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Photo: Raindrops on the Window

Raindrops on the Window — droplets against the clouds and sky

A windshield with raindrops, on the drive home. Behind it are some clouds and trees. I added sharpness which gives the image an edge, as do the vignetting and improved contrast. This has a slightly blue hue; I didn’t go straight to black and white as blue matches the overcast sky better.

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/500, F5, 43mm, ISO100, 2008-07-11T17:45:31-04, 20080711-214531rxt

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Disparate Value

If I could just get my cat to wash the dishes and mop the floor, I’d have a cat worth millions of dollars. It doesn’t matter that you can hire someone to do the work for several dollars an hour. If the cat did it, it would be special and worth far more. Any sort of animal, for that matter.

Does that mean that the cat’s work is intrinsically more valuable than mine? Not in the slightest. In fact, it’s not as safe to have the cat do housework. Cats aren’t skillful homemakers. My cat has no proven track record, nor does her species. Who knows when she will tire of the work and start breaking stuff. She has to take naps every few hours. For the same work, a person should be paid far more than a cat.

Why then, is the value the cat commands so disparate, so far in excess of that of a normal person? Simply because it’s packaged in a unique, original, unheard-of form. People will pay you big money if you can do something that no one else can do, even if it’s totally useless. What real value do clowns contribute to the world–besides entertainment? If everyone is paid by the intrinsic value of their worth, clowns would get nothing.

To harness the power of disparate value, you need to be doing something that is eye-catching, entertaining, and different. It’s easy to have negative, disparate value. Just break a few limbs, and then see how hard it is to work efficiently. If you go to the bookstore and start ripping the covers off books, they really aren’t worth any less. There’s no unique information on the cover that the books’ contents cannot be without. All the informative and practical value remains untouched. Yet try selling them next to the others–or for any price at all, and you’ll see how disparate their value is. For no logical reason.

It’s easy to think of situations that will generate positive disparate value, which is a far better place to be at. Say I’m a typist. I type 75 words a minute, accurately, swiftly, and without losing focus. That’s a pretty good skill, but I’m not special. Lots of other people can do what I do.

Now let’s say instead, through some magical forces, I type 750 words a minute. When I type, all you see is a blur because my fingers are moving so fast, they disappear. The screen floods with text. If I was paid $10 for my efforts at 75 words per minute, would $100 be a reasonable pay at 750 words per minute?

Nope. I’m worth more than the aggregate of my efficiency. I could provide my services to businesses that need last-minute transcribing, at a high cost. Perhaps $1000 an hour would be more reasonable.

But in reality, I’d make far more for my talents, perhaps millions. Think of all the television shows and magazines I could be featured in. I could start a course to share my talent with others. Even if it was impossible to share, there’d still be plenty of followers who would gladly waste their money. The value (money) I can demand is disparate to the raw value of my services.

Let’s say I can only type 100 words per minute, but I can also play the piano, tune a guitar, write moderately-good articles, ride a skateboard, build houses, paint, draw, create websites, and do electrical wiring. All these things I do moderately well. Perhaps even better. If my mastery is quantifiable, I’m above 90% of the crowd with all these talents. Does that make me more valuable as a typist?

Not in the slightest. I may be a dynamo and a fascinating person, but those are worth nothing on their own. I’d be better off if I could have all my other skills erased from my brain, and replaced with the ability to type 750 words per minute. From a monetary standpoint, at least. The reason I keep coming back to money, is that it’s our primary means of representing value. Typing 750 words per minute should not trump an arsenal of normal skills, but it does.

If the Mona Lisa is worth $100 million, does that mean a painting 1% as good is worth $1 million? Nope. If I can define something 1% as good as the Mona Lisa, it’s a painting that you couldn’t even give away. 1% is not enough. Even a work of art 75% as good would not be worth half as much. One razor-sharp knife is worth more than a hundred dull knives.

Excellence is exponential. On a scale of 10, going from a 9 to a 10 is hundreds of times harder than going from a 1 to a 2. Anyone can go from a 1 to a 2. It requires nearly no effort whatsoever. But if you can make the jump to the top of the mountain, you have something of true, preferential value. Oftentimes, it’s better to pick one skill. One feverishly developed skill. You’re so good, you make everyone else in your niche look like piles of garbage. The problem I find with this, is that it doesn’t feel right to pick one skill. That’s why most people don’t do it, remaining uneventfully ordinary.

The best way, however, is to develop a suite of skills that all play off each other rather than being disparate. The underlying connections between them create a wall of strength rather than islands of weakness. Chaos theory in action. Often, this is the same as developing one skill, but from a different angle. This is easier said than done. In fact, it’s harder than becoming a one-hit wonder. But it’s a true path, a road you can look to every day with eager anticipation. I can never feel the same passion for practicing scales and songs all day long, or taking pictures from dawn to dusk. Picking one path is the best way to harness disparate value, but it isn’t human. People aren’t meant to stick to one thing. We think about everything: we ponder, analyze, reflect, multi-task, pray, think, forget, lose focus. Animals don’t do this. They work all the more efficiently for it.

All the things that “waste time” are actually our strengths. They endow us with our own disparate value separate from everything else in this world. I’m happy to be a human rather than a cat, or a bird, or a flea. Once you become happy and committed to your existence, you can leverage disparate value to unlock exponential growth. I’ll be with you.

Photo: The Pale House

The Pale House — a ghost house with dark clouds

Something about this house just doesn’t feel right. It’s got no color to it. Most things have color. The grass looks warm and inviting… but what’s with those dark clouds overhead? Such oddly shaped clouds too. Like a giant C in the sky.

This is a return to The Red-Brick House… but this time the house has no color at all. Only its surroundings have that privilege, and in the warmest tones. It could be a beautiful afternoon in the country, if not for the ghost house and scary clouds.

This was quite a scene to start; I hadn’t seen a cloud formation that ominous, and it was followed by lots of rain and lightning. Once the rain started pouring, the sky went mucky gray. All the tension disappeared. That happens in most storms.

Editing on this was substantial, because it involves almost everything you see. I shifted the white balance in Adobe Camera Raw to make everything yellow, before importing the image into Photoshop. I went over the house with a desaturation brush at 100%, burned the corners in repeatedly with my pen tablet, and burned that dark line across the sky. It was there to start, but I added the curve going up to the left and around just with the burn tool.

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/200, F5, 18mm, ISO100, 2008-07-28T16:45:44-04, 20080728-204544rxt

Location: 1832 Nelson Ave., Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7228

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

A Series of Near-Hits

In life, it’s easy to go through a process called a series of near-hits, where you get close to the mark many times in a row without ever succeeding. An invisible wall stops you from reaching the goal, but you expend an increasing amount of effort for ever-reducing gains.

Sometimes, this is the story of a person’s whole life: a series of failures which were almost successes. “Failure,” of course, is a relative term. Perhaps he succeeded in supporting his family, but failed as a businessman. Perhaps he was a successful businessman who ignored his family. For my purposes, the shortcoming can be anything.

More often, the leech attacks you for just a day in your life, or perhaps in a minor hobby over a period of months. It could be just a few minutes. I had one of these experiences last week.

The night sky in my front yard was flashing with bolts of lightning; not a common sight in this area. Usually the sky flashes, but there are no bolts. As impressive as that is, it looks like nothing on film. This was different. I ran out with my camera, and, not owning a tripod, I braced the camera against the fence and took dozens of two-second exposures of the sky. These were the 15 best:

Mediocre lightning series

Click above to enlarge the thumbnails. If you can’t tell at this size, there are a bunch of shots of lightning; usually just a couple small branches across the clouds, or light in absence of a trunk. The top-right one looks good, but it’s blurry because I slipped with the camera. There is no bolt, so you can’t tell what it is except in this context. None of the photos are particularly good. They are a series of near-hits.

At this point, my excitement from seeing the awesome flashes had disappeared, and I was thoroughly ravaged by the Florida mosquitoes. There were a lot of good shots to be had, but magically I’d missed all of them. My outing was a complete waste of time.

It wasn’t really a complete waste of time; it just seemed it. Since I’m a photographer, nothing I do with my camera can be a complete waste of time, unlike for you non-photographers. I have an in-built advantage. However, if my next several shots are like this, the series of near-hits may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ll subconsciously sabotage my efforts because I’ll become afraid of taking a good photograph, or I’ll want to prove to my mind that the world is against me. Either way, it becomes a repetitive cycle.

Personally developed people enjoy exponential progress, because it’s so much faster than advancing linearly. While with 5 + 5 + 5 you have 15, with 5 * 5 * 5 you’re way ahead at 125. It’s a lot nicer to have your income double each month than increase by 2 dollars (unless you’re making pennies!). If you’ve ever played with a calculator, though you’ve noticed a strange thing happens south of 1. Instead of increasing, the numbers decrease. .5 * .5 * .5 is .125. If each multiplication is a day, continuing the trend, your progress goes down, each and every day. You can never quite hit rock bottom (zero), because you’re experiencing inverse exponential growth. Even if your calculator, after a few more operations, reads zero, you know it’s a lie. A “rounding error,” we call it. If your goal is zero, it’s forever fleeting.

This sickly kind of growth is exactly what a series of near-hits looks like. You get closer while never succeeding. It’s called logarithmic growth, and it’s the opposite of exponential gains. Whereas exponential operations race toward infinity without ever meeting, logarithmic operations reach for zero but never make it. There is an asymptote at zero; an invisible wall which can never be touched. The numbers get closer and closer, with more and more decimal places, but they’ll never match in a million years.

Evil, logarithmic growth

That’s a graph of logarithmic growth. And you want to avoid it. If your stuck in a cycle of logarithmic progress, a.k.a. a series of near-hits, something is wrong. You’ve got to try something new, because you’ve reached a dead end. In the game of life, every turn you waste in this downward spiral is one more turn off your life. It feels comfortable, because you can never crash and you’ll never hit zero, but it’s ultimately a waste because there’s no growth to be had in it. Your in a worse situation than stagnation, because you’ve been tricked into thinking you’re making progress. You could expend years stuck in logarithmic growth. Don’t.

It’s really easy to have “near-hits” in gambling. What they really are is wishful thinking. If the lottery numbers were 4-8-12-16-20, and you picked 5-9-13-17-21, you could say you were really close to winning a million dollars. You “almost” won. Surely, you’re on a lucky streak. You can’t stop; quitting gambling now would be foolish. But in truth, you were no closer to winning than if you had picked 1-2-3-5-6. Either set of numbers lost, unequivocally and irrevocably. There is no middle ground. Either you won, or you lost.

When you’re stuck in a series of near-hits, redefine life in black and white terms (binary) instead of shades of gray (analog). Analog has it’s place, but it’s a poor substitute for definiteness. You didn’t have a “near-hit,” you had a “complete miss.” You won’t hit till you do, and when you do, there will be no modifiers; it will be a “hit” and nothing else. Once you start thinking like this, you might give up entirely on some goals. It’s okay; that proves those goals weren’t important to you anyway. If you can survive many cycles of utter failure, then you know you are on the right path, because you have the strength to persevere through all hardships. “Near-hits” are just an illusion. They may try to waste your time and muddle your vision, but you shall triumph.

How to Create a Public Library

I’ve disappeared for the last few days because I’ve been working on The Thripp Public Library. While I can’t open it to the public yet (Dad won’t open our house to the world), I’m working on it now because I have time off and Dad’s generously donated lots of his books. Though I wanted to use Evergreen or Koha, I picked the simple and obscure OpenBiblio as my library system, because it’s the only thing I could find that would run on shared hosting. I was disappointed by the lack of features to start, but I’m starting to like the power and control with it, especially since the database makes sense, so adding new features is easy.

Before I even got started, the first step was to choose a barcoding format, classification system, and spine labeling format.

I don’t like Library of Congress (LC) classification because it’s arcane and confusing, so the Dewical Decimal system (DDC) was the default choice. But what to use it for? You can use it for everything, but I decided right away not to use it on fiction items, instead opting for “FICTION / *last name*” as the spine label and call number, which is the same as the Volusia County library system. It may not be ideal, but it’s much easier to use. Biographies are tougher. I chose DDC, but I put two lines above that say “BIO / *subject last name”. The DDC part is always “*numbers* *first three letters of the author’s last name*”. Large type items get “LT” at the top of the spine label. Spine labels == call numbers, always. I created a template file for spine labels in OpenOffice.org Writer, which I add to as I catalog books. Then when I get to twenty or thirty, I print out the whole sheet and start cutting them out with scissors and taping them to the books. Here’s part of a recent sheet:

Lots of spine labels

The numbers after the dot are sometimes six or more in Dewey Decimal classification. You can truncate (cut off) them, but I let them stay and just wrap the label around the book.

The next big step is barcoding. I don’t have a reader yet (too expensive), but it’s good to be ready ahead of time, and it gives a unique identifier for each item. Many libraries, including Volusia County, follow the format F LLLL XXXX XXXXC, where F is the flag, 2 for patrons or 3 for items, LLLL is the system identifier (2417 for Volusia), XXXX XXXX is an incremented number, and C is the check digit. The symbology is Codabar. This is nice, but the institutional identifiers are only useful if your part of a larger organization. I can’t find who oversees them, nor a list of each county / system and it’s code. If I picked one for my library, no one would respect it, plus it makes the barcodes unnecessarily long. So “normal” barcodes are out.

Codabar is old, and there’s no reason to use it if you aren’t follow the 14-digit format. So I picked the more robust Code 39. I looked in vain for open-source or free software that makes it easy to print up sheets of barcodes while generating the check digits, but gave up in disgust. I’m just doing it in OpenOffice.org Writer with this free Code 39 font. No check digits. My barcodes are only eight digits, and check digits aren’t needed anyway because the symbology is self-checking (so I’m told). Plus, forgoing check digits makes things much easier. I have a template of 5 pages with 20 barcodes each, numbered 1-100. When I want to print new ones, I can just find and replace every instance of “300300” with “300301” and it’s all done instantly. Here’s what that template looks like:

Lots of barcodes

This is awesomely cool, and it is a robust solution, even if it seems too simple. I invite you to use this template to print similar barcodes. Make sure you have the font installed first, as this .odt document expects it. I just print these on card stock, cut them out with scissors, and affix them to the books with clear packing tape. I thought I had to decide to put the barcodes on the outside of the books or the inside… but I have the best of both worlds! I printed two copies of the template and put a barcode in both places. This way, I have the convenience of outside barcodes, but my items can still be identified if the barcodes peel off or the covers are destroyed. Clear tape over the barcode won’t matter for any scanner worth its salt. These barcodes are big and easy-to-scan too. I don’t know why most libraries use ones so small.

My numbering format is eight digits; two groups of four. The font doesn’t allow a space between them, but they are visually separated by the zeroes. I start patrons with 2 and items with 3 like traditional library barcodes. The format is 2001XXXX for patrons and 3003XXXX for items. So far I have 5 patrons and 81 items, so the highest patron barcode is 20010005, and for items, 30030081. When I get to 9999, I’ll go up to 2005 and 3007. There’s no reason the last 7 digits of patrons vs. items need to ever clash, and no overlap makes it easy to use abbreviated barcodes for internal memos.

A record number is created by OpenBiblio when you add an item. It’s just a numeric counter starting at one. The record number is used in OpenBiblio’s URLs, and is an easy identifier for my patrons to communicate to me. Barcodes are good too, but the problem is that they are transient, while record numbers are static (as long as I don’t delete the record). Also, the record number stands for the whole record, while a barcode is just for one item. There could be 10 copies of one item, but there still is one record number. So it makes sense to divorce barcodes from record numbers.

Of course, since I’m printing barcodes myself on a home laser printer, there’s no reason for barcodes to be transient. If a patron loses his library card, I just print up a new one on the spot with the same barcode. Same for damaged barcodes on books. But I can also replace the code with a new one if that’s quicker or easier for me, if I use record numbers as the unique identifier for the record (instead of the first barcode or nothing). While OpenBiblio makes similar numbers for patrons, mainly to distinguish them in the MySQL tables, I see no reason to use them. Each patron will only ever have one barcode. Even if I offer keychain library cards, they’ll have the same numbers as the big versions.

Before we go on to cataloging, let’s take a look at library cards. I took what I learned from item barcodes and applied it here. I made a cut-out template in my graphics software, which I’m using to overly text onto in OpenOffice.org. A sheet of library cards looks like this:

Lots of library cards

Here’s the library card template (font required). To change things, I right-click the background image, click Wrap > No Wrap, go to page 2 and change the numbers or other text, then go back to page one, right-click the image again, choose Wrap > In Background, then print. This is in OpenOffice.org 2.2.0. I haven’t upgraded to the new version, but it should be the same. To use them, I print them on card stock (a.k.a. matte photo paper), cut them out with scissors, then laminate them with packing tape (carefully). Of course I enter them into OpenBiblio too. I created custom fields under Admin > Member Fields, for alternate library cards, driver’s licenses, notes, and dates of birth. Those look like this:

OpenBiblio custom fields

The logic with the alternate cards is this: a patron can get a card and add his Volusia and/or Flagler cards, so he can use those instead if he forgets his Thripp card. If he does that, I look him up by name because OpenBiblio won’t allow searching by custom fields (I may fix this later), and then approve the alternate card if the numbers match. Primary Card Origin is different; a patron can choose to use only his Volusia, Flagler, or other library card to identify himself in the Thripp system, in which case I can use the built-in barcode search on the third-party card, and the patron doesn’t even need a Thripp card. In that case, I type in the origin of the primary card in that special field (i.e. “Volusia”, “Flagler”, etc.).

Now that we have labels, barcodes, and cards out of the way, the next step is cataloging. I didn’t want to do all the work myself; instead I get some of the cataloging data from the Library of Congress. The problem with this is the LoC Lookup Patch won’t work with SYN Hosting because they won’t enable the PHP YAZ module because of security concerns. I tried the alternate LoC SRU, but I get this error:

Warning: fsockopen() [function.fsockopen]: unable to connect to z3950.loc.gov:7090 (Permission denied) in /home/richardx/public_html/lib/catalog/locsru_search.php on line 98

Notice: Socket error Permission denied (13) in /home/richardx/public_html/lib/catalog/locsru_search.php on line 125

I gave up on direct import and went to USMARC files. This was hard to figure out. The way to do it is to get MarcEdit 5.1. In the software, go to Add-ins > MarcEdit Z39.50/SRU Client, go to Modify Databases, click Add Database > Import from Master List, click the second in the list (Library of Congress), click Select Resource, go back to Search Mode, click Select Database, double-click Library of Congress, search for something, and double-click the item you want to import from the results. Then, click Download Record. Rinse and repeat, using the “Append” option. After you have, say, 30 records, go to Cataloging > Upload Marc Data back in OpenBiblio, and upload the files. It should say that 30 records are added, and then you can polish the data by searching and editing under Cataloging > Bibliography Search, book by book.

I edit the data to format the title my way, clear junk from the ISBN field, make the extent field a page counter, add the cover price as cost, and create the call number based on the Dewey Decimal code. Unfortunately there’s a lot of junk like “BOOKS” and “Copy 1” in the LoC Marc records, and I haven’t found a way to filter them out. I went through the MySQL database and cleared a lot of them recently.

This still saves me a lot of time, because coming up with the information myself would be too much work. The search doesn’t work well. If ISBN fails, I try title or author, or I go to the online search and get the control number to search by as “Record Number” in MarcEdit.

Sometimes there is no Dewey Decimal classification; just Library of Congress. I hunt down the item at another library in WorldCat to see what dot code they used. It’s easier than coming up with it on my own, and I wouldn’t get it right anyway.

As an alternate for when the Library of Congress has nothing, I installed the Amazon Lookup Module, which actually works. It just gets a few things like title, page count, publication date, author, and sometimes DDC code, but it helps.

Note that when I say “install,” this isn’t your typical WordPress plugin installation. This is getting down and dirty adding and editing pieces of code. Some modules are even distributed as hard-to-use-on-Windows .patch files, which scamper about editing two-dozen files in the OpenBiblio core. I’ve changed so much stuff, that when I upgrade to the next version, I’ll be merging the author’s changes with mine rather than mine with the author’s. It’s a completely different mindset.

Cataloging constructs are yours to set. Unfortunately, it’s rather inflexible because you have to work on a per-record basis, but this is expected with ILS’s. The standards are lower than with photo-cataloging software, because librarianship is considered a full-time job (time is cheap) and most libraries have fewer books than I have photos. I try to get things right the first time, meaning I use consistent formatting like putting a period at the end of the extended title and after the author’s name, keeping the ISBN field clean, using consistent capitalization, etc. This is a typical record. I let a lot of the Library of Congress’ stuff stay the same to save time, but the fields that I’m picky about are the ones that are shown in search results. Speaking of which…

This is the default search system:

OpenBiblio old search

And this is mine:

OpenBiblio new search

And mine has this, too:

OpenBiblio scoping

I realize no one knows what “federated” and “scoping” mean, but they’re such cool words I don’t care. You’ll learn it if you use my OPAC. OPAC stands for online public access catalog, for those of you not familiar with LIS jargon. LIS is library information science, and the OPAC is part of the ILS, or integrated library system. For scoping and federated search, I applied the Advanced Search by Title, Collection, Material Type .patch file using TortiseSVN, then modified it to fit my needs by removing the material type field (because it’s the same as collections in my library), changing “Search All” to “Federated,” and adding barcode and call-number search to it. This is an easy MySQL query addition, because the barcodes and call numbers are stored right in the biblio table in the database.

I like how the search works, because it matches partial words. I can type in “mel” as an author search, and I’ll get Typee by Herman Melville, which is the only book by him in my catalog right now. The Call Number search is good because I put useful data in the call number: “LT” for large type, “BIO” for biographies, “J DVD” for kids’ movies, “FICTION” for fiction, etc. So you can search by it. I haven’t figured out how to implement boolean queries yet, but what I have is pretty good.

This is the code behind the search. It’s in opac/index.php and shared/biblio_search.php, to be displayed below the search results so you can search again right from there. If you use it, do it after applying the patch I mentioned. This ASSUMES that you’re using mod_rewrite to change shared/biblio_search.php to search-results. Change action=”../search-results” to action=”../shared/biblio_search.php” on line 1 if the assumption is false.

<form name=”phrasesearch” method=”POST” action=”../search-results”>
<table class=”primary”><tr><th valign=”top” nowrap=”yes” align=”left”>Search the Catalog</td></tr><tr><td nowrap=”true” class=”primary”><select name=”searchType”>
<option value=”all” selected>Federated
<option value=”title”>Title
<option value=”author”>Author
<option value=”subject”>Subjects
<option value=”barcodeNmbr”>Barcode
<option value=”callnmbr”>Call Number
</select>
<input type=”text” name=”searchText” size=”55″ maxlength=”256″>
<input type=”hidden” name=”sortBy” value=”default”>
<input type=”hidden” name=”tab” value=”<?php echo H($tab); ?>”>
<input type=”hidden” name=”lookup” value=”<?php echo H($lookup); ?>”>
<input type=”submit” value=”Search!” class=”button”>
</td></tr></table><br /><table class=”primary”><tr><th valign=”top” nowrap=”yes” align=”left”>Advanced: Scoping (Optional)</td></tr><tr><font class=”small”><td nowrap=”true” class=”primary”><script type=”text/javascript” language=”JavaScript”>
function selectAll(ident) { var checkBoxes = document.getElementsByName(ident); for (i = 0; i < checkBoxes.length; i++) { if (checkBoxes[i].checked == true) { checkBoxes[i].checked = false; } else { checkBoxes[i].checked = true; } } }</script>
<input type=”checkbox” name=”selectall” value=”select_all” onclick=”selectAll(‘collec[]’);”>Flip<br /><?php $dmQ = new DmQuery(); $dmQ->connect(); $dms = $dmQ->get(“collection_dm”); $dmQ->close(); foreach ($dms as $dm) { echo ‘<input type=”checkbox” value=”‘.$dm->getCode().'” name=”collec[]”> ‘.H($dm->getDescription()).”<br />n”; } ?></td></tr></font></table></form>

I compressed some of it to one line, to make it really hard to read, because I like making things harder than necessary. :cool: It makes it easy to scroll through in the file, and I shouldn’t need to change that part. If I do, I’ll just look through it carefully. It seems to make more sense to my brain than regular, fluffy code.

In shared/global_constants.php, I have this:

define(“OBIB_SEARCH_BARCODE”,”1″);
define(“OBIB_SEARCH_TITLE”,”2″);
define(“OBIB_SEARCH_AUTHOR”,”3″);
define(“OBIB_SEARCH_SUBJECT”,”4″);
define(“OBIB_SEARCH_NAME”,”5″);
define(“OBIB_SEARCH_ALL”,”6″);
define(“OBIB_SEARCH_CALLNMBR”,”7″);

The beginning of the search function in my classes/BiblioSearchQuery.php file looks like this:

function search($type, &$words, $page, $sortBy,
$collecs=array(), $materials=array(), $opacFlg=true) {
# reset stats
$this->_rowNmbr = 0;
$this->_currentRowNmbr = 0;
$this->_currentPageNmbr = $page;
$this->_rowCount = 0;
$this->_pageCount = 0;

# setting sql join clause
$join = “from biblio left join biblio_copy on biblio.bibid=biblio_copy.bibid “;

# setting sql where clause
$criteria = “”;
if ((sizeof($words) == 0) || ($words[0] == “”)) {
if ($opacFlg) $criteria = “where opac_flg = ‘Y’ “;
} else {
if ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_BARCODE) {
$criteria = $this->_getCriteria(array(“biblio_copy.barcode_nmbr”),$words);
} elseif ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_AUTHOR) {
$join .= “left join biblio_field on biblio_field.bibid=biblio.bibid ”
. “and biblio_field.tag=’700′ ”
. “and (biblio_field.subfield_cd=’a’ or biblio_field.subfield_cd=’b’) “;
$criteria = $this->_getCriteria(array(“biblio.author”,”biblio.responsibility_stmt”,”biblio_field.field_data”),$words);
} elseif ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_SUBJECT) {
$criteria = $this->_getCriteria(array(“biblio.topic1″,”biblio.topic2″,”biblio.topic3″,”biblio.topic4″,”biblio.topic5”),$words);
} elseif ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_ALL) {
$criteria =
$this->_getCriteria(array(“biblio.topic1″,”biblio.topic2″,”biblio.topic3”,
“biblio.topic4″,”biblio.topic5”,
“biblio.title”,”biblio.title_remainder”,
“biblio.author”,”biblio.responsibility_stmt”,
“biblio.call_nmbr1″,”biblio.call_nmbr2″,”biblio.call_nmbr3″,”biblio_copy.barcode_nmbr”),$words);
} elseif ($type == OBIB_SEARCH_CALLNMBR) {
$criteria = $this->_getCriteria(array(“biblio.call_nmbr1″,”biblio.call_nmbr2″,”biblio.call_nmbr3”),$words);
} else {
$criteria =
$this->_getCriteria(array(“biblio.title”,”biblio.title_remainder”),$words);
}

And finally, this is the code that interprets the posted data, in shared/biblio_search.php:

#****************************************************************************
#* Retrieving post vars and scrubbing the data
#****************************************************************************
if (isset($_POST[“page”])) {
$currentPageNmbr = $_POST[“page”];
} else {
$currentPageNmbr = 1;
}
$searchType = $_POST[“searchType”];
$sortBy = $_POST[“sortBy”];
if ($sortBy == “default”) {
if ($searchType == “author”) {
$sortBy = “author”;
} else {
$sortBy = “title”;
}
}
$searchText = trim($_POST[“searchText”]);
# remove redundant whitespace
$searchText = eregi_replace(“[[:space:]]+”, ” “, $searchText);
if ($searchType == “barcodeNmbr”) {
$sType = OBIB_SEARCH_BARCODE;
$words[] = $searchText;
} else {
$words = explodeQuoted($searchText);
if ($searchType == “author”) {
$sType = OBIB_SEARCH_AUTHOR;
} elseif ($searchType == “subject”) {
$sType = OBIB_SEARCH_SUBJECT;
} elseif ($searchType == “all”) {
$sType = OBIB_SEARCH_ALL;
} elseif ($searchType == “callnmbr”) {
$sType = OBIB_SEARCH_CALLNMBR;
} else {
$sType = OBIB_SEARCH_TITLE;
}
}

// limit search results to collections and materials
$collecs = array();
if (is_array($_POST[‘collec’])) {
foreach ($_POST[‘collec’] as $value) {
array_push($collecs, $value);
}
}
$materials = array();
if (is_array($_POST[‘material’])) {
foreach ($_POST[‘material’] as $value) {
array_push($materials, $value);
}
}

Notice that I added CALLNMBR and BARCODE search, the logic for which was enumerated in classes/BiblioSearchQuery.php. It’s a good feature for my patrons to find an on-hand item in the OPAC, and for me it’s especially helpful.

I revamped OpenBiblio’s search results. A typical result looks like this:

OpenBiblio new search result

Compare to the old style:

OpenBiblio old search result

Notice all the new stuff in the top image? The link is bold. The extended title is below. No more small text. Material is gone (my collections’ titles make it self-evident). The record number is shown. The call number is important, so it’s bolded purple, and on the same line as the collection to save space. On Shelf status is bold and green; a great visual cue. It’s not “checked in” anymore, it’s the more sensible “On Shelf”. I changed that right in the database, in the biblio_status_dm table. Most importantly, do you notice the wonderful info line? Everything you could ever want to know is right there. It’s year / ISBN / pages or minutes / cost / Amazon.com link / # of circulations. That really puts a lot of power into the hands of your patrons.

I wrote/modified the code for my set-up, so you’ll have to change some things if you want to use it. This goes in shared/biblo_search.php, above the footer. Here it is:

<tr>
<td nowrap=”true” class=”primary” valign=”top” align=”center” rowspan=”2″>
<?php echo H($biblioQ->getCurrentRowNmbr());?>.<br />
<a target=”_blank” href=”http://lib.thripp.com/<?php if ($tab == “cataloging”) echo “e/”.HURL($biblio->getBibid()); else echo HURL($biblio->getBibid());?>”>
<img src=”../images/<?php echo HURL($materialImageFiles[$biblio->getMaterialCd()]);?>” width=”20″ height=”20″ border=”0″ align=”bottom” alt=”<?php echo H($materialTypeDm[$biblio->getMaterialCd()]);?>”></a>
</td>
<td class=”primary” valign=”top” colspan=”2″>
<table class=”primary” width=”100%”>
<tr>
<td class=”noborder” width=”1%” valign=”top”><strong><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchTitle”); ?>:</strong></td>
<td class=”noborder” colspan=”3″><strong><a target=”_blank” href=”http://lib.thripp.com/<?php if ($tab == “cataloging”) echo “e/”.HURL($biblio->getBibid()); else echo HURL($biblio->getBibid());?>”><?php echo H($biblio->getTitle());?></a></strong>
<?php $bid = HURL($biblio->getBibid());
$getxtitle = mysql_query(“SELECT title_remainder FROM biblio WHERE bibid = ‘$bid'”) or die(mysql_error());
$printxtitle = mysql_fetch_row($getxtitle);
if ($printxtitle[0] == “”) echo “”; else echo “<br />$printxtitle[0]”; ?></td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td class=”noborder” valign=”top”><strong><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchAuthor”); ?>:</strong></td>
<td class=”noborder” colspan=”3″><?php if ($biblio->getAuthor() != “”) echo H($biblio->getAuthor());?></td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td class=”noborder” valign=”top” nowrap=”yes”><strong>Ref. #<?php echo HURL($biblio->getBibid()); ?>:</strong></td>
<td class=”noborder” colspan=”3″><?php echo H($collectionDm[$biblio->getCollectionCd()]);?> / <strong><font color=”#640064″><?php echo H($biblio->getCallNmbr1().” “.$biblio->getCallNmbr2().” “.$biblio->getCallNmbr3()); ?></font></strong></td></tr><tr><td class=”noborder” valign=”top”><strong>Info:</strong></td><td class=”noborder” colspan=”3″>

<?php // RXT 20080723 code:
$bid = HURL($biblio->getBibid());
$getyear = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ‘260’ AND subfield_cd = ‘c’ AND bibid = ‘$bid'”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getisbn = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’20’ AND subfield_cd = ‘a’ AND bibid = ‘$bid'”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getpages = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ‘300’ AND subfield_cd = ‘a’ AND bibid = ‘$bid'”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getminutes = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ’20’ AND subfield_cd = ‘c’ AND bibid = ‘$bid'”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getcost = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ‘541’ AND subfield_cd = ‘h’ AND bibid = ‘$bid'”)
or die(mysql_error());
$getamz = mysql_query(“SELECT field_data FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ‘970’ AND subfield_cd = ‘a’ AND bibid = ‘$bid'”)
or die(mysql_error());
$printyear = mysql_fetch_row($getyear);
$printisbn = mysql_fetch_row($getisbn);
$printpages = mysql_fetch_row($getpages);
$printminutes = mysql_fetch_row($getminutes);
$printcost = mysql_fetch_row($getcost);
$printamz = mysql_fetch_row($getamz);
if ($printyear == “”) echo “Year Unknown”;
else echo $printyear[0];
echo ” / “;
if ($printisbn == “”) echo “ISBN Unavailable”;
else echo “ISBN: “.$printisbn[0];
if ($printpages == “”) echo “”;
else echo ” / “.$printpages[0];
if ($printminutes == “”) echo “”;
else echo ” / “.$printminutes[0];
echo ” / $”.$printcost[0];
if ($printamz == “Not on Amazon.com”) echo “”;
elseif ($printamz != “”) echo ” / <a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/”.$printamz[0].”/brilliaphotog-20″ title=”See this item on Amazon.com”>Amazon.com</a> / “;
elseif ($printisbn != “”) echo ” / <a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/”.$printisbn[0].”/brilliaphotog-20″ title=”See this item on Amazon.com”>Amazon.com</a> / “;
else echo ” / “;
$getCircs = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(bibid) FROM biblio_status_hist WHERE bibid = ‘$bid'”) or die(mysql_error());
$getCircsRes = mysql_fetch_row($getCircs); if ($getCircsRes[0] == ‘1’) echo ” (1 circ)”; else echo ” ($getCircsRes[0] circs)”; ?>

</td></tr></table></td></tr>
<?php
if ($biblio->getBarcodeNmbr() != “”) {
?>
<tr>
<td class=”primary” ><strong><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchCopyBCode”); ?></strong>: <?php echo H($biblio->getBarcodeNmbr());?>
<?php if ($lookup == ‘Y’) { ?>
<a href=”javascript:returnLookup(‘barcodesearch’,’barcodeNmbr’,'<?php echo H(addslashes($biblio->getBarcodeNmbr()));?>’)”><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchOutIn”); ?></a> | <a href=”javascript:returnLookup(‘holdForm’,’holdBarcodeNmbr’,'<?php echo H(addslashes($biblio->getBarcodeNmbr()));?>’)”><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchHold”); ?></a>
<?php } ?>
</td>
<td class=”primary” ><strong><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchCopyStatus”); ?></strong>: <?php $status = H($biblioStatusDm[$biblio->getStatusCd()]); if ($status == ‘On Shelf’) echo “<strong><font color=”#009900″>On Shelf</font></strong>”; elseif ($status == ‘On the Shelving Cart’) echo “<strong><font color=”#FF8000″>On the Shelving Cart</font></strong>”; else echo “<strong><font color=”#FF0000″>$status</font></strong>”; ?></td>
</tr>
<?php } else { ?>
<tr>
<td class=”primary” colspan=”2″ ><?php echo $loc->getText(“biblioSearchNoCopies”); ?></td>
</tr>
<?php
}
}
}
$biblioQ->close();
?>
</table><br />
<?php printResultPages($loc, $currentPageNmbr, $biblioQ->getPageCount(), $sortBy); ?>

This code assumes you’re using mod_rewrite to create friendly permalinks, in the format of YOURSITE/BIBID and YOURSITE/e/BIBID for the cataloging section. I’ll tell you how later in the article. It also assumes your site is http://lib.thripp.com and your Amazon.com affiliate code is brilliaphotog-20. Change the first one definitely. Leave the second alone if you want to donate to me. :cool:

This code also makes the assumption that your using my cataloging methods I defined earlier (year field, ISBN, pages are clean, etc.). For DVDs to show the minute count instead of pages, the number MUST be in “Terms of availability:”, which is the field I chose. You can change it easily if you examine the database structure and modify the code to fit your methods. The code defines the Amazon.com ASIN as the text in the ISBN field of the record, so your ISBN fields MUST be ISBN-10 and MUST be clean (no “(pbk.)” after the numbers). I’ve defined a contingency method: create a Marc field with tag 970, subfield a, with the ASIN if it differs from the ISBN or there is no ISBN. That will be used instead. If you enter “Not on Amazon.com” as the Marc field, no Amazon.com link will show even if there is an ISBN.

“On Shelf” statuses are shown in bold green, “On the Shelving Cart” is bold orange, and everything else is bold red. Make sure to change the statuses to those in the biblio_status_dm table, or do the opposite in the code. The number of circs includes checkouts and renewals for all copies attached to the record, past and present. Links open in new windows (I added target=”blank”). This is because the search results page uses POST data instead of URL parameters, so opening in the same window and clicking back prompts a warning. I wish it used URL parameters instead.

I like my search results format. It’s a lot more useful than what I see at most libraries.

I also upgraded shared/biblio_view.php to this:

OpenBiblio new item view

A typical record before would be this:

OpenBiblio old item view

Examples for the old style are from the Frances D. Still Learning Center OPAC. They use a stock OpenBiblio install. Nearing 3000 items. OpenBiblio scales failry well.

The code for the record view page is mostly copied from the search results page, so I won’t copy it for brevity.

I created a robust statistics system on the home page, which goes around aggregating numbers in the database so that it’s always up-to-date. It has one huge flaw: it assumes each record has one and only one item. Mine do, so it isn’t a problem, but I’ll have to re-work it when that changes.

The code requires you to create config.php and global.php in the OpenBiblio root. config.php should look like this:

<?php unset($config);
$config = array();
$config[‘db_hostname’] = “localhost”;
$config[‘db_port’] = “3306”;
$config[‘db_username’] = “yourDBusername”;
$config[‘db_password’] = “yourDBpassword”;
$config[‘db_name’] = “yourDBname”; ?>

Replace the database details with your own above, then make global.php exactly as below:

<?php function db_connect() { global $config; mysql_connect($config[‘db_hostname’].”:”.$config[‘db_port’], $config[‘db_username’], $config[‘db_password’]) or die(mysql_error()); mysql_select_db($config[‘db_name’]) or die(mysql_error()); } ?>

Finally, this huge block powers the statistics:

<p>
<?php require(“../config.php”); require(“../global.php”); db_connect();
$cCount = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(copyid) FROM biblio_copy”) or die(mysql_error());
$cCountRes = mysql_fetch_row($cCount);

$cPrice = mysql_query(“SELECT SUM(field_data) FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ‘541’”) or die(mysql_error());
$cPriceRes = mysql_fetch_row($cPrice);

$cPages = mysql_query(“SELECT SUM(field_data) FROM biblio_field WHERE tag = ‘300’ AND subfield_cd = ‘a'”);
$cPagesRes = mysql_fetch_row($cPages);

$cNonFic = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(bibid) FROM biblio WHERE collection_cd = ‘2’”);
$cNonFicRes = mysql_fetch_row($cNonFic);

$cFic = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(bibid) FROM biblio WHERE collection_cd = ‘1’”);
$cFicRes = mysql_fetch_row($cFic);

$cDVDs = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(bibid) FROM biblio WHERE collection_cd = ’12′”);
$cDVDsRes = mysql_fetch_row($cDVDs);

$cOut = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(status_cd) FROM biblio_copy WHERE status_cd = ‘out'”) or die(mysql_error());
$cOutRes = mysql_fetch_row($cOut);

$cIn = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(status_cd) FROM biblio_copy WHERE status_cd = ‘in'”) or die(mysql_error());
$cInRes = mysql_fetch_row($cIn);

$circOuts = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(copyid) FROM biblio_status_hist WHERE status_cd = ‘out'”) or die(mysql_error());
$circOutsRes = mysql_fetch_row($circOuts);

$circRens = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(copyid) FROM biblio_status_hist WHERE status_cd = ‘crt'”) or die(mysql_error());
$circRensRes = mysql_fetch_row($circRens);

$circTotal = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(copyid) FROM biblio_status_hist”) or die(mysql_error());
$circTotalRes = mysql_fetch_row($circTotal);

$pTotal = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(mbrid) FROM member”) or die(mysql_error());
$pTotalRes = mysql_fetch_row($pTotal);

$pTotalAdults = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(classification) FROM member WHERE classification = ‘1’”) or die(mysql_error());
$pTotalAdultsRes = mysql_fetch_row($pTotalAdults);

$pTotalChildren = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(classification) FROM member WHERE classification = ‘2’”) or die(mysql_error());
$pTotalChildrenRes = mysql_fetch_row($pTotalChildren);

$pPhones = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(mbrid) FROM member WHERE home_phone != ””) or die(mysql_error());
$pPhonesRes = mysql_fetch_row($pPhones);

$pEmails = mysql_query(“SELECT COUNT(mbrid) FROM member WHERE email != ””) or die(mysql_error());
$pEmailsRes = mysql_fetch_row($pEmails);

$cAllBooks = ($cFicRes[0]+$cNonFicRes[0]);

echo “<strong>Live Statistics:</strong><br />

The Thripp Public Library has <strong>$pTotalRes[0]</strong> patrons: <strong>$pTotalAdultsRes[0]</strong> adults and <strong>$pTotalChildrenRes[0]</strong> children.<br />

There are <strong>”.$cCountRes[0].”</strong> items: <strong>”.$cNonFicRes[0].”</strong> nonfiction books, <strong>”.$cFicRes[0].”</strong> fiction books, and <strong>”.$cDVDsRes[0].”</strong> DVDs.<br />

Stats: Nonfiction books: <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cNonFicRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong>; Fiction books: <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cFicRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong>; DVDs: <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cDVDsRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong>.<br />

<strong>”; if ($cOutRes[0] == ‘1’) echo “1</strong> item is”; else echo “$cOutRes[0]</strong> items are”; echo ” checked out and <strong>”.$cInRes[0].”</strong> are on shelf.<br />

<strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cOutRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong> of the catalog is checked out. The average patron has <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cOutRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])); echo “</strong> items out.<br />

There are <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cCountRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])); echo “</strong> items for every <strong>1</strong> patron.<br />

The collection is worth <strong>$$cPriceRes[0]</strong>, or about <strong>$”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cPriceRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])); echo “</strong> per item.<br />

There have been <strong>$circOutsRes[0]</strong> checkouts and <strong>$circRensRes[0]</strong> renewals; a total of <strong>$circTotalRes[0]</strong>.<br />

&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This is an average of <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($circTotalRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])); echo “</strong> per patron, or <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($circTotalRes[0]/$cCountRes[0])); echo “</strong> per item.<br />

There are <strong>”.$cAllBooks.”</strong> books with <strong>”. number_format($cPagesRes[0]).”</strong> pages. The average book has <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cPagesRes[0]/($cFicRes[0]+$cNonFicRes[0]))); echo “</strong> pages.<br />

The ratio of fiction to nonfiction books is <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($cFicRes[0]/$cNonFicRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong>.<br />

The collection represents <strong>$”; printf (“%01.2f”,($cPriceRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])); echo “</strong> of value per patron.<br />

<strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($pPhonesRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong> of my patrons have telephones and <strong>”; printf (“%01.2f”,(($pEmailsRes[0]/$pTotalRes[0])*100)); echo “%</strong> have email accounts.”;

?>
</p>

I do know this is all over the place, it’s a mess, it’s inefficient, and it probably should all be cached. It’s working great, so I’ll cross the “I have to fix this now!” bridge when I come to it. Feeding the library address into this speed test, it’s 0.4 seconds; the same as thripp.com which is totally cached. That might slow down as the database gets bigger, but for now it’s fine.

You can use this code for your OpenBiblio site, by adding it to opac/index.php, but you have to change some stuff. Notice “collection_cd” and “classification”? The arguments there are hard-coded for my database, so change them for yours. Otherwise, you have to make sure to enter the cost for each item, and the number of pages as “###” or “### pages” in “Physical description (Extent):” and nothing else. If you do this, it’s cool because you get the total number of pages in your library.

Right now, the stats look like this:

Live Statistics:
The Thripp Public Library has 5 patrons: 3 adults and 2 children.
There are 81 items: 63 nonfiction books, 15 fiction books, and 3 DVDs.
Stats: Nonfiction books: 77.78%; Fiction books: 18.52%; DVDs: 3.70%.
2 items are checked out and 79 are on shelf.
2.47% of the catalog is checked out. The average patron has 0.40 items out.
There are 16.20 items for every 1 patron.
The collection is worth $1681.82, or about $20.76 per item.
There have been 19 checkouts and 15 renewals; a total of 34.
    This is an average of 6.80 per patron, or 0.42 per item.
There are 78 books with 29,786 pages. The average book has 381.87 pages.
The ratio of fiction to nonfiction books is 23.81%.
The collection represents $336.36 of value per patron.
100.00% of my patrons have telephones and 100.00% have email accounts.

It’s amazing what computers can do, no? In the print age, or even in an out-of-the-box ILS, it would take hours to compile this report, and you’d have to do it every time something changed. If anyone made reports like this, it would be once a month at best, and still it would be a great drudgery and expense. Not so anymore.

The stats are a bit messed up when you have records you’ve just imported from the Library of Congress, but not processed. Nothing fatal; the numbers are just wrong. Once you’ve done all the cataloging, it’s fine, though.

A good OPAC needs good URLs. My URLs are like lib.thripp.com/93. No titles in the URLs keeps them nice and simple-to-implement. I’m using Linux + Apache, so fixing this is easy. Let me show you my .htaccess file:


RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^([0-9]+)$ shared/biblio_view.php?bibid=$1&tab=opac [NC]
RewriteRule ^e/([0-9]+)$ shared/biblio_view.php?bibid=$1&tab=cataloging [NC]
RewriteRule ^$ opac/index.php [L,NC]
RewriteRule ^search-results shared/biblio_search.php [L,NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} www.lib.thripp.com$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://lib.thripp.com/$1 [L,R=301]

That does all the magic. Change http://lib.thripp.com, of course. This requires changes in opac/index.php and shared/biblio_search.php to match. If you’ve used my code in this article, it’s already done, though. Now, you can jump from a regular view to the view with the edit links by adding “e/” before the bibid. And the OPAC is mapped to the root instead of home/index.php, which is cluttered and has a lot of staff functions. I don’t know why it’s the default home page. Anyway, after the change you can still get there by URL by adding “/home” to your URL. That’s the best way, because not having a link to the staff area from the home page is a bit of security through obscurity.

I’m happy to have started my library, despite being just for family and friends for now. I need to buy a house or a warehouse to host it at, and then open it up to the world. OpenBiblio has good facilities for checkouts, renewals, limits, fines, and even receipt printing, and I feel I can build upon them through my own programming, so on the tech site I’m ready. I plan to have a lending library with a limit of 5 items out per person at a time. You can renew and place holds, but only by phone or by coming in (this is OpenBiblio’s limitation; other OPACs have these features). You get three weeks on everything, except DVDs which are one week. Late fees are 15 cents per item per day.

It might be 5 years before I’m making enough money from advertising on this website to find a space to open the library. I’m not too worried. It’s better to start now than to start later. Here’s a photo of the stacks now:

The Thripp Library shelves

These books displaced my photos, but it’s worth it. I used to have stacks of photos on these shelves, but I crammed them in with other photos on my other bookshelf to make way for the library. If you’re a good friend, feel free to come over to my house, get a library card, and check something out. Make a donation to get this off the ground. If you make a donation, you’re a good friend.

I’m seeing a big gap between what public libraries are… and what they could be. There are no charismatic leaders in librarianship. Most everyone is dull and unoriginal; even the software and basics like online catalogs need lots of work. This is because most libraries are government-funded; even many academic branches are not immune. So the strategy is “let’s waste as much money as possible and leech from the taxpayers,” not “let’s work efficiently and make a real contribution to the community.” More frighteningly, libraries are becoming elitist, discarding old, unpopular, or “offensive” books and rejecting self-published books or anything without an ISBN number. I’ve written a mission statement for the Thripp Public Library to address this:

The Thripp Public Library is founded on a healthy attitude of dissension and skepticism, a distaste for lies and fallacy, and a love of learning from history. To know history and avoid 1984-style revisionism, it’s important to keep old books around. Unfortunately the Volusia County library system doesn’t do this, as I’ve gotten many of my library’s gems right from their book sales. These are my library’s universal principles:

1. Timelessness eschews popularity.
2. The message trumps the medium.
3. Truth is independent of source.

This means that good information can come from any person or organization in any form, be it a book, magazine, CD, DVD, website, etc. I’ve founded the library on timelessness, meaning that I refuse to destroy parts of the collection that are rarely looked at, because they are often the most important. Popular movies circulate more, but are fleeting and unscholarly. I’ll include them if they’re cheap and terribly entertaining, though.

Here’s an example item, with the Thripp barcode:

Thomas Jefferson book

And here’s what a Thripp library card looks like:

Richard X. Thripp's Thripp library card

Cataloging is on hold till I go to the store, because I’ve run out of clear packing tape to affix barcodes and spine labels.

Take a look at the catalog. Just click Search! to see everything. Then come back and tell me you’re not impressed. :wink2:

Photo: In the Fog

In the Fog — foggy traffic lights in black and white

This is what it feels like to live in the fog all the time. Took this of some green traffic lights at night. How did I get the fog? I blew on the lens, and the condensation made the photo turn out like this, no fog required.

I added a ton of contrast, burned in the sides, and switched to black and white. The added contrast amplified the noise considerably, so this is a noisy image. It works because of the lack of color, though.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 50mm 1:1.4, 1/100, F2.2, 50mm, ISO800, 2008-06-21T21:15:48-04, 20080622-011548rxt

Location: 1832 Nelson Ave., Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7228

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Photo: The Long and Winding Road

The Long and Winding Road — a curvy road and fence in the sun

The road is long and winding… don’t you just want to jump over the fence and rest a minute in the grass? Or a day, or a week, or a year? That fence is there for a reason, No matter how long you stay, you know you eventually have to travel that road.

Editing on this involved burning the road and corners considerably, then adding contrast with the curves tool.

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/320, F5.6, 52mm, ISO100, 2008-07-13T12:43:32-04, 20080713-164332rxt

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

The New Way to Do Things

Saw this poster for Post-It Super Sticky notes at Office Depot:

Post-It Super Sticky poster

Seems like a reasonable advertisement, tasteful, with examples, etc. But look closer at one of them:

Post-It Super Sticky close-up

“Sherri, Let’s team up for the civics report!” Since when is teaming up allowed? It would make high school and college so much easier for me.

I think this poster represents a general lost of respect for the education system… because it’s generally less deserving of respect. My Dad taught me at home, but if I went to public school I would’ve been home-schooled too. No real learning goes on at school; the teachers just say “go home and learn this.” Also, you’re forced to spend time on a lot of garbage when you should be focusing on just three things: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Everything else will flow from that. And no, arithmetic is NOT mixing numbers and letters. It’s practical stuff.

Subject vs. Persona in Blogging

I’m seeing bloggers in two categories:

1. Ones that stick to one subject so as not to alienate their readers. These bloggers always put their readers first, doing anything to make them happy. They keep everything short and pithy, and make five posts a day. If it’s a photography blog, three-quarters the post are about Canon and Nikon’s latest cameras and other industry news. These blogs are often have several writers, who follow rules like “use short paragraphs” and “capture the reader’s attention quickly because otherwise, it will go away.” These are clearly subject-oriented blogs. This category holds many popular and focused blogs. Check out Photolog for an example. A writer of this style would never dare to mix personal development in with photography, even if they can be bridged. If he wanted to write about growth, he’d start a separate blog and at best link it the footer from his photography blog. Because the footer link is so small, only 1% would come on over. The audience for the two blogs would be totally separate. The blogger may as well be a different person on each blog. Readers come to read about widgets, then leave.

2. The blog is not so much about the subject, but about the person or group writing it. It doesn’t even have to be personal. People come back because they like the subjects, but more importantly because they like the style they’re written in. They come back because the blog is about you, not widgets. Blogs like this are timeless and become insanely popular, but often less than 5% of their traffic is driven by search engines. A friendly email is always more attractive than an ad or a search result, because it’s unpaid, unfocused sponsorship. These are definitely persona-oriented blogs. Lifehacker definitely comes to mind. It’s all over the place, but people go there to feel a part of the life hacking scene, one of intelligence, versatility, and smart computing. There may be posts about widgets, but people don’t go there to read about one type of widget.

One of the things I found fascinating when I was part of the Animal Crossing Community (a site about a video game), is that the community that builds up around the game makes it so everyone wants to talk about all sorts of other stuff. There was one off-topic forum, but people loved to hang out there even though they had no idea what would turn up, just like people love to watch the Oprah show. You can’t keep people on one subject; they’re going to want to talk about anything and everything with their new friends. And you can’t expect them to know what they’re looking for. Often their waiting for you to surprise them, even if it’s a non-photography article on a “photography blog.”

Persona-oriented bloggers usually have only one blog for everything. No partitioning. It might be messy, it might be all over the place, the blogger might share a lot of unreleated talents. But the truth is, our lives are messy. Placing ourselves so firmly in these little boxes is unique to blogging. It isn’t natural.

My challenge for you is to mix it up a bit. If you belong to category 2, try doing some really focused writing in category 1. And if your firmly in the subject category, try doing some engaging writing in the persona category. You don’t have to go off-topic. If it’s a photography blog, instead of writing about the latest press releases, take some time off and write a riveting account of how your camera was almost stolen, or how you grew up longing to start photography but couldn’t afford the equipment. The consummate of the two is rounded blogging, where you have a blog that people come to not to obtain a factoid and leave, but to challenge their minds and digest everything. If you follow this path for a few months, you’ll have people that literally spend hours at your blog, because you’ve written so much fascinating material. They love it, because when they click their bookmark they’re returning to wholeness rather than being bogged in fragmentation. They don’t even come for a reason or subject, because they know whatever there is going to be great. You have a captive audience. Use that greatness, leverage it to brighten their days and inspire them to action.

The Perils of Redundant Linking

Sometimes I’ll write a post, and I’ll mention something twice. Often it’s my wonderful camera, a Canon Rebel XTi. And then I wonder: should I make the text a link twice? In the Rebel XTi case, it’s a link to Amazon.com (an evil affiliate link). Sometimes, the link will be with different text, or in an entirely different context than the first, though it goes to the same page. That could be linking to Glass Drops once while talking about night photography, and then again when discussing raindrops, in the same article.

I’ve noticed other people doing this, and I’m finding it ever more annoying. I’ve found there are two approaches to double-linking:

1. Link redundantly, because your readers will be annoyed and confused that your talking about a subject so much but not linking to it, if they missed the first link. Or do it to really get people to click your affiliate link. More commonly, readers scan your content rather than reading closely. Either they scan by default, or find your writing useless. To accommodate that group, you have to mention important stuff as many times as possible and hope it won’t be missed. Your writing for the unengaged rather than the engaged, and your putting the wrong ones first.

2. Don’t link redundantly, because you choose to cater to thorough rather than casual readers. Readers who take in every word and click every link in perfect succession. Readers who will be annoyed and confused if they find the same page twice in their tab bar after a work-out session with the scroll button. I click every link if I like what I’m reading, because I know the author will have good recommendations about the topic. And I’ve been finding it quite disconcerting when a good author is type 1.

I’ve decided to abandon double-linking because my audience should be type 2 rather than type 1. This goes along with blogging selectively and writing insightful, comprehensive articles rather than shallow, fleeting posts. Stuff like Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Value rather than a Quick Post on HDR. Stuff that’s unbelievably useful rather than unbelievably useless. Gold rather than garbage.

I don’t mind redundant links outside of a single post. Even if the same links are in the categories list or header, it’s okay, because that content is generally fixed and largely ignored. A contextual link going to the same place is fine, because it adds to the content of the article, unlike saying “check the sidebar.” The problem also is that the header and sidebar are expensive places, because they show up on every page. I can’t be sure how long a link will stay there. If its value is transient it can’t stay up once the value is gone. There is no space for clutter. A services link is still worthwhile now, but in three months I may stop taking commissions entirely, and “check the header for services” would be out of date. The other problem is that it’s better to show than to tell. A direct link is always better than saying “see here” or “search Google.”

Within a single post, Type 1 linking just doesn’t bode with this style at all. It’s fine if you don’t value your readers’ time and assume they don’t read what you write. If you assume no one’s reading, it will come true, because you’ll start writing stuff that’s valuable to no one. But if you’re writing for the heart first, and profit second, it just doesn’t work. Type 2 is the only way to go.

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