Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Big isn't always better

As Miss Jean Brodie so wisely said, 'Seven inches is quite enough' - though ostensibly she was talking about the appropriate amount to have the classroom window open. Sorry, off the point.

On ITN this morning, the news that Facebook has attained its 500 millionth member - 8% of the entire planet are on it. Maybe a Cam23er was the 500 millionth, maybe one of us will emerge unsuspecting from our place of work, we thought to the sandwich bar, but instead into our 15 mins of fame, faced with a baying press pack 'How has Facebook changed your life?' 'Are we headed for a double dip?' 'Who's going to win Big Brother?'

'Is social media a fad?' said 50% of all internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook, and Social Media Revolution 2010 said users are spending an average of almost an hour a day on Facebook. Perhaps the reason I dislike aspects of Twitter and Facebook so much is that [in my opinion] they are just too big. They have strayed dangerously from their original ethos and business interests have weasled in. As Carol says, Facebook is pretty much the perfect resource for those who are removed physically from family, friends and colleagues, and it has most of the bolt-ons you'd want for that function. But now it is so dominant, we are even being asked to believe it can operate as a creditable search engine.

Wouldn't it be interesting to stand up in front of a new group of students, show the Facebook page and say, 'Here you go kiddies, this is all you need'...? Am actually considering doing that, just to see the reaction [if they are awake, of course]. Then I'd have to do the Alvy Singer thing 'Ah, if only life were like that'.

Having a library page on it is fine - or has to be if everyone else has one - though perhaps a lot of effort to create and update a good one, for possibly little return. [The libraries listed in the 'task' have made a fine job of their Facebook pages, but it's awfully difficult to get away from that 'busy' look]. Who exactly would the audience be? As Lottie says, we have to be careful how we pitch it. Moonhare has reminded us that the LSE study mentions that some students resented libraries muscling in on their social circle. Dad-dancing again, but harmless [not like big businesses, anyway].

I attended a JISC workshop 'Maximising Online Resources Effectiveness' a couple of months ago, and could see their argument that for most universities [sic] a presence on many platforms is probably necessary. We were referred to a study that apparently demonstrates that the "words and brands mentioned most frequently on the Web" in 2009 were Twitter, Google, Facebook, iPhone, youTube. Nota bene, children, "words" as well as "brands". Obama was no. 6, Oprah no. 42 [arguably the latter at least also a brand], but the rest of the top 50 were all brands. Hmm, do I detect something ... stinky?

Remember the presentation from the launch of Cam23 - 'Is Social media a fad?' [We got that at the SCAMORE workshop too]. Lots of us probably sat swaying to Fat Boy Slim's specially-chosen hypnotic tones, eyes like Mowgli's when Kaa sang 'Trusssst in me', and at the end said 'Yeah, RIGHT! Let's GO!' Anyway, the presentation predicted "We will no longer search for products and services. They will find us on social media". It's a business proposition - We are being profiled, categorised, used, but we're being told we have control if we stick our little thumbs up on Facebook. I'm not saying it's all bad - just that we have to be careful about going where we're led, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It's related to the 'unknown unknown' phenomenon when searching for info : do we take what's thrown at us or do we find things as well?

Face in the jar by the door

As several bloggerini have said - notably Vanessa - a lot of us would prefer to keep professional and personal separate, especially if one does lead a double life as university librarian and stripper, entirely possible given who Belle de Jour turned out to be. Unfortunately the sort-of requirement to have a library presence on Facebook has made that division difficult on that platform, unless one is awfully clever with settings [I find it very hard to work out what others would actually see on my pages, even with Facebook telling me, as they make the possibilities so complicated].

Andy confesses to turning down colleagues' 'friend' requests so he can post 'full and frank' 'tired and emotional' exposes of them on Facebook [OK, I've loosely paraphrased]. LOVED his Michael Thomas example, by the way! Indeed, Crail's Head of Department no less did gently point out that acceptance of his 'friend' overture had been a little precipitate, since he could see things one might prefer he didn't [Crail Minor's antics presumably, since one's own life is blameless. Too embarrassed too ask]. Aidan has pertinently pointed out that the required use of the term 'friend' is often inappropriate. He also says "Facebook brings together play versions of lots of things that thrive better in a full-size version elsewhere". Much as it would be lovely to have one-thing-does-all, we know it ain't going to happen any time soon. We've all got several remotes at home [with the one we need of course missing], and we've all popped off on a mini-break whilst CrossSearch chuntered away [yes, I do know you can limit].

It would seem to be eminently sensible to use Facebook for the personal and LinkedIn or something similar for professional contacts. But, let's face it, Crail's already minimal chance of a career in libraries is now well-and-truly down the pan, along with the less-than-meteoric rise in MacDonalds ['No, I am NOT saying 'Have a nice day!'] 80% of employers use LinkedIn et al for recruitment? That requires some serious manipulation of one's personal details. Incidentally, LinkedIn does allow poseurs to claim they read 'War and Peace' in Russian, where Facebook does not.

Finally.... Is it just me, or does the mega-success of Facebook in particular suggest that there's an awful lot of Eleanor Rigbys out there, the stuff of 'Message in a bottle', and all those other songs people can no doubt think of, all feeling more and more isolated as we become immersed in technology?

From a secret bunker

Monday morning, never a good time, Public Face on, wrenched off the chaise longue, weaned off the Wincarnis [well, just a tiny drop on the corn flakes]. First often-unpleasant task, the in-box, the usual 'Hello ... I wanna do a PhD from your University ... and I can't afford, can you help please?' [that is not made up, by the way, merely shortened]. Still getting the mysterious announcements that people I have never heard of are following me on Twitter, when I haven't squawked in living memory [well, all right, the memory isn't what it was...]

Then the blood freezes, literally freezes. Never mind the chaise longue, fetch the commode. 'Phil Bradley is following you on Twitter'. How? Why? .....WHO?

OK, OK, it's Crail who needs her legs smacked. In detention, ASBO, scold's bridle.

MUST remember to keep my mouth shut and abide by Thumper's dictum. But the memory isn't what it was...

Image from the Wellcome Collection. And don't we think that little bell on the top is rather jolly?