Archive for August, 2008

Library blogs–and newspaper columns?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

So you’re going to start a library blog–not a new books blog or an events blog, but a director’s blog or a blog about the library, what happens there, etc. (Which could and should include events, but I’m not talking about the semi-invisible blogs that just feed library home pages, beneficial and efficient as those blogs can be.)


I’ve heard the suggestion that, if you’re going to start this kind of blog, you should be ready to do 52 800-word essays a year–that is, one solid essay a week. Let’s pull that size down to 650-700 words and, depending on your circumstances, the frequency down to 26 or 12 essays a year. The essays don’t all have to be by one person, but there does have to be follow-through: A commitment to get the blog off to a good start and keep it going for at least a year or two.

Note: I am not talking about “sustainability.” I’m not saying you need five years’ buy-in.  I’m talking about enough commitment so that it looks like a genuine effort by the library. Initiatives without followthrough are almost doomed to failure, and if they’re public initiatives, they make the library look foolish.

Great idea–but take it one step further

So here’s the next step: If there’s a local paper (a community weekly, for example) why not propose this as a column?

That’s not either/or. It’s both.

With a lot of luck, your blog will reach one audience. If you get a column, it will reach another audience–and for many community/local papers, it’s a huge audience within the community. The two audiences overlap, but they’re not identical.

Naturally, you’d cross-promote: Mention the blog in the column and vice-versa. You might not run all the blog posts in the column (fixed length is usually a given in newspaper columns).

The library story and more

This is about telling the library story–how your library serves your community, how you transform people’s lives, the pressure points, big stories, small stories, amusing incidents…

Who’s doing it?

This is really as much a question as a suggestion.

Who’s doing part or all of this?


  • Doing a column in the local newspaper.
  • Archiving the column on your library’s website
  • Mirroring the column in a library blog.

Of course, if you do the first and third, the second is more or less taken care of.

Let me know

If you’re doing this–or thinking about it–let me know. Send me the URL for the archived column and/or the weblog’s name and URL, and the name of the newspaper. If you’re doing the first and second, but not the third (yet), send me that info as well…

If I get at least two responses, I’ll build and maintain a page on the Library Success wiki–and I’ll probably write about it at the PALINET Leadership Network.

Which, of course, provides the inspiration: Jamie LaRue’s long-running column in the Douglas County News Press. LaRue doesn’t mirror the columns in his fairly new blog, myliblog–yet.

Oh, and if you’re thinking of doing such a column or blog but wonder whether you’ll run out of ideas to write about…well, you know, if we can identify a group of people who are doing this, you can use one another as inspiration. That’s certainly true for LaRue’s Views–I can think of dozens of columns there that could inspire similar (but local) columns elsewhere.

So: Doing a column? Archiving it? Blogging it? Leave a comment here or send me email–waltcrawford at

Cites & Insights 8:9 (September 2008) available

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large 8:9 (September 2008) is now available.

The 26-page issue (PDF as usual, but HTML versions of the individual essays are available using the links below or at the C&I home page) includes the following five essays:

Bibs & Blather: Projects and Rejects

40% less self-indulgent than the five-part post! Some new information! Otherwise, it’s largely the same material. If you feel you already know all this, skip right on over to:

Perspective: Updating the Book Discovery Projects

Microsoft dropped its project–and in the process released all limits on 300,000 scanned books and gave the scanners to its partners. That and lots more in this multipart roundup.

Perspective: On Conferences in a Time of Limits

Why do we go to conferences–and will conferences change significantly thanks to high travel costs? Some semi-informed musings and non-predictions.

Old Media/New Media

Are print newspapers really dying? Does the news revolution make us better informed? Can you really make a living from the long tail–and is that tail extending, or is the head thicking further? And, of course, a few notes about ebooks and ebook readers.

Retrospective: Pointing with Pride, Part 5

This set of notes includes my own version of an ALA URL (and I’m sure those will all get better real soon…) and the Best. Issue. Ever.

50 Movie Western Classics, Disc 11

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Ah yes, back to those golden days of yesteryear…or, actually, back 36 years to two spaghetti westerns, 70 years to yet another one-hour B flick (this time a propaganda flick for the Boy Scouts to boot) and, in between, a young Lloyd Bridges and a not-quite-so-young Randolph Scott (and even less young Edgar Buchanan).

Grand Duel, 1972, color (Il grande duello). Giancarlo Santi, dir., Lee Van Cleef, Horst Frank, Peter O’Brien/Alberto Dentice, Marc Mazza, Dominique Darel. 1:38 [1:28].

It’s a spaghetti western-and maybe that’s almost all I need to say. Good production values and color: Check. Odd, sometimes interesting background music: Check. Lots of long showdowns but even more shootings and other action scenes: Check. Moral ambiguity throughout-no white hats and black hats here (in this case, the black hat is worn by the presumed hero): Check. Plot, if you can follow it, mostly to tie together the showdowns, shootings and action scenes: Double check. Little enough residual value that nobody would have bothered to renew this 1972 flick’s copyright: Check.

So it boils down to how you feel about Lee Van Cleef and the other “stars”-and how you feel about spaghetti westerns in general. Some remarkable combinations of acrobatics and shooting as the second (“Peter O’Brien”) evades capture or death while flying through the air. The print’s pretty good (except for the missing ten minutes). For me-well, it could have been a lot worse, it could have been a lot better, leading to a middling $1.

It Can Be Done…Amigo, 1972, color (Si può fare… amigo). Maurizio Lucidi (dir.), Bud Spencer, Jack Palance. 1:40 [1:38].

I’m not quite sure what to make of this one. Before the title, we get Bud Spencer’s and Jack Palance’s names, arranged in a circle, rotating. Spencer’s character, Coburn, is a huge beefy type who seems gentle enough and somehow keeps getting into trouble-well, he is a sometimes horsethief. He typically deals with trouble by staring, slowly putting on a pair of glasses, and then pounding his opponents into the ground-almost literally. They punch him a few times, then he either hits two opponents’ heads together or hits them over the head and they go down.

He’s somehow involved with a kid whose uncle is taking him to a western town-but the uncle gets bushwhacked and, when Coburn finds him dying, gives Coburn an envelope to pass along to the kid. The envelope turns out to contain $50 (a lot of money) and the deed to a run-down house just outside town. Meanwhile, there’s Palance’s character, Sonny Bronston, a fast-shooting eccentric who runs a group of female entertainers (in, apparently, more than one tradition of that word) and who’s after Coburn. Why? Seems Coburn sullied the virtue of Bronston’s sister (a case of mistaken identity)-and now Coburn needs to marry her so she can be an honorable widow (since he’ll get shot as soon as he gets married.

Ah, but that’s just a fraction of the plot. The town’s priest is also the sheriff and judge and generally doesn’t want Coburn around-and apparently has designs on the kid’s house and land, for unclear reasons. There’s a strange guy who eats dirt-and who starts paying people $2 a bucket (only one bucket per person) for dirt that he tastes. Which pastime leads him to the kid’s place. There’s lots more plot, and it mostly winds up with a remarkable six-minute free-for-all: No bullets fired (lots of guns fired, but all blanks), lots of fists, and mostly Coburn putting people out of action.

It felt as though I was joining a conversation that was partway through. The odd title refers to one of Coburn’s saying. The plot line between Coburn and Bronston seems to go back quite a ways. It’s a spaghetti western, to be sure-but it’s also a comedy and actually pretty decent. It’s also a decent print (missing just a minute or two), a fair amount of fun, and with a lot fewer killings and shootings-only one, as I remember. I’ll give it $1.25.

Abilene Town, 1946, b&w. Edwin L. Marin (dir.), Randolph Scott, Ann Dvorak, Edgar Buchanan, Rhonda Fleming, Lloyd Bridges. 1:29.

Oh, the farmers and the cowmen can be friends… Oops, wrong state, and the songs in this one are dance-hall numbers. Still, it’s cowboys on one hand-in this case, the bunch riding herds into Abilene from Texas in 1870-and the farmers on the other-in this case, homesteaders wanting to settle down. One side of the street in Abilene is full of saloons, dance halls and gambling dens; they’re hot for all the money the drunken cowboys spend when they finish a run. The other side is shopkeepers and what there is of an actual town-and they’re terrified of the cowboys. In the middle-why, there’s the Marshal, who wants the town to survive, and an amiable and wholly corrupt Sheriff (Edgar Buchanan), who just wants to avoid having to do anything and seems mostly there for an odd sort of comic relief.

Somehow, it seems a little simplistic. The cowboys are wholly sociopathic, as ready to shoot anyone as to say Hi, given to burning out any homesteaders-and, when they stampede the herd over newly-erected fences, they do so in a manner apparently intended to kill as many people and do as much damage as possible. The homesteaders, of course, are all peaceful types who just want to make a living-although it’s noteworthy that the first barbed wire they string is directly across the cattle trail. (Ah, but Lloyd Bridges makes a fine young leader for the homesteaders.) And the Marshal’s enlightened: The day of the big showdown, after he enforces “lights out” in all the saloons and stands by as the frustrated cowboys break down the doors and basically trash the places while getting drunk for free, he’s only too happy to see his sort-of-lady’s own hall destroyed…so he can get her out of those evil dance clothes and into an apron where she belongs.

Were the range wars really this black and white? Fortunately, I wasn’t there. The print’s pretty good, and Randolph Scott cuts a handsome if inscrutable figure. I’ll give it a charitable $1.00.

Tex Rides with the Boy Scouts, 1937, b&w, Ray Taylor (dir.), Tex Ritter, Marjorie Reynolds, Horace Murphy, ‘Snub’ Pollard, Charles King, Forrest Taylor, Beverly Hill Billies, White Flash. 1:06 [1:02]

Part propaganda film for the Boy Scouts–it begins with a three-minute newsreel-style encomium for the organization–part B western with a twist or two. It starts with Tex Ritter riding along with not one but two sidekicks-Stubby (Murphy) and the oddly white-faced Peewee (Pollard)-and, naturally, singing to the sounds of a hidden orchestra. They stop at a shack with a mining company “Private Property-No Trespassers” sign, which is of course their cue to get off and stand around until someone shoots the hat off Stubby’s head as a gentle warning. So they mosey along to a Boy Scout encampment, which they naturally join.

Oh, that’s just the beginning. The gimmick here is fairly clever in a stupid way: Stage a train robbery, stealing a million dollars in gold bullion, and hide it at a phony gold mine-after all, you can always cash it in as being from the mine once people forget about the robbery. (After all, lots of gold ore is 100% pure and has U.S. Mint stamps, right?)

One subplot involves a stereotypical Chinese laundryman, accent and “no tickee, no washee,” who as a sideline buys gold nuggets at very low prices-which is how the gang covers incidental expenses. Another involves the cute older sister of one Boy Scout, who’s also the downtown employee of the mining company, but of course is wholly innocent-and naturally gets involved with Tex. There’s even a barn dance. Ritter’s acting this time around is passable.

The bad guys here are pretty bad: The leader shoots down a Boy Scout who might have heard something. So maybe it’s OK that Tex’s posse guns down most of the gang as they’re fleeing for the border-except for the leader, who Tex beats up in a fistfight. (Heroes never actually shoot anybody in these flicks.) This might get $0.75 for second-rate silliness-but the print’s choppy in the wrong places, damaged in general and the soundtrack’s not very good, lowering it to $0.50.

The VHS to DVD transition and cost as a factor

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

I’ve been reading some comments about public libraries and VHS. Interesting all (including those from people who seem to think that DVD is a passing fad and the durable ol’ VHS is really what counts)–but there’s one odd subrefrain.

Namely, all those people who just can’t afford a DVD player, so it’s important that libraries keep VHS around.

To which I have to say…Huh?

I know we’re in tough times, I know lots of people have very little income…

I also know that DVD players start at $18. That’s for new players, not Goodwill specials.


What we’re using at home? $0. Safeway was giving away a couple hundred over a weekend to celebrate the remodeling of the local store. It sat in our garage until our old Sony player’s laser gave out (the first DVD player we ever had, so it was probably 8-9 years old). We hooked it up as a little joke until we purchased a Proper Player.

It’s been the better part of a year, maybe more, and we’re unlikely to replace it until we go big-screen. In some ways, it’s more advanced than the Sony was–and apparently good enough quality that, as we discovered on our recent cruise, Holland America purchased a few thousand to go with the flat-screen TVs in their cabins. (The current equivalent seems to sell for $30 or so, but an $18 Coby looks an awful lot like our CyberHome.)

What am I saying here? That DVD players are now such a commodity item that they’re really not much of a barrier for people who want to get movies and other videos for free from their libraries.

No, I’m not advocating dumping your VHS collections. That’s a local decision. I am saying that trying to maintain such collections–quite apart from being literally impossible for newer material–is really hard to justify. Heck, you could probably buy a fleet of cheap DVD players for what it would cost to try to replace videocassettes and just hand them out as needed (no, I’m not suggesting that you do that either).

Oh, by the way: If you do have patrons for whom $20 is a real hardship…well, they’re in trouble come next February. There’s a $20 difference between the typical price of a digital:analog converter and the $40 government coupon they can get (if they know enough to ask for it, if they have access to the internet, if, if…). Without that converter, they’re not going to have any TV next year. (Government decision. Different discussion.)

What’s that you say? They have cable, so they’re covered? Well…if they have cable, they can afford a DVD player.

Projects and rejects 5 – Possible changes in C&I?

Friday, August 8th, 2008

The story so far:

  • As I was slogging through the slough of despond, lacking inspiration and the desire for perspiration, I got the word: Nobody else will walk it for you, you have to walk it for yourself. Or “follow your bliss.” Or do stuff if I really care about the results–life’s too short to do stuff you don’t care about (unless you’re getting well paid for it or it’s essential to life and health).
  • Returning from Anaheim with blue skies, twittering birds and a bright future ahead, I decided to carry out one big project where I really am interested in the results–and where I believe I can put together a package that others will find interesting and useful, maybe enough for some of them to pay $29.50.
  • Clearing away the decks somewhat, I identified a probable reject–a case where the only plausible way to do the study would be up-front funding, and I see no likelihood of that happening. And one of my favorite bloggers and thinkers pointed out some good reasons that the previous part of this reject was largely a failure.
  • In the penultimate episode, we went over actual sales for the two library blog books–an exercise in transparency that’s probably a stupid idea in its own right. (I would add four different self-portraits to that post, but why bother?)

We conclude this exciting enervating story (which I might tame somewhat when turning it into a Bibs & Blather for the September 2008 Cites & Insights–and if that link works, then you’re coming to this post late) with:

Part the Fifth: In which, referring all the way back to Part the First, we consider how “doing what you care about” might affect the future of Cites & Insights.

Remember when Cites & Insights was all about personal computing?

That’s a trick question. It was never the case that C&I was “all about personal computing.” The informal definition in the first issue was “Libraries, Media, Technology & Stuff.” I’d estimate that the first issue was roughly half PC-related, half otherwise.

PC-related material dwindled over the years, partly because the field just got less interesting–but more because there were other topics I was more interested in.

In Part 1, I noted that I’ve pretty much given up on censorware–recycling a handful of printouts in the process because I just don’t see much point in discussing them.

Looking at the “current list” of recurring sections (in C&I’s About page), here’s what I think as total word count nears two million (probably the December issue):

  • Trends & Quick Takes hasn’t really been about trends (or just about trends) for a long time. It’s not going away, to be sure; mini-perspectives are convenient, and this “miscellaneous” placeholder even more so.
  • I haven’t actually reprinted a disContent column in quite a while, but I’d like to start again–but certainly not until I complete the Retrospective series.
  • Most everything else seems safe enough–although interest ebbs and flows. I continue to care about relations between old and new media (and in that context ebooks/ebook readers have reappeared), I think some net media issues are fascinating, Making it Work still matters… But there is one exception, or maybe it’s four:
  • Copyright. Sigh. I just don’t know. I did something in this issue, and something three issues ago, and I’m not sure my heart was in either one. There hasn’t been a “term & extent” section in a year–or a “fair use and public domain” section in more than two years. I won’t say copyright coverage is going to disappear–but it might seem that way, except for the possible special case.
  • What about new areas? They emerge, perhaps slowly–and sometimes only as a series of Perspectives. That’s probably a good thing. (I’m inclined to believe that some of the best issues of C&I have been entirely Perspectives, most of them not directly traceable to a standing section.)

As for C&I itself–well, I do note that 2008 may be the first year that it’s “only” a monthly–but most issues are a bit on the long side. I wouldn’t attach much significance to either of those facts.

You know how a good novel or movie has to have a strong, satisfying ending?

Well, this five-part post clearly doesn’t qualify.

I’m not going to come up with any clever ideas to harness my supposed “thousand fans” by offering “freemium content.” I thought I might have staggering changes to suggest in C&I, but that’s not the case–and, frankly, dropping copyright would put me in good company of late. (It just gets discouraging…)

Thus endeth the saga of Projects and rejects--for now, at least. I’ll try to clean this up (and make it significantly shorter) before reusing it in Bibs & Blather…

Now, off to write the December disContent, or work on ten more liblogs, or…well, given this summer cold, or just take a nap.

[A note in closing: If any or all of this five-part post seems even more disjointed and distracted as usual, I haz an (invisible) excuse…I was trying to multitask, chatting at LSW Meebo while preparing the posts. It’s not much, but it’s all I got.]

Projects and rejects 4 – The real scoop on the books

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

In previous episodes:

  • An old friend reminded me of what I should already have known–that I need to follow my passion (do what I care about) when considering what projects to carry out or whether to carry out any at all.
  • I blathered on for more than 2,000 words about The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008, the new projects I almost certainly will complete.
  • I ruminated on the general lack of success–and lack of coverage by others–of the two Library Blog books; that’s the major part of the “rejects” side of this series. By the way, if you go back to that post, be sure to read Dorothea Salo’s comment–it’s useful public criticism and helps convince me that those projects were “failures to learn from.”

Now the story continues with:

Part the Fourth: In which the nature of the apparent failures is detailed on a month-by-month basis.

So just how badly have the two Library Blog books actually done?

Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples

This book came out in August 2007. It got heavy publicity here and in Cites & Insights–and I also sent email to as many of the public libraries in the book as I could find email addresses for.

  • It got off to a decent start: Ten copies in August 2007, 13 in September 2007, 15 in October 2007.
  • Then it started to slow down: Seven in November 2007, eight in December 2007,  six in January 2008.
  • And kept sliding: Four in February 2008,  one in March 2008, three in April 2008.
  • Next quarter: Two in May 2008, two in June 2008. Zero in July 2008–and, so far, none in August 2008.

That’s 71 copies to date. For it to be a non-failure by my informal standards, it would need to sell at least 100 copies in the first year–and it’s 29 copies short with about a week to go.

Still…71 copies is better than nothing. For the time spent on it, the net return is not minimum wage, to be sure, but it’s considerably better than what I’d have earned from doing it “the right way” (and I think Dorothea Salo is right in this regard)–that is, putting it up as a website, which would have required significant additional work, might have required more money, and would have yielded $0.

But that’s the middling case…

Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples

This one came out in January 2008, and you could reasonably say that it’s really too early to call it a failure yet.


  • January 2008: Nine copies. February 2008: Six copies. March 2008: Five copies
  • April 2008: Seven copies.
  • May 2008: Three copies. June 2008: Three copies.
  • Zero in July 2008. So far, zero in August 2008. (Oops: One apparently sold yesterday. So there is hope.)

Sure, there could be a sudden upswing this fall–it could sell another 67 copies between now and January 2009. But I’m not holding my breath.

This post won’t help. I’m aware of that.

And, as I say, I find Dorothea Salo’s comment cogent and convincing.

So what’s going to happen with those books? I can keep them on Lulu indefinitely at no charge. I think CreateSpace now wants a small annual fee (or I can get even lower yields).

Realistically, I don’t think I’ll do that. Unless something surprising happens, I think I’ll take them down, probably in or around January 2009. If I thought it would work at all, I might redo them as a single book that’s mostly analysis and commentary with brief little entries on each blog–but that probably won’t happen. (Actually, if I was going to do that, I’d wait and do a 2007-2009 lateral comparison, as I discussed in Part 3.)

On the other hand…

Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change

This one’s doing OK. I can’t/won’t provide similar month-by-month figures, but it’s still selling (oddly enough, it’s now sold as many copies in August as in July–and more than in May, the low point for this book), and it’s more than two-thirds of the way to being what I’d consider an actual success.

(Oh: The two trade paperback editions of C&I? I wasn’t anticipating any sales at all, so I’m delighted with the four combined sales, other than my own, and I must say the paperback’s both prettier and easier to handle than the Velobound back copies are!)

So that’s it for Part Four. If there is a Part Five–and there might not be–it will consider some possible changes for Cites & Insights. (And, grumpator, I really was kidding: The September issue won’t be out for at least another 10 days, and more likely two weeks.)

Projects and rejects 3 – The one that probably won’t happen

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

The story up to now

  • In Part 1, an old friend reminded me of what I should have known–that I needed to follow my passion, or in less Left Coast wording, do what I care about
  • In Part 2, the big secret was revealed at considerable length–the project I’m working on, most likely entitled The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008.

and now, without further ado (and at much less length than yesterday, I hope), we present:

Part the Third: In which a possibly-useful project is deferred or abandoned for what may or may not be the right reasons.

By now, I’ll presume most of you are aware of my twin 2007 projects: Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples and Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples.

For all the talk about why libraries (every library, or most libraries, or whatever) should be doing blogs and what wonderful benefits they’ll derive, I believe these were and are the first objective looks at what’s actually out there, other than a few handpicked examples.

I believe they were landmark projects, at least deserving of some discussion and criticism.

Two shrubs fall in the forest. No one hears.

They were wholly ignored by the gurus of library blogging. Wholly.

Reacting charitably, I’ll assume that none of those gurus are aware of either Cites & Insights or Crawford at Large, and so were and are wholly unaware of the books.

There are less charitable reactions, to be sure. Kate Davis, one of that remarkable group of Australian libloggers, raised one possibility in a March 14, 2008 post at virtually a librarian.

And, for that matter, a July 12, 2008 post at Marcus’ World seems to argue that social software and other initiatives should not be evaluated–or at least not yet. I’m trying very hard to avoid the phrase “faith-based librarianship,” but when I’m told that we shouldn’t be asking whether new services are effective, I have to wonder. (To my mind, a perfectly legitimate objection would be “You’re not measuring the right things”–which then raises the issue of what those right things would be. To say that we shouldn’t be asking such questions at all–that seems a bit odd.)

Maybe it was a bad idea to begin with

Actually, in details, I’m entirely willing to agree that the books might (should?) have been done differently, with a lot more discussion of analytics and a lot less text from each blog. I thought examples would be useful. Maybe they are, but they made it easy to dismiss the book as “just stuff taken from the blogs.” That’s wildly unfair, I believe, but the I’m biased.

Going forward or not

The public library portion of the project was (is) somewhat interesting on its own merits, but was a lot of work for very little apparent result.

The academic library portion of the project, frankly, got less interesting as time went on. And was even more work for even less apparent result.

So there’s very little in me crying out to take the next step–which would involve longitudinal studies (looking at changes in blogs over time) and a whole lot more up-front discussion.

If there was some form of external sponsorship, or if things suddenly picked up this fall, that could change–in which case, I’d look at the possibility of doing a two-year comparison (2007 & 2009).

Most likely, though, I’ll write this one off as a reject.

So just how badly (or well) did the books actually do?

That’s Part 4. Stay tuned.

Projects and rejects 2 – The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

This tale began with this post, in which I note how–with the help of friends–I regained some energy and inspiration. The story continues, at absurd length (sorry!)…

Part the Second: In which the Big Project is revealed

As will be obvious to some of you (the crazies at LSW Meebo more than most), I’ve been tinkering with this one for quite some time…probably more than a year, actually.

I started keeping notes on the project in a Word document. Here’s most of that document, with some annotations (indented gray paragraphs)–and this may give you a sense of just how long and difficult this gestation has been.

Toward a Global Liblog Survey

Notes toward a stupid project that will take forever and sell maybe 50 copies…

“Forever” is only a slight exaggeration. I’m hoping that 50 copies is conservative.


  • All blogs in 2005 “top 60” study as first baseline; all blogs that meet currency criteria included in 2008.
  • All blogs in 2006 “great middle” study as second baseline; all blogs that meet currency criteria included in 2008.
  • All other blogs found in IWTBF “Favorite blogs” study, or LISWiki, or LISZen source list, or “tag cloud” source list, or just my own discoveries, as of 3/1/08, that match all criteria below.

“IWTBF”: Information Wants to be Free.

Criteria for preliminary inclusion

  • In English
  • Not clearly defined as an official library blog.
  • Somehow related to library people, at least vaguely.
  • Reachable
  • Established: At least one post before January 1, 2008
  • Not defunct: At least one post after August 31, 2007 (as of March 1, 2008)
  • Visible: Sum of Bloglines subscriptions and Technorati “Authority” at least 9 (thus, rounds to 1.0 on Visibility scale) when tested in first two weeks of March 2008

For now, all of those criteria are for additional blogs, those not in one of the early surveys–and I’m still pondering “not defunct.” The “Established” and “Visible” criteria are firm, so that there’s some kind of starting point and so that truly “under the radar” blogs–the ones designed for a small circle of friends–can stay that way.

Currency: additional criteria for final inclusion, if done at all – omitted.

Whazzat? The single bullet point said “Current and semi-active: At least one post in two of the three months March, April, May 2008.” That’s comparable to the “active” rule for library blogs (at least one post in two of the three months March, April, May 2007). For several reasons, I concluded that it wasn’t a reasonable criterion this time around.

Blogs added to 2005/2006 lists and blogs not added

Note that some new blogs appear in more than one source. Favorites came first. “Others” came last. I believe LISZen came second and don’t remember the order of the other two.

  • Favorites: 48 added.
  • LISZen: 81 added
  • LISWiki: 37 added
  • Cloud: 9 added
  • Others (wcc’s picks): 29 added.
  • Total added: 204
  • Not added because too new: Five (plus some “others”).
  • Not added because invisible: 92 (plus some “others”).
  • Not added because available but defunct: 97.
  • Not added because not reachable: 57.

Adding clearly defunct and not reachable yields more than 150 defunct of about 450 candidates–about a 33% mortality rate. (Note: Mortality for the 2005-2006 group handled separately.)

At some point, the numbers don’t quite add up. That shouldn’t be surprising…

Baseline and bizarre attempt

There are now 542 blogs in the spreadsheet.

Except for a few that lack feeds, wcc’s Bloglines list includes all of them (and a few others), for 551 feeds in the Library folder.

For at least a week, I’ll track how many new posts (and updated blogs) appear in twice-a-day checks. (Note partway through: I’ll give it two weeks.)

If the number of posts seems very high, I may delete a small number of frequently-updated blogs and note them here.

Completion of stupid experiment on 540 blogs: Over two weeks, there were, on average, 221 posts per day, or 0.41 posts per blog. By comparison, the 213 blogs in the 2006 survey had an average of 104 posts per day or 0.49 posts per blog-not a convincing difference. (By comparison, the 60 blogs in the 2005 survey had an average of 55 posts per day or 0.92 posts per blog, but that was a special handpicked set of blogs.)

First assumption-that, on average, libloggers are posting less often: Not proved, and the evidence is extremely weak at best.

Next steps

Doing March-May 2007 scans for some portion of the 2005/2006 blogs, both as background for TxLA…and to get some sense for whether I want to continue this nonsense.

Issues include: Should I be tracking illustrations? Should I be tracking # of posts in which links appear? To what extent do blogs allow easy tracking of length, etc? (Have a column noting exceptions?) Is this just going to be more work than can possibly be justified?

For now: Yes on illustrations. No on links. If blogs hide posts, I’m noting that and not tracking length.

Blogs deleted during 2007 scan

  • Society for librarians who say m…. Reason: Just not going to do that one.
  • Reason: No indication of any library focus or interest; a book writer & illustrator.
  • Five weeks to a social library. Reason: Hidden posts in archive, and this was a “termed” blog-active during the course, mostly for course participants.

Second Run: Blogrolls

Process: Looked at blogrolls for blogs already in list, based on:

  • Front-page blogrolls (no blogrolls from links)
  • Plausible length of blogroll
  • Some evidence of library focus for blogroll

Scan and results

Roughly 100 blogrolls checked in early May 2008. Results:

  • Added: 46 blogs (new total: 585)
  • Invisible: 21+
  • Defunct (no posts in 2008, or no posts in March-April, thus not included): 42+
  • Official library (not obvious from name): 4+
  • Too new (no 2007 posts): 4
  • Not library-related at all: 15+
  • General good taste-excessive obscenities or automatic soundtrack: 2

Decisions Along the Way

For now, I’m leaving in blogs with no posts in March-May 2008 if they had posts in March-May 2007 or were in one of the two earlier surveys.

I’m deleting blogs that had no posts in March-May 208 and no posts in March-May 2008 and weren’t in one of the two surveys-unless they’ve (a) been around for a long time or (b) have posts in June 2008 or later. I may need to rethink that (and some other decisions).

That’s the end of the Word memo–for now, at least. That’s also, doubtless, way too much information. Here’s what I believe is happening at this point:

2008 Metrics and Initial Text

I’m currently going through blogs, noting:

  • Brief factual information for each one (the name, using the orthography in the page title if there’s a discrepancy, tagline/motto if any, who it’s by if that’s clear or if it’s a group, when it started, the crude visibility measure, up to three of the most popular categories or tags or labels if that’s easy to determine, the software used if that’s obvious, whether it’s sans or serif and noting if it’s fully justified text and if it’s an odd text/background combination, and the URL)
  • Number of posts during March-May 2008 (if it’s possible to determine that)
  • Total length of posts (if it’s not too difficult to determine that)
  • Number of comments and number of figures (if it’s plausible to determine either or both)
  • The same information for March-May 2007 if I didn’t pick it up before: I’m using a second method to get at full text of posts for some WordPress blogs with “hidden-post” archives (using page numbers).
  • The general affiliation of the blogger, if that’s evident (e.g. “Academic librarian,” not “College of William and Mary”).
  • In some but not all cases, a sentence about the nature of the blog. I’ll have more of an explanation for “but not all” when the project’s done–but it’s fair to say that the typical grandmother’s advice enters into it, as do various conflicts of interest.
  • In a few (very few, actually) cases, a fragment of a post that I found particularly intriguing.

The raw numbers go into a spreadsheet. The text goes into a Word chapter, alphabetically by sortable blog name (which is how I’m doing the checking)–but only as the first pass of a multipass textual process.

This is not a fast process–but having a two-display setup (the cheap way, because my new “desktop PC” is actually a notebook, so there’s an automatic second-display support for my retained LCD display) helps a lot! When I’m doing this, there are four active windows, and three of them (two Word, one Firefox) need to be nearly full-screen size. (The Excel window is wide but only five rows tall.)

How fast is not fast? It can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to go through five blogs, and I try to do five at a time. There’s a two-minute (or so) setup process, but I find that doing more than ten at a time rarely works well. Some days I do five, some ten, some (rarely) fifteen…and some none at all, because I’m entirely focused on other things.

As of this writing, I’ve done 295 of 583 (there was a duplicate in that “584” count)–but that turns out to be 289 of 577, because I’ve deleted seven blogs along the way, typically because they’ve disappeared entirely and weren’t in an earlier study or because they’re defunct and were alive for too short a period to be included (e.g., your typical “create a blog for class” blog).

So I’m just barely halfway through. If I average five blogs a day from here on out, I should be done with this phase around the end of September. If I average ten blogs a day, I’d be done in early September. My current target–taking into account Cites & Insights, columns, mental health, maybe a short vacation–is 50 blogs a week, which should get me through the whole list right around the time I turn 63…

But wait! There’s more!

At that point, depending on various factors (phase of the moon, feedback, offers of support, health, what have you), I could do another “additions” pass–picking up more English-language liblogs that seem to fit the general criteria, probably by working from blogrolls again. In saner moments, I say this won’t happen. If it does, of course, then there’s the metrics process for each of those blogs…and, since 2007 metrics would also be needed, I figure 1.5 to two hours for each fivesome.

I might also do a “subtractions” pass. Maybe the non-English blogs in the 2006 survey should be deleted. Maybe there are other categories that should be deleted… But at some point I’ll have a “complete” spreadsheet matched with a set of chapters.

After all the metrics gathering is done, comes the analysis. Lots of analysis.

How much and what kind of analysis? I’m not quite sure.

I am sure I’ll look at averages, medians, standard deviations, outliers and quintiles for each significant metric–and that “significant metrics” will include the changes from 2007 to 2008, for those blogs with posts in both quarters.

I suspect I’ll do some correlations–and I’m sure I won’t do the “toss everything into SASS and see what significant correlations emerge” style of correlation. (I don’t have access to SASS, for one thing, and I’m acutely aware that statistical correlation does not imply causation or, in fact, significant correlation.)

Wrapping it all up

Then I’ll write the manuscript–several chapters of analysis (how many I don’t yet know), followed by the alphabetic chapters, each of which will require a rewrite (for example, filling in pieces that emerge from overall analysis).

And then I’ll produce it–probably as a book, possibly with a few overall comments here or in C&I.

When? I honestly have no idea. If I manage to get it out before ALA Midwinter Meeting 2009, I’ll be fairly happy.

Now, if someone was to come forward with some form of adequate sponsorship, I’d be delighted to make a PDF version free, or to run major amounts of the analysis in Cites & Insights. Otherwise, not so likely.

Thus endeth Part the Second. Now, off to do today’s five or ten blogs. Where am I? Well, there’s one letter that begins the names of one out of every five libblogs, and it’s right in the middle of the alphabet. So, “where the L am I?” answers itself.

When did OA become exclusively peer-reviewed articles?

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Heather Morrison has a post about the “gratis v. libre” distinction that Peter Suber is suggesting as being more neutral than “weak vs. strong” when discussing the difference between open access as a way to read material and open access as a way to reuse material.

It’s a useful distinction. No, more than that, it’s a necessary distinction. And it allows people to start discussing whether “the goals” should be libre (which seems to be required by some of the OA declarations) or gratis (which opens readership–what a lot of us thought was the goal).

That’s why I featured it in Open access basics, the starting point for the PALINET Leadership Network’s cluster of articles on open access. (I believe I was one of the first to pick up on Suber’s usage–and note, with a little disappointment, that pretty much nobody but Suber has mentioned the PLN open access cluster. Too bad; I believe it’s a significant contribution and could use wider readership and discussion.)

Here’s the thing, though: Morrison includes this paragraph:

Since IJPE is not a peer-reviewed journal, the focus of the open access movement, it is not quite accurate to call IJPE OA – even though it is gratis, libre, and scholarly in nature.

Huh? Because the primary focus of the OA movement has been peer-reviewed articles, then anything else can’t be called OA? When did that happen?

The paragraph and those that follow do bring up another issue: Does “libre” mean anything at this point?

IJPE operates under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY), Noncommercial (NC), Sharealike (SA) license. That’s not the most restrictive CC license, but it certainly doesn’t remove the permission barriers that some people feel need to be removed: You can’t reuse IJPE material in commercial settings without permission, and the SA portion makes datamining and derivation a little tricky.

If I were to call Cites & Insights OA, I’d call it gratis, not libre, because I use a BY-NC license (but explicitly allow derivative works without requiring sharealike).

I would have left a shorter version of this as a comment at Morrison’s blog–but it doesn’t support comments.

Update: It may be useful to quote Peter Suber, from his longer Open access overview:

  • Royalty-free literature is the low-hanging fruit of OA, but OA needn’t be limited to royalty-free literature. OA to royalty-producing literature, like monographs and novels, is possible as soon as the authors consent. But because these authors will fear losing revenue, their consent is more difficult to obtain. They have to be persuaded either (1) that the benefits of OA exceed the value of their royalties, or (2) that OA will trigger a net increase in sales. However, there is growing evidence that both conditions are met for most research monographs. Nevertheless, this is still a minor front in the larger campaign for OA to royalty-free literature.
  • Nor need OA even be limited to literature. It can apply to any digital content, from raw and semi-raw data to learning objects, music, images, multi-media presentations, and software. It can apply to works that are born digital or to older works, like public-domain literature and cultural-heritage objects, digitized later in life.
  • I refer to “peer-reviewed research articles and their preprints” in my subtitle because it’s the focus of most OA activity and the focus of this overview, not because it sets the boundaries of OA.

There are plenty of issues and controversies around open access. This needn’t be one of them.

What’s a month between friends?

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Back on April 30, 2008, I did something I almost never do: Made a prediction.

And, more to the point, did something a good futurist would never do: Made a falsifiable short-term prediction that would clearly be testable while short-term memory still works.

I was wrong, as I noted here.

This morning, I was checking secondary Gmail accounts (actually ones that have no live uses), which is the only time I’d see Gmail’s free-space allocation so vividly…and it looks as though I was just about a month off. Gmail’s space allocation either hit seven gigabytes early this morning or, possibly, sometime last night.

Hmm. Let’s see. I predicted July 4 in a post dated April 30–so it was a prediction with just over a three-month timeline. I was off by a month. That’s…well, that’s pretty bad, actually. And it suggests that Gmail’s algorithm doesn’t add space at a constant rate. That, or my calculations were just wildly off.

So, here’s my new fearless prediction: When will GMail’s space allocation hit eight gigabytes?

Some time in the future–or not. Vague enough?