Archive for May, 2007

How many weeks does it take the scum to show up on a social medium?

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

It’s a little like “change a lightbulb” jokes, but even less funny.

How long ago did Meebo add Rooms? Two weeks? Three weeks? More?

There’s a “group” (or “ungroup”) that I tried out–partly to see how this chatroom stuff works when I’m doing stuff that requires my presence but that really can’t take full attention (there is some of that in my soon-to-depart job–a LOT during the first six days of a month–and sometimes at home), partly because people I know and like were already there.

It’s been great: A random mix of “anything goes” posts and actual problem-solving/topical discussions. Of course, it’s multitasking, at which I stink, but I stop when I’m doing Serious Thinking and Writing.

And today, we, and apparently every other Meebo Room with any popularity, got hit with driveby not-safe-for-work spam: apparently scripted accounts that show up, post a link, and disappear within less than a second total.

Once every two or three minutes. Rotating through different usernames and domain links, but always the same message and eventual destination (I suspect).

This is truly sad. Either Meebo Rooms will have to engineer some new protections, or the specific room will have to be password-protected, or it will just disappear.

The good people on the net far outnumber the scum. But one scumbag with a script can make life miserable for a million good people.

No moral to this story.

Postscript at the next coffee break: A new password-protected room has been created. In the real world, I don’t much want to live in a gated community (and we don’t). But in the real world, you don’t get people storming through neighborhoods at 60mph throwing bags of…well, whatever…onto every window once an hour, or there would be a lot more gated communities.

Balanced Libraries, two months in

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

For those of you who won’t see the updated post in aggregators, I really need to point to the “reviews” post–and maybe even more so to Mark Lindner’s review.

The book’s still here.

By the way, I’ll probably delete I have now deleted the 16 “chapter posts.” Probably a dumb idea, and seems to serve no real purpose other than to clog up the category.

As to whether the book’s a success? Still to early to tell.

Cites on a Plane 2: This Time It’s For Keeps

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

In plenty of time for ALA Annual–but also for those of you not going to DC in a few weeks, Cites on a Plane 2: This Time It’s for Keeps is now available for downloading.

This 44-page issue is Cites & Insights 7:7, Mid-June 2007. (The seventh issue of the seventh volume: A lucky issue?)

Like COAP, COAP2 is much larger than a regular issue and is largely composed of old material.

Unlike COAP, COAP2:

  • Includes a fair amount of new material, something like 35-40% of the issue.
  • Will stick around permanently (or as permanently as C&I itself)
  • Has a single theme!

Indeed, it’s a “conference issue”–all about Conferences & Speaking.

After a brief introduction, the issue includes four sections:

  • Coping with Conferences
  • State Conferences and Others
  • The Speaking Life
  • Conference-Speaker Arrangements

There is an HTML version available from the home page–but please do not print out the HTML version in full, as it will use a lot more paper (58 pages as compared to 44 pages for the PDF, in an informal FireFox print-preview test).

50 Movie Pack Classic Musicals, Disc 10

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

If it seems as though not much time has gone by since Disc 9, there’s a simple reason: The first two movies on this disc were repeats from the Family Classics pack, and I didn’t watch them a second time–although I watched the first quarter of Royal Wedding again because it’s such a delight. Expect Disc 11 soon, for the same reason: both movies on Side A are repeats.

Royal Wedding, 1951, color, Stanley Donen (dir.), Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Sarah Churchill, Keenan Wynn. 1:33.

[Note: This movie was also in the Family Classics megapack and the review that follows is from that copy. The movie is such a treat that I watched part of it again; the color and sound are both fine.] Fred Astaire dancing on the walls, on the ceiling, and on a cruise ship dance floor in heavy seas—with Jane Powell, who’s very good. Excellent print through most of the movie (with slight damage in a few minutes), and a wonderful movie—not much of a plot (and Peter Lawford didn’t exactly set the screen on fire with his thespian abilities), but great dancing, fine singing, and just plain charming. Technicolor, generally vivid color. $2.00

The Pied Pier of Hamelin, 1957, color, Bretaigne Windust (dir.), Van Johnson, Claude Raines, Jim Backus, Kay Starr, Doodles Weaver. 1:29 [1:27]

[Also in the Family Classics megapack and not newly reviewed.] Made for TV? While the print’s generally very good, there are quite a few little gaps—more disturbing than usual since this is a musical. Van Johnson has two roles (one of them the Pied Piper). The conceit here is that the music is all by Grieg. The problem here is that it’s a lackluster picture. OK, but no more than that. $0.75.

Wild Guitar, 1962, b&w, Ray Dennis Teckler (dir.), Arch Hall Jr., Nancy Czar, Arch Hall Sr., Ray Dennis Steckler. 1:32 [1:29].

Remember Eegah? (C&I 6:12, October 2006) It was a thoroughly lame “scifi” movie slightly redeemed by Richard Kiel (Jaws in Moonraker) as the slightly pre-human title character. It was considerably less redeemed by an untalented and not wildly attractive teenager who tended to break out in song at various intervals, mostly sappy ballads. That teenager was Arch Hall Jr., and the director (and, I believe, producer) was his father, Arch Hall Sr., who also acted in the film.

So here we have the same father-son team (although Hall Sr. found a different director), the same mediocre ballads—one of them literally the same—and a picture about corrupt music managers that might have promise if it wasn’t such dreck. Arch Hall Jr. plays a kid who blows into LA from South Dakota with a guitar and $0.15—and immediately Makes It Big, albeit with a crooked promoter (his father) and the promoter’s gunslinging evil sidekick (played by the director). Nancy Czar is, of course, the beauty who falls for him despite silly obstacles (she’s a fine ice skater, based on one of the film’s better sequences). There are also a trio of would-be crooks who make the Three Stooges look like Ivy Leaguers. “Wild” is about as far from this kid’s guitar stylings as you can get: He’s all swoony moony June. Amusing dreck—but still dreck. $1.00.

Murder with Music, 1941, b&w, George P. Quigley (dir.), Nellie Hill, Bob Howard, Noble Sissle & orchestra. 0:59 [0:57].

A bunch of good music from little-heard musical groups—and a plot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s another all-black movie (Nellie Hill was also in Killer Diller, reviewed in C&I 7.5, in a smaller role). Unfortunately, the first half is choppy—those missing two minutes seem to be a half-second at a time, through enough musical and plot sections to make viewing difficult. Too bad; the second half’s better and the music (and one dance number) is excellent. Even with those flaws, it’s worth $1.00.

Social Software in Libraries: Not Quite a Review

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Meredith Farkas’ new book, Social Software in Libraries, is a solid, well-written discussion of–well, what the title says. Just finished reading it, and this isn’t really a book review but here goes:

Well done, worth reading, lots of good information in a readable form.

There’s quite a bit here–it’s 282 pages not including the (detailed, well-produced) index and other material. That’s 282 pages of relatively small although heavily-leaded type (10 on 13, as far as I can tell); I’d guess this is close to 100,000 words, maybe more.

You already know Farkas writes well and thinks well, so you shouldn’t be surprised that she does a good job here. In general, it’s also a balanced job: She’s describing a range of social software and its potential for libraries, not claiming that every possibility is worth adopting or that every library needs to be at the same level.

She begins by defining social software, then goes on to blogs and blogs in libraries, RSS, wikis, online communities, social networks and social bookmarking/collaborative filtering (“folksonomy”). Chapters cover tools for online reference, the “mobile revolution, podcasting, screencasts and videocasts and gaming.

One of the longest and most thoughtful chapters is on “What will work @ your library.” That’s followed by a good quick primer on keeping up and an interesting view of future trends. There’s an appendix of web sites, a solid index, and the related website (the hyperlink at the start of this post).

There’s one chapter where I would take mild issue with one claim, but it’s certainly not unique to Farkas and I don’t think it’s worth raising here–the same claim was made much more forcefully in the current American Libraries.

There are some minor copy-editing problems (misstating the frequency of C&I, a couple of trivial repetitions of phrases in different paragraphs), but nothing too bothersome.
When I did Balanced Libraries, I hoped that it would complement the web-software books coming out. In this case, I think it does–and I think Farkas has done a fine job.

Sorry this isn’t more polished. I’m not much of a book reviewer. Fortunately, Farkas is a good book writer.

Thanks–and an update

Monday, May 28th, 2007

I only wrote one post last week. It’s probably obvious why.

I am deeply indebted to to all of those who posted their own entries pointing to Post-ALA, Post-OCLC: What’s next?. I am humbled by some of the comments made in those posts.

Thanks, Charles W. Bailey, Jr.; thanks, Meredith Farkas; thanks, John Dupuis; thanks, Sarah Houghton-Jan.

Thanks, Steve Lawson; thanks, Rochelle Hartman; thanks, Chris Zammarelli; thanks, Laura Crossett.

Thanks to you too, Mark Lindner and Cindi Trainor and Seth Finkelstein and Iris Jastram.

Did I mention the thanks I owe to Simon Chamberlain and Jessamyn West and Steven M. Cohen and Linda Absher?

Oh, and Gary Price: What can I say?

I certainly need to thank Joshua M. Neff and Jennifer Lang and Steve Oberg and Marlene Delhaye (merci!).

Also thanks to DrWeb and Jennifer Macaulay and David Bigwood and Jennifer Graham and Peter Murray.

If I’ve missed anyone (including people who may yet do posts!), my apologies–and my gratitude. (There’s a phantom post from another Jennifer, but since the link yields a 404 I won’t cite it here.) Fixed: See preceding paragraph.

And, to be sure, thanks to all of you who commented directly at the post.

I’m not quoting from the posts because my head is swelled enough already. I have no comment on any comments made about specific employers, of course.

So what’s happening?

  • I’ve heard from a couple of people with interesting possibilities, at least one of which may prove to be compelling.
  • I’m talking to them at ALA Annual in DC. (I’ll be there Friday morning, June 22, through Monday evening, June 26.)
  • That’s an ideal time for anyone else who wants to talk to me about possibilities. Barring a truly preemptive offer, I won’t make any decisions before ALA Annual–but I could see making a decision right after the conference.
  • If you or someone you know does want to talk to me then, send me email ( and we can arrange a time. Try to do that soon, and certainly no later than Thursday noon, June 21.
  • I’ve never traveled with technology–no cell phone, no PDA, no notebook, no Blackberry. That might change for this occasion–I see an $80 texting-oriented cell phone with a modified “pay as you go” plan that might suit me just fine. If so, I’ll publish the number here or set up (yes) a Twitter mobile account for use during conference(s).
  • I’ve thought more about what would constitute an “excellent” or “ideal” future, either with a core employer or piecemeal. It’s not primarily about the money. It’s about the employer, personal growth, adding value, and doing something worthwhile–and, to be sure, being fairly compensated for my work. I’ll let it go at that for now.
  • Just to make things interesting, here’s a bribe an incentive: If you are provide the contact that results in an offer/arrangement that I take and regard as excellent (or, for that matter, if you make the offer), I’ll send you (or a library or library school of your choice, that wants them) autographed copies of all my books–now and in the future, as long as we stay in touch. Since at least one of the books is really unobtainable, that’s a unique offer. It’s up to whoever makes the offer/arrangement to let me know you were the contact.

That’s about it.We return now to our regular posting (with at least two more posts this week maybe more).I’m working on COAP2: This Time It’s for Keeps, a special (oversize) pre-Annual issue of Cites & Insights that’s devoted to a single topic and mostly, but not entirely, reprints. It should be out this week.

And did I mention my gratitude? Thanks again.

Post-ALA, post-OCLC: What’s next?

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Ever thought you or one of the groups you work for or with could use a Walt Crawford?

Here’s your chance.

The RLG-OCLC transition will be complete in September. I’ve received a termination notice from OCLC, effective September 30, 2007.

I’m interested in exploring new possibilities. For now I’m trying not to narrow the options too much.

The basics: A new position could start any time after October 15, 2007 (possibly earlier). January to April 2008 might be ideal as a starting date, but earlier or later is quite possible.

I’m looking for a mutually-beneficial situation, which could be part time, could be full time, could be based on sponsorship of current writing and possible expansion to new areas, could be contract or consulting. I’m open to an exclusive working relationship–but also to more piecemeal possibilities.

Writing is important to me–but so is sensemaking, at the heart of what I’ve done at work and professionally for a few decades. I find numbers interesting (particularly exposing weaknesses in statistical assertions and finding the numbers that make most sense for an organization) and understand them well. I’ve been analyzing, synthesizing, designing (sometimes programming) and communicating throughout my career. I’m interested in the whole range of issues surrounding the intersections of libraries, policy, media and technology, and have demonstrated my effectiveness as a writer and speaker in those areas.

You can get a good sense of what I’ve published here, including my 15 (to date) books and many of the 400+ articles and columns.

I would certainly consider a short-term (say two to four years) situation–but if you have something that makes sense for both of us for a longer term, I have no set retirement date.

If I had to name an ideal, it would probably be roughly two-thirds time with benefits (or full time if Cites & Insights was considered part of the job. But that’s an ideal; an excellent situation could be much more part time.

Clear limitation: There are very few places we’d be willing to relocate, most of them in temperate parts of the Pacific Rim–that is, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Hawaii, or maybe Australia or New Zealand. Otherwise, for most possibilities outside of Silicon Valley (or the Tri-Valley area around Livermore), I’d be looking to telecommute–and perfectly willing to travel on a reasonable basis.

If you have acquaintances who are unlikely to see this blog, within “groups that work for/with libraries”–publishers, vendors, search-engine makers, consortia, what have you–where you think I might be a good fit, I’d be delighted if you told them about this. If you’d like to blog about it, please do, saying whatever you like. (Schadenfreude? Be my guest.)

I don’t have a proper resume. I suspect I’m more likely to be hired by someone who knows who I am or is more interested in a full vita, available here. (OK, I’ll be 62 in September and I have an international reputation that is only slightly related to my daytime job: Maybe not the ideal combination for a classic “hit ’em with the keywords” resume.)

The brief bio that appears on my home page also appears below.

Offers, inquiries, questions, comments should go to me at my address: waltcrawford. If you’d like to talk during ALA Annual, let me know: Same email address.

For those of you who care about Cites & Insights: I have every intention of continuing and, with luck, improving C&I. I have every intention of keeping it free to the reader. I’ve been thinking about a spinoff in an area that I find increasingly important and that requires more room and time than I’ve been giving it–and that spinoff might or might not be free, depending on arrangements that come to light. Naturally, finding the right position will help ensure the future of C&I.

Here’s the brief bio:

Walt Crawford is an internationally recognized writer and speaker on libraries, technology, policy and media.Crawford was for many years Senior Analyst at RLG, focusing on user interface design and actual usage patterns for end-user bibliographic search systems. Through September 30, 2007, he works on RLG-OCLC transition and integration issues.Crawford is the creator, writer and publisher of Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, an ejournal on the intersections of libraries, policy, technology and media published monthly since 2001. He also maintains a blog on these and other issues, Walt at Random.

Crawford’s books include Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change (2007), First Have Something to Say: Writing for the Library Profession (2003), Being Analog: Creating Tomorrow’s Libraries (1999), Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality (with Michael Gorman, 1995), and eleven others going back to MARC for Library Use: Understanding the USMARC Formats(1984).

Crawford writes the “disContent” column in EContent Magazine and has written columns for American Libraries, Online and Library Hi Tech. In all, he has written more than 400 library-related articles and columns appearing in a range of library publications.

Crawford was recently cited as one of the 31 most frequently cited authors in library literature 1994-2004 (the only American writer on that list outside academic libraries). In 1995, he received the American Library Association’s LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education, followed by the ALCTS/Blackwell Scholarship Award in 1997. He was president of the Library and Information Technology Association in 1992/93.

More information is available at Crawford’s home page.

Fair(y) use: Brilliant

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

I wasn’t planning any posts this weekend–I have a biggie coming up Monday–but, geez,

this is just brilliant.

Go watch it.

Structured Procrastination: There’s a name for it!

Friday, May 18th, 2007

I have to do a quick coffee-break post for this one: Marc Abraham’s Guardian column (via the Improbable Research blog, from the people who bring you the Ig Nobel prizes).

Turns out a proper philosopher came up with a name for one of my so-called productivity techniques a while back: Structured Procrastination, doing one set of useful things as a way to avoid doing something “more important.”

All I can say is, it works for me.

On Disagreement: A Partial Pre-Essay

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

Mark Lindner expressed the hope that I would follow up on an offhand comment in the June Cites & Insights–on page 6–to wit:

Deschamps’ post also set off an interesting, sometimes heated discussion–and I may deal with that as part of a cluster about librarians’ willingness to disagree with one another. But not in this installment!

As I commented on Mark’s post, it was on my list–but maybe not with the emphasis Mark is interested in.

The essay, if and when it gets written, would deal with three issues (naturally beginning with Steven Bell’s assertion that librarians don’t disagree enough–a grotesque oversimplification of what he wrote, but hey, this is a pre-essay):

  • A partial disagreement with the premise, since I do see a fair degree of principled, thoughtful, non-vitriolic, non-ad hominem disagreement within discussions on library issues, here among libloggers at least. But…
  • It is tough to disagree with some people, either because you perceive them as so powerful that they can do you harm or because they have a tendency to take disagreement badly and have cliques ready to jump on you for disagreeing. I see good, vigorous disagreement within “trusted circles” where we’ve all pretty much agreed that disagreement is OK. I see good, vigorous disagreement with people so remote from the field that they’re unlikely to notice or care. Then there’s that tricky middle section…
  • It’s also difficult to take issue with popular positions or people when you’re not in a tenured position or independently wealthy or retired or otherwise immune to economic realities.

I’ve become more aware of that third issue recently. “Speaking truth to power” is great fun, when power isn’t likely to make or break your own future. Having the courage of your convictions is wonderful–but, you know, courage doesn’t pay the bills.

I hate even saying that. I might not have been willing to say it, oh, a year ago. And if the issues are important enough, I’d like to believe I wouldn’t say it now. But I’m a little less certain.

I was just going to comment on a near-cliche about situations where heated discussion is common because nothing important is at stake…and I didn’t write the full thing because, well, just because.

When I was putting together the current Cites & Insights it started at 31 pages and I got it down to a nice, neat 28 pages. And then printed it out so I could look at it a day later and see whether I could catch a few of the typos that seem to haunt every issue. (I did–there are five fewer problems in the final issue than there were at the 28-page level.)

But as I was reading it, I got to one full-page section of Making it Work, sharply critical of a particular initiative (not the results so much as the process). Went past it. And stopped. And went back again. Reread it. Thought about the people who might take offense, rightly or wrongly. Thought about the importance of my comments in the overall scheme of things (pretty close to zero, fortunately).

And pulled the page. Then found enough other stuff to pull to bring the issue down to 26 pages.

Much as I hate to admit it, I muted my own disagreement–admittedly, on a relatively trivial issue–because right at the moment I didn’t want to peeve a few dozen people. I saved the content; it’s possible it will emerge in a later issue. It’s more likely that it won’t, either because the thing I was discussing will be of no current interest–or because I still don’t feel ready to “speak truth to power” in this case.

I’m not sure where this is heading. I am sure of this. No matter how long you’ve worked somewhere, no matter how effective you’ve been, you can find yourself jobless for a variety of reasons. And if you’re jobless or think you might become jobless, you may have a different perspective on the necessity for open disagreement on all issues. That may not be noble, it may not even be right, but it’s reality. Particularly for someone who lives from paycheck to paycheck (which is not my case at all–there’s no pity party going on here–but neither are we independently wealthy: funny how that works for two library people with no significant inherited wealth).

So here it is–and this really is just one badly-written piece of what should be a longer essay on disagreement. Mark, it’s a damn shame if people are jumping on for taking an informed stance–and I note that the person you actually disagreed with is not one of those jumping on you. Steven B., first we need to have tenured librarians honestly and articulately disagreeing–and I think we need to recognize that, ahem (oh great, here I go getting into trouble again), much of the informed discussion and disagreement on library issues these days takes place in the relatively informal world of liblogs rather than the formal world of scholarly publications and other periodicals.

I’d love to pledge that I would never back off a position because I thought it might hurt me down the road. But to make that pledge would be dishonest. And that’s a shame.

I do pledge to say what I mean and mean what I say: If I don’t feel I can write honestly and openly about a situation, I’ll try to avoid writing about it at all.

Oh, and if you think there’s another personal angle to this–well, watch this space on Monday.