Tag Archives: twitter

Microblogging and Me

There is no such thing as a tool that is good even if used without consideration. Social media, microblogging, and corporate communications platforms are no exception to this. That being said, they are a powerful way to flatten hierarchies and open up the conversation within an organisation.

My previous employer–a major web-hosting company–were heavily invested in creating an open, integrated communications system within the company. With offices in a number of locations around Australia and the world, there was often a significant disconnect between all but the most closely integrated departments. To combat this isolation, the organisation rolled out Yammer across the company. Yammer, for those unfamiliar with the platform, is more-or-less a facebook news-feed clone for closed, internal use. Much like familiar social media platforms, Yammer invites users to post, comment, and follow discussions and share links and the such like.

Because the organisation had not followed through with a comprehensive internal communications policy for Yammer, the results were mixed. The posting quickly turned into inane, trivial, and mundane minutia such as: ‘The coffee pot on level 5 is empty’, ‘Lol who turned out the lights,’ and ‘Woo! Go accounts. More sales!’…you get the idea. There were some flashes of inspired thinking on the service, such as the CFO opening up a forum for discussing summer reading titles relevant to business and technology, which invited a rare opportunity to speak candidly (about books!) with the managing directors of a multi-national corporation. These opportunities to make my voice heard were few and far between, but I welcomed the fact that such a conversation could not have been possible without a tool like Yammer.

Ultimately, the problem with corporate microblogging and social feeds is one of restraint and management. Unchecked, it becomes yet another source for information-bloat and distraction. Too-regulated and it becomes a cork-board for posting internal PR releases.

Organisations take note! You should start hiring internal social media moderators and curators to better direct, manage, and engage the use of these platforms in your organisation. I’m certain that my peers and I would welcome the challenge!


Too Much Information

Web 2.0 pundit and theorist Andrew Keen writes in his book Digital Vertigo (2012):

 Instead of making us happier and more connected, social media’s siren song—the incessant calls to digitally connect, the cultural obsession with transparency and openness, the never-ending demand to share everything about ourselves with everyone else— is, in fact, both a significant cause and effect of the increasingly vertiginous nature of twenty-first—century life.

The inconvenient truth is that social media, for all its communitarian promises, is dividing us, rather than bringing us together (p. 67)

There’s a great deal of wisdom in what Keen is saying: The overwhelming wealth of information available online lends itself to a perverse idea of obsessive over-sharing and digital exhibitionism. Ideas of transparency and openness have to be considered against the alternative of constructing a carefully limited, constructed persona online to be completely disingenuous.

Ultimately, either end of the spectrum is still driving us towards an online culture that is divided, fragmented, and essentially at odds with itself.

So what’s the middle ground? What balance can there be between honestly engaging in a rich, participatory culture online, and protecting our individual privacy and identity.

For my own part, I choose to present myself as a professional fully and absolutely online. Anything relevant to my professional development, career aspirations, and written work is funnelled into the same set of linked channels. I keep a unified identity across media platforms (@mjjfeeney on Twitter; www.mjjfeeney.com on this, my blogging domain; /mjjfeeney/ as my Facebook username etc.). Since our online identities span so many platforms today, I feel that presenting a consistent set of values and sharing limits across each platform is vital. I would hate for someone who follows me on twitter to discover this blog and be disoriented by an overabundance of personal content.

I feel that keeping this consistency about what we’re sharing—and where—is vital. What you put online will be found, no matter where you think it’s hidden away. Making sure it’s something you’d be willing to share in *any* of your other channels of communication is vital.

Giving Back: Personal Learning Networks

In 1985, Steven Brand published the now famous information doctrine Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, which stipulated the unique ethos of the hacking subculture and claimed that ‘All information wants to be free’:

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. (Brand, 1985, p. 49) 

But, information is not made solely of ephemeral ideas; it is made of ideas and work. Sadly, I’m guilty of taking advantage of the altruism of others and exploiting that good work selfishly. Having recently explicitly examined the idea of a ‘Personal Learning Network’ (PLN) I realised that I’m a ‘drain’ on my localised PLN: I take more than I put back.

I have embedded myself in a community of people with like interests, who I make use of as a sort of social filter to hopefully reveal the most relevant information to me. I actively scour blogs, twitter feeds, and other social data to skim off the cream-of-the-crop of trends coming down in the LIS sector. But, even when I have something to contribute, I remain largely silent. I realise that this isn’t a particularly admirable state of affairs, and aim to rectify it in the coming months.

First things first, I’m going to get some fresh, original content up on this blog. I’m really fascinated by social aggregation and the transformation of controlled taxonomies into organic folksonomies, so stay tuned for some of that in the near future.

Also, I’ve started repurposing some of my writing from 2010+ on the evolution of digital publishing, price, and piracy to snazzy blog-sized chunks.

So, I come hat in hand to my PLN, offering these small morsels of content to repay the free-ride I’ve been taking so far. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

How do you solve a problem like ALIA?

Workshop 4: A learning profession

(This reflection was originally written on April 14, 2013)

How can you keep up with the rapid changes of an industry always on the move? How do you keep your skills, knowledge, and awareness at the fore of the profession?

Apparently by adopting the mindset of being a reflective practitioner and a learning professional.

Sue Hutley, Kelly Johnson, Lyndelle Gunton, and Kathleen Smeaton spoke to  us about the importance of articulating what it means to be these things, and how to keep yourself updated and professionally relevant.

Much of what was said were things I already had intuited through general assessment of the profession. Things like, attending events, volunteering, engaging with conferences, and socialising within the profession.

*Addendum: Thanks to Kelly’s tireless encouragement a group of us did get together and attend the ALIA trivia night later in the semester. 

But they also raised challenging questions of what it means to rely on lifelong learning and be a valued, certified practitioner in the information field.

Should we have compulsory professional development in the LIS profession? I certainly believe so. Technology is shifting so rapidly, and we have entrenched professionals in some sectors who won’t necessarily take responsibility for their own development. ALIA as a professional body is an opt-in selection, and that means some choose to opt-out. There really needs to be a mandatory profession-wide commitment to staying relevant and skilled in these times of uncertainty.

Digital literacy is just as important as any form of literacy, and unlike ‘learned’ literacy it is fairly easy to acquire digital illiteracy simply through complacency. The old digital divide of having access to computers has faded away in the age of ubiquitous computing. Today, the digital gap is knowing how to search, access, and retrieve meaningful information. While these information seeking behaviours are generic to the Librarian’s skillset, the unique, idiosyncratic use of particular technologies and services is not. I strongly believe that without compulsory professional development there is a real risk of complacency and irrelevance among disinterested information professionals.

Thankfully, none of the panel of experts reflected this decay of standards. They were all engaging, vibrant, and enthusiastic about the future of the profession, and imparted a deep sense of pride for the LIS industry.

Through a Twitter, Darkly

As part of my ongoing activities this semester I was required to participate in a number of guided activities on Twitter.

My twitter feed can found at @mjjfeeney.

While there was a mandatory expectation to engage with these public discussions, I cannot see how I would have survived the semester without Twitter. The communities that grew up around the hashtags for all my subjects were the beating heart of coursework developments and class discussions. Twitter was indispensable across my studies, and I strongly believe that problems are best solved when you get a variety of people looking at them from multiple perspectives: Questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting.

And Twitter does just that.

As to my own contributions, I found the mandatory exercises to be a really great way of teasing out and engaging my classmates into an open forum. The tasks were lively and varied, and it was really fascinating to canvas the opinions of my peers about what the profession means to them, how they deconstruct popular media, and how they connect with the wider information community.

I feel like there was something meaningful and evocative about framing the challenges and questions of the information profession in a context that actually has some practical meaning to us.

I have a voracious appetite for information, and Twitter is like a shunt directly into my brain. I love what it does for the propagation and proliferation of information, even if I am terrified of what it does to the rigorous order of data.

Discovery is a grand and wondrous thing, and the tweeting exercises of the last 13 weeks really affirmed for me how important online communities and social data are for the information and LIS communities.