Posts filed under ‘Social Media’

Analog Knowledge in a Digital World

Working in a public library for the last two years has given me an interesting perspective on the divide between printed and digital information.  The emergence of web tools like Google and Wikipedia have greatly reduced the amount of time and effort it takes to find information.  Even academic journals are offering their publications in PDF format, downloadable from sites like JSTOR and Google Scholar. 

Does this mean that libraries are becomming increasingly irrelevant?  Not immediately, I don’t believe, but there is a real possibility for their demise if they do not adapt and evolve into a place that can be the hub of information that they once were. 

If the growth and maturity of Web 2.0 has taught us anything, it’s that the collaboration and sharing of ideas is what really drives today’s innovation.  Ask a question on FriendFeed and you’ll get an almost instant response, sometimes many great ideas and thoughts can arise from a single stimulus post.  Libraries, while once the place where information and knowledge was stored, must now take on a new role, one that is a hub of communication and sharing.  Libraries should be embracing their communities with tools like Twitter and FriendFeed.  Information that cannot be acquired from a source in the stacks could be requested from the community, and as people join the knowledge network, the reliability of the service increases. 

The reverse is also true.  People should be able to @yourlibraryhere a question that the reference librarians would receive, research, and reply with an answer that the sender would know to be reliable, removing the uncertainty of information posted online. 

The idea here is that libraries should no longer just be a place to go get a book to read.  They need to reinvent themselves and places in the community where ideas are exchanged and knowledge is created.  Today’s digital world means information is needed faster, and by using Web 2.0 tools, libraries can provide that service and remain relevant.   

Do you use your library to aquire information?  How could it better serve you and your community?  Share your ideas below.

July 28, 2008 at 7:48 pm 1 comment

Facebook points out a societal problem

After reading Stanislav Shalunov’s post on the two types of Facebook users, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the reason why I never log on to MySpace.

The problem is the majority of users as described in the article, those that use the animated GIFs and have auto-playing music when the profile loads.  These are the things that make MySpace unusable for me.  MySpace profiles are almost always cluttered and improperly formatted, leaving an asymmetric mess of a web page that makes me more inclined to close the browser and walk away from the Internet than stay and find out about someone.

Facebook (pre-redesign) was moving in this direction, with its pages sprouting app after app filled with hatching animals and bumper stickers that were lifted off humor websites (like someecards.com).  Not only does this make a page difficult to use, but I believe it points out a deeper problem.

The Warning Signs

As Shalunov mentions in his post, “giggly” users are far less likely to read blocks of text, and are more inclined to communicate by clicking (Poking and playing games).  As the internet grows up and moves to the services found under the umbrella of Web 2.0, I cringe to think that these “giggly” users are still stuck in the days of Hamster Dance (see: WebHamster…the original HamsterDance has actually cleaned up its act a little).

Web 2.0 is (at least in my opinion) centered around the exchange of ideas and information, and using the power of the internet to connect people instantly, and allowing those people to generate new knowledge on the fly (that’s not to say that Web 2.0 isn’t about having fun at the same time; see: Flickr and Last.fm). If the majority of users can’t focus on text and only want to see glittery animations, then the problem runs a lot deeper than a profile page.

Who they are and how to fix it

Shalunov further explains who a “giggly” user might be:

Giggly users love to have fun with their friends, love to chit-chat and giggle, forward things easily and without a second thought. Giggly users generally don’t review applications because it requires typing. They don’t visit the about pages much. The prototypical giggly user is a female teenager who might later go to a party school to major in English.

This notion of not reading what an application is about before installing it, about being those that forward silly emails to their friends (and facilitate the spread of viruses) and are only in school to party is a real issue.  These are the college students that will be moving into the workforce soon, and what are we to do when our interns and junior associates can’t concentrate long enough to read a memo? Are companies going to cater to them, adding Lisa Frank stickers to their letterheads? No, they’re going to fire these people for being incompetent, and in the famous words of Ross Perot, there’s going to be a sucking sound as the pool of skilled workers dries up.

This country is moving eerily toward the situation seen in the movie Idiocracy where flashing lights and sensationalism attracts our eyes and our brains, and where laziness and apathy lead to underachievement and an economy that underproduces.

We need to take a serious look at our society and where we are headed. Facebook’s redesign that de-emphasizes the glittery applications is a start, and I’m happy to see them catering more to the serious user, who wants a place to exchange those ideas and find other people with similar interests. Images and media can be used in smart ways, and plenty of fun can be had interacting on the web, but the written word is something that we should never be too lazy or too giggly to appreciate and use.

July 21, 2008 at 3:32 pm 2 comments

Bureaucracy at its finest

This article from Business Week is surely one of the most disgusting displays of why governments from the local level to the federal level all need to get their act together. 

I have little doubt that the age-old bureaucracy problem is in play here, especially when I read this:

Clarkson, who works for the state Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, said she believes she was working the switchboard at the cabinet offices on April 1. She said the employee who works in the mailroom left early that day, and the FedEx agent required a signature for the package. She said 14 Reilly Road, the Frankfort address where the cabinet offices are located, is a five-building complex; the waste management division is located in another of the five buildings.

It’s actually kind of sad to hear that something as simple as signing for a package and getting it to where it needs to go can’t be successfully completed in our state government, especially in the year 2008.   

While it would be obvious to say that these people need to be fired for being so incompetent, it might also be good to say that there are some solutions to this problem.  FedEx could stand to make a little money on this type of situation by creating some sort of Twitter-like program that can alert the proper recipient of a package as well as the sender of a package upon delivery.  This could all easily be stored electronically on a package label and would word via the web and the established tracking system already in place.

So imagine if this document containing the proposal for grant money had been delivered to the Department of Waste Management instead of the proper Department of Environmental Safety (I know, not so hard to imagine) and FedEx had this program.  Ms. Clarkson would have been sent a “tweet” either on her desktop or on her mobile phone/pda/pager, and would have known what it was and who it was intended for (her).  Problem solved, they can thank me when they make millions.

June 14, 2008 at 9:47 pm 1 comment

Why I tweet

The road to Twitter for me was a strange one, one that started in middle school when I started watching “The Screen Savers” on what was then ZDTV (then TechTV, the G4 TechTV, then G4 which then cancelled the show). Feeling nostalgic I looked up some of the people I remembered as hosts from that show to see what they were up to, and found the amazing site of internet-basesd TV, revision3.com. Many of the people I remember from TechTV were hosting shows on that site, and after watching a few episodes of “Diggnation”, I kept hearing “Twitter” this and “Twitter” that.

The one story that sparked my interest was probably the same one that really put the service on the map…you know, the one about the student that sent the tweet “Arrested” to Twitter, and subsequently was released from the Egyptian jail in which he was being held..

Well anyway, I joined, and added those hosts I was watching on revision3, and convinced a couple friends to try it out, and suddenly it became something I needed to check frequently. While I’ve never met a lot of the people I follow, I suspect a lot of people on the site fit that same mold…people who want to know more about people. That’s where I find Twitter to be so much more interesting than other social sites like Facebook.

Getting to know what goes on in other parts of the country, and how other people spend their time, and the sites and things that people are finding on the internet is a fascinating new aspect of this “Web 2.0” philosophy of sharing what you do on the internet. As someone interested in geography, getting to understand people in other places and how they interact with those places through their eyes is a great way to learn.

It’s also simple, since tweets are limited to 140 characters and nothing more, which means you don’t get the fluff of Facebook, where you have hundreds of applications each with notifications and begging for your information to “make them better”. It’s simply for sharing the answers to “What are you doing now?” That’s why I tweet.

Also Read:
Why Twitter Matters
AJ Vaynerchuk’s Response

May 15, 2008 at 11:34 pm Leave a comment

The best article on the web today

Gin, Television, and Social Surplus by Clay Shirkyon

May 3, 2008 at 6:01 pm Leave a comment


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