Topeka, KS doesn’t like Social Media

screenshot of City of Topeka website
Topeka uses social media, right?

Wouldn’t it be weird if Google, KS blocked Google from their own computers?

Unfortunately, that just happened.

OK – it’s really Topeka, KS (Topeka renamed the city for that Google Fiber project). And they didn’t really block Google – they blocked Youtube (which Google owns).

But still – there’s some irony there, is there not?

Go read this newspaper article, City tightens control of employee Internet use. Then come back here, and let’s discuss.

Here’s what I find odd about the city’s recent decision to block staff access to social media sites:

Oddity #1:
“City spokesman David Bevens said the city prohibits employees from using their work computers to access YouTube, as well as the Facebook and Twitter social media sites, but some employees have nevertheless accessed YouTube on those computers … “

That’s got nothing to do with social media, and everything to do with employee performance. That’s sorta like saying “obesity has become a health issue at our organization, so we blocked employee lunches.” In other words, the city is dealing with the symptom, rather than with the real problem – in this case, employee performance. Blocking Youtube won’t fix that problem, I’m afraid.

Oddity #2:
“Stanley [interim city manager] said he was disappointed to learn the problem was directly related to the perceived need by some employees to access popular social media websites, such as YouTube and Facebook.”

It’s more than a “perceived need” – the city actually has official Youtube, Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook accounts. So yeah – “some staff” definitely DO need access to those sites, to do actual work.

And since those social media sites are essentially official city channels, I’d go so far as to say all city employees need access to them. At work. Otherwise, the city is blocking official city communications … from city employees. Nicely done, Google, KS!

Oddity #3:
IT manager Mark Biswell is quoted as saying this: “While these websites have value in terms of information transfer and marketing, they also pose an organizational risk in terms of lost productivity and through the potential introduction of viruses and worms … “

First off, let’s deal with that perceived “lost productivity” thing. Recent studies actually show that employees have increased productivity if they have access to social media. Want more productive employees? Give em access to Facebook and Youtube.

Second, that virus and worms thing. Social media sites like Facebook and Youtube don’t become popular if they’re sending out tons of viruses – instead, they get sued (thanks for that thought, @billludwig!). I sincerely hope that most IT managers know that “viruses and worms” generally don’t come from social media sites like Youtube or Facebook. They come from spoofed sites, rogue links in forwarded emails … and from uneducated staff. A better way to approach computer security would be to 1. unblock Facebook and Youtube, and 2. Train staff on appropriate use of web technology, and how to NOT click on those weird links or ads.

Oddity #4:
One last thing. The IT manager is also quoted as saying this: “Biswell said that to balance risks with the informational value of using such sites, the city was taking a proactive approach by cataloguing and safely providing employees access to YouTube videos that have business value related to training and education … The approach is the same one used by educational institutions, he said.”

That’s because the people at “educational institutions” are, for the most part, kids. Don’t treat your adult employees like kids. ‘Nuff said.

So why write this?
Thankfully, I don’t work at a city library, so I haven’t had to deal with this. But some of you librarians have dealt with this, head on. Library Directors – don’t let this happen to you! At least be informed, so you can intelligently argue your points to city administrators, city IT managers, or a city attorney. I’d love to hear from some libraries who successfully argued their points, and were able to keep or get library access to social media sites.

In other news, on Friday I tweeted a question to the City via their official Twitter channel, asking them how they were going to respond to my question, since they are now blocked from using Twitter.

Still no Twitter reply. I wonder why?

Organizing a Podcamp

This past Saturday, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library co-hosted (with WIBW Studios) our first Podcamp  – Podcamp Topeka. Don’t know what a podcamp is? It’s an unconference dedicated to web 2.0 tools and social media (read more about them here). It was a blast! You can some of my notes from the day here, watch my video about it above, and you can read Brandon Sheley’s notes here (he attended and lead a session or two), and even watch a quick video from channel 49 news.

So – how did I organize this thing?

OK – first things first. It’s a podcamp – there’s really not much conference planning to do. The details revolve around meeting rooms, food, and potential schwag – not the actual conference schedule. The important planning revolves around how many people you hope to attract – you have to have enough space to accomodate them. Also how long each session should be – and be able to accomodate that. Then, it runs itself (more on that in a minute).

Use your contacts for help. I poked around a bit on the interwebs, and found out Ryan Deschamps, cool librarian and blogger at The Other Librarian,  had organized some very successful podcamps. So I asked him for tips, and he emailed me some great advice on how to run a podcamp.

Sponsorships – the library provided meeting rooms and our other sponsor, WIBW, paid for food and t-shirts. How’d that happen? In this case, I know Jim Ogle, the general manager of WIBW, and also know he’s excited as I am about social media and 2.0 stuff. So I asked him if he wanted to help plan the podcamp, and he did … and he ended up being a sponsor, too. For future events, I’m told that some local organizations might potentially be interested in sponsoring the event.

Ask for Specifics. Know how much money you need up-front, then ask specifically for your needs! Much better to have a plan for what you need (and what they’ll get out of a sponsorship) than to vaguely ask for “a sponsorship” hoping someone will provide what you need.

Registration: it was a free event, but I asked everyone to register, since a head-count was involved for t-shirts and food. Eventbrite worked GREAT for this! Free and easy to use – we had over 100 registrations. I was able to email a reminder to all attendees 3-4 days before the event through Eventbrite’s admin side. They actually sent me a couple of pre-event emails making suggestions on how to run an event (ie., do you have nametags?), too.

What actually happened?

People goal: our goal was up to 150. We had over 100 people register, and approx 50-75 people actually attend. Not bad for a first time.

Interestingly, we had an odd but fun mix of people. We had a variety of skill levels from experienced user of 2.0 tools to extreme novices and an age spread from probably age 20 -85 (someone actually came up afterwards and told me how old she and her friend were). So we improvised a “Basics of Social media” session that turned into one of our larger sessions.

Food and t-shirts: I went ahead and ordered t-shirts and food for 150, not knowing how many would really show up. So we had … a LOT of food. And I have a box of Podcamp Topeka T-Shirts in my office…

Schedule: You can see it here – we ended up with quite a few great topics and sessions!

Planning details: PBWorks (used to be PBWiki) worked great. Here’s our Podcamp Topeka Wiki.

Advertising: This is interesting. We advertised in our library newsletter, in 2.0 tools (twitter, facebook), on our website, at a social media group’s Ning site, and were lucky enough to get a TV spot or two (since WIBW was a co-sponsor). We asked attendees to fill out a “how you heard about this” flyer – only 22 people filled it out. But look at their responses to where they heard about our podcamp:

TV – 4
friends – 2
twitter – 2
facebook – 2
our website – 2
didn’t say – 2
social media KC Ning group – 2
online – 2
invite – 2
Google – 1
tscpl email – 1 (guessing it was our enewsletter)

That’s a pretty large spread of responses!

And finally, Feedback. What did attendees think of the day? Honestly, most of the feedback I received was some form of this – “What a GREAT day! When’s the next one?”

So – we’ll have to start planning the next Podcamp Topeka, I guess!

Library Camp Kansas – our first UnConference

What are us wacky Kansans up to? Check this out:

Ready to participate in a new type of conference? Think some of the most valuable and most productive sessions at conferences are the hallway and dinner conversations?

Want to get to know some of your forward-thinking Kansas library colleagues better?

Join us at Library Camp Kansas: the first Un-conference for people interested in customer-friendly libraries, library 2.0 and thinking about how we can all improve our services and organizations to meet the needs of our communities.

This is not a conference with experts behind a podium. It is an opportunity for dialogue and conversation. Sound good to you? Join us on Wednesday, March 19, at K-State’s Hale Library!

Details:
Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Registration starts at 9 a.m.)
Hale Library, Hemisphere Room
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS

A complete agenda and links to lunch options, directions and parking information are available on the unconference wiki at:http://librarycampks.wetpaint.com/page/Unconference+Details.

Topics:
The participants of Library Camp Kansas choose the topics to be discussed the day of the conference. Potential topics can be posted ahead of time to the wiki: http://librarycampks.wetpaint.com/page/Discussion+Topics.

Registration is free. Visit the “Invitation to Participate page” to register online:
http://librarycampks.wetpaint.com/page/Invitation+to+Participate

If you need a parking permit, you must register by Friday, March 7.

Due to space limitations, overall registration is capped at 100 participants.

What’s provided:
Free wi-fi. Some laptops are available for those who can’t bring their own. Flip charts and meeting supplies will be provided as well. Snacks and drinks thanks to K-LIRT. Parking permits thanks to NEKLS.

What you should bring:
Great ideas, great questions, an interest in collaboration, laptop with wi-fi (if possible), and money for lunch.

For more information, check out the Kansas Library Camp wiki: http://librarycampks.wetpaint.com/

To see how other library camps and unconferences have worked out in other states, see http://www.blyberg.net/?s=unconference&submit=GO and http://librarycampnyc.wikispaces.com/Program.

Questions? Please contact:
Brenda Hough
Technology Consultant, NEKLS
[email protected] ~ (785) 838-4090

Hope to see you there!