In the last few years, if youâ€™ve attend a MLA meeting, followed listserv threads on Medlib-L or looked at the library literature, you feel like blogs are following you everywhere. Patient education blogs. Journal club blogs. Library newsletter blogs. Librarian blogs. Blogs, blogs everywhere. Or to quote MLAâ€™s own T. Scott Plutchak, â€œI see blog people.â€
Last year, in our online CE, the Social Networking taskforce introduced you to blogs and RSS.Â For a quick refresher, you can view the two common craft videos below.
Blogs in Plain English:
RSS in Plain English:
But how are we using them now?Â What can we do with it now that weâ€™ve got it?
Libraries: Libraries have been using them as newsletters, frequently asked question replacements, ways to keep homepage content fresh, replacements for manuals and lots more.
Individuals: Aside from keeping up with our friends who live in other towns and the latest happening on [insert your favorite TV show here] , librarians are getting the latest library news quickly and testing out topics for future articles.
But why? How is this going to save me time?
Blogs can be used in so many forms and add much flexibility with the way you communicate with the professional and personal world.Â Donâ€™t like web ads? Use a blog reader like (Bloglines or Google Reader) to import your RSS feeds and remove extra advertising.Â Donâ€™t know much HTML but need to publish a webpage? Blogs require minimal knowledge of HTML and usually have a graphical interface similar to word processing program.Â Click, type and publish.Â Thatâ€™s all it take.Â Need a place to bounce ideas off of a larger community?Â A blog gives you access to the world of internet users interested in your subject.Â Itâ€™s an automatic audience and feedback loop.
The following exercises will require that you have a blog that you can experiment with.Â If you have a blog set up already, feel free to use that one. If you donâ€™t, there are several options for hosting sites out there.Â For those new to the blog world and for the purpose of these exercises, we recommend using WordPress. If you need help getting started with WordPress, take a look at last yearâ€™s class on Blogging and RSS.
You can sign up for a freeÂ WordPress blog at WordPress.com.
Discovery Exercise 1: Customize for Functionality
- Change the theme and customize the about page.
Play with the themes (designs)Â in WordPress to change the appearance of your blog. Themes can be found under the Appearance tab in theÂ Administration area ofÂ your WordPress blog.Â Choose one (not the default) that best represents what youâ€™re trying to convey with your blogâ€™s focus.
- Add relevant professional connections through a blog roll.
Who are you reading in the blog world? Who do you think other people should be reading?Â Your blog role gives your readers insight into who you are and what is relevant to you.Â It gives context.Â In WordPress this can be done using the Links tab in the Administration area of your WordPress blog.
Discovery Exercise 2: Plugins and Widgets
- Choose a Plugins or Widget
Plugins are part of what brings your blog alive and makes it manageable for both you and your reader.Â Plugins are often used on WordPress blogs that you have uploaded to your own server.Â Widgets are similar to plugins and are used on free hosted WordPress blogs.Â Often you willÂ make sure you activateÂ a Spam filter plugin or widget on your blog to reduce the possibility of malicious or unwanted commenting.Â A preferred spam filter among several SNSTF members is Akismet.
- Add a post to your blog that utilizes the fun/practical plugin or widget.
- Further customization your theme
Try adding a meebo or skype widget in your side bar, both of these might require editing the php or html. Note that instructors will not be able to help you diagnose HTML or PHP problems.Â This option is for the more adventurous among the group who want their theme to look like their favorite blogs.
- Claim your blogÂ in Technorati.
This will get your blog indexed in Technorati and make itÂ easier for others to find.Â Only do this if your planning to keep up your blog. Otherwise, you have a bunch of dead content out there.
A Final Note: Microblogging â€“ Twhirled Tweets of Twittery Goodness.
A more recent trend in the social networking world is called Microblogging.Â Maybe you saw Oprah’s Friday (4/17) episode where she discussed the phenomenon with Ashton Kutcher. Wikipedia also has a good introduction. One of the most notable services in this area is Twitter.Â Twitter can be installed as an app on your phone or used via the web to send short 140 character updates (aka Tweets) to your subscribers.Â Services like Twhirl help you aggregate your Twitter feeds through a desktop client (for those of us without data plans on our phones).
But why would you do this?Â In a connected age where people are on the go, microblogging becomes a way to share short bursts of news to a larger community.Â Did you miss your friend at the session you were both planning to attend at MLA? Oops â€¦ wait, itâ€™s not a problem. He just sent a Twitter that he was going to your sections business meeting.Â At last yearâ€™s MLA annual meeting, several people were Twittering and adding to a common MLA thread.Â You could sign up for to receive the feed on your Phone or computer and see information about where to get good free wifi, what paper session was hot or whatever else people were posting.Â Â The MLA 08 twitter feed is no longer live, but the MLA 2009 feed is available at http://twitter.com/mla2009
Some medical libraries are using Twitter to send short news feeds to users. Some of theseÂ libraries are: CMHSL, fiumedlib, MDAndersonLib, and ucsf_library.Â Some library companies and vendors are also using Twitter to send news feeds or alert followers of new journal articles or resources.Â Some of these companies are: MatthewsBook, LibraryJournal, mdconsult, andÂ natureblogs.Â Don’t forget their are librarians on Twitter discussing issues at medlibs.
Submit your work.
To get credit for this course, please fill out the Blogs Course Progress Report.