Searching, social bookmarking and RSS

This week I ‘ave mostly been searching for information using various tools such as Twitter, Quora, SocialMention etc.. I have been looking for information about designing multimedia presentations and also for information on plagiarism and referencing. I am interested in the topic but especially so at the moment as I am preparing a presentation looking at reasons behind plagiarism and the best approaches to help students.

My first attempts at finding information were not very successful. Being used to the advanced search features of Google and the ability to limit and refine my searches using criteria such as filetype, domain etc.… the search features of tools like Twitter felt rather basic. Being able to search only through very recent items can also have obvious limitations. When searching for ‘multimedia presentation’, I came across a lot of Tweets from design companies advertising either a new product or web site and didn’t find much on how to do presentations. On the topic of plagiarism and referencing, I found quite a lot of tweets referring to the German defence minister who resigned over allegations of plagiarism and who has made the subject topical again. I also found a few tweets from students obviously struggling with referencing like this one “Harvard referencing takes up the majority of dissertation writing! Citing everything & making sure I don’t get done for plagiarism is hard.” Not what I was looking for, but a tweet I will use in my presentations as it illustrates one of the points I am trying to make.

I also tried Quora and was a bit unsettled when it asked to connect with Facebook as I am never sure what that involves. Once in, I can see how Quora could be a useful place to find information. I didn’t find much on how to design effective multimedia presentation but there were a number of topics on presentation which were of related interest. I could of course have posted a question. The way it works is clever – if I tag my question with relevant topics, all the people following that topic will see the question, and the more people follow a topic the more likely the question is to be answered. Whilst as the moment there are still a number of questions that are answered rather sketchily, Quora has got potential. It has got the feel of a ‘select club’ where one can get personalised service and be surrounded only by like minded people.

I didn’t get SocialMention it at first. I found the same post repeated over and over again on the first page, which was in fact the same article posted on different services. The strength of SocialMention lies in the menu on the side, which allows you to see on which platform your topic was mentioned most, the top keywords mentioned alongside the word you searched for, the top hashtag, as well as to whether the sentiment related to the keyword is positive, negative or neutral. It became clear that SocialMention is an ideal tool to monitor what is being said on a number of platforms about a particular topic or organisation. I tried to do a search for ‘dmu library’ and was amused to recognise my boss as one of the top users.

I have also set RSS feeds to blogs, diigo groups etc.. In order to avoid information overload, I am relatively strict about the number of RSS feeds I set up. Aaron Tay whose blog ‘musings about librarianship’ I follow has written a post about his strategy get the most (professionally) from the people and service he follows in his post. He has got it to a fine art where the people and topics he follows on the various channels give him the optimum chance of not missing anything whilst not being overwhelmed.

Shirky’s assertion ‘it’s not information overload. It’s filter failure’ (Shirky, 2010) is true to an extent, but striking the right balance takes a skilful operator. All the social media tools have different facets and their usefulness depends on the context, the type of information I am looking for, and also how I am looking for it. To use them to best effect, I need to make judgment calls on which tools to use and how to use them. And striking the right balance is not simply about finding what you are looking for but also finding the unexpected nugget that you come across whilst not really looking for it. I like this idea of ‘positioning yourself for serendipity‘ which involves taking a little risk and ‘looking to the edges of our interest area’. I feel that doing this course has pushed me to do this, to go outside my comfort zone, and in so doing I have come across ideas, articles which have been quite revealing and insightful.

BRITZ, M. (2010) You can position yourself for serendipity. Learning Zealot.Weblog [Online] 22nd December. Available from: [Accessed 05/03/11]

SHIRKY, C. (2010) Web 2.0 Expo NY: Clay Shirky ( It’s Not Information Overload. It’s filter failure. [Online Video] Available from: [Accessed 05/03/11]

TAY, A. Where do you get your library news? Evaluating library channels. Musings about librarianship, Weblog [Online] 5th February. Available from: [Accessed 05/03/11]



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Social media, visions and values and effecting change

In difficult times, an organisation needs to be armed with a sound knowledge of what factors are impacting the organisation, a clear vision of what it is trying to do, before it can decide on the means to achieve the changes that are needed. The role of social media in effecting change therefore, needs to be seen as part of a much wider context and not simply about using different technology.

A SLEPT analysis of the factors impacting the library will be similar to SLEPT analysis of the university as a whole although the impact of these factors will be different. The seismic changes that have and continue to affect higher education, are bound to affect the library whose role is to “underpin the academic objectives of the institution through support for learning, teaching, scholarship and research, achieved through the delivery of effective, efficient and customer-oriented services.” (DMU library website)

Thus, the tough economic climate means that there is less money to go around and we need to find ways to make money go further. Social changes have led to an increasing diverse student population and the need to provide services tailored to a variety of needs. The impact of the decisions of the coalition government with drastic cuts in higher education funding, and rise in students fees also have inevitable consequences on the library. Changes in faculty structure, with courses that are no longer run whilst others are expanding, will require rethinking ways in which to library support is provided. Technological changes have always been important for libraries affecting how resources and services are provided.

How can social media help the library continue to provide a high quality learning experience to students in spite of these changes? The increasing budgetary pressures means that we need to be innovative and find creative ways to provide existing and new services. Using social media in the library could, among others, help us to do the following:

  • listen to what our users say about us and respond to to them promptly
  • inform them about new services, resources etc..
  • engage with our users by communicating with them in real time e.g. through chat on Facebook
  • enable staff in the library to communicate across and outside teams to generate ideas.

We already do some of this. However, there has not yet really been a real shift in how we connect to our users and we are still using social media with a web 1.0 mindset, as a broadcasting rather than as conversational tool (comment by Jon Crowley in Spencer Fry’s post). As Spencer Fry comments, the use of social media should be ingrained in the culture’ of the organisation and not simply be an add on to what we do, thrown in for good measure, to keep with the times. It should not be about volume, followers and followers but about what we do with the information etc.  As a library, we need to have a strategy about social media, decide on ways to use it and what we aim to gain from it.

The question is: how does the use of social media become ingrained in the culture of the library? More and more staff are using facebook and twitter in their personal lives but these are pockets of use here and there and is not part of the working culture yet. How could it become so? Encouraging staff to communicate within the library by the means of social networks could be a starting point. But this is an initiative which needs to be endorsed and encouraged by senior management who need to see it as a valid way to communicate and not as a way to waste time. Striking the right balance is not easy. Bennett, Pitt and Owers (2010) give  examples of a company that has Facebook Friday, giving staff one hour on Fridays to update profile and communicate with colleagues.

Is it simply blue sky thinking? Not really. Companies are now being told to ignore social media at their peril (Li and Bernoff, 2008). However, it may involve reorganising the way we do things and reshuffling resources in a way that we are not ready for. Are we ready to let go and release control? Using social media in organisations involve rethinking the way we do things and, as Bennett Pitt and Owers (2010) comments, need to go even further than this:

“In order for organisations to experience the unequivocal business value of social networking tools, the traditional forms of institutional power and management strategy has to shift to a more horizontal diffused network. This will undoubtedly lead to increased brand reputation, a more open, transparent culture and more effective and efficient way of working. It is essential that employers recognise and understand the potential of the latest innovations and make a concerted effort to incorporate them at a strategic level. Having email and a company intranet is no longer sufficient for a twenty first century workplace” (Bennett, Pitt and Owers, 2010)

BENNETT, K., PITT, M. and OWERS, M. (2010) Workplace impact of social networking. Available from: [Accessed 27/02/11]

FRY, S. (2010) Down with social Weblog [Online] 25th August. Available from: [Accessed 27/02/11]

LI, C., & BERNOFF, J. (2008). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.






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Online reputation

My initial thoughts are that maintaining a good online reputation is easier for an individual than for an organisation. As Dr Gaines Rosses comments when interviewed by Schawbel (2008) in the Personal Branding blog, reputation is about how others see you. And an individual has much more control over his or her reputation than an organisation has. Hopefully if individuals are careful enough, then managing their reputation should be relatively straightforward. For a company however, with many employers, customers, shareholders, it is potentially much more difficult to keep a check on how people talk about the company and therefore to manage that reputation.

However, even if more straightforward than for a company, there are still a number of steps that I need to take in order to manage my reputation, especially if I want to get on professionally. Making the ‘right’ information available out there could become an important part of the selection process (albeit not explicit) and enhance or jeopardize my chance of getting a particular job. For example, if by googling me, a prospective employer was to find my contributions to the professional world, he or she may be more inclined to employ me that if he had found drunken pictures of me on Facebook.

Kelly is right in that we need to think of ourself as a brand in the online world. This means that if we are to be active on social media sites, then it is important to think about how we would like to be seen, and post and share images and thoughts which are in tune with this image we have of ourselves and how we would like to be seen by others. Whilst I may loose my rag at home and affect only the few people around me, unfortunately doing this online can have much wider and direr consequences. I cannot afford to act on impulse online, and this is something that must be difficult to learn for children for whom the online world is simply an extension of their home life.

I imagine it must also be difficult for very extrovert people or for people with non mainstream personal interests to keep their private and professional selves separate. Thus, a person who likes to party and has many online friends will need to be particularly careful about the boundaries between his or her private and professional lives and will need to go the extra mile in protecting his or her reputation. This may involve creating aliases as suggested by Borders (2010) in this blog post “Setting Up and Safeguarding An Online “Alter Ego” Identity”. Clearly, what is advocated by Borders including using proxy and establishing root e-mail accounts (whatever these may be) is not within everybody’s capabilities, and must involve quite a lot of diligence.

Privacy can no longer be taken for granted and, as people live an ever increasing part of their lives online, taking steps to maintaining a good online reputation is likely to matter more and more. Because, as Benjamin Franklin once said ‘It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it’ (cited in Halpern and Murphy, 2009) .


BORDERS, B. (2010) Setting Up and Safeguarding An Online “Alter Ego” Identity”. Online reputation Edge. Weblog [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 17/02/11].

HALPERN, L. and MURPHY, R. (2009) Personal reputation management : making the internet work for you. London: Halpern Cowan.

SCHAWBEL, D. (2008) Monitor Your Online Reputation to Protect Your Personal Brand. Personal Branding Blog. Weblog [Online] 27th September. Available from: [Accessed 17/02/11].

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The Visitors & Residents Principle: in relation to Organisations

I was very taken by the concepts of visitors and residents. Dave White’s description of what a visitor is describes quite accurately what I feel, and how I relate to social media. I tend to use it in a goal oriented way, as a ‘box of tools’ which helps me get what I need whether it is to search blogs to find information on something I am working on, scan Twitter for topics of interest, or even look at Facebook to find out what my son is up to when away at university. I can also feel  uncomfortable about the publicness of social media and am reluctant to post my thoughts out there.

However, whilst I can relate to the visitors and residents analogy when talking about an individual’s relationship to social media, it took me a while to get my head around to applying the same concepts to organisations.

For example, the Library has got both a Facebook and a Twitter presence but can certainly only be described as a visitor. It is a way to post news about the library, give updates about service disruptions or upgrades and can be considered a relatively painless way to reach users if indeed we are able to reach some in this way. I remember feeling slightly uncomfortable when the library first went on Facebook, as it felt a bit like an embarrassing parent trying to be ‘cool’. Do students really want to be friends of the Library? With 73 friends on Facebook after a year, most of them staff rather than students, I am not convinced that we can ever be resident on Facebook. Can it ever catch on? And what would becoming a resident mean for an organisation?

To try to answer this question, I tried to think about organisations which could be considered as resident but the closer I came was thinking about a radio programme. I sometimes listen to ‘Saturday live’ on Radio 4. Throughout the programme which has different guests every week, the host mentions the Facebook page which has become an extension of the programme. Pictures and extra information about the guests are posted online, and the conversation can carry on until well after the programme has ended. Through Twitter, a constant flow of remarks and opinions can be aired during the programme and continued after it. Because of its Twitter and Facebook presence, the radio programme has become more than a simple radio programme. It has become a ‘social space’ where a community of listeners gather during and after the programme has ended. With a new show every week, it is possible to ‘keep feeding the machine’ without becoming banal and stale. So a radio show such as this one can become a digital resident because it has its own audience who are connected by the fact that they like the same programme. Social media gives the radio show ‘added value’ by creating a space where these ‘connected’ people can carry on enjoying the ambience of the show.

Now I can’t see this being possible for the Library because I don’t think that users of the library feel a connection between each other as users of the library. Why would they want to use the library as a social space when outside it? Even if it was possible, as Ian says in his blog post, it would require such time and effort because it would mean a bunch of committed staff being the voice of the library, starting conversations, giving the library personality. And what voice or multiple voices would the library have? In my view, an organisation cannot become a resident if it does not acquire a ‘personality’ or a ‘voice’. Because, why else would people want to engage with it?

This is why I think that it is possible for small units within bigger organisation to become residents e.g. the Saturday Live programme or the UCPDWEP course. For wider organisations e.g. the BBC, DMU, I can’t see how they can become anything else than visitors: using social media to provide updates and news but not as a social space.



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