Unlucky Thirteen – the Thing of collaborative working

Apparently, collaboration is not just a thing that it is naughty to do with the enemy during a war. It is also a Good Thing too. There are many collaborative tools, and Thing 13 asks us to take a look at one or more of their suggested tools: Google Docs, Wikis, and Dropbox.

Now, I’ve looked at Google Docs in passing before, or when someone’s pointed me towards a document they’d like some input on that’s being hosted there. To be honest, I’ve not seen much use for it for me currently – my role does not often need that sort of mass-input to create single documents, or to share them widely. Same for Dropbox – I’ve not had much need to put a document somewhere that people can later download it from. If I want to work on a document at home, I can access my computer remotely, or email it to my personal email address. So, neither of these two resources currently do much for me, as my work needs don’t call for much in the way of document collaboration..

Wikis, I’m much keener on! I’ve used wikis in many ways:

  • One for hosting my Chartership materials and allowing my mentor to access and review them at her leisure.
  • One that my boss and I use as a Library staff duties handbook, and backup reference resource for supplier contacts and other non-sensitive information.
  • One for the SLLG Committee, to host core group materials and essential information for the development and running of the groups activities.
  • One for Bethan Ruddock and I to work privately on our revalidation materials together.
  • One for public viewing, which replicates the revalidation wiki, with sensitive personal information edited out.

These have all worked well for me, as they were or are being used for more than just working on creating documentation, but actively for discussions, and creating and maintaining a database of relevant information for current and future users.
They’re designed to be more long-term and regularly evolving, whereas I see Google Doc and Dropbox as resources that are used while things are in progress (Google Docs) or when complete (Dropbox). Wikis are more useful for regular, ongoing activities, and to hold reference materials, and for these reasons they’re more useful resources for me than the other collaborative tools.

Reluctantly professional

I try and pretend I’m not, and keep it well hidden, but actually, I can be quite Grown Up and Professional. So much so that I’m going to be Revalidating my Chartership this year – ohhh, get me, eh?

But…I am not-so-good at saying why I’m fabulous, or keeping up with collating my evidence of professional activity nice and accessible in a voluntary way, so I’ve got two things that are going to help me with Revalidation. The first is my employers internal appraisal system – as our Library service’s work is entirely internally focussed, it’s important to be able to demonstrate that we’re still maintaining a high standard of professionalism and awareness of activities and developments both in and outside our specialist fields. The appraisal system allows my boss and I to set realistic targets and activities, keep track of them, and update them as progress is achieved. All of which works nicely with the Revalidation process!

And second is teaming up with someone externally, to act as my informal mentor and Glamorous Cheerleader. The lovely Bethan Ruddock and I had been chatting online, and somehow the idea of us having a wiki to work together on to (initially) put our thoughts and writings into some sort of coherent order as good practice developed. We agreed on a wiki provider (PBWiki, my favourite one), and started cobbling together a vague plan for the layout – what were we doing this for / what did we want to get out of it / what had we done up to that point / what were we doing as we went along / what did we need to be doing. Then we started filling it with content (and occasional complaints), and working with each other to refine things.

A month or so into this, it was agreed that Revalidation was now an active appraisal goal for me this year, so suddenly the work on creating and populating the wiki that had just been Quite Useful was now Really Useful, and has continued to be so, as I’ve focussed my attention on Getting Things Done.

As a professional development tool, it’s been working really well for us – I get great feedback on the material I’m producing, help to refine ideas, suggestions on all sorts of stuff, and in return I get to pick on…erm….help Beth to organise her activities, focus on what she’s doing and why she’s doing it, and give feedback on her materials. Also…there may be a system of chocolate gifts for getting things done when they’re meant to be 😉

And, since we’re such nice, sharing gals, and Revalidation seems to be seen by quite a few people as quite a vague and woolly concept, we decided to create a publicly viewable version of our wiki, in the hope that it’ll maybe inspire people, and show that Revalidation’s not a Terrible Thing…especially not if you have a buddy to cheer you on in doing it. Of course, we removed any swear words or attached/sensitive documentation (it’s like Vegas – what happens on the wiki, stays on the wiki…)

So here it is, CPD For Manatees (so named by Beth because I am still firmly of the belief that the Chartering process involves a Manatee being overseen by a Mental).

It will be updated alongside our private wiki, so you can see how things come together…hopefully! And if you’re considering Chartership or Revalidation, I’d definitely recommend this as either a formal or informal mentoring tool – leave a comment or email me directly if you’d like to discuss anything about what Beth and I have been doing.

Another year, another blogday

Yes, I feel all proud, because it’s coming up to birthday-time for the UK Library Bloggers Wiki...it’s toddling along nicely all by itself (with just the occasional spammer attack – it’s really quite satisfying to get to ban and block people!), with people generally seeming quite happy with the process of adding their blogs themselves.

Since I last looked in July 2010, there have continued to be additions in various categories.

                                          July 2010                                        March 2011
Institutional bloggers              135                                                     152
Individual bloggers                 90                                                       107
Chartership blogs                    5                                                         6
Information professionals         8                                                         8
Suppliers                                 8                                                         8

Total:                                      281 blogs

So, a growth in institutional/workplace bloggers, and individual/personal bloggers too, and a solitary, brave Chartership blog.

I wonder if the 2 years without any change, then last years small growth in Chartership blogs is because people are already blogging, and then decide to Charter, and incorporate that aspect of professional development into their existing blog? Or are fewer people Chartering? Or are those who are Chartering using other methods to log their progress?

I’ve also decided to remove the Yahoo Pipes combines RSS feed link for Institutional and Individual blogs from the front page of the wiki – it was initially done as an experiment, and now that people are able to add their own blogs, unless I then go in each time after I get the wiki has been edited alert”, get their RSS feed, and go edit the Yahoo Pipe, it’s never going to be current/accurate. And I’m afraid I just don’t have the time to be fiddling like that constantly!

Of course, I haven’t clicked on each of those 281 blog links, so I’m quite sure that at least some of them are now defunct – my plan to go through them, and remove the dead blogs to another section has definitely slipped to the bottom of my to-do list. Maybe I’ll be more inspired to do it if I get a prize. Can I get a prize?

It’s aliiiiiiiiive!

So, we unleashed the UK Library Bloggers wiki into the wild back in March, and crossed our fingers that it would be ok, out there in the Scary World, all on its own.

And so far, it seems to be doing just fine, yay! There are of course the regular spammer attempts to “subtly” insert adverts for dissertation work, and all sorts of less…erm…wholesome products within the entries, but the email alerts about text amendments that go to the administrators of the wiki (Phil, Jo and I) means that the first person online and able to, goes in and removes that material and blocks the creator. This has worked really well so far, and unwanted content doesn’t stay on the wiki for any real length of time.
And the best bit is the librarians and info professionals who’ve been adding themselves to the wiki! I created a backup in March before we “unlocked” the wiki, and at that point there were 115 institutional / professional group blogs, 83 librarian blogs, 5 Chartership blogs, 8 information professionals blogs and 8 industry supplier blogs.
There are now (as of 5th July 2010) 135 institutional library blogs, 90 librarian blogs, and still 5 Chartership blogs, 8 information professionals, and 8 industry supplier blogs.
So, the biggest increase has been in institutional blogs, with a small increase in personal library bloggers.
I will (at some point in the near future) be going through the wiki and checking all the links of the ones added prior to the unlocking off the wiki, and removing the “dead” ones. I’m planning on moving those entries into a “dead blogs” section – I think it’s worth keeping the links available, for interest.
So: if you haven’t added yourself, go do it now – you’ll be in good company!