Monday, 8 October 2007

Waiting for the next hit

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Or, how I learned to stop worrying and embrace the fact that I'm an info-floozy

Fiona Bradley posting at Libraries Interact has a good post about cutting down on information overload, which brought in mind to me the draft post I've had sitting on my desktop for, oh, the last few months.

See, I have a problem with information overload. A real bad, no good, terrible problem. Now, I'll happily be the first one to admit it. I love information - thrive off it - and the wonderful glut of information on the available in these heady days of web 2.0 is a godsend to me. I'll happily lap up all of that wonderful zeitgeist coming at me through the interwebs at the moment. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't taking it's toll. And I know that it's taking it's toll on a lot of you too.

But what to do about it?

Google Reader tells me that, as of this moment, I'm subscribed to 540 blogs. Now, I know what you're thinking (I can hear the horrified gasps from here). And it is, I know. I struggle with trying to keep up with them, and manage somewhere between not too badly, and appallingly, depending on how much time I have on my hands. Now, I don't read all of them everyday (I couldn't possibly), and a lot of them update irregularly, or are dead (it's such a hassle weeding out things like that, and I really can't be bothered - it's not a problem having them there if they don't update and don't get in my way). And I do read in a lot of different subject areas - my main folders cover libraries (2 folders of those), cooking (more than I care to mention), comics, web stuff, geekery, tech, law, KM, productivity, career stuff, music, shopping, people, job hunting, and a temp folder for things that I think I want to delete, but haven't quite summoned up the courage to actually delete yet. And I know this is too much. Everyday I look at it and pale at the sight of so many unread items. It's a daunting prospect.

But then again, so is the idea of deleting them. As I said, I'm a sucker for information, and this is feeding my habit. I know I don't really need to know all of these things, but oh! they're so good to know! I get to read about beautiful new things, exciting new projects, risque politics, shiny new games, and lots of yummy things to make, lots of music to listen to, and... I don't want to be without them. I love being on the crest of the wave. I love knowing what will be coming out soon, what the new trends are, what the new tools and startups are. And I love hearing what people are saying about them - what everyone of the individual people in my reading list is saying.

And yet, I do need to cut back. And I have.

There are a lot of ways to cope with information overload like this - Fiona points out a few goods tips in her post, mostly relying on the idea of cutting shamelessly and ruthlessly and not stopping until you have the number of feeds you're subscribed to down to a manageable number. Which is all well and good, and definitely a good start, but I have a few points to add:

  • Think about how you read your blogs - I don't mind being subbed into a large number of cooking blogs and webcomics, cause essentially they're just a greatbig scroll of pretty pictures. These blogs bring me joy and give me a way of relaxing. Reading blogs doesn't just have to be about work and information - it can be about getting small bits of happy sent straight to your feedreader

  • Think about when you read - using the same example, as much as I love my sprawling mass of pretty pictures, it's not mission critical if I don't read them, or ifI only look at them a few times a week. And as long as you don't feel compelled to read things that you don't have time to read, then it's not really a problem

  • Think about what you'd lose if you unsubscribe - This is a bit of a two-edged sword - think about what you'll be losing both in the good and bad context. One good post a month probably isn't worth ten bad ones, but at the same time, if someone is only posting once a month, but it's an amazing post, it's probably a keeper

  • Don't think you have to unsubscribe to get it under control. If nothing else, I use my reader as an ersatz bookmarking service (as much as I love, things get lost there and are never seen again). Rather than unsubscribing straight away, I move subscriptions to my interim folder, and graze through it every now and then, to see what's in there. I wouldn't have subscribed to them in the first place if they weren't interesting enough to keep an eye on, but you don't have to be looking at them every day.

  • And, as a last ditch, but awfully effective method, just stop reading. Just don't do it. Don't open your reader. When you do, don't be afraid to mark whole folders'as read' before you even take a peek. Have a folder for the most vitally important, must read, top ten or twenty feeds in your list, and only look at those. (This is my strategy at the moment - I just don't have the time to be reading as much as I used to, and as such, I only read a tiny percentage of what I'm subbed to)

It's very easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information available and think that you can't escape from the mire of interesting and terribly important things that need reading. It is possible to get it under control though. Does anyone else have any tried and tested methods for keeping their subscriptions under control?

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Mob Rules

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I've just had a fantastic article brought to my attention, courtesy of Ben at 200ok.  It was the closing keynote at the Web Directions South conference that was on in Sydney last week.

Mark Pesce gave a session titled Mob Rules (The Law of Fives).   It speaks of networks, and how the mob uses them, and how networks change because of the mob.  It speaks of change, the destruction of hierachies and the future of networks.

It's written with a focus towards web developers, but there is so much that can be taken from it and applied to libraries. Especially when he speaks of the mob making things that they want happen.

Mark points out the five rules of the mob.  Rule two: The mob is faster, smarter and stronger than you are really stuck out to me.   He's talking of web sites but swap web site for library, and see where it takes you.
You can’t push a mob any more than you can push a rope; you can pull them, lure them, and, if you’re very lucky, dazzle them for a moment or two, but then, inevitably, they’ll move along. That’s bad news for anyone building web sites. The world of mob rules isn’t about sites; it’s about services, things that the street uses and permutes indefinitely. The idea of web sites dates from a time before the network ate hierarchy; sites are places where you go and follow the rules laid down by some information architect. Well, there’s no way to enforce those rules. The first Google Maps mashup didn’t come from Google. Or the second. Or the third. Or the hundredth. Google resisted the mashup. Claimed mashups violated their terms of use. Mashups come from the mob, the street finding its own use for things. The mob pushed on through; Google bowed down and obeyed. The most powerful institution of the Internet era, pushed around like a child’s toy. Ponder that.

It's definitely something to ponder.  Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 is a starting point. We're starting to think in terms of services.  This is the next step forward - moving toward an attitude that is no longer focused on how we want users to use us, but focused on providing the services that the mob wants, how they want it.  Otherwise they'll move on and find a way to get what they want without us.

Information ALLA Carte: Part the First

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As promised here is the first of a series of posts about my recent sojourn in Sydney attending the Information ALLA Carte conference. I'm going to write 3 parts, one for each day of the conference.

Wednesday was filled with preconference events. I attended at lunch held by publishers Justis, at an amazing bar right on Darling Harbour. I went on a tour of the library at the Australian Securities and Investments Comission (ASIC). The tour was only 1 of 8 that I could have attended but I decided on just the one and chose the one that was least like what I was familiar with. From there I went to the welcome drinks and got to catch up with a few familiar faces, as well as getting to know a lot of new people.

This first social day was good as it meant that I got to meet a lot of people in a social setting and didn't feel so lost when I got to the actual conference. It also meant I had people to sit with, which is always an important consideration!

Monday, 1 October 2007

Three things for a monday

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Firstly, a thankyouthankyouthankyou to whoever nominated us as one of their favourite library blogs in Meredith Farkas' favourite blogs survey! We are thrilled and delighted to have been mentioned – there may even have been some surreptitious squealing :)

Secondly, apologies are in order for our paltry posting regime of late – I have no decent excuse, begging lack of time and an overabundance of trainees, but happily Davina has returned from her jaunt to the Australian Law Librarians Conference in Sydney, and will soon be posting tales of her adventures there and of the interesting things she saw and heard from the librarians back home.

Thirdly, and most importantly, Jessamyn alerted us to the fact that it's Banned Book Week this week! So go out and read yourselves a book that someone, somewhere has considered to dangerous to read. Davina will be reading And Tango Makes Three (a heartwarming tale of gay penguin love) and I'll be rereading my favourite bits of Ulysses, with which I was tortured at university, but have since grown to love. Go, read, enjoy, challenge :)