Category Archives: Blogging

Second Circ: Questions Asked. Questions Answered.

Hello everyone! Below are the questions from this morning’s seminar. I’ve posted answers to all of them–even some that we touched upon during the class.

If there are any additional questions, please post them in the comments section of this post. I also encourage you to join the discussion on these topics. Share personal experiences, links, etc. The beauty of Web 2.0 is that we can all learn from each other.

Thanks for your input!

1. What are some examples of successful library blogs? “Successful,” being defined as read regularly and frequently commented upon.
Some of you suggested the following examples:
mcgrathlibrary.blogspot.com
naplblog.blogspot.com

I’ll also suggest that you take a look at my blogroll or check out these:

LISNews
What I Learned Today
Tinfoil+Raccoon
Librarian in Black
Librarian at the Kitchen Table
Library Law
Goblin in the Library
Conservator

Remember that “heavily commented” upon does not necessarily equal successful on it’s own. There are several different factors. They are important, however, and so I’m working on a post about comments–some tricks for encouraging them, how to handle spam, how to best respond, etc. If you have any specific questions about this topic, please send them in and I’ll discuss it in my article.

*NOTE: If you have or start a blog, send me the link and I’ll add you to my list! Link exchange not necessary, but always appreciated 😉

2. Is it possible to “back-up” a blog? All posts, including comments?
Yes, all the popular blogging software programs offer back-up options. This is especially helpful if you decide to transfer a blog from one software program to another (for example, Blogger to WordPress). Each program is different, so it’s best if you consult with your blogging client’s help section. I do know that on WordPress it is a one-click process that can be accessed by going into your “Manage” tab and then clicking on “Export.” This will create an .XML file that can then be uploaded to another blog program or just saved offline.

Another option for those of you who are Mac users, is to check out a software program called DevonThink, which allows you to archive, review, edit, search through, and organize hundreds of webpages right on your desktop. The program is a great research tool that can be used for multiple applications, but is especially suited for archiving blogs.

3. How long does Blogger archive content?
Blogger will archive your content for as long as you keep an account with them. Powered by Google (the same folks who offer nearly-unlimited free e-mail storage through gmail), Blogger has an incredible capacity to archive all your posts. The frequency with which they are archived and displayed is entirely up to you. Typically, it goes on a monthly basis and then switches to yearly once you hit your first “blogaversary.”

4. Do any studies exist showing that blogging improves library services and community connections, or it all anecdotal?
This is a great question on an important topic. The nascent nature of Web 2.0 technology and its application means that the availabilty of substantive research on the subject is still very limited, particularly when applied directly to libraries. That said, there is quite a bit of research on the ROI (Return on Investment) of blogging within a corporate setting. In late January, Forrester released a report on the ROI of Blogging that said that blogging does actually lead to measurable benefits in the areas of name recognition, search engine rankings, word-of-mouth, customer input, and community building.

While specifically geared toward a corporate arena, these findings do provide an interesting platform for looking at the benefits within the non-profit and library worlds. A colleague of mine also referred me to this Australasian Journal of Educational Technology article(PDF), which takes a look at blogging within the higher education field and concludes that “blogging has the potential to be a transformational technology for teaching and learning.”

5. How do you take advantage of these Word of Mouth sources in a way that points the user to your resources instead of encouraging the user to stay with MySpace or YouTube?

6. What is the name of the comic book creator software?
There are a couple options, but for PC users I recommend Comic Book Creator by Planetwide Media. The program is just $30 dollars and offers lots of very cool features, including Drag & Drop text, comic book templates, and PDF conversion.

Mac users already have an incredible program installed on their computers (it comes with OSX) called Comic Life. I play around with this one all the time–it takes about 5 minutes to learn and is incredibly addictive. The end product is very professional.

7. Are the Wiki article user counts up to date?
The genius of Wikipedia is that it can be edited by anyone at any time. Built upon a system of honor and accountability, entries are constantly being checked, monitored, and edited. Best Practices for Wikipedia editing denote that sources should always be noted. If you take a look at the user counts on the list of social networking sites, you’ll see that each number has footnote attached. Those footnotes state the source and the “as of” date. Most were updated as recently January, many even more recently. Wikis are particularly suited for the reporting of Web 2.0 numbers as they can be updated just as quickly as they change. I encourage you to check this out, and if you see a place that could use a little updating, try your hand at editing it.

8. Should you create or monitor your library’s reference on Wikipedia, MySpace, etc.? Should you control your “presence?” Yes. Absolutely. As I mentioned in the presentation, Web 2.0 is You. You have a responsibility to create, monitor, and foster your presence within this arena. There was an article in the New York Times not long ago where the journalist wrote about how someone listed him in a Wikipedia entry as one of John F. Kennedy’s assasins. He wrote an entire article about the inaccuaracy of Wikipedia and the dangers of a site that “anyone” can edit. This caused quite a bit of noise around this topic for a few days, and on one hand he raised some very real concerns. The problem is that he completely ignored one of the basic tenets of Wikis, that being that if you spot an error, it’s your responsibility to fix it. That’s why this works. So yes, as a responsible participant in Web 2.0, it is your job as a library, organization, or individual to monitor and correct your entry or presence on the Web.

The same principle holds true for MySpace and blogs. There will always be a few pranksters, a few bad apples, who take the freedom of Web 2.0 and use it for purposes other than good. This is why we have comment spam, splogs, “flamers” (people who leave negative comments just to get a reaction), etc. The only way to combat this, however, is to be proactive and strong. Don’t let a few spammers scare you into turning off your comments–turn on spam filters and use your “delete” button. If you find problematic people on MySpace either ignore them or report them. MySpace is very good about getting rid of abusive profiles, usually within 24 hours. Blogger also offers a “report this blog” option in case you come across something that is unsavory or illegal.

I think you’ll find that the vast majority of users are here for good reasons. I’ve been blogging since 2002, and have yet to deal with any abusive or unsavory commenters. I don’t moderate my comments, but I do keep my word verification on to block the spam robots. Naturally, as your audience and exposure grows, so does your risk, but then again, so does your influence.

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Filed under Blogging, Events, marketing, Word of Mouth

Second Circ: The Webinar!

A Free Online Seminar

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM EST

You’ve seen the headlines. You’ve read the articles. Web 2.0 is everywhere. This second generation of Internet applications (such as blogs, wikis, and social networking) is fascinating, exciting, and accessible, but knowing where and how to start using them in your library can be daunting. This webinar will introduce you to the world of online tools available–tools that make it easier than ever to share information, promote your programs, and mobilize support. We’ll start with the basics, and through visuals and real-time demos, you’ll learn the skills to bring your library marketing into the next generation.

All are welcome and no prior experience is required!*

Register for this free online seminar today!

To register, please e-mail aramos (at) lff (dot) org with your full name, library or organization, phone number and address. Once your registration is accepted, you will receive a confirmation message including the link to the online classroom, your participant access ID, and the dial-in phone number.

About the Instructor:
Alejandra J. Ramos is the Communications Associate at Libraries for the Future, where she specializes in Web 2.0 and New Media marketing techniques, as well as web content management, editing, and graphic design. Her work and expertise focus on web communication strategies and applications, including blogs, social networks, and viral marketing. Ms. Ramos has been blogging since 2002, and her writing has garnered attention from various print and online media, including The Washington Post.

*Please note that to participate you must have access to a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. A working microphone and speakers are also advised. Alternatively, those without a microphone or speakers can participate via a real-time conference call.

For more information about Libraries for the Future, please visit our website.

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Filed under Blogging, Events, marketing, Resources, Word of Mouth

No benefits, but you can work in your pajamas

The Wall Street Journal turned its critical eye towards the blogosphere today with an analysis and breakdown of blogging as a career. It noted that some top bloggers can bring in “between $2,000 and $10,000 a month from ad sales.” Bloggers set their own hours and some of the top “breaking news” bloggers report working between 40 and 60 hours a week. It also identifies blogging as a bit more than just a career, quoting a media blogger who calls it “an obsession” and admits to the guilt he feels when he goes a few days without posting.

The WSJ also sheds light on how easy it is for anyone to become a blogger and points out that patience is key toward establishing any kind of an audience. It notes that “most bloggers start out using free Web sites such as WordPress.com and Blogger.com” and that it takes “at least six months to build readership and clout in the blogosphere.” They recommend picking a topic that you are passionate about (such as libraries!), because you will spend quite a bit of time writing about it. While the article acknowledges that “a background in journalism or communications helps,” it also states that it really isn’t required.

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Blogging on a Mac

I’ve recently switched to a Mac (a MacBook Pro), and in doing so I discovered a few things that I had never known before regarding the functionality of certain Google products and tools on a Mac. If you will be using a Mac–either at home or in your library–to create or update your blog, please note that not all programs will run on Safari. Most notably annoying is the absence of the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) functions on Blogger (such as the font tools and the image uploader), which was recently bought and revamped by Google. Google has noted that they are working on making Blogger software fully functional on the Safari browser, but until then, your best bet is Firefox, which can be downloaded for free here.

I’ve had no trouble using WordPress or Squarespace with Safari. I’ll be testing out the other blog clients this week and will keep you posted.

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Filed under Blogging, Macs

Image Generators

You don’t have to be a graphic artist or professional photographer to create great looking images for your blog, MySpace profile, or website. Image generators are websites that allow you to edit and customize premade photographs or graphics.

Emboss your name in the sand, announce a dinner in a bowl of alphabet soup, or write a fortune inside a cookie. The options are endless and you’re only limit is your imagination–and OK, there’s usually a word max. But remember: pithy is always better on the Web. Proust would not have cut in on the Internet.

Check these sites out:

Image Chef

Cool Text

Hetemeel

Find any cool image generator sites out there? Post you links in the comments section.

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Filed under Blogging, Images

Selecting the right blogging software

So you’re ready to do it. You’ve checked out a few blogs online and you are excited about what this could mean for your library. But now what? There are dozens of blogging tools available, and picking the right one can seem like a bit of a daunting task. Fear not! In this post I’m going to lay out a few of the options that are available to you.

Ultimately, only you can choose the best software for you, but trust that the differences between the following options are minimal. It’s common to switch between a few programs until you find the one that works best for you and your library. Don’t get hung up on the details; it’s best to just jump right in and have fun with it.

Choosing the right program means deciding what kind of software your library needs. There are three different types available:

Managed: These types are free or low-cost services that provides you with blogging tools. In many cases, the server hosting can be provided for you as well, such as with Blogger, which also offers a range of pricing and features. Or, you have the option to place your blog on your own server, but manage it through the service’s interface. The benefits of these types of solutions are their low barriers to entry and their low (or free) cost. I recommend choosing a solution like this when you’re first starting out because you can quickly determine whether blogging is for you.

Community: Many online social networking communities offer blogging features, such as Vox, MySpace, Friendster, and others. Also an excellent option for those new to blogging, community solutions tend to be more restrictive in both the options offered and the terms of service allowed. These can also limit your blog to your social network (i.e. Only your MySpace friends will be able to view your MySpace blog.)

Server: This is perfect if you already have a strong, popular website and plenty of onsite technical guidance. Server solutions answer the need for strong yet modifiable software. Server-based solutions require more technical experience to install, customize, and extend. However, it’s the server-based solutions that are the most feature-rich. Due to the community nature of most blogging software, many plug-ins, add-ons, and modifications are developed by the community to be used freely. What’s more, server solutions offer better support. Movable Type is a good example of this—because of its licensing structure, technical support is part of the package. With WordPress, its open-source nature lends itself to many resources online where people with a passion for the product and for blogging help each other out with technical concerns.

Most of you will probably go with the first option, the free or low-cost blogging solution. This is idea for those of you who are starting out. Below are a few links to some of the top programs in each of these categories. I’ve said it before, but the best way to decide which is right for you is to just create an account and try it out. Most of these are free so you have nothing to lose!

Blogger
Blogger, which is owned by Google, is (in my opinion) THE easiest and most popular blogging tool out there. The service is completely free and features a simple 1-2-3 step sign-up process. The program was recently completely revamped and is now easier than ever, with hundreds of customizable templates, instant publishing, and drag-and-drop editing. No HTML required! The Google advantage also makes it easy to get your link up high on the search rankings. The built-in “next blog” option, almost guarantees that strangers will find and be reading your blog the minute that you start posting, and the commenting community is set up so that new readers will be able to quickly link back to your site.

TypePad
Typepad, which charges a nominal fee, is another very easy hosted blogging service. It’s quick to set up and features many professional looking and easily customizable blog templates. They offer a free 30-day trial.

WordPress
WordPress, which is what I’m currently using for this blog, is one of the best services out there. The blog templates are clean, elegant, and very professional looking. Account set-up is free, and there are hundreds of templates out there to choose from. I think that in general, it’s a great option for small business or non-profit users.

Squarespace
I must admit that this is my current favorite right now. Squarespace was the brainchild of a University of Maryland student who wasn’t happy with the blogging tools out there so–as computer nerds are wont to do–he just wrote his own program. With a little help from his dad, he turned it into a very succesful business. It’s a paid service and depending on what features you choose, it could end up costing up to 25 dollars a month. I think it’s worth it, though, if you really want to be able to offer more than “just a blog.” You can add multiple pages, bios, photo albums, links, etc. The templates are easy to modify with just a few clicks and drags. They offer a free trial so definitely check it out–I’ll bet you find it just as exciting as I do!

LiveJournal
LJ has been around forever, and could be a great option if you are really trying to reach a teen audience. It’s very popular with the younger crowd and has the advantage of built-in social networks that will help you grow your audience quickly. Ask around–if your teens are already using this program then this might definitely be the way to go…

I have accounts with several of these companies. I’ve kept a personal Blogger blog for over a year, and have been very happy with it. My professional website is set-up through Squarespace. I chose WordPress for this blog because I think the look works particularly well for a non-profit audience.

Play around with the different options, and let me know what you pick. I look forward to seeing your links!

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