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.

Twitter Dos for Writers

Like all tools, we need to use Twitter (and other social media tools) for good and not evil. As writers, we are our product. We steer the company and we have control over what we put out into the ether. Once the information is out in the wild, we lose control, but the initial message and how we communicate it is all on us. Communicate it well.

Twitter is a fabulous way to build a circle of professionals to whom you can pose questions. It is also a concise and interactive way to build relationships with your readers. If you want a list of Twitter Dont’s, read the post from two weeks ago.

How do you walk the line between building a following and pushing your product too hard? Grab a cup of your beverage of choice, sit back, and let me offer you some advice to get you started.

Do

Have a good profile and keep your picture consistent across platforms. Your profile should not be too long or short and it should convey just enough information for people to find you. Don’t give your enitre CV or list every book you have ever written. Be concise and show your personality. My Twitter profile describes what I do, who I am, and is amusing (I think). If you use more than one social media platform, keep your picture consistent across platforms. This will help people instantly recognize that they have found the right you. After all, as an author, you are your own brand.

Use a management tool. There are many different ones to choose from, but I prefer Hootsuite. The free version does just about everything you need to control and stay on top of your different social media accounts. It allows you to schedule posts ahead of time which is especially helpful for promo tweets. Hootsuite makes it easy to keep up when people @ you or DM you and then allows you to respond quickly.

Be a human being. You are not a robot and your Twitter account should reflect the fact that you are a living breathing person who has good and bad days. Be yourself. Be funny. Interact with people. Tell jokes. Share successes and failures. Be real. People want to interact and follow people who have something to say or will share something which will enhance their day in some way. In order to be that person for someone else, you have to be real.

Schedule promo tweets to happen at different times on different days. If you share the same promo tweet every day at the same time, you are not reaching any new people and you are annoying the ones you are reaching. Use a variety of promo tweets and schedule them to happen at different times throughout the week. Be very judicious in how often you send promo tweets. Except on launch days or other special times, once a day is plenty. See the above suggestion for being a human being.

Follow people doing the same thing as you. Use the search and suggestion features to follow other writers. Follow authors you admire and tell them how much you love them. Find people with similar hobbies or researchers specializing in the topic of your next book. Better yet, find your local library or friendly librarian on Twitter and follow them. They will be tickled all shades of pink to answer your questions. Believe me. Librarians live to answer the questions of others. After you find people to follow, be a human being and talk to them.

Use the list function in Twitter. You can add people to different lists and then have those lists appear as columns in Hootsuite. The people you know IRL and the people you interact with often should be in their own list. This will enable you to read their tweets separate from the influx of tweets from others and continue to develop your relationship with them.

Be nice. I said this in my Twitter discussion of Don’ts, but I will say it again. Just be nice. Have opinions but have compassion for others and be nice. A good rule to follow is if you have constructive criticism, offer solutions to the challenge before you instead of just harsh words. We’re all in the same sea here. Just keep swimmin.’

What would you add to this list? What do you think is an essential skill or guideline to follow on Twitter?

Staying Informed with Community

I have a set of Tipples out today with FreePint Newsletter (scroll to the bottom). Tipples are quick tips for staying informed.

It was excrutiating to boil down my information consumption into 4-5 places/tools with general appeal. The things I chose to include are things which have stood the test of time, but after making my list I realized this:

The number one thing keeping me engaged, up-to-date, and informed is my community.

My community, tribe, mob, crowd, or whatever label you give it is what influences what articles I read, what books I buy, what RSS feeds I subscribe to, in some cases where I shop, and how my opinion on a topic evolves.

I participate in different communities, because each one offers me a different information set and, occasionally, different values.

The tools and websites I mention are all well and good, but they are nothing without the community behind them and I am nothing without mine.

If you do not participate in different communities or even one community online, you are missing the point of this beautiful, living thing called the internet. Newsflash: It’s not just for porn anymore!

–Jane, loves her tribes

Teaching Without Technology

I was going to post this yesterday, but the internet went crazy after President Obama got on Reddit for an AMA and I decided to wait.

I have another post, the last in this series, over at the ITI Books Blog. I am talking about how to take the idea of mob rule into a classroom where little or no technology is available.

My Twitter feed was awash the past few days with school supply shopping, teachers gearing up, librarians preparing, and parents rejoicing. It is a time of educational renewal, when all things are still possible and we still have hope that this year will be The Year of Something Wonderful.

Unfortunately, many of our students will come the first day, admittedly tired, but hopeful to a classroom that neither reflects learning or the real world outside of the classroom.

Stop by and tell us your stories from the trenches.

–Jane, good luck to all teachers and students this year!

Crowdfunding and Libraries

I am over at the ITI Books Blog today talking about crowdfunding and libraries.

Budgets continue to be a major issue for most libraries. Lack of funding for programs, books, and staff has caused many libraries to make major cuts. As librarians, we know that the worse the economic times, the more people need the resources we offer. How do we bridge the funding gap?

Do you have a success story to share involving crowdfunding? Is there a project you would love to put into motion in your library but you just need some cash? Consider crowdfunding as an option.

–Jane, Happy Monday!

New Unconference and Mob Resources

Here are a couple resources that might be useful to you if you are new to the idea of the wisdom of the crowd or if you need a little inspiration for your own mob:

unconference.net – Though the blog on this site is not updated often and much of the information was posted long ago, there are a plethora of resources on unconferences here. There are explanations of unconferences, facilitation styles, how tos, and a discussion about Open Space Technology.

Open Space World – The original site on Open Space(OST). It is a must read for noobs.

Unconference LibGuide – This is a resource site put together by some librarians who have attended many unconferences. There are some great checklists for planning and some other resources.

Crowdsourcing in Higher Ed IT – This is a step by step guide from Educause on how to use mob rule to make campus and even multi-campus wide IT decisions.

25 Great Ways Colleges Are Using Crowdsourcing – A fabulous list to inspire your own ideas to improve your teaching or impact your community. Some of the ideas are only marginally related to Higher Ed, but they are still very interesting.

–Jane, what mob are you growing today?

Mob Solves AIDS Puzzle

AIDS researchers have spent ten years trying to map a protein enzyme of the AIDS virus. A complete view of the protein will give researchers a window into how the virus works and thus enable them to create better, more effective drugs. A group from the University of Washington turned the problem into a competitive game and handed it over to gamers.

The gamers solved the puzzle and mapped the protein in three short weeks. (link is a pdf of the article) A program called Foldit was used to turn the problem into a game. Seth Cooper, co-creator of Foldit, was quoted saying:

People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at. Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before.

There are two things that I find interesting about this discovery. One, that humans brains succeeded where computer modeling failed. Two, that a group of gamers spent three weeks solving something ten years of toil by traditional methods could not untangle. Computer modeling is very useful and important, but sometimes we forget that humans are very smart and capable of more than we know. We also forget that sometimes a different approach and a different viewpoint are all we need to find our way out of the woods. That and a mob of dedicated people working to solve the problem with us.

–Jane, prefers first person RPGs

Mob Driven Giving

There are many ways that the mob can change their organizations and communities. I stopped at Sonic a couple of weeks ago and saw that my cherry limeade had an advertisement for a charity drive that Sonic is conducting this month called Limeades For Learning.

For a third year, Sonic is helping teachers and schools raise money for materials and projects with the help of the public. According to the website, there are three ways to participate:

    Anyone with a valid email address can go online and vote for their favorite teacher’s project once per day.
    Get two extra votes with any SONIC purchase. Vote codes are provided on the bag sticker.
    Vote online 10 times and get two extra votes. Vote codes will be sent via email.

Projects with the most votes will get sponsored by Sonic. Individuals are also encouraged to give money to projects they like. You do not have to purchase items from Sonic to participate which I think is fabulous.

Sonic is working with an ongoing charity called DonorsChoose.org which uses the concept of mob funded charities to help teachers and schools year-round. Using the power of the mob to fund the future of our schools and the future of our kids is a great idea. Using this method of charitable giving means that people can be connected with the needs of others, no matter where they live, to make a difference in a community that needs the help.

–Jane, it is a feel good mob rule kind of day

Curating A New Learning Experience

My local NPR station recently started playing talk radio all day (hallelujah!) and I have been wallowing in all the wonderful shows I used to listen to regularly when I lived in Dallas. Last month, I had Talk of the Nation on and Don Tapscott was talking about higher education. My ears perked up immediately and, though I had to stop listening to feed my toddler (pesky kids), I went back and found the transcript. It was a great interview with some fabulous comments from listeners. If you are at all involved in higher ed or education at all, you should read this interview.

Tapscott, author of, among other things, Wikinomics, Macrowikinomics, and Grown Up Digital said that our current education system is not only not meeting the needs of our students, but its failure to adapt since its creation will be its demise.

Tapscott said, “All these kids that have grown up collaborating and thinking differently walk into a university and they’re asked to sit there and passively listen to someone talking.” He goes on to talk about the new research that is beginning to show that not only do students learn different and multitask, but the very fact that they are multitasking and learning different is changing the way their brains function and grow. The students in our classrooms now learn different because of the world they live in and yet we are still teaching them the same way we taught people when the classroom was invented. We ask students to sit and learn, to be containers for information instead of creators.

It is not just that we are asking them to be passive, but we are also cramping a process that could be broad and more enriching than a lecture. Tapscott gave an example:

I was talking to a youngster at Harvard, and he said: Why would I sit there and listen to a TA talking to 300 of us, a teaching assistant. I can’t even ask a question – the topic is Peter Drucker- when I can go online and interact with a real-time Peter Drucker.

Social media allows us not only to study a topic but to interact with it. The student from Harvard correctly points out one of the major flaws in our education system. We often ignore a resource rich world and force students to learn in a resource desert: the traditional classroom. Tapscott goes on to talk about how the way we do everything has changed and evolved as our understanding of the world has changed and evolved, except the classroom. This is something I also discuss in the second half of Mob Rule Learning. We have a teaching pedagogy that has not changed in hundreds of years.

One of the callers, Mandolin, talked about her experience in college with professors that did or did not understand their students learning styles, but she goes on to talk about her subsequent experience in the work force. The problems with higher education do not stop when our students graduate. Unfortunately, one of the things that students are learning in our colleges and universities is that multitasking is not an acceptable form of hard work, even though the newest generation in our organizations works better as multitaskers.

Multitasking has had some negative connotations lately and arguments abound regarding if increased multitasking is causing the ruination of society or making us better, stronger human beings. For the sake of this argument, I want to define multitasking as a form of multi-learning. What I mean is a learner that pulls in information from many different sources and media at once, reflects on the information, and then creates new content based on that information that is then shared with other learners in an interactive way that often allows those learners to also learn and create. This is the way that true multitasking in learning works. It means using everything at your disposal to create something new in the discipline. This is what students do now and this is what our traditional classrooms are hampering. As Tapscott points out, a student can listen to a lecture on something or they can go interact with that something. They will choose the latter almost every time and so would I.

What kind of student would you rather have in your classroom? A student who comes and listens quietly to your lecture as a passive learner or a student who comes, uses their laptop to look up additional information on the subject, later corrects an error on that subject page in wikipedia, and develops understanding for the topic on their own?

Another caller talked about an interactive textbook that he helped create and Tapscott’s response was this:

…what we just heard was a teacher acting as a curator rather than a content creator. And imagine if we had this global network for higher learning, there was a platform where all university faculty and educators could cooperate together where we could reach out into the public Internet to curate a lot of this content, like some of it obviously won’t be good, but some of it is spectacular, as the caller just alluded to And you know, we can do this. It just requires some leadership.

As teachers, we should be guides and curators. This is also where librarians are essential to the process. Librarians are curators of information already. We pride ourselves on curating information so that is accessible to as many people as possible. In the learning process, librarians should be making themselves indispensable in the curation process. We can help both with the discovery of information and with the curation of the new content being created by students.

Librarians, who have experience in curating (like cataloging), can help colleges, universities, and educators to move into these new roles, roles librarians have been filling in other capacities for some time. If we are going to change the way higher education works, we will all, teachers, librarians, and students, have to work together, in true mob fashion, to make the changes needed to make the education system reflect our new understanding of the world around us.

–Jane, wrote this with a lap full of 5 month old

Balance in Writing

Last week, I read a blog post about the clinic that John Mayer did in the Berklee series. During the clinic he talked about about how social media changed his song writing and why he eventually stopped writing on social media sites.

And possibly more alarming, Mayer realized that pouring creativity into smaller, less important, promotional outlets like twitter not only distracted him from focusing on more critical endeavors like his career, it also narrowed his mental capacity for music and writing intelligent songs…

“You got the distraction of being able to publish yourself immediately, and it is a distraction if you’re not done producing what the product is going to be that you’re going to someday use the promotion to sell…I had to go through the same thing I’m talking to you about – what you have to go through – which is to completely manage all the distraction. Manage the temptation of publishing yourself.”

So, to avoid the temptation of publishing himself and to increase his mental capacity for creativity, Mayer deleted his twitter, stopped blogging, and created a strict regime for recording his next album.

Mayer’s advice to new artists as he told his own story paralleled something I have been thinking about for awhile. For a long time, I have been feeling like Twitter steals my time and thoughts from longer writing. Things I used to write in this space, I put up on Twitter.

This happens for a few reasons, the largest being that I have very little, very precious time to actually be on the computer these days. With two adorable and young sons, my alone time on the computer is almost nonexistent. Writing this post has been days in the making and suffered uncountable interruptions. I use my phone to respond to email, send Twitter updates, and look at Google+. I do not like composing longer pieces on my phone and so blogging takes a backseat, well more like the trunk, complete with duck taped mouth and hands tied.

When I do save something for a longer piece, like the Mayer quote above, it often languishes for days or weeks before I can look at it and then it is too late. I have often wondered if I should just ignore Twitter completely in the same way I ignore Facebook.

Then, last night I was reading my Twitter stream from Friday and saw this post by Jason Griffey echoing, for different reasons, a possible movement to disengage. Jason says this about the change in his writing:

What I don’t like is that my writing, thoughts, interests… the comprehensive set of my online self, really… are distributed and scattered. I was ok with it for a long time, and I’m becoming very much not ok with it anymore. In the past, I’ve dabbled with pulling things from those other networks back here, but that doesn’t actually bring any of the reasons I use them here….it just brings the content. Which isn’t always what it’s about.

Jason says that he thinks the possible solution, for him, may be a disengagement from some things, including the demise of Pattern Recognition. I understand his problem, that his identity and content has become disparate. I am interested to see how he solves this problem, as the issue still baffles me.

I think the ability to post things quickly sometimes steals my time to write longer things later. For me, this is the last outlet I would get rid of because it suits my writing needs better than anything else. I need this longer writing space, even if I do not get to utilize it as much as I would like.

Other social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, have duplicate content between the three for me, mostly. I would love to see facebook go by the wayside. I disagree with the practices at facebook, which I have written about at ALA TechSource. I stay on facebook so I can have access to other people and events there, but I rarely check my account. I know it will not go away until people stop using it but I can not stop using it until people go away from it. It is a cycle that is hard to break. For now, I will keep my access to facebook, but I have a feeling that may change soon.

I do not know what the solution is for me or how I will find more time to write here. I think of things to write all day long, but by the time I am able to sit down, the thoughts are gone or I am simply to tired to make sense of them. As always, life is a delicate balance, and the scales are not always even. What the balance is for this space is always evolving. I know I both need and want this space, whether anyone reads it or not. I also need and want Twitter because when I do get a chance to read it, I always learn something new. Every day should contain a new thing learned.