It takes someone with a grossly over inflated ego, and thinks their website is a trillion times more important than it actually is to try and write a review of the previous year. What sort of idiot does that, as if anyone will read it!
Think of it as a school report, annual appraisal, or cheap channel 4 air time filler around the new year.
nostuff.org has grown in the last year, so did the readership. Some of the posts were even read by humans.
nostuff.org/words started out like many a blog, rambling on my oh-so-important thoughts about the latest news story, gadget, or (I confess) the software I installed on my laptop (in my defence, as no one read it, I was using the blog as a personal notepad as I reinstalled said laptop).
In 2008 (well late 2007 if truth be told, but that would ruin the whole thing, is that what you want? do you?) something happened: some original content appeared on nostuff. I didn’t even copy it from somewhere else.
Part of this was due to me getting a little more geeky than I had in a while. The web had become a read-only resource for me, I consumed (the entire) wikipedia, other blogs, news sites, and often becoming an expert on how to apply for a parking permit in some random US state. I was also watching too much crap TV (why was quizcall so addictive). The telly went off, Radio 4 went on, and I decided to actually do something (perhaps, somewhat belatedly taking the advice ofwhy don’t you).
ircount / Repository Statistics
One of these things I had been working on well over a year. I had written a simple script which connected to ROAR each week and collected the count of records for each UK repository. I finally got around to writing a simple web interface to show all of this, which utilised the amazing simple to use Google Charts. I announced this in March 2008, which was in no way set to coincide with the Open Repositories conference I was attending a few days later.
This went down well, and was probably the first time when well known websites had linked to me (not that I’m obsessed with hits and being linked to or anything). Peter Suber’s highly regarded Open Access news linked here, it felt good (I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I actually have a delicious.com ‘ego’ tag for this). In October I released an updated version of the site, now on my own website, which included stats for all Institutional Repositories, not just those in the UK.
Book catalogue using Talis Platform (and mashedlibraries)
The Talis Panlibus Blog and ‘Talis Technical Development’ have a lot of posts discussing APIs and functionality, all of it was hard to visualise at the time (probably because a lot of the infrastructure was in active development). The Talis Platform is a place to store RDF data accessible via the web (like Amazon S3 is a place to store files accessible via the web). It has seperate stores for different users/applications. I first explored this in the summer of 2007, and my steps at the time now look somewhat simple and naive!
In February 2008 I released the first version of my (simple) interface (use this link for the current version). This searches the ‘ukbib’ store which is a Talis Platform store holding RDF data of book records. A seperate store has holdings information for many libraries. The two can be linked via the ISBN (used a bit like a primary key in a relational database). The design of the Platform is such that you can merge multiple sources of data (from across the web) and it will bring back a single response with the data from the various sources.
In March I added the just released Google book API, both the static and dynamic versions. However the dynamic version (which should also show a book cover) only seems to work for a small amount of books.
I’ve also added ‘Google Friend Connect’ to the site, though it currently doesn’t really work, as comments appear for all items, rather than just for the item they were added to.
I’ve always (well, the last few years, not so much when I was 5) taken an interest in the University league tables published by the national press. I often make the mistake in thinking that older and Russell group Universities are ‘better’ than others, but these league tables often show otherwise. The problem is they often come up with different results. But what if you combined all the scores from these tables to get an over-all average, hopefully ironing out the oddities of particular methodologies.
This clearly hit a nerve. Or more to a point, hit a popular Google search term!
Annoyingly I was getting most hits to the post which asked readers to submit their own guesses to the top 20, and not to the post which listed the carefully compiled top 50 based on collecting data from various sources (which is presumably of more use to most people carrying out such searches). This seemed to be due to the titles of the two posts, so, in my first ever attempt in SEO, I changed the title of the latter, and it then increased the number of hits from search engines (I also added some bold links from the former ‘reader guesses’ post’).
These posts have brought in a lot of readers who are searching Google to find out about Universities in the UK, and had a massive affect on the number of hits the blog has received:
A number of people (mainly outside the UK) have asked for recommendations, especially for particular subjects. I’ve avoiding answering this directly, as I know have no knowledge or experience to be able to answer this. Though have suggested the HERO, and UCAS websites as well as the Guardian and Times Higher Education sections.
I hadn’t predicted this interest from potential students, though it seems so obvious now. Though good to see something I did for my own interest may have been of some use to others.
Open Repositories 2008
As mentioned above, I attended the Open Repositories 2008 conference. In previous years it had been held across the globe, though this time was held just along the south coast in Southampton. My Uni kindly funded my attendance, so long as I went via the cheapest rail ticket, for two days, with no hotel or expenses. Still it means I got to hear the shipping forecast for the first time ever as I raised early both mornings.
I had only just started using Twitter and was the first time I had blogged (and tweeted?) about conference. In fact probably the first time I had really blogged about work stuff. It sounds very cynical (and I feel cheap saying it), but helped to attract attention of repository/library tech people to the blog.
I also attended an event about a project – RIOJA – to look at how an ‘overlay’ journal could be implemented, i.e. if repositories provide a way to access content (including that not published in a traditional journal), then a overlay journal could provide a way to peer review and categorise a subset of the items published in repositories, the ‘overlay journal’ linking to the articles already available online, but by doing so, showing an essential peer review (quality) process has taken place. The day also had speakers talking about over novel journal publishing concepts, and the REF.
It was the first time I had used coveritlive, which Andy Powell has used (very successfully) many times. It was also the first time I had used a t-mobile usb 3G network stick, which I, and others, had persuaded our library to purchase, I set it up on the Mac on the train to Cambridge, and I was glad I did, it meant I had a network connection throughout (power, as ever, was a different issue). Mylive blog is here, and also on the even less popular Sussex repository blog.
In December I attended an event called ‘Sitting on a Goldmine’ (based on the JISC TILE project), based in London, this was a fantastic day with great speakers and attendees looking at how we can make use of usage data and user generated data to create new services. My write up is here.
In November I looked at some new plug-ins and themes for wordpress. The theme I currently use is Greening, I’ve modified it a bit to increase the font size, show tags used for each post, and add ads. WordPress’ excellent widget system also comes in very handy.
Ads: I’ve had ads since around 2005. So far I have made (on paper) around $30 (I only get the money once I reach $100, which at this rate could take many years!). An added element to this is the large fluctuation between the pound and dollar exchange rate: a few months a go $100 was worth £50, now it is almost £100, so when that cheque gets sent makes a difference!
The ads have always been more a bit of an experiment than hard and fast capitalism (but the extra cash is still appealing). I’ve tried to place them with a balance between not being too annoying (a small one at the top right, some at the bottom, and a few on the left), and hope no one objects too much.
The continuous increase in visits over the last year has seen an increase in click-thrus (which generate the revenue), especially in the last few months with the postings about University rankings in the UK.
I mentioned stats above. Over the last year visits/hits have been going up month on month.
I collect stats via the WordPress Stats Plugin, via Google Analytics, and some rather basic web server reports. Of coruse they all report different numbers but more or less show the same thing, the table above is from the WordPress stats plugin.
So 2008 was, relatively speaking, a quite good year, just don’t expect the same for 2009!
I’ve heard good things about PC/Mac clients for writing blog posts, so thought I would give it a go. I tried out ecto for OS X, to published to my WordPress based blog.
It did what was promised it acted as a WYSIWYG blog composition tool, and in that sense it was easy to use and worked without problems. However I few things:
I could only attach (as far as I could see) audio, pictures and movies. I wanted to attached a txt file, (and may want to upload PDF/doc files) but could see no way of doing this.
I couldn’t send it to the blog as an unpublished draft, so I couldn’t send it to WordPress and then upload/link-to the text file using the wordpress interface before publishing.
Ecto is a generic blog tool, not specific to WordPress. While in many ways a good thing, it does have it’s downside, there are some options on the WordPress composition screen that I rarely use but do find them useful occasionally, and felt it somewhat unsettling for them not to be there should I need them.
As a plus: the problem with the WordPress interface is that there is a lot of screen space used with the top of the screen menus and other misc stuff, and the edit space is somewhat small, and it is annoying to need to scroll both the screen and the text box. the ecto UI does not have this issue. But then WordPress 2.7 may address this problem.
One of the main plus points is being able to carry on editing offline, but with Google Gears you should be able to edit happily offline (I haven’t tried this yet).
So ecto is certainly worthy trying if you are after a OS X based blog client, and I chose it above others available based on reviews I had read, but for me, I think I will stick with the native web interface for the time being.
I was having a quick think about the categories I use here. I have tried to use categories which match people’s interests. e.g. someone from Brighton can choose to read (and subscribe to) ‘Brighton’, same for technology or libraries.
I’ve recently started to blog a bit more about things related to my work. Which is best summed up as where technology (& web) and libraries (& information management) meet. This includes searching, metadata, cataloguing, making data and information accessible, and scholarly publishing (and changing it to be less stupid). My rule of thumb is that if I feel something would only be of interest to those in the library (or HE) tech area, I stick it in ‘libraries and technology’, if it could be of interest to those who are generally interested in techy stuff then it is added to the technology category.
So if you are interested in reading my ill informed rants relating to libraries and technology (but don’t wish to have to suffer the rest of the crap i post) then you can subscribe to the following feed:
oh, but that’s a good point. I have started to talk about the Library world more, in a ‘I’m presuming you know what I’m talking about‘ type way. I’m hoping that hasn’t alienated my huge previous user base (if you were that reader can you let me know). Some keep a seperate blog for work and home. I’ve resisted this, my thoughts about the things I encounter due to work, and those I encounter due to outside interests are all basically me, if you like one or the other (but not both), just follow the rss feed for the appropriate category (maybe I need one called ‘not work’). By the way, you can subscribe to a feed for a category by going to the categories main page, and then added ‘/feed/’ to the end.
(would be great if you could create a feed which is a combination of several categories you are interested in). Oh and one weakness of the blogging model is that one person’s output is distributed and not easily connect-able. so all the comments i have made in other blogs are disconnected to this blog (of course the alternative is to reply via this blog and rely on ping/trackback) and this is one of the reasons why I don’t run multiple blogs, there’s no easy way to say ‘this blog should include any content i post to another specified blog’ or ‘include my comments in other blogs’ or ‘when posting this, also post it to blog X’. but i digress.
I occasionally chatter on about politics, but also talk about more general stuff happening in the world today, this can be anything from shops, to phones to education. I tend to stick all this under ‘politics and current affairs’, but it is a broad church and really need a better category for the ‘stuff around me today which takes my interest’, any ideas?
Peter Suber recently described me as ‘anonymous’ blogger in a post of his. Which turns out to be true, so I have updated my blog theme (see earlier post) to show a mini profile at the top of the page.