Of chaos and stability: Two minor mini-posts

Don’t let the fancy title throw you. This isn’t a fancy post. I just have two small things to note and felt that, between them, they justified a post.

Descent into chaos

As some of you know, I was not among those crying to the heavens when a certain pseudonymous (not anonymous, and I continue to be astonished by the number of supposedly educated librarians who either don’t know or won’t admit the difference) blogger moved to the World’s Worst Blogging Platform, sponsored by a certain Reed Elsevier publication. I thought the whole affair was revelatory of some other bloggers’ self-importance and generally generated heat without light. (We also learned a lot about one publisher’s relative view of peer review and “scholarly” publishing as compared to publicity. Since I don’t do much of any scholarly publishing, it didn’t feel comment-worthy.)

Since then, I’ll admit, the quality of posts on said pseudonymous blog has been–well, “phoning it in” is one way to put it–except, maybe, for the last few days. But descent into irrelevance isn’t the reason for this post.

The descent into chaos is in the comments section–which was always more vicious and mean-spirited than the blog itself, but has gone from bad to, well, pretty much untenable. The most recent stream seems to have brought out the bigots and haters within the library field (assuming these specimens actually are within the library field), and I’d think both the blogger and the publisher would be deeply embarassed about the state of affairs.

Time to shut it down? Not my decision.

Stability and change

John Miedema has a post entitled “I Delete Blog Posts: The Web is Not Print.” Since I’ve had the experience of printing off the first page of a long post at Slow Reading, planning to go back later to excerpt material for C&I or PLN, only to find it gone when I returned, it’s a useful explanation of Miedema’s attitude.

I’m rethinking my own practices and would be interested in a little feedback.

  • I regard Cites & Insights as a print publication distributed on the web. Once an issue is uploaded, it’s frozen unless there are actionable errors: If significant errors are pointed out, I’ll correct them in a later edition but won’t change the published issue. (I just this week discovered that the Whole Number count has been off for years–one too low–and I’m not planning to change that. I don’t believe I’ve ever produced a typo-free issue, and I don’t correct the typos either.)
  • I’ve been treating this blog as pseudo-print, using the strikeout/replacement convention for some changes and the Update: convention for additions. To date, the only posts I’ve deleted were a series of placeholder posts (with no content) that turned out to be useless.
  • My personal site consists of two kinds of pages: Old essays, which so far have stuck around unchanged since they were posted, and “publicity” pages, which are changed as conditions warrant and as I remember. (C&I’s pages are also changing as conditions warrant, but not the issues and essays pointed to.)

I don’t see much reason to change the first or third. But maybe the second is a little more “permanent” than it should be. Maybe I should go back and delete posts that are either redundant (e.g., the copy of each PLN Highlights post), outdated (e.g., C&I announcements more than a few months old) or no longer relevant–and there, the issue is whether something’s just tired or is a form of casual history.

On one hand, maybe it’s not worth the trouble. WordPress will as happily accommodate 5,000 posts as 500 (I’m nearing 1,000 after almost four years, so this isn’t a big issue), and I don’t think many people go reading through the archives (and if they do, maybe complete archives make more sense). Certainly, if some unnamed figure were to go analyzing archives for whatever reasons, deleted posts throw off the analysis (Hi John!), for what that’s worth.

On the other, someone reading posts within a category might benefit from some cleanup work. Oh, and I suppose I could get rid of posts that are too naive or represent views I no longer hold, but since that stuff’s equally likely to be in C&I, that’s not much of an issue.

What do you think? Treat the blog as more printlike or more wikilike?

And what do you do in your blog?

9 Responses to “Of chaos and stability: Two minor mini-posts”

  1. I pretty much treat my blog as permanent. I figure everything is being cached somewhere anyway. I don’t know what I’d do if I got to the end of WordPress’ storage. Probably either start a new blog or stop blogging.

    Not that I think my words deserve immortality. They likely won’t have any if they stay digital, I just think people have the right to go back and see what I’ve said before and challenge me when I contradict myself.

  2. Peter Murray says:

    I, too, treat my blog posts as permanent-with-addenda (strikeout and addition markup). For me, it is a matter of building confidence in my audience. I would like them to know that I will stand by my words, as if they were published in the New York Times — once they are out there, they are there. (You know that saying about never putting anything in e-mail that you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times?) Corrections and additions should be noted as such. For instance, I theorized that the OCLC policy update was due in part to Google using OCLC records for the Google Book Search settlement. It wasn’t, and Roy Tennant said as much on the Code4Lib IRC channel minutes after the post hit the wires. Rather than removing the post, I let the original text stand and added an update to the top of the post.

  3. GeekChic says:

    Regarding deleting blog posts: I don’t blog myself – but I would like to note that I do try to read the complete archives of a blogger that I like. It gives me a good feel for the “blogging personality”. With some bloggers this can take a while!

    As for AL: I too remain surprised by the willful ignorance of some – and their pomposity.

  4. walt says:

    Daniel: I’m not aware of any WordPress limit–I was just noting that there’s no real penalty for having thousands of posts. (I’d be very surprised if there is a WordPress limit on number of posts. Given that it’s been used as an OPAC, with one page per book, it seems unlikely.)

    GeekChic: So do I–although I’ll give up after three or four months in some cases. And I’m frustrated by those blogs that really don’t encourage such reading, either by not having chronological archives or by requiring lots of clicking to actually read each post. I would assume that the bloggers really don’t want people to read older posts–but I suspect it’s more likely that this behavior came along with a template chosen for other reasons.

  5. stevenb says:

    I don’t really follow annoyed librarian but I’m just interested in what you had to say about not knowing the difference between anonymous and pseudonymous. I’m not sure I’m getting your point. Wouldn’t it only be pseudonymous if the blog was written under a false name. As far as I know there is no name associated with it. Therefore wouldn’t the quality of an unknown name make it anonymous. For example, I find an article in PC Magazine and it’s not attributed to anyone. Are you suggesting it’s pseudononymous because I know the title of the publication is PC Magazine – and I know there is a person (or people) behind it? I think it is actually anonymous because I don’t know who wrote it. The author is unknown. Are the individual posts there attributed to any name – even a false one? To me it’s the latter that would make is pseudonymous. I read a number of faculty blogs that have a title but you don’t know who the author of the blog is – most sources typically refer to them as anonymous blogs.

    Unless what you are saying is that everyone knows who it is and therefore we know it’s a pseudonym for that person – sort of like we know Richard Bachman is a pseudonym for Stephen King. Is this blogger’s identity a widely known fact?

    Maybe I’m not getting it – and I guess I’m one of those supposedly well educated librarians. But I’m ok with admitting I don’t understand the difference if I’m not getting it. Please enlighten me.

  6. Steve Lawson says:

    I assume the important distinction between anonymous and pseudonymous is that the pseudonym “Annoyed Librarian” refers to the works published under that name. Might be one person, might be several, but it forms the work of “The Annoyed Librarian,” and it makes sense to talk about it that way. That’s not to say that people can’t spoof the AL in various fora, and that spoofing of identities is at the root of some of the latest nonsense in the AL comments.

    “Anonymous” has no such semi-stable identity. Any given AL post usually has many anonymous comments. They might all be by different people or there may be repeat commenters as “anonymous,” but in any case it would be nonsensical to say “have you read the works of anonymous?”

  7. walt says:

    Stevenb: Steve said it pretty well. The Annoyed Librarian blog is written by a clearly identified pseudonymous entity–The Annoyed Librarian. “She” has a persona.

    Quite a few liblogs are pseudonymous–by my standards, 55 of those in The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: DrWeb, the.effing.librarian, Feel-Good Librarian, The Hot Librarian, etc. Only a handful are fully anonymous.

    The writing style in AL is reasonably consistent. The persona is extremely consistent, almost to the point of self-parody. I think that’s different than anonymous writing–which, as Steve L. notes, has no stable identity. (A similar situation plays out in LISNews, particularly in comments, where there are a fair number of pseudonyms and a fair number of anonymous comments.)

  8. stevenb says:

    Thanks Steve for your clarification and perspective on the difference between the two. It seems like a fine line. I get your point that the semi-stability of the identity of the blogger is the quality that points to a pseudonymous entity rather than an anonymous one. I’ll keep this in mind as I make my way through the liblogosphere.