Thinking about MySpace and other Free Third-Party Services

I have a MySpace account. I have signed up, posted a blog, and started gathering friends. I even uploaded a video. It’s sorta cool, and I can see the networking opportunities in it for people. And I can also see how a library could use this type of social networking service to post events, get out info on new materials, etc.

But I do have one observation to make. When setting up a free account in something like MySpace that runs on ad revenue, a library needs to consider the ramifications of what their customers might see (and then click on, thinking it’s from the library).

Here are some examples:

myspace ads screenshot 2

Woo hoo! The library’s giving away FREE iPODS!!!

myspace ads screenshot 4

Wow – the library MUST think this new realtor site is useful, because they’re advertising it on their site…

myspace ads screenshot 5

Great – my computer is having problems, and the library is recommending this computer repair service…

myspace ads screenshot 3

Sorry – this one’s for comic relief… those two people in the Classmates ad have to be THE MOST FAMOUS FACES ON THE WEB…

myspace ads screenshot 1

Not for comic relief – especially when a parent calls with a complaint because their child just ended up at that intimate dating online service that your library just offered him/her for free… OK – get my point?
Am I saying that free things like MySpace, Flickr, Blogs, Wikis, etc are bad? No way! But I am saying that these new services need to fit into your library’s plan… don’t just set one up to “see what happens” or “just for kicks.” Think through a few things first:

  • What does your library plan to offer using this new service?
  • What are the library’s goals for establishing this new service?
  • Can the advertising be minimized by paying a fee or by choosing certain categories?
  • Does the service meet the library’s strategic goals?
  • Who’s going to maintain this new service?
  • And most important: if it’s successful – what’s next?

If you answer some of these questions early on, you’ll be prepared – prepared to fully offer services using this new environment; and prepared when someone DOES call because they didn’t understand it really wasn’t your library offering those free iPods… ahem…

Gaming in Academia

I read this article on the Duke University website a few weeks ago, and was intrigued by what was said about incorporating gaming into the classroom. The article talked about the Center for Instructional Technology Showcase that was held on April 27, and I found the plenary session, titled “Serious Games: Digital Game-Based Learning in Higher Education” to be interesting. Here are some quotes from the article:

“If we [academics] can immerse students in an interactive story or
narrative, they’re motivated to work through problems and will
retain material more effectively than if they’re passively taking
notes in class.”

“State of the art 3-D graphics create the post-apocalyptic game
environment used in Sarbaum’s Econ 201, an introductory economics
course he will teach this coming fall at UNC-Greensboro. The game
will take the place of a standard introductory economics course. In
it, students play characters in a game involving aliens who have
crash landed, and have to use economic principles to survive. In
the course of doing so, they develop a society and engage in daily
struggles of supply and demand.”

“The hope is that by identifying with characters, the learning
will stick.”

That’s certainly one way to make an Econ class more interesting, huh? But here’s the deal – I can see the characters in the game needing to gather information, needing to do research in order to attain a goal in the game/class… and where might that information come from? I think it can come from librarians!

If the library works with the professor developing the class, the librarian can be the strategy guide in the game, helping the gamers/students attain information needed to attain goals (translation – get a good grade!).

Makes you think…

Interesting backwash about the L2 Class

Here’s some interesting reading about ALA’s Library 2.0 class. Start here:

 The short version?

  • The company doing ALA’s L2 program decided to make the class blogs, podcasts, etc open – anyone can subscribe to them.
  • There is criticism in the library blogosphere because of the tools used and because of incorrect terminology (ie., podcasts).
  • The CEO of the company doing ALA’s L2 program states in her blog post “I am going to try to use this as a learning experience for all of us because it certainly is a mirror for what may happen as you all start to move into the 2.0 world” and “So let’s use this as part of our learning experience” in this post, which was sent because of the criticism.

But apparently, some other emails were also sent, and were felt to be threatening to the recipients (at least in one case). The email was clarified a little bit in the comments to the recipients “I was asked to delete this post” post.

So why am I posting about it? Because I got really irritated.

So – to the company – if you REALLY want to treat this like the learning experience you say it is… please please please DO SO! Don’t send emails stating “I view the nature of your post on the [company name edited out] as both erroneous and possibly damaging to my business. I would like to ask you to remove the post immediately.”

Instead, say things like:

  • Thanks. How can we improve for the next class?
  • This is a pilot project, so there will be bumps along the way.
  • Or just a simple “thank you” and then forget about it.

But to be in charge of a Library 2.0 class, then to ask the person who CREATED the term Library 2.0 to delete his post? Something is really wrong there… I think you owe him an apology – that’s decidedly NOT Library 2.0.

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Good quotes from Kathy Sierra

I don’t know how she does it, but Sierra’s blog, Creating Passionate Users, always has great posts and provides much thought fodder for me. here are some quotes from a recent post:

  • “Good usability is like water flowing downhill”
  • “Playing the game should be challenging. The interface should be brainless.”

And an excerpt: “But while my earlier comments on this were mostly about usability, I hadn’t thought of it [the water flowing downhill thing] as a management
principle. (Works great with kids, too) Think about how many procedures
we see in companies that feel like hacks… workarounds for a system
that makes it too easy to make mistakes. And you see it from the
highest levels of business right down to the duct tape someone put over
the switch that you must NEVER EVER TURN OFF.”

Go read the article, and apply it your websites.

Better Microphones for Podcasting

In my post on Pointers for Successful Webcasting, I mentioned buying a better microphone, and also going one step further and setting up a podcasting studio as ways to improve your podcast and webcast sound quality. This post goes into a little more detail on microphones.

To do a podcast, you need a way to record your voice, and you need a way to turn that recording into some type of usable audio file (usually an .mp3 file). So, let’s start off with the microphone. There are a number of choices:

  1. radioshackCheapie clip-on mic, like this one. This mic looks alot like the mic that came with my Mac LC a long time ago… it has a 1/8 inch plug, so you’d plug it into your sound card. Cost? $12. This version has a clip so you can clip it on to your shirt or tie, like a lapel mic. That way, it’s out of your face.
  2. logitechOne step up – the Logitech USB Desktop Microphone. It’s a USB mic, so you plug it into a USB port on your computer. The Logitech site claims the mic sounds great… but I’m picky, so I doubt it. But still, it’ll work and it’s simple. Cost? $30.
  3. samsonAnother step up – the Samson C01U USB condenser microphone. It’s cool because it’s still pretty cheap, but it will sound HUGE. It has better internal “guts” and a better-quality diaphram (the little thingie inside all mics that captures your voice’s sound waves), so it will most definitely sound better than the two mics mentioned above. Plus (and this is a big one) it plugs into a USB port, so you don’t have to mess with audio soundboards or preamps (geeky musician stuff). Cost? $ 79.99 at Sam Ash.
  4. blue_snowball_USB_computerEven better… the Blue Snowball (yes, that’s really it’s name). It’s really much like the Samson mentioned above, but it’s a little better quality, and it looks REALLY COOL. Cost? $139.99 at Musician’s Friend.
  5. Or… you could just buy a Mac. Most modern Macs include a built-in microphone (all the laptops and the iMac do, anyway). It’ll sound similar to #1 or #2 above, but it’s simple – nothing to plug in. Cost? Free (of course, you have to buy the Mac to get the mic…)

Update: I just discovered another option – the Samson Q1u microphone – $50 at zzounds.com.

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