoughtful pro-FMA commentary. Charles provides thoughtful nervous-about-FMA commentary. And I’ll try to synthesize some of this early commentary in the final version of my essay, no thoughtfulness claimed. Watch for it in, oh, 7 to 12 days.

So I guess I am doing some traditional blogging–although I hope to avoid “Neat post here: Read it” echo-chamber posts. (“Heck, Walt, you’re so verbose that would never occur to you anyway.”)