Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The End, or Perhaps the Beginning

Now that I've reached the end of the 23 Things project, I think I'll miss it a bit. It was fun learning a few new things and remembering my experience in the past in the cases of the others.

Probably, the most intriguing "thing" of all the 23 for me was the Pecha Kucha exercise. It is truly a lesson in brevity. I've committed to practicing it whenever I make presentations.

If I were to suggest one improvement on this project, it would be to update it to the cutting edge technologies of today. I'd still keep some of the important pieces, like setting up a blog, a Delicious account, and photo editing, but among other elements, adding some of the Google suite of tools would be a good start.

These days, most digital cameras come with a small video function. Adding a "thing" on how to make effective and high-quality videos to use on library web sites would be a good addition. There is a ton of free video-editing software that also can be explored.

Finally, I would definitely do this type of project again. It was well conceived, well planned, and very effective. I'm glad I had the opportunity to participate, and to see all the cool stuff my classmates were doing on their blogs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Parts 20 to 23 -- Video and Downloadable Audio

I've been a YouTuber for a while.

Here's one of a few cooking videos I've made for the Altered Plates blog.

I used to use Brightcove until they privatized the program. Then, they wiped all the videos I made. Not good customer service, that's for sure. It's good that Google bought YouTube, so although there's a 10 minute maximum, they won't be wiping my videos.


While I'm not an Apple, iPod, or Mac user (I have a MuVo MP3 player -- mine's so old they don't even make it any more, but here's one that's similar.), I definitely recognize the value of a lightweight way of transmitting audio over the web.

My favorite source of podcasts is the NPR Podcast Directory. The music section is really varied and different than what you normally hear on radio. Some of my favorite music came from shows on NPR.

I like the idea of creating podcasts, especially as blog elements. When I was in college, I worked at the radio station and enjoyed producing radio programs and editing audio in general. Maybe I'll start tinkering with podcasts and start participating in web radio.


My local library offers books on tape/CD, which are great for long car rides. I listened to a hilarious David Sedaris book while driving through the Great Smoky Mountains in a rented Jeep.

I tried signing in to NetLibrary through PLCMC, but the links did not work. However, my local library has a subscription, as seen in the record below:

I'll just have to go try it out. When I clicked on the NetLibrary link in the record, I got more than 2752 titles for ebooks. That ought to keep me busy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Parts 18 and 19 -- Online Productivity Tools

I LOVE online tools.

In my old job, I managed online communities where participants could create spreadsheets, documents, forms, questionnaires, complex databases, and more. They could participate in online chats with individuals or groups (simultaneously) and lots of other pretty neat tricks.

At the time, when I told people who didn't know me that I managed online communities, I always got that deer-in-the-headlights look from people. Now, spending time in Google Groups and Google Docs, it's easy to see how far we've come. Albeit, the Ramius online communities were very robust and secure, and quite sophisticated at the time.

Part of my job was to teach novices as well as site managers how to use the software and to look at strategic planning differently because meetings could now be held online and all the documents could follow detailed control. The most important aspect was the ability of the participants (who constantly revolved since they were volunteers elected to their positions) to leave a legacy for those who came later.

Recently, I tried to convince a volunteer group to which I'd been elected to use Google Docs and Google Groups to conduct our business. I was not successful. I don't take it personally, nor do I hold myself responsible for that.

Years ago, while I handled the IEEE online communities, I wrote a blog on the subject of online collaboration tools and strategies. It was written from the perspective of a professional in the field whose role was primarily to evangelize a new technology to people who are legitimate rocket scientists and Nobel laureates, among other technical professionals. Oh, and members of the staff (who did not fall into any of those categories, sadly).

But, this post isn't about me, my experience, or my previous blogs. Makes me feel old just thinking about it (notwithstanding my approaching 40th birthday this Sunday).

Instead, this is about the 23 Things assignment for this week -- trying out online productivity tools. Since I've already used Google's tools (and enjoyed their ease-of-use), I decided to try Zoho.

Immediately, I was very happy to see that I could easily join by using my Google account, which I did. The tools worked very similarly to Google's Docs. I made a wee test presentation with Zoho Show, which was a snap! I liked how Zoho Writer offered a lot more customization than Google Docs. Overall, I think I'd recommend Zoho first before Google docs simply because it offers many more services that seem a bit more "cooked."

Web 2.0 Tools

Sometimes I'm a bit iffy on the whole Web 2.0 thing. I guess it's because prior to the WWW going wild, I managed a BBS and saw online participation before people knew what "online" was. Again, Deb = OLD.

I can appreciate people thinking all this is new, but from the very beginning, people were able to communicate and collaborate online via simple web sites. They had online journals (known now as blogs), albeit without as much fanfare, but they were there. Users could create and share content -- they just needed to learn how to code that content.

Perhaps Web 2.0 is really about the concept of making it easy for people. Sort of in the way that desktop publishing made everyone a magazine publisher or a printer. It also led to a lot of poorly produced stuff. Which, one could say the web is littered with now. While this may sound jaded, it's also true. There is a lot of junk out there, from simply bad, inaccurate medical information to blogs with photos of poor quality and very poorly written content.

On the other hand, there are some inspiring examples of content -- stories of human triumph, impeccable recipes, and political movements that allow for major change. Probably one of the most worthwhile efforts included people blogging on 9/11 or during the subway bombings in London and Spain not long afterward.

That said, I visited the Web 2.0 awards to see what was there. I'm familiar with a few of the award recipients, including Delicious and Lulu. I'd considered Lulu when I wrote my agave nectar cookbook (still unpublished, still being edited/written). Craigslist is a go-to for me when I want to sell or buy something. I've tried using it to find jobs, but didn't find it that helpful in my field. The events aggregators looked like they were worth a visit, as did Standout Jobs.

I'm a member of Imcooked, but I don't participate much any more because I don't film myself cooking these days. I'll probably get back to it, but YouTube limits the time of uploaded films, so condensing and editing is key.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Parts 16 and 17: Wikis

Over the years, I've used wikis in a variety of applications. When I became a consultant three years ago, my first client, Ramius Corp., asked me to participate in their development wiki. While their wiki worked very well for the company and it's software developers, I found it difficult to use and not very intuitive.

More recently, at the George Street Coop, I participated in a documentation project that used a wiki very much like Wikipedia's interface. Again, it was a case of needing good documentation and directions for users to follow because the interface isn't intuitive, nor does it follow HTML conventions.

As far as the assignment for class goes, I sent a request to join the PLCMC Learning 2.0 wiki, and am awaiting the approval so that I can add this blog to the list.

Having managed many large and small online communities for IEEE, I can tell you from experience that wikis are an online collaborative tool, but not an online community. It works best with engineers and technical folks, although many modern organizations have tools like Sharepoint and the now-nonexistent Groove (a personal favorite scooped up by Microsoft) to work collaboratively very easily.

Now, with online, opensource solutions such as Google Docs, it's even easier to collaboratively edit and create for free in real-time with full version control.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tagging, Technorati, and Library 2.0 (Parts 13-15)


I tag sporadically. Sometimes on my other blogs, I'm pretty well religious about it. I use tags so that folks searching for certain topics that my blogs cover can easily find my blogs and/or blog entries quickly.

I'm also pretty sporadic about my Delicious tagging, although I'm getting better about using it for bookmarks since my computer has died twice this year on me already. :( More importantly, I'm using it to improve search results for my other blogs and their entries.

Below is an image of some of my bookmarks in Delicious. It's always a treat to see that some of my blog entries are also bookmarked by other bloggers or simply visitors.

At this point, I have something like 682 bookmarks, all tagged according to their topics. Well, that's not entirely true. Not all of them are appropriately tagged, but most of them are.


I tried claiming my Altered Plates blog on Technorati, and they flagged it. I'm not sure why since it doesn't fall into any of the categories that would lead to a flagging. Consequently, I sent an email asking the Technorati folks why they would flag my blog. I'll let you know when they respond.

Otherwise, I tried Technorati early on, but found that it just served as another search engine specific to blogs. It's a pretty old-fashioned notion, but the fewer places I have to go look for things, the better off I'll be. My available time is limited, so I don't want to go all over the 'net to find information that I can get just as easily through Google. In fact, because Technorati only searches blogs that are "claimed" within it, it won't find everything that Google will.

Library 2.0

I really enjoyed Michael Stephens' article on Library 2.0. Even back in 2006, when the article was written, he was thinking about things in ways we think about them today. My favorite part was when he wrote about how libraries need not make policies that hinder customers when they need information. I'd like to see Stephens' philosophies applied on a much larger scale, not just in libraries.

Another of the Web 2.0/Library 2.0 articles I enjoyed was by Rick Anderson. I'm with him when he says that librarians should function less as gatekeepers and more as trainers -- as in training publics in using the resources available in the library. His point about adapting to the current times and delivering content via the web rather than as only a brick and mortar location is key.