Something is seriously wrong in the land of Twopointopia, that land where we will all achieve personal and professional salvation through the use of applications that supposedly have something to do with “Web 2.0,” or even “Library 2.0,” whatever that turned out to be.
What’s wrong? Well, pretty much everything the twopointopians have been telling us for years. Big surprise.
Those Webjunction folks are big twopointopians. It’s a pity the Webjunction members they surveyed about using online tools aren’t, even though the way Webjunction presented the questions tried to put square librarians into round twopointopian holes.
Of all the online tools the survey presented, guess which one was, by far, the most heavily used for professional work? The email listserv. This, according to Webjunction, is “Despite their definite 1.0 clunkiness.”
Despite their 1.0 clunkiness, indeed. This says a lot more about Webjunction than it does about email listservs.
64% of respondents used them on a daily or weekly basis, and only 16% had never used them.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the small contingent of fanatics who are swearing off email for some length of time. Perhaps they’re inspired by this guy. And we often hear that teenagers don’t use email much, and thus email is dying.
The problem is that email is the way just about every professional in America communicates. If you’re some tech writer who doesn’t depend on other people, sure, give it up. If you’re a sales person or a librarian or a manager or any professional who other people depend on, try giving it up and seeing what happens.
Just what would happen if the boss or the client or the patron got an email autoresponse like this: “No longer responding to email, if you need me, you’ll figure out a way.” I think we know what would happen, and it wouldn’t be pretty.
People want to give up email because it overwhelms them. That’s because just about everyone uses it for communication, and because the overwhelmed people don’t handle email very efficiently. You’d think after decades of dealing with email, people would learn a few tricks.
Last year, someone from Facebook told the world that email was probably going away, because, like, teens didn’t, like, use it much.
Someone then pointed out two flaws in her claim: first, that she didn’t know how to read survey questions, since the survey question specified using email to communicate with their friends, and second, that teens tended not to have a lot of professional communication, where email communication dominates.
The more amusing thing is considering teen behavior as a predictor of adult behavior. Do you still devote your time and energy to the same things you did as a teenager? If you do, then you probably have some sort of mental illness.
Another annoyance is the way Webjunction skewed its survey. It asked about “email discussion lists,” but it didn’t ask simply about email. I’m betting the percentages would rise dramatically, with 99% using it on a daily or weekly basis and 0% never having used it.
Compare that to social networking sites. only 39% of respondents claimed to use them daily or weekly for professional purposes. Perhaps the 2.0 clunkiness of Twitter and Ning are keeping people from adopting them.
Or maybe it’s that there’s not a lot professionally useful about some of these. After all, 63% of respondents use social networks in their personal lives. That’s a pretty large difference, and it’s the difference between playing games or hanging out with friends and working.
I’m also skeptical about what using the tools “in a professional setting” means. I would speculate that the majority of librarians using social networking for “professional” purposes aren’t really using it for anything to do with their jobs. At least that doesn’t seem to be the case for the librarians I know, including myself.
They may hang out on Facebook or Friendfeed or Twitter communicating with other librarians, and maybe even about topics related to libraries, but rarely about their actual library work.
What if the question was changed to, “used the tools for work,” defining “work” as “the stuff you actually do for your job,” rather than, “any activity even tangentially related to libraries that I could therefore consider professional activity”? I suspect we’d find a huge difference in the statistics.
Unless your library has a profile on a social networking site AND you’re the person responsible for it, your chances of using one for work are almost nil. Generously, we could probably drop that percentage who use social networks for work purposes to about 5% on a daily or weekly basis, with maybe 75% never having used them at all.
By restricting the use of email to “discussion lists,” including every possible social networking site as one category, and using the vague phrase “in a professional setting” instead of “for work,” Webjunction was skewing the results in favor of the twopointopans, even if they didn’t realize it, which they probably didn’t.
If the twopointopians looked reality in the face instead of trying to wish it away, they’d see that we’re still stuck in clunky onepointopia, where just about everyone uses the decades-old technology of email for work and just about no one uses sites designed to connect friends with each other. Put that way, it’s not surprising at all.