Sunday, August 19, 2007

Thing 23: The Home Stretch...

My favorite parts of this journey were the ones that involved using RSS feeds in different ways. I am an avid user of Google Reader now. In the past, I had this humongous list of sites that I tried to visit every few days, and I didn't always know where the new stuff was. Now I can visit everyone who has new content every day, if I like. In the case of "The Brick Testament," sometimes the new content was rather buried, and I had no idea how to find the new stuff without digging a little. I never have miss "The News From Lake Wobegone," or "CarTalk" anymore, because it's ready for me when I'm ready now. I don't have to remember these things anymore.

This program has given me tools to free up my brain to accomplish other tasks. I keep thinking of how writing freed up the human memory for other tasks. We are certainly evolving, all within a couple generations.

I liked being able to do the fun things. I didn't expect it to be as much fun as it was. And even though it was "play," the outcome was an understanding of concepts that could have been pretty dry (mashups, for example).

There were little snag here and there that had to be worked out. For example, users were required to an additional level of registration in order to make their Bloglines public. That wasn't all that obvious. The location of the Flickr mashups wasn't as obvious to the very beginner as it might have been. But these things were all worked out in the end.

I would most certainly participate in another discovery program like this. I need to stay "in the know" because of the type of work I do. I would say to other users who haven't jumped on the bandwagon: "Please do this. You will thank me, and yourself." The difference between using 1.0 and 2.0 technology is like the difference between walking on all fours and walking on two legs. Evolve, people! Free up your hands to do other tasks, like building fires! (sorry...I was a biology major once).

Thing 22: NetLibrary and Overdrive

I started using NetLibrary and Overdrive a couple years ago. So, for about 2.5 years, I have spent quite a lot of time downloading and listening to the ebooks. I have done quite a lot of troubleshooting and training with customers and some of the staff on the use of both services as well.

Neither of the two services is compatible with the IPOD. The player must be PC-compatible. I've heard people saying that there are some PC-based players that don't work with the services, but I don't know which ones to avoid. I haven't had any trouble at all with the two I have owned (both manufactured by Creative Labs).

Of the two services, I prefer NetLibrary. Overdrive's downloads are usually comprised of multiple parts. You need to use software downloaded from the site to manage these files. Also, there is a lot of competition for access to the to books. Overdrive only allows a certain number of concurrent users per book, based upon how many concurrent uses have been purchased from the vendor. Okay, I understand this - but it's not a physical BOOK!

NetLibrary allows unlimited usage of its 1600+ titles. (When we started, there were just under 1000) Wonderful. And the file download is managed by Windows, and played by Windows Media Player. Easy. Now, for those of us who are using MP3 Players with "Flash Memory," Netlibrary can be a bit harder to use, because the book is contained within one continuous file. Ideally, one should use a player that allows bookmarking. Otherwise, if you should choose to listen to anything else on your player, you are forced to remember where you stopped, and to fast-forward eternally until you find your place. This is very wearing on the battery. If you replace the battery, you may have to hunt for your place all over again. Sigh.

Since I have been a NetLibrary user for about 2 years, I spend some time with Project Gutenberg for this "Thing." Project Gutenberg's Audiobooks project is an excellent resource for a student who is short on time. However, I have to say that I'd need to be desperate to use the audiobooks that are read by a computer (rather than by a person). My mind kept wandering during the reading of Tom Sawyer. I tried "The Little Match Girl," which is one of the 273 "human-read" files, and was pretty impressed. It wasn't a dramatic reading by any stretch of the imagination, but still, the reader was better than one author I once heard who insisted upon reading her own book on tape. I'd certainly recommend these to anyone who is pressed for time, or perhaps to teachers of students with reading disabilities.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thing 21: Podcasting

Thing 21:Podcasting
I've been using my Bloglines and Google Reader to access three different podcasts: Garrison Keillor's "News From Lake Wobegone," NPR's "CarTalk" (Starring Click and Clack, the Tappett Brothers), and now "The Secrets: Podcast for Writers." I found "The Secrets" using, which I find to be an excellent tool for finding podcasts about any subject under the sun.

I found it interesting that I did not find the other two podcasts to which I have been subscribing. I'm sure there's a good reason. My guess is that the podcaster must self-report the podcast (there was a form that one can use to do this).

Here is the link for "The Secrets: Podcast for Writers" podcast. Enjoy.

Thing 20: Discover YouTube, etc

Thing 20: Discover YouTube and a few sites that allow users to upload and share videos

This is my niece, Rhea, when she was about 9 months or so old. Obviously, I chose this video because she's "our" kid. This baby has relatives on 3 continents: North America, Europe, and Asia. Kodak Gallery has been our best friend, because I can post the pictures, and just send an email to her grandparents and aunts. I have actually decided to use Flickr since I started Library 2.0, because it's quicker, and non-commercial. YouTube works in the same way - I can upload films taken with a simple digital camera, and voila! Rhea's relatives get to see her in action. How cool is that?

The video was taken by her mom, Risa (pronounced Reesa), and uploaded by me. Uploading to YouTube was foolproof. One thing you must note, though. There is a time delay, which seems to be varied for some reason. One video showed up right away (it was 3 seconds long). This one took about half an hour. I have no idea why. Anyway, it was very easy. If you feel a little uncomfortable about strangers viewing your personal videos, you can easily make them private such that only people you invite may see them.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Thing 19: Award-Winning Sites

Thing 19: I Was a Former Donkey Kong Queen...

We've come a long way. Video games used to be even simpler than this one. I had PONG when I was 15. You had a little blip that went back and forth across the screen, and two light paddles that you used to bounce the blip around. Your game choices were: Tennis. TABLE Tennis, Handball, and one-person Handball. I feel so lame, particularly when I see the sophisticated, first-person-shooter games that let you go around pretending to kill things in rather realistic scenes. Or am I? I doubt that any child ever played the lame "Table Tennis" and then went out and shot up his campus. Just saying...

So I really like Arcaplay, because it's a major blast from the past. And you can find some relatively innocent games to recommend to your customers who don't want their kids to be emotionally traumatized.

I had actually embedded the game into my blog, but it was just too noisy and annoying. Please click the link below if you want to give Donkey Kong a try.

Thing 18: Zoho Writer

Week 8: Zoho Writer

(This document was written and published to this blog using the ZohoWriter "Publish" feature).

I started using Zoho writer about a month ago. I have to say that I really like being able to keep my documents all in one place. I use 2 1/2 computers at home (a desktop, a laptop, and a pocket PC), and several at work (on my own desk, the reference desk, AND two different training labs). Housing the documents on any one computer makes them inaccessible on all the others. I started solving this problem by keeping documents on the server at work - but that's inaccessible from home. So I also have a flash drive that I carry around - and ran through the washing machine accidentally (it survived!!!).

Being able to keep my important documents online is a bit safer, since routine backups are constantly being done. Zoho writer's controls are all visible at once, and none of the commands are buried, such as with Microsoft Word.

Having the software online is certainly a bonus for the customer. We have had sporadic compatibility issues concerning the different versions of Word that were in use at the public schools and community college. Add to this that most PC-compatible computers that are sold for home use come with the dreaded "Microsoft Works," which is just awful. Zoho Writer saves every few minutes, which protects the "non-saver" from him/herself. This also helps the library, because the media on which the document is to be saved is no longer an issue.

I had a little trouble when saving - I've written several documents that have reformatted (removed line breaks between paragraphs) for no apparent reason. That's rather irritating. I'm hoping I'll be able to figure out the reason why at some point. The last time that happened, I copied and pasted everything over to Google Docs, though.


Week 7, Thing 17: Add an entry into the Sandbox Wiki created with PB Wiki

Thing 17: Add an entry into the Sandbox Wiki created with PB Wiki

This one was pretty straightforward and easy, considering that I've already been editing a wiki sporadially. There was a glitch that would not allow my to make my text into a link, like so: "nette 2.0" but this is a known issue, and everyone has been instructed to just enter the link itself.

Week 7, Thing 16: Wikis

Thing 16:

Wikis are unnerving. I started working on the HCPL Wiki's Tech Fair/Library 2.0 areas. What has been difficult for me is the idea that many people can edit one another's work. It's a new way of working that I'll just have to grow accustomed to.

St. Joseph County Public Library has a group of "subject guides" that are being managed and edited wiki-style. I would love to explore using this technology for my library's "Online Resources" page. I wouldn't mind having anyone have access to it, either, as this is a whopper of a task to maintain. I think that my personal "sticking point" is trusting others not to delete all the hours of work that have gone into the database (accidentally, of course). And what kinds of procedures would need to be put in place to track changes? The wiki keeps track, but somehow, those little emails I get when someone has changed our wiki don't make much of an impression.

Once again, I think my confusion has to do with how the way I work is evolving. I haven't arrived yet, obviously, because the emails seem to stop me in my tracks. With traditional emails, I take in the information. I delete it or save it. These little wiki notifications that show every little change require time to interpret and absorb. I'm not really thinking about the topic at hand when the emails come through. There needs to be a special way of handling this email, because it really is a different animal - at least in my mind, at this point.