Monday, October 27, 2008

Keynote: Communities and Communication in a Social and Mobile World

I really enjoyed this keynote by author Howard Rheingold, who wrote Smart Mobs. The themes were of trust and communication over time. Rheingold noted that when he had written other books, he researched them, wrote them, and then put the topic away, but this topic has stuck with him. His presentation was lively, interesting and relevant, with visuals reminiscent of Flat Stanley or Where's Waldo. I've stuck pretty closely with my notes from his presentation:

Cell phones are changing the way the world looks at time, children, and each other. In Finland, the word for cell phone is the diminutive of “hand.” In Tokyo, people were walking around looking at their cell phones instead of around themselves or at each other. Rheingold heard the saying, “kids flock like birds” and noticed a softening of time, where we don't meet at a pre-specified time as much, but rather plan to meet in the afternoon and work out the details of when and where later, on the phone. Protests, meetings, etc., have all been arranged by cell phone (for example: "everyone show up at this time in this place wearing black"), lowering the threshold for cooperation. Oh My News (Korea) tipped the election on election day via social networking, and there are many more examples of this type of thing from all over the world: high school kids in Chile, Basques in Madrid, violent radicals in Denmark, Nigeria, Australia, and more.

This isn't new. Way back when, hunter-gatherers needed protein every day. They gathered together in extended family groups and managed to drive all large mammals in North America to extinction more quickly. These were big, so hunters could provide for more than themselves and their families. Communication was key for hunting and sharing.

Later, big civilizations grew in the river deltas. Writing began from record-keeping: accountants started it all! Reading and writing was limited to the elite until the printing press. New forms of collective action emerged from new forms of communication. Science becomes collective intelligence instead of personal genius. Luther wasn’t the first priest to protest, just the first to protest after printed broadsides. There were similar advances in politics with the founding of this country. There were huge advances in banking and commerce because people could transmit currency with paper – keys are trust and worldwide communication system. This sharing allowed people to build on each other’s discoveries. Looking forward, we are on another cusp with toward near universal use of small communication/computer devices.

Markets are changing. Open source is growing out of self-interest. Opening proprietary source software, letting people use it, has been key to development, growth, and financial rewards. For example, Lilly created a market for solutions, like eBay. Amazon, Google and others have opened up their programming interfaces and ads to let others make a little money and them make a lot of money. Getting people working on problems across firms and fields has been huge and successful. Prisoner’s dilemma stopped trading with unknowns, but eBay helped increase trust with seller information and power sellers. The internet is allowing us to communicate and share, which is allowing development that never could have happened otherwise, for example: Wikipedia, ThinkCycle (cooperative design for developing world), Swarm Supercomputing Collectives (SETI @ home, Folding @ home, and more), Amazon Mechanical Turk (crowd-sourcing), Cocreation of culture (p2p and many to many) blogs, YouTube, and more. Success comes to those who provide powerful platforms that enable individuals. This is leveraged self-interest. It looks like altruism but enables their self-interest to help others.

We are in a multimedia world, with technology as mind amplifiers, used by people who never used to use computers. From small subcultures to large portions of population, people are, well, participating in participatory media…blogs, wikis, rss, mashups, podcasts, file sharing, tagging, and more. We have broader, faster, cheaper, social communication. We need to take risks with experimentation! Most learning is happening when the teacher isn’t looking, on evening and weekends, in the back of the class. Learning is self-guided, but needs more guidance from others, especially in how to apply skills. Librarians can help. There is a social media classroom available:, a combination blog, wiki, forums, chat, social bookmarking, how-to and more, which we can use to help people figure out what’s appropriate for their use, and the appropriate rhetoric to use there. This is currently available as a free Drupal download, but will soon be available in a hosted IT-Free version for educators, including libraries.

This is not all just fun. Social media can be used to make the world work better (when Rheingold couldn't get Comcast to respond to an emergency repair request, he got quick help by contacting Comcastcares on Twitter, and wikis and blogs have been effectively used to coordinate worldwide emergency response, as in However, in this rapidly changing world, we need to keep up with the literacies, not the technologies. In searching: how do you get an answer, but also, how do you know the answers are true? This is key for librarians. We can help with the information literacy piece!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Internet Librarian

Inspired by Daniel Cornwall blogging the Reference Renaissance conference, I'll be posting here about the sessions I attended at the recent Internet Librarian conference in Monterey, CA. You can find my posts on this topic (and other people's) by searching on the tag IL2008.

As you might expect from a conference with internet in the title, electronic sharing of conference content was popular. In several sessions, we found Twitter or Flickr postings from just minutes previously, and the conference Twitter tag (#il2008) showed up on search home page popular tag listings each day. So many people were typing away on their laptops, that a couple of speakers mentioned that they knew when they had said something good because the room immediately sounded like rain with all the tapping at keyboards. Maybe that's why I felt right at home (rain being very familiar to this Juneauite).

Two years ago, I went to this conference. Then, while there was much to learn on many topics, I found the biggest trend to be the increasing place of wikis to help communication and collaboration as content management systems, home pages, intranets and shared manuals and more. Since then, I've gotten the reputation at my library of being "all wikis all the time", which I find to be only a slight exageration. This time, the big trend seemed to be Twitter, and while I've been familiar with the tool for years, for the first time I finally saw how it could be valuable for my work. I'll mention details as I discuss it in my session overviews, but I think that this could be an important tool to watch over the coming year.

I'll try to post at least a few times a week until I've covered the conference, so watch this spot! For other people's take on the conference, check out the list of conference blogs on the conference wiki.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WorldCat Lists - The Video

Build lists of books and videos for your library, your school, for the world or just you. This video shows you how to do this easily with Open WorldCat.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Congratulations to Ketchikan!

Congratulations to the staff of the Ketchikan Public Library on their recent annual book sale. According to their blog report, they "raised over $5,200 in sales, $170 in memberships and more than $100 in donations for the New Library Building Fund."

And they got "previously owned" books into the hands of new readers. Great work!


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Seeing clearly?

Google's Gmail has a new service, just rolled out Monday: Google Goggles. It basically serves as an optional filter for those times when our internal filters aren't quite as strong. This nifty service aims to help prevent users from emailing when they're not thinking clearly, by requiring completion of some simple math problems in order to send an email at night on the weekends (or whenever you specify). I've seen the sorrow that can result from emails sent unthoughtfully, even if the person was not actually incapacitated by too much alcohol or too little sleep. Sometimes, just an extra step to make us think about what we're doing can be really helpful.

Of course, sometimes it's just annoying 99% of the time, so we end up turning it off right before the one time it would be helpful.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 06, 2008

True in 1905. Still True Today

In prepping for some staff training last month, I came across a clear explanation of the need for controlled vocabulary when doing comprehensive literature searches. This comes from volume 1 (1900-1904) of the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature and I believe it is as relevant today as it was when it was first published over a century ago:

...this index has been made first of all a subject index. Articles are indexed under the subject headings which most nearly describe the actual topics treated, regardless of the headings suggested by the frequently misleading titles. This method has the advantage, not only of making accessible all the material on a particular subject, but also of bringing this material in one place, for even tho the title may adequately divulge the subject matter of an article, all titles do not call a thing by the same name. The war of the revolution may appear in one title as the revolutionary war, in another as the war for independence, in another as the American revolution. But articles on the revolution will not be scattered under these different names. They will be found under United States--History--Revolution, in whatever form the name of the war appears in the titles of the articles or whether or not it appears at all.

That is the power of controlled vocabulary. This is the power of librarian-added value. And while cataloging everything everywhere isn't an option, we should not lightly throw controlled vocabulary aside. What do you think? Leave us a comment.

Labels: , ,