Friday, July 31, 2009

My Pub/Sub Life (part 1)

I feel like I've hit a sweet spot lately with the way I publish and subscribe to information (a.k.a., pub/sub). In this first of a two-part blog post series, I'll talk about the way that I use the web for publishing my thoughts and quandaries.


The four most active venues where I publish information online (in order of frequency) are blogs, a lifestreaming service, a microblogging service, and a social bookmarking service. First, let me talk about my main blog and three others where I also am active.

This blog is where I tend to write longer pieces and announcements that have something to do with reference services in libraries, although I do stray to write pieces like this one from time to time as well. Without getting scientific about it, I'd estimate that I post here about 2-3 times a month roughly. There are three other blogs that I publish at as well; what distinguishes them from Digital Reference is that they are group blogs that have a different focus. Those blogs are:

  • Newman Library Idea Lab Launched this summer by Ryan Phillips and myself, this blog is written by and for the library staff at the college where I work. The posts are open to any topic that seems like something librarians should know about.
  • Reference at Newman Library Louise Klusek and I set this up in 2004 as a way to alert colleagues working at various reference service points (the reference desk, chat reference, and email reference) about things they should know about (assignments that are bringing a lot of students in lately, database problems, service changes, etc.)
  • Teaching Blog at Baruch College The authors of this blog are faculty from different departments here at Baruch who have an interest in talking about what happens or should be happening in our classrooms. I've only written a few posts here since the site was launched in 2008 but am happy to be part of a project that is not library-centric.
Next, I'll turn to social bookmarking. I have been using delicious for 4.5 years now. For the past few years, I have been adding my own annotations to those bookmarks, which allows anyone who finds my bookmarking account to see what it was that I found interesting in each site. Since this spring, I have been making the titles of items I bookmark often follow MLA citation style (this is so I can practice the latest iteration of the MLA style and to offer greater value to the network of potential consumers of my delicious bookmarking efforts). I don't go to this effort for everything I bookmark. I only do the MLA citation style for when I bookmark "documents" (as opposed to tools, services, etc.); by documents, I mean articles, blog posts, reports, etc. I probably bookmark items 10-15 times a month in delicious.

I've been using Twitter as my microblogging service for over three years now. I find it most useful as a way to toss out a question that I have, especially if it is about library services or library technology. I also use Twitter as a way of making short newsy announcements; most typically, these are posts noting that I just published a new item on my Digital Reference blog. I used to be more active on Twitter until I discovered lifestreaming, which I'll introduce next and then in the "subscribing" section of the post, explain in more detail why FriendFeed edges out Twitter in my online life.

The lifestreaming service I use is FriendFeed, which allows me to set up an account where I can have all the feeds that document my online activity. Take a look at my page in FriendFeed to see what this looks like, then take a look at this page which lists each service that I have plugged in to FriendFeed. For example, if I write a new post here at Digital Reference or one of the other blogs where I write, news of the publication (and a link to the post) is automatically sent to my FriendFeed page. If I post a note in Twitter, it gets republished in FriendFeed. A new item for my delicious account is also documented in FriendFeed. And so on with each of the services that I use. Of course, there are some services that I barely use but still have connected so that those little bits of activity can be documented and published automatically (say, for example, if I add a movie or two to my Netflix queue or alter some details in my LinkedIn profile).

Not only is my online activity documented on FriendFeed, but I can also compose short messages and publish them there. Like Twitter, it is a good place to start a conversation on a topic that you have questions about. My posts on FriendFeed tend to be shorter than what I'd ever put on my Digital Reference blog but longer than anything I'd attempt in Twitter (which has a 140-character limit anyway). Sometimes, I'll post a question on Twitter knowing that it will get republished on FriendFeed. Some folks will send their replies to the question on Twitter, while others will do so on FriendFeed (some people only use Twitter, some only use FriendFeed, and many use both).

Half of the appeal of FriendFeed, then, is the way that it centralizes in one spot all my publication activities online and makes it visible and easily discoverable. FriendFeed even offers me a widget that displays my FriendFeed activity; this widget takes center stage on my personal web site at So that's the egotististical part of this two-part blog post. In my next post, I'll talk about how I subscribe to information that others publish and what kinds of filters I use to manage that flow of information.


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