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Category: webwork (Page 4 of 6)


A new service called BlogRush has launched, which promises to drive traffic to your blog. The service requires installing javascript code that loads a widget on your site. BlogRush is supposed to be able to cull links to relevant posts from other participating blogs through some kind of contextual page analysis. As described on their website, the service sounds a bit like a pyramid scheme, in the sense that participating sites will be listed on the widget based not only on your own site visits but on those of others who sign up based on your referrals. I’m not sure how much I’m going to like seeing this widget spreading all over the internet.

Are books irrelevant?

jost amman card of booksAaron Wall says books are irrelevant “for all but true enthusiasts, desperate people seeking a manifesto for life change, or those who read as an escape.”

I don’t think it’s like that. Books and online content are not an either/or kind of thing. Most people “surf” the web and scan pages for an items here and an item there. The web is great for that, among other things. But it’s not so good for reading a hundred thousand words in sequence. Although there was a lot of hand wringing about a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll that showed a quarter of Americans didn’t read a book last year, the real news is that three-quarters of Americans still read books. Historically, that’s a very high percentage. You probably know someone who read a novel or a memoir recently. Did they read it online?

I didn’t think so.

Books are a perfected technology. The earliest books, much more than a millennium old, are still perfectly usable, while your computer files from twenty-five years ago may be useless. But I’m not here to put down the web or computer technology. It’s all good.

The point is, it’s true the book industry is in trouble. But the book itself is not. It’s a proven survivor. No worries.

Labor Day

My sites are closed today for Labor Day (and besides, all except Frisco Vista are moving to a new server. Nothing should change for visitors, but it means I can’t update the sites very well for a few hours). Meanwhile, here’s a Labor Day message from Can’t Keep Quiet.

labor day

End of month companion sites round-up

I’ve been a little under the weather, and I haven’t been able to keep up very well with e-mails and comments. I hope to rebound and get caught up soon.

Meanwhile, here’s a review of August. Rightreading is command central, so this roundup gets posted on this site but not on the others (I don’t list what I’ve done here). I try to do this on the last weekend of the month.

FRISCO VISTA (San Francisciana)

BURIED MIRROR (el mundo Maya)


Back online

The server for this site was down for more than two days with “massive corruption to the operating system.” It felt like forever.

Previously scheduled posts should start to appear momentarily (below this one).

Dutch Type

Publisher 010 Uitgeverij has made what I think is probably a smart decision to put their 2004 title Dutch Type by Jan Middendorp in Google Book Search. Of course we have seen public domain books in GBS for some time (by the way, it is absurd for Google to claim any proprietary rights at all on those titles just because they scanned them), but recently more publishers have been moving toward allowing their copyrighted materials into the program as a strategy for book marketing and promotion.

dutch type: cover

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Related posts

It’s easy to be seduced by software. But just because you can do some cool things doesn’t mean you should. It took quite a while for it to dawn on me that my main blog pages are better without showing the related posts generated by the Aizatto software (related posts still appear on individual post pages). Since turning off that plug-in I find the main page more readable. I hope readers will agree that this an improvement.

UPDATE: I see related posts still appear in the feeds. I guess that’s okay …

Google book search

Looks like Google is starting to throw some weight behind their book search.

Who has been editing Wikipedia?

The new ability created by Wikipedia Scanner to track Wikipedia edits by IP address has brought some folks hours of entertainment. Where have the collaborative encyclopedia’s edits been coming from?

No doubt more revelations will be forthcoming.

Update, 32 Aug. The Dutch royal family admits scrubbing an entry.

You didn’t think you had any privacy online, did you?

(The wikipedia scanner link, at this writing, is down .)

Redesigning the Penguin UK website

penguin uk website redesign

At theBookseller.com, Ann Rafferty talks about her redesign of the Penguin UK site. In essence the site is moving a little in the direction of web 2.0 — of adding more interactive features and offering more content. Rafferty explains:

As to why we’ve redesigned (and this is by no means the end – there’s a list of more changes just waiting to take effect), the answer is simple. Our readers told us to. We conducted extensive quantative and qualitative usability research with a specialist consultancy involving a lot of sitting behind two-way mirrors and biting back squeals of frustration when real-life readers couldn’t use our site – and we listened to all of the recommendations that they made. Months of workshops, designing, testing and re-designing later and we’re happy that we’ve shifted our site from being a company on broadcast to being genuinely reader-centric.

Damn, your captchas are hard

There’s some Steve Martin movie — okay, we’re not at le niveau culturel le plus élevé here — where he’s pulled over while driving, and the cop asks him to do handstands, backflips, and god knows what.

“Damn,” he says, “your drunk tests are hard.”

Some captchas are just about as hard. Here’s a sample from the list over at the English Headwear Blog.

difficult catchas

Daily Lit

If you like your literature bite-sized, Daily Lit could be the answer. It will send you a five-minute passage of a selection of public domain books by e-mail or rss every day (or on request). War and Peace, for example, comes in 675 parts, so you could finished it up in a couple of years, reading five minutes a day. So if you are long-lived and read your e-mails regularly you could make your way through as many as two or three dozen books of that length in your lifetime. Then again, you could knock off the Daode jing in just a couple of weeks.

The Daode jing (Tao Te Ching) is an interesting case. Daily Lit’s web page for that book shows an image of the cover of the Stephen Mitchell edition. If you click on the book it takes you to the book’s Amazon page. But the Mitchell rendering is not public domain. The sample text Daily Lit shows begins like this:

Ch. 1. 1. The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.
2. (Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth; (conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all …

That doesn’t sound much like Stephen Mitchell to me. The Mitchell version starts this way:

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name

The unnameable is the eternally real
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

For comparison, here the version I published, by Red Pine:

The way that becomes a way
is not the Immortal Way
the name that becomes a name
in not the Immortal Name
the maiden of Heaven and Earth has no name
the mother of all things has a name

Why does Daily Lit link to a copyrighted version of the book from which they are offering public domain snippets? I suppose they monetize their site through the Amazon Associates program, figuring after a few months of e-mailed bits of a book you might be hooked enough to actually buy the book. Why you would do so by clicking through from Daily Lit isn’t clear to me, but I imagine the link is included in the feeds and e-mails. Is that a viable business model?

Stray Quotes

I’m trying out a new plug-in called Stray Quotes. You can see it in the left sidebar under the categories drop-down, under the head “Duly Quoted.” The plug-in can function as a widget. It displays a random quote from a user-created list (refreshing the page will likely produce a new quote). Basic html will generate links, etc. I’m using it here as the creator intended, to display a random quote. But it could also display any kind of random link, text, or even image (I’m not sure what length limitations it may have).

For now I’ve taken down the “now reading” plug-in, because I haven’t updated it in a while. Once I do that I may bring it back.

Polish Posters

polish posters

There’s a nice selection of (mostly) postwar Polish posters at a Grayspace Poster Gallery.

I’ve set the background to white in the selections above, using the “remove background image” and “page color to white” bookmarklets (I realized afterwards that I should also have set the text to black, and I found the zap colors bookmarklet that both sets the background to white and the text to black). I like clarity. Not everyone does. Without the bookmarklets applied the site looks like this:

grayspace gallery

Take care with cookies

At the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas it was demonstrated how log-in data can be stolen via cookies exchange when using hi-fi hotspots.

UPDATE: See the comments to this post for more.

Social Book Cataloguing Sites

Publishers Weekly compares three book cataloguing sites: LibraryThing.com, Shelfari.com and GoodReads.com. These sites allow users to keyword tag and comment on books they own or have read. The oldest of the sites, LibraryThing, has been around for a couple of years — a long time in internet terms — and publishers and book retailers are finally beginning to take an interest, either by investing in the sites or by providing members with advance review copies of forthcoming titles.

The PW article tries to make distinctions between the three services (the unfortunately named LibraryThing has by far the most members) but for me largely fails to do so at the user level. Below are screen shots of the sites’ intro pages.



>> A previous post on LibraryThing


Companion Sites Roundup

Another end-of-month roundup of what’s going down at the sister sites.





comment press example

The Institute for the Future of the Book has released a WordPress theme “designed to allow paragraph-by-paragraph commenting in the margins of a text.” Information about the theme can be found at its dedicated site, although an if:book (the institute’s blog) post probably makes a better introduction. As explained there:

This little tool is the happy byproduct of a year and a half spent hacking WordPress to see whether a popular net-native publishing form, the blog, which, most would agree, is very good at covering the present moment in pithy, conversational bursts but lousy at handling larger, slow-developing works requiring more than chronological organization—whether this form might be refashioned to enable social interaction around long-form texts.

Enabling a social approach to long texts via a blogging platform is an interesting project. I’m not certain how transparent the read/write interface is at the moment, but it’s still developing, and certainly something to watch. It seems most applicable to texts that reward close scrutiny, because it’s rather slow going. Finnegans Wake might be an interesting text to experiment with — could we add a choral audio file for different voices to add their readings to the mix?

For an example of the theme in action, click through on the image above.

Netflix model for books

BookSwim is attempting to replicate the netflix model for the book world. They’re offering a service where you pay a monthly fee and receive and return books without the obligation to purchase. No late fees.

I think this is a questionable plan. People are used to renting movies — renting books would require developing a new behavior. The turnaround on DVDs is much faster for most people, so that the value to the consumer of a subscription is greater. Perhaps most importantly, books are a lot heavier than dvds, so the postage costs will be much higher. Plus, books show wear after repeated shipping and reading (just ask publishers who see their margins eaten up by hurts and returns). That’s probably why plans start at $20/month. It would take a lot of overdue fines to make that cheaper than the library.

via literary lotus

Companion Sites Roundup

Every now and then I post a roundup of what’s been going on at my companion sites. Here’s the latest.




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