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.


January 5, 2009

An Open Letter to [Libraries] on Twitter

Over on Museum 2.0, Nina Simon (not Nina Simone — and wouldn’t it be some­thing if this post was sung by her) has a *great* blog post encour­ag­ing muse­ums to get human on their Twit­ter accounts and pro­vide more than just “spammy and dull” tweets. Pretty much every­thing she exhorts muse­ums to do applies to libraries, as well. Actu­ally, it’s great advice for all types of orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing, um, asso­ci­a­tions and the like.

She pro­vides seven broad sug­ges­tions, but here are some spe­cific ideas she pro­poses for “museum Twit­ter ‘radio sta­tions’.” Just think “libraries” instead of “muse­ums” to imag­ine what a great stream your library could offer.

An Open Let­ter to Muse­ums on Twitter

  • “Funny things said by visitors.
  • Guard feed! (Thanks for the idea, Shelley.)
  • Insti­tu­tional super­sti­tions or weird things about the building.
  • The imag­ined expe­ri­ences of a famous arti­fact, heav­ily loved inter­ac­tive, or other insti­tu­tional mas­cot (see this Twit­ter feed, which I doubt is writ­ten by AMNH staff).
  • Haiku about museum work.
  • A daily or weekly fea­ture on a spe­cific topic.
  • Jokes, recipes, quotes, and inter­est­ing facts. Do you know why there are naked ladies on the front of ships?
  • Weird and sur­pris­ing behind-the-scenes vic­to­ries and chal­lenges. What’s it like to prep an exhi­bi­tion on poop?
  • Top­i­cal, provoca­tive questions.”

Do you know of any libraries already doing this type of tweet­ing? There are some good exam­ples listed on the very help­ful Twit­ter­ing Libraries sec­tion of the LIS 5313 wiki, but I need to go through the whole list.

I’m also inter­ested in find­ing asso­ci­a­tions doing this well (I’m plan­ning to go through Lindy Dreyer’s list of asso­ci­a­tions on Twit­ter).


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