A note from the chair on ‘Cloud busting: demystifying ‘the Cloud’ and its impact on libraries’
With just under two weeks to go until our national ‘Cloudbusting’ conference it’s safe to say MmIT is getting quite excited. With such a rich programme and so many great speakers it looks set to be a truly great conference. We hope you are able to join us in Sheffield on April 5th as there are still a few places left.
The concept of ‘the Cloud’ has been around for several years. Over that time the term has become ubiquitous with a general acceptance that ‘the Cloud’ has a definite impact on the way in which we use computers and information technology and how individuals interact with information. It is widely regarded that cloud computing can simplify processes for organisations and save them money and as a result many of the benefits associated with the ‘Cloud’ have been around efficiencies and effectiveness of services.
Many services that libraries have traditionally offered have been migrated into cloud solutions. For example the use of OpenURL providers and federated and pre-indexed search engines allowing users to search all of a library’s collections through a single search box. Discovery layers such as Serials Solutions’ Summon, EBSCO’s EDS or Ex Libris’s Primo Central allow access to all of a library’s collections, not simply those found on the library catalogue. Such discovery layers can provide enhanced service such as access to special collections, digital collections and institutional repositories.
Similarly, the ‘Cloud’ allows libraries to share data about their collections and the bibliographic management activities that they are engaged in. This includes licensing data, common vendor files, serials publications patterns and MARC records.
Add to this entire systems hosted in the Cloud, such as the Koha and Ex Libris Alma library management systems, or reference and citation management systems such as Mendeley, then it is simple to see the impact that the Cloud has on libraries, and indeed vice versa.
Even simple initiatives such as collaborative working through Google Docs, enabling a library community through Facebook or storing photographic collections in Flickr are all examples of how the Cloud has become part of the day to day computing and technology activity of the library.
MmIT strives to raise awareness amongst library and information professionals about current trends and topics in library and information technology and ‘Cloud’ initiatives and innovations, and how they are currently being used within the sector will be of interest to many librarians and information professionals who may not even realise the wealth of ‘Cloud’ activities and solutions available to them. The conference includes a series of workshops, each one focusing on a particular ‘Cloud’ initiative. This includes topics such as implementing Opensource library management systems; How libraries can make the most of mobile devices to access cloud resources; Creating media-rich e-book resources; Implications for research data management; Copyright and licensing issues associated with the ‘Cloud’, and much more. The keynote presentation will be from Karen Blakeman and will focus on search and discovery within the ‘Cloud’ and the conference will also include a series of rapid fire technical innovation presentations and a panel question and answer session.
For further information please see the MmIT Events pages:
Book Now “Cloudbusting – demystifying the Cloud”
MmIT Conference, University of Sheffield, 5th April 2013
MMIT bring you an exciting new conference in 2013 covering all aspects of Cloud technology and the implications for library and information services. Featuring a wide variety of excellent speakers and session formats this interactive conference will be both informative and inspirational. If you work in the library and information sector and are increasingly being asked to work in the Cloud or with new technologies, or are just generally interested in library Cloud developments, then this conference is for you!
Full programme available on the MmIT events page
To book a place at the conference, please use the online booking form:
MmIT Journal February 2013 on “Cloudbusting – demystifying the Cloud” MmITFeb13web-cloudbustingconf(1)
It’s been more than a year since we looked at social media analysis tools and a lot has changed in that time. If an internet year is 7 weeks¹, than a social networking year feels like even less than that. And, as important as it is to have a social media strategy, it’s equally important for this to be a dynamic strategy, being constantly revised.
Some of the tools mentioned last year are still around; ThinkUp has left beta, HootSuite is now a freemium platform and, sadly, TwapperKeeper is no more (although the core functionality is now built into HootSuite). Twitter itself has gone through a couple of iterations since then. In the latest version of the Twitter web client (I’ve lost count by now, let’s just call it #newnewtwitter) you can view the interactions and mentions, activity (what people you follow are up to), browse categories and try to make sense of the latest ‘trends’ (only joking). But there still aren’t really any built-in tools to monitor the reach and effectiveness of your Twitter presence.
There are lots of different tools and apps for exploring Twitter metrics. I’m ignoring Klout and PeerIndex because measuring ‘influence’ is not the same as measuring engagement and in order to review your social media strategy you need data to show interactions with those who use your library or info service . For similar reasons, I’ve steered clear of social marketing tools such as Socialbakers and the like (also their website is a bit ..busy).
Metrics specifically for Twitter can tell you more about your followers (including reciprocal followers and ‘influential’ followers) but there are also more meaningful measures such as ‘conversations’. If you ask a question on Twitter, for example, how do you track and store the responses? And how can you archive and analyse conversations that occur on Twitter at conferences or around a specific subject?
And these can also be linked to your other web services. Twitter (and other social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn) have a growing role for web traffic referrals. Twitter announced a new Twitter web analytics tool late last year in recognition of this but it’s gone a bit quiet since the first announcement.
Most Twitter power users manage their Twitter account via a Twitter client. TweetDeck (now owned by Twitter) is a handy way to manage multiple Twitter accounts if you meet the rather stringent browser requirements but doesn’t offer anything in the way of usage statistics or analytics. Similarly, the reporting tools of Hootsuite are largely restricted to Premium account holders.
I’ve heard good things about TwitterCounter (which generates graphs for current and predicted levels of followers) but more in-depth analysis is again limited to premium accounts.
Tweetreach is handy for occasional reports; you can view the ‘reach’ of your latest 50 tweets without signing up for an account.
Tweet effect is also a useful reference but on the various accounts I tried, it didn’t identify any correlation between tweet content and follower loyalty.
ThinkUp is the Twitter analysis and archiving tool that I use the most. It’s particularly good at measuring Twitter-based conversations by keeping track of replies, retweets and inquiries (questions you’ve posted on Twitter). It also has a GeoEncoder plugin to let you map your social networking conversations. The downside (or at least a slight barrier) is that you need to have hosting but this has been reduced a fair bit by the increasing free and shared hosting options available. PHP Fog now offers free ThinkUp hosting which you can have up and running in next to no time.
Tweetstats is great charting tool. As well as follower stats and frequency charts, you can visualise who you interact with most on Twitter, and even patterns of what time of day you tend to tweet — handy for identifying accidental routines.
Xefer is another great graphing tool built using Yahoo Pipes and Google charts. The Reply Explorer also lists replies to your tweets that you can sort by date or frequency.
And if you’re *really* into visualisation tools, check out TAGSExplorer, a brilliant tool created by Martin Hawksey that lets you create interactive visualisations of your Tweets using a Google Spreadsheet, the Google Visualisation API and some kind of d3.js graphing library magic. This is particularly great way of post-conference social networking analysis because it let’s you clearly see the interaction between participants.
Chances are, if your organisation is using Twitter in a significant way, you will need to use a couple of different sources and tools to review how you’re interacting with your network(s). And if there are any you’ve used and found particularly useful or any that we’ve overlooked, let us know in the comments.
Library news is a relatively new website based on the popular technology site, Hacker News (and using the same Open Source software; it’s like Hacker News but blue). It’s a place that you can post and discuss news stories, blogs and other websites of interest to the library world.
Library News was developed by the Harvard Library Innovation Laboratory. Like Hacker News (and Reddit, Digg etc), there’s an element of gamification. You can vote for the submitted stories or comments that you find interesting and others can vote for your submissions and comments. Popular stories float to the top and upvotes for your contributions will give you more karma points.
It’s early days yet in terms of discussion on the site but there’s a steady flow of submissions and it would be great to see this turn into a lively library community – don’t be afraid to comment as well as post.
API is one of those abbreviations that’s thrown around a lot but can seem a bit abstract. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) basically define a way for you to interact with a particular application (All clear now? No?). The best way to get your head around what this actually means is to use an API for something.
The Nerdary has a clear introductory guide to APIs, using the Twitter API. And the Twitter API really is a great place to start.
While Twitter may have bumped RSS off the homepage, you can still subscribe to Twitter using the API and, using Yahoo Pipes, combine and filter these feeds (and even clean up the data a little). This is a particularly handy way of monitoring feedback and mentions on Twitter and combining these into a super social media feed.
The Twitter API documentation will provide generic URLs as a guide which you can then use as RSS feeds in Yahoo Pipes (for example).
For starters to subscribe to a Twitter user’s lists:
(If you have any problems, there are always cheats available).
You can also subscribe to a Twitter search using the following format
In what seems intended to be a high-profile response to the limited release of Google+, the 6th of July saw Facebook’s online announcement of a major video chat development between themselves and Skype. Facebook users will shortly find that their profiles offer them the in-built chance to chat 1-2-1 with their friends, with the seamless integration of this service into Facebook’s chat service. If (like this author) you’ve been initially mystified by press reports claiming that you can try it but were wondering why it has not yet turning up in your Facebook account, simply visit http://www.facebook.com/videocalling to access an introduction plus setup instructions. There are a couple of things to install, but the whole thing is far easier than opening a Skype account; if a user doesn’t have a webcam, they can still chat over microphone. Sadly it doesn’t seem to work with Android mobile phones yet (I can’t verify other platforms), but mobile versions are expected. Google+ may be going for videochat quantity in terms of ‘Hangouts’ (with its much vaunted 10-person video chat facility), though Facebook have definitely stolen back some of the limelight by launching a Facebook/Skype integration which doesn’t even require users to have a Skype account.
Despite the temptation to see this solely as a retort to Google’s headline-grabbing ‘launch’ of Google+, it is certainly not the case that this was an overnight development. Skype and Facebook struck a (largely unspecified) partnership back in October 2010, so this has probably been in the pipeline for some time. However, with the Google+ juggernaut gaining momentum and Microsoft (who are in the process of buying Skype as well has having Facebook shares) now firmly on the side of Facebook, this will be one web war worth watching. Whether or not this is the beginning of the end for the traditional phone network remains to be seen, though this is undoubtedly a major development.
Away from the tech intrigue, what could the integration of Skype and Facebook mean for libraries? Many libraries are currently using various aspects of Facebook for service promotion such as having a Facebook page, responding to user comments and allowing users to ‘check-in’ via Facebook places. Once Skype is 100% integrated, libraries can allow users to video/voice call to ask questions, and it is possible that this might be used by some for enquiries and enquiry handling. Many libraries already use web-chat/web-conferencing software for such purposes, and those with superior technology could see the current Facebook/Skype offering as a step backwards; however, those without these services might be attracted to the idea. And, in these hard times, using Skype via Facebook will be free, which is always good. The question remains about whether (in the above scenario) staff would use their own profiles or create alternate ‘work’ profiles for chatting with customers, but it is an interesting thought. Perhaps, one day, part of joining a library could even include the option for a user to befriend the library on Facebook and supply said library with a user’s online identity as part of their join-up record; this could form another route of communication, and is helpful if a user changes their mobile phone number and doesn’t tell the library…if the person being called is not online, they can even be left a video/voicemail message which they pick up next time they sign in. Intriguing.
Overall, one must admit that the Hangout feature on Google+ looks much more advanced, though the really exciting thing is that Facebook and Skype seem set to announce even more developments (see the BBC News article), so perhaps group conversations will one day be possible on ‘Skypebook’. Certainly Skype is an acknowledged leader in its field, so more developments are credible. One thing is for sure – we haven’t seen the last of the videochat wars yet, and interesting tools might well emerge which are useful for libraries.
June 28th 2011 was a big day in search engine & social media land, seeing the launch of Google+ (pronounced ‘Googleplus’ or ‘Googleplussed’?). Well, ‘launch’ is perhaps the wrong word, with only a small amount of early testers having access to it; the general launch date apparently “won’t be long” (https://plus.google.com/). Essentially, Google+ may be seen the introduction of social networking elements with the ubiquitous Google search interface…why use a search engine and a social networking site when you can do both at the same time? Google+ allows users to log into the Google environment and personalise it as usual, with the addition of a live and customisable newsfeed stream called ‘Sparks’ and a way of putting contacts into groups for social networking known as ‘Circles’. ‘Hangouts’ allow a small group of contacts (10) to link up for a webcast session, and a ‘Mobile’ element most notably allows group instant messaging chats. For a fuller description of features, check out the official Google blog at http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/introducing-google-project-real-life.html.
Overall, the jury is currently split. Clearly Google is trying to take on Facebook with this venture, with the aim of drawing all users into one information finding & sharing tool. This is not lost on a great many commentators (cf. xkcd’s rather amusing strip), and it’s true that most people are focusing on the looming assault on Facebook. With high-profile failures in the form of Google Buzz and Google Wave, Google really need to do well with this product, though the project is not an off-the-cuff venture and has been in development for some time (cf. this very positive review from Wired). But it seems to be trying to do more…certainly one can see the appeal of having a tool which makes it easy to search and share, and addition of web-conferencing and mobile tools is a powerful incentive to try it. There are downsides with the current version (read Phil Bradley’s blog posting, which highlights the confusion about the ‘+1′ function for web-links which doesn’t seem to act like a ‘like’ button on Facebook), but it’s too early to really tell what will happen. Perhaps the big question many will keep asking is ‘Would it replace Facebook?’, though (speaking personally) this author of this posting would be tempted to try it in a workplace setting before deciding whether or not to shift lock/stock to Google+. Certainly this has the potential to be far more than ‘just another social networking tool’.
Will you be planning to use Google+? Join the debate below!
The World Map of Social Networks, which measures popularity of social networks around the world based on Alexa & Google Trends for Websites data, has been updated for 2011. You can also compare with older maps and browse an animated version of the map on the Vincos blog.
The Stay N Alive blog has an interesting post about how both Twitter and Facebook seem to have unceremoniously ditched RSS .
While Twitter have provided some basic information about how you can still use RSS (using the developer resources — so not particularly user-friendly), it’s still a crying shame that the RSS icon is no longer such a visible presence on the homepage. There are also various workarounds to be found for accessing Facebook feeds but no telling how long these will last.
There are plenty of reasons to keep an eye on social media rankings, from finding out what’s being said about your organisation (or anything else for that matter) to measuring the impact of a particular promotional campaign.
Menae is a new tool that let’s you check your website’s ranking across a number of avenues. It gives you a search engine score, social media score, traffic score, social bookmarking score and blog score. Fun to play with but it could sure use an ‘About’ page and it’s a new entry into a pretty crowded field. SocialScan offers something similar by checking a URL against the main social sites, including Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg and Twitter.
For a more general overview based on keywords, username or trends, Social Mention is hard to beat. You can set up an alert to receive regular updates.
And for making the case, the Search Engine Journal explains why social networking is important for SEO.