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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

CPD23 - Thing 8 - Organising yourself (Google Calendar)

"Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it" M. Scott Peck

"The great dividing line between success and failure can be expressed in five words: 'I did not have time' "Franklin Field

"Never leave 'till tomorrow which you can do today" Benjamin Franklin

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I have a confession, somebody once described me as being a kernel of organisation in the middle but frayed round the edges, which is unfortunately true.
Is Google Calendar therefore the answer to my prayers and will it help me in becoming more organised?
Although I freely use many other Google tools, such as Blogger and Picasa (for photo sharing), I've never been inclined to share my schedule online. I don't particularly feel the desire or need to share my calendar widely to the world.

I do appreciate online calendar sharing might have some advantages (eg for busy families or for use by co-workers) but a calendar is only as useful as connecting with others and having the right tools to access it. For various reasons, Google Calendar does not initially meet my organisational needs since:
  1. My friends and family are not always online and my husband is notorious for not planning - he always famously says 'I'll have to check my diary' as a running joke.
  2. Working for government, there are also restrictions on syncing desktop applications which means I can only effectively use Google Calendar for personal reasons. At work, we use the proprietary Microsoft Outlook system which does the job of communicating my schedule for colleagues.
  3. Finally, I don't have access to an app-enabled phone to make maximum use of an online calendar tool.
In other contexts, however, I can see the value of a tool like Google Calendar. For instance, it can prove invaluable to professional networking groups like CILIP's Career Development Group in enabling members to view the latest events programme without resorting to lots of tireless HTML web-coding. Given the rise of blogs and more applications integrated into corporate and personal websites I can see why using Google Calendar would be useful since it lives on 'the cloud' and can be accessed anywhere.

I also remember many times when we were looking to organise Christmas or Summer social events and using Google Calendar would have been very helpful in connecting with other committee members to share our personal schedules more quickly and easily. In this context, we sometimes used an online tool called Meet-o-matic which is described as 'the world's simplest meeting scheduler'. Although it is a bit clunky and badly laid out, it did the job of helping the group in narrowing down on potential dates for holding events - invaluable when you all work in different organisations. The advantage of Meet-O-Matic is that no registration is required and  you don't need to share a common diary or website platform. You can use to propose and schedule meetings and invite participants using your own email system. I am aware that there are many other similar online applications around such as Doodle, Diarised, 30 Boxes, Cozi, Yahoo Calendar and many more. I've not used any of these so, I wouldn't feel qualified to comment but you can read reviews and make up your own mind by reading reviews published at http://www.calendarreview.com/ and http://www.pcmag.com/.

In reading round the topic of online calendars I've come across some favourable reviews of Google Calendar. I'd recommend reading "Getting Organised using Google Calendar" published by Simon Haughton where you highlights some useful tasks it has enabled him to do. Another clear and comprehensive review can be found in a blog post called "Getting organised in the Cloud: Google Calendar" (posted on the blog Owen Swart's Don't Fear the Tech). This posting explains more about maintaining multiple calendars for all the different aspects of your life and cool stuff that helps you stay organised such as the ability to add public or interesting calendars others have added, the ability to publicise appointment slots to show when you are available and chance to use extra fun tools in development.

Given these reviews (and also that Google is free and I already have a Google account), I will probably explore Google Calendar more (in the hope that one day I will be able to sync more effectively between work and personal life computers and get even more organised).

There can't be too much harm in this as being as organised as possible improves efficiency and your chances in life and work and making the most of all opportunities that might come your way. Maybe this will help me become less frayed round the edges...there is always hope!

Monday, 25 July 2011

CPD23 - Thing 7 - Face to Face Networks and Professional Organisations

Being an active member of a professional organisation has always been very important for me.

I've been a member of CILIP since my student days and still retain  membership. I am fortunate, however, that currently my employer pays my membership subscription, which is a continuing incentive to remain a member. Would I stay a member if not? Probably and if I didn't I would probably explore joining other groups.

In 2002 I joined CILIP's Career Development Group and became actively involved in the London and South East Divisional committee, firstly as Events Co-ordinator and then in 2009 as Chair.

More recently I have got more involved with the Network for Librarians and Information Professionals (NGLIS) and was the Conference Organiser for a 'highly successful' joint government libraries conference held in April 2011.

Via my active involvement in professional groups, I've had the chance to travel to the IFLA World Libraries Conference in Durban in 2007 (thanks to being awarded a CILIP grant) - something that I wouldn't be able to have done as part of my job.

Being actively involved in professional networks and groups has also increased my self-confidence, given me the opportunity to learn new things such as event planning and financial management, relate to others outside my day job and therefore expand my professional contacts and horizons.

Another invaluable learning point about being on a committee is that you are highly likely to work in association with people with a range of skills, personalities, motivations and differing senses of commitment. Sometimes you need to develop a thick skin to deal with people who might clash with your differing approach and this way you learn more much quicker how to handle people, situations and opinions in a 'political' sense.

In June 2009, I had an article published in the CILIP Update Journal about the benefits of getting practically involved in professional organisations. The article was titled "Don't just sit there, become a Chair" (published in CILIP's Library and Information Update magazine - June 2009 - http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?referral=other&pnum=&refresh=6Yp107As9k1C&EID=ecb9146e-601b-4ae8-afce-1c4e408148b4&skip=) which was all about getting involved in professional committees. There are so many ways to get involved and more often than not you will be welcomed with open arms.

When I applied for my current job, being able to draw on my professional involvement and activities was a definite plus point. And I continue to try to stay involved when I can, subject to other commitments. Continuing to stay involved keeps me balanced in relation to my job - particularly when I am looking for fresh challenges. (And I'm not alone as highlighted by one of many job articles about the benefits of getting involved with professional organisations published on the Jobsite website)

In many ways, I guess I just like joining groups and having a sense of participating - it feels right and above all I get enjoyment out of being involved.

However I do appreciate why so many people are reluctant to get involved such as a result of time pressures, more focus on paid work, lack of interest, or feeling introverted/shy. Another reason why people might seem less inclined to actively participate in face to face networks or professional groups is because they feel they are out dated and don't see any dynamism or relevance to them. A general sense about fragmentation across the information professions might give people a sense that it is not worth their time in getting involved in professional networks.

I'm now at a particular stage in life where I am rethinking how to be involved professional and how to build up new skills. One area that interests me is mentoring other professionals, so do get in touch if you have any queries...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

CPD23 - Thing 6 - Online Networks

There is a lot of personal reaction to online social networks and rightly so. Given that social networking sites have become such a big part of our lives in a relatively short space of time, we should step back and think as users and information professionals about how we use them, how we post, the messages we convey and what that says about us, and also about who and how our data is being used.

On the whole, I am inclined to have a healthy engagement coupled with some scepticism about online social networks. Here's a quick summary of my experience of some specific tools:

Facebook
I already use Facebook and have done so for over 3 years. I find it very useful to keep in touch with old friends and family and share news and photos.
Increasingly I also use the 'Like' and Groups functions to keep in touch with charities and other community or interest groups that I choose to receive news about such as The Kennel Club, RSPCA, Handpicked London, BBC Breakfast as well as a few work related feeds from the likes of the FCO and others. I think the development of Facebook for organisations and groups to use makes it a very powerful tool and for this reason alone I am not currently convinced by the need for another tool like Google+ since it seems like a 'me-too' application. I am careful about monitoring my privacy settings and also ultimately about the pictures and posts that I put up. People can be very quick to take things out of context sometimes and it is interesting to know who responds.

LinkedIn

Again, I've been a member for a while but in different ways. I'd agree with LinkedIn's founder, Reid Hoffman who describes 'Facebook as the backyard BBQ; LinkedIn is the office'. Initially I found LinkedIn less user friendly to use, but over the past few months I've been using it more, particularly again by subscribing to particular interest groups. I subscribe to a wide range of professional groups such as Sue Hill Recruitment, Export Control Professionals Europe, UKTI, LIKE, KIM Professionals and much more. One of the powerful aspects of LinkedIn is the ability to request recommendations from colleagues and other contacts.

As part of assessing my experiences of using the site for Thing 6, I asked a few of my LinkedIn contacts for recommendations - and many thanks to those who have contributed - all your comments are very much appreciated. I think recommendations are probably one of the most powerful aspects of LinkedIn. If you aren't yet convinced by it, I'd encourage you to think about doing so, since it is increasingly used by recruitment professionals and employers (and is an aspect of how we present ourselves).
I wouldn't say I've cracked using LinkedIn totally though since I need to find a happy medium about checking updates from groups (especially when you are subscribed to so many). I don't like being inundated all the time with emails about new postings especially if they are not always relevant to my day to day work. Secondly I also feel that my profile lacks a pithy summary of my skills (who knows maybe it will help me get a new job) and I intend to look at ways to enhance my profile.

Other online networks
I don't use either LISNPN, the network for new professionals in the library and information sector or Librarians as Teachers network - basically because I don't really fit into either category of information professional since I've been qualified for over 10 years and work in government.
CILIP Communities is also not high on my radar - I don't make a habit of checking it daily although I do appreciate the weekly updates from CILIP which includes a summary of latest news from the CILIP Communities blogs.

I am however signed up a few government online networks including Civil Pages, which is a private social media network for civil servants. Likewise, I am signed up to the Communities of Practice for public service which is the hosting forum for a number of online groups in connection with my day to day work such as the Dotgov workspace for those inolved in webpublishing on the Businesslink, Directgov and NHS Direct websites and other government groups such as a consultations forum.

Room for new online networks?

Despite my scepticism of Google+, who am I to predict the future?

For what's its worth, I do think it is interesting to remember social networks like Friends Reunited which were really popular a few years back but which have lost their way slightly with the rise of new upstarts. (ps does anyone really still use Friends Reunited? Answers on a postcard please...!) I am sure that as long as there is money to be made from online social networks, as long as people feel disenchanted with existing tools and companies (eg Facebooks use of our data) and as long as somebody comes up with new software or a a new business plan, there will be an ongoing stream of new social media tools.

Some basic questions I have about social media are:
  • how do you keep people constantly interested in new aspects of an online network?
  • how do you keep realtionships personal if you have more and more followers and friends?
  • how do you bring on board those who express no interest in digital networks?
  • how do we keep productive with the allure of online networks to distract and occupy our minds?
  • how will it continue to develop via mobile applications?
  • how will it continue to map onto existing connections in the real world?

I think it will be interesting to keep informed about the ongoing debate and also to look back at previous viewpoints. For instance, keeping tabs on other bloggers thoughts about the future media in 2011. If you want to know some good places to keep tabs on current trends, I'd recommend keeping an eye on discussions on the TED network or taking note of the Social Media Today online community. For those who are interested in what we used to say a few years back about social media take a look at a Guardian panel  discussion which took place in 2009 and caught my eye - called 'After social networks, what next?'


Two final thoughts

Charles Darwin once said "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change".

Finally I came across this cartoon (taken from Where's My Jetpack - via theduffyagency) in which, Future Man  explains social media and also provides some food for thought for the future:

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

CPD23 - Thing 5 - Reflective Practice

Some initial comments about reflective practice

I've been doing a lot of reading lately about how dog psychology - how man's best friend communicates and behaves (see Alexandra Horowitz's book "Inside of a Dog" - http://insideofadog.com/).

This has got me thinking about reflective practice.

Dogs (and other animals) famously live in the 'now'. (although cognitive science research has indicated that animals like dolphins and monkeys share a human's ability to think and reflect - see: Study: Some animals can think about thinking).

What makes us unique as humans is our inclinition as a species to reflect.

Reflective practice is defined as "the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning" and this is "one of the defining charatertistics of professional practice" according to Donald Schon who coined the term in "The Reflective Practioner, How Professionals Think in Action"

Taking time to reflect

I try to reflect on what I do, through preparing thoroughly for annual appraisals and reviewing my professional activity to writing articles in the professional press (see article published in the Spring 2011 NGLIS journal). I wouldn't however say this comes naturally and often it seems easier to go ahead and do things. Often time and other activities will be an excuse not to sit and reflect (I was going say 'sit back' but that implies that reflection is not active which is not true). I work in an operational delivery area and the day always seems to come first (and I am not always good at managing my time!).

There seems to be a need for balance in this area (and possibly more reflection).


In my opinion, reflection on professional and work activities is about gaining confidence in listening to ourselves and others and valuing our own and others opinions and knowing which direction or elements of ourselves we need to develop more. We also need to be careful about what we see on reflection and be honest about areas where we fall short. Personally I like the simplicity of Borton's model - What? So What? Now What?


Reflection on the CPD 23 Things Programme so far

Specifically in terms of the CPD 23 Things for Professional Development programme, we've so far covered the following:

Looking back at what we've covered so far, deciding to participate in the programme (Thing 1) has been a great opportunity to re-look at blogging and gain a greater appreciation of how it might be useful from a work point of view, so this has been a positive activity. But more than this it has been an opportunity to reconsider my continuing professional development more generally and question which direction I want my career to go in.

Thing 2 was a step out of my comfort zone to explore other blogs. I still have work to do in adding meaningful comments and choosing which blogs to actively follow. Thing 3 about personal branding was thought provoking. As a result of this task I've updated the image of my blog to give it a sleeker look, I've added a CILIP Blogger tag and included a link to my Twitter account. These steps are just a start as branding is an ongoing process. Finally, Thing 4 was all about looking at the merits of Twitter, RSS feeds and Pushnote. It was good to step back and briefly consider these tools and why in the case of Twitter and RSS they are achieving wide acceptance. To be honest I have yet to explore Pushnote. This makes me ponder how I should be keeping on top of current trends and is an area I should try to get better at.

A final thought

Going back to animals and reflection, an Aesop's Fable  omes to mind called "The Dog and its Reflection". This is a story about a dog, who while carrying a bone, sees his reflection in water. The story's moral according to Jean De La Fontaine is not to be taken in by appearances. Building on this viewpoint, if we are not to be taken in, then we need to learn from such experiences and think about our actions and activities.

Friday, 8 July 2011

CPD23 - Thing 4 - Current Awareness: Twitter, RSS Feeds and Pushnote

I am writing this on the day that it has been announced that the 'News of the World' newspaper is closing after 168 years - stunning the media and political world and in the face of over whelming pressure in the week of the hacking scandal.

In many ways, the demise of the News of the World is in no small part due to campaigners on Twitter such as @the_z_factor, @profanityswan, @thegreatgonzo and @eroticpuffin. Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC Technology Correspondent, highlights these bloggers and the vast spread of their messages in his blog post Social Media vs the News of the World.

Twitter

Today's news is a great and topical example, following on from other recent news stories including the saga of injunctions and the Arab Spring that have been fuelled by use of social media sites such as Twitter.

It is hard to believe but true that it is only 5 years since Twitter was first set up. But it is now very much part of our society - especially in media, cultural and information led industries.

Yes it's true that Twitter is fueled by celebrity tittle tattle and that the concept of the Twitter name is derived in part from the Oxford English dictionary: "a short inconsequential burst of information, chirps from birds." (See more on the history of Twitter's first 5 years at Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday) but it is also more than this. Twitter has gained popularity worldwide and is estimated to have 225 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day and handling over 800,000 search queries per day. (30 Terrific Twitter Facts and Figures - Jeff Bullas),

Twitter is evolved into its own world or 'eco-system' being used by:

  • Journalists and the public to monitor politicians and celebrities

  • Companies and Government Organisation to promote news

  • Marketers to create branding buzz

  • Bloggers to promote their blogs


  • Personally I've warmed to using Twitter and use it in a work capacity as an extension of my organisations' email notification service - Notices to Exporters (see @eco_notices. Using Twitter has the potential for increased reach to individuals, consultants and companies that might not be aware of our 'traditional' notifications medium of email. For instance one recent Tweet about export licence amendments has been retweated to over 600 other people - which is great for informing. Via my work account, I am subscribed to a range of official organisations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, Foreign and Commonwealth Organisation who are all finding new ways to make use of social media to communicate messages.

    I also have a separate personal account @ozzywon, which I use to keep updated and connect with areas of personal and professional interest. My personal network includes library groups such as UKEIG, CILIP, Government Libraries Group, other information professionals and personal bloggers and organisations of personal interest. Up until now, I've tended to flow more tweets rather than posting myself.

    The downside of tweeting is that unless you have endless time it is almost impossible to keep on top of all tweeting trends.

    Did you know that would take 31 years to read all the 'tweets' posted on Twitter? Did you also know that in 2011 there are over 200 million tweets per day (compared to 65 million per day in 2010 and two million in 2009). (See: Twitter users post 200 million tweets per day).

    This is where aggregating sites like Huddle come into play and also where RSS feeds are also helpful.

    RSS Feeds

    I also use RSS feeds, but like my use of Twitter and other social media sites, I do feel at risk of information overload and feel at a disadvantage because I don't have access to a multimedia phone with apps. Like other CPD23 participants (eg Librarytwopointzero) have commented already, you aren't really able to use these social media sites to their full advantage if you only dip in and out on an occasional basis.

    I currently only subscribe to a handful of RSS feeds but will now add the RSS feed of all CPD23 Thing participants. I use a number of ways to access RSS feeds, both via individual browser based feed readers and also via Google Reader. One exercise that I will do as a result of Thing 4 is to rationalise the reader service I ultimately use on a permanent basis.

    The great thing about RSS feeds (and Twitter and social media tools) is that they can be issued and incorporated into other websites and on social media phones via great little applications called 'widgets' thus saving time and effort. I've currently been exploring setting up a widget to enable notifications to be quickly uploaded between our websites.
    Pushnote

    To be honest, I was not aware of this tool. Given my experiences of commenting on previous blogs in previous CPD23 Weeks 1 to 3, I can see the advanage of this type of tool which allows you to rate and comment on any website. However, given that it is only available on Firefox, Chrome or Safari browsers means that I won't be using it in a hurry as I tend to use the browser on the dark side....

    Final thoughts on current awareness tools

    Looking into online current awareness tools has made me realise how much the landscape of awareness provision has changed (eg witness the demise of corporate and government library provision). Twitter and RSS feeds are so easy to use that they are now a 'must have' rather than a 'nice to have' for the broad mass of individuals across all organisations and as a result there might seem to be less need for information units delivering targeted current awareness activities.

    I'd be interested to know what alternatives there are to the ubiqutous RSS feeds and Twitter and whether other alternatives do realistically still exist - such as Listservs and News Groups, Message Boards and Forums - in specialised areas of expertise. And where do information professionals fit into the need to manage new forms of current awareness provision.

    For what its worth, based on my experience of working with non-information professionals, I think that there is still a need for information professionals to offer these types of services, given that there is a lack of awareness of even tools such as Twitter and RSS amongst colleagues doing their day jobs.