Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why Reading is a Flawed Dying Technology with Ed Castillo

Presenter: Ed Castillo, CSO, NY, TBWA\Chiat\Day
Hashtags: #DodoMedium

The title of this talk was just too good to pass up. Castillo admitted right off, he named the talk purposefully to get people riled up. Folks are touchy about reading; it's a sacred cow. Before anyone could light a torch and grab a pitchfork, he clarified: Curling up with a book is an artistic experience. That's not what he is talking about. He's talking about reading as a form of communication.

First, is reading dying or is it simply flawed? Castillo asked, are you reading less? If the answer is yes, that is support for the idea that reading is dying. He argues that it is also flawed.

If the intention of writing, speaking and gesturing is to communicate, then writing just isn't as good as other visuals. Writing is an imperfect medium for communicating. It's a point that is hard to argue with. We know the best form of communication is typically face-to-face. Little of what we are communicating is in our words alone, so how can writing do our message justice.

Castillo said, "I’m not trying to burn down the libraries..." If that's a reference to the future of books versus other media, I say, "Don't worry about us, Ed, we're way ahead of you."

Libraries have been thinking about the evolution of communication and our role in the changing media landscape for decades. But often we cling to traditional styles in our own communications.

In libraries, we use writing as a default mechanism for relaying information. How and when could we find other ways to communicate? I think there are a number of obvious answers worth exploring, but I also think this question could lead to some interesting discussion about new opportunities to communicate with our users. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tweet Like a Roman with Tom Standage

Presenter: Tom Standage, Digital Editor, The Economist
Hashtag: #RomanTweet

This was one of the SxSW "Future 15" sessions, which I love as a presentation format. Normal sessions are one hour, but Future 15s pack four sessions into an hour session. It forces speakers to get to the best information quickly. If a session turns out to be less than stellar, you only have to wait for 15 minutes. If the session are great (and usually they are) you get four times the sessions in one sitting.

"Tweet Like a Roman" wasn't as professionally educational as some, but it was super fun and very interesting. Standage spent his 15 minutes explaining how early communication was actually social media. For example, Romans depended on social distribution of media. They used abbreviations to keep messages short. They used tablet-like devices to record messages. They also used social connections to get ahead.

Standage gave a TEDx talk very similar to his SxSW presentation. You can watch him pack an hour's worth of information into 16 minutes below. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Travel Must Haves: Airplane Edition

I'm taking a weekend break from the SxSW updates to blog something a bit more personal. John and I are in countdown mode for our next trip (Ecuador!), and being the organizing geek that I am, I already obsessing over what to pack.

We're 25+ countries in to our mission to see the world, so you'd think I have this down by now. But every place is different, and we learn something new about travel each time. I was looking for posts on "Travel Must Haves," and I was a bit disappointed. I just kept thinking, my existing list is better than these. So I thought I'd share.

The complete list is pretty long, so I'm breaking it up. Here are must haves for the plane. I think you'll see my themes are stay warm and hydrate.

  • Snacks: Depending on the length of the flight, I pack a couple granola bars to sandwiches and sides. I get hunger-rage, so keeping my blood sugar level is vital to a happy flight. Seriously, if I got hungry enough the flight marshals would probably get called in. Rules are always changing, but typically you can get your food through security no problem as long as it's not a liquid. 
  • Water: Dehydration is what makes you feel icky after a flight. You won't get a bottle of water through security, but you can buy it after the checkpoint (or fill up your own at a water fountain) and bring it on the plane with you. I've had some international carriers prohibit this, but it's always worth a shot. 
  • Fuzzy Socks: Even on the shortest flights, I bring a thick pair of sock to change into. Those planes are cold! Fuzzy socks keep me warm and comfy. 
  • Neck Pillow & Blanket: Sure they'll provide these, just try not to think about where they've been. For longer flights when I know I'll want to sleep, I bring my own. I like an inflatable neck pillow (to save room in the bag) and a small throw-sized fleece blanket. 
  • Hand Wipes & Hand Sanitizer: Have I mentioned that planes are dirty, groody places? I wouldn't recommend washing your hands in the lavatory, much less your face. Hand wipes and sanitizer are a must to feel good and stay healthy. Use them before eating anything and any time you start feel grimy. 
  • Lotion, Moisturizing Spritz & Lip Balm: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, any way you can. These are essential for longer flights. I have this wonderful moisturizing aromatherapy face mist, I can't fly without it. Add some lotion and lip balm, and you can exit a 14 hour flight without feeling like the cryptkeeper.
  • Reading Material: Just duh. Don't underestimate how much you can read on a flight/trip. I once plowed through 8 books in a 2 week trek across India. E-readers are great for packing an assortment of books and magazines without bursting your carry on (or your baggage weight limit). 
  • Earbuds: Again, where have those prepacked headphones been? Answer, you don't want to know. Bring your own. Pro tip: pop them in with or without music to get the guy next to you to stop talking to you. 

So what am I missing? What are your must haves for the plane?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Compelling Image in the Age of Social Media: a Workshop

The number of workshops offered at this year's SxSW was greatly expanded. These hands-on sessions tended to span two or more time slots. It's hard enough to choose sessions, so to give up multiple time slots, a workshop needs to be pretty darn special. I was glad I gave up two and half hours of my first afternoon for Marty Coleman's photo mini-class.

The name of the session was a bit misleading. We talked very little about social media. It was actually a basic photography class using only smartphones.

The phone you carry around everyday has a better camera on it than any digital camera we had access to 10 years ago, but for some reason, many people don't trust their phone cameras. I don't know if early cell cameras tainted their view, or if they just haven't mastered holding the tiny panel still while tapping the screen.

In my office, we're already using our smartphones to capture a lot of the images we share on the Library's accounts. The intern team is particularly good at this. They'll see something interesting while they are walking into work, snap a photo with their phone and then upload when they get into the office. This workshop helped me realize that with a little instruction and a little motivation, all our employees could be contributing great images for our accounts.

If you've ever taken a basic photography class most of the lighting and composition techniques you learned will apply to smartphone images. Get good front lighting, look for interesting angles, and play attention to your composition.

We did a handful of quick photo exercises, but my favorite was looking for compelling images of empty spaces. If you've ever tried to put together a quote on photo, you'll appreciate this one. These popular social media postings work best when the majority of the picture provides a neutral canvas for your words.

Hashtags: #sxsw #compelling

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Austin Kleon Keynote

The keynotes at SxSW tend to be big picture, fairly basic and more on the inspirational versus informational side. This was true of Austin Kleon's opening keynote. For me one of the best things to come from this talk was discovering Austin's site

Kleon talked about the process of creativity and the importance of sharing not just the finished product but also the work that got us there. He claims that opening up and sharing your process brings you closer to an audience, adds value to your work, and makes you better at what you do.

He had a great insight for sharing behavior online. He said, when you share other people's work treat it with the same amount of respect you would treat your own work. I really like this concept, and it seems like a nice frame to promote ethical behavior online.

Hashtags: #showURwork