Archive for July, 2011

Has your library stopped using Twitter or Facebook?

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

If your public library/library district has used Facebook, Twitter or both, and has stopped using one or both, I’d love to get some feedback, to help me prepare a book on public libraries’ use of social networks, to be published by ALA Editions in 2012. Please send responses to by September 14, 2011.

Basic Information

Library/district official name
State, province or country
Service area population
Your name, title and email address, if I need more info
Whether you’re willing to be quoted directly.

Comments on Twitter or Facebook (or both—indicate which):

Why you stopped using the social network and any other comments you wish to make.


I can’t guarantee your comments will be used—in all, I’d guess no more than 2,000 to 3,000 words in the book will come from direct librarian feedback. But I will list you in the acknowledgments and your comments will definitely help as I prepare the subjective portions of the book.


Note: I’m not assuming that there are any “failure stories.” It won’t surprise me at all if I don’t get any responses to this “negative” query. On the other hand, while I can see the Facebook and Twitter accounts in the six or eleven states I’m studying in depth, I have no way of knowing about former accounts that have closed—unless people tell me.


Walt Crawford

Does your public library use Twitter or Facebook?

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

If your public library/library district currently uses Twitter, Facebook or both, I’d love to get some feedback to help me prepare a book on public library use of social networks, to be published by ALA Editions next year. Please send responses to, ideally by September 14, 2011.

Basic Information

Library/district official name
State, province or country
Service area population
Your name, title and email address
Whether you’re willing to have your comments used as direct quotations or only as background.

Comments on Twitter or Facebook (or both—indicate which):

Whatever you feel is worth saying about how your library uses the social network, how much time is spent preparing items and responding to items (if you do that), whether one person or many post, the feedback you’ve gotten from your patrons, whether it seems worthwhile—and whatever else you think is worth mentioning.

Comments on the relationship between the two (if you use both):

Do you use them for different purposes, or are Facebook statuses basically longer versions of tweets (or maybe the same)? Other comments on the differences and similarities as your library has used them?


I can’t guarantee your comments will be used—I’d expect that no more than 2,000-3,000 words of the book will be comments from these emails. I will list you in the acknowledgments (unless you ask me not to do so) and your comments will definitely help as I prepare the subjective portions of the book.

I’ll look up your library’s home page and go to your Twitter and Facebook pages, to pick up basic numbers (followers, following, tweets, likes, visits) and five recent items from each service as examples of trends and practices—unless you’re in one of the six or eleven states for which I’m doing full sweeps, in which case I’d do that anyway.


Walt Crawford

Clarification added August 2, 2011: While this message doesn’t name the “six or eleven states,” I did mention the six states (not the 11) in a FriendFeed note and may have mentioned them elsewhere.

The six states were chosen by population to give a good cross-section (that is, a very large state, a not-so-large state, a medium-sized state, a smaller state, a small state, and a very small state–all in terms of population, not physical size), since I can’t possibly study every single state.

While I’m retaining that principle, further investigation reveals the need to make slight adjustments for the sake of plausibility. In one case, a medium-sized state has hundreds and hundreds of libraries reporting, making it extremely cumbersome to evaluate; in another, a small state has only one public library with many branches. In both cases, I’ve taken an “adjacent” state instead–that is, the next higher-ranked or lower-ranked in population. If I go to 11 states or 16 states, I’ll use the same accommodation.

I can say for sure that California, New Jersey and Minnesota will be studied, since I’ve already done those, and Wyoming–the smallest state by population–will also be studied. It’s highly likely that the fifth and sixth states will be Mississippi and Idaho. That will mean I’ll have checked more than 800 library agencies…

In any case, all reports from public libraries, including those in Canada and outside North America, are welcome. They’ll be treated equally in terms of background comments, and I’ll do a special pass on all “non-studied” libraries come mid-September, treating them as a separate group.

If I Don’t See the Difference…

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

…then nobody else does, or nobody else should, or nobody should pay extra for the difference. Or any of a number of similar arguments, expressed with comments like “why bother?” or “scientific” claims (such as results of surveys where a few hundred folks can’t reliably tell which of two wines, tasted blind, is more expensive).

Sometimes it’s a little stronger. Blake Carver, who in many ways I like and admire (otherwise, C&I wouldn’t be hosted at LISHost), gave this as his reason for posting a link that, at third hand, discussed such a survey—that is, 587 participants were only 50% successful in deciding which of two wines was more expensive—“oenophiles are all full of shit and it’s all just subjective and people waste a stupid amount of time and money on spoiled grape juice.”

OK, that’s hyperbole on Blake’s part—or at least I think it is.

For the rest of the story (and five other snarky little essays)… or read My Back Pages as part of Cites & Insights 11:6.

Yes, this My Back Pages is now in HTML, using the new template.

Some Work, Many Don’t

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

My wife, the wise person and actual librarian in our household, asked me the other day why I was doing this at all—since libraries surely aren’t buying new CD-ROM titles. I gave her a response similar to what I said back in July 2010 (Cites & Insights 10:8), and I think that’s still valid. Briefly, since libraries don’t automatically discard books from the late 1990s, and since many of these title CD-ROMs were “expanded books” in one way or another, I thought it would be worth seeing whether they still run on contemporary computers, whether they still seem worthwhile, what’s replaced them and so on—along with some notes from when I first reviewed them.

On the other hand…the first six CD-ROMs I tried out this month wouldn’t install at all. Period. In no case was this terribly surprising, but in some cases it was disappointing. After writing up earlier notes on three of them that had been quite interesting (if flawed) “virtual museums,” I realized I no longer had the heart to track down possible web alternatives and that, indeed, recounting how these titles used to work was mostly a history of things lost and a trifle depressing. Remembering when title CD-ROMs were touted as the Next Big Thing, possibly even replacing books, I will note this: Any book I purchased in 1995-1999 is still readable—but many title CD-ROMs purchased in that period are now entirely useless. [I was going to qualify “any book” with “except mass-market paperbacks”—but all the mass-market paperbacks I have from the mid-90s are entirely readable, as are ones that date back to 1965, cheap acid paper and all.]

For the rest of the story… or read The CD-ROM Project as part of Cites & Insights 11:6

Google TV

Friday, July 29th, 2011

The first couple of Google TV products emerged in early 2011—Logitech’s Revue set-top box and a Sony Blu-ray player with Google TV built in. A fairly long writeup in the February 2011 Home Theater is interesting—including an odd little slap at both devices for requiring wall-wart power supplies, which—for devices that are always plugged in—“always screams cheap, off-the-shelf design to me.” The main conclusions: Google TV isn’t there yet, partly because none of the three main networks will allow streaming of their shows, partly because in the process of passing your other TV signals through the Google box, you lose surround-sound capabilities. We do get a sideswipe from a writer who’s clearly an Apple fancier—as made clear in this passage: “If you’re one of those staunch opponents of all things Apple, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about, and you’ll forever be subjected to complex hierarchies and poorly integrated UIs…” Wow. Nobody but Apple is capable of producing good UIs!

For an amusing contrast, there’s “Kill Your Cable, If You Dare” by Jeff Bertolucci in the December 2010 PC World. Bertolucci was spending $85/month on his cable service, and of course the only solution was to get rid of cable entirely. (Since, you know, moving to limited-basic is clearly out of the question.) He concludes that “Google TV…is the best way to find content online.” He also discusses lots of other options…and admits that, well, “if you live in an area where the over-the-air broadcast channels are difficult to receive through antenna,” maybe you shouldn’t cut the cable. What I notice consistently throughout the article: There is never any discussion of video quality. None. (At the very end, he does mention limited-basic cable.) So on one hand, Google TV is the way to go; on the other, it’s not ready for prime time.

For the rest of the story (21 other products & ideas)… or read Interesting & Peculiar Products as part of Cites & Insights 11:6

The Top 10 Reasons You See So Many Lists…

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

10. Putting things together into a list seems to connect them. Surely you’ve seen lists where some elements don’t quite seem to fit—or where the organizing principle seems forced. Not a problem. It’s a list. The title connects individual elements, even if that connection is artificial. You can be philosophical about this: Bogus lists encourage people to think about possible connections. Or you can be realistic: A lazy writer spots 10, 15, 25 or 42 items that can fit under a title, no matter how ill the fit.

9. Lists are quotable, searchable, Tweetable. Honorable bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, and FriendFeeders will link back—but they’ll probably use one item at a time. Great! Just make sure topic phrases are less than 140 characters long and paragraphs run less than 140 words. You’re on your way to big-link love. A good 20-item 1,600-word list probably results in 10 times the links of a single discursive 1,600-word post or article and probably takes less than half as long to write.

For the rest of the story... or read disContent as part of Cites & Insights 11:6

Trends & Quick Takes

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Time for another Random Roundup, part of an ongoing effort to offer quick notes on interesting things. When I did a catch-up edition of T&QT in October 2009, I noted that—with my switch in March 2009 from printing leadsheets for interesting source material to tagging items in Delicious—I was up to 50 items in September 2009 tagged “tqt” (the tag for this section) out of 643 items altogether, far more items than I ever had “on hand” prior to Delicious.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll be aware that I gave up on Delicious after Yahoo! basically issued its death warrant and, after asking for advice and doing some exploring, switched to Diigo, taking my Delicious-tagged items with me (evaluating many of them along the way). I’m not thrilled with one specific aspect of Diigo (the alphabetic list of all tags is clumsy to use because it’s not a list), but otherwise it’s just fine—but boy, do I have a lot of stuff tagged, even after wiping out a hundred items in one recent essay.

The count as of April 21, 2011: 1,294 items in all. Take away GBS (Google Book Settlement, which I may scrap entirely) with 230, and you still have more than a thousand, including 106 tagged tqt. So, well, this roundup in an issue full of roundups is another attempt to do a little catching up, five thousand (or so) words at a time.

For the rest of the story… or read as part of Cites & Insights 11:6

Where Do We Go from Here?

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

On one hand, it’s one of the great songs from “Once More, with Feeling,” the great all-original musical episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. On the other, it’s an appropriate question for Cites & Insights, where “we” refers to you, the readers, me, the editor/writer/publisher—and unknown sponsors real or imaginary.

All of the issues published this year have been heavy on long essays, light on shorter features. (The January 2011 issue, which has seven relatively short sections, was actually published in December 2010.) In every case, I felt that the long essay was worthwhile, and for most issues, readership in the first two or three months seemed to be solid, indicating that I was reaching an audience. During that time, I was still discussing a possible sponsorship, one that would put C&I’s future on a more even keel.

Two things happened in April 2011. One is that the discussions moved in a different direction, one that apparently will not yield sponsorship for Cites & Insights. The other is that an essay I had high hopes for, and one that was much more timely than is typical for C&I, was downloaded less often than is usual—and was entirely ignored by the online community (that is, neither linked from nor mentioned by bloggers and others).

For the rest of the story… or read Bibs & Blather as part of Cites & Insights 11:6.

Sucker Money…

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Sucker Money, 1933, b&w. Dorothy Davenport & Melville Shyer (dirs.), Mischa Auer, Phyllis Barrington, Earl McCarthy, Mona Lisa. 0:59.

The opening titles call this an exposé of phony psychics—but it’s really a remarkably slow-moving B movie. Newspaper editor sees an interesting help-wanted ad, tells reporter to go undercover on what might be a human-interest story. The job turns out to be one of the actors in a swami’s theatricals, as the swami works to con marks out of big money, then move on.

We get danger, hypnotism, lots of nonsense, a swami who’s fond of killing as many associates as possible and an eventual happy ending. In the process, we also get some absurd acting and one of the most lethargic suspense flicks I’ve ever seen. Very charitably, $0.75.

That’s the first movie on Disc 19 of the 60-disc Mystery Collection. Others are better…trust me.

For the rest of the story (Discs 19-24 of the collection)… or read it as part of Cites & Insights 11:7.

Talking About the Public Domain

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Ah, the public domain: Where creative work is supposed to wind up after a limited period during which the creator has exclusive control over distribution and copying. An ever-growing pool of literature, music, photography, video and art that we can use not only as inspiration but also as the direct basis for new works, annotating, deriving or just plain redistributing.

What a wonderful thing.

Too bad it’s basically been frozen for quite a few years now, with almost nothing new entering the pool (except government publications—which start in the public domain) and things tagged with the Creative Commons CC0 license. Oh, and probably a few cases where a creator’s been dead more than 70 years and has works produced since 1923.

Not only has it been frozen in the U.S., there are laws and treaties that would appear to shrink the public domain pool—which should, by any rational reading of the Constitution, be flatly unconstitutional.

For the rest of the story… or read it as part of Cites & Insights 11:7.