What do Martha Stewart, hashish, laundry bags, and existential communists have in common?

reposted from an entry I authored on Infopeople’s blog, 10/5/2011

Social media – or more to the point – a snapshot of my life as portrayed on social media. I’ll try to explain that eclectic mix in a bit. I’ll be presenting an Infopeople course, Library Marketing and Promotion via Social Media, from mid October to mid November. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences and learning from yours, even though the initial title of this blog entry might have you wondering “do I really want to take a workshop from this person?”

Toby Keith wrote the perfect social media anthem, “I Wanna Talk About Me.” Or at least that is the general perception and might be the reason some people literally “shy” away from social media. But as much as personal social media may be about “me,” social media by organizations puts the focus on “you” and “us.” Engaging the user is key and building a supportive, enthusiastic cadre of followers and fans is a goal. That’s the focus our course takes.

Enough about the course, let’s talk about me :) My mother-in-law, Nana, made the best Easter pizza, an Italian tradition. Unfortunately, we don’t have the recipe and definitely want that tradition to continue. I found a recipe that seemed pretty close from Martha Stewart, so I made it last Easter and tweeted the recipe, crediting Martha, tipping my hat to Nana, and providing a photo of the masterpiece – all within the 140 characters constraints of Twitter. Almost immediately @MarthaStewart retweeted me. It was amazing to witness the interaction and engagement the Martha Stewart Twitter team orchestrated.

That explains Martha, now the hashish. The hashish was a case of mistaken identity; isn’t that what they all say? I’m working with a colleague on introducing Twitter as a classroom tool for sharing insights, articles, and team-based communication. We had it all planned, but there was some confusion by the students. Using my “smart” phone, I responded, “are they using the hashtag we provided.” Oh my, much to my dismay right before I pressed send I noticed my message had been changed to “are they using the hashish we provided.” Some would say that explains the cost of higher education today.

These examples illustrate some key points that we will delve into during the course: engagement builds community and a loyal following, and human intelligence (not the technology) is the key success ingredient in effective communication.

I’ll save the laundry bags and existential communist stories for the course. Hope you join us!

LibraryAnywhere: Smart App needs more brains

LibraryAnywhere is one of my favorite iphone apps. It allows me to search a library catalog – preferably my own, but not yet. However, it does allow me to search a library within my library’s consortium. So, hey, I can easily search the catalog and place holds on books.

The closest library found when I browse for libraries nearby is less than 5 miles away from my home library. Extra bonus, I’m sitting in a coffee shop 3 blocks from that library and I have reciprocol borrowing privileges.

Seems like I should be able to locate the book I want, place a hold and pick it up on the way back. Let me search for that book and see if I can pick it up.

I search for the title, locate the book, and request that book.

Upon making the request, I enter my library card info and voila!, like rubbing the genie’s lamp, my wish has been granted.

Oops – not at all what I wanted. Looking at the message, it tells me that I will be notified when to pick up the book at Riverside. I wanted to just drop by LaGrange and pick it up. So, now, I realize I’ve inconvenienced people at two libraries who will have to process this request triggered by my love of technology and the convenience of accessing a library anywhere requesting materials.

When I requested that item and LibraryAnywhere (or more accurately, my SWAN catalog) had my patron information, at minimun, it should have asked, “Which action do you prefer?”

  • Pick this book up at LaGrange (by the way, the GPS locator shows that you are only 3 blocks away)
  • Request LaGrange staff find the book, send it through the delivery system for pick-up at your home library in Riverside

Since I work with libraries, I realize the implications of my actions and quickly try to put the genie back in the bottle. I go to “My Account” using the awkward web based access on my iphone to connect to the catalog. I remove that hold to avoid all this unnecessary work.

In all fairness, this really should not be considered a fault of LibraryAnywhere, rather a shortfall of my library’s consortium catalog. But the example illustrates how an eager patron can easily take advantage of all the services offered through smart apps, without a clue to the triggers and work involved behind the scenes. Consortiums need to coordinate registration/licensing of LibraryAnywhere throughout their membership. Otherwise the inadvertent increase of ILL requests marches on – and haven’t we all learned there is no such thing as a “free lunch” or “free delivery of a book.” Kudos to Lincoln Trail Libraries System’s LINC LibraryAnywhere which is coordinated through their consortium.

Not sure how we bridge this knowledge and technology gap. I do know as a library patron, I don’t want to waste valuable time and money having library staff and system delivery resources used to pull a book from the shelves, send it 10 miles in one direction, sort it into a bag to ship back 12 miles in the reverse direction, have a staff mark the book as received setting an automated email saying I can pick the book up. Hope that email didn’t get stuck in my spam.

The problem is really larger than this simple example. LibraryAnywhere is a web application too, so I can make the same exact mistake using my laptop or work computer, even without being in a hurry. I really like the fast, clean interface of LibraryAnywhere – think of the resource wastes if that becomes my default method of locating and receiving materials (in a nice stack at the circulation desk all bundled and waiting for me).

There is a difference between “customer service” and “customer being overserved.” Patron initiated holds are not the problem, uneducated patrons initiating holds is – how do we effectively share good practices?

Irony of all this work is that the title was sitting on a shelf at my home library and I could have gone there to check it out on my way home, rather than waste all these resources. Technology is great – but, too often it helps us make bad decisions faster.

Reconnect – Reskin

Before & AfterMy college roommate was an artist and graphic designer, long before computers did that sort of thing. She moved to Colorado and we lost touch, because we didn’t have facebook, linkedin, twitter or classmates.com back then. This past summer we reconnected as I was determined to track her down and was successful.

She is the owner of two design firms and after we reconnected, we collaborated. And, I must say it was great to work with her staff, catch up with years of work and family stories, and forge a new partnership.

Watermark International partnered with BellCow, Inc. on a recent website reskin project for Prospect Heights Public Library. We were able to work together to minimize recoding of pages since the pages were based on site templates using include files and css.

Terry’s other firm, InTandem, specializes in target marketing through effective use of social media.

So if you are looking for a website face lift or a message make-over, we can provide the team to make it happen.

Service & Social Learning – Mixing in the Mud

UVA ASB Argentina GroupSometimes it takes getting your hands dirty to make a difference. A group of University of Virginia students learned that “first hand” in January when they spent their winter break working outside of Buenos Aries, Argentina.

Their initial assignments seemed impossible for their two-week stay – build an adobe hut/bathroom, tame an overgrown space and prepare it for gardening, paint some buildings, and plant seedlings. But they accomplished their goals and within three months the fruit of their labor is growing abundantly. CNN’s feature “Kids in Argentina learn to grow their own food” shows the garden, the organization leaders they worked with, and most importantly the impact on the children.

From the article –

In January, a group of students from the University of Virginia spent two weeks
at the Semillas al Viento farm, working directly with children and instructors
to clear additional farming land and build adobe huts and bathrooms.
They also left a sizeable donation.

They have continued to stay connected via social networking, sharing pictures through flickr, communicating via facebook, email and gchat. When electricity and an Internet connection could be found, they provided an occassional blog entry during the trip.
Adobe hut

Ruben teaches us how to make adobe, which is made from dried grass and dirt. After gathering these things you mix them together with water using your hands. You then move on to mixing with your feet, a la “I Love Lucy”.

We also did some gardening work the first few days. One thing I found really interesting and admirable about Semillas al Viento is how resourceful they are. They recycle EVERYTHING and incorporate this into their gardening techniques. They
take a page of newspaper and wrap in around a toilet paper roll, fold the excess up, and make a mini cylinder. Soil will be put in the planter and plants in their first few weeks will grow there and eventually be transferred to the garden. They plant tomatoes, corn, acelga (chard), lettuce, flowers, and other things. They also use
cut up soda bottles to protect the trees from the lawn mower. All in all it was very interesting to see gardening in another country.

The hands-on learning extends into technical areas too. The site leader for the trip volunteers as Alternative Spring Break (ASB) webmaster. You can easily make a donation online. BellCow, Inc. helped the Argentina group by funding their daily transportation to the work site from their Buenos Aires hostel (which was without electricity for almost a week and lacked running water for a few days).

The original photos taken in January with inserts from the CNN report in April, show how far the community garden has developed in a short time. Good intentions, hard work, committed leaders and a little horse manure go a long way.

Zafen – It’s Our Business

Put this in the category of “Excellent people doing excellent work.”

DePaul University is commemorating the 350th anniversary of Vincent de Paul’s and Louis de Marillac’s deaths by creating opportunities to collaborate in support of microfinance programs geared towards Haitian development, with emphasis on direct funding for Haitian business and education initiatives.

The website, www.zafen.org, provides a gateway for matching projects with donors.  Search for projects which match your passion and track progress to bring these initiatives to reality.

Special thanks and kudos to David Miller and Marty Kalin for writing the code to manage the matching and tracking process of projects.  Their minds are sharp and quick – they probably designed this on a napkin and wrote the code one weekend. While some of us were pulling weeds preparing for spring gardens, they planted seeds that will grow for lifetimes.

I just helped fund a “non-wood Charcoal Production” project. During the process I found some really neat networking features. It grabbed my gravatar image and it allows you to create teams. Ok, old DePaul ACS gang, I’m recruiting you to help.

The Emperor has no clothes, and neither does Muffy Vandeverre

WJIL[reposted from WebJunction Illinois' blog, dated May 3, 2007]

Innovation and open-mindedness are essential in our business. A dose of honesty never hurts either. So, here comes my confession and thoughts.

I started my Second Life about six months ago. I was anxious to join people on Info Island and demonstrate this emerging technology and means of interaction as I spoke to library groups. I created my avatar (free of course) and jumped right in. I didn’t need an orientation, I just wanted to get to the cool library stuff.

Thus, Muffy Vandeverre was born. She is a furry. As I prepared my demonstration I was horrified as I tried to change my scandalous outfit. Wardrobe malfunction took on a whole new meaning as pieces of clothing slipped off while I frantically tried to cover-up. I was one of those kids who dreamed about giving a speech in front of their 5th grade class with only their underwear on. With nowhere else to turn, I relied on my tech-savvy socially-networked 17-year old daughter. Not even she could return my dignity and leave me with an outfit that my mother would approve of. Never in a million years would I consider myself satisfied with hot pants and a tube top, but that was the best we could do. Actually, I was finally successful in getting a Bradley University Library t-shirt. It must be 100% cotton and I think someone dried it on high – it looks more like painted skin.

Read more…?

Trouble with Tribbles – Wiki style

WJIL[reposted from WebJunction Illinois' blog, dated May 3, 2007]

I’m in love with wikis, but I’m starting to feel like the Starship Enterprise isn’t the only vessel being buried. Suddenly, The Trouble with Tribbles is taking on a whole new meaning for me. Am I alone in thinking that wikis are starting to mirror the behavior of tribbles – born pregnant?

I think it is time for some well designed birth control. Within the past year, hundreds of wikis devoted to library topics and resources have sprung forth. Before we continue down this path, it seems like the perfect time to ask some hard questions.

Why is wikipedia so successful? I’d argue that it is due to its comprehensive knowledge base in addition to its devoted author and editor base. If this content was scattered throughout hundreds or thousands of wikis, the effectiveness would be greatly diminished. So why do we insist on creating individual wikis for every project or collection of resources we organize in library wikispace?

Do we really believe in radical trust and shared authorship? In principle, absolutely, in practice – well, I’m not really seeing that as much. We seem nervous to open the floodgates and share wikispace authorship across organizations. It really is much harder to share than to create our own spaces. But, the richness of our content and long-term viability suffer from this approach.

Just some initial thoughts – there will be more along this line as we struggle in Illinois to work within the WebJunction shared wikispace while trying at the same time to develop customized wiki features that require collaboration at the tool level, as well as the content level. It seems easier to just create our own sandbox, but in the long run, we’d rather be playing in the expanse of the beach.

Can tribbles swim?

©2010 BellCow Inc.