Beware! Labels Stick

Lunch time means a chance for me to catch up on Facebook friends and play a mindless game of Bejeweled 2 or Globs (which is especially relaxing these days since my focus in on Polaris and coordinating the training involved).  Today I happened upon a post by the Central Library Manager, Nina Krzysko that included a link to a YouTube video.  What an enlightening video.  It really struck a chord in me and I just had to share it.

But before you watch this – what would be your first reaction if you saw a man in his early forties, biking around your neighborhood or area where you work every day.  He sometimes wears funny hats or saying on his shirt and he sometimes stops, gets off his bike and waves to the cars that go by.  Bum!  Lunatic.  Or just a harmless guy with nothing but time on his hands?  I’ve heard all of these and more to describe the man in the video.  Now watch the video and tell me what label you would use.  But be careful because those labels stick and are hard to remove.

Enhanced by Zemanta

You Can’t Get Something For Nothing

IKEA International Group
Image via Wikipedia

Call me gullible!  I just fell for one of the oldest tricks in the books.  Someone I know and respect sent me an invite to get a free $1,000 gift card from IKEA just by becoming their fan on Facebook.  Ah, if it were only that simple.  I should have known better but seeing a trusted friend’s name blurred my vision I guess.

So I went over to Facebook – became a fan then started following the rules for getting the gift card.  I should have bulked when it said you had to invite ALL of your friends or you might not qualify.  But no I blindly went ahead and sent an invite to all my friends.  The next step is what really brought it home to me that this wasn’t going to work – when you click on the register part you think all you have to do is enter your email address so they can notify you about the gift card – NOT!  Once you enter your email address you then have to select 2 offers from sites such as Netflix or VideoProfessor or others offered via GiftDepotDirect.com.   Then you are expected to take a survey that wants a lot more information than I am willing to give out.  I was ticked off because I had been duped.

I went back to the Facebook fan site and tried to leave a comment shaming Ikea for going this route.  Interestingly enough it would not allow me to make a comment.  The box appeared and I could type but when I hit enter the whole page refreshed and did post my comment.

Only thing that has made me feel better is knowing I wasn’t the only person sucked into this.  Several of my friends got suckered by this as well.

Enhanced by Zemanta

What Constitutes a Blog Post?

Twice today I’ve retweeted something I felt was worthy of letting my followers know.  Both times the links in the retweet went to someone’s blog post that was pretty much nothing other than a link to the original article or blog post.  Being the devil that I am and because I want the original author to get credit, I retweeted but changed the link so it went to the ORIGINAL article/post.

This got me thinking – what constitutes a blog post?  I mean with sites like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Diigo, Delicious, and apps like ShareThis is it necessary (or even right) to create a blog post that only links to the original article with little to no content added by you?  Are we really using blogs in the right manner if posts become a version of the aforementioned sites?

Curious, what constitutes a blog post for you?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The 10 Lessons of Email

Email Ideas company logo
Image via Wikipedia

I am amazed in this day and age we still have people who just haven’t learned simple nettiquette.   What I’m referring to is bad email behavior.   I also find it interesting when people say how swamped their inbox is – with so many technologies and options at our disposal why are we still even using email?  But be that as it may, email is probably here to stay all I ask is that we learn some simple nettiquette if we are going to use it.

Lesson 1 – When using work email to connect with customers, colleagues and vendors treat email just like you would a business letter.  That includes using spell check, punctuation and capital letters where applicable.  Just because the format is electronic does not mean you need to forego common niceties that make reading your message easier.

Lesson 2 – Do not under any circumstance use colored text or backgrounds.  I really don’t care if purple is your favorite color (it’s mine too) it is glaring on a white background and comes across as unprofessional.

Lesson 3 – Leave the quotes for the insurance companies and the famous authors.  There is no need to have 1,2, or even 3 quotes as part of your email signature.  To be honest who reads them?  No one!

Lesson 4 – READ.  Don’t respond to emails that say post-only  or no-reply.  More often than not your email will go into never-neverland and get you nothing.  If the email specifically says do not respond that what do you hope to gain by hitting the reply button?  Read the email there maybe an alternative email address or a link that they want you to use in order to communicate properly.

Lesson 5 – Always when addressing an email to multiple people who may not know each other, use BCC.   If Joe doesn’t know Susie he doesn’t need her email address.  This is especially important if Joe gets a virus on his computers because viruses love to hit email – once Joe has Susie’s email the virus can either use her as the sender of another virus or send her the virus.  Rule of thumb unless people know each other well use BCC when sending to multiple addresses.

Lesson 6 – Another good reason to use BCC is those folks who really love to use the Reply All button.  99.9% of the time you don’t need to use the Reply All button especially when you don’t have much to contribute to the conversation.  Replaying all to say “I agree” is not something all 36 people on the original email need to know only the person who sent the original email needs to know.

Lesson 7 – Real friends don’t let friends forward.  Those jokes that hit everyone’s inbox have ALREADY hit everyone’s inbox so don’t bother to forward them again.  Also if you absolutely must forward something, PLEASE remove the header info.  The part where it has everyone’s email address, the subject, date, etc – remember that viruses love email addresses and they’ll take them anyway they can.

Lesson 8 – Spam.  None of like it, none of us want it so do your part to avoid it.  Work email should be used for just that – work.  Don’t mix family business (e.g. jokes, pictures, etc.) with your work account.  Use a “throw-away” or web based email account for that (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.).  Make sure you use  BCC and don’t forward those jokes (because if you do from your work account you can guarantee that someone that you forwarded it to will forward it again and not remove the header so your email address will be there).

Lesson 9 – Urban legends and email virus hoaxes, just the facts ma’am.  Unfortunately there are still people out there that insist on writing programs that do some not nice things to other people’s computers.  But before you leap to conclusions do your research.  We all get those emails of “a little girl who is dying of….” or a warning saying a big virus is going around — don’t just forward that email to everyone in your addressbook, think a moment and do a bit of research.  For urban legends your best bet is Snopes.com.    For viruses try Internet Storm Center if that is a bit too techie for you check out the sites for AVG, Norton or whatever anti-virus software you  use.

Lesson 10 – Email isn’t the only game in town.  Everyone complains that their inbox is full – so do something about it.  Use Instant Messaging, use Twitter, pick up the phone, walk over to the person and speak with them directly.   Most importantly use rules 1-9 and your inbox should be lessened automatically.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sorry Mr. Dewey, I Am For Real

Savage Non-Fiction section
Image by mlibrarianus via Flickr

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in the last 15 years or more – I shelved a cart of non-fiction books.  A call went out for help in getting the large amount of non-fiction carts out to the shelves.  Since I’m usually chained to my desk and computer screens I thought it might be nice to have a change of pace.  It’s good to step out of your normal routine and try on someone else’s shoes for a bit.  I started as a page shelving materials so it was fun to get back to my roots.  Also it turned out to be a Mother and Son two for one deal – my son who is also a shelver at my library was in the non-fiction section yesterday.

There is something soothing about shelving non-fiction and getting the shelf in perfect order.  But after about 1 section of the cart done I started looking at things from a different perspective.  It started after doing one section of the cart and not having one single shelf was in order.  Things really changed perspective for me when I was in the computer section.  I was puzzled to see that Linux, Mac and Windows books were interfiled.  Hmm, why wouldn’t all the books in this particular section on Linux be filed together, and then the Mac ones or the Windows books?

As I continued to shelve I got to thinking about the Dewey Decimal system and whether or not our customers really use it.  How many people outside of the library profession can tell you what the call number is for cookbooks, computer books, or even financial books?  Has Dewey seen his day?  What about Library of Congress classification?  Yes, I understand we need some sort of system to file things so everyone can find them but is 005.4469T really the way to go?  I mean does it really mean anything other than a cataloger?  Would perhaps 005 T do just as well?  I can tell you most customers when returning something to shelf don’t seem to see the cutter numbers.  Why do I spend all this time trying to get a shelf perfect if the customers aren’t doing the same?

Book stores don’t use Dewey or LOC and people seem to find the books they want just fine.  So why are we still in this day and age insisting that our customers follow our rules instead of finding out what works for them and providing an easier way to find our collections.  My apologies to all the catalogers.  I’m not trying to make you redundant but I do think it is time we rethink call numbers and how we shelve our materials.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Educate Don’t Alienate

photo by Julian Clark

photo by Julian Clark

Print management seems to be one of those perennial topics in the library world.   Not sure why it gets brought up every so often.  I’ve often heard tales of woe from other library staff in regards to the time, money and energy put into these “management” systems.  But why is this such a bug-a-boo topic for librarians?

I would love to say it is because they are all green and want to save the environment.  I would love to say it is because they are budget conscience and want to save money for things like books, computers, salaries, etc.  But honestly what I hear really boils down to “It’s Not Fair!” kind of attitude.  Does that really belong in customer service?

Does putting a hurdle between the customer and what they want equate to good customer service?  Putting said hurdle there just inconveinces the majority of good people and really doesn’t punish the few offenders (there is a way around every system and if they want to find it they will).   So why do we use these systems?

Here is a completely radical idea – don’t charge, don’t monitor, don’t manage but instead educate.  I know people will say but they’ll print reams and reams of paper and use all our toner.  Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.  Maybe we need to be looking at WHY people supposedly print so much.  We need to educate them about the alternatives.  Do customers realize how much paper they use or toner?  Probably not but putting a hurdle such as a print management system in the middle doesn’t really educate them but alienates them.  Why not start a campaign to educate your customers?  Let them know that one “page” on the web does NOT equate to one page of paper.  Do they know how much a carton of printer paper costs?  Do they realize how much toner a printer goes through in a day, a week, a month?  Encourage them to go green or recycle.  Why not encourage them to donate a carton or paper or money toward toner costs.   Don’t put just a sign next to the printer but include this in your fund raising events, put information on your web site and all your social web places as well.  If education is one of the many parts that make up the library whole then let us get to educating the customer not placing hurdles in their way.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sorry Mr. Roddenberry and Ms. Franklin

Star Trek
Image via Wikipedia

I used to hold out hope.  I believed that at some point in the future mankind would all get along.   We’d stop fighting each other (over territory or over ideals) and be buying each other a Coke.  That utopia just isn’t ever going to happen.

Sure, sure the Klignons are still looking for a good day to die, and the Romulans don’t seem to like anyone but most of the races that were part of the Federation seemed to get along peacefully.   I’m convinced that at least the humans of this stardate won’t ever make it to the world envisioned by Gene Roddenberry.

We can’t agree on whether or not this little piece of land belongs to you or to me.  We can’t allow each other to have different views of a higher being, and we certainly can’t seem to allow each other to have different views of how our leadership should run things.  I’m not advocating automatons that simply go along with everything like mindless sheep.  What I’d like to see is some plain and simple R-E-S-P-E-C-T (thank you Aretha).

If you are arrogant enough to think that YOUR way is the only way then we are at an impasse.  There is no dialog, there is no give and take, there is nothing for me to do but accept your way and forsake whatever I believe/feel/know is right for ME.  No one culture, religion, or political party has the rights on being right.

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have in common let us focus on what we do have in common.  Maybe we’d find out that we aren’t so different after all.  Take the time to get to know your opponent’s view point – he may actually have something worth while to say.  I am not naive.  I know there are very extreme people out there with diametrically opposing viewpoints.  But take a moment to listen, to really listen and possibly learn what they are passionate about.  Will this mean you have to believe what they believe?  No!  But I think that if we just gave each other the same amount of respect we expect then things might just be a tiny bit different.

Will this change things over night?  Will we all become automatons?  No, but since when has respect killed  people or brainwashed children or taken land away from someone?  All I’m asking for is a little respect.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Yes or No?

One Lightbulb To Rule Them All
Image by armisteadbooker via Flickr

I just had one of those lightbulb moments.  So often I hear the words “I’m SOOOO busy” utttered where I work.  I’m sure that other folks hear them too.  It is a bit of a pet peeve with me.  To me saying that implies that YOU are busy but I AM NOT.  Which is not the case at all.  One man (or woman’s) perception of busy is a day off to another.

With that aside, onto my actual lightbulb moment.  I was responding to an email from a colleague.  I had asked them to review some content on our Staff Intranet.  They offered to make a few changes themselves.  I was thrilled and immediately replied.  I started off saying yes, by all means please make the changes I then added a sentence about all the stuff I was going to have to do with the new Staff Intranet when it hit me.   She probably didn’t care if I was busy or not.  A simple yes or no was what she was looking for.  So deleted the sentence and thanked her for her offer.

Some of you might think, well d’uh.  I knew that deep down but this is the first time I was the one going on about how busy I WAS when I truly realized how it must come across to others.  Now I know why when I hear those words it rubs me the wrong way.  They are usually a response to a question instead of a simple yes or no.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Help Me To Help You

Psychic Spell Breaker
Image by Metrix X via Flickr

Folks seem to have a lot of faith in the IT department. Not only can we fix anything we can do but we do so because we are psychic. Just takes a laying on of hands or a mere mention “it doesn’t work” and we know everything required to solve your issue. There have been numerous jokes, YouTube videos and the like making fun of the “stupid” other person (be it an employee or customer). I don’t like to poke fun at other people’s expense but there is a grain of truth in there somewhere. Let me shed some light on things from the other side. You want help –

You want help – so help me to help you.

Bad example:

Dear IT,

I can’t access _____.

This is the equivalent of saying “I can’t see the blue sky.” There could be many reasons why you can’t see the blue sky. Are your eyes closed? Are you looking up? Is it day time? Is it cloudy? Is something blocking your view?

Good Example:

Dear IT,

I can’t access _____. I tried to do this and then this and when I finally did this I wasn’t able to access ____.

Using the same analogy again. This lets IT know that your eyes are open, you are looking up, it is daytime but alas you are still unable to see the blue sky. This gives us a starting point, a reference. It let’s us know what you did up to the point where you had a problem.

I don’t expect everyone to understand every piece of technology that crosses their path. But I do expect people to tell me more than it just isn’t working. Try helping someone without knowing what they did or where they started. Not every person starts from the same point (e.g. I might type in a URL, someone else might have it already bookmarked and a third might do a Google search to find the URL).

I know folks get frustrated, I do too with technology sometimes (but that is usually due to my expectations – expectations just set you up for disappointment). I want things to work properly as well. But often I’ve found that user error (too fast clicking, not waiting for something to load, using the wrong software to do the job, etc.) gets in the way.

So just breathe, try again and when you still can’t get what you want – document all the steps you took up until the problem occurred. It will help me to help you and hopefully get you back on the road to what you were doing – sooner!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

More Than Just Addition

Deep Down Inside, We All Love Math T-Shirt Design
Image by Network Osaka via Flickr

Anyone who knows me understands that math is not my strong suit.  However, there is more to using social web sites than just adding a post, a picture, a video.  What you really need to do is multiply!

Multiply your readers, visitors, followers or friends by making sure you add as much information as possible.  For example Flickr – don’t just add your photos and call it a day.  At the bare minimum you should include a catchy title (hate when I see img_0875.jpg as title), add a tag or two (being the self-professed tag whore I would say add as many as you can) and include the picture on the map.  Why?  Because by doing any of those things you can make it just a little bit easier for someone to find you, your pictures, your web site – object isn’t to make it harder for your customers (audience) but easier.

Make your audience’s search a bit easier.  If I did a search for Jackson Pollock because my child attended a class at the library and there were photos being taken, I would expect that those photos should show up in the search results somewhere.  Well, they won’t if I don’t use it in the title, description or tags.  If I leave the title as img_0875.jpg – what does that mean to anyone who isn’t a camera?  Refusing to add a description or at least a few tags leaves my audience not getting the search results they expect.

This goes for personal accounts as well as organizational accounts.  Not everyone searches the same way.  Some people will type a name into a search box, some will explore a site and dig around (but not for too long if they don’t find what they want) – the point is everyone is unique and they come at their information gathering in a different way.  So don’t expect people to KNOW you have an account on Flickr and they’ll find your photostream – maybe they’ll stumble upon you while searching tags or exploring the map.  They won’t be able to do that if you don’t take full advantage of the features a site offers.

This may take a little bit more time to do for each photo you upload but in the long run it is worth it if your customers/audience finds you a lot easier because you just did some simple math.  You can also apply this math lesson to other social web sites – don’t just add, multiply!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]