Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Week 9: Thing 20 -- YouTube

I probably won't be the only one to link to this, but did you hear?

It's true--Diddy is looking for a new personal assistant.

As he explains in the video, instead of resumes, he is only accepting video applications uploaded to YouTube.

Managers in our library system always like to pass along new career opportunities to staff and I have never done that before. So, here's my contribution. Maybe you have what it takes to work for Diddy. Over 600 people have already applied, so get your video in today.

Seriously, using YouTube both as a recruitment tool and also as a method for candidates to contact your organization--that's a pretty novel use of the site, I would say.

Maybe libraries wouldn't go that far, but I like the idea of integrating the use of technology into the hiring process. It is setting up a kind of first-hoop to jump through, if you are looking to recruit a certain type of candidate. One who is either comfortable with technology or, more importantly, unafraid to learn.

BONUS: I couldn't pass up that Diddy video. Hence the post. Originally though, I was going to post this video of Sister Rosetta Tharpe performing a song entitled Up Above My Head. She plays a mean guitar. Check it out. Man, they have everything on YouTube.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Week 8: Thing 19 -- Web 2.0 Awards

Originally uploaded by Simon Crubellier

Visited the 2.0 award winners list and found a listing for start pages.

iGoogle lets you set up a customizable start page. I outfitted mine with search boxes for wikipedia and google maps; plus, a little gadget that automatically pulls all the movie listings from theaters nearby. There are also one-click RSS subscriptions and, just like that, you have your feeds on the page.

You have the option to create tabs for new pages within your iGoogle start page. I created a new page with media RSS feeds; so I have headlines from NPR, Metacritic and DCist all in one place.

The coolest thing about this tool is the ease-of-use. A drag-and-drop feature lets you arrange things on the page and then remembers your settings.

The implication for libraries would be the creation of a library home page that shares the same level of interactivity and is as customizable as iGoogle.

People won't visit your library site, they'll visit their library site.

After logging in with their card, their library start page would pop up--with feeds for new titles and book reviews in the genres they designate, programming news from the library branches closest to their home, quick searching of the catalog (and the ability to create tags within the same), a box for chatting with a librarian in real-time, the most recent posts from the Director's/Friends of the Library/County Commissioners blog, a wiki with local information, etc.

The interesting thing is that all of the technology exists to create library websites like this today. I'm surprised more libraries haven't already started to use it.

I'm sure libraries will incorporate these features into their webpages eventually. Just once though, I'd like to see us be the creators of something cool and really useful--instead of always being two steps behind.

Sometimes it feels like the neighbors have a DVD player; meanwhile, we're getting really excited and patting each other on the back for our just-out-of-the-box Betamax.

Week 8: Thing 18 -- Online Productivity Tools

Well, the previous post was a successful test of Zoho.

I was able to post directly to this blog from within Zoho--it was simple and easy just like the Blog This feature in Flickr...which is awesome.

In our library system, there are a limited number of PCs with word processing capability; I've been told that this in part due to the cost of MS Office.

There are also a limited number of PCs with their floppy drives/USB ports enabled. This is changing slowly. Just this week, Systems decided to test OpenOffice on a few PCs at our main branch. While that is one solution, online applications like Zoho offer another alternative.

I also like the idea that documents are stored out there some place. That makes it really nice for folks who forget their flash drives. Or, even better, for those patrons who bring in a scratched disk with the metal carriage missing. Sometimes those things look like they've been dragged behind cars and it's our job to smile and be nice when they ask--I don't know why the computer won't read my disk.

Another benefit--if your local machine starts coughing up blood, you don't have to worry about losing all of your documents to a computer crash. Ditto, power surges.

All of that and you can share documents with a group of contributors. Pretty neat.

Now I want to test out a calendaring program. I know a few folks in the department who use Google's online calendar.

My Zoho Test

This is a test of Zoho writer.
I created an account and I will now try to post to my blog using Zoho.
We shall see...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Week 7: Thing 17 -- Sandbox wiki

Sandbox Wreck
Originally uploaded by J R Webb

I visited the Sandbox wiki and giggled when I saw an example of one of the occupational hazards of the tool.

Someone had apparently gone in and erased some headings/pages. I'm sure the person who erased everything feels terrible--if they realized they did it--so I won't laugh too loudly.

A few kind folks created a quick band aid by assembling a second list of our 23things blogs, organized by library system. I found the FCPL section and added mine.

The optional part of the exercise also asked us to include a few links to other personal favorites. So, I'll list them here for now and, if someone fixes the sandbox wiki (hey, don't look at me), maybe I'll throw a few of these on later.

Favorite Wiki (besides, wikipedia): The Muppet Wiki

Favorite Books: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Violent Bear it Away, White Teeth, An Invisible Sign of my Own, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Favorite Websites: Metacritic, DCist, Kottke

Favorite Podcasts: Filmspotting, Design and Architecture

Favorite Bands: The Velvet Underground, The Kinks, Belle and Sebastian, Stereolab

Favorite Movies: The Royal Tenenbaums, Manhattan, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Random Favorites: NPR, red velvet cupcakes, old school tattoos, Pet Sounds

Friday, July 20, 2007

Week 7: Thing 16 -- Wikis

Before we jump into wikis, I thought you might want to know that you can Simpsonize yourself, as I have above, by visiting the following link. Now, on with the learning...

As I explored some of the wikis, the first connection I made was to the giant clipboard (sometimes a notebook) that has lived at every Reference desk I've ever worked at.

What's included? Just about everything.

Some of the things that make the clipboard such an attractive option (collaborative, continuously-updated, etc.) also make the wiki appealing.

If I may play devil's advocate though, the dangers that the clipboard must be careful of (can quickly become bulky/rudderless/out-of-date, conversation often overtaken by the same handful of contributors so point of view/what's important can become skewed, etc.) are the same dangers that the wiki must watch out for.

I can hear the wiki-acolytes booing and hissing me, but would I be a good librarian if I didn't point out both sides of an issue? I just think that for a wiki to be of value, all members of an organization need the ability to contribute and that this duty brings a new level of trust and responsibility. Folks have to keep entries up-to-date if they are to be useful.

Having said that, I think wikis are super cool. It'd be great to have one on our intranet for the departments to contribute to--a kind of living, breathing policy manual. (That sounded a lot more boring than I intended.)

I explored a few of the ways that folks are using wikis:

Library 2.0 in 15 minutes a day is a great wiki. I checked out a Twitter tutorial. In a few months, Twitter won't be so new and shiny anymore, but there will probably be another interesting 2.0 tool and someone will probably post an article or tutorial on this wiki about it.

SJCPL's subject guides were awesome. I followed the one on Cooking which included virtual book displays with cover images with links directly into the catalog (including one of my favorite reference books Larousse Gastronomique), staff pics, recipes of the month and even info about the hours of their local famers market.

Merlin's wiki learning page provided a couple of good examples of conference wikis which are always helpful. They also gave links to sites where you could play. I set up my own PB wiki in about 5 minutes, but I haven't added content yet.

Week 6: Thing 15 -- Perspectives on Web 2.0

WOPR - Original
Originally uploaded by chriskice

The machine is us/ing us really captured what makes 2.0 technology exciting to me. Content and form are finally separated. Everyday users (like me) are being empowered with tools that allow us to reshape and reorganize and reclassify the pieces.

Detractors--and there are a remarkable number of librarians in that camp--have a hard time recognizing how truly revolutionary this is.

Librarians often think about their print collections as organic things and, in the most ideal sense, view collection development as a collaborative effort--building and changing the scope of their print collection as the needs of the community change.

2.0 tools allow that same kind of evolution for online content, but in real-time and by including many more voices in the conversation. How is that not exciting to information professionals?!

The coolest (and most thought-provoking) thing about Wesch's piece was when he pointed out how these tools will cause us to rethink copywrite, authorship, privacy, aesthetics, ethics, love, family and ourselves.

I also spent part of this week reading the pieces by Storey, Stephens, Shultz and Anderson. Lots of interesting ideas; I agreed with some and I had a harder time with others.

I'm really glad there are people out there debating theory and talking about the edges of things. We need them; however, there were a few times I kept wondering about how some of their ideas play out practically.

For example, while this sounds great--Librarian 2.0 does not create policies and procedures that impede users' access to the library...

How is our SAM system not an impediment to access?
What about needing a library card to access online databases from outside the library?

I can understand the cases for and against each of these things.

Slogans are great, but when you actually work on the front lines of service, things can get (needlessly?) complicated and bureaucratic very quickly; especially as we try to please many different camps, each with their own agendas--patrons, librarians, library boards, county commissioners.

Does this always have to be the case? I don't know.
Can we reach compromises? I hope so.

The good thing is that we have a dialogue about these issues.

Some of the other great soundbytes from the articles--

Perpetual beta!!!--Librarians, libraries, library services are all works-in-progress. We should never reach the point where we think were done.

Digital natives take 2.0 for granted.--This is beyond a doubt. Patrons expect the library's web presence to reflect the same ease of use and accessiblity and collaborative nature that they find on any other webpage. They are comfortable with Google. They like Amazon. If we're lucky, patrons struggle through our sites wondering why we're not more like Google and Amazon. If we're not lucky, they leave our sites and don't come back. That's a nice segue into...

We need to focus our efforts not on teaching research skills but on eliminating the barriers that exist between patrons and the info they need, so they can spend as little time as possible wrestling with lousy search interfaces and as much time as possible actually reading and learning...If our services can't be used without training, then it's the services that need to be fixed--not our patrons.--Couldn't have said it better myself.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Week 6: Thing 14 -- Technorati

I spent a good bit of time playing around with the advanced search in Technorati. We were told to search the same phrase using the various options and to discover the differences in returned hits. I explored blog directory (couple of hundred hits), exact phrase (couple of thousand hits) and tag searching (many thousands of hits).

It is great to have a tool that allows for more focused searching of blogs, so that we can keep up with what Sifry calls the global conversation.

The top favorited blog was Boing Boing, a site I'm kind of familiar with. It has a tech bent, but really it's about a lot of things. When I visited I found recent links to: a video by Chris Anderson, an article about supposed man-eating badgers (rad!) and photos of a particle accelerator.

The list of top searches was interesting. I was not surprised to see things like Paris Hilton or iphone because they are things which bloggers talk about and Technorati users might want to search.

What I did find surprising were terms like youtube and myspace, because, if I understand the principle of Technorati correctly, a person who uses the search box to look for the term myspace will get a list of blog posts where people mention the term myspace and my guess is that searchers were actually looking for myspace itself, not people writing about the site. (Confusing, I know.)

Besides, I decided to duplicate their search and I plugged myspace into the Technorati search box. I received 945,000 hits. How is that helpful?

The Top 100 blogs list was fun. If you're new to blogging, you should explore the list yourself. As advertised, it's a who's-who. One of the blogs I visit daily is Kottke.org (number 51 on the big list). He always links to interesting news about movies, music, tech, design, etc. His wife, Meg, is one of the creators of Blogger; so they are like the it-couple in the blogosphere.

Technorati tag:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Week 6: Thing 13 -- Tagging and del.icio.us

Originally uploaded by richbrenner

I like the idea of tagging. Not to replace our controlled vocabulary but to enhance it with more everyday, colloquial language. Why not open things up to users to define things? If the goal is to make information more accessible, shouldn't we make catalogs that allow people to use natural language?

Anyone who has tried to use an online catalog in the last ten years knows how cumbersome it can be. Sometimes I think the design of our online catalogs is a not-so-subtle attempt on the part of library vendors/employees to maintain job security.

The difficulties people face using our catalogs have a lot to do with the limitations of our controlled vocabulary, our antiquated, inflexible subject headings (...webdesign that is not intuitive, search options that are not user-friendly, etc, etc, etc). None of this is new, but for some reason, it continues to be an issue.

I'm not saying that patrons shouldn't learn our system, but there should be more than one access point. Tagging allows for that.

Some folks are creating solutions that even allow for tagging within the catalog.

We learned about tagging this week within the context of del.icio.us. Of the tools we've looked at so far, I think del.icio.us is probably the one that we could use right now on the reference desk.

Just looking at how San Mateo library used it to organize commonly-used sites by dewey range...I get goose pimples; then again I'm a giant geek.

I started my own del.icio.us account and only added a few things to try it out, but I'm sure I'll be adding a lot more soon.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Hey everyone,
Did you see this article from the New York Times?
A Hipper Crowd of Shushers

Week 5: Thing 12 -- Rollyo

Originally uploaded by Isuma

It took me a second to get my bearings with Rollyo. At first I was confused and thought that we were supposed to add lists of search engines to our roll. When that didn't seem to make sense, I decided to read the directions.

Reading the directions is often the second step for me when it comes to 2.0 tools. I prefer just jumping in and trying to swim.

What I learned from reading was that Rollyo is a kind of do-it-yourself meta-search-engine. If you visit sites routinely and they are on a particular topic, you can plug all of the URLs into Rollyo, create a search roll and then use it to search all of those sites at the same time, with one search box.

I created my own search roll entitled Film News/Reviews. I did a search on the new Michael Moore film, Sicko, and sure enough, Rollyo delivered all kinds of news and neat reviews.

I can envision many applications of Rollyo for libraries. For example, we might create a search roll which staff could use to answer a commonly asked question. Let's say our desk gets a particular question repeatedly, but the answer might change from week-to-week--think local info, financial news, weather, etc.

Week 5: Thing 11 -- Library Thing

Originally uploaded by heather

Library Thing is a neat tool. Here's my library.

I used this site a few months ago to unload about 60 books. You see, I didn't feel like selling the books to make a profit, but I did want them out of my house (trying to de-clutter) and I wanted to make sure that they went to good homes.

So, I put all of the titles on Library Thing and then shared the link with friends. I told them that I'd mail any requested title to them free of charge and that if they wanted to send back mixed CDs or weird candy in exchange then that would be swell.

Many friends replied.

I found foster homes for almost every single book and was soon ankle deep in new music and unusual Japanese candy.

(...the handful of books that were left I donated to the library booksale.)

[PS- I found the photo above on flickr. A man named Chris Cobb was allowed to put every book in a San Francisco store in order by color, all in the name of art. Pretty cool, huh?]

Week 5: Thing 10 -- Image Generators

I visited Letter James, an online image generator, to create the image above. I'm not feeling terribly creative today, so I just borrowed a song title for the graffiti. (By the way, Mama Tried is a Merle Haggard classic. You'd dig it the most.)

After playing around with that image generator, I jumped over to the Yahoo avatars site. Pretty fair likeness, I'd say--even though my avatar is a bit more svelte than I am.

Yahoo! Avatars U.K. & Ireland