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Providing Libraryh3lp<br />Pam Sessoms<br />UNC-Chapel Hill Undergraduate Librarian/and also Libraryh3lp<br />psessoms@gma...
Who runs this thing?<br />
What does Libraryh3lp do?<br />Provides a flexible platform for building virtual reference services<br />
http://www.flickr.com/photos/beglen/148214514/sizes/m/in/photostream/<br />
What does it do?<br />Chat<br />Widgets<br />MSN<br />SMS<br />Text msgs<br />Google <br />Talk<br />AIM<br />Yahoo!<br />...
History<br />
History, continued<br /><ul><li> Peer-to-peer: runs on PCs.  No web server to pay for.
 Peer-to-peer architecture not scalable.
 Overall service successful but needed web-based architecture for growth.
 Great start, now re-do everything differently.</li></li></ul><li>Sustainability for web-based system (Libraryh3lp)<br /><...
How are we going to pay for this?
Ads?
Sell the users’ data?
Get a grant?
Subscription
Make it really affordable
Architecture, efficient code
Amazon S3, Cloudfront
Stick to the core system; avoid unnecessary work
Radical notion: create a good service and charge a fair price for it.
Contract work for special features needed by large projects
NCknows
Support expectations…?
Programmer does not have time for support
Librarian has full-time librarian job</li></li></ul><li>History, continued<br />
History, continued<br />
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Providing LibraryH3lp

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Providing LibraryH3lp

Pam Sessoms, Undergraduate Librarian, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, LibraryH3lp

Libraryh3lp was created three years ago to solve technical problems associated with offering night-time collaborative chat and IM reference services between Duke, NCSU, and UNC-Chapel Hill. It is now a popular, low-cost virtual reference platform used by over 300 libraries around the world. Behind the scenes, Libraryh3lp was conceived of and continues to be provided by Eric Sessoms, President of Nub Games, Inc., with assistance from Pam Sessoms, a working librarian at UNC-Chapel Hill. Come learn more about the business and operational sides of Libraryh3lp, including the benefits and challenges involved with this unique model.

Providing LibraryH3lp

  1. 1. Providing Libraryh3lp<br />Pam Sessoms<br />UNC-Chapel Hill Undergraduate Librarian/and also Libraryh3lp<br />psessoms@gmail.com<br />
  2. 2. Who runs this thing?<br />
  3. 3. What does Libraryh3lp do?<br />Provides a flexible platform for building virtual reference services<br />
  4. 4. http://www.flickr.com/photos/beglen/148214514/sizes/m/in/photostream/<br />
  5. 5.
  6. 6. What does it do?<br />Chat<br />Widgets<br />MSN<br />SMS<br />Text msgs<br />Google <br />Talk<br />AIM<br />Yahoo!<br />LibraryH3lp<br />XMPP Server with IM Gateways<br />Librarian<br />Librarian<br />Librarian<br />Librarian<br />Librarian<br />Librarian<br />
  7. 7. History<br />
  8. 8. History, continued<br /><ul><li> Peer-to-peer: runs on PCs. No web server to pay for.
  9. 9. Peer-to-peer architecture not scalable.
  10. 10. Overall service successful but needed web-based architecture for growth.
  11. 11. Great start, now re-do everything differently.</li></li></ul><li>Sustainability for web-based system (Libraryh3lp)<br /><ul><li>Existing business entity: Nub Games, Inc. (LLC), from Eric’s contract programming work
  12. 12. How are we going to pay for this?
  13. 13. Ads?
  14. 14. Sell the users’ data?
  15. 15. Get a grant?
  16. 16. Subscription
  17. 17. Make it really affordable
  18. 18. Architecture, efficient code
  19. 19. Amazon S3, Cloudfront
  20. 20. Stick to the core system; avoid unnecessary work
  21. 21. Radical notion: create a good service and charge a fair price for it.
  22. 22. Contract work for special features needed by large projects
  23. 23. NCknows
  24. 24. Support expectations…?
  25. 25. Programmer does not have time for support
  26. 26. Librarian has full-time librarian job</li></li></ul><li>History, continued<br />
  27. 27. History, continued<br />
  28. 28.
  29. 29.
  30. 30.
  31. 31. Basic stats<br />Approximately 1,250 trials registered <br />Many libraries registered more than one trial<br />Approximately 300 active customers<br />Primarily in the US and Canada<br />Also Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, England, Germany, China, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Russia, Poland<br />Conversion rate about 25%!<br />286 paid accounts<br />A few are freebies.<br />Some still in trial.<br />A few have not paid (alas).<br />Top 75 account for 75% of traffic<br />
  32. 32. Libraryh3lp pricing per year<br />
  33. 33. How we save time(and so, keep Libraryh3lp inexpensive)<br />Unmediated trial access<br />Trial version is same as full version<br />Live trial (using real patrons) expected<br />Libraries know what they’re getting<br />Programmer doesn’t have to spend time writing version with disabled features<br />Default trial 90 days, can be extended<br />Payment basically “honor system”<br />We have started looking for freeloaders, but it takes time, and we don’t automatically disable their accounts.<br />For better or worse, we don’t spend time marketing or having vendor tables.<br />Support users helping users.<br />Use third-party communication tools like Google Groups (support), User Voice (feature requests), Twitter (system status).<br />Refchatter via Altarama: supported version (more expensive)<br />
  34. 34. More on saving time…<br />Eric: wants to solve hard problems. He should focus on core, technical infrastructure growth.<br />What is the weakest link?<br />Sometimes overall efficiency is gained by writing non-core software.<br />Simple tools so I can do more systems administration.<br /> (Threatens to replace me with a small shell script frequently.)<br />As Libh3lp grew, accounting/billing needed attention.<br /> BBDB, custom, integrates with admin site.<br />Quickbooks for generating invoices and tracking receipts.<br />Payment: small plea @ bottom of blog post, next day, 7 libraries paid.<br />
  35. 35. Accounting integration<br />
  36. 36. …but efficiency starts with the code<br />Presence: Online? Offline?<br />
  37. 37. Efficiency starts with the code<br />Presence calls 20x more efficient (thus, cheaper) using comet long-polling over traditional polling. Comet long-poll provides real-time presence in most browsers.<br />45 million presence requests in last 10 days.<br />During busier times, there are 10,000 web pages simultaneously monitoring real-time presence.<br />During busier times, there are 100-500 new presence requests per second.<br />What is more efficient: making system 10x faster through better code, or adding 10x the servers?<br />New system will handle thousands of presence requests per second.<br />
  38. 38. Great things about working on Libraryh3lp<br />Can move quickly.<br />Very low communications overhead on technical end.<br />Interesting puzzles to solve.<br />Mostly very happy, kind librarians.<br />
  39. 39. Challenges<br />Billing expectations<br />Purchase Orders<br />By the way, we write ourselves a 2.5% discount on all POs.<br />Faxing things<br />Getting things notarized<br />“We need to get you into our system“<br />ie, fill out these 20 forms…<br />Training/support requests<br />Requests for demos<br />Seem to be expecting a sales pitch<br />Weird local problems requiring intense tech support<br />Growth walls (remember, it’s unlimited)<br />Sometimes needs attention at inconvenient times.<br />We need to have pretty constant Internet access.<br />Monitoring, paging, can fix crashes from iPhone.<br />Yes, even during vacations. <br />
  40. 40.
  41. 41. Challenges: Delicate Balance<br />Full-time job at UNC.<br />Deflect Libh3p calls away from my work phone.<br />Set low expectations among Libraryh3lp users for non-emergency support.<br />In real emergency, take annual leave time.<br />
  42. 42. Typical Libraryh3lp Week (Pam)<br />Friday evening? Date night!!!<br />
  43. 43. Future (the future is now)<br />NCknows migration<br />First Libraryh3lp state-wide collaborative.<br />First backup staff experience on Libraryh3lp.<br />My Customer Cloud<br />Like Libraryh3lp, but flat rate per chat.<br />Population size pricing model breaks down in private sector.<br />New programming partner for Eric! (and she also does support)<br />Unexpected finding: Libraries seem to be much more service-oriented than most organizations/businesses.<br />Cheaper for lower chat volume libraries.<br />Libraryh3lp costs at least $250/yr.<br />Billing fully integrated into MCC architecture.<br />Must be able to pay online with credit card.<br />Most common question from libraries so far: “Will you invoice me for $20 of chats?”<br />Summer release of Libraryh3lp upgrade<br />

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