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Name that Blog December 21, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, bookmooch, Books, Constructivism, Education, Hipster PDA, how to, librarything, lifehack, Lowell, luck or time, Market Research, Massachusetts Drivers, Origami, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0, writing.
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Davidbdale brought to my attention yesterday, late at night, when I had already had a particularly difficult day, the fact that there is a blog called “as a blog returns to its vomit” which is run by a pastor, somewhere in the Midwest, probably.  Why did this bring me even lower?  Well, david saw this blog, which does not even have an open comment thread, in WordPress’s list of fast-growing blogs and thought that it was mine.  (No, david, mine’s the blog that’s hardly growing at all.)  And it bothered me because I really should have thought about the name a little more before I started this thing, and I should have checked for others using the name, or variants thereof.

In an earlier post I said that I was thinking about making some changes to this thing, more drastic ones than the accretive ones and annoying changes of backgrounds and themes that I normally make.  Well, let’s add a name change to the list.  The name of this blog doesn’t really reflect the content of the site, or the community that reads it, or really anything important.  And pastor whatever-his-name-is seems to have gotten the name first anyway (in March, I think.)

So I am changing the name temporarily to Pro Tempore (another nod to davidbdale, who needles me about my use of Latin).  This will not affect any links that you have made to this blog.  They will still appear as the original name and will still link here, because I am not changing the URL.  But as the name implies, this is a temporary measure.  I would really like some suggestions as to what to call this thing going forward (accordingly, I have tagged it with most of the tag categories I normally use, so that people who read this tag-surfing will get a chance to chime in here.)

So, tell me what to call this blog.  The prize will be, I don’t know yet.  Suggest something for that too.  I’d like to hear from everybody who reads it.  That means you too, Mom, Dad.  And I’d particularly like to hear from those of you with descriptive names that seem to work so well for your blogs.  That would be davidbdale, whose blog name describes exactly the content of his site, as does strugglingwriter’s, prairie flounder’s and some of the others on my blogroll.

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Books and LibraryThing IV December 13, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, librarything, Market Research, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0.
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A little addendum to the last post.  Apparently Mr. Tim Spaulding is the Founder of LibraryThing.  Crikey!

Books and LibraryThing III December 13, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, librarything, Market Research, My other blog, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0.
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Tim Spaulding of LibraryThing writes:

“Well, why not just have LT add a field for putting that sort of data in, so that it can come up with percentages for personality types, signs and so forth. *Tagging* should be about the book, not the tagger. The tagger’s metadata resides one level up, right?”

I am deeply flattered that Tim, who apparently works at LibraryThing, would comment on my post.  I’m not at all sure what that bit about residing “one level up” means, because I am primarily a user of other peoples’ data.  This means that most of my databases are something I create by stringing together data from a wide variety of different sources, splicing them with available key variables and demographic data.  But Tim does pose an interesting question in the rest of it, to which I’d like to respond.

My offhand response, formulated while in the shower this morning, was going to be “well, Tim, companies, in my experience, just don’t move quickly enough to make that sort of change.  It would take quite a while, I imagine, to get LibraryThing to take note of the advantages of doing anything different.”  That obviously doesn’t make any sense, in this case, because this is clearly a company that moves quickly and thinks deeply about things, too.  And to add a field for this sort of thing might be a good way for LibraryThing to go about this sort of tagging.  I’d be happy to remove my tags and place them in the profile section, I guess, if LibraryThing would rather do it that way. 

But I disagree that tagging should be about the book and not the tagger.  One of the advantages of tagging is that it says as much about the perspectives of the tagger as it does about the book.  Tagging is about both, and more.  For example, I just finished reading Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series of books.  I could tag the books as science fiction, but that information is already coded in their LC and Dewey numbers, which LibraryThing makes available to us (and thank you, LibraryThing, for doing that.)  But later today I will tag them with some other tags that reflect my use of these books.  I am interested in these books because they show how libertarian science fiction novelists dealt with racial tension during the 1960s and 1970s.  In that respect they are similar to Robert Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold.  They also play with the idea of free will and predestination, possible absorption of the soul into a godhead, that sort of stuff.  So I’ll tag them with something about some Hindu ideas, like Samsara, or Atman and Brahman.  I’m currently reading Greg Bear’s Blood Music, which somebody told me is about nanotechnology.  It is not, but Bear’s vision of absorption into a larger community and the loss of individuality forms one of the recurring themes of Farmer’s book.  If I tag Bear’s book with the tag “Riverworld,” is this information about Bear’s book, my perception of Bear’s book, my perception of Farmer’s book, or Farmer’s book? 

When I was in graduate school I read Carlo Ginsburg’s marvelous The Cheese and the Worms.  Ginzburg studied the court proceedings of a trial of the Italian (if I remember correctly) Inquisition.  Now the court records recounted trial proceedings and the responses of the accused heretic.  But Ginzburg managed to pull from these records a story about how a 15th Century miller viewed cosmology–that’s what the records were about to him.  But to their writers they were about proper procedure.  Ginzburg’s book, to me, is about historical method, cultural studies, reader-response criticism, and that sort of thing.  If I tag the book this way, I am intruding sharply into your book-centered vision for tagging, aren’t I?

It seems to me that tags reflect information about a book, but also invariably reflect the reader’s ideas about what the book is about, which is a slightly more distant relationship, logically and grammatically, but often even more useful.

Take an example from Flickr, to simplify the discussion a little.  People assign tags to pictures based on what they think is important in a picture.  Maybe you take a picture of a bridge, but other people tag it “purple” because that’s what they are interested in.  If a lot of people use that tag, then more and more of the information stored in that tag represents a weird societal interest in the color purple, rather than the fact that the picture has purple in it.  The more people fixate on that, the more of the tag’s information reflect’s taggers’ interests.  Perhaps this weird societal interest in purple will go away in a little while; maybe it is just a fad.  If the information about people’s interest in purple is only in their profile, it is not stored with the date information about when they were interested in purple.  Placing it in a profile fixes it in time and space.  Well, I guess I didn’t simplify anything with that example.  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that tags contain both information about users and about the thing they are using, whether a book, a picture, a website, or whatever. 

But there is something else I am trying to get across, and that is that while LibraryThing is very responsive, clearly, to its user community, other companies aren’t necessarily.  Why not go into my Flickr account and tag pictures I like with my personality as well?  Why not do the same in my del.icio.us account for websites I like?  If users have to have companies create a database field every time they want to record personal information, it makes signing up for new accounts a little onerous, doesn’t it (warning, possible startup company idea)?

And unless LT allows people to include what might be termed “profile tags” in their profile (eg.: Capricorn, Masochist, Chocolate Lover) and search these tags right along with the tags these users applied to books, it would be pretty limiting.  Will LT Do that?  It would be really, really cool. 

SPSS will make you go blind November 17, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Market Research, Other, statistical analysis, Uncategorized.
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I don’t usually complain about this stuff.  I asked for it, after all.   I wanted to be doing more quantitative stuff at work.  But I have spent about an hour this morning looking at this little tiny window in SPSS trying to parse out these variables from a data map. 

Why does it take so long?  It takes so long because version 14 of SPSS seems to hate the technicians who do this sort of job, I guess.  Theoretically you are supposed to be able to look at the line numbers and simply click between variables to set up the import.  But the line numbers on the tiny screen jumble together, so by the thirtieth variable you have no markers by which you may steer.  So you have to count, if it is a complicated set of data (see picture below.)

blind.jpg

In high school I briefly explored the idea of being a bank teller, taking a ROP program class in that career for one long day.  Turns out I am pretty good with complicated sorts of math and computers and such.  Turns out I can’t count a bunch of numbers and end up with the same total twice in a row.  I flunked the math test they gave us that day and was so mortified that I couldn’t return.  At first I wouldn’t even believe my score.  I thought that somebody had switched tests on me or something. 

National Novel Writing Month Begins Tomorrow October 31, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Market Research, NaNoWriMo 2006, Other, writing.
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It all starts in just a few hours; November is National Novel Writing Month.  I will be serializing my novel, as I write it, on this space and then testing the parameters of the “Long Tail” by marketing it here as well. 

Here’s the deal:

  1. If you like what you see, you can get the novel I am writing by going to Bookmooch and sending me a credit.  Don’t have a Bookmooch account?  Get one here.  Maybe I’ll order one of your books.  By the way, I chose Bookmooch instead of paperbackswap for this only because I have a large number of paperbackswap credits and very few Bookmooch ones right now. 
  2. When the novel is done (some time before December 1), I will bind it as a paperback book (using the method described at Achieve It), with a cover and everything, and ship it to you (I pay the postage) some time before the new year (hopefully in time for Christmas).  This offer is open to the first ten people to send me a Bookmooch credit (and any others who happen to send credits that day).

This is how you commit yourself to completing a project: you tell others you are going to accomplish it.  Yeah, it’s a little terrifying.  As we get older and more fearless we have to invent better ways to scare ourselves.  Happy Halloween!

nano_06_icon_88×31.gifAs David Lee Roth once said, “I’ve got my pencil . . . gimme something to write on, man. . . . “

The Hottest Blog October 23, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Market Research, Other.
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You will all want to link here as soon as you can because this is going to be the number one blog in the world in a mere 210 days.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  On August 23rd this blog was ranked number 1,446,587 in Technorati.  Today when I checked it was ranked Number 1,125,384. 

 smallrank1.jpg

That’s one fast-moving blog.  And even if the curve levels out a little, you can see this happening in one short year pretty easily.  I attribute all of this to the fact that there are people out there entering the blogging world and seeing that it is full of these tech-savvy engineers and programmers who simply don’t have the variety of interests and skills to differentiate themselves sufficiently from one another very well.  They all talk about the same things all of the time.  And the ones that don’t fit this mold are desparately scheming at viral marketing strategies or shamelessly flogging political ideologies or candidates or the newest software or television show. 

I say all of that to say this: Start the countdown to the celebration.  Today is T-minus 210.