Wednesday, 13 July 2011

CPD23 - Thing 4 – Current Awareness

Thing 4 is all about using different tools to keep up to date with the fast moving library world. We all try to stay informed and engaged but the myriad distractions of everyday life and the disorientating effects of information overload mean that it can be tricky. I have been asked to investigate three online tools that are designed to help.

Current Awareness Tool Reviews

1. Twitter

The first tool is one that I imagine almost everyone on the scheme was already fairly familiar with. Although no doubt some people have previously recoiled in horror from the thought of being overloaded with celebrity gossip and random comments.

Current awareness of library and information issues was actually my original reason for joining Twitter. On the first day of my Library Science course we were told to sign up. Our lecturers wanted us to use it to communicate with them and with each other. They also highlighted its use as a current awareness tool. But behind those practical arguments was the clear implication that this was the future of information and we needed to be a part of it. It did prove to be a useful tool for staying in touch with other students, sharing information and for developing awareness. Is this the future? It is always too soon to tell.

Since signing up I’ve slipped into using it for other things. I found some of my non library friends on there. I also went through a period when I was mostly using it to publish very short stories on the excellent but sadly now defunct tweetzine Thaumatrope. (Is tweetzine a real word? I might have just made that up.)

As an aside I should say that I found @UKLibraryJobs very useful when I was trying to find my first professional librarian post. I recommend following them if you’re job hunting.

Prior to setting up this blog I did go through a bit of a tweet drought. CPD 23 has already helped to bring me back into the flow. I’ve been using twitter to tell people about my blog posts. I’ve also started following some of my fellow participants. Mostly because I was following their blogs and I thought having them on my tweet feed would remind me to read their entries.

I’ve also increased the number of library and information thought leaders that I’m following. I intend to use the crowd sourced recommendations on the CPD23 blog to start following even more interesting and insightful library folk.

2. RSS

RSS feeds are a useful way to make your online reading more organised. You can bring together the latest updates from all the blogs and such like that you follow. This is one of those online tools that I’ve long thought I probably should be using.

I have now signed up with Google reader as recommended. I will gradually build up the number of RSS feeds that I follow. I think this will quickly become a helpful part of my online routine. I do need a way to make my professional reading a bit more focussed.

As a note of warning if you have only just signed up to Google reader I’m not sure following the whole cpd23 bundle is the best way to start. My experience was that opening that led to a serious sense of information overload. I’m sure they are all great but I’d rather slowly build up the number I follow or just wander from blog to blog when I have some time to spare.

3. Pushnote

Social media tools have a bit of a chicken and egg problem. However clever the actual tool is they are only really useful if a reasonable number of people are using them. In most cases preferably people you know.

As far as I can tell I don’t know many people who are using pushnote. This means that I am unlikely to make much use of it myself. It would be different if there was a sense of enthusiasm from cpd23 participants. We could just use it amongst ourselves to share useful library or professional development websites. Presumably that was the plan. Unfortunately my impression is that the group consensus is that people are fairly underwhelmed by pushnote. Please let me know if that’s wrong.

This must be very annoying for people who are trying to develop new social media tools. There seems to be only two ways round it.

1. Aim your product at a niche market. Design it for people who share a particular interest or specialist need.
2. Make sure that your product has a unique selling point. It should be doing something that the more established services don’t.

Pushnote is clearly meant for the general market so I can only assume that we are meant to see it as a tool that does something new. I’m not convinced. I feel that we already have lots of ways of using social media to recommend websites to each other.

Not being compatible with Internet Explorer is probably a handicap in terms of gaining a larger number of users. For our purposes it means that fewer of us can even try it at work. Like many libraries my own workplace uses IE. This is something that the pushnote team should try to sort out.

As I write this I’m haunted by a nagging fear that this last review will look silly in a year’s time. Perhaps everyone will be using this. Of course if they are it will be much more useful and I will probably join them. Chickens and eggs.

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