Amy West: November 2009 Archives

ALA Connect

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ALA Connect is the American Library Association's social network.  Because it's relatively new, usage by ALA members is probably still pretty low.  However, it has a lot of potential and some units within ALA have begun it to conduct their business between conferences.

If you are a current ALA member, you can go to http://connect.ala.org and login with your ALA member number and password.  Once you're in, you can set up your profile and email notifications.  You may choose to be notified whenever something happens in every group to which you belong or on a group-by-group basis.  Additionally, if you hold a committee or elected position in ALA, your membership should be reflected under "My ALA Groups".

Pros:
  • Keep up with committee activities
  • Move working materials from private to public with one click
  • Find like-minded librarians in a very large organization (forthcoming)
  • Have content of interest from other parts of ALA pushed to you (forthcoming)

Cons:
  • Yet another single-purpose network
  • Many groups in ALA have already developed workable methods for managing their work
  • Usefulness for members not on committees or in elected positions unclear


Ning

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"Ning is a platform for creating your own social network. Our passion is putting new social networks in the hands of anyone with a good idea. With Ning, your social network can be for anything and anyone. You start by naming your social network and choosing a combination of features (photos, videos, forums, events, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. You can then customize your social network's appearance and launch it! People who join your social network will automatically have a customizable profile page and will be able to message and friend each other."

Source: http://help.ning.com/cgi-bin/ning.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=2695

It differs from Facebook and Myspace in that each of those tools combine both the platform and the network together whereas Ning provides the tools for lots of different networks.  Each network is independent and you would sign up for each one separately.

The fact that Ning networks can be single-purpose has benefits and drawbacks.  I rarely ever interact with the Ning to which I belong because I just don't have a particular need to do so.  Since other tools like Facebook and Twitter cross personal and professional boundaries, I'm much more likely to go to them on a regular basis.  I did just subscribe to the RSS feeds for the Library 2.0 ning, but so far, they've been quiet.

Pros:
  • Lots of features - blogs, forums, audio, video, chat, photo hosting, many more
  • None of the Facebook noise like chain-mail (25 things... notes), games (Mafia Wars), etc
  • unobtrusive ads

Cons:
  • usage
  • notifications

Clients:
  • none that I know of.  While some twitter clients also pull data from Facebook, Myspace, Friendfeed and LinkedIn, I haven't seen any that do so with Ning.

Backup Services
  • same as for clients.

Twitter

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"Twitter is a free communication and social networking tool which allows you to convey short messages of up to 140 characters to your circle of friends via the Twitter website, SMS, email, IM, or other Twitter client. Messages appear not only within your profile on Twitter, but are sent to your community of followers who have signed up to receive your updates."

Source: http://oedb.org/blogs/ilibrarian/2007/a-guide-to-twitter-in-libraries/

Pros:
  • networking with geographically distant colleagues
  • allows for passive interactions - don't have to friend another user most of the time
  • plays well with other services like Google Reader, Flickr and Facebook
  • lots of different clients
  • don't have to have Twitter account to follow information on Twitter - can simply subscribe to a public feed

Cons
  • a fair amount of downtime due to external attacks, major news events and/or failure of other popular services tends to result in overload of Twitter itself
  • default Twitter settings only show a few weeks of one's own timeline and the built-in search only searches a few weeks of the full Twitter timeline
  • archiving tools still developing
  • can be overwhelming in volume, can splinter one's attention and decrease one's productivity if one doesn't develop methods for managing one's use of it.

Good Uses (or at least good starts):

Clients
  • Mashable's list of the major clients: http://mashable.com/2009/06/27/twitter-desktop-apps/
  • Features to consider include whether a client can update other social networks, whether it threads conversations in Twitter and whether it allows you to manage multiple accounts.
  • I've tried about 6 or 7 different clients myself and so far have settled on Nambu because it threads conversations.  However, they're developing a new version of the software and no downloads are available.

Backing up Twitter: