As the Wikileaks Turns…

If you are going to read any two articles about the Wikileaks phenomena right now, I highly recommend this Glenn Greenwald article regarding the disconnect between what the media and the government are saying about the cables and what is actually being released by Wikileaks. It’s an eye-opener, for certain, because it corrects some of the stories that are being perpetuated throughout this whole hype laden story. I don’t always agree with Mr. Greenwald on some issues, but his attention to the facts of a matter is impeccable.

The other article to read is Julian Assange’s op-ed piece in The Australian. It’s an interesting takedown of the governmental critics of the project and what has been shared and released to the public. The most salient quote of the whole piece (and I will leave it as the closing to this post) is this:

Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: "You’ll risk lives! National security! You’ll endanger troops!" Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can’t be both. Which is it?

Sunday Speculation: WikiLeaks

My question to you right off the bat:

Do you think there is a library that is going add the Wikileaks documents to its collection for future preservation?

Wikileaks_-logoMy gut reaction is that there is and there should be. The documents, while not released on their own accord, do present a historical snapshot of our particular time. I would guess that even right now there are academics looking at the cables and matching them up to the people, times, and events of our recent history. Despite the manner of which they have reached the public, they have now become part of the public domain (more or less) and should be considered an item to acquire and integrate into a collection. It offers a glimpse into the life of a diplomat and (ironically) the kinds of candid and secret communication that are required for agents of the state to inform decision makers as to the best course of action at the time. Whether right or wrong in the end, it provides crucial insight and the data for analysis for future generations of diplomats.

And why not? The Library of Congress has already acquired Twitter’s archive. Although, they are not in a position to collect the cables since they are currently blocking access to them.  While I would guess that over time the LoC would reverse such a decision (yes, it’s a speculative guess), but the same current underlying rationale may not be a bar for upper echelon political science schools. What better way to inform the politicians and diplomats of tomorrow than with the cables of today?

Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think? Would/should a library collect the Wikileaks cables? Why or why not?

Edublog Awards 2010 Nominee!

Carolyn Foote of the blog Not So Distant Future has nominated me for Best Individual Tweeter for the 2010 Edublog awards. This is my second year that I’ve been nominated for an Edublog award (last year was for best librarian/library blog; Joyce Valenza’s always impressive blog Never Ending Search took top honors). In her nomination post for the awards, Mrs. Foote wrote:

Best individual tweeter

@Wawoodworth and his campaign to get the Old Spice guy to make  video about libraries(he succeeded) and his #andypoll

closely followed by all BBQ related tweets.

At this moment, I’d like to thank her for both her kind words and the nomination for the award. While getting the Old Spice video was a great surprise, I’m glad she’s enjoyed the #andypolls that I have been putting out there are a semi-regular basics. The answers, where there is a five or fifty, are always insightful to me.

For those interested in voting, you can vote for me or one of the other 41 award nominees over at the Edublog website. Voting for this award ends on Tuesday December 14th at 12pm EST.

Thanks again, Carolyn, and good luck to my fellow nominees!

Regarding Innovation

Every month at some undetermined point in time, I remember that I need to change the banner on the blog. It’s a haphazard process of finding a quote based on my moods, searching Flickr for Creative Commons licensed pictures that go with it, and then a mishmash of the two. I use Inkscape and GIMP to create what looms at the top of my blog for a period of time that is more or less a month. I add each blog banner to a collection in my Flickr account so that others can see the banners that have graced the header (and I can double check and see if I used a quote or picture before).

In creating this month’s banner, I picked the quote because it really spoke to me and the librarian profession. There certainly is a lot of hand wringing going on over, well, just about everything. Swapping away from Dewey? Crazy. Removing every sign in the library? Crazy. Expanding the collection beyond to things like games, home improvement tools, and cookware? Crazy. Directly lobbying politicians for library funding? Crazy for some, old news for others. But you get my point.

I can understand why some of those examples are considered crazy. They are radical breaks from the status quo, the standard operating procedures for the library. This is not to say that the status quo is necessarily bad; there is a reason that it has become the norm which includes being the most efficient technique for accomplishing a certain task. There are certain status quos that don’t need to be tinkered with. The trouble is that they are not labeled as such.

While I’m on this end of the idea, I’d like to point out that there is a distinct difference the individuals who argue against change. There are people who have weighed each idea and find that the current model or technique is still the better of the two. It’s a decision that we make in our lives all the time; a comparison followed by a decision. Should I stay with this bank or open an account with another? Should I buy my usual cereal or a new one? It’s a pretty normal thing.

Then there are the people who argue against change for reasons not based on such a comparison. They are afraid, stubborn, workspace territorial, or (in a narrow range of case) vindictive; they are against change simply because it is change, not because of an evaluative process. These are the villains of the dialogue over changes within the library, the library profession, and the evolution of the library. And it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two types; it takes some inquiry to figure out their reasoning and motivations and even then it’s can be a judgment call.

For the librarians pushing this level of change, it’s a difficult thing. To give these people credit, I would highly doubt it is the product of casual thinking. There seems to be little credence given to the sheer volume of effort that is placed behind such notions. It’s the very definition of innovation: to create something as the result of study and experimentation. When it comes to this kind of institutional change, I think the supporting research, time spent examining and discussing the idea, and the hours invested in it get lost sometimes on the opposition. The interest in the result preempts any examination on the underlying rationale and analysis that precluded the change. And that’s a shame, really.

But all innovation doesn’t have to be radical. We are surrounded by products that were just slight upgrades from previous incarnations. Whether it is the material used, an added function, or a new purpose, those are all tiny innovations. For example, the modern pen is a series of incremental changes that go all the way back to the quill. Yes, there were some leaps in the technology (think the ball point and plastic), but the bulk of changes over time to the design of the pen itself were smaller ones.

I believe this brings this discussion around to Ranganathan’s Fifth Law: “The library is a growing organism”. For me, it’s an evolution. Even in the simplest acts (such as moving collection from one place to another or offering an additional way to renew a book), there is innovation. It’s an improvement on a previous design. It may not yield a ripple in the greater picture; it may change the greater picture as whole. The nasty drawback of library innovation is that it doesn’t always scale, apply, or even make sense based on the numerous differences between library sizes and types. But let not that be a hindrance to the changes that work where you are and sharing those results with the work.

As Mr. Ellison says, if you’re going to innovate, be prepared for people to tell you that you’re nuts. For me, I’d take it as a compliment. It means I’m doing something right, even if it is making people think about what I’m doing wrong.

Selling Myself. Literally.

In creating a Facebook Page for myself, it has afforded me the chance to try something on Facebook that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile: create an ad and run it. (I have similar designs to do one on Google since I read Eric Hellman’s eBook pirating post, but that will wait another month.) I took it as a great opportunity to run an ad experiment and see how it turns out. Perhaps experiment is the wrong term here; that would imply a hypothesis and controlled variables. However, I’d like to get a dataset and use it as a starting point for further refinement. So, perhaps it is more of an adventure than an experiment, but that doesn’t mean that discovery doesn’t happen.

The ad!That’s the ad I designed on the right. I thought leaving the same title and picture as my Facebook Page would be a good start. The only part of the ad that I was uncertain about was the wording of the ad. There are not many times in your life when you are sitting at the keyboard of your computer and pondering the question, “What kind of wording would entice people to click on my ad that features my name and part of my face?” I made a few attempts at some different phrasings (there is a character limit on the ad), but this one seemed like the one that made the most amount of sense considering the content of the Facebook Page. This isn’t a complete sell on the content, but just a bread crumb trail to the main course. So, with the wording done, I moved onto the next section.

Here’s where you get to figure out who you want to see your ads. I set it for the United States without designating a specific area. My low end age would be 23, the youngest age that someone could graduate with a Master’s degree. Gender didn’t matter, so I left it as ‘all’. You can target people by their interests and likes; I was rather unoriginal and picked two words “libraries” and “librarians” as my two words. (It should be noted that as you click on buttons and write in words, there is a sidebar that recalculates how many people your ads could potentially reach.) This brought the number down from 137 million to roughly 250,000 people; for some perspective, according to the ALA there are 150,000 librarians in the US and 192,000 other library staff.  (It should be also be noted that keywords operate on an OR settings. In other words, it will gather up anyone who has libraries OR librarians as a like or interest in their profile.) Sounds like I’m in the right ballpark, so I moved on. You can choose to target certain connections or non-connections on Facebook. I opted to pick people who not already connected to my Facebook page, lowering my potential reach ever so slightly. I skipped by some of the advanced targeted features (no, I don’t want to target people on their birthdays, thank you) and went down to the pricing.

And here’s where I had to get my wallet out. You can set your budget limit on either a lifetime basis or a per diem. Since this was an experiment, I opted for a budget of $30. I picked a date range starting on December 1st and running to December 28th, a four week period. I figured that was a reasonable price over a reasonable time period to see how this works and then fiddle with it. You can buy ads a couple of different ways: you were pay by the click on the ad or by the number of impressions (read: times the ad is run). The clicks are a set amount, but you buy impressions by increments of one thousand.  You can see the advantages and disadvantages of each: pay per click is more expensive but you only pay for anyone who acts on the ad versus pay per impression where I can generate thousands of ads and hope that someone picks my ad.

Since you bid on ad space, this brings up a whole new predicament; you have to set a maximum bid you would offer for advertising space. You can go with the suggested bid (a safe move), use a higher bid to ensure more coverage and more advertising risk, or use a lower bid that is budget friendly but possibly not going to run as much. Since this is an experiment, I opted for the suggested maximum bid and just let it fly. This was $0.71 for 1,000 impressions, a decent number considering the scope of this endeavor as well as the duration. I wanted to see what this would look like over time, so I went with it.

So, after ponying up my credit card and doing the other Facebook ‘paperwork’, my ad was submitted for approval by their ad team. In an hour or so, I got the approval email. And so, I hopped on the advertising interface to see what it looks like when it’s all done. Here’s a screenshot of the impending campaign.

Click to embiggen

Since it started on Wednesday, I’ve checked on a couple of times. The early data is that my average bid is coming in much lower than my maximum bid; my maximum bid is $.71 and my average bid is $.19. At present, the 11,508 times the ad has been displayed and a total of 8 people have clicked on it. I’ve roughly spent a quarter for each click.

Naturally, I’ll be following this as the month goes on. I’m jotting down some notes to see how things pan out, so I’ll see. I’ll certainly be doing a blog write-up on this when it is complete. In the meantime, I’m curious if anyone has seen library or library related ads on Facebook.

(I sheepishly admit that I have an ad blocker on Chrome and Firefox, therefore defeating my own advertising purposes. I wonder how much of a factor that is for the ads that run.)

Book Challenges at a Group Rate

From USA Today:

Parents have long raised concerns about school and library books — children’s and young adult books, and sometimes dictionaries — often for inappropriate content. The number of reported challenges in the past 30 years has hovered between about 400 or 500 each year, says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, an attorney with the American Library Association.

Whereas challenges once were mostly launched by a lone parent, Caldwell-Stone says she has noticed "an uptick in organized efforts" to remove books from public and school libraries.

It’s a good article on how book challenges are gathering strength through organizing. Perhaps the profession should take a lesson from such an idea.

This article reminded me of something I have seen in book challenges in past. I find very interesting is how people will generally gloss over the fact that challenges is not limited to social conservative or religious types. There are book challenges originating from the other end of the spectrum from the overly egalitarian and liberal end for depictions of issues and characters considered racist, homophobic, xenophobic, or otherwise (for lack of a better word) unhappy depictions of life situations. For all the grumbled commentary about superstitious morality freaks, there is an unequal amount of outrage for challenges that emerge from the politically correct socially sensitive end.

If you mock the rationale of one group of people for wanting a book removed yet ignore reasoning from groups that are ideologically similar to yourself, then you’re doing it wrong. A book is a book, folks. You can’t win all the battles to keep them on the shelves, but don’t surrender to those you would otherwise consider to be kindred spirits.

2nd Annual Holiday Online Secret Santa Extravaganza

A little holiday music…

I’ve had people asking me to do the Secret Santa thing again after last year. I’ll be perfectly honest about last year’s results; I got some great stories from people who got gifts that they absolutely loved and I got a few stories about people who got stiffed on a gift. (Here’s the link to last year’s event and some reactions.) Overall, I’d say that the experience was positive for people. For myself personally, there was a lot of work involved on the back end; and while I don’t mind taking on that workload, I simply don’t have the bandwidth at this time to juggle that. So, there are a few changes this year.

First, I’m going to use Drawnames.com to handle the organizing and assigning people to be Secret Santas. The site has gotten some favorable reviews (including from Lifehacker) so I thought it was a good choice. Plus, it requires the minimum amount of information without all the awful ads of other sites.

Second, this means I will have to add people to the Secret Santa list by their email manually. I’ve set up a Google Form for you to submit your name (first name, last initial) and email address so I can add them to the list. Again, your information will be kept secret by myself and disposed of when this is over. I will add people as I get them within the time frame that this is ‘open’ as listed below. (You will want to add the domain ‘drawnames.com’ to your ‘not spam’ filter or equivalent.)

Third, as this site handles the matching, it will be up to the Secret Santa to contact their person for a mailing address. I won’t be privy to these communications, but it really means that in signing up for this, you will need to be on the ball in contacting your person and getting their gift details. I will have the ability to nudge folks who haven’t heard from their Santas, so people are not completely out of luck. But in signing up, this is what you are signing up for!

Fourth, I think this thing only handles 85 people on a list. I hope I’m wrong, but it means that the first 84 people will be in and anyone beyond that may not. Last year, 75 people participated so that should give some perspective on the range of the contest. So, there may or may not be a hardcap on participants.

Fifth, I’m sure hoping this all works out well. And with that little hope in mind, here’s the skinny:

  • The form will be open until 11:59pm on Friday December 17th OR until filled (in case 85 is the hard cap for participants)
  • You will receive your gift target’s information on December 18th. This will include a wish list and the option of asking questions anonymously of your gift recipient. It’s up to you to find out their contact information to send something. You can email me if you haven’t heard from your person in a few days.
  • Gifts should arrive between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
  • $10 gift limit (Go over at your own discretion.)

2nd Annual Holiday Online Secret Santa Extravaganza Signup

So, good luck to us all! Happy holidays!