Blogging with The British Library BLoggers

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be invited to a half day session with British Library bloggers and Social Media legend Euan Semple.

I suppose as the first permanent blogger at The British Library it was perhaps natural for them to invite me along. We currently have sixteen active bloggers in The British Library, but quite a few of our curators are planning to start blogs in the near future. Personally, I would like to see every subject expert within The British Library blogging passionately on their specialist topic.

I have known Euan for quite a few years, and have watched his reputation as a Social Media consultant grow. His experience is particularly relevant for The British Library as his expertise was forged in the comparably challenging environment of the BBC. As head of Knowledge Management, he was expected to invest in traditional large scale IT solutions such as document management systems. Instead he experimented with (mainly free) web based solutions. This somewhat anarchic approach did not always endear him to his bosses.

‘The project has encountered opposition from people who question whether the organisation should adopt technologies and processes that are so new and potentially disruptive to the existing structure.’ FT. com Encouraging information sharing, By Kate Mackenzie, January 24 2006

However, many of these new social media tools were avidly adopted by BBC staff and made a big impact on knowledge sharing within (and eventually outside) of the organisation.

The British Library is in a similar position now. Senior management realise the importance of social media, but are understandably nervous about the lack of control that comes with it.

Certainly for me, getting my blog started here was something of a challenge. Ironically, it was never my intention to create a permanent blog. My reason for starting was to show my colleague Steve Van Dulken how easy it was to start and maintain one. However, by the time I had managed to convince him to go ahead, I was already addicted.

Rather than wait the six months I was told it would take to set up a British Library TypePad account, I went ahead on my own using a free WordPress account.

I have picked up lots of useful tips during the three years I have been posting. In particular the importance of using titles with clear meanings (the ‘Ronseal‘ approach again). Also regular use of images and videos to liven up the page. Finally, lots of (relevant) links out to content, to attract Google rankings, and hopefully links back too.

I seem to have strayed somewhat away from the point of this post, so let’s get back on track.

Euan was a very relaxed and informal host of the morning, but it became clear early on that he has immense experience and knowledge. Particularly of the challenge of introducing social media activities into large organisations.

He recommended a baby steps approach, rather than attempting to implement an enormous project, using my new favourite phrase ‘Trojan mice’. Related to this is the principle of control versus influence with the knowledge that hyperlinks undermine hierarchies.

One discussion thread during the morning that really surprised me, given my blog challenges, was that some of my colleagues felt there was a pressure from above to blog. However, as Euan pointed out, no less a figure than Peter Drucker stated, ‘In the knowledge economy, everyone is a volunteer, but we have trained our managers to manage conscripts.’ Delphi’s IKMS event in San Diego, 1998.

According to Euan, seeing institutions engaging with the digital world can be like ‘watching your dad dancing at a disco’. Painfully embarrassing in other words.

One of the biggest challenges facing any institutional blogger is to find the balance of their individual view against their organisations viewpoint. And I am wondering where this post sits in regard to that invisible line.

Below is a list of some of the key topics we covered during the morning. In my view they are issues all institutional bloggers need to review and address:

–    How to generate new material. Any ‘forced’ content will be spotted by your readers.

–    How to keep your blog fresh and interesting. How to develop a feel for what your audience is looking for and write about subjects that pique their interest.

–    How to find your voice. Blogs work best when they express opinion and take a position on subjects. How do you make your blog sound authentic and have a personality.

–    How to balance the individual and the organisation. Given that blogging encourages an individual voice how do you balance that with the needs of the institution? How do you achieve a personal tone while writing for an organisation with a brand to protect?

–    How to attract an audience. How do you draw people to your blog? How do you discover and attract people who will find your blog interesting? How do you build a relationship with that audience?

–    How to encourage a conversation. Comments are often the lifeblood of a good blog. How do you make it more likely that people will comment on your posts? How do you keep the conversation going when they do? How do you handle negative comments?

–    How to use other social media tools to enhance your blogging. Blogs are just part of the social media ecosystem. How do you use Twitter to add value to your blog? How do you use Facebook to find and increase your audience? How do you use services like Posterous or to integrate your various activities?

My blog reaches 30,000 visits

I don’t rate this as a ‘real’ story, but I can’t resist recording the fact that according to my free Sitemeter account the number of visitors to this blog has now reached the 30,000 mark.

I am aware that many of my visitors are coming via Google, so are accidental tourists rather than regular readers, however I am still somewhat proud of this achievement for a British Library based blog.

Looking at the chart below reinforces the advice I have heard about blogging, that patience is required to build visitors.








laptop deals

The smell of fiction

Since the dawn of time in the ‘real world’ people have enjoyed creating complicated hoaxes, spoofs and pranks (April 1 in particular being a popular time of year).

However, I don’t understand the thinking behind the multitude of fake products ‘for sale’ on the Internet. The latest to bamboozle the blogosphere (and Internet savvy Librarians) is the Smell of Books.

As you can see from the images and text below, someone has gone to a lot of trouble to create this ‘product’.

However, the Smell of Books is just one of a range of unexpected items produced by DuroSport Electronics. These include the DuroSport, a digital music player that no longer supports MP3 format songs. The DuroSport website links to the Prism DuroSport Insider Blog which contains many long and detailed posts written by Vladimir Concescu, the Chief Product Engineer at the DuroSport Electric Company.

I have included a photo of him below to indicate the nature of this site.

Either ‘Vladimir’ has too much time on his hands, or is working to some kind of agenda I can’t fathom.

Smell of Books

New Book Smell

The smell of e-books just got better

Does your Kindle leave you feeling like there’s something missing from your reading experience?

Have you been avoiding e-books because they just don’t smell right?

If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the e-book bandwagon, you’re not alone. Book lovers everywhere have resisted digital books because they still don’t compare to the experience of reading a good old fashioned paper book.

But all of that is changing thanks to Smell of Books™, a revolutionary new aerosol e-book enhancer.

Now you can finally enjoy reading e-books without giving up the smell you love so much. With Smell of Books™ you can have the best of both worlds, the convenience of an e-book and the smell of your favorite paper book.

Smell of Books™ is compatible with a wide range of e-reading devices and e-book formats and is 100% DRM-compatible. Whether you read your e-books on a Kindle or an iPhone using Stanza, Smell of Books™ will bring back that real book smell you miss so much.

The latest example is the the website devoted to selling

The British Library is all a twitter about Yammer


Although I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of Social Media, it took a colleague in our marketing department to introduce me to our Yammer page.

After a very short space of time we have 97 members and several hundred messages.

For those of you who are also new to Yammer, it is a micro-blogging tool for the enterprise, launched in September last year, and has already been nominated for the CNET Webware 100.

Yammer is a tool for making companies and organizations more productive through the exchange of short frequent answers to one simple question: ‘What are you working on?’

As employees answer that question, a feed is created in one central location enabling co-workers to discuss ideas, post news, ask questions, and share links and other information. Yammer also serves as a company directory in which every employee has a profile and as a knowledge base where past conversations can be easily accessed and referenced.

Anyone in a company can start their Yammer network and begin inviting colleagues. The privacy of each network is ensured by limiting access to those with a valid company email address. Information is never shared with third parties.

The basic Yammer service is free. Companies can pay to claim and administer their networks.

Yammer was founded by former executives and early employees of PayPal, eGroups, eBay, and Tribe. It is backed by venture capital firms Founders Fund and Charles River Ventures.

We have all worked at companies and understand the needs of companies to share information within a private network. We built the solution that we would want to use ourselves.

Let’s hear it for the blog

That’s not a quote from me, but is the title of a short but proselytizing discussion with marketing guru Seth Godin author of Purple Cow and legendary management author Tom Peters.

According to Tom, “no single thing in the last 15 years professionally has been more important to my life than blogging”.

There are lots of other interesting and inspirational snippets on the Open Forum website courtesy of American Express.

Many thanks to Leon for pointing out this free resource for aspiring entrepreneurs.


Find out your favourite blogger’s Myers-Briggs personality type with Typealyzer

Thanks to Karen Loasby* and her Favourite Tipples from FreePint from 22nd January 2009 for highlighting Typealyzer.

The (currently beta) service is a text a text classifier that analyses any blog and assigns a Myers-Briggs personality to it based on writing style.

“ is developed by the happy people @ Illustrations are made by Sol at Accented. Please also visit our Typealyzer group at Google!. If you want API access for R&D, try free text classification or use psychographic analysis for commercial purposes – please visit PRfekt at uClassify!

How does it work? For a long period of time, we have been training our system to recognize texts that characterize the different types. The system, typealyzer, can now by itself find features that distinguishes one type from another. When all features, words and sentences, are statistically analysed, Typealyzer is able to guess which personality type the text represents.

I have tested it on a some of my favourite blogs (and mine of course) and come up with some interesting results.

My colleague Steve van Dulken who writes about the world of inventions and how it interacts with business, the media and patents, is ISTJ – The Duty Fulfillers. “The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever. The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work int heir own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.”

Stephen Bury  (Curator of the Breaking The Rules exhibition and blog) is ISTP – The Mechanics. “The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts. The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.@

SurprisinglyEuan Semple a leader in the field of Social Computing with thousands of followers on The Obvious blog is also classified as ISTJ – The Duty Fulfillers.

Stephen Abram previous President of SLA and thought leader for Libraries 2.0 through his blog Stephen’s Lighthouse, will be pleased to hear he is INTP – The Thinkers. “The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications. They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.”

Finally, I am rather pleased to be able to report that this blog also falls into the the INTP category… remembering of course that it is all just a bit of fun.


* Karen Loasby is an Information Architect for the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) and Contributing Editor of the FUMSI Manage practice area. Karen was previously Information Architecture Team Leader in the BBC’s Future Media & Technology department, managing a team of 16 information architects. She is a regular presenter at information architecture conferences and writes about information architecture and creativity at Karen can be reached at