More on blogs and ISSNs: a snobbery thing


I'm glad to see my journal is being read in all the right places. Several representatives of major national research libraries have dropped me a line to say how much they agree with what I wrote yesterday. One made a very important point about the consequences of an incorrect ISSN (name of library deleted):

thanks for comments on ISSNs.

yes, the libraries have enough to do without worrying about giving out ISSNs to blog-heads.

i just spent three days coding an online javascript ISSN checker for _________ (checksum and all, i was soo proud), to discover that because ISSNs are so frequently wrong, misused or absent, forcing some poor librarian to try and enter one correctly makes for unusable web applications. ISSN as it stands is a farce, without including blogs. anyway don't these web heads already have a URL or URI to register?

Well quite, what is a URL if it is not the far more usable equivalent of an ISSN online. And the problem of an incorrect ISSN shouldn't be overlooked, this is more common than generally realised. When Columbia University Press first published my Yijing book in hardback in the States they got the ISBN wrong. It happens all the time.

I have spent years personally in research libraries looking up references, never once have I used an ISBN or an ISSN to track down an obscure title. I have been an editor for 20 years and never once have I put an ISBN or ISSN in a journal reference or a book reference. In fact, I have frequently deleted them as surplus to requirements and out of style for references. Standard style besides title and author for a website citation in academic references is its URL and date of access. Those who say an ISSN is needed for citation of their website in a paper are talking out of their hats, providing a specious justification to make their hankering after one sound more reasonable and disguise the fact it's just trophy hunting for their websites on the cheap. (If anyone is seriously interested in citation style for websites I recommend The Columbia Guide to Online Style.)

An ISSN for a website is quite absurd and those who seek to get one are just making work for people who have enough to do already. As for those bloggers who complain about the fact that libraries are at last realising this themselves, and are having to spend much of the working day writing refusals for a parade of selfish scumbag bloggers who then deign to pout and posture about the refusal on their blogs as if they're insulted, I fume at the arrogance of these twats. Ask yourself, when you've got your precious ISSN what are you going to do with it exactly, just look yourself up in a database and feel proud you're in there?

But more to the point John Coulthart in an email to me yesterday nailed this one on the head:

My immediate reaction to this is that a bunch of bloggers with inflated opinions of themselves are in a rush to distinguish their precious texts from the terrible, unwashed blogging hordes out there. So it's old-fashioned snobbery with an electronic sheen. Depressing really but seems all-too inevitable as well. It's good reading your comments on these matters, makes me glad I'm not involved!

I think this is right, and as if to confirm it Richard Rutter of Clagnut who I criticised as the latest casualty of this misguided craze writes in an email to me this morning:

Interesting post on the 'non-issue' of ISSNs and blogs. I'd concede a few points to your self-confessed rant, although 'millions of pizza-faced kids panting with excitement to get their blogs on board' is a little optimistic.

Doesn't that show that at least this representative of those keen to get an ISSN for their blog doesn't actually expect the 'millions of pizza-faced kids' to do likewise? Why not? Obvious, they are not as refined, they are urchins, they are not sufficiently au fait with the 'issue' to seek such high standing among the elite of the webloggery world.

It's clear to me that the people who want an ISSN for their blog have very little real experience of library research or the world of publishing in the traditional sense, they are children of the web and know no other form of publishing, they write on their blogs about the only thing they know about, usually programming or electronic gadgets, and imagine themselves journalists. And now they just want to make nuisances of themselves because a few web pundits they have a high opinion of have told them it's cool to have an ISSN, it gives you respect and makes you stand out from the lower caste of bloggers who have nothing serious to say, who merely write for their mates about parties and zits. Yep, it's snobbery and a misplaced sense of one's own importance. I stress again: stop wasting librarians' time you idiots, they have better things to do than cater to your fantasies of greatness. And take a little time out to savour the world of traditional publishing as well. Before you demand your equal status ask yourself what you really know about what you seek to measure yourself up against. You may find you fall painfully short.


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