February 27, 2009

Twitter on ALA and Some Advice

Going into ALA’s Midwinter Meeting last month, I knew Twitter was going to play a much more prominent role than it had in the past. It’s been used heavily at other librarian conferences, but usually in a more social way or as commentary on content during the event. However, Midwinter is a different beast, as it’s primarily a business meeting for the Association, so I wondered how much of that work would happen on Twitter this time around.

Most of the people on ALA’s staff, like most people anywhere, have never heard of Twitter, let alone used it, so I wanted to give them a heads up in case it came up in meetings or in conversations. A couple of years ago, the IT department at ALA implemented monthly update meetings open to all staff, and since we had one scheduled right before Midwinter, I took advantage of the opportunity to highlight Twitter, what it is, and how a few units are using it.

And then we all headed to Denver.

And wow did Twitter play a big part. Kenley Neufeld sums it up pretty well, and even notes how fun the experience was. If you had asked me, I wouldn’t have predicted that four councilors would tweet from the floor during council sessions, thereby providing an effective, real-time transcript of what was happening. Even beyond that, though, I got to participate in meetings I wasn’t physically at (from within other meetings), as did people who weren’t even in Denver. And good things came from all of it (including a helpful guide for what *not* to do).

So when we got back, I decided to do a presentation at the February ITTS Update meeting about Twitter on ALA. Not ALA on Twitter, but Twitter’s effect on the Association and the story of Midwinter that Twitter produced. Luckily, many of the people who tweet about us have a sense of humor, so there were some good laughs in the screenshots, especially about our content management system (Collage). So thank you to everyone who publicly tweeted about us in January, especially at Midwinter, because you helped me illustrate a moment in time when something changed for ALA. I definitely think communication and conferences will never be the same for our organization, and I’m fascinated to see where this all leads.

The only problem with doing these two talks for staff is that I’m so buried in work on launching ALA Connect that I don’t have time to do any training right now. Earlier this month, Timothy Vollmer, an ALA employee at our Washington Office tweeted, “in horrible ironic moment, U.S. Congress is moving faster than ALA.”

For the last month, that’s how I’ve felt at ALA. Units are moving faster than I can, and several have started new Twitter accounts. On the one hand, huzzah! On the other hand, they’re flying a little blind (so please cut them a little slack while they get their Twitter sea legs).

Since I really don’t have time to do training right now, I wanted to pull together a few resources to point my co-workers to until we can do something more formal. I’m also including some explanations for how I track ALA on Twitter in case others want to try these strategies, too.

Since I think it could be useful to others, I’m posting the list here, rather than just sending the information out in an email to staff. If you have additional suggestions, please include them in the comments.

  1. Make sure you read up on some of the best practices for using Twitter. There are many out there, such as Twitter 101: 8 Tips to Get Started on Twitter and How to Succeed at Twitter. At bare minimum, make sure you add an avatar and fill out the bio section, including a link back to your website.
     
  2. I use Twitter personally, and I use the ALAannual and ALAmw accounts for work. It’s not easy to track two accounts throughout the day. So here’s the routine I’ve established to this point.
    1. First thing in the morning, I search Twitter for references to ALA. If it’s something I can respond to, I do. If it’s not something in my area (IT), I pass along the information.
    2. I use TweetDeck to try to track my Twitterstream throughout the day. It’s easily the best tool I’ve found for two reasons. First, it lets me set up different groups of people I’m following, so I’ve set up a group showing all the ALA Twitter accounts and another of friends I want to track more closely. Second, it lets me do a search within groups by filtering for a term. So a couple of times a day, I’ll filter everyone I’m following for the term “ALA.” I can usually get a heads up about anything major just by doing this. At the end of the day, I do another search of Twitter just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. ALA staff, if you want to try TweetDeck, I think ITTS will have to install it for you, so contact us to request an install. There’s also a helpful video explaining How to Tweetdeck Like a Pro.
       
  3. I have a NetVibes page set up to track ALA as a term across multiple sites. For example, the Twitter search appears here, although I don’t find it as easy to scan as the list on the Twitter site or in TweetDeck. But I also have RSS feeds from news sites and FriendFeed displaying on this one page, so it can be handy for a quick scan. ALA staff, if you want help setting up something like this for yourself, please let me know.
     
  4. If you have a blog or other useful, not overwhelming RSS feed, use TwitterFeed to automatically have notifications of new items sent to Twitter.
     
  5. If you’re not using TweetDeck to automatically shorten URLs, you can use TinyURL or is.gd. A URL like http://www.ala.org/heading/subheading/anotherheading/anothersubheading/title/index.cfm should *never* appear in a tweet.
     

As I was getting ready to hit the “publish” button, I saw Phil Bradley’s post about CILIP and Twitter (or lack thereof). It made me realize how far ALA has come, and how lucky I am to work in an environment where I’m allowed to experiment in these spaces and help integrate them into the Association. I live in a really special place right now, both professionally and personally, and I don’t take that for granted.


“I Will Build a Door”

There are days when it’s really tough living on the front end of the bell curve, and clearly Dave Lankes had one of those last week. But instead of letting it get him down, it caused him to redouble his efforts and even write an inspirational post for the rest of us. (Emphasis below is mine.)

“We live in Shakespearian Times”

“…I won’t get into the details of the meeting, but suffice to say I had a choice to make – be silent or speak.

You may imagine the choice would be easy for me, but it was not. I too face decisions between easy discontent and uncomfortable action. To stand up invites more work, or derision, and in either case courts conflict. It is just easier sometimes to let things pass.

I know I am not alone in having these choices to make. As I go around the country I encounter too many librarians who see the vision, who embrace change, but have grown too tired and discouraged to hope again. They are quieted by the scars of past optimism. These are the conversations that I have the hardest time with. I want to ‘go all inspirational’ and call them to action, but I too have those scars, and have plenty of times when I tried and failed. It is not a good feeling. I would like to avoid it too. So I never want to fault others for their decisions….

It may sound simplistic, but for me it comes down to needing some encouragement. We need to know that we are not alone. We are not. There is a whole pool of fellow librarians that ‘get it.’ We also need to realize that those who get it aren’t just new librarians, but directors, managers, and policy makers. We have a lot of good examples to show the way as well. When I have those bad days, the first thing I have to do is decide to speak up. Then I have to do something. Even if whatever I decide to do is wrong, it is something. Finally, I listen to Shakespeare. Seriously.

For some people when they need to get a pick me up it is music, for others a movie, for still others it is ‘the story’ I’ve talked about before (that time that you as a librarian changed someone’s life for the better). But for me, Shakespeare … Henry V’s St. Crispen’s Day Speech. I have to thank George Needham for introducing me to it….

How do I stay optimistic? I realize first the issues I face are miniscule to the good I can do. How do I get inspired to face intransigence, or laziness, or ineptitude? I look right past them at the real goal, and those who really need me.

Block me, and I will go around you. Build a wall, and I will build a door. Lock the door and I will break a window. And if I don’t have have a leader to inspire me, I will lead. If I don’t have a team that will support me, I will recruit a team from beyond the organizational boundaries – every policy has a loophole, every system has a hidden reward.” [The Participatory Librarianship Starter Kit]

I think I’m going to print this out and post it above my desk, so thanks for writing this, Dave. And along these same lines, I want to note one other thing about librarians. We don’t get the credit we deserve for leading in the 2.0 world, but more importantly, we don’t give ourselves enough credit. While I always think there’s more we can do, experiment with, and improve, it’s also important to take a step back and survey just how much we’ve done in this sphere as a profession.

Librarians were one of the first professions blogging, and by a pretty wide margin. In fact, I’ll even go out on a limb to say that behind the techies, I think we had the largest critical mass first – ahead of the journalists, marketers, lawyers, and other trades that have a large presence in the blogosphere. And in terms of trying out new tools and integrating them into our services, I’d be hard-pressed to find more early adopters in a profession other than librarianship in the areas of instant messaging, wikis, Facebook, and Twitter. We swarm on a new tool and play with it faster than 90%+ of the folks out there, and we’re constantly trying new things.

Sure, there’s a wide range of skills and adoption among librarians and only a small percentage are on the front of the bell curve, but the next time you hear someone berate libraries for staying stuck in the past, don’t let them make a generalization. We all need to keep moving forward, but there are a lot of good things happening in the profession, making it an exciting time to be a librarian. Make a wall into a door and keep trying. It’s worth it, and you can make a difference.


12:10 am Comments (11)

February 18, 2009

Who Is Managing Your Online Identity?

I’ve been thinking a lot more about online privacy for the last couple of years, so I was already prepared for the current controversy over Facebook’s change in its Terms of Service, and it wasn’t much of a shock to me. I’ve never really posted pictures there, imported my own blog posts, or posted links to anything that wasn’t already public somewhere else, because their Terms of Service always said they owned it and could do whatever they wanted with it. Even though they seem to be backing off and reverting to the previous TOS, I hope everyone realizes that nothing has really changed because they can implement the same thing in the future at the drop of a hat.

One of the biggest questions that should come out of this is do you want Facebook (and other social networks) to manage your online identity for you and your children? Just as you should be taking responsibility to shred your credit card receipts, checking on your credit reports, etc. to manage your “real world” identity, you should also think through how you manage your online identity, because ignoring the problem and just not having an online identity can actually backfire on you. Does everyone have to blog? Heck no, but there are smaller steps you can take.

I first started taking my online identity more seriously after reading an article titled Say Anything in New York magazine three years ago. I still find it fascinating, and I’ve come to appreciate it even more after having a couple of privacy incidents occur in my own life.

The first incident caused me to backtrack on privacy and limit access to many of my accounts to just friends and family, taking a more traditional approach to the issue. I felt like I needed to shut down open access to my life in order to preserve my identity, so I also cut back on the number of people I friended and became a lot more selective. I became like the father in the New York article, wondering why I would ever make those things public.

During the second incident, however, it turned out to be very fortunate for me that I already had a well-known identity online. In that respect I’m especially lucky I started early because I don’t have a very unique name, “Jenny Levine,” made worse by the fact that I now share that online namespace with an actress.

Now I completely understand the view of the teenager in the article, that it’s better to control your own identity than to let someone else create one for you. I still keep Facebook separate and limited to friends, and I still post most personal pictures for friends and family only, but everything else I share is available publicly because it helps maintain my identity online. It also means I don’t have to struggle as much with who can see what, and how much, and should I friend them back, and all of the other questions that come with participating in social networks.

I think the issue of having some sort of public, online identity will become even more important in the future as kids grow up with digital dossiers that – in many cases – their parents have created for them since birth. In fact, I think we’re going to see a trend in which savvy, educated parents give their children strange(r), unique names so that they can easily register a domain name for them. That way, even a minor presence like a blog or lifestream will always come up as the first result when someone searches for the kid, either to combat false information or provide a positive image (eg, to a potential employer).

As the child grows up, s/he can take over the online presence and populate it him/herself, but at least it’s already established so that someone else can’t fake one. Who knows how long we’ll use domain names, but I think this will be an issue for at least the next decade, whatever form it takes, and I fully expect to see a rise in identity bullying.

Iris Jastram has written a great post titled Facebook’s Devilish Contract, explaining her internal debate over what to do about her presence on social networks. I particularly love her use of the term the “social time out chair,” which is where you put yourself if you don’t maintain a presence on these sites.

As she notes, it’s not really an option for many people to opt out of social networks altogether. Better to post things to your own site and participate at a level you’re comfortable with, because I can tell you from experience that it could actually hurt your identity and reputation if your response to these issues is to just ignore them or take your ball and go home. Even if you quit Facebook, you have to be vigilant elsewhere. On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog, but they also don’t know that you’re you, and at this stage of the game, anyone can be you.


February 16, 2009

Thomas Frey at TSCPL #staffday

Library of the Future:Nerve Center of the Community – Thomas Frey, Senior Futurist at The DaVinci Institute, presented at the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library

we spend most of our time thinking about the past
– we know about it and have experienced it
but we’re going to spend the rest of our lives in the future
it’s like we’re walking backwards into the future

epiphanies are one of the things that separate humans from animals
every great new business is an epiphany

Frey had “a full category 5 epiphany”
“the life of an idea junkie”
Frey described a time he and his wife were sitting in a sidewalk cafe when he heard a song and used “Shazam” on his phone to find out the name of a song, which he then immediately downloaded
realized that his phone has a camera, too
the future of retail – when you see someone wearing a jacket you like, just take a picture of it to purchase it (just point and click at it)
in the future, all of our body info will be scanned in so that clothes fit the first time
no longer restricted to just what’s in stores
instead of owning a store, owners could hire models to walk up and down the street (not just clothing, but small appliances, too)
any product, anywhere, anytime

showed a slideshow of modern libraries

what form of payment will you put in a vending machine in 2059?
Frey thinks the vending machine of the future will be mobile and will come to you
will know what you want
might even fly

what music that we listen to today, will people still be listening to 100 years from now in 2109?
more importantly, how will we be listening to music 100 years from now?
will it just appear in our heads? will it still come from speakers?
the ultimate music player will have the ability to assess our reaction to the music and will only serve up music tha we react positively to

ultimate drink dispenser will have the ability to assess what kind of liquids our body needs and will only serve up a liquid that we react positively to
knows exactly how much sugar or cream should go in your coffee

the idea of “perfect water”
we all know polluted water is bad for us
if we take everything out of it, it’s less than optimal
somewhere in between is perfect water for each person in the world (6 billion different combinations)
somewhere in this line of thinking is the interface of the future

system thinking
no famous Roman mathemticians – they weren’t famous because they used Roman Numerals, which was a stupid number system
every number was an equation, which prevented them from doing any higher math with numerals
– no placeholder numbers
–> what systems are we employing today that are the equivalent of Roman Numberals?
– Dewey Decimal System, income tax code, “quart of oil”
is there a better system we could be using? invariably there is

Rick Wakeman video, keyboard player for the rock band Yes
he writes music with 64th and 128th notes
the piece he played in the video could never have been played on a traditional piano – needed a modern keyboard

Frey took a class about how to use a slide rule because he was told he had to
end of the slide rule era, beginning of the calculator era
he named the space between the bottom intersection the “Maximum Freud”
a time of lots of chaos but also of lots of opportunity
what technologies are at Maximum Freud anymore?
– fax machines
– checks
– keyboards
– computer monitors and hardware
– traditional television
– sign language
– invasive surgery
– AM/FM radio
– drill & fill dentistry
– the end of wires (telephone lines, cable TV lines, internet lines, and even power lines – within our lifetime)

the evolution of books
in what year will the last printed book be published?
Gutenberg Press – by 1500, there were more than 5,000 books in print across Europe
through the Espresso Book Machine
something like the Kindle may be as cheap as $5 in 5 years
at what point, is it too expensive for libraries to circulate print books?
when do ebook readers become so ubiquitous that it no longer makes sense to print ink on paper?
when does publishing become downloading titles
small projectors built into devices
information displays built into things
what does a book look like in the future?

every forum now is akin to an online forum, with authors, experts and other readers available to discuss and answer questions on almost every important book ever written
books are now conversations?

10 Global Trends
—————-
1. more people live in urban areas than rural areas (200,000 people a day migrate)
2. 840 million people crossed national borders, more mobile society (as opposed to 50 million in 1950)
3. number of new product launches (300 per day)
4. 550,000 new businesses were launched every month in 2007
5. more than 50% of all women reported being single in 2005
– more than 50% increase in the number of people living alone in the last 20 years
– counter trend of parents living with adult children – grew 67%
6. the number of people working through retirement has doubled
7. minorities will become the majority in 2042 (30% Latinos, 15% Blacks, 9% Asian)
– interracial families, 1000% increase in the past 30 years
– will stop talking about races in the future because they’ll be so undefined
– rises in the percentage of populations that are foreign-born
8. smaller families, bigger houses (700 sq. ft. in 1900)
9. coming boom in data centers (will consume 3% of global electricity supply by 2010; sometime before 2020 power consumption will double)
10. only 14% of all college graduates live in the U.S.

how long will it be before people can get a Ph.D without being literate?
the first time Frey listened to an audiobook, he thought he was cheating
reading is the process of translating the characters (text) on the page
still do it with sound when listening to books
method doesn’t really matter – it still counts
Socrates was not literate – never wrote anything
wouldn’t know anything about him if Plato hadn’t written about him

is reading the ultimate information experience?
are books a technology equivalent to roman numerals?

future of education
——————
did an 18-month study on this topic
organically generated content (courses) going to a global distributed system
an iTunes-like approach to education
teaching requires experts
we can’t train experts fast enough as information expands exponentially
teachers become a chokepoint

overlay a trend line of courses over YouTube, Wikipedia, and Google, it’s flat versus the amount of information being generated – courseware vacuum
MIT OpenCourseWare (1,400 courses) trying to fill that gap
– 12 universities have joined the OpenCourseWare Consotrium (1,800 courses total available)

what is the most important thing I should be learning today?
kids today aren’t being taught what they want to learn
what’s the primary inflection point for change?
– specially architected rapid courseware building, which doesn’t exist yet

12 dimensions of the future courseware architecture
————————————————–
60-minute learning units
modality and language agnostic (not just computer-based, get credit for experience); courses from everywhere but managed online
smart profiler & recommendation engine (what person is most interested in and what they should take next)
truth & accuracy – a high percentage of what’s being taught in classroom today is theoretical; every aspect of society has its own version of the truth
– need a truth authority? won’t work
– need a checks & balances system where any group could put their stamp of approval or disapproval on these courses
certification inputs – early adopters for this will be professional associations (what constitutes sufficient learning); home schoolers will also adopt this
official record-keeping system
global distribution system

available on demand 24/7, anytime, anywhere
less dependent on teachers and schools, more individual control
general study courses will be priced at $1/course
many schools will use these courses to plan their curricula
teachers will go freelance to create their own courses
students who graduate from the equivalent of high school in the future will be 10 times smarter than students today
the idea of taking K-12 education in one year, which will give rise to celebrity teachers
we’ll know when we get the right system put in place because a million new courses will be created
libraries will become the working laboratories for the creation of innovative new courses
libraries are central to his vision

commodity level – Starbucks
product level – a cup of coffee
experience level is what they concentrate on, though

how do we create the ultimate information experience in libraries?
people are using their own PageRank testing to figure out how relevant the library is to them individually

library as place, as opposed to library as service
———————————————-
building is a gathering place

8 reccs for libraries of the future
——————————–
to improve relevance in the minds of the community

1. create a search command center in your library; make it easy to people find information
– can look like a lot of different things, but have to help them conduct searches
– really only doing text searching right now, but need to prepare for other search attributes beyond just audio and video (taste, smell, texture, reflectivity, etc.)
when everyone records what their glasses see, we’re spidering the physical world

2. remote office space
– for every 100 people who get laid off, 7 will start a new business (not that they’ll succeed), so will see a new era of entrepreneurship
– “empire of one”
– cloud computing trend = consumer-driven innovation, rise of the power collaborator, economics of IT are changing, barriers to entry are falling (connectivity, reliability, a quality user experience, and security can now all be assumed)
– business colonies – groupings of “project people” working together as projects form, complete, and disappear
—> at the heart of every business colony will be a library
– people who work from home suffer from either isolation or distractions
—> they need another place to go (proverbial “third place”)
if you were to design a library for these people, what would it look like? what features would it include?
remote office space? a telepresence room?

3. production studios
“when the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer” – The Long Tail
transition from consumers to producers
they want to take ownership of what they create
– blogging stations in the library, podcast studios, one-way mirror glass so that others can watch the production of content
—> passive learning to active producing centers

4. band practice studios
there are 2.2 million bands on MySpace right now, and everyone needs a space to practice
if you put in soundproof rooms, they’ll get used non-stop, all the time

5. entertainment studios
gaming now touches 75% of all US households
Second Life and virtual world stations (creating different communication vehicles)
mini-theaters, mini-planetariums that people can use to create content and post it
art studios to make a cultural hub
exercise studios that combine learning and recreation

6. expert series
so many people are uncomfortable with technology, so once a month, could put some tech experts at the front of the room and let the audience ask questions; let the conversation go where it may
social learning
figure out what’s of interest to the community while raising the tech IQ of the community

7. time capsule room
archiving the history of the community
what did it sound like to drive down Main Street? what did it smell like?
create the room but let the public decide what it turns into
many local companies will probably want their organizations archived there

8. poetry park
public placing inscriptions on large rocks set out around a park

electronic outposts/branches
—————————-
– magazines & periodicals
– reading area
– search command center
– studios
– no books
– efficient operation 1-2 people staffing it

extending influence
——————-
very few library haters out there
very little outbound communication – need to change that; weekly online newsletter?

how do we capitalize on epiphanies?
make your library an epiphany center where people can have ideas and then have the tools to act on them


11:29 am Comments (1)

February 2, 2009

Dispatch from the GenX Bridge

I’ve really been feeling my Gen Xness the last few months. I dislike framing Web 2.0 or Library 2.0 as generational issues (I think it has far more to do with whether you’re used to creating and sharing content overall), but the rise of Twitter and FriendFeed in particular have made me feel like even more of a bridge because I get stretched thin trying to explain both sides of an issue to two groups who aren’t really talking to each other about these things. Like Johnny Cash, I walk the line.

As a GenX bridge, one side of me understands the Boomer confusion at these public posts and wonders why these folks can’t just call, email, or text a person who could actually do something about the problem they’re encountering. Recently, I felt this most acutely when Jason Griffey took the time to write a blog post disagreeing with two rules for submitting questions to ALA presidential candidates on YouTube. I’m close enough to the traditional, Boomer norms of communication that when I first read Jason’s post, my immediate reaction was to sigh and wonder why he couldn’t have just contacted someone at MPOW to request that the rules be changed. The “direct” approach seems like the logical one for affecting change and having your voice heard.

And then the Millennial side of the bridge kicked in and I chided myself, because Jason actually cared enough to take the time to write that post instead of just a 140-character rant. He explained his reasoning in what has (surprisingly) become a long-form medium online (blogging). In hindsight, his post helped change one of the rules he disagreed with, so it was better that he posted publicly where everyone could read it and comment, including us. And honestly, some of the comments on microblogging sites are complaints that someone did try to call or email a human being and didn’t get a good response, so it’s not that these generational preferences are exclusive. Writing a blog post these days is a pretty high level of engagement, and caring enough to post a tweet or FriendFeed comment is right behind that in terms of trying to get our attention (hey, at least MPOW isn’t mediocre).

My personal lesson from these recent experiences is that it’s important for associations (and libraries) to understand that every blog post, every tweet, every FF comment is like a letter to the editor or someone standing up in a membership meeting and voicing a complaint. They’re the 21st century equivalent of a phone call or a conversation in the hallway at a conference, and we have to take them just as seriously and respond to them the same way we would those 20th century methods of communication. It’s not that Boomers want to help any less, but I think they’re used to helping people one-on-one, even online. For many members who likely trend younger, the new channels are their preferred ones for these types of comments, and not just for complaints. There isn’t anything wrong with either approach, but they’re ships crossing in the night, and they don’t lead to conversations between the two sides that would improve communication.

Sometimes I think attacking MPOW is a national sport, so it can be depressing being the person constantly relaying what’s being said about us online. But it’s important for those of us in the middle to be that bridge and find compromises that work for everyone. So I especially appreciate those folks who take the time to comment online in a constructive way (regardless of the channel), because it helps me build that bridge.

This strain isn’t new, but I’m curious to know if other Gen Xers are feeling an increase in this area due to microblogging sites? Have you found successful strategies for improving communication around these new channels? I have some ideas that I’m going to try to implement at work, and I’ll report back here over time, but I’d love to hear how others are handling being at this intersection.