Social networks in the workplace

We all appreciate what the benefits are of using social networks externally and to some degree internally. But what are some of the dangers of using social networks within a workplace. In Social Networks in the workplace - some data protection issues the author looks at one of the biggest concerns around the use of social networks within a workplace Data Protection

Internal concerns about Data Protection usually boil down to an individuals concern that the content they post on a social networking site, for example a message board of instant messaging site, may be subject to scrutiny by colleagues or managers who weren't the intended recipient. Individuals may also be concerned that their use of external social networking sites and the adverts that are shown on these sites may also reflect badly on them. For example if you're looking at Facebook or watching a video on YouTube and an inappropriate advert is displayed, does this reflect badly on you and will this be seen by line managers?

So how should concerns around misuse of personal data within the workplace be handled. The author outlines two approaches. The first was to enforce the Data Protection act within the workplace. This might work if the social networking site is based in the UK but in most cases is going to be difficult to enforce. The second option is to educate users. This strikes me as a much more effective way to protect individuals and organisations from any data protection issues.

The final part of this article looks at how data protection issues affect an information managers work, especially where they might be involved in preparing policies around individuals use of social networking sites. Again the key is to ensure individuals are educated about the use of social networking sites, either through training or by providing guidelines and documentation around the use of social networking sites.

 [Photo credit - Data Protection from Mista Bob]

It's not very chrismassy...

What are your intranet bad habits?
...but I had to link to this post on the Content Formula website which asks what are the five worst things you can do with your intranet.

There are probably a lot more then five really bad things that you can do to your intranet having said that this article covers some of the things you HAVE to do right to ensure your intranet is well used.

What are these things I hear you say, well here we go:
  1. Don't grow an eyesore - Make your intranet aesthetically pleasing, keep font use to a minimum and apply the same styles throughout the intranet so that users have a seamless experience and don't think "Am I still on the intranet"
  2. Under or over watering - This is about ensuring your content is well maintained and that the content that is published to the intranet is meaningful and relevant
  3. Having an out of control intranet - It's all very well having an intranet that looks great, but not if it contains 50k pages of which 7 are actually useful. Establishing a well ordered hierarchy and encouraging editors to review content regularly will ensure your intranet doesn't get out of control
  4. Too many cooks in the kitchen - Where intranets are based on a de-centralised publishing model it can be hard to maintain the same look and feel and content quality across the site. If this is the case then you should put in place a good governance model, which makes it clear who 
  5. Having an intranet that remains static - Content that has been on the homepage for months isn't going to be appealing to users. Across the intranet content should be updated regularly to ensure users regularly check the site for updates and for new content
So those are the five worst things according to Content Formula, do you have anymore?

Top five reasons to use LinkedIn groups

Earlier this year I spoke at the BIALL conference on how I thought individuals should be using LinkedIn as more then just a place where they add connections. Entitled "Going beyond connections" my talk was a look at some of the functionality available within LinkedIn that users may be less aware of including LinkedIn groups. I use LinkedIn groups on a regular basis both to ask questions and to connect with individuals who work in similar positions to me.

So it was great to see the LinkedIn blog publish a post entitled the "Top five reasons to use LinkedIn groups" in the post the author outlines five reasons you might want to start using LinkedIn groups. These all resonate with me but I have to say number two resonates a little bit more. The full list is:
  1. Learn from your network
  2. Discover your passion
  3. Engage with your community
  4. Develop a focused audience
  5. Deliver high quality, curated content
What do you think, are you using LinkedIn groups or do you avoid them at all costs?

Managing an intranet - what would you do?

I've been in my current post for just over two years and have been thinking about what I've achieved in that time. That time has certainly flown by, but I'm able to point at some tangible improvements I've made to both the intranet and to our enterprise search tool.

When I joined my current firm I'd never managed an intranet before, although I'd been heavily involved in looking after my previous firms intranet it had never officially been my job. So starting here and actually managing an intranet has meant quite a steep learning curve. So now we come to the real core of this blog post. What should you do if you're both new to an organisation and new to managing intranets? Here are my suggestions, these are by no means perfect and I'm certain more experienced managers will have other suggestions.
  1. Get to know your intranet. This doesn't mean understanding the technology. When I joined I didn't have training on the CMS for two weeks so couldn't get hold of the technology before then. This means understanding how your intranet works from a user perspective. What content is available where and how it's used. At its most basic this will involve spending some time navigating the intranet but it could also involve surveying intranet users, shadowing users or arranging focus groups.
  2. Understand the technology. As soon as you've had training (if required) you should start to look more closely at the technology that it is being used to manage your intranet. This doesn't just mean understanding how the CMS works but where and how it's integrated with other applications. So that might be an enterprise search tool, your DMS or your HR system. Understanding how each of the systems "talks" to each other will help you understand how the intranet works in more detail. Having said that some of the stuff on the intranet seems to happen by magic, so although you can try and understand how AD works, it's probably best to leave that to your IT Team.
  3. Get to know your editors. If you've got a de-centralised publishing model then I recommend getting in touch with the intranet editors to introduce yourself and to see if they have any issues that need resolving. You might find that by doing so you identify individuals who require additional training or actually don't need to be an editor anymore. Another worthwhile exercise if there isn't already a document which lists responsibilities is to create one. There always seems to be a few intranet pages that fall between the cracks, so identifying these quickly will help when someone needs them updated urgently.
  4. Get to know the organisation you're working for. This goes hand in hand with point one really. By looking at your intranet pages you can get a good idea about the culture and values of the firm and perhaps more importantly the firms strategy. For example is the firm looking to collaborate more, if so how could the intranet help. Does the firm what to integrate overseas offices more closely, if so how could the intranet help? It's also good at this point to try and identify what teams and individuals use the intranet regularly to see if you can identify an intranet champion/champions. Having an intranet champion will help you promote the value of the intranet to all users.
  5. Identify some quick wins. It's great to have a long term plan for the intranet, but when you first start a new role and especially where your managing what might be a new technology, it's great to be able to implement a very visible improvement. For example are there a group of pages that could do with updating. Is there something within the people search that could be changed to improve the search. Implementing these quick wins will help raise your profile within the organisation and show that you're passionate about making the intranet as valuable as possible. Of course they're only quick wins and there may well be more significant issues that you need to look at as part of the long term intranet strategy.
Those are my five tips for anyone who has just started managing an intranet. Please feel free to comment on any of these of suggest others.

A short introduction to enterprise search

Are you considering implementing an Enterprise search tool? Then you might want to take a look at a presentation on the Pandia search engine news site. The presentation, which I've embedded below, looks at some of the challenges presented by enterprise search and provides some advice for anyone considering buying an an enterprise search product.

Social Media in the City

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to "wangle" a place at the Perfect Information event "Social Media in the City". I'd only seen this advertised the day before it was due to take place but given that it was taking place just around the corner from me I was hoping the organisers would let me attend at short notice and indeed they did.

The sad news was that I was only able to stay for the first presentation, but that was fine with me because that was the one I most interested in hearing. This was a presentation from the very impressive Jonathan Armstrong who talked with great skill and humour about some of the risks associated with using Social Media tools.

One of the first thing Jonathan said was that everyday we calculate the risks we take, for example if we're about to give a presentation we normally check where we're walking to ensure we're not going to trip over wires or furniture. When we drive, most people will check their mirrors regularly, especially when undertaking manoeuvres to ensure we're not about to have an accident. But when it comes to Social Media tools we ALL tend to jump in without thinking and not worrying about the consequences of doing so, because we don't believe there will be any consequences when using these tools.

The rest of Jonathan's presentation was then devoted to explaining how Data Protection and other legislation affects how we use Social Media tools. One really interesting example was the case of Robbie Hastie who used to work at the Royal Bank of Scotland. Robbie was an assistant manager at the Bank of Scotland, who was prosecuted under data-protection legislation for disclosing salary details of football players on a BBC online football forum. He pleaded guilty at a court in Edinburgh to the offence of knowingly or recklessly disclosing this information without consent, although having the presence of the Information Commissioner in the forum probably didn't help. This case highlights that although the fine was small (£400) he lost his job as a result.

Some other examples Jonathan gave were around how the power of the internet can quickly and easily ruin a company's reputation. For example Coca Cola who have a page on their website which highlights some of the myths about Coca Cola and provides the answers to these myths. 

It was also interesting to hear about several examples of where Social media is being used as a litigation tool. For example is a litigation case involving a school in the US. The case has its own website, Facebook page and Twitter feed which is uses to contact students and former employees who might want to take part in the litigation.

Overall this was a fascinating and informative presentation, which was helped immensely by Jonathan adding anecdotes and humour into the presentation. If you want to read more about Jonathan's work then a good starting point would be his article "Technical difficulties" which was published in Managing Partner magazine last year.

Social Business Platforms breakfast briefing

A good looking breakfast :-(
Earlier this week I attended a breakfast briefing organised by Headshift and hosted by Arrow ECS in their offices at the Royal Exchange. The briefing was aimed at law firms and was a chance to look at the opportunities provided by SharePoint 2010 when combined with IBM Social connections.

First to speak was Lee Bryant from Headshift who talked in some detail about the journeys Intranets have taken and how some Intranets had become obsolete. One of Lee's first slides outlined what had happened to Intranets and demonstrated some of the problems with Intranets, which include;
  • Only one-way communication
  • A central administration team
  • No ownership
  • Complex, slow and tedious interfaces
  • Difficult navigation
  • Outdated information
  • Content dead-zones
Now shortly after showing attendees this slide Lee seemed to say that traditional Intranets we're dead. Dead is quite a strong word. I think most people especially Intranet managers would prefer the term "evolving" to describe what is currently happening to Intranets rather then dying. Lee went on to describe the role that SharePoint 2010 is playing in many law firms, I think most people would agree that SharePoint appears to become ubiquitous in law firms.

However SharePoint isn't a silver bullet and Lee described some of the issues with using SharePoint, specifically that:
  • SharePoint is very document centric
  • Surfacing content and surfacing behaviour is difficutl
  • The collaboration features are hard to use
  • There is no concept of flow within SharePoint
So the question then is, how do you work around these issues? This is where IBM Social Connections comes in. IBM Social Connections. IBM Social Connections is a social software application that enables users to blog, create wikis, follow other users, create networks and view activity streams. It does look quite good, although very similar to some other products. Sadly although we had a demonstration of IBM Social Connections and the potential of it, we didn't get to see IBM Social Connections used within SharePoint, that would have been interesting to see.

Overall a really interesting session and useful to see hear what other Law Firms think about SharePoint 2010 and its potential. I was also disappointed with the breakfast. I always go in expecting bacon butties and end up with a Pain Au Chocolat...oh well!

Revitalising outsourcing

The latest issue of Information Today Europe comes with a very interesting piece called "Revitalising outsourcing" The article, which is written by Iain Dunbar from the LAC Group an information management consultancy and services specialist, which has recently established a UK office, looks at some of the reasons behind companies outsourcing Library & Information Services. From the article:

"Organisations considering outsourcing are usually approaching it as part of a long-term strategy or as a result of a sudden crisis.

  • Need for cost savings
  • Outside expertise required
  • Massive cultural/organisational change required eg move from traditional to a digital library service
  • Financial or other crisis
  • Seeking more services for less money
  • Improve storage efficiencies
  • Make better use of/monetise archives
  • Address environmental concerns
  • Implement new technology eg SharePoint
  • Physical to digital migration"
The article then goes on to outline some of the benefits associated with outsourcing either elements of Library Services or an entire service. The benefits of outsourcing should by now be fairly obvious to most people; cost savings, having a wider group of individuals to call upon to undertake work and other efficiencies. However there are two benefits outlined in this article that I struggle to get my ahead around, they are:
  • Improved buying power on aspects from subscriptions to IT 
  • Relevant information to fee earners in a more timely and cost efficient manner
Lets take the latter "benefit" first. The issue I have here is understanding how reducing the number of staff in an organisation will speed up the delivery of information to fee-earners? Yes this can happen with less staff but surely only if the company invests in a new way of delivering information, which will initially come at more cost. The first benefit I'm having to assume means that less people in an organisation means that the company who is doing the outsourcing can pay less for subscriptions to online databases/IT systems etc, these costs will have to be absorbed by the company that is undertaking he outsourcing.

Having said that I struggle with these two benefits I can see to some degree how the first one would make an impact. I'm still not sure about the latter benefit though!

21 Useful Cloud Computing Resources for Librarians

I recently spoke at the BIALL seminar "Emerging Technologies" on how I thought Cloud Computing, as well as other tools, was going to become a technology that Law Librarians should pay more attention to, so it's great to see that the iLibrarian has put together a list of "21 Useful Cloud Computing Resources". The list provides a useful introduction to what Cloud Computing is and some Cloud Computing applications.

Perhaps of most interest to Law Librarians will be the resources which deal with Cloud Privacy/Security. With Law Firms tending to be risk averse we need to ensure that we're aware of some of the concerns around using Cloud Computing if we're going to be suggesting Cloud Computing as a means to manage data and potentially host applications.

I believe Law Librarians are in a good position to take advantage of the developments in Cloud Computing, because if you think about the work we undertake we've actually been using Cloud Computing for some time. Or at least since dedicated LexisNexis and Westlaw terminals were replaced by web versions of the databases. Where do you think the dedicated servers supporting LexisNexis and Westlaw exist? That's right (probably) in the cloud!

Deal 5 miler

Last Sunday I took part in the Deal 5 miler, this wasn't a race I'd run before but my understanding was that the race was held on a pan flat course and was a potential PB course. Now I hadn't run a 5 mile race since 2009 when I completed a "challenging" course is 36:56, I run 5 miles when training all the time, but 5 mile races are few and far between. So my expectations were quite low, although I hoped to run a sub 40 minute race.

Unfortunately on the day of the race the weather was a bit inclement, a strong wind behind us on the way out and a headwind on the way back, it was also raining, so all in all great weather to be running in. Despite this fact I posted a time of 37:29 which I was delighted with. I just need to keep up my training and perhaps and this will sound crazy run some more races before the end of the year! If we have snow like last year I might reconsider this decision!

Emerging technologies seminar

Last week I had the great pleasure of talking to a select group of BIALL members about some of the "emerging" technologies I believe will have the biggest impact on Law Libraries. You can view the full presentation below, although you may not get much from it as most of the slides are pictures only.

For an impartial report of the seminar look no further then the View from the Hill blog which has a good summary of the seminar. The observant among you will see that there are several videos embedded within the PowerPoint presentation. For once technology didn't let me down and these actually played, but they wont if you're looking at the embedded presentation below.

So because I'm nice I've included links to all 3 videos below. They are in the order I played them.

  • Social Media Revolution 2011 a video that will convince you, if you're not convinced already about the power of Social Media. There are some fascinating statistics in this video so if you haven't watched it I'd encourage you to do so. If you look the music then you might be interested in knowing that this song "Baba Yetu" was the first video game piece to ever win a Grammy award, for "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)". Performed by the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, you can listen to it on YouTube as well.
  • The second video is called "What is Google+ and do I need it" this video scares me slightly as it seems to indicate that Google is going to take over the world, which probably isn't that far from the truth. Aside from that the video is actually a very useful introduction to circles in Google+ and some of the other features that make this a direct competitor to Facebook and other social networks.
  • The last video I showed was one of several commercials that Microsoft showed recently which highlight how "difficult" tasks could be transformed by going "To the cloud". I love the fact that each of these videos includes a line saying "Internet connection required" well yeah duh!
Anyway enjoy the videos, the first two are really quite interesting and if you have any questions about the seminar or any of the technologies I mention I'd be happy to answer those.

Intranetters - October 2011

Yesterday I attended the latest in the quarterly meetings of the Intranetters group. Intranetters are an informal group of Intranet managers that meet to discuss issues affecting their work and as was the case on Tuesday to walk-through members Intranets.

At the latest meeting we were lucky enough to hear from Nigel Williams at Romec who walked through their very impressive Intranet. There were a lot of features on this Intranet that I can see us using or at least borrowing the idea and trying to replicate, which I think is the same thing as using!

I also, despite some technical difficulties, did a walk-through of our Intranet. This seemed to go down well and there were certainly plenty of questions, which I always think is a good thing. Last but not least we heard from the great James Robertson of Step Two Designs who was in London to attend this meeting and to present the Intranet innovation awards to some very worthy UK winners. If you haven't seen the list of winners already you can review the list of on the Step Two Website.

My congratulations to UK Parliament, ARUP and Framestore who were all present at the meeting to collect their award from James. Later this week a number of the attendees, including myself, will be attending the Interact Intranet conference. I'm looking forward to hearing from some of these speakers again about how we can and should be developing our Intranets.

Outsourcing, offshoring and right sourcing for the future

This is the title of an interesting blog post on the Practice innovations site which provides an introduction to the concept of outsourcing and offshoring for anyone who hasn't come across the terms before. If you work in a Law Library in the UK and aren't aware of these terms, where have you been!?! From the introduction to the blog post.

So what does this mean for Law Libraries and Law Librarians? Well as it happens and as outlined in the post "Law libraries have been outsourcing supporting functions for decades. By outsourcing looseleaf filing, cataloguing, indexing, document retrieval, technical services, legislative history compilations, subscription management, and interlibrary loan, an information professional is free to perform highly skilled core business needs" and this market is growing as Law Firms merge and firms feel the pressure of a market that is becoming even more competitive more and more firms are looking at outsourcing as a way to streamline some of their internal processes, free Library professionals up to do more value added work and of course save money.

You only have to look to the recent CMS/Integreon partnership to understand how important the outsourcing market is, both in the UK and overseas. The author of the article makes a good point about how and why services are outsourced though. "One would think these decisions are not simply quick cost-cutting measures, head count ratio, or a reaction to competitive behavior. One would hope it also isn't a problem or a "mess" that a firm or administrator wants to be rid of. Having a grasp on the function and process helps direct improvement and the value proposition for the firm, clients, and employees. The best cases for outsourcing are those that have a strategic broad view of the firm's core business, vision, mission, and culture"

The author then looks at some examples of how outsourcing elements of Library teams can work well in practice, citing Allen & Overy as a good example of where the management team has worked closely with the outsourced team and those team members who were retained to provide a "blended" service. "Sarah (Fahy) has engaged a blended partnership with Integreon to produce business development reports. Relying on scalable models to support business development needs allows Allen & Overy's research team to create bespoke standards of research, business intelligence analysis, and deeper core legal research while working with an outsourced team. The ability to draw upon outsourced professionals who support non-billable, non-confidential projects while freeing dedicated professional staff to work on client research is an example of operating with a broad-spectrum strategic view of the business."

Then the question that everyone automatically thinks of when anyone mentions outsourcing or offshoring. "Aside from centralizing noncore functions, what about outsourcing? Are we hung up on the concept of outsourcing that has been maligned in the press and viewed as causing job loss and producing lower quality work? Is it really a threat to law librarians or is it an opportunity to elevate our position and influence knowledge strategies by representing the firm's commitment to knowledge excellence, translating into a competitive advantage?" From the conversations I've had with people I'd say yes. Certainly there are some opportunities for Law Librarians, but there will also be some pain and having read this blog post in full it looks like for some there may be more pain to come as the market for outsourcing grows and continues to develop.

If you build it, they will come, but will they come back?

This isn't you'll be pleased to know a blog post about the Kevin Costner film "Field of Dreams" but a reference to an excellent post on the 3 Geeks and a Law Blog called "If you build it, they will come. But will they return?" What you might wonder are they referring to with this statement. Well as it happens they're talking about Intranets and the answer is a resounding NO.

So what's wrong with Intranets within Law Firms at the moment? The blog post outlines the current state of affairs; "The problem with the conventional view of Intranets is that it is an enterprise approach to what should be a consumer experience.  In order to succeed, the Intranet needs to be an adaptive, ever learning, ever growing aggregate of my view in the firm as well as my web based social interactions. It needs to allow me to organize information in a way that makes sense to me and it needs to have robust search that makes information easy to find.  As we all know, users are more likely to use a Google style search to find information than they are to look through various sub-sites trying to figure out how to reserve a conference room.  But, robust search on its own does not solve the problem"

I absolutely agree that an Intranet should be visually engaging, intuitive and needs to contain fresh content. The problem is as the author outlines is that most content currently published to Law Firms intranet is that it doesn't compel people to keep coming back for more. Yes, it's crucial that someone knows about the latest development with the SRA or news about our latest panel appointment, but does this encourage them to return to the Intranet day after day, unless they don't get out much probably not.

So what can Intranet managers do about this? The author has a suggestion;  

"We need to do build Intranets that reflect the interests of the reader. A site needs to be able to look and feel different for each user to address each user's unique perspective. An effective Intranet needs to blur the lines of personal and professional, because most of today's workers do not have clear cut delineations between work and play.  For those few who still want the delineation, a well designed site will accommodate their wishes too. Intranets need to embrace social media, both external and internal. They need to foster a sense of community and quickly adapt to changing times" 

This is an interesting idea and there has certainly been some moves toward providing more social Intranets. However the problem with Law Firms in particular is that they tend to be quite conservative when it comes to providing content and the methods by which content is delivered to users. So moving to an Intranet or an application that not only reflects the needs of the users but blurs the lines between personal and professional will for many be a step too far. "The biggest challenge we face in making this move is changing management's perception that all this social media stuff is not only a waste of time, but also a time waster"

We also need to move beyond Intranets being useful to essential, which is the subject of the presentation I've embedded below.

SharePoint might be worth the "hassle"

I know I know it has been a while...a combination of being ill and not being in the country has meant the blog has been sorely neglected, but I'm back now and filled with a new determination to blog more regularly.

And what better way to start then with a post on how SharePoint 2010 might be worth the hassle from the excellent Intranet blog, in the post the author reports on the latest Forrester report on SharePoint 2010 (SharePoint Adoption, 2011). I haven't read this report (the report costs $499 unfortunately) but the author has provided a good summary of some of the pros and cons associated with using SharePoint 2010.

Here are the highlights from the blogpost:


  • 57% of SharePoint organizations have deployed or in the process of upgrading to SP 2010
  • Early successful deployments encourage rapid uptake and use
  • 79% of respondents reported that SharePoint meets IT’s expectations
  • Benefits outweigh the problems
  • Strong collaboration capabilities
  • 54% say that it is meeting technical expectation
  • SharePoint 2010 fills critical functional gaps left by the 2007 version
  • No one is using SharePoint mobile as it won’t work for Blackberry, iPhone & Androids
  • Lengthy deployment (including 2,000 of deployment documentation and hidden features)
  • Problematic and expensive to customize
  • Often fails to satisfy as a standalone product; needs augmentation (57% of customers have bought third-party tools to augment/improve SharePoint, particularly BPM, workflow, reporting, and administration)
  • Not enough expertise / skills to implement and customize
  • Cost (expensive)
  • Usage (not getting the use as hoped)
  • Technical issues (performance, technical complexity)
  • Lack of governance
  • Functional operation (54% say SP 2010 fails to live up to functional expectations)
SharePoint 2010 certainly appears to be a better product then SharePoint 2007 but it still seems to need a lot of resource thrown at it in order to make it work effectively. What do you think, are you using SharePoint successfully?

5 myths about working with information

I've never seen a green unicorn before.
The Digital Landfill blog has published a very interesting post entitled 5 myths about working information in the 21st Century. In the post the author looks at...well 5 myths associated with working with information. These are:
  1. We'll all work less hours in the 21st century - like this is ever going to happen seriously. Apparently there were predictions in the late 80's that we would be working less but despite technology advances we seem to be working even more. Or perhaps because of technology advances we're working even more! 
  2. We're creating more data than ever before - The author makes an interesting point here which is that we're not actually creating more data, but we're retaining it for longer and we're using it in different ways. At least I hope that is the point they're making.
  3. An infinite crowd is infinitely wise - Now then this is a very interesting point that the author makes. We all know how "crowd sourcing" has and can be used by organisations to solve problems or generate ideas. What the author is saying is that actually most great ideas will still come from an individual or as the author puts it "the lone inventor (or small team) who look at a problem in a completely different way"
  4. Email was a 20th century tool - The author is bang on here, email is going to roll and roll and roll and unfortunately we're all going to have to deal with the consequences (information overload etc). But the author does have some suggestion as to how with emails. "First, allow staff to declare themselves “email bankrupts."  The act of doing so will result in a message to all who have sent an email outstanding in their inbox, that nothing prior to the given date will be read or actioned.  The bankrupt then has a clean inbox and a fresh start.  Declaring bankruptcy should have some consequences, but they must not be too serious (name and shame would normally suffice).  In addition, like a financial bankrupt, they should be given some assistance to help them avoid the situation in the future" Sounds like a great idea but I'm not sure how practical it would be in reality. The second suggestion from the author is to send emails in batches. In principle this means using your email client to delay sending emails until a certain point in time. 
  5. All documents and unstructured content are equivalent - I got a bit lost here, so I recommend just reading about this on the blog post!

Is free legal information really free?

Susan Munro Director of Publications at CLEBC has written an interesting piece on the SLAW blog called "Free legal information, really?"  in the blog post Susan looks at how information that has been published to the web that is supposedly free might in reality not be.

From Susan's blog post "The truth of the matter is that free is not really free. There’s plenty of legal information on the Internet. But it’s not really free. Someone is paying to put it there. And there’s a lot of expense associated with publishing specialized information on the Internet; technology has a significant cost associated"

Susan makes some really good points about some of the very valuable "free" resources, which we're actually paying for. In the UK for example we have BAILLI which although a fantastic resource has recently had to appeal for funds to ensure the good work it does continue. It's absolutely crucial that this resource continues and I'm sure ALL Law Librarians and a lot of practitioners would agree with me.

Susan then goes on to look at the differences between making primary and secondary legal material available for free online. "When we’re thinking about free information online, it’s important to distinguish between primary and secondary material. Free secondary legal information is also available online in the many legal blogs now published. These blogs are usually a marketing vehicle showcasing the legal expertise of the author. They are easy to set up using an interface such as WordPress. Some blogs are marvelous; others less so. The best that can be said is that the quality is inconsistent; there is certainly no guarantee of accuracy."

Finally Susan asks whether free legal information is or will ever be a real threat to online subscription products. "Is free material a serious threat to our online subscription products? In a column last year, I wrote about the use of wikis and other collaborative resources for legal publication. My conclusion that lawyers would continue to pay for authoritative and accurate secondary legal information hasn’t changed. But ensuring the accuracy of that information has a cost. And I continue to believe that having subscribers bear the cost of developing and publishing secondary information is still the best model for us"

This is a really interesting blog post which is well worth reading for the thoughts of an individual that provides both primary and secondary legal information.

Social media policy

I absolutely love this video from Youtube which explains an organisations Social Media policy with just the right mix of fun and seriousness. This was put together by the Department of Justice in Victoria, Australia - enjoy!

The future of Intranets and what it means for KM

This is the title of an excellent PowerPoint presentation from James Robertson in which he looks at how Intranets need to move beyond "useful" to become "essential" how Intranets should be supporting the generation and collation of both explicit and tacit knowledge and how they should become "smart" that is they deliver content/knowledge when people need it, not expecting people to have to search through massive content repositories.

There is a bonus video clip on the Column Two website in which James discusses some of the more contentious points he makes in his presentation.

81 Intranet Governance Questions to Ask Yourself

The ultimate house of governance
This is an interesting post from the Thoughtfarmer blog which challenges to ask yourself 81 questions about the governance of  your Intranet. If anyone can answer yes to ALL 81 of these questions I'd really like to meet them!

E-books and the Future of Legal Publishing

There has been a lot of discussion on the BIALL and LIS-LAW mailing lists recently about e-books and implications for their purchases within Law Firms. So it was interesting to see that this subject was discussed at the recent AALL Conference in a panel discussion called E-books and the Future of Legal Publishing 

In this panel session, which was hosted by June Hsiao Liebert and had representatives from LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters and YBP Library Services, the panelists were asked the following questions:
  • What is the future of ebooks?
  • What kind of licensing models are you implementing; how are you implementing digital rights management?
  • What difficulties are there in converting a book to an ebook?
  • If you had a crystal ball, how long do you think your companies will continue to produce print?
  • What types of content do you plan to put into ebooks first?
  • What platform will your ebooks use?
There were also some additional questions from the audience which are included within this excellent summary from Connie Crosby. Having seen several discussions on LIS-LAW about e-books it was interesting to see a more detailed discussion at the AALL Conference.

Intranet teams need to be technology savvy

It might seem obvious but if you're managing an Intranet, you're going to need to have some experience with technology. However increasingly Intranets are being managed outside of the IT Team. This is a good development, however it does mean that there can be gaps in the Knowledge of the team managing the Intranet.

So how can someone gain technical knowledge in area they might not be familiar with? Well James Robertson has some suggestion in his post Intranets teams need technology savvy the following are some of James's suggestions:

  • Reading blogs and websites that cover general technology trends from a business perspective.
  • Gaining hands-on training with key tools, to an administrator (not developer) level.
  • Attending conferences and events that explore intranet and technology topics.
  • Tracking what other organisations have done from a technical perspective.
  • Building a productive relationship with IT, to allow constructive two-way dialogue and knowledge sharing.
  • Hiring team members with a greater level of technical knowledge or comfort.
  • Sticking at it! Not being afraid to ask questions, or to keep asking for more information until things make sense. 
When I joined my latest firm I had very little experience of managing an Intranet aside from publishing content. So it was somewhat of an upward learning curve trying to understand how the different systems worked together and to be honest I'm still learning. Having an understanding of what is happening more generally is very useful as you can begin to work on ideas for your own Intranet. Attending Conferences and events is also very useful, especially as you'll likely to meet other individuals in a similar position to yourself. I'd also suggest signing up to Twitter if you haven't already (why not!) and searching for Intranet managers or Intranet professionals, there are plenty on there and they're normally happy for people to contact them with questions. There are also a lot of groups on LinkedIn which are specifically for Intranet managers, which are well worth signing up to. One of the most important points James makes is about building a productive relationship with IT. This is essential if you want to get anything done on your Intranet. A bad working relationship can mean that you struggle to have updates and changes approved or resource made available.

Have you recently taken over the management of an Intranet, if so how did you get up to speed?

Is it time to try social technologies?

I know for some people the term "social networking" can be quite scary but is it perhaps time for everyone to start using social networking sites more? Looking for some encouragement, why not have a look at the video below (it's from a few months ago but it's still useful) from Kevin Jones. In the video he outlines the two main reasons why individuals don't use social technologies.

  • Fear of the unknown

  • Fear of change

As Kevin says the only way to figure some social technologies out is to give them a good sustained go, don't just quit after a few days.

Magical Law Library staff

We all know Law Librarians are magical but now it has been confirmed with the publication of "The Magical Law Library staff" post on the Linex Systems blog.

From the introduction to the Blog post "Lawyers, like many other library users in other sectors have very short memories, and little interest in anything beyond their immediate work. So it never occurs to them how those important books they need just happen to be available when they need them, in the current edition...It's all done by the magic of the Library staff"

The post goes on to describe some of the work undertaken by Library staff including:

  • Trialling, assessing and selecting electronic resources

  • Reading publisher information

  • Monitoring news sources

  • Undertaking research

  • Fee-earning

  • Calling in favours...from other Librarians in other sectors

  • Hunting down elusive books (always my favourite game on a Friday afternoon)

  • Budget planning, balancing and negotiating

  • Training

  • Acting as an unofficial IT helpdesk

  • & many many more magical activities

We sure are busy as Law Librarians, but are we valued? We're certainly valuable and this is where the blog post makes and important point "we help fee-earning staff to be better informed about developments in their work area, save them time trying to find reliable sources, stock the physical and electronic library...make sure they're trained and fee-earn when we get the chance to do so"

We really are quite valuable aren't we and dare I say it...magical! Now if someone could just magic me up some more time that would be great.

[Photo credit - Fruit Pie the Magician I liked this image so much when I saw it on FlickR I just knew I had to add it to this blog post]

I love the smell of vicks in the morning

Whilst most people were probably enjoying a nice lie-in on a Sunday morning I was up bright and early to take part in the Dartford 1/2 Marathon. This was the second time I'd run this race, having last ran it in 2008 when I set a new PB for 13.1 miles of 1:43:23 unfortunately that was 3 years ago and I've lost it would seem a lot of pace since then.

On Sunday I managed a respectable time of 1:51:38 which for this course is pretty good but could and should have been better then an average speed of 8 minutes and 31 seconds for each mile. However this is described as a challenging course so I'm hoping my next 1/2 Marathon the Kent Coastal Half Marathon will produce a quicker time!

I must say this was a very well organised race with marshals everywhere encouraging runners, especially up the hill from hell between mile 10 and 11. What I've missed since my last race is the smell of vicks vapour rub first thing in the morning, there's nothing like standing next to someone at some ungodly hour and feeling your eyes burn because they've applied copious amounts of vapour rub - perhaps just me?!

Google plus or minus?

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last month you cant help but have noticed that Google have rolled out yet another social networking platform. Google plus (+) yes that really is the name of the product follows in the wake of Google Buzz and Google Wave. So is Google + any good? well it certainly has something to offer. I haven't quite discovered what yet although one person on Google + has said "It's all about the circles and the public posts, Google + is the best bits of Twitter crossed with Facebook"

I do think being able to seperate your friends, family, colleagues and other people you know into different "circles" is fantastic and certainly something that Facebook should look at doing. The site also looks a lot like Facebook which is going to appeal to a lot of people who already use Facebook.

However I'm not sure Google + offers enough in terms of functionality to make it my first port of call each day. Only time will tell I guess. In the meantime why not have a read of one of the many blog posts that have been written about Google +.

What I would say is that you should definitely sign up for Google plus, add some people to circles and see what you make of the site. Before I joined I review the presentation below, this provides a very good introduction to circles, which are at the heart of Google plus.

[Photo credit - Google +2 from FlickR]

How new technologies can help KM

This is the title of an excellent presentation from James Robertson (embedded below) which looks at how new technologies can help with the creation and sharing of knowledge in organisations. James makes some interesting points in his notes accompanying the presentation which I think are important if you're considering a project which involves a "new technology"

For me the most important points are:

  • Don't pilot new technologies without a clear objective and strategy

  • Start by identifying the business needs, not the tools

Tips for new Intranet Managers

I've been in my current role for almost 2 years so I thought it was about time I sat down and write some "tips" for new Intranet Managers.

For those who know me you'll know that I wasn't always an Intranet Manager, my background is as a Library Professional and I'd worked in a number of organisations as an Information Professional before I realised my skills lay firmly at the technology door. That doesn't mean I'm not still an Information Professional of course.

So it's in that context that I present you with my top 5 tips for new Intranet managers.

  • Get to know your organisation - If you've worked in the same sector for a while you'll have a good understanding of how the company works, but nothing beats actually finding out how the organisation works, both in terms of it's organisation and structure but also its culture especially in relation to how the Intranet sits alongside other tools. For example what tools are already available and how are individuals using them.
  • Get to know your users - As well as understanding how the organisation works, you need to undertand how your users use the Intranet. What are some of the things they use regularly, what don't they like, what would they like to see improved. These are all important if you want your Intranet to be successful. User feedback can be gathered in a number of ways and that will be the subject of a seperate post.
  • Consult, consult, consult - In connection with the point above you need to speak to your users regularly about what you're developing on the Intranet and how it will impact their work. Intranet managers shouldn't be working in isolation and an Intranet definitely shouldn't be what they like. Intranet Managers should be providing an Intranet that is balanced in its approach and incorporates features and functionality that users have identified as being useful. Unfortunatelty an Intranet Manager is never going to please all the people all the time!
  • Plan carefully - Planning and project management skills are key requisites for Intranet Managers but sometimes it can be hard to remember exactly how many people you need to talk to before developing functionality on the Intranet. For example if you're looking at your people search you many need to talk to your IT Team (technical issues) your Marketing team (branding) your HR Team (Policy) and your Risk team for well Risk. Plan carefully any proposed development and you'll be fine.
  • Act like a duck - If you're a sensitive soul an Intranet Manager role may not be the best career choice. Intranets can be much maligned and discussed in quite negative ways so you should prepare yourself for comments that nobody reads the Intranet or "that exists on the Intranet" Act like a duck and you'll be fine!
[Photo credit -Blackboard ABC]

Knowledge Management and Intranets

Do you manage an Intranet? does it incorporate Knowledge Sharing tools like Blogs, wikis and forums? were they added on to the Intranet? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then you'll definitely be interested in a new post from the Green Chameleon blog. In it the author looks at how Corporate Intranets used and how can they help us contribute Knowledge. To begin with the author looks at the broad uses for Intranets, these include the following:

  • "corporate topics: spread messages from the CEO office, human resources, etc / access to corporate tools like HR tools, CRM, time & expenses, etc
  • teams (functional or project teams): discussions and collaboration on documents, notes / sharing of individual information / web conferencing
  • communities (groups of people gather around a specific topic): discussions and collaboration on documents, notes / sharing of individual information / stay in contact with experts in the same field
  • individual usage: personal information management: documents, bookmarks, notes / manage personal relationships and contacts
  • global usage: search and find experience & expertise in discussions, documents, people profiles / access to business tools for a specific function
  • external topics: integrate external news sources (RSS) / integrate external partners (e.g. suppliers) into communities"
The author then looks at some of the Knowledge Sharing tools which should be incorporated within an Intranet, these include wikis, blogs, bookmarks, profile pages and news feeds. What the author is really discussing here is the concept of a social intranet or as the author describes it himself "an intranet that is centred around the people and their connections; compared to classic intranets which focus on (central) information capturing and broadcasting. A people-focused approach might allow to make information capturing on demand; this means content is contributed either when somebody needs to know it or when somebody wants to express it"

Do Social Intranets exists? yes and there are a number of articles which discuss successful approaches to developing a Social Intranet:
How are you making your Intranet more social?

[Photo - From Knowledge Management to Knowledge Participation]

The horrors of devolved publishing

Luke Oatham has written an interesting post on his blog The Intranet Diary in the blog post called "The horrors of devolved publishing" Luke looks at some of the issues associated with "devolved publishing" specifically:

  • Consistent quality

  • Consistent structure (navigation)

  • Findability

Luke recalls how he was asked to implement devolved publishing to a particular team and when he did the quality of the pages they were creating, the structure and findability of the pages all suffered. Now Luke makes some interesting points about how devolved publishing can be a bad thing, but in my experience of being involved in the management of two Intranets devolved publishing rather then centralised publishing has always worked better.

Centralised published certainly has it place for example with pages that don't naturally fit with a particular team or for pages that you wouldn't necessarily want just anybody editing. The problem I have with Centralised publishing is that it causes bottlenecks. If someone wants a piece of content to be published to the Intranet immediately a centralised publishing process might not be able to accomodate this. In my opinion a much better solution is to have a mix of centralised and devolved publishing.

Going ever further beyond connections

This post is a response to some of the questions I was asked during my session which I wasn't a 100% certain about. By the way if you haven't looked at the slidedeck from my session at the BIALL Conference then I recommend you do so now!

So the first question I was asked which I struggled slightly with was how you would go about creating two profiles on Linkedin and whether this is something you should do. For example if you undertook a role completely unrelated to your professional life. Personally I would never do this. In fact including more information on your Linkedin profile can only be a good thing unless of course your role is something you don't want your immediate colleagues knowing about! Including more information about what you do outside of your job also gives your profile credibility and migth encourage people to engage with you, if for example they discovered that you were the Chair of the local gardening club. If you have accidentally created two Linkedin accounts there are several helpful guides which explain how you can delete a Linkedin account.

The second question I was asked was around fake accounts and specifically whether there were any safegauards in place protecting you from people creating a fake account. The short answer is no. To create a Linkedin profile all you need is an email address which you then have to confirm. This email address doesn't have to be your current work address, although Linkedin suggests having multiple email accounts registered against your account. Unfortunately this wont stop someone creating a profile on Linkedin that is fake. There are several quite interesting articles on the subject of fake Linkedin accounts, which are well worth having a look at.

The final question I was asked was about receiving connection requests from group members, whether this was possible and whether it consituted spam. The short answer is that Linkedin groups are being used by spammers to send emails to group members, but you can control what emails you receive from the groups you belong to by updating your email and notification settings. As far as I'm aware I've never received a connection request from an individual who is a member of a mutual group which has gone to ALL group members, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened to other people.

Those were the 3 questions I struggled with slightly, there were a lot of other question and of course I'd be happy to answer any questions about how you can use Linkedin and some of the functionality availabel within Linkedin.

To blog or not to blog...

Recently I took a look at this blogs subscribers. I'm going to be honest and tell you it's not a massive number.

I immediately posted on Twitter about how depressing it was seeing how few people were actually subscribing to my blog. Well the resulting tweets were inspiring. A lot of people it would seem pick up blog posts of interest from Twitter rather then from an RSS feed or from an email subscription. I've certainly seen that today with all the fantastic blog posts about the New Professionals Conference as well as those individuals who are undertaking the CPD23 course.

Those indviduals I salute and look forward to reading your blog posts. I will also be continuing with my blogging, having been encouraged by the responses I received on Twitter.

[I blog therefore I am from Flickr]

BIALL President-elect...who me!

In case you haven't seen the news I've been elected BIALL President-Elect for 2011-2012 which ultimately means I'll be BIALL President for 2012-2013.

Why on earth would someone want to do this!

I've worked in Law Firms since May 2001 first at CMS Cameron McKenna LLP and now at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP. I've been a BIALL member since 2002 and have attended 8 Conferences with my first being in Edinburgh. During my time as a BIALL member I've been on the Legal Information Group (LIG) both as an ordinary member and as the Chair for 3 years and managed the development of the BIALL Code of Good Practice for publishers and introduced the concept of a yearly meeting between LIG and legal publishers. I also spent some time on the web committee first as an ordinary member as part of the project team which redesigned the BIALL website and more recently as Interim Chair whilst BIALL searched for an found and excellent Chair in Marianne Barber.

Most recently I've been a BIALL Council Member which has been an interesting role as you get to see what happens on Council and the work of all the committees, not just the one you might be chairing. Anyway to cut a long story short I've been wanting to step up into a more senior role within BIALL for a while so put myself forward for the President-Elect position and was duly elected. The response from people to my "election" has been amazing and to them I can only say thanks and hope that I can live up to the expectations that come with the role. One of the best comments came from someone I've known for a while who said "I just wanted to say that I am sure you will do very well. Every president brings something new to the role and I am sure that you will too" here's hoping!!

I don't officially take up my positition of President-Elect until the 24th of June, which is 1 week after the AGM but if you're a BIALL member and you'd like to talk to me about anything then you can contact me via this blog posting or via my Twitter account - I'd love to hear from you!

BIALL Conference highlights

The BIALL Conference is over for another year and I have to say this years was one of the best I've ever attended. There were a number of great sessions and two fantastic events where delegates could network with colleagues old and new.

For me the most memorable session was Nick Davies session on how to deliver engaing training. The mere fact that Nick stood on stage for an hour with no slides makes him a legend and that was before he even started talking. What he delivered was a whistle stop tour of techniques we can employ when deliver training to make people pay attention. Of the techniques he suggested the ones that really struck me were around using PowerPoint. Nick suggested that we should avoid using PowerPoint as a drunk might use a lampost and to stop vomitting up our knowledge on to PowerPoint slides. People attending training are there to hear you speak not look at PowerPoint slides. Nick also suggested that using stories can help you connect with your audience and that humour and spontaneity although difficult to do can be useful tools in a presenters arsenal. Nick also suggested watching 2 videos of Sir Ken Robinson speaking. Ken is a "creativity expert" who talks about how we're educating people out of being creative. I've embedded one of the videos I watched below and have to say he is a very funny and inspiring speaker and loved some of his stories, especially the story about wristwatches!

Another interesting session was that delivered by Fiona Fogden. Fiona talked about how Baker Tilly were using Linex Legal and Thomson Reuters newsoom to manage their current awareness content including content from Twitter and other social media sites. This was a fascinating look at how these two tools were being used to streamline the delivery of current awareness to fee-earners.

I also attended a session by Barry Vickery of 7Side on finding International Company Information, which was both insightful and funny because as Chair I'd given Barry strict instructions not to "sell" the 7Side product. A session by Jackie Fishleigh on "SharePoint and the Naked Law Librarian" didn't include any naked Law Librarians, which I think is probably a good thing. However it did seem to prove that SharePoint is being used by more and more law firms and that Law Librarians are well placed to be involved in the managment of SharePoint projects, either from a technical perspective or content management perspective.

However the session everyone was really looking forward to was the one delivered by Michael Maher and Kate Stanfield entitled "The Integreon model one year on". This was a follow up to the session Michael delivered at the BIALL Conference in Brighton. I found the session useful although having worked at CMS Cameron McKenna and still having friends there I was "semi-aware" of what had taken place in terms of the outsourcing of Business Services including Knowledge & Information Services to Integreon. Unfortunately much like last year there wasn't a huge amount of time left for questions, although the Chair of the session did let the session run over slightly. Reading Nicola Franklin's post about the BIALL Conference is does sound like there were other questions people would have liked to have asked, which I'm sure Kate and Michael would have been happy to have answered.

The formal business of the Conference was conducted very well by both David Wills (BIALL President) and the rest of the Conference Committee and they are to be applauded for providing delegates with a number of though provoking sessions and entertaining networking events. Roll on Belfast 2012.

Going beyond connections: BIALL Conference session

This is the slideshow of the presentation I delivered at the BIALL Conference in Newcastle. In the session I looked at how Linkedin is an extremely well used Social Networking site but the majority of users don't go beyond the obvious functionality - that is connecting with individuals.

No doubt I'll be writing a much fuller report for LIM in due course. In the meantime you can review my slidedeck and perhaps think about how you could be using Linkedin beyond just connecting with individuals.

Internal social tools that support the business

This is the title of an excellent presentation from James Robertson where he looks at some of the social tools that can be used internally both to support the work of a business and to facilitate communication between diverse groups of indviduals.

James starts the presentation by looking at the different types of Internal social media that businesses can use, these range from Activity streams to Yammer as James says in his blog post that accompanies this presentation "There are many different types of “social tools”, under the one umbrella, all working in different ways" James then provides some example of how social tools are being used effectively by organisations, these organisations include British Airways, American Electric Power and Sabre.

For me one of the most important point James makes is about understanding how your organisation works. If you don't understand how your organisation works then you'll never going to be able to provide a solution (social media tool) that is going to work effectively. To really understand the organisation you work for you need to get out there and talk to the people who are using the existing tools and hear what issues they have to deal with on a daily basis.

I've embedded the presentation below - enjoy!

BIALL Conference preview

This post should actually be called "What I'm looking forward to at the BIALL Conference" but that wasn't snappy enough for me to use! This post highlights some of the things I'm looking forward to doing at Conference as for me the Conference is not just about attending plenary and parallel sessions.

  • Catching up with old friends. Its been a while since I've seen a few people I know IRL but who I talk to regularly on Twitter so it will be great to catchup with them and find out what they're up to, possibly over a glass or two of wine. There are of course a number of people not attending this Conference who I'd loved to catchup with - maybe next year!
  • Seeing Newcastle. I've never been to Newcastle before although I was offered a place at Northumbria University to study Information & Library Management, but I decided not to accept it, so it will be great to see what the city has to offer. The Sage Centre certainly looks impressive and will no doubt provide a stunning backdrop to the first night entertainment.
  • Wearing my black tie suit. It doesn't come out of the suit carrier very often so I have to make the most of any opportunity to wear it!
  • Speaking at the last parallel session on Friday. I really enjoy presenting at Conferences and especially the BIALL Conference. I'm talking about Linkedin which is my second favourite social networking site and I hope I'll encourage anyone who turns up to this session to think about how they could be using Linkedin beyond just accepting connection requests. I'm also chairing a session which is a real honour and knowing the speaker quite well I know the session will go down well.
  • I'm also really looking forward to a numebr of other sessions include Jackie Fishleigh's on SharePoint, Fiona Fogden talking about Information Overload and of course everyone's favourite subject The Integreon outsourcing model.
Is there anything I'm not looking forward to? yep - the 3 hour train journey from Kings Cross to Newcastle :-(

Running roundup

Its been a while since I've posted anything on here about running so I'd thought I'd provide a roundup of the races I've run this year.

My first race of the season was the Whistable 10k. I've run this race a couple of times in the last few years and have always posted a very respectable time. This is mostly down to the fact that the course is as flat as a pancake. However this year the weather conditions were to say the least a bit challenging with a strong head wind for the first 5k and then a tail wind for the last 5k. Despite that and the challenge of running around Bank Holiday day trippers I posted a very respectable time of 46:09 and finished 156th out of 613 runners.

The second race I ran this year was the Larkfield 10k I'd only previously run this race once and remember it being a very nice flat course around the Leybourne Lakes unfortunately unbeknown to me they changed the course last year into a two lap course. Now anyone who knows me will know that I hate laps. There is something about laps that makes me lose my focus and strikes the fear of god into me. I think it harks back to when I ran my first 1/2 Marathon and we had to run the same hill at Brandshatch a total of 4 times :-( So it was no surprise that I finished in a time of 48:23 and came 139th out of 339 runners.

The most recent race I've run was the Bluewater 10k, this is my local race and I've supported it since it has been held, plus they always give you a really great training top and goody bag at the end! Unfortunately about 10 days prior to running this race I managed to injure my knee. I have no idea how only that I was running really well up until the point I injured myself so was not very happy. Despite my slight injury I still managed to post a semi-respectable time of 47:48 (see what I mean about laps) on what is quite a challenging course. This saw me finish 362nd out of 1903 runners.

So quite a mixed bag of results. I'm still training, when I don't have an injury or a cold and recording all my runs and races on Runkeeper. Fingers crossed my next race will be the Weald of Kent 10 which takes place on the 26th of June. I understand this is a very flat course so I'm hoping for a decent time - as long as I put the training in!

Defragmentation of the information professions meeting

Yesterday I attended the latest meeting in a series of meetings looking at the "defragmentation" of the information professions. This was the first open meeting discussing this subject but the third meeting organised by Mark Field, Conrad Taylor and Nicola Franklin. The previous meetings, which are well reported by Nicola on her blog and on the SLA Europe blog, were "closed" meetings in that attendance was by invitation only and was limited to representatives from organisations that represent information professionals.

This meeting was publicised as an opportunity to discuss this issue in more detail, as such it was an "oversubscribed" event which included repsentatives from BCS, BIALL,IDA, ISKO UK, IRMS, KIDMM, LIKE, NetIKX, SLA Europe, UKeIG and of course CILIP. What I should say before I get into what was discussed at the meeting is that if you're not aware of what the discussion is about you should read Mark Field's orginal post about the defragmentation issue. I've had to do this several times!

Shortly before the event began all attendees were emailed with a list of six questions, which we were asked to think about (I've produced these below). Once everyone had arrived and sat at our pre-defined tables (no rebelling which I thought was very interesting) the meeting officially kicked off. Conrad Taylor opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and outlining some of the issues he thought the information professions have, issues like our image, the promotion of what we do and the publicity we produce. Mark Field then talked about how we got here, including the background by his original post and what had happened since. Nicola Franklin then provided a summary of the previous meetings. Conrad then invited "activists" from some of the organisations/associations present to tell the attendees a little about their organisation and why they were here.

The tables were then asked to discuss the questions they'd been provided in advance of the meeting:

  1. What are "the information professions"
  2. How do our various organisations relate to or cater for people who work professionally with information
  3. How is technology change affecting information work and thereby the information professions?
  4. What is the value of the information professions to society?
  5. How would we like the information professions to be supported and represented; are our organisations set up well to do this?
  6. What are the ways in which organisations might collaborate around these issues?
My table didn't manage to discuss all the questions unfortunately but we were all agreed that we didn't feel CILIP was adequately representing us and that it needed a bigger/better voice. We also discussed to some degree the impact of technology and how despite some concerns around how technology is being used, changes in technology are actually good for the profession as not only are they making our live easier but there also improving the experiences our users have. We also discussed how associations and organisations should be using collaborative technologies to improve how they work with their members. There was also some discussion around the benefits associated with being a CILIP member and that for one individual CILIP membership wasn't worth the cost especially as they had no plans to undertake chartership.

Action points from the meeting

After each of the tables had fed back what they had discussed and it had been admirably summarised by Mark and Conrad the attendees were then asked to look at what actions or what documents we could produce as a result of the meeting. I thought it was quite interesting at this point that several groups asked what was the question we we're trying to answer? Mark explained that one of the biggest things we were trying to do was find some way to show our value to those people who might not be aware of the Information Professions, or who have a very short-sighted/blinkered view of what we do. Mark also suggested the groups concentrated on identifying ways in which we could focus our efforts and enage more with our users. A short dicussion by the groups followed which looked at what could be produced from the meeting/going forward.

My table got quite excited about the idea of competencies and how these could be used as did several other tables. The suggestion that associations/organisations should be working more closely together was also discussed. This is something that seems really obvious to me and you would think would happen already but doesn't appear to. The idea of a joint conference which involved not only librarians, but developers, taxonomists, information architects was also suggested both in the meeting and on Twitter.

I'm certain that all the suggested actions from the meeting will be published to the Information Professions wiki in due course. If you want to steal a march you can review four tweets from Nicola Franklin which include the action points:
  1. Create a respository of stories
  2. Create core competency statements
  3. Get groups to work more closely together
  4. Joint statements to the media (this ties in with action 3 in my mind)
Overall a really interesting meeting and good to catchup with some individuals I hadn't seen in a while. What Mark, Conrad and Nicola are doing is very admirable but I still struggle with the idea behind it so some degree but perhaps more importantly what the group hopes to achieve and what impact it will have. I guess only time will tell.