One handed writing – the blog

Recently @mishdalton pointed me at an article about writing op-eds for the New York Times. I was immediately struck by how applicable much of what was said was to blog writing.

The advice is pragmatic and not surprising: get to the point quickly, have an opinion, be direct and avoid padding, anticipate and counter potential objections to your argument, avoid clichés, and so on.

Older readers may remember when I blogged more frequently. Heck, there is even a book [ALA][free PDF].

Clearly, times have changed since the peak of personal blogging. This is certainly the case in the library community. Personal blogging now sits in a diverse ecosystem of commentary, news and opinion.

I liked this paragraph in the NYT piece:

The purpose of an op-ed is to offer an opinion. It is not a news analysis or a weighing up of alternative views. It requires a clear thesis, backed by rigorously marshaled evidence, in the service of a persuasive argument. Harry Truman once quipped that he wished he could hire only one-handed economists — just to get away from their “on the one hand, on the other” advice. Op-ed pages are for one-handed writers.

I think this is often true of good blog entries also.

Because I don’t blog all that often any more, I find that when I sit down to do an entry I have too much stuff to say. I end up writing a short article rather than a blog entry. Indeed, I have a couple of pieces that are lying around and have grown to several thousand words. One is on the evolving research support environment, and how the larger publishers are developing workflow services (“workflow is the new content”). One is on how scaling learning and innovation is an important part of the “soft power” of consortial activity.

Now these longer pieces may have an argument. For example, I think that library focus on the institutional repository may have delayed recognition of the broader changes in workflow support and publisher direction. However, the argument may be submerged in the two-handed comprehensiveness of the longer piece. Rather than being underlined in the one-handed directness of a blog entry on a single topic.

Anyway, this is all by way of saying that I plan to blog a little more frequently. I miss the direct connection it gives you with people. I liked it when people I had not met before would engage me at events about something I had recently written. Now I just have to make some time …

p.s. Incidentally, I liked how the piece called out cliches. People who say that they want to think outside the box, don’t.

Libraries and the curse of knowledge

In his recent book on writing (The Sense of Style), Steven Pinker suggests that the economic concept of the curse of knowledge is the main cause of bad writing. He explains it this way: Call it the Curse of Knowledge: a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something … Continue reading Libraries and the curse of knowledge

The facilitated collection

Collections have been central to library identity – we have discussed how library collections are changing in a network environment elsewhere (Collection Directions: The Evolution of Library Collections and Collecting – PDF). Support for the discovery, curation and creation of resources in research and learning practices continues to evolve. In this blog entry I discuss … Continue reading The facilitated collection

Research information management systems – a new service category?

It has been interesting watching Research Information Management or RIM emerge as a new service category in the last couple of years. RIM is supported by a particular system category, the Research Information Management System (RIMs), sometimes referred to by an earlier name, the CRIS (Current Research Information System). For reasons discussed below, this area … Continue reading Research information management systems – a new service category?

The decentered library network presence

Think of two trends in the development of the library’s network presence. These have emerged successively and continue to operate together. A centripetal trend producing a library network presence centered on the institutional website, as the library wants to offer an integrated service. A centrifugal trend, unbundling functionality and placing it in a variety of … Continue reading The decentered library network presence

Roses are red …. the top love stories?

One of the nice things about WorldCat is that is has sufficient scale to be a good proxy for a large part of the scholarly and cultural record. The aggregate holdings of thousands of libraries contain not just books, but movies, music, and so on. It is not complete but it gives good results. In … Continue reading Roses are red …. the top love stories?

Full library discovery

The scope of library discovery services continues to evolve. We might characterise the situation we are in now as full collection discovery. The model is of a cloud-based, central index, where the goal has been unified results across collection types delivered in a single search box.The full collection includes material from the catalog, journal articles, … Continue reading Full library discovery

Three challenges: Engaging, rightscaling and innovating

I was in Australia recently, primarily to attend the conference intriguingly entitled ‘The edge of the world‘. The presentation I gave is here, and is embedded below. This was the latest Theta conference, the Australian parallel to Educause. I very much enjoyed the host city, Hobart, not least because of the smell of the sea … Continue reading Three challenges: Engaging, rightscaling and innovating

Names and identities: looking at Flann O’Brien

Names and identities are a major focus of interest for OCLC Research. I adapt this discussion of our work in this area from the recent OCLC Research Quarterly Highlights. We know very well that names are not always straightforward. Brian O’Nolan and Brian Ó Nualláin are the English and Irish versions, respectively, of the name … Continue reading Names and identities: looking at Flann O’Brien

Defining the library … reflexively

It occurred to me recently that the library definitions I most like have a reflexive quality … Dan Chudnov, for example, is admirably succinct and direct: My professional mission as a librarian is this: Help people build their own libraries. That’s it. That’s all I care about. [One big library] This is from 2006. Interestingly, … Continue reading Defining the library … reflexively

On libraries, services and networks.