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

07 Mar

let’s hear it for the mothers, the grandmothers, the daughters and the aunties

In my 20s, I blithely dismissed the idea that having a career as a woman is tough. Ditto the idea that our prospects are impacted by our gender. I worked in libraries. All around me, I saw women in leadership positions. Glass ceiling? What glass ceiling?

But then I grew up, stepped up the ladder a couple of rungs, stepped out of libraries, and saw past my blinkers. And I realised just how bloody hard it is.

That’s not why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing it because I think as a society we pay lip service to the idea of recognising non-traditional families. And this International Women’s Day, I’ve got something to say about it.

Mothers face a particular set of challenges as participants in the workforce. Whether they work because they want to or work because they have to or a bit of both, there is at least some recognition that it’s not easy for women to balance motherhood and work. There are still big, impenetrable barriers that stop women who are mothers from participating in the workforce in the same way, and with the same sort of career progression, as men. But there is at least some basic level of recognition that as mothers, women have responsibilities outside the office.

Is it enough? Absolutely not. It is not even close to being enough.

Organisations aren’t family-friendly – at least, I don’t know of one that really, truly is. But in many cases, they are a bit friendlier if your family is a traditional family than they are if it’s not.

What about the women with aging parents? Do workplaces support them? What about the grandmothers that are on call to pick up sick grandchildren at school? Do they drop a day’s pay to fulfill their responsibilities as primary carers?

Because this is how *real* families work.

It’s not mum, dad and two kids. Sometimes it’s mum and two kids. Or mum, grandma and two kids. Maybe it’s two mums and a kid. Or something entirely different.

Families aren’t always cared for by one mother. There are other women in the mix too. And it’s not only children that women care for. I see this everywhere.

And what I also see is how hard it is for these non-mothers to fulfill their family commitments, because in our workplaces, the provisions for caring for families are built around the idea that familial care and familial duties are about a mother caring for her children (‘hers’ in law).

That’s not always how it works in the real world.

So when we talk about how hard it is for women in corporate Australia, in academia, in any work context, let’s not forget that we’re not all mothers, but many of us have other family responsibilities to negotiate, too.

04 Dec

advertisers, you’re wasting your money

There is something ridiculous happening in my web browser.

I keep seeing ads for products I’ve already bought.

Like the ad for the Herschel Supply Co Novel Duffel in Apple that I’m seeing based on the fact I’ve looked at it on seven different sites. Visiting seven different sites means I’m interested enough to shop around for a good price. And guess what? If I’m pursuing it that hard, I’ve probably already bought it. Why not show me the matching wallet instead?

And that dress I’ve looked at on Asos 12 times? I’ve already bought that too. In fact odds are, if I’ve looked at a particular item more than once or twice, it’s already winging its way to my post box.

But you know how I’ve looked at 12 different belts in the last week, and never the same one twice? That’s an indication that I’m after a belt and I haven’t found one that suits. Show me some belts and I might just buy one.

It’s so simple, really. Analyse my online window shopping and show me related or complimentary items, and your advertising dollars will have some impact.

Because right now, you’re wasting your money with the duffel bag ad. And out of frustration (and a need to procrastinate about thesis writing) I am clicking all these ads for things I’ve already bought. I’m spending your advertising dollars, one frustrated click at a time. Muah-ha-ha!

07 Sep

eight reasons the coalition will be at the bottom of my ballot papers today

1. I’m a woman

How any woman could vote for a party led by Tony Abbott is completely beyond me. He has consistently demonstrated that he doesn’t understand women, and I believe he is in fact sexist (or you could read his sexism as stupidity, but either way there’s a problem). It has been argued that he’s ‘only’ sexist, not a misogynist, but I’m not so sure about that.

2. I don’t care who you marry, but I do care about your right to marry

While marriage isn’t something I aspire to, I believe that everyone has the right to be married, and to marry whoever they choose.

3. The economy is really not in bad shape

Relative to other countries, we’re doing okay. The Coalition have beat up a story that tells us our economy is shot. It’s not. They’ve done an excellent job of appealing to the pervasive selfishness and greed in Australian culture.

4. If I want filtered internet access, I’ll filter it myself

Who knows what the Coalition’s plan is for internet filtering? Certainly not them. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

5. In this digital age, broadband is an essential utility

And the Coalition’s plan for the NBN is not a long term solution. It’s like building a two lane highway when you’re going to need eight lanes in a few years time.

6. The media blackout is not a tool for sneaking in objectionable policy

Not only did the Coalition wait until after the media blackout to release costings, they also waited til after the blackout to release a policy on internet filtering. Sneaky, dirty tactics.

7. A party that stuffs up their own policy doesn’t fill me with confidence

If we accept what we’re told, the internet filtering policy statement was an error. Whichever way you interpret their actions, neither option is good: either the Coalition attempted to sneak in objectionable policy the day before the election and retreated when they were slammed for it, or they stuffed up their own policy. I’m not sure which is worse.

8. I give a shit about people

And that’s why I’m voting Greens and preferencing Labor.

Please. Vote with a conscience. Vote in an informed way. Send a message to both of the majors that it’s time for change. Vote Greens so we can see a real shift in the primary vote, then choose the best of a bad lot to preference. Because the reality of an Abbott-led Coalition government is absolutely terrifying.

25 Aug

please, do your research before you vote

[Update: I’m loving The Conversation’s FactCheck series. Academics dissect election spin, telling us whether the claims are true based on decent information. Of course it’s still opinion, but at least it’s reasonably transparent opinion.]

I used to vote Liberal. I know, I know. What the actual fuck was I thinking?

The problem was, I wasn’t thinking at all. I voted Liberal because my parents did. I voted Liberal because I had a six-o’clock-news-depth understanding of the political landscape in this country and virtually no understanding of the policies I was voting for. I was naive, uninformed and unduly influenced by my parents’ (dare I say it) mis/un-informed voting practices.

But I’m a grown up now and I have no excuse for making uninformed decisions. So this election, I’m taking my voting responsibilities seriously, and I’m doing some research before I cast my vote. In fact, I’ve taken this approach for quite some time now, but the need to vote responsibly and in an informed way is even more important this time around, and here’s why: none of the options are good.

I am afraid of what an Abbott-led government would look like and what its impact might be. But I am also ashamed of and appalled by the reality of the Rudd-led government we currently have.

Get informed. And get informed on a broad range of policies from multiple sources. Don’t get sucked in by the lure of 26 weeks paid maternity leave at your full salary, or a promise to get the budget into surplus, or <insert shiny policy here>. Get across a broad range of policies and make sure you can live with the policies that come along with that shiny lure before you cast your vote. Get your information from more than one source and be aware of bias in reporting. Start with one of the policy comparison tools available from a media outlet but don’t stop there. Read the policy information published by the parties. Read information that comes from outside the mainstream media.

Get informed about the person you’re voting for – not the leader of their party. Vote for someone because you believe they are going to represent you and your interests, not someone who belongs to a party led by Your Favourite PM Option. Get on the Facebook pages of the candidates in your electorate and ask them the tough questions.

This election season, we have unprecedented access to information and to candidates. It is possible to make an informed decision, even though the options aren’t all that great. And when the options aren’t great, it’s even more important that our decisions are informed. Please, don’t turn up to vote not knowing who you’re going to vote for. Don’t turn up to vote determined to vote for the party you’ve always voted for just cause you always vote for them. Vote for a person. Vote for policy. Vote in an informed way.

26 Jun

re-spill: three things

Thing 1: on the re-spill

Let’s make sure we critique Kevin Rudd’s leadership with as much vigour as we have Julia Gillard’s.

In particular, I look forward to the media questioning him on the sexuality of his wife, critiquing him on his hair cut, and ridiculing him should he ever have a photo taken in which he is pursuing a ‘masculine’ hobby.

Thing 2: on Julia Gillard

Politics aside, she did a mighty fine job. Of being a woman. And being bollocked for it.

Thing 3: on Australian politics

Can we please talk about policy now?

30 posts in June: 20/30

15 Jun

but he started it!

Last night I happened to catch some of the late night replay of The Project. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of talk about Howard Sattler’s interview with Julia Gillard.

The Australian journalist Janet Albrechtsen was interviewed about the incident and about Gillard’s term more generally. She made a comment that suggested Gillard was playing the ‘gender game’.

Of course she’s playing a bloody gender game.

But the point is, she’s been forced into playing a gender game by the media, other politicians, and the public. From the outset, she has been criticised as a woman, not as a politician.

It’s a bit like parents who smack their kids to punish them for hitting another kid. I’ll smack you when I feel like, but don’t you dare think about smacking anyone yourself.

Gillard is being criticised for playing a game that she didn’t choose to play. We (the media, other politicians, you and I) don’t get to punish her for playing her part in a game we pushed her into.

If she was treated, criticised, held to account in the same way male politicians are, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

On a related note, and following up from my post yesterday: I am bewildered by all the people I’ve encountered in the last two days who think gender disparity doesn’t exist in Australia. What the actual fuck? Are we living in the same country?

30 posts in June: 12/30

14 Jun

this country isn’t ready for a woman pm

The first link I followed in my Twitter stream this morning caused me to tweet this:

All else aside, this narrow minded country needs the Gillard govt returned so we can give all the misogynistic, bigoted assholes the finger.

But I’ve decided 140 characters isn’t enough. So here are the rest of my thoughts on this.

This is not a post about politics, policy, or my political leanings.

This is a post about misogyny, bigotry, and narrow mindedness.

I remember the day of the original leadership spill like it was yesterday. For the one and only time in my life, I willingly listened to talkback radio in the car on my way to work. When I parked my car I walked quickly to the office, fired up my computer and spent the rest of the morning watching the spill unfold.

I remember saying “This country is not ready for a woman PM”.

How right I was.

To be clear: I strongly disagree with a number of Gillard government policies. I disagree with Gillard’s stance on marriage equality. I am bewildered by the idea that you can cut funding to education to fund educational reform. I am ashamed that I live in a country that has excised itself from its own migration zone. In short, I am disappointed, appalled even, at some of the decisions taken by this government and some of the bewildering legislation it has proposed and had passed.

But I am also appalled at how the media, opposition politicians, and even the general public have questioned, shamed, bullied, and discriminated against Julia Gillard, a professional acting in a professional capacity, in a manner and to an extent that would never happen to a man in her position.

How dare we question a person, who is acting in their professional capacity, about their own and their partner’s sexuality.

How dare we capitalise on a person’s grief for political or professional gain by suggesting they caused their father to die of shame.

How dare we expend more energy laughing at a politician losing her shoe than we do questioning her politics.

I am afraid of the outcome of the looming federal election. Let’s face it: none of the options are particularly appealing. I find myself lamenting – again – the demise of the Democrats.

But regardless of the outcome of this election, I have a bigger concern.

This country is not ready for a woman PM. This saddens me. It makes me worry about the future of this country. It makes me feel ashamed to be an Australian. And not just because it speaks of a culture of misogyny, but because it’s indicative of a much broader, ingrained, insidious, narrow minded bigotry.

30 posts in June: 11/30