Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Custom Framing for those family photos!

OK, I couldn't resist doing another one using Big Huge Labs. Here is a favourite picture of mine: Alien Loves Predator done as a homely framed photograph. Cute! (image from http://www.alienlovespredator.com/)

Woo Hoo! Look at me!

How fun was this?!? I tried a few different things out at Big Huge Labs but thought I would post this 'mashup' of my Bambino photo as a Billboard.

Mashups vs Portals

I found the Wikipedia article on Mashups absolutely fascinating. The grid showing the main difference between portals and mashups was very useful. I can see that mashups are a lot more malleable than portals and therefore much better for personalised use or to obtain a certain 'snapshot' or view of something, using different sources, at a particular time presumably in real-time if possible (such as in business). The possibilities are incredible really with this hybridisation or aggregation technology. I particularly noted the two comments "The web 2.0 is all about the personalisation of information" and "As they are a part of the web 2.0, mashups increase the level of personalization of the Internet". These comments hit the nail on the head regarding so much of this new technology. Society at the moment seems to be a weird mix of the "look at me", and "it's all about me" generation and yet people have an interest in global things too.

The British Library London maps site was cool, but I was thinking how much better it would be if, as you watch the journey video, it would show you progressing on the map. See, I'm already wanting my own personal mashup of the information! I thought the Voicethread software and design was pretty amazing. The interactive functionality is great. I especially liked, for example, the teacher and his class commenting (using recorded audio) on the dragon drawing and the animation they added circling the dragon's tail to illustrate their comment. How great is that technology?!? I can definitely see how this type of software would make visiting local and/or historical information so much more exciting, especially for younger library customers. Older people could add their own comments about local and /or historical photographs, adding richness to the original resources.

I tried out a couple of the London map mashups on the Virtual Tourism blog, which combined videos and mapping sources. The Southbank Walk was quite good although, again, it would be good to have a marker of some kind move from one location to the next on the map as the video progressed. The user really needs to know what the landmarks look like already and what they are called otherwise. The downside of all this technology was evident in one which combined Google Maps with a YouTube video of St Paul's Cathedral. Better than nothing but the home-made type video was poor quality, compared with the high quality production we are used to with TV and DVDs. The mashup of the Katherine Gorge would be useful for tourists and schoolchildren although again, the quality of the YouTube video was poor. Zooming into the Gorge on the TerraMetrics image was fun though! I suppose these types of mashup are good for a quick 'snapshot' about one thing. The Star Viewer was very cool, combining fun interactivity and lovely clear, wonderful images, with pleasant audio. The Hubble Story, drawing video from YouTube was fantastic.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Go Poddy over Pottercast!?!

I have noticed podcasts popping up everywhere and two websites I visit fairly often, TripleJ and The Leaky Cauldron both offer regular and varied podcasts and have done so for quite some time now. I thought about it: when would I actually listen to these? I no longer spend an hour each way on the train - how useful it would have been back then to have these Podcasts! I can see the benefit of listening to a radio program or interview that I might have missed, but that's just downloading or streaming to the computer (or then to my iPod). I now understand that what makes podcasts different is the distribution factor.

I did try some time ago trying to set up a Triple Jay podcast to my iTunes software but I am not certain it worked properly. Unless you are opening the software and getting the updates daily, or at least often, I am not sure it's that useful. I gather the idea is that your podcasts are updated with the latest ones, you plug in your iPod or other player which is updated and away you go!

Today, I ended up subscribing in a few different ways. I subscribed to a podcast from The British Library which was about the birds of Madagascar. Then I subscribed to The Book Show from the ABC website. Sometimes clicking on the link seemed to link directly to iTunes but other times it added the podcast to my Bloglines reader (not sure how useful that is!). The best method seemed to be physically copying and pasting the relevant URL from the website directly into iTunes, as I did with Dr Karl's Great Moments In Science from the ABC website. Interestingly, when I clicked on the iTunes link for both the TripleJ film guide and Pottercast (Harry Potter), the software connected with the iTunes store (although it was free to subscribe).

I noticed, like most things, the quality of podcasts varies considerably. The Pierce County Library podcasts seemed very professionally done, whereas some that were clearly designed to get the community involved (which is good for its own sake) were not so great. I listened to some MP3s and watched some MP4s from different USA libraries and I could see that, although the quality wasn't that great, local audiences would find them interesting. A lot of the podcasts were author talks and book reviews. I can see the benefit of an author talk, especially a vodcast, as a podcast, but as for book reviews I can't see a huge benefit over reading the information. I suppose many people like to listen or watch other people, whereas personally I would rather just skim read what I want. I wonder if podcasts will become popular because we are all so addicted to television? I personally tend to 'tune out' when listening to audio. Besides, it takes time to listen to podcasts or watch vodcasts, although at least you can use the Fast Forward and Rewind buttons!

One of the most interesting podcast ideas that I came across was scavenger hunt podcasts posted by the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The children could embark on their scavenger hunt activity, listening as they went for instructions and they were able to pause the audio whilst they looked. I thought this was a great use of the podcasts for children's activities which could be developed by the library and many children who use my library have MP3 players. The other use I could see for podcasting would be historical, local information in video format with audio. I think using new technology to encourage interest in library resources, such as local studies, is a positive step. Getting the community involved would also be a good thing, such as getting teenagers and children to review books and these could be posted as audio podcasts on the library websites.

I visited the Online Education Database and perused the list of podcasts. After I selected one "The Future of the Internet" I soon realised it was 1 hour and 40 mins long! Perhaps some other time... Actually, some of the topics looked really interesting and it would be fun to listen to these on the train or in the car, but it is a shame the duration of each one is not given on the main list. I guess the topic is more important here than how long it takes to listen to (and download) it.

(iPod picture from http://pottercast.the-leaky-cauldron.org/default)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

AnswerBoards to promote library services

I noticed some of the exemplary answers were signed off by librarians who gave the name of their library and a nifty tagline, eg "Librarians: Ask Us, We Answer!". I thought this was a great idea as it promotes the already good reputation librarians have of providing quality information, but with a friendly tone. If there was a local version of this database, it would be great to 'advertise' our libraries on it in this way. It's up to librarians to keep ourselves in the public eye and maintain our good reputation!

Slammin' The Boards

Aha! My concerns about non-authoritative answers to questions (see previous post below) have now been addressed. We get reference librarians to answer questions! Okay! This is a great idea and could be the way of the future for many librarians, with dwindling numbers of customers wanting to physically come up to the reference desk at the library. I had a thought though: wouldn't it be good if users of Yahoo!7Answers, WikiAnswers, etc, could CHOOSE an answer posted by a librarian over others posted by non-librarians. If nothing came up, they could just go with a wider search. I wondered if this has been suggested previously. I clicked on the link "Help us improve Yahoo! Answers.Tell us what you think." and searched on 'librarian', 'librarians', 'library' but no results in their Suggestions database! I also tried 'reference' but that yielded no obviously relevant answers. I had a look at the method Yahoo! uses to encourage participation by users in grading answers, it's "Points and Levels" system. There could be potential for development there but at the moment it's all apparently in the 'spirit' of the online community, much like eBay and various others are supposed to be. I discovered that those who abuse the system and don't play by the rules are branded 'trolls'. I just love the lingo of the internet! Troll piccy from http://www.tolkiendepot.com/images/products/trolls.gif.

Consult the oracle?

I admit to being absolutely passionate about information retrieval and knowledge-based systems. I had not heard of the term 'social searching' previously though. I had not deliberately tried either Yahoo!7Answers or WikiAnswers before, although some Google searches I had done (I think where I had used a question in the search field instead of a Boolean search phrase) had led me to Yahoo!7Answers. I was not that impressed, I suppose because of the lack of authority of the answers, however for a quick answer to a more general knowledge question I could see that it might be useful to some. I tried a couple of questions today and much preferred WikiAnswers. I liked the way that, you ask a question and it gives you a selection of questions that are similar that have been asked before. In this way, there is some control over quizzing the database and extracting the answers and the computer system can measure the results more accurately. The Yahoo! tool seemed more conversational, more social and less structured, although I only tried both a few times. Both tools looked incredibly similar (colours, layout, etc). I think I will have to test these a bit longer to see if I think they are okay tools or great tools!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What is best in life?

Sorry, I just had to post this - such a classic! I found it after watching the "Conan The Librarian" skit on YouTube.

Technorati hunting party

I had looked at Technorati a few times since this training commenced but, to be honest, I found their website really unappealing and too jam-packed with information. I suppose the more one uses it, the easier it would get, but it seems to me that most of the stories are very US-oriented. There's no arguing the influence of America on the world (especially the West) but I wonder how relevant Technorati is to many people in the world? I also suppose I am only looking at the top and up-and-coming major stories, so overall it could be a useful tool. Definitely need to spend more time on it. The amazing thing is that, despite Technorati's claims to how wonderful they are, I don't recall ever having heard of them before! I find that amazing as I certainly try to keep abreast of new technology and the web, and I had heard of many of the other sites we have been using.

I signed up (which was easy) and 'claimed' my blog (took me a few minutes to locate the right spot to do this, although once I found it, it was relatively simple to claim - did require OpenID access though) although I am not expecting too much! I also installed a widget on my blog. First I tried the Top Searches widget but that seemed to bring up some very odd searches, so I removed it and replaced it with a Top Tags one.

The recommended search on "bookmobile": I got exactly the same number of hits (791) for both the standard and advanced searches. Was that what was supposed to happen? Same for the search on "nswpln2008" (6 hits). Might need some help on this!

Widget power!

Installed my LibraryThing search widget on my blog. Didn't like the grey colour, so found an CSS colour chart online (I used http://www.somacon.com/p142.php although the authority is probably W3C) and changed the colour to pink and purple so it would stand out! What fun!

Delicious wishes

I started a del.icio.us account about 2 months ago, at the same time as my Digg account (see previous posting) but my first attempt to find interesting links on other people's lists proved disappointing. I think maybe the subject I chose was very limited or, the people interested in it haven't discovered social bookmarking as yet (more than likely!). I have now started using it to bookmark interesting sites and other online bits and pieces relating to this Learning 2.0 or Web 2.0 training and today I learned how to bundle my tags!

I thought Sutherland Shire's library tag cloud was fantastic, especially the Aboriginal Australians bundle and the Environmental bundle. The cloud of unbundled tags seemed a bit odd, especially with tags such as 'steel'. I am not sure of the usefulness of an unbundled tag cloud or perhaps free tags that don't fit a category should be kept to a minimum. I think tag clouds are great because they appeal to users who like to think in a different way, whereas other users prefer their information very ordered and set out in a traditional manner.

Sure, I can see the potential for using this at the library, especially for people doing family or local research, or HSC students, for example. Sometimes users are not sure exactly what they are looking for and a hierarchical index isn't always the best idea. They often need suggestions of keywords within the area they are researching and tag clouds would be perfect because they allow browsing and the user can see all the keywords or tags in one place at one time. Tag clouds are also so easy to create in the first place and tagging seems to be everywhere!

More LibraryThing stuff

I wanted to add a particular book to my LibraryThing library, but I had trouble locating it, so I added a few catalogues: The National Library Of Australia, The British Library, Amazon.co.uk and finally located the details so I could add it. Adding tags is simple too! I have found I get better results when I search on author instead of title, much like in regular library catalogues. It's great having the actual pictures of the book covers too, so it's easy to differentiate between the different editions - not so scientific for a librarian, I know, but easier and quicker! I changed my widget so now 10 books display instead of 5, just because the miniature book covers brighten up my blog!

LibraryThing - a booklover's dream!

I just LOVE new technology but I can see that some of it is so new, that improvements need to be made. However, it's early days and I will make the most of it all! I first came across LibraryThing in November 2006 and could see the benefits to myself straightaway. I didn't really have time to set up an account or check it out that much at the time but I bookmarked it for future use as I could see its potential. Well, today I checked it out once again and I can now see how I could use it, not so much for myself, but as a tool at the reference desk. I found the LibraryThing website REALLY slow but maybe that's because it's still in Beta, or maybe they were working on it. It did speed up later which alleviated my frustration (and this is from someone who remembers dial-up and DOS-prompts!). I found it a little time-consuming working out how to add authors and book titles, and then tags to those, but I am sure with practice I would be quicker. This tool would be so wonderful to be able to access anywhere, at any library desk, on holiday, on my next mobile phone! Instead of racking my brains trying to think of, or remember, a particular author or title, it's all there for me! I admit to not reading as much as I did when younger (too many distractions and demands on my time now) but building a personal library would also be helpful. Sharing it with friends would be fun. If I could use LibraryThing and also search my library's catalogue, that would be so good on the reference desk. A library version with recommended books read by library staff would be invaluable and much easier to maintain than our current "Staff Picks" display shelves. Once I really get the hang of LibraryThing, I will take the suggestion and check out Shelfari or GuruLib but there's little point in getting myself confused just now!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Book reviews for youngsters

Whilst trawling through the various videos online linked to libraries, I came across this one entitled "What if Barbie had a book group?". Personally I think it's more than a little trashy and very American, however it made me think that there is potential for my library to devise videos which could be posted on the library site or blog or wiki, to catch the interest of younger library users. Perhaps something like this would be quite appealing to younger teens and if it gets them interested in reviewing books, and therefore READING books, that would be great. It also circumvents the potential problems entailed with videotaping real children doing book reviews and posting them. Using toys or the like could be a fun way of presenting the library material! Anyhow, here is the video from YouTube.com.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ben the Guitar Hero expert!

This kid is amazingly good at Guitar Hero and yet so polite and humble! I think it is interesting that the video on YouTube.com of him playing Dragonforce's "Through The Fire And Flames" on the Guitar Hero 3 game has had almost 4.5 million views, whereas Dragonforce's own video of them playing their song has had a mere 3.5 million views! Anyhow, I have posted an interview with Ben and his guitar hero video as they are fun to watch.

Video killed the Radio Star or...

perhaps YouTube.com killed the television? I certainly spend a lot more time watching videos on line than television some evenings. Well, I already posted a video from YouTube (see the hilarious pigeon video I posted in February), but I thought I had better find something more library oriented. So I found this very unusual but quirky video posted by a US librarian. It's not the greatest video or even use of the format but I found it interesting and some of the text seemed relevant to our journey. Some memorable quotes from the video are: "librarian 2.0 won't stand still, keeps the momentum going", "giving customers a new outreach" (through our harnessing new technology), "librarian 2.0 is without generation, old or new doesn't matter" and "knows this movement is more than words, more than lip service to change out world". So let's hope we all do put what we have learned into practice!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows film a 2-parter

Warner Bros have announced that the film adaptation of J. K. Rowling's book "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", the final book in the Harry Potter saga, is to be made into two films. Having read the book, I can quite understand they don't want to lose detail, much of which is crucial to the plot. A single film would either have had to be really long or very short on detail, making it very confusing, especially for those who haven't read the book. Here is the official press release and thanks to The Leaky Cauldron for alerting me via email!

3 diggs is a start!

I joined Digg 10 days ago and posted my first news item, an article from the Sydney Morning Herald on the Sea Shepherd and Japanese Whalers. I checked Digg today and I have had 3 Diggs! It's a start I suppose. Digg claims to more accurately reveal what people are really interested in reading, without the editorial control (and higher level control - government or commercial) of other online news providers. I don't know if Digg.com is covered in the Learning 2.0 tutorials, however I came across it in a marvellous little book that I started reading about 2 months ago, called "Your Life Online: Making the most of Web 2.0 - the next generation of the internet" by Terry Burrows (ISBN 9781844423941)(book cover image from blackwell.co.uk). This book covers many of the areas we are using in the Learning 2.0 training and I do recommend it! I also started a del.icio.us account a few weeks ago but haven't really used it since. This is a social tagging or bookmarking tool and I liked the idea of it but haven't really explored it much yet. Once I finish my degree, I will have loads more time to explore these tools!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The email from the Learning 2.0 wiki came through and it reads:


Check this out. I've set up a PBwiki, a quick website that lets multiple people edit it, and I want to invite you to join mine.

This link will take you to the wiki.

I will have to check back with the wiki periodically to see what others have added or changed! I don't know if I am game enough to add 'extra features' to the wiki - it's a bit scary making major changes.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More Wikiness

Well, I got my 'key' to the wiki and gave it a try! I felt a bit odd adding to the wiki as I wasn't sure how much to write - I chose the Circulation page to add to. I then changed the colour, style and size of the font to differentiate my bit from the other comments. I then changed the size of the font of the questions. I wasn't sure if I should do this, but I thought it looked better and anyone can change it back later - that's a wiki for you! I then had a look at the bottom of the page. I 'shared' the wiki (sent a link to it) to another email address. Then I found the 'history' bit where I could see the list of updates and who had made them. This seems very useful as I had concerns about version control with wikis and the impermanence of the content. I like the 'transparency' of the wiki within it's community. Wikis are like living things, in a way, not static like many other communication/information forms.

I found this picture of a 3D wiki in Second Life (NOT a game, I've read - the participants get annoyed if you call it a game apparently). What an interesting concept: a wiki with an extra dimension. Here is the link to the picture and caption with more links to relevant articles.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Wikipedia, Wookieepedia, and Wikiality

Well, as I have posted on the main Learning 2.0 blog (week 5), I have learned a lot about wikis this morning. I have used Wikipedia countless times, of course, with that reservation that library and information professionals have, but the benefits of wikis didn't really jump at me. However, today I can understand that a wiki could be a great way for libraries to progress without the need for library staff to learn how to design websites, learn XHTML, or have a centralised person through which everything had to go to be posted online. Even the staff at my library who are not so 'hot' with computers could easily manage to contribute to a wiki. I still have concerns or thoughts about content control, which will always surface with something that is so changeable (and easily changeable at that). I didn't realise spam was such a problem, but it seems that there is software that can help, plus the wiki community members can 'jump' on spam and deal with it. It's not left up to the one person to edit, manage, etc.

I have used Intranets for many years in the business world and, although I thought they were a great idea in principle, and I also liked using IM or 'chat' programs, they did leave a lot to be desired. I suppose the Intranets are still there in the technological sense - it was the content and the management of that content that annoyed me. Intranets were left to grow weeds - the information on them was way out-of-date, often incorrect, and I got the distinct impression that there was no-one 'tending the garden' (to borrow the idea from Intellipedia and it's spade award). The intranet at my current workplace (a council one) is one of the worst I have encountered. It's almost completely useless. So I can see that a wiki for my library would be fantastic!

I really enjoyed the Information Today article and its discussion of academics being luddites with regard to Wikipedia. They really need to take the opportunities that are there with regard to the new technology. I also found the concept of 'wikiality' interesting. Let's face it: most of history that has been recorded is probably exactly the same. If enough people believe it, it becomes 'truth', so perhaps the concept is not that new.

Loved the term 'Wookieepedia'. I am constantly amused by the variations on names which the internet brings, such as the variations on successful brands like Google.

Friday, March 7, 2008

And we call ourselves civilised?!?

No, not just another cute animal picture. A reminder to all that the annual baby harp seal killing is about to start. I posted a cute photo but if you want to see what happens to these poor innocents, you can find it easily enough on the 'net. Please support animal rights activists, such as signing the petition on the PETA website here: Help End the Seal Slaughter

Monday, March 3, 2008

Curious Rabbit

OK! Time for some more fun. I think this bunny can teach us all that anyone can learn, even about strange things like RSS. Bring it on!

RSS: does it deliver (so to speak)?

I have always avoided RSS ever since I heard about it, because, although I could see the value of 'push' technology, especially given enormity of the Web, I wanted to avoid creating work for myself. What I mean by that is that I learned from experience that subscribing to Listservs, for example, would result in influxes of emails that were almost completely unwanted by me. Signing up to a Listserv is relatively easy - just type in your email address in the relevant box on the website. It is easy to join, not always so easy to 'unjoin'! I am still receiving emails from library listservs I was urged to join by Uni library science lecturers, not to mention the unwanted emails that have arrived over the years from various other online businesses with whom I have conducted transactions.

However, I have recently been looking into RSS again because I believed it would have developed considerably from its early days (when I first heard about it) and this does seem to be the case. One can now have an RSS reader or aggregator, rather than everything coming to the email inbox. There is greater control of subscribing and unsubscribing and one is able to regulate the regularity of the inflow of items. I suppose my interest was linked to my recent interest in podcasts, etc.

Thanks to the Learning 2.0 tutorial, I have learned quite a bit more about RSS, its history, the problems encountered and where it stands today. I have set up my Bloglines account and subscribed to about 10 feeds - some of my own choosing, some suggested in the tutorial. It's early days and I will hold back on any major judgements about RSS until I have tested it out for a few weeks. Because I chose feeds which tend to reflect the sites I already visit or already subscribe to by email, I suppose I can't really see the benefit as yet. I receive emails on a daily basis from several internet sites which hold my interest and this system seems to work pretty well for me. At the moment I cannot really see the benefit in having to log in separately to a different site (ie Bloglines) just to check the latest headlines, although at least it all comes to the one spot I suppose. It is like the drawing in the YouTube video on RSS showing the setting up of the reader: it's all in the one place - the feeds all feed into the one spot so that would be beneficial if you subscribed to a great number of feeds. The ability to manage the feeds is also very useful in that case.

I think there are greater benefits for the sender of the feeds rather than the receiver, in a way, because it is a marvellous way of marketing and keeping a website or blog in the mind of the subscriber. For libraries, it is wonderful technology, as they would be able to advertise upcoming events or promotions at the library, eg author talks, or new collections, or educational services - the list is endless! I think libraries, or rather many library staff members, need to realise that many library members interact to a great extent with the library through the website, often only coming into the physical library very occasionally and briefly. More and more, people are using the websites and having a library blog with RSS would be a great way of connecting and communicating with those members and customers.

My library has just revamped its personal profile function for online library members, enabling them to be updated on newly acquired items that fit their Special Interests Profile. This is great 'push' technology, but the library also needs something that fulfils more general information - getting it out to the customers online.