Friday, July 27, 2007

Week 8, Thing 10 - Web 2.0 2007 winners

That was fun! I just clicked through a lot of the sites listed as "Winners" for the 2007 Web 2.0 awards. So many different kinds of sites, so many ways to spend time customizing the web to fit your needs!

I found a couple pages that I plan to go back to on my home computer. I really thought Colorblender was cool! I like to make graphics for my blog and I'm horrible at picking a color scheme that doesn't make my eyes burn! Right now, my entire blog is just one color, for fear of overloading my retinas. This site/program looks like it would be a lot of fun to play around with!

The customizable Start Pages are cool too. I have played with Googles Personzalized home page but since it came in 3rd, I'm thinking about looking at the ones in 1st and 2nd and seeing how they compare.

The widget making sites also look like fun, though I'm not sure if they are compatible with livejournal (my main blog). I could have a good time playing around with those.

The "cocktail builder" seemed like a good time too! I know it's just a silly site, but you could probably discover some new drinks and such goofing around with it.

So many sites, so little time! I think the site that made the biggest impression was Pandora. I had forgotten about this site. Last.Fm grabbed me because of the ability to have it upload your iPod and iTunes list and show what music you like. Pandora you just pick an artist and it begins to stream music it thinks you'll enjoy. I like how it explains itself before playing a song, helping you understand why it has chosen this piece of music.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Week 8, Thing 18 - "online productivity tools"

Okay, this is just cool. I was not aware of these sites, but it only makes sense that they exist! I guess I had just assumed that microsoft had taken over the world of word processing and you either typed on their program or you wrote it on paper.

But clearly, things are changing. And these "online productivity tools" look like fantastic resources. Especially for those patrons that come in to type something up, then realize they don't have a disc with them, but have no desire to purchase one. Or, for people that own computers but don't want to drop the cash for Microsoft Office just to own Word. Or Excel.

Maybe this is just because I've become so anti-microsoft over the years (even though I use so many of their products...I'm just tired of the grip they have on the computing world), but I like the idea that I can tell a patron about something like this. It's a nice option to have. I think these would make great links for our current "Reccomended Sites" page. (I would never call them "online productivity tools". I had no idea what that meant until I clicked on it. I'd find a better way to name it. Or perhaps list the sites in several areas - business, homework, etc)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Week 7, Thing 17 - Sandbox Wiki

Well, if the Sandbox Wiki taught me anything, it's that you really need someone to build your Wiki first before calling in other participants, otherwise it had no real goal. And a wiki without a goal just turns into a bit of a mess. A literal pile of information.

I really enjoy Wikipedia, it's a very clever idea. I've heard it's actually the best source for information on *ahem* government projects because "official" sites won't disclose as much. haha. Not sure if that's true. I tend to use Wikipedia more for fandom related issues. While I tend to double check anything "true", when it comes to checking the facts about the last Harry Potter book or characters from Star Wars, Wikipedia has your back. I did a manga program earlier this year, and I used a lot of the information I found on Wikipedia to create trivia games for the kids to play.

I'm impressed by how well managed Wikipedia is. The "staff" edit content and check entries to make sure they are written in a objective manner. (Though it's wise to double check with another source, since you never know who the last person was to edit the entry.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Week 7, Thing 16 - Wikis & Libraries

After hearing libraries were using Wikis on their websites, I was very curious to see how. It takes a very large effort to create and maintain a wiki. Like I mentioned before, it takes only a moment to register for a site, but to actually make it something an outsider would want to visit, you have to find some dedicated people to maintain it.

Clicking around the Library Wikis, I noticed a couple things - many of the places that were using Wikis were much smaller than our system. One wiki that was linked (Bull Run Library) was actually not run by the system, but by a single patron that had just decided to create it! I thought the BookLovers Wiki was also very cool, though it will take awhile for the site to rival databases like 'FictionConnection'.

Then again, perhaps the familiarity of the Wiki format will draw more patrons to sites like BookLovers Wiki than FictionConnection (which has that silly AquaBrowser that I cannot stand!) Plus, I think people enjoy reading other "normal peoples" review (i.e. not librarians or other book reading professionals). I don't know if I like the idea of the wiki replacing the library catalog, but it would be a nice supplement.

I think a Wiki would be a great idea for our Intranet. Our current site is tricky to navigate, especially for newcomers. It might be nice to turn it into a Wiki, even if the wiki is controlled only by Branch managers or heads of committees. As we move more and more to keeping often used files online, a Wiki would be a great way to manage those files. You could include instructions on how to fill them out, perhaps an FAQ for each form or area, etc.. Again, this would require someone willing and able to update the site when the need arises.

Week 6, Thing 15 - Library 2.0

Library 2.0 is a very strange creature. You can see those in the workplace discussing it and how to make it evolve. But has it reached the outside world yet? Have any of these libraries that jumped on the bandwagon with blogging, wikis, tagging, etc. actually helped their patrons?

Michael Stephens talks about controling "technolust" - the urge to use the technology just because it is there. There are several areas of Web 2.0 that I think can and should be utilized by libraries to help market themselves. There are other things that we should use what is out there but not feel the need to create our own And even more that we should just watch to see if they last.

I've seen many library blogs, but I wonder if anyone reads them. (I guess sites like Technorati and Delicious would let us know how many are linking and watching them?) I think blogs are a great way to get information out there. They are free to set up, easy to maintain, and just as easy to customize. Other social networking sites - like MySpace or Facebook - might also enjoy a library presence. BUT it is just as easy to create a blog and include a "Share" button (you will notice several sites suddently have "Share on Facebook" buttons) that a very nice and professional blog would be enough. The thing to understand is that these items cannot remain static. In the world of the internet, you can't let anything stay empty for long. Blogs must be updated weekly, DAILY even, if you want to maintain a steady stream of interest. Websites that stay static for any longer than that are forgotten.

Dr. Wendy Schultz talks about the library as a community, something I firmly believe in. I think that in our modern society, we have lost many of the community spaces we used to take for granted. Watch the old movies and tv shows of years gone by and characters talk about going to social activities held by the town. Cities still have a few places for gatherings, but I find that the suburbs struggle to create these kinds of spaces. Libraries have free events, free items, and are (hopefully) welcoming areas. As with all things, we should look closely at how we started before we go changing ourselves to fit the model of the future. We (libraries and librarians) need to make sure we have our "mission statements" in mind before we start logging onto every site out there and creating links to pages we don't plan on updating.

Web 2.0 may be easy to create, but it takes a little bit of time and effort to make a website or blog that is worthwile. Otherwise, you end up looking like that 50 year old high school teacher that keeps saying words he thinks are "cool" but it's very obvious to the students in his class that he is completely out of touch. In society, especially the internet culture, this is the kiss of death. So if you are going to take a step into Web 2.0, don't just know where your foot will land, but know where you are heading. Because the visitors you get to your online spaces will be more tech saavy than you, and they can spot a "poser" before the page is fully loaded.

Week 6, Thing 14 - Technorati and tags

Another site that I had heard a lot about but never actually been to, Technorati was a bit overwhelming to me too. It's a great site to browse, though I'm not sure how you would go about finding one specific piece of information.

Looking at the "most favorited blogs", it's clear who is dominating this site. Site like "Pro Blogger", "Techcrunch" and "Lifehacker" are clearly designed for hardcore internet users. Probably people who make their living online. It's no surprise to me, the site is streamlined but not very pretty, so I can't imagine anyone coming here to just look around.

Technorati has been around for a few years now, so the concept of "tags" has traveled to many more sites since then. Blogger calls then "labels". Same idea, so they were nothing new to me. I love using tags on my livejournal, especially when it is something I write about a lot (harry potter, star wars, movies). It's an easy way to see all of your posts about that same topic without remembering exactly what day you posted.

This is a neat tool for a blogger though, as you can see how many people have linked to your site recently ("Technorati Authority") and see your ranking in Technorati. I'm going to pass on creating yet another watchlist that I probably will not use. You pick your way to read blogs and you stick with them - I prefer RSS feeds. And I think I'm at my limit of what I can read in a single day.

Week 6, Thing 13 - Del.icio.us

I had heard of del.icio.us before. It's hard not to notice all the little buttons found on every site you go to! Again, I found it an interesting site, but it really depends on how you use the web.

My first thought was that this was the perfect type of site for a (I just heard this word earlier today and loved it) "cyberloafer". Someone who spends a lot of time in front of the computer while at work and tends to wander around the web randomly when they should probably be doing something productive. It makes all of your bookmarks portable so you can find all your favorite sites without memorizing the url or bookmarking them on a work computer.

I thought about it a bit more and realize it could also be used for work things. It would be great to create an account for our branch and use it to bookmark library related sites - Readers Advisory pages, official author pages, upcoming movies based on books websites, etc..

I do feel the site is a bit overwhelming. It is something I would have to use for awhile before I became comfortable with it. And it really depends on what you use the web for. Results on delicious can be overwhelming if you don't know how to search on it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Week 5, Thing 12 - Rollyo

Well, that's a neat site for someone who does a lot of online searching. I think, if that's your thing, then Rollyo would be a big help! I feel like you'd either want to use RSS Feeds for sites and read everything they publish, or you'd rather just create a search for bigger sites that might mention things your interested in, and then search them. (The Rollyo I created was made just for me to search fandom websites - so it covers the main site for Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Buffy news)

Me? I don't think I would ever use this site. When I get to the point of Googling at work, or at home, I'm usually clueless about what I'm looking for, and Googling is the last step. Or, I know exactly what i'm looking for and I'm searching online because I'm too lazy to type in the URL.

Now, this would be very cool for homework assignments we get ever year. Especially ones that we knew didn't mesh well with what databases we have available. If we found some great sites that consistently gave good information for these assignments, creating a Rollyo for them would save a lot of time.

EDIT: Scratch that idea, I just attempted to create such a search and found that Rollyo searches the entire site you enter, not just the pages, so this gave me just as many worthless results. Easier to just google it and then go the the actual site and search. Oh well!

Also, I find the ads distracting. I have a low tolerance for advertisments on my webpages, especially when they are in the middle of everything and mixed together with search results. BOO!

Week 5, thing 11 - LibraryThing

Ah LibraryThing. Many an hour have I lost just goofin' off on that site. I do like how easy it is to add widgets on Blogger! I've had LibraryThing for awhile, though when I found out there was a limit to how many books I could list, I stopped adding things on a whim, afraid I would fill it up too fast! I just my LibraryThing booklist on the blogger sidebar, that as pretty cool. Sadly, it says their widget is not compatible with livejournal! Bah-Humbug!

LibraryThing was sort of the start of this "listing stuff" crazy. Now there are an insane number of sites dedicated to you listing your stuff! An online buddy recently showed me listal.com, a site that lets you not only list books, but dvds, tv, music, and movies that you own, want to see etc. and rate them. Here's current profile. It's another one of those sites that's a great time waster and lets you make spiffy widgets for your websites.

(I also find it interesting that both LibraryThing and Listal somehow search Amazon's site for titles and images...I guess the real question is, are they hosting the images themselves or somehow hotlinking from Amazon? Wouldn't Amazon get upset if that were the case?)

I've noticed new blogging sites, like Vox, have integrated this sort of thing into their pages so you don't have to go outside to add widgets. Here is my Vox page - you can see the pre-made widgets on the side; books lists, tag clouds, etc. Like Blogger, you can go in and organize your layout as you see fit (the page starts out much busier on Vox, I had to tell it to tone it down a bit). The nice thing is, since your books and movies are part of the site, it's really easy to add them into your posts on the webpage. (I usually do this to pretty up any movie "reviews" I do).

Monday, July 02, 2007

Week 5, Thing 10 - Meez Avatar



I forgot I had one of these! I made it after someone told me about the program. Never really got into making avatars though. When I am online and want to see something representing me, it's usually
not actually me I want to see.

(This is my same problem with things like 'Second Life' - if I'm playing an online game, I don't want to be a librarian, I want to be a
a little green haired gnome that fights dragons!)

(this is why I spend a lot of time
making graphics, livejournal allows you to upload icons of your choosing, and most people use the icon as another form of expression - for example, a post that is tongue in cheek about some silly topic might have an icon that looks like this -


There's a whole subculture on Livejournal based on creating these little 100x100 (under 40kb) images. It's ridiculous, but fun. And another way to express yourself online. Very interesting stuff...at least to me, but then again, I was an American Studies major and almost every class was about that sort of thing.
..

Week 4, Thing 9 - blog search tools

I think there was a Colbert Report episode where Stephen said we could save the African Elephant if we all just went on Wikipedia and edited it to SAY that they were no longer endangered. And then, if you blogged about it and he blogged about it, any search that someone did would give three sites saying that the African Elephant was no longer endangered.

That's how I felt when using these blog search tools. I'd type in subjects that popped into my mind and got several blogs with similar information. I wasn't sure how much of it was true, but it was clear that all the information had come from one site and these bloggers had wanted to share the info/links with their readers.

I find the trick to navigating the Blogverse is pinpointing the blog that gets the news out there first. Because there are billions of Harry Potter fansites and Star Wars related blogs, subscribing to more than 2 of them would be silly because, 9 times out of 10, you're probably just going to see the same information twice. So, you should look at other people's blogs to see who is getting the information you care about out first. (This is why subscribing to site feeds can get messy - sometimes they update too much with very random news items. If you can find a blogger out there who is already sorting through that stuff and then re-posting it in their own blog, that might be the best way to go to keep from getting information overload).

And this isn't just specific to pop-culture blogs. I had a couple library related blogs that I subscribed to, and more often then not duplicate information would pop up. It got to the point where I decided to just take it down to one feed because I was tired of scrolling through the same news twice.