Books, Inq.: Regarding blogging …

Books, Inq.: Regarding blogging …

I have posted euphorically before about the benefits of blogging. Frank Wilson, in the wake of the Army of Davids, has written a lovely post in his usual succinct and pertinent manner, about why blogging is so great.

This is "it" — the 43 (the meaning of life to those who haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) — " blogs are extraordinarily helpful in linking those with a community of interests to each other. No coercion, no top-down organization. It just happens. "

That’s it.

Thanks, Frank. (And thanks also to Dave Lull, who is included in Frank’s posting, for his perceptive comments on the same theme, and for telling me about "place-ism".)

James Aach said…

Blogs are valuable in providing an outlet for diverse opinions. I’ve also found it helpful as a alternative to the mainstream publishing industry. As noted in a recent commentary in Nature magazine, publishers seem to shun fiction which accurately portrays science. Blogs allow for the posting of this kind of work, a way to advertise it via "word of blog", and a chance to get some reader feedback. There’s no money in it, but the many positive reader comments I’ve gotten about my insider novel of nuclear power have been worth the effort. It’s certainly better than "self-publishing" the old fashioned way and just handing out a few copies to friends.


[The Nature commentary can be found at I have a commentary about my experiences and decision to go blogging at the same site. My novel is at my blog address – see the reader comments and endorsements at the homepage].

3:03 AM

Maxine said…

Thanks for this fascinating comment. I am actually an editor on Nature, and though I did not handle that article I did help to develop it into the final published version. I think it is a nice piece and makes a good point (as you do).
I am going to look at the lablit site and at your novel info.
Thank you very much.

9:34 PM

The Wal-Mart Blogger Conspiracy

Marquette Warrior: The New York Times and the Great Wal-Mart Blogger Conspiracy

I’m no fan of Wal-Mart, for one reason only, though, based on evidence rather than hearsay. On one of Malcolm’s trips to the US he bought a phone card, as it happened, a Wal-Mart card. When he’d finished his call, a computer voice intoned "press 1 to donate your unused units to support the US troops in Iraq" (I haven’t got the exact wording right, but you get the drift). I hadn’t heard before of such a clever way to get funds, as there must be many people who buy phone cards while visiting a country who have unused units when they leave it. But I was outraged at the use to which the function had been put, not least because there wasn’t a "press 2 to donate to the anti-war effort" option. And it would have been better anyway to have had a charity donation message instead of a political one.

I am ambivalent about the Great Supermarket Debate, so not sure what to think about Wal-Mart on that one. I know I have used Ocado (UK internet supermarket in partnership with Waitrose) every week since it started to do the family food shop — which makes me guilty of various politically correct no-nos but does mean I don’t waste 3 hours of my life each week on a menial task and can use my brain to do something instead, even if I do get the odd cracked egg or squashed tomato in my shopping and have probably supported the building of some vast shed somewhere at the cost of n village shops. (But having lived in several villages during my life, these aren’t all they are cracked up to be either.)

I digress. I did like this post linked to above, which I discovered via Instapundit (whose rss I’ve now subscribed to since this Army of Davids thing — Instapundit appears to be a blog and a blog aggregator based on one day’s inspection). The Wal-Mart post is a nice mix of various controversies of the marketing and liberal scene, told in dry personal style.

Interestingly in view of the poor World Weary Detective (previous posting), the Wal-Mart posting is on a blog called the Marquette Warrior , whose mission statement includes the words: "We are here to provide an independent, rather skeptical view of events at Marquette University. This site has no official connection with Marquette University. Indeed, when University officials find out about it, they will doubtless want it shut down."

Hope not, it’s a good read (on day 1 anyway. I’ll vote with my "unsubscribe from bloglines" finger in future if not). And long live bloggers doing what WWD and Marquette Warrior are doing.

World Weary Detective

World Weary Detective: This is the End

A sad day for World Weary Detective, a Met detective whose blog is described, in his own words, as: " A view of life from the thin layer between you and the underclass". In a posting entitled "This is the end", he writes:

"On Friday 3rd March 2006, the Management Board of the Metropolitan Police Service issued the following statement to all members of staff:

‘Recently the organisation has become aware of a series of web-logs or blogs – where authors – claiming to be police officers – have offered their views on a number of issues in a highly personalised, often controversial manner.’

This statement is followed by ‘guidance’ on writing blogs. In summary, this states that although ‘blogging’ cannot be stopped, the ‘impact of expressing views and opinions that are damaging to the organisation or bring the organisation into disrepute’ must be considered. Disciplinary proceedings may be considered against posters of material that may be (among other things) defamatory, offensive or otherwise inappropriate."

I have committed no crime. I have compromised no police operations. I have received no payment for anything published on this blog. All opinions expressed are my own.

It is therefore with deep regret and great sadness that I must announce that I will no longer be submitting posts to this blog. I cannot challenge New Scotland Yard. I am weary indeed and cowardice is my bedmate. The protection of my family must take precedence.

To each and every one of you – take note of what has happened here and be afraid.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever. – George Orwell ."

There are plenty of nice farewell comments to this post, expressions of solidarity, etc.

I wonder whether other organisations will be following suit, or if indeed I am out of date and the Met is doing what others have done already.

(note, I think WWD is a "he" from previous posts I have read, but apologies if not.)

Dave Lull said…

I think this has been going on for some time, at least in the U.S., and sometimes a blogger’s been fired. One who was even coined a term that’s gained some currency:

docced (one of seven listings):

<<2. dooced

Getting fired because of something that you wrote in your weblog.

"Blogger Heather B. Armstrong coined the phrase in 2002, after she was fired from her Web design job for writing about work and colleagues on her blog,"[*] (Source:

["]Last October, Delta Air Lines flight attendant Ellen Simonetti was fired, she said, for what her supervisor called a misuse of uniform. Simonetti had posted on her personal blog, Queen of Sky (now called Diary of a Fired Flight Attendant), pictures of herself, in her uniform, on an empty plane. Her blog also contained thinly veiled work stories.["**]

(Yahoo! News)>>

*Ms Armstrong even has a number of postings archived under the category docced.

**Ms Simonetti’s story can be found here.

5:44 PM

Maxine said…

Thank you, Dave, it is a salutary tale.

9:55 PM

Army of Davids

Frank Wilson at Books, Inq. has been writing for a while about Glenn Reynolds’ (aka Instapundit) book Army of Davids. Frank has now reviewed the book (and interviewed the author by podcast); see Books, Inq.: My review …. for links to the review and interview.

The book is about why I love the Internet, Web and Weblogs: "Where before journalists and pundits could bloviate atleisure, offering illogical analysis or citing ‘facts’ that were infact false, now the Sunday morning op-eds have already been dissectedon a Saturday night, within hours of their appearing on newspapers’websites."

So I’ve cracked and ordered a copy of the hardback from Amazon UK. It will take 1-3 weeks to get to me, says Amazon, so will be a while before I read and digest it. It sounds better than David Vise’s "The Google story", the last Internet book I read.

I liked the first half of the Google story, about the origins and early days of Google, but went off it in the last part when it became a series of press clippings about the stock market flotation and development of the business. My interest in this topic concerns the ideas and content, not the business side. Reynolds’ book sounds up my street from what Frank writes, so I am looking forward to receiving it.

"….the Web,Wi-Fi and Google didn’t develop and spread because somebody at the Bureau of Central Knowledge Planning planned them. They developed…from the uncoordinated activities of individuals."


Bestselling author Maeve Binchy:

"I’m as proud as anything to be called an airport novelist: how great that somebody should want to take one of my books as a companion on a journey. I don’t write to impress people. My intention is to carry them along by saying that first one thing happened and then another. People everywhere love stories and want to hear about hopes, dreams, disappointments, misunderstandings, rewards, loss — the human lot. That’s why I’m so glad to be part of Quick Reads, an initiative designed to get adults who are reluctant readers back into this wonderful and rewarding habit."

Star Sullivan is the title of Maeve Binchy’s Quick Read book.

(See my earlier posting on World Book Day, which mentions this initiative.)

Design icons

London Underground Tube Diary – Going Underground’s Blog

The UK Design Museum has got to the final part of their quest to find Britain’s transport-related "top British design icon". The three finalists are Concorde, Supermarine Spitfire and the London Underground map. (Sadly, the Routemaster bus does not seem to have made it.)

The winner will be announced at 7 p.m. on BBC2 TV on 16 March, says the London Underground Blog. In the interim, you can vote by going to the link above.

Click, download, publish

Guardian Unlimited Books News Click, download, publish

POD (print on demand) seems to be taking off. According to Victor Keegan:

"Self-publishing enables anyone to upload a book in digital form to a website, which then formats it complete with a cover. It costs anything from £4.50 (single proof of one book) to more than £500 for full personalised involvement of the publishing house at all stages, from starting up to getting a link to Amazon."

Victor’s article is about his experiences after he was contacted by POD publishing companies after writing a column about his attempts to publish a book. It is clear that self-publishing by this method is a real option nowadays — though not, of course, if you are looking for J K Rowling’s level of sales.

Among many other things, this type of self-publishing certainly has implications for the scholarly publishing industry, which makes significant profits by publishing reprints of articles for authors — not always very efficiently or cost-effectively for the author. I wonder if authors will now start producing their own reprint collections, maybe from a variety of journals, if copyright agreements let them.

Many publishers of journals have abandoned copyright in favour of publication licences which give the publisher exclusive re-use rights but leave copyright with the author. Even this level of publisher control over content may turn out to be untenable in this era of open-access. Newtypes of publisher are cropping up, offering more benefits to authors. (At the moment, they cannot offer the crucial carrot of "high impact factor", but this may be only a matter of time). Research institutions are mandating the deposition of published articles by authors they employ and/or fund into various kinds of online archives. Google scholar is, if nothing else at all, the way by which all these diverse publishing fora can be searched in one place.

Stop press: there is a posting on Booksquare about the Guardian article and POD/self-publishing, linking to an earlier article on the topic on its own blog.