Tag Archives: rss

The fallacy of "push communication"

It’s actually been a while since I’ve heard people talk of push communication, so maybe I’m a day late and a dollar short on this, but I can’t help when I have my epiphanies.

The idea behind push communication (when I heard it, at least) is that instead of waiting for users to come to your website for news, you could push it out to them through, for example, an RSS feed.

Hands up those of you who, when you ask your users to put their hands up if they use an RSS reader, ever get anyone putting a hand up? No, nor do I. And this is the problem: if you’re pushing information out to somewhere that people don’t visit, you’re still asking them to pull it.

Even if you push it right to their email inbox, if they only check their email when their kids mention they’ve sent photos of their grandkids; or if you’re pushing it to their student email account and they only ever check their dotcom-mail if that; you’re still not going to be successful.

My phone company pushed an SMS message to my cellphone on the 28th July to say that my account’s going to expire next year, my terms and conditions have changed, and I can get a new phone on some special offer until the 31st July. I finally noticed this message on the evening of the 31st July.

I only listen to the radio in the aftermath of natural disasters. I have friends who (by choice) don’t even own a TV (I use mine so rarely I forget which buttons on the remote to press). There’s no guaranteed way to push your communication to all your users short of accosting them face-to-face, and even then, even if you offer candy, a measurable proportion will still avert their eyes and walk right past you.

Of course RSS is still a handy tool, because it lets you embed the feed in places where hopefully the users will go. We embed ours on the library homepage, some subject guides, and our Facebook page. But that just gets more users, not all. (The most common response when I tell students about our Facebook page is laughter. Sure we’ve got 900+ followers. But that leaves probably 18,000+ non-followers.) We can communicate all we like through these channels, but the majority of our users — even when they’re motivated to find out which buildings are open to be borrowed from/returned to this week — still don’t know what’s going on in the library until they get a library tutorial. (And in the last few weeks the attendance rate at my tutorials is running at about 2/3.)

Long story short, if you want a message to get to all or even most of your users, you’re going to have to push hard and you’re going to have to push really really smart.

Something you mightn’t know about Google Reader Shared items

You probably know that Google Reader has a “Share” option which puts a blog post into your own “Shared” feed so friends who subscribe to that can see what you’ve been reading.

And you probably know that recently they added a “Share with note” option that lets you… well, add a note when you share it so your friends can see what you think about what you’ve been reading.

But what you mightn’t know is that if you select both “Share” and “Share with note” it goes into your shared feed twice (once with and once without the note). This is a bit stupid, but there you are. To stop it happening just don’t select “Share”; selecting “Share with note” all by itself is sufficient.

Links of interest 9/7/09

An essay on the serials review process.

The Global Legal Monitor, published by the Law Library of Congress in Washington, offers an RSS feed for updates for all news stories as well as RSS feeds broken down by topic and/or jurisdiction.

Make it Digital by DigitalNZ has guides, voting for what NZ resources should be digitised (the AJHRs are currently in the lead) and a place to ask and answer questions about digitisation.


Added web functionality

Tweets on libraries

Gerrit van Dyk comments on some tweets about libraries as (respectively) discussion space and quiet space, and I think these raise a couple of issues for libraries:

  1. Often libraries do have the discussion areas people want, but people don’t know we do! We’re not always very good at promoting the resources/services we have. (In a focus group recently, a postgrad student timidly said that it’d be nice if the library could offer a service where if she was stuck on her literature review she could come to us and we’d help her do it. Us reference librarians running the focus group had a hard time not banging our heads on the nearest desk: this is #1 on our job description and she didn’t know that’s what we’re here for!)
  2. Sometimes we get so focused on a trend (more people want discussion spaces) that we forget that this doesn’t mean that everything’s completely changed all at once (ie people haven’t suddenly stopped wanting quiet spaces). (Last year I made a video with some of my library’s students asking them what they liked about using the library, and a startling percentage said what they liked was that it was a nice quiet place to study.)

It’s definitely illuminating seeing what people say about libraries online, though it occasionally feels like stalking. I’ve got an RSS feed of a search on tweets in New Zealand about libraries (due to the NZ ISP system I couldn’t narrow it closer to my region). One recent one that is food for thought: “wondering why i’m being told to take a library course when i have been at uni for 3 years and know how to read a book“. Hopefully the library course will answer that question…

RSS feeds on Facebook

I’ve played with a number of Facebook applications that claim to let you import RSS feeds into Facebook – and then mysteriously fail to update them. RSS feeds that don’t update are not overly useful.

I finally concluded that if we wanted to import our library blogs into our (currently in demo) library Facebook page, we’d have to use Friendfeed instead. Only when I actually tried this out, it turns out that the Friendfeed application doesn’t work on pages.

So I went trawling through Facebook’s RSS applications again and (perhaps because this was a couple of months since I last tried) found one that seems to work: RSS-Connect(*). It looks clean, the display is reasonably customisable, and it works smoothly and intuitively to open/close items when clicked and take you through to the original item on demand. And most importantly, it really does update automatically – you even get to choose how often you want it to check for updates.

(*) There must be a way to get a link that shows you information about the app before forcing you to add it, but Facebook isn’t intuitive to me and I haven’t found it yet.

ETA 22/5/09 I can’t recommend RSS-Connect, aka Social RSS, any more as it frequently loads either very slowly or (more often) not at all. This leaves me without a working RSS application again. Anyone know of anything, or want to create one?

ETA 17/7/09 RSS-Connect aka Social RSS is back in my good books with some caveats; see comments for more.

FriendFeed – reading format verdict

Reading FriendFeed as an RSS feed via GoogleReader:

+ I don’t have to log in
+ One less thing to remember / tab in Firefox to keep open
+ I know what items I’ve read and what I haven’t – no losing my place when items with new comments shift around

– I get items significantly later. And for some reason the feed is currently frozen on August 2nd.
– If I want to comment I have to log in anyway – then start trying to catch up when I’m not sure of my place given that items with new comments have shifted around
– I don’t get notifications for new comments
– Something else I can’t remember. As a Dirk Gently character said, my brain is like one of those things with holes in it.

I think I’m going to be sticking mostly with the web interface from now on