Join us on the Dark (Social) Side?

In Brief:

In The Library with the Lead Pipe is reviewing the needs and requirements of our website and digital profile. We would like to develop our branding, and based on reader comments in our recent survey, refresh the Lead Pipe’s infrastructure as a digital publication. Applications for an intern are now being accepted.


Early last month, Alexis Madrigal, Senior Editor of The Atlantic published a piece titled “Dark Social: We have the whole history of the web wrong.” The premise is simply that as we have entered into an era of social networking, there are huge swaths of sharing on the web that occur behind, outside or without the help of the social media on which many of us rely daily. Madrigal points out that links shared in emails or instant messages aren’t tracked the same way social media are, and yet these social connections still achieve the same goal (moving information from one person to the next/many) and, in the case of The Atlantic, contribute a larger percentage of traffic than the social media sites. Considering this, Madrigal offers three takeaways: 1) Content is still king, 2) sharing on the web has become akin to an act of publishing, framing an “identity” that you wish to be represented as online, and 3) information behaviors evolve regardless of the tools available.

There is a striking realization underneath this fascinating way of viewing what we know about the web: we probably don’t know what we don’t know. Here at In the Library with the Lead Pipe, we have not often concerned ourselves with web traffic, stats, analytics and the like, but recently we’ve begun to mull over what it is that we don’t know, and what it is that we might like to. Our recent survey is one example of how we’re attempting understand our readers, our role and our responsibility to the profession of librarianship. In part due to my work in scholarly publishing, coupled with a summer fling at an advertising/PR firm and also my long-lasting interest in what used to be called “Web 2.0,” I joined the Lead Pipe with some significant questions about how the Lead Pipe’s Editorial Board defined the public face of In The Library With The Lead Pipe. Fortunately, the Lead Pipers are a brilliant bunch and I was encouraged to take on the role of Community Manager to explore some of my queries and to get to the bottom of some of those other aspects of what we don’t know about what we’d like to know about us and you.

An early question, and one that is asked often of any online publication, is what state the website is in, and if it could be minimalized, streamlined, expanded, mobile-readied, etc. We are incredibly fortunate to have had a fantastic head start with Derik Badman’s design and development skills that created the Lead Pipe as you know it today. When the original site was launched, the iPhone was barely a year old and the multitude of apps and time-shifted reading experiences we currently enjoy were still in their infancy. Underneath the surface, we have a pretty straightforward WordPress theme that has been maintained with the expert touch of Brett Bonfield. Both the reading habits and the tools for content delivery have made substantial progress over the few years since we launched and our site is in need of a refresh. For example, it is exceedingly clear that a majority of our readers get our content delivered through RSS feeds, bypassing the website altogether – at least that’s what you told us. A quick look at our site’s analytics from the past month proves Alexis Madrigal’s thesis: 42% of our traffic comes from “google” followed by 23% from “(direct).” (Twitter and Facebook follow with 7% and 5%, respectively.)


So… what we don’t know and might like to explore is how our website functions as a delivery mechanism, a home for high-quality content, and/or a landing page for those looking to connect with us elsewhere. Is In the Library with the Lead Pipe a perfect test-case for the power of the dark (social) side?! Should we construct a more expansive RSS feed, pulling in the articles with other content in a nicely-formatted package, delivered straight to your email inbox or RSS reader? How can we encourage comments in and across our output feeds so that we effectively participate in conversations with colleagues and peers, especially as one of our goals is to “start conversations”?

Rolled into pondering the state of our site are a few related questions: Are we best utilizing the social media sites on which we are represented; how effectively are those sites managed and utilized; to what degree does our branding, tone/message, design/aesthetics need to be reinvigorated; and what do we do with the incessant pressure to upgrade or refresh? Would our work still be accomplished and fruitful if we “published” as a beautifully crafted MailChimp email, or as a DIY zine, or maintained our current incarnation as a journal published on a blogging platform? The nature of publishing being as diffuse as it is now, we find the opportunity to reimagine what that means and looks like for In The Library With The Lead Pipe.

Which is where you come in – we are now accepting applications for our first ever intern. Particularly, we are seeking someone with web development/design skills who is interested in the questions and issues posed in this article, and also in our mission to better the library community. The internship will run the duration of the Spring 2013 semester, and will be focused on refreshing the Lead Pipe’s WordPress installation, including related projects. We’ve compiled a working list of some projects that we’d like to accomplish here. The intern will work closely with the Lead Pipe’s Editorial Board to identify possible upgrades and additions to the current brand, and will be instrumental in developing and implementing the changes. Self-hosted WordPress experience is required, strong technical skills are recommended and an interest in marketing/social web is requested. Students especially are encouraged to apply and we are happy to work with schools to provide academic credit. Interested applicants should contact Micah Vandegrift at micah@leadpi.pe and please include a link to a digital portfolio.


Thanks to Lead Pipe colleagues Emily Ford, Ellie Collier and Erin Dorney for reviewing, and to Brianna Marshall for the external review.

2 Responses

  1. Danielle

    Can I request that the full text of the article remain available in the RSS feed? I’m a big fan of reading the entire article in google reader instead of having to click out to the website to get the full-text.