SXSW Interactive 2009 – Funologists live and in person: Guerilla Game Research

Happy news! I was invited to be a panelist at the South by Southwest Interactive conference next month, as part of their ScreenBurn track. bendoverbackwards.jpgI’m on a panel called “Funologists live and in person: Guerilla Game Research.”

I’ll share my experience starting some low-budget user research cycles for Second Life, and my work translating those frustrating observations into shippable engineering requirements.

There will be pretty pictures, and possibly cake.

The cake is a lie, but you should stop by anyway. There could be cake.

There certainly won’t be cake and not cake. Not at the same time, I can assure you.

Librarian Revolution

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Librarians see themselves as the guardians of the First Amendment… I wouldn’t mess with them. I really didn’t realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group.

— Michael Moore, after outraged librarians saved his book

To celebrate our profession’s revolutionary approach toward freedom of expression,
I have created a new product line* at the Librarian Avengers store, featuring the Revolutionary Librarian. She’s a deadpan librarian, wielding the Flaming Stamp of justice. You can get her on a coffee cup, shirt, or on some glossy cards to send to your nettlesome patrons. Yes, those are knitting needles in her hair.

*As usual, all proceeds go toward the Erica family “mortgage and random charities” fund

Ethnically Librarian

I am a librarian. I am not a librarian.

I have an information science degree. I’ve been working for fourteen years, my entire adult life. Most of my jobs have been in libraries.

I am a librarian. I am not a librarian.

emdot
photo by emdot

As a student at Michigan State University, I learned Library of Congress serials cataloging.

I walked through secluded aisles surrounded by rare books, incunabulum, alternative newspapers, and gay pornography.
I cataloged comic books in the world’s largest archive of comic art, radicalism, and popular culture.

In the course of my work, I learned that Spiderman serials change their volume as often as many Spiderman readers change their underwear. By graduation, I could walk into any comic shop in the country and pick a fight about whether X-Men film adaptations should be considered canon.

When I went to graduate school (Michigan ’03), my program had recently transitioned from “Library Science” to “Information Science.” In the process, they picked up a bunch of renegade computer science professors and expanded to include information architecture, information economics, archival theory, and a bunch of crazyass dot com bubble refugees like myself.

sh0dan
photo by sh0dan

We discovered that the term Digital Library can be used to describe an entire array of cool shit, including the Internet itself.

One of my professors, Sue Davidson, tells the story of how Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang called to ask about the subject guide to the web she had created for the Michigan Electronic Library. Sue answered: “that’s what librarians do, we organize information.”

Librarianship, defined as the act of organizing information, is a broad and inclusive field. Librarianship as a profession, is not. There are strict professional guidelines determining who is and is not technically a “Librarian,” but there is also a strong case to be made for the authenticity of self-identification.

There are librarians who work in libraries, and there are librarians who just Are.

It’s the difference between being a Jew by Religion, and being a Jew by Ethnicity. Both groups contribute to the cultural whole.

While a Librarian by Profession is inherently a Librarian by Ethnicity, the opposite may not be true. A trained librarian can sport a different job title, but her clarity and understanding will still contribute to her work.

by Syntopia
photo by Syntopia

I’m a librarian by ethnicity.

Right now, I work as a user experience designer on a software team. I wrestle with ship dates, dependencies, conflicting user requirements, and engineering constraints. I design interfaces and help identify how the software should behave.

But somewhere, deep in my soul, I am doing the work of the Library.

I’m a librarian by ethnicity, regardless of the job I take. I don’t make my living as an ALA going, patron-helping organizer of resources, but I’ll be damned if I don’t use Librarian skills to battle confusing groupings of information.

Librarians bring order to chaos, and so, with a little luck, do I.

Life, 2009

Here’s what I’ve been up to so far this year…

  • Married my dearest friend
  • Changed my last name (call me Erica Olsen or Erica Firment, just don’t call me late to dinner)
  • Spent the first two weeks of married life sharing the flu
  • Drove down the California coast in a convertible
  • Saw elephant seals and sea otters
  • Started turning our spare bedroom into a Library
  • More flu
  • Watched Ong Bak Thai Warrior
  • Flu
  • Sleeping
  • Marital bliss
  • Flu

How about you? How has the year been treating you? I’m back to work tomorrow, and am looking forward to a week of friends, food, and thank you note writing.

Hot Librarian Necklace

From the department of products-inadvertently-marketed-to-librarians:

Hot Librarian Necklace


$40 USD – Handmade in Toronto and sold on etsy.com

Oh yes. Hot indeed. I believe some of us here can confirm that boys and girls DO make passes at folks who wear glasses. Especially if they are well-versed in database design, collections management, or bibliographic instruction.

Drunken blog post #3

The Thursday night Linden Lab whisky tasting has degraded in the traditional way. I’m surrounded by tipy nerds, discussing the glories of JQuery. One of my co-workers is wearing a shirt that reads “The Age of Consent Tour 1997”. Nerdcore rap blares from the QA office.

Life is good.