The importance of visual literacy

Over the past couple of months I have received numerous calls about the Biz Wiki.  The callers,  emailers, and IMers all have something in common:  they all own a business or work at a business whose name or contact information is incorrect on the Biz Wiki.  I even got a call recently from some lady in Mississippi who kept getting calls at her home  because people thought she was in the recycling business.  All of these people said they got their information from the Biz Wiki.  Actually, the did get their information from a biz wiki, but it was not The Biz Wiki.  I don’t have information about individual companies in the Biz Wiki, as it is a site meant to promote useful business research sources.  The other wiki is a collection of company names, addresses, and other information.   (I’m not going to link to the other wiki here out of spite, as I don’t want to increase it’s page rankings.   Google it if you want to see it. The address has something like bizwiki and .com in it. 😉   )  While the idea of using a wiki as a company directory is a good one, it’s not so good if a lot of the content is just plain wrong.  Wrong information is irritating, as are the frequent phone calls requesting that I fix the inaccuracies.   Folks are even more irritated when I very politely tell them they’ve got the wrong wiki, but a little visual literacy could have saved them a phone call.

If we compare the two sites, they are not very similar at all, save for the words “biz” and “wiki.” I seriously wish I had trademarked the name.

The cheap Biz Wiki knockoff

The cheap Biz Wiki knockoff

The original Biz Wiki
The original Biz Wiki

Folks are likely finding me by searching for Biz Wiki, and then they see a guy named “Chad” with lots of different ways to contact him.  They’re good at Googling, or so they think, and they think they’ve found the root of all the misinformation about their company.  Unfortunately, their sleuthing isn’t good enough, as somehow they can’t figure out that the two sites (see screenshots above) are not similar at all.  A quick look at the two sites ought to alert them that something is different with my contact information page and the other web site.  A simple look at the address bar would tell folks that the sites are in two different locations, but perhaps they don’t know to look in the address bar.    The people are kind of miffed when I p0litely tell them that I’m not the guy responsible for that site and I cannot correct the information there.  Many of them ask who I should contact, but the contact information of the other site is very sparse (a email form with no contact info whatsoever).

These are basic skills that librarians teach in information literacy and library instruction sessions.  We teach our students how to look for authority in a website, how to look at the address (edu, gov, org, com, etc.) , look for the author information, and even to look at the design.  Hopefully the things we’re teaching them are sticking, so they’ll be a bit more saavy consumers of web information.  While the phone calls and email about the other biz wiki are a bit annoying,  they do lend evidence to the fact that librarians are still important in the education process.  My theory is that the folks who called me never had a library instruction class in college, or perhaps they’re the one’s who didn’t listen very well.  I know I’ll be a bit more deliberate in my libray instruction sessions from now on, and hopefully I’ll save some poor chap some phone calls down the road.

Business Blog reviewed by library school student

I love it when library school students stop by and chat. They usually reach me via the chat widget on the Business  Blog or via the chat widget on the Biz Wiki. The students usually have a few questions about using Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, or screencasts. Occasionally students will blog an analysis for some of the tools I’ve used, and it often gives me some good feedback on what I’m trying to do with the Business Blog and with the Biz Wiki. Library school affords you the opportunity to take a more scientific (and perhaps new) look at how things are done, so I appreciate the outsider looking in perspective.

In a recent post, Claudia analyzed the Business Blog and offered quite a few good comments. I thought I would take a few minutes to address a few of her comments at this time.  For my comments on Claudia’s awesome analysis, please see the post on my Business Blog.

My content is all over the place

So I’m struggling with something.  I have this blog, and I have just started another blog for my biking interests.  So I have content here and at WordPress.com.  The pictures that I have for this blog are generally uploaded to this blog directly, although I’ve started using my free flickr account to host my pictures. I also have a blip.tv account for videos that you see here, on my bike blog, on my Business Blog, on the Biz Wiki, and in other places.  I also have separate Flickr and Blip.tv accounts for family pics and videos. I also have a Vimeo account, a YouTube account, Picasa, and more. The cool thing about the web today is that it enables you to get your content all over the place.  The bad thing is that you have to remember where you put everything (and also remember the usernames and passwords).  These days I’m lucky to remember to take out the trash on Wednesdays.

Ideally it would be nice to have all my content in one place, but that’s kind of hard.  Frankly, services like blip.tv and Flickr make it so easy to post content.  Options for hosting this on your own server with applications like Gallery are available, but it takes a lot of work to make sure things are working right.  I had an install of Gallery for quite some time, but it was too sluggish on my  host to be of much use.  I ditched Gallery and moved my family pics to Flickr.  I also use to upload family videos directly to my host, but those videos take up a lot of room, and my space on the server is limited.  I have several blogs, including this one, hosted on the same server.  My new bike blog is currently located at WordPress.com, though I don’t know how long I will leave it there (there are pros and cons of wordpress.com vs. wordpress.org).  I suppose the nice thing about having the content separated from the engine (i.e., pics and video separate from the blog) is that it allows you to more easily take your content (pics and text) wherever you wish.  If in the future I want to move the Redneck in Spandex from WordPress.com to my own domain or host, it should be as simple as exporting the blog content.  Since the images and videos from the blog are linked to Flickr and Blip, then everything should display okay after the migration without any broken images (in theory).

Now the librarian and geek in me struggles with the issue of how long my content will be available.  If Blip.tv folds tomorrow, that would mean that I would have broken video files and links on about 6 different blogs and websites.  A demise of Flickr would have very similar consequences.  And since I have two accounts for both services (only one Pro Flickr account), then I could have broken image links all over the place.  The thought of that is unsettling, although I guess it would make sure I have plenty of work to do.

Does anyone else struggle with this?  Is this even something to worry about?  Will my content always be threatened by the possibility of extinction?  If not, do I need to be concerned about where my content will live next?

Into the twittersphere

A funny, but sadly true, look at Twitter.

Off to tweet some more. I’ve been away too long while posting this.  Gotta feed the habit. 😉

Twitter for tech support and customer service

So I was teaching a class this morning at another building on campus. Unfortunately the provided computer I was using was having network issues.  While we waited on the IT guys for the building to come in, I took the following picture with my phone and sent it to twitpic, which then sent the tweet to twitter.

Here’s what I posted on twitter with my phone:

Click to go to twitter page

Click to go to twitter page

Within 1 minute of sending that text to TwitPic, I got a text message from one of our system administrators at the library.  He asked me what room I was in, and if I needed help.  I replied that I was outside his territory, as I was in another campus building, not the library.  Although he could not help me, it was amazing that he could respond so quickly.

There are a few things here that made this work.  First, we have IT folks who get it.  Seriously, our library IT department is top notch in a lot of ways.  They’re willing to try new things such as twitter,  if only simply to see how they work and how they might be used.  Secondly, my colleague happened to be following me on twitter, and I also follow him.  If he had not been following me, he would not have seen the text at all.  Third, he happened to refresh the twitter page, and there I was.  Finally, he knew my cell number, so he was able to send me a text message.  He could have also sent me a direct message in twitter, but he had no way of knowing that I get direct messages via text messages on my phone, so a text message was the guaranteed way of asking me if I needed help.

While there are definitely some hoops to jump through, I can definitely see how an organization could use this for technical support or other kinds of immediate assistance.  (This also assumes we don’t see the twitter fail whale).  All of my colleagues in my department are on twitter, although some use it a lot more frequently (@cguder, @lolebek, @hagman) than others.  With the ability to extend twitter with pictures via TwitPic, with video via 12Seconds, and with SMS, twitter has the potential for being a very robust communication tool.