Thursday, June 6, 2013

Google Reader is closing - Some Alternatives

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds are considered important for people to receive regular updates from different websites, news media, blogs, etc. Google Reader remained a popular choice for RSS feeds. However, Google announced the end of Google Reader on July 01, 2013. Question is what are alternatives. Here are some of them:

Feedly

Opera (this web browser has a feed reader built in)
Update: And here are a couple late additions:



Monday, July 11, 2011

A primer on how to start marketing

Zuzana Helinsky, Library Consultant, zh Consulting, Lund, Sweden, wrote on library marketing in Library Connect Newsletter:
 
“They don’t know what we are doing!” I hear this all over the world in different languages. If it sounds familiar, you need to consider or reconsider the vital task of internal marketing - that is, marketing to university or institutional leaders.
Of course we need to coordinate our communication and involve our colleagues in actively contributing to internal marketing. To get started, we can use some standard tools. I have tried them in my courses, and they work for many libraries. The most important thing is to go through all four stages in establishing marketing routines for the whole library and its staff: analysis, strategy, realization and feedback.
Analysis
Audit the organization and its environment before starting the marketing process. One of the most well-known analyses in the library world is called SWOT, because it looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Strategy
To choose the right strategy, a matrix helps to study how a market looks now and in the future. Personally, I prefer the Boston Matrix because it includes the much-needed task of finding “dogs,” or routines to eliminate (see sidebar on page 2). We suffer from keeping up all the old routines, products and services as we introduce new ones. Eliminate some, and make your colleagues do so, to help find more time for marketing and for new concepts.
Dogs - Products or services with a low share of a low-growth market; they consume our time and energy. Consider how to get rid of them.
Stars - Items with high market growth and easy maintenance. Keep and develop your stars.
Milk cows - Products and services with a high share of a static market. They are good for the time being, but keep an eye on them as their share will probably shrink.
Question mark/problem children - They consume resources and generate little return now, but they could improve in the future.
Realization
We must do the legwork. Nobody else will do it for us. We cannot stop after the analysis, state that we have no time, and use that as a reason to not do anything. Sometimes our activities will fail, but we will learn from these failures. The solution is: Just do it!
Feedback
We must listen to our internal customers’ needs and wishes and continually check that we are on the right road. It is too easy to assume what they want, especially if it suits us. Keep an eye on less satisfied clients or users. We can learn more from them than from friends who are satisfied with our offerings.
Our environment is changing all the time. Threats become opportunities, and weaknesses become strengths — or the other way around. (Google could be a threat or an opportunity.) So we must have routines for marketing, assess the process regularly, and:
  • Use language they understand - Consult the multitude of studies out there on calculating and reporting ROI (return on investment).
  • Repeat the message - It’s not until we almost hate what we are saying because we’ve said it so often that our stakeholders finally start listening.
  • Involve vendors - Use your vendors to assist in marketing with special events and promotions.
  • Elevate our visibility - Stop thinking that others, especially our internal customers, are automatically interested in libraries. But we can make them interested.
Library products and services are valuable and pervasive - in fact, they are indispensable. Let’s ensure we get that message out to the right people. And remember:
Marketing takes time! Don’t expect results overnight.
Marketing is fun! And it gives us the power to change our situation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Loyalty: Glimpses from James Kane - SLA

Jill Hurst-Wahl wrote on her blog:
At the SLA Leadership Summit in January 2010, James Kane spoke on loyalty.  Out of that came the loyalty project that several SLA chapters are doing with Kane as well as his appearance at this year's Leadership Development Institute (LDI) on June 12 and his keynote on June 15. Having now seen him twice, I understand why people were so enthusiastic about him.  He is an excellent storyteller with a message that every organization needs to hear in order to understand its members/users/customers.

First here are the handout from James Kane related to his keynote and notes from Don Hawkins.  Neither is a substitute for being in the audience (and neither will my notes).  If you get an opportunity to see Kane in person, take it.

Kane has studied loyalty.  He had defined what loyalty is and discovered what makes each of us loyal.  What surprised me is that loyalty is more complex that I imagined.

While we are focused on people being loyal, we need to recognize that people (e.g., our members) fall into four categories:

  • Antagonistic
  • Transactional
  • Predisposed
  • Loyal
Amazing as it may seem, there will be people who are involved in your organization (e.g., members, customers) who don't like you!  For some reason, they are still involved with you and they - as a group - will never go away.  Thankfully, antagonists comprise a small percentage of the group.

Most of your members/customers/users are either transactional of predisposed.  Those that are transactional buy a product or service without feeling any long term obligation.  To borrow an analogy from a former boss, they see the organization as a soda machine.  They put their money in and get a soda.  Next time they may go to a different machine or even decide to forego a soda and head to a drinking fountain instead.

People that are predisposed like what you have, but would go someplace else if something better came along.  These are the people that were happy to shop a the Great American grocery store until Wegmans came to town, and then switched where they bought their food. (This eventually led to Great American going out of business.)  As Kane says, having customers that are happy with you isn't enough, because happy customers will leave when they realize they could be happier someplace else.

People who are loyal do not measure the relationship based on price or convenience.  They are loyal because the organization (or store, etc.) makes their lives better or easier.  In one of his slides at LDI, he had a goal of having 20% of the organization identify themselves as being loyal.  (Identification is done through a survey on those factors that demonstrate loyalty.)

Now here is what interested me the most...not everyone will be loyal!  We all know that to be true, but we don't stop to think what that means to our organizations/businesses.  Yes, we want people who are truly loyal.  The truth is, though, that we need those people who are transactional or predisposed.  We need to attract them, even if it means attracting a different group of them every month/year. And if we want to build organizations only for those that are truly loyal, then we need to spend time thinking about what that means in terms of services and obligations, as well as the number of customers/members/users.

Thinking about conferences (and not just about SLA), those that are predisposed will attend if - for example - their employer will pay for it, it is geographically convenient, the sessions seem to be useful, and there isn't another conference that looks better. 

Someone who is transactional will attend the conference but may have sensitivities about place, topic, etc.   I could imagine that person might even join the organization in order to get a lower registration fee, but wouldn't see that as a long-term commitment.

Those that are loyal will attend no matter what! With them there is the feeling that which trumps everything (e.g., geography, etc.) that the conference will make their lives better.

Thinking about the Computers in Libraries (CIL) conference, about 50% of the audience each year is attending their first CIL.  Of the other 50%, there is some segment that has attended many of them.  For them, the conference is a "family reunion", where sitting around and talking is as important (or more important) than the sessions.  These are also the people who will go the extra mile to help make the conference a success, because it is "their" conference. 

James Kane is working with several SLA chapters on a loyalty project. The goal is to help the chapters engage their members so that more of them are loyal. Kane's handout gives an overview of the things that must be considered when developing loyalty.  You'll notice that loyalty is a two-way street.  You must give of yourself in order to receive loyalty.  Giving isn't always easy because we think we might be giving something away for free.  That "giving", however, can take a number of forms and what is received is important (loyalty).

Kane has written two books and I suspect a few articles.  I need to get my hands on some of his writings to inform my thinking, because I'm going to be thinking about this for quite a while.  I'll try blog about this more as I gather more information.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Google Shuts Down Ambitious Newspaper Scanning Project

Jill Hurst-Wahl reported that Google is shutting down one of its digitization efforts.  In a statement to Search Engine Land, a Google spokesperson said:
Users can continue to search digitized newspapers at http://news.google.com/archivesearch, but we don’t plan to introduce any further features or functionality to the Google News Archives and we are no longer accepting new microfilm or digital files for processing.
Google's efforts were in partnership with several North American newspapers, ProQuest and Heritage Microfilm, according to a 2008 news report.

In reporting on Google's decision, the Boston Phoenix wrote:
News Archive was generally a good deal for newspapers -- especially smaller ones like ours, who couldn't afford the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars it would have cost to digitally scan and index our archives -- and a decent bet for Google. It threaded a loophole for newspapers, who, in putting pre-internet archives online, generally would have had to sort out tricky rights issues with freelancers -- but were thought to have escaped those obligations due to the method with which Google posted the archives. (Instead of posting the articles as pure text, Google posted searchable image files of the actual newspaper pages.) Google reportedly used its Maps technology to decipher the scrawl of ancient newsprint and microfilm; but newspapers are infamously more difficult to index than books, thanks to layout complexities such as columns and jumps, which require humans or intense algorithmic juju to decode. Here's two wild guesses: the process may have turned out to be harder than Google anticipated. Or it may have turned out that the resulting pages drew far fewer eyeballs than anyone expected.
The lesson is that jumping on the Google bandwagon can be good thing, if the wagon keeps on moving. A lesson that those involved in Microsoft's book digitization program also learned the hard way.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Knowledge Management VS Information Management

Dr. Sue wrote a new post "Is knowledge management really information management?: a question of crucial definition" on her blog digitalcollaboration. I thought to share. Dr. Sue wrote:

No, I am not going to repeat the argument so well put forward many years ago by Tom Wilson (The nonsense of knowledge management, 2002, http://informationr.net/ir/8-1/paper144.html), with which I largely agree.  While Professor Wilson argues his case well, he largely comes to the conclusion that the term ‘knowledge management’ was formulated in order to cover a number of organisational managerial and communication issues, without much of a nod to – or even recognition of – the existing field of Library and Information Science, or Information Studies, or Information Studies, or whatever you want to call it.  This poverty of nomenclature – the continuing disregard that we information professionals seem to have to clarity of expression – is at the heart, I believe, of many of the perennial issues and problems that fracture our field to no real purpose.
Wilson has, from time to time, referred back to ‘knowledge management’, reinforcing his point that, as a practice or field of study, it doesn’t really exist as a separate entity, as it is identical in process and conception to information management.  What would help his argument enormously, I believe, is if he were able to use definitions for these terms (‘information’ and ‘knowledge’) that had achieved consensus in the field.  Then, we would not have to explain to all of those involved in this field, many of whom are drawn from management, information systems, business studies, technology and so forth – exactly what it is that needs to be done in order to manage ‘knowledge’.  We could perhaps even encourage these folk to take a look at the masses of research already completed in our field concerning precisely the issues with which knowledge managers now engage: assisting in the communication of ideas from one human to another.  As I have written elsewhere (e.g. 2005 and 2007), I understand information professionals to be ‘information interventionists’: we intervene in the knowledge creation cycle.
The central issue, though, is that we importantly have not yet come to a widely accepted definition of ‘information’ or ‘knowledge’.  By this I mean, rather more precisely, that we do not have an operational definition that works for our field and for the work we do.  James Gleick, author of Chaos, inter alia, has now published a book on information: ‘Information: a history, a theory, a flood‘ (Fourth Estate, 2011) and one must admire him for his courage and ability to do so.  Having said that, he does not move us forward to understand better what ‘information’ is.  Neither does philosopher Luciano Floridi, who has written extensively on this topic and on the philosophy of information.  However much the data-information-knowledge model (often represented in pyramid form) is criticised or maligned, this still remains the starting point, or mental model, for both authors.  In Gleick’s case, the concept is further confused with information objects or entities, technology, networks and the new physics.  I find the understanding of information in the new physics fascinating: Information: the new language of science is probably my favourite book on this subject.  But this does not conceptualise the notion of  ’information’ in a way that is meaningful for those of us who wish to assist people to create their own knowledge by finding out what others have thought, created, felt, experienced and so on.
This is why I wrote a PhD thesis on the topic of defining information. What I found in my research, amongst many other interesting things, is the political nature of the definition and interpretation of information, and I believe it would be appropriate for us to pay more attention to such dimensions of the core of our discipline/profession.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A checklist to Maximise the Effectiveness of Online Resource

The following is the succinct checklist of items raised in the series of workshops commissioned by Strategic Content Alliance (SCA) during 2010 under the title Maximising Online Resource Effectiveness (MORE). The purpose was to promote most effective use of the internet by SCA member organisations, with an emphasis on promoting and communicating content available as an online resource. The workshops were delivered to around 300 participants from all over the UK, from a variety of further (FE) and higher education (HE) and public sector organisations.  

  1. Recognise advantages in having well prepared scalable content that can be utilised in “more is better” scenarios.
  2. Understand the potential of audience engagement using the web.
  3. Consider the longer term benefits of having computable content.
  4. Search engine providers want their users to find exactly what they are looking for, so describe your content accurately using titles, description, keywords.
  5. Use text for all important content.
  6. Monitor and measure how your site is being used and define success.
  7. Search engine optimisation cannot be ignored, but it is not everything.
  8. Know your audience.
  9. New standards enhance the value of content by enabling informative structure.
  10. Many benefits of new standards can be realised with older browsers by referencing ready made non intrusive javascript.
  11. RSS can extend the reach of suitable web site content.
  12. Keep things simple on a web page to prevent creating barriers to accessibility.
  13. Employ simple web based services to check the integrity of content and associated keywords.
  14. Embedded metadata can open up new possibilities for the use of content.
  15. Online social media can play a prominent role in attracting and engaging an audience.
  16. The social web is not new, it’s what the web was always intended to become.
  17. Audiences are already in the social web—it’s the best place to engage with them.
  18. Decide on a purpose for adopting the social web and use the best service for that.
  19. Be aware of valid organisational concerns over the use of the social web.
  20. A mix of expertise is required to maximise effectiveness.
  21. This expertise should be associated with different roles and responsibilities.
  22. The coordination of these roles should be an essential part of the web strategy of an organisation.
  23. A policy can allay concerns over the use of the social web by an organisation.
  24. There is no magic formula for a organisation wide social web policy—it depends on many organisation specific factors.
  25. The process of compiling a policy should involve a probing review that brings focus to benefits and workable processes.
  26. RDF is a very basic scheme for describing things using unambiguous terms in brief statements known as triples.
  27. RDFa is a way of including RDF in an ordinary web page to embed metadata.
  28. RDF metadata in a web site can be used by software applications to detect semantics.
  29. Web sites containing RDF can be linked when there is overlap in the triples.
  30. There is a growing number of online resources using RDF and real semantics to create a more effective web of resources. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Role of Professional Associations & Leadership

A professional association (also called a professional body, professional organization, or professional society) is usually a non-profit organization seeking to further a particular profession, the interests of individuals engaged in that profession, and the public interest.[1]
The roles of the professional associations have been variously defined: "A group of people in a learned occupation who are entrusted with maintaining control or oversight of the legitimate practice of the occupation;"[2] also a body acting "to safeguard the public interest;"[3] organizations which "represent the interest of the professional practitioners," and so "act to maintain their own privileged and powerful position as a controlling body."[3]

In Pakistan, PULISAA’s Annual Dinner is scheduled on 9th April at Punjab University Lahore, Pakistan. Pakistan Library Association’s election schedule has also been announced.  I was thinking about the role of professional leadership/association. I extended the roles as follows:
  • Create a Shared Vision
  • Unite the professionals in one direction
  • Map the Change
  • Prepare the professionals to cope with the change and turn challenges into opportunities
  • Enhance the skills and broaden the vision of professionals
  • Create a sense of importance to belong your professional organization/association
  • Safeguard the public interests
  • Represent the interest of the professionals
  • Act to maintain their own privileged and powerful position as a controlling body

References:
3. ^ a b Harvey, L. and Mason, S., 1995, The Role of Professional Bodies in Higher education Quality Monitoring. Birmingham: QHE.