Archive for June, 2009

Trends & Quick Takes

Friday, June 12th, 2009

The penultimate section of the July 2009 Cites & Insights is Trends & Quick Takes–another “occasional” feature, this one for little thoughts that are more substantive than the foolishness in My Back Pages but not substantive enough for their own essays.
Realistically, most pieces of this section would work nicely as blog posts–and there is some crossover.
When this section appears, it’s usually longer than this time around and usually includes a section of “Quicker Takes,” each a single paragraph. This one has a trio of items, each triggered by something I saw elsewhere:

  • A note on the dispiriting idea that, as soon as Happy Days Are Here Again, we’ll go right back to overspending and mortgaging ourselves beyond the hilt–and some related notes on “finding the work you’ll love.”
  • A note on the clarity with which Fortune portrays relations between business and the current government (Them vs. Us), at least in some articles–and the relationship between such stark oppositions and open access (remember PRISM?).
  • A little note on the apparent belief of some journalists that “we” have plentiful bandwidth, plentiful enough to handle high-definition TV, and are ready to jump entirely to TV-over-internet. Hey, I’m delighted that, at my new house, I get something over 2Mbps actual download bandwidth–it’s an improvement from my old house. (Not in the item: Current measures show that, in the U.S. at least, 99% of all video is viewed…on the TV, using traditional over-the-air/cable/satellite sources not on PCs and smart phones.)

Want the section by itself, in mediocre HTML? Here.

I screwed up on the original post (text not in the article itself): That 99% of viewing, on TVs, includes DVDs, DVR recordings, etc., as well as broadcast/cable/satellite. As for YouTube–well, people watch lots of usually-brief *videos*–but the total hours spent viewing pales in comparison to the time the TV is on in most households.

Perspective: On Privatization

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Do words have meanings–meanings that change slowly over time–or did that noted logician Charles L. Dodgson get it right when he had one of his more scholarly characters, H. Dumpty, assert that:

When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less

To some extent, this essay–the second major essay in the July 2009 Cites & Insights–is about the proposed settlement of the Association of American Publishes and Authors Guild lawsuits against Google over Google Book Search.
To some extent, it’s a followup to the issue-length Perspective: The Google Books Search Settlement, a 25,000-word, 30-page combination of thoughts, citations and commentary that makes up the March 2009 Cites & Insights.
But it’s also, to a very great extent, about meaning–and whether it’s acceptable to cry “foul!” when public intellectuals stretch the use of a word beyond (what I consider) reasonable limits in order to make political capital.
I didn’t get into some secondary issues–for example:

  • The works in question when Google’s accused of “privatizing” library collections are not in the public domain–they’re possibly-orphan works, which means they’re still covered by copyright.

Most of this essay appeared earlier as blog posts and comments, but I believe it’s easier to read and try to digest the set of arguments in this combined form. I recognize that some, maybe most, readers won’t agree with me.

Oops, almost forgot: If you really hate PDF and want this article all by itself, in somewhat harder-to-read HTML, here you go.

Interesting & peculiar products

Friday, June 12th, 2009

The third section of the July 2009 Cites & Insights is an installment of an occasional series, Interesting & Peculiar Products.
When C&I began (in December 2000, as the ejournal continuation of a monthly print-newsletter section that ran from 1995 through 2000), much of its focus was personal computing and related technologies. This is one of the remnants of that focus, although the range of products is even broader. The specific holdover comes at the end of each installment, “Editors’ Choices and Group Reviews,” where I summarize top review choices in some personal computing and audio/video magazines–and since PC Magazine ceased as a print publication, that holdover may be weakening.
“Interesting” or “peculiar”–that’s up to the reader, although my comments are frequently pointed one way or the other.
So, for example, while I think the technical achievement behind “high-def bluetooth” is interesting, it does strike me that–at least for the next year or two–there’s a mild disconnect between the usual habits of those who use smart phones as music players and storing/reproducing music at better-than-CD resolutions. On the other hand, having high-res downloads (legally) available strikes me as interesting, not peculiar: I may not be able to hear the difference between 44/16 sound and 96/24, but I suspect that some people really can hear that difference. (There are lots of audiophile “huge difference” claims that I’m a bit more skeptical about…) Sometimes, the section just follows developing stories–e.g., milestones in hard disk capacity.
If all you want is this particular section, here it is.

A few words about Bibs & Blather

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Long-time readers of Cites & Insights will know all this.
Bibs & Blather is my alternate name for the ejournal itself–and may have made more sense when the ejournal (ezine?) was heavily composed of “Cites,” that is, citations for various articles and discussions of those articles.
Bibs & Blather is also the running head for random notes related to the ejournal itself (and my other sites and projects)–sort of a letter from the editor.
This time around, in Cites & Insights 9:8, the brief note includes three elements: One relating to sponsorship of the ejournal (I’ve had modest sponsorship for the last four years, it’s going away, and I could use a new sponsor), a note about the move of this blog…and a “Projects” section.
The “Projects” section relates to real research projects I’ve carried out in the past–more extensive and transparent research about library blogs and blogs by library people than I believe has ever been done elsewhere–and what I’m likely to do in the future.
There are too many earlier posts related to these projects to point you to all of them. Searching for “quintile” will yield a bunch of them (as will Public Library Blogs and Academic Library Blogs); the Category archives for Liblog Landscape will yield more.
Hey, it’s a short section, just keeping people informed. It would be silly for this introductory essay to be longer than the ejournal section.

Thinking about Blogging 2: Why We Blog

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

The first major essay in Cites & Insights 9:8 carries forward a set of discussions that began in the April 2009 issue, Cites & Insights 9:5.
Both essays are largely “masses of metablogging”–that is, blogging about blogging–with a healthy amount of commentary and synthesis. The earlier essay (which, if you hate PDF and don’t mind crude HTML, is separately available here), discussed blogging as a median medium: a sweet spot in a casual media hierarchy of length, thought and formality.
After that discussion (which I think many of you will find interesting on its own merits), there’s a lot about comments and conversations as these relate to blogs, followed by a discussion of whether blogs are “here to stay.” (You might want to page over to Page 17 in that issue, Library Access to Scholarship, which includes a fair amount of back-and-forth on whether professional journals should evolve into blogs.)

And in Part 2…

This time around, the focus is “why”–but includes a digression on anonymous or pseudonymous blogging and whether such practices weaken the contributions of such blogs to the professional literature.
That discussion takes place within a section on archives and archival blogging. That’s followed by some notes on Andrew Sullivan’s “Why I blog” and some reactions to that article (decidedly not a post!).
“Why academics should blog” follows, including a variety of perspectives from academic librarians and other academics and including a striking discussion from John Dupuis, “If you don’t have a blog you don’t have a resume.”
I think you’ll find a number of useful insights–and a notable lack of Everybody Must Have A Blog thinking. If you hate PDFs or prefer crudely-formatted HTML, the article’s available as a separate.

Enlightening or disturbing?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I was going to write a series of posts describing each essay in the current Cites & Insights, and still plan to do so.
But this hit me by surprise–a LISNews item pointing to a post pointing to Blind Search.

Blind Search?

People who care deeply about open web search engines spend a lot of time figuring out which engine is better for which purposes. For most users, though–at least the minority who appear to be aware that Google’s not the only game in town–the look and feel of a site may be as important as the apparent results.
Blind Search takes that away, at least for three major open web search engines. You type in a search. You get back the first 10 results for each of three search engines, displayed in three parallel columns. You click on one of three “vote for this search engine” buttons, based on the column of results that seem to match your query best.
Then, and only then, Blind Search shows you the engine used for each column.

Maybe both

I try to rotate searches to some extent. My FireFox search box includes several major engines along with some specialized tools (, IMDB, Citizendium, that other web encyclopedia). But, yeah, I probably use Google more than the others…
So this morning I tried some searches at Blind Search. An ego search (oh, come on, you don’t do ego searches?). A semi-ego search, “Cites & Insights.”
While the results were similar (as you’d expect), the same engine seemed to yield the best spread of first-ten results in both cases.
I just now tried it on ScienceBlogs. The same engine seemed to yield a slightly better set of results than the other two (a small difference).
A silly search (memory of water). Hmm. One engine was just a little better.
By now, you’ve probably guessed the engine that came out “best” in the first few tests–and it certainly isn’t what I’d expect.
Maybe bing is on to something.
(Or maybe not. The more searches I try, the more diffuse the results. Still…)

Cites & Insights 9:8 (July 2009) available

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Cites & Insights 9:8 (July 2009) has just been published.

The 30-page issue, PDF as usual but with HTML versions of most essays, includes:

Bibs & Blather

Notes on sponsorship for C&I, the status of four possible future projects–and the move of Walt at Random to ScienceBlogs.

Making it Work Perspective: Thinking about Blogging 2: Why We Blog

Continuing the discussion of blogging philosophy and practice that began in Cites & Insights 9:5 with a focus on reasons for blogging.

Interesting & Peculiar Products

Seven individual items and technologies, plus eight editors’ choices and group reviews. From high-def Bluetooth to whether you can call a $1,500 computer a netbook…

Perspective: On Privatization

Musings on whether Charles Dodgson had the proper theory of language (as stated by his character, noted wordsmith H. Dumpty), plus unaltered copies of the two blog posts (and most of the comments) at issue.

Trends & Quick Takes

Three trendy items: Myths and limits, “They are not your friends” and the world of plentiful bandwidth.

My Back Pages

Nine little items on nine less serious topics; as usual, this one’s a bonus for those who download the issue.

Movin’ on up: The last Walt at Random post…

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

…at, that is.

Walt at Random has joined the new Information Science channel on ScienceBlogs.

Please go there–for the link-challenged,

If you’re reading this via an aggregator, please add the feed to your subscriptions.


Why the move? Well, they invited me–following in the footsteps of John Dupuis and Christina Pikas, which are pretty good footsteps to follow.

The cross-fertilization there seems interesting, and ScienceBlogs seems to attract a wide audience. All in all, it made sense.

The changes I think you’ll see in the new (and, I hope, improved) Walt at Random:

  • It looks different, of course–the blog appears in the overall context of ScienceBlogs.
  • Right now, there are no archives other than the first two posts. That should change in the near future–but I won’t be copying all of the archives from here.  Omitted: old movie reviews, cruise-line commentaries, and a few “temporal posts”–ones that no longer have any meaning at all. Retained: Pretty much everything else (I think I left out about 10% of the posts), including all the controversial posts and goofs. The archives here will remain untouched.
  • The new blog won’t include the “treadmill movie” reviews. It also won’t include the pure reposts of weekly LLN Highlights posts–instead, I’ll write brief narrative pieces about aspects of Library Leadership Network that might be of interest, including a few recent changes.
  • I anticipate doing “abstracts” of some or all Cites & Insights articles, one abstract per post. We’ll see how that goes.
  • I hope to do more substantive posts on the new blog. Hopes are wonderful things…
  • It’s possible, although highly unlikely, that–if I don’t find a new sponsor for Cites & Insights volume 10 and beyond–I could scrap the ejournal/ezine and publish the essays as sets of serial posts in the blog.

Walt, Even Randomer

This site isn’t going away. As soon as I can put together a new one and upload it, though, the banner will change to the new name: Walt, Even Randomer.

You’ll see roughly one post per month that’s identical between the two blogs–the same one that also shows up on C&I Alerts and my LISNews blog. Which is to say, the issue announcements for Cites & Insights.


  • The complete archives of Walt at Random on will stay here.
  • I’ll keep posting old movie reviews here. (Temporarily, I’m watching them without the treadmill, on a much better TV; the house move has disrupted things. Soon, I’ll be back to the treadmill, admittedly a new one, and the small TV–also admittedly a new one.)
  • It’s hard to say what else will appear here. If I have something to say that seems too far out even for Friday randomness on ScienceBlogs, it will be here. That could mean two posts a week or one every six months.

Information scientist? Moi?

I’ve never claimed that title and don’t intend to start now.


I believe I’ve done better (more comprehensive, more careful) research on liblogs and library blogs than I’ve seen elsewhere, even if I’ve deliberately stuck to meatball statistics rather than sophisticated analysis.

I’ve certainly written (and will continue to write) about open access and other topics that concern scientists.

My brother’s a chemist. Does that count?

That’s it for this post. Go visit the new blog. Thanks!

Tracking Andersonomics

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Since it’s a new month, I thought I’d summarize the magnificent sales results of making the primary portions of The Liblog Landscape, Public Library Blogs and Academic Library Blogs free, free, free! And, since March-May is probably the season in which new copies of the actual books were most likely to sell, these are probably indicative results.

  • Academic Library Blogs and Public Library Blogs: Each book had one sale on CreateSpace/Amazon in March 2009 and one sale in Febr*uary 2009; Public Library Blogs had one Lulu sale in February, none in March. Neither book sold any copies in early April, before April 14, when C&I 9:6 (May 2009) provided the first portion of each book (everything except individual blog profiles) for free. Since then, sales have jumped to zero. (If there are no sales in June, both books will go permanently out of print–I’ll remove them from both sources. Additionally, that issue has underperformed–258 downloads to date, an unusually low number for the first 6 weeks of an issue. (The two essays add another 230 and 261 views respectively for public and academic library blogs. Thus, it appears that more than 500 people have seen each book section: more than ten times as many as purchased Academic Library Blogs and more than six times as many as purchased Public Library Blogs.) Consequences: Continuation of either project, at least by me, is dead. If a library school or person who believes they can do a better job would like to acquire the spreadsheets used for the books, let me know; we might be able to work something out.
  • The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: This book sold three copies on Amazon/CreateSpace in March and none in February, five on Lulu in February and none in March. No copies sold from April 1 through May 6, when all but the last chapter appeared as C&I 9:7 (June 2007). Since May 6, sales have held steady at zero. To date, there have been 600 downloads for the issue, which neither bad nor wonderful for the first three weeks.
  • By the way, I’m not differentiating between PDF versions (Lulu only) and paperbacks…

Can I say absolutely that, in my case, “free” does not sell books? Not necessarily–but that’s one way to interpret all this. (The other direct experiment in reader support, making annual versions of C&I available in both paperback and PDF form, the latter being pure sponsorship, has yielded the same revenue as April-May book sales.)

Consequences of the general failure of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008? I’m not sure. It depends on how rapidly we finish the “settling in” process (a slow, very slow, extremely slow process, sometimes involving rethinking decisions…), how rapidly energy returns after that, what else might come along, etc. I do know that, absent up-front sponsorship (and “absent” seems likely to be the word), doing a new version can only make sense as a labor of stupidity love or fascination.

Oh, as to the first experiment in PoD publishing: it’s up to 280 copies now and continues to sell at least one or two copies a month. It may yet reach the “magic number” (300, an arbitrary figure) of semi-success.