Thursday, March 24, 2005

metaphysical triangulation

Example A.
3 a.m. I can't sleep. Actually, I woke myself up thinking about things I needed to do today, and since I couldn't get back to sleep, I read. I'm reading Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice --anyway, so I'm reading, and I'm thinking, "this is so dead on...regret or fear of regret really does drive a lot of of our decisions....everyone who talks about experience libraries needs to read this...this completely explains customer service in Johnson County (an affluent county with a high-expection of everything)...and more...." and while I'll write more about Schwartz's convincing arguments in later posts, I need to get on with my story...

5:30 a.m. I finally can't keep my eyes open and go back to sleep.

6:50 a.m. I finally get out of bed, stumble into the bathroom to take my shower, turn on NPR, and there is Barry Schwartz talking about regret and the implications of choice in our society, and the other arguments I've been reading lo those early morning hours, so I start wondering if maybe I'm not really awake yet. Turns out I was awake. But there's something about reading a book at the same time that the author turns up on NPR. It's like I found the secret reading list, and somehow the heavens are aligning for me.

Example B.
This morning's inspirational quote from Fast Company:

-----Original Message-----From: Fast Company's First Impression [] Sent: Thursday, March 24, 2005 5:00 AMTo: Reynolds, Erica, JCLSubject: First Impression: Conference Room CreativityMarch 24, 2005

"The best ideas probably don't occur when everybody is sitting around a table." —Adrian Caddy, Creative Director, Imagination Ltd.

After I opened up the article linking to this "first impression" quote, I was happily surprised to see that it is an article on Guinness and brand marketing. "Guinness as a brand is all about community. It's about bringing people together and sharing stories," says Ralph Ardill, director of marketing and strategic planning.... "And Guinness stout is a great social catalyst."

Ok, isn't that some kind of sign? Of what I'm not sure, but it has to be some sort of positive convergence. Kind of like metaphysical triangulation to prove you're on the right path with whatever you're trying to work out...Guinness, community, & connections....

Saturday, March 19, 2005

What Joe Kraus has learned....

Three good points on management from Joe Kraus, co-founder and CEO of JOTSPOT and co-creator of Excite, in this month's FastLane:

1. "Very early on, the founders of startups make an important choice. Do they want success or control? Neither is bad so long as the choice is explicit. I've picked success. And success implies giving up control--hiring people who are much better than you, or being willing to be the janitor if that's what's required." I completely agree--hire good people, and get out of their way.

2. "Never compromise on hiring. Every time I've compromised, I've come to regret it. You have to be tough, even if that means not hiring people who could turn out to be great, because of the damage one person who isn't great can do." One thing I've decided to do next time I interview is to ensure that the potential team member not only understands metaphors, but can apply them and create new ones. Although I can't say it's a magic bullet, I will say that I think that people who have trouble thinking with metaphors have problems with systems thinking and understanding multiple perspectives--two requirements for people who work in the Web world developing, creating, and repackaging content for public library patrons.....

3. "Nothing demotivates people like the equal treatment of unequals. When you hire a bozo and treat him the same as the rock star, it deflates the rock star." I'm no rock star, but this really hit home. It's probably a sign of being a bit too externally motivated and a bit of a praise junkie, but the few times that I've been in situations where incompetent people were tolerated and the rest of us had to pick up the slack, I high-tailed it out of there fast. It's not just a matter of incompetent people being tolerated--it's also simply no fun to work with people who suck at what they do. On the other hand, it's oh so fun to work with people who are engaged and keep me on my toes. Friendly competition is a good thing.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Computers in Libraries: for those of us who didn't make the trip

I've been loving all the post from bloggers at Computers in Libraries--although it makes me wish I had gone this year, I can't thank them all enough for the up-to-date posts and overviews of the presentations! And since the data is streaming out gradually as folks attend different presentations, make new connections, meet new people, it's almost like I'm there--or at least way better than scanning through the presentation slides after the fact.

Some of my favorites so far:

LibraryWebChic's post on Social Networking Software (because I wish I could have been there, and then had a list of everyone else who attended/is interested in colloborating on ideas for public libraries...)

InfoToday's Blog & overview of the conference

Dave King's posts on Stephen Abram's tech innovation presentation

Michael Stephen's posts & pictures

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Big things from small teams

Christian Crumlish and Pete Gaughan's Power of Many blog steered me toward Terry Storch's overview of Jason Fried's presentation on how to make big things happen with small teams. Here are just a few of my favorite points...Read the rest at Storch's post: SxSW: How to make big things happen with small teams...

hire the right people!- passionate and happy
well rounded
quick learners
good writers
act your size
don’t try and be a big company
less formalities
more flexible
more change
more freedom
embrace constraints
less people, more power
less money, more value
less resources, better use
less time, better time
build half a product not a half-a** product
there is nothing functional about a functional spec

Icarus flying through the blogosphere at Santa Fe Public

Karen Schneider (Free Range Librarian) gives kudos to Santa Fe Public's blog, Icarus, "As Ranganathan said, blogs are for use, and Icarus flies high in meeting that goal. It feels friendly and engaged, like a good librarian. Icarus puts a human face on Santa Fe's web presence. Kudos to the folks responsible for making it happen, and may you have many good posts ahead of you. URL: Icarus: A Great Model for Library Blogs."

I agree--it's crisp and clean, and while it's using Blogger, they've customized the template with a direct catalog search with drop-down search options, and they've use a neutral design format, so the emphasis is on the content (local photos of library stacks, street signs, and coverart).

I've been thinking that we needed to wait to implement a blog because we haven't indentified a home-hosted software solution--but, Santa Fe Public's example is inspiring and a fantastic example of how you don't have to host your blog yourself to serve your patrons through the blogosphere.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Mix Lunch, Art and Science at Kemper

Mix Lunch, Art and Science at Kemper

I'll be busy at a workshop on Friday, March 18, but this would be a great way to spend a Friday afternoon lunch....hmmm.....libraries should do this....

"Using the string-like abstract paintings of Mark Sheinkman as the basis for his discussion, Keith Ashman, UMKC assistant professor of physics, will describe how the universe is filled with vast chainlike filaments of galaxies interspersed with regions of comparative emptiness.

This “Feed Your Mind” presentation takes place at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, March 18. Box lunches from Café Sebastienne are available for $8 each."

Bloug on UX--if you're serious, you'll get a team

From Louis Rosenfeld's Bloug: "The obvious implication of Tom's and similar UX illustrations is that one person can't be expected to demonstrate expertise in all these areas; organizations need to invest in multi-disciplinary *teams* if they're serious about UX." I couldn't agree more, although I admit it's a hard pill to swallow.

This is why I have to fight the urge to try to take over the tech side of my Web world. It's hard to have to depend on others to take care of the databases, servers, and back end of my Web, when I'm not getting what I want, and I really, really want my hands on it. I want to play. But the truth is, I don't want to be a programmer, and even if I did, I would suck at it. The model we have set up--with specific FTE dedicated to content creation, development, and repackaging and other specific FTE dedicated to programming is the way to go. It's just oh, so frusterating when I want to get my hands on my code. ; )

Fan-freakin-tastic UX diagram from Tom Smith

Been thinkin' about content, functionality, and experience?

Check out Tom Smith's user experience diagram. I knew I loved this the moment I opened it, but when I saw my hero Tufte sitting pretty in the lower central , my heart skipped a beat. Mmmm.... Tufte... (think Homer eyeing a gooey donut....)....

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Public Library Toolbar Lust

Harris County Public Library has the most fantastic tool bar now available for download. I've seen other toolbars, but I love this idea for public libraries. I always complain about vendors trying to hi-jack my site by favoring their branding/format over ours, but you know, we have to fight the urge to do the same thing to patrons--we need to integrate the library's Web services into their worlds--not try to get them to adapt to ours...ok, that's obvious, but the toolbar is the answer.

Choosing poorly, or rather choosing not to choose at all: libraries & Web design

Earlier last month, I couldn't really think about this without spiraling into despair, because our site makes a lot of mistakes, too (working on it, working on it...) but now that I'm content-ed again, I have to reference Erica Olsen's post on lousy library Webs, even though it's old news now. Because I think that part of the issue behind poor library Web design is that we don't choose at all...our sites are a reflection of a lack of focus overall. There are a lot of good and understandable reasons for this, but it's one thing to choose poorly (putting the needs of the org before the patron's), it's something else, and I would argue more wide-spread in the world of library Web design to not choose at all....and this is an ailment particular to non-profits. We want to serve everyone all the time in everyway, and we don't do anyone any favors when we forget that we have limited resources as well, so we need to do what we can for the biggest bang. I really need to read Paradox of Choice.

Glass: Art, Science & Inspiration

I'm a museum junkie, so really, as long as a museum is well-designed and the exhibits are well-developed, I'm gonna love it. Regardless of the focus, good museums are almost always about the realtionships and interactions among ideas, matter, nature, and people. But, one of the best muesums I've ever been to is the Corning Museum of Glass.

Their whole experience is about the interaction between art and science, and every time I think about it, I get all woozy and drunk with love. Even if you can't make it to NY this weekend, have some fun reading about the properties of glass and connections of art/science in glass, and try to keep your head in the midsts of all the yummy metaphors (how can you not get excited about thinking about chaos frozen and the implications for fiber optics and Internet connections, which of course, are here for us, courtesy of glass....)...Also, there is a quick, sappy, but satisfying poem about the nature of art, Art is the Big In-Between.

Disney Crack/Content Dealers

Six little kids lined up on a couch watching Lion King is also satisfying and happy, and not entirely lacking in substance. Although I felt like a crack dealer. One second I have six preschoolers squealing and stomping a parade through my living room, study, kitchen and back again; one second later, I pull out the Lion King DVD, and a bizarre hush fell over the house. The couch took on some kind of magnetic property, and before I could get the all the speaker settings adjusted, they had lined themselves up on the couch, thumbs popped into mouths, waiting for their fix.

This reminds me--we have got to get to work with Kansas City Public Library and Dave King to create an entertaining library-related DVD for kids that we give away for free across the metro KC area. Libraries need to harness this power and commandeer the DVDs in mini-vans--wouldn't it be lovely to see & hear storytellers while waiting in traffic? Wouldn't it be lovely to see kids interacting, not just zoombified?

Content: three ways

Ok, you hit the wall, and know that something’s about to bend, break, or shatter into a hundred thousand pieces, and then, woosh….you turn the corner and everything’s blue skies…

I've been despairing about my inability getting anything real done. I mean, I can talk a lot, and dream big, but what have I actually gotten done in the last (almost) year and a half since I returned to the library world? It's all soft stuff--and nothing I can offer up for others to lay their eyeballs on.... the sleek yet oh so satisfying Public Library Web site I have in my dreams continues to elude me.

But, that was the bend/break's the return of blue skies...My actual title is Web Content Manager—which is the coolest title I’ve ever had, and I have Tim, my boss, aka Infocommuner, to thank for creating it, anyway, as I was goofing around tonight after hosting my sister-in-law Shan’s 30th birthday party (an event that included 7 children under the age of 4 in a rather small and only partially remodeled 100 year old house), I was thinking about content. Somehow (and this is a little stupid) it had escaped me that content was an adjective, noun, and a verb, and (well, this could be even more stupid), that totally got me jazzed up. I want nothing more than to be a conduit for satisfaction, happiness, and substance. Woo hoo!