Archive.org has now enabled a full-text search function, which means that those of us on quests for odd Victorian novels now have an even easier time finding them. Yay! (Yay?) It's not on the front page; begin a search in the usual box to get to the results page, where you can toggle the full search option. So far:
1) I've not seen any false positives, which is one of the most frustrating aspects of GoogleBooks' search function. (I mean, it's possible that a children's book about a teddy bear includes a reference to the Scottish Reformation Society, but, you know, it's not what I'd call probable.)
2) The function pulls up results in documents shared with GoogleBooks that GoogleBooks itself misses.
3) That being said, the new search function is still a wee bit buggy. Right now, clicking on results opens the document...and then generates a dialogue box informing you that there's no sign of your search term anywhere. "What?!" you cry, outraged. Actually, it is there, but you have to run the search again inside the book.
Friday evening, I discovered that Allan Armadale had made an excellent start on chewing through the router's power cord. Thanks to his fine contribution, I lost all home internet access until this afternoon. My students were strangely unimpressed by this excuse, no doubt because it sounds vaguely reminiscent of the dog eating one's homework; the tech who delivered my new power cord thought it was hilarious, so at least someone was entertained. I wasn't entertained, but then, my views are not paramount in this household.
Now, it occurs to me that my momentarily unwired situation no doubt calls for one of those trendy thinkpieces about how being disconnected enabled me to Find Myself Again and to Experience the True Meaning of Life and to Slow Down and Enjoy the Everyday Pleasures of Living. I will concede that I did do a fair amount of reading and writing, no doubt to the great joy of my editor. But, you know...
...I didn't Find Myself Again, because I wasn't lost;
I'm old enough to think that life doesn't have a True Meaning;
and personally, I would enjoy the Everyday Pleasures of Life more if I had access to a reliable weather report.
Similarly. Much of the apparatus for doing scholarly work is now online. Want to check a reference? Look up something in a database? Reread something in GoogleBooks? Can't do any of that without internet access. My writing would have proceeded more quickly if I could have accessed primary and secondary materials from home. How about grading those student papers that you collected in an electronic dropbox, the better to save the trees? Can't do that without the internet either. (OK, I'm sure many of my academic readers wouldn't be in mourning about that.) What about something basic, like transferring your work from one computer to another via the fluffy cloud? Nope--time to revisit the thumb drive.
Perhaps, come to think of it, I did Find Myself: I found myself wishing that I had internet access so I could continue doing those things I wanted or needed to do.
Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder makes one of those points that ought to be obvious, but isn't, namely that it's totes OK to not share everything and the kitchen sink with one's students. At the same time, as someone pointed out in comments, it's pretty much a given that students will be curious and poke around a bit on the internets. Which means that there is sharing and sharing.
My own rules, developed by ye olde method of trial and error:
1) In general: discuss "students" in only the most general of terms; try to avoid anything that could be pinned to one student, or even a specific group of students, unless it's wholeheartedly positive. I know that some people get huffy about this, but I'm not anonymous, and my students haven't asked or given permission to be identified. If you're anonymous, then obviously you have more freedom in this respect, but even so, bear in mind that one day in the distant future, your anonymity may be breached (either because somebody snoops or, even more likely, you accidentally identify yourself, whether on- or off-line).
I also tend to be somewhat chary about discussing my personal life, because it's, well, personal, and not something I tend to do in the "real" world, either. Photos of cats are OK, though. Oh, and book acquisitions.
2) Facebook. Completely locked down. No requests accepted from current students, because a) if I am going to post something personal, it will be there and b) surely my students don't want me seeing their personal life. However, I decided some time back that rule #1 would also have to apply, simply because you never know who is going to cut and paste you.
3) Twitter. I've followed and been followed by students on occasion, but neither seek them out nor dissuade them. (I've done Twitter-y things in courses before, but many of our students don't use the app, and I'm not going to make them sign up for it.)
4) Here. Obviously, students can find me here (and have, on occasion).
Perhaps that sounds a little apocalyptic. Still, I was cleaning out my sidebar yesterday, evicting all the inactive blogs (several), the disappeared blogs (a couple), and the blogs that no longer interested me particularly (because they had changed topics or were simply repeating themselves). Which led me to contemplate the phenomenon of blog referrals, or the lack thereof. At this point, most of the incoming links to my blog are not from other bloggers--they come from Twitter and, on occasion, Facebook. (Even people who have blogs, I've noticed, will link to me via Twitter, not on their own blog.) Links that do originate from blogs tend to come from only a handful of sites, especially Crooked Timber and Ferule and Fescue; in addition, people arriving from Twitter tend to respond there (something Adam Kotsko has also noted). I would guess that that's also true of Facebook--all the more frustrating for the innocent blogger, because those conversations are completely invisible 99.99% of the time. Moreover, because many people now read blogs via feeds rather than just randomly wandering by, the site stats now go through a series of spikes and declines depending on whether or not I've posted something. One does not, that is, get the sense that readers are browsing.
For obvious reasons, I didn't feel like reading an already-digitized book while I was in the British Library--the whole point being to go to the British Library to read otherwise-inaccessible books--so I Googled each title before calling it up. (Yes, this took a while.) This led to a somewhat unexpected chain of events:
1) In the USA, I had already searched a bunch of titles and found no sign that they enjoyed a free existence.
2) In the UK, I searched some of these titles again, and...there they were in GoogleBooks. Say what?
3) Back in the USA, on a lark I began looking up some books I had found available on Amazon in facsimile form, and which had not cropped up in GoogleBooks (or archive.org, or HathiTrust) when I searched in the UK. And there they are.
Bear in mind that most of these books bring up only one or two pages of results--we're not talking about combing through thousands, hundreds, or even dozens of hits. I didn't overlook them; they just weren't there. It's possible that Google "learned" my preferences, but surely it could have brought up an item it hosts the first time around?
Moreover, I've also found that some books cannot be searched via GoogleBooks at all; you have to use the regular Google search function. To take a minor example: GoogleBooks pulls up volumes one and three of Mrs. O'Shea Dillon's triple-decker Dark Rosaleen. Where's volume 2? (You know, the middle of the book?) It turns out you can get it on Google Play or at the French GoogleBooks--but not at the American or English GoogleBooks sites!
Carter Maness' "All My Blogs are Dead" details the mass disappearance of his online prose as media outlet after media outlet goes kaput. But this is also a problem with many online academic and quasi-academic resources. When I went through my bookmarks a few weeks ago to clear out the dud links, I found that site after site had simply gone kerflooey (a very useful technical term)--not just sites like Literary Gothic (now available only via the Wayback Machine) and the lottery-funded Literary Heritage--West Midlands (which only brings up a blank page), but any number of university-hosted projects as well, like Intute (defunded), the Scottish Book Trade Archive, and so forth. Somebody leaves; somebody's grant doesn't get renewed; somebody's academic interests go in a different direction. The current state of GoogleBooks is also cause for concern; although HathiTrust and archive.org have overlapping archives, Google's increasingly evident sloppiness when it comes to maintaining the project should ring alarm bells, not least because of Google's habit of emulating the Terminator when they lose interest. (I feel like I should download all 3K+ books in my favorites list, just to be on the safe side.) Obviously, I have some self-interest here: for academics in relatively isolated locations, at schools with small libraries, or otherwise without access to a major research collection, online resources play a key role in shaping the kind of projects we can undertake (and, in some cases, the courses we can teach). But they have a bad habit of disappearing without a trace.
This year, as I sat myself down to write the annual Halloween post (below), I traipsed, as is my wont, over to the Literary Gothic site. Only to discover that it's no longer there. It thus joins Black Mask as a vanished archive of frequently rare Gothic e-texts. Unlike the HorrorMasters archive, which can still be accessed in its entirety via the Wayback Machine, Literary Gothic is completely kaput. (The Wayback Machine only has the home page and, on occasion, additional pages with dud links.) While I suppose one could reflect on the irony of a horror site vanishing into the electronic ether (it's...a ghost!), the site's disappearance has obvious ramifications for anyone seeking to save their students a bit of money by linking to free texts. Or, to put it differently, the site's disappearance demonstrates why the promise of free e-texts for students rests on a fragile foundation. And that's before one gets into the problem of assessing the quality of such e-texts, which varies widely and wildly according to the site. Anyone who suggests "it's all on the 'net!" should be reminded that, really, it's all on the 'net until it suddenly isn't.
So, in theory, my blog updates my Twitter account whenever I post something. In practice, my blog updates Twitter when I post from IE, but not from Firefox. I am confuzzled. Does anyone know what the glitch is?