30 Jun

lessons from june

  1. I can write a PhD thesis! It is done and submitted!
  2. If I managed to blog this month, when I had so much to do I’ve been getting up at 3am or 4am and working til all hours, I can blog anytime.
  3. I really enjoy blogging. I already knew this, but I think long breaks make me forget how much. Like reverse nostalgia. 
  4. I’ve missed Twitter. I’ve been quiet on the tweeting front for quite a while, but I tweeted a lot more this month and I spent more time looking at my feed and I realised I have actually missed it. It’s those incidental conversations that spring up. The serendipitous discoveries. 
  5. I am not good at succinct. Succinct blog posts; succinct emails; succinct theses; succinct acknowledgements (I had to put a link in my thesis acknowledgements to more acknowledgements. I KNOW).
  6. Sometimes you have to lose a couple of battles if you want to win the war. 
  7. I can actually let the battles go when it really comes to the crunch. 
  8. If I can let the tactical battles go when it comes to the crunch, maybe I can let them go earlier and save some energy.
  9. I was recording some responses to interview questions this afternoon and I was rambling because I was tired and and I’d run out of think. I was talking about the different aspects of my job and the different research I do and I heard myself talking about doing research that makes my heart sing. And it occurred to me that I should be chasing the things that make my heart sing. And then I realised that I could; that I have enough autonomy and intellectual freedom in my job to just do the work that makes my heart sing. Ok, my heart will never sing about marking, but I can teach the stuff that makes my heart sing, and teaching itself makes my heart sing. And I realised that I’m pretty damn lucky that I get to do what I do.
  10. I can function decently on a lot less sleep than I thought.
  11. Blogging makes me a more productive work-y writer, I think because it allows me to get all the things I’m thinking about out of my head.
  12. There are things you can do at the 11th hour and it will be fine. Printing and binding a thesis is not one of them.
  13. I can actually meditate! I just needed to learn how. Thank you, Headspace.
  14. Sometimes you just have to give up your lofty ambitions of writing a blog post about 30 things you learned this month and go to sleep early instead. Cause sometimes eyes just refuse to stay open.

Thanks for a particularly awesome #blogjune everyone! 

26/30 #blogjune

27 Jun

failure doesn’t have to snowball: on blogging

I missed a post yesterday. I also missed a post earlier in the month (although one day this month I posted on my own blog and the NLS7 blog so I had justified the earlier fail in my head).

Those of you who’ve ever run the dieting gauntlet (which I seem to have been running non-stop since I was a teenager) will be well acquainted with failure blow out. You know, when you have one day of eating everything you want and you think, ‘I’ve blown it now so I may as well just finish that family sized block of chocolate and wash it down with some more coke’… And then you wake up the next morning and think, ‘I really, really blew it yesterday so I may as well keep going’.

I think blogging – or failing to blog – can be a bit like that. Especially when we set ourselves crazy goals like blogging every single day for a whole month.

I’m feeling a bit reflective today, as I collate my thesis and put the finishing touches on it, ready for submission on Monday (and ready to hand over to my principal supervisor at 9am today… Ummm why am I blogging now, with less than three hours to go, when I have more thesis work to do?!).

Those of you that have been on this PhD journey with me know that I’ve set and missed a number of self-imposed deadlines along the way. When I started my PhD, my aim was to complete in four years part time. As a part time student, my candidature is six years, but I wanted to complete early for a host of reasons: my job depends on me completing; I’m researching in a rapidly evolving space; I couldn’t handle it taking any longer; etc. Four years came and went at the end of last year, so I missed that target.

I also wanted to complete my thesis during my 2013 sabbatical. Who was I kidding? I started sabbatical in July with data collection still in progress (and, notably, a plate that wasn’t clear of work-work, which it should have been [nobody’s fault but my own, btw]). I did complete my data collection and analysis and wrote close to 50,000 words, but I didn’t finish my thesis. When I wasn’t finished on returning to work at the end of 2013, I realised that meant I wouldn’t be submitting in a hurry, because at that time, I took over coordinating the degree I teach in. And then more work stuff and more work stuff and more work stuff…

As the year rolled on, I set myself a new target: to have my final seminar by the end of 2014. I booked it in, and had to push the date back a fortnight. I submitted my thesis to the panel with a discussion chapter I wasn’t happy with, but I sent it and I got that seminar done.

Then I was going to finish my revisions before Semester 1 started this year. Hahahaha! This year, we got our own degree, moving out of the Master of IT and into our very own Master of Information Science, so that was a big transition to manage. I also took on a brand new unit, teaching undergrads for the first time. In first semester, my team and I taught 175% of our usual teaching load with a lot of new and casual staff. It was a crazy semester. During this semester I did several thesis sprints, each time hoping to complete in a short block of time I’d carved out, like a weekend. Talk about setting yourself up for failure. So I missed all of those ridiculous self-imposed deadlines.

And with every miss, I felt like more of a failure.

The final push came in May when a permanent position was advertised in my discipline and, with the knowledge that I wouldn’t have a chance at the job without having submitted my thesis, I gave myself 37 days to complete my thesis and write my job application (and when I say ‘I gave myself 37 days’, I don’t mean, ‘I took myself offline, into the wilderness, putting all work aside to get my thesis done’. I’ve still had to do all the other things too).

I’ve felt like giving up a number of times. I’ve compromised a lot to get here. I have failed and failed and failed and failed. And not just on thesis deadlines, but on lots of other things that have been impacted by trying to hit these crazy thesis deadlines. If so many people hadn’t invested in getting me here, if my participants hadn’t been so generous with letting me into their worlds at one of the most important times of their lives, I might have given up.

Though I’ve fallen off the healthy eating horse and stayed off it for long periods of time, I have managed to get back on the PhD horse at each fall. Actually, I think it’s more like a bucking bull. But the point is, I set myself up to fail many times; I failed many times, including times where I hadn’t set myself up to fail and I just failed through sheer failing-ness; but I am actually going to finish it.

And so now, 870-ish words later, I’m circling back to the beginning of this post to say this: For me, blogging has been a fickle ride. I love blogging. I have had so much fun this month blogging and participating in conversations. But in other years, I’ve let missing a day or two of #blogjune turn into an epic fail, and I’ve given up. This time around, I’ve given myself permission to miss a day here or there, and the result is I’m back here today, even though I did the blogging equivalent of eating a whole pizza yesterday.

So the point of this long winded and rambling post was that I’m okay with missing a day, and I’m going to try to take that attitude forward. I’m not going to blog every day post-June, but I will commit to blogging once a week. And if I don’t blog one week, I’m not going to let it turn into a catastrophic fail. I’m not even going to apologise for it, because who really wants to read a blog where the author starts out with an apology about not blogging? I’ll leave the chocolate in the fridge. I won’t let one little blow out lead to an enormous blow out. I won’t let missing one week turn into missing a whole month and suddenly into missing a whole year. I won’t give myself the excuse to get the family sized block of chocolate out of the fridge. Because failure doesn’t have to snowball. That’s one lesson I’ve learned from doing a PhD and one I think was worth learning.

25/30 #blogjune

25 Jun

collaborative blogging is go! (and some tough love)

[Update: If you’ve contributed to this conversation and I missed your post in my list, please add it in the comments and I’ll put it in the list too. I haven’t deliberately left anyone off  – I just have a memory like a sieve!]

Alisa at Flight Path has put up a post calling for interest in kicking off a collaborative blog, with the tentative name of ‘League of Librarians’.

Image courtesy Kim Tairi. Available on Flickr under a BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Image courtesy Kim Tairi. Available on Flickr under a BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

For the back story on this post, you might like to read the following posts:

There has also been lots of conversation on this on Twitter. Check out the #blogjune hashtag for more.

But most importantly, get involved in the conversation. This conversation. Professional conversation generally. However you want.

Blog. Comment on blogs. Tweet. Speak at conferences. Ask a question after a conference presentation. Write journal articles. Then tweet about your journal articles. Contact your nearest ‘library school’ and offer to speak or make a short video or write a blog post or host a tour for their courses. Write a short piece for inCite. Start or join a journal club. Kick off conversations on an elist (okay I’m stretching here. Do people still use these? I have to say I’m not subscribed to many and most get filtered straight to trash). Find an interest group on Facebook and stoke some conversation. Tweet links to the blog posts you’re reading, even (especially!) non-LIS ones.

Contribute big: write meaty content. Or contribute small: make a comment here and there.

Tough love

This is the part where I tell it like it is. Ready for the tough love?

Impostor slaying

Want to contribute to professional discourse but suffer from impostor syndrome? Join the queue! The fastest way to slay that beast is just to get on with doing and saying what you want to do and say. If you are really, really gagged by impostor syndrome, find yourself a buddy to use as a sounding board for your ideas, then just get them out into the big wide world.

But don’t let impostor syndrome stop you contributing. We all want to hear what you’ve got to say.

Just muck in

Nobody cares if you’re a first semester student or you’ve got 100 years of experience under your belt. Everyone has something to contribute.

If contributing is a priority, you’ll make time

Professional discourse will only be as good as we make it. Extended professional discourse – meaty content – takes more work, and if we want to see it happen, we need to put the work in.

Informal, extended professional discourse leads to ideas flying around and incubation and creativity and all good things. It leads to projects and grants and good, everyday practice.

Don’t let being time poor be an excuse. We are all time poor. I’m well acquainted with what it means to have a crazy work load and a hectic family life. We all are.

But here is the thing: we make time to do things that matter to us.

If you don’t want to get involved in professional discourse, don’t get involved in professional discourse. If it’s not a priority for you, that’s ok.

But if it is a priority for you, make time. In fact, if it is a priority for you, you will make time, probably without it being too hard to find.

Still with me?

Then head over to Alisa’s blog and think about how you might get involved in a collaborative blog, or even put your hand up to say you’re interested in reading this kind of content. Blogs need readers and commenters too. Quick, go!

#blogjune 24/30

24 Jun

words that don’t belong in the 21st century

Ok, so I need to fess up that this post is actually a re-hash of one I made a few years back on my now archived blog Virtually a Librarian. (You can find the original plus interesting comments in the National Library of Australia’s Pandora archive.) I’m pulling it out for another go round today for two reasons:

  1. I just used the word ‘moreover’ in my thesis and cringed.
  2. I just saw a tweet that reminded me of how much I hate some of these words.

Now before I start, let me just say that I am not suggesting I’m a perfect writer. I once used the word ‘generalisability’ in a conference paper so I really shouldn’t be casting any stones. I’m a fan of using words and punctuation creatively. I am incapable of using tense consistently. I’m an editor’s nightmare. (Just ask the editor currently working on my thesis.) But you will never, ever catch me using the word ‘whilst’.

I initially wrote this post in response to seeing the word ‘whilst’ in one too many assignments, but it turns up everywhere. And I really dislike it.

Fifty shades of grey is a really good example of formal language gone wrong. The dialogue is stilted because it’s unnecessarily and unrealistically formal.

Just as the dialogue in Fifty shades clunks because of its formality, some words commonly used in academic and business writing are archaic, wanky and off-putting. For me, these words fall into two categories: unnecessarily formal, and clunky joiners.

Here are some of my (least) favourites.

Unnecessarily formal

These are a bunch of words that people tend to use instead of simple language when they’re writing something formal or academic. There’s a common misconception that ‘academic’ means ‘verbose’, ‘complex’ or ‘not everyday’. Stick a couple of extra letters at the end of a common word and you’ve elevated your writing to a different level of quality, right? Uh, wrong.

There is never, ever any need to use these words. Unless you’re the Queen.

  • Whilst: while we *always* do. I hate this word more than any other in the English language.
  • Utilise (even worse if it uses a ‘z’): what’s wrong with ‘use’?
  • Thus: often used in really complex sentence structures and it just doesn’t work for me at all.
  • Therefore: I can deal with this one sometimes, but very often ‘so’ will do the trick.

Clunky joiners

These are words people use to link sentences together and they are most annoying when they are used in a completely arbitrary way. An old friend of mine uses these words at random, without any recognition of the fact they actually have a meaning and need to be carefully selected. A few that really frustrate me:

  • Furthermore
  • Moreover
  • Heretofore

Used correctly and very sparingly, these words are okay. But there are much more elegant ways to craft separate sentences into paragraphs that flow. It’s just a little more work to pull them off.

Simple is beautiful

Writing economically is a bit of an art and it’s also a bit risky, I guess. If your language is simple, your content is on display. IMO, sometimes people attempt to hide less-than-perfect content with verbose sentence structures (I’m sure this is why some of the assignments I mark are laden with these words). For other people it’s less deliberate. They just think they have to use formal words in certain types of writing. But if you use these ugly, unnecessary words, you’re causing extra work for the reader. They have to dig through your language to access the content. This means you’re stopping your readers from understanding what you’re saying. And that’s never a good thing.

Does anyone else have a problem with these words? Or others? Please share yours in the comments!

#blogjune 23/30

23 Jun

eleven things that are helping me get through a crazy week

It’s crazy town here at the moment* but I’ve got a bit of a kit of awesome things that are helping me get through the crazy. Maybe some of them might be useful for you too (you can’t have my mum though, sorry – there’s a waiting list for dibs on her. Not really willing to share the kids either, but totally willing to share their cute, which you can partake in by following me on Instagram).

  1. 20 minute deep stretch yoga for neck and shoulders with Sara Beth Yoga on YouTube.
  2. The Headspace meditation app, which I’ve been using to learn how to meditate (this works, by the way – I’m one of those people who finds it hard to quiet their mind and I can do this).
  3. The Okapi coffee capsules from Zarraffa’s Coffee for my Nespresso – delicious!
  4. Perfect Potion Sweet Dreams Balm on my temples and the back of my neck at bedtime.
  5. Pomodoros for focused writing (made even better by doing them with a virtual buddy – thanks Kathleen!).
  6. My new to do list manager Todoist, where I’m blithely dumping things to deal with after 1 July.
  7. A little bit of Bulla Creamy Classics Chocolate Chip ice cream every night (and maybe a spoonful or three during the day as a reward).
  8. New comfy work from home clothes courtesy the recent Bonds 40% off sale. Super soft, unpilled jersey tees and harem pants.
  9. A claw hair clip I found in the bottom of the bathroom cupboard – so much better for headache management than a ponytail.
  10. Blogging – it’s so nice to write something other than thesis!
  11. And most importantly, my support crew:
    • my supervisors (every thing seems much clearer after a 10 minute chat. I know people have horrible experiences of PhD supervision and I don’t know how they get through the process without great supervisors)
    • friends who have spent half their weekend reading and reviewing my work (thanks Zaana!)
    • my team, who always deliver and who are always offering to help with work to free up my time to write
    • my friends and colleagues – my personal learning network, really – who send me supportive messages, love via Instagram, and chant my mantra – it’s just one more week – with me
    • the babes, who give me restorative hugs, make me snacks (okay, that one is only Ms 6), draw me pictures for my office, and who make my world shiny every time they step into sight
    • my mum, who puts up with me being an absolute cow (seriously, I’m a nightmare when I’m stressed), brings me a Maccas Coke home every day (I’m pretty much a postmix Coke addict), cooks for me even though she hates cooking, reminds me to sleep and breathe and stuff, and patiently listens to me rant about objects of study even though it’s really boring.

It’s just one more week! Not even! Woo!

* On Monday, I have to submit my thesis and an application for a job that would essentially give me permanency in my current job. And at work it’s the week we finalise grades, and because I had a huge teaching load this semester that’s quite a bit of admin. Plus other things I’m trying not to think about because: THESIS!

#blogjune 22/30

22 Jun

twitter is not a replacement for blogging

[Update: 9am-ish Please see the bottom of this post for an update based on a Tweet from Hugh.]

This is part three of my response to Hugh’s post about the apparently non existent golden age of blogging (circa 2005/6 to 2010/11).

In this post, I want to address Hugh’s suggestion that what is happening on Twitter right now – engagement, community, talking about professional issues – is the same as what was happening on blogs in the golden age of blogging.

Want the short version?

Hugh basically said

The descriptions given by Kate and Kathryn Greenhill of what blogging is or was almost perfectly describe what has been happening on Twitter for several years.

And I think this is incorrect, because:

  • what was happening back in the day was blogging PLUS tweeting
  • we were tweeting back in the day, and it looked a lot like what is happening on Twitter now
  • we were specifically talking about publishing blog posts (plus other stuff that goes with that), and blogging is not tweeting – they occur on different platforms that have different affordances and that foster different experiences of information.

If these points make sense to you, you can probably skip the rest of this post. But if not (or you just feel like reading a 1600 word blog post on your lunch break), then read on!

And now for the detailed version

This post is largely a reflection on the following statement from Hugh’s post:

The descriptions given by Kate and Kathryn Greenhill of what blogging is or was almost perfectly describe what has been happening on Twitter for several years.

What Hugh is pointing to here is a post Kathryn wrote in which she ‘defined’ blogging. Here’s what she said:

To me, “blogging” does not just mean writing posts. To me that is broadcasting.

For me to feel like I am really “blogging”  I need to be reading other people who are creating in a similar space, commenting, joining in on other parts of social media about discussion of topics that may or may not end up as more fully-developed posts. The richness of what I write here is dependent on this thinking with others, and takes place as a node in conversation.

In short, for Kathryn

blogging is not simple, mechanistic and easy. I see a blog as an anchor site for my presence on social media, rather than a series of posts arranged in date order.

I think what Kathryn was really doing here was drawing attention to the fact that running a blog is not just about writing posts. It is, in fact, a whole lot of work. You have to maintain the software, build community, respond to comments, read others’ blogs, respond to others’ posts, and maintain the space as your online home.

I riffed off Kathryn’s post and basically said that for me, blogging is blogging; that is, authoring posts. But that

blogging is just one part of engaging online, of engaging in conversations, engaging in a community.

And then Hugh said that thing about how what we are talking about is basically what’s happening on Twitter now. And I think in doing that, he was referring to my definition of blogging as part of my online engagement, and Kathryn’s definition of blogging as

reading other people who are creating in a similar space, commenting, joining in on other parts of social media about discussion of topics that may or may not end up as more fully-developed posts. The richness of what I write here is dependent on this thinking with others, and takes place as a node in conversation.

Apologies for the duplicated quote, but I want to be really clear in pulling these pieces together.

I think what Hugh was saying is that there is rich discussion happening in social media now, in spaces like Twitter.

And he’s right.

But he’s also not right in that he says what we’ve described is basically like what’s happening in places like Twitter now.

But that’s incorrect, because what Kathryn and I are talking about includes the kind of thing that’s happening in Twitter now, but it includes something else: blogging. Lots and lots of blogging, and engaging with and around blog posts.

When I talk about engaging online, I’m talking about using Twitter (and a whole bunch of other stuff). But blogging used to be a *huge* part of my online engagement, and it’s not anymore. As I said yesterday, blogs were big back in the day.

And so was Twitter

Talking specifically about the idea of blogging every day, Hugh said:

Of course, there is a place for this sort of thing now – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Back in my day, we walked 20 miles to school in the snow with bare feet while tweeting on our iPhones.

But sometimes we put our phones down and wrote blog posts too. On netbooks, the tool du jour. (Remember when we all ran out and bought Asus EEE PCs?) Then from our iGoogle widgets (ah, the dashboard days), we’d tweet a link to our blog posts and a conversation would ensue.

And what’s more:

What we were doing on Twitter then was a lot like what’s happening on Twitter now

Twitter is definitely a space for professional conversation. I’m with you on this Hugh. I’m with you because I’ve seen it over a lot of years. It’s getting close to a decade, in fact, that I’ve been using Twitter for professional conversations (and more lately, watching professional conversations unfold, since I’m using Twitter less). It started happening at just about the same time as I started my now archived library blog called Virtually a Librarian.

There wasn’t just a lot of blogging happening in the golden age; there was also a lot of tweeting happening.

Twitter is a space where conversation is occurring right now, but it was back in the day, too.

From my perspective – in my experience – what I see happening now on Twitter now isn’t a lot different to what was happening on Twitter then. The only difference (besides new voices, and yay for new voices!) is there’s less tweeting about blog posts, or sharing post links, or blog posts being inspired by Twitter convos.

I don’t think I’m misremembering this either, because I do actually know what I used to tweet about. I’ve been back through my Twitter archive in quite some detail to scrounge out all of the tweets about or related to the twins in aide of compiling a book for my sister of everything I blogged, tweeted or flickred about them in the first few years of their lives. I know roughly what I was tweeting about, and it looks a lot like what I see happening now.

So if what’s happening on Twitter today is equivalent to anything that was happening in the golden days of blogging, it’s equivalent to what was happening on Twitter.

Twitter will never be a replacement for blogs

Twitter and blogs are different platforms and different platforms have different functionality and different affordances.

I research information experience in social media, which means I study the things people do (or don’t do) with information in social media, how they do it, and why they do it, using an experience lens. My research suggests that people experience information differently on different platforms. Information experience in context specific.

It is not possible that what was happening on blogs then is happening on Twitter now. Because Twitter isn’t a blog, and a blog isn’t Twitter.

By the way, my findings (which relate explicitly to new mothers’ information experience in social media) suggest that bloggers have richer experiences, strong cross-platform relationships, and a real sense of community. This is partly about affordances; it’s partly about long form posts; it’s partly about a desire and a need to share, either to normalise, help others normalise, or achieve catharsis. (This is a major over-simplification – I have 50,000+ words of findings and you can’t really condense that into a couple of sentences.) But my point is, blogging adds something to information experience in social media. It has its own unique set of benefits (and perils).

Twitter and blogs are good friends

There is a relationship between Twitter and blogging, but I don’t think one can replace the other and still maintain the same type or depth of discourse.

They do, however, complement each other.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 7.45.50 am

My Twitter analytics show a marked increase across the board on last month, and I think that’s a fairly good indication that blogging fuels tweeting, at least for me.

I still have more to say

I’ve still got stuff I want to say in response to Hugh’s post, particularly about alternative venues for professional conversation. I’m not sure I’m going to have time to say them right now though, seeing my thesis is due ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! ARRRRRGH! But I’ll come back to it at some point, because I agree with Hugh that we have a problem that is bigger than a lack of blogging.

Thanks Hugh

So I’ll wrap up temporarily by saying thanks, Hugh, for the provocation. It has been fun and useful to reflect on a decade of using social media for professional conversation.

My only concern is this doesn’t really *look* like a conversation, because Hugh doesn’t seem to allow trackbacks on his posts. I think that’s a bummer, particularly because I think the post misinterprets some of the things I said, and I think it would be good if there was a link to my corrections at a minimum, and preferably to every post anybody makes in response. Because this is all about conversation. And conversations have multiple voices.

#blogjune 21/30

Update

Hugh just tweeted:

So I feel like I should clarify, because I want to be clear about how I have interpreted Hugh’s post, and then he can correct me if I’m wrong.

Let me give a big chunk of quote from Hugh’s post for context:

When librarians ask Is blogging still a thing?, or Is there life left in the Australian biblioblogosphere?, I think these questions are partially based on a misremembering or perhaps a miscategorisation. Kate Davis reveals this when she talks about blogging as ‘engaging’. The descriptions given by Kate and Kathryn Greenhill of what blogging is or was almost perfectly describe what has been happening on Twitter for several years.

I read this as ‘Kate is either remembering the good old days in a skewed way or she is mislabeling blogging as engaging. The description Kate gives seems to describe what’s been happening on Twitter for several years’.

Perhaps I misinterpreted. I’d say the second sentence in my interpretation is true-ish: engaging has been happening on Twitter for years.

But in all my posts this month on blogging and professional discourse, I am explicitly talking about blogging. Not microblogging. Not anything else. Blogging. And what has been happening on Twitter for years is not blogging. It’s… well, to state the obvious, tweeting. It’s also professional conversation, but it is not the extended critical discourse in blog posts that I have been rabbiting on about.

21 Jun

there actually *was* a golden age of library blogging

This is part two of my response to Hugh’s post about the golden age of library blogging*.

In this post, I want to address the idea that we might be misremembering, and that perhaps there was no golden age of blogging at all.

This post is largely a response to this statement from Hugh:

When librarians ask Is blogging still a thing?, or Is there life left in the Australian biblioblogosphere?, I think these questions are partially based on a misremembering or perhaps a miscategorisation.

And also this one:

Whenever this golden age occurred, it obviously predates my own online engagement with library matters. But what it is [sic] that was happening, and where did it go?

I can’t answer ‘where did it go?’ (although I can hazard a guess at some of the factors that contributed to a downturn in blogging, and I might do that in a later post), but I can situate it temporally (ish) and I can point you to some info on what was actually happening.

When exactly was this golden age?

So let’s start with the when. In a tweet last night, Kathryn said:

I’d suggest a slightly broader time frame: 2005/2006 to about 2011, although things were tapering off by 2010. There was still some good stuff happening towards the end and some desire to try to pick things up again, I think.

Ah, the good old days

In his post, Hugh suggested that

[w]e remember the things that were remarkable, and good, and forget the things that were boring, uncomfortable or bad.

Yeah, that happens. I do, however, remember the boring, uncomfortable and bad bits of library blogging in its heyday. I wrote some of it. I read some of it.

But I don’t think this is a case of glorifying a past that wasn’t all that glorious.

As Kathryn said in her tweet last night, there were more blogs and more posts, with an overall higher frequency of posts. Posts were longer (especially later in the golden age), had depth, and reflected on the big questions of the day. Library 2.0 woo! But also, people were tinkering and reporting on their tinkering. We were in the middle of a paradigm shift and people were blogging through that. On the flipside, I think the volume and extent of posting pushed us forward with that paradigm shift. We saw what other people were doing and it inspired us to try new stuff too. People like Kathryn were out on the bleeding edge, taking risks, and the rest of us were benefiting from their reflections. And importantly, their reflections *in the moment*, not a year later when a journal article finally got published. There was also more commenting on blogs themselves – I think this is what Kathryn meant by location.

Some of the blog content was shit. There was a lot of live blogging of conferences (which I kinda liked). But there was also stuff there that we could make practical use of and stuff that asked big questions about issues we were facing.

So with all this blog content out there, we had all this stuff to engage with. We had Google Reader**, we subscribed to 100s of feeds, and we blogged more often.

In short, blogs played a much bigger role in our online lives and our online engagement, as both authors and commenters.

But I could still be beating something up out of nothing, right?

My first reaction to Hugh’s post was, ‘I’m so NOT misremembering! Hugh is WRONG and I am RIGHT!’

And then I stopped and asked myself if I was really sure of that, or if I was just being defensive.

I thought I’d better do some research.

I started by visiting the archives of some of the ‘big’ blogs (the Really, Really Cool Kids) I read with regularity in the past. A quick look at the archives of bloggers like Meredith Farkas, Sarah-Houghton, Karen Coombs, and Lorcan Dempsey is testament to the volume and depth of posts. (I could pull out a stack of Australian examples, too, but short on time. Feel free to add some in the comments.)

I also revisited Walt Crawford’s Cites & Insights, because I remembered that he often pointed directly to blog content. (And can I just say that I was like ridiculously excited when someone pointed out to me that I got a mention in an issue of Cites & Insights.) There is some really great coverage of blog content in many issues that’s testament to the depth of discussion on blogs in the golden days. But even more useful is his work on the liblog (his term for biblioblogosphere) landscape for Cites & Insights. Walt was rocking blog metrics well before there was any decent work on how to evaluate the success of blogs. I remember trying to work out how to evaluate the success of a blog for youth I had implemented at my organisation way back in 2007 or 2008 and being quite confronted by the lack of literature around how to evaluate blogs or the lack of other studies from which I could adapt method. I ended up using pieces of the method that Walt derived to evaluate blogs from particular types of libraries. (Walt did these amazingly detailed studies on blogs in public and academic libraries.) Walt was all over this stuff and he did meticulous, detailed work on quantifying and exploring the landscape of the biblioblogosphere. To get a feel for what was happening back in those giddy golden days, take a look at the September/October 2010 issue of Cites & Insights [PDF], which looks at the biblioblogosphere landscape from 2007 to 2009. I was delighted to wake up this morning and see this from Walt:

I didn’t know Cites & Insights was still going and I’ll be a regular reader from now on.

And a little bit more evidence: Meredith Farkas conducted a state of the biblioblogosphere survey in 2007. There are several posts about the results. I’d suggest starting with the blog demographics post. The response rate varied across the questions but there were between 700 and 790ish responses to each question. That’s a lot of bloggers. Interestingly, many of those bloggers were also publishing or talking elsewhere, not just on their blogs. You should also check out the attitudes and behaviours post, where you can see more about behaviours like subscribing to blogs and the other social media tools that were being used at the time. Around the same time, she also ran a survey asking people to name their top three library related blogs. Check out the list of nominated blogs. It’s enormous.

And lastly, as Kathryn tweeted last night, Michael Stephens even wrote a PhD thesis on this stuff.

(There are also conference papers and articles around about this stuff too, if you’re interested to read more.)

Challenging some assumptions

Hugh said:

When a small group of people are all blogging these things at the same time and linking to each other, it can feel bigger than it is. Of course, there is a place for this sort of thing now – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It wasn’t actually a small group. Yes, there were the Cool Kids and the Really, Really Cool Kids, but there were also people like me, on the periphery, sharing our ideas and benefiting from the ideas of others.

And we had Facebook and Twitter back then (more on this tomorrow!). We didn’t have Instagram, but we did have Flickr, and many people used it in a really big way. Twitter became big in the golden age of blogging. There was a real community of librarians on Twitter well before it got mainstream traction. I think the blogging actually fuelled it. But my point is, we were tweeting the shiz out of everything. Some of us were Facebooking too, but others were conscientious objectors (I hate FB by the way, so I’m not doing anything much there now, and it is definitely not a spaced in which I would connect on professional topics).

There *was* a ‘golden age of blogging’

But I’m uncomfortable with the term ‘golden age’. It was what it was.

I’m not suggesting we need to go back and do what we were doing then. My initial post about whether there was life left in the biblioblogosphere really was meant to be a question and a discussion prompt. I do miss aspects of the golden age. I miss the critical commentary most.

But blogging isn’t a panacea. Like Hugh says, this is a bigger problem. I just thought blogging might be one way to address a lack of critical discourse.  I don’t know if it is. I’m not advocating for a return to the good old days, but rather, I’m reflecting on what I think is a problem (less informal professional discourse than there was in the past) and what I think caused it (less blogging). More blogging mightn’t be the answer.

But I think we need to think about what the answer might be.

* When I talk about that time when there was a lot more blogging going on (the golden age), I’m talking about 2005/2006 to about 2011, although things were tapering off by then.

* * I’ve often wondered about the extent to which the demise of Google Reader impacted on library related blogging, blog reading and commenting. I think a lack of good Reader replacements in the early post Reader days might have contributed to the decline in library blogging.

#blogjune 20/30

20 Jun

some corrections on hugh’s ‘golden age of library blogging’ post

Tonight, Hugh published an excellent blog post that provoked discussion on Twitter and prompted me to write a response so lengthy that I’m breaking it up into several posts.

In his post, Hugh contends that there never was a golden age of library blogging. (For the record, when I talk about that time when there was a lot more blogging going on, I’m talking about 2005/2006 to about 2011, although things were tapering off by then.) Hugh’s post is partially a response to my post on whether there is still life left in the Australian biblioblogosphere. So it’s probably unsurprising that I’ve got some stuff to say on this topic. 😉

Tonight, I want to point out a few misinterpretations of what I’ve said in posts over the last few weeks. I’m not trying to be argumentative with these clarifications, but rather, I just want to be clear about where I’m coming from.

Tomorrow, I’ll attend to the idea that there wasn’t ever a golden age of library blogging.

And on Monday, I’ll post about whether what’s happening on Twitter now is a replacement for what used to happen around blogs.

I also want to respond to Hugh’s thoughts about where professional discourse might actually happen – basically the second half of his post. I agree with a lot of it, and I’d like to explore it further. But it’s nine sleeps til my thesis is submitted and I’m not sure I’ll have time to get to this. We’ll see.

So let’s get onto the corrections.

I don’t hesitate to tell students to get on Twitter (actually, I make them)

Hugh said:

Kate says she hesitates to tell students to get on Twitter because there’s no content, yet Twitter is where the connections and the nodes are.

Actually, that’s not what I said. What I said was:

A couple of months back I had a conversation with a colleague about encouraging our students to get embedded in the social media spaces many of us use as professionals. I’m thinking specifically of using Twitter, and getting our students to take that on as a space where they can connect with other professionals. I’ve realised it’s getting to be a harder sell, and I think the changing shape of the LIS blogosphere is part of the reason the benefits are harder to promote these days.

When I first started teaching in 2009, library-related blogs were jumpin’. When I designed a unit using an approach I’d now call ‘connected learning’, I built in blogging and connecting on Twitter because blogs were jumpin’ and all the bloggers were on Twitter. (I’m not going to say jumpin’ again, I promise. I’m just getting silly now because THESIS and ALL NIGHTER.) Librarians in practice who were blogging used to comment on my students’ blogs. My students commented on theirs. I mined those blogs for content to use in my teaching because it was right up to the minute. My students could follow librarians on Twitter AND read their blogs, and in this way, they would get to know these bloggers and get embedded in the professional community.

I have a former student (the colleague I referred to above) who I think would have some really interesting insight to offer on this, and I’m hoping she’ll join in the conversation.

Anyway, my point is I don’t hesitate to tell my students to get on Twitter (in fact, I make them, because I’m mean and nasty), but it is harder to sell them on the benefits than it used to be. It’s not just about a lack of blogging, but I think that is a contributing factor. Other factors:

  • I tweet less, so if they don’t engage there, they’re not missing anything from me.
  • This semester my undergrads were like ‘Why would you be on Twitter?’, so I think there might be some disinterest in Twitter coming up through the ranks.

I’m actually not talking about Australian library blogs exclusively

This is more about correcting what *I* said, not what Hugh said.

When librarians ask Is blogging still a thing?, or Is there life left in the Australian biblioblogosphere?, I think these questions are partially based on a misremembering or perhaps a miscategorisation.

Ok, so perhaps I should have asked, ‘Is there life left in the biblioblogosphere?’ And for the record, I should note how much I dislike that term, but that’s what we called it in those good old days that I may be misremembering. Those golden days of blogging involved Australian bloggers as well as people elsewhere in the world. So let’s delete the word Australian, because I really am thinking more broadly than this. So delete Australian. (Although I should say that I included the word ‘Australian’ in the first place because I think there’s more action on US library blogs now than there is here, but that’s just an impression I have, not based in evidence.)

I would also argue that I’m not misremembering or miscategorising, but I’ll come back to that shortly, and in tomorrow’s post.

I don’t think anyone is arguing for daily library-related blogging

Clearly daily blogging about librarianship isn’t a thing. The question I’ve wondered about since the last #blogjune, however, is whether it ever was.

It never was for me, and I don’t think it was for the bloggers I loved to read.

The fact that ‘Blog Every Day of June’ comes with its own hashtag should be a pointer to why it never became Blog Every Day of the Year.

And thank god for that.

To be clear, I’m not arguing for daily blogging. I don’t think anyone else is either. I’m arguing for more blogging and more informal professional discourse and I think blogs are one place that can happen.

A group blog

Hugh said:

Kate Davis has floated the idea of a group blog concentrating on Australian Librarianship.

But I actually floated the idea of a group blog in general, focused on issues relevant to the library and information profession. One of the commenters on this post suggested posts that contextualise things like the Horizon Report for a local audience would be good, and I agree with that. But I don’t think a group blog needs to be (or should) be concentrated on Australian librarianship. Or even librarianship. There’s so much going on in the information professions more broadly that we could be engaging with, and so much going on *beyond* the information professions that has relevance for us.

Did I miscategorise? Am I misremembering?

When librarians ask Is blogging still a thing?, or Is there life left in the Australian biblioblogosphere?, I think these questions are partially based on a misremembering or perhaps a miscategorisation. Kate Davis reveals this when she talks about blogging as ‘engaging’.

Nup, I don’t think I miscategorised. I think blogging, commenting on blogs, tweeting links to blog posts, and having conversations about, or that lead to, blog posts is just one set of mechanisms for engaging online. For me, blogging is engaging. But so is tweeting. So is posting to Instagram.

Kathryn was talking about all these other things in terms of how they relate to running a blog. For Kathryn, being a blogger means doing a whole lot of other stuff – stuff that I call engaging online. But for Kathryn, these are things part of her blogging practice, so she sees them as part of blogging.

Are we misremembering? Was there a golden age of library blogging? I probably wouldn’t call it a golden age, but there certainly was a time when there was a whole lot more blogging going on. But this is a bigger story, so I’m giving it it’s very own post tomorrow.

Thanks for the provocation Hugh! I’m looking forward to more discussion on the posts I’ve got lined up.

#blogjune 19/30

19 Jun

impostor syndrome sufferer? here’s your secret weapon

It seems my post on impostor syndrome resonated with quite a few people. Some people commented on the post; others tweeted me; some people wrote their own posts; some contacted me privately. But the message was clear: I was right in thinking this is a real issue in the LIS professions.

noun_120642Sometimes my impostor syndrome makes me feel like I’m achieving nothing. This is often compounded by juggling too many balls, which makes me feel like I’m at great risk of seeing all of those balls end up on the floor in smithereens. Sometimes (often), I’m already standing on some rather pointy shards. I also feel like I let people down quite a lot – different people (including myself), in different ways, but it’s usually a product of being overcommitted, being physically present but cognitively absent, and having a crazy work ethic (all three impact on my family and friends, while on the work front, it’s the first two that have the biggest impact, although the work ethic results in the other two). More on this letting people down thing later.

noun_35090So because I’m an over-committed fraud of a clown who can’t keep all the balls in the air because I’m there in body but not *there* in mind, I have to remind myself that sometimes I get things done, I achieve things, I make progress, I keep important balls in the air, and sometimes I even smash those balls into another stratosphere. When you’re stuck in a mindset where you think you’re a fraud, your lack of self awareness, your lack of trust in yourself, and your lack of capacity to back yourself can be crippling. And here’s the thing: everybody else is watching those balls flying through the air and thinking you’re a master juggler. So you have to find some way to get some perspective on what you are actually achieving.

I have a secret weapon in the war on impostor syndrome that allows you to get that kind of perspective. It’s called The Done List.

A done list is like a reverse to do list. You know how shitty you feel when you look at your to do list and you’re monumentally overwhelmed by how much there is on there and how little you’re getting done? A done list gives you the opposite feeling.

Done lists can track big stuff, or they can track little stuff. I have two kinds of done lists.

The Done List

I like to make a list at the start of every year of what I achieved the previous year. The big stuff. The important stuff. Not ‘I sent 3095 emails’ (although, it would be kind of fun / scary to count them one year, and I reckon that number would actually be fairly close to it). But things that matter, like how many books I read, what I achieved at work, positive changes I’ve made in my life. Here’s my 2013 done list as an example. This can be a really useful thing to do when you’re heading into a performance review. That was my prompt for my 2014 done list (which I didn’t put on my blog because it’s only half done – ha!).

It’s easy to forget what you’ve done by the end of the year, so you might like to schedule in an hour each month to make a great big list of everything you’ve achieved that month.

The ‘See, you really do get shit done’ list

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 6.09.46 PMI keep a running to do list in Evernote (or I did – I’m in the process of transitioning to Todoist). Sometimes there’s so much on my to do list and my days are so frantic that I feel like all I’ve done is answer email and go to meetings. So when I complete something on my Evernote to do list, I don’t just tick it off. I cut that item out of the to do list and I move it down to a separate list called ‘See, you really do get shit done’. And every now and then I have a scroll down and it’s like a big exhalation. I can see that I really do get shit done. Even if the only time I look at it is to add more to it. It still reminds me that I get shit done.

There are even services that will shoot you an email every day for you to reply with what you’ve achieved that day, so you are prompted to track your progress.

So ward off that inner impostor by telling it that you do get stuff done. Big stuff, and small stuff, and stuff that matters to you in all aspects of your life. Added side benefit: this makes it a lot easier to update your CV and write job applications.

PS. The kids and I searched The Noun Project for images for this post using the word ‘clown’, and Mr 6 insisted we feature Jar Jar Binks, while Ms 6 went for the clown hat.

#blogjune 18/30

I’m running a day behind because blogging is fun and thesis writing isn’t, so I didn’t let myself blog yesterday cause I didn’t make my thesis writing quota. Haven’t made it today either but I’m pulling an all nighter so preemptively rewarding myself with blogging.

17 Jun

what is blogging? riffing off kathryn

Kathryn Greenhill wrote an excellent post this morning about how blogging – for her – is about being a node in a conversation. It’s about more than publishing posts.

I found myself saying yes yes yes yes yes yes yes as I read this post. And I started writing a comment but it got crazy long so I’m turning it into a post.

I should confess this is very much a thinking out loud kind of post. I started it thinking I’d end up somewhere, then I finished up somewhere else, so I’m back at the beginning here, warning you this is a bit random and scatty. (Best justify why it’s not a perfectly crafted post or your might think I’m an IMPOSTOR!)

I think Kathryn and my thinking here are probably pretty similar, but I use different terms. What Kathryn talks about as ‘blogging’ is probably what I would call ‘engaging’. (Correct me if I’m wrong Kathryn!)

For me, blogging is just one part of engaging online, of engaging in conversations, engaging in a community.

And building a blog readership and establishing a community around a blog are about so much more than writing blog posts, and these things take a lot of work. But I don’t think I’ve ever really tried to do that because I see my blog (or I used to see my professional LIS-focused blog) as my home in the professional community and – as Kathryn puts it – as a node in a conversation.

So blogging was one of the ways I contributed or engaged with an online community of other LIS professionals.

My blogging (as in authoring posts) on professional topics slowed down / ground to a halt long before I stopped commenting on other people’s blogs, sharing resources, and contributing to professional conversation in other online spaces.

I was still engaging even when I wasn’t blogging. Then I stopped engaging in other ways. I stopped tweeting so much about professional topics. I stopped sharing links about professional topics. I stopped commenting on blogs related to library and information practice (but also: the flow of posts for me to comment on slowed considerably).

I got busier. It got harder to find the time. I had other things to focus on. I largely stopped engaging all together. Except on Instagram where I mainly post selfies, pictures of the kids and random bits of info about my day. There’s not a whole lot of professional going on over there, other than being connected to people I know professionally.

When I say I’m missing the extended professional discourse that happens around blogs, I mean I am missing the blog posts, but I’m also (perhaps more so?) missing the commenting and the conversation and the engaging that happens around blogs. As Kathryn shared yesterday, there was a time when lots of professionals knew each other pretty intimately without ever having met, by virtue of blogging and the engagement that happened around their blogs. I think we’ve lost that a bit. And I think we’ve lost some of the depth of conversation because (to borrow Kathryn’s term), some of the nodes (blogs) in the conversation have died, and new ones haven’t necessarily sprung up to replace them.

I just want to be clear that I don’t think a return to professional blogging in any form – me on my own, you on your own, or a group of us writing a collaborative blog – is going to result in an immediate improvement in the depth and quality and volume of professional discourse. They won’t come just because we build it.

But I feel like blogs – because they are often our homes on the web; because they lend themselves to long form posting; because of the discipline of writing, subscribing, reading, commenting – are smack bang at the heart of informal professional discourse. *Something* is missing, and I think one way to start down the path to getting it back is to blog. And read blogs. And engage around blogs.

#blogjune 17/30

PS. Related aside: For me, blogging isn’t always about conversation; or at least, that may not be my motivation for posting. Not on this blog anyway. Sometimes I write and share blog posts for no one other than myself. Like last night, I wrote a post about how I use tense in my thesis, mostly because it was on my mind, and knowing that it was probably pretty dull for others. But I can do that, because it’s my space. Sometimes I write and share blog posts because someone at an event asked me if I’d share some resources I mentioned so I throw up a post to do that. If these things turn into conversations, that’s awesome. If not, it doesn’t matter, because it’s not really why I wrote them in the first place.