Final Post

It seems odd – to be perfectly honest – to be writing this final post for my final class.  Indeed, this will be the last thing I write for my MLIS degree.  I wonder if this is a common thing: a distance class was the obvious choice for the fifteenth class after co-op.  It is a nice way to end the experience.

That said, finishing the degree with a class on social media, evades any notions that I have closed the book on my information education.  As was noted in Prof. Neal’s final post – social media evolves amazingly fast.  I think I should be seeing this final class more as a springboard into these technology possibilities, rather than some kind of door closing.

My perspective on what social media is has transformed significantly.  Certainly I did arrive at the class with some appreciation.  However, concepts introduced in this class has added considerable depth to how I will approach electronic information.  For one (really recent – I just finished an article) example is mashups.  Mashups were probably something I took for granted, until I was made to realize what was electronically happening behind the scenes.

I am also interested in urban spaces, so I was keen to watch this Salon series on walking: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/walking/2012/04/walking_in_america_how_walk_score_puts_a_number_on_walkability_.html

The most interesting part of this article was the link to a walkability site.  You can enter your neighbourhood and the site will determine – through different mashuped data sources – how walkable that neighbourhood is.  Social media meets my corner.  Here’s mine:

http://www.walkscore.com/score/spadina-ave-and-richmond-st-w-toronto-on-canada

I love this.  And it only demonstrates the potential for what we can achieve with better understanding of how interactive social media works.  If anything, I love how social media works with the physical library and expands it outwards.    This understanding is crucial and I am glad to have this first taste.

 


The Mobile Web

So I was hoping to have my first podcast attached to this post, but so far, little success.

Some thoughts….

I think the first challenge was how to decide on what application to use.  I think one recurring (if perhaps largely unspoken) theme is how many options and tools exist to engage social media.  We have explored many of the more heavily utilized tools and applications (like Twitter or Facebook) but as we dip into less used methods like podcasts, there is SO MUCH to research and understand.  For this podcast I decided on “Recorder Pad” for the Ipad.  I was close to using the Garageband (the tool most recommended for Ipad users) but balked at the $4.99 price tag.

Recording the podcast – after a few initial false starts, was relatively easy and I have been able to play the file back, email it and export it from my iPad to my computer.  However, posting the thing has proven frustrating.  The file is a .caf file – something that is not supported by servers that I wish to publish on to.

These issues are due to my tool choice.  I will have to select another application and get back to this.

My reflections on QR Codes and the Federal Court Library will have to wait!

 


Cloud Computing and Privacy

This week I planned to skip a post on the cloud computing (having an assignment due did factor into this decision), but I have been doing a little more thinking – particularly since our last skype session.

I have especially considered privacy issues.  Of course, storing data within the ‘cloud’ may expose unwelcome scrutiny or proprietary concerns.  However, secure access and ownership are concerns outside the internet as well.  Heightened vigilance over these issues should be important, but sometimes I wonder if we lose focus as we talk and talk about whether kids post too much personal info on Facebook.

In the discussion, Prof. Neal asked if anonymity is important – at least as information professionals.  It appeared that a lot of the consensus landed on privacy protection, with much of the emphasis within the context of online over-sharing.  While this may be a worry with personal information, I wonder if  we should be more open professionally.  I suggested as much in the discussion, but was a little disappointed that there was little followup.  (This was late in the hour, so I do understand the reluctance or disinterest in exploring the issue further).

I think ultimately, as information professionals, we must understand what we can about privacy.  This understanding should rise above nicknames and anonymity.  We are professionals and should be unafraid to put our professional names out there.


Bookmarking, tagging and folksonomies

Initially I was not terribly interested in tagging and folksonomies (of course, this was before I had any real understanding of what tagging is; this pre-judgment seems to be an annoying habit I still strive to break).  I did not get into librarianship with any real desire to pursue the more cataloguing strains within the profession.  While I do admire our more catalogue-inclined colleagues, I have never felt a huge pull towards the discipline myself – professionally speaking.

That isn’t to say that I am uninterested in categorizing elements of my personal life and interests – particularly with music and music related culture.  For this week’s blog and lesson, I joined lastfm.  I have all kinds of friends and acquaintances who are rabid over the site, but for whatever reason or another, I have resisted.  This is a pity, as clearly tagging and creating a communal discourse on something like music holds immense appeal for me.  I have been a longtime fan of music, but I still sometimes get a little intimidated when I attempt to approach and embrace a new genre of music.  Sometimes the task seems so huge, so daunting that it is difficult to pinpoint any one place to start.

This is where tagging can assist: different voices may align and work to place this varied information together.  Like-minded individuals can direct and advise on places to start.  You like this new metal band?  Tag it and be linked to what others consider American Black Metal.  Amazing!

I think this speaks to many of the advantages with social media.  I have returned (at least in my thinking) to this idea that the internet as this vast expanse of information.  Social media applications and tools provide a means of connectivity.  Librarians would be well advised to position ourselves at the centre of the connectivity.


Microblogging

I only embraced Twitter this past fall, but I confess that I am well on the way to becoming a true-believer,  I have been with Facebook, but have always struggled with posting “Updates”.  While I admit that I do admire my friends who post regularly, I cannot seem to muster enough to bother.  I do seem to genuinely care what people are up to but have little desire in providing similar updates.  On a few occasions, I have family members and far away friends chastise me for not posting enough; they appreciated knowing I was at least up to something, if it was (in my mind) trivial chatter.  Still, however, I rarely stop by my Facebook profile – other than to send a message.  Which, in essence, might make Facebook a more glorified email account.

But, I do check Twitter throughout the day.  I might not care much for the Facebook status updates, I find Tweet massively useful.  At first, I was reticent to engage Twitter.  So much discussion on how successful Charlie Sheen or Ashton Kutcher have utilized the application – and I have little interest in receiving celebrity news via social media.  Of course Twitter also received a great deal of attention during the Iran/Libya and Egypt protests.  To connect quickly, through smart phones, laptops etc, Twitter seems ideal.  However, I am with Prof. Neal , who suspects that Twitter is more often used as a one-way communication tool (rather than an application that facilitates direct discourses).  

Twitter’s information dissemination appeal is what I really like about Twitter though.  At times I have felt overwhelmed by the simple amount of information on the internet.  I’m an OKAY surfer at best and always appreciate when someone directs my attention to something I will interesting.  I think that this is where Twitter succeeds: it offers a succinct connection to many internet points.  The “here – look at this link” method is immensely effective and appealing.  Yes, this happens in Facebook, but I find Facebook has too many layers and distractions.  Twitter distills the updates into simple posts.

Who do I follow?  I like following news reporters and technology bloggers.  My main criteria: in a tweet, ensure that I have a link to follow.  Jokes are nice and pithy observations can be diverting, but I tend to want more bang for my buck.  Help me explore what’s out there.

This – I am convinced – is what will help me as a librarian.  Any tool that aids in information seeking should be something librarians embrace.  One thing that has been on my mind – particularly during our skype chats – is our strict focus on how social media serves our client bases.  Of course, client services are (the most?) important facet to our profession.  And of course, we should have many, many discussions on how social media can enhance client services.  However, we have not discussed how social media can enhance the librarian experience or the librarian profession.  Perhaps only 5% of internet users embrace Twitter.  I might argue that 100% of librarians should be using Twitter.  And Facebook, for that matter – I am with Tagtmeiter: if any patrons are using Facebook or Twitter at this point, libraries should meet them there.


Social Networking

As with last week’s topic (on social media policy), I am particularly intrigued with how social networks operate – specifically in relation to how these applications can facilitate and foster online communities.

I may have related this anecdote in a past post, but it seems worth repeating.  While at my last co-op with the Kingston Public Library, I was allowed to do a little video purchasing for the online Overdrive application.  After some time at the task, I was discussing with my supervisor possible strategies to drive patron circulation and participation.  I floated ideas, such as online forums, through Facebook or even within the KFPL website.  My supervisor then revealed that attempts were made in the past, but a consistent community was always elusive.

I was reminded of this exchange during a thread within Edmodo.  Prof. Neal posted an article that suggested creating meaningful (in regards to generating sales through online participation) is challenging, even for the most successful brands.  This article and subsequent discussion reinforced some suspicions that many (most) organizations are not utilizing social media effectively enough.  But how can they?  KFPL tried it, but could not generate enough meaningful interest.  Was it too soon?

Katharine L provided the example of how her undergrad university used Facebook effectively: a lot of student activity was generated when the university offered options for students to suggest how social media could be used effectively.  Contests and prizes were also offered as incentives.  This got me thinking: perhaps we want to have all the answers – to social media’s effectiveness – immediately.  We want the online community RIGHT NOW.  And we want this community to engage at a level that nurtures itself.

But perhaps – as the KFPL found – it is still a little soon.  Not too soon to try, but too soon to receive real meaningful progress.  Perhaps, at the library level at least (thankfully ensuring a financial or sales return is not part of the equation), social media could be used to discover how social media could be best effective.  This sounds circular, I realize, but perhaps we need help from our communities, if we wish to best engage these communities.   Especially as social media applications and options increase in number.

With this increase in the number of social media these days, I considered two applications for which I am not a participant: Pinterest and Reddit.   Pinterest is receiving a lot of attention these days.  Indeed, many of the people I follow in Twitter, now are urging followers to also connect with them there.  Unfortunately, my request to Pinterest is still pending review.  Apparently there is a waiting list.  Certainly, not being able to engage (quickly – what is the point to a waiting list?  Should I be patient?  How patient?) might be a factor on how seriously I take this application.

I have been a lurker – please see the post on lurkers in our shared Edmodo page – on Reddit for a few years now.  Joining it was very easy.  I also wrote about Reddit for a different post; anyone who has yet to visit the site, it is worth some exploring.  While on the surface it may seem like a simple aggregation site – it does serve this function – there is a remarkable sense of community.  Members offer excellent advice to each.  They set up online secret santa gift exchanges.  Meaningful discourses on just about anything are constantly occurring.  The community is worldwide (with a significant Canadian level of involvement).


Social Media Policies and Assessment

I should confess that I am more interested in managing the more human elements to technology, than with technology itself.  I always attempt to locate, somewhere within (perhaps deep, deep within) myself some Richard version that takes easily to new technology.  Sadly, it is a struggle.  But happily – I really got into this week’s readings.  Policy development?  Bring it!

I was first intrigued with the idea, suggested in the Lauby article, that everyone within any organization now operates as a “spokesperson”.  Perhaps a few of us in the class have been in a situation where we had to redirect public or press inquiries to designated company individuals.  Here’s a small example:  I remember – as a supervisor with HMV – there was an issue of leaving front doors open during hot, summer days.  Stores wanted doors open to welcome passing patrons, but hot days equate heavy energy consumption.  My management at the time was insistent that we ignore suggestions that it may be irresponsible to blow a/c into the sidewalk.  Many local papers were making the rounds to stores with open door.  Considering that most of the staff did not sympathize with the company, we were distinctly told that we should not answer any press question.  There was a certain amount of (reasonable) distrust that there was staff buy-in on this issue.  Of course, now with Twitter, how can this kind of thing be controlled / managed?

I find the concept of “buy-in” compelling.  During the last years of my HMV tenue, I found much of my staff facing difficulties fitting into new paradigms.  I struggled as well.  (This is not intended as an indictment of the company – difficult times out there for music retail).  As representatives of an organization, however, we did not entirely buy-in into the company’s message.  As the staff continued to feel at odds with the company (and vice versa), buy-in deteriorated until most of the staff left or was pushed out.

I witnessed buy-in failure at HMV and wonder on the stakes when we bring social media into the equation.  Many of the other articles we read this week, suggested means to address this challenge.  Certainly transparency, respect and accuracy aid in getting a large amount of people on any kind of message.  The articles hint that the stakes are high, as we add social media to the equation.  I have no trouble imagining how difficult managing disconnected HMV staff would have been, had many of them engaged – beyond disgruntled Facebook posts – more in social media.  Buy-in may be important, but how to achieve it seems elusive.  The articles suggest we need to consider it at all levels: hiring, training etc. Social media will become much more than a subset of the work (no matter where we work) but rather an irreplaceable component.


Mashups

This week’s readings and lessons made me recall my Information Visualization class, from my third term.  With apologies to my classmates in that class, those who have taken it before or might be taking it now, I would like to offer a brief definition: information visualization seeks to understand how data information can be represented visually, to better impart knowledge or understanding.  There are all kinds of sites that deal with information visualization. 

  • InfoVis is an collaborative wiki on all things Information Visualization:
  • This is a cool blog that focuses on aesthetics.
  • Here’s the Wikipedia entry for the subject.

There is a clear connection between information visualization concepts “non-text content” and “mashups”.   As Lesson 5 noted, a good example of non-text content is Google Maps.  Maps are easy, excellent examples that offer data information (like physical location etc) in pictoral or visual form. 

What I love about this week lesson is how mashups bring social media and online collaboration into the equation.  Adding information to the Google Map application is a terrific idea (and as an aside – Library’s combining their locations with Google seems like an obvious, almost quaint idea;  it is interesting how some of these concepts seem more second nature by now). 

I liked how Fichter relates mashup to an overall online ecosystem.  She describes a rich, fertile open-source environment, where data creaters and users work together, mixing up online material.  I am particularly intrigued with how libraries can work with patrons on catalogue presentation and accessibility.  I wonder if libraries can engage clients enough, to the point that clients are creating meaningful online library content, along with library staff.  I briefly discussed this in my previous post (as well as in the comments); it is a topic I find especially interesting.

 


Wikis and other collaborative tools.

I find the use of wikis to be a fascinating subject.  Obviously, applications like Twitter and Facebook are helpful in disseminating messages, but the collaborative element inherent in wikis takes social media to a much higher level – particularly within the library world.  As the provided Farkas article noted, as libraries work to become physical community and neighbourhood hubs, wikis might work to develop online communities between libraries and their patrons.

Indeed, while I was on co-op with the Kingston Public Library, I was privileged with the opportunity to do a little visual purchasing the Overdrive, the library’s online collection.  Circulation numbers, for the online material, is small but growing.  One of my thoughts to drive circulation was for the library to develop an online forum for electronic borrowers to discuss titles they’ve seen or hope to borrow.   If patrons are borrowing material online already, how difficult would it be to generate a more meaningful discourse?  Attempts were made to develop online communities in the past, but met with little success.  Admittedly, these attempts were prior to electronic books and tablets.

I wonder if the popularity in tablets and other mobile devices will drive an increase in online participation?  As we become more engaged – if only because our online access and presence becomes more consistent (constant?) – will we be more likely to collaborate with the sites we visit?  In Kingston, I wondered if more people borrowed electronic resources (and rarely set foot within the physical confines of the library), would these people be more likely to interact online with the library?  I suspect that broader communities are only now ready to be built.


Blogs and RSS

I was looking forward to learning about RSS feeds – I assumed it would be really difficult.  However, I was pleasantly (and arguably foolishly) surprised to find the process as easy as it is.  Considering the readings and sites we looked at this week, I now feel RSS feeds essential.  I think my largest challenge – informationally speaking – is keeping up with the almost overwhelming volume of content out there online.  One thing I have grown to appreciate with sites, such as Twitter, it the filtering and aggregation of  all the voices, opinions and services out there.  I wonder how much I missed in the past, simply because my focus was too cluttered to discover it.

RSS feeds also add a valuable currency to the equation as well.  More often than not, I am too busy to see everything I want to see.  Sure, I regularly hit the fun spots, like Pitchfork or the AV Club, but I having an application do the work for me.  I wonder if this is a large part of what social media is: applications that do much of the online heavy lifting.