Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thing #26

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While I'm waiting for my Zanby registration to go through, I will take some time to thank Jennifer for this truly wonderful course. It's been a transformative experience for me, a chance to use all these social networking tools and reflect on how they enable us to do what we all want to do (manage boatloads of incoming information, have a personal life, stay connected with colleagues, discover useful content and make it our own, share content we create, and so on). Jennifer, I've been "dining out" on your class for weeks, telling the tales of my latest discoveries!

OK, I'm back from a tour of Zanby. I like it, but it doesn't seem to have reached critical mass in my area yet. Searched all kinds of interests (NATIVE PLANTS, EARLY MUSIC, BHANGRA, ETC) and didn't come up with much. The search-by-zipcode function seems to be messed up, but it was easy enough to browse towns in Mass. These sorts of web services are terrific for people new to an area - and as I have lived here only 2 years, I am still looking around for ways to get to know the area better.

I'm sorry to see the class come to an end. I'm hoping to go back over some of the lessons during the holiday break in December!

Recipe Source - Thing #25

Well. I'm not much of a cook, but I took a look at Recipe Source because I never heard of it. I looked at soup recipes and found "The Postman" Italian fish soup which looks pretty good. I liked the availability of browsing and searching, and searching within specific categories.

Food Network has pictures! Yay! And helps you out if you don't know how to spell something and you search on a misspelled term (anadama bread).

These sites demonstrate how community sharing is not really in competition with book publishing. I think people buy more cookbooks than ever, and yet with these web sites it seems like you could really get a recipe for anything you could possibly imagine.

Thing #24 - Twitter

Photo from

I added a Twitter widget to my iGoogle homepage, and figured out how to follow a certain famous librarian.
I wonder if this would be a correct characterization -- Twitter is like Facebook for people who are more likely to be on their mobile phones than at a laptop. Twitter is more of a closed system than Facebook - it's harder to find people to connect with, and once you connect with them, there seems to be lots more of the real lightweight personal stuff you share with friends socially. Contrasted with my Facebook page, which is a nice mix of some social and some professional chitchat among colleagues. I think that Facebook is good for people who all have a general reason to be connected in a "light touch" sort of way, almost like a "talking" rolodex.
My few minutes experience with Twitter (and a tidal wave of arcane comments from this famous librarian to his close friends) makes me think I will "follow" Twitterers only under very specific situations, such as the obvious "at a conference" example. I suppose if enough of my co-workers were interested, we could use it to plan spontaneous brown bag lunch conversations on various topics and that would be fun. Or ref librarians could use it (instead of a listserv) for help answering difficult questions, or instead of making phone calls if we wanted to check with staff all over campus as to what services were provided for students at various offices. For either of those examples, a critical mass of fellow staff would have to be on Twitter. Having the widget on a google page is key, otherwise it's kind of a pain to have to log into twitter as yet another bucket from which to get info. I understand I could feed it into my chat in some way too.

Friday, November 28, 2008

More Thing #23

Checking to see if I can embed a musical clip from Seeqpod.

Wow, it worked!!! I may have mentioned a few times on this blog that I am a big fan of bhangra music.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thing #23 MUSIC!!

Pandora is addictive.

I have my own radio station now, KPNK. The name sounds like it plays punk - couldn't be further from the truth. Pronounce it K-pink, it plays "pink" music. Old happy ballad-y club crooner songs from the 40s. Think Doris Day - she's a hit on KPNK! I'm liking my first station so much, I could hardly bring myself to explore others, but I also looked into "blue-grassy instrumental."

The feature where you give songs thumbs up and thumbs down harks back to my days working with the artificial intelligence folks AND makes me think about Nancy Pearl.

When you ask Pandora why it picked a song for your station, it lists out the elements that it thinks might be the features that you like about the song. This is similar to figuring out why a reader likes a book. There are elements of books that I like (good dialog, interesting settings, etc) that are more nuanced than just "Oh, I like books about World War II." Nancy Pearl has written about this kind of stuff brilliantly. So, the Pandora people have identified these kinds of traits for music. When I give the song a thumbs up or down, this is called "Machine Learning." I am teaching the machine to use the information I give it to pre-select with more accuracy the songs I am likely to enjoy.

So, now I have managed to get Doris Day, Nancy Pearl and artificial intelligence into a single blog post - I call that a good day's work!

Thing #22 Revisited

The media archives of the Wayback Machine are awesome. I looked through the Rick Prelinger section, because I've known about him since I was a gov docs librarian - he collected a lot of govt sponsored films. I watched the one about Taliesin. I didn't spend enough time at the site to really scope out what intellectual property constraints there might be, but the sheer volume of wonderful content makes me feel even more strongly that the dam is just bursting. I don't know how arcane and confusing legislation and the cranky people in big media can keep us from using all this great stuff!!

Wayback Machine - #22

Why, back in 1997, my institution had a web page!

1997, the year I went to library school...