Walt's blog

Cites & Insights: A pre-ALA non-announcement

Some of you may be anticipating a July issue of Cites & Insights coming out just before ALA--that is, right about now.

That's not going to happen. Indeed, there's not going to be a July issue at all.

Paying attention to readership patterns and wholly appropriate reading habits during the summer, I'm planning a combined July/August issue for mid to late July. That probably means a total of 13 issues for 2005, which seems as good a number as any.

I do not plan a double-length July/August issue; I'm aiming for 20 to 22 pages, with 24 pages tops. The plan is to produce a little less copy during the summer. Maybe some of you will catch up on some of the issues you skipped or that are sliding off your desk along with other unread stuff... (And maybe I'll do a more thoughtful issue with more time. Hope springs eternal!)

Ten things I've never done

1. Participate in a chain letter.

2-10. Do the web/meme equivalent.

Cites & Insights 5:8 (June 2005) available

Cites & Insights 5.8 (June 2005) is now available.

This 24-page issue includes:

  • Bibs & Blather - Readership patterns, a cheaper HTML challenge, a reminder about reporting, and notes about cable flags, which leads into:
  • Perspective: The Broadcast Flag (an Endless Story?) - Notes on the court ruling striking down the broadcast flag, reactions from various sources, the issue of "standing" as it applied to ALA and other plaintiffs, some background--and, sigh, proposed legislation to restore the struck-down flag.
  • Net Media - comments on wiki wackiness, weblogs, RSS, audio blogging (and podcasting), the folks at Pew, and why I'm not covering Folksonomy
  • Trends & Quick Takes - four trends and seven mini-perspectives ranging from hi-rez audio to a look back at Y2K
  • Library Access to Scholarship - The NIH policy and various reactions, a Suber trio, and shorter pieces related to access, including extensive notes on Charles W. Bailey, Jr.'s new DigitalKoans weblog.

If you just can't cope with PDF or only care about one of these topics, you can reach HTML versions of each essay from the C&I home page.

Cites & Insights 5:7 available

Cites & Insights 5:7, May 2005, is now available for downloading. (HTML versions of most essays are also available from the home page.)

This 22-page issue includes:

  • ©3 Perspective: FMA: Watching the Way You Want: a commentary on the recently-passed Family Movie Act, part of the Family Entertainment Act of 2005.
  • Following Up: Four corrections and clarifications.
  • ©3: Balancing Rights: Comments on piracy, infringement, and P2P, DRM, and more.
  • Offtopic Perspective: Family Classics 50 Movie Pack, Part 2: 25 more old movies, including a half-silent/half-sound flick, a silent movie with speaking and sound throughout, and Fred Astaire on walls and ceiling.
  • Ethical Perspective: Weblogging Ethics and Impact
  • Session Report: ACRL 2005: Joy Weese Moll reports on "What's Next? Academic Libraries in a Google Environment"

Editorial change: Error in Joy Weese Moll's name corrected 4/28/05

One reason I never plan to run for ALA Council

The current Library Juice (if the link doesn't work, just go to www.libr.org/Juice; I typed it in) has a series of postings from the ALA Council list regarding the non-award presented to Laura Bush.

I don't know whether it's the complete set of postings. I have a sinking feeling that it is not.

It runs 23 print pages.

My only comment at this point (note that this is on my LISNews journal, not my "real blog") is that this is an illustration of why, years ago, I told my wife that, if I ever suggested the possibility of running for any ALA-wide office (as opposed to divisional office), she should call the folks who could give me an enforced vacation in a padded room...

It's just not my thing, even apart from the coterie of always-reelected-by-petition-and-bullet-voting councilors (two or three of whom are prominent in this discussion). I just lack the patience and energy for association-wide politics, particularly as exemplified by this interchange.


A while back, I posted on a Wisconsin Dairy promotion that wasn't working right.

I tried again today, on my still dial-up connection. First there's a 675K Flash page that took over a minute to load, to bother me with cheering so that it could present two lines of text and a button...to bring up a lengthy, required agreement.

Then you have to fill out a registration form.

Then you get the chance to enter one of the four supposed entry keys from the ad, and click.

Then you get a panel with a bunch of cheese brands. I suspect you're supposed to choose five of the ten (based on casually reading the rules), but of course there's nothing on that page to indicate that.

Then you click and a page s l o w l y l o a d s to reveal...not much of anything. And if you click on anything, another p a g e s l o w l y starts...

At this point, having blown 15 minutes and gotten nowhere near actually entering the contest, I thought about just how much great California cheese there is and dropped out of the whole process.

I hope Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is happy with this promotion. They've certainly earned a fair amount of bad will in this household. (But I suppose everyone in Wisconsin has broadband and knows intuitively at which points to do certain things, or printed out the rules so they'd be sure to do things in exactly the right order. It must be the cheese.)

Selective coverage and the free ride

I try to avoid politics, but...

In my California newspaper, at least, regularly drubbed for being a psycho left-wing socialist rag even though it's owned by Hearst and its only full-time op-ed writer is a diehard Republican, there's been an interesting omission in all the coverage of one of the Governator's "reform plans"--the one he's at least postponed.

That is, "reforming" California's public employee retirement system, CALPERS, so that it goes away and gets replaced by a 401(k) equivalent.

The claim is that this would save money and presumably reduce the number of chateaus and yachts purchased by those retired schoolteachers and firepeople.

What's never mentioned, as far as I've seen, is that CALPERS is (as the second-largest pension fund in the country) a growing force in fighting for corporate reform: It owns enough shares in enough companies to be heard on calls for more independent boards and maybe less "you approve my multimillion$ bonus for putting the company in bankruptcy and firing half the workers, and I'll approve yours" compensation packages.

It's been firmly established that, to Arnold, "special interest" means "anyone who isn't one of my fat-cat contributors," and big business is *never* a special interest.

Am I saying that Arnold might please his "everyday folk" supporters by putting CALPERS out of business? Well, yes, I am. Maybe I'm wrong, but you'd think the press would at least be raising the issue...

That's my political post for this month. I hope.

Dropping out of the top hundred (almost)

I've never subscribed to very many of the true "A list" blogs, the Technorati Top 100. That's partly to avoid becoming part of the great echo chamber, partly because most of those I've sampled struck me as self-important blowhards.

("It takes one to know one" may be an appropriate response.)

But I did monitor two--or, as it turns out, three--of the hot sites. Until yesterday, when I removed the only two that I was aware were on the list. One of them, while amusing, just had more postings than I wanted to deal with, had a tendency to pop barely-safe-for-work images up on my screen when I was doing coffee-break browsing, and rarely included anything I actually wanted to read about. The other--which, it turns out, isn't in the Top 100 (at least as of today), although the former blog of this former journalist was part of that "elite"--is a case where what used to be an interesting set of entries seems to have turned blowhard.

I still have one of the Top 100 in my Bloglines list, although I don't think it was in that group when I added it. But it's a sparse blog and still relevant.

Dropping the two bigshots is a small act of liberation. It cuts down the noise and leaves a little room for less-known and more-interesting people, either from the library field or elsewhere.

Cites & Insights 5:6 (April 2005) available

Cites & Insights 5:6 (April 2005) is now available.

The 22-page issue, PDF as always, includes:

  • Bibs & Blather: Go Away--and an HTML challenge!
  • disContent Perspective: Print a bil i ty -- 30% failure rate!
  • The Library Stuff: seven articles worth noting
  • Net media Perspective: Google and Gorman: More thoughts on Google Print, and a retrospective on the recent unpleasantness
  • Trends & Quick Takes: four trends, eight quick takes
  • The Good Stuff: five articles worth noting

Cheese and crackers

Cheese: The Wisconsin Dairy folks presumably spent a lot of money to have a full-page ad (with three coupons and a contest) in one of the coupon supplements that come with Sunday papers. (I assume nationwide, although it's possible that they're just trying to get back some of the California market, now that California is the nation's largest dairy producer...). And you can log on to their website to check coupon codes to see if you've won.

Except that, when I did so today, I got a 404 error. I guess nobody actually bothered to build the contest page...

Crackers: I've just seen--very indirectly, via PubSub--a vehement and ludicrous response to LJ Online's little April 1 piece. (No, I wasn't asked before they "quoted" me. Yes, I would have gone along with it.) And some people wonder why they're not treated seriously...I won't name names or link, because I sure don't want to give this particular blog any extra publicity. I would suggest that being totally humorless might not be an ideal qualification for participating in the blogosphere, but why bother?

Walt at Random

Blake beat me to the punch (and I wasn't actually going to propose a news story), but for both of you who read this:

Walt at Random is now live, with two (count them! 2) posts and a surprising number of early comments.

The date was deliberately chosen to match the importance of the new weblog--but rest assured, W.a.R. will still be there on April 2.

Here's what I do know about editorial policy: Walt at Random will not in any way weaken Cites & Insights.

What I don't know:

  • Whether or how the two will complement one another, or how/whether W.a.R. will complement "disContent" in EContent or "PC Monitor" in Online or...
  • How often I'll post, or what the real topical range will be, or whether this will be one of the majority of new weblogs that fades away...
  • Whether or how often I'll rotate names in and out of the sidebar links. For now, I'm deliberately only including a handful of names, and initially avoiding the "A list" of library bloggers.
  • Whether I'll achieve my goal of reaching the library "C list" level, which I place at 20+ Bloglines subscriptions. Or maybe even the "B list" (100+)...

I suspect W.a.R. will largely supplant this journal, but perhaps not entirely. We shall see.

"Policy and Library Technology" out

I just received my author's copies of Library Technology Reports 41:2 (March/April 2005), a 63-page issue on Policy and Library Technology.

I wrote this last Fall. While the ideas in it emerged out of the thinking reflected in the first four years of Cites & Insights, it's nearly all original material: A synthesis and relatively brief overview of the ways policy and library technology interact.

Obviously, I'm proud of it. It's not cheap ($63 for the individual edition), and I don't get royalties (it's an article, not a book, and I was paid up front), but I think some of you will find it worthwhile. You should be able to find out about individual-issue ordering here, or you can call the ALA Customer Service Center at 800-545-2433, press 5 for assistance.

(Don't blame me for the typography; that's LTR's design. I just wrote the text.)

Editorial change: It's actually $63 for the single copy.

Selective HTML complete for C&I Volume 4 (2004)

Selective HTML now appears for all of Cites & Insights Volume 4 (2004) as well as Volume 5 on an ongoing basis.

You'll find the links on the All Contents page.

HTML does not appear for:

  • Special issues with one big topic (or the "glossary" issue)
  • Articles that take up more than half of an issue
  • "Inside" stuff, including most Bibs & Blather, Feedback, and Following Up.

If and when selective HTML is produced for earlier volumes (more "if" than "when"), you'll hear about it on a full-volume basis.

Cites & Insights 5:5 available

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

This 24-page issue, PDF as always, includes:

  • Bibs & Blather: A little spring cleaning and the HTML story.
  • ©4: Locking Down Technology: Broadcast flag and Grokster
  • Following Up: The dangling conversation, A walking paper cluster, The hazy crystal ball, DVD oddities, and The Black Pirate in full color (sort of)
  • PC Progress, November 2004-March 2005: a dozen categories.
  • Interesting & Peculiar Products: eight in all.
  • Conference and Program Reports: EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference and one more from ALA Midwinter

HTML is here to stay, but selectively: See the home page for hotlinks.

I've done selective HTML for 4:13 through 5:5; more to follow. Watch this space or C&I Updates for announcements.

(And, in inimitable C&I fashion, the very first page refers to an essay that was moved to the next issue as part of copyfitting. It won't get fixed: once C&I is published, it stays published, goofs and all.)

Ego or not

If you're interested, YBP Library Services has just posted an interview with me on their corporate website.

Nothing earth-shattering here, but Bob Nardini's questions were interesting, and I guarantee the answers are honest.

Quick PDF notes

Two quick PDF notes, actually:

1. If you can download Acrobat Reader 7, do it. It's considerably faster and cleaner than 6, without losing any features. ("If you can" is because I've been unable to at work, for odd reasons--something about administrator privileges, which I have. While I could at home, dialup and all, with no trouble.)

2. I had planned to reconvert the first three issues of Cites & Insights v. 5 using Acrobat 7 and adding bookmarks (and text-to-speech capability, indirectly). That's not going to happen: Turns out the changes I made to the Word template to make it more "bookmark-friendly" would have the effect of throwing off the pagination in previous issues, and it's really not worth the trouble to try to fix. So It's Acrobat 7 going forward and including 5:4, but not any reconversion. (Oh well: That suits my general attitude of never changing an issue once it's published, even if there are obvious typos.)

Last chance to win little prizes...and an HTML decision

"Name Walt's [putative] blog" contest is still open, through March 12. See the original post.

I think there may be a winner, but I'm still open to even better ideas. As to the putative blog itself, probability is running 90%. I'm talking to Blake about hosting, looking at printer-friendly software alternatives, thinking about registering a domain, and all that.

If it happens, I have an introduction date already picked out that will suit the importance of the putative blog...well, you'll see.

As for the C&I HTML decision: Yes, there will be HTML versions of some (but not all) C&I articles, including (some) retrospective work. A commentary on the 36 comments I received, my internal conversation on pros and cons, and the tools initially and finally used to do this simple-minded extension will be in the next issue: It's too long now, but maybe I'll edit it down.

March 13 note: The contest is closed. I think there will be a blog. I think there will be winners (first and second prize)--although, for reasons that I'll mention when/if the blog emerges, I won't be using the winning entry(ies).

It's supposed to be exciting...

This weekend was a washout--for reasons that might have had us excited if we were younger and had different tastes.

To wit, on Saturday we sold my wife's '95 Honda Civic to her niece's boyfriend/fiancee for a fair price.

Sunday, we got her a new car. Buying a new car is supposed to be exciting, thrilling, wonderful. For us, I'm afraid, it was the whole heart of the day gone; like it or not, there doesn't seem to be any way to complete the process in less than half a day.

Consider that we pretty much knew what we were going to buy. The only cars I've ever owned (with me as the principal driver) were a '75 Honda Civic, an '89 Honda Civic DX, and my current car, a 2001 Honda Civic EX. With the exception of an unhappy divergence to an '81 Nissan Sentra (the Honda dealership we dealt with at the time was extremely offputting...), the only cars we've ever owned with my wife as principal driver were an '88 Honda Civic DX and a '95 Honda Civic EX.

Any guesses as to what we purchased?

Truth be told, we considered the Civic Hybrid a lot. Given the tax credit (that pretty much expires after this year), the net price is really only $1,000 or so more than an EX. And, for some reason, I believed that the Hybrid was an EX with a different powertrain. I'd done enough searching to recognize that we weren't going to see greatly improved mileage (we get 42-44 MPG on the highway as is, in the 2001, 25-30 in town). And since all Civics are ULEV's (ultra low emissions vehicles), the difference in pollution would be nominal: Basically, a 1.3liter VTEC engine might pollute a little less than a 1.7liter VTEC engine, but they're both incredibly clean.

Unfortunately, I was misinformed. The hybrid is based on the Civic LX, not the Civic EX--and the extra equipment in the EX is important to us. So an EX it was. 2001 was a major redesign year for the Civic; the next major redesign will probably be 2007 or 2008. Thus, the 2005 was a lot like the 2001: Same superb engine, transmission, brakes; slight differences in the grille and hood; a little extra brightwork in the interior; different gauges; and not much else. The test drive was exactly like driving the 2001.

Most of the "shopping" time was spent deciding between a silver Civic and a "mist" Civic, both exactly the same price, both exactly the same equipment. My wife preferred the mist's light interior, but two things deterred her: A high-pitched, soft whistle in the engine (pitched high enough so that neither I nor the saleman could hear it, not all that unusual) and slightly hot brakes. Both would probably go away after a few hundred miles, but...

So we now have two silver Civic EXes. Side by side, you can see that the new one's just a shade darker than the old. (My wife would have loved to buy a white car, like her '95--but there are no white 2005 Civic EXes.

We really like Honda Civics. They handle well, the EX's VTEC engine has more than enough power (and great torque), they're the most reliable cars on the road, and the 2001+ transmission is smooth. And, to be sure, they don't pollute much and they get great gas mileage (that 42-44 MPG on highway includes hills and using air conditioning all the time, and that is with automatic).

But we're not big driving fans. We buy good transportation. Yeah, I looked at the S2000 for a minute or two, but I wouldn't really want to own one of those (and where do you drive a true sports car?). So getting a new car was as much a chore as a thrill, particularly the extended process of telling the "credit manager" that no, we didn't want this extra, no, we didn't want that extension, no, they could remove the already-installed alarm, no, no, no...

We got what I believe to be a great price (about $17,500 before taxes and license fees, just over $19K out the door). Financing wasn't an issue. Otherwise, who knows how long it would take?
Now, I have to get the detailing done and change our insurance policy...

That, in considerably more than a nutshell, is why I didn't get much of any writing done this weekend.

A contest! With prizes! Long post, sorry about that

I've been staying out of the s**storm surrounding Michael Gorman's intemperate LJ op-ed piece, partly because I think some people would assume that whatever I said was an indirect attack on bloggers, partly because there's been a lot of intemperance on both sides (as well as some lovely, thoughtful essays and opinions, including one from Blake) within the Web4Lib and LITA-L group conversations. (I haven't gone to ./ or any of the other non-library areas in which this is being discussed, and don't plan to, thank you very much. Life really is too short.)

"Yeah, Walt, but you must have a reaction to Gorman's generalizations." Sure I do. Consider that most of what I make available for public consumption--publish, if you will, not including this blog lite--bypasses editorial control and traditional publishing, putting me pretty squarely in that ignorant semi-literate group of folks with nothing worthwhile to say. (I love good editing, and get it from my editors at eContent and Online, and certainly used to get great, hardnosed editing at American Libraries--but this year, even including a forthcoming Library Technology Reports issue on Policy and Library Technology, I'll publish about 40,000 words through traditional means, about 220,000 in Cites & Insights, and next year's likely to be about 14,000 traditional, about 220,0000 C&I, where there's no editorial oversight other than my own.)

My other reaction to Gorman's "satire"?

That's the contest: Name Walt's blog.

If I started up a real weblog (not just this blog lite), combining quick thoughts that might eventually turn into columns or C&I fodder, library-related (and policy-related and technology-related and media-related) stuff that would never make it into C&I, and some of the personal oddments hat come up, what should I call it?

Assume for the moment that I'll use some comment-friendly, printer-friendly software that's free, and that it would be hosted at LISHost, unless the "free and easy for idiots like me to use" need conflicts with that hosting.

Assume that it won't have daily posts and won't have loads'o'links, and that I'll be as open to comments and "conversation" as possible (but forbid anonymous comments), while necessarily retaining the right to delete spam and viciousness.

What would you call it? (And, for that matter, what hosting/software methdology should I use?)

Prizes for the best suggestion(s):

  • An autographed copy of either Being Analog or First Have Something to Say, your choice.
  • A DVD copy of an independent movie named after one of America's heartland cities, that movie having spawned an indie festival. Yours to keep, pass on, destroy...

If I get one compelling title suggestion and a separate wholly satisfactory software/hosting suggestion, a separate prize for the second suggestion would be an autographed copy of First Have Something to Say--or your choice of either book if the title winner doesn't want Being Analog.

Full disclosure: I am not committed to starting such a blog. I may well come to my senses. But Gorman's thoughts are pushing me in that direction, a direction I've been considering for some time in any case. (Yes, aggregators have something to do with that: I believe that they make "non-daily" blogs more feasible.)

Entries as comments here or as email to me, either wcc at notes.rlg.org or waltcrawford at gmail.google.com. Contest deadline March 12, 2005. No prizes if there's no suggestion that I find compelling.

3/14 addition: The contest is closed. Guess I should say that here as well.

I've concluded that there are two winners: Tangognat and Daniel.

Unfortunately, I won't be using the winning response--because it's already used by at least two other weblogs. Too bad, but I'd just as soon not add to the confusion by creating one more "Something to say" blog.

If/when my weblog does show up, the likely title is one that (according to Google) is not used anywhere on the open web--a title that appears within this set of comments, but as one of my responses. (And if one of you starts a blog with that name before I do, I'll take that as a sign from Gaia that I really should give up on the idea. Sort of like an earthquake swallowing up the proposed ISP, but non-destructive. Or maybe just as some reader being a smartass.)

Cites & Insights 5:4 available

Cites & Insights 5:4, March 2004, is now available for downloading. 22 pages, PDF as usual.

Taking Seth Finkelstein's suggestion on tabloid-style marketing to heart, here's what's included:

  • Did NIH back down to Big STM--or was this a reasonable compromise?
    Library Access to Scholarship
  • Who gets first-name treatment in C&I?
    Bibs & Blather
  • You call this a community?
    Perspective: The Dangling Conversation
  • Does anyone care about multichannel sound or ethics?
    Following Up
  • Chills, thrills, public-domain flicks
    Offtopic Perspective: Family Classics 50 Movie Pack, Part 1
  • Is a short story a book--and would you read Moby Dick on a cell phone?
    Ebooks, Etext and PoD

Beginning with this issue, Cites & Insights uses Adobe Acrobat 7 to support text-to-speech and bookmarks. You'll need at least Acrobat Reader 5, and 6 or 7 for the accessibility and organization bookmarks (7 is faster than 6).

This issue also has a few more test HTML files--the selective form that may or may not continue. These particular files should be stable indefinitely. Go to the home page to check them out.

And now that it's clear that I really, truly suck at creating tabloid-style headlines, don't expect to see them again.

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