Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 7, Number 2: February 2007

Following Up and Feedback

Twenty Things

Laura Cohen (Library 2.0: An academic’s perspective) offers clarifications regarding my comments about “Twenty things I want to ask our users” in Cites & Insights 7.1:

I’d just like to point out that my suggestions for “Twenty Things I Want to Ask Our Users” were not meant to be final wording, and certainly not meant to be asked all at one time and in one way. I’m not sure why you interpreted my entry as suggesting this. Also, asking about student blogging is important in my institution because we are considering setting up a campus-wide blogging project along the lines of the University of Minnesota’s UThink project. Before you offer a service, first check out the need, eh? I’m sure you noticed that some of the questions were specific to my institution.

While it was not my intent to suggest I thought Cohen intended to ask all the questions at one time, I can see my wording was open to interpretation—as was her post. My apologies for the misinterpretation.


Justine Roberts sent a lengthy comment regarding my suggestion that it’s easy and cheap to backup to CDs and DVDs. The comment arrived last June—and got lost in my paperwork. Roberts’ point, spelled out in a detailed tale of woe, is that CD and DVD backups don’t always work—in her experience, DVDs have been particularly problematic. Some of the burning software has clumsy user interfaces, but the real problem is backups with unreadable or corrupt files.

I won’t run the whole comment at this point; things have changed since then. My own experience with using CD-R backups has been good (fortunately infrequent!), but I can’t speak for others. “Good” needs to be qualified. I mostly burn audio CDs, and I know that audio CDs used in a car radio can become damaged, particularly if the car sits in the hot sun with the CD in the player.

But I also ran into unusually poor results for a while—and finally a situation where the CD burner wouldn’t read a pressed CD. This was a $30 el cheapo replacement for the burner that came with my 4.5-year-old Gateway, when that burner stopped working after two or three years (the laser died).

This time—about a year ago—I decided to go for a name brand, which was also a DVD burner as well as CD burner. Fortunately, high-rated name brands have gotten so much cheaper that I still only spent $60 or $70. The CDs I burn seem to be lasting very well. This inclines me to believe that the cheapo burner had been marginal from day one, burning CD-Rs that were barely within spec.

Moral? Maybe none—but if you’re having loads of trouble with unreadable CD-Rs and DVD+-Rs, the problem may be with the drive itself, not the media. A DVD burner is a highly complex bit of precision engineering; maybe it should cost more than $30 or $40.

 “C&I is Not a Blog”

John Dupuis (Confessions of a science librarian) sent me email that I thought deserved wider distribution; he consented to have it used as feedback.

I just want to add my voice to those who’ve already thanked you for the thought provoking essay on Blogging in the most recent C&I.

It’s particularly thought provoking for me right now because I’m working on a presentation for the Ontario Library Association annual conference in January about librarians (and other library people) using blogs for professional development. As a result, I’m thinking alot these days about why we blog. Do we (i.e. library people in general and me in particular) do it so we can be popular and have a lot of friends? Do we do it so we can be seen as experts and movers-and-shakers? Do we do it to force ourselves to think about important issues, to learn from and share our thoughts with our colleagues? Obviously, I’m promoting the latter.

But it’s hard to deny that most of us would like to be at least a little of the former two; I certainly check my stats in extremedm, Google Analytics and technorati on a fairly regular basis and I’ve certainly made an effort to post more frequently and, hopefully, more thoughtfully in the last couple of months in a kind of experiment to see if the stats go up. (A little so far)

So, my dilemma and what I think ties into your essay: What to I encourage my audience at the conference to do? I certainly plan to encourage them to read and comment on blogs, but do I encourage them to start their own without creating the expectation that they’ll all be a-listers in a matter of months? It can be done, an impact can happen very quickly. I think Meredith Farkas shot to the top fairly quickly and Laura Cohen seems to be making an impact with a newish blog, but those are certainly exceptions to the rule. Looking at the 500+ blogs that LISZEN covers and the experience you had this past spring/summer, there’s also an awful lot of blogs that aren’t getting a lot of readership.

The expectation I would like to create when I encourage people to start to blog is that they should do it to enrich their own understanding of the field, to use the writing process to help themselves understand and explore issues important to them, to prod themselves into reading more professional literature and reacting to it actively rather than reading it passively. With this idea, any impact & popularity is a bonus. That’s certainly how I started, and though I’m weirdly fascinated by my own modest popularity and impact, I’ve certainly not done an awful lot to promote my own blog or to hunt down promotional/speaking engagements. A good example is my newest blog (yes, I have 3). I started a new cooking blog a couple of months ago to compliment my existing CoaSL and my Reading Diary. Well, within those few short weeks, I’m getting as many hits on the cooking blog as on the reading diary, which has been going for a couple of years. Does this mean I’m a better cook than book reviewer? Or that more people care about food than books? I’m sure there’s a lesson to us all in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what. (The other two blogs are imaginatively URLed and )

Anyways, thanks for helping me focus and deepen my own explorations of why we blog and what we should expect to get out of it.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 7, Number 2, Whole Issue 86, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, a senior analyst at OCLC.

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