Archive for 2006

Speaking of New York: A quick post on definitions

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

As I was plowing through 600+ posts on Bloglines (a couple hundred of them phantom posts, the already-read posts that seem to show up in clumps of 25 from one blog every so often), I encountered one in which, in passing, the poster asked whether New York City was the 4th safest large city or the 1st–because of a statement from New York politicians saying they were #1 (where the published rankings show them as #4 and San Jose, the largest city in Northern California, as #1).

Not a contradiction, probably; rather, the joy of definitions. The New York claim is based on reducing “large cities” to the ten largest cities in the U.S., where the published ranking is based on the 31 cities with more than half a million people.

Heck, if the tenth largest city becomes safer than NYC, the NYC politicos can always redefine the population of “large cities” again…until maybe it’s “cities with more than three million people that happen to be situated on an island,” and then they get to keep the safest large city rating forever.

Nothing new here. For years, Holland America has bragged about being the highest-rated “large cruise line,” and the definition of “large cruise line” is always one based on number of ships, so as to exclude the cruise lines rated much higher than Holland America (Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Silverseas, and Holland America’s corporate mates Windstar and Seabourn have two to five ships each; Holland America has quite a few more).

Did you know that Cites & Insights has the most readers of any ejournal*? I suspect that’s a true statement; it’s just not a particularly meaningful or interesting one once you read the footnote. The key is to come up with an apparently meaningful broad definition, with the details in the fine print…

*In the field of librarianship produced and edited by a single person

Boutique hotel in Manhattan: Run away!

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

That’s not fair, of course: There are doubtless wonderful hotels in Manhattan that carry the “boutique” label. But I thought a quick post might not be out of order after returning from a quick speaking trip.

I’m not naming the organization I was speaking to, because they’re not really to blame for the hotel problem and absolutely not to blame for the other problem (see below). They offered three possible hotels that were reasonably priced and not too far away from the conference venue and suggested reserving very early. I failed to reserve very early, and the other two hotels were unavailable.

First, the other situation: Be wary of SuperShuttle in Manhattan. I use it in other cities, almost always with very good success. This time, with a prepaid voucher (thanks to Orbitz’ recommendation), I arrived at the pickup point at 4:35 p.m. (SuperShuttle doesn’t actually have airport stations, at least not in JFK Terminal 9). I arrived at my hotel at…7:25 p.m. Yes, part of that was Manhattan’s grotesque rush hour; a lot more, though, was loading up the van with people going to six different places–and, as I didn’t realize until my return to the airport, almost perversely bad choices as to routing. (Going by the same buildings in the same direction two or three times didn’t give me a lot of confidence either.) When I asked at the hotel how early I should book a SuperShuttle return on Saturday (I had a prepaid voucher for that as well), in order to be sure of reaching the airport by 7. a.m., they said “4 a.m.–if they show up.” I booked a sedan, which took 25 minutes to get to JFK from the hotel. Sure, it was $50 instead of $17–but my time’s worth something.

Now, as to the hotel (and I use the term loosely): That one I will name–the Union Square Inn.

Here’s the description on their website:

Welcome to Union Square Inn, the finest affordable boutique hotel in Manhattan, New York City. Great rates, great location and great service make us the best New York boutique hotel choice.

Not merely a boutique hotel, but the “finest” and “best” New York boutique hotel!

I suppose “European-style” and “cozy” elsewhere on the site might be warning signs. Despite the claim of rooms as low as $99, the rate wasn’t that wonderful: $357 for two nights (including tax), for a room with one double bed. The rest of the site talks about first-class amenities, “modern, comfortable rooms” with private bathrooms, and even has a menu for their hip Cafe Samantha.

Here’s the reality. Cafe Samantha doesn’t exist–well, the teeny-tiny space does, but it’s only used for a “continental breakfast” (apparently coffee and one variety of sweet roll, maybe two). Maybe the Cafe did exist as a breakfast-lunch place at some point, but it doesn’t now. No big deal. There was a decent 24-hour restaurant two blocks away.
My room was on the fifth floor. There is no elevator. Not a broken elevator–no elevator. Funny how the website doesn’t mention anything that might suggest that. (Maybe “European-style”?) The room was large enough for the double bed, two nightstands, a dresser, and a chair–“cozy” is probably the right term. Modern? Well, the paint was in good shape and there were electric lights.

No closet. Only a short hanging rod (half of it over one of the bedside lamps). Yes, there was a bathroom–but if I’d been two inches taller, it would have been very difficult to use the toilet without banging my knees on the opposite wall.

As for first-class amenities–those did not include either a radio or an alarm clock (or room service, or anything indicating phone charges, or…). So, down those five flights of stairs again, ask at the front desk, they say they’ll be happy to program in a wakeup call. Which I asked for. And, the next morning, called to cancel since it hadn’t happened, at least by five or ten minutes after the hour. It was critical that I get the 5 a.m. wakeup call on Saturday, so I’d get my transportation to the airport, but they assured me that I’d get that wakeup call. Fortunately, my sleep was sufficiently affect by premonitions that I woke up before…there was no wakeup call. (Are alarm clocks that expensive, that at $180 a night they can’t afford to have them? The TV, such as it was, was hospital-style, locked to a wall mount up in the corner, so maybe that’s the case.)

I suppose the first-class amenities meant that there was soap and shampoo in the bathroom. That’s true. (No handtowels the first night, but that’s being picky.)

Again, I don’t blame the conference organizers. They probably checked the same first-level reviews that I did. Only one of those reviews mentioned the lack of elevator (and even then didn’t mention five stories). Since I know from reading user-submitted reviews elsewhere that some very negative reviews have to be discounted. (I remember sailing on Crystal Cruises once, a magnificent line with superb service, and hearing one couple starting to complain about this and that even before the ship had left the dock–I think that mostly boiled down to their Not Being Recognized as Very Important People and being treated as well as the rest of us…) If I’d read more assiduously, I would then have had a problem: there were no other available choices that suited the group’s apparently tight budget, or at least none they’d suggested.

My “speaking page” on my website includes among my requirements “lodging at the conference hotel (if there is one) or a business-class [or better] hotel,” After this trip, I may do a little rewriting to clarify what I mean by business-class (think Hilton, Marriott, Embassy Suites, Westin, Sheraton…). It’s fair to say that I assume a business-class hotel will have elevators if it’s more than two or three stories tall and will have radios or alarm clocks, maybe even closets. Heck, it’s fair to say I’d assume the same of a Motel 6. But, of course, there are no Motel 6s in Manhattan.

Would I go back to Manhattan? For the right arrangements, sure–but those arrangements would absolutely include a name-brand business-class (or better) hotel. And taxi, not shuttle, fare to and from the airport. (Which the inviting group’s paying: Again, this isn’t aimed at them.)

C&I Feedback Invitation 4: Interesting & Peculiar Products

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

See this post for background on this series of feedback invitations–of which this is the last.

4. Interesting & Peculiar Products

This ongoing section is somewhat unfocused. Some of the products may be applicable to libraries; some probably aren’t. Sometimes it’s clear that I’m poking fun at a product; sometimes I’m not sure whether I find a product more interesting or more peculiar.

I&PP appears every few months–and “every few” has resulted in patterns of five, four, five, four per year since the name changed from “Product Watch.” (Anyone remember when almost everything in C&I was Something Watch?) This year, I&PP appeared in the January, February, June and October issues.

The choices here (and, of course, I welcome any response) are a bit different:

  1. Drop this or move the items to this blog; it’s too random for C&I
  2. Keep the interesting library-related products and drop the rest.
  3. It’s interesting as it is: Don’t mess with chaotic success.

Comments and responses either as comments on this post or as email to waltcrawford at

Again, don’t expect real speedy responses; this is a postdated post, and I’m presumably returning from New York today.

C&I Feedback Invitation 3: Library Access to Scholarship

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

See this post for background on this series of Cites & Insights feedback invitations.

3. Library Access to Scholarship

This one’s tough. It’s not that coverage has stopped by any means. Sections appeared in May and December, only half as often as in 2005 and 2004, but there was also a Perspective: Thinking about Libraries and Access in June and a two-part Perspective on early OA journals in October.

On one hand, several blogs provide exceptionally thorough coverage of open access issues; the SPARC Open Access Newsletter also provides Peter Suber’s thoughtful commentaries. I won’t cover certain aspects of OA, and I’ve never quite succeeded in expanding “Library Access to Scholarship” substantially beyond OA-related issues.

On the other–well, I’m pretty sure all three Perspectives this year were valuable, and I got some positive feedback on the two sections as well. I’m not suggesting the possibility of dropping access-related coverage altogether; Perspectives only happen when the mood strikes, but the topic will stay in the mix.
Maybe there’s enough of a need for OA independents and heretics (T. Scott’s word) so that I should keep this, at least at a simmer.

What do you think?

  1. Dump the Library Access to Scholarship sections; it’s all done better elsewhere.
  2. Keep them around, but focus on new perspectives and synthes.s
  3. Expand them (unlikely): People may be getting access-related stuff here who don’t (and won’t) read OAN and the other sources.

#3 strikes me as improbable on the face of it, but…

Comments welcome here, or send email to waltcrawford at

Don’t expect quick responses in either case; this post is postdated, and I’m actually on my way to or in New York at the moment, traveling without technology.

Let’s do the numbers: I’ll bite

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

My colleague Günter Waibel started this at I hadn’t planned a metablog (narcissipost?) about this blog’s usage until I hit the two-year mark, still a bit more than five months away.

But hey, he tagged me, and asked for advice on the most interesting Urchin stats before preparing his post, so why not? (Urchin is the log analysis tool used at LISHost; both Hangingtogether and Walt at Random are hosted by LISHost, as are Cites & Insights and my personal site, and a few others such as Shifted Librarian, ACRLog, BlogJunction, LibraryTectonics, Lipstick Librarian, LibraryPlanet, Tame the Web, and Wandering Eyre–in other words, nobody you’ve ever heard of.)

So here goes–the same figures as GW provided, for the same period (August 15-November 15, 2006). And for what it’s worth, I seem to have 379 Bloglines subscriptions on a puzzling array of feeds (all provided automagically by WordPress, and ignoring the few Comments subscribers).

Walt at Random Statistics, August 15 through November 15, 2006

No fancy graph, I’m afraid. The pattern’s less interesting anyway, mostly more-or-less steady around 800-1,000 per day in August, 1,200-1,400 per day since, with three mysterious spikes of over 2,000 sessions each in early November. Otherwise, exactly the same info:

Sessions: daily average of 1,293, total of 120,621–pretty much identical to Hangingtogether..

IP Addresses: 16,902 different addresses; as GW says, “an approximate measure of how many individuals visited the blog”–a much more dispersed readership.

Number of countries: 106 (of which six are non-geographic top-level domains), with Canada, Japan, UK, and Australia highest non-US in that order.

Note re the domain table, added 12/3/06: The comparisons to Hangingtogether may be particularly flawed because, as a change to the original post shows, Hangingtogether was looking at 15 months, not three months. I’m not going to change my table at this point, since I’ll probably do a narcissiblog (couldn’t resist) next April 1, the 2-year anniversary. Briefly, though, for 8/15/05-11/15/06, was still the top .org domain, but with 9,341 sessions, not 2.897 ( second with 4,804); among .edu, emerson was third (1,465), with ctsnet (6,961) and virginia (2,712) ahead of it. End of Update.
I’m not sure the last item makes as much sense for W.a.r. as it does for Hangingtogether–that is, an interleaved set of the top .edu, .org, and .gov domains by number of sessions–but here it is anyway: 2,897 1,026 478 433 413 332 287 205 193 132 107 84 63 55 54 53 53 50 49 49 46 39 32 31 29 27 26 24 17 16 13 9 9 8 6 6 6 6 5 4

I have no idea what to make of any of that information. OCLC comes first: No surprise there, and thanks to my present-and-future colleagues.

Comparing the two sets of numbers is mildly interesting, mostly because it shows that Hangingtogether is much more targeted and successful in that regard, Given that the total number of sessions for the two blogs is roughly the same (one has 0.96% more sessions than the other), it’s noteworthy that Hangingtogether has 17 “target” domains with more than 1,000 sessions each, while W.a.r. (which doesn’t really have targets) has two (I’d love to know why Emerson finds this blog so interesting!); similarly, only 11 out of the 35 that GW lists have two-digit session counts, none dropping into single digits, while most of those shown here–24 of 35–have fewer than 100 sessions. (The crossed-out text is based on comparing 3 months of W.a.r. with 15 months of Hangingtogether, and thus largely nonsense.) Hangingtogether is apparently reaching its targeted audience; I’m apparently reaching lots of people scattered all over the place.

Which is as it should be.

No tagging here.

Updated a few hours later: to include all of the table, not just part of it. Sigh.

Has the MPAA lost its corporate mind? [Oops, it was a spoof]

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

I knew MPAA held pretty extravagant views on copyright, fair use, and their “right” to squeeze every last dollar out of major motion pictures, but this one took even me by surprise.

Updated: See Seth Finkelstein’s comment below: Apparently this is satire, but with the MPAA it’s really hard to tell…OK, so if I’d done an “About” at BBSpot… Sigh. Too early in the morning, too worried about a forthcoming trip, too gullible. And the story’s just a little too believable: The mark of good satire. As Emily Littella would say (sp?), “Never mind…”

So a married couple with a 32″ 10-year-old TV with stereo speakers, oh, say, like us, actually has a “home theater” and is “illegally” doing theatrical showings of DVDs because we have two comfy chairs to watch the TV from. And we should have to pay MPAA a registration fee. And our TV should have to report to them what we’re watching at all times.

The natural response is “Are these people out of their friggin’ minds?”

The second response is to say that “theatrical viewing” needs to be legally defined as involving charges or, at the very least, some form of publicity (other than phone calls), so that this sort of c**p will go away.

Next thing, the NFL will say that if you have any friends over to watch football [after all, MPAA’s standard is two or more chairs), you need to pay the commercial license fees that a sportspub would pay.

Some day, the absurd overreaches of the MPAA and RIAA will cause a strong pushback from “our” elected representatives. I hope I’m still alive when that day comes.

Credit where credit is due: I picked this up from Michael Pate’s post at LibraryPlanet.. Thanks, Michael!

The trouble with memes…

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

…is that (for me at least) they have to resonate.

That is, they have to strike me as something I’d want to contribute to.

Which makes researching an empty meme difficult and probably not very meaningful: The empty meme will only spread among those for whom memes as memes are interesting, not those willing to add to an interesting sort of serial conversation.

So, sorry, CW, but I’m not playing. And I don’t believe the results will show anything about how real memes spread, or even the pseudo-memes that get picked up from blog to blog because bloggers find the topic or technique or whatever fun, worthwhile, intriguing.

Yes, this is a semi-blind item. For it not to be blind, I’d be participating in the empty meme. Which I’m not inclined to do. On the other hand, I do believe the point about meaningful research is valid: When the thing being researched (in the social sciences) only exists for the purpose of research, the results are likely to be skewed.

Imagine a 30-minute survey whose only topic, evident from the beginning, is how you feel about taking 30-minute surveys… Or, for that matter, a two-minute survey of that nature.

C&I Feedback Invitation 2: Censorware

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

See this post for background.

2. Censorware Chronicles ( appeared once this year, in September, although censorware was mentioned in two other issues.

I think this one’s a fait accompli–there just isn’t very much happening. The one lawsuit I’m currently aware of is against a library that’s failing to follow the post-Supreme Court CIPA (that is, not unblocking sites at an adult patron’s request), and thus really has no effect on CIPA. There’s the ongoing DoJ attempt to revive COPA, and that’s interesting, but others are covering that a lot better than I could.
Should I:

  1. Drop Censorware Chronicles altogether because my coverage isn’t going anywhere?
  2. Try to revive it–and if so, any suggestions for how I can actually add value?

That’s the question. Feel free to answer by attaching a comment or sending me email (waltcrawford at

Dumping IE for Firefox: A bit of caution?

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

I’ve seen various mentions of “hiding” Internet Explorer–or, in one magazine’s case, suggesting uninstalling it as a holiday gift for parents or other seniors.

I have no particular love for IE; at the moment, I use Firefox 2.0 for essentially all of my browsing at work, and about 99% at home. (Two sites still won’t work with Firefox.) I switched to Firefox as my dominant browser quite a while ago. I don’t find anything in IE7 (at home) that makes me want to switch back.

But…quite apart from the questionable aspects of trying to uninstall IE on a Windows system…I do have to say this:

Firefox 2.0 isn’t quite as stable as one might like, or as Firefox 1.5 was.

I’m finding that, at least once a day, it just hangs–or doesn’t finish starting up. (Actually, make that twice a day: Once at work, once at home.) Mostly it’s on startup. Sometimes it’s apparently random. Usually, a forced shutdown and restart will cure it.

I have no idea why. I do know that it’s been true ever since the 2.0 upgrade. I know Firefox seems to use humongous amounts of memory (right now, it’s at 88MB, but I’ve seen it much higher-

Now that’s interesting: Just for fun, I opened two new tabs, checked appmgr, and Firefox was down to 78MB)…

I still prefer Firefox. I’m still using it as my primary browser. But I sure like having IE as a backup…

Cites & Insights: Feedback invitation 1: PC Progress

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

With the completion of Volume 6, it’s once again time to ask for feedback on Cites & Insights.

I’m not doing a formal survey for two reasons:

  • I don’t have the software handy
  • I’m not sure it makes sense to ask for feedback in areas where I’m unlikely to pay attention.

Geez, that sounds awful. What I mean is, much as I love to hear what you really like or even what you really think is a waste of bandwidth/paper, I’ve learned that trying to plan the future of C&I in any detail is absurd (it’s too much driven by what’s going on and my shifting interests), and there are quite a few areas where I’m going to keep on writing when I have something to say.

That includes areas some of you may find frivolous: My Back Pages and Offtopic Perspectives, to name the most obvious cases. Frivolity may be part of the motivation. (As I’ve said before, “When C&I ceases to be fun to do, I’ll stop doing it.”)

But there are some areas where I do wonder whether what I do makes sense any more. This and a (short) series of posts to follow will inquire about those areas.

With no further ado:

1. PC Progress ( appeared twice this year, in March and November

Coverage has declined from six magazines to two, and one of those magazines is but a shadow of itself. I’m down to two roundups a year, and not certain even that’s worth doing.

Should I:

  1. Drop PC Progress altogether as a waste of time & space?
  2. Keep doing it because you read it and find it worthwhile (“you” being a request for individual feedback)?
  3. Drop the cumulated essays, but include specific Editors’ Choice/Best Buy products in Interesting & Peculiar Products to keep you informed?

That’s the question. Feel free to answer by attaching a comment or sending me email (waltcrawford at

More questions later. General feedback always welcome.