We have all read articles by authors who are not happy about reviews of their books, but I have great sympathy with Brian Clegg, author of The Global Warming Survival Kit and many other titles besides, on this particular occasion. One of Brian's gripes is that, as authors so often say in his position, the reviewer does not seem to have read the book. Brian has various pieces of evidence for this, but the most incontrovertible is that the review "says at one point Clegg offers tips on how to prepare a worm sandwich. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the text about worm sandwiches. There is a section with a heading Worm sandwiches – and that seems to be as far as he has read."
By the way, as well as being the author of many books, Brian runs the Popular Science website, which I can highly recommend, as well as his entertaining and frequently informative blog Popsci.You can learn useful things, for example that you can buy 2Gb of mobile phone memory via Amazon for 99p, or you can choose to pay £20 for the same thing at a "High Street retailer".
Reactions of three groups of typical readers to a web redesign (in this case, Dilbert.com):
"The first group is the ultra-techies who have an almost romantic relationship with technology. For them, the new site felt like getting dumped by a lover. Their high-end technology (generally Linux) and security settings made much of the site inconvenient. Moreover, the use of Flash offended them on some deep emotional level.
The second group objected to the new level of color and complexity, and the associated slowness. They like their Dilbert comics simple, fast, and in two colors. Anything more is like putting pants on a cat.
The third group uses technology as nothing more than a tool, and subscribes to the philosophy that more free stuff is better than less free stuff. That group has embraced the new features on the site and spiked the traffic stats."
I think Scott Adams missed the group that are never satisfied with anything. They weren't satisfied with the old design and don't like the new either, for all kinds of reasons which they provide in exhaustive and exhausting detail (and, probably, with great pleasure). Maybe he doesn't get those kinds of visitors.
The British Library story rumbles on. This is what my favourite Times columnist, Richard Morrison, had to say about it, with his ever-fresh, "common cultural man" perspective:
The extraordinary newfound popularity of the British Library among undergraduates racing to finish their dissertations – or simply using the place as an upmarket pick-up joint – has supposedly made life difficult for other users. But there's a simple answer to the Reading Room's overcrowding crisis. The BL is open for just 58 hours a week. Indeed, only on Tuesdays does it stay open after 6. But I seem to recall that there are 168 hours in a week. Yes, I am making an outrageous suggestion – but I'm also serious. The BL should turn itself into a 24/7 operation.
Why not? The prospect of studying in total peace through the night would appeal to many scholars. Quite a few are night owls anyway. And the BL can hardly complain that it doesn't have the staff or money to stay open all hours. It employs more than 2,000 people. And it owes us. We taxpayers forked out £500 million to build it, and now pay well over £100 million a year to keep it going.
If my local Tesco can manage to stay open all night without a penny of subsidy, the BL should be offering at least as good a service to the long-suffering public.
Makes sense to me.