Entering a whole new virtual world, part I

Well apologies for the silence, having been way too immersed in the first assignment, but at last it’s time to return to the blogging fray and my continued exploration of Web 2.0 technologies, and in particular social media.

Venturing into a virtual world, Second Life in this case, has been quite an experience. It takes a while to get the hang of an avatar and moving about in a completely different space but I can see how it can easily become addictive (though not too addictive one hopes). Initially skeptical about how my alter ego running around in an alternative universe could have any bearing on life as an information professional, I soon realised the range of features that can support and enhance learning experiences. What’s key to me is the ability to interact and talk in real-time to others in the ‘in-world’, as it’s known. This enables groups to have online meetings, and make and watch presentations, without anyone having to leave the comfort of  home, or worry about how they look in real life – great for those that may normally feel self-conscious about interacting with a group. Imagine being able to attend a conference held on the other side of the world without having to even get out of your pyjamas?! Great for professional networking and development too as you can join groups with a shared interest. And as John Helmer points out in his comprehensive overview of Second Life, you can boldly go where you haven’t dared before, with little risk of embarrassment in the real world if it doesn’t all go to plan.

Having a second life isn’t without its frustrations, and simple things like learning to sit down, or change clothes without revealing all, have to be mastered, so there is a steep learning curve (Zhang, 2007). Problems with bandwidth can also affect sound quality making it difficult to interact with others on occasion.

Recognise me? Here's my avatar...

An academic library can use Second Life to support both employees and users. Numerous library-related conferences are held around the world, and librarians, if they are lucky, might get to attend one or two, but with Second Life, several librarians from the same institution can attend numerous virtual conferences, network, and even present papers, at little or no cost, and taking up far less time than an overseas trip (not to mention being far more environmentally friendly). For a library supporting distance learning, Second Life also offers the potential for e-learning with virtual tutorials and lectures, as well as training sessions on a variety of information-seeking skills.  It also enables students to connect and interact, creating a sense of community and enhancing the distance learning experience. This YouTube clip offers an excellent overview of the educational uses of Second Life.

References

Zhang, J. (2007). Second Life: Hype or reality? Higher education in the virtual world. Retrieved from http://deoracle.org/online-pedagogy/emerging-technologies/second-life.html

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RSS feeds – gotta love ’em

Task: Find two (2) additional examples of ‘RSS in action’, and develop a 350 word post on how RSS can enhance a library or information service’s ability to meet the information needs of its users.

Two good examples of ‘RSS in action’ are Georgetown University and The Washington Post.

An organisation with many varied departments, such as Washington DC’s Georgetown University, or an information service, such as the Washington Post newspaper, have so much information (that changes regularly, particularly in the case of a news organisation) to share with users that it can frequently be overwhelming for the user. By offering RSS feeds for particular departments or categories it enables the user to be selective and choose the areas for which they wish to receive regular updates. The user is in control of what new information they want to receive, and when they want to receive it. As RSS feeds always include links back to a Web site, it will increase traffic to the website, thereby benefiting the RSS publisher.

RSS feeds provide summaries of articles enabling the user to decide whether to download the full article or not, saving surfing/browsing time.

The user can decide when to access their RSS reader and see what news updates are available from their selected RSS feeds, negating the need to regularly check individual websites for updates, and avoiding email overload from websites informing the user of any news or blog updates. By subscribing to a certain feed, the user can get updates on it immediately. The user doesn’t even need access to an email account and the feeds will also always come in a style that the user’s computer can read.

Another advantage to the user is that RSS feeds are almost always free of charge so no paying to be on a mailing list. The user also doesn’t need to worry about being taken off a mailing list either without their knowledge as they control which lists they want to receive updates from and whether to unsubscribe at any time. Also important is that RSS feeds are very private and secure. No personal information needs to be given out when signing up for a feed. And finally RSS feeds can’t get blocked by spam or email filters.

So in a nutshell, using RSS feeds can definitely enhance an information service’s ability to meet the information needs of its users!

Worldstart provided useful information for compiling this post.

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Wow, this is much much bigger than just Facebook!

Feeling pretty daunted I have to admit as I finish reading Module 1 and come to realise how huge social networking and social media has become without me somehow noticing. Yes I have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile, (but mainly because everyone else I know seems to have one and it’s a great way of tracking down long lost school friends  – though also makes you realise why they were long lost…) but there is SO much else out there. No wonder everyone is now constantly checking their mobile or netbook – they’re not wondering if they have the odd text message or email but they’re getting their Twitter feeds, downloading their favourite blogs, watching movies, living another life… Makes me think that there might come a time, in the not too distant future, when no one actually talks (in the old fashioned ‘open your mouth and words come out’ way) to anyone else, they’ll just tweet, post, tag or blog instead!!

What seems to be key is organising what information you want to receive and what information you want to share, otherwise you’d just drown in it all. Having not understood what all the fuss was about Twitter, for example, a recent International Herald Tribune article set me straight on a few things, including searching for tweets on particular topics of interest and creating lists. Now it might actually be useful. I just need to find the time to actually create these lists…

And on another matter, I’m still not sure how a virtual world such as Second Life is going to improve my life, though presumably all will be revealed in due course! As long as it doesn’t become all-consuming as demonstrated by the tragic story of the South Korean couple who let their baby starve to death whilst they become obsessed with raising a virtual child. How sad is that?

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Social Networking and what it means to me, right now

So here it is, the very first entry in my very first blog. At last I have found a reason to start one and at the same time prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Whilst this blog is the vehicle for my online journal (OLJ) for one of the two final subjects in my Master of Applied Science in Library & Information Management (yep, it’s a mouthful, and hence the title of this blog), who knows, I might just get carried away and continue this on, and on, and on…

But enough of the chitchat and on with the job at hand for my first assignment for INF506 Social Networking for Information Professionals:

(a) How do I define social networking?

Social networking (in the context of online technologies) is sharing information 21st century style, via a computer or mobile phone, with a variety of multi-media, and using a social networking site, such as facebook, flickr, or twitter. Networks of any size can be created and used, for example, to share holiday photos and videos with close friends and family; let anyone who is interested know about useful online resources; network with other professionals; or tell the world about something that has just happened, that very second. In today’s information and knowledge-based economies social networking would appear to be one of the more favoured methods for both individuals and organizations to quickly communicate information, if judged by the millions  currently using various social networking sites (facebook statistics).

(b) Here are the social networking technologies and sites I already use (for personal, work and study purposes):

delicious facebook LinkedIn twitter but I have no doubt this list will grow quite substantially as I progress through the course.

(c) What do I expect to learn from completing INF506?

I expect to become far better acquainted with a number of different types of social networking sites; how they operate; how effective they are; and the various social, cultural, ethical and technical issues associated with them; and to learn not only how they can be of better use to me in my personal life, but more importantly, how they can best be used in a library or information management environment to help with communication and to satisfy user needs.

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