To LISTSERV or to Not LISTSERV

Screenshot of Outlook Inbox

Beginning in August 2016, the Special Libraries Association (SLA) discontinued its traditional discussion-based listserv in favor of a new service: SLA Connect. If you click through to the post on Information Today, Inc. you can see the host of services and tools and enhancements moving to SLA Connect provides for SLA members. However, change is difficult and this change caught a number of members by surprise. We all know how difficult it is to communicate change to patrons. It’s no easier with fellow professionals.

The rollout was going to start July 1, 2016 but got pushed back a month because of member feedback. Since this is technology, of course there were compliant issues with the new server so some services that were scheduled for a slower transition got moved more quickly and old platforms were shut down. The whole enterprise is a complete change to how people were used to communicating with fellow SLA professionals. Small changes are hard, wholesale changes even more so. It looks like the leaders of SLA have a good plan in mind and are listening to member feedback which is great.

We recently went through a transition here in WI where the state-wide public library listserv was transitioned to Google+. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) did a good job in getting the message out to people but the decision was not popular. I came to the discussion late because historically I would check in with broader reach listservs (CODE4LIB, LITA, WISPUBLIB, Polaris, etc.) about once a month. Sometimes even less frequently. We have local listservs that I check on a daily basis, but those impact my job directly.

I wasn’t thrilled about the move to Google+ for a few reasons. First, while I had a Google account, I try to keep my personal and work lives separated. This would mean creating a new Google account to use with work. Which meant all the work needed with setting up a new account and making sure that I’m checking it on a regular basis. Second, the thing I like about an email listserv is that I can create a rule to move all the messages into a folder and then when I scan the folder I can see which subjects had the most discussion. That disappears using Google+. I can get the initial post sent to my inbox but any follow-up posts/discussion doesn’t show up there.

This was a problem since instead of seeing twenty messages on a subject I’d now see one. I’d have to launch that message in Google+ to see whether or not people were talking about it. It’s also a problem as the new platform was not getting the traffic the traditional email listserv got so a lot of the state-wide community knowledge was not being shared. It’s getting better and DPI is doing a great job in leading the initiative for discussions. It doesn’t have the volume it used to, but it’s improving.

I needed to figure out a way to make myself check the Google+ discussions with more regularity. In comes Habitica. Our own inestimable Lindsay Cronk wrote about Habitica back in February. Habitica gamifies your to-do list. You create a small avatar and work your way through leveling him/her up to become a more powerful character. There are three basic categories: habits, dailies, and to-dos. Habits are things to improve yourself. For me it’s things like hitting my step count for the day or not drinking soda. There can be a positive and/or negative effect for your habits. You can lose health. Your little character can die. To-dos are traditional to-do list things. You can add due dates, checklists, all sorts of things. Dailies are things you have to do on a regular basis.

This is where Habitica helps me most. I have weekly reminders to check my big listservs including DPI’s Google+ feed. I have daily reminders to check in with the new supervisors who report to me. These are all things that I should be doing anyway but it’s a nice little reminder when I got bogged down in a task to take a break and get something checked off my list. I’ve set these simple dailies at the ‘trivial’ difficulty level so I’m not leveling up my character too quickly. I’m currently a 19th level fighter on Habitica but there are still times when my health gets really low. More importantly its kept me on top of my listservs and communication with fellow professionals in a way that I was not doing of my own volition.

What’s your favorite way to keep on top of communication with fellow professionals?