Learn More: Twitter

January 14, 2008

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

“It’s Monday? Again??”

That’s how I enthusiastically embraced the work week this morning in Twitter. Several friends saw the 20-character message because my random thought wandered out across the social web. The same thing happened when I was “kicking the day out of my shoes” and when I was “gardening – Olive Gardening.”

Many social sites let you express your thoughts and creativity, but none compresses that expression with the concise style of Twitter. The popular site asks you to share what you’re doing or thinking in 140 characters or less. That’s only about 20-25 words. You might call it a microblog.

Some people don’t get the concept; others love it. Big announcements — “I got the job!” (14 characters) – are possible, but most entries – “gotta go to another meeting” (27 characters) – don’t reveal much. Twitter’s value increases over time, however, as friends learn more about each other from the collected log of messages. Your followers might discover what excites you, what annoys you, and glimpse some of your life’s miscellany that would never make it into an email.

Users can send tweets (as Twitter messages are known) via mobile phones and pipe them into other applications, too. That makes the site even more appealing to folks who like to be in continuous “live” mode online. You can arrange meetings on the run and connect with friends wherever they are.

Critics say Twitter is a waste of time and produces endless blather. Let them say that! “At least it’s short blather” (27 characters).

Meaning for libraries

I can’t offer a long list of Twitter applications for libraries.  I’m not yet convinced it can attract or assist patrons much, but I’d certainly recommend experimentation.

A university library — dealing with a finite community of users — might find twittering more productive than a public library. A librarian with a network of patron followers might develop ways to share short service updates: “Lots of computers are available right now” (41 characters) or “Just got the new * in the mail” (29+ characters).

Library staff should be aware of Twitter, at least. Many of our patrons use the site in their private lives. Librarians use it, too, and any networking within the profession is good.

Learn more by participating

In the spirit of the site, I’ll keep this short.

  • Open a Twitter account.
  • Encourage a coworker or friend to join, too.
  • Become followers of each other.
  • Post a tweet a few times a day, every day this week.
  • Whattya think? Is it fun? Might it be useful? Is it a waste?

My 56-character Twitter update: “Steve is prepared for the week now. Oh, wait a minute…”


Learn More: Social Networks, pt 1

January 7, 2008

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

This is a big topic, so we’ll start today and wrap it up tomorrow.

So far in this series, we’ve opened accounts on several niche social web sites, uploaded content (photos, book titles, bookmarks, etc.), and mingled a bit with other people. This week, we’ll look at a few giants of social networking: MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. What do people do on social networks?

Post. A few hundred million people around the world house their online identities on these sites. Some people stick to the basics on their profiles, but others get comfortable and let their personalities shine through. Publishing (or posting) to the web can become a creative outlet. Users fill their pages with thoughts, interests, desires, photos, music, videos, and online discoveries. The pages they create often become the web addresses they most often give to friends and family.

Interact. The most amazing phenomenon social sites make possible, of course, surrounds the networking. You (and your page) become “friends” with another person (and her page). The software makes it easy to jump from your page to hers. Many sites even send you a “feed”– a kind of news ticker — that tells you what new things she has added to their page. Making a friend is just the start. You might collect more friends over time, building a network of family, friends, and acquaintances who can stay in touch quite easily. Each new connection is a like a direct link to a friend’s world that you may visit any time you’d like.

Communicate. Because it belongs to you, your page can become your message board. You can post photos and comments to your own page instead of sending email (and clunky attachments) to all of your friends and family. They can check in (at their convenience) and find out what you’re up to and what’s on your mind. You can say things publicly or privately, visit their pages (to see what they’re up to), and even meet your friend’s friends.

As a recent article in Slate explained, there is a trend toward communicating within networks instead of standard email. Email is incredibly convenient, but networking sites share so much more than an email could. They are multi-dimensional. An email from an acquaintance, for instance, might tell you only relevant facts. A social site, on the other hand, could reveal a common love of U2 music or scuba diving — things that could foster a better appreciation of each other but would have never otherwise come up.

Think of it this way: An email is like a short phone call. A social site is like sitting down in your friend’s front room and seeing all the pictures and knick-knacks they like to surround themselves with.

Caveat: I’m speaking glowingly of these sites because of their potential. You could easily misuse a social site as well. Those are the cases that end up in the news. Posting too much information might be unwise, unsafe, or embarrassing. Comfort levels vary from person to person. The rule I generally advocate: Don’t post anything you’d regret if your loved ones, your boss, or a creepy stranger stumbled upon your page.

Meaning for libraries

  • Cultural awareness. This is, increasingly, how people interact. Understand it. Better yet, join in.
  • Professionally. Librarians and library staff can use social networking sites to stay in touch with colleagues anywhere in the world. In fact, they can expand their social circle by connecting with fellow conference-goers and collaborators.
  • Patron interaction. Many libraries have social network pages. If patrons spend so much time in these networks, it makes sense for libraries to be available to them there, too. Library social sites can tout services, share photos, advertise upcoming programs, and connect readers with bookclubs and authors. Perhaps more importantly, the informal nature of social sites may help the library appear more approachable and friendly. Make friends with your patrons. Have fun on the page. Speak casually. Leave the formal language on the official website.
  • Personal librarians. In addition to a social networking page for the organziation, many librarians set up individual pages to become “that friend at the library”. Such an arrangement might give your patrons the comfort in knowing that they can simply pop over to their librarian’s page to ask a question or get help with something. It’s personal service. They’ll know someone who knows stuff. Cool.

Learn more by participating

  • Watch Social Networking in Plain English, a short introductory video from the folks at Common Craft.
  • That’s Part 1. In Part 2, we’ll look at three big social networks, pick one, and set up shop.

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?


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.


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.