Saturday, 17 July 2010

Nanny dearest

Facebook, oh god, where do I start? Or, more appropriately - Don't start me! Well, I am going to start, from a negative point of view, and hope that by the end of the week I've had the Damascene moment....
Set up personal and [2] library pages about a year ago, after it was clear from the User ed@Cambridge meeting that we libraries really should have a presence. Fine, bunged a few bits and bobs on, left it, with vague intentions of creating a fabulous page ... eventually [Yes, yes, I do know that's not the right attitude].
To one's complete astonishment, these totally naff pages attracted friends and fans. Now, there were some jolly nice young Turkish [guessing by the names] gentlemen who expressed admiration, and we've had some lovely absolutely-library-related activities in the Crail Memorial Library Moshpit [see photo] but ....what the heck got these complete strangers to these pages, let alone bother to say they liked them ????

Because of Facebook's perhaps necessary nannyish attitude, it is very fiddly finding things, adding things, generally keeping a handle. There's a Facebook Group for past Genetics Department members, in preparation for some upcoming celebrations. Reasonable function, right? But of course a lot of non-department members have added themselves to the Group, which makes invitations etc difficult, and not the one-click option Facebook claims. A Group would seem to be a good place to add photos of past events - again, good idea, right? Well, no, because in a Group you cannot organise them in folders [yes, this is true - there's even a petition on Facebook 'Implement photo albums in Groups' which they ignore] which as you can imagine soon makes a hell of a mess. Moreover, photos I haven't taken are represented as mine.
Nanny Facebook won't even let you add favourite books it doesn't like the look of or is too stupid to recognise. I didn't think saying I was reading 'War and Peace' in Russian was unacceptable - even if untrue - but Facebook did. Well, that's lost me a lot of potential friends, now. It let me say I liked 'procrastinating', but not 'dissembling'. Didn't spot the other lies, though, did it, huh? More seriously, why can't I be innocently silly, when Faceboook vigorously defends the right of 1,320 people to avow 'Raoul Moat is a Legend'? Furthermore, Facebook doesn't prevent me seeing splashed on my home page, without even seeking it out, what 17-year old Crail Minor and her friends are up to, in stuff-of-nightmares detail [...and I do mean detail].
And would someone perLEASE enlighten me as to what Phil Bradley is on about when he claims Facebook is an efficient and trustworthy tailored-information provider? Why is Facebook's weasling around in personal activities and preferences more acceptable than Google doing it? The thing that really puts me off Facebook [and Twitter], is the muscling-in on what was a perfectly acceptable social medium by business and other interests, on which another rant later.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Time, or the lack of it...

Ah, yes, LibraryThing. Getting in a bit of a panic, Thursday evening, the 'Crossroads' 140-DVD megaset still only 25% watched ... and no homework done. Beginning to wish I was flippin' Tithonus, ergo must be going mad. Quickly added a few of the vast Crail collection of homemaking manuals to LibraryThing [after the embarrassing discovery YET AGAIN that there was a pre-existing account, dormant and erased from memory], then hit a hiatus. Where in the Library [spoken a la Celia Johnson in 'Brief Encounter'] have the Fanny Cradock masterpieces gone? ... Then gave up.

Workwise, anything remotely related to cataloguing starts an attack of the guilts, as well as an agitated grab for the gin. Having to assign shelf locations to books I don't even have in front of me, Victorian and Edwardian books with helpful titles like 'My country garden' and 'Waftings of a wanderer', and LibraryThing is usually lined up on the tabs along with Google books, OpenLibrary [which I like playing with to see which phrase it comes up with when it hasn't got details of a book - Good grief? Shucky darn? Cor blimey?], Botanicus, Biodiversity Heritage Library, Internet Archive, the cataloguing resorts of the desperate. Using LibraryThing for books that few individuals or libraries still own [but probably lots of thrift stores and Oxfam Shops do ... and the Plant Sciences Library at Cambridge] has made me think more than once 'I really ought to add some of the stuff we have here to this. There must be bibliophiles out there who really do want to know about 'Daffodils I have loved''. That isn't a joke, more a pathetic attempt not to face up to the knowledge that the Plant Sciences Library could make a useful contribution to LibraryThing. But GAWD, we are talking Augean Stables. Where's Rumplestiltskin when you need him? Oops, wrong story. But there's no point in doing this on a professional level unless it's done properly. And once again I'm a bit concerned about all these little ... deposits ... I'm excreting on the web.

On a personal level, LibraryThing is a lovely resource, a wonderful community for proper bibliophiles, people who actually make it to book clubs every week and bring lemon drizzle cake and home-made gooseberry wine with them. LibraryThing has that sort of, I don't know, warm feeling about it. Just the sort of thing a mentally-anal but physically-middenlike person like me would enjoy doing and benefit from. And let's face it, you cannot get much more anal than a field for entering start and end reading dates. It's comforting to know that however schlocky the paperback owned, there appear to be hundreds of other people out there who not only own it, but have earnestly reviewed it. If I had plenty of time I would have enormous fun participating. But who on earth has? [Helpful comments about time speeding up as one gets older not required, thank you] Dare to allow oneself a breather from catching up with others' blogs [abandoned for a couple of days not because it is a chore, but because thought is required, and more avenues are opened up by all those clever people who do the tasks properly] and Google reader admonishes sternly that 'more than 180 items' are available for contemplation. Dash to the Hommage a Huysmans minibar. Hmmm, Wincarnis or Sanatogen?

Anyway, excuses over, got to gird up the loins [and we'll be needing something with reinforced whatebone or possibly steel plates] for next week's can of worms, Facebook, and the cherry bomb Phil Bradley has dropped Sometimes that boy needs his legs smacked.