streamlined digital divide talk – 12 minutes

A few weekends ago I gave a talk at the KU Diversity Summit, an online conference that took place virtually, but also physically at the Kansas University School of Journalism in Lawrence Kansas. As you know, I have a soft spot for Kansas. As you may or may not know, I usually don’t do online conferences because I have a hard time dealing with the technical and social snafus that usually accompany them. I like to give talks, not be told I have to install Windows-only software or register for a site with sketchy privacy policies just to interact with listeners. I know other people can deal with this stuff gracefully and I happily recommend them when I’m saying “Thanks but no thanks” to people. I may be getting a little cranky in my old age, but I’m also just interested in giving higher quality talks less frequently. This is a goal for 2012.

Anyhow, the team from KU charmed me and assured me the tech issues would be minimal; I could do everything over Skype, have slides or not have slides and they’d field questions from the live audience and from Twitter. It went well. They had a tight schedule so asked me if ten minutes was okay. I said “Fifteen?” As it was I managed to do it in about twelve. The full video, all five hours of the conference, is available online here, but I’ve trimmed out the part that I did, short talk, short Q&A session afterwards and links to more information are at librarian.net/talks/ku. It think it’s a pretty concise summary of the major digital divide issues that I think are facing people and libraries.

an ebook is not a book, discuss?

I had a busy week. It wrapped up in the lovely state of Maine where I got to talk about the digital divide and ebooks to a bunch of Maine librarians. The digital divide talk is probably one you’ve seen various versions of, but the ebooks one is more or less new. My assertion is that the problem of ebooks is the problem of multiple perspectives [readers and authors and publishers and librarians don't even agree on the landscape, much less the trees] as well as the problem of metaphors. At its core, one of the difficulties in teaching people about technology is that it’s teaching people to manage real invisible things [files, websites, social content] through a series of metaphors ["folders" "tagging" "friending"] that are more or less complex depending on people’s level of existing knowledge. While the printed word and language generally is something of a metaphor, you can read a book without really having to think about that level of abstraction. We’re not there yet with ebooks and the metaphors confuse the reality, a reality that is still shifting, hopefully moving towards if not some standards, at least some etiquette.

In any case, both talks are here. I got a lot of good feedback on my general topic from Twitter and other social media interchange arenas. Thanks to those who helped me with this, and thanks to the nice librarians from Maine for coming to listen and talk.

Goddard Commencement Speech – text and citations

So I spent a good chunk of the day today at Goddard College which is up the road from me. I was invited to give the commencement speech for their MA in Individualized Studies Program. They graduated ten people and had a terrific ceremony including a singalong to the tune of the Muppets’ Rainbow Connection, a group of drummers during the processional, origami creations given to the graduates, and a lot of schmoopy speeches because when you graduate ten students, everyone gets a chance to be on the microphone. It was wonderful and heartwarming and I was so pleased to be a part of it. I gave a fifteen minute speech that I probably ad-libbed out to twenty minutes. Unlike most of the talks I give, this one was written out word for word for the most part. I was asked by a few people for the text of it so I’m tossing it here, adding some links to things, and people can link to it, copy it, whatever works. Thanks to everyone who hosted me, and congratulations again, graduates. (more…)

Oregon Virtual Reference Summit, my talk, on Vimeo

Here’s the video of me talking about Ask MetaFilter and online Q&A stuff that I gave at the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit. I included the slides a few days ago, but here’s the actual video of the talk, as presented. Big thanks to Caleb Tucker-Raymond for making this video up. You might also like Emily Ford’s lightning talk: What Libraries Can Learn From Kanye.

talk: adventures in virtual reference

I went out to Oregon to give a talk to the people who staff L-net, the 24/7 virtual reference service for the state of Oregon. They have a yearly conference which is a lot of fun. Video from the talks will be available at some point, but I figured I’d link to my talk now. I talked about Ask MetaFilter and a little bit about what we do there and how it is and is not like other forms of virtual reference. Lots of stats. Lots of anecdotes and sample questions. The Slideshare version doesn’t seem to have the notes attached and functional (attached yes, accurate, no), so while I hammer that out from them, you can also go to the talk’s page on librarian.net and download whichever version you want. Thanks to all who attended on Friday.

Book is out, and some other things.

I don’t think I’ve taken two weeks off from this website since it started in 1999. A short explanation is in order. I received a box with five copies of my book in the mail on May 18th. The next day I received the news that my father had died. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere and I’m sorry if I should have told you personally and didn’t and you learned about it here.

So, what might have been a PR onslaught of epic proportions–I am very proud of this book and excited to see it done and almost perfect–turned into a completely different sort of set of weeks. I’ll write more about my father on my own blog and you’re welcome to read this thread on MetaFilter which has links to a lot of things to read about him including obits in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. We’ve also set up a memory page on 1000 Memories [free forever, I give these folks the thumbs up]. My father’s death was sudden but not totally unexpected. I had a good relationship with him which was hard-won because he was a difficult and somewhat complex man. I am doing okay, all things considered. I am well taken care of. I am his executor and there is a lot of work to do.

Yesterday I started thinking about the book again. I made a facebook page for it but it also has its own page which includes the full bibliography, web links and appendix. The local newspaper wrote a little article about it and I think I can get the local bookstore to stock it. I’ll be heading to the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit in a few days to talk about Ask MetaFilter and the digital divide. I have a small pile of stuff I’ve been meaning to put here, but wanted to let people know what was up first. Let me know if you liked the book. Thanks for being here.

What I did at TXLA – the library version

Rally for Texas Libraries

So there are two reports about what I did in Austin, what I ate and what I did at TLA. Sometimes they overlap. That said, this is the what I did at TxLA post. The other one will be over at jessamyn.com. I’ll add a note here when I’ve posted it.

I went to TxLA to give a talk about the digital divide. I had done a talk the previous month for SXSW but really it was mostly me introducing my co-presenters and then letting them go. I have a little page for that here and you can listen to how it went here. I was pleased with it, but it wasn’t the talk I wanted to give for TxLA. Here is the talk that I gave for TxLA (an all new talk, one that I’m very happy with) and here is a blog-report of it. I felt like it went well, though one of the downsides to being at a giant conference is that a lot of the talks, even ones that I thought would be crazy popular, were only about half full. Here is what else I saw

  • The American Warn on Sex – Marty Klein has written a book by the same name. He does a terrific talk about how encroaching fundamentalism is causing people to basically self-censor in order to “be polite” and it’s shifting our ideas of what it means to be American, and how to participate civically. He’s a funny guy with a very professional talk and I think everyone should hire him to speak at their library conference.
  • I saw Aaron Schmidt’s talk on user experience. While I know the things Aaron talks about generally, I haven’t seen him give a talk in a long time and it was neat to get to see him really untangle what we can do to make our websites more usable.
  • I saw John Scalzi and a host of other authors on a Sci-Fi panel–Science Fiction: Beyond Earth’s Boundaries–which was great fun. I know John Scalzi online through MetaFilter and was mostly going to say hi. The panel itself turned out to be wonderful. Six very different authors who spoke briefly and then answered questions for an hour, talking about their craft and the world of epic fantasy and how they got into the business. Enthusiastic audience and a really great moderator made this a fun panel.
  • Library Book Cart Drill Team requires no additional explanation. Was terrific. It’s always terrific. Here’s a video you might like.
  • Did I mention that TXLA had an app and a very well-curated Twitter feed and hash tag? Both of them were great ways to see what was happening at the conference in real time. For people with non-app phones that could still use browsers, there was a really simple mobile site that functioned well. Big props to Chris Jowaisas for the work he did on this as a newish TLA member.
  • Oh I think I forgot to mention the rally! There was a huge Rally for Texas Libraries which happened on Wednesday. That’s what the photo is from. There were more librarians on the statehouse lawn than there ar in the entire state of Vermont. It was impressive, well-organized and well-planned. Short and to the point and they even got a few reps to come out and say a few things. Inspiring.
  • I went to this Dollars for Digitzation panel where three different women spoke about applying for and getting grants for large-scale digitization projects. Tons of good information.
  • Small Community Libraries Dessert Social was a great place to chitchat with librarians at small rural Texas libraries. Plus there was a lot of dessert. Very nice people, thanks to Judy Daniluk for stopping by to say hi and encouraging me to go to this.

That’s the stuff I can remember for now, with the help of the app and some notes and some photos. My Austin photoset [including a few photos from SXSW and a few from TXLA] is up and online and you’re welcome to check it out. Thanks so much to TLA for TXLA11 and to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission for having me come down, it was wonderful.

a little thing I wrote

I wrote 5000 words about writing 100,000 words. Here’s my essay on In the Library with the Lead Pipe about thoughts I had on writing for print in an era of digital content.

Dartmouth’s October Conference – my slides, others’ slides

One of my favorite conferences is the October Conference put on by Dartmouth’s Biomedical Libraries. I went once as an attendee several years ago and this time I went as the opening speaker [I said "Please don't call it the keynote, that's pressure!"]. The conference idea is simple: share things that are working for you at your library. It’s a one day affair with ample coffee, snacks and lunch, reasonably priced and wraps up early enough so that you can be home by dinner, no matter where in New England you’re from. Talks are all 30 or 15 minutes and go quickly. None of the topics are “biomedical libraries” in nature, at all. Most of the librarians in attendance are academic, I’m pretty sure.

I did a talk on location awareness which was 100% new [I didn't even repurpose any old crowd-pleaser images] and talked about what’s coming down the pike in terms of mobile stuff — how HTML5 is going to change the idea of “apps” for a lot of people, what some companies and libraries are doing, why people find this fun. It was called The Mayor of Everywhere Using Social Tools to Be More Places at Once and uses my now-old-timey-seeming HTML slides. Scroll to the end and click “printable” to read the talk as I gave it. It was well-received.

You can benefit from this conference even if you weren’t there because everyone’s slides are online in PDF form. Here’s the website for the conference. If you didn’t go this year, you should try to go next year.

summertime is when I am not writing a book

I mentioned it on my personal blog, but I’ve finished writing my book and submitted the draft to my editor, Barbara Ittner from ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited. Assuming everything goes well, it will be available at the end of January. This is the first time since April of last year that I have not in some way been writing this book, though most of the actual writing took place in the last six months. I lenjoyed writing and I am enjoying not-writing. Here’s a little bit of reflection on the book writing thing.

1. The book’s title is Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide. The book is already for sale on Amazon. This is sort of weird, watching its sales rank soar and plummet six months before its even available. I set up an author page there, but I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m aware that the book is expensive. I’m aware that I could sell it more cheaply if it were self-published. I know I don’t really need any of the statusing that comes along with publishing with an established publisher. I’ll probably grouse that I could have made a better cover. However, I don’t think I would have written this book without an external deadline, even though I think in many ways this is the book I’ve been “meant to write” for some time now. So, thank you to Barbara for suggesting it and helping make it a reality.

2. I really cocooned while I was writing. I stopped reading my RSS feeds for about the first time ever. I kept my IM client off. I’d peek at Twitter and try to remember to keep adding things to my blog. I sort of checked out from my online and offline communities except for work and occasional Twitter updates. It was an odd thing to do.

3. I woke up every morning determined to write at least 1000 words and would tell myself “I chose this.” but it was still really difficult. Some days the words just flowed. Some days 1000 words would take eight hours. I type about 90 words a minute, when I’m on a roll this would all go fast. I had to keep reminding myself that in many ways I am the expert on this topic and so it was okay to speak from a position of authority and not have to cite statistics all the time.

4. I felt like I was becoming a total dullard. “How’s it going Jessamyn?” “Pretty good, I’m writing a book.” “Still?” This became easy because after a while I just didn’t feel that I had the free time to go out. I’m working on re-entry, it’s going okay.

5. The book has my voice which means I say that some things work and some don’t. I’m sure people will have strong opinions about some of it and I mentally prepared myself for a lot of pushback, more than I will likely get. I make a lot of assertions about how I see the digital divide and what I think is working and not working to mitigate it. I hope people don’t get bogged down in nitpicking. I hope no one that I mention feels that I was uncharitable.

6. I asked for and received a lot of help from people–editing help, requests for pullquotes, some open Twitter requests for information, proofreading–and it’s weird to me that only my name will be on it. I have an extensive “thanks” section. I’m sure I’ve forgotten as many people as I’ve included. It’s odd, in a lot of ways the path I’ve chosen has room for a lot of showboating, doing public presentations, talking on my blog about what I’ve been doing or thinking about, and yet I get timid when there’s actually a situation where it’s useful to be all BUY MY BOOK.

That is the report about the book. You can buy it or not. I think it will be good.