Archive for the ‘Cam23’ Category

I can haz sertifi-cat?

To my total amazement, I have just accidentally completed another Thing – while I wasn’t looking, so to speak. Having reconciled myself to being the #epicfail member of the 23 Things panel – reaching the not-so-dizzy heights of Thing 5, then being diverted into new blogging directions – the Mongoose is, if not exactly back on course, having a small rapprochement with the programme.

” … it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”

It’s all thanks to the Cambridge Librarian TeachMeet, which I found my way to via the #camlibtm hashtag on Twitter (and chiefly through the praiseworthy promotional efforts of @Girlinthe and @ilk21). Intending only to find out more, I visited the wiki page and was totally unable to resist the invitation to sign up.

As with the first blog account you create, it’s the speed of access that’s blinding: within seconds I had not only created an account for myself on PBwiki, but had signed up for the event, offered to pour wine, and blatantly plugged my favourite places to eat afterwards. It’s only now that the whole foundation of trust and altruism is slowly unfolding for me. Someone has gone to the trouble of creating a page and composing information, and they’re inviting me to jump in and edit it – add content stamped with my particular tone of voice, perhaps even change some of the original. That’s an amazing invitation, when you think about it.

OK, I don’t suppose Andy’s going to give me a Cam23 certificate for leaping from Thing 5 to Thing 22 … but I reckon I deserve a lolcat at any rate. And a tip of the hat and warm thanks to the #camlibtm team for steering my wavering steps Cam23wards briefly!

The bite of the backchannel

I attended an Institute of Historical Research conference a few days ago on the impact of newspaper digitization for researchers working on the 18th and 19th centuries. It was a lively, fascinating day, and I enjoyed some of the best lunchtime conversations I’ve ever had at a conference. I also spent the greater part of the day feeling quite shaken, as I’d just had my first negative experience of the Twitter backchannel.

Early in the day James Mussell of Birmingham University gave an insightful talk on the urgent need to teach not only media literacy but also digital information literacy. His discussion of the often unforeseen perils attached to working with huge volumes of digitized information was enlightened, well-argued, and arresting. It had me bouncing up and down in my seat and tweeting like a madman. I agreed with every word he said … except that it seemed to me one key word was missing. Librarian. In the question session afterwards I asked about this, commenting that as a profession we’ve been aware of issues around electronic information seeking and management for over a decade, and couldn’t we work together in the classroom and on research methods courses to address some of these problems?

My comment evoked the following tweet from another audience member:
tweet from historical newspapers conference

Now, I’m aware that because I’m passionate about my profession I’m often frustrated by the surprise with which our ability to teach information literacy is greeted. I know that my enthusiasm can be overwhelming: one colleague described it as leaving her breathless (I suspect, not in a 100% positive way!). I also appreciate that being impassioned can be interpreted as being pushy, and that outspokenness can be heard as combative. But savage I do repudiate. Savage to me means derisive or dismissive, and I can’t see how either of those applies to an invitation to collaborative working. And I’ll admit it: that hashtag hurt.

Twitter bird kicks another bird off branchImage: Duane Hoffmann /

Not knowing if there’s a protocol for this situation I just did what seemed best, which was to reply to the writer, using the conference hashtag, to ask why she found my comment inimical. A couple of interesting points emerged from our Twitter conversation after this.

Firstly, the author appeared to be extremely taken aback that I’d read her tweet. Yet the conversation was about digital literacies, which surely include social media literacy. Why be surprised that someone who teaches information literacy uses Twitter? And equally, why be surprised to discover that a comment you post on a public forum, with a contextual and searchable hashtag, might be read by its subject?

Secondly – and following on from this first point – it doesn’t seem as though the author was actually following the conference hashtag stream, since she should have seen several hashtagged tweets from me along the lines of “Yes! Please come talk to your librarian!” during Jim’s talk. She would therefore have had plenty of warning about my viewpoint before I spoke up – over an hour, by the time all the speakers on the panel had finished presenting. If my opinion struck her as professionally inappropriate she could have tweeted me before I said anything (although the Twitter audience following the conference potentially outnumbered those who were physically present in any case).

Put together, these points indicate someone who doesn’t quite ‘get’ Twitter – in terms of either its visibility, its immediacy, or its impact. For example, within 15 minutes I’d had several amused, surprised or supportive messages which helped reassure me that my comments hadn’t been out of order. This begs a couple of questions: firstly, why use it if you don’t get it; secondly, and more seriously, what if you think you’re making the equivalent of a sotto voce comment to your neighbour, when actually you’re shouting it from the rooftops?

Man Holding Loudspeaker

I’ve only once seen a projected Twitter feed at a library conference, but surely it’s only a matter of time before it’s universal. And while backchannel bitching directed at the speaker is no longer a new phenomenon, it would be interesting to see what effect a lively intra-audience exchange might have on the room and the speaker. I’m not sure I’d welcome the equivalent of raised voices going on behind my back during a presentation.

For this reason I really like these tips for managing the backchannel while presenting. I find it particularly interesting that while the tips are geared towards a new phenomenon in the conference room, they nevertheless go back to the roots of good presenting behaviour: prepare, engage with your audience, respond to feedback. danah boyd’s awful backchannel experience was ultimately caused not by the lack of her laptop, the unexpected room setup or even the expectations raised by the Twitter feed: the problem was that she couldn’t see her audience, and therefore couldn’t gauge reactions and respond accordingly.

The experience reinforces my belief that while presenting may look like a one-way ‘sage on the stage’ opportunity, listeners will – and should – always find a way to make their feelings known. It’s just ironic that the whole situation arose out of my choosing to do so using the old-fashioned analogue method of verbal communication …

Edited to add that you can find the excellent James Mussell on Twitter at @jimmussell.

Who *was* that masked mongoose?

Thing 4 – and Ms Mongoose is having an identity crisis …

This all began way back when the internet was New and Exciting. Webpages looked like this; e-mail clients were named after literary figures; and my little 286 processor could barely cope with all the rec. and alt. groups I signed up to. Not wanting to reveal my work address, I adopted a pseudonym which I reasoned would make me look mature and thoughtful, and render homage to a great figure of our time …

Image by Remko Tanis on Flickr

Miffy was a surprisingly tenacious alias, but after about a decade I felt the urge to move on. Information seeking and discovery were by now emerging as important characteristics:

Cover image from Barnes and Noble

The trouble with being Nancy Drew was not so much the endless parade of suspicious characters trying to sabotage my blue convertible as the multiplicity of other Nancys out there. For a while I added an extra layer to my disguise to become Nancy’s Aunt Eloise – but despite living in New York Eloise doesn’t have a lot of fun unless Nancy visits, at which point she usually gets kidnapped.

And so by devious routes – including, in one particularly tortuous byway, Agatha Christie – I arrived at my current existence as librarian-goddess-represented-by-inquisitive-mongoose (not, as the Trainee Mermaid suggested on first look, an overfed hamster). Ah, but here’s the rub: as a Cam23 admin, I’ve been forced to cast aside all disguise; I owe the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume, and my real name adorns the 23 Things blog.

And now when I comment on other people’s blogs, half the time I end up logging in with my Cam23 self and the other half as Ms Mongoose. Confused, dear Reader? Not half so much as I …

Oodles of Doodles

Doodle and I have a rather odd relationship. I share Libreaction‘s aversion to both its name and its description: telling people “I’ll send you a Doodle” makes me feel silly and vaguely unprofessional. Ah, for the days of Meet-O-Matic … which although sounding as though I was arranging a get-together in a laundry, also had a pleasingly automated and efficient ring about it. So why don’t I use it any more?

Er, that’s why. It’s ugly, clunky, and badly laid out. Neither nomenclature nor laundromat nostalgia could hold me. I cordially loathe Doodle’s colourways for available/unavailable/maybe available if I’m not washing my hair, but it’s free, it’s simple, and it works.

Out of a desperate urge to find an alternative to saying “Let’s Doodle!” one more time, I had a look at I looked, I saw that you have to create an account, I left. And minutes later was arranging a meeting using … I just can’t say it any more. Meet me for coffee, anyone?

Image from


Aha, Thing #3, here I come. Rather slowly, mind you, because (a) I’m a only a beginner-blogger, and (b) after Friday’s 5-hour drop-in session I’m displaying a tendency to confuse Blogger and WordPress …

I’ve been finding it quite interesting switching between the two blog applications. Although the Cam23 blog is hosted on Blogger, I decided on WordPress for my mongoose existence because I liked Libreaction‘s blog layout.

My immediate reaction to Blogger was awe at the extreme simplicity of setting up a blog. If you already have a Google ID, it’s such a quick process that there’s almost a banana-skin feeling about landing on the screen that congratulates you on having set up your blog. ‘Simples’ isn’t in it.

Adding co-authors to the Cam23 blog was also pretty simples, as was adding widgets and reorganising the layout. When it came to aesthetics, however, I was a bit taken aback at how few options there were for page appearance and layout. WordPress definitely scores here, with much more choice and some really attractive themes. In comparison Blogger’s templates seem a bit clunky (although I do like the ‘dots’ ones!).

Spot the terminology clash … KTLib had to save me several times at the drop-in session as I blithely advised Blogger users to look for the ‘themes’ button in the left-hand navigation bar. Um, that’ll be the ‘templates’ link in the vertical menu bar, Ms Mongoose. Time for more coffee (or a tasty snake).

Edit: the wonderful beauty_school_dropout has a great post about using Blogger in draft’s template designer to improve on the standard templates. Who needs a tinting class anyway?

And another Thing

Thing 2 involves exploring RSS feeds, which of course is just another excuse for me to play with iGoogle. In this instance, it allows me to separate my feeds out into different tabs, which means I get a snapshot overview of what’s going on in a particular sphere of interest. Plus I get to have a different image and colourway for each tab, which is the fun bit.

Lottie over at Adventures of a Blogging Trainee Librarian comments that the tab function is “the perfect solution for people who like to compartmentalise their lives” – and I suspect I am that person. (Only now that I’m about to expose them to the indifferent gaze of the world do I realise how much time it’s possible to spend agonising over which photo theme best reflects each facet of my life.)

As well as the stuff on my home tab, I have three further tabs devoted to different kinds of RSS feed. Here’s the start of the ‘Libraries’ tab:

igoogle page

And here’s the more techie stuff that I like to drop into conversation occasionally so it sounds as though I understand it:

iGoogle page

But the jewel in the crown is of course …

igoogle page

Currently rather sparse, I’m expecting the Cam23 page to fill out rapidly next week when other Thingers start blogging. I’m already really enjoying reading what people make of Things 1 and 2, and can’t wait to add some more feeds to this tab : )

Oh, and everyone should check out The Passion and the Fury posting about 23 Things and her coffee machine …

23 Things are Go!

Cam23 is officially underway, and in my excitement I’m jumping the gun by blogging about Thing 1: iGoogle. I confess that I adore iGoogle. It panders to my childish side with entertaining widgets, to my visual appetite with colour and images, and to my inner control freak by allowing me to reorder my page elements with click-and-drag ease.

iGoogle page

Here’s my home tab, which has RSS feeds that keep me up to date with UL and Cambridge University news. It also reminds me what month it is and lets me know what I should be wearing (assuming I remember to look at the Weather tab). For pure enjoyment there’s an XKCD feed and a nod towards my secret life as a penguin, which happens in the dark outside working hours …

I also have to confess that I love my iGoogle as it is, and so I’ve already deviated from Cam23 instructions by not adding the COPAC widget. In a hasty bid to regain the moral high ground I explored the ‘optional extra’ suggestion of looking at other start pages, and this has really piqued my interest in their potential for libraries. The Unquiet Library at Creekwater High School, which boasts a seriously trendsetting librarian, has a really appealing homepage hosted on Netvibes. It’s colourful, dynamic, and user-friendly, with information presented in clearly delineated chunks.

Closer to home, thanks to Darren Bevin for letting me know about the Lewy Library’s Philosophy@Cambridge page, also on Netvibes. It’s fantastic to see a range of citation tools being made available, and the ‘Journals – latest issues’ tab is droolworthy. Looking at this page makes me feel libraries are truly moving forward into the 21st century.

Lewy Library netvibes page