Wednesday 23 February 2011

Fun with statistics

Now, if you'd asked me any time up until this if I could have fun with statistics the answer would have been a very quick and very clear No!  However I've since rediscovered the StatCounter account I set up when I started Archives and Auteurs and I am amazed to find myself idly browsing my blog's statistics.   The reason I remembered about the account was thinking about the work Flickr I recently set up with Zoe Viney for the Wessex Film and Sound Archive.  We couldn't find any way for collecting statistical information through Flickr beyond the basic page views information.  I remembered about StatCounter and surprised myself by remembering my user name and password as well.  It had still been running even though I haven't been logging in but as I hadn't added my new IP addresses (work and home) to the list of addresses not to count then I think my results might be slightly skewed.  So, if anyone else is setting up StatCounter or any similar statistical service then it is always best to block your own computer's IP address so your figures are more accurate, unless your memory is really bad and you want to keep count of your own views of course.

The images I've included below show the breakdown by country of visitors to my blog over the course of last week, then the second one lists in more detail every country that views have come from.  you can narrow this down to city as well.  Other useful things you can check are which pages are the most popular, which websites people are directed to your site from, how long they stay (this can sometimes be a bit painful), and lots of other useful, or useless, information depending on your point of view/general inclination to nosiness.

What I found most useful was information on how people had found my blog - what terms they had searched for or what website they had come from.  This made me think more about the tagging I use on my posts and I have resolved to try and be a bit more thorough in my tagging - treating it more like my actual cataloguing work than I have done in the past.  

I haven't started using it yet for the WFSA Flickr account for two reasons, the first being I thought I would try it first with my Flickr account to see if it worked.  With StatCounter, and I assume it is similar whatever software you use, you have to input the HTML code in to your profile on Flickr then add the web pages to your statistic software account.  I'm find doing this with my own account but I was a bit unsure with the work one - does this give them access to other information on your Flickr account, do they have rights over the statistical data as it is displayed on their account?  These questions are things I would rather investigate more fully before using it for workplace statistics - but for now I'll keep enjoying using it for my own web pages.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

on Marginalia

Thanks to a few links on Twitter I just got directed to an article in the New York Times 'Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins' (20/02/2011).  The article doesn't discuss the issue of writing in the margins on digital books, except to quote G. Thomas Tanselle, a former vice president of the Kohn Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an adjunct professor of English at Columbia University “People will always find a way to annotate electronically... But there is the question of how it is going to be preserved. And that is a problem now facing collections libraries.” I don't own a Kindle or other digital book so don't know if it is possible to write in the margins so to speak - does anyone else know, has anyone tried to do it? 

What it does discuss is the history of marginalia, or writing in the margins of books.  It gives various examples including a book The Pen and the Book about making a profit in publishing.  the book in itself is not particularly valuable for it's original content, instead it is the notes in the margins that qualify it to be held in an Archive.  The notes were written by Mark Twain and they include very scathing comments about the author, Walter Besant.  Twain noted in pencil that "nothing could be stupider" in regards to Besant's argument that advertising could be used to sell books.

The Lindsay Anderson Archive holds Anderson's personal book collection and how I wish now that I'd spent a few evenings going through all the books in it more thoroughly for annotations as the ones I did find were great! The one I most remember is one that has been used by me and by Karl Magee (the University Archivist at Stirling).  The book in question is Hollywood England: the British Film Industry in the Sixties, Alexander Walker, 1974.  In one section Walker talks about the failings of British cinema to produce Auteurs 'Where in the period under review does one look for the British equivalent of Bergman, or Forman, or Rohmer, or Antonioni, or Truffaut of even Godard? The answer is, nowhere.'.  In his characteristic red pen Lindsay Anderson has boldly underlined this and written in the margins in large red letters 'Thanks!'  I'm sure there must be many more examples of marginalia in the book collection that I just didn't get to - one of the pitfalls of fixed-term contract work I suppose!

Thoughts on using Flickr for Archives

Since last Friday me and fellow cataloguer Zoe Viney have been avidly following our Flickr statistics (really not as boring as it sounds!) and the publicity we did has had a huge impact on viewing figures.  Just using mailing lists such as the Archives NRA list, Hampshire County Council lists, and our Twitter we had over 300 views by the end of the first day (last Friday, 18th February 2011) and as of five minutes ago we have 495 views - pretty good going for five days I would say!  Even though I use Twitter every day, check my mailing lists every day and so on, I was still surprised by the high response rate to our postings.  I think this illustrates the high value which such social networking tools as Twitter, Facebook and Flickr can have for an archive, especially in these difficult times of cuts and closures.

Our original aim was to create an online exhibition which would promote the project we are working on specifically and the Wessex Film and Sound Archive more generally.  This was an additional outcome to the project rather than a core part of it so we had to do it for free, and without using up our cataloguing time.  I had used Flickr before when I worked at Stirling University (see their Flickr here) so I knew how easy it was to set up and to upload images to.  I had never used it to upload videos before but this isn't any different to uploading photos so doesn't take long at all.  What I had thought would take longer was actually making clips from the digital copies of the films.  However this was surprisingly straightforward using Quicktime to select then extract a short section of a film.  The quality of the images varied hugely depending on whether we were doing screenshots from Quicktime files, DVD copies, or taking photographs of a screen showing a VHS copy with the Quicktime files giving the best quality still shots.

The exhibition is 'A Sense of Place' - let me know what you think of it and feel free to add any additional information or comments to the Flickr site.  It is very easy to use Flickr and by using some free publicity, very easy to direct people to your site.  However what seems to be a lot harder, well at least I've found it harder, is encouraging people to interact and communicate with the archives through Flickr.  Our aim now should be to try to generate more user interaction, maybe by posting stills of places or people we can't identify - that's the next project to get started on!

Another thing - trying to set up an exhibition within Flickr, (we don't have Flickr Pro so can't use Collections, only Sets)  was tricky.  It was only due to Zoe's persistence with sorting out the links that it works (well, we think it works, let us know what you think).  it took a lot of tweaking to get it so that we could create themes then link to a set of images from a particular film.  Flickr Pro would help with this as you could create Collections, then Sets within the Collections - if the exhibition and our general use of Flickr proves to be a success then we hope that Flickr Pro is something the Record Office would consider investing in (not that it's a huge investment really, just $25).

I think this clip below shows just how much you can get out of a 1 minute 30 second clip - there is just so much going on at this market and fair!  The film is titled 1939 - 1963 Then and Now as the filmmaker Eda Moore spliced together footage of Salisbury (her hometown) across this date range to show what had changed, and what had stayed the same.

AV509/3 - Eda Moore 1939 - 1963 Then and Now

Sunday 20 February 2011

Perfection is not an aim.

Danny Boyle on David Lean "[Lean] dominates the British landscape in a way that I think is unhealthy really.  He was a perfectionist and I'm not sure that the pursuit of perfection is what it's about really.  I think it's about expression, not perfection... I find that perfection a little bit glossy at times really." (from an interview with Danny Boyle in the Guardian - I have searched online and cannot find the article this came from, I should the have kept the paper copy!)

I wrote this down at the time because it stuck in my head in reference to the Free Cinema Manifesto which Lindsay Anderson wrote:

“No film can be too personal…
Perfection is not an aim.
An attitude means a style.
A style means an attitude.”
Lindsay Anderson, Free Cinema Manifesto from the 1956 Free Cinema Programme

I'm with Lindsay Anderson and Danny Boyle on this one, perfection is definitely not what it's about!

Friday 18 February 2011

New book on music collector Alan Lomax

"It still remains for us to learn how we can put our magnificent mass communications technology at the service of each and every branch of the human family." - Alan Lomax

This aim was something that Alan Lomax worked towards his whole life, using technology to make field recordings of grassroots music, dance and song throughout America and abroad.  He founded the Association for Cultural Equity to promote his belief that every culture has the need to express and develop its distinctive heritage. In addition to his position as an ethnographic music collector and then head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress Alan Lomax was also well known as an author, folklorist, radio broadcaster, filmmaker, concert and record producer and as a television host.

This book The Man who Recorded the World about Alan Lomax is on my 'to buy' list for this year as I have a feeling it's a book that I'd want to come back to again and browse through.  I have heard a lot about Alan Lomax, originally through my mum and her love of folk music, then I read America over the Water by Shirley Collins in which she travelled to America and worked as an assistant to Alan Lomax in his field recordings.

The Alan Lomax Collection is held at the American Folklife Centre.  There is a huge amount of material from the Archive online on the AlanLomaxArchive YouTube channel.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Danger! Danger!

Oh dear, the news that Liberty have opened a new stationery department in their store is something I've been trying to ignore but I. just. can't. do. it. anymore. - I've caved. I've looked at pictures, salivated over notebooks, wrapping paper, notelets etc and now I'm going to have to go visit!  There's some particularly enticing photo's at The Women's Room.  My husband has endured stationery shops throughout the world for me as I just can't walk past one without going in - though I think the Liberty experience may have to be undertaken alone so I can spend as long, and as much, as I like!

Image from the Liberty blog