Sunday, November 14, 2010

News and announcements from the BMC

I’m back from another terrific Branch Managers Conference.  The Sea World venue was pretty amazing, and a hard one to sell at home and with friends.  “You’re going WHERE for a conference?” was the usual response.

It was great to see people again, have a chat and catch up in between the sessions.  And, of course, to meet some of our newer managers for the first time.

My session on Digital Strategy, with Dean Mason and Mary Henderson, went well.  Dean and Mary have a lot of experience that’s relevant to us and they were engaging and entertaining speakers.  Dean spoke about the changing, how digital technology was effecting the book industry, and the possibilities and opportunities it was presenting.  Mary spoke about social media, and its importance to people and more recently to businesses.  I’ll add their presentations to Digital Bits when I get copies.

The internet usage policy relating to Social Media has been reviewed; access will be reinstated and a new policy issued as we recognise its importance to our members and customers and business.  This is intended to give you the opportunity to learn about and be comfortable with the different forms of social media.  To understand the basics, to look for the opportunities, to see what Jenny is doing online, to see the videos Helen is embedding on our site, and to be able to speak confidently with students and academics about how they are using these tools.
I thought a brief guide to social media might be helpful about now.
Social Media refers to websites designed to be interactive, where people collaborate to create and build, where the site’s value comes from that collaboration.  This can take many forms, from sites with millions of users, to small groups set up for specific projects, and everything in between, but there are roughly 5 major different types.
Social Networking: People with similar interests, goals, or backgrounds join to share information, meet others, or just keep in touch.  Some of the big names in this group are:
·         Friends Reunited, under a different name, was one of the first social networking sites.  It was designed to let you find old school friends but its limitations kept it small.
·         MySpace was one of the pioneers, and the largest of the social network sites early this decade.
·         LinkedIn   is a site for professionals who want to build networks within their industry or profession.  It’s useful for networking and is becoming important for job seekers.
·         Facebook is now the biggest social network site and has in many ways transcended the concept.  It is used to find old friends, maintain existing relationships, and build new ones.  It can be used as a games platform (anything from Scrabble to Super Mario), to publish your blog, to share music with your friends, to promote your business.
·         Orkut – although Facebook is huge it’s reach isn’t all encompassing and there are other sites that are more popular in places.  Orkut is one example that is enormous in Brazil and a few other places, but there are many more.
·         Foursquare – Sign in at your favourite coffee shop, restaurant, bookshop, or pub.  Collect badges or awards for visiting places, have more badges than your friends, and  . . . . Foursquare started as a pretty geeky game, and then, suddenly, developed into one of the biggest social network sites as people realised its potentials.  For businesses, to develop customer loyalty and free advertising.  For friends, to find each other at a concert or at Uni.
Publishing:  People with something to say write web logs (blogs) or film video logs (vlogs) or write pithy and interesting little snippets to delight their followers (tweets)  (or maybe that was just me being sarcastic).
·         Wordpress and Blogger are two of the big names in the blogosphere.  They provide an infrastructure to allow anyone to set up a journal and start publishing, and getting feedback.
·         Twitter is the most successful of the microblog sites.  The original idea was to limit what you had to say in 140 characters or less but with url shortening this limit has been circumvented.
Knowledge sharing:  Comes in many forms, of course, and is covered by most of the other categories, but the idea of the wiki, where anyone can add to the knowledge base, is worth noting separately.
·         Wikipedia is the market leader in content and reputation with articles on just about anyone or anything you’d care to look up.  While I wouldn’t recommend it to research a serious topic, it’s the ideal first stop for an overview or to get more information on your favourite tv series.
·         And where would the world of wikis be without the ultra-specialised Wookieepedia, Tardis Wiki, or the more serious  medical version, wikimd.
·         IMDB, the internet movie database, is another example, with users adding information, reviewing, commenting, and adding value to what otherwise would be a fairly mundane list of films.
Recommendations: The web is enormous.  Truly, mind-bogglingly enormous.  Navigating the web to find the really useful bits can be a challenge, even with Google and other search engines, and that’s where these kind of sites come into their own.  People tag a site, add a few keywords, and suddenly you can see that people who like the same sites as you are also visiting . . . .
·         Stumble Upon and delicious are the ones I keep coming across, but no doubt there are others out there.  Find the one that works for you, tag your favourite sites, and see what else pops up.
Multimedia: The web is the perfect place to store and share and use photographs, video, audio, and even presentations.
·         YouTube is the biggest of these with millions of video files available for view or to embed in other websites.  YouTube includes many amateur films but it’s also a key marketing tool not only for music, TV and film, but for many general products with many youtube only campaigns now standard (as you can see on just about any episode of The Gruen Transfer).
·         Picasa, Flickr, and Photobucket do the same, but for pictures.  Load your images, and share them with the world, your family, or just the people you want to give access.
·         Slideshare was a huge surprise for me.  A multimedia share site for powerpoint presentations seems  . . . . odd.  But it actually works and has interesting material that I’ve found useful when researching all manner of things.
· is about listening, not creating, but your choices are used to recommend music to others.  And vice versa.  So listen to what you enjoy, but be prepared to also find new music and new artists from like-minded people.  YouTube has similar tools these days, as well as the usual favourites, play lists, etc, but doesn’t have the parodies and send-ups, and that’s worthwhile when you just want music.
There are many, many examples of these types that I haven’t mentioned, and there are many others that don’t fall into these categories.  The possibilities online are vast, and constantly growing, and this is just a small sample.

[PS and a caveat.    This blog shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of any of these sites, nor licence to spend hours exploring.  Multimedia sites, in particular, should be treated with care and used sparingly.  Audio / video sites typically use a lot of bandwidth and watching videos or listening to music may slow internet or Pronto access for others]