Friday, October 9, 2009

#23. Summation

I found a blog called "Library 2.0: An Academic Perspective." It's no longer running, since Laura Cohen, the person who was maintaing the website, has retired. But in her penultimate post, entitled Snake Oil, Bandwagons, and Library 2.0 she raises issues that are worth thinking deeply on, and thus worth ending on.

I'd also like to say that throughout this process I have begun to think not just about learning 2.0, but also about how to manage the onslaught of new technologies. Must everything be discovered? No, I don't think so. Some people seem to be far better at this. They can examine a new website or service, get the gist of its value and move on. I tend to turn things inside out in my ming, continually move for new perspectives, question again and again if it's actually worth something to me.

There was a portion of time during this 23 things exercise where I felt like I was being forced into a situation where I couldn't see the value. That doesn't mean the tools aren't valuable for other people, but I wondered why I was exploring. And I can't even say I was really exploring that heartily. I explored some of these services from the balcony of my hotel room (so to speak).

But going through the process has also made me reflect on what I like and made me think about how things that I've encountered could be used in creative ways. A week ago I devised the initial stages of a new feature for the library that I work at on the UW campus. I talked to a full-time librarian about it and he said he liked the idea. It's given me the idea to seek out a practicum where I can learn how to create podcasts. I've wanted to do this for a while anyway, and thinking about it all has brought me to this point, where I want to take the thinking to action. That's a good result from an exercise like this.

#22. Downloadable Content at Libraries

Instead of going to NetLibrary to look at the audiobooks, I've decided to do a little research on how actual libraries are using downloadable content. I read about the New York Public Library first. They have a FAQ section that is sort of amazing. They have different formats for music, ebooks, audiobooks, streaming video, etc. Then I looked at the Boston Public Library and they seem to be using the same service called OverDrive.

#21. Podcasts

I can understand why many people wouldn't be interested in podcasts. Most of them I find to be boring or irritating. But it's the podcasts that I like that make them worth it. I got into listening to podcasts because I started to listen to talk radio in my car, right around the same time that I got my first iPod, maybe 2004. I started to read a lot of news online, and so podcasts were a natural ally in the quest for more and more news.

I listen regularly to the Slate podcasts, all of which are good. I subscribe to Filmspotting (a weekly film podcast), Savage Love (weekly sex advice podcast), Musicheads (weekly music podcast). I cherrypick the rest, dipping in to Fresh Air and several others.

I don't know why more newspapers don't do more casual, personality-driven podcasts. They're a great way of luring in a new audience. I really dislike the podcasts that are read from scripts. I like the ones when people are passionate, interesting, experts, etc.

I like podcasts about film and music, so I've begun downloading podcast called The /Filmcast.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

#20. Youtube

I don't know if you've ever seen this, but it is one of the first videos that I saw on Youtube that I began showing to people when I talked to them. It has a lot of the Youtube touchstones: amateur production, little to no editing, drama, the sense of having witnessed something inexplicably entertaining. Good stuff. If you haven't seen it, I assure you you won't be traumatized, and implore you to stay until the end.

Videos on Youtube, one of the things that I use Youtube for the most, often makes them unembedable, but someone is always putting a new one up, and if they have to, will videotape their own television. But it feels much more about fandom than about not paying for something. Like this video, how can you not love it?

#19. Urban Spoon

OK, is insane! First, I looked at restaurants in Madison, and this ranks them, which makes me want to go to some of the restaurants I haven't been to and to not name the one that isn't on their top ten, lest it get busier than it already is. I checked out the breakfasts, because we basically only go to the Original Pancake House. Marigold Kitchen seems to have a good rating, and you can access the menu, see a map to its location, read reviews.

The oddest thing was that I checked out Green Bay after Madison, and noticed a link to Luxemburg, this tiny town that I grew up in, not exactly the most urban place for your spoon, and it had a top ten of restaurants from that area! And they are pretty good suggestions. Excellent tool for travellers, for vacation, for dumbfounded resource searchers, extremely comprehensive and easy to use.

#18. Google Docs and Zoho

The two words that keep recurring throughout this process of web 2.0 exercises is the emphasis upon things being free and communal. I've used google docs in a few classes, and the more I use it, the more I see its use. No more group emails where documents are attached and people try to edit them, not knowing what the current state of the group project is. No more of the inability to open documents because your Mac cannot open the file extensions of new Word packages (i.e. docx). For example, I have to be on a computer with the newest version of Word to open the lectures for this class. That computer doesn't exist in my home. But Google docs works well!

This is the first time I'd heard of Zoho. I didn't create an account, because I already have access to Google Docs and because I feel like taking a break from signing up for these services that are coming too fast for me to actually use them. Zoho looks like it offers a lot, though it's a bit overwhelming to consider it all. I don't know how other people take this kind of thing in. Do you feel compelled to look at it all? Maybe find one service that intersts you and just use that? It's a bit too much for me. Google has it right IMO. Simple look, practical, flexible applications. The creativity comes from the user. It's easy to do a lot with little.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

#17. Playing Around

Well, I created an account, but there is no "Edit" tab that I can see. The only tab available to me is "View." I can tell I'm signed in. Don't really understand what's going on. Maybe later.

I don't know about favorites. Lately, I've really liked the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. My fiancee and I have watched it a few more times recently and it's very quotable. Now when someone speaks with a British accent, I'm tempted to tilt my head, simulate a bad British accent and say, "You sound like you're from London." When someone needs to move on, I say, "It's like The Sopranos--it's over. Time to find a new show." Etc.

For the headier side of my personality, I'd recommend The Complete Essays of Montaigne, translated by Donald M. Frame. If I could only take one book to a desert island, blah blah blah, this would be it. I used to think the complete works of Shakespeare, but that just seemed like the appropriate answer. Honestly, I'd take Montaigne. The first essay is called "By diverse means we arrive at the same end" and the last one, is called "Of Experience." But the essay I've been reading lately, also from the "third" book, is titled "Of Vanity." I just flipped it open to a random place in the essay and found this:

Whatever it is, whether art or nature, that imprints in us this disposition to live with reference to others, it does us much more harm than good. We defraud ourselves of our own advantages to make appearances conform with public opinion. We do not care so much what we are in ourselves and in reality as what we are in the public mind. Even the joys of the mind, and wisdom, appear fruitless to us, if they are enjoyed by ourselves alone, if they do not shine forth to the sight and approbation of others.

This made me think of writing this blog, and all blogs in general. There's something strange and fruitless to the feeling that others must read it, and I don't really know why that's so important. But it feels like it is, whether by art or nature. And I wonder about how good it is too, which is why I closed my Facebook account. I did feel defrauded by the notion that I somehow needed to live in the online public square.

I remember writing to a friend (a letter, by hand, on sheets of paper, because Montaigne will inspire that kind of thing) calling Montaigne a friend. I regretted it after I'd sent the letter, because it felt ridiculous to write. And it still sort of is, but there's something about this book that feels a lot like the best aspects of friendship.

#16. Wikis

When I hear the word "wiki," my immediate thought is of Wikipedia. I generally think Wikipedia gets a bad name, particularly since I use it so much for quick reference. I wonder if people (particularly librarians) who badmouth wikipedia ever use it. Its openness does make is susceptible to tampering and misinformation, but as this 2005 article shows, Wikipedia is nearly as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica.

Plus, if you think about it, suggesting that Wikipedia is entirely unreliable, because it's susceptible to tampering, or some form of information sabotage, presents a pretty cynical view of the world. Are people really going around deliberately adding in wrong information? The accidentally incorrect information is often corrected over time by people who know better.

There are citations. There are warnings at the top of entries that have disputed perspectives of its bias. There are notes applied to records that need to have the writing be cleaned up and clarified. I can only speak from experience. I do not feel that the writing on Wikipedia is worse than the writing in Encyclopedia Britannica. As a matter of fact, I think it's better. And the speed with which new entries can be created and developed makes it a no-brainer for me. If I were writing a research paper, I wouldn't cite Wikipedia, but I really wouldn't go to Encyclopedia Britannica either.

The library that I work at now uses a wiki for training information, which is useful as a reference tool for newly hired workers who often need simple reminders of how to perform their jobs. The wikis often save the managers time and help the new workers to save some of the anxiety of starting a new job, since you can't remember everything that you're told or taught, and you don't want to keep asking your boss for reminders. Plus, jobs change, and the wiki provides a platform for simple, quick changes.

Of the examples on the 23 Things page, I like the Library Best Practices page the best. It's an effective way to organize a large amount of information, and not only add to it, but change it as library practices change.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Library 15.0.

Dr. Wendy Schultz's article "On the way to the library experience of the future" is a fun article. I often like reading about things like this, how libraries will be different in the future, with flying e-thoughts and information vacations across the sparkling bridges of one's synapses.

This will be the library for the aesthetic economy, the dream society, which will need libraries as mind gyms; libraries as idea labs; libraries as art salons. But let’s be clear: Library 4.0 will not replace Libraries 1.0 through 3.0; it will absorb them...

But Library 4.0 will add a new mode, knowledge spa: meditation, relaxation, immersion in a luxury of ideas and thought. In companies, this may take the form of retreat space for thought leaders, considered an investment in innovation; in public libraries, the luxurious details will require private partners as sponsors providing the sensory treats. Library 4.0 revives the old image of a country house library, and renovates it: from a retreat, a sanctuary, a pampered experience with information—subtle thoughts, fine words, exquisite brandy, smooth coffee, aromatic cigar, smell of leather, rustle of pages—to the dream economy’s library, the LIBRARY: a WiFREE space, a retreat from technohustle, with comfortable chairs, quiet, good light, coffee and single malt. You know, the library.

This is the library as sci-fi romance novel. But I particularly like the bit about newer forms of library not abandoning old forms, but "absorbing" them. The proselytizing about new forms of technology often feels as reasoned and fruitless as the condemnation of new technology, just as the library's utopian future seems as likely as its dystopian one. These are extremes, but they're not caricatures of libraries or librarians, but all part of a vast consciousness, with different worries and different hopes. It's not useless to let reality get away from us. Daydreaming is probably one of the most practical things I do.

#15. Article Critique

I'll start with the first article by Rick Anderson, entitled "Away from the 'icebergs'." I've mainly got criticisms for this article, but I think he's right when he says this: "No profession can survive if it throws its core principles and values overboard in response to every shift in the zeitgeist. However, it can be equally disastrous when a profession fails to acknowledge and adapt to radical, fundamental change in the marketplace it serves. At this point in time, our profession is far closer to the latter type of disaster than it is to the former."

But to say that libraries need to cut down on their "Just in Case," collections, while also saying that patrons will demand access to everything and libraries should be prepared to give it to them, he doesn't acknowledge the disconnect. It's like people not wanting to be taxed a lot, but still wanting the government to enact loads of programs. They're opposing notions. I don't think libraries should avoid a realistic examination of their policies, but to avoid the ridiculousness inherent in "everything all the time," without addressing the practical implications (i.e. cost) and flights of logic, makes the article seem like empty talking points about how it's important that libraries move into the future.

I'm ambivalent about the one-button commands. Not everything requires training, but it all requires learning. It's paradoxical that the intuitive buttons on the iPhone are so hard to replicate on other interfaces. Simplicity is difficult to pull off. A miscalculation about making something easier can remove necessary complexity or make something more confusing that it needs to be. For example, if someone uses Dreamweaver to make a "good" webpage, they don't really know how to make a webpage. Some things need to built on a strong foundation.

He's right that a stripped down, simplified interface would be helpful (like the iPhone), and I'm likely more critical of this article because I dislike this sort of tone more than anything, but there are many different types of users at a library. It's not just tech-savvy undergrads using the collection (and not all undergrads are tech-savvy). That doesn't mean things can't change, it means that new features need to be so intuitive (e.g. iPhone, iPod) as to need no instruction, or they need some form of tutorial or instruction. I'd suggest making learning tools (like podcasts and tutorials) more engaging, while also thinking about how to simplify the complex processes.

#14. Technorati

Technorati seems useful for finding out about useful postings in blogs that aren't popular. It also highlights the importance of knowing how to tag if one wants one's voice to get heard.

When I searched "Library 2.0" in the blog section, I got many interesting links, like "How to Customize Your Library Facebook Page," "Should Your Library Have a Social Media Policy," and "Libraries 3.0 Teen Edition." When I searched the "Web 2.0" link through the Blog Directory, I received a list of links to websites that focus upon "Web 2.0" practices.

I found this second search more helpful, because like I've already said, I like to engage with things through a recognizable personality. The blog searching feels a bit random, whereas a particular blog (or a few blogs) often has a focus and perspective built into it. If I can find a few blogs about web 2.0 that have different perspectives, I can compare them and learn from where they overlap and where they diverge. Some of these blogs: TechCrunch, Mashable, and Technology Bites, just to start with.

#13. Not So Yummy

OK, a few things I just want to gripe about: the person speaking over the top of the tutorial has this sharp "s" sound in her voice, the kind of thing that happens to many people with dentures, and it annoyed me quite a bit. It might have something to do with the equipment being used to record, as a few times, particularly with "p" sounds, there are small blasts of distortion, and the whole overall sound is a bit harsh. Not the best tone for educational listening, or any listening really. Moving on... makes me think of LibraryThing for researchers. But it doesn't have that zip that I'm looking for. Wading through all these tools just becomes tiring after a while, particularly after I've used some technology that is extremely user-friendly (e.g. iPhone, iPod). For example, one of the new technologies that I want to learn is podcasting. I clicked on the tag "podcast" and selected the popular tab. I wasn't impressed with what I found. Very simplistic posts, like the kind of thing about nutrition you'll find on Yahoo news links throughout the day. If I want to learn about podcasting, I'll pursue it myself, through basic online searching, or through the traditional library means.

Researchers could definitely use this tool. But I don't see how the bookmark feature on your computer is any worse than You lose the social networking aspect of, but I wonder if that's any loss. I'm glad that I've introduced to myself, in case I talk to someone in a library situation about it, but I'm not really excited about it for myself.

#12. We're gonna march on...

Another interesting website that I hadn't heard of yet. You have to be a bit of a joiner, or, understand how to manage your time so as to benefit from the website's tools. I think I could benefit from this one. It made more sense to me immediately, maybe because it doesn't try to do too much, at least not at first blush. It probably also helped that I've signed myself into these other websites and feel myself beginning to develop a style. I don't feel a real need to branch out too much from my political info that I get. But I could definitely benefit from professional expansion. So I've focused on tech news. I created a roll and searched "library" and received these links.

Libraries could create various rolls that would help to not only present interesting news, but also expose the library to new trends or new practices. In other words, it could help patrons and professionals alike.

And given the name of a company called "Rollyo" with the tagline "Roll Your Own Search Engine," I thought of Jon Stewart's 1996 HBO stand-up in Miami. I watched this in high school and learned it verbatim.

To answer your question, yes, I felt very cool when he became popular on the Daily Show, because I felt like I'd already known that for years. I could still tell you parts of this stand-up word-for-word. I encourage you to seek out the whole stand-up, if that's possible. I used to have it on video; it might still be at my parents' house. In it there's a funny bit about how a pot rally would have difficulty organizing. Humor I've already used this weekend as the first day of my practicum at Memorial Library was the day of Harvest Festival on Library Mall.

The Napster Effect

The New York Times today posted an article about anxiety in the book publishing industry over pirated books.

YOU can buy “The Lost Symbol,” by Dan Brown, as an e-book for $9.99 at

Or you can don a pirate’s cap and snatch a free copy from another online user at RapidShare, Megaupload, Hotfile and other file-storage sites.

Until now, few readers have preferred e-books to printed or audible versions, so the public availability of free-for-the-taking copies did not much matter. But e-books won’t stay on the periphery of book publishing much longer. E-book hardware is on the verge of going mainstream. More dedicated e-readers are coming, with ever larger screens. So, too, are computer tablets that can serve as giant e-readers, and hardware that will not be very hard at all: a thin display flexible enough to roll up into a tube.

Read the full article.

Friday, October 2, 2009

#11. LibraryThing

Like most new sources with this much information, my initial impression is to feel overwhelmed. But inevitably you find a way in. I found it through the "Statistics" portion of the website. I'd already added in four books and from the statistics page I clicked on the "Characters" link on the Common Knowledge tab on the left. This brought up links to characters in the books that I'd added. You can do several things, one of which is to find similar characters in other books. Honestly, not so impressed with what I found. Nor am I eager to catalog the books of my collection, and navigating the various avenues of bookdom, I'll take Amazon, thanks.

Still, there are cool things with websites like this. I was down on LibraryThing until I searched a few books that I genuinely love and I found a few people who feel similarly about those books. I can't exactly put my finger on why it feels different reading those comments about the books as opposed to reading comments on Amazon. The interface of LibraryThing just feels much more grassrootsy, "lo-fi" to use music terms.

Like all new resources, it seems, it's important to get over the initial pessimism or cynicism about how they can be useful. I won't take all of these tools with me, but I might adopt a few of them. I hope I give them a shot.

#10. Image Generators

This was pretty fun. I've really only dipped my toes in so far, but I approached this exercise from a grad student's point-of-view with employment on the mind. How can I use these image-generators in a productive way while in a library position. I've been thinking much more about how I can sell myself and demonstrate my ideas, particularly since I work at a library (and have for a year) that might have a full-time job coming open in the area that I work in right now.

While talking with a co-worker today (one of the full-time workers), I discussed the prospect of doing outreach for ILL, which is my job. I've been brainstorming most of the day, and so inevitably I thought about my workplace. I thought it might be interesting to treat an academic library's holdings, or a public library's holdings, the same way that commercial markets treat their products, they advertise. And the best form of advertising is the tease. Thus, holding the release of DVDs for a big release DATE, might inspire interest and intrigue. This kind of thing could be done with the image of a calendar advertising a new service, such as DVD releases.

#9. Honest to Blog

I've been looking at a lot of library/librarian blogs, and there are several that seem interesting. I'll probably narrow it down to one. I like getting to know the personality of a blog or publication, understanding its context, understanding when it changes its tone. It's intimacy as the best form of expansion; it's "less is more." Really, it's just nice to find a news source that feels something like a friend.

So, beginning my process... There's an academic/research blog called ACRLog, a blog that has a teaching bent called Hey Jude, the best candidate for my authoritative blog source, written by a man named David Lee King, a somewhat smart-assed blog with a tech edge called Closed Stacks, and a blog from a woman in San Jose called Librarian in Black.

Pitchfork's Actual Top 20

1. Radiohead - Kid A
2. Arcade Fire - Funeral
3. Daft Punk - Discovery
4. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
5. Jay-Z - The Blueprint
6. Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica
7. The Strokes - Is This It?
8. Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun
9. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
10. Avalanches - Since I Left You
11. Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele
12. The White Stripes - White Blood Cells
13. Outkast - Stankonia
14. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
15. The Knife - Silent Shout
16. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
17. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
18. Kanye West - Late Registration
19. Spoon - Kill the Moonlight
20. Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights

I was pretty close. I thought the Kanye West album had appeared lower on the list and I just missed Ghostface Killah and Spoon's Kill the Moonlight. I remember seeing Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga lower on the list and I think that's their best album, but why quibble with a Spoon choice. I've never actually seen Spoon in concert, but right around the time KTM came out they were playing the Regent Street Retreat here in Madison, a tiny venue for such a band. I just decided not to go. For shame.

Anyway, the rest of the top 20 is interesting. They gave Animal Collective the 14th slot! I'm not disputing it, I just thought they'd been building up tension between who was going to be number one, MMP or Kid A. Interpol at 20! Modest Mouse at 6... These are all really good albums, but there's something disappointing about the list and I don't know what it is. A collection of the decade's best albums is probably done better with the perspective of more time. 2009, after all, isn't even over. Five or ten years from now they should revisit the decade.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pitchfork's Top 20 ... maybe

Tomorrow morning Pitchfork will post their picks for the top twenty albums of the decade. I made a slapdash list of what I think they will pick. It's not like I didn't research it a bit, but it's possible that albums I've picked are already on the top 200 to 21 that they've already posted.

1. Radiohead - Kid A
2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
3. Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
4. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
5. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
6. Strokes - Is This It?
7. The Knife - Silent Shout
8. Avalanches - Since I Left You
9. Jay-Z - The Blueprint
10. Outkast - Stankonia
11. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
12. Arcade Fire - Funeral
13. White Stripes - White Blood Cells
14. Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun
15. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
16. DJ Rupture - Uproot
17. Strokes - Room on Fire
18. Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica
19. Daft Punk - Discovery
20. Brian Wilson - Smile

As I was making the list quickly I was thinking to myself: "they're going to do it, they're going to put Walkmen's You + Me on the top 20!" But alas, I don't think they will, and it will remain an underappreciated album. I look forward to posting their actual top 20 to show a comparison between what I thought they'd pick and what they picked. Cheers.