All posts by Janelle Mercer

Week Two: Online Communities

Welcome to Week Two! We hope all of you enjoyed creating your blogs as much as we have reading them.

If you still haven’t completed the first lesson and set up your blog yet, you’re not too late! Follow the lesson from week 1, set up your blog, register the website address of it, and you’re still going to be fine. We’re all busy, and the great part about 23 Things Kansas is that the “deadlines” are very loose. Don’t forget to check out the blog listing to discover more people’s blogs to read and comment on.

This week you will be led by two mentors, Janelle Mercer and Heather Braum. Janelle is the Assistant Technology Consultant/Trainer at SWKLS and Heather is the Technology Librarian at NEKLS. If you get stuck please leave a comment at the end of this post by pressing the “comment” link at the top of this post.  Please don’t be shy! One of us, another participant, or a mentor will come to your aid as soon as we can.


This week we will focus on Online Communities which have revolutionized how people communicate with one another. Instead of calling all of your friends one-by-one to share some news (remember Telephone Hour in Bye Bye Birdie?) or emailing colleagues one-by-one or on a listserv to ask for help, you can now post a status update and update or ask all of your friends at once. You can share all kinds of information, including links, polls, quizzes, farms, pictures, and videos. There are lots of different Online Communities out there, including Facebook, WebJunction, LinkedIn, Ning, and Classroom 2.0.

The folks at Common Craft have provided a great introduction video to Online Communities and Social Networking, displayed below. It is hosted on YouTube; if you have problems accessing it, please view it directly at the Common Craft Social Networking page.

Helpful Terminology

Facebook Terms List

  • Friending/Connecting/Adding: finding people you want to connect with on your network. You ask to be someone’s friend and that person chooses to accept the request or not.
  • Status Updates: Where you describe what you’re doing, thinking, reading, feeling, or anything else you want to share with your network.
  • Applications: These are from websites outside online communities and add richer experiences to online communities.
  • Networks: different groups you join (towns, interests, schools, employers)
  • Pages: On Facebook, businesses and organizations create a profile & share events and information.
  • News Feed: A listing of your friends information, displayed in a running list. As people update their statuses, play a new game, share new pictures or videos you’ll see that information displayed in your news feed. The information comes to you. You don’t have to go to it.
  • Privacy Settings: The settings and preferences that you configure to determine how much information gets shared with others.
  • Chat/Messages/Comments: The power of online communities comes in the interaction your friends can have with you and your other friends through chatting, messages (like e-mail), and commenting.
  • Wall: The Wall is the center of your profile for adding new things, like photos, videos, notes and other application content. The Publisher at the top of your Wall allows you to update your status and share content through many different kinds of Wall posts. You can also add content to your friends’ Walls by using the Publisher box that appears at the top of their profiles.

Online communities are not without their risks and problems. Privacy is a very real concern to many people as they decide whether or not to join an online community. Facebook, especially, has been in the news lately because of changes in their privacy settings. One of the steps in this week’s lesson is to check out your privacy settings and become aware of what they mean.

Sharing – Productivity – Community

Online Communities help you connect and share with the people in your life, whether they are family, coworkers, or colleagues. Online communities are generally open to everyone and are used for both personal and professional networking. Retired from your library or move away? Through online communities, you can continue to be connected to your colleagues. Also, conference or workshop connections are no longer renewed once or twice a year; locate your conference friends on Facebook and stay in touch throughout the year, even if you’re on opposite sides of the state, the country, or the world.

Online communities also can increase productivity, as people share information, links, and resources. Information is quickly disseminated to you as people connect their online community accounts to their blogs, social bookmarking accounts, and RSS feeds. No longer do you have to search for useful resources. It comes directly to you. You can also ask questions of your online community, and people will respond back with helpful answers. You no longer are an island of one.

As Facebook is one of the largest online communities, we’ll be focusing most of this lesson on Facebook. If you are new to Online Communities, Facebook as a great place to start since it’s so popular and customizable.

Janelle and Heather have provided quick posts about how we each use Facebook. You are welcome to read them if you’d like more ideas/reasons for why we use Facebook. For a little bit more “visual” information on why Facebook, the great folks at Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library have developed a video on Why do Librarians Use Facebook? Thanks David Lee King! Check it out below (it is only hosted on YouTube; let us know in the comments if you can’t view it, and we’ll get creative to help you see it).

Online Communities Choices

What kinds of online community choices are available? Don’t worry, like we have said, you don’t have to belong to all of the Online Communities listed below. It’s all about what is comfortable for you and what you can get out of the communities. Here’s the list of different online communities we recommend you at least be aware of:


  1. Sign up for your Online Community of choice or just use one you already have joined. For those of you new to Online Communities, we again recommend you try Facebook. Here’s a helpful step-by-step guide to setting up your Facebook account the first time. There are more beginning Facebook guides, including instructions for where to update your settings and a brief overview of Friends and Groups. Complete your profile by adding a picture and filling in your profile information. Update February 4: The Facebook Homepage has been redesigned. Here’s an image that is a helpful guide to the changes. Click on the image again to increase the size after bringing it up.
  2. Review the privacy settings on your chosen Online Community and make sure the settings meet what you prefer. Check out this guide to privacy on Facebook.
  3. Find at least two other participants from the 23ThingsKansas community to connect to on your social network who you have not already “friended” on an Online Community. If you don’t know anyone yet, try finding people’s names that are on the Blog Listing.
  4. Explore your online community: write on friends’ walls, share links, update your status, etc.
  5. Write a new blog post on your blog reflecting on what you have learned this week, answering these questions:

    • What Online Community did you choose? What do you like most about it?
    • How have you used this Community? How do you see yourself using it in the future?
    • Can you see your library using this Online Community? How?
    • Add a link to your blog to your Online Community profile so others can find you.

Bonus Activities (not required)

  • Explore Mashable’s Facebook Guide to find out more about Facebook.
  • Find a Kansas library (public, school, academic, special) page on Facebook and become a fan. This is a great way to see how libraries are using Facebook to help promote their library.
  • Become a fan of 23ThingsKansas on Facebook and/or join the 23ThingsKansas Ning.
  • Join a Group on Facebook. Kansas Library Association is one group you should be able to find. See this resource for the difference between a Group and a Page.

Additional Resources