The Sixth Blog, or Freedom Isn’t Free

One of the blogs that was going to be in my list of five favorite non-library blogs was Creating Passionate Users. But recent events made me decide to write a separate blog post about this particular blog.

Like a lot of Library 2.0-types, I’m quite a fan of Creating Passionate Users, and my favorite posts are by Kathy Sierra. She’s engaging, imaginative, witty, positive, and, well, passionate. So when I read her post about being harassed online, I was absolutely appalled, angered, and sickened. Other smart people have said better things than I could, so I’ll simply say you should go read them and assume that I’m vigorously nodding my head in agreement.

We cannot tolerate this kind of behavior. We wouldn’t tolerate in our physical space, and we cannot tolerate it in virtual space. We must stand together against this kind of disgusting behavior. The responsibility falls to all of us. That’s all there is to it.

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Yes, Virginia, There Are Blogs That Aren’t Library-Related

Nicole tagged me (and I barely felt a thing!) with a meme that originated with Rachel Singer Gordon, so let me come clean: I read blogs and frequent websites that have little or nothing to do with libraries. No one was more shocked than me to find this out. After further rumination, I have to say I like this meme. It lets us librarian-types show what we look at in our secret identities.

Here are five of my favorite not-so-much-with-the-library blogs:

Boing Boing — This seems to be popular choice amongst the biblioblogger set, and rightly so. It’s a happy mutant theme park of madcap art, exploration, cool toys, mad science, weird places, pop culture celebrations, skepticism, wide-eyed enthusiasm, and rants against copyright exploitation.

The Comics Curmudgeon — A guy named Josh reads newspaper comic strips and mocks them mercilessly. I love it! It’s also significant to me, because…well, let me reveal a little more about myself: when I was younger, I wanted to be a cartoonist. My dream was to have my own daily comic strip in the funny pages. What tickles me about The Comics Curmudgeon is that the comics he savages are about as funny and well-written as the ones I did when I was 10.

Lifehacker — Another popular choice for library bloggers, and again it’s no big surprise. This blog is chock full of useful advice, handy tips, and links to cool software downloads. I think every Firefox extension I use I originally found out about on Lifehacker.

Wil Wheaton –Yes, that Wil Wheaton, the actor from Stand By Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation. It turns out, he’s not just an actor, he’s a total geek (he plays role-playing games and uses Linux!), an unrepentant smartass (his reviews of ST:TNG episodes are hilarious!), and a sensitive and funny writer. Which makes him, in my book, a very cool dude.

Glenn Greenwald’s Unclaimed Territory — Even if you’re not a paying subscriber to Salon (and I’m not), it’s worth clicking through the ad everyday to read Greenwald’s blog. Granted, his posts are usually much longer than I like my blogs to be, but he really nails a lot of what’s going on in the US government and media. He’s one of the few Americans I know of who has been consistently pointing out the dangerous, insidious authoritarianism of the Bush Administration and its most vocal supporters. He’s a sharp boy, our Glenn.

So there you have it. The meme goes on, Rachel. Now, rather than tag five people to continue this meme, I’ll say this: if you’re reading this and you haven’t yet posted about this, consider yourself tagged. You’re it!

Personal Matters

My blogging has really dropped off this week. I’ve been dealing with the nastiest GI bug I’ve faced in quite a while, and my wife’s battle with kidney stones got to the point where she was admitted to the hospital last night. The stone-removal procedure will be done this afternoon and she’ll be home this evening, and she will finally (knock on wood) be done with this nasty business, after four weeks of living between Annoying Discomfort and Agonizing Pain. And I will get back to, among other things, blogging.

Twitter Me This

Even as I rationalized and defended the excitement and curiosity about Twitter in Biblioblogistan, and enjoyed David Lee King’s “Twitter Explained for Librarians,” I was wary of dipping my own piggies into Twitter. Why?

As much as I’ve gotten a kick out of John Blyberg’s rant against Twitter, it’s not because I think Twitter is “the basest manifestation of the culture and systems it represents.” Personally, I’m not sure Twitter is any more trivial, base or vain than the rest of the internet. I think “base” and “trivial” and, well, “slutty” are in the eye of the beholder. And if people like David Lee King and Rochelle Hartman are getting solid use out of Twitter, than rock, rock on, says I.

But reading Kathy Sierra’s post “Is Twitter TOO good?” really struck a chord with me and nailed why I’m not jumping onto Twitter. And I will admit that it almost certainly says more about me than it does about Twitter itself.

Social software is only useful to me when it leads to and facilitates conversations and connections that are substantive and satisfying to me. The brief, changing Twitter messages don’t do that. Michelle Boule and Jessamyn West have the best IM status messages I’ve seen, but it doesn’t make me feel closer to them, and it really has nothing to do with me personally. Frankly, I don’t want to know and I don’t care what people are doing from moment to moment. What I want is to sit with you all in the same room, down copious amounts of coffee or booze, and enjoy each other’s company. If I can’t have that, I’ll settle for phone calls and emails and IMing, blog posts and comments, wikis, threaded conversations on web forums. I want to hear your crazy stories and listen to your mad ideas and learn your secret origins, and I want to share the same with you. For me, Twitter offers the illusion of connectedness and conversations, without actually giving me what I want and need.

There’s no reason why anyone should care whether or not I dig Twitter, and I pass no judgement on anyone who enjoys it and/or finds it useful. But for me, there is no there there.

Mattering in the Blogosphere

I finally have a copy of the March issue of American Libraries in my mitts and I can see the “Mattering in the Blogosphere” article for myself. Boy, do I share the space with some smart, articulate people! Strangely, the article doesn’t provide URLs for the blogs, so here they are:

Just as Kathleen, Jessamyn, Nicole and Rochelle have done, I’ll post all of my answers here, including the ones that got edited out. Here’s a thing, though: when I got the email with the questions, I had no idea how long the article would be or how long my answers should be. I was concerned that if I went on at length, my answers would get chopped, possibly making me sound like an idiot. So I kept my answers short, very short. Which is slightly misleading, because anyone who has spent time with me in person knows that I rarely answers questions like these without going on and on and on.

What does it take for a blog to have an impact on the biblioblogosphere?

I’m not sure how much of an impact my blog has, but the blogs that have an impact on me are all written with passion, honesty, a distinctive voice and a sense of humor.

What do the readers of your blog value about your posts (i.e., “voice” as an online columnist, value-added news coverage)?

I make people laugh, and I ask questions and tell stories that people find interesting.

How do you decide when to post inspiration, obligation to keep the blog fresh and readers engaged, or what?

I do feel somewhat driven to provide regular fresh content, but I try not to post unless I really have something to say. It just happens that I have a lot on my mind, so I end up posting pretty regularly.

How do you determine what the right length is for a given post?

I don’t have a formula. I end a post when it feels right to stop, which is usually when I’ve run out of things to say.

What has surprised you most about the process of blogging?

I’m constantly surprised at how easy and satisfying it is to write short rants, anecdotes and ponderings. It’s also surprising and satisfying when people respond to what I’ve written and encourage me to keep going.

What lessons can libraries learn from your experiences as an individual blogger?

Write as if you’re a person, not a business. Write about things you find exciting and funny and strange. Write with a distinctive voice. Don’t be afraid to raise difficult questions. Treat your readers as if they’re in on the joke and invite them to engage in conversations with you.

What’s missing from the LIS blogosphere that you’d like to see someone take on?

My student loan payments.

How will the blogs of today be regarded a decade from now? Should digital libraries collect them?

I’m wary of making predictions about the future, but as blogs are already being cited in academia, I think collecting them in digital libraries isn’t such a bad idea.

Tomorrow’s Playground

One of the main projects I have at my new place of work is rethinking and redesigning the children’s website. It will be completely different from how it currently is, all new in just about every way.

Now, I understand that there are certain expectations for its design and layout, both from our users and our staff. I can’t completely redesign the wheel here. And yet, I feel I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least consider new ways to look at computer structures and layouts.

And so, I look at Sugar, the new OS for the One Laptop Per Child project. And my mind is somewhere in the vicinity of Blown. What a fascinating way of looking at a computer interface! I love the way it simply and naturally encourages and facilitates communication, community, collaboration. Even if we stick with a traditional website layout and structure, the children’s site we end up with should encourage and facilitate these same things with a similar ease. In my wildest dreams, the new website will be less like a grown-up’s website, less like a classroom, and more like a playground.

Because I’m all about the play.

What Kind of Day Has It Been

The short answer is: I had a very good day.

Today was my first day as a Web Content Developer at the Johnson County Library. Everyone on the Web Content team–and everyone else I met at the Central Library–was extremely friendly and welcoming. My coworkers took me out to lunch, got me set up at my new desk, showed me some of what I’ll be working on, and otherwise helped me get settled in.

I could go on about all the cool perks and the interesting work and the groovy people, but I’m just a wee bit tired. So, let’s just let it rest right now as: today was a very good day. And I’m looking forward to tomorrow.