Books, blogs and libraries

The evolution of the Internet proceeds at such a pace that I accumulate too many bookmarks without enough time to read them properly. I have quite a few of these at the moment gathering the web equivalent of dust, and probably will not have time to absorb them before the next week starts. So I will post a few links here without too much of my personal view on them, just to note them.

  • Regular users of Flickr (such as my younger daughter Jenny) will have noticed a lot of changes to the site. The details are explained in numerous posts on blogs, but this one is a pretty good summary, with helpful screen shots. Flickr is an excellent photo-sharing and tagging website. I was dead chuffed the other day to be selected as a contact by Tribe of the very cool blog (content and design). My first case of cross-platform spillover!
  • One of those mobile debates going on in the navel-gazing part of the blogosphere is the question of "what makes a blog a blog"? Again, I am not too sure which link to give, but this one provides a summary of the five key aspects along with 30 (at time of posting) comments, so healthy debate too. Quick crib to the answers: Ease of publishing, discoverability ("pings"), conversationality (trackback), linkability (permalinks) and syndication (rss). Don’t forget I’m just the messenger, it was not me who did not include "content".
  • Liz (M. E.) Strauss at Successful Blog today features a showcase of 12 blogs. All are different, and the author of each one has provided a brief paragraph to summarise the blog, as well as some words for Liz’s readers. Worth checking out just to see some of the eclectic subjects people blog about. Oh, and you can also apply to have your blog in next weekend’s showcase. And, by the way, Brandywine Books is one of this week’s SOB awards (see Liz’s site for explanation of term! Petrona is a past winner.) Wonder if Phil and Lars will think that SOB logo is their cup of tea and, if so, be able to get it to display on their blog? Then I can ask them how they did it.
  • Some people may find this hard to believe, but apparently 6 or 12 months after starting a blog it is quite common to feel that you have said everything that you have to say about your niche. Should you find yourself in this position, the ever-resourceful Darren Rowse (Problogger) has a strategy. it is certainly true that the statistics one often reads about the number of blogs that exist are misleading. Most blogs are not regularly updated and stop after about 3 months. My own feeling is that if you have kept going for that long, you probably will continue, especially if you have by then made contact with other bloggers and are exchanging views. If you were at risk of drying-up, this interactive process leads to no shortage of ideas of topics to post about (particularly if you make contact with Dave Lull at some point on your travels!)
  • When only the glib will win, we all will lose. This post, on Creating Passionate Users, is my oldest bookmarked link, dating from 5 April. Since then, it has attracted a dozen or so trackbacks and more than 50 comments. Kathy Sierra says: "In way too many meetings, the fastest talkers win. And by "fastest talkers", I mean those who are the first to articulate an idea, challenge, issue, whatever. Too many of us assume that if it sounds smart, it probably is, especially when we aren’t given the chance to think about it. The problem is, the guy with the "gut feeling"–the one who senses that something’s not right, but has no idea how to explain it, let alone articulate it on the spot–might be right. Too bad, though, because the glib usually rule." Kathy advises use of the phrase "I have some concerns, but I need a little time before I can articulate them", and urges managers to respect that attitude. I suspect she is over-optimistic in the real world of companies, but do have a look at her "glib continuum", about trying to get to the bottom of the "gut feeling" about the rightness or wrongness of an idea, rather than rushing to sell something because it sounds good. Whether or not Kathy’s advice is practically useful in a business context (I am not convinced that it is), it is a sensible piece of writing.
  • Gentlemen Prefer PDFs is the silly title of a posting on O’Reilly Radar. Nevertheless, the post itself, about one of O’Reilly’s book-publishing programmes (as they call it), is interesting: "Based on a little less than 3 months of data, we see that of the customers who’ve bought Rough Cuts, 60% chose the PDF-only option; 36% chose the bundle of PDF plus print book, and only 4% chose to pre-order the print book only." More readers are choosing PDF-only, so the marginal costs of providing print editions are going up, which means that either printed books will get more expensive, or fewer of them (ie best sellers only) will be published. However, bear in mind the type of book being talked about. I think these Rough Cuts are pretty specialist technical books (as they are published by O’Reilly), and furthermore, if I recall when they were announced, they are very "cutting edge" so likely to date quickly. I think their readership is probably more biased towards the PDF type than the readership of, say, fiction. Hope so, anyway. The post is worth reading, ditto the ton of comments.
  • Last link today is a post on Library Stuff about libraries and the ‘long tail’. In it is this anecdote: "I had an interesting conversation with someone a few weeks ago (can’t remember who). We were talking about Amazon/libraries and he/she said: "Buying a used book on Amazon is sometimes cheaper and faster than getting it via ILL…and it’s delivered right to your house!"  "

Judging books by covers

Just trying out this TypePad "quickpost" facility, which I can’t get onto my toolbar but can into my bookmarks, so that’s a start. I’m linking here to a "bookclub" on Bibliophile Bookpen. The selctions in the linked post are: "Drinking, Smoking and Screwing" but, wait for it, subtitle "Great writers on good times"; and "Lying, Cheating and Stealing", subtitle "Great writers on getting what you want when you want it".

From a Library Journal review of the former title, on Amazon.com (link on Bibliophile Bookpen post): "This collection of 24 poems, essays, short stories, and excerpts from novels written between 1917 and 1986 has been put together to show readers that there was a time when Americans enjoyed drinking, smoking, and screwing rather than worrying, as do many writers in the 1990s, about how these activities threaten their health." All sounds fine up to this point, but sadly the review continues:  "However, though many selections are amusing, most stress the problems and frustrations that result from these activities rather than the joy."

For the second title, here is an excerpt from the (unattributed) Amazon review: "This deviously inspiring plunge mto the netherworld of grifters, fibbers, shysters, and scam artists finally settles the score. With over twenty-five page-turning excerpts from this century’s wildest and most entertaining American writers ……. Lying, Cheating & Stealing brings back the days when getting rich and getting even were more important than multitasking, working out, and recycling. This priceless collection will remind everyone how good it feels to get what you want — in bed, in the bank, and just in the nick of time. Bad boys and girls rejoice! Once again revenge is sweet, cheaters prosper, and nice guys finish last. "

Sadly again, this is probably pubisher’s blurb. There is only one customer review on Amazon, which says: "I wanted this book to be cool, I really did. The truth is that it’s a faker. It looks cool, it sounds cool, it smells cool; but this book is not the fun, edgy collection of essay, prose, and short stories it should have been."

Oh well, the titles are good!

Link: Bibliophile Bullpen: Bullpen Bathroom Bookclub Vol 8.