December 22, 2010
This post was originally going to be called "End of an Era," but not only was that already used for several articles on the topic at hand, The End is not as certain as it seemed last Thursday.
Long story short: A Yahoo! meeting slide that showed Delicious as one product to be axed was leaked last Thursday on Twitter and the rest... Let's just say it went the way of Internet rumors and then morphed into a scrumptiously unorganized (though not disorganized, thanks to Twitter hashtags like #SaveDelicious) grassroots "campaign" to send Yahoo! a message.
By Friday morning the news was a patchwork of conjecture, export instructions, and lists of alternatives from Amplify to Zukmo. There were premature obits, emotional laments, memorable tweets, bold assertions that we should have seen it coming, or that we shouldn't rely on free food, and a pointed question from the Washington Post: If this many people love Delicious this fiercely, why can't Yahoo! figure out how to make some money off it?
Yahoo! has still not released an official statement. The Delicious blog confirmed that something was going on, but very little in the way of actual information was provided last week, and below are 1,000 words from the Delicious blog today:
As for me, Yes, I traveled through brief devastation, acted the town crier, set up news alerts, and roped Gretchen into a Farewell, Delicious happy hour. Then I calmed down and started reading as much as I could in order to filter fact from fiction.
My tagging reflexes have taken a hit this week...my bookmarklets are like another appendage, and let's just say it's in a sling right now. I haven't bookmarked anything since Thursday because I didn't want to add to my collection (lingering hysteria mixed with a bit of conservatism for the future) and I didn't want to commit to a new service. One upside was that my tendency to tag everything remotely interesting as "TimePermitting" was tempered, so I had to refine my criteria quite a bit for what I truly thought I would read later. (For all those articles, I emailed them to myself using my AddThis toolbar...it made me much more selective and much more likely to read the things I had grabbed.)
I enjoyed the absolute Meta of seeing articles about Delicious tagged in Delicious, which was more fun than Facebook groups protesting Facebook or tweets about Twitter. It showed that this is a community of users whether you like it or not. I felt part of something, and not primarily because we were venting in unison, but because we were sharing: tips, thoughts, and memories.
(And by the way, I saw some funky versions of the Delicious logo...I'm not sure if that was stylistic in nature or maybe intellectual property paranoia, but don't forget you can use Photoshop to find the exact color mix of an image.)
December 15, 2010
~The Universal Dictionary of the English Language (1940)
My "I" score was not as clear-cut as other dimensions, but it would be dangerous to correlate that with a measure of success in embedded librarianship. True, I often speak about "walking around the office asking people what they are working on," which may sound like a behavior tipped toward extroversion, but where do I get the courage to do that sort of thing?
December 14, 2010
December 8, 2010
December 1, 2010
Two posts over at Gypsy Librarian have gotten me thinking about librarians, neutrality, and advancing issues beyond information organization and literacy. The specific issues Angel addresses (LGBT suicide, for example) are ones that arise in his context, not mine, but the topic is a good one for embedded librarians. The closest I have come in this forum to advancing any "issues" was when I wrote that modeling good reading habits should not be outside the domain of the special librarian, even in a corporate setting. Let's start there.
November 24, 2010
November 17, 2010
He also provides a discussion guide. For me, the most intriguing question in it was, "Pink draws a distinction between “routine” work and “nonroutine” work. How much of your own work is routine? How much is nonroutine?" While my attitude toward the lack of structure in my job oscillates wildly, one thing is clear: I have autonomy. I believe that many of the successes I've blogged about are directly traceable to the very high level of autonomy given to me by my employer in general, and by my supervisor in particular. This may render my advice useless to those who have fewer options in their libraries or organizations, but it's a nice applied study of Pink's ideas. Most of my work would fall into the "nonroutine" category.
My primary project is conducted through a federal cooperative agreement which outlines discrete quantitative deliverables for the library: items added to the events calendar, publications announced as being added to our holdings, and print resources disseminated by staff at events around the country. These tasks are routine. They also take a maximum of 90 minutes per week (on average), and perhaps another 90 minutes at the end of the quarter to report on them. Coding web pages would also likely fall under "routine," except that each page requires a sufficient amount of creativity. And replacing complex code (which I generally refer to as "surgery") takes so much concentration, at least for me, that the routine aspect of it is overshadowed by the caution required.
The rest of my work is nonroutine by Pink's definition: "Creative, conceptual, right-brain work that can't be reduced to a set of rules." I was acting as de facto marketing specialist on one project for a while and came up with a bunch of good ideas for promotional items. I've been working on "blog empowerment" lessons for a set of independent contractors who write (somewhat reluctantly) for us from the field. I was searching for a penguin costume. At times I have blogged about these adventures, and other times I got so carried away with my nonroutine work that I didn't want to stop to document it. Suffice it to say that the creativity and autonomy I have for most of my work have led to great, and perhaps atypical results.
So, what can you do about it? Last week I wrote about how this blog is becoming more about effective work habits than embedded librarianship. If your work is largely routine, figure out a way to do it more effectively. I know this doesn't always mean Faster, but it may pave the way for more nonroutine work in your future.
November 12, 2010
- Know your users. We recently started rolling out an online magazine to replace the print version. We did a lot of "ground softening" for older, less tech-savvy users. If we have a good sense of which parts of our web content present challenges to users with disabilities (Do we? Jury's still out.), then we should be able to help all users through the transition.
- Plan ahead. Have you checked your site for keyboard-only navigation? This is a key piece of web accessibility that could fall through the cracks during project management if you don't plan ahead--just like everything else that falls through the cracks if you don't plan ahead.
- Work together. It's hard to be a one-man-band/one-woman-choir on web accessibility, or on any issue for that matter. You need to recruit allies.
November 3, 2010
Librarianship is not to be crammed for. There are aspects of it that are best applied by quick thinkers through rapid-fire protocols and honed instincts, but doing it well is not something to be achieved overnight. There is a lot of listening and marinating that has to go on for a while before you even have a frame of reference for how things work in your particular organization, and you won't even know what your goals should be for a while.
October 27, 2010
I've never been a very good hater of Wikipedia. I probably made a half-hearted attempt at some point to be one of those librarians who frowns on folk sources, but it never stuck. It's partly because Wikipedia was not my first exposure to a wiki. I got schooled on the wiki ethos long before I went looking for data about the Dixie Chicks when I first saw Shut Up and Sing. I had no doubt I would get a good estimate when I wanted to find out how old Kirby Dick is, and I fully enjoyed reading along about the history of Paranormal Activity while I was watching it. Suffice it to say that outside of IMDB and the print version of People magazine, Wikipedia is my favorite go-to resource on matters of pop culture.
October 20, 2010
October 13, 2010
- Tweeting without a picture, or changing the picture too often (in my opinion you should never change your Twitter picture);
- Tweeting without a bio or with a bio that is not sufficiently descriptive of what people should expect from your feed;
- The "Do-Not-Tweet" List: a need for proscriptions from above on specific content (such as ballot measures) that we are forbidden to Tweet or ReTweet;
- Using automated share tools without knowing how they work (lest you inadvertently Tweet that you are "Currently Browsing.....");
- Duplicating another program's feed;
- Proliferating or initiating negative content about a partner, sponsor, funder or federal agency;
- Using irony, sarcasm, provocative questions or ambiguous language that could be misinterpreted;
- Accidentally ReTweeting your favorite off-color comedian;
- ReTweeting a link without knowing what it leads to;
- Having an ill-defined scope or voice for your blog (or none at all);
- Having too much voice, or using an organizational blog for personal purposes;
- Duplicating everything from your website on your blog;
- Blogging negatively;
- Posting infrequently or abandoning the blog altogether.
October 6, 2010
- A 'hit' is not as easy to define as some might think. Your own web system may define it differently from services such as Google Analytics, and you may have to wade through your server logs and crunch the numbers yourself to get an accurate count. (I'd say more, but I obviously don't know any more than this; I rely on our webmaster to interpret the server logs.)
- Your own hits may be included in the numbers you are looking at. I don't know about you, but every time I am building a page, I check it several times in several browsers because I don't trust the preview screens. All those hits and refreshes (to fix apostrophes that are turning up as question mark diamonds) may be counted as veritable web traffic to a page. Which brings me to the next point...
- You need to create a baseline to make sense of the numbers. You may choose to start tracking hits or growth after a certain date to filter out some of the set-up hits, especially if the page in question is brand-new. If the page is not a brand new URL but you have changed or added content, then it becomes even more important to think carefully about the date ranges you want to look at.
- Don't track hits on pages you do nothing to promote. Marketing may not be in your job description, but if someone is asking you how a page is doing, and that page is not either (a) linked very prominently on your site, or (b) being actively promoted through some other method, do not spend time looking at the numbers until you've made some effort to drive web traffic to that page.
- Be clear on what you are looking for in the numbers. Have you ever heard that HITS stands for 'How Idiots Track Success'? (I originally heard this attributed to Gerry McGovern, and it has also been attributed to Google's Avinash Kaushik, but I'd like to think it was first coined by Toby Ward.) I don't know if I truly believe that, but I think the extreme point of view occasionally helps move us to a more reasoned middle ground. Yes, you want to know if people are using your site, but hits could be bots not people, and even if the hitmakers are human, do you know how satisfied they were with your content? As JD Roth says, "Do you know the best way to get search engine traffic? Get linked from other sites. Do you know the best way to get linked from other sites? Write content that people want to share with others, content that makes people go, “Wow. I’m glad I found that.” That’s only SEO trick you need to know."
September 29, 2010
- HTML: Thank you, Bill Kules, for making me learn to code in HTML by hand and not use Dreamweaver! I use this skill every day in this job. And the importance of this goes well beyond just being able to help out with web tasks in a small organization. When you know code, you have a better understanding of how to organize information. It expands your imagination on all projects. Our content management system can automate a lot of things, but if you can get in there and mess with the code (or even be able to look at code without recoiling in fear), you can be a resource to your webmaster and everyone else.
- Web Accessibility: I cannot tell you how important it is that as a librarian you know a thing or three about how to make your electronic information accessible to people with cognitive, visual, or other disabilities. It is the perfect marriage between the person-centered approach of libraries, and the technical knowledge and skills that are increasingly important to our profession. If you are the only one in your organization singing this song, SING LOUDER.
- Copyright: Embrace your duty to educate your staff about their own "copy rights," and speak up if you feel they are infringing on others' rights. Your organization may routinely give its resources away for free and without a vested interest in getting credit. However, you as the librarian, and I as the librarian, and we as librarians, have to work extra hard to communicate that not everyone feels this way about sharing information. When I was in Copyright Camp during library school, the SIIA's message to me was, "Don't copy that floppy!" I feel I am slowly making a mantra out of "Don't post that PDF!" Make your staff aware that you have copyright knowledge, and if you don't have some, make a list of your questions and ask another librarian.
September 22, 2010
September 15, 2010
September 8, 2010
Here is one for you: Make a To-Do List. When I try to come up with something for the Task Mastery 101 sidebar, it usually ends up being about To-Do Lists. Sometimes I hesitate to post those tips because, really, what could be more of a snooze than having someone recommend that you make a list of the things that you'd like to accomplish? But over and over again I find that it often is just that simple. Here are a few reasons I decided this was post-worthy:
- The act of making the list organizes my random thoughts into discrete tasks;
- The act of making the list facilitates prioritization and decision-making; and
- The act of making the list moves me from inaction to action.
Last year on the Solos list-serve someone posted a great document of what she does daily/weekly/monthly/annually in her library and it was quite detailed. Parts of that could become an intern's project description, or the scope of work for a contractor, or a part of your professional portfolio. It becomes the documentation for you and everyone else of how you spent your time, and how much time things take.
September 1, 2010
I had a great teacher in library school who encouraged his students to approach Wikipedia as a "fact of life" and not an inherently bad thing, just one that librarians should use with more thoughtfulness and caution than the average user might. I feel the same way about acronyms: they are there for a reason and they can make our life easier. Nevertheless, acronyms pose obvious problems to new staff at an organization, visitors to your meetings and conferences, and even you if you don't know what they mean.
The first rule of acronyms: Ask. If you hear one in a meeting, write it in the margin of your notes and ask what it means at the first appropriate opportunity, which may be right away if it's crucial to your understanding of a task. It may be the case that you figure it out from context and double-check it after a meeting, or follow up with the person who used it.
The second rule of acronyms: Keep a list. The librarian is a key person to document miscellaneous knowledge in an organization, and making an acronyms list is a great way to start. This list will have 101 uses. Make it available via your intranet (or via a public web page if appropriate) and have a way for people to suggest or add changes. Offer it to conference organizers to include in the program if guests from outside your knowledge speciality are attending. Include it, or a relevant portion of it, in your organization's standard publications.
Think about how you feel when you get a very short email from someone without a lot of context or elaboration (especially in customer service situations) as opposed to a thorough explanation. The longer explanation usually adds to your understanding, makes you feel valued, and shows that the person on the other end gave some thought to your point of view. The same is true for acronyms. Avoid seeming curt or exclusive by giving everyone who interacts with your organization an opportunity to be "in the know" and figure out what people are saying.
August 25, 2010
As the District's Notary handbook attests, the role has evolved from that of designated notetaker to one "certifying the truth" by witnessing signatures on important documents. I knew that my organization often had a need for this service, and I correctly predicted that becoming qualified to fulfill this role would help me get to know my coworkers. It's a public service you can provide that fits well with other solo/embedded duties as part of working in the 'white spaces of the organizational chart.'
You may find that a member of your finance staff is already a Notary Public, but often the documents that need to be notarized are financial in nature and so a third, disinterested party is necessary to witness signatures. I've also been pleasantly surprised by all the non-work/personal business I have received in my office, now that people know I am a Notary Public. I have probably notarized documents for half our staff and only half of those were work documents. It's been a great way to get to know people, and for them to get to know me. (I have the "Notary Public" nameplate on my desk so people know when they walk by that I can provide this service.)
Requirements vary state to state, but you will likely have to go through some level of training, provide references, get bonded, and buy your stamp(s) before you register with your state and take your oath. And, yes, you will be offered many additional customized products when you buy your stamp. But, yes, you can write off your set-up expenses on your taxes, as well as any income you make as a Notary Public (in fact, you have to declare that). While this is not a huge money-making enterprise, it's a nice complement to other skills, talents and certifications that librarians naturally have, and it's a great way to enhance your visibility in the workplace. It could be the starting point for long-term work relationships, and when people see you as a competent and trustworthy agent of the state, they tend to think of you as a resource for other matters. It's also a great way to learn about local and state laws, legal documents, and other procedures handled by state government.
Although I moved to Maryland after starting my commission as a DC notary, my employer wrote a letter on my behalf to the Office of Notary Commissions and Authentications so I could continue notarizing in DC until my commission expires in 2013, noting that this was a valued service I provide to the organization.
August 18, 2010
Thing 1: For one of the teams I am "embedded" with I am drafting a training on "information overload," which I am modeling around Clay Shirky's idea that, "It's not information overload; it's filter failure." I am having a lot of fun with it. This was requested for a set of part-time independent contractors who work on our behalf in the field and receive tons of electronic information from our staff, in addition to memoranda from the project director.
I was asked to craft this presentation with the goal of explaining all our electronic messaging and how these contractors can strategically use it to help and not hinder their work. I am focusing the presentation around the topics of "Filtering" and "Filters," explaining the general approach and then the tools. I want to build on the idea that we are all already using some filters whether we know it or not, but the filters sometimes have to be adjusted for the specific types of information in our intake, that being the information I am to be the "specialist" on.
Thing 2: For another team I am "embedded" with, I am helping them draft what I am calling an "Overall Information Strategy" as part of a website relaunch and renewed marketing plan. It's not supposed to be a communications plan so much as a prerequisite for a communications plan--first documenting all the information sources and then outlining the appropriate outreach that matches each (and by "outreach" I mean to include internal staff communication).
To do this, I am first documenting the OIS for the team in Thing 1 (my primary project), and it has been just as much fun as the Information Overload presentation. These are both going to be tools I reuse and refine again and again.To start the OIS document, I just made a matrix showing all the types of information that come in on one axis, and all the possible actions and dissemination outlets on the other axis. And yes, there is strategic overlap: creating a new web page could be either the cause or the result of one of the other actions, and a new publication, if it's ours, would probably have dots filled in across the board.
August 11, 2010
When you get really good at tagging it can be seamlessly integrated in your work and can increase your speed and efficiency considerably, all the while creating a nice metadata record of the parts of your daily web traffic that have either caught or demanded your attention. It also acts as a great search engine later for an addled brain that remembers seeing "something" on a certain topic but then forgot about it. (When I was in library school and I would forget where I read something, I used to just ask Gretchen about those info-wisps. She seemed to have an almost clairvoyant sense of my own brain's organization and could usually figure out what I was talking about.) Nowadays, if I spend any time at all on a site, I tag it.
One of the things I like about how it works, or rather, how my work behavior has evolved since I've been using Delicious, is that having tagging fully-integrated with all my online behavior helps me know in a passive, low-effort way what the hot topics have been. Then when someone asks what theme we should focus the next newsletter on, I can contribute meaningfully by saying something like, "Gee, there seem to be a lot of things going on right now with women in transportation." It has also been very interesting to see my tags develop as new topics shape our field. My bookmarks for ARRA, livability, and Mobility Management have grown steadily as our projects and work plans have developed over the past year.
Since I asserted in a recent post that one of my guiding principles is not to complain, I will try to frame my Delicious Dilemmas as questions rather than gripes. One of the things I wish I could do is bundle tags so that, for example, if I tag something "Rogoff" it automatically gets tagged "FTA" as well (but not vice-versa, or this would be a true redundancy...I just want to reflect subset-superset relationships). Is there a way to do that? I have finally learned how to search for tags within tags, but I would also like to have some kind of option to apply them that way, which I realize would require a lot of concentrated set-up time. (Or to search by what the first tag was that I used...yes, I know, this is starting to sound like a love song for actual taxonomies.)
I also wish you could bundle tags to apply to more than one resource while you have all those related windows open. For example, sometimes I follow a story or an issue and I have several windows open that I want to tag with the same ten terms, usually when I am doing research for a staff member and I do administrative as well as topical tags. Is there a way to do this? As a short-term work-around I have adopted a simple copy-and-paste method through Notepad so I can insert a string of terms in the Tags field as soon as the Save-a-Bookmark window opens.
I love my tag cloud. It's the best portrait of what I've been looking at and working on, and it's a good reflection of the strange slice of the transportation world that I am charged with researching. It also reflects the idiosyncrasies of how I think in this place, and how our vocabulary might diverge from a traditional controlled vocabulary. “Recommendations” means something like a GAO report or a policy proposal, whereas “Recommended” is my shorthand for all those links my boss sends me that I deem important but not urgent. Also, I am finally in the habit of using my "Ready Reference" tag for all those publications our staff quote all the time, have taken pains to post in strategic places on our website, but occasionally want to see links to all in one place.
My bookmarking is only marginally "social" although I am starting to use it in that direction, and now that I am very familiar with the "back end" I think I am ready to do more sharing of the "front end" with staff so they can find things they know I have without having to go through me if they don't want to. I have not experimented with Digg or Stumble Upon but maybe I will. (But I have a feeling that that comparison may lead to breaking, or at least bending, my 'Don't complain' principle.)