Walt's blog

Peculiarities of notoriety (Wikipedia and me)

Just for fun (I need it right now!):

There's no entry under my name in the English Wikipedia. I can't think of any reason that there should be. (Pretty certain I'm not going to show up in any traditional encyclopedia, either! My inclusion in certain Marquis publications is a source of bemusement on my part.)

Piling on

OK, here's what I wrote in the latest Cites & Insights--word-for-word (it's easy to select text from a PDF and copy it, particularly if it's on one page--and the CC license means that any blogger or whoever could legitimately quote it). Note that it was part of a multipart comment on postings in the Walking paper blog, thus the subheading and date (directly from that blog):

---------Beginning of copied section----

Rss hub-bub, January 19, 2005

This time Schmidt’s just asking for trouble. Noting enthusiasm in the blogosphere about one library vendor adding RSS to one of their extended products (and the predictable “every library and every vendor should be doing this right now� responses from more excitable bloggers), he quotes part of one comment on one post. That comment, from an employee of another library automation company, notes that when that employee has suggested RSS feeds, the general response is “where are the customers who want this?�

He has a point that is sometimes difficult to remember. There are still many, many people [who] aren’t familiar with RSS. Ask your neighbor what “Really Simple Syndication� is. 98% of you will come back having received strange looks, and maybe 1% of you (likely less) will have the correct answer. [Footnote: The missing 1%? You’ll come back with a black eye.]

You won’t get RSS in online catalogs until vendors
know that patrons are using it—and, by the way, you probably won’t get it if you’re not willing to pay for it. Sure, it has valuable library roles—-but what portion of the community will take advantage of the feeds? Maybe, as Schmidt suggests, this is one of those cases where the library mentors the patrons—“guiding them through technologies they might benefit from
learning about.�

He also notes that, if RSS takes off in a big way,
it’s likely to be ruined—“If not by some new fangled spam, then it’ll be by the abundant adverts and few full-content feeds. It could be rendered as painful to use as email.� I’ve wondered about that, and noted with a small sense of irony that the RSS feed from one of the top library promoters of RSS feeds is now partially
broken (by my standards): It’s no longer a fulltext feed, for financial reasons. (And, earlier, notes that he only encountered the comments because he clicked through to the site.)

Interesting stuff. So your library would just as
soon drop its new title lists and substitute an automatically generated RSS feed? You tell your patrons, “Oh, we don’t send that email any more. All you have to do is add our new title RSS feed to your aggregator.� What reaction will you get?

I live in a very high-tech community, on a block
where most homes are owned by two parents, both of
whom work in Silicon Valley. If I went around asking neighbors about RSS, I’m sure I’d get more than 1% success rate—but I’m also sure it would be a lot less than half.

(Last-minute addition: See TRENDS & QUICK
TAKES in this issue. The latest Pew Internet & American Life study on blogging suggests that Schmidt’s “98%� figure is right on the money.)

----------End of copied section--------

Why quote that 500+-word section? Because Jenny Levine (who has a considerably larger readership than I do, either here or at C&I) spent 1500+ words flaming me for things I don't believe I said (and, in the process, offering some genuinely useful suggestions of how RSS might be worthwhile in a library setting, to more than the 2% of American adults who apparently use aggregators). And because another blogger pointed to that entry without comment. And because Karen Schneider today spent yet another 800+ words applauding Jenny's post.

Clearly I must be biased against RSS: That's why I created a blog whose sole function is to serve as an RSS (actually Atom) feed. That's why I read Jenny, Karen, and 100 or so other bloggers via Bloglines.

This seems to be yet another case where raising any doubts whatsoever about a new technology--or, for that matter, commenting on the doubts raised by someone else (as I was here)--constitutes an attack on that technology. (I call it the "DR school of argument," and no, I won't expand those initials.)


Quick addition: Now yet another blogger has contributed to the piling on--this time without even reading my original comment (apparently), but instead trusting that Jenny L. must certainly have reported what I said correctly. The "conversation" just gets better and better.

Update 2/9/05, noonish: A conversation of sorts has taken place on most of the sites involved here. One, however, remains pure monolog: It's now been more than 24 hours, and while the original flame has been updated, my comment has not been posted (it requires signoff by the blog owner). Ah, the community! Ah, the conversation! Somehow, I'm reminded of the last line of in last night's Gilmore Girls. (Arcane reference deliberately left unexplained, just to bedevil both of you reading this--and no, we didn't discover GG until last spring. We're now watching Season 2 on DVD while also watching Season 5 on TV. Other than a little cognitive dissonance, no problem.)

Closing note, Thursday, February 10:
47 hours on the unposted comment; I'm giving up. Meanwhile, I think this particular flamefest has gone on long enough--and have said so in a comment at Shifted Librarian. Jenny and I will clearly continue to disagree; the Perspective that may grow out of this won't be about the original controversy; and life goes on. I won't delete this entry because...I don't believe in mucking with the record.

Podcasting: Different strokes...

I don't currently listen to "podcasts" (and am still not sure how they differ from previous web audio streams, except for the In name)--much as I don't listen to audiobooks.

And that's me.

I also would be unlikely to start doing podcasts, because speaking isn't normally a way I organize what I want to say (when I do a speech, there's almost always a full-text written version, even if I vary from it a lot).

And that's also me.

One early library-related podcaster has/had a blog that lapsed into inactivity. He's now doing a stream of podcasts. Apparently, talking through what he has to say is more natural for him than putting together blog entries or written journals.

And that's him.

Some librarians are excited about podcasts, both because they find audio speech a good way to take in information and because they believe it might be another way for libraries to spread the word.

And that's them.

If you're looking for an attack on podcasts, you've come to the wrong journal. Different people have different preferred learning styles or, for that matter, taking-in-entertainment styles. Different people have different preferred creation/organization styles. This is a case where "YMMV" becomes the heading I've used once or twice in C&I: "The way we're wired."

I've wanted to try speech-recognition software--but realized that I'm more likely to sit down and write through something than I am to sit down and talk through it (when it's something that belongs in print, that is). That's my style.

Of course, if we had highly accurate multivoice speech recognition software and, conversely, human-sounding text-to-speech software (which we may have, for all I know), people could mix-and-match to suit their own preferences: I could read these podcasts as text, and people could listen to Cites & Insights (which I believe they can anyway: I certainly don't disable TTS in the PDF files, although as a dumb XP user I also don't get how to start TTS).

Anyway, I think this falls into "to each their own"--and, to be sure, accessibility. My preference for text over speech as a source method is just that: Mine. I do not claim universality.
If podcasts work for you and yours, great.

Hyperactive spiders: Google's no longer number one

I've always been astonished at the sheer number of Googlebot hits at Cites & Insights--averaging 30 a day for a site that has new content around once every four weeks.

(I eventually realized that Googlebot may be crawling the entire site each time, so that it's really more like 60 hits done once every couple of days...still quite a lot.)

In previous statistics, Googlebot was always way out ahead of any other spider.

Cites & Insights 5:3 (February 2005) available

Cites & Insights 5:3, February 2005, is now available for downloading.

The 24-page issue (PDF as always) includes:

ALA: Who knew?

I just looked at the ads running to the left of this journal. First said, "What the hey?"

Then came the shock of recognition: To a bunch of online supply houses, "ALA" stands for Alpha lipoic acid, whatever that might be.

Heck, Blake, if you make a buck from ridiculous acronym linkages, more power to you. Don't think I'll be ordering any of that stuff, though.

The 55-page CV

In my "this isn't a weblog" tradition of truly random-but-interesting postings, here's one.

There's a weblog with a daily "new and improbable research" posting, courtesy of the Annals of Improbable Research, the "science humor" magazine that administers the Ig Nobel awards and is a successor to the late, lamented Journal of Irreproducible Results. (The site, Hot AIR, also lets you subscribe to the pure-text monthly mini-AIR, if you're so inclined.)

If you've heard of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists(TM), that's an ongoing AIR project.

Anyway ("Get on with it!"), one recent entry was about a psychologist (I believe) who has a 55-page curriculum vitae. The sheer length of the CV was repeated: 55 pages!

So, being in a silly mood, I clicked on the link and browsed through the CV. It's not every scientist who lists "Most productive X, 1990-1994" as one of their honors--or maybe it is. Nor, I suspect, do all prolific academics include separate lists of all the journals they've published in, with symbols denoting high-impact journals...

What I noticed right off the bat was that this academic provides each bibliographic citation in full form, repeating their name in each case, in fairly large type, and with plenty of white space before each citation--in a nice, single-column format with good wide margins.

Which is great--particularly if you are prolific (which this academic certainly is!) and want to make a point of just how prolific you are, based on the weight of your CV.

It also suggested to me that, in the unlikely event that I was ever going to go for an academic career (which, given my grand total of one BA and no higher degrees, even if the BA is from the world's second best university, seems like a pretty absurd goal), I've been doing it exactly the wrong way.

Which is to say that, if someone really wants to review my CV, I want to conserve paper--and the current version is 17 pages long. I get there by:

  • Using a two-column format for speeches and publications
  • Using small type for speeches and publications
  • Only including author information for multi-author publications
  • Leaving no vertical space at all before citations, using a hanging-indent style to separate them
  • For multiple publications within a single periodical in a single year, stacking the citations to minimize redundant information.
  • Leaving out all "internal" work, even if it results in generally-available publications (that is, I don't include any articles for RLG Focus and the like, much less internal committee reports). (Confession: That's more because I've never kept records, particularly from UC days, tnan it is nonexistent modesty.)

How long would this CV be if I adopted this prolific academic's conventions? I have no intention of trying--that would be work--but I'd guess at least 34 pages. No additional info, but a lot of additional paper.

On the other hand, I could do a properly academic CV, listing only book chapters, scholarly monographs, and refereed papers. That would be real short! (I think there have been three refereed papers, certainly no scholarly monographs, and no chapters in what I'd consider to be scholarly monographs.) Two pages would probably do nicely. I'm persistent; I'm not scholarly.

Now, as to a resume: I have no idea how to prepare an appropriate one. If I ever go job hunting, I'll have to beg for help.

Midwinter musings

This isn't my informal notes on sessions during the ALA Midwinter Meeting. (As soon as I finish this, I start writing those for internal use; if there's enough that I think are worth spreading further, I'll include them in a forthcoming C&I.)

Instead, it's a substitute for the Bibs & Blather about the weather and overall situation I did after Philadelphia--since I don't plan to do such a whine this time around.

First, the weather. Cold by my wimpy California-native standards: Certainly. How could it not be? Too cold, as it was the last day I was in Philly: No. The only time it got down to the teens was the day I was leaving, and at 4 a.m. I was too numb to feel it on the short walk to a cab.

That's partly because you could get to and from most meeting-heavy hotels and the conference center without going outside. I was at the Sheraton (good room, great bed, the less said about the restaurant the better, lounge prices as ludicrously high as I expected--somehow, paying the price of a bottle for a glass still bothers me just a little); you couldn't get closer to Hynes without camping out in Prudential Center, but the Westin and Marriott were also accessible in shirt sleeves if you were so inclined.

It's also partly because it just didn't get quite as cold and windy on most days. I found myself forgetting a cap and sometimes not bothering to put on gloves and scarf. That included some 4-6 block walks--and I didn't do any 3-mile hikes. As with Juneau in March (during AkLA in 2003), this was tolerable. (The jetways when changing planes in Chicago may have been the coldest part.)

I hear it was one of the better-attended Midwinters in recent years (13,000?), and that sounds about right. Our booth staff say it was active; it felt busy but not overwhelmingly crowded; most sessions I attended had more people than I would have expected.

It was also one of the most interesting Midwinters I've been to in years--and I went to more non-LITA discussions than usual. (I'm not suggesting a connection; I don't think there is one.) I believe that any attempt to curtail focused discussions further than the current "no programs except ALA-wide sponsored events" would be a serious mistake; there was a lot of vitality at this session in addition to 2500+ committee meetings, and I believe that's good for the field.

Finally, for now, a couple of words about socializing and introverts like me. I've learned not to reception-hop (it's hard on the system); this time I went to one reception where I knew I'd be at home on Saturday (ALA Publishing), one on Sunday (YBP Library Services), and that was it--but I also spent way more time than I'd planned with the PLA Bloggers. The reason that 1 hour turned into 3 was simple: They're really interesting people, most of whom I'd never met before. It was worth the effort to come out of my shell; keeping up with, being informed by, and enjoying the company of yet another younger generation was a big part of what made Midwinter great. [No, Steven C., I'm not going to use the o-word. Y'all made me feel welcome and younger.]

ALA Midwinter: It's a meeting, not a conference

Just a reminder for those who're about to head off to Boston (or who already have), and particularly for those new to the field and hoping for "more information on the programs at ALA."

With one exception--the ALA President's Program--there are no formal programs as part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Note that final word: By ALA policy, Midwinter is a business meeting, not a conference.

Sure, there are loads of educational opportunities, in addition to exhibits and a couple of thousand committee meetings: Dozens (hundreds?) of discussion groups (or, within LITA, interest groups); various sessions held by affiliated and unaffiliated organizations (e.g., NISO's standards briefings, OCLC's lunch, RLG's various information sessions...); various other presentations arranged by ALA offices; etc., etc..

But formal programs with set speakers and full descriptions in the official program? Not allowed--again, except for the ALA President.

I would note that, IIRC, one candidate is pushing to make Midwinter even more of a "pure business" meeting, pledging to not hold a President's Program at Midwinter and to try to forbid interest groups and discussion groups from holding themed discussions. If I do recall correctly, it's fair to say that this candidate won't be getting my vote. I think that goes way too far. (I may have misunderstood some stuff that was going on, and this may have nothing to do with any ALA candidate, so I'm not naming names.)

For some of us, Midwinter is a more valuable meeting than Annual, but it's valuable for different reasons. Trying to shut it down or make it nothing but a bunch of commitee meetings would be a really bad idea, IMNSHO, as well as being a significant financial hit for the organization.

Nonetheless, if your primary interest is formal, organized programs where you know the speakers and topics in advance, then--other than the extra-cost preconferences and workshops--Midwinter isn't the place to be.

Cites & Insights 5:2 (Midwinter) available

Cites & Insights 5.2, Midwinter 2005, is now available for downloading.

This 22-page issue (PDF as always), with a fresh new look (dating back to 1919), includes:

Frank Kelly Freas, RIP

Noting the story on Will Eisner's passing, I'll mention another passing in the past couple of days that seems to have drawn a lot less attention:
Frank Kelly Freas, one of the great science fiction illustrators.

Program/conference reporters invited!

Here's the posting I just sent to four lists, and will also be suggesting as a story--but here, it has HTML!

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, a free web-based journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is now accepting and inviting program and conference reports in areas appropriate for C&I's readership.

It's a chance to be published in a widely-read venue, with as little editing as possible, with a byline--and in a timely fashion (aiming for 2 to 6 weeks between receipt of reports and publication).

Random thoughts at the end of a subrandom year

Subrandom? Well, heck, if you thought this was a great year, more power to ya! (And throw a chunk of that greatness at Doctors Without Borders, American Red Cross International Response Fund, or something of the kind!)

Minor thoughts and discoveries on a slow morning, the day after polishing off a big time-sensitive "own time" project...

  • I was going to chime in on the "countdown" (you know, ten random things about me and so on) thread on AshtabulaGuy's journal--and discovered that I couldn't do it. The travel part would be easy (or not: the Marquesas islands, the fjords of Norway, the fjords of New Zealand, the Shetland Islands, the wonderful Bardo museum outside Tunis, the nature preserves of Costa Rica, Venice, Bora Bora, Morocco...hmm, it's hard to come up with the right nine. I don't particularly consider myself well-traveled, but when my wife and I say "we've been seeing the world by cruise ship," we do mean seeing the world, not the Caribbean).
    But some of the others are just too close to home for a tired old shy type like me. And, since I've managed to get this far by not having specific goals and plans, the list of "things I want to do before I die" might be tricky. So it goes.
  • I am reminded frequently just how lucky we are to live where we do. Sure, the housing's expensive. But when I'm tempted to complain about a rainy day or the temperature dropping to the low 50s at the end of December; when we revel in the quality of ingredients and cooking in even the most modest restaurants in town (e.g., the sports bar down the road we go to for $2 bowls of freshly-made soup and $4 to $6 specials); when we look at general social attitudes...well, this area looks better and better as an eventual retirement location, if we can't swing Hawaii.
  • In another dire warning about how badly U.S. people do in savings, I'm reminded again that those are trick figures: Did you know that mutual funds and other market investments (including, I believe, bond funds) don't count as savings? Not that we couldn't do a lot better, but...
  • It's odd to find myself an "independent" in so many policy/library issues, e.g. open access, the "information commons," ebooks (yes, I am an independent, even if some jackasses choose "Luddite" or "Darth Vader" as a preferable term), and others. Maybe I'm proud that I'm becoming more aware of subtleties and distinctions as I get older--or maybe I'm just inherently wishy-washy. I do know this: The more I know about a policy issue, the less likely I am to take a black-and-white view of it.
  • While my list of people I just can't deal with has shrunk (down to 2!), the revelation that some people just aren't worth the time to argue/discuss with has been an enormously liberating one. And for those who put me in that category, you're certainly entitled.
  • Re LISnews and "library news" sources: Yes, I check LISnews. I rarely contribute (other than my own stuff). Maybe that's because "library news" as such doesn't usually interest me very much. What interests me are the range of developments that affect libraries, and those either don't fall into the "news" category or are somewhat outside the traditional library press. And, of course, I believe that the "added value" in Cites & Insights is that I'm synthesizing stuff, much of which is outside the traditional library literature, and trying to suggest connections to library issues.
  • Regarding the one "controversial" stance I took in C&I this year: I'm a little sad that it apparently drove away one long-time reader. I'm not at all sorry I took the stance, and I stand behind every word in the piece. Reading about the testimony of those on one side of the current court case pushes me further in that direction, if anything.

And that's enough for this last day of the year. Stay off the roads tonight (whether you're drinking or not!), stay warm, and may your next year be better than this one was--no matter how good this one was for you.

Cites & Insights 5.1 available

Here's the formal announcement:

Cites & Insights 5.1 (January 2005), sponsored by YBP Library Services,
is now available for downloading.

The 22-page issue (PDF as always) includes:

C&I--and movies, movies, movies

First, for those of you not subscribed to C&I Updates: Cites & Insights 5:1, January 2005, is now available for downloading. Because of the exigencies of this tween-holiday week, I won't submit a "story" until tomorrow, and list postings won't go out until January 3--but it's there. Strong on scholarly access, some stuff on copyright, a whole bunch of self-indulgent retrospective nonsense--and a note about the new sponsorship, from YBP Library Services.

Movies, movies, movies? I've written elsewhere (in C&I) about the Family Classics 50 Movie Megapack I acquired to keep me going on my treadmill, once the 40 free movies I'd gotten from a now-dead DVD magazine were done.

Treeline Films, maker of that Megapack, has apparently developed a production system that allows them to produce boxes with 12 double-sided, double-layer DVDs, each in a cardboard sleeve containing summaries of the four or five movies on the DVD, at a price that means they can sell for $24.95 to $34.99 and be profitable for Treeline and the Internet stores that sell them. (They might turn up in retail stores as well; I got the first one for $19.95 as a RiteAid holiday special, but have never seen any since in local stores.)

The movies are all either public domain or available with no (or nominal) license fees. There are no extras. You get four scenes per movie, that may or may not be logically arranged; basically, movies are split into quarters by time.

Print quality ranges from barely watchable to excellent. On some older movies, frames are missing and some of the soundtrack is garbled, but I have yet to see a movie that was truly unwatchable because of print damage. I just finished watching Danny Kaye's The Inspector General, a gem of a film that was also a nearly-perfect print.

I mention these sets here because Treeline continues to bring them out, and I think they're a remarkable bargain for people interested in older cinema--and maybe for libraries. I see nothing preventing a library from treating each cardboard sleeve/DVD as a separate circulating item. The movies are in at least as good shape as the old public domain $5-$10 videocassettes from oddball companies--and you're getting 50 movies for $25 to $35.

I see 13 boxes so far, including genre boxes for Horror, Mystery, SciFi, War, Comedy, Western, Family, Action, as well as "Hollywood Legends" (all feature films, all with major stars) and "All Stars," a collection of star-heavy TV movies. The final three packs include one with 150 serial episodes (a dozen old serials), one with 100 cartoons, and one with 100 TV episodes.

I would expect more to come. I picked up the SciFi (yes, some of the movies aren't really SciFi, and most of the movies are B to D films), All Stars (a great bunch of TV movies!), and Hollywood Legends (a remarkable set of films for the price) boxes. The mystery (heavy on Sherlock Holmes and others) and some others also look interesting.

You can find them at Overstock for $24.95 plus $1.50 shipping, at Amazon for $34.95, and at DVD MegaPacks and BN.com for $28 to $30. I've found Overstock reliable so far; that's where I've purchased all but the first.

Obviously, I can't vouch for the video quality of those I haven't seen. Some that I have--an early "Scarlet Letter," for example--were badly damaged. Some others have been nearly perfect.

My own calculus: If I see seven movies that I'd be willing to buy as cheapo singles (say for $5), then I'm automatically ahead of the game. I've already seen seven that qualify in the "Family Classics" box, and I'm only on the fifth of twelve DVDs. Your mileage may vary, as always.

By the way, since most or all of these are in the public domain, they should also be usable for public screening.

I've never been to Albany, Georgia

Say what?

Well, I was doing a bit of focused egosearching (on AllTheWeb, looking for "Cites & Insights", excluding boisestate.edu, and limiting it to "this year," not that date limits do much of anything for websites).

Still too many to look through, but somewhere in the first hundred I hit a publication called Cites & Insights--yes, with the ampersand.

It's a church bulletin from Hines Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Albany, Georgia.

Orkut reloaded (and unmarked)

Back a ways, I noted the bizarre total number within my circle in Orkut--more than two million at the time--and that the number did not decrease significantly when I cut my number of "friends" from 21 down to 12.

One who shall go unnamed (why cause him grief?) sent email with an interesting suggestion: The number being reported is roughly the total size of Orkut, and has nothing to do with your own "six degrees of separation."

Not dead or gone just yet

Where's Walt?

On vacation since November 18--and to me, part of being on vacation is ignoring as much technology as possible. We got back Monday; yesterday was entirely consumed in catching up with email and related work issues--I didn't even log on to the Internet except to check one fact.

We visited the Marquesas islands, for those who care: One of the five archipelagos that make up French Polynesia, with islands such as Fatu Hiva and Nuku Hiva. The cruise (14 days) departed from Papeete in Tahiti (departing is always the best thing to do in Papeete!), and visited five spots on four Marquesan islands, along with Rangiroa in the Tuamotu archipelago and some of "the usual suspects" in the Society Islands--Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahaa, and Tahiti, but not Raratea. (Unfortunately, Bora Bora, which may be one of the most beautiful places on earth, was overcast and raining. Otherwise, the weather was generally good.)

I'm not doing a travelogue, at least not here, not yet. Just noting that lack of entries (and lack of comments on postings!) doesn't necessarily indicate lack of interest. I'll catch up little by little, but will be VERY selective about what gets printed and considered as C&I source material--particularly because another time-dependent thing looms on the close horizon.

(No, we didn't visit any libraries in French Polynesia. Sorry about that. For those with a historical bent, the Marquesas represent an extreme example of what Randy Newman calls "the Great Nations of Europe coming through"--probaby more than 100,000 population prior to first European contact, then down to about 4,000 by WWII, now back up to 8,000 or so thanks to antibiotics to help defend against the wonders of European civilization. Things got off to an unusually bad start: The first Western visit at one island resulted in 200 Marquesan deaths right on the spot.) (Oh, and they weren't "noble savages"--neither noble nor savages.)

That's it for now. Just thought I'd let anyone who cares know that I haven't actually disappeared for good.

Just because I don't use it doesn't make it worthless

A few folks might have gasped had they been at the Charleston Conference last week, in a Saturday discussion of OpenURL issues. The discussion got around to some sort of functionality for people to share tips and best practices (e.g., for new targets, new forms of linking, getting around problematic targets...)

Someone suggested a list.

I suggested that a Wiki might suit this particular need better than a list or even a blog.

Finishing Volume 4

Well, two days is "within the next week or so," so I didn't lie. That is, the document containing the title sheet and indexes for Cites & Insights volume 4 (2004) is now available for downloading.

Eagle-eyed readers may note that the story I just suggested, like the postings to C&I Updates, the Topica list, and a few other lists, is ungrammatical--because I left out "document containing the" for brevity, but certainly didn't use "are" to refer to a single PDF file.


Subscribe to RSS - Walt's blog