Belmont High School Library


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Benjamin Russell
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Mr. Russell's Library Blog

Saturday, December 22, 2007

 

Rogatory

I get a fair amount of idle criticism from students about the amount of time I spend on the computer. And it's true, I spend an inordinate amount of time behind my little screen, pouring over the world. Sometimes I'm working on cataloguing new books, DVDs, and audiobooks for the library, and sometimes I'm scanning book reviews and making notes about what the library can buy next that will force me to hunch behind my little screen, cataloguing new books, DVDs, and audiobooks for the library.

But I also spend some time surfing the curve. One of the jobs you may not hear about down in the guidance office is that of Trendspotter. Trendspotters are people who watch the populace and make recommendations about what they see to marketing divisions of various companies about what trends and unconscious patterns are exhibited by people. Brands and fashions are affected by people who people-watch for a living, and make observations about what seems to be catching the momentary interest of the public.

I have aggregated a list of websites that help me do the same thing. I read about trends in what people are reading and watching, so that I know what new webgame is popular, and whether vampire fiction is on its way up or on its way out, and what marketing efforts are being massed behind which new series that may or may not be on everyone's lips by next fall. I do this so that when someone comes up to me and says, "I just heard about...", I can know what they're talking about, and I can tell them what they want to know about it.

And I miss stuff, of course, but I was kinda proud about this particular little piece of memetic expansion. Back in mid-October, I found out about this website that tested you on your vocabulary. And for each pageload, it displayed the logos of three corporate sponsors, which helped the website pay for a donation of a small serving of rice to a third-world country. So by playing this game, you could know that you were stretching your brain and helping total strangers. Slightly more successful than the classic The Hunger Site, which effectively does the same thing, but which is just clicking... there's no fun to it.

FLICKR: Screencap from FreeRice.com

By mid-November, I started to see mentions of this site on various library blogs who also watch the internet for trends and interesting little pieces of technology. Soon thereafter a Belmont teacher approached me to see if I could find the web address of this site for him, because he'd heard something about it. But it wasn't until December that I heard about it on National Public Radio. From October 18th to December 17th the site crossed my radar four times, and eventually was part of a national news report... old news to me, by that point, but still news to some people. But because I'd spend time and effort paying attention, if anyone needed to know about it, I could help.

The library, along with its other duties, is supposed to teach information-seeking behavior. We're supposed to model the best ways in which you can find what you're looking for. I hope that the time I spend behind a computer has made me familiar with whatever's going on, and what's coming next so that I can help point you in the direction of a shortcut so you can find the best answer to your inquiry. So what's the answer to the persistent question, "What are you doing on your computer over there, Mr. Russell?" Hopefully, the answer is I'm finding the answers to the questions you haven't asked yet.

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