Search This Blog


Thursday, 17 April 2014

New Scoping Review on LIS Practitioners and Research

                                          Image source: Chris Guy, used under this Creative Commons Licence

Last year Andrew Booth and I were the happy recipients of the LIRG Research Scan Award; I blogged about this here. I am pleased to report that the research has been published as an article in the Library and Information Research Journal.

Our review focused on the recent literature concerning LIS practitioners and their relationship with research. We characterised practitioners’ relationship with research in three ways: as consumers of research, conducting their own research and working in collaboration with academics. In order to create a richer picture of this relationship we included more informal types of evidence, identified through sources such as newsletters, discussion lists and conference websites.

The review addressed the key questions from the award brief:

•      What kind of research is relevant to LIS practitioners?
•      What do practitioners understand by “research” and how do they use it?
•      What are the barriers and facilitators to using research in practice?

We were also able to address the additional questions:

•      What kind of research do practitioners undertake?
•      What is the status of practitioner / academic collaboration in research?

The research scan provided only a snapshot of current activity on the research / practice nexus, but implications at a practitioner, organisational and strategic level are presented.

The full paper is available here

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Lights, Camera, Instruction! - Why making movies for your library should not cost the earth

We all know about the power of YouTube, we have all seen it, that way of getting information, humour and marketing amongst other things across the globe in seconds. We see polished film trailers alongside home-made videos of children and animals falling down, whilst the real hidden gem of YouTube and other such platforms is that they teach you useful things, and this is a key part of a librarian’s role: how to search a database?, how to appraise information?, how to use a piece of software?, how to stay safe online?, so on and so forth.

So why are so few library and information services out there using such platforms as YouTube or nicer, less trolled platforms like Vimeo? There are several issues for libraries and information services and they can be broken down into these key areas:
Time, Money, Content, Audience, Knowhow, Technology and Confidence.

Before we address these issues there are also two strands of video we need to look at: pieces to camera video and screencasts. Most instructional videos will be recorded as screencasts, whilst more confident members of the library community will deliver a piece to camera. Screencasts require less preparation as you do not need good lighting, someone to hold the camera or to worry about people walking into shot. That said, you can record pieces to camera quite simply using your smartphone these days and have them published online within minutes.

The evidence- although not immediately apparent to those of us who have grown up watching a textual based Web dominate for so long- is that video is now becoming the dominant medium on the Web. As said earlier we have seen a multitude of videos go viral featuring talented cats, Gangnam dances and smiling babies, and given that library and information videos are not likely to knock these off their perch they are no doubt valuable to those who care. In 2011 Cisco predicted that video would make up over 50% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2012, and would make up for over 70% of all mobile data traffic by 2016. So what about those earlier concerns, how can we best tackle them? There is no silver bullet or one size fits all solution to this, but at least I can try to alleviate your fears.

Of course, time is very precious for library and information professionals, everyone needs your help and support and therefore your time. Yet how many times in your working week do you get the same enquiry? How often have you thought to yourself ‘Google it’?. Without wanting to sound like you should outsource such enquiries, you could use video to maximise the time you can spend on more complex enquiries.
Make instructional screencast videos using free software like the superb Screencast-o-matic or the Windows standard Live Movie Maker or even get your service to invest in better packages with quality editing options like Camtasia. By making videos that show your users how to search a database or renew a book you are not making yourself detached or redundant, you are freeing up more time for other problems that need solving and opening your service up to home-based users. There will always be enquiries that will require face to face communication and support, your users will always want your help.

Money for libraries has been a very sensitive topic in recent years and we know they are under increasing pressure to make do with less resources. Making videos feels like a big thing, that it could be expensive, that it will eat up money better spent elsewhere. Yet video is good money spent elsewhere if you use it correctly. Nevertheless there are plenty of free things you can do to make screencasts and videos for your service. Firstly use the camera on your smartphone to record a welcome video for your service or just to announce yourself. If you are an outreach and liaison librarian you can simply reach out to users by making a little film saying hello and what you can do to help. Make a video walking around your library showing the various resources you have at hand. Obviously these will not be Oscar-winning recordings, but as long as the sound is clear and you have good lighting you can make something quite effective. Myself and my colleague Claire Beecroft have made video trailers for conference presentations using our phone, it is simple, quick and effective.
Here is one we recorded for Internet Librarian International 2012 about using video:

Video Saved the Library Star - Internet Librarian International 2012 Promo from ScHARR Library on Vimeo.

You can make screencasts using simple tools like Screenr and Screencast-O-Matic for free and then download them to edit with various free editing packages starting with Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie on the Mac. You will find dozens of good quality free video editing tools on the Web by searching around, obviously they are limited compared to professional packages such as Adobe Premiere and Sony Vegas but will still help polish and produce your video.

I have touched on some of the ways you can use video to create content for your library and information service, but the reality is that much of it depends on your confidence and imagination. There are dozens of innovative and humorous library videos from the United States. The video Librarian Lays Down the Law, although fictitious and humourous is about the Dewey catalogue system and has had over 180,000 views.

A good place to start is to think about any processes and enquiries you get on a regular basis- if you maintain a list of FAQs start there. Once you have identified a few, think about how you can script them into short instructional videos and start recording  them. The main three things to remember is that you do not have to capture the recording first time, that you need to capture the audio clearly and that your video needs to be kept short, ideally less than three minutes. Think about what your service offers and turn it into a promotional video, even consider having a colleague present a live tour of your library. You can make videos explaining anything from how you use self service machines to copyright legislation. Once you have started collating content you can build collections and channels within such platforms such as YouTube, it can help filter content that is most relevant to your users.

For anyone working in front-line services you will always know who your customers are, whether they be students, members of the public, children, doctors, academics or others. Try to break down the services you offer to them, what communications do you currently use? If you are you using Social Media, think about the channels you can use to get your content to your clients. The good news is that there are plenty of free outlets to host your content on, especially YouTube and Vimeo, whilst getting into the communities is made easier if you know of any online groups you can post your content on. Use Facebook and Twitter to promote your videos to a wide audience. Your video does not have to be watched thousands of times, just a few dozen times can reap rewards for your service as it helps your users and builds the profile of your organisation.

Know-how, Technology and Confidence
These are very much part and parcel of helping build a video profile for your library and information service. Hopefully this short article will have demystified and encouraged some people to go out and attempt to make their first videos. The key thing you need to remember is that you can have several attempts at making a video, it does not have to be perfect first time. If you are happy with your first attempt move on and make another one. Videos can date very quickly, as with traditional learning resources so do not get too hung up on it being totally perfect. If you wanted an example of the kind of videos you could try looking at the ScHARR Library YouTube Channel I set up in 2009 - and there are countless other videos online that can also inspire your own.

Technology can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. As I touched on earlier, start simple, use your smartphone and simple screencasting software like Screencast-O-Matic and editing software like Windows Live Movie Maker. Don’t underestimate the quality of video you can produce with free tools and tools you already have.

If you can identify some funding even better, £1000 could go a long way and guy you a simple video camera, tripod and external microphone for capturing better quality audio. You can purchase a copy of Camtasia for around £200 and make your videos even better with titles, music and nice edits. As for getting your video recordings up and running you will find several tutorials on how to capture video and edit it on YouTube, so try not to lose precious time reading manuals if there is a quicker and more effective option online.

By taking these steps forward you will find your confidence increases naturally and more ideas about what you can record can be applied. Obviously remembering some key points along the way:

  1. Your audio needs to be clear
  2. Your video should be as short as it reasonably can be- aim for under 3 mins
  3. Your use of images/music must be compliant withcopyright law

There are growing numbers of Creative Commons licensed music and images you can apply to your videos for no charge depending on the correct attribution. Google ‘CC Search’ for access to this fantastic resource.

The evidence is clear that video has become the dominant medium on the Web. We may have millions of pages of text, but the hours of video online is staggering and given the growing evidence our of shortening attention spans even more important.
YouTube recently reported that one hour of content is uploaded per second. so it is a good time to start using video within your library and information service- regardless of the setting there is so much that video can do- the possibilities are endless!

Software for screencasting

Software for video editing

Useful phone Apps to make videos, take images and share socially.

Music and image resources for your videos

ScHARR Library YouTube page

Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2011–2016

YouTube Launches OneHourPerSecond to Visualize how much Video is Uploaded each Second

This article was originally published in the February issue of the MmIT Journal Volume 40. Issue 1
You can subscribe to the journal by going here:

Friday, 11 April 2014

Citation, citation, citation! Is learning bibliographic styles a relevant skill for the modern student?

At ScHARR Library we run a program of online information skills training which includes coverage of the reference management tool Mendeley ( One of the many useful features of Mendeley is its ability to plug into Microsoft Word, allowing students to "cite while they write", meaning that their citations and reference list are generated for them automatically, without them having to type them in by hand. This is a feature that is also integrated into some other key reference management software products. I have heard some people argue that allowing students to automatically produce their citations and bibliographies is wrong, and that learning a specific referencing style is a vital skill for them to develop.

It's a moot point, but one that I'm inclined to dissagree with.  While I don't think for one second that students don't need far more help than they currently get in understanding the importance of citing and referencing source material consistently, appropriately and correctly, learning a particular referencing style is to my mind unnecessary, and irrelevant.

While we hope that many of our students will go on to be published in the academic literature, the vast majority of academic journals use their own anachronistic referencing styles which the students will simply have to learn again in order to reference their work appropriately for that particular journal.

The best analogy I can draw here is that of the spellcheck function which we now all take for granted in most wordprocessing software.  When marking an assignment, I have often seen teachers comment to a student that they have clearly not used the spellcheck function and should have done so before submitting their work. A generation or so ago we would have been advising them to do this the hard way and get out the dictionary, and some might still argue that for students who don't have English as a first language, using a dictionary to correct their spelling might be more helpful to their acquisition of the English language. However we generally now accept that it's fine for students to use spellcheck functionality, and indeed it is expected.

I think exactly the same case can be made for referencing and citing. I don't think students learn anything about the reasons for citing source material from learning by rote which section of the reference needs to be in italics and which in capitals or parentheses. In an academic environment where plagiarism is still a major source of concern I think that if we spent more time teaching them about why they need to cite and reference and less on how to "dot the i's and cross the t's", so to speak, we would be doing our students a huge favour.

Posted by Claire 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Social media is a ticking time bomb for universities with an outdated web presence

This is a blog post originally written for and posted on the London School of Economics Impact Blog and reposted on our own Information Resource Blog.

There are pressing questions academic institutions will need to address over the next couple of years regarding their expanding participation in social media streams. Andy Tattersall argues that with such blurred boundaries of ownership, access and support, what is needed is wide-scale demystification to help academics dovetail a few choice tools to bring how they work into a modern setting. Social Media, Altmetrics and Web 2.0 all afford academia a wealth of possibilities if they take it, but there is a risk that the important messages will get lost as we produce even more social data than we can imagine.
A substantial issue at hand in the higher education community is the tricky balancing act academics and their institutions face in managing their traditional websites and the growing number of individual and group Social Media presences. Compared to other large scale organisations, universities have been slow on the uptake of Social Media and are only now realising (partially thanks to their students and a growing requirement to be more open and accountable to fundholders and society) that they need to get out there and be ‘Liked’.
drowning facebook
Drowning in social media. Image credit: (CC BY)
Back in the 1990s universities not only understood the importance of having a Web identity but many had the in-house know-how to build them. By the dawn of Web 2.0 in 2005 many had grown to large organisational monsters, unwieldy and hard to navigate. My own institution in Sheffield moved to a content management system that allowed each and every member of staff to create and alter content on their own part of the website. In theory it seemed a good idea, that you could democratise your website, yet in reality it was very uneven. Many of those trained in the technology to update their pages soon forgot how to do the trickier updates whilst others picked up the slack. In time the website grew to tens thousands of pages, every little project, resource and list being compiled online. The ever-decreasing cost of bandwidth and web space afforded institutions that democracy. Yet with it came a price, most pages needed updating and managing and that was all before Social Media started to take off about five years ago.
The problem academic institutions now face in this second wave of outward facing content is determining who is behind its creation, what does it say and is it consistent? I’m all in favour of the things that Tim Berner’s Lee gave us from his lab in CERN 25 years ago. Net Neutrality, democracy and the Web 2.0 way of everyone having ownership. It allowed us all to be artists, writers, librarians, journalists, learners and teachers. Nevertheless there is an underlying concern of mine as an information specialist that somewhere down the line we might be heading for a fall.
Of course Social Media is very different from traditional Web presences, anyone can set up a profile on Twitter, Facebook, ResearchGate, Google Scholar, Mendeley, LinkedIn, Google+, start a blog, make a YouTube video. Add to that the great possibilities of sharing research thanks to ImpactStory, Figshare and to name but a few. So with that comes the rub, there is a high number of resources to chose from, not just for the individual, but the academy, and this list will grow and grow. My role is to engage with my colleagues, peers and students to encourage them how to best make use of technology, whether it is to learn, teach or collaborate. It can be very fragmented and being fractious is not something best suited to academics, after all the majority of the really good ones got to where they are by being focused on two or three things and doing it well. Dunbar’s Number informs us people can only maintain 150 stable social relationships, whilst Statistic Brain released data earlier this year saying the average Facebook user has 130 friends.
Can the same be applied to technologies that an organisation or academic can successfully manage? I have countless professional Social Media accounts amongst dozens if not hundreds of other, invariably free Web accounts. Yet that is part and parcel of my role, to look and assess these technologies. I saw the promise in Mendeley, Google Apps and Prezi to name but a few, by using them. For academics and their support teams the situation is different, they are focused on either researching, teaching or support first and foremost, often the tools to facilitate this come later on. As we know many academics now acknowledge that Twitter will benefit their networks and knowledge gathering and sharing. Facebook can help engage with students and videos can translate and disseminate research much better than words can in our ever-diminishing attention spans facilitated by the likes of the Journal of Visualised Experiments. Whilst most of the tools I mentioned previously have benefits, it can be a case of horses for courses. For example, if you are a social scientist it is unlikely you would use Mendeley APIs like Plasmid or openSNP.
There are several questions academics and organisations will need to address over the next couple of years, that of legacy: who is behind your institutional and project Social Media streams? Are they personal accounts and do you risk having your own HMV Twitter incident. Have they been set up by individuals with good intentions to promote your research output or because they use Facebook a bit? Or are they secretaries and administrators who have been told to set up a Twitter account or Blog and post items as and when? I once heard the previous President of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Phil Bradley announce that; “Web 2.0 is a state of mind”. He wasn’t far wrong, and so is Social Media, in that you have to some extent immerse yourself in it, understand it, understand why you are using it, the pitfalls and benefits and most of all, the opportunities. Social Media, Altmetrics and the now much less mentioned Web 2.0 all afford academia a wealth of possibilities if they take it. What is needed is wide-scale demystification of it all, and systems to help academics dovetail a few choice tools to help bring how they work into a modern setting in the same way MOOCs have made us think about out-dated teaching models. There needs to be greater digital literacy and frameworks to help orchestrate online content in the future. Science Daily reported last year that 90% of the world’s data was generated over the previous two years. The amount of academics engaging with Social Media and Web technologies still remain in the minority, you only have to attend a conference or look for academic discussion on Twitter and Google+ to see this. Tools like Mendeley and ResearchGate are changing that balance as more and more PhD students and early career researchers look to the tools for building networks, but we are still some way from critical mass.
Social Media and Altmetrics by their very nature are the more relaxed and informal forms of communication, some of these tools are transient, short-lived or just too niche, so trying to formulate processes for some of them are impractical. There is no silver bullet fix as we are not too sure what is broken yet, but as with the ever growing academic websites of the 1990s and their content there is a risk that the important messages will get lost as we produce even more social data than we can imagine.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Turn on the filters, turn down the noise

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Richard West and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

There is no getting away from it, many of us are drowning in information and data on a personal and professional level. We are bombarded by text messages, emails, Social Media updates, instant messages, videos, presentations, and that is before we get onto newspapers, marketing, television, phone calls and good old fashioned meetings to name but a few.

For academics and students that could have serious implications as by their very nature they need to be focused to achieve high standards of output, whether it be an essay or a peer-reviewed journal article. Academics usually become good at what they do by being able to spend protected amounts of time reading, writing and thinking about one problem or topic. They become experts by retaining that focus and building their knowledge up over periods of concentrated time. There are always exceptions to those rules with some gifted individuals able to attain high standards in many different fields with diverse skills as writers, teachers, technicians, thinkers and orators. Nevertheless given the incredible pressures placed on academics and student’s time and the ever louder intrusions on their concentration and space it is increasingly likely that more and more will have fractured work-lives.

If you are not sold on this idea, I want you to consider this. Only 20 years ago it was easier for people to leave work at home, we had no mobile phones interrupting us and no emails to check and reply to. Fast forward to the turn of this century we now had the Web and mobile phones. It became easier to work on the go and be contactable, we could check our emails at home and anywhere that had an Internet connect, regardless of how slow it was compared to today’s standards. Fast forward a decade and we got our first smartphones, broadband became widespread, (I’m not going to go as far and say ubiquitous) and tablets had started appearing, all of which afforded us greater connectivity. This is not a rallying cry to say all of these developments are bad, anyone who knows me will know I am a strong advocate for information technology but like chocolate and alcohol too much of it can have detrimental effect on our health. The expansion of technology and the ease of availability via networks means it is increasingly hard to switch off. In the past we would go home to get away from the outside world, or go to spas and retreats, but for many that barrier has gone as people on holiday and in retreats post photos and social updates to show their latest move. I have fallen into the trap of replying to work emails whilst on holiday as have several of my colleagues, only to find their stress levels creep up as they try and solve problems from hundreds of miles away. To maintain balance I am not suggesting you shut off work outside of the office - it comes down to personal choices and prerogatives - but there needs to be greater awareness and balance for those on the slippery slope to losing control of their concentration and protected time.

For many involved in the library and information profession it is already a big problem. We have fractured roles that often require multiple modes of delivery and communication. The profession embraces social media, use of video and the very nature of information and library work requires delving deep in to multiple pots of data and information. So far I have written with no solutions and have not as yet used the term ‘information overload’-  there you go, I’ve mentioned it, we can all move on. For some it does not exist, as Clay Shirky once said; “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure.” He might well be right, nevertheless for most people I come into contact with it feels like an overload, a deluge of data and content we struggle to maintain and in time will increasingly fail to cope with.

So to try and redress the balance of ‘information overload’ (cough) and the fragmentation of working lives a little here are 10 suggestions to help you filter out the noise and help focus a bit better.

Filter #1: Go dark

Perhaps one of the hardest filters you could attempt in your working and personal life, especially when commuting, but have you ever considered not taking your mobile phone with you when you go out? I commute on the train every day, and like many people can be glued to the screen rather than look out at the world or read a book, meditate or stare a stranger in the face. It is not just being on the train that can be a problem, but anywhere, in the countryside, at a friends house the constant demand for your attention by your little black shiny friend can be somewhat overpowering. The fear of not having your phone, aptly named nomophobia can make you feel anxious, yet how many times might you get that urgent call? I admit there are people who do need to be in constant contact, for their children or elderly relatives, so for a start try going out for a country walk and leaving your phone behind for a few hours. Sure, you will miss a few Facebook updates, and not be able to take photos of the place you’ve walked by a dozen or so time previously, but it will give your mind a chance to declutter, think and ultimately shut off. My elderly mother-in-law once contacted me to complain that they had no mobile phone access after a transmitter had gone down a few days earlier. Despite having a landline, she said it was worrying not to have contact with people who may want to contact her on the mobile. Now I do understand her worries to a point, but explained it would not be the end of the world, just 1995 again.

Filter #2: Pause

A simple one for anyone using Gmail, if you don’t use Gmail, skip on to Filter #3, there is nothing to see here. For those of you who made it this far or didn’t skip to filter #3 you might find this an interesting concept. Over recent years there has been various attempts by large organisations to deal with the problem of email, as for many of us it is a problem, and can impact negatively on our work. Intrusions to workflows are the biggest of problem as workers constantly check their inboxes for new messages and replies to conversations. There are no shortage of articles on the Web offering tips on how to get back to inbox zero but this is not a reality for some people no matter how many filters they apply - people want responses to questions, comments, meetings, projects and suchlike. So, by applying a Google plug in for your email such as Inbox Pause you can at least create safe havens of protected time where you turn your off your inbox thus preventing new emails appearing in your eyeline to distract you. As with many of the other filters, this tool requires discipline, like dieting you can still have biscuits and keep them in a tin on a high shelf away from easy reach, but if you really wanted one you know with a little extra effort you can still dip back in.

Filter #3 Chill

Perhaps a real sign of the times and information overload is that there has been an increasing interest in mindfulness and meditation on the Web and within organisations. In my own department there are weekly meditation sessions and experts in mindfulness have delivered workshops on meditation. There is good evidence that by relaxing you will be more productive and by taking out just a few minutes each day to meditate you can help rebalance your mind. This is perhaps one of the greatest filters you can apply, especially for those working in academia where concentration and thinking can be affected by constant distraction. A good place to start is by installing the Headspace app on your mobile device or visiting their website for a quick meditation. In fact there are no shortage of meditation apps available, all you have to do is give yourself that ten minutes of quiet contemplation away from the noise to start to feel better again.

Filter #4 Listen

Away from the silence of meditation, listening to music with a pair of headphones is more than entertainment whilst you work. It can be a sign to your colleagues that you do not want to be disturbed, it can be a way of shutting out external noise, or it can be way of focussing your attention when you are trying to complete some work. It's the opposite of filter #3, but serves a similar purpose, to help channel your mind and concentration. Not all of these filters will work for everyone, it is the same as dieting, not every diet works for everyone, some people may try the 5:2 Diet, others the Dukan Diet. The main thing is to try a few options if you feel information overload is a problem for you. I work with colleagues who listen to TED Lectures, heavy metal, classical or even dance music. Whether they are actually listening to the music is anyone’s guess, certainly for spoken word content it is unlikely you remember much as your focus may be on the task you are undertaking. Whilst other tasks you can undertake without much thought wouldn’t be affected too much by an audio soundtrack.

Filter #5 Automate

There are many tools out there that help you automate processes and for some they can be good at saving you time, whilst others convolute simple tasks making them actually more labour intensive. One tool if used correctly to help filter out the noise and automate processes if IFTTT - ‘If This Then That’ which is a recipe tool that allows you to create relationships between applications, so for instance if you label an email in Gmail as ‘Evernote’ it will send the email to your Evernote. Another example is if you post a Tweet it can automatically add it to a Google Doc, or if you blog something in Tumblr it will Tweet that blog post for you - I think you get the picture. IFTTT has 84 channels you can activate from common tools like Facebook and Dropbox to lesser known ones such as Withings and Surfline. By creating useful recipes it will save you the effort of reposting content from one resource to another and help streamline your output. In addition, with functions like reposting to Docs and Evernote you can ensure your information and content is annexed into collections rather than in disparate, anachronistic piles of stuff.

Filter #6 De-clutter

Websites have evolved to some extent over the last couple of decades with some earlier ideas of what a good website should look like condemned to Web heaven and hell, such as entry pages with a spinning ‘Enter’ logo being replaced with cleaner straight-to-the-point Web presences. Yet as Websites have grown, so has their content with much of it clammering to gain your attention,  which means lots of menus and sometimes lots of hyperlinks. Hyperlinks are essential to what the Web is and without them the Web would be utterly useless. Nevertheless, too many of them can have a negative effect on our attention, in fact I applaud you for getting this far down the article without checking your Facebook status, and this is without having links to throw you off your stride. A simple tool you can apply to prevent you being lured away to the many links within an article or through the links by the side of it is Readability. Readability is a simple website and browser extension that turns a complex, hyperlinked web page into a simple, clean article devoid of links, adverts and other distracting junk. The tool allows you print the article as a clean PDF or tag and save it for reading later whether that be on your PC, tablet or even your Kindle Fire. The real benefit of Readability is that it does filter out distraction and turn what can be at times tests of your attention span as you’re offered other useful information in the guise of links and similar reads. It’s great that Web articles offer alternative and supplementary reading, but let’s get to the end of this first article shall we?
Filter #7 Walk

Another big problem for the modern workplace is meetings, especially for people who have to attend a lot of them. Some organisations have tried to check the spiralling amount of time workers spend in them by having only 10 people attend, having just two agenda items, or making everyone stand up for the duration of the meeting. These may work for some and may seem desperate measures for others. Another alternative is to take the office out of the equation altogether and have a walking meeting. A walking meeting is as it says it is, you conduct your meeting whilst walking, usually outside of the building with your colleagues. Think about it, if you have trouble finding a room for a meeting it solves that, it is carbon neutral, and helps you lose weight and gets up on your feet. Most importantly for this article it filters out the workplace, it removes potential distraction from email and Web (if you leave your phone at work). Not every meeting requires a computer or a table, many meetings are between just two or three people and are often to solve or scope out an idea or problem. It might seem strange to have a meeting on foot whilst walking but throughout history many major decisions will have been taken whilst outdoors, from the gardens of Downing Street to Camp David, not everything is resolved at a table in a cramped little room.
Filter #8 Quiet

For many people, especially those working in academia the intrusion of information and content goes beyond the papers, emails and hyperlinks but also the noise of the working place. Not everyone is lucky to have their own office or be able to work from home, yet for most university campuses there is usually easy access to a quiet library space. The greatest barrier for this filter is that university libraries are seen as the domain of students yet they are spaces open for all. Again, leaving their phone and laptop behind and armed with just a collection of papers and books a researcher can spend a few hours channelling their focus on the papers they have to read in the quieter spaces of the library. It also reconnects the academic back with the wider university and students, which is no bad thing.

Filter #9 Unroll

Back to the perennial problem of email overload, a tool such as is great at listing all of your email subscriptions so you can see who you are getting emails from. One of the bad habits people have in their email practice is routinely deleting emails from sites they no longer care for rather than go through the process of unsubscribing from the service, therefore still getting more emails you don’t want to read. trawls through your subscriptions and lists them in one place so you can en-masse unsubscribe from them. I’m not convinced it found all of my email subscriptions but it did find several hundred, of which I chose a hundred or so to unlist myself from. The process takes minutes and will save you time in the future. More importantly it will filter out some of that content dropping into inbox, wanting your attention.

Filter #10 Block

Another option for emails that are not part of a mailing list you have subscribed to is to block them before they drop in your inbox. Most email providers have tools to allow you to block emails based on the sender. So if you work in an institution where you regularly receive emails that are of no interest for you from one individual you have the option of either filtering them with the advanced tools within Gmail that will place emails based on subject heading keywords or senders in certain folders; or just block them altogether. Obviously you cannot block just any old email and pretend you never received them if you are trying to avoid a certain piece of work or conversation, but for an awful lot of emails you can simply move them to the side for later whilst for others just ensure they never reach you in the first place.

Not all of these tools will work for everyone, as I said earlier they are like certain diets, some just need to much attention, others are just plain weird, but even if you try a couple and find they work you have gone some weight to shedding a few pounds of information that until now you never realised you wouldn’t miss.

Article originally posted on Information Today (Europe) written by Andy Tattersall