Monday, June 25, 2012

I attended the ACRL Digital Humanities Discussion Group during the American Library Association Annual Conference, which met at 4-5:30PM, on Sunday June 24, 2012.

Facilitated by Kate Brooks; (incoming head: Angela Courtney) there about 40-50 in attendance. (The ACRL Digital Humanities email list has over 500 subscribers.)

We went around the room for everyone introduced themselves, and mentioned their interest in digital humanities (hereafter DH) and why they came. In part this was to help determine the future direction of the group.

Some of the interesting projects mentioned were:
  • A commons set up by the Modern Language Association
  • A librarian involved the creation of an online multimedia book
  • A librarian from UCLA noted that institution's 31st year of offering a digital certificate. They have just recently opened an area for staff to participate in DH
  • The University of Michigan plans to unveil a digital humanities project in October about the 1918 Influenza
  • A joint project of the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Historical Society and Pratt University plans to explore the ways to showcase their digital photography project
While many attendee were able to mention projects at their institutions, other stated that they were present for in order to see what DH is about and learning more.

The agenda was based on responses to the questionnaire Kate sent out to the ARCL Digital Humanities email list: What do we understand DH and DH librarians to be? What are new directions for librarians to follow? Are they extensions of existing responsibilities?

How does a DH project begin? It's usually initiated by the faculty or students. The library or librarian is brought in at a later stage of the project. Librarians serve as the volunteers who can help shepherd the project through. They can function as facilitators. The library is one place where hierarchical status can be leveled and participants can be can equals.

It was noted that some faculty, used to dealing primarily with humanities, have a fear of technology. Some forbid students from consulting ebooks, or smart phones. They are very print-focused. Data, collaborations are new things to them. They can't see the value in (for example) text mining. All the more reason that a library is a natural home for the blending of humanities and technology. It is a space that fosters collaboration. Libraries are the ultimate connectors between faculty, students, IT, users – all parties involved in a DH project.

In the context of DH, the change in librarians' responsibilities was noted. It is a shift away from their area of subject expertise to an area that requires new skills. Prominent among these was the need for project management. Many participants in a DH project need someone with an overall view of the entire project, process, workflow, stakeholders, etc. and project management is one way to see the project to completion.

Is the word “digital” a term that fosters fragmentation? There was a perception that once the word “digital” was used, members of the institution felt a disconnect, a separation. The emphatic response was no, that DH should really be considered a part of humanities. DH is neither different nor separate.

Attendees clarified the difference between digitization (a transfer to a new format) and DH (how that new format is used).

Where are the standards in digitization? Documentation on best practices? It depends on the materials. Check out projects that you find similar. Many have documentation of their metholody and process as part of their website. Ask what are their tools, standards, etc.? (Do not be afraid to email them and ask how they did it.) Check out DigitalLibrary Federation, Nineteenth-Century Scholarship Online ( TEI has a set of guidelines. (Developing a more comprehensive list of sources would be a useful project for the blog – see below.)

What are the challenges one faces with DH projects?  Some of them are:
  • Reaching out to faculty
  • Participating in DH projects
  • Teaching in the library
  • Institutions that don't have a DH department
  • A project with no single DH person managing
  • Not having dedicated staff
For dedicated DH librarians: how do you work with archivists, book groups, subject librarians, and other participants/stakeholders? One person mentioned a danger where some project initiator's enthusiasm will prompt them to imagine an expedited process that leaves out the library entirely (they'll be sorry later!). It shouldn't happen: Sooner or later the library is going to be involved (and most institutional staff will believe and want this.) [Remember the discussion above of the perception of the library was the unifier of disparate institutional communities.]

One librarian recalled what happened at his institution. He took on the role of project manager because it was the only way the proejct was going to get done. He created a DH group by bringing in people across the institution. He created a new workflow to see the project through and get it done. He observed that getting people on group made them have an investment in the project. Also important: a narrative of how it was implemented and done can be an important thing for tenure and for others who want to learn.

What should this ACRL DH group do? Should the group continue as a discussion group, or become an interest group. The differences: A discussion group is free form, open ended, no membership requirements (anyone can attend), but no financial support from ACRL. An interest group receives money from ARCL to assist with programing, for example, the presentation of papers. An interest group has to have at least 75 members, and goes for 3 years, after which the group is reviewed. Kate promised to poll the email list to see how they felt on whether to continue the group as a discussion group or move toward an interest group.

The blog. Recap: Based on conversations over the ACRL DH email list, it was felt that a platform using WordPress could be useful as a central place for the intersection of librarians and DH. The question currently before us: What do we want the blog to be? Some mentioned an aggregation function, although others were not interest in a site that was simply going to pull information from other sites. One idea was that it could be a site where people submit original content. Or it could be two site: one for announcements, and one for original content with editorial curation. People felt strongly that the ACRL DH email list has been a significant communication tool and that it should be maintained. There was some brainstorming on what path the site could take: It could be like, or it could be like ProfHacker (on the Chronicle of Higher Education). It could be a place where DH tools could be commented on as to their scope and usefulness, and providing documentation of various projects.

[The blog is being set up by Sarah Potvin, Roxanne Shirazi and Angela Courtney.]

Kate again promised to send out a survey over the email list to get an idea of what people envision.

The meeting closed with the final question: What should the blog be named.

It was an enthusiastic group and I'm interested to see what course it will take.  Bravo Kate and welcome, Angela!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Forrester Research observators

I keep seeing references to the Forrester Research report A Global Update of Social Technographics by Jacqueline Anderson, Josh Bernoff with Reineke Reitsma and Erica Sorenson.  On Forrester's website, the report costs $499.

Fortunately, SLA's Information Outlook (v. 14, no. 10 (Oct.-Nov.2010)) has provided a summary, listing these categories of web users:

  • Creators develop social content by blogging, uploading music or videos and so on.
  • Conversationalists voice their opinions to other consumers using vehicles such as SNS and Twitter.
  • Critics respond to content from others--they post reviews, comment on blogs, and edit wikis.
  • Collectors organize content for themselves or others using RSS feeds, tags, and voting sites such as Digg.
  • Joiners connect in social networks such as Facebook and MySpace.
  • Spectators consume social content.
  • Inactives neither create nor consume content.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The New York Times tries something new: Annotated text via prostitution

The New York Times of January 27, 2011 has a blog entry: A Guide to Houses No Gentleman Would Dare to Frequent by Alison Leigh Cowan.  It's an examination of a little known guidebook from 1870 which reviews 150 brothels existing in the city at that time. The copy that Cowan found is located in the New-York Historical Society.

What interests me about the article is that the Times has gone a step further than usual, and has reproduced a digital copy of the entire book.  This was my first encounter with, apparently a new place that allows the Times to store large amounts of text (51 pages of school complaints about  Jared Loughner, 26 pages of poll results, etc.) to supplement articles in the newspaper.  Most of the documents have not undergone OCR, but the guide to prostitution has (unfortunately rather poorly - it would have easy to correct a 32-page book).

What really got my attention was that they have added annotations by Cowan to the digital book, using excepts from her blog post to explain portions of the text.

Whoa!  This is a way to go.  There have been so many attempts to create a web tool for annotating web pages and documents.  But to be able to do it and share it with others is part of the key.  

Of course I wish libraries could lead the troops in doing this.  I know there are so many wanted texts that people want to pour over and dissect, like a page of Talmud.  Why aren't the tools out there, and why aren't libraries (even academic libraries) at the forefront of this opportunity?  I can forsee Wikimedia setting up a WikiTexts website to deal with public domain texts and the desire to study, analyze, and elucidate them among a community.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some thoughts on the Delicious fiasco

News about Yahoo's decision to "sunset" Delicious is nearly a week old, so I might as well add my own thoughts.

First, financial.  In the current economic climate, Yahoo has been forced to identify their core services where it can realize profit (a process many companies - profit and non-profit - have been going through).  Many may not remember that at one time (prior to 1998), Yahoo was a web search engine.  By not anticipating and preparing for competitors (like Google), they proved themselves unable to adapt to the constantly changing nature of the web.

I don't see much difference in the nature of the company today.  They gather content, but seem are unable to adapt to the current circumstances of the web.  They are like survivors on a life raft, trying to weather through a storm.  
The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault
Maybe they tried to imitate AOL in overloading their homepage with so many ads that everyone knew to avoid that page at all costs.  There was so much on there you couldn't find anything.  (Even today, it's a dreadful page to look at, although it's easier to find your content.)

Those of us who have used Delicious for a while barely noticed Yahoo as the owner.  At one point early in the relationship I noticed greater speed in processing bookmarks, but no interfering ads.  One wonders how Yahoo was planning to monetize their investment.  Perhaps they would derive it from aggregating/analyzing which bookmarks were hot, but other than the front page, I saw no evidence that they used the information strategically.

I know a number of us Delicious users wanted to stay with the company if only because it is simple to use (and who wants to move hundreds if not thousands of bookmarks to a new platform?).  But it was also obvious that practically all other bookmarking tools were better, many taking advantages of Web 2.0 design techniques.  Why wasn't Delicious catching up?  Because, from the outset, I believe Yahoo bought Delicious purely as an investment.  They probably thought it would gain value just by holding on to it (assuming increasing numbers of users), and then they'd sell it to the company anxious to drop a few million.  

The result of their waiting is that the product value (as software) has steadily decreased so that it is approaching worthlessness.  Today, I feel the only worth inherent in Delicious is its user community.  By now that user community has jumped ship, migrating to other bookmark tools.  (Large notes on Diigo give detailed instructions on how to move one's booksmarks there and asks for patience, as they've had a large influx of users -- more in the past week than they've had all year.)  

Second, let me speak on the nature of bookmarking.  The term has become obsolete:  bookmarking suggests a placeholder - a site to which you want to return.  But bookmarking has become much more than that.  In today's world where "curation" has become the current buzzword, having bookmarks suggests much more than placeholders, but a means to crafting a profile or multiple points of views on numerous topics, and sharing that view or  information in general.  It is particularly that last feature which has been beneficial to so many.  It is a feature (often invisible) of sites such as newspapers, where they gauge the popularity of articles.  In this way, much valuable information can be obtained from observing bookmarking activities.

I wonder why Google didn't think of of a bookmarking tool.  For a web search that can reveal hundreds of desirable links, wouldn't it have been great to have a bookmark tool to save interesting links as you browse through your list of tens or hundreds of search results?  
Ever note that in a Google search, sometimes the same search reveals different results on successive days?  That link you glanced by on one day might be missing the next day.  How good it would have been to have Google produce its own bookmarking tool.  (I generally prefer to see a list of at least 100 results rather than anything smaller, so I would like such a tool.)

Now that the story is basically over, there is much to be learned from the Delicious fiasco:

  • Always have a backup plan
  • Don't reveal your plan until you are ready to implement it
  • Assume your secrets will eventually make it to the web sooner than you want
  • If you don't intend to modify your software for a year, it will be overtaken by products which are better, reducing your products' value
  • Don't buy products as investments; buy them because they are in sync with your vision and mission, and because you are willing to commit resources to them to make them better

And the Web 2.0 world keeps on shifting.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Web 2.0 Expo: Persuasive Design: Encouraging Your Users To Do What You Want Them To!

Among the three best talks on Tuesday morning was Andy Budd's "Persuasive Design: Encouraging Your Users To Do What You Want Them To!"  His slide presentation is embeded below; my summary below that can be read along with it.

Think of the design of a slot machine:  its flashing lights give you positive reinforce (and makes you stick with the game, despite knowledge of odds and better judgement).  Or the Wheel of Fortune:  its design makes you feel as if you are incrementally succeeding, and encourages you to carry on.  The idea of these games is about maximizing your participation and keeping your money in the game.  Part of what does this is the feeling of little wins the user receives along the way.  What is the design psychology for these games?

Design is all about making decisions (and often about increasing money spent).  The use of color, placement, hierarchy are devoted to psychologically guide the user.  They are all designed based on human behavior.

Architects attempt to dissuade and restrict negative behavior.  Politicians persuade us to vote for them.  Design is a way of getting people to respond in particular ways.  

Advertisers try to influence our purchasing decisions.  We can be bombarded with them:  Times Square is a cacophony of persuasion.  On an average day, we can receive as many as 5,000 messages a day that use persuasive design.  

Brands use their understanding of human behavior to increase consumption.  Example:  Alka Seltzer.  Normal dose is just one tablet, but all their marketing (even the jingle "Pop, Pop. Fizz, Fizz") always suggested using two.  The result is that they increased consumption of the product through persuasive design.  

Supermarkets are designed to increase consumption: It's almost impossible to come out of one and not want to get other items.  Sometimes the thing you need is located in the very back of the store. This can be called an anchor point - a central point for getting necessary items. But the the consumer must pass through many aisles to get to the cash register, with numerous temptations to purchase other items. The logic is that the more surface area a consumer covers, the more likely it is they'll want to purchase more.

It covers the senses. Music: Ambient music can be used to increase consumers' heart rate, or to slow them down - both in the aid of making them spend more time purchasing. Sound levels at bars show that if you increase the volume, people drink more (since it's too loud to hold conversations, people drink instead).

Smells. Stores push smells out to increase desires, since smells can increase purchases. (Think of Ikea and their heavy use of cinammon as you select your furniture and approach the cash register.) Studies have shown that the use of lavender in restaurants increases spending.
Some people worry that these techniques are manipulative.  But they can also be used for positive gain.  Persuasion techniques can be used on people to decrease their use of energy.  Budd showed a view of a stairway that had been painted like a piano keyboard.  It resulted in more people using that stairway.  Also redesign of a garbage can:  it made people use it more  rather than litter.

Sometimes people have too many options - design can help make choices manageable, helps uses overcome "the paradox of choice." Marketers create shortcuts.  There are a variety of different techniques for "choice architecture" or "design with intent" that can have even an minute effect on users.

It's good to know how these designs influence behavior - understanding the cognitive biases that drive decision making.  One has to recognize the target behavior and then design for it.
Authority and trust play major roles in design, since they have a big effect on users.  If someone is wearing a doctor's clothes, people will regard that person as an authority and look up to them. Don't underestimate the use of clothing:  ties, jackets, etc.

Authority and trust are used in design, and can be manipulated to create a beautiful design - the halo effect.  Examples of trust indicators:  pictures of staff, pictures of customer interactions, etc. The use of badges also affect users.

Layout and positioning.  We make decision based on context.   We compare things. Stores tend to put the most expensive items in the front of the store.  If the first thing you see is something that costs $10,000, then go to the back of the store and see something for $1,000, you'll think that item is cheap.   It's making users do comparisons.

The art of menu design.  Daily specials sell because people have difficulty deciding among many choices.  Also prices: Removing the dollar sign converts people's thinking away money to "credits."  Also, sometimes on a menu they put in very high priced items to make you believe the less expensive stuff is a bargain.

Defaults play a massive role in our decision making.  We're all lazy, and tend to pick the path of least resistance. Defaults also are a way to limit choices: people tend to select the first or last thing in a list. This has tremendous implications for voting for political leaders.
Designers can use "desire lines" to focus people on calls to action.  you can lay out a design to make users flow through an area in a certain way.

A funny example: To cut down on poor aim in toilets, they place a plastic fly in a toilet. The result: people aim better, reducing spillage by 80%.

This is "social proof." We are hugely influenced by the behavior of others - like a form of peer pressure. We look to our tribe, to the people around us to determine the social norms. Think of restaurants. When looking through the storefront window, people tend to go to restaurants that filled, not the ones with empty seats.

But social proofs can trick us. Think of overly long ATM lines.

How to use these techniques on the web? Social proofs can be an indication of popularity. Think of all the web sites that have ratings and comments. We want to go with the selection that has the most positive customer testimonials, the best ratings. Amazon is a master of the social proof. People learn what's acceptable by following the lead of others. Firefox lists its add-ons by the number of people who've downloaded them, rankings, etc.

These are social proof indicators. People don't like to take risks, so they look to others for reviews and ratings. But ratings and reviews can be deceptive: do they really reflect your particular taste?

One concern is developing an online community mood. With Huffington Post, most of the comments are a bitch-fest. With Flickr, the social community manager welcomed people in, showed them the rules and guided them. So now Flickr reflects positive behavior.
Web sites use positive behavior on people. Think of badges. It motivates people to get deep into a site in order to get badges or other rewards (Foursquare is an example.) Social proof is always on Facebook: People download apps based on their friends' behavior. Public comments encourage others to respond. The public views the discussion, and suddenly it's easy for everyone to be social.

Loss aversion. We overvalue the things we possess. A classic study: people were given free mugs at the beginning of a day. At the end of the day, they would only give back the mugs if they were given $30. Similarly, most startups overvalue their product, while outsiders undervalue the product. How to increase value? Limiting supply can drive demand. The idea of loss can be a powerful motivator. Airlines limit the number of seats in order to sell more.

TV shopping turns commerce into a MMO (massively multiplayer online) game. One ad said that if you phone and we're busy, call back later. That plants a seed in the viewer's mind that they must be busy from all the phone calls they're receiving. Ad copy: "Better act fast!" No one wants to miss out on a good deal.

More loss aversion. Big conferences. If you tell people that your product will sell out, it creates the urgency to buy, and people will buy it. For people it's an opportunity to prevent the feeling of regret at not having purchased items.

Likability and gifting. Tom Hanks is rated as one of the most likable actors in motion picture history. If he endorses something, you are going to want to get it.

Win friends and influence people. This concept is used by interrogators to understand the psychology of prisoners. Prisoners then bond with the interrogators.

Take the example of Innocent fruit juice. There's a joke at the bottom of the cartons where it reads: "Stop looking at my bottom." Such mild humor makes a big impression, developing into an emotional bond with people.

Reciprocity and gifting. People love free giveaways. Company use them because they help create an emotional bond with the users. For example: Flickr. They have a welcome message in every language imaginable. Also: Etsy. What these websites do is foster a positive character, thereby creating an emotional bond between users and them.

On Amazon you get free delivery! But only if you pay above a certain amount on certain items. But the notion of "free" makes people want to buy more - in order to get something free (an ironic paradox).

For further reading:
Buyology by Martin Lindstrom
Design With Intent by Daniel J.G. Lockton, David J. Harrison, and Neville A. Stanton

I'm not the only one who felt this was one of the best talks of the Web 2.0 Expo. Budd has plenty of nice example and didn't linger to long on any one of them. Although the many topics must be typical for those in advertisement, many were new to the audience. You could here many "oohs" and "ahs" when he revealed the psychology behind a design strategy.

His design strategy worked on me: now I have to read one of these books on the psychology of design.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Web 2.0 Expo: Miscellaneous sessions

New at this year's Expo were 20-minute sessions after lunch.

A talk entitled "The Mobile Browser Landscape" disappointed many because it turned out to be just a shill for Windows 7 Phone.

"What To Expect From Browsers in the Next Five Years" was a panel represented many of the major web browsers. Even though the four representatives seemed to know each other's plans and strategies, there were no representatives for Internet Explorer or Safari, which made the panel feel a little lopsided. Nevertheless their initial utterance was that IE 9 would support new standards and would be much improved over version 8, even though it could be further improved (it will not be compatible with WindowsXP). The feeling was that it is being brought out as a response to Chrome.

Firefox is working on Firefox Sync which will synchronize all usernames and passwords.

The Opera browser had a presence at the Web Expo; its representative stated that they are enhancing the implementation of javascript. Their new goal is to integrate with phone apps.

It was admitted that all browsers leak, which is a danger to privacy. Some lamented that the development of HTML5 did not attack these privacy issues.

All browsers try to go for speed, but each member of the panel pointed it that browser wars are like horse races - each one of them gets ahead for a while, only to be overtaken by another. This is the nature of the business, and no browser will ever be definitive, as they all keep on being developed.

(The unofficial buzz was that this browser session had more attendees than the live interview with Katie Couric.)

Deanna Zandt's talk "The Free-for-All Web and the Secret Tyrants We All Are" is available on her website as PowerPoint with audio track. It's a nice little talk (although I did get impatient with numerous metaphors). One of her main points was that, in speaking about control over the web, when you remove hierarchical structures, you develop implicit structures - people's biases then take over. (I've seen a number of groups where, once the leader departs, someone from the group suddenly steps in, self-annointed, and takes over.) She warned us to guard against these dangers and the danger of restructuring without a plan for equity.

Hers was a nice little talk. Had it been shorter it would have made a nice Ignite presentation.

Web 2.0 Expo: Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality for Marketers: Mapping the Future of Consumer Interactions by Lynne D. Johnson and John Havens woke me (and probably others) up to the recognition of how much augmented reality already exists in our lives and to how it will increase in the future.

The speakers acknowledged that GPS (global positioning systems) was the biggest recent technological innovation because it is predictive technology. This is the basis of Augmented Reality (hereafter AR).

"If it's useful, it will be adopted by the masses."

Current new possibilities: An ad for Chase shows you can "Point. Shoot. Deposit." i.e., deposit a check by taking a picture of it. This is augmented reality. It makes people's lives simpler.

Take QR Codes. They extend the capability of barcodes, can be scanned faster, and can be made to initiate commands, such as download an app, etc. An extension is Zoo Records. Recording artists were concerned they weren't getting playtime. They refashioned the QR Codes to appear as animals, so that when takes a pic of it with one's phone, the phone plays the encoded collection of songs. Barcodes and SMS messaging are beginning to use images as shortcuts to access company information. An example is Joss Stone whose graphic logo is in fact made from code.

AR at Boeing: they developed a technology where air pilots could see added flight information (i.e. altitude, air pressure, distances, etc.) in their visors instead of having to check the dashboard.

The lesson learned so far:

Utility + Ease of use = Rapid adoption

Already there are numerous businesses that allow you to use your phone to identify their locations relative to where you are standing: Quiznos, Subway, etc.. Lynne noted how in Japan, with a cellphone the subway directions appear in English. Similarly with Yelp - it can make recommendations as you watch your phone.

More: A case study was done at IBM with Seer [?], where holding up your phone will identify locations of bathrooms, food courts, etc. As you wait for a game at Wimbledon, hold up your phone to see historical information. If you temporarily wander away from your seat, you can still see what's happening through live video feeds. Think of all the new possibilities with training: they mentioned an example of a BMW car mechanic who is shown the part to be replaced, the location of where it should go, what tools to use, etc. A boon for training situations of all kinds.

Numerous examples: Tissot - issued an ad in magazines: cut out the (paper) watch and wear it to see what it would look like. Acer 3D campaign, For, their virtual vacation led to a 36% increase in bookings.

For IBM, this can lead to increased ROI and brand awareness.

The key to all of these examples is that it's fun and engaging for the consumer - even if it is a little gimmicky. It gives people a new experience that is fun.

AR already exists as a social network: "Tagwhat is a free network where you can create-and-share location based messages and content on-line or in mobile augmented reality."

User-created tags are building up the Outernet - the word for people are tagging nearly everything in the world around them. Examples: Locamoda brings FourSquare to Las Vegas. Miso puts people's video viewing habits into social media context. Also Thrilllist - which rolls in FourSquare. Similarly with HBO and GetGlue (social networking for entertainment).

Now, with many stores, you can check into a product, take a pic of the barcode and you gain points - just like a game - in real life. MyTown - people can check into a store, "own" it, and then have others "pay rent." Placecast: "location-based digital advertising company that provides ShopAlerts" via cellphones. The virtual dressing room is part of and J.C. Penny ( See how you look in the clothes before purchasing them.

The latest is that you can now check into people, thanks to facial recognition technology. With AR glasses you can see all sorts of information. Someday you might be able to see who's home and who's not - a danger. Clearly the AR industry has lots of privacy issues to deal with.

This humorous iScreener cartoon shows the dangers: iScreener

What about virtual advertising rights? Advertisers will post virtual ads when you view a scene through various phone apps. Already Bings' AR maps charges advertises to pay for virtual advertising rights.

Think of the advantages: a AR windshield will be able to tell you the location of parking spots, or where there is congestion. Already with RFID tags, there "smart parking." The future holds an Internet of things: Machines talking to machines, such as EZ Pass. [This is a prediction for what Web 3.0 is to be.]

Thus the lesson becomes:

Utility + Ease of use + Privacy/Marketing awareness = Transformation

This talk provided a very good introduction to the world of augmented reality. It was well-delivered, and I'm not the only one who thought it was one of the better presentations of the Web 2.0 Expo.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Web 2.0 Expo: Transforming Your Company To Embrace Empowered Employees and Customers

My first session on Tuesday: Transforming Your Company To Embrace Empowered Employees and Customers - by Josh Bernhoff and Ted Schadler (both of Forrester Research).

They are into empowering individuals through technology. They showed a diagram of the "ladder of participation" - from passive web watchers to activist participants:

Participation Ladder

There are 4 technologies that empower consumers:
  1. Mobile devices
  2. Social technology
  3. Pervasive video
  4. Cloud computing services
The authors took us through a brief history of the web illustrating the change in business-to-personal relationships. Empowerment is the next part of the story.

Social computing is the new customer service. This is all where's it at for the future. In this new environment, the company can NOT lock you out! Instead, companies need to respond holistically to the era of the empowered customer. How to achieve it? It's very hard.

Existence of empowered customers make it took easy to spread negative images about your company through viral techniques such as Twitter, Youtube, etc.

Instead, a company should cultivate HEROs: Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives. These are the people who will like your product so much they will function as goodwill ambassadors, and spread recommendations, nice stories, and other good words about your product and company. Clearly, a customer transaction no longer concludes with the purchase of an item. Now, it's ideal if the customer develops an ongoing relationship to the product and company. (Raises the participation and stake of the company.)

How to get there? There are 4 steps to build customer influence:
  1. Identify the mass influencers
  2. Deliver excellent customer service
  3. Empowerment through mobile devices
  4. Amplify your fans
(This ties up with previous Web 2.0 talks which spoke about how word-of-mouth from fans is probably among the best advertising you can receive.) No. 1: Who are these consumer influencers? In the US alone, people create circa 500 billion impressions of things. According to Nielson, the number is just under two trillion!!! People really want to let others what they think of things. Peer influence is highly concentrated: only 6.3% of adults create 80% of the influence impressions. (Reminds me of email paradigm: 10% of participants make 90% of the content.)

No. 2. It is these groups on which you need to focus. Deliver a groundswell of customer service. Good example: Best Buy.

No. 3. Empowering people using their cellphones. Example: They allow you to take a pic of a car and the software will automatically identify it for you!

No. 4. Amplify your fan activity. Good example: Marty Collins. Also: Microsot had a video conference of what do you do with your pc. It was a big success and enabled Microsoft to aggregate fan activity.

But here's the challenge for companies: Only empowered workers can serve empowered customers. Increasingly, customers are assuming the duties once owned by IT specialists. Companies should regard the consumerization of IT as not a problem but an opportunity. To know what's happening "out there," to remain engaged with the world of the customers, you need to empower the employees.

IT staff is accustomed to having sole responsibility for software. But now we're seeing that employees are using applications not sanctioned by IT - why? To get the job done better. If the employer throws up barriers, the workers will still find ways to get around them. So employers need to approach things differently.

Companies need a new contract - a new way of letting works increase their work productivity by any means they can, any software they can. Some examples: A worker within Black & Decker created instructional videos using YouTube. Black & Decker then created their own YouTube channel to support these efforts. At IBM, Gina Poole made collaborations possible using their Intranet.

How does the employwer support the empowered employee? With a HERO contract. Employees can create, but must know the company's mission, and the boundaries must be carefully spelled out. Bosses need to think differently about technology: Works need mobile apps, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. Business manager need to recognize that technology is now part of the landscape that they can't ignore. IT has to stop being a barrier and let workers create and flourish in the work environment.

Not surprisingly, all these ideas were anticipated in The ClueTrain Manifesto some 15 years ago. Examples: Thesis #12: The networked market knows more than companies about their products.
There are 3 models for efficient groundswell among customers:
  1. Build a service team
  2. Integrate service and marketing
  3. Make service a core value
Also ClueTrain Thesis #42: People talk to each other directly inside the company. This results in 5 ways to maximize collaboration:
  1. Extend existing tools
  2. Create value
  3. Dedicate people to project
  4. [lost the rest, but it's in the book]
It was a very nice talk. Unlike previous talks I've seen, this one really tried to wrestle with the notion that employees must be up to the energy of the consumers. They must be "on call" to explore whatever software, sites that consumers are using which could add value to the product.

Closer to the library world, the only place I've really seen this work is at the Smithsonian, where they have their own social network. Of course, most community libraries probably don't have the staff or resources to create and maintain these networks. There's no reason to think they'll be static, or will stay on one platform or one site. So being an empowered employee will require a great deal of committment and work. It's not going to be a job "extra responsibility" but will soon be an essential responsibility of every job.

For me it was one of the best talks on Tuesday, well presented. It elaborated on themes presented in the earlier Web 2.0 Expos - namely that there is so much more one can do if one harnesses the energy of customers - letting them create, and giving them a space (e.g. a company social network) in which to create.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Preparing for Web 2.0 Expo NY

Web 2.0 Expo New York 2010

I've had a fairly busy summer working extra hours voluntarily to get things done. But I've still been observing various aspects about Library 2.0, Web 2.0, and similar issues.

The biggest issue has been the economic downturn and its effect. To my eyes, this has resulted in the abandonment of the sense of experimentation and discovery. So many of the ideas of just a few years ago - experimentation, trial and error (no inhibitions at being wrong), and thinking of new possibilities - seem to be replaced with a focused effort to use several tools as extensions of existing modes of communication. All the bigger ideas suggested and articulated by people such as Michael Casey and Michael Stephens - all the implications for flattening management, of blurring the boundaries of work hierarchy, of empowering people from various parts of the organization - appear to be forgotten, with organizations sometimes resorting to management methods that should have been extinct in the 1950s.

It will be interesting to see if there is still the air of spontaneity, discovery and of fun at tomorrow night's Ignite. And it will be interesting to see who shows up for the Web 2.0 Expo. The first year in New York it appeared to be comprised of a combination of business types, geek types, and people just wanting to learn. Last year I believe there were fewer people and most seemed to be specifically into marketing, programming, web development, and similar areas. To be sure the high price assures limited variety of those in attendance. Note to O'Reilly: Thanks for non-profit discounts.

Time prevented me from a full write up of blog posts (I still have the notes from last year). Hopefully I'll do better this year, as I attempt to commit most of my notes to Twitter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Requiem for Library 2.0

Update: Administration of the Library 2.0 network has been handed over to Steve Hargadon. Never underestimate the power of the Internet to influence!

This requiem is not for Library 2.0 in general, but for the Ning network, Library 2.0. This week, its founder, Bill Drew, let us know that due to inactivity, he was closing down the site and looking for ways of archiving it.

The Library 2.0 Ning group is not old - I joined in Spring 2007 when there were several hundred members. When news of the network first spread (mostly by email), membership soon hit 1,000, then 2,000, and continued to grow. Currently there are over 4,000 members of the network. It caught on at a time when many wanted to learn about Library 2.0, but there was no obvious email list or web destination.

The excitement the group generated encouraged us to go out into the Web 2.0 world and actively engage, experiment, think of ways of harnessing Web 2.0 to create Library 2.0 concepts. It made us realize that the world is now going to be different, shifting from a stable environment to one that is ever-changing. No longer would there be one way to do things: we encouraged each other to try multiple ways, and maintain using the ones that worked while discarding those less useful, while keeping an eye open for whatever new tools or ideas may be on the horizon.

I see the Library 2.0 Ning network is a victim of its own success. We are now discarding the less useful: the Ning group was a good starting point, but it had (as Ning still has in all its groups) a number of inherent obstacles that prevent easy communication. Emailing through Ning is slower than molasses as is messaging. The entire site always felt lugubrious to me, so that once I became adept at RSS, I simply followed the feeds and avoided the site.

But its advantages were many. I met so many people through the Ning group (both virtual and face-to-face) who I have continued to keep up with, or who know me so that when the occasion arises, I feel comfortable in communicating with them.

Most importantly for me, through the group I came to recognize that Library 2.0 was not just about using cool new tools. The bigger issues were what the effect these tools had on all of us and the way we interact with the world. These issues gave rise to crowdsourcing, fostering a flatter world where one should question ownership of information, questioning traditional modes of management, advertising, short, nearly everything we do, whether on a social or individual basis. Library 2.0 (and of course Web 2.0) will continue to change the way we look and do things for the coming years as more and more people begin to recognize how to integrate the Internet into their lives.

It still is a pity that the Library 2.0 Ning group should go. I would love to see at least an email incarnation of our community -- even though I know email is not a favored method of communication for the current generation of college-age people and younger. Twitter is too limited for substantive discussions.

Whatever its future or demise may be, I would hope that all librarians throughout the world continue to maintain the group's excitement which led us to discover each other and new ways of thinking and engaging with the world.