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thru the flowers

maura @ 8:27 am

It’s a curious thing, this quitting Facebook. Not that I was ever a heavy (or unconflicted) fb user, but I definitely miss it for all the reasons I thought I would: it was nice to have the opportunity to keep up with folks I don’t see often, and now I don’t get to see pictures of everyone’s kids. Lots of people are on Twitter, but not everyone. And of course there are those blasted private fb links that sometimes get sent around, the very existence of which presumes that the entire world is on fb (and why wouldn’t they be?).

Last Friday was my birthday so of course I also missed seeing those HBD messages come rolling in throughout the day. I moped about it a bit, though not too much since I was at a scholarly communications workshop all day, which was a fun + nerdy way to spend my birthday. I also had a moment of panic when I realized that there are lots of folks whose birthdays I don’t know but wish I did, and I’m annoyed that I outsourced that part of my brain to fb. I remembered to ask a few people when their birthdays are though I need to ask still more.

les tags: , ,

money, meet mouth

maura @ 10:52 pm


So I quit Facebook the other day. Jaron Lanier’s keynote at ACRL (which I didn’t agree with 100% but was interesting and thought-provoking) was kind of the trigger, though I’d been thinking about it and thinking about it for a year, maybe more. Also, unlike JL, my cats are not and will not be on Facebook.

I’d resisted for so long because of all of the accumulated social capital there, of course. Family members who live far away, old friends I’d lost touch with before the rise of FB, photos of my nieces and nephews, even library folks right here in my actual city that I don’t see as often as I’d like. But I’d always felt a little weird there, as I’ve blogged before. And I could never figure out a way to keep up with it, despite my best efforts (ditto Friend Feed, which I joined but can’t find the time for — honestly, even Twitter can be a struggle during the busy parts of the semester).

Why’d I quit? The usual reasons. Most corporations don’t care about privacy, but Facebook seems particularly sleazy about it. Also I hate that they’re making money with all of my stuff: my thoughts, ideas, photos, relationships, etc. Not that Google* and lots of others don’t do that, too, but the walled garden of FB makes it seem even worse.

* I have similar thoughts about Google and don’t use gmail for that very reason, but I am a slave to gdocs and my whole library uses gcalendar so there you go, clearly I’m a giant hypocrite.

I don’t miss it at all, but I do hate the way everyone seems to have moved their events + conversations over to FB without my even noticing. Because now when I click those links I can’t see anything, which is a drag. It’s insidious, really — I hadn’t even realized that had happened until I was chatting with a pal who’s a fellow FB quitter recently.

Anyway, despite my grumpiness I’m glad to have quit — I actually feel lighter and cleaner, if that makes any sense. And now I get to have this spiffy badge on my site, too!

Not f'd — you won't find me on Facebook

les tags: , ,

experimental results

maura @ 10:19 pm

Last week we took a vacation in Vermont and I put myself on an internets diet. In some ways it was fairly easy to do — cellphone and internets can be wonky up there, and I didn’t always have access in the places we were visiting. But with all of the bajillions of articles recently about information overload and hyperabundance and how our brains/behavior do or don’t change with all of the internet info we consume, I thought it might be an interesting experiment.

My rules were:
– Check work email once/day (I get kind of anxious when the work email piles up so I rarely ignore it entirely, even when we’re on vacation. But I only answered the few that seemed like they couldn’t wait.)
– Check home email once/day (Since we had catsitters I felt like I couldn’t completely ignore home email. And I get much less email at my home account anyway.)
– No Twitter
– No RSS feeds
– No other internets reading/browsing, e.g., New York Times (If you can’t ignore the news for a week is it really even a vacation?)

I also promised myself that I wouldn’t feel bad about skipping all of that info, or try to catch up on it later. Which for the most part was successful: though I did end up reading a couple of things published last week in the early part of this week, I also went into my Google Reader when we got home Sunday night and pushed the magical Mark All As Read button to clear out the feeds. (Oh, the power!)

The results were hardly earth-shattering, but they were sort of interesting. In practice what happened is that I didn’t use my computer phone to fill in the gaps between activities. Usually I’ll check Twitter or read feeds or check email in the myriad little bits of time I encounter throughout the day: waiting in line or for the people I’m with to be ready to go do something, watching Gus (in this case while swimming in the pool or pond), sometimes while riding in the car (though this is dicey because it tends to tweak my carsickness).

Without the internets I spent those bits of time last week thinking, spacing out, watching the world go by, etc. It was relaxing in a way, kind of soothing and boring at the same time. I was happy to learn that it didn’t make me all twitchy, which I’d feared since I am definitely susceptible to the mini-endorphin rush of a new email alert or a pile of new tweets.

For the longer stretches of time I did lots of book readin’, just like in the olden days. I read one from start to finish, finished up another I’d started a while ago, and read parts of two others. It’s definitely easier to read while on vacation, and I appreciated having the stretches of time while Gus was happily splashing around to get some reading in.

Now that the experiment is over I’m back to the usual stuff at work and at home. Though I do think I’m interacting more thoughtfully with the internets than before. Of course, it’s still the slowish summer — I’m sure my internets serenity will go right out the window once the semester (and the course I’m teaching) begins in (eep!) 22 days.


i thought of stories they told us long ago

maura @ 11:18 pm

So, as you may have noticed, Google was down for awhile this morning. I was at work, merrily (ha!) transcribing the instruction stats out of Google Calendar into a spreadsheet,* and suddenly event details wouldn’t load. But most of the info I needed was still cached, so I didn’t even realize something was wrong until our library technician swung by my cube to tell me that the library website was down (our Web Librarian was off campus at a meeting).

* Why yes, Google, I would very much like you to include the ability to export to a spreadsheet into Calendar, thus saving me a couple of hours of monkeywork each semester. Thanks for asking!

A little pounding on the keyboard confirmed that yes, the website was down. Our tech went to talk to the college IT folks while I set to posting notices on the library’s blog and Twitter. But the funny thing is, Twitter was excruciatingly slow and kept hanging, too. And I noticed in the status bar at the bottom of Firefox that it was spinning on I clicked around a little more and found that lots of the internets wasn’t loading, and they all seemed to be hanging on Google Analytics or Google Ads. Our library’s site uses the former to track usage stats, and we also use Google for our site search.

By the time I’d talked to our tech and we’d opened up the homepage and I determined that I don’t know enough javascript not to break the code, Google had fixed itself and all was right with the world. But I’ve been left all day with a lingering weirdness. It’s not that I use EVERY service that Google offers, and I’m definitely intrinsically suspicious of big giant companies that ostensibly provide lots of stuff for free. What do they do with our data? And what recourse do we have if when they fail? As Jonathan always says, we are not Google’s customers: the companies that pay to place Google Ads are.

But there’s no denying that over the past year I’ve become a heavy user of Google products, some might say junkie-level. We use Google Calendar to track reference, instruction and meetings at work. I use Google Docs and Spreadsheets to collaborate w/colleagues at MPOW and other colleges and do work from multiple computers (ref desk, my desk, home).

What really struck me today (and I know I’m not the only one, but it’s late and I’m too lazy to link to anything else) is that it wasn’t just that you couldn’t access Google services. All over the internets the sites that rely on Google Analytics and Ads were toasted. And my random clicking around made me think that it was a whole lotta internets that were affected.

Maybe Google is becoming Skynet.

les tags: , ,

wherever you think you are

maura @ 10:30 pm

Right now we’re in the midst of our busy teaching time at work, when most of the English Comp classes (between 60-100 per semester!) come in for a session to learn how to do research in the library. I usually start off my sessions by talking about finding information on the internet. As a segue into discussing library resources I ask the students: “Is there anything, any kind or format of information, that is NOT available for free on the internet?” Usually most of them assert that everything is on the internet, and then I jump into finding books in the library catalog and scholarly journal articles in the subscription databases.

I was caught off guard by one student’s response last week, in an 8:30am class no less! “You can just download anything you need, even books.”

Woah. I do mention a bit about copyright during these sessions and we talk some about plagiarism, but I’ve never had a student bring up peer-to-peer file sharing before. There were a couple of articles about illegal textbook downloading on the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s website last year, but the issue didn’t feel concrete to me until today. With the insanity of textbook prices and students’ limited budgets I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was.

And speaking of pirates, they’re apparently the subject of one of the most popular courses taught in the Anthropology department of my alma mater these days. Course content includes both pirates with peg-legs + parrots as well as the kinds of pirates that the RIAA has in their sights, and copyright issues too.



i’ll write you a postcard i’ll send you the news

maura @ 9:38 pm

It’s the last day of January, so it’s time to get those Groundhog’s Day Eve resolutions in. What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of Groundhog’s Day Eve resolutions?!! You must be one of those organized do-gooder types that make New Year’s resolutions, harrumph.

Yeah, so I couldn’t get it together to do the resolutions thing in January. I mean, I made them, but I didn’t really stick to them. So in the spirit of Bill Murray I am giving myself another chance. And I’m posting them here, too, so I will a) remember them, and b) feel some small amount of public shame when I think about slacking on them. Let’s see if it works.

1. Be more realistic.
Kind of an overarching goal. I tend to make a huge list of things that no human could possibly accomplish within the unreasonable timeframe I’ve set, then get mad at myself for not finishing them. Watch me practice this resolution with the very list of resolutions I’m creating!

2. Get control of my infostreams.
I’ve had marginal success with this one, actually. I moved all my feeds into google reader, and I’ve been able to get most of the NY Times scanned each morning (tho sometimes the Science Times has to wait til after work). But there are 126 unread items in my google reader right now so obviously this one still needs work.

3. Start meditating again.
For some reason that I can’t quite fathom I stopped meditating about a year ago. Which was dumb, because it helped me sleep better and was great for dealing with stress, too. So I need to get back to that.

4. Floss in the mornings (as well as at night).
This is a little thing that always feels like a big thing but really is the right thing so I should just do it!

5. Find some sort of volunteery thing to do with Gus.
There was an article in the Times about family volunteering a couple of years ago. It’s been on my mind for a while, and I think this is the year to do it.

6. Carve out more time for reading + writing.
Blag, journal + even maybe some other casual writing (maybe even about libraries). And try to start making a dent in my 100+ book reading list.

Okay, in the spirit of #1 it’s probably time to stop now. We have a movie to finish before I have to meditate!

les tags: , , ,

i dropped the ice pick

maura @ 11:57 am

Last Monday both Gus + I were off school/work for MLK Day, so we headed up to the Met to meet a friend of mine + her kids. Arms & Armor, mummies and chicken nuggets in a taxi-shaped box: what could be better for a snowy Monday? We spent a long time hanging out at the Temple of Dendur. It was late in the day so everyone was kind of tired, and the snow was falling in that slow magical way (in which it almost seems to be snowing up), so we sat down and gawked for a while.

There’s a small sphinx sculpture right next to the reconstructed temple, and it didn’t take long for Gus + my friend’s son to start asking questions about it. What is it? Why is it half-person half-lion? And so on. I made the mistake of mentioning something about the Riddle of the Sphinx* and suddenly that was all they could think of. What was the riddle? What happened to people who couldn’t answer? Why did the Sphinx ask a riddle? What was the answer?

After a few minutes of trying to pull the half-remembered shreds of my 9th-grade Bible, Myth and Epic class out of my head it became clear that the kids weren’t going to give it up. Usually when I don’t know the answer to something I tell Gus that we will look it up on the interwebs later, but then I remembered that I have the whole internets in my pocket. Iphone to the rescue! I fired up the Wikipedia entry for the Sphinx and suddenly all of their questions were answered (especially the gory ones).

(EDITED TO ADD [can’t believe I forgot to mention this!]:) So apparently this incident convinced Gus that the answer to every question is always available via the iphone. The next morning he asked me how many gallons of water a swimming pool holds, and when I answered that I didn’t know he came back with, “look it up in your phone, Mommy!”

I feel like I’ve done a lot of incidental evangelizing for the iphone lately, esp. the ubiquitous interwebs and the ability to carry lots of books around features. All of which is making me think that I need to read Rainbows End again. If only the iphone could extend time, I’d be all set.

* Q: What goes on 4 legs in the morning, 2 legs at noon, and 3 legs in the evening?
A: (Hu)man(s) — we crawl as babies, walk as adults, and need canes when we’re elderly.

les tags: , ,

paper chase is on

maura @ 9:11 pm

Happy New Year, interwebs!

We here at mauraweb! are back from our holiday adventures, which were busy but quite fun. We kicked it Santa-style at home in Brooklyn on Christmas morning, then met up with Grandma and Grandpa and hopped on a plane Xmas evening bound for the UK. We spent the next several days in London riding the tube + double-decker buses, tramping around castles, catching a glimpse of the Rosetta Stone (which is much smaller than I thought it would be), and hanging out at an awesome playground. Gus + his grandparents also went up in the London Eye and to see a play: a modern-yet-Grimm’s Cinderella. Tasty treats were had by all: meat pies, fish + chips and ale at various pubs, noodles from Wagamama, cookies + cakes + sausages + rashers (not all at the same time!) from Tesco.

Gus had a good time on his first foray to a foreign land, though in some respects we wonder how different it seemed to him. After all, we were in a city, going to museums + playgrounds, riding public transportation — lots of things we do here. Of course, here it’s not all Mary Poppins flats + chimneys when we look out the windows, nor are there palaces in the parks. While walking by Kensington Palace we were talking about what happens if a baby or kid is next in line for the throne. And he said: “Wait! I have a question: wouldn’t the children make foolish decisions?” Which still makes me giggle.

But enough about my Xmas vacation, I know you’re all wondering how my interwebs vacation went. We’d thought we’d have wifi in the flat but then we didn’t and for some reason my phone had no service the whole time, so it ended up being more of an enforced than voluntary break. And it was pleasantly refreshing! I did glance at my email once or twice, just to be sure our neighbor wasn’t trying to contact us with catsitting issues, but that was it.

The unplugging was nice, actually. Took me back to those pre-cellphone days of traveling with only the Lonely Planet to guide you. We had the TV for weather + news (mostly the sad Gaza news, made closer by the fact that the Israeli embassy was close to our flat and the site of protesters many days). I didn’t feel particularly deprived, either, though the same may not be said for all members of our party.

I’m letting myself ignore everything that happened on my various infostreams while I was gone, too, which has been quite a relief as I spend these last few vacation days trying to kick the jet lag (and the head cold that came back with a vengeance while we were away) and get ready to head back to work on Monday. This week I’ll be trying to start fresh and come up with a reasonable plan for keeping up that doesn’t take too much time or make me feel bad if I drop behind. I’m thinking that setting aside a certain amount of time (30-60 min/day or so) and using a three-tiered system (must read, good to read, leisure read) may be the way to go. We’ll see how it works.

les tags: , ,

olden times and ancient rhymes

maura @ 7:01 pm

I am not very good at relaxing, in general. This basic physiomental (yay for new words!) fact + my eXtreme <3 of my job = I have been pretty obsessive with the interwebs this semester.

But! Now I’m on winter break. Break! Hope it doesn’t break me. And I thought I’d try a little experiment:

No interwebs from tomorrow afternoon through New Year’s Day. No email, no twitter, no facebook, no New York Times, no desperately trying to keep up with the 101 library/tech/higher ed blags in my igoogle. None. I’m not quite going to kick it danah boyd-style, but I am going to take that giant matrix plug out of the back of my head, just for a few days, just to see how it feels.

Hope your holidays are happy! Catch you in the New Year.

les tags:

green and breathing

maura @ 11:40 pm

Lots of ink has been spilled about kids today and their use of social networks, but what about us grown-ups? Of course the way we oldsters kick it online is hardly as important for the future as it is with the kids. But in many ways our negotiation of these spaces is much more varied + complex. When I have the time I like to read about this stuff — sociologist Eszter Hargittai @ Northwestern (+ her lab) has done lots of work on this. But I’m more familiar with what’s been done re: kids-college students than adults.

Recently I realized that DUH, it’s all about social identity construction! Kids (teens thru college) have had limited time (and need) for multiple social identities. I mean, how many kids really have a secret life (other than the one that all kids have running inside their heads)? For most people college provides the first real opportunity to begin building a new identity.

But by the time we reach adulthood we’ve necessarily constructed many social identities. There’s the person that you were in high school, the person that you were in college, your career persona (which can splinter even further for those with multiple careers, the archaeologistwebproducerlibrarians among us, e.g.), and your parenting persona (if you have kids), just to name a few. Through it all there’s your native family persona as well, the you that your nuclear + extended family knows.

These multiple social identities are often kept separate, either purposefully or for time/space reasons, i.e. my mom doesn’t know my library colleagues because she lives in a different place than I do, and I haven’t been a librarian for long enough for her to have had the opportunity to meet them.

So, I’m having some small twitterbook issues lately. And what’s kind of funny is that the issues are reversed for each online entity. In facebook: it’s all about the personal confronting the professional, and for twitter: strike that, reverse it.

I’ve mentioned before that I joined facebook to see what libraries were doing there. But, you know, you’re there, you have friends, they have friends, etc. And I don’t do any of the games or apps, but I do like the status updates + seeing friends’ status updates.

Recently there has been a huge influx of fb action from folks I knew in high school, and I’ve found myself a bit uncomfortable in that space. It’s not like I have anything against my high school or the people I went to school with — really, they’re all lovely (and if any are reading this, hi! You’re lovely!). I guess it’s more that, well, high school is kind of a yucky time, emotionally. For me it was all the standard teen drama (nothing THAT dramatic — really I am totally boring), plus my parents’ marriage was starting to break up (also not too horrendous, but not balloons + cupcakes, either). It’s not really a mental space that I like to inhabit much, as lovely as the people are, hence the discomfort.

I’m sure I’ll get over it, because really facebook is a social space, and is really far less professional than other places online. Plus, as I mentioned before, I am boring — the only real risk is that I will post something silly. Which is more a guarantee than a risk!

(Also, I’m hardly anonymous on the internets anyway, thanks to my weird name.)

Twitter is the exact opposite. I joined because Jonathan made me (lots of software developers use it) but so far I have only been using it in essentially the same way as facebook status updates — mostly frivolous. I do follow some librarians + library things (as well as famous people [Kristin Hersh and Felicia Day] and the AMNH!), but they’re in the minority on my following list.

Except that I went to a conference a few weeks ago and followed the live twits (still have a hard time saying “tweets” — too precious) in progress. And ever since then I’ve been chewing over whether to follow those twitterers. Because that will make twitter a more professional space than I’ve been using it for, and can it be both? Yes, I could create another profile, but really, who has the time?

Today I finally stopped hemming and hawing and jumped into the twitter followers pool. Twitter really is a better space for professional-type stuff, anyway. And I keep hearing about people who get good answers to questions via the twitterverse — maybe I can get some answers to my questions, too. Like does anyone know if there’s a concise, college-level summary of “Suzanne Briet’s What Is Documentation?“?