Tweeting for Public Figures & Public Servants

January 13, 2009

I’ve been watching a celeb adopt Twitter as a way to chat with fans. LeVar Burton — known variously as Kunte Kinte (Roots), Geordi (Star Trek The Next Generation), and host of Reading Rainbow — began twittering just after Christmas and quickly built up a huge following. I popped in as follower #8000 a few days ago and he’s over 10,500 now. Not bad for only three weeks online!

"Speak Up" is the new "Shhh.."He seems to be enjoying it, too. It makes sense: It’s an easy, efficient way to share thoughts, appearances, interact, and show that he’s a real person. (Not that there was any doubt.) He may influence others. A recent tweet from him said that “a long conversation today with Brent Spiner [Star Trek's Data]… began with ‘Tell me about Twitter.'”

It’s great to see public figures trying out social web tools. Musicians (or their agents) have been involved for quite a while. Some athletes have taken spins, too. I’d love to see many more public figures AND public servants (including community leaders and librarians) jumping in. Staff should get involved. Several collaborating staff members, in fact, could share the tweeting duties on an “official” Twitter account. Come on, people! Share the news, the concerns, and the daily routine. Build relationships. Be there. Be available.


Quick Housekeeping Note

January 13, 2009

I haven’t blogged for a few months.  Why not?  Red OfficeMy library has been going through growing pains and reorganizations for the last year or more.  Despite several successes, some of the social web tools I’ve advocated these last several years have been very slow to get management’s approval (or priority) amid all the other changes.  Regrettably, that has forced my focus on other things.

I’ve been keeping up with my nonfiction book blog, though, and hope to post here regularly again once we resume using social tools in creative ways.  If that takes too long, I’ll broaden LibraryStream’s focus.  It’s a big world out there … and the library must be in it.


A Comic Catalog

October 1, 2008

Are kids and teens bored by your library catalog? Artists are transforming old classics into comic books and publishers roll out new graphic novels by the score. Why not add a similar visual punch to your public catalog?

comiccatalog4

During a mostly unrelated conversation* this morning, my mind wandered and I started imagining a library catalog that provided content as if it were a comic book. Why not? A person searching a catalog is engaged in a dialog. Why not illustrate that dialog in a fun way? The catalog would still do its search magic beneath the surface, but the interface — the Q & A — could be channeled through a random comic book scene.

Let’s say a teen opens the “Comic Catalog” to an illustrated scene featuring two characters. One character has a blank cartoon bubble overhead (or a bubble with prompting words like “Do you have …”). The teen types keywords into the bubble just as he would with a normal text box, but … he’s typing into a comic book! That’s the search box. Cool.

Then he presses ENTER and watches the other character respond with the catalog’s top entry. Other results can appear in a list below, or may be selected and scrolled up into the comic interface.

If you have several dozen images stashed in the catalog’s storage, comiccatalog the randomness of the comic scenes will keep it fresh. If a user wants to play a little, she can scroll through the scenes to find one she likes. Maybe the scenes could appear as upturned comic book pages that she can flip through.

Sure, this is a gimmick, but it’s visual, colorful, and fun. A whimsical interface option might spruce up the catalog. We’re a Polaris library, so I ran the idea by the good developers in Syracuse this afternoon. It’s a busy week for them — their annual user’s conference begins tomorrow — but they listened politely and passed it around their work group.

Sharon Ufer Lavell, our library’s collection services manager with whom I was talking when this idea arose, suggested customizing the user’s avatar or changing the background based on the call number of the top result. A kitchen background might appear, for example. Or a sport stadium. Or a zoo.

I pitched the idea to a school teacher, too. Would the kids gobbling up graphic novels use this? Her immediate answer: “I would use this!”

What do you think? Should we seek a Comic Catalog?

* Our original conversation: Is there an online database out there that provides full-content comic books? Well, is there?

NOTE ABOUT IMAGES: The examples shown here were produced quickly today using a few simple graphical cut-and-paste tools and using images from ComicStripGenerator.com.  Maybe a manga, anime, or classic comics-style illustrator could be hired to dash off a nice image collection for a Comic Catalog.


Devour a book

July 27, 2008

Eat a Book

I just felt like tinkering with a variation on READ posters.
I loved this author’s first book and was reading this one when I met him at ALA.


Musical Tag Clouds: A New Game?

July 15, 2008

Can you guess this song? Na? Yes, na. That’s a tag cloud of “Hey, Jude” by the Beatles. I was tinkering with tag clouds one evening last month and had the goofy urge to see what the song with more than one hundred nas at the end would look like as a tag cloud. I wasn’t disappointed. You simply can’t miss the na. Of course, hey and jude are pretty obvious, too.

That prompted me to think of a nerdy little game that teens (primarily) might enjoy. Suppose people created tag clouds of various popular songs and then challenged others to guess the tune from which they had sprung.

Can you guess this song?

Of course, some titles are so much a part of their songs — with the key words repeated (or in some cases, hammered) into our ears so frequently — that it’s hard to miss the cues among the tags. Take the classic rock song from the ’70s shown at right. That title is probably easy to pick out.

Can you guess this song? Or the (mostly) instrumental marching band anthem from the 1960s [left]. Its one word tag cloud is surely the simplest ever.

But we can make this game more challenging!

See if you can pick out these next two songs. You can click through to larger versions on my Flickr page if that would help. Can you guess this song?One song came from a major rock band and the other is a tune from an “American Idol” contender.

Does that give you a sense of the game? Here are two ideas I’d like to propose:

1. A game for library teens

If you have a teen group in your library, let them pick the songs (remembering, of course, that not all lyrics have PG ratings!), give them the tools*, and let them create their own tag clouds. Can you guess this song? If you want to add a scoring element, you might award 20 points for the correct song + 10 points for the singer + 10 bonus points for guessing both within 30 seconds.

Hang the tag clouds on the wall after they’re solved. The song was already musical art. Now the words are visual art!

2. A collection for all of us

I’ve created more than a dozen musical tag clouds already. You can find them in the Musical Tag Clouds set on my Flickr page. If you (or your patrons) create* more, post them to Flickr and tag them “MusicalTagClouds”. There’s also a Flickr group with the same name. Toss in a hint if you think it’s warranted. Over time, our global collection could grow incredibly large and varied. The images would be available for a solo challenge or a classroom game at the drop of a hat. How fun it will be to randomly choose among them and try to guess the songs.

—–

* There are many tag cloud generators on the Internet. I used Wordle for all of mine because of the colorful and playful clouds it produced. If you find something better, go for it. Just have fun! Or, as the Beach Boys might say:
Can you guess this song?


There’s No Other Place to Be

April 15, 2008

Here’s a sample library promo video I made yesterday. It’s a draft and I’ll have to finish a little stronger next time but I hope I caught the spirit of an active library system. Whattya think?

[UPDATE (Apr 17): I've been told that the widget sometimes says the video is no longer available. I don't know why this has been happening. If you have trouble accessing the YouTube version below, try this one.]


Slick Libraryman Video

April 12, 2008

Check out the slick promotional video Michael Porter (aka Libraryman) created with Animoto. In his blog today, he advocates that we do the same to get value from a Chumby and promote our libraries. Absolutely! And how cool would it be if we can manage something even half as good as this. Bravo, Michael!


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