I’m still so 2010

wordpress-logoWordPress 4.1 was released today, and I’ve just now upgraded.  The automagic distraction-free writing is pretty cool and there appear to be a few more neat things on the wp-admin, dashboard, and publishing side.

The new 2015 theme, however, at first glance doesn’t really get me too excited.  The idea behind the theme is to really let your content shine and “take center stage”.  I’ve been thinking more about reviving this old blog, and perhaps a new theme will get me inspired.  Unfortunately it looks like the 2015 theme gets rid of the header image and is pretty minimalistic in the default sidebar content.  I’m sure it looks great on a mobile device, but without the standard customizable header image (found in TwentyTen, which this site still uses) I feel the blog loses a bit of personality.  Maybe I’m just out of touch with the new hip blogging kids since I haven’t blogged in so long……

 

Using WordPress P2 theme as a communication tool in our organization

This week we had a soft launch for our new internal WordPress blog, running on the P2 theme.  I’m hoping it will be a better way to get our local knowledge out of our inboxes and on the web so that all public service workers, even students, will have access to the same information.

An internal blog is nothing new to us, having used for a while in 2005.  We moved from a WordPress blog a year later to a MediaWiki wiki because at the time, the wiki offered better organization of content.  Our departmental wiki later merged with an organization-wide wiki, and now it’s incredibly hard to find the content that is relevant for our department.  The wiki has grown too big for our department to use effectively, resulting in our searches returning false drops of someone else’s content.

Another problem with the wiki is that there isn’t a good way to view the most recent content.  In a public service environment, we need to let communicate among our staff about printing outages, tough research assignments (with links to resources), workarounds for tech/computer issues, etc.  In our big organizational wiki, the current issues get lost in the mix of archives of staff meeting minutes, cataloging procedures, and internal policy documents.

Therefore, we’ve started to blog again like it’s 2005.  We’re using WordPress again, but any blogger knows that the platform has come a long way in  decade.  To make it easier for our staff and students to post, read, and comment, we are using the P2 Theme, which allows you to post and comment directly on the home page.  Users don’t have to visit the admin page within the blog to add content, which will hopefully make it a lot easier for all staff to participate in the conversation.

Our blog is just in it’s infancy, so I can’t really report about its use right now.  However, I found WPUniversity’s articles on using WordPress for project management (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) very useful. Also, WPCandy has a nice list of plugins to use to enhance your P2 installation.

Matt Mullenweg discusses how P2 Changed Automattic.

A quick overview of the P2 theme is shown in the video below.

Also, Beau Lebens of WordPress.com explains the evolution of P2 and the future of O2.  It’s really neat to hear how the folks at Automattic use P2 for 80% of their communication.  Email is almost forbidden and highly frowned upon within the organization.

What can library managers learn from the WordPress official creed?

wordpress-logoAutomattic, the company that owns WordPress.com, is an interesting study in organizational culture, hierarchy, and work.  The Year Without Pants, a book I’m currently reading and learning a lot from, shows the inner workings of this very different (and very cool)  company. In the book’s pages, I picked up on the WordPress creed, which can also be found on Matt Mullenweg’s blog.  Looking at this from a library manager’s point of view, there’s a lot we can steal from those words.

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

I will never stop learning.

  • We should cultivate a culture of continuous learning whereby employees have access to exploration and experimentation, readings, webinars, conferences, professional development, and lively discussion with colleagues.

I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me.

  • We should empower employees to work beyond their comfort zone and encourage work with colleagues outside their department.

I know there’s no such thing as a status quo.

  • We need to know that change is always on the horizon, and we should do our best to welcome (and encourage)  change, while also helping employees adapt to change.

I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers.

  • Libraries  have to be a customer-focused business in order to remain relevant.  Our strength these days is not necessarily in our resources, but in how we care about our communities.   The people who use our libraries are our biggest advocates, so we must be passionate about listening to our patrons to understand their needs.

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.

  • There actually is an “I” in Library, but still.  Good teams get things done.  Bad ones just get in the way.

I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation.

  • Libraries are one of the most powerful ideas of any generation.  What we do is for the common good, to educate, to make the world a better place.  No one gets rich being a librarian,  but they reap their rewards in other ways.

I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.

  • Communication with colleagues, patrons, peers, neighbors, customers, vendors, IT support, library boards, politicians, stakeholders,  etc.  is an essential function of our profession.  We need to make sure our staff are good at talking and writing.

I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day.

  • It’s not a sprint, but that doesn’t mean you should dawdle either.  Our profession continues to change rapidly, and if you aren’t at least moving, you’ll be left behind.

Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

  • In libraries, no problems are insurmountable given enough time, staff, or money. Unfortunately, we don’t often have enough of either, so we have to get good at improvising and solving problems with creative solutions.

Get your knowledge out of your inbox and on the web

In only a week, my answer is now #6 on Google
In only a week, my answer is now #6 on Google

In his book, Trust Agents, Chris Brogan describes how people can become experts by sharing their answers on the web with more people.  I believe librarians should be doing this as often as they can in order to showcase their expertise, and it’s something I try to do whenever practical.

Brogan describes the process as follows (pp. 25-26):

  1. Receive a question requiring your expertise via email.
  2. Respond with an email but put answer in a blog post as well.
  3. The answer is out of your email and on the web for others to learn.
  4. Repeat this process many times.
  5. Your answers are now in Google.
  6. Now you’re an expert on the web.

A week ago I received an email from a student looking for market share and brand share information of the energy and sports drink market.  I recognized that this would likely be a question others were interested in, so rather than simply replying via email, I put the answer on my Business Blog and sent him the link.  He replied back a few hours later with his appreciation (which rarely happens, btw).

In a week’s time, my answer to the one patron has been viewed 103 times and currently sits as the #6 Google search result for “energy drink market share” and #7 result for “sports drink market share.” While all of the resources listed in my answer are from subscription databases (it’s impossible to get a good data on this topic without them) I do suggest that non-OHIO patrons check with their local libraries.  Hopefully my post will send other libraries some business while also demonstrating librarian expertise and the value of libraries.

I admit I have an email problem

The article  “Is there Life After Email?  Yes, and it’s Amazing.”   states that most business email is sent to either “cover your ass” or to “show off”.  I’m guilty of striving for excellence in both areas.

In the CYA statement, the author says that “Email is broadcast to entire divisions simply to ensure no one can say they didn’t hear about a decision.”  Yes, if someone complains they didn’t know about something, I am  guilty of re-sending them the sentmail from days or weeks ago.  It’s hard not to get a little satisfaction by passively rubbing their nose in the old email they were copied on.  For good measure, I’ve even highlighted portions that they should have read way back when.  This is one of the reasons I hardly expunge my sentmail folder.  Pretty silly and a little evil, eh?

The author also states that “for people who don’t actually make things for their job, email is the only visible, tangible thing they make all day. ”  Guilty as well, though I haven’t been one to measure how many email I send in a day.  Rather, I measure the size of my inbox.  It started at 5 on Monday, rose to about 30 yesterday, and is now back to 7 (hence me taking a time-out from email for this quick blog post).  If I have to stay home with a sick kid (which happens quite a bit with 4 boys), I’m able to “catch up” on email. Often this means my co-workers are on the receiving end of a full-on email bombardment that compares to the Normandy invasion.  It’s probably not fair to them, but it’s the work that I’m able to do remotely in that moment.   The problem is, those emails get responses, so the volley continues back and forth until one of us calls an email truce or silently surrenders.

Regardless of what my colleagues or I think about email, it is still a necessary technology in our line of information work.  We’ve used blogs, chat, wikis, twitter, and other technology to communicate within our organization and with those we serve, but none of those is ever adopted as universally as email, nor have they taken any traffic from the well-entrenched technology.  However, one colleague has me thinking again about using a WordPress P2 blog for non-essential/non-time-critical communication such as project updates, meeting minutes, or just personal “what I’m working on” or “I need help” conversations.  Has your organization used a P2 blog, and how did it work?  Perhaps we will investigate and/or give it a try.