Archive for the ‘Writing and blogging’ Category

Social networks: Progress report

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

A mere 16 days ago, I posted “Still around, not posting much,” noting what I was doing rather than blogging–namely “Phase 1.5” of the research for my book on public libraries in social networks.

I aimed to finish phase 1.5–cleaning up the saved tweets and wall updates and characterizing them–while I was still 65. At that point, I thought I’d be ready to do a quick pass for “extra” libraries (libraries where someone sent me comments for the book, where the library isn’t in one of the 25 surveyed states) and start preparing metrics and actually working on the book. Somewhere in there, I’d also do a hardnosed edit on already-written material for the October 2011 Cites & Insights and probably publish it.

Yes and no

Yes, I did finish Phase 1.5 by September 14, 2011, the day I turned 66.

No, I wasn’t ready to start preparing metrics and actually working on the book (that is, start writing text).

What happened in the middle: One of those who sent me info was Susan Mark, Statistics Librarian at the Wyoming State Library. Wyoming has very few reporting library agencies, and Mark had a list of those with Facebook pages. It’s one of the 25 states.

And my list didn’t match hers. Not even close.

So, after some digging around, I found that the problem was libraries with no obvious Facebook link on their websites (or at least on the home pages), and where the Facebook page itself didn’t show up high enough in a Bing search result (I was checking 15 or 20 pages). By using my brain and Ctrl-f (and Google, although I don’t think that made the big difference), I was able to check the first 100 results…and add in the missing libraries.

While it would be perfectly reasonable to focus on Twitter and Facebook uses that are linked from library home pages, I knew that I already had a fair number that weren’t–and thought it might be worthwhile seeing how many more I was missing. I took the first 100 (of 1,500+) remaining libraries and retested–just searching on Google and looking for a Facebook page in the first 100 results–figuring that if I found 5 or fewer, I’d just let it be.

I didn’t find 5 or fewer.

So I’ve now retested all 1,500+ libraries. Since I already knew these didn’t have obvious FB links on the home pages, I just worked with Google and the browser’s Find function. (There are so many fewer Twitter accounts, and they’re so much harder to find, that I didn’t bother.)

The results? Instead of 841 sets of Facebook updates and 370 sets of tweets (336 with both), I now have 1,158 set of Facebook updates, 381 sets of tweets (the extras mostly coming from the 19 “extra” libraries)–and 346 with both.

I just finished cleaning up and characterizing those updates and tweets this morning. So I’m now roughly where I expected to be last Wednesday—but with a whole bunch more libraries involved and some interesting new data.

By the way, it’s still true that, as far as I can determine, most public libraries (in the half of the country I tested) do not have either general-purpose Facebook or Twitter accounts (excluding teen departments), but “most” is a narrow figure: 1,231 libraries didn’t show either one, while 1,194 showed one or the other. (That number includes the Extra 19, all of which have one or the other–it would be 1,212 to 1,175 otherwise.)

You will find pages on Facebook for most public libraries, but hundreds of those pages are “community pages” that were neither created by the library nor have anything to do with them.

How many libraries are active on Facebook or Twitter? That depends on your definition of “active.” I’ll get into that more in the book and possibly in posts later on (or even in Cites & Insights if there’s too much blather to include in a relatively short book that’s mostly about what libraries do well).. Just to offer two data points:

  • 86 of the libraries with Facebook accounts (having at least one Like and at least one post–I didn’t include accounts that don’t meet those fairly minimal criteria) have averaged less than one post per month. Notably, 66 of those 86 lack obvious FB links on the library websites; I’m guessing most of them are fully abandoned. Another 75 have averaged less than two posts per month, but for a very small library that may be entirely appropriate…
  • 108 libraries have fewer than one Like per 1,000 residents.

Now on to metrics and some writing…noting that I’ll be doing a second research pass roughly one quarter after the first one (within a day or two either way), adding more new accounts and updating other figures. For Twitter, that means I can get reasonably accurate rates of activity–and for both, I’ll include a “freshness” measure for the most recent update or tweet, so that I can offer a reasonably sound basis for “active” or not.

In passing, I’ll note that marking up the updates has left me even more admiring the extent to which many very small public libraries serve their communities well with minimal resources. I always had such admiration, but it’s stronger. (It’s also a little remote: I’ve never lived in a town with a public library/system serving fewer than 50,000 people.)

So: Lots more blogging? Probably not. Did the C&I receive the intense editorial scrutiny I’d planned? Well…you be the judge.


Still around, still not posting much

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Yawn. If there’s a staple of blogging, it’s the “I haven’t been posting much” post.

But heck, what good’s a meme if you can’t participate?

I’ll probably continue not posting much for at least another 10 days, because… (in my mind, I hear that intoned as part of a Almond Joy/Mars ad–odd, since I don’t eat either one)

Into phase 1.5 of research for the new book

Well, that’s along with turning around the book on micropublishing, writing one long essay for the October Cites & Insights, writing one short piece for C&I, wrapping up the first half of a 50-movie megapack (all of which means that I probably have the draft form of the October issue in place), going to see H.M.S. Pinafore, running scenarios to see when I should start collecting Social Security and how much we can spend without risking running out of $ by the time I’m 100, and being a lazy oaf as usual…

Phase 1.5? Going through 875 sets of tweets and Facebook statuses captured during Phase 1 (I copied-and-pasted, text only, the most recent five of each as I was noting other metrics), turning the raw text into something I could use (that is, one paragraph per tweet or status, shorn of most overhead) and noting the overall theme of each group and, for libraries with both, how they relate to one another. (I looked at the most recent 20 tweets or updates; in almost every case, what I see from the most recent 5 is true of the whole stream–e.g., some libraries use a social network entirely for events, some entirely for events, services and programs, some for a whole mix of stuff, at least one strictly to announce weekly sets of new books.)

That’s all additional fodder for the book, but with 875 sets–841 sets of Facebook updates, 370 sets of tweets, 336 with both–it takes a while. “Piecemeal” effort: do ten sets, play a little poker, do ten sets, check FriendFeed, do ten sets, check gmail, and so on. After or during which I’ll do more metrics and try to contact some of the libraries that stand out (for the good) in some respect, to get more feedback.

Target: Finish phase 1.5 while I’m still 65 years old. That gives me 10 days, which seems about right.

So that’s why I’m not blogging much and probably won’t be for a while. In the time it took to write this, I could have done another five sets…but I needed the break.

A few posts I’m not writing

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Now there’s a potentially endless series…

I suspect my posts have even been less regular than usual, if such a thing is possible. (There’s a retired library person who lives in Livermore who posts every. single. weekday, if regularity is your thing…)

Last weekend, I considered doing a series of daily posts this week and next about progress on the two book projects that are currently overlapping, and where doing semi-overlapping work (a couple of hours each day on each one) turns out to be the best way to proceed.

That didn’t happen and won’t happen. The book projects, and my own overriding laziness (well, and some real-life situations), are the reasons for so few posts.


  • One project came back from line editing on Tuesday. It’s an odd hybrid project where I’m doing the layout as a fundamental part of the book. I’m waiting for some responses on a few layout issues, but meanwhile I’ll start this morning on some needed additional text (probably 500-1000 words). I have until a week from Sunday to finish the textual and layout changes, so in practice working a couple of hours a day is a good way to proceed.
  • The other project is nearing the end of Phase 1 of the research stage, after which I’ll start on the actual writing–at a very preliminary level. The research has gone far beyond what I originally anticipated (I first planned to look at libraries in two states, then in six; now it looks like 25), and it’s straightforward enough that I plan to do a three-month follow-up, which should be revealing.

Somehow, once I’ve done some work on each project (I’d been doing more on the second one while awaiting the editorial notes & queries), I’m all written out: Writing a post is rarely of much interest. Sorry about that. Then again, do you really care that I’m halfway through scanning Kentucky libraries (that’s what I would have said yesterday early afternoon–I’m done, with Oregon up next)?

[LSW FFeeps probably recognize I was doing Kentucky yesterday, as I found Madisonville’s URL for their public library website so remarkable as to be worth noting–namely And yes, there’s a in Missouri. Did you know there are more than 700 LSW folks on FriendFeed?]


Raining on parades?

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Maybe this shouldn’t bother me, but it does–possibly because it was just about the first thing I encountered this morning, going through email–indeed, sent at 6:05 a.m. (my time).

I won’t include the writer’s name; that’s not important. Here’s the text, other than salutation:

You said

“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.”

Have you considered that such a book would have a short shelf life if not be DOA on publication, as the social media landscape is changing so fast?

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on
1. how your proposed book would/could be used by librarians (catching up with this trend, or ?)
2. the utility of books on rapidly-changing phenomena vs other means of getting the information out, e.g. blogs or ??

Sorry to sound like a wet blanket. I do wish you well on your project.

I responded as politely as I felt possible…and then did a little checking. The person who sent this signs herself as a chief researcher for a research firm. Searches for that research firm on Bing and Google turn up nothing but this person’s LinkedIn profile. That profile shows that the person is a special librarian.

Not a public librarian. Not, apparently, involved in public libraries. Not, shall we say, one of the target audience for my question.

I find myself unable to read that first question as a question, rather than an assertion. (Indeed, “Have you considered…” is such a leading form for a question that I’d generally assume it’s an assertion, not a real question.)

Since the person asking the “question” isn’t within the target audience, I have to wonder: Is this just gratuitous, well, wet-blanketing, to use her term? Does she troll the blogosphere (or lists) looking for projects of which she does not approve, then ask leading questions of those involved?

Can I expect an Amazon one-star review similar to the “review” of Open Access: What You Need to Know Now, but this time emphasizing that, you know, it’s insane to write books about “rapidly-changing phenomena”? (Facebook and Twitter have both been around for quite a while–seven and five years respectively–and I regard “social media” as a nonsense term primarily used by SEOs and marketing gurus.)

I dunno. Are there lots of people who go looking for chances to “challenge” other people, insinuating that what they’re doing is a bad idea? Or is this a special case?

[As to the preferability of spending a substantial amount of time preparing a study, then getting it out via a blog: Been there, done that, not thrilled with the results. Of course, I *also* got email from an Important Named “Research” Group that’s studied 100–count them, 100–libraries of all types on their use of social networks and prepared “data” (sorry, but for that sample size, I have to use scare quotes) that it will sell at a substantial price…. and, for all I know, there could be things about the anecdata that make it worth the money.]

Still looking for feedback…

For those of you who are in public libraries, note that I’d still love to get feedback if your library uses Twitter or Facebook or, for that matter, if your library used to use one or both and has stopped.



How intrusive are with-post ads?

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I’ve received some clarification on matters hinted at earlier (not the two books: those are jes’ fine), and am now looking into what I should do about Walt at Random and Cites & Insights. Those are two very different topics, to be sure.

This post is about the former. Namely, what I might do to generate a little revenue from this here blog.

I could sign up for AdWords again, and might do so, but I’m a little chary of the “only pay for actual clickthroughs” model, particularly for a blog that reaches mostly library people. So I’m also thinking about some other ad model (via Google? Dunno: haven’t investigated that yet), including models that pay for exposure and those where ads are actually fed along with individual posts in RSS feeds, not just on the sidebar here.

Example within the library field: David Lee King’s blog–not every post, but at least some of them. There are others.

So the questions are:

  • How intrusive do you find such ads? Are they likely to make you unsubscribe?
  • For that matter, how intrusive do you find banner ads and “in-stream” ads (ones that appear between or within posts on the site itself)?
  • Any other suggestions as to how to make this blog a source of income?
  • Can you suggest any reputable ad networks that might work for this blog, and that pay based on views, not just clickthroughs?


Aggressive spam

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Hey, if you’re going to spam somebody’s blog, why not be aggressive about it?

Here’s one that actually got past my filters–but not the human filter:

The subsequent time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I imply, I do know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you can repair for those who werent too busy searching for attention.

I see the logic behind this kind of attack: If I believe in open discussion, I’m certainly not going to suppress a comment just because it’s being critical of my post, right?

Right. Unless the comment:

  • is semi-literate (and that wouldn’t knock it out)
  • is attached to a post for which it really makes no sense
  • oh, lookie there, has a pseudo-commercial site as a link to the “author’s” name…

Actually, I’ve gotten lots worse–but those are trapped by Spam Karma 2, and it’s really difficult to transcribe the comments into a new post (you can’t cut-and-paste from the review panel).

Expect another post soon about the status of various projects…if I’m not too busy working on them.

Anniversary Post: Six Years!

Friday, April 1st, 2011

It’s anniversary day for Walt at Random; this thing’s been around for six years now.

I would say that I’m posting less now because FriendFeed gets more attention, and that might be true—but it’s a hard case to make, given that my annual output (adjusted for the weekly Library Leadership Network posts that I removed once they removed me) really hasn’t varied much—and if I keep going at the same rate in 2011, I’ll wind up with around 224 posts, which would be a typical year.

Still, I feel like I’m posting less now, and certainly being a lot more active on FriendFeed. As for Twitter…well, I have an account, and I check maybe twice a day, but I still don’t seem to have many things to say that fit in 140 characters or less (“I’m a wordy bastard”), so there it is.

Walt at Random continues to be, well, random: A mix of announcements for Cites & Insights (and my generally-failed experiments at Cites & Insights Books), brief comments on old movies & TV movies as offered in Mill Creek Entertainment megapacks, and posts on a strange variety of topics…once in a while even relevant to libraries and librarianship, although most “relevant” stuff winds up in Cites & Insights.

I can’t provide stats for the past year, because my brief experiment in “paid blogging” (which never yielded any revenue) means there are no stats for July 1 through September 30, 2010. For the nine months excluding that quarter (and excluding most of yesterday, since Urchin seems to run a day or so behind on this blog), I show 321,353 sessions or an average of 880.42 per day (but that’s averaged across the entire year, so meaningless), and 1,105,677 pageviews. Really? More than 1.1 million pageviews? It’s possible that most of those are either spiders or RSS feeds or spammers (I get typically 40 to 80 spamments a day, and that’s with comments locked down two or three months after a post).

Let’s look at the last six months, for which I do have stats:

  • 276,057 sessions: 1,517 a day.
  • 998,680 pageviews: 5,487 a day. There are a few true spikes in that set, one day apparently up around 16,000 hits.
  • Ignoring category and monthly pages—which do seem to account for most of the “most popular pages” along with the home page, supporting the possibility that these numbers are mostly meaningless—the most viewed pages include “Public Library Blogs Posting Frequency” (March 2008) with 1,741 views, “Bandwidth of Large Airplanes Take 2” (June 2010) with 1,474, “Liblog Landscape Opinions Requested” (August 2010) with 1,469, “Of Chaos and Stability, Two Minor Mini-Posts” (November 2008) with 1,455…and, two years after the post had any meaning whatsoever, “Bloggers Salon Palisades Not Avila” (June 2008), 1,441. That first page is actually the 109th most “popular” page…but then, I’d expect that the bulk of actual post reading happens in RSS (FeedBurner says I have 900 subscribers at the moment, but a day with two posts may cause a couple of people to leave).

I have no deep comments to offer. Hmm. That could even be a new subtitle for this blog. To close, here’s the liblog profile, as it would appear if something like 300 more copies of the book ever sold…

Not going away. Post frequency will continue to be wildly erratic.

Walt at Random

“The library voice of the radical middle.” By Walt Crawford. US. WordPress. Began April 2005; lasted for 62 months (through May 2010). Group 1.

Overall Posts


Per Month






























Post length




















Conv. Intensity











Trolls I have known and ignored

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Seems like some interesting trolling’s been turning up of late, in library lists and posts.

Which might make this a good occasion to offer some irrelevant thoughts on the Annoyed Librarian(s).

Plural, because of what I see as the history–probably falsely, but that’s OK: when you’re dealing with a pseudonym, you get to make up your own story.

Back in the day, here defined as “early in AL’s blog, and before it had the imprimatur of Library Journal,” I once thought that I knew who they/he/she/it was/were. That may have been naive, and was based in part on one or more people coming up to me (that is, either one person or a group of people at the same time) and informing me that she/he/it/they were/was the AL, and swearing me to secrecy.

At one point, there was a popular guessing game as to the AL’s identity. One library person came up with the same guess as my thought. I did not, of course, confirm it.

Different AL entirely, or a remarkable split personality?

Here’s the thing, though: to me, the LJAL (Library Journal Annoyed Librarian) doesn’t seem to be the same person or group as the AL (pre-LJ Annoyed Librarian).

I can think of both of them as AL in much the same way that Darrin Stephens was always Darrin Stephens (those of you who don’t get the reference, get offa my lawn)–entirely different actor, very different persona, but the same name.

I had some respect for the pre-LJ AL, at least some of the time. I can’t say the same for LJAL, who I regard as a troll and attractor for LJ ads.

Heck, LJAL could even be a retired LJ editor, for all I know… (Say, now, there’s a rumor…)

I can only assume one of three things:

  1. I never actually knew who or what AL was, which is quite possible.
  2. LJAL really is a different group/person/thing than the original AL.
  3. It’s the same group or person, a group or person that incidentally has a very respectable blog or group of blogs, and that group or person has evolved a distinctly split personality and writing skill. (The good writing is saved for the respectable blog(s).)
  4. There is no AL. It’s the result of a clever algorithm put together by some librarian, most probably with the first name Pete.

What? Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Not really zombies: Blogs reborn

Friday, December 24th, 2010

A little more holiday cheer–and why not?

While I’m avoiding any real writing until post-Xmas, I did do some prep work today toward a probable essay. The essay is not about blogging–although it’s also not entirely unrelated. (A new essay about blogging? Soon, probably…)

Clever people accessing my Diigo account might be able to figure out the topic I’m working on, if they happen to know my tagging methods–and particularly the suffix I add to a tag when I’ve printed off a leadsheet for the article/post/whatever, partly so I don’t accidentally print it off again. None of which is important.

What I’m celebrating here is something that I was reminded of while doing this work.

Namely, some of the “dead” liblogs are, in a Pythonesque turn, not quite dead after all. At least two library folks whose thinking I respect have come back to blogging.


I’d like to think this return may be in part because people are getting past blogging as an obligation and various nonsense about how often You Must Blog To Maintain Your Brand, and are seeing blogging as an opportunity–to be used when it’s the right way to say something and to be ignored otherwise.

Or not.

In any case, it’s good to see these folks returning to the scene. I hope to see a few more in 2011…people who, once in a while, have things to say that don’t fit comfortably in 140 characters or even 140 words. (This post is right around 250 words long.)

The blog in review

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Dorothea Salo, one of the most thoughtful and worth-reading libloggers around, has an annual tradition I’d forgotten: posting and commenting on the first sentence of the first post of each month that year.

What a good idea! A post that isn’t me pushing books (a generally futile but unamusing exercise) and might actually be fun. So, here, goes.

  • January: “I’d like to call your attention to this post by Jennifer Macaulay on Just Another Day (you may know Macaulay from her previous blog, Life as I Know It).” Pointing to the first and, AFAIK, the only review of But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009. [Apropos the final paragraph in that post, I downloaded OpenOffice yesterday and may see whether it gives me a reasonable road to ePub. Meanwhile, BSTB is up to almost 20 copies sold…]
  • February: “When last I discussed the possibility of a book combining all 33 of the Open Access-related essays in Cites & Insights from 2001 through 2009 (plus one “disContent” column from EContent Magazine), the issue was whether it was worth doing an ePub version: Whether anybody would want it.” Raising the question of whether it was worth doing Open Access and Libraries if it didn’t have an index. Comments convinced me the answer was Yes. I did. I have no idea how many PDF freebies were downloaded, but hope it’s a few and that people have found them worthwhile. (Since this book was done with no expectation of sales, I’m not even recording them.)
  • March: “Maybe I need to learn something from mainstream merchants: That is, the value of constant, repetitive advertising.” I didn’t, and it didn’t seem to matter anyway.
  • April: “This blog began on April 1, 2005–five years ago.” So it did.
  • May: “Last weekend, Safeway had a really good price on Ruby Red grapefruit from Texas–and they looked like pretty good grapefruit as well.” Ah, good: A post that has nothing to do with PoD books. Not much to do with libraries, either–it’s about my changed expectations for what constitutes “great fruit” after going to Farmers’ Markets. Specifically, while good Ruby Red grapefruit from Texas via Safeway is still good fruit, the yellow organic grapefruit from Lone Oak Farms at the local Farmers’ Market is great–and that’s a good reminder that I can look forward to that grapefruit in another month or four. (Local navel oranges are just starting to get really good about now.)
  • June: “Maybe that’s too broad a question.” What question? The post title: “Does every librarian need to be an involved expert on everything?” My contribution to a discussion in which a certain library guru directly insulted any librarian (or “info pro”) who chose to quit Facebook because of its appalling privacy practices. Remember the money quote from the guru? Here it is:

I also would expect to be able to receive informed, current and excellent advice and training on how to deal with the emerging social tools from my professionals in the social institutions I frequent (public libraries, schools, univerisities, colleges, etc.).

[That’s a direct cut-and-paste.] I’ll stand behind everything I said in that post, particularly concerning the guru’s response (where he seems to say that HR departments would reasonably reject applications from librarians who aren’t where “the majority of users” are–which, among other things, means rejecting any non-Christian applicant who isn’t part of a heterosexual marriage and anybody who believes in evolution).

Oh, go read the post…and the comments. I’m proud of this one.

  • July: “Very short post, with the heart of it in the title above, so as to encourage FriendFeed participation.” Again, that’s meaningless without the post title: “What year did downloaded music start outselling CDs/vinyl?” Most commenters were way ahead of me on this one.
  • August: “The good news: I’ve started in on The New Project (a fast-turnaround, relatively brief book for a real library publisher, on a topic I’m quite comfortable with–more later).” The start of a post on progress/regress on various fronts. That project is in production right now; it will be my first traditionally-published book in quite some time. Eight years, actually…
  • September: “Not much blogging lately.” The post title is “Arggh: A quick update,” and much of it has to do with the perils of sorting an Excel spreadsheet while some columns are hidden.
  • October: “Just for fun, and in the absence of anything serious to say (hey, I’m 99% finished with a Real Book Project…), here’s some great stuff from today’s spamments:” Another one worth reading–some of the most remarkable attempts at spam comments I’ve run into, before or since, including one that begins “Go screw yourself!!!” and goes on from there.
  • November: “Available immediately–but only for four months or 100 copies, whichever comes first: disContent: The Complete Collection.” Still available, but only 97 copies and 2.6 months left. The first and quite possibly the last hardbound (casebound) book from C&I Books.
  • December: “If you’re somebody who might remotely consider buying The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, I have a question for you–and answers don’t in any way obligate you to buy the book when it comes out.” The question had to do with the separate PDF with larger versions of the 34 figures/graphs in the book.

One caveat: It’s possible that the posts for January, February and March weren’t actually the first posts in those months. I removed posts–something I rarely do–that were nothing more than publicity for the Library Learning Network after I was summarily dismissed from my position with that project, which was later shut down. (If you’re wondering, I do plan to post about the status of the related project–the status being “nothing’s happening, and I’m probably going to delete the archives.”) It’s possible that those posts came earlier. But those were mirror posts anyway, so I don’t think they count.