Walt's blog

Who's an advocate?

[Note: A different version of this grump could plausibly turn up as a Bibs & Blather piece in the next Cites & Insights. Or not.]

A recent post in this journal concerned a stupid mistake I made--attempting to comment on something in a blog I should never have even been visiting. (I checked on that site again; the discussion has proceeded nicely enough, sometimes about me, but without my participation. I'll leave it that way. I managed to wipe my shoes clean and don't wish to step in that again.)

Comments--from one person--on that journal post seemed to take me to task for not being simplistic enough (I'm paraphrasing, and if this isn't what the poster really meant, that's OK: I'm not naming the person anyway.) A later point was that you can be nuanced in intellectual discussion, but if you want change, you have to be an advocate, and to advocate, you have to [MY WORDS] "dumb it down."

While I disagree with that assertion--I'm trying to talk to reasonably intelligent adults, and I really hate it when people dumb things down for my consumption (since it always means, directly or indirectly, talking down to me), so I'm sure not about to insult other people by assuming they can't handle nuanced treatments (or semi-Proustian sentences like this one either)--I just realized that it involves a conclusion that is not in evidence.

Namely, that I'm particularly interested in advocacy. I don't think I am. To the extent that I wind up advocating certain positions, it's because I find them more coherent and more in line with my overall worldview than alternatives; to the extent that I argue against other positions, it's because I find them incoherent, inhumane, or sharply at odds with my underlying beliefs.

My columns at various magazines have generally been intended to describe, educate, and sometimes synthesize. I don't believe I've been trying to persuade, except to the extent that "If you believe in X, then maybe you ought to consider Y" could be considered persuasion.

Cites & Insights started out primarily as a way to note articles worth reading and developments in technology worth paying attention to. It's become much more than that (and in some ways less, as I don't cover PC-related stuff all that much) through a process of natural growth and continued analysis and synthesis.

Maybe my failure to act as an advocate is a problem--but I'm not sure it's my problem.

I am sure that the thought of hardening my positions on library-related issues and simplifying my arguments so that I can be more convincing does not appeal to me. If that means I'm less effective as a change agent, so be it: That was never my career goal. Even my first book was not an effort to get people to use MARC; it was an effort to make MARC understandable and explain its background.

Next posting (barring surprises): Something completely different!

Monday's oddity

Here's one that has nothing at all to do with librarianship or any of the big issues of the day.

Last week, we saw two "for sale" signs go up across the street, from two different realtors. We knew one house was going on the market (divorce issues), and expected the one next to it to go on the market eventually (estate issues), but didn't really expect both to go on the market simultaneously. (We've had a few sales on our block this year--typically the one-open-house, multiple-bid, sale at above asking price variety that's common to Mountain View.)

We also found it odd that the right-hand sign was so far to the left of the house--it almost seemed to be on the same property as the left-hand sign.

When we saw the usual "open Saturday & Sunday, 1:30-4:30" placards, we did the usual: went over to look through the houses. (We're always looking for possible remodel ideas and to see how houses compare--and realtors expect that.) The one on the left was interesting in some ways, uninteresting in others, and based on the steady traffic both days they'll probably get more than the $858K asking price (this is Mountain View, and the part of Mountain View with Los Altos schools, some of the state's best, so $858K for a 50-year-old 1,300-square-foot rancher isn't as outrageous as you'd think).

But the house on the right didn't seem to be open Saturday. So we looked again Sunday. It still didn't seem to be open. At which point I picked up one of the brochures available on the for-sale post...

And found something I've never seen before, and still find hard to understand: The post seemed to be on the left-house property because it was for that house.

Two different realtors, from two different companies, were offering the same house for sale! (When we asked, the message was that the ex-husband and ex-wife couldn't even agree on listing agents, so one agent is the ex-husband's agent, one is the ex-wife's agent. At least they managed to agree on a price!)

I can't see how this can work out--which office handles the likely multiple simultaneous bids (almost all house sales around here have a date/time at which they'll accept bids, usually a day or two after the open house)? Which office handles the negotiation? Do they split the commission?

Strange days. Again, nothing to do with LISNews, but this is a journal, right?

Anyone else ever hear of a house sale like this?

You'd better go in disguise...

Whoops. I went somewhere I shouldn't have gone on the Web yesterday. (No, not what you're thinking, this was perfectly SFW, just not safe for mental composure.)

Going there wasn't the problem. Getting involved was the problem.

Won't happen again. Well, at least not this week. I can get in enough trouble with comments and posts hereabout, and with my "too nuanced for either side" stances in Cites & Insights. This extra trouble I didn't need. My own stupid fault: As noted, I was somewhere I shouldn't have been...

Memes and blogs

If you just love "Internet memes," or even if you don't, you may find this list interesting (or annoying, I suppose)--200 things you might have done in your life.
I found it here but didn't manage to find the original, unbolded version. It's an odd list, but an interesting one.

Library link of the day!

Wow. I made Library Link of the Day (for 9/16, if you read this any other day).

Or, rather, the Copyright Currents section of the current Cites & Insights made Library Link of the Day.

Close enough.

Firefox

Firefox 1.0 (Preview Release) is just out.

Stodgy as I am, I've been using Firefox 0.91 as my preferred browser at work for months now. It may be a little slower to load than IE, but it seems to render pages faster and is presumably (?) less subject to IE's various security problems.

Delayed Gratification and Mea Culpa

An earlier post noted my intent to see whether I could make Cites & Insights more personally gratifying by simulating the "delayed gratification" I get from seeing a column or article appear in print, a month or three (or four or twelve) after I wrote it, and maybe with editorial improvements.

I've now read through the first four issues of volume 4 (2004), and am most of the way through the fifth (the Broadcast Flag special.

Three conclusions so far:

  • The scheme works: I'm able to approach the months-old publications with a fresh eye, and some of the articles and perspectives aren't half bad.
  • I could really and truly use an editor, but that's not going to happen with this kind of a zine. There's not an issue that doesn't have at least one typo and several phrases that could have been improved. But then, that's true of most weblogs as well...
  • Mea culpa: Somehow, in the mix of stuff surrounding vacation and speaking last March/April, my already-slack editing standards went straight to ... well, let's just say that the typos and sloppy text in the Broadcast Flag special are way worse than is reasonable even for a freebie. My apologies. (Not for the content itself: There's good material there. Just for the number of wrong words, repetitions, and the one flagrant layout problem that either Word or Acrobat managed to cause.)

Oh, and my prediction in that issue--that, unlike the heavily-downloaded CIPA special, it would be one of the least-downloaded issues of the year--appears to be wrong so far (use statistics are back). It's in the middle of the pack for volume 4. The lowest--except for 4:10, for which most downloads are from an alternate site--is the "Catching up with copyright" special issue, which doesn't have a specific hook. If I was specifically looking for popularity, that would tell me something. Of course, if I was specifically looking for popularity, a lot would change in Cites & Insights...

Once More with Feeling

Now I finally understand the lyrics. This is no tiny thing (well, maybe it is, but...)

Buffy fans may recognize the subject: The extraordinary episode (Season Six, Episode Seven) in which a "lord of the dance--but not the scary one, just a demon" causes folks to burst into song and full musical numbers--with backing--all over Sunnydale, in the case of the core cast revealing secrets that had been building up for weeks and months.

What's extraordinary is that the show's creator, Joss Whedon, single-handedly wrote all of the songs (and wrote and directed the episode, but then 90% of the dialog is in song lyrics)--and they're pretty good songs. Also extraordinary, I suppose, is that the cast all do their own singing and dancing. One of them (Giles, the former librarian, Anthony Stewart Head) has a musical background and is a fine singer; another turns out to have a superb voice; the rest manage pretty well--and some of the dancing is first rate.

But it was hard to get all the lyrics when the show was broadcast, particularly since some songs overlap to move the plot forward.

And when we first watched the DVD version--also the only widescreen episode of Buffy, and with the whole episode framed as a musical (special opening and closing just for the episode)--it was worse. Turns out that the sound processing used for the musical numbers (echo, etc.) didn't work well with our Sony XBR's "simulated surround" mechanism.

So, last night, we rewatched the episode, doing two things: Turning off the simulated surround--and turning on English captions.

And now it all makes sense. On to episode 8 next week...

(Also the only Buffy episode so far on the DVD sets that has its own special featurettes, a fairly long one discussing how they managed to do a full-scale 50-minute musical on a weekly low-budget show and a couple of shorter ones. The episode was a tour de force, in my opinion.)

By the way, although I was never an Ally McBeal watcher, there's one specific episode I'd pay $5 or $6 for if I could get it (legally) as a DVD, since it features my candidate for America's greatest living songwriter--more than a dozen Randy Newman songs, one written for the episode, most sung by the cast, all managing to move the plot forward.

Well, I hinted this journal would be about truly random subjects, didn't I? Cites & Insights is my serious web-based effort.

And for anyone who's made it this far down, what I expect to be my only political comment of this season (I hope):

As I believe Jon Stewart said, George W's "compassionate conservatism" is like the Olympics: It appears once every four years, then goes away after a week or two.

And this story from Billings, Montana offers further insight into certain nonsense going on. As Bobdole should know, where there's smoke, there's probably someone blowing it.

Trimming the "Can't deal with" list

Not that anyone would care, but since I mentioned the list of five people I just couldn't deal with in a previous entry (on being hassled by two of them in one weekend), I'm going to say it anyway:

I've now reduced that list from five to two, and proved that by actually engaging in a discussion with one of the three who are no longer on the mental-blackout list. This one, despite personality traits that I find difficult to deal with, has just done too much good in the field to ignore.

Instant publishing and delayed gratification

As I've been looking at the future of Cites & Insights, I've realized that lack of monetary reward isn't the only problem. (If anyone's wondering, voluntary contribution rate is still substantially less than 1% of apparent readership, and I'm not making another pitch in the September issue.)

And I wondered why I was thinking C&I wasn't as much fun as other writing--even though putting it together is interesting, it has good readership, and has impact.

I think I've figured out one aspect of this, hinted at in the subject line: There's no delayed gratification in Cites & Insights.

By which I mean: With any traditional publication, there's a time lag of at least a few days (typically a few weeks) between finishing with the manuscript, or even the camera-ready copy, and seeing the final product (or, for a column or article, the final product in a larger context, probably with editorial improvement I didn't know about). Even after a couple hundred of these, it's still sort of a gas to see it "in print"--and to be able to read it fresh.

With C&I (and with weblogs, and with postings here), it's published as soon as it's done. It's worse with C&I: The last few hours before publication are mostly copyfitting, which is not (shall we say) the most thrilling work in the world--and the first hour or so after publication is updating the running volume index (a Word "document" that consists only of index entries, built on the fly and normalized to some extent in late December, before publishing it).

By the time I'm done with the index updates, the last thing I want to do is read the issue--and it wouldn't be fresh in any case.

I'm going to try something to see if it restores some of the joy of doing C&I. I've taken 4:1 out of the 3-ring binder I use for this year's issues (before preparing a bound volume of the full year), put it in a folder, and set it with my other current reading. I'll read it "fresh." Then, a little later, I'll move on to 4:2. I'll see some of the gaffes and stupid comments, but maybe I'll also see the good stuff...

The timing's useful here. A week ago, just before coming down with a cold (now mostly gone), I submitted the final column in my highest-profile series. Times do change.

C&I has a notification blog

I may be stubborn about PDF, but far be it from me to insist that people use email (or check here!) to get notifications for new Cites & Insights issues.

On behalf of RSS bigots and others (OK, let's face it, LISNews is now one of very few weblogs I check directly rather than via Bloglines), I've started
C&I Update, a simple Blogger weblog with an Atom (RSS) feed, primarily to get that RSS feed.

More than a million "contacts"--so what?

Maybe I just don't understand "social software." No, come to think of it, that's a given: I don't understand social software.

I joined Orkut because someone invited me. I accepted as "friends" anyone who asked--with one or two exceptions--if I had even the slightest idea who they were. I might have done the reverse--called myself someone's friend in absence of their action--once, maybe twice.

Some time last week, Orkut said I had more than one million contacts via the 19 "friends." As of today, that's up to 1,194,628.

Dylan, Sharks, LISNews and Cites & Insights

[First: Go read other journals. As rarely as I post, it's absurd that this is the most-read journal. Now, we return to our previously scheduled posting.]

"He not busy being born is busy dying."

The shark is forever swimming, forever feeding. It stops, it dies.

See a connection? Yes, I've been musing on Blake's story from last week for a while--and continuing to muse on the future of the far-less-significant Cites & Insights. Actually, not just Blake's most recent comment, but his earlier thoughts about (for example) starting up a LISNews-related magazine...

I think that, for both of us, there's the felt need either to move forward or to drop back. (And if I'm putting words in Blake's mouth, well, he knows how to comment.)

I don't think it's lack of recognition or appreciation (in either case). Blake even knows that he can count on some fiscal support when he needs it. (I may have been too clear about not actually needing it!)

I do think it's about the "grow or die" situation.

Not sure how that works out for LISNews. The journals represented a growth of sorts. The readership continues to grow. Already there are enough stories that if you only visit once a day you'll have to bring up old stories to get the full picture.

For C&I, well...technically, it's been growing, in pages, coverage, and (I think but can't currently be sure) readership. Support pretty much stalled after the first couple of weeks. The COWLZ-related posting, as you can see, drew zero comments: That still seems permastalled.

Given my druthers, and if I could put together the support mechanisms (e.g., say, three or four vendors or regional library networks--none of whom get dealt with directly in C&I, so conflicts of interest can't arise, agreeing to serve as cosponsors for a modest sum), here's what I'd like to do:

  • Keep C&I itself in the same semi-fluid state it is now, but...
  • Start a new set of additional issues, explicitly serving as conference report issues--"LITA Newsletter replacements" of a sort, but broader and narrower. That is:
  • Open an invitation to people to submit reports on library-related conference programs (for ALA) or some combination of programs and overall conference themes (for other library-related programs).
  • Take reports in RTF (or maybe .doc, as long as NAV is good about scanning for virii), requiring:
  • 1. A legitimate email address, real (traceable) name, and contact information
  • 2. Agreement to abide by the Creative Commons Attribution/Noncommercial license for submitted material.
  • 3. Agreement to accept my editorial decisions (cleaning up as little as necessary for coherence, formatting, trimming to length and rejecting inflammatory commentary, maybe even rejecting some reports outright, for example those of one couple who specializes in reporting on how they would have done conference speeches better)
  • Whenever there were enough reports to make a 12-26-page issue, I'd do one--consisting entirely of such reports, with maybe a brief Bibs & Blather to introduce the themes. I'd list myself as editor in the banner and change the subtitle from "Crawford at Large" to "Conference Reports." The issues would get sequential numbering and would be included in the index. I'd hope that the ISSN Patrol didn't notice the varying subtitle...

C&I already has a substantially larger readership than the one library-related newsletter I know of that has included a fair number of conference and program reports--and it beats the price of that now-overpriced publication all hollow! I'm beginning to despair of LITA itself ever getting the kind of substantive program reports that we used to have (geezer alert) in the good ol' days of the LITA Newsletter; this might be one partial solution.

It might also to be another stupid idea from ol' Walt. And yes, there's still that small temptation to slide gracefully into early tired senior status and spend all those extra hours reading books and the like...

Comments?

Cites & Insights back where it belongs

The temporary problem has been solved, and Cites & Insights 4:10 is now back at cites.boisestate.edu, where it belongs.

It will also continue to be available at the cical.home.att.net address, since most weblog references to it point there already. I'll never know how many people downloaded this issue; no big deal.

Two out of five: What a weekend!

Only a few people have ever seen my sad list of the five people I just can't deal with any more--four of whom I've never met (for which I'm grateful). I wish there was no such list, but you know, sometimes you realize that responding to certain people is beating your head against a stucco wall, and the bleeding isn't worth it.

Two of the five popped up at LISNews this weekend, both laying into me for one reason or another. One has added an obsession with how Cites & Insights should be produced, how detailed its table of contents should be, and other stuff, to his other set of obsessions--and doesn't quite seem to realize that the more he complains (repeating the same complaints over and over), the less likely I am to actually pay attention. Tossing in compliments about the content doesn't help. This is a prime example of not only looking a gift horse in the mouth but trying to kick its teeth in; it's really not appreciated.

The other...well, you know, once someone's called you a "hater" in their own weblog, there's really nowhere to go but out. The range of insults was amusing at one point but got tiresome pretty fast. I certainly don't mind disagreement (as I think the current issue demonstrates!), but I do get turned off by sheer nastiness.

What I can't for the life of me figure out is why these two so obviously grab onto Cites & Insights (spelled variously in their various rants) as soon as it comes out, given that they find it and me so variously unacceptable. Do some people just love looking for stuff to pick at, hate, disagree with? Even after they should be aware that they're not going to get a direct response from me, ever? Or, even more, that I'm likely to be persuaded by their hostility and repetition?

[OK, it could help persuade me to stop doing Cites & Insights altogether, which I'm sure would please one of the two--but then my stubborn streak kicks in...]

Oh well. It's Monday, the weekend was less productive than usual, and I'm grumpy. Never mind.

Psst...

The problem has been solved. See brief entry on Wednesday, July 28.

The so-called liberal media

The biggest newspaper in these parts is pretty regularly labeled as extreme-left (despite being owned by Hearst). But I've noticed something the past few months:

Every time there's any reporting on John Kerry's campaign, by the fifth or sixth paragraph there's always a "response" from some Bush or RNC flack. Always.

"OK," I thought, "they're making a point of providing balance."

Gray literature: Any interest in COWLZ?

I'm just tossing this out to see if there's any hope of reviving an interesting but dormant effort. (LISNews has a bigger audience than Cites & Insights, although a smaller one--I assume--than American Libraries, where I've also discussed this.)

Firefox bookmark-icons

Here's an oddity, maybe even an excuse for someone much more hip to internet code to show off their stuff.

If you've used Firefox (or, I assume, some other Mozilla/Netscape variants), you've probably noticed that some bookmark rectangles (the folded-corner page where you click, left of the name) get replaced by mini-icons when you first visit the site. Wired News turns into a little W on a red background, LISNews a big L with little IS tucked inside it, Bloglines a capital B, and so on.

Flag burning

One of LISNews' illustrious posters, in commenting on book burning, threw in a question as to whether we supported a Constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

I didn't respond there because the question was so off-topic.

I find the question interesting because, as far as I know, the only approved way to dispose of a worn-out or damaged U.S. flag is to burn it. Anything else is considered inappropriate.

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