Blogging like it’s 2005

wordpress-265132_640I’m not a resolutions person.  I never really have been.  In fact, I have a contrarian streak that actually makes me less likely to start a new, good habit on January 1.  Like, I would want nothing more than to join a book group or take up a new sport and the possibility that it would look like a New Year’s resolution would probably be enough to put me off. I think that’s a character flaw.

Still, as someone who spends a lot of time in her head, the inherently reflective nature of the calendar turning over affects me no matter what I choose to do with that information. And one of the things I was reflecting on this year was a conversation that Meredith tapped into about blogging, reading and social media platforms.

I told Meredith at the time that one of the biggest barriers I have to writing in this space — this space right here — is the lack of reading.  And what her post made realize was that I wasn’t talking so much about reading time and space, but the lack of a network of other digital writing to read.  Back when this was the only real platform for sharing that now happens in a much more fragmented way, it was a rare week where I found nothing to think about in my networks.

(Or maybe it’s just because Google murdered Reader. I blame that for a lot of things).

But back then, when the writing was longer form, and my scanning happened once or twice a day on Google Reader (or del.icio.us) I made more choices about which rabbit holes I was going to go down.  And I had more information to make those choices. My To Read pile was still out of control, and I was never caught up. Let’s not pretend it was different than it was.  Still.

If there’s one thing Twitter is good for it’s pushing All the Things written by and recommended by All the Brilliant People right by my eyes and I have been feeling a kind of desperate desire to read all of those things for the last two years at least — a desperation that is really keeping me from sticking with anything long enough to do the reading I need to do.

So I think I need to slow down.  To make some choices.  To take a breath or two.  When I say blogging like it’s 2005, that’s kind of what I mean.  Be intentional about  here, don’t write here, but mostly write here without trying to keep up with the conversations an the thoughts and the torrent of ideas that is going on elsewhere.  I think sharing some of those choices here will let me feel more connected to them – and less like I should push them aside for the next thing and the next thing and the next.  Here’s what I am going to try and focus on for the next few weeks:

These are directly related to stuff I am doing and working on.

  • The Art of Effective Facilitation – edited by Lisa Landreman. Ideally, I will start and finish this one this week, because it’s going to provide some grounding for a training I’m heading in to.  Realistically …. we’ll see.
  • Intersectionality by Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge. I have been stalled out 2/3 of the way through this for a while, and since the pieces I have already read are already making their way into stuff I am writing, I think I need to buckle down. Ideally, I will have this one done by the end of the month.
  • Transformative Civic Engagement through Community Organizing by Maria Avila. This was recommended at a workshop/retreat I went to in November, by another one of the participants and I got my hands on it right away and loved it immediately. But I am still only ten pages in.  Honestly, it’s really fast and really short – I could probably finish this in an afternoon.  But I’m going to give myself an end of the month deadline for this as well.

And in the less directly connected but still important category — I made a public commitment to read this on twitter, and didn’t finish.  So let’s see if I can get through the rest:  The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how much better I do with regular writing time.  I’ve never been a “write for an hour every morning at five” type of person, and  I have never successfully kept up a journal.  Honestly, I’m pretty lousy in general at writing on a schedule.  But I do better when I write regularly.  My daughter has a sticker on her laptop that says “Write until the world makes sense” and for real, that’s what I’m missing when I don’t write — the chance to make sense of things.

I’ve tried a bunch of different ways to build that in to my regular work, and honestly, I’m not too happy with any of them.  I don’t have a well-defined set of reasons why.  But some of this has to do with public/private thinking.

Some of that sense making I need to do will honestly never be for public consumption, because that’s not the kind of work I need to do.  Some of the sense making I need to do will only make more sense if I talk about it with others.  I’m realizing that no matter what the platform, I don’t really want to the stuff in the first category in the cloud — in fact, most of that work isn’t even stuff I do well digitally.

But the stuff in the second category – I get some learning and thinking and sense making value when I write for an audience that I don’t get when I write for myself, or when I tweet, or when I bring up the same idea in four different meetings because it’s on my brain and needs to get out.

So that’s what I’m thinking.  And that is what I am thinking of trying.  I’m not resolving to do it, though, so let’s not call it a resolution.

tumblr tags – 10 minutes in a one-shot won’t do it

So, I saw how Stephen Francoeur is using Tumblr as a commonplace book, and thought that might be a way to solve a problem I was having with my iPad-dominated workflow — how to corral and find the stuff I come across serendipitously, and the stuff I come across more intentionally in Google Reader.  So I am on tumblr, but I am really bad at being on tumblr for real – I haven’t even found anyone to follow yet.

I think that workflow issue might be a topic for another post.

Today, though, I want to make good on my promise over there that some of that stuff might show up here.  One common thread in the things I’ve saved over there is examples that show how complicated evaluation really is – especially when it is not accompanied by the kind of disciplinary expertise that most first-year students don’t have.

I’ve been tagging those 10 minutes in a one-shot won’t do it

One example digs into Politifact – a resource that the composition faculty and I talk about in WR 222, an advanced composition class that focuses more on public than academic discourse.

While the course we use it in isn’t focused on academic discourse, this discussion at the American Historical Association blog is — particularly on the different ways that legal scholars and historians approach the same question, which makes the task assigning a singular and simple “true” or “false” rating to a political claim more complicated than it seems.

The claim in question relates to recent laws and measures that regulate voting — more specifically, do claims that use historically specific terms like “Jim Crow” and “poll tax” to make claims (by analogy) about current measures stand up to scrutiny?  Politifact has evaluated three such claims in the last two years.

First, the AHA argues that Politifact “did its homework” in each of these cases —

Each time, Politifact editors called on historians to help them judge. Each time, their analysis and resulting judgments raised important questions about how historians, journalists, and politicians evaluate the nature of truth and how the past can best be mined for constructive analogy.

The list of historians and legal scholars consulted is lengthy and impressive.  The AHA points out some of the ways that historians and legal scholars differ in their approach(es) to the question – historians may be more likely to take a broad view of the question, while legal scholars examined questions of results and intent in a more focused way.  Overall, the message seems to be this – that the question “is this a suitable comparison” isn’t simple – and isn’t well served by the truth-o-meter approach.  Many of the scholars questioned brought up subtleties – that individually could tip the meter either way, but taken together points most of all to the conclusion that “it’s more complicated than that.”

And perhaps this is the issue. Politifact admirably works to educate the public on the accuracy of politicians’ references to the past. Sometimes this is a straightforward task; often it is not. Politifact generally seeks to confirm or disprove one-for-one correspondences between the present and the past. The historians cited by Politifact appear more willing to allow for comprehensive thinking; recognize that categories like “Jim Crow” aren’t cut-and-dried; and accept the idea that intent matters. Historians, less attached to the tyranny of the Truth-o-Meter™, are more willing to engage questions by explaining issues of continuity and change, and greatly enlarging the context. Though Politifact has made a concerted effort to include historians in its analysis, the Truth-o-Meter™ might not be readily calibrated to measure their responses.

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop using Politifact in WR 222 – like it or not, the discourse that class examines does reflect the assumptions of the meter of truth, and it’s a useful addition to the boatload of resources I throw at them.  But I’m also sending this discussion to the faculty who teach that class.  Because this is just one example of what I am sure are many situations where “it’s more complicated than that” seems to be the best response to the truth-o-meter (and I’m sure some of those examples come up in class).

And just like all the subtleties the historians bring up show the limitations of the truth-o-meter for adjudicating complex questions, all of these examples show the limitations of any kind of list, or tool, or crutch that can be used to “teach” evaluation in 10 minutes in a one-shot.

crowdsourcing mutual aid (information)

Mutual aid itself is probably inherently crowdsourced?

This is a mapping project – Hurricane Irene Clean Up Efforts – with the tagline “ordinary people help ordinary people.”

As the site says “disaster responders can’t be everywhere at the same time.”

People can report their projects, or projects they know about, categorize them, map them and generally get the word out.  Need can also be reported. Reports can be categorized as: Clean up efforts; Damage; Information Sources; Media Outlets; Severe Weather; Supplies Needed; Transportation; Water & Sanitation

Election 2.0

Keeping an eye on the process –

Tracking the polling places – how long does it take, are the machines working.  Sharing this information can help the voter make the most of their time, but the implicit goal is also to ensure that any questionable practices at the polling places don’t stay under the radar.

My Fair Election – A mapping application that lets you rate your polling place.  Not much information here, really – and maybe that’s because there’s an easier way to share this info, that a lot people are already using –

Twitter election watch

Twitter Vote Report was described by Information Aesthetics as a grassroots election monitoring system… that features an innovative use of Twitter as the main infrastructure for distributed data collection.

Twitter users can mark messages #machine to report problems with voting machines, #wait to report on wait times, and #votereport for all kinds of polling-related messages.

00 am Election Day
real time results for #machine aat 8:00 am Election Day

Of course, the opposite problem might attach here – too MUCH information to make anything specific to my situation find-able.  Not to mention no Twitter user could possibly be entirely confident that the election won’t break Twitter.

ETA – Another twitter project.  Election Protection: You Have the Right to Vote. 1-866-OUR-VOTE.  The twitter feed gathers and broadcasts reports of voter suppression and other problems.  Users can also report problems using state code tags in this format:  #EPstatecode (i.e. #EPOR), and zip code tags (#EPzipcode).

Please let me know about similar projects in the comments!

Looking back at the campaigns –

The 10 most viral videos of the 2008 campaign (from Politico)

The campaign in posters (from Caleb Crain)

Dipity Election Center – mashing up election information and dipity’s timeline tool (from Dipity)

I never thought I’d really have to update those screenshots

Raise your hand if you thought that del.icio.us was never ever really going to change?

Yeah, me too.

my bookmarks at the new delicious

my bookmarks at the new delicious

No more weird URL — it’s at http://delicious.com

So far, so good?  I’m going to miss the little star that says I have a new fan.  And some other things I haven’t discovered yet.  But after four minutes with it I can say nothing has bugged me excessively.

what do comics and documentary filmmaking have to do with libraries?

Nothing, really? Except maybe…

I spent the weekend working on a project Shaun is just starting – a documentary that takes a geographic look at why Portland has become such a central place for comics creators and publishers. He’s had to push his production schedule way up because the Stumptown Comics Fest, which has been in September, moved to April. So he doesn’t have the student crew he is planning to have yet (if you know a talented student filmmaker at OSU or WOU who would like some independent study credit – email me) and none of his volunteer crew was available on short notice to spend the weekend in Portland.

So it was just him and me filming 24-Hour-Comics-Day. That really means it was just him, with me to do the stuff that required more than 2 hands – holding the mike was a big part of my day. The 24 hours in question extended from 10 am Saturday morning to 10 am Sunday morning, and the artists and writers who participated spent this time around a table at Cosmic Monkey comics in northeast Portland. Their task was to produce a 24-page comic in 24 hours from start to finish.

Around 20 people signed up for the event, about 20 showed up and about 20 were there much of the time — but as Leigh Walton (who liveblogged the whole event – check it out) said, they weren’t always the same 20 people. When we walked back in on Sunday morning there weren’t 20 people there, but there were more than 10 and some of the people who were gone were gone because they were done already.

(No, we didn’t stay the whole night. The camera did.)

The people there ranged from first-timers who may or may not have ever put together a comic of this length, to established names like Jim Valentino (creator of Normalman), Neal Skorpen (doing his fifth 24 hour event) and David Chelsea (participating in his TENTH 24 hour event). And people were doing the event for all kinds of reasons – which is one of the more interesting things about these timed, creative contests I think.

When we do things like the 48 hour film project or the IDC, it’s usually to see how good of a film we can make in that period of time, yes. And when we talk to people about how we’ve just done a short film in 2 days or a documentary in 5, that marathon-like aspect of it is what people focus on — the idea that you do these things like people run a marathon, to see if you CAN do these things. If you have what it takes, the strength, the speed the stamina, or whatever. And there’s a “best time” variation on that — even if you know you CAN create a comic in 24 hours or make a movie in 48, there’s still – how good of a thing can you make in that time?

But with these creative contests – there are so many more reasons why people do these things. When we do the film contests part of it is pulling a community together in our smallish part of the state that’s interested in this kind of creativity – the Willamette Valley Film Collective idea. And that community aspect also came through loud and clear this past weekend — Shaun was thinking about how doing film as his scholarship is interesting because unlike writing books or articles, you can’t make a movie all by yourself. At the very least, you need your wife to hold the mike. And the artists and writers in the room were on the opposite side of things – what they do, they do by themselves a lot and having the chance to do it in a room with other people was part of the draw.

But another reason why people do these things – has nothing to do with marathons at all. Some people sign up for NaNoWriMo, 48 Hour Film, Script Frenzy, International Documentary Challenge or Madison’s Mercury Theater Blitz not to see if they can create a play or novel or movie in that time period – but to see if they can create a play or comic or movie or novel at all. Whether because they need the deadline, or the community of people doing the same thing fuels the competitive drive, or because they haven’t been able to manage doing it a little at a time and they need the excuse to just drop everything and put some sustained effort towards creating — they think “this is how I can finally get it done.”

So what has this to do with libraries? Well, probably nothing. But after I went to Picture Poetry to read the live blog of the event, I stuck around a bit reading Leigh Walton’s posts about Portland and comics and publishing — and I was struck by this older entry which starts off with the observation that “the distribution and retail network for comics is broken like whoa.”

The post itself is mainly a long excerpt from another person who is explaining why he shops online for comics instead of supporting his local shops — and if you read it, doesn’t it sound a lot like people talking about libraries? I mean, there’s the overwhelming difference that if you choose between an online shop and a brick and mortar shop you’re choosing where to spend your money, while if you choose Amazon over your library you’re choosing TO spend money — but other than that, a lot of what they’re saying sounds exactly like what we say in libraries — even down to the “let’s put a coffee shop in to be more welcoming.”

Which gets me thinking about the community aspect of things – and the role that the community plays in supporting people who just want to see if they can do stuff, produce stuff, create stuff, and more that the 24 hour comics drawpocalypse represented. In other words, I think I’m saying if we’re just a place to consume information, whether that information takes the form of comic books or academic books, I’m not sure we can compete with the Amazons and what have you. I mean, I’d rather do the consuming part at home on my couch, all things being equal. But all things aren’t equal, because we’re about more than consumption. One of the reasons that people get out and go to their local yarn store is for Stitch and Bitch night, one of the reasons people go out to the comic store is to draw a comic in 24 hours — libraries are also spaces where people don’t just consume, but also create, and create together with other creators — how can we build more into that aspect of what we are.

What does social networking overload really look like?

Last year, Rachel and I reported on a survey we did the year before that looked at how librarians feel about different social software applications like blogs, wikis and the like (is that right? I think so – it’s a really long time ago now). We mainly found out that we should have asked some different questions, which is what always happens when I do surveys.

But there was one thing that was really, really striking – most people reported not doing a ton of social networking (and I’m talking about things like blogs and wikis, not Facebook. And this was 2 years ago so things have probably changed). But in terms of how often people have edited a wiki, for example, I bet things haven’t changed that much.

Anyway, most librarians weren’t doing a ton of social networking. AND YET —

Almost everyone (97%) reported that they liked exploring new technologies.

Almost everyone (85%) reported that they were encouraged at work to explore new technologies.

And this is the big one – almost everyone (70%) reported that they had enough time to explore new technologies.

And yet. They weren’t doing it. So we theorized that the reason for this was a time issue, but it wasn’t the time issue that people usually talked about. Setting up accounts, figuring out how tools work — librarians have time to do that. That part is easy. The hard part for most of us is the time it takes to actually engage with a new group of people (or put together enough of the old group of people to make it worthwhile).

And I’ve certainly found that to be the case.

Which is a long way of saying – I actually looked at my Twitter account today. I know, right? I have said in multiple presentations that I don’t use Twitter, and I don’t. But as is the case with many other things that require accounts – I have one. So the second Pengrin story launched today and there’s a Twitter component. That was apparently all it took. Just like this whole experiment means I can choose to just read stories and not really play the ARG, this story means I can just read stories and not really have to do all of that work that it would take to make Twitter fun.
I enjoyed the first story quite a bit but I’m expecting to really have fun reading this one. It’s blog-based (young character = LJ, parental characters = wordpress), the emo teen-ish character makes an Emily the Strange reference in her first paragraph and a Twin Peaks reference in the third — and as an extra added bonus for me there’s a slowly evolving meta conversation in the comments.

I don’t know the classic book it’s connected to – The Haunted Doll’s House, but Slice does have a creepy doll picture representing it on the main site, which is awesome.

So this is apparently what it takes to get me to invest some energy in Twitter, at least for today. It will be interesting to see if I feel like I “get” Twitter any better at the end of this week than I do right now. It usually takes real engagement with a social tool like this for me to understand its cool factor. That usually happens right about the time I start to notice that the tool is changing something about how I think about something on the web – whether that something is information, other people, or whatever. I suspect this won’t be enough to do it, but I’ve been wrong before.

It was this post today on Unit Structures that really got me thinking about all of these connections. Because this isn’t all to say that I don’t get why lots of people do like Twitter – I actually do. But I think there’s some truth in the guess Rachel and I made about our survey data — that sometimes even when the social or informational or educational or other payoff is there for the taking, developing new social networks takes work, and energy — and sometimes we have to pick and choose where to spend it.