The price of competition

Nittany Valley Half Marathon

Nittany Valley Half Marathon, 2010

This is the kind of post I should probably write as a note on Facebook rather than a blog post – but, as mentioned in my last post, Facebook notes lack organization. So, even though this isn’t about libraries, I have this blog and this post doesn’t fit anywhere else, so here it is.

I write a monthly column about running for my local newspaper, so I think and write a good bit about the sport, but I don’t know that I have time or energy for yet another blog. I used to co-write a running blog for the paper, but when they switched blogging platforms, our old posts got erased and we never started up a new blog.

I originally wrote the following as a letter to the editor of Running Times, but I’m not very prompt about reading my magazines. By the time I had read the article and drafted a letter, the next issue was already in my mailbox.

The no-frills races Pete Magill is nostalgic for (“The Price of Competition,” Running Times, November/December 2012) are still here. Last weekend, I ran the Nittany Valley Half Marathon in State College, PA. It has a measured 13.1-mile course with mile markers and four water stops. The race director’s brief speech as 700 runners toed a line in a field was something along the lines of, “Run that way and watch for cars.” Chip timing ensured accurate times. For all this plus a t-shirt, I paid $25. If Magill is worried about losing a non-refundable fee, you can even register the morning of the race, although you might not get a t-shirt. The race is small, but it has attracted some very good runners. In 2011, local runners Luke Watson and Rebecca Donaghue used it as part of their preparation for the Olympic Trials marathon. The race quietly donates proceeds to a local charity.

There are plenty of other races like this out there. If you want to run with thousands of other people in a big city, expect a spectacle. If you just want to toe a line and see how fast you can run, check your local running club’s race calendar. It’s a lot more fun than running by yourself with your Garmin.

Facebook killed the blogosphere?

I don’t blog here as much as I used to. Part of it is just life and work taking up a lot of my time, and part of it is the energy that goes to the other blogs I contribute to.

Another part of it, though, is the other outlets I now have access to.

A post by Aaron Stanton about using Facebook as a personal blog got me thinking about this. If I just want to share a link without lengthy commentary, I can post it on Twitter or Facebook. (A good portion of my Facebook posts are public, so feel free to subscribe – or friend me if you know me.) If I want to start a discussion, I increasingly find LinkedIn groups or Facebook better places to do it than this blog. I use these outlets to share things I think are interesting, or to refine my thoughts on a topic.

I also don’t read blogs as much as I used to. I find links on Twitter and Facebook, and I follow discussions on LinkedIn. When I do read blogs, I’m more likely to follow a link to a post from Twitter or Facebook than from my feed reader.

That said, and despite the title of this post, I don’t think blogging is dead. It has changed significantly, though. Back when I started blogging (in 2003), if you wanted to publish something online, blogging was the way to go. My blog was primarily professional, but a lot of personal and silly things got posted there as well, because there was nowhere else to post them. Now there’s no reason to write a whole blog post just to share a photo of my dog. Overall, I think my blogging has improved. It’s more focused and thoughtful.

Goodbye RSS?

I’ve noticed that I’m using RSS feeds less and less often lately. Sure, I still have hundreds of feeds in Google Reader, but I’ve gone from checking them daily to weekly to I can’t remember when I last checked them. It’s not just because I’m busier. I’m getting a lot of the information I used to get via RSS from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. I used to look for the bright orange RSS icon to follow blogs, but now I look first for the little Twitter bird or the Facebook F. I’m just starting a new blog project (more on that soon), and I suppose I will need to create Facebook and Twitter accounts for it.

It seems I’m not alone – and this change is not without consequences, according to Ken Varnum at RSS4Lib. We’re moving from an open standard to mediated discovery. And it’s not just that people aren’t using RSS. It’s becoming more and more difficult for the consumer to find.

Ironically, I did find Ken’s post using my RSS feed reader.

How do you follow blogs?

Happy Halloween!

RSS PumpkinJust for fun, I put pumpkin RSS and Twitter icons in my header. There’s a whole set of social media pumpkins available (free!) from Shane Jeffers at Three Styles.

I remember back in the day when I used to change the style of this blog for holidays. Where did that time go?

Still blogging after all these years

Blogs have gone from hot new thing to just another communication channel. They’re not dead – in fact, after reading Walt Crawford’s survey of the library blog landscape, But Still They Blog, I conclude they’re very much alive.

I don’t blog the same way I used to. I don’t post as many personal things, mainly because I have other, more appropriate channels (like Facebook) for those. I don’t post as often as I used to, which could be because I have other channels, or could be because I’m busier than I used to be. I don’t follow blogs the same way I used to; I’m more likely to find an interesting post via Twitter or Facebook or even a Google search than I am to find it by reading my RSS feeds. (Perhaps relatedly, the popular feed reader Bloglines announced it is shutting down on November 1.)

But, there are some things for which my blog is still the best channel. I think (based on the number of comments I get) that more people follow my blog, or find my posts somehow, than did in the early days. I’m used to thinking of myself as a pretty small-time blogger, but I have been around for a while. (I was somewhat surprised to find that DIY Librarian is included in the pioneers section of Crawford’s book – but I have been blogging since mid-2003!)

Mac Slocum quotes from an interview with Anil Dash about why blogging still matters:

That was the promise we had when we all first discovered the web. Someday it would bring us all together and we’d be able to have these conversations. It’s not perfect. It’s not ideal. But in some small way here’s somebody like me — with no portfolio, I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, I didn’t have any fancy social connections when I started my blog — and it has opened the door to me having a conversation as a peer, as somebody taken seriously, in realms that I would have never otherwise had access to. That’s the greatest privilege in the world.

My blog has allowed me to have conversations, both real and virtual, with people I wouldn’t have otherwise had a connection to. In the early days of this blog, I contacted Jessamyn West of librarian.net (one of the true library blog pioneers) for advice, and she wrote back to me.

Next week, I’ll be speaking on a panel at PaLA about blogging and personal branding. Back when I started this blog, it was still unclear whether blogging helped or hurt your professional reputation. This blog has helped me professionally, and I hope to demonstrate how with a little self-awareness blogging can help other young professionals too.

23 Things: Technorati

I follow so many blogs and feeds at this point that I don’t usually go out looking for more things to read, so I don’t usually go look for what’s hot on Technorati. I do, however, like that you can subscribe to a search (of course I have a vanity search set up … though it mostly returns hits on a designer who shares my name), I like being able to follow specific tags, and I often check it when I am composing a blog post to see if anyone else has commented on the same topic.

I don’t see myself using Technorati much for library services, simply because I need to focus on scholarly literature for my patrons. For me, Technorati and other blog search and ranking sites are definitely professional development and networking tools.

Next up: the Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 can of worms.

23 Things: Tagging

At the SLA conference in Seattle, I got talked into signing up for SLA’s 23 Things. While I don’t consider myself on the forefront of Web 2.0 (I’m convinced that once I found Facebook, it instantly became yesterday’s news), I’m pretty comfortable with a good number of the tools (my library has been blogging for over 2 years now and this humble blog has been around in some form since 2003) and I’m not afraid to try new ones out. I thought 23 Things might get me out of my comfort zone and get me to try some new things – plus the organizers were pretty persuasive.

I haven’t blogged about the first few things (blogs and wikis), mainly because I was so familiar with them. I have more blogs than I can handle already, and I started using a wiki for SLA Social Science Division program planning last year. (This year I’ve invited more people to use the wiki, and am happy to see most of them at least reading the wiki and a good number contributing to it.)

Now we are on to tagging, which I’m not quite as comfortable with. Oh, sure, I tag things, but I’m never quite sure about it. Is this the right tag? Will I ever find this again?

Mostly I am good at coming up with my own special tags. For example, I tag books in Library Thing with currentreading and use that to display them on my blog. I tag posts on del.icio.us with staffpop and plug that feed into my intranet site for my staff. But actual meaningful tags? I’m a little behind on that.

Next up: Folksonomies and Technorati, where the current top story is “Dick Busted on Sex Charges Outside Chicken Joint”. You can’t make this stuff up.

No more static web sites in academe?

Steven Bell, writing on ACRLog, says that static personal web sites are becoming less common among academic librarians as they are replaced by blogs, social networking profiles, and other interactive web tools. He argues, however, that a static site can still benefit librarians. Brock Read, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus, asks, “Should professors and librarians delete seldom-used personal pages, or keep them around for posterity?”

More important than whether your site runs on WordPress or Drupal or hand-coded HTML is whether visitors can find out about your professional accomplishments. (I’m assuming here that your blog is not anonymous or pseudonymous, and that you consider it part of your professional self.) Is there a link on your blog to your academic credentials? to awards and honors you’ve received? to your publications and presentations?

In my roles as a conference and program planner for professional associations, I often look at personal and staff pages of all varieties looking for information. And I do sometimes rely on web searches to help me identify potential speakers. I’m much more likely to give you a call if I can find that you’ve already presented on a topic I’m interested in. In this day and age, why not also add video of yourself speaking?

I think (though I’m not as immersed in the culture) that other academics benefit from enhanced personal sites as well. I regularly research potential speakers for lectures and symposia sponsored by my organization, as well as prospects for open faculty positions. I can give the committee a much more detailed profile if I can find a recently updated profile (or CV or resume or whatever you want to call it). If I can’t find a profile, I have to rely on what I can find through web searches and literature searches, which is probably not as complete, nor as focused.

The bottom line: a personal web site, of any variety, gives you some control over how people view you. Here’s mine, also linked from the sidebar of DIY Librarian, and from my employer’s web site. OK, the design won’t get me hired as a web designer, and it’s nothing revolutionary, but it is up-to-date.