How You Look Is Part of the Story

Inspired by Joel Kelly’s first experiment with Videoblogging, I grabbed a flip and made my first attempt at video blogging.     In the aftermath, Joel noticed that people wanted to talk about his vacation beard more than what he was actually saying.

On the whole, the advantage to video is that you have appearance and sound to add to your blogging palette.   We shouldn’t be surprised that people comment on such things, even if it seems inane at times.

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Michael Jackson and 5 Other Things I Do Not Care About

I love the man’s music. I have deepest sympathies for the family, especially his kids. But that’s where it ends for me. Michael Jackson’s death is a personal matter for those close to him. I really wish the media and all his so-called ‘fans’ would butt out — like one of the characters in Gates of Heaven (one of my favorite movies) says, “Death is for the Living.”

People appear to want to draw attention to so many things that I believe should be low on the totem pole of attention.   We have such short lives, why is it that we want to spend large quantities of it worrying about what Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears are wearing (or not wearing)?   It all makes me want to be more concious about what matters and in turn, to be concious about what does not matter.   Here is my list of things I am conciously deciding not to worry about.

Domestic Poverty

Domestic poverty is off my list for two reasons:   1)  I’d rather focus my attention on World Poverty and 2) Domestic Poverty is really a symptom of other equity issues such as support for mental health, access to child care, and equity, especially for those with disabilities.   In my view, Canada is a country with tonnes of opportunity, and sufficient infrastructure to ensure that a population will not starve.   This does not mean I will not donate to organizations like Feed Nova Scotia, but it does mean that my ears will shut off if you are trying to lobby on a platform of poverty.

Preserving Heritage

The key to this statement is preserving heritage.   I think heritage is important, but because it represents a living, breathing entity – not because it is old and needs to be protected.    What I value about my elders is not that they old, but that they have a story to tell.   Some things are historically valuable and need to be preserved, sure – but certainly not everything, and absolutely not everything at the expense of a living, breathing city environment.   Librarians know all too well that an old rusty copy of War and Peace will do nothing to protect the value of Leo Tolstoy’s work.    A new, fresh, exciting-looking copy will have people reading and re-reading the book —  that’s the way you protect heritage, by helping people re-live the past.    That means you weed the old and replace it with new.

Privacy

Don’t get me wrong.  I would never spy or harrass others or want to be spied or harrassed.   Nor would I ever breach a confidentiality policy of any employer I may work for past, present or future.   But, I feel that the wholesale protection of privacy is costing us immensely in terms of service, and therefore I am just not going to pay much attention to this issue.   The lack of progress in a wide range of services in the name of privacy is astounding, and I’m sure that an audit of government would show a huge amount of time and money wasted to prevent that one case where someone discovers prematurely that their wife or husband wants a divorce, or that their young daughter or son is using birth control.   So much of this information is already available on the web if someone wants to look for it anyway – I do not think we can pretend we have private lives for much longer.

Funding for Elite Sports

OMG!   Another country might have more medals than us at the olympics!  How will the next Sydney Crosby thrive if we do not put ourselves into massive debt to provide special facilities for sports?   “Who cares?” is what I say.

What I see in a good amount of even semi-elite sports is not pretty.   The level of single-minded “win at all costs and blame the ref when you don’t” attitude in many sports is astounding.   The things that mattered to the originators of the Olympic Games concept have been pushed aside.   Remember words and phrases like “sportsmanship?” “sound mind, sound body?” and how sports was tied to education?   That seems all out the window in favor of money-making.   I don’t believe in sports anymore.  It used to be an opportunity to think about myself as a better person, now it is a crass illusion that parallels rather than promotes “success.”    There are exceptions, where sports figures are respected for both mind and body (Steve Nash comes to mind), but that’s the exception and not the rule in my view.

“We Need More Funding For. . .”

Just the general premise that we will only solve problem x if our governments make problem x a priority and provide it with funds is just not going to resonate strongly for me.   I believe in some of the work that John McKnight has done around asset-based community development, and agree with the general position that professionals invent problems and issues inside communities that they can solve and then use the community’s funds to solve those problems when the community had the ability to cope with those issues all along.

Here is a librarian example.  A librarian does a study on university students searching only to discover what is the most obvious thing:  university students are not the same as librarians!   That is, students do not automatically use boolean operators or advanced searches to find materials for their research.   Said librarian then uses this information to justify training sessions (ie. hire more librarians) so university students can become more like librarians.   The thing the librarian does not ponder is whether university students need to behave like librarians to be successful at their research; nor does he/she consider the impact of increase education costs (caused in part through funds spent on librarians) on that student’s capacity to learn how to research more effectively.

In short, I really dislike any movement  that blindly asks governments to give organizations more money.   I do not think professionals do it on purpose, but it is a really bad habit that I see over and over again.      Communities need resourcefulness from their not-for-profits, not funding.    And most importantly, communities need not-for-profits that shine the light on what communities already do well, so they can encourage these behaviors.

Well, that’s my list of things I am going to conciously not spend anymore attention on.     What is your list of non-issues in your view?    Am I unfairly representing any of these issues?

Twitter as Platform – 5 Essential Peripherals for Librarians

I love Twitter.    It has taken over my passion for blogging (sorry people).    Our library has used it to promote Podcamps, Reading, The June 8th 9th Nova Scotia Election, and that’s just a start.   I also notice a wide range of people trying Twitter once or twice only to reject it because they do not understand it, it doesn’t work for their needs or they just do not want their persona “out there” into the public.

One important way to understand Twitter is that it is just a way to leverage a computer and/or the Internet for social interaction.   That’s right – Twitter is the “tool” and the World Wide Web or your computer is the actual service being offered.   Maybe an analogy will help?   A pot is for cooking, right?   Do you absolutely need a pot to cook?   No – you can cook in a variety of ways – microwave, open flame, barbeque etc etc etc.   The pot merely structures the cooking experience in such as way so that you can use a stove, a ladel, an open fire or whatnot for cooking in a certain (ultimately pleasing) fashion.   The point is that a pot is a tool, and it can work with a wide range of other tools to enhance the cooking experience even further.   The World Wide Web, then is the kitchen where 1) the cooking happens and 2) the wide range of tools are handy to make different kinds of cooking happen.

Twitter then, is only one utensil in a kitchen full of great cooking tools.   You ought to combine these tools to improve the way you diseminate and retrieve information.   Here are five things I like to combine with Twitter to help me do what I need to do effectively.

Bit.ly

Tweetdeck

  • Tweetdeck is a way to get all of your tweets to your desktop, organized according to your preferences.   Twitter searches can be called, groups of people can be queried, you can even filter out groups of people.   As someone with over 1500 followers, many of whom I follow back, Tweetdeck is a total lifesaver.

Friendfeed

  • If you use Twitter, you might as well use friendfeed as well.   Friendfeed will pull in your Twitter statuses and let people comment, like, or otherwise continue the discussion about them.   The only caveat here is that if you only feed your twitter statuses to friendfeed, you are likely to get ignored after a while.

Twitter Search

  • Twitter Search is an amazing tool, and deserves to be mentioned outside of the normal Twitter site.    When I use the advanced search feature, I can get a look at what people are saying about libraries within a 50 mile radius of my locale.    That is powerful data and a great way to learn more about your organization as well as have a speaking point for engaging customers about what services work for them or don’t.

Twitter Sheep

There are countless tools that can leverage Twitter to make the World Wide Web a constantly cooler place to be.   What are your favorite uses for Twitter peripherals?