Tag Archives: twitter

Library Technology 2010

I recently attended Library Technology 2010. The title is pretty obvious, right? Libraries, technology, libraries + technology… This is the third year for this conference and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to attend all three. This year I’m feeling motivated enough to talk about it.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Well, okay, SharePoint was probably only exciting to me. But see, I’m supposed to be our library’s SharePoint site administrator and none of us could figure out what SharePoint was supposed to be good for. Our IT department was willing to help, but they didn’t really know what a library needed, so we were stuck. So finding out there was a panel called “SharePoint for Libraries” was thrilling as all get-out and now I’ve finally got us something up and running. I’ve got structure; now to get content.

Relax: not all my enthusiasms were that esoteric/inexplicable. At the panel on emerging technologies, the presenters pointed us toward a video of a mixed-reality book. Wave the right preprinted symbol card in front of a web camera and a 3D image appears floating over the page. So what if this particular book is in Thai – I want to play with it anyway! These same panelists were brave enough to say in public that they expected the desktop computer to be in its final years, that everyone will be using mobile technology. I’m torn (assuming they’re right). Mobile is great; don’t get me wrong. But do I want to spend hours at a time on something as unergonomically correct as my laptop and netbook are? (I think it’s safe to assume that I won’t be writing papers on my iPod Touch anytime soon, so I’m not counting it). Except, of course, it’s not whether I’m comfortable going completely mobile—what will the rest of the world be doing? What will patrons need from libraries when they’re potentially carrying entire libraries around in their hands?

And then there was the stuff that might not have been exciting, but sure was interesting. In 2008 and 2009, Web 2.0 and its library analog Library 2.0 were the talk of this conference. What was Web 2.0, how could librarians meet the needs of patrons who were expecting access to the Web 2.0 tools they used in the rest of their lives, how could librarians with limited resources work with Library 2.0, and so on. This year, they were scarcely mentioned. And I might not have even noticed except that I overheard someone telling his friend, “Have you noticed how nobody’s talking about Web 2.0 this year?” Maybe that means we’ve made it to Web 2.0. It would’ve been nice if there had been an official announcement or something.

Twitter really took off this year. Attendees were encouraged (and sometimes asked) to bring laptops to the conference and many people just tweeted throughout the event (#libtech2010). I confess to not contributing any tweets, but every now and then I’d start reading along and it was like being in several panels at the same time. You could tell when an important point had been made because you’d get three tweets on it at once. There was also a panel on Google Wave. Now GW is by no means ready for prime time, but there was a public wave set up for this panel and we were able to play on it while they were discussing Wave. For once, GW was well-behaved and didn’t crash during the panel. No one was willing to declare that it was going to be the new hot thing anytime soon, though. Think about it. Google Wave has been around since September, and half a year later, I’m complimenting it for not crashing during a single panel. By contrast, Google Buzz popped into existence only in February 2010, and it’s made a niche for itself already, with most of the complaints centering on privacy issues, not functionality.

Now all of this was fun and wonderful and exciting and all that, but I came out of the whole conference worried about the futures of both the library and the printed book. The first keynote speaker made some cogent points. Private companies are performing functions that libraries should be doing (for example, why aren’t we borrowing our DVDs from our libraries instead of Netflix?). Well, those companies have some major advantages. They usually have just a few goals (Netflix mainly concerns itself with DVD rental) and they have the financial resources to pursue them. Libraries, on the other hand, have many goals and few resources. The infrastructure that libraries need to be major players just isn’t there. In fact, libraries have a conflict in meeting this challenge. As small individual organizations, libraries connect better with their communities. If they unite, pooling their resources (and how they would do this is unclear), they might be able to make a presence for themselves in between the social networking sites, the online stores, etc., but the United Library might seem as faceless as these corporations. The speaker ended by saying something would save libraries, but he wouldn’t or couldn’t say what that would be, which was a) hardly reassuring, and b) not a great way to end a speech.

As for the printed book, well, is it going the way of the CD? You can still buy CDs, but really, don’t they feel like yesterday’s format? I haven’t brought myself to download a whole album yet, but that’s kind of the point: people are buying individual songs now. I’ve done it myself. Admittedly, books don’t subdivide as easily as CDs unless you’re talking about an essay collection or an anthology of short stories. But sprinkled in between the valid objections that reading a screen just isn’t as comfortable as reading print on paper, a lot of the arguments for the printed book sound more sentimental than practical. Will the love of the smell of paper or the feel of a book in your hand be enough to keep the print book market going ten years from now? Are you being more environmentally correct by buying an ebook reader rather than a book printed on paper made from trees that had to be cut down? And maybe yes, you’ll keep your books for years, but what about newspapers and magazines?

Tons of questions, much speculation, few answers. I hope I can make it to next year’s conference.

Coming to terms with Twitter

I may have finally found a use for Twitter. It’s taken me a while. I started out in the same state of bewilderment with Facebook, but I’d managed to integrate it into my life fairly quickly. With Twitter, though, not only could I not figure out why I should bother with it, but most people I knew were equally puzzled. I’d read several articles about it, but they left me uninspired. Oh, the whole thing about it being an outlet for pro-democracy forces in Iran was great, but I couldn’t really see that as being part of my daily life.

It doesn’t help that there just isn’t much there to work with. Twitter’s defining feature is that 140 character limit, about a sentence or two, and everything else springs from that. Not surprisingly, I decided it was a variant of the Facebook status feed, only shorter, and as long as Twitter came across as being Facebook minus most of Facebook, why bother?

I’d been asked to join Twitter as part of the More 23 Things on a Stick program. It didn’t make a good first impression on me. I will spare you my grumblings about it here; the curious may visit my other blog 23 Distractions (naturally, all relevant entries are tagged “Twitter”). However, in the spirit of learning about Web 2.0, I promised I’d hang on until the end of the program and see what happened. It’s only now as I debate deleting my Twitter account altogether that I’m beginning to think of things to do with it besides copy my Facebook statuses.

Twitter is often categorized as microblogging. I’d heard that term from the beginning, but I hadn’t stopped to consider what that actually meant. I mentally labeled the site “Facebook Lite” and focused my energies elsewhere. I’m thinking, though, that microblogging isn’t just a fancy term for writing status updates. After all, my “macroblogging” isn’t a series of extended status updates. They’re journal entries made presentable and if I’d been willing to cut them down, I could’ve made tweets out of them. For example, Fine Print to date:

  • I’ve started a blog because I’m not satisfied with Facebook Notes
  • I hate my cursive
  • If I’m impressed by Samara O’Shea and she’s impressed by Anne Frank, what would I think of Anne Frank?
  • I’m addicted to knitting alpaca neckwarmers!
  • It was meant to be: I just found a copy of Anne Frank’s diary
  • What this name generator does to my real name and pseudonym is coincidentally significant
  • The female character was the star of Monsters vs. Aliens. Why is that sort of thing still unusual?

William Zinsser* would be so proud of me. Now with all of these, I had more I wanted to say or show. But even with Mercury in Sagittarius, I have observations for which 140 characters will be sufficient. So slowly, carefully–and while reserving the right to dump the whole matter at a moment’s notice–I’ve decided to retry Twitter as my third blog. I will reserve the status updates for Facebook and think of each tweet as the concentrated essence of a blog post. Perhaps I’ll even get confident enough to reveal my Twitter account to a general audience. (Okay, okay, baby steps here!)

  • Revisiting Twitter as a microblog and not just another status feed

*Author of On Writing Well and advocate of minimalist writing.