Wednesday, November 04, 2009

"Scooping" myself

So I realized that I'm always breathless with anticipation & entirely too quiet about my big plans for web projects. And I realized that I do this despite my professed philosophy of openness and communication. Often, it's just that I'm too busy. Sometimes I'll admit that I'm also afraid that I might not be able to make the big project work, so I hesitate to mention it or to mention it until I have a stronger feel for how successful and/or rapid its implementation may be.

But I also recognize that as you decrease centralization of an organization's structure, you need to increase communication. That's the only way to keep folks working together as harmoniously as possible. That's a huge transition from a strictly hierarchical way of organizing people. Another key to a decentralized power structure is that everyone on the "team" is working toward the same goal. There's an implicit and explicit trust there. We're not decentralized, but we're transitioning to a much less centralized structure than we've ever been in before. It can be very empowering & productive. But a challenge... I can only imagine (no, I really can't) what it's like for my boss... at what point do you have to create boundaries & ensure that there are structures to keep folks working together? Fortunately, these questions are way above my level...

Anyhow, I've been violating my ideals by not at least mentioning some of the things I've been working on this year:
  • put the Conservation Connection website live (using Drupal platform)
  • fixing up the database-backed page that pulls in legislative histories & normalizing it so that there is an entry for each segment of committee testimony pages, so that when they are digitized, an URL can be assigned to each one (the database was created with all of the committees' pages in one big chunk of info in just 1 column, even when they were for different committees (e.g., Housing: 233-255, 1500-1501, 1700-1799; Public Safety: 511-525, 302, 677-680) )
  • getting the WPA art project site live / ready for primetime (on customized Wordpress platform, using a mashup with a mysql database to list artworks from our database & with Flickr streams (as long as the folks uploading our Flickr photos tag the photos with the artists' name, our Wordpress pulls the photos with those tags into the biography page for each artist)
  • updating the stylesheet for the site & updating its homepage (rolled live end of August) for some usability improvements, added a few services for/by audience navigational pages
  • getting the Web2.0 interest group going. It's almost intimidating to get all of that brainpower/firepower into the room & to empower them/unleash them! We've put together a fan page for our place of work, a Twitter stream, and the reference librarians have begun a live chat service. A woman who works in our digitization area & is a guru of scanning, GIS, and myriad technologies, as well as being a scholar in African-American history (she's going to school at one of the state universities right now), had the great idea to tweet sections of our Wyllys papers that refer to Connecticut's 17th-century witchcraft trials - one tweet every day for the month of October. It was awesome! Nicely done. Another Web2.0 group member who is perpetually in fast forward & is really good about advancing the organizational mission as much as possible at all times learned so much and did so much that she's become our FB fan page admin for us, effectively. I'd set up just a fairly straightforward page, with a couple of search boxes and a few RSS feeds, but she really refined everything, added so much, even insisted on getting our Meebo live chat with a reference librarian widget incorporated. I'd have given up on that one a lot quicker, if I'd even have thought of it in the first place! So my colleagues do rock. That's the upside.

    Then there is the hard work of trying to get multiple folks to share the responsibility of new services, while doing so in a way that is team-oriented & remembers the vision of the overall web presence. For example, reminding them not to skip the blog (that they also have authoring rights to) that is the authoritative news stream for the library (not to mention that it populates both our news page & our home page). For purposes of searching & coherence, I want everyone to think that the blog is the first stop for publicizing new services/projects from us. If they've set up the connection in Wordpress, moreover, posting to the blog will automatically tweet out for them and - without them taking any extra steps - anything that appears on our news blog feeds into the Facebook fan page (our blog is featured in the fan page's Notes, so automatically gets imported in). I should add that anytime our folks put a status update on the Facebook fan page, it tweets out to our Twitter stream (we've set up that interaction). I think everything's now all working/playing together well and soon we'll get everyone to remember to start at the blog in most cases, and work their way out.

  • Finally, getting us ready to go with the Drupal migration (creating the presentation that I'll publicize on Slideshare as soon as I cite some of the diagrams I borrowed from various brilliant UX folks... even though w/o my narration, it won't be that exciting or obvious... I hope it won't anyway...); creating a collaborative workspace that we're beta-ing (I'll have to put the details/how tos on the blog, since I may be one of the only people whose had to try to get it to work on an IIS6 server... used FastCGI, what a challenge to get everything going w/o destroying the Mediawiki install... did I mention that we run a Mediawiki-based internal wiki for the reference librarians to share information to answer frequently asked questions) on OpenAtrium, a Drupal-based intranet product that we're having a lot of fun with; and trying to flesh out audiences, use cases, subject areas/categories, plus how to do the content migration teams...
Tomorrow AM, I'll show the reference folks how they may want to take advantage of Wordpress' categories so that we can broaden the scope of our news blog to produce topic-specific RSS feeds, such as genealogy. It'll start laying groundwork for moving to Drupal.

1 comment:

pollyalida said...

Wow, wow, wow! What a lot of great projects going on. Terrific to see a summary of everything here. How do you keep it all straight!