Thoughts on ALA Bootcamp: An L20 Manifesto

Some of you may be following the conversation going on concerning ALA’s Library 2.0 Boot Camp. (If you want to catch up, read here, here, here, here (audio here), here, here, here, here and here).

I am a participant in the workshop, and I see the conversation that’s playing out as one big, (public) demonstration of the power and value of L20. There are both positive and negative examples for us to learn from here. My working group in L20 Bootcamp has been charged with answering the question: “How can Library 2.0 be used to enhance [ALA] membership?” What follows is my response.

First, a few thoughts:

I understand the Otter Group’s motivation to defend themselves against perceived attacks. I believe they set out to do good with this workshop. I’ll grant that their motivations are pure. I imagine they must be feeling a bit like “no good deed goes unpunished.” Having said that, I think their evolving response to the criticisms being levied at them could have been plucked whole-cloth from the ClueTrain Manifesto, under the heading, “What not to do” or “Example of corporation 1.0 in its’ death throes.” That is to say, while running a course that is, at its heart, about having conversations, they are investing time and energy and (allegedly) using the language of intimidation and threats of legal action to stamp out conversation because they don’t like what’s being said.

This is great!!! It’s great because it offers us a real-time, unfolding case-study, ripe with lessons we can sink our teeth into. I do not see this as a simple case of the big bad corporation versus the noble defenders of good. It’s a little more nuanced than that (most things are, right?). To the extent that we can resist our impulses to cast this as a drama of good v. evil, we can extract some useful lessons.

That I am getting value from my Bootcamp experience and the conversations that have sprung up around it is unquestionable. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that ALA is doing anything is a huge overriding value. I’m aware that much of the value I’m extracting as a participant is because of Otter’s (and Jenny Levine’s and Michael Stephens’) contributions. And some of it is in spite of their contributions. Right now people are talking about the “in spite” part. That’s ok. That’s natural. That’s healthy. But it’s not the whole story. What follows is my attempt to frame what I’m seeing, hearing, reading, and experiencing in a way that will help me learn and extract value from this experience. Nothing more, nothing less.

El Tuo’s L20 Manifesto: (Thoughts on using L20 to enhance membership in ALA

  1. L20 is a conversation.
  2. Don’t try to put the conversation in a box.
  3. Conversations do not occur in boxes.
  4. Conversations are organic. They go where they go. They grow where they grow.
  5. The further a conversation goes the better. The wider it grows the better.
  6. Go where the conversation goes or you will cease to be a part of it.
  7. No one controls the conversation.
  8. If you try to control the conversation, it will affect how others perceive you in spite of anything or everything else you are doing.
  9. If you try to control the conversation, you will lose credibility (at best).
  10. Credibility is the coin of the web 2.0 realm.
  11. If you try to control the conversation, you will ignite and draw peoples’ anger or ridicule or both (if you’re lucky).
  12. Your response to anger and ridicule can be a part of the conversation or separate from it, in which case it is simply prologue to your epitaph.
  13. If you try to control the conversation you will be ignored as irrelevant (at worst).
  14. Irrelevance is worse than death. People say nice things about the dead, but the irrelevant are seldom mentioned.
  15. Anyone can participate in the conversation.
  16. We add value by participating in the conversation.
  17. It is the quality of our participation, not the quantity, that determines how much value we bring to the conversation.
  18. We extract value by listening to the conversation.
  19. The best listeners extract the most value.
  20. The organization that listens best extracts the most value.
  21. Organizations can’t just listen… They must participate.
  22. ALL feedback is good.
  23. Conversations flourish when ALL feedback is seen as good.
  24. All feedback is useful.
  25. Conversations flourish when ALL feedback is seen as useful.
  26. The appropriate response to feedback is to say thank you.
  27. Find another way to say thank you.
  28. Repeat.
  29. Now offer a thoughtful response to feedback.
  30. Congratulations, we are now having a conversation.

(This manifesto has been cross-posted to: http://eltuo.pbwiki.com/ I encourage fellow boot camp participants and anyone else interested in growing the manifesto to jump in and edit. The pwd is eltuo.)

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EDIT: This was written and posted before reading Michael Stephen’s latest post at Tame the Web–really! A little bit of sychronicity…

Scan this post


Kevin Kelly’s NY Times Magazine article, Scan This Book, blew my mind. I read it straight through on Sunday and have re-read selected snippets a few times trying to wrap my mind around the implications. Here are a few selections that really jumped out at me (with my comments if I rally the brain cells to assist me.)

Kelly writes,

The link and the tag may be two of the most important inventions of the last 50 years. They get their initial wave of power when we first code them into bits of text, but their real transformative energies fire up as ordinary users click on them in the course of everyday Web surfing, unaware that each humdrum click “votes” on a link, elevating its rank of relevance. You may think you are just browsing, casually inspecting this paragraph or that page, but in fact you are anonymously marking up the Web with bread crumbs of attention. These bits of interest are gathered and analyzed by search engines in order to strengthen the relationship between the end points of every link and the connections suggested by each tag. This is a type of intelligence common on the Web, but previously foreign to the world of books.

Mind blow the first: Simply by clicking on a link we are affecting the order the of the web. What seems to be a “read” action, turns out to be more of a “read/write” action. The more we click on something, the more likely it becomes that someone else will find it and click on it.

Kelly writes,

Once digitized, books can be unraveled into single pages or be reduced further, into snippets of a page. These snippets will be remixed into reordered books and virtual bookshelves. Just as the music audience now juggles and reorders songs into new albums (or “playlists,” as they are called in iTunes), the universal library will encourage the creation of virtual “bookshelves” — a collection of texts, some as short as a paragraph, others as long as entire books, that form a library shelf’s worth of specialized information. And as with music playlists, once created, these “bookshelves” will be published and swapped in the public commons. Once snippets, articles and pages of books become ubiquitous, shuffle-able and transferable, users will earn prestige and perhaps income for curating an excellent collection.

Mind blow the second: Individual enthusiasts writing, selecting, “curating”, mashing, may soon be on an equal footing with the “experts.” I can already see this happening with wikis and blogs. The truth is, I now get almost zero useful information from our professional literature (It takes me about 10 minutes to read American Libraries and/or LJ.) But I get an immense amount of useful and stimulating information –information that is helping me do my job better– from a number of library and marketing blogs that I read regularly with the the help of RSS. (So how long before we hear, “Dude, have you heard my mashup of Federalist #51 and the new Neil Young album? Publius rocks!!)

And there’s more. A lot more.

  • The sorry state of our copyright law, and the black hole of out-of-print information it has created (sucking, sucking, sucking information away from the public domain.)
  • The fact that a large % of out-of-print info can’t be put back into print because, well, because no one even knows who owns the copyrights.
  • The possibility that Google can bring much of this “lost” information back into play by scanning and indexing it, thereby shifting the onus to copyright holders to exert claims (if they have them.)
  • The filtering power of hyperlinks and tags to bring items that exist out on the long tail to peoples’ attention. (think: If you like Ryan Adams, you may like the Jayhawks, and if you like the Jayhawks you may like, Uncle Tupelo, and if like Uncle Tupelo, you may like Calexico, and if you like Calexico you may like Giant Sand, and if you like Giant Sand, you may like their album Glum (and that’s about as long tail as it gets.)

I’ll be re-reading this piece, and reading other blogger’s thoughts on it, trying to flesh out and extrapolate what it all means for libraries. It occurs to me that the Overdrive audiobooks platform already allows us to add our own pdf and audio content to the collection. Will librarians soon be performing more local collection development of digital formats?

The possibilities (and challenges) of adding exponentially more community created content (like Atlantic City’s teen poetry slam, or flickr photo sets, or autobiographies) as permanent additions to the collection is intriguing!