R.I.P. Delicious – or – Data Curation Thrust Into The Limelight

Yesterday I experienced an amazing thing. Around 2pm the interwebs went aflutter with the news that Delicious, the popular social bookmarking site, was going the way of the buffalo. I heard it first in the ReadWriteWeb editorial room, where I hang out as an intern, and then it spread like wildfire through the variety of communities I follow on Twitter (higher ed, academics, librarians/info pros, cultural journalists and webtech folks mainly.) As of right now, 1am Friday morning, there still has not been an official confirmation of what exactly is going to happen to the service from its parent company Yahoo.

However… the aforementioned amazing thing… the power of the social web kicked in and people started to talk to one another. At around 5pm, I saw this tweet from Laura Pasquini linking to a Google Doc of alternatives to Delicious. I was at the time writing a quick post for my Tumblr on a few services I had heard chatted about on Twitter throughout the afternoon, and this Doc had them all in there, with Pros and Cons. In the midst of all this, Marshall Kirkpatrick posted his love letter to Delicious, which I helped do some research on, so I started to monitor comments on his post for further engagement (as any good intern would do).

As the news grew and spread throughout the evening, I saw all kinds of new ideas, cool looking web apps to try out, and different ways of imagining data all being discussed because a valuable service we have grown so accustomed to might be shutting down.

The best part? I think this was a real kick in the pants that will get all sorts of different groups (computer science, digital humanists, techies, web geeks, information professionals, etc.) talking about the one thing we are all coming face to face with in the ever-expanding social web – data/content curation.

This is a topic I have grown really interested in over the past few months, and will be following very closely in the future. Now, I just have to find out how and where to save all my links, articles, and research. Where will you be moving your bookmarks?

Articles on the shuttering of Delicious:

HuffPo, TechCrunch, Gizmodo

Alternate services to check out:

Evernote, trunk.ly, kippt, pinboard, Curated.by, and Blekko

I’m in process of beefing up my Curation Twitter list also. Follow if you’d like. Who do I need to add?

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The Job

This is the post I have been waiting to write for some time now. Although I was officially hired about a week ago, I was nervous and unsure about it up until today, when I actually went and worked a whole day. (This is what I did today.) It seems pretty legit at this point.

I am proud to announce that I have been hired as the Project CHART (Cultural Heritage Access Research and Technology) Coordinator at the Brooklyn Public Library effective immediately. Allow me to explain:

Project CHART is a multi-institutional, IMLS-funded grant program focusing on digitizing historic photographs. The grant is sponsored through Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Science, and in addition to the Brooklyn Library, the Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Historical Society are partners. Our “kickoff” meeting was yesterday, and I am throughly dumb-founded at the planning and foresight that has already gone into this project, and at what is left to do! Fortunately the CHART team is comprised of intelligent, skilled professionals (and me), and I am really looking forward to the next three years. (Did I mention that it is a three year grant? Very nice!)

Top 5 things that are awesome about Project CHART and the fact that they hired me:

  1. I get to work in “the field.” I was starting to think for a while that I would never find a job that would allow me to utilize my education. This has now been proven wrong and I have hope once again.
  2. The ultimate goal of the grant is to “prepare LIS students to become digital managers for cultural heritage institutions.” WHAT? That is the exact reason I went into the MLIS! I was looking for a way to pair my interests and background in American culture studies with digital preservation. So now I am involved in a project that is working toward defining that as a curriculum. No way? Way.
  3. The Institutions – I, Micah L. Vandegrift, will be in a professional position doing important and interesting things with like-minded people who work at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Public Library. These are like gigantic, established, capital “I” institutions of culture, history and art in freaking NEW YORK CITY. I’m still amazed just walking past the buildings, much less actually doing work inside them.
  4. The People – I was mostly simply amazed at the Kickoff meeting. Just listening to the President of the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Director of Library and Archives at Brooklyn Museum, the Dean of Pratt’s School of ILS, and the Director of Brooklyn Public Library do a item-line budget was overwhelming. Not to mention the archivists/digitization experts who will be supervising team members at the sites. THEN my counterparts (Project Coordinators) at BrookMuse and BHS. Whole lotta awesome in one room.
  5. This seems like the opportunity that perfectly melds my skills with my professional goals. I am alright at web development and production, pretty good at project management, amazing at social/digital media (duh), interested in archives and special collections, captured by ideas like crowdsourcing and curation and fascinated by historic objects. I kept trying to define what sort of job I would want after graduation, and any combination of those elements would make me happy. Serving as a coordinator for Project CHART basically sums all that up.

So my “job” will actually be supervising two interns at BPL as we digitize, metadatatize, and archivize around 6000 photos. Also, the library will be housing the webspace where the shared collections from the three institutions will live, and I hear there’s a Drupal build in the works. No better time to get my hands in some of that too. I will also be planning and executing a variety of symposia, conference papers/presentations, marketing/promo stuffs in collaboration with the other institutions. Find a keynote speaker? Done. Book a trip to a national conference to present a poster on the project? Of course. Strategize, design and maintain a social media presence for the project? Lemmie at it!

In case you hadn’t noticed I’m excited. I am actually still interning at the library 9 hours a week for credit, and will finish my degree in May, but I feel like this is a pretty good step in the right direction. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about it over the coming months. Oh, and it is only 20 hours a week, so I’m still accepting offers for the other 20 hours of my work week. 😉

Project CHART final narrative is here if you’re interested. [PDF]

[Guest post] School in the Digital Doldrums – What I’ve Learned in Library School, Part 1

Following up on my previous post, I decided to open up the theme “What I learned in Library School” to some of my peers for some guest posts. Natalie Binder, a colleague and fellow student here at Florida State, offered this post on her experience with Digital Learning. Natalie will be following up on this topic on her own blog, and you can catch her on Twitter or Tumblr.  Enjoy!

The communications revolution promises to transform education as thoroughly as it’s transformed newspapers and magazines.  In some universities, it already has. At Florida State University’s nationally ranked College of Communication and Information (CCI), ninety percent of the courses are online-only.  And these are not your mother’s correspondence courses.  CCI students attend courses through a web-based software platform called Elluminate.  Lectures are conducted through live chat, students collaborate on blogs and wikis, and whole libraries—including professional reference services—are available on our smartphones.

Digital learning benefits the university in many ways.  Any graduate of FSU’s communication, information technology and library science programs knows online instruction from the inside out, a huge benefit to potential employers.  It allows working and non-traditional students to pursue degrees on a flexible schedule.  Furthermore, it allows a cash-strapped university to provide classes at a fraction of the cost (if not a fraction of the tuition) of traditional education.

However, a chat room is not a classroom, any more than a picture of a pipe is a pipe.  Speaking as a distance student, a nontraditional student, a teacher and  a technophile, there is a profound loss when classes are moved into the cloud.  The social, professional, cultural and intellectual relationships that develop in a real classroom cannot be duplicated through distance education.

The digital classroom abandons different types of learners.  The primary sensory input for a digital lecture is sound.  The visual aspect is usually very weak—a chat box or a PowerPoint.  The kinesthetic (hands-on) aspect is nonexistent.  For students that learn best by listening, this environment may prove rewarding.  But for the great number of us who need to see and interact with our teachers and classmates, it’s an unqualified disaster.   The situation is even grimmer for students who have auditory or cognitive disabilities.  As schools move to audio-only, these students are locked out and—it sometimes seems—forgotten.  This in a world where a whole generation of “mainstreamed” students with autism, attention deficits and hearing disorders are coming of age.

The real classroom is full immersion reality:  there are things to see, hear and feel.  You catch a professor’s quiet scoff when he doubts your conclusion.  You see the class perk up and take an interest on a certain subject—maybe you should delve deeper.  You recognize the blank look on a student’s face when he misses the point, the light dawn when he finally understands.  Teachers, individual students, classmates and the class as a whole all benefit from these subtle social processes.  The architectural and social structure of a classroom is made to enhance these rich and valuable experiences.

The information revolution is about the expansion of options.  The goal of the educational Web was never to leave students blind and disconnected, with no real alternatives to a chat room.  When universities use technology as a way to enhance the real classroom—and offer cost-effective options to those who can’t make it—then they are using educational technology to its full potential.  Until then, the move from real learning to digital learning is, sadly, a step down.

Emerging Technologies, Students and The University

Born Digital

Born Digital

Inspired by several great articles that I have read lately (cited below), and in the spirit of the Educause conference this week, I thought it pertinent to comment on the tech trends that are sweeping the infoverse from the perspective of University as a civic institution. I’ll try to keep it short… Here goes:

There seem to be two major areas of new media/technology that academics, journalists and other folks are talking about- Social Media and media ownership (online piracy). Without going to far backwards to define the hell out of these terms, I plan to stick with Twitter and downloading music, as most people are generally familiar with these.

In an article posted this morning by Steve Kolowich at insidehighered.com, Twitter gets a real once over. In summary, the article is a review of a conversation between two Higher Ed administrators over the usefulness of twitter in the classroom. The basic argument is that it can be used as a tool to engage students in the conversation, but there becomes no way to control the flow of information once its out on the web. Personally, I see more positives there than negatives. As technology becomes part of humanity’s culture (another topic of much debate, but an unavoidable fact) the university is going to have to find ways to adapt and connect with students where they are… online.

In a similar vein, aside from the legal concerns, universities are having to consider methods for curbing or allowing downloading practices that so many students are actively engaged and well-versed in. Earlier this week, The Chronicle posted this article which exposes some new initiatives being taken by the music industry in collaboration with universities to allow students to download music freely. What it sounds like, according to the article, is that schools could choose to charge a “music tax” from students, or individual students could purchase access to the service, and therein they would have legal access to all the songs in the database. This initiative is being headed by Warner Music Group, so there is some real clout behind it.

Both of these technological “issues”, Twitter in the classroom and legalizing downloads, point to a larger trend involving students, the university and information. Howard Rheingold calls it “infotention“, a combination of attention, information and intention. Students are coming to college now with an astounding amount of media literacy, or set of literacies, a “kind of know how including a skill component and a social component.” Tweeting in class and accessing media are part of the new literacy, and at least university administrators are acknowledging this fact and beginning to consider options for capturing the infotention of the new student.

So what? Isn’t this all just hobbies and fads that will fade like a tye dye tee shirt? Not necessarily. Hypebot Associate Editor Kyle Bylin, in a recent post titled “Minds for the Future: Why Digital Immersion Matters” writes, “Like many other crucial skills, digital literacy needs to be taught and learned through constant practice.” He goes on to point to research that suggests that 15 year olds in 2016 will accumulate 1500 hours per year on digital technologies. At age 20, with continued access, they will be at 10,000 hours, making them experts at internetting. The University would be remiss to not concern itself with these sorts of facts and to make every attempt to keep at the forefront of the technological age. Wither the cyborg? Not to far in the future, say I.

Further Reading –

http://www.educause.edu/7Things – A series dedicated to “schooling” educators on new media technologies

www.nmc.org – New Media Consortium, group of “learning-focused organizations dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies.”

Lev Gonick’s Blog – Case Western’s VP for Information Services

Photo from Flickr user Dianecordell