Just do it?

Brian Kelly reflects on the call to ‘just do it’ at Umbrella 2007. I have commented on this over there, but here’s the short version.

How useful is ‘just do it’ as advice? It’s a nice slogan, but it short-circuits any consideration of issues people might have.

How useful is it for those at the top to enjoin us to ‘just do it’?

The tools may be there, and in most cases the will is there, but so are the political and financial blocks. Yes, we need to try to work with and around these, but ‘just do it’ suggests that these issues don’t even exist.

I know it’s a slogan. It’s just a judegmental one, bordering on the hectoring. ‘We will help you do it’ would be better.

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5 Responses to Just do it?

  1. Phil Bradley says:

    Interesting points, and I have to say I almost entirely disagree. Is ‘Just do it’ meant as advice? I’ve used it a lot, and will continue to do, but I don’t see it as me giving advice. It’s an idea, a thought, a consideration, an encouragement certainly, but I’m not sure how much ‘advice’ it is. Yes, it is a nice slogan, catchy and fun.

    The whole point of Web 2.0 is, in my view that it’s exactly NOT the people at the top – it’s the people who do the work themselves to make their own lives easier, to recognise that there are different ways of doing things – new and exciting approaches. However, until you (generic you) actually try these things out – until you use a start page, or use RSS feeds it’s not going to make any sense. Web 2.0 is more about a state of mind in large part; I can show people things, I can demonstrate things, I can teach things, and that’s all well and good. But it’s only a first step. In order to make them real, in order to give them a value, in order to see the real benefits people *do* have to ‘just do it’ and see for themselves. ‘Just do it’ is as far as I’m concerned a recognition that Web 2.0 isn’t something to be talked about, or indeed written about (and the Lord knows I’ve done a lot of writing about it!), it’s a thing to be experienced.

    I also don’t think that this phrase negates the fact that there are blocks in front of librarians – I talk to them all the time, I discuss this and I have it made graphically clear to me that there are plenty of blocks. That doesn’t however mean that we shouldn’t try things. Many of the Web 2.0 applications are things that people can use anyway – not just within their library context, but in their everyday work on the internet. Web 2.0 isn’t just for work, it’s for everything else as well. I can’t honestly see why a management team would stop someone using a start page, or automating searches, or keeping up to date with content via RSS.

    There does come a point though at which an individual needs to decide for themself that they are going to use one of these resources. In the longer term, I suspect that most people will, in the same way that most people use the internet in some form or another. In my view, sooner rather than later makes sense, and if you’re going to do it sometime, why not just do it now? Incorporate resources into everything else that you do on the web. It doesn’t take a special effort, it’s not some magical thing, it’s not ‘today I will be mostly using Web 2.0’ it’s just using stuff that helps you make your life easier. So – just do it. In the words of the advert, ‘why not tomorrow, better today’?

    Another point of ‘Just do it’ is that for a lot of this stuff, there’s no reason why people can’t use it without getting some sort of special permission. The point that you seem to be making is that librarians can’t think for themselves – that they have to be told what to do, that they have to always ask permission, and quite frankly I just don’t go along with that. Is that hectoring? No, of course it’s not. It’s recognising that professionals are exactly that – capable of looking at things, deciding what will work, how it can make their lives easier and just incorporating it into what they do.

    ‘We will help you do it’ works for me as well. That’s why I write about it, talk about it and run various training courses on it. Ultimately however, it will always come down to the individual to use resources for themselves. ‘Just do it’ is neither judgemental or hectoring, in my opinion. It’s an encouragement, and it’s a recognition that librarians (and indeed everyone else) can do this stuff if they want to. It’s a belief, and in this case my own firmly held belief that information professionals are in the main amazingly creative and talented people, and if they want to do something they can, actually ‘just do it’.

  2. Pete says:

    Phil,
    thanks for your comment.
    I agree with you on some points. Absolutely we need to try things where we can, as I believe I have said elsewhere. We do need to take advantage of the tools available (hence my bloglines account, set up on your ‘advice’ 😉
    But in respect of Umbrella, people actually felt hectored, ‘patronised’ even-it’s not just me on my soap-box 😉 A lot of what you mean is in people’s heads, whatever your intentions in your words; and ‘just do it’ leaves a lot of room for people to feel hectored.
    As far as it not being advice goes, it’s an interesting line between ‘advice’ and ‘exhortation’ especially from a podium. But that is a different argument…
    And no I’m not saying librarians can’t think for themselves; I don’t see that in what I said having read over it. Then again, I guess I need to be careful in my words 😉 Here at the college I have consistently argued for more freedom (for all staff) to make decisions about how they do their jobs. This would include the use of alternative software, social computing tools and flexible purchasing amongst other things
    I am saying, no more no less, that (as you acknowledge here and in your comments eleswhere) that sometimes it’s not as simple as ‘just do it.’ That to raise this point is not the same as rejecting any change effort.
    My g/f is a good example of just doing it. Every school she’s been at she’s set up blogs for herself and students, she uses RSS feeds to keep up- all on limited time and indeed limited overt support. It hasn’t been easy.
    So I see the value of just doing it. I just get narked at the overuse of the phrase. One person’s fun is another person’s glib I guess.
    I think it’s that little word ‘just.’ If you replaced it with your ‘you can do it,’ or ‘we can do it’ it’d come off a lot better.
    I asked to do a blog for my centre not because I can’t think for myself but because I’d rather not face the arguments later. Even now I am having to write up how it will fit in with comms policies etc. But by getting permission a lot of the problems are avoided.
    I didn’t ask for permission to do this blog as I felt within my professional rights to use it as CPD, and I don’t talk about my work (very much) here.
    Your work is exactly the kind of thing I mean when I say ‘we can help you do it.’ More power to your elbow!

  3. Phil Bradley says:

    Yes, I can see what you say… and of course a lot of it depends on the context in which the term is used, and how it’s used. Much depends on tone of voice as well. Interestingly enough at the School Library Association weekend in June the suggestion (from the audience in fact) was a course called something like ‘Web 2 – just do it!’

    Perhaps if we can slide in the word ‘Let’s’ as in ‘Let’s just do it!’ it might temper the concept slightly. Interesting – thanks for another bit of thought provoking. 🙂

  4. Pete says:

    I totally agree. Someone like you, or me, saying in an upbeat way ‘Let’s just do it!’ is different from a person in power saying it in a slightly exasperated tone 😉

    A fundamental aspect of web 2.0 is community- so ‘Let us all just do it!’ is better. Captures community and can of course be directed at those in power 😉

  5. […] his blog post about the conference (and echoed in his trip report) Pete Smith asks “How useful is ‘just […]

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