On not getting new media and prank IMs

Lots of good stuff in Why Washington doesn’t get new media. Chris Battle describes the hesitation of some government folks to fully embrace social media as grounded in concerns over communication rather than concerns about technology:

What is newfangled in Government 2.0 is not the technology; it is the approach to communications — the idea that, suddenly, the public expects to talk back to its government.

It’s as if the revolutionary corpse of Thomas Paine had risen from the grave, wielding a cell phone camera, a YouTube account and an annoying blog asking a lot of uncomfortable questions.

I have encountered similar concerns about “controlling the message” from librarians. What if people put comments on our library blog that aren’t accurate? What if people write derogatory stuff on our Facebook wall? What if we get “prank” IM messages on our Chat w/ a Librarian service?

My response is “Bring It!” Social media give us a great opportunity to engage in a dialogue with our patrons and find out what their misconceptions are, and what their frustrations are.

And the one “prank” IM we got was hilarious …

Patron: “Can you help me figure out this site? ” (tinyurl attached, presumably to p0rn0 site)
Librarian: “What kind of site is it and what problems are you having?” (wisely not clicking on tinyurl)
Patron: “Just look at the site, OK?” (sending tinyurl again)
Librarian: “It would really help if I knew what kind of site it was, and what kind of help you need”
Patron: “Just look at the site!!” (and sending tinyurl one more time)
Librarian: “I really need to know more about the site before I can help you.”

The funniest part of the whole exchange was that it was sent by a group of visiting high school kids, clustered around a computer within eyesight of the Reference Desk. They were watching and pointing at the responding Reference Librarian the whole time, hoping she would “Just look at the site!”. Our high schools are clearly not teaching kids the finer points of successful prank IMing.

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2 Responses to “On not getting new media and prank IMs”

  1. 1 Stephen Francoeur May 25, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I’ve been doing chat reference for seven years now and have gotten my fair share of students fooling around. Usually, they annoy me, but one kid did crack me up solely because the he/she had picked the screen name of “Pickles.”


    • 2 Chris May 26, 2009 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks for the comment Stephen. Our chat is set up so most of the patrons are assigned an anonymous Guest ID; but I am often amused/horrified by the email names kids pick. I still wonder how “tequilagirl@stanford” did on the job market … ;-)


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