Archive for February, 2012

Suggestions for online-oriented Cites & Insights PDF?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

In disclosing and discussing the results of the brief (non-scientific, not a large enough response to be statistically interesting) survey of Cites & Insights readers, I noted the results on the first question: That is, 11 of 39 respondents usually read C&I as a print PDF (which the design is clearly optimized for), only 3 usually read it as HTML essays–and 16 usually read it as PDF but online (by which I intended, and I assumed people meant, “on screen, not printed out,” whether actually online or on an offline reading device).

To which I commented:

What I’m not sure is what, if anything, I can do to make the online PDF easier to read without making the print PDF more wasteful of paper. (A single-column 8.5″-wide issue is really not an option: That damages readability far too much.) If I come up with good ideas that don’t require much additional effort, I might do another survey. If you have great ideas, I’d welcome them. (If you’ve commented at this blog before and don’t use multiple links, direct comments might work. Otherwise…well, send them to waltcrawford at gmail dot com, since I’m still getting more than 100 spamments a day, so don’t really skim them for legitimate comments.)

I haven’t received any suggestions, and now I’m considering a slightly different issue:

If I offered C&I Online, an alternate PDF version that’s optimized for screen reading, what should that look like–noting that options need to be ones that take a relatively trivial amount of time to create from the print-optimized PDF version.

So, for example, a different-sized banner and a single column, in a width that works for reading, is plausible.

I’d love to have two or three plausible alternatives, in which case I’d run a quick poll aimed at those 16 readers and others like them. I anticipate doing the first New & “Improved” C&I fairly soon–probably within two weeks, maybe within a week–so I’d want to get this put together rapidly.

Here’s one possibility:

6″ x 9″ page size, single column, with 4 pica (two-thirds inch) side margins (no gutter margin), 4 pica top & bottom margin, no table of contents, but headings translated into bookmarks. (The hierarchy of headings doesn’t always work quite right, but it’s close.)

Turns out the lack of bookmarks in the existing PDFs is sloppiness on my part: The option’s there even in the save as PDF Word function, I just didn’t notice it. (Future issues will have bookmarks, unless I forget again…)

A quick test says that this version would roughly double the page count–38 pages for the January/February issue, although the test run didn’t really have a banner at all–but that’s presumably less of an issue.

Suggested alternatives, before I do another quick poll (which I’d probably start on March 1 and end after 4-5 days)? Drop the running page headers and footers? Turn off hyphenation and justification entirely? This all needs to be options that can be applied fairly quickly, preferably by copying the text into a new template (which works for the first suggested alternative), since the 8.5″ x 11″ 2-column version will still be the canonical version. (It’s the most efficient in terms of paper use, by quite a long shot.)

If you have a suggestion, send it to waltcrawford at gmail dot com.

They’re Just Movies

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

After seeing some long, heated stuff about certain movies (and, indeed, about how any good movie should “change your life”), I find that I either want to join TJM or found it.

TJM: They’re Just Movies

Case in point:

I went to high school in the same school and class as a moderately short guy who’s now a billionaire in the movie industry, has kept his operations in Northern California, and has in some ways transformed quite a few aspects of the field (and some associated fields–certification of one display setup on our new HDTV is a great idea, and choosing that option yields a fine, natural picture).

A caveat: I didn’t know this person during high school–it was a full-size high school, with 530 people in our graduating class, and we ran in different circles. I don’t know him know. At one high school reunion, the only one I’ve attended (he gets to all of them, I believe), we were at adjacent tables, but since he was being thronged and I never knew him, I neither introduced myself nor talked to him. There were two stretch limos at that reunion. Neither was his. That told me something…

This person made a true starmaking movie, about our graduating class, Thomas Downey High School, 1962–and that’s certainly where I was in ’62 (although he couldn’t film it in Modesto because Modesto didn’t look like that any more).

He also made several tributes to the scifi-tinged serials from his youth–but this time with a lot bigger budget and vastly superior special effects. Just to make things interesting, he made the (programmatically) fourth of six related tributes first.

He’s also kept tinkering with those movies as they’ve been released on DVD and on Blu-ray.

People take these movies awfully damn seriously. But, y’know,

They’re Just Movies.

I’m not putting them down. I loved the movie about our high school. We loved the first (that is, second in terms of story line) trilogy of movies. We enjoyed the other trilogy, mostly. We own the DVD (not Blu-ray: since we already purchased the DVDs, we’ll probably stick with those) set of the first trilogy with his tinkerings–and with a great fourth disc documentary.

But they’re just movies. I can’t get that excited about whether what I saw originally is more canonical than what the creator wants to show me now.

In a related item, I saw earnest discussion from people disappointed by the Academy Award winner–not because it wasn’t a fine picture but because it didn’t change their lives.

Really? A movie should change your life?

They’re just movies.

But, hey, starting an organization would be too much like work, especially since, by denying the importance of movies, the organization would be indirectly endorsing the importance of movies. And, after all, they’re just movies.

Nicely played, spammer…but not quite nicely enough

Monday, February 27th, 2012

A little more than a month ago, I posted “Keeping it going: another update on library social networking et al.” Included in that post was an amplification of my need for funding to expand and continue my broad investigations into public library social networking.

Somebody (who shall go nameless) posted what appeared to be a cogent reply, noting the existence of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and suggesting that I try there. It was flagged for moderation, and reading the first paragraph, I almost approved it…until I got to the final paragraph, where it turned into a sales pitch for some product entirely unrelated to me, libraries or even the Gates Foundation.

It was spam–but not “pure and simple.” Some spambot had actually managed to parse the post well enough to come up with a seemingly logical response, one that wasn’t just parroting the post. Or maybe some human spammer figured I’d be so delighted with the suggestion that I wouldn’t read all the way through to the end of the post.

Didn’t happen.

Oh, as to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for which I have the greatest respect:

I checked. The foundation doesn’t make grants to individuals. In fact, it can’t make grants to individuals even if it was so inclined: Its tax status and charter prevent it.

Also, for U.S. library-related grants at least, it appears that Gates always goes looking, it doesn’t accept applications.

I would love to have appropriate institutional affiliation or partnership. Any suggestions are welcome. I’m pretty sure that most other foundations (e.g., Knight) will have similar limits to Gates. (Some library school want to make a name for in-depth study of public library use of social networks? I could work with you, possibly…)

So far, no progress on finding sources of funding (or, really, knowing how to do so). The improbable possibility of Kickstarter is starting to look better…

Anyway: As the title says: Nicely played, spammer…but not quite nicely enough.

And I once again apologize to people who submit legitimate comments only to have them trapped as spam. I continue to average more than 100 spamments per day, so really don’t look carefully at each apparent spamment. If you think this has happened, please, please email me your comment at waltcrawford at

The Canterbury Tales

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

I managed to get through most of high school and college without deep knowledge of many of the classics of literature, for various reasons. One thing–not a book exactly–that I never attempted was Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Last time I was at the public library, I picked up The Canterbury Tales–sort of. It’s a “retelling” by Peter Ackroyd. Not a “translation” into contemporary English verse form (I see at least two of those online), but a reworking of the stories into contemporary prose–well, with one exception (Chaucer’s own tale, which is rendered as doggerel-quality verse, as I believe was the original intent). OK, I thought, I’d give it a try: 50 pages and out, unless I’m captivated.

My wife, far better versed in the classics than I am, told me she’d read it in class–and couldn’t imagine that I’d find it interesting enough to stick with.

She was wrong. I read the whole thing (which may or may not be every tale in the original collection: there are 22 tales, most with prologues, some with epilogues, along with the Parson’s Prologue for which there is no tale–and Chaucer’s retractions at the end). I enjoyed almost all of it: the one “tale” that really wasn’t working is also one where the host finally interrupted the teller.

Chatting with my wife about it, I suspect the version she read was Bowdlerized or certain words were glossed over–either that, or this version is, um, desanitized, since a certain four-letter word appears with some frequency, as do some of its lesser cohorts. These are some bawdy stories, at least as rendered here.

Here’s the first little segment of the original, followed by Ackroyd’s version:

Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
So priketh hem Nature in hir corages-
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

Ackroyd’s take

When the soft sweet showers of April reach the roots of all things, refreshing the parched earth, nourishing every sapling and every seedling, then humankind rises up in joy and expectation. The west wind blows away the stench of the city, and the crops flourish in the fields beyond the walls. After the waste of winter it is delightful to hear birdsong once more in the streets. The trees themselves are bathed in song. It is a time of renewal, of general restoration. The sun has passed midway through the sign of the Ram, a good time for the sinews and the heart. This is the best season of the year for travellers. That is why good folk then long to go on pilgrimage.

I’d have to quote more of both to make them truly parallel, since Ackroyd’s aim is “to facilitate the experience of the poem–to remove the obstacles to the understanding and enjoyment of the tales, and by various means to intimate or express the true nature of the original.”

I can only speak for myself and say that for me he succeeded admirably: I enjoyed the tales much more than I expected, and much more than in my brief attempts to read modern verse translations. Hmm. Based on the record, there’s a good chance you’ll find a copy near you…

Public library openings (continued)

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Most posts here don’t get real comments (loads of spamments, to be sure), but sometimes a conversation starts up and keeps going–and gets more interesting.

With that in mind, I’ll just point you to the earlier post “Public library openings and my problem with negativity,” which has spawned an ongoing conversation, especially with Bob Molyneux, that’s both interesting and instructive–and will probably lead to this casual question yielding an essay in Cites & Insights (or possibly an article submitted elsewhere).

Cites & Insights survey results

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Thanks again to the 39 people who responded to the first formal survey of Cites & Insights readers.

I have no real idea how many people actually read Cites & Insights on a semi-regular basis. Through yesterday, only 368 have so far downloaded the first 2012 issue, so 39 could be more than 10% of the regular readership–but at the end of last year, every issue had been downloaded at least 635 times (not including the hiatus 2-pager), and all but one had been downloaded at least 727 times, so I’m inclined to think that 39 is about 5% of the core readership. At least I hope I still have 720+ core readers!

Here’s a dump of the results, followed by some notes:

Results table

How read? Print PDF HTML Online PDF Varies Total
11 3 16 9 39
Always Usually Sometimes Never AU %
Bibs & Blather: R 19 15 5 0 39 87%
B&B: E 14 21 2 0 37 90%
My Back Pages: R 10 14 13 1 38 62%
MBP: E 6 22 8 1 37 72%
Offtopic:  E 12 14 13 0 39 67%
Offtop :E 6 23 6 1 36 74%
MiW: R 15 14 7 1 37 74%
MiW: E 12 16 6 0 34 72%
TQT: R 19 16 3 1 39 90%
TQT: E 18 16 2 0 36 87%
Language-related (writing, reading, ebooks, pub): R 18 13 7 0 38 79%
Language: E 14 17 7 0 38 79%
Blogging & social networks: 20 12 5 0 37 82%
Blog: E 19 12 7 0 38 79%
Policy-related (copyright, OA, etc.): R 14 18 7 0 39 82%
Policy: E 14 19 5 0 38 85%


How you read it

The second row is the responses to the first question: how do you read C&I?

To me, the most significant figure is the “3” for HTML. If that figure had been a lot higher, I might have worked a little more on the Word template I use for the HTML versions of essays. Given that it’s only one-thirteenth of responses, it would be tempting to say “ah, the heck with it, who needs HTML?”–but some essays have apparently been viewed (even in 2012 so far, several essays have been viewed more than 200 times, and from the time I started doing them through 12/31/11, 369 of the essays had been viewed at least 1,000 times, with 227 viewed at least 2,000 times and 40 viewed at least 5,000 times–all in addition to issue views).

So I’ll keep doing HTML, but don’t plan to spend more effort making it prettier than it is.

Then there’s the Online PDF vs. Print PDF–and it’s not a great surprise. What I’m not sure is what, if anything, I can do to make the online PDF easier to read without making the print PDF more wasteful of paper. (A single-column 8.5″-wide issue is really not an option: That damages readability far too much.) If I come up with good ideas that don’t require much additional effort, I might do another survey. If you have great ideas, I’d welcome them. (If you’ve commented at this blog before and don’t use multiple links, direct comments might work. Otherwise…well, send them to waltcrawford at gmail dot com, since I’m still getting more than 100 spamments a day, so don’t really skim them for legitimate comments.)

Category Readership and Enjoyment

I’ve abbreviated the questions, but I think it’s fairly obvious. The first row of each pair is for readership, the second for enjoyment, and as for those abbreviations that aren’t obvious:

  • Offtopic = Offtopic Perspectives, my old-movie mini-reviews.
  • MiW = Making it Work, essays on librarianship.
  • TQT = Trends & Quick Takes.

Incidentally, if you’re snooping around in my Diigo lists, I use the latter two abbreviations there as well…for now, although MiW has lots of subtopics (e.g. miw-balance).

The rightmost column, “AU%,” is the percentage of all respondents that answered “Always” or “Usually” for this question. Note that “all respondents”: The divisor is always 39, even for Making it Work, where only 34 people responded to the “Enjoy?” question. (“Only” is, to be sure, quite high for a survey response!) I’m offering the most negative interpretation of the answers by using this larger divisor.

What I see, then, is that every one of these sections except My Back Pages is usually read by at least 2/3 of you (and MBP isn’t that far off), that–to my surprise–Making it Work is the least commonly-read of the serious sections (whatever Offtopic Perspectives may be, “serious” isn’t the right descriptor), and that most sections are read by most readers.

As for whether you enjoy the sections–well, I really did treat this as an anonymous poll (if I have access to the IP addresses, I’ve never looked and don’t plan to), so I’m gratified that no section scored lower than 72% “always” or “usually” enjoyed. It’s interesting that My Back Pages and Making it Work are tied for lowest percentage here.

I’m not terribly surprised that, for “always enjoyed,” you’re a serious bunch: Offtopic Perspectives and My Back Pages are tied for last, with only six enthusiastic responses each–and most serious sections are clustered fairly closely near the top.

What will I do with those results? Not a whole lot, because they don’t suggest clear futures. I could downplay Making it Work, and that may happen anyway as I’m generally not focusing on academic libraries–but I’m not likely to downplay language-related areas or policy any more than I already have.

I could put this another way, given plans I’d already started formulating. To wit:

All Those Sections Are Gone–Except The CD-ROM Project

That’s right. Bibs & Blather, My Back Pages, Trends & Quick Takes, Making it Work, Offtopic Perspective, The Zeitgeist (which I didn’t even bother to ask about), Interesting & Peculiar Products, Copyright Currents & Comments, Library Access to Scholarship, Old Media/New Media, even Perspective itself: All gone. Kaput. Finit.

What’s left? You’ll see–in the next Cites & Insights and beyond. Coming some time in March 2012.





Survey closed. Thanks!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

As promised, I’ve shut down the C&I survey. Final count: 39 responses.

I’m not sure whether I’ll provide the results and my interpretation here, in Cites & Insights itself, or both. Probably both.

Very quickly, I found two things surprising in the survey responses, and one of them will affect how I proceed:

  1. Assuming that survey responses represent C&I’s core readership, almost nobody in that core reads C&I as HTML essays. So, while I’ll probably continue to generate them, I won’t spend any real effort trying to make them prettier or more useful–and I definitely see no reason to make C&I “web-first,” with HTML as the primary format, until/unless a sponsoring agency comes into play. (On the other hand, the split between print PDF reading and online PDF reading may encourage me to think about providing an alternative, single-column, “online-optimized” PDF version.)
  2. There was no significant dislike (or lack of like) for any of the sections of C&I that might be regarded as less than wholly apropos or serious. Since those were also the sections that I heard favorable comments about from the handful of folks upset that C&I almost went away completely, that encourages me to keep doing the lighter stuff.

Beyond that, I need to (and will) do a full writeup. Oh, and there will be dramatic changes in section names–although in that case the survey turns out not to be terribly relevant. Stay tuned.

And thanks again for your responses (and for Seth’s comment on the most recent survey-related post, which was not in fact the basis for the changes I’m making, but certainly could have been).

Dear Lexmark,

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

I’m sending you this (which you may never see!) this way because, as far as I can see, there’s no way to send email–and after my experience with your telephone tech support yesterday, I’m not trying that again.

Here’s the situation: I have a Lexmark Pro205 multifunction printer, purchased just over a year ago after my previous all-in-one (a different brand) stopped working, I purchased the Lexmark because of your five-year warranty, given that my all-in-ones of various brands never seem to last more than two years.

Given that I mostly use black ink (I normally have color inks locked out) and was printing a fair amount at the time, and that the black cartridge seemed to be about half used up in late March 2011, and that you have an innovative recycling rewards program for supplies ordered directly from Lexmark, I ordered two black 100XL ink cartridges so I’d have them on hand. Then my printing slowed down, and I got better at saving ink. (I must have purchased another cartridge with the printer; it doesn’t seem possible that the first one lasted this long.)

Long story short: The black cartridge finally give out  a couple of weeks ago. I replaced it with one of the two cartridges I’d ordered, both still in original sealed foil packaging (within cardboard).

The new cartridge never worked properly. Sometimes a page would have one or two rows of dots missing (just enough to be annoying), sometimes a page would have whole sections missing. After trying the test page and deep-cleaning routines, with no luck, I replaced the cartridge with the other cartridge. Which is working perfectly.

It was at that point, looking back through receipts, that I realized I’d ordered the cartridges so long ago. So I thought to send you email saying “I have this problem, but if cartridges really only have a limited shelflife–even though there’s no expiry or sell-by date that I can recognize within the mass of nearly-unreadable tiny black-on-grey type on the package–then I guess I’m just out the price of a cartridge.”

But you don’t have email support. So I wound up calling. After being transferred twice, each time being given a new more direct 800 number, I finally wound up at what I assume to be an India call center, with a person whose phone was apparently so bad that I had to shout into my landline phone, held half an inch from my mouth.

And who, after I’d repeated the printer model number for the fourth time, and explained the situation, and said yes, I’d gone through the standard diagnostics…then said “we only guarantee the ink for four months after purchase” (again, with undated packaging). It was apparent that no RMA would be forthcoming. I’ve put the useless cartridge in one of your postage-paid recycling envelopes and will send it back.

Then, the tech wanted to lead me through a list of Steps To Take To Solve Problems–and simply would not accept my assurance that I’m literate, that I know how to use computers and printers, and that I had the manual. After a little while, I hung up on the tech.

The monetary loss isn’t big. I guess I’ve learned a lesson: Don’t ever buy Lexmark supplies in advance, and don’t buy them from Lexmark (since that requires advance planning). Go to the local store (unfortunately, the OfficeMax that shafted me on the purchase by reneging on its MaxPerks offer) and buy the ink only when the printer runs out.

What would be lovely: if you replaced the cartridge, but since I use the printer sparingly, the new one might even be worthless by the time the one I just installed is used up.

What would be nice: If you had an email option for support, for those of us who can wait for a response and are just fed up with dealing with phone techs who go by the book and waste our time and energy.

What I expect: Nothing.

Why I’m writing this: Frustration. Companies that take orders on the web really should have email support as an option.


walt crawford, waltcrawford at gmail dot com

Last two days of C&I survey

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

This will be the last post (and Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and FriendFeed annoyance) touting the brief survey related to Cites & Insights. I have 36 responses, and while I’d love to get more (40? 50?), maybe there are only 36 people who care enough to spend the two minutes. That’s OK.

The survey results will influence the future of Cites & Insights. That’s a given. otherwise, I wouldn’t bother with the reminders.

Survey closes (effectively, because that’s when I’ll start working on the results) at 8 a.m. PDT, Thursday, February 23, 2012.

Click here to take the survey.

Closing the Digital Frontier

Monday, February 20th, 2012

One reason I’ve said there’s likely to be more activity in this blog in the future (and there has been!) is that I plan to post some pieces that are elements of likely future Cites & Insights composite sections–posted here in their raw form, subject to revision or deletion along the way. Not all of them, by any means, but some. Here’s an example. It’s also an example of something you’re likely to see a lot of in C&I this year and maybe next: Catching up, as I go through two years of tagging–and find that although the cited articles are “outdated,” they still speak to things that are happening now and might be worth commenting on.

So here’s a part of one section, assuming it stays. The title on the section is the same as on this post:

Closing the Digital Frontier

According to Michael Hirschorn’s article of that name, in the July/August 2010 Atlantic Magazine, the “era of the Web browser’s dominance is coming to a close.” Why? Because “things are changing all over again.”

The shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone, where the app and the pricing plan now hold sway, signals a radical shift from openness to a degree of closed-ness that would have been remarkable even before 1995. In the U.S., there are only three major cell-phone networks, a handful of smart-phone makers, and just one Apple, a company that has spent the entire Internet era fighting the idea of open (as anyone who has tried to move legally purchased digital downloads among devices can attest). As far back as the ’80s, when Apple launched the desktop-publishing revolution, the company has always made the case that the bourgeois comforts of an artfully constructed end-to-end solution, despite its limits, were superior to the freedom and danger of the digital badlands.

So we have one of those “shifty” articles—where we all move from one paradigm to another paradigm, with no room for both, for people who use smartphones, apps and iPads but also notebooks and browsers.

But as I read it, this doesn’t seem to be about the web in general as it is about traditional media and its relationship to the web. Even there, I think the thesis is overstated—and with an odd countergenerational overtone: “or under-30s whelped on free content, the prospect of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars yearly for print, audio, and video (on expensive new devices that require paying AT&T $30 a month) is not going to be an easy sell.” But, Hirschorn says, that won’t stop “the rush to apps” because, especially with Apple as semi-benevolent overlord, “there’s too much potential upside” (and besides, people don’t criticize Apple for behavior that they would assault other companies for—a point with which I’m sympathetic).

I find the article bemusing. We learn that Twitter barely cares about, well, Twitter—that the smartphone version is more fully featured. It’s clearly an “or” situation: Apps can only rise at the expense of the browser. The grand finale? Harking back to the American frontier, Hirschorn concludes:

Now, instead of farmers versus ranchers, we have Apple versus Google. In retrospect, for all the talk of an unencumbered sphere, of a unified planetary soul, the colonization and exploitation of the Web was a foregone conclusion. The only question now is who will own it.

As Sue Kamm has said in another contest, “In the words of the immortal Nero Wolfe, ‘Pfui.’” It doesn’t help to read the byline: Hirschorn runs a TV production company. I suspect, and particularly based on rereading the article, that he views the world in media terms: There are producers and consumers, and that’s just the way it is.

Relatively few comments over the past year, the first of which rushes to Apple’s defense—followed by one that posits that, you know, people can and probably will use both “walled gardens” and the open web. A few items down, we get a reasonably sound comment that begins with this subtle paragraph: “This is absolute rubbish.”

I’ll quote Dale Dietrich’s comment in full (typos and all—and since Dietrich was probably typing on a virtual keyboard, an occasional typo’s forgivable), as I think it speaks to the truth if you’re dealing with something more than corporate media:

The app does NOT diminish the importance of the browser. The app merely extends the web to more devices that it was hitherto inaccessible to. The App, as first popularized on the iPhone, wrested contol of what can be done on mobile devices from big telco to the individual. Like the browser-based web did before it, the app gave control to the end user. The author would do well to consider that all modern smart phones include browsers that are heavily used both independenty by users and by mobile apps that frequently embed the browser within the app. Case in point, I am viewing and responding to this silly article within the Safari browser that is embedded within my iPad’s Twitterific app. Hell, Twitter-based apps INCREASE my viewing of browser-based content by curating the web for me by the trusted folks I follow.

And, a bit later, this from David McGavock:

All of this assumes that the people who are participating in the read-write-create web will walk away and let apps dominate all their interactions. This dichotomy of apps vs. browser seems false to me in light of the fact that both have their strengths and weaknesses. This entire article assumes that the billions of people that are creating their own digital footprints will give it up for paid service. There is an explosion of legal sharing going on here. Are we all going to pack it up and go home because of the apps we use. I think not.

Then there’s a strange comment from “John_LeB” who apparently is aware of something I’m not:

It is true that some information remains free on the Web, but much research-based scholarship definitely does not. With on-line fee-based jobbers such as Taylor & Francis, Elsevier, Blackwell, Springer, etc., research that used to be freely distributed on the Web now carries a subscription fee. All well and good, perhaps; academic researchers are entitled to compensation for their scholarly production—but wait! Access fees rarely trickle down to their producing authors. Their reward lies in the “points” they can embed in their CVs for tenure or promotion. The jobbers are running free with the pecuniary revenue. One unfortunate spin-off is that access to research is foreclosed where it’s needed the most, in the developing world where the contemporary price of a journal article can represent a week’s worth of food. (Food for the stomach, that is.)

Ah, the good old days when research articles were always freely distributed on the web, back before those young upstarts like Elsevier grabbed it all… And that’s the complete comment. The writer’s probably as ignorant of open access as he is of the history of web access to research articles.

Mike Masnick does a pretty fair fisking of Hirschorn’s article in “Another Journalist Seduced By App Madness Predicts The End of the Web,” posted July 1, 2010 at techdirt. I won’t bother to excerpt his commentary: It’s free, and you can go read it yourself, unless you’re reading this on a smartphone that lacks any form of browser (a combination that seems somewhere between unlikely and impossible). Of course, if your only access to e-stuff is through such a smartphone or some truly locked down tablet, then you’re not reading this anyway, are you?

Oddly, in comments on Masnick’s piece, Hirschorn objects that his piece is “largely an attack on Apple’s efforts to curtail that freedom…”—which, if true, means that Hirschorn is an inarticulate writer, since I certainly didn’t read it that way. Even in this response, Hirschorn’s an Only One Future man: “Also clearly and obviously, the rise of mobile computing will result in less non-mobile-computing and the center of power will move from the browser to the smartphone/ipad experience.” Right. And neither smartphones nor tablets have browsers. Now, if Apple had a browser—oh, let’s give it some fanciful name like Safari—that would really change the inevitable future. But that’s as silly as it would be for Amazon to add a browser, say one with an even sillier name like Silk, to its entirely-walled-garden Kindle Fire.

If you do read Masnick’s piece, scroll through at least some of the comments. Hirschorn starts doing a complex “that’s not what I was intending/that’s not what I really wrote” dance that leads me more and more to believe that he really is inarticulate or incoherent. As you probably already know, I’m definitely not one of those who regards traditional journalism and media as irrelevant (as some commenters do)—but neither do I regard them as the whole of the landscape.

Why mention this now, almost two years later? Because we haven’t gone All Apps, All The Time. Because traditional real-world media continues to do better than a lot of digital junkies realize (for example, did’ja know that there are more than 300 million print magazine subscriptions in the US, and that 100 million people in the US still read print newspapers? hmm?). Because the world continues to evolve mostly in “and not or” ways, with more choices complementing one another rather than One Triumphant Paradigm shifting to Another Triumphant Paradigm, with no room for alternatives…and because this sort of “journalism” continues to be prevalent.