Thursday, July 23, 2015

Respecting trademarks

Trademark - Do Not Erase (Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.)
Trademark: Do not erase
In the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office publication Basic Facts About Trademarks, defines a trademark or service mark as:
  • A trademark is generally a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. 
  • A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Throughout this booklet, the terms “trademark” and “mark” refer to both trademarks and service marks.
Trademarks and service marks are all around us, no matter where we are or what we do. Go ahead...look at your computing device, can of soda, pen or something else and look for a ® or ™.

In the June 1, 2015 Advertising Age magazine, Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc. placed an advertisement asking that people respect its registered trademark on Kleenex® Brand Tissue. In the annals of trademark protection, there are stories about those marks which have not been well protected and which people use freely. A popular trademark for a brand of tissues falls into that category (i.e., Kleenex® Brand Tissue). Are all tissues called a ______? Most people do not realize that using the trademarked name for all tissues is disrespectful of Kimberly-Clark and their intellectual property.

Reclaiming a trademark, once people are used to abusing it, is a difficult task.  However, I'll note that this ad was in an industry publication.  Kimberly-Clark wants advertisers and other companies to respect their trademark, and they may be able to win that battle. I hope the company realizes that it will take more than one ad and that the topic will need to be addressed through several channels. I hope they also realize that this will need to be an ongoing concern for the company.

The image above was taken from the Kimberly-Clark advertisement. It is not the entire image, since I've tried to use as little as possible while still conveying the message.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Learning through failure

IngenuityI like noticing people's language and the words that they use, and I especially like to notice if those words are positive or negative. We tend to say "don't" rather than "do", and warn people away from possible failures. However, every successful inventor, project manager, entrepreneur, executive and business owner has failed at least once (if not multiple times). We remember people for their successes and forgot about all the failures which occurred first. We learn much more through our failures than through our success.

In his daily Intensely Positive email, Kelvin Ringold said:
Children don't know about failing; children just know about doing! Trying! Having fun! They don't know failure until we teach it to them. Well, actually they DO know failure, but they don't call it that when they're kids. They call it learning... playing... exploring...trying... experimenting... seeing what happens... being curious... wondering "what if?"
Notice the photo above. This was a failure - a child who got tired of biking - that was turned into a lesson and a success. These three generations learned a lot more through the failure than they would have through an initial success. Would you have used your belts this way?

As a digitization project manager, I learned much from the bumps that occurred in the projects. I learned more about the technology, the metadata, the budget, and all of the various processes. Every step backwards - or sideways - led to regrouping, learning and eventually a solid step forward. A wonderful saying is, "Retreat will move you forward" and I've found it to be very true.

Projects often teach you about your team, too. Does the team have the skills that it needs? Does the team have trust in each other? Are people willing to show initiative? Trust and initiative were topics which BJ Armstrong spoke on at the SLA Annual Conference. Trust/loyalty and initiative must be balanced with/against each other for it to work well. While we hope that people join the team with the correct skills, sometimes we need to stop and train people so that they have the skills for the job. In some instances, we may need to take people off the team and replace them with someone else, especially if there is no time to do the training. While those that leave the team may see it as a failure, I hope they see it as a call to continue to learn and a call to continue to invest in their own development.

Finally, failures teach each us about our own fortitude. Can we move on? Can we turn the failure into a future success? Rather than giving up, can we experiment, explore, try something different, and be curious? If yes, then we've already turned that failure into something positive.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Blog post: EU parliament defends Freedom of Panorama & calls for copyright reform

Julia Reda has been lobbying for specific reforms to the copyright laws in the European Union.  On her blog last week, she announced a victory in terms of the "Freedom of Panorama, which allows anyone to publish photographs, documentary films and other works depicting public places without restriction." She noted that the ability for someone to take a photo with a building in the background and then post that photo online runs into copyright concerns that are not easily for a person to navigate.  Lifting the restrictions made sense to her. Thankfully, it also made sense to the EU.

Reda also noted that:
14-07-01-Julia-Reda-by-RalfR-02Reforming exceptions to copyright protection must be at the center of [Commissioner Oettinger] initiative, since they fulfil such an essential, multi-facetted role: They provide creatives with the space to create new works, users with legal certainty for everyday activities, and access to culture and knowledge to everyone.
Reda is a proponent of copyright reform and as a member of the European Parliament, she's working hard to get it done.  I wish her the best...and hope that she might also influence copyright reform in North America!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Innovating Professional Conferences, Part 4: Ideas from colleagues

Last week, I published three blog posts on innovating professional conferences (part 1, part 2, part 3) and I appreciate the conversations that they began.  A few people left comments on Twitter and Facebook, and I want to capture their ideas here.

Jan Holmquist
Jan Holmquist suggests using face-to-face sessions to give participants a problem to solve and have them create solutions in the moment.  While that might not work for every conference session, Jan believes that it could work for some. Imagine a conference where you hear a keynote on a specific topic, learn more in other sessions, then attend a session where you put what you have learned to practice to solve a practical problem. I can imagine people being interested in that type of conference or conference track.

Richard Hulser
Richard Hulser wants us to be back to the "smaller, more compact version of conferences that existed many years ago." For this to occur, I think conferences need to have a real focus and not try to be all things to all people. The innovation would be trimming sessions and topics, rather than adding.

Heather Braum
Finally, Heather Braum noted that conferences are dependent on the topics and presenters selected. Some conference solicit proposals for conference sessions, while others have conference organizers who reach out to possible presenters. Both methods can yield very worthwhile and forward-thinking conference, or conferences that are not as inspiring as they could be. It takes a conference organizer or organizing committee who is focused on innovations (in the field applicable to the conference) to ensure that the conference is teaching knowledge, skills and abilities which are relevant to the participants' future. 

One problem with conferences is that some plan their conference sessions 12 or more months in advance. That can mean that the organizers select topics that won't be forward-thinking, relevant or even interesting by the time the conference is held.  Deciding on conference sessions 6-9 months before the conference likely feels like a "mad scramble", but it allows the organizers to better select themes, topics and speakers that will be more relevant.

Putting on a conference is more work than more people realize.  Having conference organizers who are willing to innovate, rather than delivering the same experience from a decade ago, would improve them as a professional development opportunity.  If you're a conference organizer, are you up for the challenge?

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Innovating Professional Conferences, Part 3: Can we bring remote participants into a conference?

Tile ceramic steps in Lincoln Park (32nd and California)After I started this series (part 1 & part 2), I spoke to Paul Signorelli about it and he sees the innovation needed as being different and I want to capture that idea here.

While I think that we need to move our professional development from conferences to the online environment, Paul believes that we need to use our online technology to bring remote participants to a face-to-face conference. Before the ALA Annual Conference, Paul outlined a myriad of ways that he thought it would occur. Near the end of the conference, Paul hosted a session to talk about and experiment with bringing remote participants into the room. They tweeted - and colleagues tweeted back - and they tried doing Google Hangouts with lots of people (and it worked).

Some conferences will not want to open their face-to-face sessions to virtual participants. They will see that as losing income, because they are giving away content. Others might charge for the privilege of attending virtually, so they can setup reliable technology in the conference areas to facilitate that interaction. Others will open the doors, by letting participants be the gateway on their devices and data plans for that interaction. You'll recognize that the last option is occurring at many conferences, but I don't know of a conference that has wired itself so remote participants are seamlessly included in every session.

While I like the idea of bringing remote/virtual participants into a conference, they would also need remote access to the exhibit hall or to information about what is in the exhibit hall (and more than just a short description). There would also need to be a way for ad hoc interactions, which happen at conferences. Paul and I discussed the idea of having kiosks or cameras where people on-site could interact with whomever is online. It would be a version of those random interactions that occur in the hallways or standing in line.

Are there other problems with conferences and other solutions? Yes. In fact, there are likely as many problems and solutions as there are conferences and conference participants. The key is being willing to change...and for some conferences, those changes a long overdue because their number of participants and exhibitors are dropping. If they believe that professional development is important, then now is the time to do it differently, before their audience is completely gone.

Innovating Professional Conferences, Part 2: How can librarians improve every conference?

ALA Exhibit HallIn part 1, I laid out some of the changes that are needed in professional conferences.  Now I want us to consider one way that librarians can help improve professional development opportunities for everyone.

If we decide that in-person conferences are no longer the the correct vehicle for professional development and we want to be more creative, there is one problem that we need to solve - copyright and/or content licensing.

If we move more to an online format for professional development, then we need to ensure that the supportive materials are there too. This is not difficult and some conferences are already posting handouts online. However, it is frequently done without advising the presenters about the rights that they have to their work and how the might protect those rights through a license (e.g., Creative Commons). To me, this is an area where librarians can have an impact on every conference.  Librarians - hired by the conference organizers - could work with conferences to understand what rights they want to the presenters' work and for how long. Imagine that handouts, and other materials, are clearly marked with the rights that the participant has to them. And imagine that questions about items in those handouts around use/copyright clearance are answered by someone (a librarian), whose job it is to ensure that the materials are properly using and acknowledging the work of others.

Can an organization actually afford to hire a librarian to do this work? Yes, if the organization is serious about creating new/different professional opportunities, which includes moving face-to-face conferences to the online environment. Is this a full-time position? That I don't know and it might depend on what the organization is doing. If an organization that normally holds a yearly conference of 18,000+ people moves to offering online professional development sessions once a week, including several online conferences per year, that could justify a full-time librarian focused on the copyright and licensing of materials for use in those sessions.

I'd like to see librarians, who are knowledgeable in copyright and licensing, begin to approach conference organizers about ensuring proper licensing of their presenters' materials.  Librarians might also consider giving conference sessions geared to the other presenters that focus on copyright and licensing of presentation materials in an online learning environment. This could be the start of us creating new positions for ourselves and for others appreciating our skills even more.

Finally, in talking to a colleague, there is one more innovation to discuss. That is in part 3.

Innovating Professional Conferences, Part 1: What's the problem?

SLA Info-ExpoI began attending conferences in the late 1980s. I'm now able to attend several conferences a year and have been able to do so for several years. What is interesting to me - and a bit sad - is that conferences and exhibit halls have not changed in all that time in a major way. There are still many sessions, including some that are delivering old content, others that delivering content to only a few people, and a few that are forward-thinking. There is a large exhibit hall with many organizations displaying their products and services, and likely too few people visiting the booths. There are workshops, which are an additional fee, and a host of receptions, which are sponsored by someone who hopes to gain some marketing advantage.

Those who want to attend a conference need to decide which conference to go to out of the myriad of opportunities. The person has to review the conference program, understand the total cost, and then make a decision.  We should note that conferences are expensive and many employers are being selective in the costs they will cover.

Small Changes to the Status Quo

Yes, conference organizers have tried to innovate. For example, once unconferences became popular, some conferences included unconference-like sessions, but did that last? Did that innovation have a larger impact on how we organize conferences? Seemingly the answer is "no."

We used to rely on conferences to provide continuing education opportunities, which could not be done locally.  However, we now can learn via webinars and other means, which makes us less reliant on conference sessions (as well as other face-to-face training events). In addition, those unique meetings which used to occur at conferences, where people from different geographic regions come together around a specific topic, can now occur using online meeting services.

We now have the ability to view and test new products almost instantly. We can talk to a company by phone or over the Internet, and view a demonstration using Internet technology. We can even negotiate with the company without a face to face meeting. We are no longer reliant on conference exhibit halls in order to see the latest innovations. In fact, the exhibit hall likely contains tools, technologies and services that we're already aware of.

If you look at the number of people, who are attending conferences, you'll notice that the numbers are decreasing. Yes, that is partially due to the economic downturns, but it is also due to people becoming reliant on other means of gaining professional development.

In all these years, we've innovated in other areas which impact conferences. For example, it is now easier for someone to locate and book a place to stay without going through the conference housing bureau. This lessens the conference organizer's ability to negotiate conference space and increases the cost of rooms for those that do use the conference housing service. Conference participants are using Airbnb, VRBO and a variety of other services to rent rooms and apartments at a lower rate than the rate charged by the conference hotels.

Changes Need to be More Dramatic

I think we need to dramatically innovate our conferences.

First, we must meet people at that point where they have a need for professional development. That means using different delivery mechanisms for professional development, including webinars and other tools. It might even mean the development of specific tools that don't exist now.

Second, if we are delivering professional development that gives library and information professionals the training that they need when they need it, then we need to understand what the new role is for conferences as the exhibit halls that go with them. What do we need to come together in one spot to learn? What - in terms of what someone could learn - would justify the cost for attending such an event?

I believe that there is a role for librarians in helping to change how we receive professional development.  In part 2, I'll give you the details.