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March 24, 2009

Twittephemeraliness

Sometimes we tell people that things live forever on the internet and that anyone can find them (so don’t post that picture of yourself drinking alcohol, young man), but I want to highlight how some important things from just a couple of months ago are becoming impossible to find. If we’re not careful, the haystack is going to disappear, never mind the needle.

For example, take the discussion that happened on Twitter during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting just under two months ago. The Meeting had a hashtag for tracking content (#alamw09), and almost everyone used it most of the time. There was a lot going on in that tag, so much so that I thought it was a tipping point for the Association in terms of communication tools. I even debriefed what happened on Twitter for ALA staff afterwards so that they’d be able to see the patterns.

But try to find that discussion now, and it’s almost impossible. Most people (including me) rely on Twitter’s search engine (which was formerly called “Summize” and run by a different company until Twitter bought it). If you search Twitter now for the #alamw09 hashtag, you get exactly one page of results (yesterday there were two), and only a couple of those tweets were actually posted during the event itself. If you look up #alamw09 at hashtags.org, you’ll get more results from the Meeting itself, but there’s still only one page, and you had to have manually followed the hashtags.org Twitter account for them to have tracked your tweets, so even if you could see older results than what shows, it would be an incomplete archive at best. Search Technorati for #alamw09 and you get eight blog posts. Ironically, you can get most of the public tweets from Midwinter by searching FriendFeedlooking for anything from #ala2008 on Twitter, although there again FriendFeed saves the day, but for how long?

So for all of our aggregation attempts of that Twitter content, they may only work in the moment for the moment. It turns out they’re miscellaneous *and* searchable in only one place (for now), a pretty bad combination in hindsight. Thank heavens I favorited in Twitter so many of the alamw09 tweets, although that’s still not ideal. I have to manually page through them to find the ones I want, and I already have 35 pages of favorites.

After Midwinter, I tried to start moving my #alamw09 favorites into Evernote so that I’d be able to search and group them, but I haven’t had time to complete that process, and I just can’t seem to train myself to add new tweets there as I favorite them. The ratio of effort between clicking on a star and filling out a few words of metadata is just too much in the middle of my day, so this looms as a project in my future if I really want to save this stuff. Even then, there’s no guarantee Evernote will stick around, but at least I can export from it.

So if you were using a hashtag to aggregate content, thinking it would be easier to find it all again in the future, think again. You’re going to have to do something more proactive and manual than relying on Twitter’s search engine or Google. You’ll have to decide what level of ephemeraliness you’re comfortable with for that conversation, because you may not be able to get back to it if you let someone else manage access to the archive. In this context, it’s a shame so much of the conversation has moved away from blog comments (where individuals can openly archive it) to Twitter and FriendFeed. And if you’re a government or archive organization looking to preserve this kind of digital content, the stakes are getting raised on you.

Am I missing any other options for finding past hashtag conversations? Please tell me yes in the comments.

Addendum: Potential ideas for archiving – you could subscribe to the RSS feed of a hashtag in an RSS reader and export them, right? Or subscribe to the RSS feed via email? Other ideas?


March 5, 2009

PCMA Presentation: Embracing Free Technology in a Global Recession

Today I was part of a panel session about Web 2.0 tools for the GMC/PCMA

Greg Fine – Association Forum

showed some of their Association Professionals throughout History video
showed the map of online communities from 2007 (“gulf of youtube”)
social media is about building community, and Greg likes this visual because it shows there are actual places and you can’t just aimlessly wander around
– it lets you leverage existing networks
– it allows us to easily create and share information with one another (as associations, we’re about associating)
– allows this to happen in an instantaneous way
– on a platform that people are comfortable with
so if we as organizations leverage these platforms, we make it easier for our members to find us and interact with us
– it allows you to evangelize your members and your customers

there are generational distinctions – generally accepted distinctions
uses acceptable footwear for men on day one of their new job as way to distinguish between them
greatest generation – wingtips
Xers – black lace-up, but moved to the boat shoe
Millennials/GenY – tennis shoes
Gamers – flip-flops
can’t talk to a flip-flop from a wingtip perspective
even the tennis show crowd may not totally get the flip-flop one
also have the 80-20-1 rule
80% of people who are on the internet only look/lurk and don’t engage
20% of the 80% actively engage (read RSS, have a Facebook page)
1% of that 20% are active users of social media online (blog, post to Wikipedia, etc.)
EXCEPT for the gamers, where the numbers are reversed
only 1% are not active online, etc.

the #1 rule is that the organization totally loses control in this environment
if someone wants to say something bad about you, they don’t need your site/platform to do it
so embrace it
do you use free or proprietary and build your own?
Greg is a big believer in free
– free
– proprietary usually means separate authentication scheme and people have password fatigue now
– do you have an open or closed system (can anyone be a member or is it a member benefit)

Association Forum makes everything open because if you care enough to join, maybe you’ll eventually become a member
there’s no right or wrong, but you need to be deliberate about what you’re going to do

set reasonable expectations
mentioned a case where a group thought they’d failed because they only had 1,200 people on their Facebook page
but they only had 10,000 members total!

you cannot think like you – you have to think like your audience
just because you don’t use it doesn’t mean others shouldn’t
others may create these sites (like a Facebook page) for you if you don’t do it
you have to integrate it with traditional methods
you don’t just do one thing in isolation – f2f, email newsletters, etc. are still valid
taken all together, it makes it all more valuable

it’s like a football experience – it’s the future of the association experience
the audience in the stadium are the members, who paid admission
within that audience are different levels (box seats versus bleachers)
over time, our experiences inside the stadium may be more valuable than just being a member

some tools:
– Facebook
– Forum Effect (blogging)

Flickr – an online picture sharing site that lets you tag images
showed pictures tagged with ASAE
user-generated content (pictures from attendees)
everybody has a cell phone these days, and these phones have cameras
35,000 pictures were posted from a conference when they asked people to take a few and then they had a download station

YouTube – videos
when someone comes in to present now, they do a “5 questions with xxxx speaker” video
total time investment per video is one hour, including the interview
they also allow the person to use the video, too

LinkedIn and Facebook
don’t upload your member list to a third-party site to require people who join are members, because this is a violation of your members’ privacy
let anyone become a member on your page
takes five minutes to set this stuff up

strategy is important!
when you’re thinking about all of this
Association Forum uses these sites as guideposts to help people get to the Forum website

Brad Lewis – Professional Convention Management Association

“luxury expenditures” – travel
is in the media countering these negative perceptions and the distinctions between legitimate travel and these types of excesses

PCMA uses:
– Facebook
– Flickr
– LinkedIn
– blog on TypePad
– YouTube

goals for PCMA:
– want to be where their members are
– need to participate in the current technologies
– facilitate connections
– create member engagement, retention
– brand experience; how can your members interact with you?
– enhanced exposure for events, programs, products, and services
– create added value
– learn something new every day

their most successful site is LinkedIn
recommend to their chapters that they create sites, too
you do lose some control

PCMA has 6,000 members and more than 1,000 have joined the LinkedIn group
PCMA posts new content there and posts event news
no hard sells there
eases people into participation in the organization
present jobs, speaker info
most of the room was already on LinkedIn
from an association standpoint, your members can already do a multitude of things there (and on these other sites)
one sign-on
try to make your name the sign across platforms
want the full name and the acronym because you don’t know what people will search on

monitoring and control:
– wild west; just need to accept that because you can’t prevent it
– PCMA does delete some stuff like direct sales solicitations
– does take a staff commitment, regardless of which department is assigned to monitor
– think about how you’re fostering and feeding the community, too; that’s why you want to choose which sites are best for you and your members

PCMA doesn’t mind when people say a session was horrible, because it gives them feedback

take action:
– work with marketing to create a group, work with membership to update it
– if you’re not monitoring what’s happening, your competition probably is
– monitor for referral requests (“who knows of a good xxxx company?”), even if you don’t answer back
Brad encourages third party responses

what it’s for:
– networking with colleagues
– get updates
– ask questions
– gain insights
– share ideas

what it’s not for:
– soliciting (it’s like using the wrong fork at dinner)
– direct promotion

average age of a PCMA member is 47
one of the young kids at a table didn’t know what LinkedIn was – “facebook for old people”

Facebook
– target market segmentation
– students (announce scholarships, internships, communication with PCMA student staff)
– create event
– discussion boards (students were voluntarily making recommendations to others about joining PCMA)

Flickr
– annual meeting (linked from communications, photos for dailies, member engagement even if they can’t attend)
– social networking centered around photos
– share photos within groups and tags

TypePad blog
– new PCMA Chairman John Folks’ blog
– puts face on leadership
– way for leadership to connect with members and get feedback
– start conversations among colleagues

YouTube
– PCMA has a YouTube channel
– some leadership hasn’t wanted to be on YouTube
– only have a few select videos but it’s a good way to put a face on the organization and tell stories

proprietary systems
– PCMA did purchase an expensive product for “PCMA Connect”
– can trial on free before you try proprietary
– had bells and whistles but was a separate destination

Learnings
– conversation happens organically
– hot topics are anonymity, reluctance to speak your mind, general best has been more social (New Year’s resolutions)
be relevant to the people who connect with you

philosophies and conclusions
– your member profile will determine which platform works best for you
– leadership acceptance, need some buy-in
– certainly trial this stuff
these are just new assets in the arsenal, and they’re even free
– important to engage in relevant business of today

Jenny Levine (me)

here are my slides (12MB, PDF)


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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.


January 7, 2009

Choosing Your Social Media Drug

Last week I noted that of all of the social media sites, I’m probably most engaged with Facebook right now. Twitter tends to fragment my attention too much, so I started restricting my time on it to about an hour a day. The conversation there is too disjointed for me, and it’s impossible to find and refer back to all the pieces of a conversation even just a few days later. The best I’ve been able to manage is to use TweetDeck to create groups to check in on periodically, as opposed to trying to keep up with everyone all the time. I still don’t let myself sit on Twitter for too long because as Ed Vielmetti says, “If you keep refreshing it will never, ever stop..” In fact, my rule of thumb on any social site is that I never hit the “older” button.

Then FriendFeed came along, which helped unify conversations and brought pictures, audio, and video into the mix. The breadth of services it aggregates is pretty impressive, so when a critical mass of friends hit there, I switched my hour a day to check in there.

Let me preface this next statement by saying that I love the serendipity of FriendFeed, and it definitely restores fun to aggregation. That said, it moves way too fast for me. As a result, I’ve come to the conclusion that FriendFeed is Twitter on speed, while Facebook is Twitter on Ritalin, and for where I’m at right now, Facebook is my primary drug of choice. I need something to help me control the firehose so that I can more easily focus on specific pieces, and the fact that I can separate the links and posts from the status updates on FB does exactly that. I have the status of about three dozen folks texted to my phone, which means I see what I consider to be the most important function of the site for me front and center.

I had been friending people there for a while, watched what libraries were doing, and gone through the “play with various applications” stage of Facebook love, but then I found myself using it less and less. I fell back in love with it, though, when they added the ability to comment on a friend’s status, because that’s the piece I was having trouble tracking and participating in amongst all of the conversations taking place on Twitter. Even better was a change in the way SMS responses are handled so that replies from my phone now appear as comments on statuses, not inbox messages attached to previous emails. That means there’s conversation around updates, and it’s at a manageable pace.

I still check FriendFeed a couple of times a day, but I’m swamped with enough stuff right now that I use my social networks first and foremost for friend updates, and Facebook turns out to be perfect for that, especially for my non-library friends. I can literally see others getting a lot out of Twitter and FriendFeed because they monitor those sites a lot more closely, and more power to them. There are a lot of conversations right now about the ROI of blogging versus Twitter versus FriendFeed, but it’s important to examine what you want to get from these tools in order to evaluate which one(s) are best for you at any given time, remembering that it’s all cyclical and is likely to change just when you get comfortable with your routine. Of course, that can be a good thing.


December 31, 2008

Hello and Happy New Year!

As 2008 comes to a close (where on earth did it go?), I want to take a moment to reflect on this past year.

When I think about everything I was lucky enough to do this this year, what stands out the most are the people I met during my travels, both online and offline. The best thing about social network sites is the social part, and this year my network expanded to include new friends and rediscovered old ones. In fact, that’s definitely been one of my highlights for the year – reconnecting with folks from my pre-online life, which to me is an indicator that online networks are definitely going mainstream. I’m seeing so many more non-techie friends there, and I really appreciate being able to connect with them in this way. I still don’t have a lot of time to spend on Twitter or FriendFeed, but I’ve gone back to Facebook more and more because that’s where I’m finding a lot of these folks. Plus, it runs at a speed that works well for me right now (something I’m going to write more about it in an upcoming post).

This was especially true this year when I had so many projects going on at work. I haven’t written about my job at ALA here very much, mainly because I’ve been too busy to blog much at all. However, this was such a productive and progressive year at my job that I want to highlight a few of the things we accomplished. While this is by no means an exhaustive list (and it’s certainly not reflective of the work done across the organization as a whole), these are just a few of the things that were personally gratifying for me in 2008, because I played a role in helping them happen. In chronological order:

  • Gaming in libraries
    The year started out big for us when we learned about the $1 million grant from the Verizon Foundation. It’s allowed us to move this topic forward very quickly, and soon we’ll start posting the tangible outcomes. Watch for more to come from this grant in 2009, which will help build on our general successes around gaming so far. In 2008, we launched the Games and Gaming Member Initiative Group, ran a big game at our Annual Conference, started a new Games in Libraries podcast, held a second successful Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium, and coordinated the first annual National Gaming Day @ your library. All in all, a very good year for gaming in libraries.
  • In April, Library Technology Reports published Gaming and Libraries: Broadening the Intersections, my second issue dedicated to the topic.
  • AL Focus launched an incredibly popular series of videos for National Library Week. Full credit for these brilliant pieces goes to Dan Kraus.
  • In August, we launched the READ mini-poster generator that does just what it sounds like it does. We’ve gotten a great response to this, and you can see some of the results in the READ Flickr pool.
  • In October, American Libraries magazine celebrated Open Access Day by opening its archives and making the current issue available to everyone for free. In 2009, watch for HTML versions of current issues (not just PDFs) and expanded content. Congratulations to Leonard Kniffel and his crew for taking such a big step!
  • At the same time, the AL folks decided to open up their weekly email newsletter AL Direct and let anyone subscribe. I don’t have anything at all to do with the production of it, so I don’t think it’s self-promoting to say that I think this is one of the most valuable current awareness tools in the profession. Full credit for the content and delivery goes to George Eberhart, and my involvement has been mainly to advocate that *everyone* should be able to benefit from his hard work. Now that can include you, even if you’re not an ALA member.
  • Finally, ALA Connect just completed alpha testing, and now we’re preparing to start beta testing next week. This is one of my really huge projects at work, so it’s quite a relief to finally be at this point. It’s been a long and…educational road to get this far, but we’re getting very close. So far, the feedback has been pretty good, and I’m looking forward to launching it soon. This is one of the things I’ll be talking about more here in the future but for now, I’ll just say that I couldn’t end the year on a better note.

This was also an amazing year of travel for me, including special trips to the Netherlands (and the wonderful DOK), southeast Asia, and London. I know how lucky I am to be invited to speak in these places, and I’m thankful for the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had along the way. It’s easy to get tunnel vision about location, region, type of library, or the profession in general, and my travels reminded me of the bigger picture and dedication we all share.

I also traveled a lot domestically this year, and while I know times aren’t easy, I hope we never lose the face-to-face connections that are so valuable to our professional and personal development. Long live the conference, unconference, regional meeting, or whatever type of event brings us together. I hope that we as a profession can find the right combination of online and offline to feed our professional connections and growth.

Before this turns into one long verse of Kumbaya, though, there were hiccups in the year, and there are some things I hope to change in 2009. I’ve gotten much better about not spending too many hours just working or working only on the computer, but those changes came at the expense of reading my RSS aggregator and blogging here. I’m again examining how I spend my time to try and figure out a way to do more of both of those things. While I won’t go back to working more or give up the time I’ve gained for family and friends, I do hope to redistribute some of that time to get back to blogging more.

So hopefully you’ll see more action here in the coming year. In the meantime, I hope 2008 was a good year for you, and that 2009 is even better!


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