What I Learned Today...
Web 2.0 and programming tips from a library Web manager, What I Learned Today will cover blogs, rss, wikis, php programming and much more.
Sunday, December 11
NEW SITE - UPDATE YOUR BOOKMARKS
I hope to see you all there - Looks like over 100 of your are subscribing to my feed via bloglines! Thanks for the support.
Are an excuse to get busy ... well for people like me. Today was a snow day so I decided to try and get my new domain set up with WordPress so that I can host my own blog. The url is web2learning.net but I'm still trying to transfer stuff over and I haven't decided on a design yet. So if I don't post as much as normal, it's because I'm trying to get everything over there and the more I post here the more I have to move :)
So what do you call this? This isn't life trumping blogging - it's blogging trumping blogging ... woah ... something to think about :)
Thursday, December 8
Today when I logged into Gmail for the first time I saw something new on the left menu .. it said Talk using GTalk ... or something like that (I didn't think to take a screenshot before hitting the little x). Now I just logged in and when to delete a message, but I couldn't find Move to Trash on the little pull down menu ... that's because they changed it to read Delete. I guess the people at Google are working on Gmail today ... wonder what I can expect to happen next.
Reading Comprehension & Blogs
The question is whether or not Google Book Search will be bad for literacy ... personally I think assuming that it will is just plain silly ...
Steven quotes a blog post in the Washington Monthly that I'd like to comment on:
It's not just that I spend less time reading books, it's that I find my mind wandering when I do read. After a few paragraphs, or maybe a page or two, I'll run into a sentence that suddenly reminds me of something — and then spend the next minute staring into space thinking of something entirely unrelated to the book at hand. Eventually I snap back, but obviously this behavior reduces both my reading rate and my reading comprehension.I don't think this has to do with blogs ... well at least not for me ... I've always had poor reading comprehension ... in my case it's impatience and a strong desire to multi-task at all times. This was the case way before there were blogs ... before I even had access to the Internet. How did I major in Literature you ask? Well I went back through the books after I read them and found the passages I vaguely remembered and re-read them to see if they fit with the topic of my paper. This is why I love the idea of Google Book Search so much - not because I only have the time to read snippets, but because I only have the memory for snippets. If I had something like this in college I would have been able to easily find that passage I was looking for and then go to my book and re-read it.
I'm ashamed to admit that I rarely read newspapers - I guess it's that whole patience thing - blogs have made it so that I can read about the news that interests me. Yes blogs post that news in snippets ... but I always always always click on the links that lead to the full article - so in the end I've no only read the article, but other people's opinions on the article - which you don't get from a newspaper.
I feel as if I'm rambling on a bit, but the point is that (for me at least) Google Book Search & Blogs are not going to be the ruin of literacy ... in fact (maybe I'm being optimistic here) they seem to be bringing information about news & books to more people.
RSS Scraper is a nifty little tool that lets you notify people of updates to your HTML pages with RSS.
If you have an item in your page you'd like to include in the RSS feed e.g:
Sounds pretty handy if you don't have a database driven page ... but I do see one problem in the code above ... it's missing a </a></b> before the <br> ... just FYI if you plan on using this.
Monday, December 5
Amazon Keyword Watch
I just read about this new site on Solution Watch. It's called gumshoo and it's an eBay search engine that filters out items they fill are junk (I can't seem to find any documentation on how they decide this) and add notices to the top of items they feel may be scams - notes about high shipping costs or negative feedback.
The best part is that is also searches for misspellings. I'm always searching for items spelled in more than one way ... now I don't have to.
The Battle over Books
As of today (or maybe it will be next Monday) Wikipedia will no longer allow anonymous users to create pages:
Wales plans to bar anonymous users from creating new articles; only registered members will be able to do so. That change will go into effect Monday, he said, adding that anonymous users will still be able to edit existing entries.The article on ZDNet (Growing pains for Wikipedia) was published today - so I'm not sure what Monday they're talking about.
This change was brought on by a few highly publicized errors in the Wikipedia:
While I don't disagree with this move to only allow registered users to create pages, I do think the complainants are being a little silly ... especially since anyone can edit the encyclopedia ... meaning they could go in and fix their own pages. In fact that's what Seigenthaler ended up doing.
Let's hope this doesn't change the Wikipedia too much!
No more days off
I spent yesterday helping my husband install & customize Wordpress. I plan on switching to that myself, but I haven't had time yet (although I did purchase the domain). Anyway ... it was a very easy install and customizing the templates hasn't been t0o difficult either. I do have one gripe ... it's this new trend towards using CSS for layout ... which I'll admit I have no experience with.
It seems to me that using CSS for layout is what has led to this trend of fixed width pages ... and I'm really not a fan of that at all. So while I was editing the templates last night for my husband's new blog (I'll give you a link when it's all done) I found myself stripping out id & class tags and adding a table around the pages to make things expand to the entire screen ... to some this may seem like sacrilege, but to me it just makes sense. Who knows maybe down the road I'll change my mind, but right now I'm going to stick to a combo of tables & CSS to create my layouts.
Saturday, December 3
See inside books
Part atlas, part scrapbook, part bibliography, "Literary Locales" is a collection of links to pictorial Web sites related to the lives and works of writers.I clicked on a few pictures like Robin Hood's Major Oak which led me to the BBC's Inside the Major Oak page.
Are you keeping with the Bill-of-Rights discussion?
And now John has replied again.
The thing I love about this back and forth is that there is no bashing going on ... these two are using their blogs to have a professional discussion ... a discussion they could have on the phone ... but if they did it that way we'd never have had a chance to read it ... or comment on it ... don't you love this new trend?
John makes lots of great points in his response ... the one I liked the best is:
Telling an organization to entrust it’s livelihood to you without allowing them to look under the hood is not right. Even philosophically, it doesn’t jive with the idea of web 2.0.it just sums up everything he's been trying to say all along ... and the one thing I have been complaining about for the last 5 years. Why do I have to depend on people who know nothing of my organization to fix and enhance our catalog? Why do I have to spend hours on the phone with someone who obviously has a very minimal knowledge of HTML explaining to them that they have an extra tag that is messing up my layout ... why can't I go in there and remove the darn tag? -- sorry just ranting about a reoccurring problem we're having.
John also says:
In my opinion, the debate over how much we’ve been paying vendors is not important to this discussion and is probably counterproductive.Yes, but the amount we're paying does have something to do with it. We're shelling out money for products we're not 100% satisfied with and we keep shelling it out because changing means learning a new system and dealing with new problems ... what ever happened to you "you get what you pay for"? In an age where open-source technologies (that are as good if not better than the proprietary packages) are being churned out by the second, ILS vendors can't afford to charge what they're charging for what they're offering ... it just won't fly for long ... which is what I think John was saying:
What vendors need to be asking themselves is, “If we don’t change, will we still be in business?” I see rough times ahead for vendors as the gravy train comes screeching to a halt.Well that's it for my 2 cents on the subject ... I'm off to see what others are saying.
Thursday, December 1
Are you kidding me? That's how Michael Gorman is introduced in a snippet on the InfoToday Blog (ironic?) entitled Libraries in a Perilous Era. Apparently the ALA president feels that libraries are facing "gigantic issues":
The emphasis on quick search and the retrieval of nuggets of information defies the thoughtful process of the scholarly tradition and libraries' role in preserving and providing access to the human record of recorded knowledge, he said.When I read what this man has to say I feel like I'm reading something my grandfather would write ... something backwards and the exact opposite of what a "technology advocate" would think.
Times are changing and if libraries don't change with them then there won't be libraries anymore. We can't stay the still while the world around us is changing. Gorman is right about one thing ... people want instant results (quick search and nuggets) ... and if we as library professionals don't do everything we can to help people find the right information quickly, we're going to lose our patrons.
As far as the comment on amateurism ... well I'll redirect you to Bill Drew's post on the subject.
The ball is back in John's court
Anyway, I’m now going to make life even more complex by responding to John’s response to my response to his Bill-of-rights.I'm not going to comment too much ... because I forsee a much more detailed reply/comment coming from John ... basically I have to say that I wish our vendor was reading and replying to these comments ... the fact that Talis is doing this much is amazing (and should be expected of all ILS vendors) and has given them a big plus in my book ...
The Free Range Librarian has a great post that I just read entitled: Speaking Truth to Power: An Action Plan for Responding to Gorman. We should all follow this plan so that the general public knows what we're thinking.
Schneider recommnds that we:
Tuesday, November 29
Is your library ready?
A line from a post at Tinfoil+Racoon caught my attention:
As much as I love learning about Library and Web 2.0 and finding ways to make technology work for patrons and colleagues, I'm not sure that many (most) libraries are ready to take even the baby steps suggested by Michael.and I have to agree ... but that doesn't mean we don't keep pushing.
The one thing that Michael (from LibraryCrunch) mentions that I can't empethize with is that the administration is the force to be reckoned with ... in my library that is not the case. Our administration is all about upgrading, it's the librarians (not all of them) that needed the pushing.
Over the last 2 years I have slowly introduced bits & pieces of Web 2.0 technology into the library ... our librarians are now doing more and more online ... so much so that we just had a discussion with our IT staff about creating a back up machine for our Intranet in case the machine it's on goes down ... without our Intranet (which includes modules to allow the librarians to add research links, research tips, blog posts, document delivery orders and much more) our staff would be crippled.
In January I will be releasing our first database driven Intranet, complete with Project Blogs, News Blog, Wiki pages, Shared Calendar and Membership module (specifically for our staff). I have spent the last 4 months sharing tid bits with different staff members, getting them excited about what they'll be able to do ... and it has worked. I have heard from more than one librarian that they can't wait for the new Intranet - that it sounds "exciting".
It took time, and a lot of pushing, but we are on the road to Library 2.0 ... and the librarians are right ... it is very exciting!
I'm finishing up our new Intranet and to date we have no way to handle spreadsheets except to link to the Excel files. I wanted everything to be based on the Intranet - no need to look elsewhere for help ... well that will never be the case, but I just got closer to my dream.
I read about NumSum this weekend (can't remember where). NumSum lets you create web spreadsheets to share ... without installing a thing on your computer.
Monday, November 28
Goodbye Web 2.0. Hello Web 3.0
This is from an article entitled Baby Hugs Through Cyberlove on Wired News.
Can you believe it? It makes sense that it would be possible (especially after reading about The Toy - also on Wired) ... but it is kind of scary.
I just found 3 nifty maps on Google Maps Mania. All three do something with eBay results & a Google Map. My favorite was the mapBid site it lets you search eBay with a zip code and then plots your results on the map ... this one is the best laid out. The other 2 are similar. The Internet Bargain Center uses Google Maps to show you bargains near colleges in the US. The eBay Google Maps Mashup lets you choose how you want your results sorted.
That being said ... I have no use for these neat sites because when I shop on eBay I don't really care where my package is ... just so long as it's the price I want to pay.
Gollum, the Wikipedia Browser is:
sounds like it would be fun to play with, but I was using Firefox and had no luck ... I'll keep trying.
I just read on Science Library Pad that linkroll.com (a del.icio.us clone) was put up for bid on Ebay. The winning bid was almost $2,000 ... I don't know if I'd want to risk it with so many other similar & more popular sites out there ... but I guess we'll see.
Sunday, November 27
Big Brother is hiding in Flickr
Flickr does have a way to prevent this:
Keep that in mind if you don't want me to know what camera you're using :)
I just found this new service ... and it's not in beta! It's called ScoopGO! and it lets you put together you own little search engine. ScoopGO! has you set up your own scoops by choosing related RSS feeds to lump together ... and then makes them searchable. One of there examples:
Scoop world news: searches the latest news headlines of your choiceThen you can search the results or view them all via the Dashboard for your scoop. The Dashboard is sort of like a feed reader. It lets you see all of the headlines (and descriptions if you choose) for your scoop in one place.
This is a pretty handy little tool. Thanks RSS Compendium for pointing it out.
Package Tracking with RSS
The New York Times had an article on the 20th of this month that focused a lot on the privacy of our patrons in this age of customization:
AT the library at North Carolina State University, students and faculty will soon be able to sign up for an Internet-based service that will alert them when favorite journals are published, with links to the articles. They will also be able to create home pages with links to databases, books, journals, Web sites and other resources.this is what we all want to be able to give our patrons, but it means that we have to store more data about what each person is doing ... which may cause problems with our privacy policies and the comfort of our patrons. It's an interesting read.
Friday, November 25
Amazon ProductWiki Update
In short this new ProductWiki is in a beta stage where it can only be viewed on some computers ... not mine apparently, but I was able to see it on my husband's. Pretty nifty idea, I can't wait to see it work for everyone.
I found a new tool on the RSS Compendium Blog called RSS MAD.
RSS MAD is the largest archive of RSS feeds on the internet. You don't need to go to other websites to read anymore!I did a little poking around. There are bunch of categories like regional, society, gaming, business, and internet. RSS MAD also lets you save feeds and has a built in feed reader. A quick look at the bottom of the screen shows that there are only 111 subscribers to this new site so far.
I'm going to use it to find new feeds ... but I'm probably going to stick to bloglines as my reader unless I see or hear something great about this new service.
Who's afraid of Google?
Wired Magazine had an article titled Who's Afraid of Google? Everyone that addresses some of the areas in which Google is expanding, such as video, classifieds, telecoms, operating systems, print, productivity programs and ecommerce. What catches your eye in that list? "Operating systms" is what interested me ... especially when the article says
If anyone can fulfill the dream of turning the Internet into the operating system, it's GoogleTurning the Internet into an operating system? How would that work? Does this mean that we'd have to depend on our connection to the Internet to be strong enough for us to compose documents & spreadsheets? Doesn't sound promising, but I'd love to hear more about it.
I just learned about this site called LearnOutLoud. They offer video & audio lessons, lectures, and speeches on various topics. Pretty neat idea ... where was this when I was in school? In addition to their catalog of audiobooks and the like, they now have a collection of free downloads.
Thursday, November 24
A reply to the ILS Customer Bill of Rights
I like that the reply wasn't dismissive ... and while I understand where the author is coming from ... I can't agree with him 100% ... mostly because I'm on the other side of the table.
I see why we don't want people running queries willy nilly while our users are trying to search our data ... but why not trust us to make that decision ... we want what's best for our customers and us, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure we don't effect work flow ... Also realize that some libraries have a highly capable IT staff (including myself) who do understand the data that comes out of the database in it's raw form.
The other point I understand, but feel needs commenting on is:
Well yes, the current generation of ILS systems were not built with Web Services everywhere. To put it bluntly, who will pay the salaries of the developers who are going to develop these services for you to consume?Of course we have to pay for the services, but do we have to pay out the ear? Why not lower the prices so that us non-profits can afford the nifty upgrades and then charge extra to have it customized ... and if the library has a staff that is capable of doing the customizing have them sign a waver and let them do it ...
I don't know if my suggestions are logical ... but it seems to me like there are some things that just don't make sense when it comes to the price we pay our vendors for add ons and upgrades ... especially when they don't let us make fixes to have things meet our needs.
[update] John's reply to Talis is online[/update]