Festive 24 Things for Web 2.0

1 Dec

I was excited to see that there is now a Festive 24 Things blog, starting today! At our last Information Officers meeting, we were talking about doing a 23 Things course for CPD. The ‘23 Things‘ brand has become quite well known: it is a free, online, try it in your own time course introducing a range of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 tools. A number different libraries and groups have developed their own versions, but the idea is the same, a light and fun introduction to Web 2.0.

Festive 24 Things is written by the lovely Damyanti, an ex-colleague of mine from Royal Holloway library, and another academic librarian called Jo who is a fantastic blogger on web 2.0 and information services (and CILIP approved) http://www.joeyanne.co.uk/. It is an advent calendar of web 2.0 with a Christmas twist – so I expect some ‘just for fun’ entries and possibly something to help with the Christmas shopping and planning…

You can keep up with it via both the blog – http://www.librarycraft.com/festive24things/ and the Twitter feed – http://twitter.com/festive24things


My favourite podcasts

30 Nov

I walk to work everyday, about 40 minutes each way, which is why I have become an avid fan of podcasts. I have learnt a lot from these ones – learnt, laughed and cried (honestly). So here’s my shortlist of long-term favourites, along with a few highlighted careers-related episodes.

Planet Money – NPR


What caused the recession? What happened to the people who caused the recession? What is a toxic asset? Why do people buy gold? What drives the rising cost of healthcare?

Each of the podcasts tells a story. They take economics down to the level of the individual, interviewing the average person – a retiree defaulting on a mortgage, a mortgage lender who thought home prices would just keep rising, a banker who lost millions/billions on mortgage bonds. The human touch brings the stories to life, making the economics easy to understand, and bringing a new perspective on the news.

And of course I must not forget the presenters, who always bring a positive, inquisitive and open approach to even the least promising topics.


This American Life – Chicago Public Media


A perennial favourite, this is the podcast that makes me cry. Not every time – the stories aren’t always sad, but they are very real and told with a perfect touch. They are all well-researched, on diverse topics… Hard to explain the greatness though. It is a bit like Home Truths I think, but then again, not quite.

There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe. (From their About page)

Apparently it is America’s most popular podcast if that helps encourage you to try it (and I must insist you do). And again, the presenters are ever engaging and uplifting – just what you need on the commute.

I’m not recommending any particular older episodes here because it costs to download from the archive, just subscribe to the new ones – they’re free 🙂

Radiolab – WNYC


Radiolab is fairly science-y, but only softly. It mixes up theory, experiment, ideas, questions and art to explore questions of life and living. One of the most intriguing features of this podcast is the use of sound-art – I loved the episode on time with a piece where you can hear a baby growing into a teenager within a matter of minutes – powerful stuff.

Radiolab believes your ears are a portal to another world. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.

For me there are only a couple of minor irritations, first the usual science documentary tendency to describe everything as amazing, second there are times when the presenters too obviously act naive to introduce a more basic explanation of a topic, but I am nit-picking.

Not sure I remember any directly careers-related podcasts, but this one on Choice might interest Careers Advisers.

Does anyone have any favourites they’d recommend?

Closing the geek gap

25 Nov

Fascinated by this study – 15-minute writing exercise closes the gender gap in university-level physics.

Think about the things that are important to you. Perhaps you care about creativity, family relationships, your career, or having a sense of humour. Pick two or three of these values and write a few sentences about why they are important to you. You have fifteen minutes. It could change your life.

…In the university’s physics course, men typically do better than women but Miyake’s study shows that this has nothing to do with innate ability. With nothing but his fifteen-minute exercise, performed twice at the beginning of the year, he virtually abolished the gender divide and allowed the female physicists to challenge their male peers.

It just goes to show how much peoples’ self-perception affects their performance. Perhaps an exercise to try with students who are under-performing at actively pursuing their graduate career?

I realised I had tried something vaguely similar in my beginners’ training sessions on blogging, just before they created their first blog. I gave everyone a sheet and asked them to fill in a Mission Statement for their blog, what their Key Selling Point would be (for want of a better phrase), what they were aiming and hoping for. Yet it was never a big success – it didn’t seem to be what people were expecting.

Image by Pedro Glez (Pitadel - Flickr)

Possibly I went wrong in heading it up with the phrase  ‘Mission Statement’ which is enough to make anyone groan. Possibly it was just too soon to ask beginners to make claims like ‘this is going to be the best source of news, resources and reviews for graduate careers in X’ when they hadn’t started yet. But I think there were also some who would have felt this blogging thing is a bit techie, not really their thing. Some who just wanted to get competent enough to turn out a few posts, tick a box to say they tried it, and not really aspire to more.

I wonder if I changed it around to be less about the blog, and more about the potential blogger:

  • What is it you love about your work in careers?
  • What do you value most in life?
  • Would you say you are an empathic people-person or an analytical problem-solver? Ahead-of-the-crowd or happy in the middle? What is more important to you?

(excuse the off-the-top-of-my-head questions)

Then use the responses in discussion as a way of exploring the potential blogger’s voice, their topics, their motivation, what kind of reinforcement and feedback would encourage them – maybe shift the priority from just sending out blog posts to building a real-life community that connects via blogs. It might help people move away from the idea that blogging is just for geeks – that they don’t have to fit any pre-conceived stereotypes to be a blogger. Discuss how blogging would fit into their career, values and life. Worth a try?

8 things I hate about blog posts that are just lists

17 Sep

  1. Image by phoenixdailyphoto on FlickrIt is blogging by numbers.
  2. It is a widespread and over-used format…
  3. …especially common to those seeking to monetize their blog through generic posts on hot topics
  4. It leaches personality from writing.
  5. The information is superficial.
  6. I am  bored now.
  7. I feel compelled to write them myself to increase readership.
  8. It works. People read them.

Oh fair enough, here are 8 reasons why people do just use lists

My pet peeve of the day.

Book review – Switch: How to change things when change is hard

14 Sep

I’m going to cut to the chase here, I really loved this book and have been wildly recommending it to everyone I meet. It has a clear message and engaging supporting examples throughout – definitely lives up to the hype. So what is it and what does it have to do with Careers 2.0?

Switch really emphasises the importance of engaging your changees with your mission in an emotional way – Find the Feeling. People respond better to individual human examples and demonstrations, than generalisations and studies. Another key step is to Shape the Path – make sure the desired action is available, reasonable and clearly specified. There are in fact 12 key points like these that can all contribute to successful culture change, but I won’t summarise them here – you can actually download for free a summary page and related materials from the Heath Brothers website – nice.

So how does it apply? Let’s say you want to bring non-users into the careers service, this example struck me right away: the canned food drive experiment. Students identified each other as people likely to give (Saints) and those unlikely (Jerks). Half the students received a general flyer about the food drive with a request for canned goods, and a location on campus to leave donations. The alternative version included a map, specified “bring a can of beans” and suggested the reader think of when they might be passing that location anyway. The general instructions got an 8% response rate from Saints, and a zero response from Jerks. However the concrete, specific flyer got a 42% response from Saints and 25% from Jerks – both groups showed increased response. So how would you write your career service marketing materials now? Would it be better to market one service at a time, like a CV check, rather than a general leaflet full of options? Too much choice can lead to analysis paralysis“where do I even start with all these services?”.

On finishing I immediately ordered the Heath Brothers other book Made to Stick, so I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of that. You might be hearing about it soon…

Hot topics and keywords for careers blogs

17 Jun

Today I posted an entry entitled “Creative CVs for creative jobs – inspiring examples” and have had 100 views in a matter of hours. Yesterday I posted “The Guardian London Graduate Fair from The Careers Group” (now doesn’t that sound corporate and fun) and it has had 4 views. Yes four, in total. I really should have known better.

From experience I’d say “CVs”, “interview questions” and “aptitude tests” are always guaranteed winners as topics. After that, clearly including the words “examples”, “templates” and interest like “creative” are good. Beyond that I haven’t thought about it. Let’s see what the top 10 most popular posts on the library blog have been over the years, by title:

  1. Making a personal statement
  2. More tough interview questions – examples
  3. Practice graduate recruitment selection tests
  4. How to answer hard interview questions
  5. Preparing for competency-based interviews
  6. Networking for students and graduates
  7. How can I get medical and healthcare work experience?
  8. CVs – what to put for hobbies and interests
  9. Interview questions – real-life examples
  10. What do mathematicians do?

Are there any patterns? Clearly “interviews” are showing strongly – I thought it was interesting that the follow-up “tough” post beat initial “hard” interview questions post, though maybe it was the addition of the magic word “examples” that helped? The personal statement post was a surprise success, as it actually contains little information, but the title has turned out to be massive link-bait – interesting for future reference.

I think some of the other titles seem to mimic the sort of search phrase someone might put into Google – some are directly phrased as a question a student might ask. Most titles are 4-6 words long, with a high number of topical words crammed in – no puns or fancy phrasing, they are completely, concisely to the point. This reminds me of the BBC news feeds, which will capture an article completely  in 4-6 words.

I should give a quick mention as well to the bottom 10 titles, for contrast:

  1. Library closure 21st October 2008
  2. Feeling better?
  3. Library closure time on 18th December
  4. Library closures
  5. Library closure 19th September
  6. On the move…
  7. Happy New Year!
  8. The Guardian London Graduate Fair from The Careers Group
  9. But what’s it really like?
  10. Making a Difference

Clearly no one cares about service notices (and of course they don’t exactly have long-standing interest). After that, the other titles are generally short 2-3 word titles, not very specific, not descriptive. Just looking at them in a list you can see there is nothing to pull a reader in, no hook, nothing to say what the post is about.

I’d be interested to hear from other careers bloggers to see what their all-time top 10 blog titles are. Has anyone succeeded with a different approach?

My top 10 recommended Firefox add-ons

10 Jun

I have been a long-time Firefox user, and I always thought this day would come, eventually, but now here it is! Staff complaining because certain web apps and, er, our CMS won’t work on the ONLY browser they use; and the revelation that nearly as many of our website users are now on Firefox as Internet Explorer. Firefox certainly has hit the mainstream.

As I installed it on my new netbook I realised how much I take my Firefox view of the web for granted. The following isn’t really careers-related at all, but it is quite 2.0 so I’m going with it anyway.

Here are 7 long-time favourite extensions:

  • Adblock Plus – surely sufficient reason alone for using Firefox. Using the web without it drives me nuts –  I can’t believe there are so many adverts!
  • Shareaholic – one toolbar button and I can post to Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn, bit.ly or pretty much any other social network or bookmarking tool.
  • All-in-one Sidebarjust makes it a little easier to manage extensions and downloads.
  • Status-bar calculator – this tiny wee calculator is great for quick sums and will never get in the way
  • Download statusbar – displays download progress in the status bar instead of an annoying pop-up window – great for multiple downloads.
  • Colorful tabs – simply gives each tab a different colour. Why? Makes it easier to pick them out? Or maybe I just like it because it is pretty? I don’t know but for some reason I am completely accustomed to it and always install it.
  • Foxytunes – if you listen to music while browsing, then you might like this. You know when you want to open a video, then you have to go out to your player, pause, go back to your browser… repeat as needed. Well Foxytunes gives you a little control in the status bar so you can pause iTunes then flick to Youtube and play, and generally control a range of players from inside your browser.

And here are my 3 newest toys

  • Tab mix plus – while Firefox is now pretty good at tab management and recovery, this just adds a couple of extra features like status bars for each new tab when opening multiple tabs, highlighting of pages you haven’t viewed yet, and generally lots of options to customise tab management. Not essential but I like the tab download bars.
  • Screengrab – just what I needed today – I wanted to capture a screenshot of a whole webpage, not just what I could see in the browser window. Screengrab gives you plenty of options to capture the full page, a selection, or a frame within it, as you like. Works really well – so much quicker than copy-pasting, cropping, patching together…
  • NoScript – heard about the recent clickjacking on Facebook? This tool will block websites from running javascript until you allow the source – so if a hacker is trying to re-direct you to their dodgy outside-of-Facebook script you will be warned. It does make using the web awkward as it keeps interrupting, but I am finding it interesting at least temporarily as it reveals  all sorts of unexpected sites ‘watching’ from outside. For instance, on here, WordPress.com, I allow scripts from WordPress, but what is this Quantserve script? Blocked!

And now I just read on the BBC that NoScript is for nerds – well see if I care! I don’t think it is too bad to use. Ok it is quite bad. But there is no denying my nerdiness. Between my computer geekery and my boyfriend’s birdwatching we’ve got all dorkiness covered.

Btw quick question – anyone still use Flock? It seems to have dropped off the radar so I’m just curious what’s up?

And of course do you have any Firefox add-ons you recommend?