Flickr Commons

Readers might have noticed that I’ve been into kind of vintage photos to go with my posts lately.

It’s because I’m newly obsessed with Flickr Commons.  Thanks to Susan and her lit/tech blog for getting me hooked!

Colorodo by LOC on Flickr
"Colorodo" by LOC on Flickr

Lunch at the Volunteer Management Conference

I posted yesterday about the sessions at the Volunteer Management Conference.

Another really great aspect of the conference was lunch.  The organizers picked a wide variety of discussion topics and assigned each a lunch table.  When people signed in in the morning, they picked a lunch table based on what they wanted to chat about.

Lunch by LOC on Flickr
"Lunch" by LOC on Flickr

About a week before the conference, one of the organizers asked me if I would lead the Web 2.0 table.  Naturally, I said “sure!”

The attendees ranged from Gen Y to Baby Boomers.  We had about 8 people at the table.  About three of them were new to web 2.0, and the others have adopted it at least somewhat.  We had a great discussion – I loved that I was not the source of all answers!

It was a really nice setting for people to ask questions they’d been embarassed to ask.

  • what is web 2.0?
  • is it a separate web from the first one?  Did they build another internet?
  • blog and wiki what now?
  • how do people have time to do this stuff?

I found that giving concrete examples of web 2.0 technology in action was effective for showing people what it could do and for illustrating that the idea was to do things differently, not in addition. This is what worked for our conversation:

Example 1: My Family’s Christmas Wiki

I’m in MN, my sister’s away at college, and my parents are in New York.  We all come home for Christmas.  But a lot of planning has to happen before then: food, who’s traveling where when, cards, wish lists, decorating, and dividing tasks.

Instead of having 10 separate 2-person phonecalls about these things, or a huge confusing email thread, my family made a wiki.  It’s private – only our family can see it.  We have a separate page for each of the categories I mentioned, and any of us can update it at any time.  You can have the wiki email you after every update or just once a day with a summary.

One of the ladies in particular really liked the idea and is thinking that she wants a year-round family wiki so that her large, spread-out family can stay caught up on whatever’s happening.

This example led people to ask how to start a wiki, and I recommended http://pbwiki.com.  This way I wasn’t just dumping information on them.  I told a story and they asked how they could get involved.  Good stuff.

Example 2: The Curriculum Team and Google Docs

We have seven different learning center staff spread across five learning centers working on curriculum for our centers.  In the past, we’d have to email documents back and forth and the versions got confused.

This time, we’re trying out Google Docs.  They live online (in “the cloud”).  This means that there are no versions – we can all access the one document right where it lives instead of having it live in seven different places.  Google Docs tells you who is updating the document in real-time, and also tracks all the changes ever made.

That seemed like enough information for them on that – they didn’t ask more questions about it.  But now they have that story, and if they’re finding themselves in a similar or parallel situation, I hope they’ll think of Google Docs as a potential solution.

 

It was so valuable to have a casual forum for people to ask their questions!  I had a great time talking with the ladies at my table, and I think we all walked away with some new ideas.

More About Goals: Thanks, Trent

I would just like to give a shout-out to Trent of The Simple Dollar.

I can’t really remember why I started reading his personal finance blog – I’m actually quite good with money.  And he does write primarily about money: managing, investing, spending less, saving for retirement, budgeting, and the like.  But I kept reading because what he has to say is a bit more universal than just money.

Screenshot of the Simple Dollars About Page
Screenshot of the Simple Dollar's About Page

Trent took a look at his life, discerned what was most important to him, and acted upon that assessment.  Moreover, he continues to act upon it, reflect upon it, and adjust his habits and lifestyle to maximize what’s important.  Luckily for the rest of us, he blogs about it, so we can see how he decided on his goals and how he acts upon them everyday.

Yes, he gives financial answers.  But beyond that, he’s just such a great influence.  He knows what he wants to do, he knows he’s not there yet, and he knows how to spend his time to get there.  He is honest with himself, which allows him to have an extremely simple and rich philosophy of how and why to do things.  And from that clarity his readers get a glimpse of what they, too, can accomplish when they decide to buckle down and do it.

So Trent, thanks for the inspiration, and keep on writing.

Beyond Story-Telling: What’s Next?

Photo by David Webber
Photo by David Webber

I was just talking to my mom on the phone, and she told me about a big book donation project her library did for an alum stationed in Afghanistan.

I think it’s a powerful story – the request, the way the community came together to make it happen, the challenges that never seemed to become full-out problems, and the way she facilitated the whole thing.

She said the college was excited about the potential for publicity, and that she was doing a big write-up of the story so that PR could send it to the regional newspaper.  She also said she might present this project at an upcoming library conference.

What was really exciting to me was the feeling that this was a big success for the community; my mom agrees that there’s a sense of “Great!  We rock!  What’s next?”  I’m interested in how they could use social media to keep up the momentum.

I see a huge opportunity for the college to reach out to its community of neighbors and alumni.  I see a way for the library to assert its continued relevance in a changing world.  I see a successful project whose nuts and bolts should be shared, and a story about a large county-run community college going above and beyond what many would expect.  This doesn’t have to be a one-time occurrence.  It could be a direction.

I have so many ideas for where they could go with this, but I think my ideas are a lot less relevant than those of people affiliated with the college.  I wonder what would happen if the college worked wikily (Beth elaborates) with its faculty, staff, students, and alumni to look for a place where needs, interests, and resources met.

No, seriously.  They’re planning to send out an email to the whole college with thank-yous and some donations stats.  Why not enclose a link to an extremely simple wiki called “What’s Our Next Project?”

(Really, Mom, why not?)

General questions:

  • If they had time to share their story in only one additional way, what would you suggest
  • How did you tell your story?
  • How do you keep the momentum going, turning one great instance into many?
  • How do you bridge a large preexisting community from newspapers and emails to Web 2.0?

Value of Social Media: Being the Change

Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930.  Photographer unknown.
Gandhi during the Salt March, March 1930. Photographer unknown.

Gandhi is credited with saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  It’s quoted so often that it almost seems trite.

But it’s not trite.  It’s exactly what we have to do in just about every role we play: global citizen, family member, employee, teacher, and more.

When surrounded by situations we want to change, even when they’re nothing that will go down in history, it can be difficult to stay strong in the face of resistance, misunderstanding, and indifference.

One of the ways I deal with that is by surrounding myself with blogs that support the values I want to act upon: innovation, excellent teaching, resource sharing, and intentionality.  I’m not talking about keeping up with best practices; I’m talking about moral support.  My RSS feed is peer pressure to do what I consider to be the right thing.  It’s a simple way to keep myself on track.

How do you stay the course?  What role does social media play for you?

Docuticker – I’m A Little Obsessed

I want to give a shout-out to an awesome website an academic reference librarian showed me: Docuticker.com.

Docuticker - Blog of Documents!
Docuticker - Blog of Documents!

Basically, the blog is run by librarians who troll the universe for documents they see as important and from reliable sources (i.e. scientific research, government reports, Think Tank results, statistics summaries, etc.) and post them in a blog, occasionally with limited commentary.  The focus is on the documents.

You can search Docuticker’s archives by the date of the post or by category (there’s a nonprofit category!), and can even put it in your RSS feed, though be warned – it’s high volume posting!

That’s pretty much it.  Resources selected by information professionals, brilliantly simple for the user.  Do check it out!

And once you have checked it out… do you think that comments would add or detract from what Docuticker does?  How could it be more interactive and still maintain its apparent goal of being a pure resource?

Librarian Tip for Nonprofits: 90-Second YouTube

I was reading the May 2008 issue of American Libraries and the Internet Librarian column by Joseph Janes jumped out at me with the potential to be immediately useful to me at work (which is not in a library).

I help run a program at a literacy nonprofit, and a lot of people contact me and my colleagues all the time with a large volume of questions.  Now don’t get me wrong – I’m one of those people who actually gets a kick out of answering questions.  It’s just that as I mentioned in my last post, when we’re bombarded with questions, especially redundant ones, it’s extremely difficult to do the rest of of our jobs done.

This article, “Spring Awakening,” describes how the Cornell University Library ended up making 90-second YouTube clips for their incoming first-years about basic research concepts.

As Janes points out, this isn’t earth-shattering, but as he also points out, it doesn’t need to be earth-shattering in order to be dead useful; it just needs to 1) address the need and 2) actually happen.

It brings to mind a huge site I used a few times in college called Atomic Learning.  Schools can subscribe to it to give their students access to tons of tiny (“atomic”) learning modules.  My college subscribed to it, but I don’t have access to it now that I’m out of school, and I think the focus was watching, not creating your own.  The brilliance of using YouTube instead is that it’s free, allows participation on both sides, is easy to embed, and simple to access.

How powerful would it be to have even a couple of 90-second videos addressing super-common questions!  I’m so excited to bring this to the team and see what we can make of it.  I’m thinking that even if we can’t do video, a cute (and very brief) Slideshare really should be doable.  Or hey, even a Voki if we’re feeling cartoony.

Have you done something like this?  How has it gone?  Can you use this kind of resource in your organization?  What can help bring this from the “idea” stage to the “actually happening” stage?

Online Communities Plunge Into Lake Scranton

The Wall Street Journal’s Business Technology blog posted “Why Most Online Communities Fail.”  (Thanks to Doug H for sharing it on Twitter!)  It’s short and sweet, and explains it’s based on a study of around 100 businesses with online communities.  Three big, common errors: 1) They spend too much on “oooh, shiny!” technology, 2) They don’t appropriately staff the projects, and 3) Their goals and metrics don’t align so they’re pretty much doomed to appear to fail.  The article points out that these are pretty obviously mistakes.  Any thoughts on why these illogical errors were so easy to make for so many businesses?

It’s so good to read a concise yet pithy post about what not to do!  Sometimes I think that social media talk is just a tad more Pollyanna than is warranted, though I obviously partake and enjoy doing so.  The We Are Media Project has been talking about how to be Social Media “Evangelists.”  I think that sharing awareness of common pitfalls is a huge part of being a responsible social media evangelist.  It shows that it’s not a brand-new, completely untested idea.  It shows that you’re informed and honest.  And it provides a more complete map to guide our organizations.

The fate we’re all trying to avoid is that of Michael Scott, who unthinkingly follows his car’s GPS straight into a lake and then insists that technology tried to kill him.  We can be intelligent about new-to-us technology, and understanding where pitfalls (or lakes) are can keep ridiculous plunges on The Office and out of ours.

Social Media as Fruit Bowl

A common response to all the social media options out there is feeling overwhelmed.  I think people start feeling like they “should” be using all of these new tools, and the rate at which the perceived to-do list lengthens is a little alarming.

So far I haven’t been overwhelmed at the huge variety of options out there.  Don’t get me wrong – I do indeed get stressed when I see the tasks before me growing exponentially.  It’s just that I don’t see social media options as a to-do list at all.

I see the options more as a bowl of fruit:

  • There are lots of different, enticing choices that I can mix, match, taste, or avoid as I see fit.
  • It’s right there, just hanging out and waiting for me to partake.
  • It’s yummy and healthy.  Why not try some?

Do you see social media as a bowl of fruit?  Do the options stress you out?  How can we reduce social media’s overwhelming-factor?

Facebook is Not a Mini-Skirt

I was talking to my mom about Facebook the other day.  She said she’s not on it because it would be creepy and tacky if she were.  It’s not for middle-aged women, it’s for young people.

She said that when she was younger, she would see middle-aged women wearing mini-skirts as though by wearing the clothes of young people they could be young again.  They thought it was working.  She said it was kind of horrifying to see, and that she swore that when she hit middle-age she wouldn’t do ridiculous, age-inappropriate things as some sort of weird effort to hang on to her youth.

I very much respect that my mother doesn’t wear mini-skirts, and I really appreciate being around someone who was stoked to turn 50 and who fully embraces and celebrates her age.

But mom, Facebook is not like a mini-skirt.  It is not just for kids.  Yes, it’s possible to use it distastefully, i.e. friending 13-year-olds you don’t know, or posting pictures of you and dad totally wasted.  But you can use it to connect with old friends from previous jobs and schools, to support causes you believe in, and to keep with your daughters’ profiles!  It can really be useful for anybody.

I think that’s one of the beauties of social media in general – you can use it to act your age.

If it’s not like a mini-skirt, what would you liken it to?  How does the message of welcome get to people who think this is not for them?