Posted by: | 21st Aug, 2011

WoW as a Social Media Tool

This last LIBR559M module on immersion has forced my hand, and I must admit a guilty pleasure: World of Warcraft. I’ve had an active account for over four years. Although it doesn’t offer as many ways to emulate practical experiences in ‘real life’ as an immersive world such as Second Life, it certainly comes close. And as far as social media is concerned, it is a perfect game to experience the module topics we’ve talked about in class: Participation, Collaboration, Creation, Aggregation (indirectly), and of course Immersion. I’d like to talk briefly about the ways in which it achieves this. My apologies for not displaying any badass images; I’m away from home and don’t have access to the game at the moment.


By virtue of signing up for an MMORPG such as WoW, one is naturally participating in social media; WoW has as many as 20 million participants across its realms, and there is no offline option…you MUST run into people and interact with them. While playing, one will undoubtably make friends, chat with them (either through text or voice chat), trade with them in a massive economy (either directly or through the auction house), and inevitably FIGHT TO THE DEATH against them.


Because I’m not the fighting kind, I tend to participate with others mainly by collaborating with them. The best way to do this is by joining a guild. Guild members pool their resources and help out with quests, money, gear, or whatever else others might need. Because everyone has different professions (alchemy, herbalism, enchanting, etc.) that others won’t have, the game lends itself naturally to collaboration. Plus, many quests and dungeons require groups, so people have to learn to work together for a common purpose.


While the game is not as creative as say, a pen and paper RPG, where one must develop their characters without the assistance of avatars and a virtual world, WoW still challenges the creativity of those who wish. This is particularly true in Role-playing servers and guilds, which encourage people to stay in character and true to the lore surrounding the game. Indirectly, the game has spawned thousands of creative efforts by people making websites, fan fiction, art, and to develop game modifications for themselves and others.


While the game is more loosely correlated with aggregation, players need to acquire a MASSIVE amount of information in order to be skilled. There are many informational websites where people gather together data, such as Wowhead, which has a database of items, forums, a collection of guides, and news feeds.


And of course the world is immersive. People create avatars, travel across fleshed-out continents, and get sucked in to the story lines and gameplay. As a long-time gamer but neophyte RPGer, I was shocked by how much there is to do, and by the various elements of interactivity. While the social network I’ve formed through the game does not extend outside of the game, I have gotten to know some people really well, forming connections. Because of and through the game I chat, voice chat, participate (and lurk) in forums, and comment on blogs; while World of Warcraft did not come immediately to mind when I began to consider my social media use, I’m now certain it’s been the tool which has allowed me the greatest variety and experience with it.

Posted by: | 21st Aug, 2011

iPad aggregators: Flipboard and Editions

In the article “Always on: Libraries in a world of permanent connectivity, Lorcan Dempsey explores how mobile communications lead to “a general diffusion of networking capacity through the fabric of our lives” (2009). From mobile phones to netbooks to game consoles, people are jumping from one internet access point to another throughout the day- whichever best suits their needs from moment to moment. Dempsey points out that “communication patterns alter consumption patterns, and that “as the interaction experience moves to multiple different kinds of device…the expectation is to get to relevance more quickly, to do a small number of things well, to understand individual needs” (2009).

These changed expectations have majorly affected the way many people get their news. As much as I love sitting down to the Sunday New York Times crossword with my cup of coffee, the rest of the newspaper no longer suits my information needs. It’s unwieldy, and fairly expensive, considering most online newspapers are completely free. And with the popularity of the iPad and the slew of other tablets that are being introduced, we are no longer tied to our desktop computers or even need to power up our laptops to reed our news/RSS feeds/tweets/etc; we can do so conveniently with a number of cool apps. I’m going to highlight two iPad content aggregation apps here, Flipboard and Editions.


Rated #1 App of 2010 by Apple itself, Flipboard is an ultra-popular app which aggregates news websites, blogs, and social media. You can read your Facebook Twitter, Flickr, and even Google Reader feeds, along with many news articles, which you can browse by category. It has a slick, magazine-style interface that you “flip” through like pages, which is more appealing (at least to me) than a traditional website interface. The pages all load ultra quick because of it’s clean text, which is one of it’s major assets. Its social media integration is the best I’ve seen, and in some cases is better than on the original sites; when someone shares a link on Twitter, for example, a previous automatically comes up…majorly useful when looking for relevant and interesting information. And you can post/comment directly from Flipboard itself. And because iPads are great for images, the app is perfect for viewing Flickr photostreams. I highly recommend it!


Dempsey states that “resources will be increasingly socialized, personalized, and location-aware” (2009). While Flipboard excels at making reading the “news” more social, Editions strong point is personalization and location-based news. Released by AOL this month, I admit I was cynical from the get go because of the company’s reputation, but I think it is a strong challenger to Flipboard for news content, as it customizes the articles you see based on what categories you’re interested in or not- Local News (which it determines from your postal code, Technology, Music, Sports, etc. You can also rate articles, and it will further customize, similar to Netflix. It’s also super simple to add feeds. A major drawback is that it does not display Facebook or Twitter feeds, so it’s not as comprehensive of an aggregator as Flipbook. Also, to view each article, blog, etc., it links you to the original site, so it takes longer to load and isn’t optimized for reading it on a tablet like Flipbook’s minimalist design. I would recommend it for news, but without social media integration I don’t think I’ll be switching any time soon; still, a good effort.

Dempsey L. (2009). Always on: libraries in a world of permanent connectivity. First Monday, 14, 1-5. Retrieved from

In our library 559m module on creation, we explored ways in which libraries and information professionals use social media to create new ways for patrons to interact with their libraries. Many libraries are making strong efforts to keep up with the trends, including creating Flickr photostreams, YouTube videos, blogs, Facebook pages and much more. With the ever expanding list of tools available to try out and experiment with, it is an exciting time for those wishing to introduce new ideas and services to their communities.

In addition to using these digital creation applications to create content ourselves, these tools provide us with a great opportunity to foster creativity within the community, particularity with kids and teens in  public and school libraries. After fiddling with Glogster, I feel that this is one tool out of many that could appeal to kids. Since it is web-based, it would be easy to hold a Glogster day in a library’s computer lab, where kids and teens could showcase their design skills and could express themselves in their own personal glog. The glogs could then be showcased on the library website. By giving kids tools and opportunities to express themselves, we empower them and give them confidence.

This can obviously be supplemented with fun non-digital projects. A couple of summers ago, I developed and implemented curricula at an urban day camp, where the most successful activity I planned was a creative writing unit. We had the kids, aged 4-12, create superhero comics about themselves and illustrate them. This project made it abundantly clear that these kids really need creative outlets in their lives, and that they may not be getting the opportunity within schools. With No Child Left Behind in the United States, teachers are limited in what they can do with their students; because necessary funding is doled out based on standardized test scores alone, they feel the pressure to only teach the tests. This unfortunately leaves a gap that must be filled elsewhere. Low cost summer programs such as the one I participated in are a great option, but I feel that there is a great opportunity here for public libraries (and the school libraries that haven’t already been cut). We need to develop creative and interesting programming in order to stimulate our new generation to become our future creators.

When considering how information professionals use digital collaboration tools, I admit I have little to go on. In my experience, librarians tend to use little more than e-mail, most likely due to the wide range of computer literacy amongst staff members. In my professional career I will definitely try to abide by the Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto, which states “I will recognize that libraries change slowly, and will work with my colleagues to expedite our responsiveness to change”, because it’s a major flaw in most systems. So instead, I decided to interview someone in the technology industry, a marketing director at Intel Corp. (who also happens to be my dad), about what tools they use to work on projects together. Since much of the company’s work is done across large geographical differences, collaboration tools are essential.

Firstly, across the intranet: for collaboration across the company, both nationally and globally, they use programs like MS Live Meeting in conjunction with teleconferencing. They share projects such as Powerpoint presentations, or use the virtual desktop feature. I also remember, from a previous call center job, that this tool was a great way to chat at work without installing extra software that would get us in trouble, heh.

When they need to do more than just phone conferencing with collaborators outside the company, it seems that the most popular tool is WebEx, which hooks up to the phone as well. This Cisco service is similar to Live Meeting, except it is web-based instead of intranet-based.

Finally, when they want a more intimate, “natural” feeling conference, they use the fancy shmancy Telepresence System, also by Cisco. Want your conference room to look like the Holodeck? Have a bucket-load of money to spend on it? This is the service for you! Seriously though, it’s pretty awesome. Up to six people can sit around a half-moon shaped table, while on the other side are three plasma screens where you can view six other people, making it feel as much like a real meeting as can be (Hrm…is that a good thing?).

All of these services are subscription-based, which is fine and dandy when a corporation is backing you, but obviously cost-prohibitive to the average person. But there isn’t a huge divide like there used to be. These types of collaborative technologies have trickled into our personal lives. While we may not have WebEx, we do have Skype, costing us only pennies a minutes to have international video chats, including conferencing, however buggy. Sharing documents is as easy as dropping them into…well…a box, with Dropbox. And, as many in LIBR559M have pointed out, Google Docs is a great way to collaborate in real time, something none of the above applications do nearly as well. My sister, who lives in Spokane, is planning her wedding with my mom in Portland, and they edit Google Docs daily, whether its adding people to the invite list or hashing out “Save the Date” wording. And it’s EASY, even for people who are computer illiterate (sorry mom!). It’s exciting to think about all the cool new stuff that will be created in our lifetime. It’s not Star Trek, but we’re getting there.

Posted by: | 24th Jul, 2011

Libraries, Facebook, and Participation

Rose Festival Parade, 1916

Public libraries usually do everything they can to advertise their services. As they should, with budget cuts and having to prove their worth and whatnot. Like other organizations/businesses, this has meant having a presence on Facebook. Makes sense…Facebook is a part of many people’s daily life, and many ‘like’ everything under the sun, from their favorite baseball teams and TV shows to the fast food joints they frequent and the kind of underwear they buy, making the SNS a marketing powerhouse. At least in theory…

But more often than not, it seems that organizations, including libraries, fail to see the real value of social networking- that social media affords participation and conversation with the people they are trying to reach. Instead of engaging with people, they simply shill their products and services. They talk at us, not with us. A good example of this is Vancouver Public Library’s Facebook page (for those of you with FB). Every post asks us to ‘check it out’, and unless I am missing something, never invites us to comment on Facebook, the tool we are actually using. While it may direct some traffic to VPL’s website, it is not utilizing the tool to interact with the public at all.

There are exceptions to this. I have been following my local library’s FB feed for awhile now, the Multnomah County Library system. I admit I’m biased, but I’ve always found the page to be more inviting than most. While they still advertise their services, they also often pose questions to get their patrons’ talking, and use the medium for other fun activities. Their latest is a book and film review haiku challenge, where the winner gets a free tote bag. It challenges users to be creative and to interact in a fun way. Another great use of the space is that they have done reader’s advisory over Facebook. They asked for us to list the last three books we’ve read, and then personably responded, suggesting a book and giving the reasons why. The couple of times I have seen (and participated) in this, it garnered an incredibly large amount of participation, and the moderator was extremely timely in his/her responses.

But in my opinion, the best way Multcolib uses Facebook is by, *gasp*, letting us post on their wall! Patrons post suggestions/questions/complaints, and the library responds. This simple option opens up the lines of communication between library and patron. Upon investigation, I realized that hardly any library does. I searched for every public library I could think of and literally none of them allowed this, excluding a couple Portland suburbs who probably modeled their own pages on Multnomah County’s. I’d love to hear about others, if anyone out there knows of them. If you can’t post, how can you fully interact with the library? It is then a necessarily “top-down” system, not a participatory one.

There is an obvious reason for this. You need an active moderator to make sure people aren’t posting obscene things, so libraries just don’t want to risk it/bother/hire someone to read the dang thing. This is unfortunate. And it doesn’t even eliminate the potential problem, because of course people can still comment on posts however they want to. Until libraries actually allow people to participate, I doubt FB will really allow libraries to reach others. I know that when I skim my FB feed, my eyes glaze over most library posts, because they are just shills; I doubt I’m alone in this. Libraries need to trust their patrons and let us post.

Posted by: | 15th Jul, 2011

Confessions of a Blogophobe

Confession #1: I am not a good golfer.

Last year, I signed up for ladies group golf lessons with my mom at the local golf course. As the others confidently took swing after swing at the driving range, I carefully lined up each shot, running over all the steps in my head. Feet shoulder-width apart, bent knees, straight back, butt out, arms stretched out to form a ‘V’, etc. etc. And invariably (excepting a few lucky shots), the ball would dribble a couple meters in front of me, in the dirt. Before long, the golf pro commented, “You’re an A+ student, aren’t you? You’re thinking too much.”

Confession #2: I am not a good blogger.

So when I read Andrew Sullivan’s article “Why I Blog”, where he mentions the advice he received from his editor, Michel Kinsley, in his early stages of blogging: don’t “think too hard before writing”, this simple comment completely resonated with me in more ways than one. Since my first foray into the uncharted jungles of the Internet, this has been my problem, again and again. Early on, many of my friends were very active on both topical and general websites, posting articles on everything from politics to professional wrestling and welcoming comments on the respective site’s forum. While I was perfectly comfortable commenting on others posts, I more often than not left my own half-written articles abandoned…they were either not interesting, witty, well written, or insightful enough for me to dare to post. So while my friends made a name for themselves, taking a swing at whatever thoughts came to mind, I was left in the dust.

So as I now attempt to make my mark on the Web, yet again, it comes to no surprise that I am suffering from “blogger’s block”. Still, I’m up for the challenge of overcoming overthinking, partly by practice and partly by observing how others use blogs and other social media effectively for their purposes. Bring it on, blogosphere!


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