Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thing #26

Photo from

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...

Thing 21

I looked at both LibriVox (wow!!!) and Project Gutenberg, which I haven't visited for awhile. I spent a little time looking at texts from Mary Roberts Rinehart, but decided to review the sci fi story written by my hero, Richard Stallman. His story is called The Right to Read.
Here's the link:

I decided to revisit this story after looking at the World Public Library site, which frankly, creeped me out. The "About" page didn't really tell me anything about them. To me they appear to be a commercial company co-opting the the word "library" and it just reeked of Stallman's ominous story. Basically his message is that we had better defend our right to share or we will find ourselves monitored as pirates every moment of our online lives. Another interesting aspect of the online book is the header which has his rather lengthy copyright instructions, in which he tries to lay out a process where anyone using his story for commercial gain will end up having to contribute money to Project Gutenberg!

I can't believe I've lived within 2 townships of MIT for 2 years and haven't gone to find Richard Stallman in person and give him flowers or something...!

Chat - Thing 20

I haven't managed to chat with OFL (our fearless leader, Jennifer!) because I am always doing my assignments deep in the night and oddly enough, she never seems to be at work then! But we use Meebo at work, and I figure there is always something new to learn, so here's what my question.

I noticed that Jennifer's meebo chat widget does not accept messages when she is offline. We use meebo (I'm karrielts1) on our research guides, and ours are always open even when we are offline. I checked the settings tab but cannot figure out how to change mine so it doesn't accept mesages when I'm not online. Probably I would never do that - but it raised another question in my mind. I get almost no messages, so I'm wondering what happens when someone puts in a message and I'm offline. I tested this by sending a message to my coworker (who should be home having turkey right now!!) and asked him to tell me when he sees my message. I do need to understand what happens to messages sent me when I'm offline... Feel free to chat me up at karrielts1 so I can actually experience my meebo!!
I was fascinated by dmoz, and went astray there checking into web meetings and web conferencing....
I also got sidetracked when I went to the official blog of OFL and saw squidoo. Now that looks interesting. The books for out of the box reading, wow! Is it any wonder I keep falling behind?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thing 19

Social Bookmarking - this seems like the most complicated thing we've done, or at least Delicious seems more confusing and complex to me than any of the other sites.

I made my account, imported my bookmarks from Firefox, edited them and figured out (I think!) how to share and not share my bookmarks, and used Delicious tags to find other sites about Bhangra, a type of Punjabi folk music that's become popular.

I still haven't figured out any intermediate tasks with tagging - bundling, etc.

Clipping, on the other hand, was a lot simpler -- I cliped something and added it to my Facebook page, but I wasn't that thrilled with the result, readers have to click through Clipmarks to actually get to the the blog I was featuring...I'll have to think about how that will really be advntageous to use.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thing 17.2

I took a look at quite a few of the sites recommended by the 26.2 ers. I like the idea of a trading web site, to let you trade used books or CDs, although the one-by-one transaction approach isn't going to work with web sites that keep lists of what is available once it gets a lot of traffic, you really need searchable databases or the thing won't scale.

I went to Five Limes with high hopes but the Boston resources were slim to none. I could think of lots of things to do at a site like that so I'm glad it was mentioned (find green contractors, figure out what the cost/benefit is likely to be for switching from oil to gas heat, check a carpool network, trade tips about the best composting systems) but the site seems still somewhat underdeveloped for the sorts of things I would be the most interested in. I wish it well - I hope it takes off and plan to check back!

Thing 17

I'm guessing you have to pay to have an institutional presence on ITunes U. Some of my thoughts -- while it might be easy for users to download content, as the volume of content grows, some better decisions about metadata have to be offered. I don't want to choose content from a list of 70 offerings with minimal title info, and when I search, what metadata are my keywords reaching? I think I love the idea of lectures being offered for free more than I really have a lot of hope for the future of presenting them this way. And yet, ITunes trumps Wikiversity or anything that is so text heavy.

But, for dreaming, here's what we might do at my library: Choose our topics for "information literacy" and film our instructors in action in classrooms, and then put up the best results online somewhere. I think it's all about video, and I think a real sustainable program for us would be filming what we already do rather than trying to create specific content, since we don't have advanced skills for creating content, nor the time to do it and update it. There's a lot of talk these days about active learning and peer learning, which is all good, but sometimes a lecture is a great way to learn content too.

Here's a crazy thought. What if, in the future, students subscribed to lectures for content they were interested in from repositories -- and famous lecturers didn't belong to a particular university but just sold their content to academic repositories. When students matriculated at particular institutions, it wouldn't be about registering them for particular courses and making sure they attended all the lectures, it would be about supporting their course of study through the additional teaching of critical literacies and helping them become high quality content producers...? Universities would be responsible not for the content -- students themselves would design their course of study with the help of advisors -- but for ensuring (and demonstrating through assessment) that students were critical thinkers and had lifelong learning skills and problem solving abilities, etc etc.

Online office tools

Used the ZOHO presentation slide show tool to make this. We use both ZOHO creator (for databases) and google docs at my office, starting this past summer. I haven't yet organized my onlife life very well though, so I'm constantly trying out 2 or 3 passwords to try and remember how to access my work.

The convenience of using embedding is lovely. I noticed some typos in my presentation - went back to ZOHO, fixed 'em and saved it, came back to my blog and re-loaded. Presto change-o, everything was fixed! :-)

Etsy et al

Hah, these sites are amazing and the only thing standing between me and having my Xmas shopping done is sufficient time to browse. Etsy is going to be fabulous I think. Ever since I left North Carolina, I have missed being able to easiy find beautiful pottery to give as gifts. In fact, I used to go to the big multi-potter shows and it always surprised me how few of the potters I liked had their own web site. I found some North Carolina potters on Etsy, only a few, but I feel like this will change in years to come. Lulu too was fantastic and I found a painting there I love, ladies drinking tea by a Spanish artist, only $4,000. How many gingham tea cozies would I have to make and sell on Etsy to buy that painting, I wonder?

In My Backyard

The place blogging site I liked very much was Online Boston, because it took me right to the individual blogs of some interesting people, and it's fun to think of these good writers living in my neighborhood somewhere, shopping at my grocery store, etc... The other sites didn't do that much for me. I read the story of how American Towns got started and it was very commendable, but the site itself was too canned and commercial -- the same real estate story about the conventional wisdom of buying a home for my "town" was posted verbatim on the pages for other towns, with the word "Massachusetts" changed to the appropriate state name for the other towns. Blecch. But I came across a lot of witty people at Online Boston - that's a keeper!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Library Thing etc

Just now, browsing there for the first time in a long while, I rediscovered a favorite author of mine, Mary Lee Settle!

Library Thing works for me generally speaking. I have used it off and on in the past to find vacation reading. for some reason, I prefer to use Library Thing over the usual library catalogs when I am looking for leisure reading, maybe because it feels more like browsing a bookstore, or maybe just because library catalogs feel too much like work and remind me of the stacks of professional reading I should be taking on my vacation, in order to catch up! I like the tagging esp because of the way it meanders.

I looked for books on the American Revolution set in Boston and had to reorganize my tagging several times to get a good list. I didn't figure out how to exclude juvenile fiction, and I couldn't generate books written/published in a certain time frame which I would have liked to do. This is pretty much how I find stuff to read, that and going into used book stores. The Facebook app didn't appeal to me -- I'm not that interested in what my friends are reading unless they are talking to me about what they liked about it. I'm pretty unlikely to read a book just because my friend is reading it.