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October 27, 2009

Digital Libraries on a Shoe String

These are the Powerpoint slides from a presentation I gave at the "Internet Librarian" conference on Oct 27th 2009. As with all my Powerpoints, it is really just there to cue me to talk about stuff, and the stuff is not necessarily covered on the slides. However, I hope it might be of some use to those who were not there.
View Slides

Posted by Walter at 09:17 AM

July 27, 2009

Using Facebook For Your Organization

Over the last year or so, I have set it as a professional development task to put Facebook to work for some of the organizations in which I am involved, and figure out what it is good for and where it falls short.

Here are a few of my observations:

An organization with a formal existence and a real relationship with its supporters/clients etc. should create a "page" rather than a "group". The "page" format is more conducive to presenting a coherent message and managing your image. It also has useful analytics on traffic, demographics etc.

A group is fine for informal communities of interest, and has a nice "email all" and "invite all to event" feature, but it doesn't let you assume the identity of the organization. You are always you. Note however, that if what you are about is sharing photographs, you should stay a "group". The "page" format no longer allows "fans" to post pictures more than one at a time.

Continue reading "Using Facebook For Your Organization"

Posted by Walter at 06:22 AM

April 08, 2009

Conference Presentation on Marketing Your Library

I gave a presentation called "Marketing with Everything You've Got: the interconnectedness of all things" at the latest convention of the users of the Library automation system that my employer uses (the vendor is called SIRSI/Dynix).

The presenation advocates a holistic approach to marketing that first emphasizes good customer service. While the Powerpoint slides lack much of my narrative, they do give a fair outline of my arguments.

View Briefing

Posted by Walter at 11:16 AM

January 25, 2009

Another Use for Facebook - Talk Among Yourselves

Earlier this month, just before the very-sold-out Jane Austen Evening, I noticed and then encouraged a very interesting trend. People were posting, on the "Wall" of the Jane Austen Evening Facebook page, notices like "I will trade my feminine virtue for a ticket to the Jane Austen Evening".

While I would not necessarily encourage that particular bargain, it does highlight a very interesting use for Facebook - a chance for participants in an event to communicate with one another without the organizers having to serve as intermediaries.

This has been an issue as long as there have been events. An event is sold out -- one person has a ticket he isn't going to use; another needs a ticket. The organizer can spend a lot of time trying to manage that communication or, as usually happens, he doesn't and the two parties never find each other.

However, now through the magic of Facebook, those who have tickets to unload and those who want tickets can meet -- those who have rides to offer and those who need them can meet; and those who have lost something and those who have found it can meet. The posters should be conscientious enough to delete posts when they no longer apply, and the Admin should monitor the "Wall" for abuse, but this has tremendous potential which is only now being realized.

Furthermore, it gives the participants a chance to offer feedback on the event in an open forum, and provided it is kept civil, this too has great potential to help guide future events.

Another reason to get on Facebook....


Posted by Walter at 08:10 AM | Comments (1)

December 06, 2008

Some Techno Thoughts on Getting the Word Out

In my job as a corporate web guy, and in my capacity as a compulsive organizer of events, I have had a lot of cause to ponder the use of technology to promote what ever it is I am involved in. Here are a few random thoughts for others in the same boat.

First, if you are promoting something, you need to be able to say what it is in a few words--preferably one sentence. This sentence should encompass all important aspects (live music, dancing, research support, computer repair, topless car wash... whatever), and should avoid excessive hyperbole. I am not a fan of exclamation marks! These smack of desperation! If the thing you are promoting is worthy of attention, that attention should be grabable by a simple explanation of what you have on offer. Some call this a "value statement".

Note: this is not the same as a press release. It is far more succinct and direct. While your press release should be consistent in message with your other communication, it is addressed to a different audience with different needs.

Once you have your value statement, put it on a flier. Your flier should have a large banner headline with the thing you are promoting, and a single eye catching graphic, and a minimum of text. Think of a flier as a road sign that must be read at 65 mph. Of course, you should also include administrative information like cost, how to pay, location, time, how to contact, website etc. in smaller type.

I think the flier is a useful intellectual exercise since, if you are doing it right, it helps you streamline your message and clarify your "brand" (your event name, theme, look etc.).

This flier can be sent out using traditional mail, posted at suitable places and left out at related events and venues. I am all for posting and leaving out. I am not a fan of traditional mail. Printing and postage have gotten awfully expensive, and life is too short to spend it folding, addressing and stamping fliers. These days, the people who are not connected to the internet are such a minority that they can, in most cases, be safely ignored.

This flier should also be a PDF download from your website. The core of the website should be the same message as the flier, and share the theme and other "branding" details with your flier. However, the website allows you to offer online payment options (thanks Paypal), interactive directions and a place to display photos and video of past programs, which helps new customers understand what you are offering, and brings old customers back as they look for images of themselves and their friends.

The website needs to be clean, free of excessive text and hyperbole, and offer your customers all they need "above the fold". This means that your event description, payment options, time and place, navigation menu, and email sign up should appear on the first screen your visitor sees. He shouldn't have to scroll down to find important stuff.

If you've done it properly, your visitors will be signing up for an email list when they visit your site. Email is the most pervasive and effective tool currently available for contacting your customers. However, it is not without its pitfalls.

If you have a large list, you will quickly find that the anti-spam limitations of your email provider will make sending out a message to be a daunting task. You may need to break your mailing into batches of 50 or so and then wait between mailings. Also, if you are doing this, be sure to put people's addresses in the "BCC" field, so that you aren't sharing every address with the other 49 people in the batch.

You may quickly find that AOL or Yahoo mail is just not doing the job. You may then want to consider automating the process. This can be done several ways.

You can, with the help of your web host, install a mail management program on your server. I use SubscribeMe. This gives you complete control of your list, but you do run the risk of getting blocked by folks like AOL.

You could use a service like "Constant Contact" to manage your list for you. This is better for getting around spam blockers, but does limit the number of messages you can send, and involves a regular fee.

Which ever way you go, when you send messages, be sure they follow the same rules of clear and succinct communication you used with your flier, and do not spam your clients with excess communication. Contact them only when you have something useful to say.

Beyond these, there are now a lot of new tools available.

Facebook offers the option of establishing explicit relationships with your clients, and allows mass communication without the need for mail management software and without the peril of spam blockers. Unfortunately, most of your potential clients probably aren't on Facebook. So, I would suggest creating a Facebook "Page" or "Group", and then linking to it from your website. This means you will need to send messages twice (once to the email list and once to the Facebook group). You can however, take the liberty of communicating more regularly with this group than you would with an email list, provided you don't overdo it.

Interestingly enough, the VAST majority of groups and pages on Facebook are utterly passive, and are more about people self-identifying as being involved in particular things--but that doesn't mean you have to be passive. Facebook offers powerful tools, and you should use them.

There are other social networks available to you (Tribes, MySpace, Tagged), but for reasons that I may go into in another post, I would not suggest investing much effort in them.

There is also RSS. This is a syndication tool that allows people to subscribe to a regular news feed from you, and using tools like "Feed2JS" even post your feed to an infinite number of web pages. However, so few people understand or use RSS that it cannot be relied upon for mass communication. I use it to supplement other activities and broadcast content to multiple web pages, but don't expect it to do much beyond that.

A tool that automatically generates RSS is the "Blog". I won't define a blog, since if you are reading this, you are already familiar with at least one. The blog, with its serial postings, would be most effective for those who have a continuing relationship with their clients. I could see it for a musician, who could mention upcoming gigs as well as reflect on past events, philosophy of life etc. I could also work for a teacher. Susan deGuardiola has made an excellent use of her "Capering & Kickery" blog for a combination of education and promotion.

Which brings us to the latest in "Web 2.0": what I would call "micro-communication". This would encompass text messaging and "Twitter". These two tools, which are often combined into one, allow you to send very brief messages to any number of people, and with Twitter, even post it to a massive community where even more people can stumble on it.

If what you are doing lends itself to that sort of short-burst communication, and if you have a younger crowd who are tuned into that, then this could be useful. However, this is a niche tool -- even more so than Facebook.

In all your communication though, remember the 65 Mph message you composed for your flier, keep it simple and keep it consistent, always be ready to respond to feedback and questions, and be willing to fine tune your message based on that interaction.

Posted by Walter at 09:06 AM

October 27, 2008

TIme to Get on Facebook

I have been on Facebook for about a year now. When I first joined, I was highly dubious but I am now sold on the idea. It has some serious advantages over other online stuff, and some interesting potential--and is a great way to organize and promote activities such as the vintage dance and historical activities in which I am so deeply involved.

When I first joined, it was at the urging of a local friend, and I joined because, as a professional web guy, I really needed to find out what all the fuss was about. For about six months, I had three friends, and all it seemed to be about was movie quizes and other time wasters.

Then, a bunch of other friends got onto Facebook, and I started to see how "Groups" and "Pages" could be used to link up people with shared interests and keep them informed about upcoming events. It also provided a degree of interactivity that is not available on a conventional website.

People can join your groups or become "fans" of your pages, and thus affiliate themselves on an ongoing basis with your activity. You can use these sites to send out periodic emails and updates and your fans can post their own pictures and make comments, which can make your supporters more invested in your activity.

Further, unlike email distribution lists, your Facebook messages cannot be blocked by errant spam filters.

On a personal basis, it has the effect of keeping you connected with a wide range of people whom you may know from your current activities, school, your past life, your job and your interests. It is very interesting and kind of nice getting little updates from old friends whose lives would otherwise be a mystery to you--even if you haven't got the time to write regular messages to them.

Given the popularity of social networking with the young, there will be an interesting phenomenon in the future, as these young people enter the workplace and yet continue to maintain contact with almost everyone they ever went to school, worked or hung out with.

Social networks, like Facebook, are the future of the web. You can resist it, but in doing so, you will find yourself getting left out of the action. One speaker at a conference I recently attended said it would make you irrelevant. I think that is an overstatement, but you will soon find yourself to be the last to know.

It's not difficult, even for the computer-phobic. It's free. Give it a try.

PS: I would recommend Facebook over MySpace (too frivolous--full of spam), Tribes (not as big) and Tagged (annoying--seems to be all about hooking up.)



Posted by Walter at 10:34 AM

June 25, 2008

Walter Pontificating About Web 2.0

On Friday, June 27th, I have been asked to speak at a conference of Library technicians on the topic of Library applications of "Web 2.0" technologies, by which is meant such "social networking" tools as Facebook and YouTube.

Here is what I have to say. It is posted here so those who might have attended the presentation can get the slides, or perhaps someone else might find it useful or interesting. It is a general overview with some noted as useful and others as useless.

View Presentation



Posted by Walter at 12:55 PM

April 28, 2008

Blog Comments: a Dying Breed

It isn't a compelling point, since I have not been very active in keeping my blog up to date lately, but I would like to let folks know that I will be disabling comments on most of my future posts. The reason is the pervasiveness of robotic spam machines that insert the same sort of crap in the comments fields in blogs and "guest books" that you get in your email.

Continue reading "Blog Comments: a Dying Breed"

Posted by Walter at 09:20 AM

December 29, 2007

Dance Class Technology

Teachers of historical dance are not, as a general rule, the first to embrace new technology. Once they are comfortable with a particular arrangement, there seems little incentive to change.

However, the 21st Century has brought with it some very useful tools, which can make the teacher's job much easier, enhance flexibility and save a lot of time wasted looking for the right CD and the right track or (perish the thought), cuing the tape to the right spot.

What follows is my particular solution. There are other ways to do this, but this is what has worked for me.

Continue reading "Dance Class Technology"

Posted by Walter at 09:07 AM

October 24, 2007

AOL - The Final Chapter

As I have mentioned in several previous posts, AOL's idiotic and ham handed block policies have shut out all AOL subscribers from receiving the information I send out about local vintage dance and history events. However, it looks like I have found a work around.

Continue reading "AOL - The Final Chapter"

Posted by Walter at 06:22 PM

August 13, 2007

Just Launched - The Lanterman House Website

I have been working a lot with the Lanterman House lately, partly out of an appreciation for this wonderful local treasure, and partly out of a desire to ensure that the Lanteman Ragtime Tea Dance continues indefinitely.

In aid of this, I have just completed a website for the Lanterman House. It can be found at

Continue reading "Just Launched - The Lanterman House Website"

Posted by Walter at 07:53 AM

May 26, 2007

Podcasting for Goobers

I recently had a lively discussion at work, at a meeting of our "digital content interest group", that boiled down to one of the attendees saying "Podcasting is complicated", and me saying "No, podcasting is easy". It then degenerated into not terribly productive "Is so!"-"Is not!" loop.

Well, perhaps I should put my money where my mouth is, and just do a bloody podcast, and in the process, demonstrate how hard or easy it is, and perhaps help others who might be considering it find their way into the wonderful world of podcasting--even if, like me, you are a goober.

Link to a Podcast of this post

Link to an RSS feed for this Podcast

Continue reading "Podcasting for Goobers"

Posted by Walter at 07:38 AM | Comments (1)

May 05, 2007

New Format for LAHA Home Page

For the last ten years or so, the home page at has been about presenting the services and events organized by LAHA. With LAHA on the glidepath to disbandment, the time has come to redefine the website.

Continue reading "New Format for LAHA Home Page"

Posted by Walter at 08:11 PM

March 04, 2007

New Calendar System

In order to provide a richer and more useful calendar of dance and history events, I have deployed a new calendar system called "Event Keeper".

This calendar is located at

Posted by Walter at 07:27 PM

February 20, 2007

Conference Presentation on RSS and Blogs

I recently presented at the "SIRSI/DYNIX Superconference". It is a surprisingly large convention for users of a particular Library system. This presentation has nothing to do with that system though, and is focused on "Syndication and Website Content: Suggestions for blogs, RSS and internal syndication". - a rather esoteric topic of interest to web designers. Perhaps others may also find it useful.

It was well attended and well received. To view the Powerpoint slides for this presentation, click here.

Posted by Walter at 02:16 PM

November 10, 2006

Web Suggestions - Being Found by Search Engines

As part of my continuing effort to help folks out there who are trying to maintain a web presence for themselves or their organization with little or no training, here are a few suggestions on how to be found by search engines like Google.

Continue reading "Web Suggestions - Being Found by Search Engines"

Posted by Walter at 10:24 AM

September 19, 2006

AOL Subscribers Aren't Worth The Trouble

As mentioned in a previous post, the AOL's idoitic and ham-handed spam blocker has completely shut down subscriber access to numerous legitimate email lists--including the ones I manage for the Social Daunce Irregulars and the Lively Arts History Association. While this should be serious problem for us as event organizers, it seems to be more of a problem for AOL subscribers.

Continue reading "AOL Subscribers Aren't Worth The Trouble"

Posted by Walter at 07:39 AM | Comments (2)

July 05, 2006

How I can help spread the word about your event

The LAHA Calendar and LAHA/SDI mailing list, which I administer, can help you spread the word about your dance and history events, but you need to help me help you.

Continue reading "How I can help spread the word about your event"

Posted by Walter at 09:09 AM

May 30, 2006

The AOL Saga Continues

If you are an AOL subscriber, you may have been wondering why you haven't been getting any "Upcoming Events" messages from the LAHA/SDI Mailing list lately.

It is not because we haven't been sending them. It is because we are being blocked by AOL.

Continue reading "The AOL Saga Continues"

Posted by Walter at 07:47 PM

May 20, 2006

Keep informed with RSS

RSS, which stands for (among other things) "Really Simple Syndication", is a very useful tool that allows you to stay up to date with websites and information sources of your chosing, without having to deal with the problems of email overload and the growing tendency of email providers to kill the emails you want to see along with the spam you don't.

Continue reading "Keep informed with RSS"

Posted by Walter at 01:16 PM | Comments (2)

May 18, 2006

Email Problems. Today AOL, tomorrow..?

It has just come to my attention that AOL is blocking all emails from blocks of IP addresses it has identified as "spammer" suspects. One doesn't need to actually have a suspect IP address, if one shares a piece of a range with a suspect.

I as the sender of mass emails get no "Your mail has been blocked" message, and you as an AOL customer get no notice that a mail tried to get through. It doesn't even make it into your "Spam folder".

They did this with zero notice to their customers or to anyone else.

So, if you haven't been receiving our emails and you are an AOL customer, that's probably why. This may just be the beginning, and other ISPs may soon be instituting such "black hole", no notice policies.
(Just an aside: how would you feel if the Post Office tossed everything they thought might be junk mail into a shredder?)

I will be looking into my options, and post updates on this blog.

P.S. If you don't want to receive our emails, please just unsubscribe. Please do not put us on a personal "black list" or kill file. You could be preventing others from receiving mails they do want to get.


Posted by Walter at 09:19 AM

April 17, 2006

More Web Design--The Power of Boringness

I have recently completed what is, probably, my most boring website--of which I am, I believe, justfiably proud. It is the Los Encinos State Historic Park site at

The plain brown and white layout was inspired by Victorian newspapers, though I did not try to make it look like I was trying to reproduce one in web form.

There are some features of this site which I would like to offer as a possible example for amateur designers who have found themselves saddled with the responsibility of creating a website for your hobby group.

Continue reading "More Web Design--The Power of Boringness"

Posted by Walter at 11:17 AM | Comments (3)

April 16, 2006

Places to Buy Vintage Recordings On Line

Here are a few places I know about where you can find vintage recordings from the first half of the 20th Century.

Continue reading "Places to Buy Vintage Recordings On Line"

Posted by Walter at 10:02 AM

April 14, 2006

Finding Historic Recordings Free Online

There are currently thousands of recordings, dating from the 1890s through the 1940s, which are available for free online.

Here are good vintage recording sites I know about. These are all "legit" sites, and do not include any sites where questionable filesharing might be taking place.

I will address where to buy vintage recordings in a later post.

Continue reading "Finding Historic Recordings Free Online"

Posted by Walter at 11:57 AM | Comments (1)

April 10, 2006

Common Website Design Mistakes

It has pretty much become essential these days for a dance or history group that wants to be found to have a website. Since most of these groups don't happen to have a web designer among their members, they have to do the best they can, and, unfortunately, many if not most, make a lot of mistakes.

As someone who actually makes a living at web design, and also as someone who has, personally, made a lot of the same mistakes, here are a few pointers I would like to offer on web design.

Continue reading "Common Website Design Mistakes"

Posted by Walter at 08:31 AM

April 08, 2006

The Invisible iPod

Have you ever wanted a nice soundtrack of period music playing in the background of your 20th Century event or in the room of your historic house--but a boom box is too bulky, and if you subject your volunteers to the same CD on a continuous loop, they might take a hostage. ..

Here's something that has worked for me:

Continue reading "The Invisible iPod"

Posted by Walter at 01:05 PM