Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Developing a personal brand

I never imagined I would say this, but I have recently been considering my online ‘brand’, prior to my involvement in CPD23. The reason for this being that my use of Twitter has lately both increased, and become more professionally focused. More on Twitter in next week’s ‘thing’, but suffice to say for now that I’ve moved from being a passive follower of comedians, bands and journalists, to a more active engagement with my peers - following and being followed by a merry band of librarians, archivists and other information professionals. As soon as I received my first notifications that VIPs of the library world were following me back, I realised I needed to get my virtual house in order.

I was initially tweeting as @alisonharvey27 – like many Twitter usernames, derived from my gmail address, which was in itself poorly thought through - set up when I was, you guessed it, 27. The address has not aged with me, and (believe it or not), I don’t really want to be perceived as 27. Nor do I want to be perceived as wanting to be perceived as 27, which is worse. The name had to go. At first I changed it to a nickname, an in-joke, which I later decided entirely missed the point of being open and outwardly-connected. When I realised that I should probably use the name to brand all my online activity, including my professional activity, it seemed too frivolous and too inward-looking to keep. So I decided to just use my name, minus any misleading numbers.

I like my name - so much so that when I married I set aside my feminist principles in order to obtain Harvey in exchange for Smith. Well wouldn’t you rather be ‘battle-worthy’ than the guy that makes the horseshoes? Unfortunately, since there’s a few Alison Harveys out there, and I didn’t want the username getting too long, a strategically placed underscores (the only symbol allowed), created @alisonharvey_. Alison Harvey has become my brand, thus also my blog domain name, which was luckily available. And if I write down it enough times, my Google search result position might even improve!

Which leads on nicely to the guilty pleasure of Googling oneself. Searching for just ‘Alison Harvey’ surprisingly finds me on the bottom result of the first page, underneath a chiropractor, business manager, biomedicine research fellow, immigration law practitioner, and a travel writer for the Observer. Unexpectedly, the result found is my Archives and Records Association profile. I only joined this in order to be able to contribute to a discussion, and had not populated it in any way, so I was very surprised at the high ranking of this page. I don’t feature in Google search results again until the bottom of page 4. The ARA profile was registered under the nickname, which was also in the URL, so I deleted it and created a new one registered as, you guessed it, alisonharvey. I also added plenty of detail to it – a photo, my location, position, blog address, and interests. 

A search for ‘Alison Harvey Cardiff’ brings up 9/10 pages related to me. They include, again, my ARA profile, Twitter profile and one post (careful what you say on there!), news articles from my repository’s website about work I've been involved in, a conference programme featuring a paper I'd presented, and my profile on Archivists. This is a social network for archivists, which like ARA I had joined, not populated, then swiftly forgotten about. As with the ARA profile, I added a photo, location, blog address etc. The top seven results for ‘Alison Harvey Archivist’ are all related to me, and along with those listed above, include a teaching profile and my Diigo bookmarks (all work-related). 

So it turns out an employer or colleague could find out a great deal about me via Google, but there is nothing there that I wouldn’t want to be, and in fact I think it makes for quite a rounded portfolio of my professional activities over the last few years. I followed Dave Fleet’s advice and created a LinkedIn profile, as I couldn’t see any argument not too. I’m not job seeking, but you never know who may be a-googling...

Friday, 24 June 2011

Blog stalking

CPD23 Thing the Second - reading some other CPD23 blogs, making some comments, responding to comments, making some contacts and finally, writing about all of the above!

Now. I started at the participants page - opening blogs with good titles randomly, then stopped when I realised there are over 500 of us taking part in CPD23. There was so much I wanted to read, and so little time. The internet can feel like one giant conference, going on 24-7. It's very easy to feel overwhelmed and left behind by the sheer amount of stuff going on. This is not the first time I've encountered this - Twitter can induce a similar feeling of mild panic in me, of being incapable of keeping up with it all. Of course, no one can, and this is why as information professionals we of all people are best equipped to roll up our sleeves and tackle vast amounts of information carefully and systematically. So I thought about what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to take a look at blogs by colleagues, blogs by people who had commented on my blog, blogs by people I know via Twitter, and also try and find some fellow archivists/rare book librarians.

My colleagues darklecat and Helen Ceridwen are taking part, so I wanted to see how they were getting on. Darklecat is a cataloguing librarian, who edits the Staff Development and Engagement Newsletter, and I'm hoping she'll write a piece on her experiences of taking part in CPD23, and encourage others to take it up. Helen is also a cataloguing librarian with an extensive career, and blogged about how she hopes to use CPD23 to keep up with the latest developments in librarianship - having already witnessed and adapted to many a transformation of the library sector over the years! Apologies to colleagues I didn't get around to - I will endeavor to track you down and follow you, in a nice way.

I have virtual colleagues on Twitter - librarians I've never met but who tweet interesting links, helpful information, and participate in an engaging daily public dialog with their peers. Bethanar and Marie Lancaster had both left comments on my blog, and make regular appearances in my Twitter feed, so they seemed a good choice. Bethanar has taken the brave step of using Tumblr, a relatively new blogging platform, and her blog is looking super-professional. Marie Lancaster blogged about how she had decided to get involved with CPD23 to get herself up to speed on professional developments, having recently returned to work after maternity leave.

Finally, I used the very useful delicious list of bookmarked participants to find bloggers tagged with rare books, or archives, to find new contacts working in my specialism. Librarian Lou was, along with myself, tagged as 'rare' and 'special' on delicious, which I thought was rather nice. Headstrong Ways is a librarian working in an institution with archives - so I think I may be the only archivist taking part in CPD23? This makes me sad - if you are an archivist, make yourself known!

I've spent some time this week learning how to soup my blog up. I've added an email subscription widget and a twitter stream. You don't have to keep the BBC Micro-style black background and lurid green text it defaults to - there are options to change the colours to get it to suit your blog background. Other useful widgets for blogs here. I've also registered the blog with Google, to make sure it's found in searches. And finally... got my links in Blogger to open in a new window, by following the html instructions here.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Blogs and blogging

It's week 1 and we're looking at blogging - the how and the why.

As you can see I've figured out the how bit - I've chosen to use Blogger. As the owner of both a Gmail account and a Google branded phone, Blogger's compatibility with this internet Goliath is a major advantage. I've used Wordpress in the past, not professionally but rather for recording progress in the allotment! There doesn't seem much to choose between the two so I thought I'd try this out for a change. It was very straightforward to set up and even customise a little with an 'archivey' theme. The title will probably change but I couldn't stand to stare at the screen any longer trying to think what to call the thing. Like many archivists I work in a basement, and I like the nod to Dostoevsky, who probably gets out as much as I do.

I haven't written a professional blog before, though I do follow a few. Like many teenagers I was a committed diary-writer, but as I got older and less weird I fell out of the habit. The idea of recording thoughts and ideas online (as opposed to the odd photo of my runner beans) is something that would have horrified my younger self. However, I've been convinced by those in the know that blogging is a very useful tool for keeping track of your professional developement and getting into the habit of activitely and critically reflecting on your experiences.

And I sure need to.

I heard about CPD23 as I was making yet another attempt to write up Learning Outcome forms towards my Registration portfolio. (Registration with the Archives and Records Association is the archivist's version of Chartership with CILIP for librarians). For Registration, I need to come up 12 activities I've taken part in since qualification in 2008, and write - and I mean really write - about how they were of long term professional benefit. All the advice is to write up my Learning Outcome forms during or straight after the activity - be it training, study/research, work acheivements or contributions to the profession - but of course I haven't. So I found myself trying to describe and think reflectively about two or three year old projects, wishing I had made some notes at the time. CPD23 seemed like a really good excuse to set up a blog without seeming too self-important, and all being well it will grow into a space for me to use to record future developments, beyond the life of this project.

I read Ned Potter's post 'Everything you've ever wanted to know about blogging' with great interest and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in starting or promoting blogging. It includes some great advice of taking things further, and on my to-do list this week will be: adding feeds, integrating Twitter (@alison__harvey) and registering the blog. In a few days when we've all had a chance to get something written, I'll move onto Thing 2: investigate other blogs!