What difference does WordPress make, compared to a University’s own blogging platform?

When I worked at the University of Warwick, I used their proprietary blogging tool. This was largely because we could set permissions for blog entries to be visible only to Uni members, or a particular department or course, etc.

Now that I’ve left, I’m finally exploring WordPress. So, how is it different? Here are some things that I’ve noticed, so far:

1) It is (naturally) a place with a bigger and world-wide community. In theory, any blog could reach anyone online, but the “home” platform of a blog promotes it in its own ways, to its own community. Using WordPress helps a blogger to reach more people: if maximum audience is your goal, then this seems good. But it could be that you want to target your your audience and invest more time interacting with them. At first, on WordPress, I started to look at who was following me or who had “liked” my post. This has not been such a fruitful use of my time as it was when I used Warwick’s blog platform. Incidentally, it is not so fruitful as when I look at Twitter likes and follows, either:  more evidence of the value of tweeting from your blog.

Using WordPress has taught me that if I want to get to know someone through their blog, the best way is to comment there in a meaningful and intelligent way.

2) The obvious point: it looks different and has slightly different ways to create and edit a post, and to manage the blog. This is not a big deal as I blog in quite simple ways, and can do what I want on either platform. But there is also a lot more power and possibility with WordPress, that interests me and that might even be inspiring when I convince myself that it’s not at all daunting!

3) WordPress comes with its own blog reader tool: one of the ways it makes your blog available to others to read, and with it you can follow others’ WordPress blogs, too. This could be handy in the wake of Google Reader’s demise: I do need to investigate more, though.

4) WordPress gives me a Gravatar, which Wikipedia gives basic information about. I’m not sure how useful this will be, outside of Worpress’s own environment, however.

With more investment of time, I’m sure that I would discover more differences, but that’s what I have noticed fairly quickly.

So many ways to tweet!

With so many social media channels and a full e-mail inbox, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to tweet like a pro… but there are many ways to maximise your Twitter time.

When you want to tweet, you can go to twitter.com and type something amazing in by hand, or you could:

1) Go to LinkedIn to type something amazing in by hand, and reach two online communities for the price of one (if you joined them up that way).

2) Link Twitter to your online bookmarking tool so that whenever you add a new bookmark, it gets tweeted to your contacts. You can do this in many different ways, but one possible route is through IFTTT.com. You might want to get sophisticated and have a separate collection that is to be tweeted, rather than all of your bookmarks.

3) Link your blog so that a tweet goes out with the title, whenever you publish a new blog post. (Then think about Twitter when giving your blog posts titles & the first line!)

4) Follow other people’s tweets and re-tweet one or two, when you find something interesting.

5) When you read an interesting blog post or news article, click on the “tweet this” button, to share it with other people. Say why you liked it to personalise it a bit.

Those are my tips, but there are lots of other ways to tweet, and if you use twittercounter.com or a similar tool occasionally, then you can keep an eye on your own activity, to make sure that you’re tweeting regularly, keeping up appearances! I also find Hootsuite invaluable as I can see at a glance on one page, if anyone has mentioned me or direct tweeted me: it’s important to respond to these appropriately and fast, if you’re on twitter.

And of course, if you have a smart phone then you can do all this at the bus stop or in a canteen queue 😉

Using Twitter to advertise or find Library jobs

I read a good blog post about job-searching using Twitter.  I thought how it might also be interesting for library recruiters, who want to know how to reach a wider pool of candidates through Twitter… and of course, for other librarians who are job hunting! This is in no way an exhaustive list for a job seeker (terms off the top of my head and from a quick Google), but it throws up some interesting ideas.

Here is my list of accounts and hashtags that I found, starting with two recommended in that blog post:

  • @libgig_jobs : mostly used for America, by the look of it, but I also spotted one in Shanghai!
  • #Tweetmyjobs : according to that blog post, this is the hashtag of choice for job adverts. Search for this, along with #library and you get some relevant stuff.
Beyond the tips from the blog post:
  • #hiring : search along with #library: most opportunities are in the US.
  • #jobs : same story as #hiring
  • #vacancies : combined with #library turns up a Cambridge Uni post, CILIP and the Norwich Job centre, amongst others. #vacancy also works, with #library. It’s a term that is more common in British English, I think.
  • #libraryjobs : mostly US but I spotted the Uni of Derby & Uni of Bristol on there.
  • #libjobs : Uni of Perth (as in Highlands & Islands) spotted here, but mostly US…
  • #lisjobs : More UK focussed. I spotted York Uni (with #yorkshire tag) and British Library here.
  • @AcadLibJobs : North American focus.
  • @LibraryPosition : appears entirely US.
  • @LibraryJobs : tweets library jobs in Ireland.

If you’re a recruiter looking for a wide catchment and/or a social media savvy recruit, then I recommend that you copy this format when advertising a job on Twitter, as widely as possible:  New post added today! [short link] #vacancies #LISjobs #libraryjobs #libjobs #Library #jobs.  Plus a hashtag indicating the region or country of your library.

If you’re a job seeker then: good luck; don’t forget to keep your own online profile professional-looking; do go beyond my list to look on the vacancies webpages of Universities and libraries of interest to you, to see if they tweet about jobs or prefer other advertising mechanisms. And don’t forget about national organisations like CILIP for the UK, they have excellent advice.

One final thought: I did get an English language bias, of course, because my search terms are all in English, but I didn’t spot any opportunities in Australia or New Zealand… I wonder why?

Slideshare updating

Having discovered that my Slideshare profile sits quite high on Google, here are the things I did to refresh it:

1) I logged in through my LinkedIn profile and was offered the option to link Slideshare to LinkedIn: I remember doing this once already, but perhaps they offer new features now. There were various tick boxes offered, for me to choose just how closely I want the accounts linked.

2) Even though I joined it to Linkedin, I needed to update my Slideshare profile by hand. I uploaded a new picture and entered my current job title. It brought the “about me” text from LinkedIn, and I edited that to fit.

3) I considered the copyright option to apply to my slides: I’m happy with people re-using my content if they reference me, so I chose CC-Attribution.

4) I “liked” my own slideshow on the UKSG channel

Next, I suppose I should consider uploading more of my slideshows, and I see that Slideshare now allows for document uploads, infographics and videos as well as slideshows, and then I could always invest time being “social” there, by reading and liking other people’s slideshows, and following their channels… but my four steps are quite enough for now!

Google yourself & improve what you find

I’ve been refreshing my online presence on all the tools and sites that I value, but it’s worth a quick search on Google to see what comes up under your own name. I had temporarily neglected Slideshare, but it has a high Google ranking in spite of my lack of effort, making it one that needs to go up my priority list for updating… many thanks to jobs.ac.uk for the reminder, which I got via LinkedIn!

My search tips are:

  • use your name as a phrase search on Google, in quotation marks.
  • Don’t forget to look at the images results.
  • Google also gives you Youtube results: check there too.
  • If you’re an academic, check the results on Google Scholar too.

An online refresh, and a review of tools I value

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I wanted to record some of the social media related steps that I took, since leaving the University of Warwick, which researchers might also want to take when leaving an institution. Or avoid, by getting it right in the first place! Note that I haven’t been especially “social” in my use of these tools: they’re more about presenting a “shop window” image of my professional interests and work, and as tools for me in doing that work.

I’ve highlighted each separate tool or site mentioned just once in this post, so that it is possible to glance through it at the array of sites and tools I’ve explored using: obviously, the canny researcher would just use a few of these, to suit his/her own purposes and thus avoid having to maintain so many profiles! The tools that I’ve personally valued most lately are at the top of this post. Except Twitter, so I’ll just mention it here, as it sits behind (or in front of!) a lot of the other tools.

1) Starting a new blog here on WordPress because I was using Warwick’s own blogging platform before. I did that before leaving Warwick, so that I could point to the new blog from my old one. It’s been very simple and intuitive to build up my use of WordPress, and as a blogging platform it probably has a broader potential reach than Warwick blogs did, because of the WordPress community: not an aspect that I’ve exploited in particular, but I could spend some more time interacting with other bloggers and being more, well “social”!

2) Editing Twitterfeed to stop picking up on my old blog and start picking up on this one. Twitterfeed is one account that I forgot to update with my personal e-mail address before I left Warwick, but fortunately I remembered the password. Phew!

3) Install the Evernote web clipper onto my Chrome browser on my home computer.

4) Install the Diigo bookmarklet on my home computer. Both my Evernote and Diigo collections have been useful to me in writing a journal article.

5) Add Hootsuite as a homepage tab on my browser. (I also need to revise the settings for e-mails and texts from both Twitter and Hootsuite, and to generally clean this account up!)

6) Change my job title status on LinkedIn, and edited the text about me there, too.

These 6 steps were most important to me and I did them gradually, as I felt the need arose rather than all in one go but it’s anywhere between half a day and a day’s worth of time to have such a spring clean.

There are also social sites and tools that I’m leaving in the long grass a bit:

I’ve never been very active on Twitter, through Hootsuite or otherwise, but I’m aware that there is untapped potential here for me: it’s probably the place I would turn to if I intended to be more social in my use of the web.

I’m aware that I have out of date profiles on sites like ResearchGate, Mendeley and Academia.edu. I’ve never bothered much with Facebook, since the earliest days, but they do all have my new email address.  Maybe I’ll get round to editing these too, one day. It wouldn’t be much work but they aren’t a priority for me.

I still use IFTTT, “If this then that” to link some of my accounts together a bit, but I could probably be more savvy about it if I investigated more. I know that I’m on Rebelmouse and it presents a good looking, illustrated newsletter menu of my tweets, but for now that’s all it does for me.

Without a university e-mail address, I find that I’m using Google mail a lot more than I did, and I am just beginning to use their calendar feature too. It’s not strictly classed as social media, but email is pretty social, I find! And of course Google comes with it’s own “Google+” social aspect, based on your profile. It’s increasing and pervasive, this insistence on Google+  through the Google tools and I’m resisting it for now.

Which reminds me that I have a Youtube collection that is tied to my Google profile too, which was never very work related: videos I worked on were uploaded by the Library. This probably needs some attention as I like to keep personal interests separate from professional. I can see that otherwise, I might end up accidentally tweeting my favourite knitting patterns alongside information about h-indices, and I really wouldn’t want to mix the two!

Every now and then, I remember my poor Slideshare collection. It’s a great place to upload a slideshow that you want to share, but it’s not a profile or a collection that I’ve cultivated.

You’d think that would be enough… but there’s a third tier, of Trello and Storify and Scoopit somewhere too. And probably lots of others that I haven’t even remembered, that I investigated in case they turned out to be useful for researchers, or for my own purposes. Storify was pretty useful, for collecting tweets on a topic, I remember.

Then there are the tools that I use in a more personal context but that researchers might value too: I use Skype a lot more now that I’m in Germany. I still have my (partial) book collection on Shelfari, and I do own a Kindle… ah,  but this list has to end somewhere, so enough is enough. Phew!

Scholarly work by a hairdresser: what difference would OA make? And other questions!

I came across a BBC magazine news item about a scholarly hairdresser (from May 2013) and it got me thinking. The hairdresser that the article is about, Janet Stevens, wrote a scholarly article describing how intricate Roman hairstyles were achieved by sewing the hair in place. The article apparently took her about 7 years to perfect so this seemed like a well-researched piece of work.

With my experience in academic libraries, I was interested in how an amateur scholar might achieve a published article, so I dug a little further (I Googled!) and a Wall St Journal article gives more information: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324900204578286272195339456.html

Neither the BBC nor the WSJ seem to have cited Janet’s scholarly article. This is something that I believe needs addressing, because her article has clearly made an impact beyond the scholarly world but how can it be found and measured, other than by citations? Besides, it’s annoying for people who want to read further. They should cite the article! So I’ll practice what I preach and here is a reference to the article itself:

Stevens, J. (2008) ‘Ancient Roman Hairdressing: On (Hair)Pins and Needles’, Journal of Roman Archaeology, vol. 21, pp. 111 – 132. Available online: http://www.journalofromanarch.com/samples/v21.110_adj.pdf [2 Sept 2013]

(I note that the journal doesn’t seem to issue DOIs, which is a shame, when it comes to encouraging and tracking citations.)

When I heard this story, as a Librarian I had two main questions:

1) How did she get access to the scholarly materials to research and write about her idea in a scholarly way, for publication? Is this an example of where Open Access (OA) could open up scholarship to amateurs in order to progress their work and the field they research in?

2) What if she knew she had to pay a fee of $1000 or more dollars (OA requires the payment of a fee for publication) in order to get published in a scholarly journal: would that have put her off writing about it or even researching it so thoroughly in the first place?

I note that the article is currently available as a sample, without the need to subscribe to the journal. Effectively, it is an open access article already and if articles of significance are opened up even without fees being paid right now, they most likely could be OA published in future, when the researcher has no access to funds to pay for publication.

I’m not going to find instant answers to my questions but the WSJ article has an important clue in the comments section. One commenter Quoted some additional material from Janet Stevens’ interview:

“A: I am an independent researcher, but my husband is a professor of Italian at the Johns Hopkins University, so I have library privileges there. We are friendly with colleagues in the Classics/Archaeology department and at the Walters Art Museum. They were kind enough to send me articles and clippings, read drafts and help with some picky Latin, though I try not to impose.”

Aha! The Library was important to her research: an example of the impact of a library. And her connections to the scholarly community were also important to her work: connections between scholars were also something that my work at the University of Warwick library attempted to facilitate. We came across many scholars who were working hard to maintain their connections with the scholarly world, after completing a PhD or as retired scholars, and so on.

Does this clue mean that OA would make no difference to a case such as this? I can’t know without asking the researcher herself. Beyond this particular example, the question on my mind, and often on the mind of many librarians is “how can OA and Libraries combine to support scholarship in the best way possible? ” This article illustrates what many librarians experience daily: “scholarship” takes on many guises.

Janet Stevens’ case is intriguing because it is the very fact that she did not come through the traditional route to scholarly publication that enabled her to have her ground-breaking insight into the topic.

The role of the library in supporting her work is particularly interesting to me. The library (and anything else, like possibly OA) that supports amateur scholars seems to me to be important, because the work of amateur scholars seems significant to the development of some research fields (like History, my own first discipline). In developing OA as a publishing model, we must be careful not to put barriers in the way of people like Janet Stevens.

However, that’s how it seems to me. My next question is, how typical is Janet Stevens’ work and experience? The WSJ mentions another example from the same journal, of a soldier who discovered a hitherto unknown Roman fort in Iraq. (Another article not cited properly. Like a good Librarian, I found it and here is a reference: Wood, G.A. (2004) The Roman fort at Qubur al Bid, Mesopotamia Journal of Roman Archaeology, vol. 17 p397 (Note that this one is only available online for a fee.) If one journal, published for 25 years has two such examples, there must be plenty of others out there.

What about other disciplines? Janet Stevens had access to the materials she needed to progress her work, but some disciplines require very expensive equipment indeed. What role do and “should” amateur researchers play, in the scholarly world? If they have or should have no role (which I contest!), then libraries and publishers don’t really need to support them.

One final thought about this hairdresser’s research: what about the preservation of research data? What happens to the mannequin heads that exhibit her work?! I note that the Journal of Roman Archaeology itself links to Youtube clips of her recreations.