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.