Friday Fun: 5 Signs You're Talking To A Social Media Douchebag

Jul 23 2010 Published by under friday fun, social media

This is soooo funny. So funny it hurts. Ok, so maybe I've been guilty of one or two of these. Ok, maybe you have too. The more you're guilty, the funnier it is.

To many, the Internet is a world full of promise.

To others, a ripe field ready to be harvested by douchebags.

Both are true.

I think the first douchebag was the knight in medieval times. You just know he clickity-clanked across the village in that dopey metal armor and thought he was so cool.

Oh look at me. I have armor!

And then he'd return to the castle and push the jester around with his joust. Jousting him in the ass, perhaps.

Anyways, here they are:

  • Nobody Knows What They Actually Do. When you try to find out what a social media douchebag does, you're in for a dizzying deflection.
  • They Actually Think They're Internet Celebrities.
  • They Will Speak At Any Event.
  • They Recommend Their Friends Who Are, Coincidentally, Also Douchebags.
  • They Always Need To "Rate A Brand".

Come on, we're all friends here. (Or should that be "friends?") Fess up in the comments -- and give your own signs that you're talking to a social media douchebag.

(This one's via Walt Crawford in the most recent C&I. Blame him if this cuts a little too close to home. I might even do a sequel post to this one...)

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Books I'd Like to Read

May 31 2010 Published by under books I'd like to read, education, science books

For your reading and collection development pleasure:

137: Jung, Pauli, and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession by Arthur I. Miller

"The history is fascinating, as are the insights into the personalities of these great thinkers."--New Scientist Is there a number at the root of the universe? A primal number that everything in the world hinges on? This question exercised many great minds of the twentieth century, among them the groundbreaking physicist Wolfgang Pauli and the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Their obsession with the power of certain numbers--including 137, which describes the atom's fine-structure constant and has great Kabbalistic significance--led them to develop an unlikely friendship and to embark on a joint mystical quest reaching deep into medieval alchemy, dream interpretation, and the Chinese Book of Changes. 137 explores the profound intersection of modern science with the occult, but above all it is the tale of an extraordinary, fruitful friendship between two of the greatest thinkers of our times.

Sex, Bombs and Burgers: How War, Porn and Fast Food Shaped Technology As We Know It by Peter Nowak

War. Fast Food. Pornography. Pervasive in our culture, these three obsessions may seem to represent the worst qualities of humankind. But what have our lust, greed and rage driven us to achieve?

In this surprising and original book, Peter Nowak argues that most of the major technological advances of the last sixty years have stemmed from the trio of billion-dollar industries that cater to our basest impulses. From Saran Wrap to aerosols, digital cameras to cold medicine and GM foods to Google, many of the gadgets and conveniences we enjoy today can be traced back to either the porn, military or fast food industry.

Nowak reveals such unexpected links as:

-how the inventors of toys like Barbie and the Slinky perfected their creations with military-tech know-how.
-why "one giant leap for mankind" brought us better hospital meals and stricter food quality control guidelines.
-how innovations in the adult-film industry will help us build better robotic limbs.

If you've ever wondered what inspired the invention of Java, online video streaming or even Tupperware -- well, you might not want to know the answer. But you will find it in this book. (From Amazon.ca)

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

Since we Americans were suburbanized and educated by the postwar boom, we've had a surfeit of intellect, energy, and time-what Shirky calls a cognitive surplus. But this abundance had little impact on the common good because television consumed the lion's share of it-and we consume TV passively, in isolation from one another. Now, for the first time, people are embracing new media that allow us to pool our efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind expanding-reference tools like Wikipedia-to lifesaving-such as Ushahidi.com, which has allowed Kenyans to sidestep government censorship and report on acts of violence in real time.

Shirky argues persuasively that this cognitive surplus-rather than being some strange new departure from normal behavior-actually returns our society to forms of collaboration that were natural to us up through the early twentieth century. He also charts the vast effects that our cognitive surplus-aided by new technologies-will have on twenty-first-century society, and how we can best exploit those effects. Shirky envisions an era of lower creative quality on average but greater innovation, an increase in transparency in all areas of society, and a dramatic rise in productivity that will transform our civilization.

A Better Pencil by Dennis Baron

A Better Pencil puts our complex, still-evolving hate-love relationship with computers and the internet into perspective, describing how the digital revolution influences our reading and writing practices, and how the latest technologies differ from what came before. The book explores our use of computers as writing tools in light of the history of communication technology, a history of how we love, fear, and actually use our writing technologies--not just computers, but also typewriters, pencils, and clay tablets. Dennis Baron shows that virtually all writing implements--and even writing itself--were greeted at first with anxiety and outrage: the printing press disrupted the "almost spiritual connection" between the writer and the page; the typewriter was "impersonal and noisy" and would "destroy the art of handwriting." Both pencils and computers were created for tasks that had nothing to do with writing. Pencils, crafted by woodworkers for marking up their boards, were quickly repurposed by writers and artists. The computer crunched numbers, not words, until writers saw it as the next writing machine. Baron also explores the new genres that the computer has launched: email, the instant message, the web page, the blog, social-networking pages like MySpace and Facebook, and communally-generated texts like Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary, not to mention YouTube.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The best-selling author of The Big Switch returns with an explosive look at technology's effect on the mind. "Is Google making us stupid?" When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net's bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet's intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by "tools of the mind"--from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer--Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.

Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic--a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption--and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education by Curtis J. Bonk

Whether you are a scientist on a ship in Antarctic waters or a young girl in a Philippine village, you can learn whenever and whatever you want from whomever you are interested in learning it from.

As technologies have become more available, even in the most remote reaches of the world, and as more people contribute a wealth of online resources, the education world has become open to anyone anywhere. In The World Is Open, education technology guru Curtis Bonk explores ten key trends that together make up the "WE-ALL-LEARN" framework for understanding the potential of technology's impact on learning in the 21st century:

  • Web Searching in the World of e-Books
  • E-Learning and Blended Learning
  • Availability of Open Source and Free Software
  • Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
  • Learning Object Repositories and Portals
  • Learner Participation in Open Information Communities
  • Electronic Collaboration
  • Alternate Reality Learning
  • Real-Time Mobility and Portability
  • Networks of Personalized Learning

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Friday Fun: New Social Networking Site Changing The Way Oh, Christ, Forget It!

May 21 2010 Published by under friday fun, social media

Funniest. Onion. Article. Ever.

New Social Networking Site Changing The Way Oh, Christ, Forget It: Let Someone Else Report On This Bullshit

Virtually every line is laugh-out-loud funny.

According to sources we feel really, really sorry for, Foursquare works by allowing users to "check in" from their present location, whether it be a bar, restaurant, nearby magazine stand, or man, this piece would be perfect to hand over to that schmuck Dan Fletcher at Time magazine right about now.

By "checking in," users can earn tangible, real-world rewards. For instance, the Foursquare user with the most points at any given venue earns the designation of "mayor" and can receive discounts, free food, or other prizes that, quite honestly, we're thoroughly disgusted with ourselves for having actually researched.

In addition, please, kill us already.

Read the whole thing. It will make your day.

(Yes, yes, I know, I'm a social media booster, a location-based services booster, a shinyshiny boster, the whole nine yards. On the other hand, I also like to think of myself as a reality-based booster so something sending up mindless hype just seems that much funnier to me.)

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Using a Blog to Engage Students in the Classroom and Beyond!

That's the title of the short article I have in our most recent York Libraries Faculty Newsletter. It's a rejigged version for faculty of the two posts I did a while back on the blog I use for IL sessions, here and here. I'll be doing a more formal report on the IL blog at an upcoming conference, but that's for another post.

A lot of the newsletter is of local interest only, but there are a couple of articles that will have a broader appeal:

It's also worth pointing out the short profile of Toni Olshen, the well-deserved recipient of the 2010 Ontario College and University Library Association Lifetime Achievement Award. Congrats, Toni!

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From the Archives: If you don't have a blog you don't have a resume (Part I)

I'm away for a couple of days, so I thought I'd fill in a bit with an oldy-buy-goody from February 4, 2009. It ended up being the first of three parts, with the other two being here and here. As usual, the first part got the most readers and comments, with the two after that being decidedly less popular. Go figure.

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I was just going to call this post "On Blogging" but I decided I like Robert Scoble's rather provocative statement better. This is not to say that I agree with his rather extreme stance, because I definitely don't, but I think it's an interesting way to frame this rather long list of links I've collected over the last little while.

The point here is to make the case that blogging is good for your career. It's been good for me and it's been good for a lot of other people and I think it has potential for everyone.

Now, is everyone a blogger-in-waiting? Of course not. Would absolutely everyone actually benefit from blogging? Probably not. And if absolutely everyone did take up blogging, would the massive amount of noise generated actually cancel itself out and end up hardly benefiting anyone at all? Probably.

That being said, let's take a look at what's been making me think about blogging lately.

First of all, let's take a look at the Wired article that started all the fuss:

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here's some friendly advice: Don't. And if you've already got one, pull the plug.

Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It's almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

As Walt Crawford said during his recent OLA presentation, you know for sure that blogs have entered the useful tools stage of the technology life cycle when Wired says that they're dead, buried and useless because it's no longer possible to become a famous blogger overnight.

Well, I don't know about you, but I long ago gave up on being an A-list blog. So, does blogging actually offer anything to the average person? Is it possible to use a blog to build a reputation in a niche area?

Let's see what the blogosphere is telling us about these questions:

What's the motivation for any user-generated content on the web anyways? Why toil away in obscurity, commenting on YouTube videos or gaming sites or anywhere? Because there truly is a reputation economy out there that is divorced from money. And if you can build reputation that way, it's often possible to leverage that for real-world benefit (or just egoboo): Will Work for Praise: The Web's Free-Labor Economy

Beyond brand-hungry strivers, masses of free laborers continue to toil without ever seeing a payday, or even angling for one. Many find compensation in currencies that predate the market economy. These include winning praise from peers, earning an exalted place within a community, scoring thrills from winning, and finding satisfaction in helping others.

Of course, a lot of what happens is merely attention seeking, shouting "me me me" into the void. What's the point of attracting attention?

Attention is easy to measure:

  • You can record the number of people subscribing to your blog.
  • You can count the number of people citing your research papers.
  • You can point to your number of followers on Twitter or your number of friends on Facebook.

However, I do not blog or write research papers merely to grab attention. Instead, I seek to increase my reputation. While attention fluctuates depending on your current actions, reputation builds up over time based on your reliability, your honesty, and your transparency. To build a good reputation, you do not need to do anything extraordinary: you just need to be consistent over a long time.

So, blogging can build your reputation.

What does a library school student have to say about the benefits. These ideas are certainly applicable to anyone starting out in a new career or even faced with a potential job hunt mid-career:

A list of reasons why every library school student should become a blogger:

  1. Self-promotion.
    Let's face it: when you apply for your first full-time gig after graduation, your potential employer will be going through a stack of CVs from people just like you, and every single candidate will have an MLIS, and the vast majority of them will have some experience working in the field. If you don't make your CV stand out, it will never make it to the top of the pile, so you need something to show how special you are. Blogging shows that you're interested in the field and have ideas to contribute, so when you include your blog's URL on your CV, employers will take notice...

  2. Becoming part of the community
    As students, we're already part of a community; library programs tend to be small enough that we get to know most of our classmates, and this is important since we will likely work with many of these people in the future. But wouldn't it be great to have a network of contacts outside of school, made up of people who share your interests and are able to provide advice and support?...

  3. The opportunity to put your thoughts into writing
    If you're like me and enjoy writing, then keeping a blog is a fun way to organize your thoughts. If you're not like me, then keeping a blog is a way to encourage yourself to practice your writing.

There also seem to be a lot of caveats to the whole blogging thing in academia, though. Are the downsides real or just myths?

Blogging is dangerous for non-tenured faculty: Blogging will not get you tenure. Neither will giving talks worldwide. Tenure is usually granted because you were able to hold a decent research program, and you showed respect for the students. However, if blogging prevents you from getting tenure, something is very wrong with your blogging or your school...

Serious researchers have no time for blogging: Indeed, there is always another paper to write and more time to spend at the library, isn't there? Let me quote Downes on this: If you are spending time in meetings, spending time traveling or commuting to work, spending time reading books and magazines, spending time telephoning people (or worse, on hold, or playing phone tag) then you are wasting time that you could be spending connecting to people online.

Blogging distracts you away from the research: bloggers do not tend to write about their latest research results. We tend to write about ideas that will not make it into our research papers. Is it a distraction? It might be, but does blogging cause you to lose focus in your research? I doubt it...

That's it for now. Next time we'll have four more posts that take a look at the concrete benefits of blogging.

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Authorial control

Horror author Cherie Priest has a very nice post from a couple of days ago called Control. It's basically about what mass market fiction authors do and don't have control over in the book production process. Now, the mass market fiction publishing niche is hardly the main concern on this blog, but I also think it's interesting to see what she comes up with and compare it with the list of things academic authors both do and don't have control over.

On some points it's strangely the same but mostly starkly different.

It's also worth contemplating how this list would be affected by an evolution towards a radically decentralized ebook model of publishing which would largely disintermediate traditional publishers. Another interesting way to slice and dice Priests points is to consider more precisely how digital distribution and the Napsterization of the book industry could play out.

In any case, let's see what she has to say. It's definitely worth going to her blog and reading the whole post to see her explanations of the points:

Things Authors Mostly Control

  • The words.
  • How we present ourselves to the audience.

Things Authors May Influence in Some Measure

  • The book's title.
  • Who gets review copies of books.
  • Visibility: Part One. A savvy writer can -- if he or she has enough free time and/or disposable cash -- attend conferences and conventions, manage websites regarding his/her books, and network with other authors, readers, booksellers, librarians, and reviewers. It is also up to the writer whether or not to accept interview requests and the like.
  • Visibility: Part Two. BUT. The vast bulk of the writers I know do not have the free time or disposable cash to pick up and jaunt to every convention in every city, much less send themselves on tour. Obviously authors who have reached a certain level of profitability will be invited around (expenses paid), but more often than not these things are paid for out of the author's pocket.* And keep in mind that most of us have day jobs and/or families to juggle.

Things Over Which Authors Have Virtually No Say

  • The cover.
  • The book's cost.
  • Size and format.
  • Distribution.
  • Quality control.
  • Digital availability.
  • Schedule.
  • Foreign availability.
  • Foreign availability in other same-language countries.
  • Turning the book into a movie.

Is Cherie Priest's business model about to be disrupted?

In any case, she also talks a bit about sharing and lending books at the start of the post and I really like what she has to say about the relationship between (mostly public) libraries and mass market publishing.

Libraries are very good markets for books, and we writers love them to bits. You see, if enough people line up to borrow a book, the library will purchase more copies of that book in order to reduce the wait. Therefore, the more people who want to borrow books from the library, the better. Also, libraries tend to be very supportive of writers from a promotional standpoint. They invite us to read, host our events, and often let local booksellers come in to sell copies at these events. To sum up: Libraries are good for authors.

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