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1. using social media v. building online community

I've been working with a large cross-functional team at OCLC that's looking across all of our content management needs and thinking through what we need (functionally and otherwise) to evolve and improve our websites. Perhaps not surprisingly, I've come to the process with a strong desire for seeing systems that support interactive features, anything that shows the personality, the humanity and the voice of our cooperative.

So far, the process has helped me sort through what, exactly, I mean when I say that. I've already seen one vendor demo where they checked "yep" on a RFI response to "web 2.0 stuff" (don't worry, we were more detailed than that) but in the demo they showed us what they really meant is that a user can click a star rating or share/post this content to their facebook profile. And that's what they mean by 'interactive capabilities.' I'm not disparaging the vendor, because what they did offer in the way of personalized content management and other critical features seemed incredible - and you can't have it all. But I was surprised that their definition of web 2.0 capability was so much different than mine. On reflection, I should not have been so surprised. There is a difference between "building online community" and "using social media" and therein lies the differences between me and Mr. CMS Vendor.

To help me out with the rest of our demos happening later this month, below is a short list of capabilities that I think are useful for facilitating community with your web-audience. * I'll be looking for each of them as we move through the rest of our exploration of the current CMS world.

Site visitors can:

  • find content, conversations, and people through search and browse
  • see the images and names of real people wherever users have contributed content
  • subscribe to and see new and most recent content from site authors and users
  • register as a member of the site
Site members can:
  • create and edit a user profile
  • create and edit threaded comments or discussions
  • add tags, ratings, or other user-contributed metadata
  • select interests and see personalized or private content based on those preferences
  • with permission, add or manage content (such as moderating a group or adding new content to a section)
Site admins can:
  • extract visitor, member, and author activity for site management purposes
  • push and pull web-content via extensions, plug-ins, or widgets
  • establish private content and assign permissions to view content

On the other hand, if there's anything that I've learned at WebJunction (an online community for library staff) it's that none of the tools we use make or break the online community. It's the people who spend their time "at WebJunction" (which is now a lot bigger than our website) and their willingness to share and support one another there. So, I remind myself again to not get attached to any one function or space.

Most certainly, these are not all the elements we'll need in an enterprise CMS. In fact, I wouldn't prioritize some of these things over the other things we're looking for. But in terms of interactivity and community building with our web-users, I'm hoping this gives us a good start. And I'm very hopeful that I'm able to check off a few more of these items as we proceed through the rest of our selection process. Even though I know it's not about the tools, I know that some of these features will certainly help us along.

I share this with you because I'm curious if you think there are things that I've missed, or things that I have here that you don't think are important. What have you learned in designing your websit

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2. Children’s Book Authors and Online Privacy Law


Children’s book authors,

Do you have a website where you collect email addresses from kids?

Are you familiar with United States federal law regarding commercial websites that collect personal information from children? It’s called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, and a single violation can have a civil penalty of up to $11,000.

Even if you aren’t making money from your author website, it’s a commercial site if you are using it to promote your books. Because of this, you have to be careful how you collect personal information from children.

The best resource for learning about this is the FTC website, but it’s a lot of data and more than most of you need. And this is where I make it clear that I’m not a lawyer (IANAL). But I am familiar with the legislation and best practices that protect children online.

So here are a few basic tips.

The easiest thing is not to collect email addresses from kids at all, which means deleting them from your inbox, address book, and anywhere else they might be hiding.

But you wouldn’t be an author if you had any interest in the easy path. And you want to be able to collect those email addresses and send out announcements.

So, let’s take a look at what’s second easiest.

  1. Post a privacy statement on your website, in a prominent place on the main page and on any page where you collect email addresses.  There are specific things you should include in the statement, so check them out:
    • Your name, address, telephone number and email address. You may want to use a P.O. Box and create a separate email address. Just be sure to check it regularly
    • The type of personal info you are collecting (in this case, names and email addresses), and how you are collecting it
    • How the info is going to be used (in this case, to send email announcements)
    • The fact that you won’t disclose this info to third parties
    • That the parent can review what info you’ve collected from their child and ask you to delete it
    • And that you aren’t allowed to condition a child’s participation in an activity on the disclosure of more information than is reasonably necessary to participate. That means you should only require email addresses for activities that need it, such as a newsletter or forum notifications.
  2. Make sure your sign-up gizmo has an age-screening mechanism:
    • This is generally just a drop-down menu that asks for date of birth.
    • If the signer-upper is under 13, they should be prompted to include a parent’s email address as part of the sign-up process.
  3. A notice should automatically be emailed to the parent’s email address. This notice should state the obvious:
    • that you have collected the child’s name and email address.
    • that the parent can respond to the email and tell you to delete the child’s info.
    • and that if the parent doesn’t respond, it means you have permission to use the child’s email address to send announcements.

    Note: this method is only good for collecting email address. If you are collecting home addresses and such, that will require additional steps, which we won’t get into here.

  4. Don’t allow children to post freely on your site. If you have a blog or forum open to children, screen everything and remove any personal information, including email addresses.
  5. And while it might not be required as part of this particular law, you should remove any other information, such as school or teacher names, that might help a predator track down the child. Best to be safe.
  6. If you have a section to display fan mail, fan art, fan fiction, etc., be sure to strip away any personal information. First name and city should be sufficient to give credit.
  7. Most importantly, don’t let this scare you into shutting down communication. These few steps will allow you to stay in direct contact with your fans, which is the steady breath of fresh air any children’s book author needs.
      

1 Comments on Children’s Book Authors and Online Privacy Law, last added: 11/24/2008
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3. where's the party?

Many of us are getting ready for ALA in California, but I've got something coming up a tad more quickly that's keeping me from settling on any ALA plans. I'll be in Dublin, OH next week along with some of my WebJunction colleagues for a face-to-face meeting with our community partners. The purpose of our meeting is to train partners on the use of our new platform at WJ, and we're excited to further (and finally) show it off to everyone, not to mention having them get in there and start playing with things themselves. I say finally because we had to push off a partner preview period in order to, well, get a few things in order before showing it off. Surprises abound, let me tell you, anytime you're planning and implementing a major platform switch-a-roo.

I feel a little like a party hostess getting ready for guests (who've been asked to come a few weeks later). Online facilitation often feels like party hosting. But the stakes are higher now that anticipation is mounting *and* we'll all be together for the first time since last June, not to mention a few more additions to our partner group. I am in constant amazement of my colleagues here at WJ and all the hard work they've all done to make sure the meeting and all its preparations are a complete success.

At this meeting we expect to show off improved functionality the new site brings both to WJ members and admins. This includes enhanced personalization, professional networking, and ease-of-use. Contributions can take place in-line right from the page after a member is logged in (right now we use a separate, back-end content management system). Pages can be tagged and bookmarked, friends and groups will form, surfacing more relevant content based on your interests. Altogether, we think we're onto a much more engaging experience for members. On the admin side we'll show off easier management of content, courses, and users, and well as the ability to better message groups, control access to private resources, and track member engagement. What's more, our course catalog will be much improved, with Mac accessible 'just in time' course content offered in a much more blended online learning environment. All around, we're excited to hear what our partners think of the work we've done on the platform so far, and look forward to working with them over the coming months to get ready to show it off to everyone who'll be visiting and using the new version of WJ coming later this year. Woot! Woot!

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4. working knowledge

I am an online community builder for librarians. In short, my job, my actual job, is to help librarians find and connect with each other online. I've said many times that I think I have the best job in library land. Sometimes, honestly, like today, it's not all that. It's not that I get discouraged, though sometimes that happens too, as I'm sure happens in the course of many of our day-to-days, but rather that I find my job very, very difficult. Head. Banging. Against a Wall. Difficult.

The parts that are most challenging for me have to do with resources. In our environment, as in most, resources are limited, and even though my particular project is considered well-funded, and indeed we are, it is a constant struggle to align those resources towards absolute efficiency and effectiveness. Of course, resources aren't just the dollars. There's also our time and our staff. I work really hard, and I know the team that I work with works really hard, to try and make the best decisions that we can about how to line things up effectively. Still, things are changing around us so rapidly. The plans we make are almost never exactly manifested. We always dream much bigger than we're able to implement. We always want to do more than we're able to in a day. By the time we're implementing there are three, five, or ten more things we wish we would have known. How can we be more clever? do this smarter? start that sooner? (And I'm not even really talking about the technology here. I'm talking more generally, about every aspect of the work.)

The other thing is that everybody cares so much about this work. In some ways I think it's a burden to feel so passionately about libraries and community. I often wonder if caring about the work as much makes me less effective. Am I missing something by taking things as seriously? How can I infuse humor, light, and even some degree of dispassion into my work so that I can be as personally nimble as the technologies I use and advocate for?

One of the best books I've read on libraries and change is "The Thriving Library" by Marylaine Block. I love this book. She outlines the things that "thriving" libraries are doing - not as a recipe, but as an example of some things that we can draw into our own libraries and communities. Come to think of it, Robert Putnam does the same thing in his work "Better Together" where he looks at successful community building projects and says 'here are a few things that work. it's not a recipe. just something to think about. something to try.'

So fine, there's no recipe. There's no perfect process, no perfect "plan for results". I think I can deal with that. And maybe things get easier as you gain experience and move through your career, (and perhaps that's another story). In all, I'd still say I have the best job EVER. I even know somewhere that the fact that it's difficult for me, that I'm constantly feeling like I'm new at this and that there's a lot to learn, is part of the reason it's such a great job for me.

But maybe tomorrow could be easier. Maybe tomorrow my cleverness could just swoop in and *poof!* solve the tough questions currently in front of me. Shoot, it wouldn't even have to be my cleverness. It could be yours. Please?

1 Comments on working knowledge, last added: 4/24/2008
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