Tuesday, February 24, 2009

F.W.I.W. (Part II)


Archives*Open, open or closed?: Russell D. James has been asking me if the Archives*Open blog is still open since I have not posted anything new in quite some time. Sometimes the best ideas run into unplanned obstacles.

The Archives*Open idea is still one with potential. Writing about what other archivists are doing with Web 2.0 tools and technologies to enhance and improve access to their archival materials and in turn inspiring other archivists to follow suit is encouraging and energizing. As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm really excited with what archivists are doing with these new tools and technologies. It has the power to change things, to change attitudes.

But still what I will do with the Archives*Open blog remains unknown. For lack of a better explanation, the Archives*Open blog is resting for a while.

The Archives*Open Twitter feed remains open and active, however, sending out tweets of interests to archivists. Additionally, the Archives*Open LinkedIn network, which has almost 40 members from around the world, is ripe for further growth. Feel free to join one or both of these networks.

Transit Nightmares: In mid-January, the local commuter rail service, Agence Metropolitaine de Montreal (AMT), which provides rail service between Montreal and the surrounding area, launched its "new and improved" service to encourage people to use public transit. With extra trains and better scheduling, the new and improved service was something most if not all commuters embraced. But the plan fell off the tracks no sooner had the so-called "new and improved" service began. Trains were late, trains never showed up, and trains stalled in the middle of no where, while commuters were either stranded on station platforms or packed like sardines in trains. Commuters were pissed. It got so bad that even the laid-back Quebec government cried foul.

From a Web 2.0 perspective, the AMT website is sorely lacking. It provides very little useful information to commuters, and offers little or no means to communicate with the transit agency. Where's the two-way communication, where's the always available information when we need it, heck, where are the GPS-enabled locomotives? Meanwhile, the local bus and metro transit agency, Society de Transport de Montreal (STM) does not fare much better. The STM website holds promise, but its valuable content is static, its stuck on web pages that deserve a bottom-up re-design.

Quebercers pay notoriously high taxes, which partly funds transit services. Let's build a transit service that works, more importantly, that responds to the public's needs. A good website is part of the solution. Take a look at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) websites with their real-time schedules and email alerts and SMS services pushing out transit alerts to riders.

Photo credit: kevincrumbs

Monday, February 23, 2009



A word on work: I always approach each new job--make that, each new contract--with cautious optimism, and in this case with this new job, it's no different. The prospect of working on shaping and managing a university's content creation, storage and distribution mechanism is exciting and could take years to complete. So I am cautiously optimistic because the project I am working on, while it's yet another contract, is arguably one with the potential to last much longer than a standard 12-month contract.

Blogging at work: I'm blogging on a department-wide blog at work. The blog was started by the educational technology team in hopes of enabling conversations among staff. I wrote one blog post so far, and I intend to write at most two blog posts a month. It's a team blog so there are plenty of contributors. I am not sure if the blog is publicly available or restricted to the campus. When I find out, I will inform you all.

Music Music Music: When people ask me what was the last movie I saw, the answer often shocks them, as so often the movie I last saw was from one or two summers ago. While I enjoy a good movie (or a good book), I truly love music. I am always on the hunt for new (or old) music. If I were to write one those 25 Things You Don't Know About Me memes, I would definitely include on that list the love of music.

Speaking of music, I recently discovered a Scottish electronic band called Boards of Canada. Unlike some electronic music, which seem to comprise emotionless beeps over beats, Boards of Canada's sound has a rich sonic atmosphere and deep emotional undercurrents. I 'acquired' nearly their entire discography, which dates back to the late 1990s, and I am hooked to listening to their music.

Music has had such an impact on my life--like so many of you reading, I'm sure--that now I'm thinking about about creating music. I don't know where I'm going with this idea--or even if it's merely a daydream--but I want to enrich other parts of my creative life.

The Zen of banjos: While I was working in the Archives at the International Monetary Fund, I met an archivist with a unique passion for string instruments, particularly banjos. His passion is so great that he created an online database called Banjo Sightings Database. What most struck me about this archivist, however, was his desire to devote most of his time and energy to activities and causes well beyond his archivist role. I found his perspective inspiring and exemplary. 

Archivists and archives: Before I was given a job offer at McGill, I had applied to an archivist position at another large Canadian university. The position was called digital archivist, outreach services (or something like that), and the posting mentioned that the selected candidate would use current and emerging Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs, to support the university archives' outreach activities. I thought I was dreaming. This position sounded ideal. So I applied...and, roughly 3-4 months later, I was subsequently rejected.

Rather than receiving a rejection email, I found out about the university's decision on a listserv. A listserv! How unprofessional! No wonder the university archives needs a digital archives outreach specialist. I emailed the Chair and requested an explanation for both why was the notice made public before the rejected applicants were informed and, on a personal note, what were the reasons for my rejection.

Profusely apologizing about the listserv mistake, the person who responded to my email further explained that I was not accepted because--wait for it, wait for it--because I had too much experience! Since graduating from library school, I had been told that I did not get the positions I had applied to because I did not have sufficient or matching experience. After several years of bulking up my experience with contracts, even relocating to the United States for a job, I was now told that I had too much experience. I had good laugh, believe me.

But, seriously, this is one example out of many in the past few months that has lead me to realize that the archivist hat I once wore is no more. It was something I once did, and now that chapter has ended.

At the moment, I'm really excited by grassroot archivists harnessing Web 2.0 technologies, challenging the status quo. To stress over these rejection notices and their incredulous explanations seems like a gross waste of time.


Friday, February 13, 2009

The Friday Abstract: Hang In There Readers

It's been a while since my last blog post, I know, and I certainly intend to write a few new blog posts in the coming days. In case you're wondering what the heck's been happening over at The DIGITAL Archive (yes, all two of you, I'm sure, are waiting anxiously for an update), I'm doing fine, tired but otherwise doing fine as I become acclimatized once again to the working world's tenets of routine, meetings, and deadlines.

While you wait, and while I write, some music to hold you over until we meet again, same blogspot, same URL, same feed.

Boards of Canada - Seeya Later

about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.