SCIENCE! YouTube, the Keystone XL Pipeline, & Not-for-profit Social Media use

Amid promises of, well, nothing, I’ve been thinking about restarting this blog. There are a few problems with this idea. 1) This blog is called The Other Librarian and, well, I am not really a librarian right now in the employment sense. Of course I will always be a librarian because … well, just because. On the other hand, I am more pretending to be a data scientist and researcher instead.

That brings me to some great news. I have two peer reviewed publications that have been released this month. I am excited about both, because finally I have been able to conduct some research about the value of social media to our daily lives.

The first is What Potential for YouTube as a Policy Deliberation Tool? Commenter Reactions to Videos About the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline where I look at comments on YouTube and evaluate the consequences of engaging citizens on social media. The answer is complex of course, but in general, if you use social media to engage the public, you will find 1) people will ignore governmenty videos, 2) topics related to minority groups (eg. First Nations Rights) will tend to be overlooked, 3) the most popular videos will be the ones where the topic is related to some form of identity (libertarianism, environmentalism etc.) 4) on the whole, the aggregated content will be somewhat “wise” in the sense that it generally covers the main issues that researchers pay attention to (with the caveat of #2). Overall, I am really proud of this paper because it was great fun to produce.

The second paper I wrote with Kathleen McNutt and it looks at social media use by not-for-profits. Using Mark Granovetter’s classic paper,  we argue that strong social media engagement requires attention to “strong” (emotionally intense) and “weak” (interest-based) connection strategies.

Beyond this, I have been doing a heck of a lot of writing for my dissertation which is about policy agenda setting and online engagement. I am also *very* excited about Podcamp Halifax coming up in January which will happen at the new and AMAZING Halifax Central Library. If you ever chatting to me about Podcamp, you’d know that my evil master plan was that the meeting could happen in the new library where it could expand to a much grander audience. That’s happened thanks to the lovely people who’ve taken the baton and improved on it year after year. Hopefully there will be a facilitated program about the future of Podcamp: whether it will keep going the way it is, or changing to something new given that the opportunity for growth is now quite grandiose. With the right partners, perhaps there could be a South by Southwest sort of program or a Winter arts & business somethingorother? I don’t know – the great thing about Podcamp is that it uses the wisdom of the crowd in such a way that whatever gets decided, it is likely to be smart. Obviously, we wouldn’t want to use the free aspect to put other conferences out of business – but on the other hand, there is plenty of room for community-based learning and sharing which helps everyone in the end!

Anyway, what are you excited about with social media?

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Podcamps in Libraries

podcamp_large2I have always guessed that unconferences and public libraries are a natural fit.   Now, after Podcamp Halifax, I am absolutely convinced.   If you are a director of a public library, I suggest you drop everything, do a twitter search for “podcamp”, catch the feed in your aggregator and pay attention to who, when and where a podcamp might be happening in your area.   You want to be a part of the experience.   Actually, depending on your community’s needs, you may have a moral and ethical obligation to be part of the experience.

Thanks Dan Robichaud!

When all was said and done, we had over 250 people who said they wanted to come, over 160 who actually did come and we had a top Twitter tag for part of the day and the tally is still running.  Feedback so far has been extremely positive, and people are telling us they want to do it again.   I was in the community news prior to the event, we had some great sponsors who helped us out financially or with their promotion machine, and Andrew Baron of Rocketboom gave one of the most inspiring, interesting and audience-aware talks I’ve seen in a while.   (Take-away:   Be 1) First 2) Best or 3) Most Unique .   If you are two of those, success is likely in the bag.)

The library worked out very well as a podcamp space.   Adding in the Alderney Landing Theatre as a venue was also an excellent idea.   Podcamp started at 9, we held the keynote at 1:30 so we could avoid the Sunday crowd rush at 2pm.   Then back to the library for some cake and coffee and on to the theatre again for a talk by Eden Spodek and Connie Crosby to cap off the day.

But why podcamps  in libraries?   Here are my top-ten reasons:

10.  Unconferences are community-driven events.

9.   People are curious about technology and don’t know where they can learn more.  Our community needed this podcamp!   Libraries should be responding to community need.

8.   Bloggers want to talk about what they love and often don’t have the crowd around them to do so.   cf. the picture of “I am Not Alone!”

7.  Podcamps are events where people share ideas.

6.  They are much, much, much easier than organizing even a particularly small conference.

5.  160 people in attendance for a full day event – a good lot of them said they could not remember the last time they were in a library.

4.  It shows libraries can be innovative in how they use their space.

3.  Libraries and librarians get to learn too.  In fact, staff might learn more about community development from a podcamp than they would from a library conference.

2.  Partnerships – we partnered with organizations that know stuff we do not.   That made for a successful podcamp, but it also made what I do more effective as well.

1.  Fun fun fun fun fun.   Our community walked away smiling from this event.

Of course, an unconference can be done on any subject — it doesn’t have to be social media.   Also, there are many many many more reasons why a library could participate in a unconference in general.   What kind of unconference do you think your community needs?

Also, here are a list of content as I continue to find cool things.