The Best of San Antonio from a Native Texan

With RWA this week, I thought I would write a few of my favorite things about San Antonio down for all the people coming in for the conference. I am a native Texan and these are the things I never miss doing whenever I am in town.

Eat some TexMex and other local flare while you are here. In fact, eat it every day, for more than one meal. TexMex, or what we just call Mexican food, has a lot of cheese and meat and is sure to make you smile. I recommend a margarita while you eat your chips and salsa. If you have never had a breakfast burrito, do yourself a favor and eat one. Other fun Texas foods include kolaches, both the fruit and meat varieties, and BBQ.

There are a ton of places to eat on the Riverwalk, but if you are looking for great TexMex and want something more local, my favorite places in San Antonio are La Fogata and Rosarios. La Fogata is off the loop and will require a drive. It is family owned and started in a gas station. The food is excellent, the margaritas superb, and the atmosphere original. Rosarios has absolutely amazing food and cocktails and is within walking distance of the conference center though it is a bit of a hike.

I love craft beer, but if you are looking for a variety of brews along the Riverwalk, you will be disappointed. There are some fun nightspots, though they are almost all loud in the evenings with live bands. My favorite bars on the Riverwalk are MadDog’s British Pub, Durty Nellie’s, and Pat O’Brien’s. Out of all of these, MadDog’s has the best beer variety and their porch is nice. It is usually where I end up at the end of the night.

If you want to go shopping and have a real San Antonio experience, try Market Square. The restaurants here are pricey, like the Riverwalk, but there is a Mexican bakery in Mi Tierra which is well worth the extra pounds you will gain after visiting. I suggest forgoing actual lunch or dinner and skipping right to dessert. If you do not have a car, you can ride the local streetcars or take the bus.

We are extremely proud of our history here. The Alamo is free to visit and will give you a good overview of how Texas won its independence. The Alamo is close to the Riverwalk and worth an hour of your time. I have been there enough times I could give tours and I still go for a peek when I am here. There are also many local Spanish missions which you can do on a walking tour.

Overall, Texans are a friendly bunch and San Antonio is as nice as it gets here in the summer. Translated for all the visitors coming in: It is darn hot, but less humid than the coastal areas, where I am from.

Howdy, y’all. Welcome to the Lone Star State.

Distribute your eBooks at RWA

If you are an indie author or a small publisher, I have a cool free way to get ebooks into the hands of RWA attendees in two weeks. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could offer a free ebook to RWA attendees only and then promote it to people online? It would!

I spent a week looking at this

Silvercliff Sunrise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and I realized I had made two fundamental mistakes as I started out with my LibraryBox RWA experiment. I forgot two things.

Thing one: Most authors are very careful about how they handle their digital content (as they should be) and I am used to the more open approach of librarians (information wants to be free).

Thing two: As a librarian, enough people know who I am that I unlikely to be considered “that crazy lady.” In the author community, I am not well known enough to be kept out of that category on my name alone.

I am asking for authors to trust me with their digital content and experiment with me using their own content. I am asking for this and then I did not give an expiration date as to how long the material would be on my LibraryBox. Originally, I figured I would just leave all the digital content on the LibraryBox forever.

This was not a good plan. I will now be deleting the folder on my LibraryBox I create for RWA. That means, unless you tell me otherwise, the content you send me will be freely available to the people at the annual RWA conference for three days and then, poof, gone. I hope this makes a difference to some of you on the fence about whether to participate in this.

I do not attend a ton of conferences anymore because of family constraints but I will be doing this again at RT in Dallas in May, but you do not have to attend either event to be included.

I hope that some other authors will join Mia West and Nikki Penttila in this adventure to give out some ebooks at a conference filled with people who love to read.

p.s. Happy Monday.

LibraryBox at RWA

My amazing friend, Jason Griffey, has made an amazing little thing called LibraryBox. From the website:

LibraryBox v2.0 is a combination of a router (a variety of hardware will work), USB drive, and software that, when combined, give you a small, low powered webserver. The webserver acts like a captive portal, and delivers files that are stored on the USB drive.

In “captain dummy speak,” it is a device which creates its own wifi signal, allows users to log on to the signal, and then download any content on the device. It is completely open source and completely awesome. Libraries and educators around the world are using it to distribute books and class materials and to reach students in new ways.

I wanted to find a way for authors to use LibraryBox and I think I found a darn good one.

At the RWA (Romance Writers of America) Annual Conference in San Antonio starting on Thursday, July 24th, I will be walking around with a LibraryBox. I am starting on Thursday so it will not interfere with the Readers for Life Literacy sale on Wednesday.

Why should you care?

Everyone knows ARCs and free books are the things we love to give and receive at conferences. For indie authors or small pubs, this can be hard when most of their stock is ebooks. My LibraryBox will be a free, easy way for you to give copies out to people at the conference in real time to read, review, and rave over with almost no work on your part. Anytime I am at a conference event, I will have the LibraryBox on. Anyone with a wireless device (tablet, phone, etc.) can log on to the wifi signal the box creates and download books to read. LibraryBox keeps tabs on how many of each item is downloaded, but it does not track individual users due to privacy. At the end of each day, I will post the top 10 downloads. If you are an author or a publisher and you would like to participate, here are some FAQs you might want to know, be aware of, take heed of:

  • In order to participate in this project, you must be the digital rights holder for the works you send me.
  • This is for traditionally (with a publisher) or indie (self) published works. WIPs or manuscripts will not be accepted.
  • All files received for this project will be on this LibraryBox for the lifetime of the box, freely available. If this is a major sticking point, let’s talk about it. Updated: The RWA file on my LibraryBox will be deleted after the conference.
  • All books for this project will be in a folder marked “RWA2014″ on the device listed in alpha order by author’s last name.
  • Files should be in easily readable formats, like epub or pdf.
  • There will be a page on this blog listing all the participating authors and publishers so readers and attendees can take a peek and so you can brag about it.
  • I will in no way use the books sent to me for profit or in any way not specified in this blog post. Like any digital content, once it leaves my hands, I can not control it.
  • You do not have to be attending RWA to have your book included!

Interested? Send me a copy of your book to mboule at gmail dot com. I will send a confirmation email when I receive your file.

I toyed around with dividing books by subgenre. Any thoughts on that? Opinions?

Questions? Ask them below.

Humans vs. Zombies, an Internet Librarian Presentation

Come see me in the flesh Monday at 1:15 in the DeAnza 1&2 in the Portola.
Added: Grab the Handout. View the slides.

The track I am in for Internet Librarian, Track D: Library Issues and Challenges, is a special one where the speakers are encouraged not to talk much and to let the participants do most of the talking. Meaning: It is my kind of presentation. Because I will be speaking for less than 10 minutes and have only 5 slides of a PPT, I wanted to write a post on the content of my talk instead of posting just the slides online which would be meaningless without context. The slides can be found here.

The title of the session is Engaging and Inspiring Staff. I am speaking with Lisa Hardy, who is going to give some real world examples after I talk about the big picture. My segment is called Human vs. Zombies: Organized Survivors vs. Mindless Horde.

When you are only speaking for a handful of minutes, you really only have time for one main idea. My main concept is crowdsourcing only works when you give people a purpose.

Crowdsourcing without a purpose is like unleashing zombies on the human race. Things will get done, but it is going to be very, very messy.

Using crowdsourcing methodology is a fabulous way to engage and inspire staff because it forces them to participate in the process from start to finish. Once people start investing time and resources into something, their heart will eventually follow.

You should want your people to have heart in what they do for the organization. People who have heart give more, believe stronger, and work harder. They give because their heart compels them to do so. Not only that, but people who have a heart in your organization will then tell other people why your organization is so great.

Crowdsourcing can be done many ways. I have a handy hand out that I am giving to the participants and that you can download here (link is to a Google Doc). It is similar, very similar to the one I used at Computers in Libraries last spring. The handout includes some quick and dirty facilitation style and pointers. I do not discuss the handout in the presentation. It is just a resource.

But how do you organize your mob? How do you take a bedraggled group of humans and outfit them to face the future, even if the future is a teeming mass of zombies?

To give your mob, your humans, the means to organize, to create, and to find their heart in your organization, you need to do three things.

Give them a goal. Without a goal, your people are the zombie horde. The have one things on their mind and that is a selfish thirst for brains (or whatever it is that suits their fancy). Crowdsourcing only works if you give the crowd a goal so they can then work together towards the same goal as a team. It is possible to let the crowd define the goal, but they still need an overarching purpose.

For instance, do not just throw people in a room and say, “Get to it!” Put them in a room and ask them to come up with a product: a new slogan, a new service with a plan to execute the service, a strategic direction, a marketing plan to increase business, a charitable campaign, or an organizational restructuring. They can do anything, accomplish anything. Just point them in the right direction and let them go. You will be amazed at where they take you.

Let the crowd choose their weapons. This seems obvious, but it is one of the worst abused within organizations with robust bureaucracies. Often, more often than not, crowds contained within an organizational structure are asked to perform a task, but are then also told what tools to use and how to complete the task. This cripples your mob of survivors before they have even ventured forth.

Give your crowd the direction and then let them choose the method. They may want to work asynchronously or synchronously on Google Docs. They may want to create a facebook group. They might prefer video chat. They might * shudder * want to use a word doc that they save and forward around on email. Let them work their way. Give them resources so that they are able to choose the tools they want and then step away. Let them know you have faith in their choices and then follow through on that statement by leaving them alone to work.

Celebrate their successes and failures alike. We are wonderful at pointing out successes, but we have to celebrate our mistakes, even the crash and burn ones. Why? Because we learn from our mistakes and we get better. Give high fives for every zombie kill, but learn from the near misses and improve your swing. Do not be afraid to get dirty. Killing zombies is hard work.

After a very condensed version of the above motivational speech, Lisa is going to take over with some examples of things they have done at her library. Then, we will get to the really fun part. The attendees will form groups and talk about things they can do in their own organization to motivate staff. They will come to a consensus about the best ideas from their group and then share them with the room.

At the end we are going to give away some copies of my book, Mob Rule Learning, for people who can answer some of my nerd trivia.

–Jane, do you have a plan for the zombie apocalypse?

Original link to the Zombie pic can be found here.

Going from Talking Head to Mob Rule, Engineering Edition

Readers, you know I love engineers. I married one, so I know how they love equations, following directions, taking things apart, and the process of things. It makes me completely batty, but I get it. I have now spent almost half my life working around the idiosyncratic ways of Mr. Rochester.

I received an email from a lovely gentleman engineer who will be chairing an engineering conference next year. He wants to shake things up a bit and add some unconference elements to his gathering. He told me they used to do what they called rap sessions, it sounded like birds of a feather to me, but the sessions have evolved into a panel of experts, which he wants to move away from. He also said there was a lot of time where people were just sitting around.

My first thought was, “Bless their hearts. They mean well.” (I am a southern girl, in case any of you have forgotten.) I wrote him a long email, with some decent advice I thought others might find helpful.

If you are facing an especially rigid group that you would like to shake up, here are some ideas from the email I sent:

For groups that have an especially hard time with change or unscheduled elements, planning an unconference type event works best at the beginning of the conference. You can use the session, whatever it is, as a type of ice breaker to get people interacting and engaging before the more structured sessions. If you give people an opportunity to start talking early, chances are high they will keep doing so.

A Birds of a Feather discussion to kick off the conference might be good for your situation. If you want the rap sessions to go back to their roots, small table discussions not led by experts, either be very clear that the format is going retro or rename the session. The problem is getting people to break out of their mold. Clear directions up front will help.

You can also use lightening talks, if the experts still want to have their say. Each talking head gets 5-10 minutes MAX to talk, say 6 speakers in a row. Then the participants break up into small discussion groups of no more than 8 (a round table) and discuss some of the ideas. People can be free to leave groups and join new discussions as they please. This might be a little chaotic, so you might need to add in some structure.

You could also do an AMA (Ask me Anything) like on Reddit. The experts would be there, not to give a talk, but to just answer questions from the audience. There are a lot of techie and nontechie ways to td that, but again, it would give the experts their time while allowing the audience to run the show.

In terms of people sitting around at the tables doing nothing: Is there a way to spark conversation while they are there? Consider labeling the tables with topics and allow people to sit at table that interest them allowing the conversation occur organically.

Don’t be afraid to step out of the accepted way of doing things and do something adventurous!

–Jane, an adventurer

This Moment

This first year of motherhood is overwhelming, joyful, and stretches you beyond your limits. Eventually, the children learn to amuse themselves, though they still need you for many, many things. Once Bairn4 turned one, I started writing again. I wrote a book, Mob Rule Learning.

It was an interesting process, writing non-fiction. I found through the process that I preferred writing non-fiction in the length of articles and blog posts, not books. The process did give me the confidence to try something new and different.

Then Bairn1 came along and I was again in the throes of high maintenance motherhood. The youngest Rochesterling has achieved the ability to amuse himself and thus I have again been writing. All the free time I could squeeze out has been spent working on a new project.

I wrote a novel, a fantasy romance, that has been bouncing around in my head for a very long time. Unlike the non-fiction experience, it was exhilarating. I am now polishing up the manuscript for submission. That part of the process makes me freeze with anxiety and fear. I have determined that one step at a time is the best way to tackle the anxiety of the submission process.

I have begun, in the past year, to drop my ALA committments and disengage from libraryland. Oh, I still follow mostly librarians on Twitter, though they are starting to be outnumbered by editors, publishers, and writers. I will still be presenting at Internet Librarian in October. I loved being a librarian and I may be one again, some day, but my heart’s desire is to write more. Now that Bairn4 and Bairn1 are older, I can write more here, there, and everywhere.

Being at home means I can juggle writing in between quiet time, preschool, and PBS Kids. I am going to use this opportunity to see what I can do.

That is where I am at this moment. A once librarian (and maybe again some day) stay at home mom who wants to write stories with kissing in them.

–Jane, happy with her place

Getting Difficult People to Come Along: a crowdsource challenge

Last week, at Computers in Libraries, I facilitated a session in which the participants defined the direction of our 45 minutes together. It was fun for me and, I think, fun for them as well. After some brainstorming, multi-voting, hand-raising, and discussion, the topic that came to the forefront was “Getting Difficult People to Come Along.”

I asked the group of about 120 people, in 11 minutes, to tell me what worked in their organizations when faced with challenging people. The list they came up with is an absolutely fabulous one. Here is the list:

  • pay attention to learning styles~!
  • customize the experience
  • letting people be a part of the process
  • get them to say what is important to them and then empower them to make that change
  • honor the past
  • demonstrate how the new thing solves a problem for them
  • being resistant to change can be good, make them winners, they are the people that can spot problems when the runners are too far forward
  • acknowledge and honor that what people are doing is difficult and there are multiple ways to do everything
  • have personal conversations with staff that are challenges
  • institutional perceptions are not always reflective of the institution – tissue paper example
  • all staff took learning or personality style surveys and classes, then talked about the change and put in the job descriptions that change is happening
  • involving everyone (don’t panic and carry a towel)
  • made training fun and was an often a scheduled thing
  • asked people what they wanted to learn
  • talking to people outside of your department
  • same as managing children (haha because it is so true)
  • change is coming, give them time to adjust

To see the full list of topics, check out the presentation notes I took on the session entitled “Unleash the Power of Your People”.

–Jane, mob ruled

Around Town at Computers in Libraries 2012

The family Rochester is heading north to Washington, D.C. for the Computers in Libraries conference this week. The boys will be seeing the sights, aka the Air and Space Museum, while I am mingling with book and tech nerds, aka librarians.

I will be making two official appearances:

Wednesday from 10:30-11:15, on Track F, I will be presenting Unleash the Power of Your People, a session on how to use unconference principles for training and other things. This will not be a sit back and sleep session, so come with lots of questions, ideas, and a willingness to share. If you know nothing about the unconference style or you are an old hand at it, you will learn something new. In a room full of intelligent people, passionate about people and libraries, how could you not leave inspired to change the world?

Wednesday evening, 5-5:45, I will be signing copies of Mob Rule Learning in the Exhibit Area. Drop by, grab a book, and come chat!

Other appearances are assured, probably with this guy, but do not hold that against me. I am easily befriended by either complementing me on my incredibly handsome, intelligent boys or buying me a drink.

–Jane, safe travels

Discussing Unconference Things at Midwinter

ALA has been working hard, as have the divisions, in the past couple of years to incorporate more unconference type things into the schedule at Annual and Midwinter. Up until this point, these things have been special events and, while there are a few, most of them are not recurring. It is time to start thinking of making these “special” things less extraordinary and instead making them “just the way we do awesome things around here”.

With that in mind, I am hosting a discussion at the Networking Uncommons at Midwinter on Sunday at 9am. During this time we will likely discuss the following:

  • making current unconference offerings less special and more the way we do things
  • ways to encourage speakers to leave behind traditional sage on the stage presentations
  • planning sessions with different formats
  • linking the virtual and physical conference for a more meaningful experience at both
  • anything else you want to discuss within this topic

True to the topic at hand, the discussion format will be decided by the group on Sunday, depending on how many people show up and how we are feeling that day.

If you love the unexpected, if you long to revitalize the conference circuit at ALA, if you want a place to discuss new ideas, if you want to be a part of a meaningful discussion (instead of a passive listener), if you need some new ideas to take back to your group, if you are a dreamer, a wisher, a hoper, or a magic bean buyer, come join us for a conversation that can make a difference.

–Jane, with apologies to Shel Silverstein