Author Archives: ektoukosmou

Snapchat

Snapchat is a photo sharing app with a difference: images self-destruct just seconds after viewing. The whole point is to safeguard privacy. Images are not saved in the cloud where they can come back to haunt the user when s/he least expects it.

Using the Snapchat app to photograph my bookcase

Using the Snapchat app to photograph my bookcase

The user interface is simple. You snap a photo, choose how long you would like it to last (3-10 seconds), select a recipient and tap the send button. When you receive a message, you simply press down on the notification line. You then have a very limited time in order to view the photo. I found it annoying that you have to press and hold, which means that you can’t view the whole photo because your finger is in the way.

Once the time is up, neither the sender nor the receiver can see the photo again. As Snapchat reminds users, however, the app cannot prevent recipients from taking a screen capture of the image that you send them. Thus, even though images are not stored anywhere on your phone or in the cloud, Snapchat is not a completely safe technology to use for sharing photos privately.

I first read about Snapchat a few months ago in Bloomberg Businessweek. The article draws particular attention to the issue of privacy in the digital age. One of the books it references is called Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age. I immediately ordered it from my local library and read it with great interest. If you are at all interested in technology and privacy questions, I highly recommend it.

Snapchat’s effort in attempting to address the issue of Internet privacy is to be commended. While it might not have any direct application in libraries, I believe it does have indirect application in spurring us to think more deeply about reader privacy.

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Have Books Will Tweet

Los Angeles Public Library

Los Angeles Public Library

As a Los Angeles resident, I often use the LA Public Library. As a library student, I often study the LA Public Library for class assignments. One of the things I have discovered lately is that LAPL does not have a donation policy. This immediately disappointed me, not only because every library ought to have a donation policy, but because I have valuable books that I would like to give.

Seeing the advantages that Twitter offers in terms of direct communication, I decided to test its effectiveness in contacting the enormous LAPL about book donations. Before doing so, however, I decided to use the library’s Ask A Librarian service in order to be absolutely certain that no donation policy exists. I simply asked: “Does the LAPL have a policy regarding book donations? If so, how can I read it?”

A member of staff lamely replied:

LAPL does not have a written policy. Some LAPL branches have used book sales to raise money for library services. Please contact your local branch for further information about making a donation. http://www.lapl.org/branches/

Thank you for using the Los Angeles Public Library.

I then took to Twitter and fired off the following: @LApubliclibrary Why don’t you have a donation policy? I have lots of books to donate, but how do I know what will happen to them?

The following day I tweeted: @LApubliclibrary The County of LA Public Library has a Collection Policy that mentions donations: colapublib.org/aboutus/collec… Why don’t you?

Five days later, still no response. I tweeted: @LApubliclibrary what do I have to do to get a response?

The next day I got one: @musophilus Thnx for your interest. Please contact your local branch re: their donation process. lapl.org/branches Have a great day.

Another non-answer. I responded: @LApubliclibrary My local branch doesn’t have a donation policy. Does the Central Library have one?

That same day I received the following response: @musophilus Hi, call 213-228-7000. Thnx for thinking of us!

Okay, I thought, they’re finally offering to speak to me now. On calling the number, I realized that I had been given the main phone number for the Central Library. I tweeted: @LApubliclibrary Who should I ask for?

Less than an hour later, they responded: @musophilus Ask for central library services dept, and someone there will assist you. 213-228-7000

So, I finally spoke to someone. They asked me what kind of books I wished to donate and then transferred me to the relevant department. I talked to a very gracious librarian who has arranged for me to deliver the books through my local branch.

While I haven’t succeeded yet in urging the LAPL to write and implement a donation policy, at least I finally established contact. I look forward to seeing what else I can do with Twitter in the future.

-Barnaby Hughes

Nurturing Discussion via Social Media

One of the topics I considered examining in my previous blog post was why some blogs generate lots of comments and others don’t. Instead, I dwelt on the related topic of expanding your social network. I did, however, mention the issue of “how some blogs are much better at encouraging and facilitating discussion than others” and went on to contrast two different blogs. Now that I’ve had a bit more time to reflect, I’d like to propose a few reasons why some people (and libraries) generate far more discussion than others – on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc.

1. Personal connection – When people know you (or feel like they know you), they’re more likely to feel comfortable engaging with you and your thoughts. This applies not only to celebrities and those in the public eye, but to those who share their own opinions and ideas. Thus, people (and libraries) that are rather impersonal are going to find it difficult to make people care enough to respond.

2. Engagement – If you tweet a question to a library and it fails to respond, then you might give up and stop trying to engage with it. Responding to comments and questions that people pose to you is a good way of nurturing discussion and showing that you actually care; it’s part of the dialogue. Social media is not just a way for companies and libraries to advertise their products and services at lower cost than traditional advertising. It is also about listening. I’m always impressed when I hear that a company has reversed one of its decisions or policies because of social media feedback.

2. Quality content – It’s not enough to just blog, tweet, pin or post often. You have to disseminate words, photos and videos that engage people’s minds and/or hearts. The library that posts on Facebook that it will be closed on Presidents’ Day is making an important announcement, but not one that will generate discussion. Libraries that share photos of events and exhibitions or videos of speakers or poetry readings gain a lot more traction.

These three reasons why some people (and libraries) generate more discussion than others are really just the tip of the iceberg. What would you add?

Expanding Your Social Network

With some social media platforms, it’s relatively easy to expand your social network. Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, can extend invitations to every email address in your contacts list with just the click of a button. From there you can easily go about extending your network by adding friends of friends or by searching for people by name. Once a connection has been made, information can be transmitted back and forth.

Yet, how do you get more followers on Twitter? Or readers of your blog? With these social media formats, expanding your network is not so easy. On Twitter, you can start following any one in the whole world, but that doesn’t mean that they will follow you. Take, for example, our media savvy president. @BarackObama has 26,889,672 followers. How many people does he follow? 666,185. @sjsuslis, by contrast, has 995 followers, but follows only 186. In each case, there is nothing like the parity of connections between Facebook or LinkedIn users.

To return to the questions above, there are many strategies for gaining a following. Perhaps the easiest method is to be famous already. For most of us, we’ll have to work at it the hard way. Above all, that means creating good content, stuff that people will want to read. We will also have to engage with other bloggers and Twitter users.

In the blogosphere, that could mean leaving your own comments on someone else’s blog. Or it could mean linking to someone else’s blog from your own, in what is called a pingback. You can also simply “like” a blog.

It’s interesting to notice how some blogs are much better at encouraging and facilitating discussion than others. The Scholarly Kitchen, which is concerned with academic publishing, has a thriving community and multiple authors. Many of its posts attract dozens of comments and its authors stay in the conversation by responding to them. The British Library’s Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog, however, rarely attracts comments. It seems to be more interested in providing pretty manuscript illuminations from its collections than in nurturing dialogue.

In the twitterverse, engagement often begins by following more than by being followed. With a steady stream of tweets on your home page, you could then choose to comment by including someone’s Twitter handle in your tweet, Or you could retweet or favorite something that you find interesting or worth spreading about.

The more you blog and tweet, the more likely people will be able to find you. Also, another useful strategy is to link your various social media accounts together, for example, by installing a Twitter widget to your Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or blog feed.

Implementing these strategies might take enormous amounts of time, but the rewards can be great. You might find the job of your dreams or land a six-figure book contract!

— Barnaby Hughes