Monthly Archives: February 2011

Week 6: Big Brother is Watching You: or why it’s important to have a social media policy

So one of my favourite books of all time is 1984 and this week’s lesson brought to mind the imagery that Orwell provoked in that novel. With anything you post online is available for viewing by anyone in the world, one may surely feel as if they are under constant surveillance. It seems to me that the collective can be thought of as the iconic Big Brother. Instead of being watched by telescreens, we are now being monitored through our online posts. Whenever we post on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or wikis, our opinions are out there for the world to read–and record–so it is important that we watch what we say. This can be quantified by the creation of and adherence to social media policies.

Libraries and information organizations are no stranger to policies. Sometimes, employees feel inundated with the various rules and regulations to which they must adhere. But, these policies are in place for a reason: to communicate with employees what behaviour is expected and to protect the organization from legal repercussions. In the expanding realm of social media, organizations must make policies on these issues, as was expressed in the Lauby and Kroski articles. Both authors stress the importance of expressing to employees that what they post online is available for all to see, and the content of those messages could have ramifications for the employer as well as professional repercussions for the employee if they post inappropriate content. Posts by employees can reflect poorly on the organization, such as complaining about a client, or complaining about their employer. My favourite example of this is a young women in England who got fired on Facebook for criticizing her boss.

Social media can be used to expand the sense of community. As more and more people are adopting an online presence it is important, as expressed in the Haskell article, that users be able to communicate with each other through social media. The library should be a part of this process, so a well formulated policy can help to achieve that goal. In the context of user communication, the library may be required to moderate content since it is a public organization. A policy explaining acceptable use to users is essential in order to ensure transparency.

It is also crucial that these policies be evaluated periodically to ensure the intent is being achieved. In the ever-changing world of Web 2.0 policies and tools can become quickly outdated. Evaluating these tools ensures that effort is not being wasted.

The internet acts as a record keeper of what we post there. Thus it is important that libraries and organizations have policies in place to ensure that what is posted by employees and users is appropriate, for indeed “Big Brother is watching you.”

Week 5: Mashups: it’s what all the hipsters are doing

Before this week’s lecture, the only meaning the term “mashup” had for me came via Glee. A quick Google search also led me to this little gem wherein a hipster Granny explains a music mashup.

Now I know, as Fichter states, “a mashup is a web application that uses content from more than one source to create a single new service displayed in a single graphical interface.” The mashup I have the most experience with, even though I didn’t know its terminology at the time, are maps with locations ‘pinned’ on them. I find these extremely useful, especially within the library context. Having a mashup map of your library region with the locations of branches on it increases usability for patrons, since they can point and click and link to the branch they want. For example, I find that the Ottawa Public Library uses this technology quite well, so I can quickly link to my home branch to find hours, phone number, etc. Whereas, the library I work at, Lambton County Library, does not use this as effectively since it does not display the name of the branch when the mouse hovers over.

Fichter also mentioned in her article the “mashup ecosystem” where open access data can be made available on the web. This freely accessible data can be in turn made “mashable” on another website. An example is the site of the American government.  Here researchers can access data sets as sources of primary data produced by the government at no cost. Linking through their “Apps” I found datamasher, a site where users can create mashups of governmental data in order to compare various states on specific issues. Check out this mashup of crime rate and education. This example shows how mashups can be of use to those of us not going the public library route in our careers.

I found completing the assignment this week of creating a map mashup to be quite simple with the instructions laid out in the blog post. The only issue I had was uploading it with FileZilla, but I think it was because my filename had a space in it. Once that was removed the map uploaded fine, as you can see here.

So to conclude, mashups are a useful way to present information visually by combining two or more sources to create something new. Whether that be musical songs, maps, or data sets, one thing is for certain, mashups are increasing in popularity. I think it can be said that it is due to the “hipster” quality of a mashup: taking something old and combining it with another old item to make something new. Just like owning a fixie and Buddy Holly glasses, when a map is combined with the pins of specific locations, it is immediately cooler.

Week 4: What do wikis and Robert Plant have in common?

Collaborative projects have found popularity with organizations in recent years. In the music industry, however, collaborations have long been a staple. The coming together of various musicians from different styles has produced some of the most interesting songs ever created. An example of this is the album Raising Sand, a collaboration from bluegrass star Alison Krauss and a little known classic rocker by the name of Robert Plant. The album won the Grammy for best album of the year in 2008 and the song “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” won best pop collaboration. Check out the song here for some mood music while I go on to explore how collaboration works with wikis.

Wikis have become the new go-to tool to help organizations with collaborative projects. Nichani says that “modern work is collaborative…it’s about many people having bits and pieces of the answers and each depending on the other for it.” As a way to encourage this collaborative mantra, wikis enable users to have up to date documents, information, and input from members on a team. With server space quickly becoming a problem, organizations are looking to wikis as areas where precious space can be freed up from inboxes and put on the web. Farkas highlights this point in her article where she says that “all of the planning and communications can be documented in the wiki rather than in emails that can easily be deleted.”

The government of Canada has GCPEDIA an internal wiki intended to allow public servants to share information across offices, cities, and most importantly, departments. In such a large organization, the silo effect of keeping information hidden within departmental lines does not serve to increase the knowledge management of the public service.  On his blog David Eaves says that GCPEDIA will “save the public service” since a disproportionate number of upper executives are nearing retirement. He says we need tools like GCPEDIA in order to transfer information to other employees before it is lost to fanny packs and winters in Florida.

In today’s organizational culture, there is a push towards opening up access and sharing information. Wikis can be used as a tool to enable people to do their jobs better since they allow for the answer to the question in my blog title: COLLABORATION. By having all aspects of a project collocated in one place and updated regularly, people are working with all of the information all of the time. This results in quicker, better results. Using wikis in library and corporate settings makes economic as well as social sense. And has been demonstrated by the Krauss-Plant example, collaboration between new partners can produce, ahem, beautiful music.

Week 3: Does the medium really provide a new message? Blogs and RSS Feeds

This week’s readings focused on blogs and RSS feeds and how they can be used in libraries. In the Schwartz article, it was said that blogs are an easy way for librarians with little tech knowledge to create a presence on the web. Blogs are usually free, require no knowledge of html, and are easy to update. This makes them quite attractive for techie noobs. Blogs also provide a way for users to keep up to date on what services and programs their library is providing. Usually offered in a pithy context, users get current information quickly, which can help libraries effectively reach members of their community.

The examples that Fichter provided in her article about the various ways in which blogs can be used to market library services. I enjoyed the links to various library blogs she provided, as these can serve as useful examples of library blogs that are successful. The author also highlighted various functionality benefits that blogs can offer, such as archive, search, and community tools. Fichter focused on five ways in which blogs can help with marketing: promoting library events, supporting users, engaging the community, supporting the community, and building new ties.

These blogs can be easily accessed and read by users through the use of RSS feeds. Farkas discusses how users can ‘subscribe’ to various feeds, and how a ‘reader’ compiles them all into one document. The subscription provides the newest info on the site, and the user essentially creates an online newspaper of what they are interested in.

The use of blogs and RSS feeds are all well and good, but they just offer a new medium in which to deliver the same message. The services that the library offers are not varying widely, but merely are encouraging users to be more involved in their library. While some users may welcome these opportunities, I fear that these technologies fail to help us reach NEW users. The people most likely to take the time to search and find a library blog and then subscribe to it with an RSS feed are already dedicated users. Are these technologies really about reforming the library, or are we just offering the same services in a new format?

In regards to the format of this week’s lesson, I found the screen shots really helpful. Subscribing to RSS feeds was very easy and I look forward to the updates I have subscribed to. I think it will be very useful since I will have updates of the things I am interested in delivered to me directly and I will not have to waste time searching and clicking on links.