Monthly Archives: June 2009

It was a dark and stormy night…

In case you need a break from all of the sturm und drang these days, take a moment to look at the 2009 winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest.

Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. The contest (hereafter referred to as the BLFC) was the brainchild (or Rosemary’s baby) of Professor Scott Rice, whose graduate school excavations unearthed the source of the line “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The winning entry was a doozy:

“Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin’ off Nantucket Sound from the nor’ east and the dogs are howlin’ for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the “Ellie May,” a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin’ and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.”

David McKenzie
Federal Way, WA

Love it.  Check out all the rest.

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Filed under Miscellaneous

Customer Service

I love these guys.

I’ve posted about them before, when DH ordered a CD.  I’ve now ordered a CD from them, and recieved this charming email:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with
sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure
it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over
the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money
can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party
marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of
Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in
our private CD Baby jet on this day, Monday, June 22nd.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby.  We sure did. 
Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.”  We’re all
exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sigh…

I just love this.

And, of course, I can’t help wondering if a library patron would get this sort of email when their interlibrary loan item shipped, or their requested item was in, or even if their item was overdue.  How much more fun is it to get one of these messages than a sterile “your item has shipped” message?

Food for thought.

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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship, Things that make you go, "Hmmm..."

The Tweet Heard ‘Round the World

I was having a chat conversation with DBF this morning, and we got to talking about the Twittering of the Iranian election:

Me: On an totally unrelated note, it’s a whole new media world out there: http://mashable.com/2009/06/15/twitter-iran-election/
DBF: It’s amazing, isn’t it?
Me: When you stop to think about it, it really is a paradigm shift of rather major proportions.
DBF: Remember faxes and the role they played in bringing down the iron curtain?
Me: No…. Refresh my memory.
DBF: It was the same kind of thing, only an older technology. Protesters used the faxes to communicate independent of their bugged phone lines, and arranged rallies, etc. […]
Me: I’m not sure I was even aware of that.
Me: So where do you suppose this leaves the traditional newspaper?
DBF: Gone the way of the buggy whip.
Me: I’m afraid so.

I’ve got this feeling that this is bigger than we’re realizing. I know it’s news, but the shift in the relevance of traditional media combined with the shift in the sheer power of the control over information will have significant ramifications.

It’s the Tweet heard ’round the world, if you will.

I’m not sure how I would respond to these developments, if I were a newspaper owner.  It would be rather like having the market cornered on slide rules, only to have the calculator appear.  In a moment, you’ve become not only superfluous, but antiquated.

Perhaps the role of the newspaper at this point needs to morph into a re-imagined role – like libraries have had to do in recent years.  Librarians direct people to the information they’re seeking, regardless of format.  We’ve had to adjust from a world that was once dominated by books and include the new ways that information is being delivered.  (Some have been dragged, kicking and screaming, granted.  But we’ve largely made the transition.)

Newspapers are now in the position of being one of many sources of information rather than the primary source.  In order to maintain their relevance, they will need to revise their business model.  I would propose that a newspaper at this point should be an in-depth exploration of stories, with historical perspective and thoughtful presentation of the issues.  Since tweets are, by their nature, short snippets, it is impossible to get a thorough examination of an incident. Newspapers should fill that gap and go back to fleshing out stories, rather than stooping to the lower denominator of small bites of information.  Slow journalism.  Give us something to chew on, something to ponder.

I must admit a fondness for newspapers (I dearly miss the Milwaukee Sentinel) and will also admit that I  don’t read a newspaper nearly as often as I once did.  I find myself getting my news from online sources and from radio and television.  When I do pick up a paper, it’s for those in-depth explorations, not for news in the real sense of the word.

It will be fascinating to see how this all plays out.  I hope the newspaper successfully transitions into a better version of itself, and that we don’t lose them altogether.

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Techie stuff

Changes

A while back, I came close to sneering at Twitter and how folks were tweeting away.  By this time in my life, I should learn that sneering at something inevitably brings me closer to it and leads to an adoption of the subject of my sneer.

(Case in point: when I worked at a Major University in the upper Midwest, I would sneer at those who chose to pursue a second master’s degree rather than a PhD.  Ahem.  Here I sit, with my two master’s degrees.)

In any case, I’ve been Twittering for a while now.  It look some time before I really started to embrace it, but having connected Twitter, Facebook, and Delicious I find myself increasingly drawn to the confluence of information that I’m getting from colleagues and friends.

I’m also finding myself blogging less.  I’m not sure that’s a good thing; there’s a limit to how much information can be passed along in 140 characters.  (The limit on a Twitter post, for those of you that haven’t jumped in.)  However, since I’m using these tools more, I feel as if I’m writing all the time.

Perhaps this is indicative of our society’s decreasing attention span.  Perhaps this is that “continuous partial attention” that Linda Stone speaks of.

In any case, I will try to balance all of these tools and will jump over here to actually complete a thought, rather than abbreviate one.

How are all of you handling these tools?  Are you abandoning tools you’ve used in favor of new ones?

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Filed under Blogging, Me and mine

In praise of reading

I love this post:

8 Ways Reading Makes You Better

The author starts with praise for the concept of the public library:

The public library is a phenomena that to this day I still can’t get over. Free knowledge, for anyone. Literally, anyone. I can’t think of an equivalent other than going to a clothing store, “checking out” an outfit, wearing the outfit and returning it in four weeks, free of charge.

Yes, indeed.  It’s a lovely ode to reading and libraries.  Wander over and take a minute to read it.

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Filed under Libraries and Librarianship