Wrap-Up Post

It is a little hard to believe that the class is over.

A lot of topics have been covered this semester, from defining social media/technologies/software to learning about and discussing the implications of use for libraries.

I feel that I got what I came for. While familiar with social media, I really wanted a chance to learn about what other students and practitioners know about these technologies, as well as how they feel about them. I have gained a greater understanding of how the use of social media is different for organizations than it is for individuals. I learned about the differences between organisations- what a public library might do is different than what an academic library might do. There are even differences between public libraries, it all depends on the demographics and interests of the community.

The surprising thing that I learned in this course is that I am really not a visual person. Librarian David Lee King just posted about how important visual media is for libraries. I find that I prefer text, like Delicious (social bookmarking) and Twitter (microblogging) over Pinterest (images as bookmarks) and Tumblr (microblogging). This means that I should stay aware of what is appealing to my community members, and not just stay with services that I prefer, or are comfortable with.

There were several activities this semester that I really, really loved. Like the map-mashup- it allowed me to start playing with html and css again (perhaps an unintended consequence). The podcast activity was really fun, and I know wish I had a reason to make more.  Most of the other activities were mostly reflection, as I had accounts, or experience with the other topics.

I am still not sure about the deeper implications of gaming in libraries outside of gaming days for teens and kids, using consoles- and providing access to hardware that can run the games. This is a topic I will need to reflect more on- for an activity that is a solo (physically) activity, with the only interaction occurring online- what can libraries do? Encourage gamers to have RL meet-ups on site? Would that be something that would appeal? I know that some libraries have meet-ups for writers (another solo activity), and provide space and extension cords, maybe something similar would be helpful. But we have come a long way from the LAN parties that my friends used to have… so yes, I will continue to reflect.

I do know that libraries need to be thinking about all of the topics we have discussed and need to consider how to best position themselves within the social media landscape.

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Gaming, Virtual Worlds, and Libraries

Wow, week 12 is here! And it is the end of the semester. Where has the time gone?

Gaming:
I am a casual gamer. Whether it be tabletop or computers, when I game I game for simple entertainment. Actually, my taste for games is much like my taste in books, movies and television. 90% of the time I don’t want to think. Or strategize. As a result, I tend to play simple platform games with no interaction with other users. The last two games that I have played for any length of time are Plants vs Zombies and Kingdom of Loathing.

Kingdom of Loathing is online gaming lite, in that it is a turn based rpg, with quests and loot and a pvp option, but it is graphically limited. And that is appealing to me. I don’t need/want heavy graphics, I have spent years watching friends play WoW, FPSs, and other games and never really found it appealing. It might be because I am a visual-reading & kinesthetic learner, sound & graphics are not my preferred manner of interacting with content.

But, I do appreciate that millions of people love gaming, and would never want any limitations placed on people wanting to game.

Virtual Worlds:
I have spent about 3 hours total in second life. In that time, I managed to lose my clothes about 5 times, run around in circles and started dancing and couldn’t stop. That was on top of the 3 dimensional world confusing me completely. So, it was embarrassing, frustrating and not enjoyable. As a result, I have absolutely no intention of returning. From my own readings on Second Life online and in the literature, it has not caught on in Canada really, and seems to be fading. Maybe there will be more virtual worlds in the future that don’t require such a steep learning curve, but until then, I’m sitting them out.

Gaming & Libraries:
While I cannot see a place for virtual worlds in libraries (or libraries in virtual worlds), I do know that there is a place for gaming in libraries.

My library has participated in National Gaming Day for the past 3 years and it has been very well recieved. We have a large meeting room where we have a console gaming area set up, and an area for tabletop gaming: chess, scrabble, bananagrams, and more. It is great fun and people of all ages enjoy the event.

We also have programming for kids and teens that involve console gaming- we have a Wii and play Rock Band, sports games and more. We tend to buy games that are multi-player to allow multiple kids play at once.

As well, we just upgraded our public computers, so now patrons can play graphics intensive games, which is great- and I haven’t heard if our “Super Computer” has been set up, but that would allow for more interaction as it will have a mic, so real gamers can really engage with other players.

Other than offering events and hardware, libraries can also highlight to parents and educators that online gameplay is a valid learning experience! Users have to be rather tech savvy to access and learn the games, and they are engaged on a number of levels when playing (reading, analyzing the scene, playing strategically, planning ahead, learning specific controls…).

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the Mobile Web

I have to mention- I love that this week’s lesson started out by discussing how Android phones are better phones!

For this week’s activity we were to make a podcast. And I have to say that this was not as  scary/difficult as I imagined.

In the following audio file I talk about why mobile sites are great, why QR codes are awesome, and why I’m not a podcast person.

Runtime: 7min 43sec

In the interests of accessibility, here is a link to my script: http://publish.uwo.ca/~sfelkar/wk11_script.html

Overall, this week was a lot of fun!

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Cloud Computing

This week is a time to reflect upon the cloud.

I’ve always found the term “cloud computing” to be both accurate and completely inaccurate. In the for column, the idea of dispersed content is completely accurate. As is the idea that you can never really touch the place where your data is kept. In the against column, the term is irrelevant and really has no relation to weather and no real association with computers and online storage at all.

Cloud computing is internet storage! That is all. It is web apps, collaborative online storage, it is Web 2.0. I like that the Tech Tips article really put that idea into context. Cloud computing isn’t some new service for you or your library to buy into, but is something you are already doing.

Advantages and Disadvantages 

For me, there have been many topics related to technology, privacy, and how they interact over the years that have been of great interest to me. There have been times when privacy concerns have been really real and have caused me to not participate in a service such as questions about how long Facebook retains your pictures after account deletion. These concerns informed what survey software was used when my Library Technician group ran a salary survey. We went with a system we could host on a local university’s server, instead of going with a system like SurveyMonkey which stores your data on servers in the US. This is a real concern for Canadians, because the data can then be accessed by American authorities as it is stored on American soil.

But, as someone who has been online as a consumer & participant for many, often I will look past potential privacy concerns in order to participate, or take advantage of a service. For example, I like Dropbox, a service which somehow allows me to edit and store documents in a folder that can be synced to any computer that I used and sign-in to. I don’t really understand how it works, or how secure it might be, but the convenience of the service is very appealing.

As well, I have drank the Google “punch”. I will use any service that they put out (at least for a little while) and do so cheerfully. When Google Voice was realsed a few years back a comedy site put out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrontojPWEE (warning NSFW) and although the way that the video approaches the privacy issue is a little crude, the question of what is done with your data, how it is used, and how might be able to petition to use it outside of the company is a very real concern. And the question of convenience versus privacy is a question that I have been wrestling with for a long time.

If you are interested in the issues surrounding privacy and the onloine world, you should check out these sites- and be aware that even your internet service providers might be involved in some shadey business.

In fact, read this recent article on Michael Geist’s blog about Bill C-11 and cloud computing as soon as you can:  http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/6385/125/

Libraries and Cloud Computing
As a library assistant in the Community Computing Centre of my library, the idea of cloud computing is extremely positive. Many of the people coming in to use the public computers are doing so becasue they don’t have access to a computer anywhere else. And at many public libraries (mine included) all of the data saved onto the computers is wiped on restart. So, people cannot use the public computers to store documents. For a few years, many people used floppy discs to store their data, but as that format fell away (for many, many reasons) patrons have had to find an alternative. Let me outline the most common one.

Situation: Updating a resume to print out
Process:

  1. Log in to computer, open browser, navigate to webmail website and sign in
  2. Locate a saved email with the most recent version of resume attached
  3. Download file onto desktop of computer
  4. Close browser, open resume file
  5. Edit file
  6. Save, print
  7. Open browser, navigate to webmail website and sign in
  8. Start a new email, re-attach new version of resume, send to self.

This process is fairly lengthy and many errors can occur during the process like: running out of time to send new version to themselves, not being able to locate the most recent version, not being able to find the file once it has been downloaded, or the last version having been saved in an incompatible file format.

Using a cloud service like Google Docs (or even the buggy Microsoft Skydrive) the process is simpler:

  1. Log in to computer, open browser, navigate to document website and sign in
  2. Open resume document and edit
  3. Print & Save
  4. Sign-out

Or even using a service like Dropbox, where you are using document files is better- as long as a library can make sure that logging out is enforced, patrons can sign in to the service, open and edit their documents using MS Word or Open Office and save/log-out.

To me, as a library employee who works primarily with the public, cloud computing is an amazing innovation. This improves access to information- because a patron’s own information/data is still important for them to be able to access whenever they need to.

On the other hand, it also is important for me to know about all of the issues surrounding the storage of information online so that I can evaluate new services and assist patrons in making informed decisions when they come to the desk with questions.

The Future of Cloud Computing
With new products emerging in the US and elsewhere like Google Play, Amazon Cloud Storage, and iCloud it is apparent that the big players are interested in us storing our data on their servers. We need to ask ourselves why they are offering these services.

But, we can’t ignore the proliferation of devices that can access our data wherever and whenever we want to. Or that we are becoming increasing reliant on the internet always being available. And in Canada, where we have extempore expensive broadband prices, a history of ISP throttling and many areas that have no cell (3G/4G) coverage due to geography. It aslo might be notes that Iceland has a lower population density than we do, but greater penetration of home internet (http://www.oecd.org/document/54/0,3746,en_2649_34225_38690102_1_1_1_1,00.html).  Can our infrastructure handle a full move to internet storage? Will it ever? What impact will this have on the digital divide? What happens when their is an outage?

There are a lot of questions, and not many of them have easy answers. But the questions aren’t going to go away, and neither is the internet or the services that exist online.

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Social Bookmarking and Tagging

I love social bookmarking, I even wrote my first paper for this class on the topic. As a result, I can’t really complete this week’s activity. Instead, I’ll outline a bit about my use of social bookmarking and tagging, and comment on libraries and tagging.

Social Bookmarking:
My experience with social bookmarking has been very positive, both for personal use as well as using as a library employee.

Delicious: I have two delicious accounts, one for personal use, the other for work. At the moment both are unused. The work one because I’m not working at the moment, and the personal one because I switched to a different service when Yahoo sold Delicious.

What I liked about delicious was that not only was I about to create RSS feeds of my links to share with co-works but I was able to tag and therefore quickly locate my links. Delicious (and other social bookmarking services) are also great discovery tools, if other users use the same tags, you can locate all of the content that is tagged by other users as well. And- if you are have trouble locating content, you can also search a link and learn what tags have been assigned to it. More about tagging in a bit.

Pinboard: This is my current social bookmarking service. Pinboard does include a sign-up fee, but the person running the site is pretty transparent about what is going on with the service, and solicits ideas from members about new features.

Pinterest: To me, Pinterest is a social bookmarking site, except that images are the primary access point instead of having text that defines the links. Since signing up for the service I haven’t really been back since I use Tumblr to find images and Pinboard to store bookmarks.

Tagging:
I also love tagging, and have tagged most (but not all) of my books in my Librarything, Shelfari, and Goodreads accounts. Luckily the sites allow you to upload your lists of books so that you do not need to re-find your content every time that you join a site. Using these sites have helped me discover new books and authors very easily, and I really enjoy browsing through the sites to find new content.

To me, tagging is a great way to organize content without a controlled vocabulary, but perhaps creating a “controlled vocabulary” of the community as you participate. There are issues with this, such as misspelling words, or alternate spellings (colour/color) that can hamper the creation of these community tags. But, overall is is neat to see that other users are tagging content in a similar way to you, which allows you to discover new content.

The other great thing about tags as a way of organization is that there is no hierarchy. No primary subject access point, or  limit to the number of tags. Sure, in tag clouds the most often repeated tag can be visually larger, but you can also use any other the other tags in the cloud as well.

Overall, I find that tags are great for discovery, and I do try and tag every blog post here as well so that someone looking for say- posts on Twitter or about social bookmarking- are able to.

Libraries and Tagging:
For (public) libraries- I feel that tagging is great. At my library we’ve used Librarything for Libraries for years. And we get great feedback from patrons about how they really enjoy having access points that make sense to them. It is almost like the subject access points with their controlled vocabulary is for us (library staff), and the tags are for the users. We can also through sites like Delicious create annotated lists of content (ie Health Websites you can trust) and feed them into the library website via RSS. Often with sites like Delicious you can add an extension to your browser so that you can easily add content from the interesting site, without having to copy the bookmark, sign in to Delicious, paste the bookmark… etc. There are lots of ways that tagging can be used to improve access and efficiency for staff and patrons.

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Microblogging and Twitter

I find that Twitter is one of my favourite methods of getting news. I’ve always been a headline scanner, which might be why I enjoy RSS feeds as well, and twitter makes it really easy to get little snapshots of information. Especially on my phone, where I have a widget that acts as a feed of the accounts that I follow.

There are other reasons that I enjoy using Twitter as well. For example, I find that even though I use my real name on the site, that having the option of using a pseudonym, and that people can make their feeds public or private and be as interactive as they wish, is really nice.

At the time of this post I have posted 477 tweets, that range from conversing with followers, posting links to library & ebook news, advertising programs, linking to content that I have created and some general blather.  My first tweet was September 8th, 2009, and was very interesting “configuring software, and reading Judith Butler’s Bodies that Matter on GoogleBooks.” I hope since then they’ve become more relevant/exciting. In general, I try and keep it professional, with a bit of personal, since I am using my real name.

I am also a member of the microblogging site, Tumblr. I joined that site under a pseudonym and use it to post images of knitting & crochet projects, pictures of places that I have been, things that I bake & decorated and occasionally Haiku. I also spend a fair amount of time following people with interests similar to mine.

For this week’s activity, since I have a Twitter account and another microblogging account, I decided to try out a third-party twitter program. First, I downloaded and signed into TweetDeck but while the layout was nice, I didn’t like that it was limited to Twitter. Then, I remembered that at the library where I work, the social network profiles are managed with HootSuite.

So I went to that site, where I signed up for a profile and added my Twitter, LinkedIn and WordPress profiles. The accounts are arranged in tabs, where each tab represents an account, or group associated with an account. You can see everything at a glance and even schedule posts for the future (to prevent cluttering your feed).

my hootsuite profile

My HootSuite Profile, Twitter account on top.

The only thing that I felt was missing was a way to integrate my Google+ account, I found a how-to online, but it involved upgrading my new HootSuite account, and I am not ready to do that. You can also use HootSuite to get stats and allow for team posting to an account, and there is a Chrome App. I look forward to working with the app.

Libraries and Microblogging

I feel that the most important question for libraries when thinking about any type of social software is “What are our patrons using?” and “What are other members of the community using?” Because while is is great to get buy-in from your existing patron base, you also want to be able to create new connectors with non-users. If your community is interested in Twitter- I would almost prefer it over Facebook since it is a lot easier to cross-promote with other community organizations, and to stumble upon the account accidently. A lot of users still aren’t using Facebook- or feel that their accounts are too personal to follow organizations, and Twitter is definitely more public in nature. And since you are limited to 140 characters, it forces staff to be precise and consise in their communications through that medium. Additionally, Twitter is great for cross-promotion of activities. Local organizations can retweet one another to increase awareness of events and activities.

From the readings this week, I certainly enjoyed hearing about the embedded twitter librarian, as well as ideas from improving your library’s program outreach through twitter. Especially pointing out that having some resources available that don’t require your followers to actually come to the library is great.

This week I’m going to close with some good examples of library and library staff twitter accounts that I enjoy following.

Some Great Library & Librarian Twitter Feeds:

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Social Networks

This week is all about social networks, and our task for the week was to sign-up for and use a new social networking site. I’ll start there and then discuss social networking in general and privacy concerns.

New Network: It was hard for me to consider what new social network that I wanted to join. I already am a member of a number of sites, covering different aspects of my life:

So, I had to think about what other site might be useful for me. To start, I went to the Wikipedia list of Social Networking Websites. Four of the sites appeared at a glance that they might be worthwhile; Wattpad, Wakoopa, Diaspora and Pintrest.

Wattpad: Apparently this is a site for readers and writers- I believe that writers post material and have readers comment? As pretty as the site is, I’m not sure that another reading site is the way to go.

Wakoopa: This site has you sign up, and tracks your “app” data and the recommends other apps that you might like. I thought that it might be neat to try it out, but I didn’t chose the site because I feel that enough other entities are tracking my computer usage…

Diaspora: This is a general social networking site, but you host your profile yourself, to ensure privacy and ownership. I heard about this site a couple of years ago when they were first getting started, and I was interested in seeing how they are doing now, but as interested as I am in hosting my own profile, I don’t know many of people who are.

Pinterest: I have been hearing a lot about this site, but have ignored it since I already belong to an image laden site (albeit using a psydeounym). Pinterest is a site where you find interesting things on the internet and “pin” images to pages (boards) for future reference.

This seemed pretty easy to get into to, so I requested an invite and this morning I received one. Creating a profile, was easy, since the site links to either your twitter or facebook account.  As well, the site gets you to input areas that you are interested in (nature, DIY, pets…) and then has you follow other users automatically. I spent some time creating boards, pinning and repinning items.

Sarah's Pinterest Profile

I can see why people are enjoying this new site, it is a very visual social bookmarking site where you indicate what you think looks pretty/interesting, and people can agree with that by liking the image or repinning it to their own boards. As well, the site is beautifully designed and very easy to use.  Users can follow other users, or just specific boards, and RSS feeds are available as well. (My profile)

As I was setting everything up, Jamie posted this article to the class site. The article discusses the copyright issues that come along with publicly pinning images from outside sites. Now, looking at my pins- they all have a link to the original site, which is basically a just a bookmark- which I don’t think is anti-copyright… and thinking back to the copyright lectures in 9001, I do feel like this is fair use. But, I could be wrong- I’ll be paying attention to see what happens.

Libraries and Online Communities: Libraries should want to participate in online communities, and many are doing so. But how do they do so effectively?

There are several questions to consider. Are our patrons using this network? Is there a place on this network for institutions? If both answers are yes, then you should think about creating a presence.

Then ask- will having a presence on this network enhance the experience of our patrons? For example, Twitter would be a “yes”, since you can advertise events, engage patrons through contests and more, but Pinterest would be a “no” since you only have images and no data about reviews, events, ect- since by nature they are just image-bookmarks. See Sacramento Public Library’s Pins.

Also ask, can we devote staff time to this network? You cannot just create a profile on a network, you also need to be able to maintain it by posting new content and communicating with users.

The opportunities can be great, as mentioned in the Agosto & Abbas (2009) “Teens and Social Networking” article from Public Libraries, you can broaden the reach of your programming, help users learn about online safety, and give information to your user base where they are, rather than where you are. But you need to be able to maintain the relationship- having your account sit idle for long periods of time will cause your users to lose interest (and trust) in your account.

Overall, I think the key is to have a person (or several people) who are familiar with social networking and are interested in participating, run your sites and have a robust staff policy to ensure that the accounts are active and friendly. And have mechanisms to evaluate effectiveness- if it isn’t working, walk away and try something different, you also don’t want to waste staff time if no one is interacting with or following your profile.

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