In through the outfield blog

14 posts from December 2009

31 December 2009

Dominate your market with Twitter has definitely been the year for Twitter in the Social Media world.

I have previously introduced how Twitter work (The Business & IP Centre takes on twitter), and how popular we have found it at the Business & IP Centre (Our Twitter followers go over 1,000).

Now I have been introduced to a short book with the catchy title Dominate your market with Twitter. Subtitled Tweet your way to business success, the book introduces what Twitter is, and how to use it to promote yourself and your business.

Chapter six, Twitter on steriods, explains how to extend the use of the service using applications such as Twitterholic, Tweetstats, Qwitter, Tweetbeep and many more.

If you don’t want to rush out to your local bookshop, or consult our copy (and there is something slightly slightly disconcerting about using the ‘old technology’ of books to promote cutting edge Social Media developments), here are a couple of useful links:

Karen Blakeman has made her slides on Twitter available on Slideshare, which – I noticed features some of the Business & IP Centre’s use of social media.

Twitter themselves have produced a useful set of pages on how using the service for business.

Visitors to the Business & IP Centre

CILIP HomeI recently enjoyed giving a couple of tours of the Business & IP Centre to groups from CILIP and the Embassy of Israel.

Yvonne Morris posted a nice comment on the CILIP Information and Advice Blog.

And I received a good old fashioned letter from the Minister for Commercial Affairs thanking me for the tour of the Centre, and to my colleague Ilana Tahan, our curator of Hebrew texts, who gave an impressive introduction to our collection.

Our Hebrew collections comprise holdings of material written and printed in Hebrew characters, ranging from manuscripts copied over 1,000 years ago to the most recent monographs and serials. They include around 3,000 manuscript volumes and about 73,000 printed book titles – mostly in Hebrew and in related languages that use the Hebrew script: e.g. Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Spanish and Yiddish.

Maimonides’ Mishneh Thorah

Maimonides' Mishneh Thorah

22 December 2009

My favourite Einstein quotes

A colleague has recently been using the following brilliant line quite a bit recently, with regard to people who keep making the same mistakes. It didn’t take much research to find it came from that wonderful scientist and philosopher Albert Einstein.

* Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Einstein also came up with quite a few quotable quotes on the topic of knowledge:

* Information is not knowledge.

* The only source of knowledge is experience.

* Imagination is more important than knowledge.

* The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

The Brainy Quote website has a whole A to Z of Einstein’s one liners.

21 December 2009

Librarians of the future discussed at the Online Information Show

My fellow SLA Europe Board member Marie Madeleine Salmon went to a lot of trouble to organise three international events during the recent Online Information Conference.

I spoke at the first of these on the Tuesday, and had been planning to write up a summary until time slipped away from me.

Fortunately an excellent summary was written by Penny Crossland, and appears on the Resource Shelf blog here. A longer version is published on the VIP LiveWire blog here.

17 December 2009

What’s not to like about LIKE?

LIKEIn a year that has seen cuts in commercial library and and information services resulting from the UK recession, and the sad demise of the City Information Group in the summer (CiG – RIP), it is good to have something new and positive to talk about.

LIKE (London Information and Knowledge Exchange) is a networking group for Library, Information, Knowledge and Communication professionals, who meet on a monthly basis to share stories, learn and exchange knowledge in an informal and relaxed setting.

According to one of their fans: “The best thing about LIKE meetings is that they attract interesting and friendly people. It’s rather like a very good dinner party.”

They are already up to their tenth meeting, to be held on 28 January in The Perseverance in Lamb’s Conduit Street, featuring Liz Scott-Wilson Head of Information Management at Tube Lines talking about Information behaviour & culture change.

At their previous get together in December they looked forward to the coming year, and recorded some LIKE members’ New Year Resolutions.

SLA name to stay SLA

The last few weeks have seen what must be the most hotly discussed library profession related topics since the (UK) Library Association changed its name in 2002 to CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals).

The results of the electronic voting was finally announced on 10 December on the SLA Blog SLA Name Will Stay: Alignment of Association to Continue. The vote against the new name was fairly convincing with 2071 voting yes and 3225 voting no.

Although I initially felt a bit deflated by the result after all the efforts those in favour, I was all too aware that the proposed new name was not particularly engaging. Although I wonder if we could ever find one that would be. At the previous failed name change vote in 2003, the choice was Information Professionals International, which to my mind is equally anodyne.

Perhaps the biggest mistake in the campaign was to give the impression we were moving away from the ‘L’ word rather than creating a bigger ‘tribe’ (to quote Seth Godin) in which librarians would be a big and welcome part. Many traditional librarians in the United States seemed to feel it was something of an either or situation.

Also the heat of the discussion has shown that although the stereotype of information professionals is of a shy and retiring middle aged woman wearing a bun, if they feel strongly about an issue, they are prepared to ’storm the barricades’. I am reminded of the acknowledgement from Michael Moore, after librarians saved his book Stupid White Men from being pulped in the wake of the 9-11 attacks in America:

“I really didn’t realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group.
They are subversive. You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They’re like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn’t mess with them. You know, they’ve had their budgets cut. They’re paid nothing. Books are falling apart. The libraries are just like the ass end of everything, right?”

16 December 2009

Shaking, movin', speaking Santa Claus

Novelty item shops are notorious for selling small shaking figures which presumably are meant as gifts or decorations – and this is particularly noticeable at Christmas. A company that specialises almost entirely in Christmas-themed novelty figures is Telco Creations of Hicksville, New York.

To say that they are devoted to kitsch is putting it mildly. I can’t imagine ever buying one of their products except as a terrible joke (maybe that is the idea ?) but presumably their products sell, or they would be out of business. The private company is still around but seem to have stopped applying for new designs in about 1997. Their main designer is Seymour Cohen. They have 16 design patents (the American name for what in Britain would be called registered designs). Of these 11 are on Santa Claus, two on other aspects of Christmas, and three on other topics.

My favourite of these is probably US D372683, a cowboy Santa perched on a rocking horse, but Santa in a barrel blowing bubbles, US D385588, runs it close. Santa is regularly shown with a huge, dark beard. They can be found on Google Patents under those numbers.

Telco have also secured three utility patents.

From 1994 there is an Actuated toy device of Santa character sleeping in bed, where a presumably exhausted Santa from all that racing around chimneys is enabled to move by a mechanism hidden below the sheets covering the bed. The abstract says “The doll character chest portion is moved up and down vertically by a battery-powered gear unit through a first linkage mechanism provided in a housing attached below the bed, so as to simulate breathing action by the doll”. Here is the main drawing.


From 1998 there is an Animated mechanized figure which “can be dressed as a tiger Santa character”. It looks rather like Tigger, and wears a Christmas hat. He can sing and speak as well as move, and the patent describes in great detail how he can move about. This was a technical advance on the patent described below, as the patent says “the known prior art apparently has not provided an animated mechanized figure having its body vertically moveable on a central vertical support while its arms and head are movable in synchronism with vocal speaking and singing sounds.” That’s right -- just the sort of thing which can be seen in shops every Winter.

I will, however, choose as my favourite Telco’s earlier Animated sitting and standing Santa character from 1996 as it seems even more pointless to me. The only countries where it was patented were the USA and China, where it was presumably manufactured. The patent explains that a sensor picks up movement and causes the figure to stand up and sit down while speaking, or this can be operated manually. The head moves in the dreaded side to side motion. Levers cause it to rise or sit. An electric motor powers it. The patent’s description begins with an extensive review of patented work in animated figures, and goes on to say “a need still exists in the market place for other animated toy figures which can exhibit clever realistic movements”. Here are the main drawings.


I don’t feel qualified to comment on the intermeshed toothed gears and pivoted levers which cause the movement. Easier to comprehend is what the patent says about what the figure actually says.

"HO-HO-HO Merry Christmas To All Girls and Boys", for six seconds, explains the patent. Movement within two metres activates it. Each cycle takes 20 seconds. I do feel sorry for the staff of novelty shops having to endure the same merry messages from these and similar items. Mercifully, there is an off switch which will stop Santa in his tracks even if he is in the midst of one of the cycles.

14 December 2009

EnterQuest’s business support survey – the results

The wonderful people who produce our COBRA (Complete Business Reference Adviser) have started surveying subscribers to their free EnterQuest weekly tips and ideas bulletin for startups and small business owner managers.

Their first one was designed to gauge their opinions and levels of satisfaction of business support services they had received or experienced over the last 12 months:


The results of the survey were in certain respects rather surprising, and in other ways quite predictable. The survey asked readers for their views relating to sources of support received, ie from Business Link, enterprise agency, local council, and Chamber of Commerce. They were quizzed about what satisfied them the most, what was most disappointing, and asked for suggestions for improvements.

The most striking result was the performance of Business Link, with two-thirds (65%) of respondents satisfied with the support received (43% were very satisfied), but with over a third (35%) not very satisfied or totally unsatisfied. General satisfaction levels were very similar for support from local enterprise agencies, but fewer of these (only 35%) were very satisfied.

While there are encouraging signs that things are moving in the right direction with attitudes towards Business Link,it still remains a stark fact that one out of three businesses were still not satisfied with the support they received, and 44% were not satisfied across all types of local business support provision.

Overall, survey responses from recipients of business support across all providers are summarised as follows:

Very satisfied 26%
Fairly satisfied 30%
Not very satisfied 22%
Totally unsatisfied 22%
So in aggregate the results are 56% satisfied with support received and 44% not satisfied. Survey respondents were located in all regions of the UK.

In terms of the specific questions asked in the survey and qualified answers given, the responses were varied and in certain cases quite animated. The following is a summary of some of the typical responses given for three of the main question areas.

What disappointed you the most?

- lateness of the adviser, lack of respect shown
- e-mails and phone calls unanswered/ not returned
- the adviser did not understand my business or my industry
- lack of clear written steps for funding applications
- no new advice given, I knew what was said already
- excellent support programmes stop when their funding is withdrawn or ends
- lack of understanding of local business needs

What pleased you the most?

- quick response to grant application, given answer in five days
- the adviser understood our business model
- we got what was written on the tin, and in good time
- excellent training sessions from Business Link
- free Business Link support
- wealth of free information provided by adviser
- good follow-up range of courses available

What do you suggest that would improve the service you received or would like to receive in the future?

- the adviser should have real, practical experience of business
- specialist rather than general help and advice is needed
- more empathy with first-timers
- more long term funding for successful support programmes
- more local services and resources available
- loans available for true micros
- more interest in customer needs than in ticking boxes

Key likes – courses, free services, local support and advice.

Key dislikes – supplier driven (need to tick their boxes), exclusion of micros and sole traders, general rather than specialist advice.