Bibs & Blather
If you read Cites & Insights with any regularity, you might also want to subscribe to Walt at random, my 9-month-old blog (http://walt.lishost.org/).
I wouldn’t have made that suggestion last April, particularly given the blog’s description: “Libraries, music, net media, cruising, policy, and other stuff not quite ready for Cites & Insights.”
But I’ve already seen some interdependency between the blog and the ejournal, and I plan to build on that, partly for space reasons, partly for immediacy.
Ř Analysis of most popular themes and issues, and of how space has been used in previous volumes, is more likely to appear on the blog than in the journal.
Ř Some themes that begin in the journal continue as discussions in the blog (and in other blogs), sometimes making the round trip to a later journal article. Even though I continue to invite feedback and have a “publishable feedback” email address (citesandinsights at gmail.com), “letters to the editor” in a journal can’t be as conversational as comments on a semi-moderated blog.
Ř I’m more likely to toss out trial balloons in the blog than in the journal.
Ř If I do start offering specialized print-on-demand books, and maybe even tchotchkes, they’ll be announced first in the blog.
Ř Light and personal items are much more likely to appear on the blog (although I’m trying to add a little lightness here—see “My Back Pages” below).
I say “subscribe” advisedly. Posting at Walt at random is erratic (putting it charitably). I aim for two posts a week on average. That can mean four posts in one day, none for three weeks, whatever. I don’t post because I feel a need to post—at least not often. I blog because I want to say something that isn’t appropriate in this journal or isn’t quite ready for Cites & Insights.
If RSS wasn’t easy and widely accepted, I wouldn’t have started Walt at random. I knew from the start that it wouldn’t be regular enough to be a bookmark. Drop by every day and you’d unbookmark it in a week or two. I can guarantee you won’t be flooded with posts, although some posts do run long.
If my numbers and guesstimates are right, C&I has four to six times as many readers as Walt at random. That may be the right ratio. I don’t think the blog belongs in the pantheon of very widely read library blog. But I do believe regular readers might find it worthwhile to read both.
This may be another planned initiative that stalls, as some earlier planned sections in C&I have stalled, but I’ll give it a try. Beginning with this issue, and continuing whenever it makes sense and I have material and space, there will be a new PDF-only section—a bonus for those who read C&I in its entirety.
My Back Pages includes some of the items that might previously have appeared in Quicker Takes. It will include some items that would otherwise appear in Bibs & Blather, particularly those not directly concerned with C&I. I anticipate many of the items will be pointing out silly or humorous situations elsewhere, some will be pointing out truly interesting things that don’t justify more than a paragraph or two or just don’t fit into any other section, and a few will be brief editorial comments thrown into the mix. Some of these items could appear at Walt at random, and some of them may appear first in the blog.
No item in My Back Pages should be more than half a page long (400 words or so); I’m aiming for 100 to 200 words as an average. Nothing in My Back Pages will be terribly important. The section is leavening of a sort, something I feel more necessary as C&I increasingly tends to be dominated by big thematic essays.
The name and inspiration come from the final editorial pages in so many magazines (e.g. Consumer Reports and PC Magazine)— dessert for front-to-back readers, appetizer for back-to-front readers.
It’s My Back Pages because it won’t predictably be just the final page; I did that in the first few years of Trailing Edge Notes, and it’s a pain. It will be the final section in any issue in which it appears—and there won’t be an HTML version.
It won’t predictably appear in each issue any more than any other continuing section. Cynics among you might suspect one reason for the new feature is to make it easier to copyfit—there’s nothing like lots of one- to three-paragraph items, mostly not time-sensitive, when you need to get the issue to drop back to an even-numbered set of nearly-full pages. Cynics would be right: That is a reason, but not the only one.
It’s been a long time since I made personal New Year’s Resolutions and I don’t plan to start now. But I have had a tendency to offer blather about where C&I is going at the start of each new volume. How has that turned out?
Ř Volume 2 (2002): I planned to aim for 16-page issues, hoped to cite important articles as soon as possible, and planned to include “at least one ‘PC-related’ feature each issue” while doing Review Watch, Product Watch, and PC Values less frequently. Results? I managed four 16-page issues—but published 15 issues that year to make up for it. Review Watch and PC Values became PC Group Reviews which became PC Progress, and PC Values disappeared. About two-thirds of the issues had something related to PCs. Call that about 50% success (or less).
Ř Volume 3 (2003): A serious reader survey yielded 95 responses. Based on those responses, I aimed for a “baker’s dozen” of issues (13 rather than 15), planned to have The Good Stuff, The Library Stuff, Bibs & Blather, at least one Perspective, and Trends & Quick Takes appear in most issues, and planned to continue strong copyright coverage while cutting back on ebooks/etext and filtering and way back on the frequency of PC Group Reviews. Results? 14 issues; 9 The Good Stuff; 8 The Library Stuff; 12 Bibs & Blather; at least one Perspective in 13 issues; 8 Trends & Quick Takes; at least one copyright-related piece in 8 issues; 2 ebooks/etext; one censorware; one PC Progress (replacing PC Group Reviews). The best I’ve done carrying out a volume plan—but it was difficult to sustain, made it difficult to do in-depth perspectives, and couldn’t last.
Ř Volume 4 (2004): I suggested more variable intervals between issues and “lumpier” issues, abandoning the 20-page limit (held throughout 2003) as too restraining. I planned monthly issues plus thematic special issues. Other than that (and hoping to restore “more personal essays”—I wasn’t ready to start a blog), no particular promises. Results? 100% success—because I didn’t promise much.
Ř Volume 5 (2005): I invited conference reports as an ongoing feature, noted why I was avoiding a formal commentary on Google Library Project, and called this the “end of the experiment” (C&I had been labeled as an experiment up to that point). No promises as to changes in emphasis, length, frequency or anything like that. Results? Three issues had conference reports, but never many; it appears that direct conference blogging serves people’s reporting needs. I dropped that initiative. And, of course, I certainly did wind up commenting on Google Library Project, but within a broader context. Zero out of two—but a strong year that saw net media come on strong as an ongoing theme.
For this volume I’m taking the only course assured of reasonable success: No year’s resolutions. I plan to keep doing C&I, and hope to keep making it better. These aren’t promises, but modest expectations: No fewer than 12 and no more than 30 pages per issue; no fewer than 12 and no more than 16 issues; continued foci on copyright and net media without abandoning other interesting areas. Maybe another reader’s survey toward the end of the year; maybe not.
Six years seems to be Crawford’s Guideline for the longevity needed to consider a refereed ejournal to be a success (even if it ceases after that point). While this will never be a refereed or scholarly journal, I do plan to exceed Crawford’s Guideline.
If you’re a GOBI user, remember there will be a meeting at 4 p.m. on Saturday during ALA Midwinter, followed by a reception. YBP will send you location information or have it at their booth. I plan to be at part of the reception; see you there!
If you’re still around Monday evening, there will be a very informal get-together of a few C&I readers at 5 p.m. on Monday. I should have a location posted on Walt at random some time in early January, certainly before Midwinter itself. (Maybe the historic bar at the Menger?) No-host drinks (that is, you buy your own); a little conversation. No program. No pressure.
As I write this, it’s December 16, 2005. I’ve said elsewhere that I didn’t plan a January issue until very late in the month, probably the last week of the year—and that, as a direct consequence, I didn’t plan an extra Midwinter issue coming out just before the ALA Midwinter Meeting.
Also as I write this, I’ve been increasingly interested in the fuss around “Library 2.0”—a term I don’t remember reading before a month or two ago. Interested enough that a special “Library 2.0” folder sitting on my desk at home has 42 (count them, forty-two) printouts relating to that term (one of them indirectly). A head’s-up for Library 2.0 gurus: If you’re pushing open models and alternatives, one thing you might do is either choose blogging software that supports printing of long posts on Firefox, not just IE, or tweak your IE-centric software (think Six Apart’s products, but also Blogger) so it’s less hostile to alternative browsers and people who like to reflect on your essays. (Yes, Michael S., I do mean you among a shrinking number of others. If the “collected principles” are hot stuff, shouldn’t it be possible for all browser users to print them without cutting-and-pasting into Word or NotePad?)
You know I’m not going to read, annotate, and absorb that much material without saying something about it. I just trashed several months of collected The Good Stuff candidates because I find such isolated annotations a lot less interesting these days. I’d rather spend the energy and space on something that combines notes on other sources with added value from my own thoughts and synthesis. I suspect Library 2.0 is such a case. I also suspect I’ll need quite a few hours to make sense of it all and relate it to history as appropriate (even the great Roy Tennant didn’t really mean we should ignore history, just that we shouldn’t be trapped by it). (I also think I may already have commented on what’s now being called Library 2.0; that’s another question.)
Here’s the thing: As I write this, I have just over 19,000 words of first-draft material in seven different sections. My experience is that I can usually cut about 10% of the text during editing, maybe a little more during copyfitting. That leaves a 22 to 24 page issue without Library 2.0.
So it’s possible that I’ll be wrong on all counts: That the first 2006 issue will appear before Christmas, that it won’t include anything about Library 2.0 (other than this blather), and that there might be a pre-Midwinter issue. Isn’t planning wonderful?
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