Tag: social networking

Library Day in the Life Project, Round 7: Day 3

Logo designed by and stolen from the Indie Librarian

I’m participating in the Library Day in the Life Project (now in its seventh round) this week. To quote the project wiki, “the Library Day in the Life Project is a semi-annual event coordinated by Bobbi Newman of Librarian by Day. Twice a year librarians, library staff and library students from all over the globe share a day (or week) in their life through blog posts, photos, video and Twitter updates.”

Today was a slightly scattered day at work. I also remain baffled by huge swings in turnout for my programs this summer. But I get to hang out with enthusiastic teen readers! (more…)

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Leave a Comment July 27, 2011

When you can’t choose privacy

As part of its Privacy Revolution efforts, ALA declared last week Choose Privacy Week, with this year’s efforts focusing on youth and privacy. If you dig into the websites and publicity around the event, you’ll find that this initiative is about creating dialogue about privacy in our society today, but I didn’t see a lot of talk on blogs or Twitter this week about privacy–at least, not more than I usually do. That’s especially disappointing because I think that in a lot of cases, you can’t choose privacy, as ALA exhorts us to do. (more…)

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Leave a Comment May 9, 2011

YALSA blog: the larger social effect of the Internet

Now that the YALSA blog’s 28 Days of Teens and Tech is drawing to a close, I thought it might be interesting to pull back a little and look at the larger social effect of the Internet on society. There are two reports by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in particular (one on social isolation and new technology and another on the social side of the Internet that can tell us how the Internet has changed our social lives.

I’ve summarized some of the findings of those reports on the YALSA blog.

I tend to be pretty excited about the Internet and new technology, but I know there are definitely people–and studies–that worry about what the Internet is doing to society and to individual people and their ability to socialize and develop and be part of our wider society. But I think that both of these reports help to counter those impressions. While our networks of trusted discussion partners may be shrinking on average, Internet users aren’t seeing that negative outcome, and some Internet users are even experiencing more diverse social networks. The Internet lets groups and clubs reach more people and have more of an impact on the world, and Internet users are, on average, more likely to be involved in those groups and clubs and to feel pride in what they do with those groups. That’s news I like to hear!

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Leave a Comment February 28, 2011

Miscellany: authors vs. works, dystopian YA lit at the New Yorker, and online reputation management

Wired’s Mr. Know-It-All argues for differentiating the author from the work in a recent column and also touches on how hard it is to keep kids from reading what they want:

The bottom line is that many a great author has been a lout. Yes, it’s disappointing to learn that one of your literary idols doesn’t share your values. But that doesn’t negate his talent for mixing philosophical heft with orbital bombardment. And besides, any ban you impose will likely backfire. Kids dig anything that’s taboo, and books are pretty easy to obtain. (At least until the firemen come.)

The first statement in the Library Bill of Rights says in part, “[m]aterials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.” I struggle with this sometimes because as an informed consumer, I don’t want my money to support things with which I don’t agree, but as a librarian I understand that we need to be able to differentiate the work from its creator.

Since I was a teen myself, dystopian novels have been my favorite, so it’s been exciting to see so many–and so many good ones–published in the last few years. Laura Miller’s article today in the New Yorker, “Fresh Hell,” she discusses the “recent boom in dystopian fiction for young people,” pointing to the Hunger Games trilogy (just 71 more days until MOCKINGJAY comes out!), the Uglies trilogy, THE MAZE RUNNER, INCARCERON, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, LITTLE BROTHER, FEED, and THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO as examples. She recognizes that dystopian lit has been part of the YA landscape for decades (specifically naming THE HOUSE OF STAIRS–one of my favorites as a teen!–and THE GIVER) but writes, “The world of our hovered-over teens and preteens may be safer, but it’s also less conducive to adventure, and therefore to adventure stories,” and wonders if this is the reason dystopian lit is seeing a surge in popularity. Miller notes that YA dystopian lit tends to be less soul-crushing than dystopian novels for adults, and using THE HUNGER GAMES and UGLIES as examples, draws parallels between YA dystopian narratives and the adolescent experience. It’s an interesting read and is also another example of how adults are noticing–and reading–more YA lit than ever before.

A graph showing what percentage of respondents said they took steps to limit the information about them that appeared on the Internet, sorted by age. Young people are the most likely to do so and seniors are the least likely.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has another report out on young adults and tech; this one finds that young adults (actual adults ages 18-29 in this case, not teens) are the most likely of all age groups surveyed to actively manage their online reputations. (The graph I’ve included here is just one dimension of online reputation management.) We change privacy settings, we Google ourselves, and we limit who can see our profiles. A lot of the time when we talk about teens and tech, we talk about making sure they’re safe online, but it sounds like seniors are the ones we need to be talking to about online reputation management: just 20% of respondents ages 65+ take steps to limit what information about them appears online.

And finally, another post from Offbeat Earth that shows some really amazing art made with books and pages from books. The one with the octopus is my favorite!

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2 Comments June 14, 2010

YALSA blog: keeping skills fresh between jobs

Fellow SLIS-Indy grads Erin and Karl recently wrote about their job searches: Erin’s put out zillions of applications and hasn’t gotten much back and Karl’s been making do with part-time work but wants more. Because of the move and wrapping things up in Indiana, I’m just now starting to get serious about my job hunt, but the relative lack of luck among people I know from my program got me thinking about how to keep our skills and knowledge fresh while we’re looking for our first full-time job.

I wrote a post for the YALSA blog about just that, outlining what I’ve been doing. In short, I’m reading YA lit, keeping up on listservs and blogs and Twitter feeds, doing blogging of my own, doing some more scholarly reading to fill in the gaps from my MLS program, taking advantage of professional development activities, and volunteering (well, looking for volunteer opportunities, at least). Read the full post for more!

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1 Comment June 11, 2010

Privacy follow-up: what you should do, what companies should do

In a discussion on my recent post on Facebook and privacy, Erin linked me to “Privacy Is Dead… And It Could Be Great,” which claims that part of the reason we are more willing to give up our personal information is that for the first time, we’re getting value back. When we give our personal information to Facebook, it improves our Internet experience.

My first response was that that perception of exchanged value is what makes handing over our privacy so alluring and why it’s become harder to convince people that they might want to resist giving up that information. I also linked this to the increasing commercialization of society and the transformation of people into consumers.

Erin responded–rightly–that there are people who want this, that being able to go to Yelp and have Facebook automatically fill in your location is a great feature. And while I would rather live more privately and have fewer integrated tools like this, I need to respect that other people will make different choices.

And really, it’s the ability to make an informed choice that is really important to me. I will continue to advocate for caution and reservation when it comes to sharing your personal information, but what is more important to me is that you know what information you’re giving out, who will have access to it, and what it will be used for, and that you will have the ability to control what happens to your personal information.

Earlier this month, David Lee King asked if privacy is really that big a deal. He concludes that the information you share on Facebook isn’t important enough to bother hiding and that a lot of it is already available elsewhere on the web.

But there are multiple facets to privacy: you should think about which people will have access to your information (which maybe isn’t such a huge deal with Facebook), but you should also think about what Facebook will do with that information. While having integration between different websites makes doing things on the Internet easier, companies don’t exist to make your life cooler. They exist to make money, and when you give them your personal information, they’re going to try to figure out how to make money off of it. Will Facebook sell your information to spammers and junk mailers? Probably not–but they could if they wanted to, and they will use their massive store of incredibly detailed information about each user to sell ad space to organizations that want to target a very specific group.

I can’t remember where I heard about it, but Aza Raskin has a great blog post on what should matter in privacy. After a workshop on online privacy, he and Lauren Gelman and Julie Martin came up with seven attributes they’d like to see represented with icons that give users an indication about how the information they give to websites will be used:

  • Is you data used for secondary use? And is it shared with 3rd parties?
  • Is your data bartered?
  • Under what terms is your data shared with the government and with law enforcement?
  • Does the company take reasonable measures to protect your data in all phases of collection and storage?
  • Does the service give you control of your data?
  • Does the service use your data to build and save a profile for non-primary use?
  • Are ad networks being used and under what terms?

With privacy online, my major concerns are two-fold: do users know what’s happening to their information? And can companies be trusted with it?

In 2009, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

In libraries, we offer people a place to seek information without fear of having what they’re doing revealed because only then can you seek information freely. Just because you want to do something privately doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing it. If a patron wants to get information on STIs, he or she doesn’t want to do that in a forum where other people might find out–and that doesn’t make the patron a criminal.

In the case of Google and Facebook, when leaders within the company speak so derisively about privacy, you need to be concerned. They don’t care if your privacy is protected because protecting it isn’t profitable, so it’s up to you. Know what you are agreeing to when you accept the Terms of Use. Know what might be done with your information. Demand more transparency and accountability from the corporations to which you give your information.

While I hope people will be cautious about their personal information online, what is more important is that peple be informed and that peple be able to put their privacy settings at a level that is comfortable to them.

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1 Comment May 21, 2010

Facebook, privacy, and you

I’ve wanted to write a post about Facebook and privacy for some time now, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to say. Social networking, privacy, and the way people’s behavior changes between real life and online activities is endlessly fascinating. But this isn’t the place for a 5000-word essay (and you wouldn’t read that anyway), so instead I hope this will serve as an introduction to why you should be thinking about your privacy if you use Facebook.

A cartoon in black and white on a bright green background by someecards. Depicts an older man clutching a computer monitor with the caption, "I can't believe there are so many privacy risks involved in broadcasting my entire life on Facebook."

I mean seriously

Erin sees Facebook as being on the cutting edge of integrating social networks into our real lives. While these new developments are exciting because more and more bits of our lives are being connected, and those bits are all being connected to our pre-existing social graphs, our expectations of privacy (even our understanding of what privacy is) and our ability to protect it are slipping away. But why should you care about privacy in the first place?

In “The Newest Way to Screen Job Applicants: A Social Networker’s Nightmare” (2008), Carly Brandenburg reports that 10-12% of hiring managers screened potential applicants by searching for them on social networking sites. And that was when Facebook only had about 50-100 million users–in January it reached 400 million users and is more accessible to more people, meaning recruiters and managers are only more likely to be using it to get to know the real you beyond your resume.

But maybe you’re not looking for a job or you think your privacy settings are under control. Are you sure? How do you know? Default privacy settings on Facebook have been changing over time; in short, more of your data is available to more people than ever before. Matt McKeon, a developer with the Visual Communication Lab at IBM Research’s Center for Social Software, put together a great interactive chart showing just how much things have changed. For example, here’s 2005:

A daisy-shaped graph depicting the default privacy settings for Facebook as of 2005. Most information is available only to your friends and your network with a few areas available to everyone on Facebook. Nothing is available to any Internet user.

Click through to see more detail and recent developments

Now, by default, your name, gender, profile picture, likes, photos, wall posts, networks, friends–everything except your contact information and birthday–are available to anyone on the Internet. Before, employers would have to know someone in your network or one of your friends to get any real information about you, but now all they need to do is Google you. It’s up to you to manually change your settings to keep anything private.

And that would be bad enough on its own, but what makes it worse is that changing your privacy settings can be tricky. The New York Times ran a piece earlier graphically demonstrating “the bewildering tangle of options” that is privacy in Facebook. They say you have to go through 50 settings with more than 170 options to get it all.

They also point out that Facebook’s privacy statements have exploded in length: in 2005 the statement was a mere 1004 words (two-thirds the length of this post); today it is 5830 words. For comparison, Flickr’s is 384, Twitter’s is 1203 (that’s less than nine tweets), Friendster’s is 1977, and MySpace’s is 2290 words. Have you read Facebook’s privacy policy? What about the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (i.e., Terms of Use)? Surely you read those–you had to agree to them when you signed up for Facebook!

And how do you know if those terms change? They certainly don’t message everyone to let them know. Facebook is slightly ahead of other online services in that rather than reserving the right to change the terms of use immediately and without notifying anyone–making it your responsibility to periodically review the Terms of Use for changes–they at least offer a Page you can follow to be notified of updates. (As of the time of this writing, 1,498,639 people are doing so–about 0.4% of the total population of Facebook users.)

Facebook is also improving its attitude toward intellectual property. We talked a lot in my Seminar on Intellectual Freedom last spring about how Facebook used to retain ownership of the photos you shared even if you deleted them; they’ve since changed their policy so that you retain the rights to your content, but

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).

So if Facebook wants to create a commercial to air during the Superbowl with photos of you and your friends completely wasted at a party, they have the right to do so–and they don’t have to pay you to use those photos. And it doesn’t matter how you’ve set your privacy settings; just by uploading the content to their servers, you grant them the license to use it. And if your friends copy and share that photo, too, then deleting your copy doesn’t do anything.

There are a lot of people who have no idea that what they share on Facebook is so widely available. Will Moffat created Openbook, which searches people’s status updates for what could be compromising public confessions (e.g., “I hate my boss,” “cheated test,” “stupid customer“–be careful, some of the things other people are searching for are more rude than these examples). So remember this when you post a status update: by default, the entire Internet can see it unless you change your privacy settings.

And even if you’ve managed your privacy settings well, you should still be careful about what you post because as your online social graph more closely mirrors that of your real life, there will be people who have access to your profile that you won’t want knowing everything about you. Failbook collects user-submitted screenshots of drama playing out on Facebook; one of the more serious ones I’ve seen is that of David, a student who posted graphic death threats aimed toward his principal and teachers… and was Facebook friends with his principal.

So you want to better protect your privacy and not ruin your life by what you do on Facebook. With such a complex set of privacy options, you may need some help with the basics. GigaOM recently featured “Your Mom’s Guide to Those Facebook Changes, and How to Block Them” by Matthew Ingram (he quotes a librarian, hooray!). I like that this article doesn’t just tell you what to do, but why you’re doing it and what you’re preventing.

If you want something that’s faster and more automated, use ReclaimPrivacy.org’s Facebook Privacy Scanner (independent and open source!). It’ll check the major ways in which your data might be leaked to the outside world and give you a one-click way to fix most of them. Do note the limitations, though: it doesn’t check your photos and status updates. You’ll have to secure those manually.

If you want it really easy, Untangle’s SaveFace automatically sets your privacy settings for your contact information, search settings, friends, tags, connections, personal information, and posts to “Friends Only.”

Facebook announced yesterday that they would soon launch new privacy settings where users will have “simplistic bands of privacy that they can choose from.” No word yet on what that actually means, but I suppose they’re at least trying in some way to respond to user concerns.

However, whatever advances Facebook makes in its privacy settings, Mark Zuckerberg does not care about your privacy. He thinks you are stupid for trusting him with your data. In an early IM chat with a friend shortly after he launched the original Facebook, he wrote:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb f***s

(via Wired)

It’s possible that Zuckerberg’s attitude toward privacy has changed in the intervening years, but after the fiasco of Beacon, the increasingly complex and hidden privacy settings, and the continued expansion of access to your data, I have a hard time believing that.

There are some interesting developments going on in social networking that decentralizes all of that data. Four students at NYU are working on Diaspora* (their punctuation), which has been funded by donations through Kickstarter and will let users keep all of their data on servers they control.

It’s going to take a lot to challenge Facebook, though, so in the meantime, please think about what you’re posting and make sure your settings protect your privacy at a level with which you’re comfortable. And tell other people.

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3 Comments May 19, 2010

An older Millennial feels… well, old

I’m one of the oldest of the Millennials, a generation characterized by our comfort and proficiency with computers and the Internet. And while I’m one of the oldest, my dad’s something of a computer nerd, so I grew up with a computer in the house and my dad introduced me to things like programming and BBSes and the DOS shell from an early age. I liked science and math and computers so I kept working with them, spending a lot of time on the Internet in middle school and taking elective science classes in high school. In college I majored in math and got a minor in computer science (and minors in religious studies and English, too, just to round things out) and now I continue to do Internetty things like blogging.

A few weeks ago my supervisor in interlibrary loan was telling me about how ILL worked before the department had computers and Internet access: they relied on print-based lists of what each library had and requests had to be sent out via the postal service. While I could intellectually understand the process, I couldn’t really emotionally comprehend how work and research would have been like then. I think that my familiarity with computers and basically not knowing about a world before the Internet has led to me scoffing at things like MARC records because I know that computers now can handle things like extraneous whitespace and keyword searching–and I want to see that reflected in our technology and standards. I’m not content to just see how far we’ve come; I want library technology and standards to feel current.

But I am one of the oldest of the Millennials and for the first time I’m starting to feel it. A few weeks ago the Pew Research Center published a report on teens and cell phones; one of the findings was that texting was the primary mode of communication teens use. While I, too, am a daily texter, I also rely heavily on email–something only 11% of teens use on a daily basis. Previous research has also found that teens don’t really use Twitter (just 8%, even fewer than use email on a daily basis), but Twitter is one of my top tools. So for the first time in my life I’m starting to feel like I’m old–or at least, older than the age group that I need to be interested in. And I’m only 25! I’m finally starting to understand what it’s like to look at teens and not really get it. And I finally can’t depend on my own experience to understand my patrons.

People who are 15 now are the youngest of the Millennials (depending on how you define the generational cut-offs, I guess). While the Millennials are just now starting to enter the workforce and be grownups and shape the world, we have a whole new generation that’s been even more immersed in technology growing up (I didn’t get a smartphone until I was 24–but the well-off among this emerging generation will practically start out on smartphones) who will be entering our libraries and schools soon. And they’ll be even more different than the younger people of my generation, who are already beginning to seem distant and different. (For a little fun, take the Pew Research Center’s “How Millennial Are You?” quiz. I got a 95, so I guess I’m safe for now!)

I’m going to need to develop new coping strategies to keep in touch with teen culture and to stay on top of emerging trends. I can’t just rely on myself and my peers and my cousins anymore, seeing myself in my teen patrons–and that’s new for me. I’m sure that once I’m working regularly with teens, especially if my future library has a Teen Advisory Board, I can use my patrons themselves to know what’s going on in their lives, but I’m also going to understand those lives as being more and more different from my own. I guess I’m finally starting to feel like a grownup now.

Further reading: “Disconnects Between Library Culture and Millennial Generation Values” at EDUCASE Quarterly (from 2006).

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4 Comments May 7, 2010

Preservation: not just letters and photographs, but digital content, too

ALA sent out an email today announcing the addition to the ALA Store of posters and bookmarks for Preservation Week, which is 9-15 May this year. I was disappointed to see that except for the short acknowledgment that “Digital copies allow treasures to be easily shared, but remember digital items need preservation, too,” Preservation Week seems to be mostly focused on preserving physical artifacts like books, maps, family heirlooms, and clothing.

To be sure, saving these physical objects is important and libraries can take this opportunity to teach library users about preserving items they care about. And ALA does provide links to digital preservation resources. But so much information created today only ever exists in digital formats, so it’s critical that libraries also heavily promote digital preservation.

I’d love to see a bookmark and poster that address digital preservation specifically. It might include the following tips:

  1. Choose open file formats. Digital items such as emails, photographs, and documents require software to read and display them. If the company that makes a particular piece of software stops supporting that software, you may lose the ability to read your data.
  2. Make backups across multiple storage devices. If your hard drive crashes or you misplace your flash drive, will you lose your family photographs? You can also create hard copies of certain kinds of content as a means of backing up that data.
  3. Create good metadata. Metadata tells you about the digital objects you have. Who is in the photo? When was the photo taken?
  4. Be selective. While digital photography allows you to keep every photograph you take with no concern for filling up your home with physical photo albums, will you really still want all of those pictures a year from now? Five years from now? Fifty years from now? How long will you keep that online boarding pass confirmation? Not all digital content is equally important and our cognitive associations fade over time and file formats change, so it’s important to be able to identify what’s important so it can be documented, organized, and preserved.

The “how” of digital preservation can be tricky: new file formats and the sheer overwhelming amount of data can be daunting. But librarians continue in their quest to organize and preserve the world’s information. Earlier this month, Andrew K. Pace, the Executive Director for Networked Library Services at OCLC and the President of LITA, wrote an entry at Hectic Pace called “Librarians Give Permanence to Twitter.” He outlined how Twitter posts could be cataloged using MARC records. And today, the Library of Congress announced (via Twitter!) that they’re acquiring all public tweets since March 2006. (There’s a privacy/content ownership side of things here, too, but that’s another post for another time.) Also, from the Library of Congress’s Facebook announcement, check out their stance on digital information:

So if you think the Library of Congress is “just books,” think of this: The Library has been collecting materials from the web since it began harvesting congressional and presidential campaign websites in 2000. Today we hold more than 167 terabytes of web-based information, including legal blogs, websites of candidates for national office, and websites of Members of Congress.

The organization and preservation of digital content is still a developing field with interesting new projects, and it’s not some inaccessible academic issue or for tech nerds only. It’s something that librarians need to learn about themselves and then educate library users about.

For more on metadata, see my earlier post and Erin’s earlier post at her own blog on our digital preservation project this semester. And for more on preserving your own digital content, check out the Library of Congress’s guide to personal archiving.

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6 Comments April 14, 2010

PLA Blog: tweeting at the conference

This post was originally written for the PLA Blog. ALA holds the copyright to this text; it is reproduced here with permission.

Everyone’s been doing such a lovely job of recapping sessions they attended, so I wanted to get a little meta on you guys and talk about how Twitter was used at PLA this year. For a little context, the way I was keeping up with PLA happenings on Twitter was partly though the people I already followed but mostly by monitoring tweets tagged with #pla10, so I did miss anything that people I didn’t know said about the conference that wasn’t tagged.

What worked
Twitter turned out to be great for getting snippets of sessions I didn’t attend. It was sometimes hard to decide which of two or three concurrent talks I wanted to go to, so it was nice afterward to be able to scroll back through recent tweets to see if anything particularly interesting (and necessarily pithy) had come out of the ones I missed. It was interesting, too, to see how many people quoted the same thought, and it was especially interesting to see what sessions Twitter users attended. There were, as you’d expect, a lot of tweets about the technology sessions, and there were a fair amount from the youth services sessions, but there were very few from the management track sessions. Make of that what you will.

What didn’t work as well
Unfortunately, the #pla10-tagged tweets seemed to mostly be people putting out ideas without much dialog happening around those ideas. That is, Twitter looked like a room full of people talking at and not with each other. I did see some short exchanges, and it’s possible that these follow-up conversations and elaborations happened in @-replies that didn’t get tagged (I know I had a few of those myself), but it didn’t seem like Twitter was being used much to build ideas or community.

My other main disappointment was that plans to have a tweet-up (an in-person meeting of Twitter users) weren’t well published and mostly fell through: one person said that only five people said they’d be there and then only two actually showed up–but I didn’t even hear about it until it was over. This missed opportunity to build community was especially sad since national conventions are such a great time to meet people you normally wouldn’t, or to finally meet people you’ve “known” online.

I’m really glad that I was twittering publicly at PLA, though. I’ve been using Twitter for almost two years now, but with a locked account and just among friends; it’s only in the last few months that I’ve created a public account and started socializing outside of my immediate circle. It added a depth and dimension and feeling of connection, both to content and to people, that I didn’t have at ALA. And from the experience I’ve gained more followers and started following some new people I wouldn’t have found without Twitter and hashtags and the conference. The complexity of what we say is somewhat limited by Twitter’s 140-characters-or-less format, but I’m looking forward to seeing more ideas and thoughts from new library friends in the coming months.

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Leave a Comment March 29, 2010


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