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.


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?


Computers in Libraries – Day One

April 7, 2008

This was the first full day of the Computers in Libraries conference in Washington, DC, and I managed to sit in on five presentations. Here’s an encapsulated run-down on my favorite four. (I’m sorry for the lack of links here; their talks will surely be available on the conference site soon.)

Jenny LevineBlogger extraordinaire Jenny Levine [right] gave a great talk about delivering high tech & high touch for our patrons. She started out with a few images of gaming in libraries. At such events, she said, the focus isn’t the gaming, but the socializing going on around the gaming. How true! The gaming is just the opportunity, but the interaction is the draw. “It’s not the tech; it’s the touch,” she said. She continued with examples where technology is ineffective and where it is effective. Choosing the right tools, libraries can foster spaces for interaction and serendipity. The virtual world “spills over into real life.” Whether the interaction starts in Flickr or SecondLife or some other site, “these things can turn into real relationships.” Libraries “can’t keep thinking about connecting that one book to one person.” Instead, she argued, we can use tools to create opportunities for chance meetings between users and interests, provide serendipity, hi touch, and water cooler-like conversations that build relationships. (“You can’t have social networking without the social.”) Our advantage over Google is human contact, she said. “We should show the human.”

Jenny also touted Clay Shirky’s new book, Here Comes Everybody. She said she’s still reading it but had pulled several quotes from it already. I’m also reading it right now. I had it in my bag at my feet during the talk, in fact. I’ve been touting it, too! 🙂

Beth Gallaway spoke about digital convergence: widgets and the cross platform connections popping up everywhere. Libraries can embrace widgets: insert Meebo chat in library catalogs, provide Twitter applications so patrons can talk with us through their browsers and cell phones, and be available in instant messaging, direct messaging, and within virtual worlds. I most appreciated her answer to the question “Why?”: “Because one click is too many.” How true! Today’s patrons might not bother taking extra steps to reach the library.

In a very crowded room [below], Darlene Fichter and Frank Cervone [left] rushed through 24* new widgets, gadgets, and doodads that are either exciting or useful or both. Of those they described, I’m most interested in trying out PollDaddy, a free and easy survey application; Twhirl, a desktop Twitter app**; Browser Shots, a rendering of a website in several different browsers to test it’s cross-platform look; and Photoshop Express, an online photo editing tool. I’ve already tried a few others, including the Meebo Chat widget*** and MailBigFile.com. The two presenters also showed a lot of humor in their talk. Somehow how they made time for it in a very informative session.

Crowded room at CIL

Roy Tennant offered examples of libraries welcoming user-generated content. Whether users provide new data (e.g., images and reviews) or new descriptors (e.g., information and tags to enhance the content), more content and more access is better, he said. People browsing various sites (the Library of Congress’ Flickr page, for instance — please see my earlier post on that) have added corrections and new information unavailable otherwise. Imagine a collection of historical community photos opened to browsing and notes. Some residents would surely have details heretofore unknown to the library. Such interaction also fosters community. “Some of our systems are like fortified castles,” he said. Can we change that? Do we have the infrastructure to moderate user-generated content? These are good questions to ask. Libraries should get up to speed on how to foster engagement with their users.

* Twenty four by my count. I might be wrong.
** I just downloaded it, in fact.
*** Notice a trend? Four of the five presentations I attended today praised the Meebo chat widget!


Nominate Your Own Deadly Sins

March 11, 2008

You might find me advocating interactive social media morning ’til night, but even I realize you can take it too far.

NEWS ITEM: After warning against the Seven Deadly Sins for 1500 years, the Vatican announced Monday to append seven new deadly sins. Hmm.

Last night I read an online article in the Sydney Morning Herald. The accompanying interactive gadget (shown here) was just too much. I couldn’t keep a straight face. “Nominate your deadly sins”? Are we ready for wiki theology?


Dead People’s Books

February 10, 2008

Meant to write about this a month ago

Last September, jbd1 (his screen name) embarked on an intriguing project to enter all of Thomas Jefferson’s books* into a LibraryThing profile. Jefferson would become, in essence, on online persona on the popular social networking site. We could browse his catalog and compare** it to our own as easily as that of any other LibraryThing friend. It’s as if we were running our fingers across the spines of books at Monticello [right].

I friended Jefferson and joined in on the cataloging project with jbd1 and about fifteen other people during that first week. My sections were astronomy and natural philosophy (personal interests of mine). I started with enthusiasm but got bogged down after entering about three dozen titles. These were pre-1815 volumes, after all, and required time-consuming searches for precise editions in academic library catalogs; no small task. The small group of collaborators finished the entire project a month ago. Check it out. It’s a wonderful resource.

Jefferson’s collection isn’t the only historical library of interest, however. Members of LibraryThing’s I See Dead People[‘s Books] group have completed or started working on the catalogs of about twenty other famous people ranging from Samuel Johnson and James Joyce to Marie Antoinette and Susan B. Anthony to Mozart and Tupac Shakur. I applaud this imaginative collaborative effort. It places a scholarly resource within a user-friendly environment and brings dead people’s books back into view. Oh yeah: It’s also just a cool concept.

* Specifically all the books Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress in 1815.
** I share 27 titles with Jefferson, it turns out. Newer editions, of course.


The Library of Congress on Flickr

January 17, 2008

In the last two weeks, the Library of Congress quietly uploaded more than 3,000 photographs to its new Flickr page. The collection of images range from New York Christmas scenes to early twentieth century baseball. Pictures of Mexico, Texas, Chicago, ships, railroads, and landscapes are included, too. The Library selected the photos, in part, because they have no known copyright restrictions. Flickr members are invited to help add tags.

One photo that jumped out at me showed Joe Jackson in his first full major league season. He was fit, trim, and only 22 in 1911, but the future baseball great (and future black-listed White Sox) appeared older than his age would imply.

It’s wonderful to see libraries using Flickr to share portions of their picture archives with the public. The National Library of New Zealand was the first one I ran across last year. Several smaller libraries have scanned old community photos into Flickr. I hope many others join in 2008.

UPDATE: The ShiftedLibrarian mentioned PhotosNormandie in her blog today. That archive is also being uploaded to Flickr.


Networking with the 20s and 30s

January 3, 2008

Is your library interacting with Gen Y adults? If not, why not? A recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study suggests they are the portion of the adult population most likely to visit a public library. They are also more tech savvy than any other group.

Here’s my suggestion: Use Facebook and MySpace to reach different age groups. During a recent email exchange with librarians talking about teens, I suggested that they aim their new Facebook page at an older demographic. Continue the flashy teen-related agenda on MySpace but change gears and go after the twenty- and thirty-somethings on Facebook. Don’t make the Facebook page a mere copy of MySpace.

“It need not exclude teens, but targeting Gen Y adults might help select more appropriate apps and give 20/30-somethings a place they feel more comfortable with.”

The initial response was hesitation: it would mean lost opportunities to publicize teen events. Besides, it was said, there aren’t many programs and events to highlight for 20/30’s anyway.

That was exactly my point! Let’s become more relevant to them though the social web.

While many 20s/30s are beyond the teen stuff, they aren’t always tied into any college networks or resources either. They are the people a public library might want to find and connect with using social networking. They need it! Job hunting, residence finding, reliable transportation, starting families, the new world of income tax, and money juggling are all issues to them. We have the resources.

I’m familiar with one library that has a marketing plan filled with programs geared toward kids, teens, and patrons over 55. There’s a huge gap there waiting to be explored. Dismal turnouts at past programs for adults usually discourages interest in considering them, but I’d be willing to bet social networking — available from home at personally convenient times — is the key to that group.

Let the library’s MySpace page cater to teens, but develop a Facebook presence that’s fun, attractive, and useful to that neglected decade of library patrons. Would any public library be willing to try it?


Social networking is getting the traffic

December 12, 2007

If anyone needed more evidence that people increasingly use the Internet to interact, just look at the current list of sites getting the most traffic worldwide.

  1. Yahoo!
  2. Google
  3. Microsoft Live
  4. YouTube
  5. MSN
  6. MySpace
  7. Facebook
  8. Wikipedia
  9. Hi5
  10. Orkut

Source: alexa.com, 12/12/2007

Four of the ten sites are search engines (1, 2, 3, 5), but five are social web sites (4, 6, 7, 9, 10) and the lone .org on the list — Wikipedia — is a social collaboration. When you consider that the four search engines have email, instant messaging, and personalized content, it’s tough to deny that the web is steering decidedly toward interaction. In fact, the only “information” website in the Top 20 is Microsoft at #18. YouTube traffic even exceeds Google on weekends now.

The Top 5 sites in the United States?
Google, Yahoo!, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook.

Question: Libraries have long been known as sources of information. Shouldn’t they be known as places of interaction, too?


Learn More: LibraryThing

December 10, 2007

[This is one in a series of self-paced discovery exercises for library staff venturing into the social web.]

There have been many software attempts to help people organize their books, but recent social networking sites have finally made the job convenient and — believe or not — fun. LibraryThing is only one of several social cataloging sites, but it is probably the most consistently innovative of the lot.

A member of LibraryThing can enter her titles or ISBNs and let the cataloging muscle of 140 large libraries around the world provide the bibliographic detail. Then she can tweak the content, add tags, browse cover art, rate the books, or write her own reviews. She can even search her books (or anyone else’s) from any Internet connection.

In many ways LibraryThing works like a standard library catalog. But it’s a personalized catalog; they’re YOUR books, after all. How cool is that?

The social side of LibraryThing lets members browse other catalogs, find members who share the same books, chat in book discussion groups, and swap recommendations. Since the site was designed for book-lovers, readers can engage in all the socializing without the pressure to buy anything.

Meaning for libraries

I’ve taught two-hour LibraryThing for librarian workshops, so filling this space could easily get out of hand. I’ll limit myself to just three broad ideas:

  • Rethink the catalog. Library catalogs have always been tools to find resources. Social cataloging sites breathe an element of fun into the old tool. Sure, a patron can find specific books quickly, but he can also write and read reviews, discover titles recommended by thousands of other members who share reading interests, and interact with those readers. Tim Spalding and his team at LibraryThing are always tinkering with new features that the library world would be remiss to ignore. You’ll see features here and wish your library’s PAC could keep pace.
  • Book clubs. Encourage members of your book clubs to get accounts. They could leave messages for each other between meetings or might enjoy writing their own reviews when the big monthly group discussion is over. The group might even use the recommendation tools within LibraryThing to find future club titles.
  • Reader’s advisory. Librarians could track the books they read and tag them based on reading level or interest. When asked to recall a good book, their personal lists will be at their fingertips. Some people list books they own; others track all the books they read. Many (myself included) do both.

Learn more by participating

If you love books (you work in a library, don’t you?) you might get carried away with this project. That’s all right. Go at your own pace. Three or four 20 minute visits to LibraryThing might be enough for you to do a little of everything listed below. Of course, if you get the cataloging bug you might burn through all your free time for the next month in LibraryThing. Hey, I’ve seen it happen!

  1. Open a LibraryThing account. (It only requires a username and password. You aren’t even asked an email address!)
  2. Start adding books. Entering ISBNs will help you find exact editions, but title and author keywords work, too. (You might even be able to use a CueCat barcode scanner.) It’s not impossible to enter a dozen or more books in just 15 minutes.
  3. The cover art visible on “Your Library” page is usually supplied to LibraryThing by Amazon, but you can benefit from other members’ covers, too. Upload your own cover if you’ve got a rarity.
  4. Add tags to your books. (Remember tags from the previous lesson? LibraryThing’s tags number in the tens of millions and uses them well.) These don’t need to be precise subject headings. Use whichever words are meaningful to you: “dogs, pets, beagles, love, funny, favorite, read, bedroom bookcase”
  5. Explore the LibraryThing tag cloud.
  6. Look up a few titles in Search and read some reviews.
  7. Try the BookSuggester a few times and see what comes up.
  8. Add info to your profile page. Be as public or as private as you choose.
  9. On your profile page you’ll see links to other members who share your books. Click a few and visit their catalogs.
  10. Maybe someone shares your favorite book. Leave a message on their profile page.
  11. Partner with someone else doing this exercise and add each other as friends.
  12. Wander into the discussion groups and read some entries. Join in, if you want.

Most of all: Have fun with your books! It’s your web now.


A complete dunking

November 29, 2007

Susan and I taught another Social Web Literacy class this morning. We’ve been doing this for a year now (that’s about two dozen times) and it’s becoming common for several students to come to class with a MySpace or Facebook or some other social networking site already in their name. It wasn’t like that when we started.

Some staff have had personal pages since college; some created theirs because family members convinced them to join this, that, or the other thing; others saw coworkers returning from one of our previous classes simply having waaaay too much fun with their homework.* Whatever the reason, it’s wonderful to see library staff already wading into the social web waters on their own and then coming to class for a complete dunking. We hope it continues. We’re aiming for a social web savvy staff.

*Class homework includes developing the site (Flickr, LibraryThing, Geni, Dogster, or a blog) they created in class for two weeks. Each student is expected to add more content, experiment with tools, explore, and socialize.


“Speak up” is the new “Shhh…”

November 27, 2007

Interact. Change stereotypes.


Learn More: Delicious

November 26, 2007

[This is one in a series of self-paced discovery exercises for library staff venturing into the social web.]

If you’re like most Internet users, you have favorite web sites. You probably tuck a few away in your favorites or bookmarks folder so you can retrieve them with a couple of mouse clicks. But favorites and bookmarks belong to the browser you’re using. Change browsers or change machines and you lose your access. Suppose you find something good for reference while surfing the net at home. What if you’re at work when you discover a great site you’d like to have at home? I’ve known librarians who emailed themselves or saved URLs to a disk which they carried around. That’s old technology!

Social bookmarking solves the browser problem and adds a beneficial collaborative tool to the mix. If you’re a Delicious user, you can bookmark sites to a web account (which makes them retrievable from anywhere) and you can browse the bookmarks saved by others (letting you benefit from their discoveries).

Meaning for libraries

The most obvious library application for Delicious is at the reference desk. Each librarian has his/her favorite online sources and either marks them in the local browser or relies on Google to find them. But suppose each librarian added URLs to a personal Delicious account and then networked with other librarians for a truly collaborative collection of bookmarks. Not only would the librarian make his/her own list available on whichever machine is in use, but everyone in the network could benefit from websites on the consumer specialist’s list or the genealogist’s list or the music librarian’s list.

But don’t stop at the reference desk. Other library staff use and share websites, too; introduce them to social bookmarking. And don’t forget the patrons. If you have a list of sites to share, enter them into a separate library account and refer to it on your library website or in conversations: “Oh, and don’t forget our Delicious site. It has many more great recipe links.”

Learn more by participating

This should be an easy project this week. Set aside 15 minutes on the first day to get started. You could do just Steps 1 & 2, or quickly run through all the steps in that time. No matter what you do on Day One, however, return to your Delicious page at least three other days this week. Get it into your routine. Add more favorites, add more tags, and browse. You won’t regret it.

  1. Open an account. Just go to Delicious and sign up. Use whatever name or alias you’d like.
  2. Save a few of your favorite websites. After clicking “post”, all you will need is the URL (which you can copy and paste), the website name, and a few tags. There’s a description box for optional notes and comments, too.
    * Need help getting started? Why not add a few social web sites we’ve already talked about in this series? Flickr and YouTube, for instance.
    * Tags are like keywords. Let’s take Flickr as an example. Good tags might include: photography photos images sharing socialsites socialweb web2.0. Use words that might come to mind the next time you want to retrieve the site. Delicious will offer tag suggestions based on other users’ tags, but use whatever YOU want. [By the way: we’ll delve further into tags in an upcoming lesson.]
  3. Give your tags a test drive. As you enter your websites, you’ll see your list of tags grow on the right side of the screen. You’re bound to see on tag listed for two or more sites after a while. Click that tag and watch Delicious quickly retrieve just the relevant sites.
  4. Visit other people’s website lists. Delicious tells you how may other users already bookmarked your site. Click that number to see the list of users. Click their names to see their lists.
    * If you and another user share one site in common, he/she might know about other sites you’d enjoy. Browse the list and click “save this” for any sites you’d care to copy into your stash of sites.
    * You could subscribe to someone’s RSS feed, too. [RSS? We’ll cover that concept in a later post.]
  5. Network with others at your library. If anyone else in your workplace already has a Delicious account, add them to your network. You might even encourage everyone in your workplace to sign up, add websites, and create a collaborative network of bookmarks. You will all benefit from each other’s finds.

Would a demo help? There’s a fun 3 1/2 minute video (Social Bookmarking in Plain English) that the folks at the Common Craft Show created.

Ha! Bookmark THAT site, too. Or THIS site. Why not? It’s your web now.


The Major-General sings Library 2.0

November 18, 2007

To the tune of “The Major-General’s Song”
With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan… and you… 🙂

I advocate creation of a social network library,
Dispense with thoughts a-plenty in my blog much like a diary,
And show how common MySpace is, it dominates the territ’ry
‘Cuz people like to share their lives; it’s really quite extraordin’ry.

I upload pix of our events on a communal Flickr page,
And make it easy to YouTube; that latest clip is all the rage.
Encourage interaction for our young and old of any age,
Makes working here as fun as anything they do at Cam-ba-ridge.

I recommend Delicious, Facebook, wikis, Ning, and R-S-S,
Use tag clouds, gaming, apps and widgets, and I twitter to excess.
It matters that our patrons are involved with our transparency.
I advocate creation of a social network library.


Community building

November 16, 2007

Chrystie Hill:   “in-person community building and online community building share the same principles and practice.”

I totally agree, Chrystie!  A library should encourage and nurture its connections in both places.  In fact, our in-person and online communities can reinforce and strengthen each other.


An intranet chock full of web 2.0

November 7, 2007

Time for a little show and tell. 🙂

Pierce County Library has had a vibrant StaffWeb for nine years and it has become integral in system communications and information. But nine years of patching and upgrading took a toll. The website and its software platform started showing its age. Last year we were moving full steam ahead in our Social Web Literacy classes when we finally got the permission and budget for a complete overhaul. Talk about great timing!

We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to build web 2.0 tools into the new intranet.

Our project committee discussed how social networking tools could enhance efficiency and communication. Staff would also get daily practice using these tools in the course of their work. It was a win-win.

The new StaffWeb debuted a few weeks ago. Here’s some of the fun new features:

Tags and tag clouds
One of the first things you see on the new home page is a tag cloud. Every page of the StaffWeb can be tagged by staff using their own words. They can then follow up on their tags, use tags from the aggregated tag clouds, or run a tag search.

Success story: We have a travel expense reimbursement claim form that, despite past efforts, people have at least a dozen different names for. Now everyone can call it what they will and still find it.

Tabs for adding widgets

The tag cloud sits on a tab, but it’s only one of six customizable tabs waiting to be put to use. Staff can add widgets to the tabs on their home page.

Widgets
We currently have 32 widgets to choose from, including feeds from Flickr, iTunes, and email. If staff need a quick connection to the bookmarks they’ve stashed in their del.icio.us account, they can reach them using a widget on their home page. Common work tools like Google documents and Remember the Milk, and feeds from blog, weather, and traffic websites make this a well-rounded collection. We may add to the 32 flavors of widgets as everyone begins to use them and seek out more.

Blogs and RSS
Then there are the blogs. Each department and branch can have their own blog now. A few have already started. We envisioned the blogs as a “here’s the latest news” clipboard for people who work in those locations, but it might morph. Supervisors can add quick notes and routine updates for regular staff. Substitutes can tap in and read them from other work sites … or home.

Every blog has an RSS feed so a “need-to-know” staff member can subscribe to whichever he/she chooses.

Staff wiki
Dozens of staff are already adding content to the regular StaffWeb pages, but the system collaboration will increase yet again once we unveil a staff wiki later this month. We honestly don’t know where the wiki will lead us (that’s a wiki’s nature!), but we suspect reference staff will share tricks at pulling gems out of the catalog, circulation staff will elaborate on workflow practices, and IT will tell us how best to unjam the printers. But don’t count on it to be that well-defined! Who is to say that reference people can’t enlighten us on printer jams or circ staff don’t know the best way to limit action DVD searches by language? We’ll see how it works out. It could be messy, but worthwhile.

Other neat stuff and the future
Since many of the tools are customizable, we’ve created a personal log in. Once signed into the StaffWeb from work or home, staff can see their tags and widgets, comment on the blogs, and (when a new payroll installation is complete) call up their own HR information.

We’re just settling into this vast playground of web 2.0 tools. Once staff become old pros at their use, they’ll have no problem relating to patrons navigating the same tools on the social web.

We already have public blogs and a wiki, but don’t you think we’ll want to move more of these cool tools over to the public side, too?