Swagbucks and satisficing

I started a “deals” blog at mashupmom.com earlier this year, and have been fascinated by the search statistics. The top searches are generally all some variation on mashupmom.com, mashupmom, mashup mom, mashupmoms.com, mash up mom, and so on. So I’d idly been wondering why, in 2009, people were still putting entire URLs into search boxes.

And then I started playing with Swag Bucks, and found out one reason. Swag Bucks will probably not make your librarian hearts happy. It’s a “search to win” search engine that proclaims that its results are “from Google & Ask” — but then when you delve deeper, you find that it shows only about 30 results for any given search, of which about 1/3 to 1/2 are sponsored. And no one really cares. I posted about it over at Mashup Mom, too, but here for instance are the top results from a search for “swine flu” in Swag Bucks:

swagbucksswinesearch

And, here’s what the same search looks like in Google:

googleswineflu

Hmm. That’s not the same. So why do people use it? Because it’s “good enough” — and, more importantly, because every time they search they get the chance to win “Swag Bucks,” which they can then redeem for PayPal cash, gift cards, or other prizes. Out of sheer curiosity, I’ve been playing with it for 3 days off and on for nonserious searches, posted the referral link they gave me on my other blog, and am pretty close to cashing out for a gift card already. So you start to see the appeal — and if you hang out in the deal blogosphere, you’ll see people hawking it all over. (MAKE MONEY FROM SEARCHING! FREE MONEY! SIGN UP NOW OR MISS OUT!)

Here are a couple of comments I got over on the other blog:

I’ve noticed that SB searches aren’t *quite* as good as regular searches, but it typically doesn’t make much of a difference. The best way that I earn SB’s is by “searching” for a website instead of just typing it into the address box. For example, when I wanted to come here just now I did a search for Mashup Mom instead of actually typing in http://www.mashupmom.com. It does always make me laugh though when the correct link is something like the 3rd one on the list. It is the EXACT address minus the W’s! How is that not 1st!? Overall, I like SwagBucks. I’ve only earned 142 SB’s so far, but hey, I’ll take it. I’m saving to get a Kindle from Amazon!

I also use my swagbucks when I’m searching for blogs… I type in mashupmom to get here or hip2save to get to her blog, etc. I still get swagbucks pretty quickly even though I do my “meaty” searches on Google. Very interesting post though. I wondered how the site makes its money! Good food for thought. Thanks!

So maybe the question isn’t about Google vs. librarians, but satisficing vs. librarians. It takes 45 “Swag Bucks” to get a $5.00 PayPal payment at the moment. I have done some light searching and am hitting just a couple of Swag Bucks a day — so there’s not a huge payout here. (I think people make more from referrals if they have a lot of “friends,” plus they play hidden extra code games sometimes.) But it’s like gambling: There’s always the chance that the next search will pay off big. Just one more! Maybe vendors should think about building something like this into their databases — there’s a way to increase usage! :)

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And on the theme of speaking and conferences again…

Not to pick on NSLS.info again, but I’m catching up on reading my Friday newsletters. And hurrah! I’m on today’s, which talks more about the impact of budget cuts. (That’s not a hurrah for budget cuts, but for whittling down my email.) They explain:

There are several things we have done or plan to do in order to offset the budget cuts, including not giving any staff raises this year. We will also be cutting down on food provided at staff, board, and other meetings, travel, institutional dues, public relations, paper mailings, and supplies. We’re also looking for a more economic way to handle our phone system; more calls may be forwarded to voice mail. Unfortunately, the search for our vacant Member Liaison position has been put on hold. In the area of professional development, program fees will increase and the number of “big name” presenters brought in for programs will be reduced.

I guess I’m semi- “big name” — I do have three of them, after all! But I’m thinking we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this, and am wondering what the impact on conferences, professional development funds, travel, and association membership will be as new fiscal years and budgets roll around.

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Perception is key

I was catching up on email this week and saw yet another mention of a focus on the “survival” of libraries. Although the actual document they’re talking about is proactive and positive in talking about ways to transform and move forward, it re-emphasized how often we use words like “survival” and “endangered” and “uncertain” when talking about libraries and the future of our profession. When we come at it from that angle, it really does sound like we’re scrambling from survival, and not working from a position of strength. Reframing our language and our approach might help us come at these challenges from a different angle.

It also made me think about just how much perception is key, in anything. For instance: I run a resume posting service over at LISjobs.com, for which I charge $10.00 for the first six months. (The only area of the site, btw, that incurs any fees.) Reactions to there being a fee at all generally run the gamut from:

  • HOW DARE YOU GOUGE POOR JOB SEEKERS?

to

  • Is it really only $10.00? That’s so reasonable. Thank you so much for this site.

to

  • You didn’t tell me there was a fee?!

(This last, apparently, from the non-reading type of librarian.)

Same service, same fee, but incredibly different reactions. Now, I’m wondering if there’s a way to tweak the language on the page so that I get a lot more of reaction number 2 — and a lot less of reaction number one (which, I’ll admit, is more rare). I already tweaked it a while back to avoid number 3, but this oddly hasn’t worked so well.

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On speaking and libraries and conferences redux

I was on the Internet Librarian conference site today and saw this under a new “Why I must go to Monterey” section.

Need help justifying your trip to IL-09?
Sometimes all it takes to get permission is using the right words.  Tell your boss why you MUST come to Monterey.  Here’s a draft memo to get your started . . .

Now, that’s interesting. Think it would work with your administrator? But I’m also wondering if this is a preemptive move, or a sign that registrations are probably down at this point — although it’s a little early yet to tell (this being an end-Oct. conference).

And on a personal note (and yes, full disclosure, I’m still affiliated with the ITI books division) — Internet Librarian is my absolute. favorite. conference. So if you think the memo would help, go for it, and I’ll see you there!

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Psst… wanna buy a magazine, kid?

So LJ is for sale again. Who wants to go in with me? :)

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ALA: To renew or not to renew?

Well, my ALA membership renewal came in the mail this week. I’ve been a continous member for 14 years now. Should I make it 15? Discuss. :)

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I resemble these remarks

Yet another one of Pew’s endless reports — this one from a survey done in April 2009 — talks about the increase in wireless Internet usage. The part that interests me is that about mobile devices:

The report also finds rising levels of Americans using the internet on a mobile handset. One-third of Americans (32%) have used a cell phone or Smartphone to access the internet for emailing, instant-messaging, or information-seeking. This level of mobile internet is up by one-third since December 2007, when 24% of Americans had ever used the internet on a mobile device. On the typical day, nearly one-fifth (19%) of Americans use the internet on a mobile device, up substantially from the 11% level recorded in December 2007. That’s a growth of 73% in the 16 month interval between surveys.

Hey, that’s me they’re talking about! Before I got my piPhone in March, I had an old brick of a phone that basically… I know, how silly… made phone calls. Now, I read email or look things up or otherwise go online on my iPhone just about every day — and after just four months, you’d have to pry the thing away from me.

And that’s some serious growth in less than 1.5 years. Some interesting stuff for libraries piloting mobile services.

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On authors and hissy fits

I always get a kick out of reading about authors’ overreactions to negative reviews, but it’s been a while since I’ve read some great ones. (See all the fun from last April for more along these lines!)

So, I was pleased to see some new rantiness appear. Here is just part of a mind-boggling example:

In last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Caleb Crain reviewed Alain de Botton’s The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. While regular NYTBR watchers like Levi Asher welcomed the spirited dust-up, even Asher remained suspicious about Crain’s doubtful assertions and dense prose.

But on Sunday, de Botton left numerous comments at Crain’s blog, writing, “I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude.”

You don’t see a lot of schadenfreude in blog comments these days! Maybe it’s all moved to Facebook and twitter, too. :) Oh wait — something has! Check this out — Alice Hoffman (although she later apologized and deleted) got mad enough to post the private email address and phone number of one of her negative reviewers to her twitter feed. Hmm. Maybe I should finally get myself a twitter account after all, apparently I’m missing all the fun…

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Associations with associations

I just read on the ALA Inside Scoop blog that ALA’s membership numbers are dropping because of the recession. (Yup, this was posted 3 weeks ago — I have a lot of blogs to read, people!) :)

With ALA Publishing Department revenue already in decline, membership dues revenue at $4.3 million is under budget by $127,000 or 2.8%. The number of new and renewing members has declined from 67,827 to 65,437, or -3.52%.

On the plus side, ALA continues to see growth in student membership; May numbers were up by 2.3%. Year-to-date statistics show a flat renewal rate overall for personal members and new membership enrolments are down 6.33%. The YTD statistics also show movement from regular and other classes of membership to the “continuous member” category, which is up 8.7% and no doubt reflects the retirement trend within the profession.

Of ALA’s 11 divisions, only the Young Adult Library Services division has seen growth of 1.04% over FY2008. Not surprisingly, the Public Library Association has born the severest drop at (12.67%), followed by the Reference and User Services Association (8.24%), the Library and Information Technology Association (8.18%), the Library Leadership and Management Association (7.25%), the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (6.05%), and the American Association of School Librarians (5.17%).

YALSA makes sense to me, since they seem to be the rockingest division of all. I’m trying to wrap my head around this decrease in numbers, though, in conjunction with reports of the very strong conference attendance in Chicago. And am wondering if the decrease in memberships is a temporary fluke or signs of an ongoing trend. Are people going to re-up when the economic situation gets better, or will they find that they don’t miss the membership?

Then I went a-reading further and saw Nicole Engard over on What I Learned Today posting about library association memberships. Her reason for not joining more associations?

I was recently asked to participate in an interest group for an association. I said, ‘heck yeah, but I’m not a member do I have to be?’ Apparently I can participate for a period of time without being a member – but why not join the association?? It’s simple. I do a lot of speaking and I have only one rule when it comes to speaking – I will not pay to speak for an association (local libraries – sure – but big associations – fat chance). I will accept a reimbursement of my expenses (without honorarium) in most cases, but I will not pay out of pocket to speak for an association when I can educate librarians at no cost to me via several other venues.

Today I filled out forms to speak at 3 conferences. Two of them require that members speak without any compensation and I just can’t live with that – so I don’t join. I spoke at a state conference last year and had to fight to get my mileage reimbursed because they insisted that association members and librarians who work in the state don’t get paid to speak. Why?

I want to belong to more associations, I want to help the library profession and share my knowledge, but I do not want to – and will not – go bankrupt doing so.

This has always been a mystery to me, and is one reason why I let my own state association membership drop lo these many years ago.

Anyway. Sorry for the post-o-quotes, but I’ve been up with some (hopefully 24-hour) flu since 3AM and am too fuzzy to think about this further — I just wanted to throw the topic out there and see what you all thought. Even comment on Facebook, if you must. ;)

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Meredith is more thoughtful than I

I find this both amusing and telling. Yesterday’s post about shrinking speaking engagements and conferences attracted zero comments here — but a number of comments on Facebook. So, I wrote in my Facebook status line yesterday:

fascinated as always by the fact that blog posts get a bunch of comments on facebook, none on the blog itself. It’s funny how conversations move over the years.

… which, in itself, got more comments on Facebook than any post here (yes, I know they’re dwindling :) ) has received in probably a year.

Then I went in my feedreader and ran across Meredith Farkas’ “W(h)ither blogging and the library blogosphere?” about microblogging and how it’s transforming the biblioblogosphere. (Sorry, I still like the word!) Meredith’s post? Up to 38 comments and counting. Is this because Meredith is an “A-list” blogger and has a bajillion readers? Or is it because she’s one of the few people still writing these long, thoughtful blog posts that she misses, and people want to be part of that conversation?

My other (totally nonlibrary) blog gathers many more comments than does The Liminal Librarian. Is this because I post more often there, or because of the topic, or because the people who are into that type of blog tend read it directly rather than on Facebook/FriendFeed?

Yes, I have more questions than answers. But am just wondering how people choose where to continue conversations online, and would love to… have a conversation about it! :)

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