Echo Chamber Presentation: Director’s Cut (Slides Edition)

29 Nov

Laura and I did a version of our Echo Chamber presentation at an event in Newcastle a couple of weeks back. We had a shorter time than usual to do it in, so we took the opportunity to make a slide-deck rather than using the Prezi; it isn’t as long, and as far as I’m concerned the more potential this presentation has for dissemination, the better. If we make it available in more ways, that’s good – particularly in as embedable a medium as a Slideshare presentation; feel free to take this and put it wherever you like (it’s on an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs licence). Laura has also uploaded this to her Slideshare account, and it’s featured on Slideshare’s Homepage! Woot.

We had a great time in Newcastle – thanks to Biddy Casseldon and her team for putting us on! Unlike at the other events we’ve presented at, the vast majority of the audience weren’t familiar with who we were or what we were going to talk about, via Twitter or blogs, beforehand. We were escaping from our own echo chamber to a certain extent, and starting with a clean slate, having to win over a fresh audience as to the importance of what we were talking about. It was really gratifying to see people nodding emphatically – you really got the sense that people were having exactly the same “oh we really DO do that stuff, and it really DOES matter, and we really CAN try and fix it!” type revelations we had when we first started discussing the echolib thing 12 months ago. We were preaching to the unconverted, and I think we converted a lot of them. :)


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Escaping the Echo Chamber (but not, sadly, the traffic) with SLA Europe

25 Nov

Last night Geraldine Clement-Stoneham and the rest of her SLA Europe team hosted an event, at the City Business Library in London, all about escaping the echo chamber. It’s about a year since Laura and I started talking about echolib and trying to raise awareness of the issue, so to go from a speculative tweet to a fully fledged event aimed at addressing the problem, in 12 months or so, is fantastic. Cheers so much to Geraldine for putting this on! We roped Voices for the Library in to present also – the idea was that we’d explain the echo chamber phenomenon, and then they’d show what can be done when you escape it.


VftL had to go on first, because I was late. No just a bit late, but arriving an hour and 20 minutes after the event had started, late. I’d set off from my house in York at 8am, with baby and wife. The idea was to get to Brighton by around 2pm, get the train up to London, have a meeting about something really exciting, then head to the City Business Library for 5:30pm. Due to a series of road-based disasters (stationary traffic for 7 miles on the M1, and the A1 closed you say? Good news!) I was still driving ELEVEN HOURS LATER, having abandoned going to Brighton entirely, trying to get to a car park near the library. My wife described this whole thing as the most stressful day of her life (keep in mind she gave birth less than 4 months ago…) and I have to say, I was absolutely frantic for most of the day. We were acutely aware that it didn’t REALLY matter in the grand scheme of things (by which I mean, we could have been in the accidents that caused the delays, so it’s all relative) but it did seem, as we inched forward 200 yards every hour and a half, desperate for the loo most of the time, the whole car smelling of burned clutch, fighting with other London drivers during rush-hour as we took the final 6 miles of our journey in a mere 3 hours, like the end of the world was nigh. Emily, the baby, was just incredible – by far the best behaved of all of us. She was so patient, so smiley, and hardly cried at all. When we got to London, I ran off to try and take part in the event, while Emily and my wife were met by my in-laws, who’d incredibly kindly come up from Brighton to help ease the stress, and they all got the train back down to Brighton. This is a library blog so I don’t want to spend too much time harping on about family – but Robert, Susan, Alice, and especially Emily – thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. :)

Thank you also to Bethan and JoBo for changing the order and going on first, and for Laura for taking over and doing a lot of the presentation solo. By all accounts, Laura was ace at the bits she doesn’t normally do, despite having no script or notes to work from, and no time to prepare! I got there in time to do two of the parts I normally do, which I enjoyed, but I really really wished I’d been there from the start. I’d so been looking forward to this event, it was so important to me to do it well, and there were so many people going I wanted to meet. So once again, to everyone who attended, thank you so much for your patience!

Although I was slightly distracted by not knowing what had been said already, and felt I couldn’t get into a proper ranty stride regarding Seth Godin etc, I think it still went well and lots of people said positive things. The networking afterwards was my favourite networking experience ever. The previous day in Newcastle at the New Professionals Information Day I’d felt uncharacteristically unconfident and uncomfortable for some reason, so this was a really nice antidote to that. I met so many people for the first time (either having interacted with them previously on Twitter or not having any previous knowledge of them) and they were all absolutely lovely. I had a great time. But, I also had the travel-cot etc in my car, so sadly I have to make the drive back to Brighton earlier than I’d wanted to. However, the pain of this was mitigated by giving Neil Infield a lift home! He navigated superbly (it was great to see some parts of London a second time :) ) and we had a great chat, about libraries of course, in the car…

Anyway, here is the Prezi from last night – it’s a re-configured, updated and improved version of the previous one. As with all embeded content it will change on here as we change it on Prezi, so have a look now, before we start mucking about with it to change it for the Libraries@Cambridge event in January.

Final thing – thanks so much to everyone who came. A friend of mine who has lived in London, likens trying to get Londoners to come back into the middle of London for something in the evening, to asking Frodo Baggins to go through all he goes through in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and then when he finally makes it back to the safety of the Shire, asking him if he fancies a pint at Mount Doom.

So, cheers for coming along folks!


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Profile of an Echo Chamber Escapologist

12 Nov

B&W Picture or Lauren

Lauren Smith (aka Houdini...)

In the build-up to the two Echo Chamber presentations Laura Woods and I will be doing later this month, I’ve asked Lauren Smith (aka @Walkyouhome) to write the first ever guest post on thewikimanblog. She is the arch echo-chamber escapologist, is making a genuine difference ON HER OWN (and in collaboration with others), and at least part of her activities were catalysed by seeing a previous Echo Chamber presentation in Leeds! That’s very important, for me, because it reaffirms the point that although library advocacy itself has to take part outside the echo chamber, the debate about how this can be achieved can still take place within it and be productive. NB: If you’ve just stumbled on this post and are wondering what the echo chamber problem is, this Slidedeck gives a brief overview. So, without further ado, here’s Lauren. :)

Ned and Laura gave a fab presentation about escaping the echo chamber at the CILIP Yorkshire & Humberside Members’ Day in Leeds back in July. It came at just the right time for me, because I’d suddenly found myself helping to run a local campaign in Doncaster to prevent the destruction of their public library service. As well as the event in general giving me the opportunity to plug the campaign (aherm: Save Doncaster Libraries), the Echo Chamber presentation really helped to consolidate all the issues and ideas surrounding it, which heretofore had been pretty massive and intangible. Armed with a bit of inspiration and a feeling that I had no excuse not to Do Something, I went and Did Some Things and Learnt Some Stuff…

From the experience I’ve had in the last few months, here are some Top Tips for Echo-Chamber-Bustin’:

1.    Ask for stuff. The worst thing that can happen is they’ll say no. Inspired by Ian Clark’s success with Comment is Free, I sent an email to the Guardian asking if I could write about the situation in Doncaster with some nationwide context. They said yes! My article was Editor’s Pick of the Day! Hurrah. This really helped to get the word out there about what’s going on with public library cuts. Similarly, I really wanted to go to the Public Library Authority Conference but couldn’t afford it, so sent an email to one of the sponsors. They said yes, I got to go and have a nosy and talk to people about what I’m up to. Jammy. It’s not a full-on break from the echo chamber, because most of the people I spoke to were librarians, but CILIP kindly allowed me to distribute Voices for the Library flyers, which I hope some of the sponsors, councillors and other non-librarian folk picked up.

2.    Make yourself available. Make it clear that you’re happy for people to get in touch about things, and what you’d like to talk about. Since the Voices for the Library campaign launched, a few journalists and news sites have been in touch asking for our thoughts on public library-related topics like closures, spending cuts, ebooks and modernisation. My phone number’s on the website, as are different email addresses for different things (media@ for media enquiries, stories@ for submissions from the public/library staff, contact@ for other…). People do use them, and (so far!) only for legitimate reasons. Obviously only give as much personal information as you feel comfortable/safe with, but like I say, it’s been fine for me so far. I think having my phone number up there makes a difference, because journalists are busy and if they want a sound bite quickly I imagine they’d rather call. It doesn’t take a lot of time – the other day I got a phone call from a North London journalist, asking me about Lewisham libraries and why libraries are important in communities. I popped out of the office, rambled for a couple of minutes and hopefully gave her something useful. The more you do, the better at it you get, I guess!

3.    Make the most of as many opportunities as you can. My Guardian piece was, semi-coincidentally, published at a key time for libraries – the KPMG horror had just been published, and then the DCMS report popped up. This meant that when the media wanted spokespeople, they’d got my name – and wanted to speak to me. In the space of a week or so I’d given interviews for BBC Radio 5 Live and local radio.

The Save Doncaster Libraries campaign had also organised a Read-In (think of it as a peaceful, booky protest with some singing and dancing) towards the end of August. The BBC picked up on this and David Sillito came and filmed the whole thing, which was great. My face made it onto BBC Breakfast News and BBC News 24, talking about what libraries are for and how important they are. Although most of what I said didn’t make the final cut, it hopefully gave David some food for thought, and it was a brilliant opportunity for a librarian to get out there and at least try to set the record straight.

I’ve been fortunate in that a lot of the opportunities have come to me, and it’d be daft to say no. It takes a bit of schedule-shuffling and a lot of time, but you’re doing it ‘cos it’s important and you love it, right?

4.    Keep remembering that It’s Important and You Love It! Sometimes it’s actually really useful to sink into the echo chamber for a little bit, if you need a bit of a reminder about the reasons you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing outside of the echo chamber. I tend to have a good scroll through my list of LIS-folk on Twitter (not exhaustive – for that I’d recommend Phil Bradley’s!) and things like libraryland on Tumblr, for the odd inspirational quote and pretty pictures of awesome libraries and whatnot.

5.    Be as confident as you can. I’m not that experienced and I’m not the greatest writer or public speaker, but I’ve found it very helpful to pretend you’re confident until you realise that for the most part, people are really supportive and agree with you that libraries and librarians are great, so they’re not looking to pick holes in what you’re saying. Realising that really helps build your confidence, and lets you get on with advocating without being self-conscious.

6.    Get some feedback. The first talk I did about cuts to library services was to a room of community forum members, and I pitched it slightly wrong. I went on a bit too long about the social value of libraries, which was interesting, but what they really wanted to know about was what they could do to help. I only know this because a very kind gentleman sensitively gave me some great feedback. He knew it was my first attempt, gave me some tips from his own experience and suggested I film myself talking some time (no way!) – The things he said really helped, and I’m very grateful. I’m not brilliant at asking for feedback, but it’s probably a good thing to do. I know my ability to take criticism has developed hugely over the last year, and a lot of that is because of (constructive) feedback about my writing, speaking and presentation skills.

7.    Ask for help. Nobody could possibly know all there is to know about libraries, publicity, advocacy, marketing etc., but if I ask Twitter, someone else usually knows or can point me in the right direction! Use your networks – places like the LIS New Professionals Network and Twitter are great. A wonderful character trait of all the librarians and info pros I know is that they’re generous with their time, skills and knowledge and will help where they can.

8.    Related to this, get together. I’m now working with info pros and librarians from across the country to run the Voices for the Library campaign. There are lots of benefits to this, including the obvious ten heads are better than one. More ideas + more skills + more people to advocate = more impact! We’re focusing on public libraries, but they’re not the only sector under threat. A group of school librarians have set up Heart of the School, for example. If it looks like your sector’s next, maybe you should find out if there’s already an advocacy group or campaign going. If not – could you set one up?

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Libraries & Stealth Advocising!

09 Nov

I’m afraid this post has a bit of a ‘here’s what I did, how cool is that’ feel to it, but it’s sort of unavoidable if I’m to share what I learned…

Stealth Advocising: creating material for library advocacy, but packaging it in something of intrinsic awesomeness so that non-librarians will be interested in it anyway – thereby extending its reach and escaping the echo chamber. Stealth advocising is the Trojan Horse of library advocacy.

The Background

Recently I’ve been thinking about the ‘libraries and the echo chamber‘ problem a lot. (What a surprise!) Coincidentally, I also read that Lorcan Dempsey thinks the ‘found flickr’ style of slide-deck (which is what I normally do – I know it as ‘zen-style slide-decks’: full-slide images, one point per slide, the image being a visual metaphor of some kind for that point) is dead or dying. Then I saw NoteandPoint, a site devoted entirely to showcasing lovely presentations. The slide decks on there were sooo far ahead of what I normally do, it really made me think.

The Concept

All of this came together with me thinking a: I need to experiment with a different style of slides, to keep ahead of, or at least up with, the game, b: I’ve been meaning to contextualise my ‘essential advice for new professionals blog post‘ into a slide deck for ages because it would be easier to digest and disseminate that way and c: wouldn’t it be cool to make a deck so attractive it gets onto NoteandPoint because of its aesthetics, and then surreptitiously rights public misconceptions about librarianship at the same time! It’s stealth advo-cising! Subliminal advocising, even! Because people will be viewing the presentation as a sort of cool object of PowerPoint beauty, without realising they’re actually absorbing library advocacy! W00t!

This idea could apply to a lot of things. Make something which is cool enough of itself for people to want to share it, and it just happens to be about libraries too. What would result, if it worked, would be huge reach beyond your normal sphere, and people beyond the echo chamber learning about libraries. A good example of this in the past was when LibraryMan and David Lee King‘s Library 101 video got onto BoingBoing – that took more resources to create than most of us could realistically aspire to, but ANYONE can make a slide-deck.

The execution

Last week I created my slides, entitled If you want to work in libraries, here are ten things you need to know. I prioritised form just as much as function – this meant compromise, such as not saying as much as I wanted to in some slides, and dividing one slide up into 2 different ones because I only had 9 main slides. I wanted 10 because ‘here’s 10 things you need to know’ is snappier than 9 – titles are really important. I made it short and easily digestible. I found a nice texture from Flickr (CC, of course), cropped it and re-coloured it to work as the background. And I used icons from the newly discovered icon-finder site (thanks Phil!)  to be graphics in roughly the same place each slide. The end result was a deck built for echo escapism – it is pretty, and although there are compromises on content they are necessary to help it achieve wider dissemination – less stuff, but seen by many more people, = #win. It’s concise, honest, makes important points I’m always making, and will hopefully put off as many people as it entices into librarianship. No point in people entering this profession labouring under misapprehensions.

The deck

Here it is:

What happened next

All I can say is, this went waaay better than I expected! I wrote a blog post yesterday asking people, how do I get this slide-deck beyond the echo chamber? Almost exactly 24hrs later, thanks to a mixture of the suggestions people gave me on Twitter and on the blog, and just trying stuff at random, here’s some of what has happened:

Screen-grab of three Prospects Tweets

All three tweeting arms of the Prospects Careers Service tweeted a link

Pic of a tweet

The careers service Graduate Futures tweeted a link

Pic of a tweet

GuardianCareers tweeted a link to it

Pic of Slideshare

It showed up on Slideshare's homepage as being Hot on Facebook (and Hot on Twitter, although you can't see that above) due to all the links / likes it was getting

Pic of an email

I got an email from Slideshare saying it had been chosen to be a Featured Presentation on the homepage

Pic of Slideshare

And there it is, featured. You know you can pay to have your presentation featured like this? Guess how much it costs: $399 DOLLARS A DAY!

Pic of slideshare

And just for good measure, this morning Slideshare decided to feature it on their Spotlight on Careers page, too...

The combined reach of those Twitter feeds alone is over 6000 followers, NONE of whom follow me and so were inaccessible to me otherwise. And all I did was just ASK them to tweet it – that’s all there was to it! Why have I never done this before? The Prospects Twitter person in particular was really helpful and engaging, and got my feedback on other stuff they were doing online at Prospects, and tweeted links to my Essential Careers Advice post and my Prezi on libraries and technology.

The Slideshare featuring thing is amazing, because every time anyone goes to the homepage they can see an attractive presentation, check it out, and are fed pro-library propaganda through a straw while they do so… As they said in the email screen-grabbed above, they receive thousands of uploads each day – the only way they even know my presentation existed in order to put it as a Feature on the homepage was because it got into the Hot on Twitter section as one of the most tweeted about Slideshare decks in the world for that morning so,thank you to everyone who tweeted and re-tweeted the links! The pictures above show just the #echolib busting stuff – it was also picked up on by loads of library people too and I’m really grateful.

Another thing worth noting is that, at the moment, if I type ‘I want to work in libraries’ into Google, the first four entries I get are this presentation. (Same with typing in ‘if you want to work in libraries’.) I know Google personalises results but even so, that’s pretty good – I’d rather people got my opinions on the truth of working in libraries than some out-of-date stuff that perpetuates the misconceptions, stereotypes and so on.

The numbers

At the time of writing, just 24rs since being uploaded to Slideshare, the presentation has been viewed 2611 times, linked to via 345 times, embedded in 18 people’s sites and blogs, tweeted 69 times, downloaded 13 times, shared on Facebook 48 times, liked on Facebook 66 times,  favourited 10 times on SlideShare and even received 7 votes for Slideshare’s World’s Best Presentation Contest 2010!


To put that in context, the next most viewed presentation I’ve ever submitted to Slideshare has less than 1000 views, and that’s EVER – let alone in 24hrs. So stealth advocising undoubtedly increased my reach exponentially, and hopefully it enlightened many of those new viewers as to what libraries are all about.

Your turn?

So, how else can we apply the stealth-advocising principle and help libraries escape the echo chamber? Suggestions in a comment please, or better still, make it happen and post a link to it here! :)

- thewikiman

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