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Archive for September, 2007

No. 30 (Summing up)

Following my colleagues’ blogs, I am astonished to find how little value some of them find in nearly ALL the Web 2.0 tools. Some people are eager to see tools as time-wasting toys, and will not have the imagination to see how a library might use them. C’est incredible!

For my money, what were the best tools? Well, blogging and RSS feeds seem essential to librarianship or any organizational information-sharing, as do wikis. YouTube and Flickr have tremendous potential to help us get seen. YouTube, Flickr, del.icio.us, and LibraryThing harness the tremendous power (where did that cliché come from?) of user tagging and are useful as resource-discovery tools for individuals in their personal lives and for library-types in public service positions.

There may be some items in the Learning 2.0 curriculum that I find of low utility (like Grokker) or wholly useless (like the MyUA portal) — but there’s nothing there that’s useless to all of librarianship. There’s something in it for everyone. It just depends on the learner’s imagination.

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I’m familiar with most of these already. But new to me was the Rasmuson DVD browser. How nice to have a tool that more closely matches the way people like to search for movies! Not good for the finer-grained subject searching that documentary, instructional, and other non-fiction videos should allow — but there are few enough videos in all that keyword searching isn’t a bad way to go. And folks can go back to the conventional catalog, too — though they probably never think of this.

I am curious to know: how are the genres generated, and how are the movies classified? There’s nothing in the official catalog record to indicate such categories?

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One of the drawbacks of using a non-mainstream browser is that it is often not supported. For example, I’ve just been rejected by the MyUA portal for using Konqueror, a web-browser/file-manager for the K Desktop Environment (KDE) on Linux systems.

Another disadvantage — though perhaps this is more a disadvantage of using Linux? — is that extensions (and other functionality) are harder for me to get working. I wanted to view a site that required Adobe Flash. I had no problems installing Flash according to Adobe’s instructions; however, those instructions installed Flash into a Mozilla-related directory, and I’m not sure how to get Konqueror to now acknowledge it.

However, Konqueror is neat in how it is integrated with the rest of KDE. If you find, say, a PDF file that you’d like to keep, you can simply click-and-drag it to your desktop (or to whichever folder you’d like to keep it in). Or, if you’d like to open such-and-such a file (that you’ve found on the Web), you can click-and-drag it onto the icon for your preferred application. For example, rather than open your HTML document in the browser you’re using, you might want to open it in an HTML editor like Amaya; with Konqueror, it’s easily done. Uploading is just as easy: click-and-drag the file icon from your desktop into your input field, and all the location information is put there automatically.

That I can see, Konqueror offers only a handful of extensions, something that Firefox excels at — or, better to say, that its users excel at. Maybe there’s a massive Konqueror community, coming up with extensions, but the seem to be flocking around Firefox instead. I dunno.

Opera is not bad. I’ve browsed its widgets, and they look like they’re not only fun, but functional, too. Though perhaps not so weighted toward practical functionality as Firefox’s extensions… I have to look through several pages before finding something that looks worth downloading. Opera did come up with “Speed Dial” — though somebody has now emulated that for Firefox as an extension.

My recollections from playing with Opera before are that (1) I couldn’t understand the difference between the “one-arrow” back button and the “two-arrow” back button (which could doubtless be solved by a little patient reading), and (2) it would not keep my bookmarks in the order I wanted them. However, that was back in the Opera 6 and 7 days, so perhaps it’s worth a shot.

I think that “Customizing your Firefox browser with extensions” would make a good part of this lesson in the future.

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No. 27 (Grokker)

First thoughts:

  • Why can’t this thing get me more than 250 results? When you get only 250 hits on britney spears (vma OR "video music awards"), there’s clearly a problem. Who could be happy with only 250? I can’t figure out how to increase them.
  • I am distrustful of dynamic clustering, especially of web pages, which have little structured metadata and no controlled vocabulary. It’s kind of cool and may get you something better than your average Goo-gul search, if you need to search “the web”, but wouldn’t you be better off using a proper journal index? This kind of clustering is important, but it points to the need for faceted browsing in controlled-vocabulary catalogs and indexes.
  • It’s swell that you can keep a “working list” of websites you find, but you can also do that with Ask.com, and with more results.
  • If you like dynamic clustering, try Clusty or other search engines powered by Vivisimo, like USASearch.gov.
  • The map is confusing. How are things clustered? It’s not clear, and I like my searches more transparent. I have this feeling when using EBSCOhost, and there it’s even somewhat clear what the clustering criteria are.

If you check my del.icio.us bookmarks at http://del.icio.us/adasiak, you’ll see I’ve added a link to a YouTube presentation of a parody of Britney’s tragic performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. It’s tagged eerl and for:pmcmcl2.

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No. 26 (MySpace)

On this one, I’m not going to spend a lot of time — because I’ve already spent more than I care to. If I’m going to be doing anything online with friends, they’re going to be friends — that is, flesh-and-blood people who, I know, already have something in common with me. There’s just not enough time in the day to spend “putting myself out there”, wasting time on developing some god-damned image so that unknown others will try to be my “friends”. When I have free time that I want to spend being social, on-line is not my first stop. I prefer the company of actual people.

If you search me in MySpace or Facebook, you’ll find that I have accounts. I got the MySpace account when Y.A. and techno-hip librarians were all talking about the importance of getting MySpace pages to put ourselves out there where the public was. But, you know what? How many of them want a god-damned librarian’s services, anyway? In order to get well-known enough that somebody would ask you a real library-related question, you’d have to invest, like, a thousand hours dinking around with your profile and making “friends”. Big Waste Of Time. (The Facebook membership was at the invitation of a good friend from library school. I figured, what the hell?)

Okay, MySpace has a place for sharing videos, music, comedy, blah, blah, blah. But don’t I have something better to do?

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Google Base: I appreciate that they’re giving people the chance to structure their information and their searches. However, its utility seems limited by the number of people who believe in it enough to post their … whatever. I suppose most of the Web 2.0 tools are limited by the number of “believers” who want to invest their effort in the project in the first place.

I suppose we could add recipes from rare books, or images from the Digtal Archives, or our mind-blowing events and activities that we want all the world to find out about — but I have this concern about little return on investment. Should we just put our stuff out there, wherever “there” is? Or do focus our efforts more?

Google Labs: Not much interested me there, but I tried Google Sets. This seems like a toy that will predict other members of a set for which you provide a few initial members. I tried signers of the U.S. Constitution: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Gouverneur Morris. In its predictions, it missed several and included several that were clearly not there (Warren G. Harding, George H. W. Bush, Ulysses S Grant, etc.).

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Google Maps

Okay, searching my physical address gets somebody in the neighborhood. But if I knew the hit-man were relying solely on Google Maps to stalk his target, I’d sleep pretty soundly.

Searching my name gets some text hits that associate me with KUAC (I gave money) and with the Rasmuson Library. Two “map tacks” are placed: one in a parking lot south of the G.I., the other a little east of Hess Village.

For kicks, I searched “fairbanks alaska adult video” and discovered “Linens & Lace”, which is apparently on the Airport Way frontage just off the Gottschalks parking lot. (“Linens & Lace” doesn’t sound like a smut shop. Is that really what they sell there?)

The GMaps directory… is inadequate, to put it nicely. There were hardly any map mashups there that I could find. They have plenty of good categories, but no maps. I can find parking spots in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia: woo-hoo. And CoolGoogleMaps… okay, it has more stuff, but it’s not organized so that I can find it easily.

Now, what would make a cool mashup is an overlay of Alaska’s Digital Archives items onto a map. A person could zoom in on a region or location and see all the photos relating to that place. You could probably manage to have thumbnail images radiate out of the “map tacks”.

Google Earth

Love it, love it, love it. Use it almost every day. All the time, I have to find out for ViLDA where something is. Google Earth certainly doesn’t have all the locations I need — hell, it doesn’t have half of them — but with that and the USGS’s GNIS database, I can find anything. It’s Top Fun!

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No. 23 (Library ELF)

Just opened a Library ELF account, knowing I have overdue items at the Borough library, waiting for the pestering e-mail and RSS feed that tell me what a BAD PATRON I am… and nothing.

Maybe it hasn’t reached that point in its cycle yet. Will I actually have to wait?


The next day…

Hmmm… The RSS feed has been created, but it hasn’t found anything out yet. I’ll check my e-mail…

Holy crap! Do I really have three overdues? No surprise, really.

Thanks, Library ELF!

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ListenAlaska is pretty nice — it’s about time we got access to downloadable audiobooks — except:

  • It operates only on Microsoft Windows machines. Granted, something like 85% of PC-using humans use Microsoft Windows, but that leaves 15% out in the cold. As a wannabe Linux Nerd, I object to software that won’t run on Linux. But I object more to software that won’t even run on the Macintosh OS, which far out-paces Linux in numbers of users. I heart open standards and interoperability.
  • An item (1) may be “checked out” by a maximum of ONE simultaneous users, rather than A DOZEN or more, and (2) cannot be “checked in” earlier than the standard 14 days. My wife and I have occasionally screwed up a check-out so that ListenAlaska thinks we’ve got it, yet we just plain haven’t. It would be nice to be able to say, “Cancel! Take it back! Let me try again!” Well, in fact, we can say it, but there’s nothing we can do to make it happen. Why must they subscribe to the print model?
  • It doesn’t work with iPods, the most ubiquitous MP3 player in existence. I know, it has something to do with Apple’s not wanting Overdrive’s DRM software on their precious iPods. Makes me wonder if Apple will have to change their tune eventually. For now, it means that I can listen to Overdrive’s audiobooks while sitting by my computer, and nowhere else.

About Project Gutenberg, I say this:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

That’s from Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, currently the 93rd-most-downloaded author on PG in the last 30 days.

Having the complete and (presumably) reliable text of tens of thousands of classic titles is really fantastic. Having their audiobooks in OGG format, which plays on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Unix, OS/2, and PocketPC, is equally fantastic. I heart classics AND full text AND interoperability.

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I approach library-related podcasts with some reservation: wouldn’t it be faster for us to read? And not only faster when we need speed, but more easily allowing pauses for consideration of the matter? (Audiovisual media barely allow us, though they do not invite us, to stop frequently, take in a sentence again, or reflect.) This raises the question of, For what topics, or for which audiences, is audio the best delivery means?

Perhaps:

  • News — the kind you don’t need to think about much, but just want to have gently flowing over you like so much air-pudding.
  • Storytelling. For kids, mostly, but also an opportunity to tell tales for grown-ups. All part of the library’s cultural programming.
  • Just about anything for the blind.

Being already subscribed to More Library Blogs Than You Can Shake A Stick At (though I took Karen Jensen’s advice and dropped some), I have no interest yet in adding library podcasts to my daily time-suck. I found some in each of the three podcast directories, and ignored them.

However, I did find the Onion Radio News, which is tops in my book. Subscribed!

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