Final Thoughts on Social Media

Wow, the term has come and gone already!

Over the last thirteen weeks, we’ve covered a wide range of topics including: web 2.0, blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, mash-ups, social media policies, social networking, microblogging, bookmarking, tagging, cloud computing, the mobile web, virtual worlds and online gaming. We examined how all of these forms of social networking relate to libraries, and how we, as future librarians, might make use of these sites.

I was introduced to many sites and applications in this course that I had never visited previously. My favourites were probably Mashable, Google Reader (soon to be extinct), Google Map Maker and of course, World of Warcraft! I also became more familiar with a few sites and applications that I had only dabbled with in the past, such as Pinterest and Google Drive. Moreover, I’ve also made use of more free applications on my Android phone, some of which have truly made my life easier. Blogging each week also enabled me to become more familiar with WordPress and the blogging process in general. I think I may even start a personal blog once I’m done this program!

The only website that I encountered in our lessons that I truly never want to use again is Delicious, since I did not find its interface to be intuitive at all. In my Web Design course this term, I learned that one of the main rules of good web design is to make sure visitors don’t have to “think” when visiting a site–and Delicious had me puzzled at every turn.

This term, I took two technology courses: Social Software and Libraries, of course, and Web Design and Architecture. Next term, I’m enrolled in eBooks for Libraries, Information Retrieval: Research and Practice, and Internet Broadcasting for the Public Sector. I think these tech courses will be particularly useful to me in the future since I’m interested in web librarianship. In general though, tech skills are in high demand and will certainly continue to be an asset to librarians.

I hope everyone enjoyed blogging and reading each other’s blog posts–I sure did!

Bye for now,

– Aly

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Virtual Worlds and Online Gaming

Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 10.22.59 PMMeet Cerellithan, Hunter-Night Elf and his loyal companion, Cat. Their reign of terror began on April 2nd 2013, in Aldrassil, where they turned innumerable thistle boars, deer and young nightsabers into corpses. Their bloodlust still unsated, the duo set their sights on Shadowglen, where they continued to kill every living beast in sight in cold blood. Cerellithan and Cat harvested the corpses for their parts, and told witnesses to never speak of this night, lest they return to exact their vengeance. The duo then disappeared into the night, never to be seen in Pandaria again.

Such was my first venture into the world of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (or MMORPG for short). I was playing World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, because Lord of the Rings Online was taking way too long to download. Setting up WoW was easy enough, and it only took a few minutes for me to set up my account and start living my online life as the mean-faced night elf pictured left (seriously, can you trust that face? Cerellithanbecause I can’t trust that face). I selected this particular character because: (1) elves are cool, (2) I thought being a hunter would make beginner-me more intimidating to other players and (3) because he had a pet white tiger to keep him company.

While playing WoW, I found myself vexed with “noobish” problems. I couldn’t figure out how to talk to people. I couldn’t kill anything (and I had a reputation as a hunter to uphold!). I couldn’t even figure out how to walk at first. Of course, doing a tutorial or reading the Help section would have been the best course of action, but I couldn’t wait to play. I managed to figure out most of these things on my own with trial and error, but I still felt somewhat out of place in the virtual world, since most other players have probably been playing the game for longer than 30 minutes. I think these games can be very intimidating to new players for this reason. In the past, the only computer games I’ve really played are The Sims (plus about ten different expansion packs circa the early 2000s) and RollerCoaster Tycoon. But playing online with other people who can watch both your triumphs and your failures is daunting.

Overall, I thought the effects and the music in WoW were really impressive. My brothers really enjoy this game and I do see the appeal in it. After working my way up to Level 2 (don’t be jealous! ;-)), I could see how addictive it is to advance your player up the ranks. I also tried communicating with other players, although the ones I interacted with seemed to be computer generated. Once again, I was a bit too intimidated to start talking to fellow citizens of Pandaria!

In terms of libraries, I think hosting gaming tournaments or discussion groups could be a great way to attract patrons. The Ann Arbor District Library has shown that gaming can work to a library’s advantage. Since many larger libraries have actual computer rooms, these might be ideal spaces for hosting gaming tournaments, where rooms could be booked for contestants. Since gaming promotes literacy, I don’t think libraries should shy away from these potential crowd-pleasing events. In particular, gaming holds a lot of appeal to the younger generation, those who may be reluctant to come into the library and are looking for a reason! So why not celebrate International Games Day at your own library, in one form or another? Many of your patrons will probably thank you.

The Mobile Web

Here is a link to my very first podcast: http://picosong.com/nDfN/. It’s not perfect but I knew that if I tried re-recording it, I wouldn’t stop ’til I drove myself crazy. The link is working for me right now, but if someone notices that it isn’t working please let me know!

Also, this is the article that I talk about in my podcast: The Most Popular Podcasts of 2012.

That’s all, folks!

P.S. I think I mispronounced “Gangman Style”. Forgive me 😉

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

This week, we learned about cloud computing, which is defined by Jay Jordan as “a style of computing in which scalable and elastic information technology-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to external customers using Internet technologies” (Jordan, 2011). Many people and organizations already use cloud computing without actively thinking about it; for example, by posting information on Facebook or by using Google Drive, you are contributing information to the “cloud”.

Cloud computing has a considerable amount of potential for libraries. In Jordan’s “Climbing Out of the Box and Into the Cloud: Building Web-Scale for Libraries”, he describes the ways in which the Online Computer Library Center has used WorldCat and WorldCat Local, among other initiatives, to try to encourage libraries to utilize cloud computing. Jordan explains that OCLC aims to benefit thousands of libraries by way of collaboration; Jordan’s view of cloud computing has libraries enhancing user experiences while lowering the cost of managing library collections. Specifically, Jordan cites the following advantages of utilizing cloud computing in libraries:

  • “Increased visibility and accessibility of collections for users
  • Reduced duplication of effort from networked technical services and collection management
  • Streamlined workflows
  • Cooperative intelligence and improved service levels” (Jordan, 2011, p.7)

As we can see, cloud computing certainly has potential benefits for library staff and library users. However, there are many disadvantages that users and library staff members may encounter when using cloud computing. The first and perhaps most concerning issue, is that of privacy. If libraries and/or users are sharing information with each other, might other libraries or individuals misuse this information in some way? Not all libraries or all staff members will necessarily be comfortable with this free exchange of information. Another big concern that comes to mind is that of accessibility. We have all experienced internet outages (like the great Rogers outage of February 2013, a very boring night! :P) and have seen how these outages can affect the workplace and one’s personal life. I love Google Drive, but on one trip to my cottage I realized I couldn’t access a Google Doc I wanted to edit (I had forgotten to save it to my computer before leaving civilization and the internet behind). This was a big inconvenience for me, but in a work setting this could have created a much larger issue.

In terms of libraries and computer users in general, the more we rely on cloud computing, the more we stand to lose when technology fails us. For this reason, some people may be apprehensive in the move towards putting more information “into the cloud”. In terms of where cloud computing may lead us in the future, only time will tell!

References:

Jordan, J. (2011). Climbing out of the box and into the cloud: Building web-scale for libraries. Journal of Library Administration, 51(1), 3-17.

Bookmarking, Tagging and Folksonomies

Tags

This week, we discussed the advantages of bookmarking, tagging and folksonomies. To clear up the web jargon, bookmarking is a process that saves websites for future use (sometimes the terms ‘shortcuts’ or ‘favourites’ are used to denote the same function in different web browsers). Tagging is “the process of adding free-text descriptors to online objects” and folksonomies are the compilations of tags associated with a particular website (Rasmussen, 2013). In order to explore these concepts further, I examined the LibraryThing, Oakville Public Library and Delicious websites.

I’ve used LibraryThing a few times in the past, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever become a regular user of the website while Goodreads is still around. A major difference between the two sites is the way tags are displayed. On LibraryThing, quite varied tags are used; users tag standard information like authors and genres, but popular tags also identify when users read a book, and whether they own a paperback or hardcopy edition of the book. For example, in the image above, A Game of Thrones is tagged on LibraryThing with several useful tags like “A Song of Ice and Fire” and “fantasy” (the popularity of these tags can be identified by the size of these words within a ‘tag cloud’). However, many other tags are displayed within the tag cloud that aren’t of much use to me, like “Kindle”, “own”, “read in 2011” and “signed”.

Meanwhile, Goodreads pages are organized in a more aesthetically pleasing manner (in my humble opinion, of course!). On a book’s page, the genres that users have “shelved” the book under are featured. For further information, users can “See Top Shelves” to view the varied tags/shelves under which users have categorized a book. This way, less pertinent tags  like “own it” or “on hold” do not appear on a book’s homepage. In my experience with both sites, I prefer my orderly ‘shelves’ on Goodreads to my tags on LibraryThing, although both sites are very appealing from a book lover’s perspective!

This being said, I was very impressed with how libraries can use LibraryThing, like this example of Martindale Public Library. Particularly, the virtual shelf browser is a tool that I would love to use while browsing TPL. I searched TPL on LibraryThing and found pages for branches with location and contact information, although none of the branch pages seemed to be frequented or updated very often. Since the TPL website doesn’t offer any opportunities for user interactivity, I thought that creating a page on LibraryThing, or perhaps having LibraryThing mashups on the TPL site might be an interested endeavour.

Unlike TPL, the Oakville Public Library website features many opportunities for user interactivity. Keeping on theme, I searched A Game of Thrones and found that a considerable amount of ‘community activity’ had occurred on the book’s webpage. Users had posted tags, similar titles, related videos, lists that include the title, comments, quotes and summaries of the book! Most of these features seem to be being used effectively, although the lonely 2 summaries of the book did make me laugh aloud:

OPL

Other than the summaries that left something to be desired, OPL seems to be doing a fantastic good getting the community to actively engage with the library’s website. I’d love to see more features like this on the LPL and TPL pages in the future!

Lastly, I also explored the Delicious website. This website may have particular appeal to users who use different computers in their everyday lives. I often find myself somewhat lost when I’m without my laptop, and the main reason behind this is that when I use the computer at work or at school, my handy bookmarks are nowhere to be found! I perused this site for a little while, searching various tags, networks and links of interest. Keeping on theme, I spent a while finding Game of Thrones related links (can you tell I’m excited about the season 3 premiere!?). Overall, I found that the website was not particularly user-friendly and, for this reason, I’m not sure if I would recommend it to others. However, I did find quite a few neat links to keep me busy!

Microblogging

Twitter

This week, we discussed the appeal and potential of microblogging. When we update our Facebook status or post onto Twitter, we are microblogging. While I am a daily Facebook user and am familiar with the status update form of microblogging, I haven’t become a regular user of Twitter (yet?).  Personally, I have never connected with Twitter. I’ve had two separate accounts and in both instances, I eventually deleted  the account. I’ve used Twitter in the past to follow my favourite bands, authors, TV show pages, actors and news websites. But I found that the types of updates posted on Twitter were normally not particularly interesting, or relevant to me. Both times that I tried out Twitter (in about 2009, then again in 2011 I believe), not many of my friends or family members had accounts yet. Those who did have accounts normally used it to post about food, or to complain. I didn’t see any appeal in reading those posts, and I eventually gave up on Twitter. The second time I deleted my account, I vowed to never go back! Nowadays, many more people that I know are using the website, so perhaps I will eventually return. In any case, the increase in users of the site is good news for libraries.

In David Allen Kennedy’s How Your Library May Not be Using Twitter but Should, he outlines the main ways librarians can use Twitter to their advantage. He identifies five main types of library tweets: (1) the average library tweet, (2) the materials promotion tweet, (3) the promoting things as they happen tweet, (4) the “it doesn’t have to require a library visit” tweet and (5) interaction tweets with other users. After spending some time perusing the Twitter accounts of the London Public and Toronto Public Libraries, I found that these types of tweets were fairly consistent with the content that was being posted on these accounts. Both library’s accounts seem to do a fair job of promoting events without bombarding users with reminders. Both accounts post several times a day, tweeting about library events, meetings, branch renovations, closures and re-openings, and community events. But most importantly, both libraries seem to be making an active effort to reply to or to retweet posts users make about the respective library systems. Kennedy asserts that these forms of interaction with other users are one of the most “useful ways libraries can use Twitter but don’t.” It’s important for libraries to interact with other users as a way to address patron concerns that are posted online, and also to retweet compliments that the libraries are given!

In order to remain current, libraries should read all posts directed at them, and should also check up on hashtags relevant to the library that may be of interest. These posts may be helpful to librarians trying to roll out new library initiatives or changes. As Kennedy suggests, since Twitter’s popularity is on the rise, the site presents a prime opportunity for a library to reach users. TPL has 15,400+ followers and LPL has nearly 4,000. With these amounts of followers, information about library events and programs is bound to reach more people than traditional, physical promotion at a library. In smaller libraries, Twitter may not yield enough benefits to keep an account running, but the website has seemingly become a staple of larger library systems.

On a final note, here’s a neat website that I found that shows Real-time Local Twitter Trends. I found it particularly interesting to see how certain trends are prevalent across all continents, like the Harlem Shake meme (if you haven’t seen any of these videos yet, check out Western’s Harlem Shake video).

 

Social Media Policies and Assessment

Policy & Procedures ManualIn recent years, news stories about employees being fired over social media etiquette have seemingly been on the rise. For example, in July, an anonymous Burger King employee posted a photo of himself stepping in lettuce on 4chan (an image-based board). Allegedly, it only took 15 minutes for a few 4chan users to track down the store where this photo was taken. The employee was promptly fired. There have been many and more stories about comments, statuses, and photos shared on Facebook leading to employee terminations. For example, this pizza restaurant server was fired after venting about a bad shift on her Facebook profile, which was set to private. Recently, Air Canada employees have also come under fire for comments made on a closed Facebook group. In light of the increasing online presence of employees, many organizations have begun to enforce social media policies to regulate online behaviour.

Kroski’s article ‘Should Your Library Have a Social Media Policy?’ provides straightforward guidelines applicable to any organization looking to employ social media policy. Aubry also outlines the main components of social media policy in a straightforward manner in 10 Must-Haves For Your Social Media Policy. For a template of what an actual, official social media policy might look like, see Cara Donlon-Cotton’s “Sample Social Media Policy” (available through UWO Lib).

Generally, social media policies are put into place in organizations in order to ensure that employees do not make defamatory comments about said organization online, and to enforce consequences in cases when employees portray themselves in an offensive or inappropriate manner in a public forum. Social media policies also normally establish rules for when organizations are justified in removing user comments on a website. When introducing a library into the world of social media, monitoring its online image is vital. Similarly, holding employees accountable for their own online images seems to have become necessary in this day and age. If you’re creating policies yourself, or merely following them, always remember: What happens online, stays online forever.

Mashups and “Non-Text” User-Generated Content

MashupThis week, I read Darlene Fichter’s What Is a Mashup?, read through a slideshow about library mashups and explored the uses of Google Map Maker. Mashups are web applications that use “content from more than one source to create a single new service displayed in a single graphical interface” (Fichter). The most common use of mashups is to display maps on a website overlaid with other information. For example, UrbanSpoon uses a mashup on this page to show users all restaurants located in London, Ontario that are featured on their site. UrbanSpoon works in unison with Google Maps in order to make this mashup work.

Many libraries use map mashups on their websites to display branch locations (for example: Toronto Public Library and London Public Library). Fichter suggests that libraries also use mashups for “sweetening up the library catalogue”. Librarians can use mashups by including Google Book Previews into their OPAC. These Google Previews are automatically displayed when a preview is available for an item in question. LPL uses Google Previews within their OPAC, and also displays NoveList reader ratings and reviews when available. TPL, on the other hand, only mashes with Bowker to enhance bibliographic information on an item. For this OPAC and other “un-mashed” OPACS, the use of LibraryThing, NoveList, Google Book Previews and Amazon previews should be considered to improve functionality.

After reading the mashup articles, I spent quite some time exploring Google Map Maker. I perused the recent edits made in London, Ontario, and found that changes were being made to the Google Map of our fair city nearly every day! Some changes are easily verified (for example: on February 3rd, a user indicated that Novack’s had been closed down–a quick glance at the company’s website confirms this fact), while other changes are later edited or redacted by other users. I browsed a few user profiles as well, to get a sense of how a user’s authority is measured. One user that I stumbled upon, Daniel Enrique, has made 3854 total edits, of which 3772 were approved. Nearly 98% of this user’s edits are approved, which seems to show that Enrique has a fair amount of authority; with that in mind, it also demonstrates that even a user with an impressive track record can have edits reversed by other users.

I choose not to edit or add anything to Google Map Maker, but in the future I will keep my eye out for the use of mashups in library OPACs.

Wikis

Image This week, we learned about wikis and other collaboration tools. Using Wikipedia and PBworks, our class explored the process of editing and contributing to wikis. For this exercise, I perused Wikipedia for a topic on which I’m an “expert”, and settled upon George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Reading through the List of ASOIAF Characters article, it was not long before I noticed two typos, and one very convoluted sentence in need of editing. Creating an account and editing this article took no time at all, and it was neat to see my changes implemented immediately on the Wiki page. After making my edits, I selected View History to get a sense of the article’s past edits, and found that there seems to be a good deal of moderation and accountability to the editing process. This article is normally edited every few days, and many edits are reverted or reported as vandalism. I found that there were several consistent editors to this page, who are likely users with a watching page on this article. A concern that comes to mind about these editors, however, is what qualifications they actually have to be overseeing an article.

Sook’s “How and Why do College Students use Wikipedia?” demonstrates that most students visit Wikipedia for background information on a topic, or for the discovery of other sources on a topic. Sook’s study proves that most students are aware that the information provided by Wikipedia is not the “best” information, but that the site can be used to gather “reasonably good information”. These findings are very much in line with my undergraduate researching experiences; although using Wikipedia was strongly discouraged by my professors, I found that it was a reliable starting point to acquire a foundational knowledge of a topic. For example, when writing a paper on the French Revolution, a subject that I was very unfamiliar with, I started with Wikipedia to get a sense of key dates and important figures of the Revolution. From there, I used scholarly texts to write my essay, but the Wikipedia page was certainly a gentle introduction into the topic.

Generally, I am a big supporter of Wikipedia, and when I was doing a teaching practicum last year, I never discouraged students from using the site. It may contain inaccurate information at times, but it is still very impressive that such an interactive encyclopedia exists (something that would never have been dreamt of a century ago!). For work purposes, I usually use Google Drive, but the sites we’ve used this week have shown me how wikis could also be very useful in the workplace.

Reference:

Sook, L. (2009). How and why do college students use Wikipedia? Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60(11), 2189-2202.

RSS Feeds and Library Blogs

RSS This week, I read Darlene Fitcher’s “Why and How to Use Blogs to Promote your Library’s Services.” Fitcher’s article demonstrates how blogs can be used to promote library events and programs and to engage and support your community. Blogging websites are normally very user-friendly, and can be set up within minutes. They are an interactive way for libraries to connect with their patrons, particularly more web-savvy patrons. As Fitcher notes, it’s important to consider one’s audience while setting up a library blog and to assess whether your target audience has enough of an online presence to make a blog worthwhile. Within a small community branch library, a blog is probably not necessary, but a blog for a particular county or district that encompasses a branch library may be useful within a library system. Librarians should also consider the level of interactivity that they want to set up on their blog – it can be difficult to monitor unhelpful blog comments (such as advertisements, or profane posts) that might arise. Some libraries may chose “post only” blogs, but if comments are disabled then the blog runs the risk of alienating its viewers. All of these factors should be considered before creating a library blog.

I browsed the Toronto Public Library blogs to see examples of library blogs in action. I noticed that they have quite an extensive amount of blogs, divided by categories. Many of these blogs are of interest to me — in particular, I’ve added The Buzz About Books and TPL Teens to my RSS feed. The TPL system also offers blogs for specific branches (like the Toronto Reference Library) or for geographic groupings of branches (like the Brentwood & Lakeshore Libraries Blog). All of these blogs seem to be updated fairly regularly, with blog posts added at least once a month.

I also set up an RSS feed for this week’s lesson. I used Google Reader, which was fairly intuitive to set up. It seems to be a very efficient way to follow numerous blogs, which is helpful to me since I have had difficulty following non-WordPress blogs of my fellow classmates (for another course, LIS 9364). But now, by using my Google Reader, I’ll be able to follow blogs on Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, or any other site that offers RSS feeds. Since many people are beginning to use RSS feeds (or already have for many years!), it is important to ensure that when creating a library blog, it’s essential to set up its RSS feed.