Archive for August, 2010

Friday Foolery #99: Socialism at the YMCA

Friday, August 27th, 2010

In honor of 90 years of women having the right to vote in the United States as of yesterday, I’m featuring my great-great grandma Irene. The littlest guy biting his lip is my great-grandpa.


She registered to vote in 1912, a year after women could do so in California.

Did she follow along with the politics of her all-male family?

1912 Voter Reg Alameda County Berkeley

Not only was she Socialist (although they all went Bull Moose for 1914), she was the matron of the YMCA in Berkeley. The YMCA (address listed for great-great grandpa) is still the same today, and my great-grandpa took over his dad’s job for a while when his parents retired from the YMCA in the 1920s.  I need to research but they may have been the first 2 directors there.

Yep, two generations of my family’s leadership at the Berkeley…

YMCA by the Village People

If any of them had been alive when that ubiquitous song came out in 1978 I like to think they would have laughed.

Friday Foolery #98: Why I’ll Never Get Into Med School

Friday, August 20th, 2010

What, never?

No, never.

I had the honest pleasure of working with Emily Keller (of Librarians Do GaGa fame) for what will be a silent film with voiceover UW Health Sciences Library promotion video.

This is what I came up with when Janet Schnall added ‘writing a prescription’ on the spot. On the first take I forgot about the prescription entirely.

The snippet of the second take may or may not reflect my current mental health status.

This was recorded by Alison Aldrich, who was documenting the film-making process, for a class we’re teaching.

Even more exciting, we’re filming again today for a class promotion video.

Stay tuned for next Friday!

Rethinking failure: Google Wave

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

For a blogger, covering the demise of Google Wave as announced on August 4th several weeks later is rather slow but it’s given me time to reflect. Laikas did a great job getting the news out quickly to the medical library community, especially the part about where there is still perceived value in Wave from a health information technology perspective for electronic medical records.

I am glad I wrote up the coverage of Seattle’s use of Google Wave during a chaotic manhunt last fall from a community emergency communication perspective and hope Google is taking the lessons learned about how people used Wave to seek and add information into new communication channels to experiment with.

Was Wave an “outright failure” on Google’s part? Perhaps not.

Posted on Slate’s The Wrong Stuff the day before the Google Wave announcement was an interview with Peter Norvig, Google’s director of research. If you’re not familiar with The Wrong Stuff it was supposed to be a brief series of eight people discussing the role of error in their lives and professional fields. Thankfully they have agreed to continue the series and I highly recommend adding their RSS feed to your reader since they are fairly intermittent but well worth checking out when they publish.

Part of the first answer alone should grab you, bold emphasis mine:

If you’re a politician, admitting you’re wrong is a weakness, but if you’re an engineer, you essentially want to be wrong half the time. If you do experiments and you’re always right, then you aren’t getting enough information out of those experiments. You want your experiment to be like the flip of a coin: You have no idea if it is going to come up heads or tails. You want to not know what the results are going to be.

and further on down:

I’ve been at both ends. My previous job was at NASA, where you really don’t want your shuttles to blow up very often. So there they spend hundreds of millions of dollars to protect their astronauts’ lives. Here, we’re kind of at the other end. Failure is always an option at Google.

I encourage reading the whole article for some reflection, especially where he has an interesting take on library sciences technology (hint: not favorable or accurate in my opinion). From my limited time and perspective in the field thus far I see a lot of the library field as fearing and avoiding failure at almost all costs. Perfectionism can sometimes run so rampant that it squelches any hint of innovation in its path, yet it is innovation that leads to experiments in the first place.

Are libraries so NASA-caliber that failure can never be an option? No. Mark Funk reminded us in 2008 that “We Have Always Done It That Way” isn’t an answer, it’s an excuse. At the same time library science journals seem to follow suit with not publishing about failure often as other journals do in not publishing when drug experiments failed.

I can understand why: it takes a lot of extra time and effort that many librarians do not have to write for publication, and who wants that to highlight a failure? Is there an opportunity for a Wrong Stuff resource of library-related errors and experiments gone wrong so we’re not all reinventing the wheel in isolation from one another? The publish button in WordPress makes the process pretty painless!

Friday Foolery #97: Advice for college $$

Friday, August 13th, 2010

As August turns to September and back to school sales run rampant, it’s only natural for college students to cringe and wonder how surviving on more than Ramen is possible as tuition skyrockets and eats up an ever-increasing amount of their student loan money.

Have no fear.

I have identified a most helpful resource and, best of all, since it is on Google it’s FREE!

Over 100 Ways to Work One’s Way Through College was written 105 years ago by an author from the plains of Iowa who began college with the clothes he wore and $9.27 (‘however, he had plenty of pluck’) You, too, can find a way to sell breakfast foods, sing in church choirs, solicit orders for wood and coal, act as a pastor (!), organize orchestras & give concerts, be a night operator in telephone exchange (that sounds illicit), solicit orders for underwear (oh my), peel potatoes, and lecture for the Anti-Saloon League.

What’s not all that different for college jobs in this modern 21st century life? Waiting tables and washing dishes (been there), daycare jobs (done that), do bookkeeping (1st job out of college), delivering papers (probably not for much longer), selling copies of lectures and previous tests (and you thought this was a recent vice!), sell books, and be an amateur photographer.

Best of luck, scholar!

Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Education, as always

Social Media in Health & Medicine (and Reference? Emergencies?)

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

It was a pleasure to participate in Highlight Health‘s hosting of Social Media in Health and Medicine, Medlibs Round 2.7. Thank you for an excellent compilation and presentation, Walter!

I’ve been talking about social media a lot here recently, I have just a few more updates related to social media then I’ll move on to other subjects.

Twitter as Government Agency Reference Source

I am encouraged by the step the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has taken by announcing they will monitor a hashtag, #findsamhsa, to assist people who are seeking information from their numerous helpful pamphlets and online resources. So far I haven’t seen where people have used the hashtag except in retweets, but the agency’s willingness to try this way to engage in assisting health information seekers is commendable. I’d suggest they include a blurb about it on their social media page though so others will know about this service after this scrolls off the immediate horizon from their Twitter posts. We already know how I feel about #pubmed so I won’t rehash that hashtag.

Increased Social Media Use in Emergencies – 74% of Those Posting Expect Help in 1 Hour

Everyone needs to review the report of a Red Cross survey released this week about the usage of social media in emergencies. Of course, the first step should always be to call your emergency services number (911 in the United States) but what if the phone lines are down? 1 in 5 of the 1,058 adult participants would try to get help via email, websites or social media.

What was particularly notable are the expectations people have when they use social media in this way, bold emphasis mine

Web users also have clear expectations about how first responders should be answering their requests. The survey showed that 69 percent said that emergency responders should be monitoring social media sites in order to quickly send help—and nearly half believe a response agency is probably already responding to any urgent request they might see.

And the survey respondents expected quick response to an online appeal for help—74 percent expected help to come less than an hour after their tweet or Facebook post.


More web users say they get their emergency information from social media than from a NOAA weather radio, government website or emergency text message system. One in five social media users also report posting eyewitness accounts of emergency events to their accounts.

The National Weather Service has taken a step in this direction by encouraging the use of the #wxreport hashtag for severe weather events… but the reality is you can’t preassign a hashtag to be used in an emergency. People will inherently create their own individual ones, the local social media community will reach a hive mind consensus on what it is, and onward it goes. From my perspective this is why agency social media channels need to build relationships so they are aware of who their audience is and what they are discussing, so in an emergency the agency will know what specific hashtag will be most useful to convey information to those who need it.

Friday Foolery #96: Killing the 5 second rule

Friday, August 6th, 2010

I’m glad that health education videos for children (and rural health outreach programs in general) have come quite far since 1971, when Ro-Revus Talks About Worms was produced by The Malnutrition and Parasite Project of the University of South Carolina and funded by the Office of Economy Opportunity.

Key points to remember:

  1. Never use the out of doors for a bafroom. The bushes in your yard, or the dirt on your doorstep, is not a bafroom.
  2. Oh look! You can see the little baby worms inside the eggs!
  3. … If you don’t use your toilet or privy, if you use the out of doors for a bafroom, all of those eggs will get into the dirt.

I can’t even talk about the length of the dead tapeworms next to rulers in here and how racial bias is definitely present.

Now for your instructor and model student, frog and squirrel puppets:

Libraries and Social Media: Who gives a tweet?

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

by Brian Lane Winfield Moore

I’ve been working on a followup assessment to a baseline I did last year about our work blog.  Recently we’ve been branching into social media for communication and I’m honestly not all that sure what strategies we will use to include them in assessment for the future.

Should your library have a social media policy? Libraries need a social media strategy!  *WARNING: the next page has the f-bomb as URL* What the *censored* is my social media strategy? I jest, but it is wise to develop some sort of structure to avoid embarrassing yourself and your library.

‘How can you show the value of social media?’ or  ‘What’s the ROI?’ if you’re in sales and marketing are common questions. I don’t have the answers, but a new study by the University of Southampton, MIT and Georgia Institute of Technology has launched Who Gives A Tweet? to receive feedback about messages on Twitter. They started off offering somewhat immediate feedback on your own tweets by friends & strangers, but have scaled back to rating “a few strangers’ tweets before you rate your friends’ tweets.”

From Science Daily,

“Social networking sites currently take an optimistically positive view of status updates,” says Paul André, graduate student at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science. “Facebook enables users to ‘like’ their friends’ updates, and Twitter has ‘favourites’. But this ignores the value that could be gained from understanding which updates are disliked and why.”

Michael Bernstein, PhD student at MIT, comments: “Analysing the negatively rated tweets, and the consensus that forms around them, will help us understand the emerging approved or accepted norms in these new forms of online communication.”

I’m not sure about this & haven’t signed up my own account. For me, much of what I write and tweet is with an understanding (I hope) of my target audience of  librarian colleagues and others interested in health and library information. Strangers wouldn’t necessarily pick up on those nuances. My own friends have told me they have no idea what I’m tweeting about most of the time. That’s ok since they love me anyway (or at least they haven’t unfollowed me yet), but it wouldn’t be ok if a library’s Twitter account followers didn’t get the message.

For all the talk about what libraries should be doing with policies and strategies for social media, what about making sure their patrons perceive the library’s use of social media as positive? What is the equivalent of website usability study that can be done by a social media audience of patrons for the library social media channel? Since offering feedback via social media about companies and their websites is new, this may be too far of a stretch currently but it’s one I see on the horizon.