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Posts Tagged ‘communication’


Webstock used to be my no-miss conference until this week. It’s like a combined rock festival and party for geeks – the learning and fun are intense and amazing. If Webstock was a keyword it would be “awesome”.

Nethui was not a rock festival, and less of a party in terms of headiness. Yes, there were superstars like Lessig. Yes the were miraculous acts of collaboration like the special on-off licence for that audience in that room granted by the BBC for a one-off showing of their documentary The Virtual Revolution. You might have watched it, but you can’t say you’re one of the few people in the country who have done so legally. Both of those wonderful things were not what the three days were about – quite the opposite.

The three days were about New Zealanders coming together to look at the challenges of the future and start the conversation around the question, “What do we do now?” It is easy to be brave in an environment in which one’s heroes are on the stage. At Nethui, we were required to be the heroes, in all our everyday ordinariness, speaking in that drab accent we wince at when we hear it from our neighbours and carrying all of the feelings of cultural unworth we New Zealanders seem to cherish.

There are plenty of good summations of the event available – I recommend Russell Brown‘s usual solid effort as a good starter for ten. You can even be a virtual attendee of large parts by viewing the videos collected here.

But if you weren’t there, and you had a question, answer or idea nobody else in the room did – then it wasn’t just you that missed out, it was all of us.

Don’t worry, libraries were well represented. In the last combined session on access, someone at one of the mics said the following:

“It’s not like you can go down to your local library for a lesson on how to use the internet.”

“Yes you can,” came a voice from the far side of the auditorium. I’m not sure who – but I have a suspicion it might have been a new friend from Dargaville. *waves* Whoever it was, they have my applause. *applauds*

When you’re “at the mic” you can often can only keep one thought in your head. “No, but you can’t just go your local library and…”

And then what you really should have been there for happened.

We, all of us from libraries, sitting wherever we were gave him the SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

Zippy Shut Up. by stev.ie
Zippy Shut Up., a photo by stev.ie on Flickr.

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Let’s start with a definition from a “Tomorrow People” fan:

Fandom (from the noun fan and the affix -dom, as in kingdom, freedom, etc.) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.1

Soon after local government reform in New Zealand created my current employer, two blogs were created with the aim of spending a year touring and reporting on each branch within the system. As one of the staff members running a legacy online profile I was privy to some of the discussions, and suffice to say we were collectively excited but not entirely sure how, if at all, to respond.

Perceptions are what its all about, particularly in the online world. Don’t acknowledge people this enthusiastic, and one risks the appearance of being aloof. What about the other path. Can one become overly involved?

I think so. Let’s get a definition from another source. The now defunct webcomic Genrezvous Point had a set of characters who were the “seven plagues of cinema”. Plague five was fandom:

arguably the most repulsive of the plagues, a swarm of leeches that attempts to latch on and seize control of their target, refusing to accept any deviation from their will and loudly decrying any attempt at disputing their collective ‘wisdom’ and influence on their target.2

As a member of a number of fandoms, I can affirm that the above holds at least a grain of truth. I’ve regularly watched fellow mulitplayer gamers rail vituperously at the creators of a game world inside that world. Any amount and kind of protest, other than simply finding other pursuits, can be deemed appropriate by a dissatisfied fan simply because they will feel that they are pursuing a significant cause.

There’s also seems to be a relationship between this phenomenon and media interest. A number of stories have been published in our city’s paper of record about our service. The stories themselves are almost meaningless to those of us who have been in the profession for a significant time:

If they’re not about anything new (and therefore are not news in the truest sense), what holds these stories together? I believe they’re talking to the fandom in the sense that  they are aimed at a growing common interest in the organisation, and in that they suggest a canonical set of beliefs around what kinds of places libraries should be.

If all our organisations and services have fans, what does that imply? I’m going for an “I don’t know” on this one. We should definitely welcome the opportunity to hear what people think about us when they’ve got the comfort that relative anonymity can bring, but we’ve got to be mindful that our fandom and our users are two blended but distinct groups. To live by the word of the former is to risk doing disservice to the latter.

http://expressions.populli.net/dictionary.html

http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Instant-Classic#The_Seven_Plagues_of_Cinema

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Tag as in we didn’t have a blogjune tag until I just did it now and in actual fact I’m it because it’s my turn, which I’ve known since exactly yesterday thanks to a small email-related hiccup.

That’s the joy of the digital age. We had a round of emails as to how we might do this over the last week or so with an iterative series of models worked on until we felt we had a robust method of assigning rostered days. A google spreadsheet was generated, and here we are. When I lost track of my commitments the work was there to slot me back in with confidence.

One thing I’m wishing to introduce to environments I work is the concept of shared notetaking using cloudhosted documents instead of minuting. I’ve been playing around with google docs for some time, and saw the process at a dizzying level at Webstock with individual docs to support notes collaboratively created live by a space the size of the Wellington Town Hall full of geeks collated by an interesting group called Waveadept on their site.

The most interesting insight was the realisation I was getting the mnenomic benefits of notetaking without need to type every word, because I was reading other’s notes with an eye to agreeing/supplementing and thus actively engaged with the process. One’s more free to engage in the thinking work of the meeting, but one comes away more engaged in the detail of the discussion. It’s win-win.

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It  won’t come as too much of a surprise, but the whole recent election process has had my mind quite occupied.

As I said earlier, I think that the small profile that was included on the voting papers didn’t provide people with enough information. I feel  that with the launch of the new website, LIANZA could have made a better effort in giving people more information, and provided a forum for members to ask questions of the nominees. LIANZA Head Office should have asked for fuller statements. They should have then  had those statements published on the blog as the voting papers went out, and then had the candidates answering questions posted to the blog.

It seems to me at the moment that LIANZA is not fully utilising the new models  of communication that the Internet has opened. We seem stuck in a strange paper and process dominated rut that the organisation is loath to break free from. Really, for a professional body that represents a wide range of people working with information in the online environment everyday, it is quite a bad look.

I must also confess that I was disappointed with the number of votes cast. The most recent information available from the LIANZA website says that as of September last year there were 1,808 personal members. That means that the 222 who voted consists of 12% of the personal membership. Which had me questioning why that is so? Is it apathy? Lack of information on nominees? Lack of relevance?

All this has me wondering just how can LIANZA engage with the membership? What is it that we need to do to make LIANZA relevant? To lift the apathy?

I know what I am going to be doing. I have said that while acting from within LIANZA that I felt constrained in speaking my mind. This is because as regional chair I felt I  needed to publicly support LIANZA and in some cases defend it, even where I felt that defence was not warranted. It comes from being part of a body and acting constructively. I decided that I wanted to make more noise to enact change and to provide leadership. I felt I had two opportunities, either be voted onto the council and from there promote what I felt was necessary internally, in a way that you can’t by acting as regional chair, or to remove myself from more official channels and be more vocal in a more external setting. Since the former didn’t happen, the latter is the path I am following.

I want LIANZA to be  “The vibrant, vital professional voice for those engaged in librarianship and information management in New Zealand Aotearoa.“  To do that it needs hard working conscientious  volunteers, and a vocal engaged membership. I might be wrong but I think we have plenty of the former and not enough of the latter, so that’s what I am going to be doing this year.

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“To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them?” (Hamlet Act 3, Scn 1)

If there is a truism that I have learnt reading and writing on this Internet place, and it is one that perplexes me, is that anonymity and instant nonverbal communication leads to some very rude, and offensive conversations. Though I think that perhaps a diatribe is a more appropriate description.

Why is it that when people are safely tucked away in front of their monitors taping away at their keyboards, hidden behind virtual walls, they feel safe and free to write some of the most vitriolic abuse one can imagine. It’s not even confined to the more contentious blogs, say political or religious, on the web. Just a stroll though some of the more mainstream forums like Trade Me, you will discover some downright disturbing threads. I myself tend to live by the rule that you should never type what you wouldn’t be willing to say to family, friends, colleagues, bosses and customers to their face.

Some sites have vigorous moderation policies, and obviously the manpower to police them, some sites seem to just have open slaver and only act on complaints.

Fortunately for us here and in the library online world in general, we have managed to maintain what I would describe as a civilised discourse. There are however issues we need to consider in setting up a blog, or other social media site. As you know I believe in freedom of speech, and freedom of information, but there are limits to that and those limits need to be sensible and reasonable. How much do we limit here or there or anywhere as we seek to engage our communities?

To be, or not to be isn’t the question: Nay say to limit or not to limit.

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