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.

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* 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?