Tweeting at MLA

The MLA’11 folks have big plans for Twitter this year.  At Annual Conference Twitter will be used to help create discussion, to connect with colleagues, and to facilitate in-person meetings. MLA’s “Rethink Conversations” process will offer display monitors that are strategically placed around the convention center so that attendees can watch and respond to live conversations.  The committee is even hosting three specific ReThink Conversations Sunday-Tuesday 10:00-10:30am (following the Presidential Address, Doe Lecture, and MLA ’12 Invitation). 

Tweets can be made using a mobile device, laptop, or a computer in the Internet Café.   In order to get to know your fellow Twitteres (since Twitter usernames do not always reveal the identity of tweet authors) there will be a “Tweetup” event on Tuesday, May 17th, from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm.  At a Tweetup, you can meet other MLA Twitteres in person.

New to Twitter? Not a problem. A special Twitter Tutorial has been created to help get you started. Attendees (Twitter newbies or old pros) who complete the MLA-sponsored Twitter tutorialby April 29th will receive a free drink ticket at the Tweetup. Even if you are not new to Twitter, complete the tutorial and get a free drink!

You must complete the tutorial by the end of April 29th.

The tutorial is pretty straight forward.  But if you have questions you can email the MLA Twitter Tutorial folks (listed in orange square on the first page of the tutorial). You can also follow me at krafty and direct message me if you have questions. 

DON’T FORGET!  If you want to participate in MLA’s twitter conversations:

  • Make sure you uncheck the “protect my tweets” box or else your tweets will not be seen by others tweeting at MLA.
  • Use the #mlanet11 hashtag so everbody can follow the tweets better


I find Twitter’s site clunky for tweeting a lot.  If you think it is too you might try TweetDeck on your laptop or smartphone to help manage the conversations.  TweetDeck is a third party application that you can install on your laptop or smartphone.  I like it a lot.  If you know you will be bouncing around on computers (using the Internet Cafe) to tweet, you might consider using Hootsuite.  It is a web based application that doesn’t need to be installed and structured similarly to TweetDeck.

Scientists Don’t Use Social Media

According the article “Scientists & Social Media” in Lab Manager Magazine, a survey 200 lab managers revealed that most of these scientists didn’t use social media for work.  Yet they are some of the exact types of people who should. 

“Laboratories are at the forefront of research and analysis. But when it comes to communication, they are followers rather than leaders and can be very slow to adopt innovations.”

The article states the three most popular reasons for not using social networking resources are:

  1. Blurred boundaries between private and business life
  2. Loss of productivity
  3. Fear that confidential information will be leaked

It seems as if the scientists are thinking more that the tool (social networking sites) are the problem not the behavior of the person using the tool.  A person can blur their personal boundaries, waste time, and leak key secrets all without using a social networking resource because people use phones, email, and talk all the time. Lab Manager Magazine further explains this idea by saying, “Let us remember that these issues have little or nothing to do with the resources; they have to do with the people who use them. The opinions expressed by an individual can reflect badly on the organization but this risk is not confined to Twitter or Facebook; it applies equally to e-mail correspondence, phone calls, conversations at social events, and so forth. To paraphrase, it is not the gun that kills, but the person who pulls the trigger. We must step into the social media world and embrace the opportunities, but we must also manage the risks.”

For example, the famous or infamous social networking site WikiLeaks known for exposing various government secrets gets its information from submissions, not from people logging on and using the wiki. So that confidential information while displayed on the social sharing site of a wiki was most likely submitted by email. 

With all the misgivings some scientists have over social media, it is  inevitable that they will use it (or whatever it evolves into) in the future.  If you have some doubters in your institutions, check out the article’s list of reasons for using social media in the lab.

As I have said many times when I speak on the subject of social media, the phone was once a new technology not everybody had one and they didn’t understand why you needed to have one.  It was an expensive luxury.  I wonder how those people would think about society’s need for cell phones.  Email was once a new technology and doctors and scientists struggled over communicating appropriately through it.  It is so ingrained in our society that our phones now get email.  To quote the Borg, “Resistance if futile.”  Society and communication methods evolve, and it looks like this is just another way it is evolving.

Writing for the Social Network

A long time ago, in a galazy far, far away I graduated with a degree in English from Saint Louis University. My senior year I took a class on the history of the English language.  This class still stands out in my mind, for two reasons. The first reason was my floppy disk crashed and I lost the electronic version of my thesis for the class.  Thankfully, I printed an unedited version out prior to the disk going belly up.  It was several versions older but it saved me loads of time and stress than recreating the entire thing.  The second reason I remember the class so well was actual course content.  I can remember being completely interested in the evolution of the English language from Old, Middle, Modern English and how exploration, immigration, and population shifts have created completely different English languages. 

Yet just like the evolution of the English language, writing is evolving too.  David Lee King writes in his post, “Librarians were trained to Write the Wrong Way,” that he learned to write academic papers and other “highly useful stuff…like how to graph out a sentence to discover proper sentence structure.”  I learned the same things.  When I am with my friends and family, my diction, accent, word choice, etc. is different than when I am at work or speaking professionally.  Whether it is on paper as Scott describes, a computer, or a cell phone,  the medium by which we communicate dictates our writing style. 

We still must learn to write formal academic type of papers and articles with proper structure and citations.  But we also must learn how to write for other areas, such as the online world.  We used to call it writing for the web.  But now days there are different styles of writing for the web that are considered the gold standard for that medium.  What works on a web site, will not always work on a blog, Facebook, and Twitter. 

David calls it writing like he speaks.  He says conversational, social writing is the type of writing we want on the web, especially on blogs and social media spaces. Yet if you have been trained to write formally as David has, you may find it difficult to adjust your writing style based on the medium.  Even he says, “I work hard at writing like I speak.” 

I create websites (not as much as I used to) and writing for a regular website (not a blog or any socially type of site) has evolved with main pages having one or two word listings or clusters of words and pictures as the norm.  On internal pages where more information is shared sentences are short and to the point within one or two equally short paragaphs.   The wording, sentance structure, and lay out are different than what you would see in a blog.

In a blog, most people are coming to read and possibly share or discuss your thoughts.  Therefore the writing is longer than a traditional website and the style is almost as if you can hear the writer having a conversation with you.  The style is different but it is still professional. The Unofficial Apple Weblog, is a professional site  where writers converse (often passionately) with readers through the blog and comments.  Some of the posts are more straight forward while others use the speaking style

Facebook is the king of conversational writing. There is a word limit on posts.  So conversational writing on Facebook is not as long as a blog post, but it well exceeds the 140 character limit of Twitter.  Again even the most professional of sites adjust their writing styles for Facebook.  The Cleveland Clinic’s Facebook posts are written in a far different style than the pages on their website, press releases, and certainly articles authored by their physicians.  The Cleveland Clinic uses their Facebook page to reach out and engage the community in health and medicine and their Facebook writing style reflects that.

Where Facebook is the king of conversational writing, Twitter is the king of the one liners.  Writing for Twitter is vastly different than anything else (with the possible exception of texting).  Anybody who doesn’t think it is hard to squeeze interesting and valuable information into 140 characters or less, has not tweeted for long. It is hard and takes a lot of practice.  Not only is the character limit a requirement, there are definite social norms by which you converse.  Not adhering to these norms can cause your tweet to go on unnoticed (best case scenario) or get you in a whole lot of trouble. 

Good writing, either formal papers or online posts, takes practice.  Being observant, continually reading and writing,  helps develop and sharpen your skills, especially in the online world.  Writing is a living breathing communication method and it changes with time and technology.  I am sure in 1440 people discussed quality and style as the printing press changed the way things were written.

MLA 2011: Early Registration Deadline, Hilton Rooms, and Following Online

Don’t forget the deadline to take advantage of the Early Registration discount for the annual meeting ends after April 13th.  On April 14th the price goes up considerably, so take advantage of the opportunity and register now. 

If you have already registered and you are planning on attending you better get a room fast.  The Hilton is comepletely out of rooms, leaving the Hyatt as your hotel option

If you are going there a lot of online resources to help connect you with others:

Now if you are bit like me and look this list and think, wow those are a lot of places to find out about MLA. I don’t have time to look at every site.  Never Fear, use a feed reader (that is why I included the feeds for these sites) to group all of these things together.  That way you go to one place to see updates from all of these sites. 

I use Netvibes to gather feeds, take a look at my screenshot.  On the left hand side I created a tab for Annual Meeting Info, underneath are all of the feeds I subscribe to for the meeting.  In the main frame, all of the feeds are displayed for me to read.  Take a look at the icons underneath More than 2 days ago, you will notice they are different.  That shows you where the feed is coming from.  As you can see there are multiple icons meaning that my multiple feeds are all in the main frame available to read.  Easy peasy.

If I want to share my feeds I simply hover my mouse over thet title and a curved arrow, clock, and double arrow are displayed. (On the screenshot look at the Nicollet Mall article, listed third below More than 2 days ago.)  The curved arrow allows you to share that “article” via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.

So not only are you able to read about what is going on but you can participate and continue the discussion by commenting on events.

Hurry up register, get your hotel room, and set up your feeds.  If you can’t make to Minneapolis this year we will miss you.  I highly recommend you registering for the e-conference (only $100 if you register before May 16th) and follow events via the feeds.

Personal Tweets on a Professional Account, Can It Be Done and Still Be Professional?

I read an interesting article this morning, “Strictly business? Personal tweets make profs more “credible” the author, Jacqui Cheng, referred to a study in the March issue of Learning, Media and Technology that “students perceive instructors who make social tweets as more credible than instructors who remain strictly business.”

It seems that the students like to know that their professors are human, and have a life besides their profession. In some way that sharing of personal information increased their perceived credibility to students more so than those who completely did scholarly tweets.

Interesting.  While I consider this a professional blog, I do let my personality seep through often.  Whether it is a story about the realization that  being a librarian is in my DNA when I organized my attic, or quick little references to the 80’s or other pop culture items, I find that these stories or analogies best convey my point or thought to readers.  If it just happens to provide a brief window into my mind, so be it. 

I would say for most people it is ok to mix a little personal stuff in with your professional Twitter, blog or Facebook account.  A funny picture of a cat or an appropriate story, isn’t going to hurt anyone.  But what if I were tweeting, blogging, or managing the Facebook page of my library or another professional site where it is clear that it is an institution not a individual’s account? Credibility is extremembly important for an institution, especially medical. Is it possible to inject some personable or social bit of information on to an organization’s professional site?  What is the “personality” of the library/organization and how do you show it and remain professional?  The organization’s “personality” is made up of more than just the person blogging, tweeting, etc. so this can be even trickier.

Is there a difference between personal social media and organizational/institutional social media regarding credibility?  Can an organization, business, or institution have a social media presence that is professional yet have “social” type tweets or posts?  I think it is very tricky to do well, and that is why you often have some spectacular failures when businesses try to reach out and get personal with their customers.   The fear of an epic #fail probably causes many business to be strictly professional, with little “personality.” Yet, when there is a company that puts some personality into their social presence like, Old Spice, they are highly profiled (there is case study on Old Spice’s success).  Now does that mean that Old Spice is considered more credible than similar brand companies that play it straight?  Kind of hard to compare a men’s shower gel and shaving cream company to the same notion of credibility regarding science and medical institutions.  But what is the harm in showing something like the image of the Bookmas Tree in your library or the nurse at Mass General (article) who made the Cal Stat Rap (YouTube video)?

If you have a personal professional presence, you can certainly infuse a little social personality into it and remain professional, as long as you don’t over share with things that have your readers mimicking  the Hear No Evil, See No Evil monkeys while chanting “TMI!”  If you are responsible for an institutional or organization site, it might be more difficult to interject some personality, but it can be done.

Facebook and Twitter: 2010 social demographics

So if you had any questions as to who is on Facebook and Twitter, this graphic  from (technology company, not actual surgeons) shows some interesting information about Facebook and Twitter users. 

Of the 500 million Facebook users 41% login every day and almost a third of them log in through a mobile device.  Women use it a little bit more than men, and the 18-34 year olds are the biggest users representing 52% of the usage combined.  This interesting and I am starting to notice real world examples supporting the average usage age.  In my personal life I am starting to notice that some in this age group will answer Facebook messages more often than regular email. 

Twitter is a fifth of the size of Facebook with only 106 million users.  A slightlyolder crowd uses Twitter, the 26-44 year olds are the largest group at 57% combined.  Only 27% of the users login every day but of those that login over half (57% update their status).  While only 25% of the users follow a brand on Twitter, that group is extremely loyal, 67% of the followers will purchase that specific brand.  Compare that with the higher number of brand followers on Facebook (40%) who are less loyal and purchasing that specific brand (51%). 

So what does this mean for libraries, medicine, and hospitals?  One look at the age tells you that Facebook and Twitter are not solely the realm of teenagers.  Adults are using it and make up the largest group of users.  So it stands to reason that our library users are on Facebook and Twitter.  Reaching out to them with the right message in the right way is the next step.  This may sound like a far fetched idea, but if users continue to use Facebook more than email, do we need to look at ways to send them overdue notices?  Just one thought.  Medical schools and residency programs already are recruiting people through Facebook.  Medical schools and well endowed hospitals track through Facebook or have Facebook pages to facilitate donations.

Brand loyalty is something that is extremely important to hospitals.  Hospitals are always looking at ways to get new patients, keep the ones they have, and measure patient satisfaction.  For example, not only will good HCAHPS scores mean more physical money to the hospital, but satisfied patients are more likely to return and less likely to go somewhere else for another procedure.  I am not trying to compare Twitter loyalty to HCAHPS scores, I am just saying that brand loyalty is extremely important to hospitals and Twitter is just another example illustrating how some people show their brand loyalty. 

Should you run out and create a library Facebook or Twitter account?  Well not if you don’t have a plan or reason to use it, but you shouldn’t dismiss it either or think of it as something just for people who work with teenagers.

Life After Bloglines, Is NetVibes the Answer?

Bloglines will be gone soon and I have used these last few weeks to try and find an adequate replacement.  In the back of mind I knew I could always use Google Reader in a pinch but for some reason I haven’t been a fan of Google Reader (that is why I always stuck with Bloglines) so I wanted to see if there was something that seemed to work better for me. 

First off the reader had to be web based.  I jump on too many computers through out my life to be tied to any installed software or to rely on IE’s feed reader.  I also wanted something that could search for keywords, save that search and automatically update me on any new blog posts, news stories, press releases, etc. that mentioned those keywords.  Not all feed readers do this (Bloglines did) and I found this feature to be crucial in keeping up to date for my blog, librarianship, and my day to day job. In a pinch I could always find specific search engines and create a search and save it as an RSS feed (similar to what people can do in PubMed), but I do like having an integrated search box in my feed reader to actively search things out there not just within my subscribed feeds.  I was also interested in seeing how some feed readers are handling Facebook and Twitter.  As the pundits at TechCrunch stated that those two products seem to have changed the face and flow of information. 

After looking at several products (and already saving my Bloglines feeds in Google Reader just in case I didn’t find anything before they pulled the plug) I found NetVibes.  Registration was a little clunky for me.  I first tried registering using my usual webmail address and for some reason I never got the authentication email from NetVibes.  It wasn’t in my inbox and it wasn’t in my bulk.  NetVibes does allow you to resend the email or change the address (in case you mistyped it).  I checked the email and it was correct but I still never received it, so I tried changing the email to a different one but that didn’t work.  So I ended up completely re-registering using a different login name and email address.  With that change I was able to get the authentication email. 

Netvibes has two frontpage looks to it, the “widgets view’ and the “reader view.”  The widget view is similar to iGoogle.  I am not a big fan of iGoogle nor the widget view, it is too distracting to me.  I like the reader view the best.  Of course this is totally a personal taste issue, so if you like the iGoogle style, you will probably like the widget view.  However for this post, everything I refer to will be as I see things in the reader view. 

Uploading your feeds from Bloglines is very easy.  However be forewarned that when you first upload them, it will treat everything as new feeds.  This means you will have lots of unread items going back to the dawn of time.  I had some crazy number in the thousands of unread items.  So you are going to have to have mark a lot things as read and make sure you click the tab “Show only unread items” or you are going to be met with a lot to sift through.

Unlike Bloglines, Netvibes lets you keep things once you have read them. Google Reader, as well as a lot of feed readers, allow you to keep already read items, but it is worth mentioning because if you are a heavy Bloglines user you are used to things disappearing after you click on them.   I like this save feature but it is going to take some to get used to for me.

Netvibes feed reading is good and while I haven’t explored every nook and cranny of this area, it appears to do what many other feed readers normally do.  What sets NetVibes apart from many feed readers including Google is how it treats sharing feeds via social media.  You can email a feed to somebody (Google allows emailing feeds) and you can click on a feed and share it to your Facebook page, Twitter Account and several other social media platforms liked LinkedIn.   I had problems the first day emailing feeds to people, but I think that is because that was the same day I activated my account.  I have had no problems emailing feeds since.  I had no problems posting feeds on my Facebook personal page.  However I have two pages, my personal page and my fan page.  I haven’t been able to figure out how to get NetVibes to post to my fan page not my personal page.  This is a problem with the Facebook “like” button and Facebook icon on other regular web pages so it doesn’t surprise me that NetVibes has problems knowing that I have two pages.  Most people only have one Facebook page so they wouldn’t have this similar problem.  If you have a library Facebook page, you might want to consider two NetVibes accounts (one with the library information) for easy posting of feeds from the library.  I am still having difficulties sharing feeds via Twitter.  My Twitter account is open, anybody can subscribe to the feed, so it should be able to work.  I can tweet within NetVibes, just not share a feed on Twitter via NetVibes.  This was a feature I was most excited about too. (*see note at bottom, the Twitter share feature is now working.)

So how does it do with the keyword searching?  Pretty good.  Of course nothing is as sophisticated as Medline and you can do some pretty intricate web search strategies within Google Advanced Search.  But all in all it handles basic keyword searches pretty well.  You can also create a keyword search in another program (PubMed, Twitter, MedWorm, etc.) and save it as an RSS feed and upload that feed into NetVibes. 

NetVibes widgets allows you to try and get creative with search feeds.  You can use certain widgets to create your own keyword search.  The widgets I looked at specifically were the blog search widget and the Twitter search widget.  These widgets are supposed to search for information within certain platforms or social media (podcasts, blogs, Twitter, Flickr, etc.).  I don’t like the blog search widget, the search engines they use are too generic for my tastes so I will stick with using things like MedWorm and other blog search engines and saving them as an RSS feed to import into NetVibes.  The Twitter search widget is fairly good, I am comparing it to my TweetDeck searches and it appears that it retrieves the same results in a timely manner. 

Theoretically you can use the widgets to search for Podcasts as well but when I started the process of adding the widget and adding my search terms I noticed that all of the podcast search engines it profiled were no longer available.  So if you like to keep up to date on the latest podcasts, I recommend going to your favorite podcast search engine and grabbing the search and importing it as RSS feed into NetVibes.

While it appears that the widgets in NetVibes have the potential to be a fairly strong components to their service, they are also problematic because there seems to be no authority control like removing of old non-functioning widgets or editing widgets with non-functioning components. 

NetVibes is quirky and I think I like it for now.  It is definitely more beefed up than Bloglines or Google Reader, I like the potential it has for sharing feeds and news items using email and the social network, this is a huge feature for me (if I can ever get the stupid Twitter share thing to work). But if you are looking for a straight feed reader then NetVibes’ bells and whistles, along with a lot of their broken or clunky bells and whistles can be a bit of a pain and it is best to probably stick with Google Reader.  Google Reader already has the email feeds feature, and if it comes out with social sharing then it will hands down my feed reader of choice.  While I don’t like Google Reader’s searching features (for searching for posts, tweets, podcasts, etc.) using keywords, NetVibes inconsistantly faulty widgets is worse. I am going to stick with doing a searches via my specific search engines (Twitter, blog, podcast, etc.) and save the strategies as an RSS feed.  Time consuming to set up but once it is set, I don’t have to touch it that often. 

The social sharing stuff has me liking NetVibes just a little bit more than Google Reader and even old Bloglines, but the overall clunkiness might have me using Google Reader eventually.

**Note: I am now able to share my feeds (or share my articles as NetVibes calls it) via Twitter.  I didn’t do anything different or change anything, in fact I have spent this time searching online for possible bugs, fixes, incorrect settings, etc. for this.  All of a sudden it now works.  I wrote this post on Monday September 27th.  I set up my NetVibes account Thursday September 23rd.  My only guess is that it takes NetVibes some time to get things set up and working all together. 

I stand by the fact that I love the social sharing part to NetVibes, I am less than thrilled by their apparent bugginess and quirks.  If it does take them time to validate email, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever that should be noted in their FAQs.  Like I said if Google Reader starts implementing social sharing, NetVibes better get their buggy act together because I think might switch.

Facebook and Twitter Have Killed Bloglines

I logged on to my Bloglines account over the weekend and was greeted with the message that Bloglines will shut down October 1st.  According to news update from, information is “gained through conversations, and consuming this information has become a social experience. As Steve Gillmor pointed out in TechCrunch last year, being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow.” continues to state that Bloglines usage has dropped off considerably as RSS feeds have moved from the consumer side of things to more of the backbone/infrastructure resource for other social information products.  While I completely agree with that the rise of Twitter and Facebook have led to more or different methods of information sharing, I still need my RSS feeds.  I have developed quite a list of blogs, news feeds, and Internet search queries that I monitor.  I do pay attention and monitor Twitter and Facebook, and I have noticed that I grab a lot of real time news and information from them but  I have not figured out how to gather topical information to me using something other than my Bloglines feed. 

People have asked me where I have found my information and how do I stay on top of it all.  The simple answer is that I have about 5-10 search strategies that I developed in my feed reader.  These search strategies look throughout the Internet for information, news, blog posts, etc. Whatever it finds is then listed under that feed on my Bloglines and I scroll through it every day like others read the morning newspaper.  I have been able to somewhat duplicate this information retrieval method using TweetDeck (a Twitter application) .  It picks up good but different information from my Bloglines search strategies.  

So what about Facebook?  That is also an interesting method for learning about new information, but it only picks up things that my friends like or post on their walls.  “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  If information is out there and nobody Facebooks it or tweets it, will I hear it?  I relied on my Bloglines feeds to hear it.

Have feed readers started the path to extinction and I am one of the few still hanging on to it?  Are there other tools out there that I am unaware of that will actively retreive and report information without my friends tweeting or posting it on their wall?  Are there add ons or widgets to these social tools that will find things that my friends don’t? 

In the last year or two people have reported that the blog is dead that people are sharing information via Twitter and Facebook.  So far I have clung to the idea that the blog isn’t dead, but it has evolved and is no longer the blog of old.  The blog of old is dead, the new blog that is integrated into a website, posts to Facebook and Twitter, is still around and important.  It doesn’t take more than 140 characters to share or forward information, but people do communicate in more than 140 characters.  However, the closing of Bloglines is definitely a sign of how things have changed. 

I have no idea how Facebook, Twitter, and things yet to be created will shape how we find and share information in the future. One thing I know is that if you still have a blog (personal or professional) and you haven’t integrated it with Facebook and Twitter you better, and if you have a bunch of feeds on Bloglines and still rely upon them you need to move them before October 1st.  Perhaps moving my feeds to Google is a little akin to arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and feed readers will disappear.  Who knows?  But I am definitely going to be looking at other methods to find information that isn’t always tweeted or posted on a wall.