Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pinterest and Symbaloo for Organizing Your Information

When Google closed down Google Reader this summer, many of us searched for an alternative. I came upon Symbaloo, which I have been loving for three months.

Symbaloo works similarly to Pinterest, in that it allows us to easily arrange our Internet favorites in a visual board. Symbaloo allows us to "bookmark" sites for personal use or to share with others. Yet, unlike Pinterest, it also lets us follow newsfeeds. Furthermore, while Pinterest relies on tagging pictures located on a page, making it challenging to "pin" the page when it has no images, Symbaloo lets one create personally designed buttons easily. It is not reliant on a page having imagery. Symbaloo's bookmarks are created through the Symbaloo site, while Pinterests "pins" are created through a toolbar button. While viewing the heavily picture based Pinterest is attention grabbing, Symbaloo's differences and some advatanges as an information tool are worth a look.

I have created a page that grabs the rss feeds of my favorite blogs. This solves my Google Reader problem and hence supports my original reason for trying Symbaloo. RSS feeds are easy to grab, organize, and view.

I have also just begun thinking about and experimenting with Symbaloo to create pathfinders, or links to sources that can help my patrons and clients. I am considering duplicating my Pinterest boards here for comparison. There have been many times when I have worked to create a visual using Photoshop to "pin" to a board when the page I was pinning didn't have one. Other times, I have been unable to find an image and, being in a hurry, have decided to not pin the page to my Pinterest board. Symbaloo solves this problem.

Symbaloo also has a new mobile app (within the past 16 months) that neatly lets you pull all your bookmarks together for your own use. It is easy on the eyes and easy to use.

picture from

Oprah's Symbaloo webmix is a good example of how Symbaloo can be creatively used to make a visual impact and advertise your brand.

Some are using Symbaloo to specifically draw attention to cultural heritage. Here are a few interesting sites along these lines:
  • Amsterdam - since the site originated in the Netherlands in 2007, many sites were created in that country. This webmix is an interesting example of how one can publicize one's city or institution through Symbaloo, or, draw together links about a place for education purposes

[Search for public webmixes to explore more Symbaloo sites created by others.]

The problem with all of this work to create "subject catalogs" of information is that, of course, these platforms may go away. Exporting our information from Pinterest and Symbaloo is not easy. I would love to have a platform that works from my own web site to perform the same tasks as those in the cloud. At work, I purchase software databases that allow me to create links, but for those of us keeping links at home, or those of us in smaller institutions that can't afford such software, the ever-changing resources can be frustrating. Yet, Symbaloo has been around since 2007. So, it's had a good run and its star doesn't seem to be fading (yet). If you are looking for a new, interesting, or better way to organize your information, it's worth a look.

For more about Symbaloo see: 
TNW Pick of the Day: Symbaloo launches mobile apps to sync bookmarks across all your devices    

[What will you did when IGoogle is gone too?] Great Personalized Start Pages: 6 Alternatives to IGoogle  

Lifehacker - Symbaloo Makes Creating a Modular Start Page Easier


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Teaching Archives

Twenty young men and women sat giving me their full attention. There was no boredom in their faces. There were no food wrappers rustling. There were no whispers or tired empty stares. I decided to try it. It worked for adult audiences; why shouldn't it work on attentive teens? "Close your eyes...." I smiled, gently. "Go ahead. Everyone do it." And they did.

"Imagine a big circle in the center of your mind. Now see a line running through it. The circle is you. Everything to the left of the circle includes the people who came before you - your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents and the communities of societies that came before shift your attention to the right of the circle. Everything on the line to the right of you includes your kids, your grandkids, your nieces and nephews, your friends' kids and all the societies on whom you will have an influence. Everything that you do in your life helps build the future. You have the power to change societies. You are part of the line of history. History is not just about famous people. It is about you. Now open your eyes..." And they did.

...And this wasn't a history class. This was a marketing class. I was teaching social media strategy and using ArchivesInfo as a model. A powerpoint accompanied my talk about blogger, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the other platforms that I use to promote the work I do. Wrapped up in a talk about marketing my business was the theme of cyber safety. The documentation that one puts on the Internet will be there forever. "Most of the words you put out to the public as a teen will still be visible when you are an adult. I still see things I posted to forums twenty years ago as a young archivist when I look in search engines. Information does not vanish. Be careful what information you put out about yourself."

Of course, the work I do as an archivist is unfamiliar to my students. They know me as Mrs. Mannon, the librarian. Getting into the classroom has given me quite the opportunity to open their eyes to the idea and value of primary sources for documenting history. It is also helping me explain just what information and library science is all about. Information professionals are the keepers of ideas. One must carefully consider the documents that one creates, especially in a digital format, to manage one's identity and reputation.

Opening doors so that students can gain a full understanding of information in all its forms - from print archives to digital media  - is how I perceive my prime role as a high school information specialist. I mentioned in last week's post how I use exhibits to educate with primary source materials. In fact, archives are wrapped into most of the things that I do. Establishing a pen pal program allows me to show students the value of letter writing. Running a slideshow of photos I take of the students happily at work in the library shows how our images can bond communities. I displaying books in a different genre each month and accompany them with information about the people who have influenced that genre. This demonstrates how books are more than just the literature itself, but are also about the people who write it and the communities who are influenced by it - all backed up with primary sources.

Even a short note you write today may remain 100 years from
now among the archives that reflect your life. [This letter is
from the Lawton Collection at the Shirley Historical Society,
Shirley Massachusetts.]
I often hear that kids don't care about the past. They are not interested in their family history. They are not interested in antiques and old things. This is incorrect. It is not that they are not interested. It's that this generation needs to be taught the lessons in a different way. They want glitz. They want you to tie the idea directly to their lives. One can't just say, "this is important so learn it." One must show why it is important and show it over and over again from different angles. Archives are important because they are all around us. They influence everything. They inform us about everything, from the books you love to the messages you send friends to the letters you write to new friends around the world.

I don't think I heard the word "archives" until I was in college. I even worked in an archival setting in high school and I don't think the word archives was used. We need to change that. Today, because of computers, people think of "archives" as old newspapers or other old information found online.  Archives are so much more than that. As a teacher, I use the word as often as I can when describing a whole world of information out there to explore and create. Teaching archives means teaching about that information and how it affects youth today.  Teaching archives means teaching about how ideas across the timeline of history are created and transferred from one generation to the next.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Understanding Social Media and Other Forms of Communication

Using Twitter to express displeasure. Anonymously.
Using an app to send pictures that enables your data to disappear in a matter of seconds.

Reality or fantasy?

A Little Knowledge Can Save You A Lot of Trouble

I bring up this topic this week because of a couple of recent incidents that have crossed my path. Looking over the should of a young person, I learned about the app "snap chat" that says you can control how long your recipient sees your information.The person who showed me this app said that it's great because your information just "disappears" in a matter of time.

We all should know that information doesn't just disappear. I decided to do a little research. I found that though this tool can be a fun one to send something such as a happy birthday wish (as its use was framed for me by the person who showed it to me,) I learned that it is most popular for sexting. Thinking that a person can send a risque photo of oneself that just "disappears," snap chat has gained popularity for this purpose. As an informational professional, this concerns me greatly. Information does not just go away on its own.

In another incident, someone expressed extreme displeasure with another person by tweeting it. Rude language, tone, and message does not disappear after you post it. I am concerned about the future of those I teach who engage in such behaviors. Posting under "anonymous" usually does not leave you unknown, especially when your twitter handle with your name is visible right under the page that declares you as "anonymous," as was the post that is the subject of this paragraph. Be aware of the information that you put out there for all to see. This should not be a new idea to most of us.

The Right Tool for the Job

An overall understanding of what happens to information is valuable for everyone. For those of us who use information to gain clients, customers and patrons, using diverse tools with a knowledge of each tool is critical to achieving goals.

I have found that people tend to have a go to tool for communication and many of them use it for ALL communication. Yet, using the right tool for the right job is important. It is important to effectively get our message across and it could be important to your reputation.

One of the most important jobs in 2012 for educators and information specialists is effective use of such tools. Whether you are using Facebook to promote your ideas and your museum as a community resource, or you are teaching students the ins and outs of information use, you need to be aware of what you are using and why. Set an example for good digital citizenship and use the right tools for the right job.

For example, do not tweet your concerns about patron behavior to get visitors to conform to useful rules. Consider saving it for a blog post that puts a positive spin on the issue.  The longer format allows you to better explain yourself and inform. Rather than tweeting something such as, "Remember! There is no food allowed in the Archives!" Write on your blog about the need to preserve papers and the important role visitors play in saving our collective history by employing a few preservation techniques such as not eating near materials.

Understanding digital information and its potential can make or break your reputation as an individual or institution. Learn as much as you can about your options and try to post in the appropriate place with thoughtfulness and good intentions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Things Every Professional Should Do

I was going to title this "Things Every Cultural Heritage Professional Should Do," then I realized that these really aren't exclusive to our fields. These are things that I have done in my career that have made my career (and life) richer for the doing...and even just for the trying.

1. Start your own business - on the side or full time

Having your own business gives you a sense of self and confidence that I believe cannot be found in an institutional environment where you are an "employee." Your own business is a full reflection of you. It gives you a chance to use your business sense, yes, but it also gives you a chance to reach down and use a creative side. Your own business is more than a "business." It is a chance to put together many diverse parts of you, to display them and share them with the world. Bringing your vision out and offering them up to other people is a very powerful thing.

2. Write a book or article 

Writing a book or article helps you bring up your vision. It helps you realize what is important to you and what your "niche" is in the world. When you write, your brain is thinking on a whole different level from when you speak or even when you sit and think. When you publish, it gives you great feedback about your work and insight into your goals. Working with a publishing company is a good first step. Work your idea out for an article or book, then submit a proposal. When you are rejected (which you probably will be the first time) fine tune your thoughts. Try again and again. When you hit on an idea that connects with the world and learn to articulate it properly, it will be accepted. Go through the process of working with a publisher to learn about the field. Then self-publish for a whole new experience.

3. Work with children (or adults)

Working with people from diverse ages gives you a broader
perspective and enriches your career.
I was just going to say "work with children," but then I realized that those of you who regularly work with children need a fresh perspective too. Kids and adults have very different perspectives on topics, issues, and theories. Kids often have different eye-opening perspective. For those who need to connect with kids, consider volunteering as a coach, offering a local library your expertise to share with kids, or mentoring a high school student. Connecting with children (who are not your own), or with members of the community whom you may not otherwise get to know, makes you think in a different way. It not only opens doors in your own mind, it it helps open doors for others. And that is a great thing.

4. Do public speaking -

Telling people "who I am" 
and "what is important to
me" is a freeing experience.
This one means a lot to me because I was not a good public speaker and I really wanted to be. I had myself pegged as too shy in my early twenties, but quite honestly I didn't let it stop me. I tripped over my words. My voice shook. I even sometimes forgot how to speak. Yet, when I was able to pay attention to the audience's reaction, I realized that some people were connecting with me. Before you speak, carefully plan what you want to say. Make your topic interesting. Give the audience a true piece of you. They want to make a connection to you. If you are uncomfortable, that's okay. Seek a venue that encourages public speaking. The public library is great for this.
Take a class. Practice, practice practice. Just remember, the audience wants you to be good - or why would they take the time out of their day to come see you?

5. Engage on social media

Social media allows you to meet people who you would not otherwise meet. It extends your community in a way that nothing else can. You can meet people in your own town whom you would not just bump into in the street. You can get to know them and their interests. You can meet people from around the world who share your values and ideas. You can build strong collaboratives through social media. There are many smart people with whom you can build a network, discover the world, and influence the world. Most of all, engaging in social media can be a tool to create your own "brand," not just for the world, but for yourself. Social media can help you better understand who you are. It can help you focus in on what's important to you. But don't just sit back and watch when you are on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc. You must take part!

The main benefits of doing these 5 things that every professional should do?
Learn more about yourself, share yourself with your community, stretch yourself beyond your imagination.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blogging Our Posterity

A friend recently posted this question on her Facebook page:

"Do bloggers really want honest feedback or are they just looking for affirmation? Blogs used to be filled with interesting ideas and cutting edge information, but now in a time when everyone and their monkey has a blog, I am beginning to wonder what the purpose is..."

After a little back and forth banter, I responded:

"I've actually thought about this a bit from a professional point of view - as an archivist. People now have an opportunity to have their words and lives saved in a way they thought they never could before. Perhaps posting online is a way to validate yourself, make a statement, and know that the words will be there 'forever.' I often spend time convincing my audiences at programs that historical societies are interested in their family papers. While people seem to intuitively 'get' that the Internet is waiting for their words and that in a digital environment people care what they say, they don't translate it to papers at an institution, but it's the same thing. It's sort of as if the Internet has given them permission to have their ideas saved for posterity." 

In an age where we explore our identity online --  from "Lifestreaming" to personal timelines to "curating our world to show our own unique point of view to spitting out what is on our mind at any particular moment -- what is the purpose of the blog? And how does this all fit together from a documentation / community / life story perspective. Do people post with an expectation that others will read and converse? Are people just trying to make their own mark on the world?... or maybe a little bit of both? Is blogging a bit like graffiti tagging or is it more permanent like having your collection of personal papers in an archival repository? (And yes, I do want your honest feedback, as always. I don't need personal affirmation here.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Social Media Experience: How often Should You Tweet and Repeat?

Tweet Tweet Twitter Icon
I have been tweeting a lot this week about my "Pinterest Experiment" for cultural heritage and archives. I want to make sure that everyone online who might be interested in it hears about it. I am still seeking additional contributors to the "What do archivists do?" Pinterest board and I want to encourage volunteers. However, I am concerned that if I tweet about my own blog or my own interests too much people will start to get annoyed with me. (Have you ever worried about this with your own posts?) So, I posed this question to Twitter followers: "Any studies out there on how often you have to / should repeat things on Twitter to maximize / not annoy Tweeps?"

In general, these are my rules of thumb based on my experience:
  • I tweet about a new blog post 3x on the first day - morning, afternoon, then evening (The automated system Networked Blogs then tweets once more for me - a fourth time.)
  • If I am tweeting about a timely topic that requires or invites interaction, I take the subject up again the next day, but I then only tweet about it once or twice.
  • If it is an ongoing topic, I tweet about it a few times a week, but try to spread it out. I change the wording and try to make it interesting.
  • I aim to promote others more than I promote myself.
So, how often should you repeat things on Twitter? There has been a study by Guy Kawasaki and his observations seem to be the guide for experts on the matter...Here are some good links I've found on the subject:

One thing can't be overlooked in my personal experience on the Pinterest project in terms of drumming up support for it. I have spread myself over social media and have stayed alert for topics that relate to what I am doing. Soon after I tweeted multiple times about the Pinterest Experiment, I saw a LinkedIn post about using Pinterest for non-profits. I commented on the post and linked to my own related blog topic. The next day, hits to my blog spiked higher than I have ever seen with the Pinterest Experiment reaching double the number of viewers of any post I've made in the past - reaching over 1,000 hits.

The moral? Experiment, engage, learn about your audiences, seek new related audiences, AND vary your social media energy. Sometimes finding the right audience for your work is trial and error. The benefit in finding the right online audience? Get attention for you and your organization. Think of social media as a wonderful outreach tool to boost your interests, but try to avoid annoying people. (This is always a good practice, right?) Once you find the audience, you can turn to them again and again for support in all that you do. Just remember, tweet and repeat is not the only answer.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pinterest Experiment

Original image from "The Practical
So, my last post on Pinterest attracted a lot of attention across the Internet and I've been playing with this new (for me) social media tool all week.  The ideas for new boards seem to hit me in the middle of the night and I'm wondering if the visual aspect of this project is appealing to my dreamy brain. Perhaps this is a good sign about the potential value of attracting an audience with this medium. In this post, I want to invite my archivist colleagues to join me on Pinterest for a collaborative experiment. Though the experiment itself is aimed at archivists, those in other fields might want to consider this approach too and how they can use Pinterest to raise awareness and educate. AND, perhaps there is a way we can all collaborate to promote each other cross-professionally down the road.
First, here are some ideas with which I have been playing. I have developed the following boards:

  • Museums I've visited and recommend - to promote the museum community
  • Interesting documents - to show just how amazing archives and the people they represent can be
  • Fabulous artifacts - more on the idea of amazing things created by people
  • Save Libraries - to promote the cause AND to give me a bag of visual tools to refer back to in my writing and promotion of this topic (Keep this "visual tools to refer back to" idea in mind for the archives project I mention at the end.)
  • Favorite places - to add a little bit extra of my personality (I think that is always important for a consultant to make connections to people.)
  • Art - because this is my first true love and can most easily by its very nature show the beauty of cultural heritage work
  • ArchivesInfo - to directly promote what I do
  • Quotables - because it seems like all the cool kids have one of these - most of mine relate to cultural heritage
  • Books worth reading - because my daughter told me that I needed to fill out this Pinterest supplied board (but I have Library Thing going on too and I'm not sure I'm willing to let Pinterest take over that role. Nor do I want to do it all twice.)
  • Women's history - a personal passion and something I often encounter in my archives work. There have been a lot of strong women in collections I've processed.
  • Gardening - a category just for me and probably not a cultural heritage related category until I mold it into one somehow, which I tend to do. After all, cultural heritage encompasses just about everything doesn't it? And everything has a history.
  • New England Food History - Now this one is interesting because I was invited to be a part of it. It is my first collaborative Pinterest project and relates to my Life in Context work. There are five people currently given permission by the creator of the board to "pin" to it.
Now here is where I hope that you come in...My last board is called "What does an archivist do?" I get the question. I get it a lot. I wonder, can we use Pinterest to answer it? Can we encourage an understanding of our profession in a visual way that might stick?

I got started by just searching on the Internet for "what does an archivist do?" I was re-introduced to some fun videos on the subject and found one to "pin." I found a photo of a woman at the Smithsonian caring for a collection. She has a nice smile. I hope to meet her one day. Pinned it. I took a comic from Derangement and Description, famous in my field for her humor. I found a nice picture of David Ferriero. Finally I found a nice bright yellow image that says, "Caution. Keeping everything means that someone else gets to decide what gets tossed later." Guess which one caught someone's eye and got "repinned?" (In other words, they liked the image that I found so much that they put it on one of their own Pinterest boards.) Yep. It caught your eye at the beginning of this blog post too, didn't it?

I see Pinterest as a great potential outreach tool. I put some text on each of my archives pins to explain what each image is about. I envision adding pins of archives boxes to explain how we organize and preserve. I envision adding pins of cool things from collections that show we sometimes find in the stacks. I'd like to show some of our unprocessed backlog. I'd like to show images of personal papers in homes to make the connection between professional repositories and "regular" papers....BUT, I see a twofold challenge: 1. can all of the ideas that I have to explain what an archivist does be represented in individual pictures and 2. can the pictures be interesting enough to attract attention so that people want to repin them and the value of archives is clearly seen by the public?

The SaveLibraries campaign is most interesting when considering this issue. Save Libraries has a clear and immediate need to quickly capture attention and bang people over the head with their point. People need libraries and if they don't pay attention, they are going to disappear because of budget cuts and apathy. My Save Libraries Pinterest board has really interesting images that people are repinning and commenting on. Do archivists need to make a concerted effort to develop images about our profession to promote ourselves too?

Before I issue a challenge, (well, that sounds very official doesn't it?), I also want to mention a couple of issues I've had with the site. One is that I had to be careful to keep track of the places from which the images came. I was not always careful. It is easy to get carried away with clicking and not fully thinking about all of the variables. Pinterest does not always do a good job of tracking back. It is up to the user to make sure the original site gets credit. This should be important to those who manage information. A few of the people to whom I have spoken also see it as a potential future legal concern for Pinterest. For cultural heritage professionals, if we do a good job of making sure our "pins" link back to the appropriate places, this could help drive traffic to the web sites of archives who have shared images. A second issue is Pinterest's very poor searching capability, which a couple of blog posts other than mine have pointed out this week. We need to overcome this to make a truly valuable collaborative project, I think. 

So here is my invitation to you. Let's see what we can find out there that will make the point about the value of archives and our work. Let me know if you would like to contribute to the "What is an archivist?" board and I'll add you as a person who is allowed to pin. Let's see if we can create something dynamic and useful for the field.

Any takers?

Find me on Pinterest at

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pinterest for Cultural Heritage

I belong to a small local group of women entrepreneurs who work together to share their expertise and experiences. All of them are brilliant and many of them are social media gurus. When they suggest that I check something out, I try to listen. Thanks to my listening, and thanks to my friend @suddenlyjamie from Suddenly Marketing, I now have a new favorite social media tool that I think is worth pointing out here. Pinterest has burst on the scene as a vision board style tool that at first glance seems best for play. After spending the weekend getting to know the site, I now believe it is so much more than this and that cultural heritage institutions should absolutely use it. This article is about why you should try it and how.

The first thing you will notice on Pinterest is that it is a clean, nice looking site. The concept behind it is straightforward too. Find an image that you like online and "pin" it on your Pinterest page using their handy little button that sits on your toolbar. (I use a similar button to click on gifts to add to a wishlist for a site called, as a point of comparison for those of you who are familiar with that site.) Your Pinterest page is made up of "boards" or little windows in categories of your choosing so that you can organize images as you wish. Jamie shared a great article covering the basics of Pinterest.

So during my Pinterest weekend, I created the following categories to get me started: Museums I've visited and recommend, Interesting Documents, Fabulous Artifacts, Save Libraries, Favorite Places, Art, Archives, Quotables, and Gardening. Each contains photos I've found on the Internet and "Description" that I've added that describe the picture and/ or why I've chosen the picture for my Pinterest page. From my page, I can see the latest things put on Pinterest and choose to "follow" others and see what they are pinning. I can connect with friends; I can see statistics on how many people are "repinning" what I've pinned. People can comment on what I have pinned.

Early Observations about Its Value

1. For collection sharing and possibly for collaboration - I asked on Twitter which museums are using Pinterest. The Indianapolis Museum of Art responded that they use it to post images from their collections. . I can easily see the potential for them to also link to collections from other institutions that relate to their own to create a collaborative Pinterest venture. Pinterest gives you the option to allow others to pin to your page. I have not explored this yet, but I think this can help to make it another kind of valuable collaborative tool that makes room for a participatory experience.

2. For driving Internet traffic and discovering the interests of your audience - Pinterest tells me which of my "pins" are most popular and I can use this to drive people to my Pinterest site. I can also use this to drive Pinterest traffic to other social media sites I manage and to my web page. For example, I made a collage of orphan photos a few weeks ago that I posted on my blog. I pinned it - linking from the blog - in a Pinterest category that I called "ArchivesInfo." I can tell from my Pinterest statistics that a few people have "repinned" the image. From my blog statistics, I can see that many more clicked the image to view my blog post where the image lives.

I can similarly drive traffic by linking to related information in the "description" section. For example, in my category on "Museums I've visited," I realized that there were quite a few museums about which I've written blog posts. So in the comments section on specific applicable museum pins, I've added links to these posts. My National Heritage Museum pin is a sample of this.

3. For sharing expertise - One of the "pins" that I created in a category called "interesting documents" relates to a diary that I recently found in the public library in Kennebunk Maine. My friend commented on the diaries started and we began a conversation about the act of diary keeping and about paper preservation. Cultural heritage institutions can keep this in mind to encourage similar information sharing about collections and educational topics.

4. For generating dialogue - When I created the category "Save Libraries," I was thinking about all of the images, cartoons and news articles that I've seen out of Britain discussing their library closures. I am going to continue following events overseas and in the U.S. about the state of libraries and add more pins as news develops. I am also going to try to find a way to place questions or comments that get people thinking about these events. I can see a museum using Pinterest this way to encourage dialogue about their exhibits. Or,  a library can choose an interesting image each day that can get people talking about a specific topic. This would have the added advantage of encouraging people to visit the library's web site and think about the role of the library in the community. To make it a participatory experience, encourage people to explore the information and pictures you introduce. Suggest a topic and encourage patrons to go seek more images for their own Pinterest pages to share with you.

In short, I have been on Pinterest for three days and already see limitless potential here for museums, libraries, and archives. Please give it a whirl. If you are already using it, please let us know how. What advantages do you see for sharing cultural knowledge through Pinterest?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Value and Pitfalls of Tagging Tweets

Hashtags are used on Twitter so twitter users (tweeters) can indicate appropriate keywords for their postings (tweets.) Users interested in a particular topic can search for keywords to easily find information about a subject of their choosing. For example, I often tweet about archives. So, at the end of a tweet on the subject I use the appropriate hashtag, which is #archives. I use the software Tweetdeck for most of my Twitter interactions. In Tweetdeck, I keep open a column for that #archives listing, so I can see what others are posting on the subject. I also usually have open #sschat (Social Studies chat) and #history (self-explanatory.) Lately, I've been following #twitterstorians to see what that's all about because it seems like a bit of a hodge-podge.

And that is precisely what can be the downfall of the hashtag system. They are user imposed standards. There is no one body making sure people are using hashtags in a uniform manner. For example, people post #archives, #archive, #archivist, and #archivists. In theory, I am interested in all of those areas. Yet, I do not wish to have columns open for all of them. It would take a lot more browsing and time to find interesting information. I just cross my fingers and hope that most of the news filed under related hashtags eventually makes its way to #archives. Even the use of the term "archives" has been a problem with non-archivist computer people telling the archivists to go away and leave their tag alone because they have their own agenda for it. There are ways that people can try to check how a term is being used before applying it. There are ways for people to lay some kind of claim to a term, as with the use of Twubs, but there is still no guarantee that it will stick. (Where are the catalogers when you need them?)

I remember a problem a year ago related to this issue. I think it related to the #AskaCurator event that invited individuals to post questions to curators who were standing by all over the world to answer questions. There was some confusion about whether the hastag was #askcurators or #askacurator. (I could be getting my events mixed up. It could have been #askarchivists or some other similar day. Nonetheless, there was confusion and lack of standardization and some people were tagging one way and others were tagging another way.)

The use of symbols is old hat for librarians and those in related fields. We were using what are called Boolean operators long before the Internet was popular. Symbols such as +, -, * and parentheses help us explain exactly what we are seeking when we search for information. For example, arch* means in my search find me everything that begins with "arch." the ending could be "ives," or "ive", or "ivist." It could event be "aeology." When I began using Twitter a couple of years ago, # seemed somewhat natural to me. Categorizing my world is the norm and symbols are familiar.

For me, I find hashtags useful for three main things. 1. for telling others interested in a particular topic about something interesting I am doing that relates to it or for sharing news I have found on the subject 2. for following a few select hashtags to stay on top of specific topics and 3. for helping me track trends in my own posts. The third area is perhaps the most useful to me because I know what my hashtags mean to me. I know which ones I use for different topics. At the end of last year, I did a year end review of archives related topics that were hot online in 2010. I realized after going through all of my tweets to compile the list that my hashtags could be really, really handy at year's end to pull out these trends. My hashtags help me find information about specific subjects so that I can go back and review them.

Hashtags are a really useful tool and there are many ways that you can use them to your advantage.  If you don't use them yet, give them a try. If you do use them, think about how and why you are using them and see if you can make them more valuable to you and your social media audience.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Local Archivists Moving into a Digital Realm

My Friday blog post on Social Media and Community Documentation focused on capturing information provided on social media sites that reflect a sense of community. The idea of "community" can apply to people with similar interests, online friends, and other connections. These connections are often reflected in "traditional" archives collections when we focus on collecting the papers of individuals that subscribe to theories of provenance -- keeping papers created by a particular person or body together. Such collections naturally show connections between record creators. I noted in my recent blog post that, " Archivists need to take notice of the social networks individuals are forming and how they will change the collections we create." These networks reflect a new kind of provenance that will naturally reflect connections similar to our intensely paper based special collections and archives.

Today I would like to focus on a particular community - that of a geographic locale. The papers of local historical societies and other similar local institutions focus on capturing a local identity. This blog post poses more questions related to online communities than answers to prompt local archivists to think about these issues. In my observation, with increased use of the Internet by residents, local identity does not break down as outside influences more easily flow into places that were seemingly less influenced by the world beyond small geographic boundaries. Online environments can, and many do, reflect a local geographic community and sense of place. How can we capture this digital identity and does it differ significantly from the "real" world? What changes does a local archivist see in her community's sense of place when studying the digital documentation of a region? First, using the locale as a starting point for capturing digital data how do we collect what is online to reflect our local community? Should we even try to do this?

Last week, Inside Higher Ed posted an article titled, "Archiving the Web for Scholars." The article discussed a number of interesting projects related to developing collections of online resources for documenting society. Especially noteworthy for this discussion is the American University in Cairo project to document the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, "which contains blogs, Twitter feeds, photos, videos, and online news coverage of the political tumult that engulfed the Egyptian capital this spring." The site does a remarkable job of capturing an event, reflecting a people, and showing how an online medium and outsiders influenced a truly community specific event (albeit a large community with international attention.) 

I provided the following after thoughts in my blog post last week: "Can documentation be captured and formed around a social media platform such as Facebook as a starting point or is that too large to accurately reflect society? Should we focus on smaller groups that use Facebook? Should archives that focus on particular areas focus on the Facebook groups that cover these topics? For example, should a university special collections that specializes in women's history find groups related to that topic in an online world? Will our traditional institutions be able or willing to change what they do in this way? Will we form new kinds of 'archives' to accommodate this or will all the traditional approaches just go right out the window? Are we starting from scratch? Will traditional archives separate from digital." I think the Cairo example and others in the Inside Higher Ed article show the remarkable transition that archives are now undergoing and reflects the challenges we face.

After reflection, I think that Facebook is a good starting point for considering online communities that reflect particular locales. Within my own online community, I follow NH sites on Facebook. I follow sites specific to my town including school Facebook pages. I follow "what to do in my community" type pages and I follow area associations in which I take an interest. But I also follow similar folks on Twitter. I get emails from a local Yahoo mom's group. I follow our school district superintendent's blog. Town institutions such as the local library, historical society, chamber of commerce, etc could easily reach out to our local community through the Internet. If I were running my local historical society, I would try to capture this information coming from diverse online sites to accurately reflect my particular locale. I would create a policy to explore a wide range of social media and Internet sites that may contain information about my local community. 

While the media has changed and the means to "collect" information has changed, the planning involved in creating good collections has not. A good collection development policy must be in place. We must still create some kind of strategy that considers what documentation should exist and how to capture it. In fact, it is more important to consider this than ever. We must contemplate who is creating online information in our given locale and develop our understanding of online networks to secure records (web sites, data flowing through social media, etc.) to adequately document our communities in the 21st century. Knowledge of our times cannot be separated from this ever growing and ever changing environment. A local archivist (whether a professional or volunteer "citizen archivist") must be savvy enough a computer to consider these facets of documentation.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Social Media and Community Documentation

Social media has extended each person's "community" beyond what we accepted it to be just ten years ago. This has created some interesting possibilities for the idea of community documentation beyond what archivists considered the appropriate institutional environment for this kind of work. In Cultural Heritage Collaborators: A Manual for Community Documentation I argued for the value of community documentation work within settings outside of an individual institution. I described the rings of communities one would consider for this kind of work. I did not explore our new online worlds, but I think this is a topic that will gain more notoriety over the next few years. Archivists need to take notice of the social networks individuals are forming and how they will change the collections we create..

These paragraphs posted on a friends' Facebook walls caught my eye this morning:

"In honor of Mother's Day I'm trying to see how many of you are willing to change your profile picture to a picture of your mother and keep it there till May 9th. I did and so have several others. If you will and like this idea, please re post this as your status so everyone gets the word and see how many beautiful mothers we can get on FB."


"As we approach mother's day- I am very mindful of the children who have lost their mothers and the mothers who have lost their children because it is a day that can be so painful for them. Some are very dear friends of mine, and I hold them in my heart and thoughts for this coming weekend. borrowed from..."

Along with many of my friends, I have
featured my mother on my Facebook site
I would say that within my circle of friends, at least one-quarter of them have changed their profile picture to feature their mothers. Some have posted this paragraph, others have not. I began wondering how I could capture this early 21st century phenomenon of honoring a holiday and / or a person by changing profile pictures. I would love to see a "collection" (or at least a small series) of Facebook statuses over the Mother's Day weekend that included  updated Mother's Day profile pictures. The second posting has been less popular thus far. I have only seen one person post this, but it is clearly intended to honor Mother's Day and to honor a person. Would I make this part of the same collection if I were to somehow form an archival collection that featured Mother's Day 2011?

I realize that this way of thinking about collections may not be exactly accurate for this environment and in some ways is an over simplification of much larger ideas. But I think this is a good way to illustrate my point, which is that for my own work and particular area of interests, how can archivists  hang on to a very useful idea of "community" and apply it to a digital world? The proliferation of information online makes us think in larger terms - i.e. "archiving" Facebook or capturing tweets. How do we accurately capture smaller connections that help us better understand context? 

It was once easier to focus on an individual life, a community, or even a movement involving diverse individuals. Our subjects (for lack of a better word at the tip of my brain at this moment) had simpler means of communication,. We could follow a paper trail. They wrote less and the groups with which they communicated were smaller. Today we correspond with people all around the world in the blink of an eye and our relationships with them might by tenuous or short-lived. I may feel no need to directly correspond with someone on the Internet, but I might be influenced by that person's words and bring them into my community in a very lackadaisical way.

So I will leave with just some questions:
How can archivists ensure that information about our online communities is documented for posterity? 
How can we emphasize connections that make captured information more useful to researchers?
What level of capture and description can we expect to accomplish in this online world? For example, is it reasonable to expect that we may be able to create "collections" that can help researchers better understand modern trends and attitudes related to Mother's Day?  
How can we capture static information (i.e. the Facebook Wall archives) and changing information (the profile picture that matched the Wall posting at the time it was posted) to enhance this data about people?

None of this thinking takes into account ideas about privacy or the challenge of actually capturing and keeping any information in the first place. But I think as we work to keep up with new technologies, we need to consider the ways we've used information in the past. We want to keep the good practices and mold the role of the archivist to continue to do what we do best. We must continue to understand the communities we choose to document, seek their documentation, and attach the context of individual documentation to a larger world.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New England Cultural Institutions Using Social Media

I just put up a preliminary list with links to New England Cultural Institutions Using Social Media. I intend this list to serve a few purposes:

1. To serve as models for other cultural institutions wishing to develop their use of social media to promote and provide better access to their institution and what they do.
2. To help institutions in the region better communicate with each other and work together to develop social media strategies.
3. To serve as a list for our audiences who wish to see the diversity of cultural heritage institutions in the region and who wish to have a more direct connection to the institutions they support and enjoy.

I would like to work to make this list comprehensive. So far it includes a few institutions that contacted me for inclusion when I put out a call on Twitter. It also includes institutions I located over the past few days through Internet searching. If you have not been included and would like to be on this list, please contact me through my blog, twitter (@ArchivesInfo), or ArchivesInfo Facebook page or email me at melissa @ mannon . org. Please also let me know if you find errors in the pages.

My original intention was to include museums, archives and historical societies in this list. The New England Archivists has a nice list of archives blogs, so I linked to that instead of to the archives themselves. (I'm in favor of helping to drive traffic to associations I support!) I have added an "intangible heritage" category as well, after the nice people at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater asked if I were putting out a call to them too. On Twitter I regularly promote intangible heritage and the need to document it, So I thought this would be an appropriate additional category. I did not include public libraries because so many of them were early adapters of the Internet and social media that they are much easier to find in social media channels.

So, I hope that you find this list useful. It has been fun to do. I've learned about a few very unique institutions about which I was previously unaware. I hope that you will too!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Creating online resource for heritage institutions active on social media

 If your New England based heritage organization is active on Facebook, Twitter, or blogs, please send me information about what you are doing. I am working to create an online directory to help professionals in the region share information. This directory aims to be a comprehensive resource for locating historical societies, museums, and archives actively using social media to communicate with their audiences. We can learn a lot from each other. The willingness and eagerness our professions demonstrate to embrace social media will have a direct impact on our future missions and functions. It is my hope that institutions will be able to use this directory to explore more easily what others in the field are doing to take advantage of Twitter, Facebook and blog platforms. The directory aims to help us make stronger connections among communities and potential supporters. Innovative early adopters of social media in the cultural heritage professions will serve as models for others.

Please send me your organization's name and link to your site or your Twitter handle. I hope to have a first group of institutions online very soon.

(This may be another case of my curiosity getting the better of me...It happens often I'm afraid. It's not as if I really needed another project...Please help make this easy! Write to me so I don't have to perform extensive research to find you.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Value of Twitter for Cultural Heritage

A museum registrar friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she would like to use Twitter, but didn't really understand it. It launched me to comment on the value I see in Twitter as a social media outlet for cultural heritage professionals and how one would use it to one's advantage. The following is a list of some of the things I value about this unique form of social media. I hope that my observations and comments will encourage others in the field to consider how Twitter might boost their personal online presence or that of their cultural heritage institution.

How to use Twitter (in brief)

Twitter allows you to "follow" people and to keep your eye on conversations revolving around different subjects. The site recommends people who may interest you and you can seek people who are talking about specific topics you seek. If you are looking for a topic, search with # and then enter a term. I always have a window up that tells me what people are posting for "#archives." I periodically check in on other things that interest me. 

Find interesting things happening in your field or interesting things happening in your day to "tweet." Retweet what others say. Respond to what others say. Use hashtags in your own tweets to highlight topics. People will start to follow you if you have interesting things to say. In the beginning I posted short "tips" about managing records. It took me a few weeks to catch on and then I started having short conversations with people. Most of my posts center on diverse cultural heritage, collaborative cultural heritage and documentation projects. 

Twitter events such as "AskaCurator" and "Save Libraries" are just the tip of the iceberg for Twitter's potential for cultural heritage. Explore ways the medium can promote the value of what you do.

The Value of Tweeting

1. Networking - Twitter has allowed me to meet colleagues from all over the world who share my interests. By posting what interests me, highlighting relevant terms with hashtags (#), and seeking out others who "tweet" about topics that I find noteworthy I have been able to build a network of fascinating individuals in related fields.

2. Expanded Perspective - Twitter has expanded my understanding of my field by connecting me to people in archives related professions such as oral history, genealogy, archaeology, architecture, and more. It has also given me a more global perspective by making it as easy to "meet" people who live on the other side of the world as it is to meet people in my own state. Furthermore, it has encouraged me to make a habit of reading the news in my field every day, so I can share what I've found and explore diverse perspectives.

3. Support - Some in this network of people have become personal friends to me. Others have become online friends. We support each other by sharing ideas through Twitter. We also support each other's projects and serve as information resources for one another. If an online friend has an archives question, they can come to me. If I'm looking for a genealogist who knows about Polish history, I have easy access to someone with that information. If someone in the network is promoting a fabulous documentation project (such as Linda Norris' interesting "Pickle Project,") I'll re-tweet what she has to say.

4. Piece of Social Media Puzzle - Twitter serves as one piece of a social networking puzzle. I use Twitter to make short statements about my own projects and refer people to my web sites, Facebooks pages, and blog when appropriate. (Be careful when you tweet not to focus on yourself though. I find it off-putting when people do this. Twitter is about sharing information and not spamming people about you and your work.) I use Twitter to relate other people's projects to my own work and to promote colleagues. Through Twitter, I have invited people to write blog posts for my blog and I try to help promote them through all my social networking sites. (I have been asked to blog for others this way as well.) Collaborative promotion across platforms is good for cultural heritage in general. Boosting others on the long run helps both you and your profession. 

5. Promotion - Using Twitter has helped me better shape my personal "brand." Branding is one of the key components of professional life in our society today. Twitter allows me to speak out in a crowd. I try to do it at least a few times a day. When I post about things related to the work I do, people get a better idea of what that work is. As they read my postings, consider re-tweeting what I say, and I re-tweet what others say, my brand is becoming linked to their brand. People can get a good idea of who you are, what you do, and how your work can benefit them through Twitter. 

6. Collaboration - Twitter is transferable to real life. By finding like-minded people and people who have skill sets that complement my own, we have begun to transfer our online ideas to create collaborative projects in the form of workshops and community preservation work. Twitter provides a great platform for melding ideas and is a natural fit for collaboration.

So, give Twitter a try and stick with it for awhile. Find people to whom you can reach out. Consider how their work relates to yours. Think about how this can benefit the cultural heritage community. See Twitter as a part of your working life. Use it as an outreach and networking tool. As the world relies more and more on digital environments, your time to start tweeting is now. Help develop the use of the technology to benefit our profession so that it can best suit your needs.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lost Letters

Most of us now correspond through e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and texting. However, the sending of bits and bytes has only been our prime form of written communication for about ten years. People still retain old written letters from friends and family, personal notes and greetings, and formal correspondence in file boxes and cabinets. Written expression has been a major form of communication since the beginning of civilized society. We first exchanged ideas in writing on rocks and cave walls and later moved to papyrus and other more portable forms that allowed our writing to become more prolific. Digital resources have made it even easier to jot down our thoughts, continuing the evolutionary process of our writing. We must view all the various written ways we communicate as a whole, saving what is most important for ourselves and posterity.

It is interesting to note that in addition to the format change, the evolution of correspondence has changed what we say and how we say it. For one, correspondence tools allow us to give information to many people at once rather than sending one message at a time. We can do this to specific people with e-mail, but we can also spread a message to strangers via social networking sites. Things that were once private are now becoming public. Additionally, as we share more and more, we write fewer and fewer words in one shot to do it. Since social networks and e-mail are virtually free, and we can make use of them with tools that are available to us at any time. We are tending to write in short bursts and more often than in the past. It is now uncommon for one to sit and write an in-depth description of one’s week to mail off to a far off loved one. Many would rather just write something such as, “Baby took 1st steps this morn” on our Facebook wall and let a back-and-forth dialogue ensue.

As technology makes the communication itself easier, in many ways it makes the saving of collections of correspondence related to our lives more difficult. On the good side, E-mail has made it easier for us to save copies of our correspondence. In the past, one had to make a concerted effort to make carbon copies of our letters or to photocopy them before sending if we wanted to retain back and forth communiqu├ęs. Today, our computer systems keep both sides of correspondence within our software programs, so we can easily see what someone has written to us alongside our reply. But how do we separate the important e-mails from the doldrums and what about those text messages, blog posts, and tweets? The Library of Congress has announced a program to “archive” Tweets, but we do not yet know how your ancestors may be able to access them in the future.

A box of printed letters to you may be missing your replies, but at least your ancestors (and possibly historians) will have a complete view of the words others wrote to you. How many people think about how family might be able to treasure your e-mails and other digitized words? It is advantageous for those of us thinking about the value of our correspondence to use programs that back up Twitter and Facebook accounts. Keep your important and interesting e-mails organized in folders and think of these folders as you would the old fashioned kind. Label them so the files inside make sense and are easily accessible. Also, be aware that digital files can be lost in the blink of an eye. Make 2 copies of everything. Keep the copies in alternate formats and retain one off site. Be prepared to migrate the data as technology keeps changing. For small home collections, it is always acceptable to print what is most important to you and save it the old fashioned way, in preservation safe folders, just to be sure. (For more on preservation see Preserving Archives and Personal Papers and "Preservation" heading on Links to Helpful Archives and Cultural Heritage Web Sites within the ArchivesInfo web pages.)

We are in the midst of a great change in communication. For now, we must still keep an eye toward the old way of doing things while automation changes rapidly. The cross over to a digital world is only just beginning. The implications of lost correspondence is troubling for both the purpose of scholarship and family / community memory.

Here are a few interesting online sources highlighting the importance of maintaining correspondence and the battle to save letters:

Literary Letters: Lost in Cyberspace

PBS: The Perilous Fight: Archiving War Letters

Personal Archiving Conference

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What We Can Learn from Ask a Curator on Twitter

I am mesmerized by #askacurator on Twitter, which reached number one trending status today. I think cultural heritage professionals and archivists especially can take a lot away from this experience. I wish to use this space to comment on that, but first I want to give a quick account of Twitter to my blog readers who are not Twitter users.

Like blogs, Facebook and other social media sites, Twitter is a valuable tool for human beings to communicate and learn from one another. Tweeting means that people are using the Twitter site on the Internet to make a short statement about something in 140 characters or less. To highlight the subject of a tweet, participants use a hashtag (#) followed by a word or phrase that they are referring to, so that others interested in the topic can easily find the information and add their own thoughts about it by making their own statement with an equivalent hashtag. When an issue "trends," it means that people are making mention of it over and over again by "tweeting" about it.

#askacurator is a day (September 1) set aside by museums from around the world (300 plus of them) that encourages people to ask curators questions about anything. And there have been many, many questions. There is clearly a desire for people to learn more about museums and cultural heritage and this appears to be a great forum for it. The milestone accomplishment of the curator experience on Twitter today has been marked by Wired Magazine and bloggers across the Internet, enhancing the #askacurator presence by spreading it to other online forums.

The following is a list of some comments and observations I've picked out of the many I've read thus far today. Since there is such an enormous volume of tweets, I expect that others will be analyzing this day for quite a long time...

Some of my favorite questions?
Someone asked the Air and Space Museum in US how they dust all the airplanes
"what do curators think of expansion of term 'curate'?"
How will you archive my tweets when I'm a famous author?"

Archives have come up quite a bit, showing how closely archivists and curators are associated in the public mind. Museum archivists have had a chance to participate and I hope that they will help us organize an #askanarchivist day by sharing their experiences. For my own professional interests, this is especially noteworthy because it does show the close bond between cultural heritage professionals despite our differing methodologies. Cross-professional collaboration can be enhanced through Twitter.

This brings up the question of how to educate about what we do on a more basic level. Someone referred to a page that explains what a curator is, though I don't think it gave a thorough enough view of the profession. I think if archivists attempt this that they should be prepared beforehand with a web page that describes archives and archivists in simple terms. People can be referred to it when necessary throughout an #askanarchivist day.

The event had its own web site with a lot of useful information to get people ready for the event, including participating museums. This site could be expanded with more information (such as what a curator is, different types of museums, etc.) Many museums not listed on the #askacurator web site jumped in as the day went on, answering questions that weren't directed to specific institutions.

When I started viewing early in the day, someone asked if perhaps Tweeters could put "Q" when asking questions and "A" when a curator answered. I think this would be a good idea to help organized the information, but I'm not sure it's practical.

Someone tweeted an interesting trend map early this afternoon

At least one museum found the 140 character format too confining, so created a web page to answer questions in more detail. I thought this was a great use across social media.

#askacurator became so popular in the US in the afternoon that it got filled with spam. I'm not sure what to say about that. I'd be inclined to say "it's a shame," but I guess it also shows that the trend was so popular that people wanted to break it. That's heartening at least, I suppose. It's also worth mentioning because there might be a way to prepare for this eventuality in the future.

One person suggested that curators create an #askavisitor day. I think this could be a great idea. It creates a stronger participatory experience (a la Nina Simon's "Participatory Museums" and AOTUS' "Citizen Archivists" among others.) Cultural Heritage professionals want to hear what our patrons want. Turning this event on its head offers another way to do it, giving audiences another forum to reach us.

One person wrote, "I'm such a little girl, just squealed because @TheWarholMuseum answered my question!" I hope that we continue this great project, growing it, and making more patrons this excited.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why the Mailing List Still Rules! E-mailing newsletters

I just released my e-mailed September newsletter. Yes, I do still e-mail newsletters. My clients seem to like it that way. I started this blog with the intention of letting the e-mailings go, but I did a poll of my mailing list before I took that drastic plunge. Everyone who responded said that they would like me to continue the e-mail. It surprised me. A little. Not a lot. Many of the people with whom I work are: 1. not computer savvy (I teach basic private computer classes to help remedy that when they desire assistance) or 2. attached to the "old-fashioned" way. As an archivist, I can definitely relate to that!

When I thought about it, I realized that though it is a little extra work, I don't want to give up my e-mailed newsletter. Why? Because it offers me one more forum to make my voice heard. Not only that, it gives me a platform to consolidate my ideas for the month. I can tweet 15 times a day, write blog posts and articles. I can give presentations and network face-to-face. But none of these outlets allow me to take a lot of ideas and put them together in an abbreviated and appealing (maybe even pretty) format . In fact, it is even very much unlike my full of great information (perhaps a bit overwhelming?) web site.

Additionally, the people on my mailing list are the ones who have put in a little extra effort to find me. They've hired me for a project, attended one of my programs, contacted me directly for information, or specifically asked to be put on my mailing list. I can't ask for better attention than that. So, I hope my newsletter gives back some of that love and tells my contacts that they are appreciated. I will always be loyal to my special mailing list group because they have been so loyal to me. I'm sure that the e-mail sits unopened or is quickly deleted by some, but they haven't booted me entirely out of their in-boxes yet. And while I can't directly measure readership, every once in awhile I get a nice personal note back when the newsletter goes out to tell me they are still receiving and appreciating my voice.

I should add that I only use my mailing list for my newsletter and very special, maybe once a year announcements (like a book release.) There is no reason to beat your most loyal supporters over the head with spam!