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Posts Tagged ‘RSS’

The Curious Case of Rankings


One of the curious things about Social Media/Blogging is the trend for some of us to be statistics watchers, and to be interested in comparative rankings. It’s something I have to fight the urge to do, mostly unsuccessfully.

So I was interested when this link came through our incoming link notices. Ken is compiling rankings of blogs according to things like sitemeter and RSS feeds. I am quite interested in seeing how he came by his numbers, especially since we ranked at 59! Amongst some quite high traffic blogs there too…

O and if you are interested in such things Tumeke compiles a monthly list of NZ political Blogs.

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One of my favourite tasks in libraryland is that of deselection.

Imagine my delight when, a few months ago I discovered a blog called Awful Library Books – a wordpress sister blog no less, and one which more than a few of you may know as it has been featured both on nz-libs and Sideswipe in recent weeks.

What really tickles me about it is the posts not only feature  truly awful library books (warning: contains leeches), they also include discussion of the bloggers’ reactions to the books in a deselection context. I have a number of themed found image sites on my feeds – I recommend bighappyfunhouse if your taste runs to a quixotic mix of the poignant and the offbeat – but with ALB I get the added thrill of feeling like an insider. I laugh along because I’ve looked at similar titles and had the same reactions.

Recently the bloggers, Mary and Holly, were featured on US talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live. Watching the ladies joke with Jimmy and an ex-hobbit holding a snake I really enjoyed the feeling that the internet age has allowed us to show our unique selves and culture in a way that steps outside of the stereotyping whilst preserving our distinctiveness.

If you have time in your day, enjoy. The video is seven minutes in length, but the interview only runs for five of those minutes.

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A tool, according to my favourite cheap and cheerful reference source is “an entity used to interface between two or more domains that facilitates more effective action of one domain upon the other.”

Goodness.

Here’s a clarifying example:

“A hammer typically interfaces between the operator’s hand and the nail the operator wishes to strike.”

OK, I get that.

I’ve always had an interesting relationship to the world of entities-created-to-facilitiate-action-between-domains, and for a very basic reason – I’m left handed. Many tools are designed for an orientation to the world that is simply less natural for me.

It gets even more complicated than that. I’ve largely adapted to this aspect of the world, so that in most cases I’ll use a right-handed tool in a right handed way if that’s required, and not if not. As I said to a musician friend recently, it’s possible to get your guitar strung left handed, not so easy to do so with a piano. I make do, I adapt and I’m generally not conscious about those times when I’m being a left hander or being a right hander.

This has backfired on me historically. I clearly remember being young and struggling with setting the table – my mother suggested I should put the utensils as I used them, and then swap them around because I was left handed. I did so – and got them the wrong way round. I eat the same way as a right hander does, so using “the opposite to what I do” as a guide to setting a table just didn’t work. I still have to sometimes think the double step through that one…

This may or may not have been a formative moment, but now I am somewhat more grown up I often look at how we relate to our tools, particularly this wonderful tool called the internet. (Or is it a collection of tools?)

I look at libraries who run a blog. I see a lot of blogs that get updated with news about the library, with events and so on, but one think I’ve rarely seen (and I’ve looked at a fair few library blogs in my time) with an active community of responders. (Let’s not mention the NZ library blogs I know of whose comments are populated by responses from their own staff… most amusing…)

It’s very hip and cool to have a blog – but what’s the difference between a blog with no comments and a news page, which we’ve had on our websites for years?

I look at libraries putting out content with feeds, and I (who adore them) wonder if a wide enough sector of the population is engaged with managing feeds to make it worthwhile. Admittedly here I am thinking as a public librarian.

I look at our flickr accounts and wonder if we’re connecting directly through them, or if they’re simply taking the place of local hosting – not that I think secure remote hosting is a bad thing at all.

When we are looking for a hammer, we are concerned with our intent (to insert a nail) and the object of our intent (the nail). Once we have located the hammer, we’re only conscious of it if we hit our thumb.

I’d like to see more library professionals using social media think about their intent (to communicate with an audience) and the object of their intent (the audience) rather than become preoccupied, as we sometimes seem to be, with the tools.

To go back to handedness – we’re a natural profession for left-brain (right-handed) thinkers. Orderly, organised, procedure oriented. Let’s actively work on being librarians from the right side of the brain. The tool that is the internet is most efficiently intuited because it’s too big to be structured. If us lefties can adapt to a world of right handers, you guys can take on this challenge.

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Twitter seems to be the latest topic everyone’s talking about. Many people can’t see the point, others are hooked. What’s the deal? What is it? What’s it for?

When I first came across Twitter a couple of years ago, I wondered what the point of it was. It appeared to be for brief updates on what you were doing at the time. I envisaged boring little sentences about eating lunch, listening to music, having a shower – rather like an “away from the keyboard” status on instant messengers. I thought it was some passing (useless) fad and disregarded it.

I recently gave it another try and am now a convert. Instead of viewing Twitter as a medium for viewing people’s answers to the question “what are you doing?”, you can regard it as a micro version of your RSS feeds. Everyone now seems to have a Twitter page and regularly post “tweets”. Online newspapers, your favourite blogger, libraries, librarians, celebrities, politicians, journalists – you name them, they’re probably there. All you need to do is decide who is interesting enough to follow and you’ll discover fascinating tidbits about them, get directed to a link, get up-to-the-minute news, feedback on library conferences or journalist interviews, and find out the latest on all manner of topics. Some educational institutions have even started using it for their students – “Twitter breaks down barriers in the classroom“.

The Guardian newspaper, the technical section of which I follow on Twitter, recently posted a link about Twitter on Twitter, entitled Is Twitter killing RSS feeds? This is a good question. I have a Bloglines account on which I subscribe to various blogs and websites. How often do I visit Bloglines? Almost never, especially since I started using Twitter. Twitter seems easier to use. Perhaps I’m just too lazy to click on each separate link to view the latest blog post or update? The point of RSS feed aggregators such as Bloglines was to be able to view all your favourite websites (at least those that have RSS feeds) in one place. But even then I tended to scroll down my list of bookmarks instead of logging into Bloglines. But now at Twitter I can just scroll down one page and view the latest updates from my favourites in a matter of seconds. Having said that, RSS aggregators still have their uses, especially for updates on saved database searches, for example.

Twitter may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d recommend you give it a try, even if just to see what others are doing with it. A search for libraries or librarians, for example, will result on a large number of ‘Twitterers’. I follow such people as Lawrence Lessig, Stephen Fry, Greenpeace, online newspapers and several librarians from around the world. It can be not only interesting but very useful.

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