Archive for the 'learning web2.0' Category

Yammer thoughts

August 27, 2010

Peta at Innovate asked me to comment on the “success” of Yammer at MPOW. I read her post last night and couldn’t comment then so I have had some time to think about it.  So naturally my thoughts have expanded to the size of a  post rather than a comment.

Firstly – how do you measure the “success” of something like Yammer in an organization? I am sure the KM people could point me to some resources and there would be usage criteria but we haven’t done the study – as far as I know.

Some stats- at the moment there are 836 members but this is rapidly shifting. The total size of the organization is 6500+ so proportionally there are not so many members.  The first members joined up 15 July 2009. There are currently 11 internal groups and 4 “communities” that allow external collaborators to join.

This is not a library initiative. When I joined, just to see what it was about and after hearing about it on Twitter, I found about 50 people already there.  No part of the organization had “ownership”  until a little while ago. Yammer is free but paying as an organization gives some benefits. For example paying designates an administrator who can then remove individuals when they leave an organization or do some moderation on content.  The cost was going to be prohibitive as it is per person in the organization. When the membership numbers started to grow the benefits of designating an administrator became evident and our “Communications” (marketing and web, social networking etc) people negotiated a better price. The manager of our web team is now the administrator.

As an observer of how people use social networks it has been interesting to watch. There was an influx when the Communications people advertised it as a forum in the weekly email newsletter a few months ago and there is a large influx happening at the moment. I suspect from the messages happening when people join up that the current influx is largely from the way Yammer invites participation and the way that it is presented rather that any deliberate actions. (“what do we do now”, “dunno- I just joined because you invited me”)

As with some other social sites when you sign up you are presented with an “Invite others” option. You need as organization email to join but anyone would know or can easily can look up their colleagues organization email address in our directories. Anyone invited to join or invite others to join any external social site thinks (I hope) twice. But apparently not with Yammer. And less so since paying has enabled the site to be branded as belonging to us.  And as the invitations come from work colleagues. I know that there is not an awareness that Yammer is not actually running on our servers.  There are reminders from time to time from our IT security expert. There were 650 odd pending invitations this morning which went up to 713 after an hour. Then down again slightly as some of those invitations were accepted. It’s going viral.

It’s apparent when the people join with experience on other sites. They start using it in more than just the basic way. For example starting communities or importing RSS feeds.

More stats-the most number of messages by an individual in the main feed is196. There are 26 people with 50+ messages in the main feed and a VERY long tail of those who have joined and never posted. People with the most messages are the early adopters and/or experienced social network participators and are mostly from our “Comms” team again. I was following a few on Twitter before I joined Yammer and have started following a few more since. It is not a small thing to my perception of the success of Yammer that our CEO is among the 26.

Beyond the stats are more of my perceptions. I have said that we are a large organization but we are also very dispersed- across 50 sites and three time zones- 5 in the daylight saving months. We are a research organization with a wide variety of disciplines. Communication between divisions has always been a problem. So when I see research scientists from 3 different sites and two different disciplines jointly discussing a post started by a librarian or a Comms person I count that as a success.

From a library point of view we haven’t had any direction to be involved but we have been encouraged by our team management to be and I see a growing number of us that are. We are using it to post interesting links and incorporating it into our current awareness service delivery but also responding to issues that fall into our area. For example someone complains in a general way about the institutional repository- we can respond- get in touch and hopefully help quickly. Someone recommends a book we can recommend our document delivery service to access it. Conversely if I need to find someone with the right expertise I can ask the “yammersphere” and usually get a quick answer.

There are some Yammer attributes that have helped uptake and success (in my humble opinion).

  • Threaded conversations.
  • email integration- many post from email and get their notifications in a daily digest
  • As stated above- perception as a “safe” network. It has our corporate branding and the email integration.

A final thought. I follow everyone and get my notifications via a Firefox plug in and the iPhone app and there is an one tick box that allows that. For the library purposes above that is necessary. With the current uptake its going to get noisy. I have just started to see some links be repeatedly posted.  It would be interesting to get some stats on actual use. How many have joined but never read any posts for example? Will the noise drive some people away? How many are using the desktop application?


Reflections on #blogeverydayinjune

June 30, 2010

And now we will return you to you regularly scheduled program. Or irregularly unscheduled program.

It has been an interesting challenge and I am a couple of posts shy of actually making it. It did teach me some things about myself and blogging and so I am glad I tried it. I won’t be trying to keep it up. On the other hand I will be trying to keep up the connections that we made.

These are some of the things that I learnt (there aren’t 30):

  1. Posting every day is hard work and time consuming for me. It wasn’t so much that finding the time that was difficult as finding “a” regular time. Mornings are as busy here as in any other house and I like to spend the free morning time catching up on other people’s posts tweets etc. Night times are OK but I am not a night person and tend go to bed early. I am also not as clear thinking after a hard day’s work. I posted a couple of times at lunch but a lunch 1/2 hour wasn’t long enough for a well constructed post.
  2. Inspiration can strike at any time which can make me late for work or late to come home when I stop to post. Or make hubby express frustration that I am blogging AGAIN. I can’t schedule that so I won’t be promising to make a certain number of posts per week.
  3. My first rule of blogging was “have something to say”. Some days I just didn’t.
  4. I read some time ago that the worst thing was a blog full of posts apologizing about a lack of posts. It stops now.
  5. Questions can be interpreted as challenges
  6. Writing knowing that I have an audience changes my perspective.
  7. Coming to know and connect with that audience via their personal blogs, comments and tweets REALLY changes my perspective. I found that I was writing much more like I was telling a story or having a conversation.
  8. We are all complete people and posting everyday can mean having to blur the professional and the personal lines and letting go of self imposed rules.
  9. Following from that it was difficult to start posting personal subjects, which I had to in order to have something to say some days. It felt wrong on this “professional” blog. I somehow reserve that for twitter or facebook in my mind. A big thing that will be occupying my mind in the months coming up will be my kitchen renovation. Do my readers really want to hear the gritty details?? I also wondered all the time whether I was “oversharing”. Strange- it’s not something that I worry about in 140 characters, just long form posts.
  10. Stranger- I didn’t apply that judgment to others and I really valued learning about them via this challenge and felt I knew them better via their “personal” posts.
  11. I kept forgetting the hashtag.
  12. I started with a theme in order to have something to post about. I have posts on that theme still sitting in drafts. But after I did a couple I felt they were much too snarky and negative. It has been a hard month at work and any negativity was bringing me down further. I felt my negativity coming through those posts making them even more snarky in my eyes. So I left most of them in the drafts.
  13. Having a life gives me something to post about. It also give me less time to post.
  14. My post about hubby’s gig was as much an experiment in mobile citizen journalism/life stream recording from my iPhone as a post about our lives.
  15. My current theme (White as Milk) is not good for posts with lots of pictures. I should try another.
  16. I am not a natural writer. Writing for me takes some time to edit and grammar check (thank god for browser spell checkers). Practice hasn’t changed that.
  17. Some topics I thought I may have been repeating from old posts and I had to search to make sure.
  18. Memes make posting easy except when they are topics too revealing. But don’t bring comments.
  19. I also observed and tried a couple of alternative post styles- as though I was seeing if they fitted. But it was like I was using someone else’s voice.
  20. Minor observation. My trained tendency, even after 25 years of knowing differently, is to write in the third person passive. I hope (but I know that they do) that they are not still teaching Science undergrads that. I just had to go over and edit all of this post.
  21. My assumption that I should not do link posts because my audience would have already seen the information that I was linking to was wrong. I shall try more of those.
  22. My most viewed and commented post over the 30 days was the one that got everyone crossposting – about blogging itself. But it started as the sort of post I would have ordinarily have made and a homage to Dorothea. It was just serendipitous that the timing made it relevant to 30+ other people.
  23. Numbers viewing does not correlate to numbers of comments. Except when they do.
  24. There is a hierarchy of validation of blogging for me:
    1. viewers
    2. comments about my ideas- not necessarily on the blog post
    3. my ideas being discussed in another blog
    4. then the highest compliment. When someone takes an idea in one of my posts and it solves a problem for them. And they let me know.
  25. However, validation is nice (OK- it’s lovely) but not why I post. I post to get an idea out of my head and into a form where I can see it and judge it. The act of writing it out make me structure it better.
  26. I was too busy writing and reading to give good comments. I will try to fix that.
  27. I apparently only have mind space for a certain number of posts. My posting on our in-house blog for my colleagues, which is mostly link posts, declined a lot.
  28. From the above – I need to but have yet to find a balance in these things.

RSS evangelism

June 25, 2010

Anyone reading through some of my older “How to” posts would realize that (besides Twitter and Friendfeed) I love using RSS and RSS readers for keeping up with information. I also love being able to use them for mashing up information feeds and enabling auto sharing.

However I know that other people may not even be aware of what an RSS feed or reader is or does.

“Keeping up” and current awareness is a big part of the service and training that we are concerned with at MPOW. Most of our clients are researchers with long term projects and interests and appreciate being auto notified of newly published research. A lot of journals and databases now support RSS as well as email alerts. And most researchers will say that their email boxes are overloaded and they can’t keep on top of it all. But most will not know about RSS readers.

There is a digital divide amongst scientists as well as the rest of the population and last year Martin Fenner in discussing it thought that Science Librarians had a role in helping bridge it.

When we rolled out our in house current awareness blogs we couldn’t enable email alerts at the time and one of my colleagues ran RSS training sessions for the others so now most of my colleagues are at least aware of RSS and readers and some now actively use them. We have talked from time to time about taking this experience and running sessions for our researchers but as with most things these proposed sessions take a back seat to other priorities. As in most special libraries training is just part of our role and we don’t have dedicated librarians for the purpose.

So I would like to hear from other librarians. Has anyone else included using RSS feeds as part of their info lit/digital lit/literacy programs to clients/patrons/faculty/students? Can you share your experiences?

The one conference and one keynote I wish I was at

December 3, 2008

We don’t get many (any) tech librarian conferences coming to this city. And we rarely get the resources to go interstate let alone overseas.

The program for the next Information Online conference in Sydney wasn’t exiting enough to motivate me to compete for a place to go at the time that I needed to apply. I am regretting that somewhat now.

However when I saw the program for Online Information in London (happening right now) I thought “wow”. It had names I recognized and would kill to be able to hear. But it wasn’t going to happen.

Thankfully one of those same people is blogging the sessions. Shifted’s post of Clay Shirkey’s keynote is long and comprehensive and almost fills the gap for me. I was greatly impress by a video I saw of his presentation at Web 2.0 Expo NY “It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure.” Its message resonated with the role that Information Specialists are trying to do here.

As I said Shifted’s post is long, but worth reading right to the end where, in response to a question, Clay discusses a librarian’s role in the new world of online communities.

On play and dithering perfectionism

November 19, 2008

Jessamyn used the term “dithering perfectionists” on Twitter last night in reference to a library she was in. It resonated strongly with me this morning probably as I have spent the week trying to convince colleagues that they are allowed (nay – required) to play with our WordPressMU installation

I think that it is dithering perfectionism that we are trying to get away from in our 23 things explorations and the “library2.0” movement. As librarians attention to detail and perfectionism are highly regarded traits. But perfectionism that stops us from exploring and trying new things out is hand in hand with fear of failure, leads to dithering perfectionism and hinders innovation and growth.

In Helene’s 23 things programs the trait that is desired is playfulness. A desire to try and tinker and learn from mistakes and not worry about getting things right or perfect.

We all know rationally that without the possibility of failure there will be no innovation. And I am certainly not the first one to point this out in the biblioblogosphere recently. The trouble is knowing it rationally does not overcome our inate dithering perfectionism. We need to practice our play regularly.

Browser wars

November 5, 2008

I have written before about how my broswer is very important to me and the way I work.

At my place of work we cannot have IE7 (or IE8) installed on our PC’s as some of our inhouse systems do not play nicely with anything but IE6 (or havent yet been tested).

Thankfully though our work machines are not locked down and we can install and try anything that we like. And Firefox comes installed by default.

Despite Firefox being installed plenty of my colleagues and clients do not use it.

However I LOVE tabbed browsing. I extol the benefits of being able to run a search and keep the search results in one tab and examine likely prospects in other tabs whenever I can. The productivty of using of a web based RSS reader is multiplied when combined with a tabbed browser. Even Microsoft recognized this key feature by including it in IE7.

Firefox has plenty of other advantages including its extensibility through plugins and other addons. I don’t use many- currently I have Zotero, Toodledo, Delicious, Snagit, Ubiquity (I keep forgetting that its there) and Evernote.

I think its part of the skills an “Information specialist” ought to have, to be aware of the differences between browsers and why some things don’t always work in all browsers. Especially as our clients could be using anything. I also have Google Chrome installed and Safari but I haven’t played with it much yet. I very much like Chrome but it doesn’t yet support the addins that I have in Firefox. Its easy enough to remember to light up IE6 for those times that I need to use it.

I have enough web dev people in my online social networks to know that IE6 is not web standards compliant and many web pages do not display as they should in IE6

Having said that I got caught yesterday. I was helping a colleague set up one of our in house current awareness blogs and she was saying that one of the standard pages that I had set up was not displaying the right sidebar correctly. I was puzzled for a while as it looked fine to me. Of course the answer was that she was looking at it in IE6 and I was looking at it in Firefox. I had completely forgotten to test the page across the browsers.

It’s not an important problem as the theme we are using is temporary. However I WILL be extensively testing the new theme in as many browsers as I can.

Slideshare embed test

September 13, 2008

I just found the link on Slideshare which gives the code for embedding Slidehare media into posts. (Click on the options link under the embed box on the right hand side of the page.) So of course I had to try it.

The selection du jour is a presentation from Kathryn Greenhill (Librarians Matter) to a Collections Australia Network seminar on 9th September. It has lots of relevance to our 23 things program and to things I ought to be considering when proposing the use of new tech at work.

[Edit] The embed didnt show in Google reader. I should have included the link as well- its “…but I don’t have time and THEY don’t get it”: Finding time and reasons for emerging technologies

Ode to a lappy

June 27, 2008

It’s just a very ordinary Dell D620 but there area couple of things about it that make it the key tool that supports my professional development at the moment:

  • it is provided by my workplace
  • I have administration rights
  • I get to take it home at night

The admin rights are the IT policy of my organization (I know- you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out). They mean I can install and trial (read “play with”) whatever I like without asking permission all the time. Mind you I am trusted then to know how to fix it too. Non SOE is not officially supported by the IT help desk but they are usually understanding. I also need to be aware that there are reasons that I must not install certain things (like IE7- not compatible with in house financial systems).

Being able to take it home was a consequence of working at multiple sites not a deliberate policy. But using the same lappy at home and at work means that I get to use the same configuration and keep trying things out where ever I am.  It gives me more time for online reading. I don’t have to bookmark or install things twice. If it is time to go home or to work and I am half way through something I can just shut the lid and resume after I get there. My kids will tell you that it means I am working more but conversely I can easily work from home without prior planning if I or they are sick.

Sharing links

June 24, 2008

Because I am a librarian and sharing information is what we just do I wanted to start a list of tools that help the easy sharing of links and clips with colleagues and clients. So here it is. The trouble is that I have been working on this for days and I keep finding ones that I didn’t know about and new ones keep getting released. I was going to expand it out into the features, pros and cons of each etc but it is a much bigger project than one blog post. Maybe I should start a wiki for it but maybe it already exists??

I have broken the list below up by the source of the original information.  The first list is just the ones that I have tried.

From Browser ie Web Page/Link

From RSS Reader- sharing a post or link

  • Feeddemon
    • send to
      • email
      • delicious
      • digg
      • blog
    • clip to clippings folder then share via RSS
  • Google Reader
    • star
    • share
    • share with note
    • email
    • tag to a public folder

Sharing journal articles

  • Connotea
  • CiteULike

John over at Library Clips has had a series of posts about many more sharing tools that he has tried:

These are others I have found (some in the last day or two) but have yet to try:
Mister Wong
Awesome Highlighter

If I do expand this out to a wiki I want to limit it to the type of sharing that can be directed to people of groups of people so I didn’t want to include social news aggregation sites like Digg, Mixx, Newsvine or reddit. Or personal clippings and links management tools that don’t have sharing features or at least an RSS feed.

What is your favourite tool at the moment? Opinions, additions ….help???

Why use a RSS reader??

June 15, 2008

For those doing their online reading by visiting and revisiting individual web sites selling the advantages of using an RSS reader is easy. You can just point them at the wonderful video from Commoncraft.

But what about those subscribing to updates by email. Well thats OK because that may be where they live. (see previous post). But if they have never tried an RSS reader they may not know what they are missing.

So what are some reasons for subscribing to online reading by RSS into an aggregator rather than by email?? What are the really basic selling points.

Email overload
We all complain about email overload and there are reems of books and posts on methods to overcome it. Why not start by only using email for what its best at? Email isn’t bad it just needs to know its place. Email is at its best used as for lengthy communications between two people. Not for sending or receiving broadcast messages or collaboration. See this RWW post for a great analysis and this from Library clips on alternatives to email.

your reading can be more productive than reading in a piecemeal fashion as in comes into your email box.

Email folders and rules only work so far and, especially if you are practicing GTD in your email, your subscriptions are just adding to your inbox maintenance.

Post Control
When you subscribe to updates by email often you are getting a digest when contains many posts. Some may be relevant and worth reading or saving, some may not be. In a reader you can mark individual posts for reading, sharing and saving.

Subscription control
To subscribe to a feed you need the URL and usually will get it from the originating site but after that unsubscribing can be done in the reader with a click. No need to revisit the site. FeedDemon has a “dinosaur” report that lets you easily see with feeds are no longer updated.

The better readers have better search options, for rereading that half forgotten post, than Outlook.

A lot or organizations put limits on your email inbox. If you shift your subscriptions to a reader then you can archive in the reader. The web based ones are limitless, the desktop ones are dependent on your PC .

Most RSS readers offer many ways to share an article with colleagues and clients beyond email. For example, depending on the source of a post, FeedDemon will let me email, send the post to any blog that I own, add a post to or digg, add the post to a folder that can be shared by RSS.

Subscription Simplicity
Not all websites that provide RSS feeds provide an email subscription option. Restricting subscriptions to email means that you would need to use a third party RSS to email service and a lot of clicking and pasting or URLs to set it up. Using the RSS directly usually means one or two clicks to subscribe to a feed depending on your browser and your reader.

Spam and security
Using a RSS reader limits the number of places to which you are handing over your email address.

Extra Tip
You can take one more step and turn those email list that don’t provide alternatives into an RSS feed with this howto from Lifehacker

What else??

For some of us this is basic stuff that we take for granted but how do we communicate it to our colleagues and clients? The points above are just the possible selling points of using an RSS reader over email that I could think up for now. I am sure that there are more and I would appreciate additional suggestions via the comments.

[UPDATE: Richard Ackerman commented this via Twitterrss reader is controlled info flow. Reader + other web tools (share item/bookmarking/friendf) is participation in websocialnet “ ]

[UPDATE 2: Richard Ackerman’s second  comment also via Twitter “the other thing that occurs to me is that by reading RSS headlines/batches, you can see trends as they emerge”]