Thursday, February 26, 2009

2.0 Degrees of Separation

Living where I do, it is easy to feel isolated personally and professionally. Not just geographically, but time-wise. As busy as we all are, it’s difficult to find time to connect via phone, letters, or email with friends, family, and colleagues. One of the ways I keep connected is Facebook. For those of you who haven’t used Facebook (or MySpace or other social networking sites), you sign in, add pictures if you want, go find people and add them as “friends,” post updates about what you’re doing, join groups, or become a fan of tartar sauce or all things orange. Not too long ago I was reacquainted with a high school friend, Cheryl McKinnon, via Facebook’s classmate search mechanism. One of Facebook’s functions is that once you are linked with somebody else you can view their online profile and status updates.

I don’t think Cheryl and I have seen or talked to each other since high school graduation night, which was, ouch, more than 20 years ago now. We did the basics of “you’re living where and WHY?”—she in Kitchener, I in Anchorage—and that was about it. Because Facebook associates us as friends and she is a prolific poster, her “what I’m doing now” updates usually show up when I log into my account. Not too long ago she posted a link to a white paper she’d written on 2.0. I had all sorts of reasons to follow the link and read the paper, but the most compelling one was that I didn’t have any excuses left if somebody my age (one day younger, actually) knew 2.0 well enough to write a white paper on it.

Turns out, Cheryl’s paper is about 2.0 applications and ramifications for records management. Miles MacDonnell Collegiate, our high school, had a graduating class of about 170 that year. That’s over one percent of the graduating class ending up in two low-populated and closely related fields. I’ll admit I don’t know the statistical odds, but it seems unlikely to me. When I pointed this out to Cheryl, she said “you couldn’t take the geek out of the girl.” I refuse to claim geekhood now, but will admit we had a fairly high count of geeks at the time of graduation and though I don’t know what happened to the rest, I’m thinking the math and computing genius whose Facebook profile claims a residence in the Cayman Islands probably chose something other than RM or Archives as a career. Since the vast majority of my friends group on Facebook consists of professional colleagues who have become good friends, it was fun to discover one who represented the reverse chronology.

At any rate, Cheryl had some interesting and pithy things to say about administering information developed in a 2.0 environment. The paper made me think about retention issues in a new way. She also provided a few good ideas for how to make 2.0 technologies enable access to records. I never would have found this document on my own, or if I had, I wonder if I would have ever recognized my high school friend in the author’s name?

This past year or so, 2.0 has really come onto the RAO radar (you knew I’d get around to the RAO connect eventually, didn’t you?) and I expect we all will be investigating it for some time. I’ll confess, prior to the ’08 section meeting presentation, I cringed every time I heard “2.0.” I didn’t know what it encompassed, I couldn’t figure out how any of it related to me or to my work. The presentation provided connects and building blocks, including making me realize that I’m already using some of these technologies both in my personal and professional life. From keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues via Facebook, I’ve discovered that some aspects of 2.0 aren’t all that scary. This fall I created a Facebook page for my department—it’s pretty simplistic because I don’t know how to make the most of it yet—but it’s there. I can see the beginnings of how to use it for outreach, less so for reference and access, but at least we’ll save a few minutes in setup when we figure out what comes next. Soon you will be seeing some RAO working groups looking at various 2.0 tools to come up with suggestions and pointers to share. If you would like to participate, please contact me and I’ll be happy to hook you up.

For those of you who haven’t yet investigated the networking sites like MySpace or Facebook, consider taking a little time out of your schedule to play with them. You might not end up a fan. However, understanding how these sites function will help you make better decisions about using them.

I don’t recall quite when or why I joined Facebook, but I didn’t make use of it until last February during a Kodiak blizzard with all my airport novels read and nothing to keep me entertained but free wireless. Now? I check it near daily, sometimes several times a day. I see what is happening in many friends’ and family members’ lives and feel like I am more in touch with them than ever before. It’s a bit voyeuristic at times, but I hear about the great exhibits and programs and projects they are working on and occasionally I read something by a friend that makes me rethink my work. A social tool that serves to educate: now that’s an effective reference, access, and outreach mechanism we should all be studying closely.

By the way, if you want to read Cheryl’s short, informative, and entertaining piece, it’s at: The site requires a free login. As do most of the social networking sites. Join one. You’ll find you’re among friends.

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