Blogging is innate to the human psyche and I’ll devour my own tail if I want to

22 April 2008

I wish I could remember where I read that blogging about blogging is the refuge of the truly desperate blogger. It has a terrible snake swallowing its own tail feel, like books about books, sitcoms about sitcoms, mirrors reflecting mirrors reflecting mirrors …

Nevertheless, today I am blogging about the process of blogging. Why, at what seems the embryonic stage of this blog rather than its death knell, do I choose to write about the process of writing? Am I determined to alienate my small but devoted band of readers? (I wouldn’t actually have thought I had any until I chatted with them over morning tea and hot cross buns at Easter, and there’s a good chance that not posting for almost a month might have disillusioned even that loyal following).

(‘Ouroboros’, from MShades’ Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence)

Readers of this blog — if there are still any left — are probably aware that a significant amount of what I do at work consists of monitoring the publication habits of Swinburne University researchers. This is mostly done automatically; I subscribe to table of contents alerting services for the major bibliographic citation databases like Web of Science and Scopus, and I have a Google Alert on the search term ‘Swinburne University‘. Google’s alert service notifies me when Google indexes a page containing my search term, while the citation databases notify me when someone affiliated with Swinburne University publishes in a journal indexed by that service.

Naturally, this method isn’t foolproof. As my colleague Sara mentioned some time ago now, Google Alerts are not always perfectly accurate. On average, I receive one or two unrelated alerts every day. One of the problems with my particular search terms is the existence of the philosopher Richard ‘Swinburne‘, and the fact that he works at a ‘university’. But if I just need a quick overview of who’s talking about us, it’s a good start.

Over the last few months, I’ve received well over 40 unique alerts for blog posts, newspaper articles and media contributions referring to a single piece of research published by two Swinburne researchers. Usually it’s our astronomers who attract the most attention here and overseas; our research centre is world class, and the stellar subject matter inspires an amateur cult following. It’s such a delightfully romantic Enlightenment Era profession, being a stargazer …

Yet it’s the humanities researchers who’ve been making waves of late (I hope the oceanographers will forgive me for that one). The Brain Sciences Institute researchers have recently discovered that Pycnogenol can have a significant impact on the cognitive ability of the elderly. Earlier in the year, a study conducted by Swinburne psychology researchers caused controversy in the international media as the preliminary results were (no doubt wrongly) interpreted as a third of Australians aged 18 to 25 cheat on their partners.

And the single most popular piece of research? An article published in the February issue of CyberPsychology & Behavior, which has generated a collossal amount of traffic on the Web (and in my inbox), the results of which have appeared in posts from bloggers as diverse as Welsh MPs, American cataloguing librarians, creative writing groups, marketers and the writers of the popular technology news blog TechCrunch.

So what do librarians and members of parliament have in common? What research discovery could have the power to create so much interest in the blogging world across such a variety of topics?

The answer is simple. Susan Moore and James Baker have given us all a reason to keep blogging. The study suggests that like keeping a diary, blogging can help those who feel alienated, lonely and distressed to vent their frustrations and build a support network through comments and feedback. Pseudonyms (increasingly called ‘netonyms‘ in an online context … shudder), allow bloggers to communicate thoughts and emotions that they may be too afraid to put forward under their own name.

It doesn’t sound like a revolutionary notion. In fact, it makes perfect sense. Many introverts like to write, and some of the world’s greatest writers use(d) pseudonyms when really they had no reason to be ashamed of their work. I suspect the reason that the meme (dare I use that word without fully understanding its meaning?) has appeared to reach such plague proportions in the blogging world is that for many bloggers, it gives a sense of validation to what might otherwise have been considered pointless vanity publication.

For that, I think bloggers can thank Swinburne.


Build your house, then call me home(page)

21 February 2008

Our lives are increasingly mobile. For example, I wrote this post (and many of the previous ones) on the train. It’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds; I don’t have a laptop, a PDA or a web-enabled phone. I’m not even typing bestsellers with my thumbs like the famous Japanese cell phone authors.

No, I’ve gone truly retrograde. I’m writing my posts in pen on paper.

And I love it.

But what about those of us who want to use technology in more than one place? People without laptops, or people who travel?

This time last week I was in New Zealand, having a fantastic holiday and generally steering clear of the Web for the sake of rest, eyestrain, and my unfortunate tendency to read work email while I’m on vacation. But one thing I could have done from an airport kiosk or internet cafe was upload my holiday snaps to Flickr, Picasa, Facebook or any number of image-sharing websites. Why? Because all of these services are web-based, so they can follow (or haunt) me everywhere.

As I’m a really long way behind in the 23 Things schedule, some of my colleagues are beginning to post their final comments on the program. A particularly interesting point made by several bloggers was that many staff use more than one PC, sometimes even on multiple campuses. Naturally this makes the idea of a permanent desktop very appealing.

The 23 Things tasks reflect the trend towards ‘going mobile’. We’ve looked at Google Docs, for example, which offers a free hosting and editing service for office documents, and Flickr, a centralised space for storing images. But how can we take our desktops with us?

Firstly, we need to extract as much data as possible from internal network drives and make it available online. In the case of Swinburne Library staff, confidential information can be added to the staff wiki, since this is protected by password. The added advantage here is that a wiki is a collaborative tool; you might find your colleagues respond to your work with helpful comments and additions. Swinburne staff should also never underestimate the power of their email inboxes. Email is hardly the best content management service, especially given its relatively poor search abilities. However, since our email client can be accessed remotely, at least it’s always available.

Of course, this doesn’t solve everything. Swinburne 23 Things Task 16 encourages us to try iGoogle, a customised Web start page that can be accessed anywhere users have an internet connection.

iGoogle is certainly very visually versatile. Users can choose from a directory of over 150 themes, or even design their own using XML. I chose the ready-made City Scape theme, which changes gradually during the day to reflect the sun’s position in the sky. iGoogle, like many of the other Google products, makes use of ‘gadgets’ (called ‘widgets’ in Blogger) to add external content to pages. Like Facebook’s applications, many of these are created by weekend developers. As suggested when I activated the software, I added the Wikipedia, Gmail, Google Reader and ToDo gadgets.

Although it’s easy to search Wikipedia in Firefox (I just type ‘wp’ then the search query in the address bar), the ability to search Wikipedia from a portable desktop is useful when chasing PCs or using Internet Explorer. The option to preview my latest emails and feeds through iGoogle is also very handy. I don’t use my Gmail account very often (mainly just for Blogger comment alerts and Facebook ‘bacn‘) so I often forget to check for new emails. And with the number of unread feeds in my Google Reader rapidly approaching 1500 (again), it can be daunting even to take a peek at my aggregator. Much better just to be presented with a few new feeds each time I refresh my homepage.

Since I like the way iGoogle works, I may consider using it more regularly in the future, and I’ll definitely explore the gadget directory in more detail. However, for those who like the concept of a web-based desktop but aren’t inspired by Google’s offering, there are plenty of alternatives. Like all Web 2.0 products, their continued existence is subject to the fickleness of the web-using public — the safety of Google and any of its services lies in monstrous size and wealth. I am always hesitant to save my data to little-known Web 2.0 services without a backup, since they are frequently here today and gone tomorrow.

With that dire warning out of the way, here are some rival start pages I investigated:

PageOnce is designed for users with a number of web email and social networking accounts. It feeds all new email or friend update data into one start page, negating the need to remember a multitude of passwords. However, I think it’s important to bear privacy and security in mind; iGoogle only recycles data through the Gmail and Google Reader gadgets that is already available from my Google account. How much new information would I have to provide PageOnce for the same functionality?

Pageflakes is one of iGoogle’s most successful competitors. It has the ability to accomodate a wider audience than a personalised webpage like iGoogle. As an example, Dublin City Public Libraries use a customised Pageflakes page as the default homepage on all public access PCs. Unfortunately the page is very cluttered and ugly, and I worry about such heavy reliance on Web 2.0 tools. As Andrew Finegan notes, public libraries deserve to be ‘free but not cheap’.

As you can see from the comparison links below, many people favour Netvibes. Like Pageflakes, it was able to pinpoint my location (albeit Canberra, but close enough) and provide me with a demo page containing geographically-relevant modules like Herald Sun news and local weather. However like Pageflakes, the layout is messy and overcrowded; iGoogle’s sparse layout, in keeping with other Google products, definitely counts in its favour.

Despite iGoogle’s rapid rise in popularity in 2007, MyYahoo! is still the most popular start page by miles, but while it has the benefit of using the same login details as Flickr, it suffers from a strong UK bias. Let’s just say I wouldn’t use it.

Symbaloo is different from the other start pages I viewed because it uses a customisable array of symbols to represent frequently-used websites and services. Unlike iGoogle, which federates a number of services into a single space, Symbaloo acts as a launching pad for the Web. I think it’s one to watch, but it’s still in beta outside the United States.

Smplr has generated some interest in the online press, mostly because it’s unusual and much prettier than most of the start pages on the market. However, it requires users to learn a whole new language of codes to navigate the Web — something users are perfectly capable of doing without Simplr. Such a complicated process for a service that is meant to make users’ lives easier seems truly oxymoronic.

Further information:

Compare startpages:

    How libraries are using RSS

    21 January 2008

    I’m beginning to wonder if I’m a lousy blogger. Surely blogging is meant to be about frequent updating of content in a short, sharp conversational style? My posts are more like essays. Maybe I should stick to scholarly literature, although of course that actually has word limits …

    Despite the length of my previous post on RSS, I still have something to say about the topic. As this post from the Official Google Reader Blog points out, there are feeds for almost everything, including weather, fashion, and social networking. The news you receive from Facebook about your friends’ activities uses RSS; if you click on the little RSS button (normally orange, this time blue), you can subscribe to friends’ updates in your feed reader.

    That’s of course if you want to lose even more time …

    Those of you who work at Swinburne Library with me might remember the presentation that Dana and I gave at the staff development day last year. We talked about using technology to reform library collections, and yes, I’m the one who couldn’t work out where the port was for my flash drive … embarrassing.

    Although the newly-named Online Services and Strategies Unit hasn’t started a Facebook group for lovers of online research repositories yet (ok, ever), we do find that there are a number of ways we can integrate Web 2.0 functions into our work to make our lives easier. So I thought I’d give an insight into how we use RSS to help with Swinburne Research Bank.

    Part of our workflow for creating content for the repository involves running regular searches on bibliographic databases such as Scopus, Web of Knowledge, EBSCOhost and Informit. Most of these services allow users to save a search string, for example ‘Swinburne AND University’, provided they have registered user accounts. Scopus allows this saved information to be converted to an RSS feed. I can then subscribe to that feed, and be alerted every time a publication is added to the database that contains both the words ‘Swinburne’ and ‘University’. I imagine that the liaison librarians do something similar within their own disciplines.

    The University of South Australia Library thinks this is such a good idea that they have made these RSS feeds easily accessible to their users. They also provide a subscription link for library users to easily discover new additions to the collection. I think this is a great way to communicate with library users, both staff and students. Bond University‘s research repository, ePublications@bond, provides a similar service to alert staff and students when new papers are added to the collection. These are just some of the ways that Australian university librarians are beginning to use RSS to make their users’ (and sometimes their own) lives easier.

    It’s worth mentioning, though, that feeds can get out of control. I don’t know how it happened, but I now have so many unread items (well over 1000) that Google Reader is starting to … well … devour them.

    (‘2 PM @ San Francisco Zoo = Big Cats Feeding Time!’, from Minuk’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons License)

    Poor bunny.

    Update: Those following this discussion might be interested in this post from iLibrarian on creative uses for RSS feeds.

    Feeding time, or why I won’t bother you for weeks

    18 January 2008

    I wanted to start this post with a quote of unknown origin:

    Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks’ (QuoteWorld).

    For librarians, researchers, business people, students, teachers and gamers alike, the Web is a gift from God. (Well, OK, Tim Berners-Lee—and he’s a very humble man who would despise my comparison!) Australians first saw the Web in 1994; I remember huddling around a computer in the school library watching in awe for half an hour as we loaded a single page. It was magnificent.

    We’ve come a long way since then. But the truth is, as much as we love the Web, it’s just another time guzzler. At a personal level, I have enough trouble keeping up with friends and family; at a professional level, the constraints of time are even worse. I’m so far behind in my library journal reading I don’t know if I’ll ever catch up now. And since so much of the literature on our profession, from Lorcan Dempsey to Jessamyn West, is presented in new media, it’s even more critical than ever that I keep up with my blog subscriptions.

    A feed reader (aka ‘aggregator’) makes this task a lot easier. In fact, I’ve been using Google Reader for nearly a year now, and I honestly don’t know what I did without it. At last count, I had 110 library-related blog subscriptions, 13 technology blogs and 23 leisure blogs. As soon as everyone signed up for 23 Things, I added their blogs to my subscription base, so now I have … well, over 200.

    So, what’s a feed reader?
    For that matter, what are feeds?

    Right back in the early stages of the 23 Things program here at Swinburne, the blogger known as Trees from the Wood asked a very sensible question: What’s the use of blogs? My response was that, in isolation, they probably aren’t very useful at all. Who has time to keep returning to a webpage just to see if it has been updated?

    In the early days of blogging, there wasn’t a solution to this problem. But now we have RSS.

    RSS is (yet another) acronym with a disputed meaning. It originally stood for ‘RDF site summary’, which makes technical sense, but most people now maintain in a Web 2.0 context that it stands for ‘really simple syndication’. There are a few others who consider the middle S stands for ‘sexy’. I don’t want to make judgements on what kind of people they might be.

    Whatever it’s called, RSS has the potential to make our lives easier, and that defines it as a great web technology. Without getting too technical, here’s a quick rundown on how blogs are converted to the text that appears in your feed reader.

    Blogs, like most simple webpages, are encoded in hypertext markup language, better known as HTML. HTML developed as a way to present text in a web browser that would define both its appearance and its structure. Every early webpage was written like this:

    <a href=””><img alt=”toothpaste for dinner” src=”; width=”650″ height=”427″ border=0></a>
    <a href=””></a&gt;

    HTML is very logical; the basic concept is that what you start, you have to finish, in this case using opening and closing tags. Most blogging software doesn’t require you to know how to markup your text; you just type your content and the software automatically converts it to a colourful HTML page. The problem with HTML is that it’s ambitious, but not powerful enough to achieve everything we need from the Web. Extensible markup language (XML) is one of the general-purpose languages we can use to make HTML work better for us. XML is less concerned with presentation than HTML; it’s a perfect language for libraries, since it’s more concerned with content than with style.

    RSS uses XML to pick the eyes out of HTML.

    The news headlines that appear on sites like Yahoo use RSS to strip away the formatting in their HTML, and just present the core content. It does the same to blog posts, providing a snippet of the full post to help you make up your mind whether you’d like to continue reading. In short, if blogs were scholarly literature, we would call RSS an abstracting service.

    To make the most of RSS, you need a feed reader. For sheer ease and the ability to integrate with other services, I recommend Google Reader, since it’s Web-based and you can log on anywhere to read your feeds. However, many people prefer desktop feed readers, in which case I’ve seen RSS Bandit come highly recommended.

    Whenever you see this sign on a blog to which you’d like to subscribe, click it:

    (‘Really, REALLY BIG RSS feed button’, from photopia/HiMY SYeD’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons License)

    You’ll be asked where you’d like to feed the content, so choose your feeder and then you’ll be cooking with gas. My only advice is not to subscribe to Digg, as recommended in Task 10, because it’s rubbish. I did, and I regretted it. Two days in, my aggregator was filled with over 200 stupid videos, the content of which was hardly age-appropriate and frequently NSFW, which hardly suits the purpose of this program. If you want something a bit silly but also geared to technology, try BoingBoing.

    Giving Flickr the flick

    29 October 2007

    I’m afraid I’m less than satisfied with Flickr.

    I joined Flickr last year when I first started work on Swinburne’s digital collections. I’ve always been a pretty average photographer – it might be partly my shortsightedness, but it’s mostly to do with me panicking and jumping at the last minute just before I hit the ‘go’ button. I end up with some impressive ghostly images, but the intended subject usually eludes me. Suffice to say, don’t ask me to take your wedding photos unless you don’t mind sharing the limelight with the undead.

    Working on the Swinburne Image Bank, an online gallery of over 2500 photos taken during Swinburne’s 99 year history, I don’t have to take any photos myself, but I’ve learned a bit about DPI resolution, export formats and image enhancement. Some of my favourite Image Bank submissions to date include ‘youthful seamstress’, an ‘ETS 2010 modular electronic typing system’ that’s almost as old as I am, and some glorious examples of fashion through the ages: 1975, 1977, 1987 and 1990. The influence of everyone’s favourite TV couple is palpable. There’s also plenty of inspiration for anyone needing an authentic Halloween costume, especially if you’ve forgotten the art of ‘business in the front, party in the back’ or you’ve misplaced your Dame Edna glasses.

    To be serious for just a moment, the Image Bank is actually a very important tool for Swinburne, in terms of documenting and displaying its progression from working man’s college to TAFE and higher education institution with an increasingly impressive research profile. We’re very lucky to have such a vast catalogue of Swinburne’s staff and student achievements; most other Victorian universities have nothing like it (although I found this gem in Monash’s gallery).

    Swinburne Image Bank is harvested by Picture Australia, the National Library of Australia‘s online pictorial collection, which has an interesting interaction program with Flickr, the subject of this post and the embodiment of the fifth and sixth 23 Things tasks. Flickr is an online photo sharing and management tool owned by the Yahoo corporation, and you need a login to join (unless you already have a Yahoo ID, in which case you can use that).

    Flickr allows you to upload and share your photos with friends, family, and if you want, the world. You can choose to assign a Creative Commons licence to your happy snaps, allowing others to use your photos for non-commercial purposes as long as they give you credit (as I did here). However, if you’re keen for your images remain the same when reproduced, and you don’t want them recycled like this, then you should read the fine print about attribution, non-attribution, non-commercial etc licences before you agree to them.

    In many ways, Flickr is the perfect Web 2.0 tool. It helps ordinary Web users explore their creativity by tagging and sharing their photos with others. It also allows the more serious paparazzo to receive feedback through the comments facility, a good alternative to workshopping in person, and after all, Web 2.0 is all about recreating the physical through the virtual. Joining a Flickr group provides access to photos and social networking opportunities with likeminded people. On advice from some of the other Swinburne 23 Things bloggers, I’ve joined Swinburne photos (still a small pool) and Withnail and I, (photos from devotees of the movie who have recreated scenes all over the English countryside), and I also found a group called Vanishing Beauty, for photos of beautiful old things trying hard to survive in a world obsessed with the new. It’s an interesting concept for a website designed entirely around new technologies.

    With over 1500 photos uploaded every minute, Flickr is an indispensable resource for images to spice up your presentations, blog posts or even your workspace. The Flickr blog presents some amazing photos from all around the world, and a quick search on ‘Swinburne library’ shows that even our humble environ has a presence on Flickr.

    Yet Flickr is far from ideal. My first stumbling block was having to create yet another login – I haven’t used Yahoo regularly since Google arrived on the scene (with far better search capabilities and email functionality) and my membership had lapsed. Next I found I could only load 100MB per month (a quota I quickly filled, unfortunately). Worst of all, being a compulsive categoriser, I struggled to limit myself to the 3 free albums (or ‘sets’, a Flickr-specific term Dana finds unhelpful) available to me. I’m not prepared to purchase extra space when Picasa Web allows me 1GB of storage at no cost, and uses my Google account.

    Despite these administration problems, I really enjoyed sharing the few photos I’m able to, and admiring the work of others. As Dana suggests, Flickr is a wonderful tool if you’re ‘just looking’. If you like, you can ‘just look’ at my photos here, although I’d love it if left a comment!

    Engaging with Social Media in Museums

    18 October 2007

    I apologise for being a bit slack with my posts lately. I’ll try to make up for it with this report from an event I attended at Swinburne yesterday with Dana.

    The Engaging with Social Media in Museums seminar was run by the Swinburne Institute for Social Research, which investigates subjects as diverse as social policy, media, youth, gender, housing, citizenship, immigration and public administration.

    The Presenter
    Dr Angelina Russo
    Queensland University of Technology and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Creative Industries and Innovation

    Dr Russo and her colleague Jerry Watkins will both be jointly appointed to the Swinburne Faculty of Design and the Institute for Social Research in early 2008, where they will begin work on a new ARC Linkage Project designed to:

    1. Investigate innovative connections to social media networks by museums, through digital content, multimedia design and communication strategies
    2. Advance creative engagement between museums and learners, information searchers and content creators
    3. Lead debate within museums through reference to design, audience evaluation and cultural communication

    The Project
    New Literacy, New Audiences and runs in partnership with Museum Victoria, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, the Australian Museum and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum at the Smithsonian in the United States. The project looks into how social media can be used to facilitate cultural participation. Its main goal is to see user-generated content presented alongside more authoritative content in a way that suggests ordinary people have something worthwhile to contribute to their own cultural heritage. The project’s researchers want to challenge the notion that the plethora of user-generated content available on the web devalues the authoritative content produced by established educational and cultural institutions. For more information on this argument, you might like to have a look at Andrew Keen’s controversial text The cult of the amateur: how today’s internet is killing our culture.

    Social Media and Scholarly Research
    The question was raised:
    are cultural institutions losing ground to Web 2.0?
    * The top 5 educational and reference sites in the US are not scholarly resources (Wikipedia,,, Yahoo! Answers)
    * Google Scholar is Number 6
    * Google Book Search is Number 7
    * No educational institutions appear until Number 9

    Web 2.0 Tools have Strategic Purposes
    Through the 23 Things Project, we’re learning how to use Web 2.0 tools. Some of these have proved useful, and some (like Digg) relatively worthless. Some tools are appropriate for the library context, while others may be more useful for sharing personal anecdotes with family and friends. Most importantly, we’ve seen that we need to remain aware of when is appropriate to use them, and not try to replace perfectly effective channels of communication with Web 2.0 tools just for their novelty value.

    Dr Russo and her team believe the following Web 2.0 tools might best fit each purpose:

    Conversation Blogs, podcasts, vodcasts
    Customisation Tags, bookmarks
    Content Sharing Online audio, video, photo sharing
    Co-creation Bespoke tools

    We’ve seen through the 23 Things Project that blogging and commenting on others’ blogs can be a great way to spark discussion, as it allows readers to communicate both with the blog author and with other readers. The ARC Project is looking at this process with a view to how we can align scholarly content (blog posts from subject authorities) with user-generated content (comments left by users).

    Dr Russo used this entry from the Sydney Observatory Blog as an example of how this might be beneficial in an educational context. In the post, a circulating email hoax about the planet Mars brushing too close to Earth is debunked by a leading Sydney Observatory astronomer. The 137 comments from users show how they responded favourably to the trustworthy information, and to each other. The same blog provides an example of how user-generated content might be presented alongside content created by a subject authority without emphasising the barrier between the two. Some of these photos of a lunar eclipse were taken by professional astronomers, while others were contributed by amateur star gazers who took photos on their handheld digital cameras and mobile phones. As all images appear together in the blog post, neither style is presented as more ‘valuable’ than the other.

    Dr Russo used the Powerhouse Museum’s OPAC 2.0 Collection as an example of how user customisation might help develop a collection. According to Dr Russo, approximately 3% of a museum’s collection is on permanent display, leaving 97% rarely or never accessible to the public. To bridge this gap, the Powerhouse Museum has digitised their collection records and provided online access to most of their collection. The Museum published the OPAC 2.0 Collection without consulting curators, allowing them to assess the records after they were uploaded. A similar project at the Smithsonian where the curators were consulted first has failed to get off the ground. This example from the Powerhouse’s collection shows how users can add keywords to an object to help create a folksonomy. These user-generated subject keywords are designed to operate in conjunction with the more traditional museum collection taxonomy (see the numbered record list). Only 4% of users initially tagged items, but 50% of later hits came from these tags. This introduces the idea of a passive audience (the 96% who chose not to add tags) versus the active cultural participants who contributed to the database and helped other users find the content later.

    Content Sharing
    Museum Victoria ran the Biggest Family Album in Australia Project in 2004 to collect historical photos of everyday people doing everyday things. This was a unique opportunity for members of the community to contribute a piece of their own identity to the cultural record. Some of these photos were later digitised and made available online (here’s a charming example).

    The example used was the Victoria and Albert Museum’s family history collection, which allows users to create a space for storing photos and ephemera related to their families. Arguably, a similar example is the Facebook Developers platform, which allows backyard programmers to create Facebook applications to share with their friends and the wider Facebook community.

    More Information
    If you’d like more information on this project, the blog is designed to keep project partners in touch with the community and each other, and to facilitate discussion. You can also read more about the grant or have a look at the plans for a workshop and conference in late February 2008.

    I blog, therefore I am (doing 23 things)

    30 September 2007

    I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time commenting on the Swinburne Library staff’s wonderful 23 Things blogs. It’s both exciting and enlightening to read about everyone’s 23 Things journeys, which range from the most experienced of pseudonymous authors writing involved dissertations on ‘the social Web’, to the freshest of new bloggers coming to terms with the nuances of the new medium. Each blog is unique and equally interesting; some of the most intriguing are written by the least confident bloggers.

    For those readers not coming to this blog through the Swinburne 23 Things website (do I dare to hope that I might have some?), 23 Things is a brilliant concept devised by the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to help introduce library staff to the Web 2.0 world. Dana draws a parallel on her usability blog between 23 Things and the original 43 Things social experiment, which encouraged people to share their lifetime goals and monitor their progress publicly through the use of web technology.

    Librarianship is considered by many to be an outdated profession. In a world where business, study and even life are increasingly conducted in a web-based environment, what place can the traditional custodian of books inhabit? Of course, the answer is simple – we need to inhabit a web space – but this can be a problem for librarians who learned their craft before the rise of Tim Berners-Lee. Like members of most 21st century workforces, staff in libraries vary widely in their education about and experience of technology.

    As a new graduate (July 2007), I am probably somewhere between:

    (‘Smash’, from practicalowl’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons License)



    (‘Donut worry’, from the wonderful I Can Has Cheezburger blog … an explanation of my lolcat obsession will follow in future posts)

    As a Curtin University of Technology distance education student, most of my contact with lecturers and other students happened via email and online forums. In the course of my study, I learned how to hard code HTML (probably very poorly, in my case) to create simple webpages; I built a basic catalogue database in Inmagic DB/TextWorks; and I learned how to apply traditional metadata principles to online resources. This means that for me, library knowledge is inextricably linked with technology. But I’m well aware that for many, this is not the case.

    That’s why the 23 Things Program is such a good idea. It allows the less technologically able to work through the tasks at their own pace. For some of us, these ‘new’ technologies are no longer particularly new, but the program allows us to revisit some of our prior learning and think about ways to apply social technologies to the library context. The extremely erudite author of the 23 Things in One Day blog showed us how the tasks can easily be completed in two hours. He is to be congratulated on his speed, but I’m choosing to take another approach. I’m going to play the tortoise and align my pace with those bloggers lagging behind the pack. I’d like to think this is a good chance to get to know my colleagues better (including the ones who have chosen to use an alias), and show that it is possible to be a real librarian (that is, someone who helps guide others towards the acquisition of knowledge), whatever the medium in which we work.

    Welcome to the future of the library … it’s bold and daring (and hopefully not full of cliches like this post).