Friday, 22 July 2011

Thing 4: Current awareness - Twitter, RSS and Pushnote

Current awareness is something on which I place a massive emphasis, and for which I always make time. It’s not just about being able to shine in job interviews  or meeting a Chartership criterion; it’s about knowing what is happening in libraries and in the wider HE sector, who’s doing what and what outside factors are having an impact, in order to bring that knowledge into my work (both my paid work and my voluntary roles), research and reflection. I use a few different methods to stay up to date, including Twitter and RSS. Pushnote, however, is not something with which I was familiar prior to CPD23.


I love Twitter, and this is where loads of my current awareness comes from.  When you follow a lot of people in libraries, HE, technology etc., like I do, if anything important or ground-breaking occurs, you’ll see it in your Twitter feed.  I use Twitter to keep up to date in several ways:
  1. Keeping up with LIS news. I’m subscribed to lots of Jiscmail lists, and I read publications like SCONUL Focus, but sometimes you have days when you’re just too busy at work to read your mailing list messages. During my lunchbreak, I can log onto Twitter, and if something interesting has popped up in the LIS world, someone will be tweeting about it, with links to the content and maybe even a blog post or two discussing it. Twitter helps to ensure that I don’t miss the important things.
  2. Keeping up with general news. As above; Twitter reassures me that I won’t miss anything that I need to know about.
  3. Finding blog posts to read. As I explain below, I follow blogs and use Google Reader. However, I find Twitter really useful for pointing me in the direction of good posts. I think that, again, it’s a case of being quick and easy; during my lunchbreak I might not want to spend ages looking through my Reader, but Twitter sends me straight to the most up-to-date and relevant blog content. Of course, this relies on me following a lot of LIS people who also blog and/or read and retweet blogs.
  4. Asking questions. I head to Twitter for anything, from questions about what to do with our current journals display to requests for restaurant recommendations! Twitter contains such a mass of knowledge, and it is by far the fastest way of sourcing ideas. It also allows for discussion with others about an idea that someone has suggested, which mailing lists do not, unless the respondent has sent the reply to the list rather than direct to the asker.
  5. Answering questions! I enjoy sharing my knowledge, experience and ideas with others, and looking at what others are asking also provides an insight into what the current trends and issues are.
  6. Serendipity. Twitter allows you to find things that you weren’t specifically looking for; a link that someone posts, a discussion that two people who you follow are having, something that someone who you don’t follow has posted which has been retweeted by someone who you do follow. I can’t think of any other information source that allows for such serendipitous information discovery.
Twitter does, however, have its limitations. It’s very fast-paced, and it’s easy to miss something. When I was doing my MA, I would have it open in the background as I worked on my coursework or dissertation, and check it periodically. However, now that I work full time, I don’t have time to check Twitter at any time during the working day, other than lunchtime and coffee breaks, which means that I don’t get as much chance to see what’s happening, or to get involved in conversations, as I used to. In this respect, using an RSS feed is much more effective; things don’t disappear, or at least not as quickly! The other significant limitation of Twitter is the character limit of tweets; it becomes less quick and easy if you have a lot to say, as you have to send multiple tweets, or use a tweet-extension tool such as Twitlonger (which then hides much of what you’re saying from immediate view).


As I’ve said, I use Google Reader to keep track of blogs. However, often I will have come across the most recent posts on Twitter already. I find it most useful when I have been away from Twitter for a while I think. I have to admit that my knowledge and use of RSS feeds is very sparse outside of Google Reader. I just find Twitter much more efficient for keeping up!


I’m afraid I’m not convinced of the usefulness of Pushnote. I’m not entirely sure what it does that Twitter/blogs/Delicious/Google Plus/probably other established sites or tools don’t already do. Feel free to try to persuade me otherwise, but having signed up specifically for CPD23, I can’t see myself doing anything further with it, and will be sticking to Twitter I think.

Other tools – mailing lists and publications

As I said earlier, I also use some fairly traditional tools for current awareness, namely Jiscmail lists and publications such as SCONUL Focus. I don’t always have time to browse them in much detail, but do find them useful. Perhaps I should tweet more of what I discover there, for those who don’t look at them.

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