Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reflections on Blogging

As LIBR 559M comes to a close, so does this blog. Blogging is not for me.

Although I have already have a personal blog that I use for posting recipes, using a blog for that purpose is completely different than using a blog for daily (or even weekly) recording of thoughts or activities. All my attempts to keep a diary in my life have been complete failures, so when I think of a blog being a sort of diary, it’s no wonder that I had troubles with a diary’s digital equivalent.

I’m certainly not unique in the problem of keeping up with updating one’s blog. That’s why there are so many half-started, neglected, and abandoned blogs out there on the web. It’s almost an expected feature of the medium; you might discover a new blog you love, but you can’t expect it to be around forever.

The challenges of blogging are the reason why so many blogging alternatives have popped up recently. Microblogging, with Twitter being the ultimate example, is the best evidence of this. Twitter is perfect for “bloggers” who have something the share but don’t want a timeline to follow and who don’t have the time or inclination to write multiple paragraphs. Of course, a regular posting schedule and a certain post length aren’t mandatory, but a blog won’t draw much interest if it doesn’t have much to say or it says it irregularly. Tumblr  is another addition to the microblogging scene, which is another short-form blogging tool that encourages the sharing of images, audio, quotes, links, videos, etc. And Facebook status updates fulfill the need for microblogging for most people on the web.

Facebook fits my needs to share with people on the web. I’m a lurker, not a creator. I don’t need to share my thoughts and activities with the world… or even my friends. I have no ambition to create a professional blog–at least not at this point in time.

I’m glad I’ve now had a true blogging experience. I know for certain that my style is better suited to other social networking tools. I know how to use blogging tools if I do feel inspired to start one in a workplace setting.  And although I confess that I am not a blogger, I do not see the “death of blog” anytime in the near future. The blog fulfills a certain role on the internet that hasn’t been replaced by any other digital tool. Microblogging isn’t blogging.

So, happy blogging to all you bloggers out there. I’ll be reading! Just not contributing…

Aggregator = Aggravator

This is probably the archivist coming out in me, because I do not enjoy using aggregators for bringing together my social media updates, news updates, blog posts, etc. On a basic level, I think this is because aggregators take the content out of the context.

This assumption may be a bit biased because I’ve only had long-term experience with Google reader as an aggregator, but since Google Reader seems to be the preferred solution for most people it’s more likely that aggregators are just not for me.

So why is it that aggregators are so aggravating?

I pulled up my old Google Reader account to reassess the issue:

Aggregators are like television. They suck you in and encourage you to watch/read more.

Aggregators are like spam. They encourage you to watch/read things you wouldn’t otherwise.

Aggregators are like my messy desk. They pile things up and only make you feel guilty for not keeping on top of things.

Television, spam, and messy desks are all things I don’t like to have in my life, so it’s no surprise that Google Reader quickly got the heave-ho.

That’s not to say that I don’t see any value in aggregators; as a professional tool they could certainly help one keep abreast of topics, particularly if it was restricted to specific, important professional news and blog sources. Using aggregators as a tool to aggregate all of an organization’s social media updates in one place would also be extremely useful. But like many of these “efficiency improving” tools of the information age, I have to wonder how helpful this constant barrage actually is.

Aggregators have their place, but to me, they’re just aggravators.

Social Media and the Cloud

Social media sites depend on server power; more and more, that server power is migrating to the cloud. Cloud computing requires large scale data centres that provide storage and computing power as a service.

Here’s a YouTube video that makes cloud computing a bit more down-to-earth by providing a virtual tour of Microsoft cloud computing data centres.

The Microsoft cloud hosts MSN, Hotmail, Bing, Xbox Live, and many more Microsoft products. With the start of Microsoft 365, users can purchase their own space in the cloud.

Google has its own cloud supported by different data centres. Google products like Google Docs, Google+, Google Reader, Gmail, Picasa, and YouTube are hosted on these Google servers. For comparison purposes, here is another YouTube video of a Google-run data centre:

What implications does cloud computing have for social media?

The concept behind the cloud is centralized computing that allows decentralized access. The cloud allows files and programs to be accessible from anywhere in the world, on any computer or mobile device, via the internet. This has had a freeing affect on social media. Social media online applications have had more developmental possibilities because cloud computing has the option to make “technology not required”. That slogan isn’t completely true of course, but as long as the user has a basic, current browser and computer set-up, the rest of the technology is provided by the cloud. There is often no longer any need to download additional applications or store data on the users personal computer because it is all hosted in the cloud.

Some other resulting effects of social media drawing on the applications and data stored in the cloud have been:

  • Increased accessibility and user appeal
  • Decreased barriers to social media
  • Privacy concerns

In short, the cloud has been and will be an enabler of social media growth, with its cheap storage and processing power.




Public Participation Provides Digital Libraries and Archives With Richer Content

The success of all web 2.0 initiatives depends on user contribution. When libraries and archives put together a good interface and provide a purpose that inspires users to contribute, their web 2.0 initiatives can be a success. In this post I’ll look at two successful web 2.0 projects lead by a digital library and an archive that succeeded because of their ability to encourage the participation of their users. The end result is richer content created for the benefit of all users.

Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg

Distributed Proofreaders is an organization that consists of volunteer users that transcribe  digitized ebook images for Project Gutenberg. The site provides a specialized interface to do this proofreading, along with specific (but easy to understand) transcription and proofreading guidelines. The community is organized by projects (a project for every book) and these projects are overseen by volunteer project managers. Each book goes through many proofreaders before it is deemed ready to be made available via Project Gutenberg.

This project has become a success because::

  • It’s simple to get started, although registration is required.
  • It’s fun and purposeful (for literary devotees!)
  • It allows users to make a useful contribution to others.
  • It brings users together as community, collaborating together on something they believe is important.
  • The interface is easy to use.
  • The community system encourages mastery of the ability to proofread well and quickly by providing “Top Proofreader” lists and different levels of difficulty for books.

Since August 2011, over 21,350 books have been transcribed to text and made freely available to users in many ebook formats. The result has been more useable, error-free content for the Project Gutenberg digital library and its many users.

“Mapping Our Anzacs” and the National Archives of Australia

Mapping Our Anzacs is a website put together by the National Archives of Australia as a public access effort. It provides copies of digitized archival records within their archival context alongside social networking type features that allow users to tell their own family histories of those that served in World War I.

The Mapping Our Anzacs site is an excellent example of an archival ‘mash-up’ site that uses many web 2.0 features, including Geo-tagging, and  links to delicious and Digg. The ANZAC scrapbook provides users the ability  to post their own documents and images that relate to the archival documents.

The main page shows a map of Australia, that when clicked, brings up a zoomed in view of each province with Google Maps geo-tagging of all the towns that had residents enlist in World War I. Each enlistee is linked to   information taken from the archives about that person (service number, place of birth, place of enlistment, next of kin) alongside the digitized archival copy of their enlistment record. Users are encouraged to share they information they find via delicious and digg. Below the record is space for any scrapbook entries about this person to appear, which is user-submitted content. Clicking on the link underneath “WWI file” takes the user into the records database of the National Archives of Australia and shows the record information for that archival document. From here, you can see the full archival context of the material by choosing the series number link. The user can also customize the information displayed, request a copy of the record, and view the digitized copy of the record.


How do these organizations inspire users to contribute? These web 2.0 sites give their users a purpose that is relevant to their lives and allows them to make a contribution that may be useful to others. They may not be ‘social media’ on the same level as Twitter or Facebook but they provide interfaces where users can share their efforts,  participate in the process, and make an impact. In turn, libraries and archives succeed by getting richer content to share with their other users.

My Social Media Wedding

My wedding is a month away and right now much of my time is spent on planning, organzing, collaborating and communicating about it. Most of that work is done via social media.

The goal for our wedding is to have an event that is fun, easy, and cheap. Social media has helped us make that happen. Here’s a timeline of my wedding planning efforts that highlights how social media has been a great tool in this process:

  • I did my first wedding research on blogs, particularly on Offbeat Bride
  • I bought my wedding dress off another bride on Craigslist . It was a very positive experience and I ended up with a fabulous designer dress for very cheap.
  • We bought our engagement rings on Etsy
  • Instead of sending out “Save the Dates”, I created a Facebook event for the wedding. This gave guests the date and basic details about what was going to happen so they could state their attendance, ask questions, and leave comments.
  • I created a basic wedding website where guests could RSVP and find additional information.
  • Our wedding is going to be a potluck and potlucks require a lot of pre-planning in order to be a success. I created a wiki page where guests can share what they are bringing to the potluck ahead of time. So far this hasn’t been a complete success–only guests who are familiar with wikis seem to have volunteered this information as of yet.
  • My sister is my wedding planner. She’s sharing her process/ideas on her personal blog and keeping track of her ideas on Pinterest.
  • We planned our honeymoon with Hipmunk — I wouldn’t say this is a social media site, but it is a highly recommended tool.
  • After the wedding is over, the photographs will be posted on Facebook and Flickr (for non-Facebook users).

I researched the uses of social media in wedding planning and there are tons of  tools out there. Now I’m wondering what else I should use…

How to plan a DIY wedding using social media

Social Media Wedding: 4 Tips from the Pros

30+ Online Tools for the Perfect Wedding

Facebook Games: When Social Sites Aren’t Social

Every time a new digital device or platform is released, one of the first things people tend to do with it is try to play games. Social networking sites like Facebook are no exception. Early Facebook games were simple affairs, mostly limited to wall posts. These days Facebook games can be quite complex, with sound and graphics and mouse clicking galore. They are also extremely popular. In fact, it could be argued that Facebook’s popularity and success is now somewhat dependent on the popularity and success of its games.

According to Facebook’s own statistics, over 750 million people actively use Facebook. Zynga, the company that makes the most popular games on Facebook, claims 230 million people are playing their games every month. That’s over 1/4 of all Facebook users! Facebook is currently valued at around $70 billion; Zynga, between $15 and $20 billion. Again, about 1/4 the value of Facebook as a whole, and that’s just one company; there are several other companies making games that attract players in the 10s of millions.

Facebook and social media games rely on two different revenue streams, but both depend on attracting as many people as possible to their services. Facebook, like its web 2.0 brethren and indeed much of the public internet, relies on advertisements. Facebook games use advertisements as well, but a bulk of their money comes from microtransactions. The games are free to play, but players can spend money to acquire items, bypassing the often large amounts of time and effort necessary to earn them for free. Facebook wants a piece of that action, which is why it introduced Facebook Credits; as of July this year all social game developers have to use Facebook credits for all in-game monetary transactions, allowing Facebook to snatch 30% of their revenue.

The irony of all of this is that the games aren’t really social. They’re mostly asynchronous, which means people aren’t playing directly with other people (unlike, say, playing board games with friends). They also don’t really encourage meaningful communication between players; instead, they push players (overtly or not) to convince as many friends as possible to join in the “game”. At one point this resulted in a lot of Facebook Wall spam, which non-players found quite annoying. Facebook locked down games’ ability to post to the wall, forcing developers to find other ways to make their games as viral as possible. Some players, realizing how annoying this could be to their friends, have created separate Facebook accounts solely to play games, amassing “friends” lists in the 100s or 1000s made up of complete strangers, solely for the in-game advantages such “friends” have to offer.

Just because these social networking games are part of social media sites, these games do not necessarily lead to positive social behaviour.

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