Saturday, February 28, 2009

I should be in Athens contemplating souvlaki

Okay, I know it defies pop culture, but I see nothing attractive about LOLCats. It may have something to do with the fact that I loathe cats. I don't find cats to be cute in any way, whatsoever. They are not cuddly or affectionate. I just don't get why people have them as pets. Every cat I have ever met has been a self-centered tyrant that treats its owner as its minion. Plus, I am insanely allergic. Being plunged into itching and asthmatic fits has a tendency to defeat one's tolerance.

For Thing 30, I was supposed to cruise LOLCats sites, pick a fave LOLCat, and blog about it. Yuck. I cruised the sites. It was horrible. Unmitigated torture. And un-funny. Very un-funny. I think I'm starting to break out in hives.

Now, if I'm required to pick a LOLCat, there is only one site for me, but it isn't on the Learning 2.1 list. It is Rolcats: English Translations of Eastern Bloc Lolcats. Now this is funny, despite the cats.

I think I'm amused mainly because the captions parallel the sorts of things my friends and I say when we've had one too many (or sometimes when we haven't). We're odd that way. (Our legendary, dearly-departed trailer at the beach was dubbed Glorious Peoples Revolutionary Recreational Cooperative #7. It confused a lot of peroxide-headed sunbathers; but, then again, what didn't?)

These Rolcats speak for themselves. You've got to love any quote that contains either of the terms "proletariat" or "pig iron."

February 6, 2009 by Yuri

Have strength, my little cabbage. By the mercy of NKVD Order No. 00447, we have been chosen for Resettlement.

We will show the tin mines of Kolyma the true power of the proletariat.

February 4, 2009 by Yuri

Aaaaah… Pig iron, your musk is that of glorious industry …

Now these merit the remark "LOL."

Well done, Yuri, whoever you are. I'm ROFL.

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Scrapblogging is the only scrapbooking I'll ever do

Thing 29 is Scrapblog, an online utility to lay out a fancy-schmancy PowerPoint-ish sort of document that is supposed to look like a scrapbook. The actual tool reminded me a lot of Blurb.

I like it, but it is incredibly time consuming, as are all tools for graphics-intense publishing. They definitely get brownie points for allowing me to use the jump-right-in method very easily, though. I also thought the many options for pulling in pictures from other sites and for sharing the finished product with other sites was very slick.

I doubt that I will use this much, maybe for some personal use. Again, I do pretty well with PowerPoint, and it's more commonly accepted everywhere. If I wanted to make and store a short public presentation for online use only, I might use this. Or, if I ever develop the urge to join the scrapbooking craze (like that might happen), I would probably opt for a digital solution, too.

So, here is my masterpiece: My Favorite Books. Enjoy!

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Rolling Stone Cover

Thing 28, online image generators, is just for fun. I tried WriteOnIt Fake Pictures.

Pictures speak better than words for this one.

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Thing 27 is Photobucket. Apparently, this is a competitor of Flickr and is owned by the same company that owns MySpace.

I really like this tool a lot. The dashboard seems more intuitive to me than that of Flickr, and it can store images like animations (Hooray! I found a place to store my Meez avatar!) and video clips.

The text in Thing 27 states:

One big difference is that from Flickr you can only use photos you have posted; at Photobucket, add any image or video you like to your album (or further organize your choices into sub-albums), and you can use it, no matter who originally posted it. In other words, anything you add to a public account at Photobucket is fair game for any other Photobucket user to see and use on a blog or profile at any website (as long as it's not for commercial purposes).

This makes me wonder about copyright. How many images there are copyrighted and being used as if they weren't? I did notice at least one box that said the image had been removed due to a violation of Photobucket rules. Wonder if it was an unlicensed image issue or something merely distasteful. I guess this is a problem everywhere, though.

A bigger concern is that if I copy an image that I find on the site to my own account and then post it somewhere else (like this blog), it identifies the image as "by" me. As I did not create the image, I would prefer that it retained the information identifying its original creator. Credit should be given to the artist; seems a bit too much like finders-keepers to me. But, I can fix that by simply not posting from my account but, instead, from the original image.

All in all, a really great find. I definitely will be using Photobucket!

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Widgets, Gadgets, Gizmos, and Thingamabobs

Thing 26 is widgets from YourMinis. I couldn't figure out what the instructions in Thing 26 were trying to tell me to do with a template...I think maybe that function has vanished since Thing 26 was written.

However, I did browse quite a number of widgets there, and added them to iGoogle. I have to admit that I liked the widgets I found in Google better. My favorite is this playlist widget. It was easy to select a couple of songs to create a playlist (mine is 59811528) at and then just fiddle with the widget settings to make sure that my widget played it. I was rather disappointed that the feature for adding it to Facebook apparently needs repair.

I also picked a totally silly one, below, from YourMinis. It couldn't have been simpler to put it here in my blog. I just clicked "Grab & Share" on the widget, selected Blogger as the destination, and the widget automatically was inserted into a new blog post (this one). I just had to edit the post to add my own text.


I like widgets, but prefer to use them sparingly. Like any web components, widgets, when overused, make a page too busy. Web pages should be simple, IMHO.

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Bursting the bubble about LetterPop

I'm far from giddy about Thing 25, LetterPop. Frankly, creating great looking documents using ordinary MS Office tools like Word and PowerPoint is pretty darn easy for me. I also have a firm grasp of HTML, so I can create documents in that format, too. If necessary, it is easy to convert documents created in MS Office tools to pdf using Zamzar and attach a distribution. I just don't see the advantage of using LetterPop.

I found it to be clunky to use, having to click several times to get the editing windows to open; pages frequently loaded with errors. It was slow. I would have thought that I would either be warned when my text exceeded the designated area or it would continue automatically to a new page or column. Nope. I had to cut and paste the overrun manually into several new text boxes. The options for free accounts were limited.

The ability for readers to comment is an attractive feature.

If you want to create basic newsletters and want a simple tool, this would be a decent free option. Of course, you could just blog -- much easier.

My newsletter

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Zamzar is ze best!

This is my blog post for Thing 24.

I have used Zamzar before. It is an extremely useful utility for file conversion. In fact, let me check...

...yes, I already had it in my bookmarks.

Nonetheless, I went through the steps anyway, as directed in the lesson. Here is my beautiful new pdf, converted from a Word Document. (BTW, try the procedure in the pdf file. It is very amusing.)

I received the link to the converted file in my email box in less than a minute! Impressive! I don't think it came that quickly last time I used it.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Celebrate! It's Thing 23!

I've finally reached the end, and now I can both continue on to Learning 2.1 and start figuring out how to use Learning 2.0 in my own organization. But first things first. Let's finish this part of the journey!

What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey?

Undoubtedly, keeping this blog was my favorite part of this journey. I had blogged intermittently as part of a group blog before, but this program gave me a reason to put together a cohesive and continuing blog. I don't think I'm going to stop, although I may take a bit of a break for a while.

I also had a number of "Aha!" moments while thinking deep thoughts about wikis.

How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals?

I've been a proponent of lifelong learning, well, lifelong. I don't believe this particular program has impacted my own goals at all. However, I think it could be used effectively to help others move along the social media path a bit more quickly, which is how I intend to use it.

Were there any take-aways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?

I think I was surprised that it is so difficult to search effectively through social media. I guess I was expecting a revelation I had simply failed to recognize before. But, nope, it's still a slog. I was further surprised at how far Google has come to offer nearly a full portfolio of tools across the Learning 2.0 spectrum in the couple of years since the Learning 2.0 program was written. Google rocks!

Oh, and I never would have guessed that I'd look good in Donald Trump's hair (courtesy of HairMixer).

What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept?

I'd suggest making it a wiki, but that was already done in Learning 2.1. Also, the program should be updated to replace the broken links with working links and active resources.

If we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you again chose to participate?

In the words of some of my favorite cartoon characters, The Powerpuff Girls, "We're super heroes [of learning]. That's what we do. Duh!"

So this ends the formal documentation of my 23 Things adventure. It was great!

Special thanks to Helene Blowers for taking a simple idea and making it into a powerful learning tool. Genius is making the obvious obvious.

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A little tough to do Thing 22, but let's press on anyway...

Well, Thing 22 was tough to do since I couldn't access NetLibrary without having a PLCMC (The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County) library card. Do you think they'd give me one just for that purpose, even though I live in Cleveland? Just kidding.

Anyhow, I'm not clueless about how to search and download materials, so let's just pretend I was able to do this.

I browsed for classics. One that struck me was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, mainly because a little snippet of this was pre-loaded on my GPS, and my kids and I really enjoyed listening to it in the car. However, as I generally do not drive for extended periods of time, I did not actually purchase it. Seems simple enough, though. If your comfort level is higher with Amazon, it is always an option to search there in the audiobooks section, too.

On a related note, a word about e-books. My team has a Kindle, which I find useful for reading business books that we don't really want to store on our shelves anyway (short-term user interest, not worth the bother). In fact, we always look for the e-book version first, now, and offer it as an option to our users. I have used it to browse titles, and it is quite simple.

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Podcast Directories (Bah) and Podcasts (Cool)

I'm beginning to feel like a broken record, here. Once again, I did not enjoy the search experience using podcast directories. Again, too many irrelevant hits. I spent too many years developing precision search techniques and database systems to slog through line after line of false drops.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of broken links in the Thing 21 lesson. The Podcastalley link worked, though. After slogging through pages of supposed library and book review listings, I finally settled on adding this one to my Bloglines account:

Library Geeks (Description from listing: "Dan Chudnov invites librarians, geeks, and library geeks to geek out about libraries.")
It has only 58 subscribers and a poor rating (1/5 stars) on Podcasters, so we'll see.

I next tried everyone's old standby, Google, resulting in my subscription to:

Forward Thinking (Business & Motivational Book Reviews)
There's something about the concept of motivational books that always makes me cringe, so, again, we'll see.

Again supporting my theory that recommendations are the best route when selecting social media to follow, I Googled and found a few lists of recommended library podcasts. For example, LibrarySpot helped me to find:

PALINET Podcasts (Interviews with leaders in library technology)

My all-time favorite podcast remains Grammar Girl. This podcast is not a library thing, though.

The ease with which people can now create and publish content is both a blessing and a curse. So much to slog through...

Of course, I can't wait to start podcasting myself, internally. I have several ideas on how to further engage and educate our users via podcasts. Just need to get going.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009


I couldn't resist the bad 80s humor for the title of this post about Thing 20 (YouTube) .

I started by doing a simple search for "technical library." This result cracked me up:

Of course, I teared up in the end. Give me a moment to gather myself...

And then I ran across some angry library patrons:

I'm not sure what I learned from this other than to be careful of disgruntled library patrons who have access to musical instruments and a video camera. In fact, it is probably wise never to anger music-video-star wannabes for any reason.

One of my all time favorite video discoveries is this Christmas Card by a guy named Jared Foster, which is pure art and joy. It is hosted on Vimeo. I don't know these people; I just really enjoyed their video at Christmastime.

So, what did I learn? Well, for most topics on which I searched I had to sort through a lot of awful hits to find something good, if, indeed, anything good existed. This lack of precision is the same irritation I have with all social media (e.g., when it comes to searching. Too much time invested for too little return. However, if you are looking for something very specific (e.g., a product demo of LED bulbs from LEDtronics; I have developed a colossal fear of my children being exposed to mercury should we break a compact fluorescent), this is a great place to look. I especially like the ease of finding historical video clips. (Remember how our teachers used to drag out those big reel-to-reel projectors to show videos in school? Now it's just point and click!) It's also great for browsing.

At my library, we frequently incorporate YouTube finds into dynamic news pages we create for our users. We see a lot of traffic to sites that we create to pull together relevant news and video feeds related to a high interest event, such as the Consumer Electronics Show. Another lesson, as with other social media, is the value of user input such as ratings, reviews, and additional content added via comments. This type of information can help users to evaluate the content against their needs and follow leads to information beyond the original content.

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Recipe Key

Here I am at Thing 19, exploring Recipe Key. I remember talking about trying to create an application like this about 20 years ago with my boss at the time. She loved to cook, but wanted a way to figure out what recipes were a match for what she had in her pantry. We talked extensively about how to create a database to do this. (My job largely was designing text based databases, at the time.) I never was motivated enough to really hammer at this idea on my own time -- I don't cook.

Well, as I always say, if I thought of an idea (or in this case, my old boss thought of an idea), chances are someone else did, too, and will make it a reality. Recipe Key is the reality.

It's pretty simple. Just drag and drop ingredients from a list into your digital pantry. Then browse the recipes that "match" what you have. You can filter by meal, ease of preparation, time to prep, etc. Unfortunately, none of the recipes were 100 percent match for what I have in the house, so I'd be running to the store anyway, if I wanted to use this tool. Good thing I don't cook; saved myself a trip.

All in all, a pretty cool app.

Now, as for using it in the library...hmmm. I'm stretching here, but maybe there's some link to the "others with items like yours" type of feature a la shopping sites. Or LibraryThing-like. So you enter what you have in your personal tech library or what literature you've accumulated on a topic and then you are presented with a complementary reading list that goes with the literary "ingredients" you've already got in your pantry. I know, I said it was a stretch. I think the real learning here is that if you can recognize a need, chances are, there's a way to make the solution happen.

Note that I use or have tried a smattering of other Web 2.0 Award Winners. You can even see my HairMixer experiment in one of my earlier posts. If I ever think of a library app for that, I've let you know.

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Web-based productivity applications: Interesting, but of limited use to me

As directed in Thing 18, I tried to use Zoho Writer, but there was something wrong with it. No toolbars appeared and there was no option to save the document. I tried Zoho (Spread)Sheet, which worked a lot better as a very simple spreadsheet. I also tried the Zoho Show, which seemed like a dumbed-down and temperamental PowerPoint. (Not that PowerPoint can't be temperamental, too.)

I guess the best feature is document sharing, although I don't know with whom I would collaborate with enough gusto to warrant use of these web-based productivity applications. My serious collaboration happens inside the firewall, where Microsoft reigns supreme.

Therefore, I have no real use for Zoho, as I am covered inside the firewall and, outside the firewall, there are so many other ways to share information with friends: Facebook, Blogs, etc. However, it's nice to know about. One never knows what the future will hold!

BTW, I am writing this in and publishing this post from Google Docs because of my difficulties with Zoho. I suspect I would be more likely to use Google for this type of thing than Zoho anyway; it's just easier and, in my mind, a very trustworthy tool.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

PBwiki is, indeed, yummy

Thing 17 was a fun one. I've heard a lot about PBwiki but, once again, hadn't taken the time to test it myself. Thing 17 made me do it!

The big plusses:

  1. It's free! Gosh, I love the information age!
  2. It's easy-peasy! I added content to a page, added this blog to a list of blogs, and then created a whole new page! I seriously doubt that many people would be intimidated by editing a page if they have basic computer skills.
One complaint: It seemed to me that the table of contents should have automatically updated to include my new page, but I manually added it. I'm sure there must be some way to make it go automatically; my characteristic impatience for reading help messages prevented me from finding it. I may discover it now that I have created a private PBwiki for myself, just to play with this whole wiki thing more. (You can't get to this link; I put it here for my own convenience. I doubt you would want to diddle around in the chaos of my mind any more than you do in reading this blog, anyway, but if you really want to, ask me and perhaps I will let you. Then again, perhaps not.)

Another note of caution: It would be good to suggest a standard format for the pages. Some of them were too chaotic to read. Too many cooks in the kitchen with no head chef.

We use SharePoint wikis at work; I have contributed content but not set one up independently. They seem to be more automatic than PBwiki in some ways, but also less user friendly in others. This is definitely going to require more investigation on my part, both in PBwiki and SharePoint.

I'm not going to wax philosophic about wikis any more as my last blog entry about wikis is about 3 miles long.

Later note: After playing with my new wiki a bit, I realized that the Learning 2.0 wiki must be built in an earlier version of the software. The current version operates more like I thought it should. It still doesn't automatically generate a table of contents, but it does automatically create a page when you add a link to the table of contents. This is much like SharePoint. It works, but I wish it worked in reverse, too. Maybe in the next rev?

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Wikis are the revolution

I’m not the first to say this by any stretch of the imagination, but wikis truly are revolutionary and have already begun to change the way we think about “authority” information.

Don’t get me wrong; I still scoff at the easily-duped, research-authority-ignorant individuals who profess that single miscellaneous data points found through Google are enough to answer their professional questions. (Triangulate, at least, people!) But that was when most of the free internet was HTML pages created by solo operators or small groups who may or may not have had any real credibility or knowledge about what they posted. The more slick- and professional-looking the web page, the more some would place their faith in the site’s claims, whether or not the person behind the claims was an expert.

But wikis change everything. Now, certainly, there are some who would profess, “None of us is as dumb as all of us.” To a certain extent, that is true. Certainly, a wave of information pushed in an erroneous direction can gather momentum and be presented and accepted as fact.

Digression: I have a particular friend who can make anyone believe anything because he can say it with a tone and manner of great authority. This was especially useful in our younger days when he would easily pass as a respectable adult and secure all of our friends admission to…well, we’ll just leave it at that. My friends and I used to also play a fun game (for geeks, that is) at the beach called, “Lies about…” The idea was to come up with the longest list possible of convincing-sounding lies on a particular subject (e.g., “Lies about nature” or “Lies about Michelangelo”). Trust me, if you put a large group of 20-something-year-old past valedictorians together for a summer full of beer-fueled beach weekends, intellectual creativity blossoms. (I wonder if the folks that invented cheese racing were past valedictorians, because we did a number of what-happens-if-we-toss-this-on-the-campfire experiments, too.) Snopes would have trouble detecting whether or not some of the whoppers we invented were real or not. (I wonder if any of them are listed there.) We even took it beyond the beach, gathering eavesdroppers everywhere from the Cleveland Museum of Art to the Louvre as we waxed lies about particular famous works of art. You’d be amazed at what people will nudge in closer to hear when you and a friend stand in front of a famous impressionist painting whispering— in authoritative tones—improvised untruths about the intentions of the painter and his subtle artistic clues to his secret life.

Open collaborations like Wikipedia are likely rife with erroneous information, some of which, I’m sure, has duped me.

However, in general, I take a more optimistic view, believing that there is great wisdom in collectively created content. Peer review, even done informally, is very powerful, and, as we see in Wikipedia, often times the people involved in collectively creating content really do have expertise on that particular subject. Because I work in R&D at a company that essentially created its industry, my professional world is full of information that is not solid, universal truth. In my world, “fact” is defined by what our research and collective intelligence suggests up to that point. There is little outside authority that parallels ours, so we create our own assumptions. Our “facts” change with new knowledge. This is the nature and progress of science.

So, wikis seem right and natural to me.

The cherry picking opportunities are obvious. Anything that exists currently (or should) as a manual or reference document can easily be envisioned as a wiki, especially if the existing document was a collective effort to produce and will be a collective effort to maintain. In wiki form, updates can happen continuously by those who are best equipped to make them.

The difficulty arises as we start getting away from the obvious. I have one colleague whose company went to a complete wiki systems solution. This company, apparently, uses wikis for everything. Not knowing the details of this company’s operation, I can only say that this approach feels wrong. Wikipedia states, “A wiki is essentially a database for creating, browsing, and searching through information.” If that is assumed to be true, should everything be in a collaborative database? My point of reference comes from early in my library career when the sum total of my group’s systems options included a database system and WordPerfect. Working within this limited infrastructure, we put every piece of information we had into databases. Everything. And it worked. However, if instead of the 1980s it had been 2009, with the variety of intuitive, low cost, highly integrated software now available, that same approach would be ridiculously inefficient. More simply, consider typing a letter in Excel or doing complicated numerical calculations in a table in Word. Both can be done, but it is mismatching tools with applications, which introduces inefficiency.

When do I think a wiki makes sense? The first clue should be that wikis are, after all, part of the social media realm. At its core, a wiki should be rooted in collaboration. If I am the sole author of a training manual, for example, and no one should update the content of that manual without my consent, a wiki is not needed. That’s not to say that wiki software couldn’t be used, just that it’s not necessary. Now, if I am the sole author, but, in the future, this manual will/could/should be improved and updated by collaborative effort, than a wiki is the thing. But the best application of a wiki is when knowledge needs to be pooled to create the content. My incomplete portion of knowledge is complemented by (and, sometimes, overlapping a bit with) the piecemeal knowledge many others. When pulled together, the collective knowledge presents a more complete story than previously available. Voila, the benefits of collaboration. Further enhancement is achieved when others can refine, clarify, and expand upon that content to create a richer content product – continuous improvement. This process of completing and further enhancing the story may be evolutionary and infinite as knowledge grows and adapts.

Which brings us to the second clue: The wiki describes core knowledge. Although any sort of data or information can be typed into a wiki, the content of the wiki should be a record of core knowledge. For example, a wiki could be used as a way to compile a directory of detailed financial reports. But the reports and financials themselves are not really core knowledge, simply transient data. The better wiki would capture the observations and interpretations surrounding financial trends over time, the methodologies for handling financial information, or a company’s summary financials over time in the context of a company profile. The financial statements themselves should merely be linked references at the end of a wiki article, not an actual part of the wiki. Core knowledge is information that is summarized, synthesized, interpreted, and put into context, not simply accumulated or manipulated. Better to use spreadsheets and databases for those types of applications.

And the final point: The wiki has longevity appropriate to the knowledge application. Specifically, the content collection, as a whole, should be more evolutionary in nature than transient. Some parts of the content may become obsolete, but the overall content is ever adapting and growing with changing knowledge and business conditions and is continuously useful as these changes occur. Now, what constitutes longevity depends on the purpose of the wiki. For example, a great short-lifespan use of a wiki, appropriate to the scope of the application, is rapidly compiling a guide for conference attendees. The collective wisdom of the group can easily be contributed for the benefit of all throughout the lifespan of the conference. Even as the attendees head toward home at the end of the conference, they may still be adapting the content of the wiki to help each other navigate changing travel conditions and record learnings that could presumably assist in the planning of future conferences. It is adaptable, changing, and useful throughout the lifespan of the application, and, in some ways, beyond. Wikipedia, in contrast, may have an infinite lifespan because it is emerging as the mother of all (informal) encyclopedias. Certainly, entries will become obsolete over time and may well be deleted for lack of use because they cover topics that are of finite interest to readers, but the collective Wikipedia is continuously useful. There are a whole host of other potential wiki uses that would fall somewhere between a short-lifespan conference guide and an infinite-lifespan Wikipedia.

I really enjoyed Thing 16 because it gave me this opportunity to explore a number of wikis in which I’ve been meaning to poke around but hadn’t found the time, pointed me toward a few of which I hadn’t even heard about, and to think deep thoughts about the most effective way to apply them in my workplace. For example, we have a research guide, but I’d love to adapt this cool wiki model, this book wiki sparked some related ideas about how to incorporate more user input into our card catalog, and that conference guide wiki I referenced earlier inspired some event-related wiki ideas.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Library 2.0…well, of course!

My favorite part of this lesson (Thing 15) was this quote from Dr. Wendy Schultz of Infinite Futures:

Libraries are not just collections of documents and books, they are conversations, they are convocations of people, ideas, and artifacts in dynamic exchange. Libraries are not merely in communities, they are communities: they preserve and promote community memories; they provide mentors not only for the exploration of stored memory, but also for the creation of new artifacts of memory.

- From To a temporary place in time…On the way to the library experience of the future

This resonated with me because it is exactly what my team has been working toward for almost a decade now. I’d like to say we’re there, but this vision is more of a journey than a destination.

As the last millennium drew to a close, my team was constructing a 5-year plan to make “All Things Virtual.” (In retrospect, “All Things Digital” would have been more accurate.) The vision was to digitally connect our users to relevant internal and external information they needed in increasingly direct ways (i.e., enhanced ACCESS).

The risk in this plan was that we were far from certain of the possibility, let alone probability, that many of the critical elements necessary for the plan’s success would exist anytime soon or work within our systems infrastructure. But, betting on our own understanding of information, technology, and social trends and how suppliers would seize opportunities created by them, we chose to trust that the essential elements of our plan would emerge. (In other words, if we’d thought of it, someone else who was equipped to turn it into a product had probably thought of it, too.) And that’s exactly what happened.

Concurrently, we began changing the way we operated and communicated internally to be consistent with other business units. We adopted practices like creating a product cycle plan, constructing service level agreements, billing back, and aggressively managing, measuring, and communicating value and return on investment for the information resources portfolio.

Our users kicked and screamed. Our library team kicked and screamed. But then it happened…the elusive and oft touted culture change. Users began to like having immediate access to a variety of information. The serendipity of self-serve research led our users to deeper understanding of their own topics and along previously undiscovered trails to new ideas. Library staff stopped being bogged down by materials processing and routine searching and spent more time helping users to effectively find answers. Information usage skyrocketed (despite bill backs!) and library productivity soared. Library staff, initially concerned that giving up control of collections and searching would make them irrelevant, now are juggling an abundance of project work -- interesting work. We’re swamped!

But once we were all connected and could access information easily, we wanted more. Fortunately, the IT tools we needed were materializing. And so began our next plan to “Inhabit the End-User’s Workspace.” For us, this means leveraging Web 2.0: making content seamlessly flow when, how, and to where it is needed (i.e., on the user's own digital turf); creating connections; and facilitating collaboration so that new content is created and shared. Our mantra is extracting VALUE: Helping our users manage and customize their content environment effectively to promote both productivity and creativity.

More importantly, we began reinventing ourselves to connect more closely with our users. We now perceive ourselves as content management consultants first, with proficiency in information. We proactively relinquished more control over our own direction and resources to better engage our users and harness their energy and intelligence in building a better content environment. For example, we formed a user advisory board and deliberately picked vocal and action-oriented members who would push us well beyond our comfort zone. We also developed a plan to convert the major part of our library’s physical space into shared collaborative space for our users; that is, we give up turf to better connect with users -- and connect them with each other -- on new, shared turf.

The result? We met with more enthusiastic support up, down, and across the organization than we ever dreamed. Our customer satisfaction ratings are phenomenal (and we thought we were good before!) and we are invited to partner on more key projects across the global organization than we have resources to support. An abundance of opportunity and being in great demand --one can’t argue with that!

But we’re not resting on our laurels. We realize that the shelf life on some of our current activities and projects is short in this dynamic information environment. We’ve already begun to address the next big game changer: virtual reality. For us, that means focusing on the EXPERIENCE of information in our work lives, not only the access to it or value derived from it, but how it integrates into who we are as colleagues and professionals. This is an ethereal concept, but we’re working on it.

Here’s a summary graphic:

Without knowing it when we started, my team aligned its plans with the Key Principles of Library 2.0:

  • Browser + Web 2.0 Applications + Connectivity = Full-featured OPAC

  • Harness the library user in both design and implementation of services

  • Library users should be able to craft and modify library provided services

  • Harvest and integrate ideas and products from peripheral fields into library service models

  • Continue to examine and improve services and be willing to replace them at any time with newer and better services.

Weird how we all eventually arrive at the same point philosophically, even if we take vastly different paths to get there, isn’t it? This is why I constantly remind my staff that we need to capitalize on our best ideas before they’re fully formed, because, if I have a brainwave, I would take odds that someone cleverer than I had a similar brainwave sometime earlier. So, if you want to run with an idea, you need to act with lightning speed and accept the associated risks of moving that fast. Ah, the adrenaline rush of trailblazing information management!

[An amusing aside about failing to seize opportunities…

In the 1990s, I wrote a column called Tips for Better Writing (originally called Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, but the title was shortened by the publisher) in an internal company publication. The column was always very short and to-the-point, with each article focusing on a single confusing point of grammar, punctuation, or usage. Colleagues began referring to me as “Grammar Goddess.” The column was a huge hit -- so popular that, years after I’d stopped writing it, we maintained an online directory of old columns to satisfy the many former readers who demanded continuing access. When Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing became popular, you can’t even imagine how many people told me that I should have preempted her in the podcasting universe. Her podcasts are uncannily close in content, scope, and style to my old columns. I guess grammar gurus must have similar brain patterns. If only I had seized the opportunity, you all would be following tweets of GrammarGoddess instead of GrammarGirl...*sigh*. BTW, I'm not jealous; I think Grammar Girl rocks.]

Obviously, I’m passionate about this topic. Feel free to comment or contact me if you share this passion.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mud wrestling with Technorati

This thing (Thing 14) made my head hurt.

I have to admit that my most valuable discovery while scrapping in the mud with wasn't about Technorati. While looking for reasons why Technorati wasn't indexing my blog, I found this bit of HTML in the Technorati Help/FAQ, that, when inserted into my blog's page header, made my blog's RSS finally work properly with Outlook. Bonus! Weird that it wasn't already included in this standard page template for Blogger, though.

As far as using Technorati to search...well, maybe. I might use it if I were really digging. However, I'm more likely to start following blogs because they are acclaimed in respected publications or by people I respect.

My issues: Looking for particular topics brought up too much junk, and looking for authorities either brought up stuff I already know about or didn't really like. There seemed to be no middle ground. The sites in the pre-populated directories (e.g., "Popular" and "Top 100") were either of little interest to me (I know it's crazy, but I really don't care about Paris Hilton or Jennifer Garner) or obvious (I've long been acquainted with Gizmodo).

I also created a watchlist...but why? I just don't like searching on this site. Now, if I really had to exhaustively follow a particular topic (e.g., for competitive intelligence) or if I were monitoring to see how and when a new idea first appears in the digital realm (e.g., new product buzz), this might be a valuable tool.

It also took me longer than it should to figure out where things were. I guess Technorati's concept of design and mine diverge greatly. It may have been a fluke, but I also seemed to receive an extraordiary number of error messages while using the site. Very irritating.

Now, as a blog owner, Technorati is an entirely different matter. I can certainly see the merit of adding Technorati tags to my blog to generate exposure. The tools for seeing links to my blog, where my blog ranks (4,777,538), et cetera, might also be good if, unlike me, you actually care about readership numbers. I also rather like the widget, which you can see in the side navigation bar.

So why does my head hurt? Well, it seems to me that I should be able to use the labels in Blogger do double duty as Technorati tags. I couldn't seem to get it to work, though, no matter what I tried. (If someone out there can tell me, please do.) I found the Help/FAQ on Technorati to be poorly written. I finally conceded that I'd forever need to add separate Technorati tags at the end of each post. I suppose that's not terrible, but is annoyingly redundant.

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