Hi. I’m in the Los Feliz branch of Los Angeles Public library where the air conditioning is brisk and the wifi is fast and free. Abby has an amusing wrap-up of her impressions of the WLA conference as well as some thoughts about Library Thing. It’s fun to hang out with other moderator/administrators of library-ish social-ish sites (LibraryThing for her and MetaFilter for me). A lot of the issues we deal with concerning identity, authority and content filtering as well as the sheer volume of the bits and bytes we move around mean that even though our sites are very different, some of the cat-herding aspects of being an overseer of a social software network are very similar.
My article on MetaFilter, the community website that I moderate, is now up on the Library Journal website. Here’s the post on MetaFilter about it. I’m not the only liblogger who has written for them lately; Dorothea discusses being taken aback by the draconian terms of their author contract and has advice for potential LJ writers about how to negotiate the best deal to the rights of their own articles.
It’s been a while since I talked about what I do all day. Now that I’m a bit more outspoken about the work I do at MetaFilter, I’ll wrap that into my little daily report. This is from yesterday.
I got up around 8 or 9, drank water and coffee and turned on my laptop (yes, it’s off at night, until I have an office, this will be the case, the darned thing GLOWS otherwise). I checked through MetaFilter to make sure that 1) no one did something terrible overnight, where terrible = vandalized or otherwise abused the site 2) no one had any questions that need an admin attention (there were a few, nothing terribly difficult) 3) no double posts or other guideline-breaking posts needed attention. This is managed through a flagging queue where people can bring a troublesome or excellent posts or comments to the moderators’ attention. The guy who runs the site, Matt Haughey, is on the West Coast so usually I am awake before him and before most of the site members, it seems. Now that he has a young daughter, that is less the case.
Once I made sure that things were running smoothly, I checked my email. The MetaFilter email all goes into its own gmail folder. It’s another way to see if there is anything not visible on the site that I need to know or deal with. Sometimes this is people alerting me to broken HTML or otherwise needing editing assistance. Yesterday it was a site user complaining that another user was taunting her and otherwise picking a fight with her. I went in to the thread and removed a few comments. I’ll check for anonymous posts that need to be approved, project posts that need to be approved. Once that stuff was all set, I downloaded the newest songs from the newest part of the site, music.metafilter.com, which is the first podcast I’ve ever really listened to. On a site with 40,000 members, a milestone we hit yesterday, keeping up with the creative work the members are doing is more of a pleasure than work.
There really isn’t a sense of “on the clock” or “off the clock” in this job. I’m paid for about 20 hours a week and me and my boss both think I work about that much. Once I’m done with admin stuff I might answer a few Ask MetaFilter questions or maybe just go do something else online or off. How many other librarians get to keep a list of all the questions they’ve answered?
I also have a few writing projects I’m working on: one book chapter, one book introduction, one training session happening at the end of August, and the freegovinfo.info post on open access to government information which took quite a bit of time.
I drive to the school where I do the drop-in time around 12:30. I’m available for anyone who needs help with computers from 1-4, twice a week. Once the school year starts I’ll be there two days after school to help the kids in the Adult Diploma Program get some tech skils in-between all the credits they need to graduate with a diploma instead of a GED. I have keys to the school but there are usually some people there in the Summer. My students yesterday, all of whom are in their seventies, included
- The woman who just got an ipod shuffle and is trying with moderate success to get her classical music on it. We walked through the iTunes preferences to make sure it was acting the way she wanted it to. She brought her own laptop to drop-in time.
- The woman who was selling a copy of the album Paint Your Wagon on eBay. She was having trouble with her digital camera, a cheapie $20 deal someone gave her. It turned out that the batteries were in backwards (her vision is not great and she’s vain and doesn’t like to wear glasses) and then that the drivers for the camera weren’t installed. Then we STILL couldn’t get it to work, so I took a picture with my own camera and emailed it to her. She also brought her own laptop, an ancient Compaq that she got from a computer recycling store. It was running Windows ME when she got it, but she couldn’t get it to work with any of her other stuff, printers, camera, so she took it back and they put Windows 2000 on it. Every time something goes wrong with it, she drives 22 miles to the fixit guy to get him to repair it. There’s only so much I can do. Last month she sold a Montblanc pen on eBay for $700. I taught her pretty much everything she knows.
- The woman from the garden club who has a Mac running OS9 at home but wants to be able to work on text files at the drop-in lab as well. She bought a thumb drive and has a copy of the garden club mailing list. I showed her how to save it as a text file and tried to explain why the ClarisWorks files were mumbo jumbo when she tried to open them on the lab PCs. I suggested she think about getting a newer computer (I have several older iMacs that would fit the bill, I think) or a copy of MS Word. Her computer guy will come to her house, something I don’t do, and charges her $90 an hour. He installed FileMaker Pro for her to maintain the mailing list which I think is a bit of a mistake.
- The woman I know from the pool, the one I went to the emergency room with when she had a gall bladder attack last year. She has a new Yahoo email account and met some people in Costa Rica who she played bridge with. They now send her a metric ton of stupid joke emails per day, some of which she loves and some of which she hates. I taught her how to forward an email (and how to remove all the extra header information before she does) and how to send an email to more than one person. Every time I teach her a new thing that yahoo can do, she always acts like I’ve taught her how to levitate.
I also had my chat window open, and I talked to Meredith about a colleague and made some plans to hang out next week. I chatted with my MetaFilter boss about a few problem users and what to do about a few site questions.
After I got home, I had dinner and hung out and played human dictionary for some of the local kids and my landlady who were playing Scrabble. After she went to bed, I helped her former foster kid take a good picture of himself for his MySpace account. He wouldn’t put a shirt on, but he did insist on wearing baggy jeans which he then had to hold up with one hand. We got to spend a lot of time talking about MySpace and what he likes about it, and I helped him change his stylesheet to something not quite so ugly.
After everyone had gone to bed, I hopped on IRC to chat with people I know from the loose MetaFilter universe (actually a spin-off site called MetaChat) and we actually wound up talking about — surprise surprise — libraries. Here’s a small excerpt:
[0:12:37] <n****> i left my camera in a starbucks next door to the library and left town for the weekend before i realized. the starbucks people wouldnt answer their phone, so i called the library and one of the librarians went over to the starbucks, got the camera, and held onto it until i could get someone to go down there and grab it for me
[0:13:59] <f**> I don't think any of the librarians at my library would even check the coffee shop that's IN the library. hahaha.
[0:14:51] <n****> what kind of library do you work in?
[0:15:26] <f**> Well the problem with my library right now is this. It's half librarians that have been there for 30+ years and then a group of young ones.
[0:15:26] <jessamyn> I don't, I teach email to old people at the local vocational high school and do outreach to all the libraries in the county who send kids to that school [it's regional] and help thenm use their computers
[0:15:41] <f**> And the older ones aren't really jumping on what the younger ones are saying.
[0:15:47] <n****> oh cool
[0:15:48] <jessamyn> yeah that's a classic problem
I stayed up just long enough to make a post of my own to MetaFilter on the eve of its seventh birthday — a nice post if I do say so myself — and then went to bed.