Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Seven Habits of Slightly Anonymous People.

Has anyone else noticed that the participants in learning 2.0 are in the main staying anonymous?

Most of us are putting in our location and stuff, and usually first name, but not much more information than that.

It's slightly curious but very interesting. It's like everyone senses that in a blog you can be someone else.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

quite writely

I've been playing around with Writely, an online word processor. Just thought I'd share a story I'm writing

Feeding my addiction

I love Bloglines.

I love Bloglines because it's incredibly simple to add feeds, find new things to read, look around for fascinating features, and get it all sent to one page.

I also love Bloglines because it's just as easy to stop getting these feeds.

When I first started up using Bloglines back in April, my attitude was that of a kid in a sweetshop. I got BBC News, and The Guardian, and the feed from and The Panda's Thumb, and Scienceblogs and....

...and it was way too much to read in one sitting. I quickly found myself skipping half the posts, then three quarters of the posts.

So I pared it down. I was merciless. I got rid of everything.

Except Achewood. and The Panda's Thumb. And Learning 2.0. And Tametheweb.

I'm an addict, you see. I'm addicted to information. Bloglines was like mainlining, and I ODed.

Oh well. Everything in moderation. And that includes moderation.

Moving away from convergence

At the moment, on the computer I have at my house, I can do a huge variety of things. I can play games, watch TV, watch DVDs, talk to people by voice, video or text, listen to music, create music, do my shopping, read a book, really anything I can think of, on this one unit.

The thing is, though, I don't really want to.

I want to watch TV on the TV I have in my front room. It's better positioned than my computer, closer to the kitchen for grabbing drinks and snacks, and has a lovely couch in front of it. Also, the screen might be lower resolution, but it's bigger.

I want to listen to music on my stereo, or on headphones. The computer's speakers aren't big enough for excellent sound reproduction, and the computer isn't portable enough for me to listen to music while walking.

I prefer being able to walk around with my phone. I'm unfortunately someone who has the habit of wandering around as I talk, and headphones connected to a computer wouldn't let me do this.

So although I can use one device for a whole bunch of needs, I'd like the option of something else.

For a long time, people have talked about "convergence technology": communications and entertainment technology uniting to provide devices that can do everything. The computer was through of as the motherlode of convergence technologies, because computers are designed to be so multipurpose. The problem was (and still is) that a device that can do everything probably isn't great at doing any one thing. A computer makes a passable book, stereo, TV and phone, but is nowhere near as good at doing these things as a book, stereo, TV and phone are.

That said, there are things that computers can do that we want our books, stereos, TVs and phones to do. Which is where we come to what I think is the replacement for convergence tech: Modular tech.

Modular tech is devices that talk to each other. Modular tech is downloading music on your computer and putting it on your mp3 player, or playing it through the amplifier and speakers on your stereo. Modular tech is listening to radio stations from other countries as easily as you listen to local stations, on the same equipment you use to listen to local stations.

Convergence technology is putting all your entertainment and communications needs on your computer.

Modular technology is putting your computer into the devices you use to communicate and have fun.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I'm really simple, and Syndicated.

this blog is now available via RSS feed!

put that into your newsreader and read my breathtaking inanity wherever you want!

a pause for thought

All this stuff we're doing here is incredible fun, no doubt.

But... (and there's always a but)

How much of it do you think we're going to take back into our jobs?

I mean, underneath it all, that is a large part of the point, isn't it? Web 2.0 tools are fun and cool to use, but if we weren't going to use these things in our jobs in some way, would we be doing all this?

So with that in mind: what do people think they are going to take from this back into their day to day jobs?

Personally, I don't think I'm going to take everything, but there are several things I think I will be taking back with me. I think I'll be starting a LibraryThing for my book club, to keep track of what we've read and our thoughts on it. I've already started a community blog for the book club. I hope the Core Competencies wiki I've been working on will continue to grow.

The problem is that I can only definitely say I'll use the things that take little buy-in. Thus I can say that I'm aware of flickr as a resource, but I can't say that I can start up a reference blog, or jump straight into IM messaging, because I'm not the person who makes the calls in those areas, and to do so without authorization would take more buy-in and more - if you'll excuse my French - balls than I have available.

What does everyone else think?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Why I DO have a Meez

Meez lets me do this:

Why I don't have a Yahoo Avatar.

I've just spent 20 minutes playing with the Yahoo Avatar thingy, and I'm not impressed.

I'd have been happy with something that sort of looked like me (blue eyes, tied back blonde hair, beard, short sleeved shirt), but nothing did. I wasn't blown away by the artwork, and it just didn't feel like something created with me as the demographic.

Oh well, I'll keep trying things out.

They finally came out with the Ian trading card.

This will be a valuable addition to my deck.

Mashing it up!

Check out It's a mash-up between Google Maps and social networking services like MySpace. You can form friends groups, and map where all your friends are. For someone like me who lives somewhere other than his home country, it's good to be abler to keep track of people all across the world.

Google Maps seems to be the product of choice for map mashups. I play a browser-based game called and it uses Google Maps to track its players and see who controls what bit of the world.

I wonder why this took off instead of Microsoft?

The paths to enlightenment are long and strange.

A gem from the reference desk last Friday:

"Hi, do your computers have Godzilla Firefox?"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Chapter 9: in which I am reminded of why I became a librarian.

About half an hour ago, I was sorting the comic books over in our graphic novels section. I try to put them in order every week or so, because they become disorganized. This isn't helped by the fact that certain comics change title and numbering in weird ways (for the record, it goes Batman Adventures 1-18, then Batman Strikes 1-present. It also goes Captain America 1-32, then Captain America 1-present. If in doubt, look at the copyright information on page 3).

Anyway, I was sorting comics, and kids were coming over, looking through the graphic novels on the shelves and the comic books I was putting in order. I suddenly realized that there were too many people looking through the comics for me to actually sort them. For a nano-second I was irritated, because I couldn't finish doing my job. Then I just thought:

There are eight kids here, poring over comic books, finding stuff they love reading. Each of them has a stack of books under their arms and is looking to get a stack more. Each of them is enthusiastic about getting what they want to read, unafraid of asking questions, and polite enough not to get in each others way. This is a really really good thing.

Some days, I love my job.

I thought I was out, but they pulled me back in.

I promised myself I wouldn't rant about work on this blog. I'm weak, though, and I have to write an open letter here.

To all magazine and periodicals publishers, from a periodicals librarian.

Hi, I'm sorry to take time away from your busy schedule of sending us magazines three weeks after they hit the shelves, but I have a bone to pick with you.

You see, it's about your ads. Not the ones inside your magazine (although if you took away all the ads from Vanity Fair the resulting publication would be thinner than a copy of Famous Scottish Tennis Players), not even the inserts you stuff into the pages that fall out all over the floor behind the Information desk.

No, my problem is with the ads you stick on your covers.

Around once a week, I get a magazine where a sheet of card is over the cover. This sheet of card will usually be advertising a publication associated with your magazine, which I don't want to subscribe to, or reminding me to renew my subscription, which I already have. The content of these ads isn't the problem. The problem is how they are stuck to the cover. Around half of them are either attached with the magazine's own staples (good) or stuck to the spine with an icky substance I like to call I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Snot (nasty, but easily removable). The other half are glued to the spine itself, often taking the place of the actual paper text on the spine. These can't be easily removed without damaging the magazine itself. I'm left with the choice of putting out a magazine with an ad for "Good Housekeeping 2: Electric Boogaloo" where the cover should be, or putting out a magazine with a visible cover but a spine made of torn paper.

Please stop. We pay a lot for these subscriptions, and we expect our magazines to be in store condition, not garage sale condition. We don't want the magazines to arrive pre-ruined. Ruining magazines is our patrons' job.

So, to reiterate the central point of this again, in bright red burning letters:

(thanks to for the image)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A moving experience

I've been moving house recently (finished the last big part of it today, in fact) and I've noticed something throughout the housebuying process:

I found my realtors online.
They sent me houses to look at via email.
The vast majority of my contact with the mortgage broker was through email.
We emailed back and forth to haggle over the price and establish a closing date.
The new appliances we got for the house (refrigerator and PC) we found online.
We picked out paint colors for the rooms from the Glidden and Behr websites.
We booked our movers online.

Almost everything we needed to do to successfully move was carried out with communications technology that most people hadn't heard of fifteen years ago. It was through the use of this technology that we were able to get signed documents from the UK (my home country) in 20 minutes rather than two weeks.

I don't think I appreciated it before, but the Internet really has changed every aspect of my life.

I wonder what further changes web 2.0 will bring?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Not library related, but...

You learn something insane every day. My thing for today is Littlewood's Law. Littlewood's Law states that the average person can expect to have a miracle happen to them around once a month.

If you postulate that each person has an event happen to them around once per second while they are awake, then that means that in an average month, slightly over a million things happen to you. Thus a one-in-a-million chance can be reasonably expected to happen around once every month.

Fantastic, isn't it?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lifelong Learning.

I like to think of myself as a lifelong learner. I have spent the majority of my life in one form of education or another. I'm a voracious reader, and one reason for this is a desire to know more. Of late, I've been taking an interest in evolutionary biology, and so I've been reading as much Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett as I can get my hands on. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Learners has been useful for me in identifying the learning traits in myself and what aspects of my personality make it harder for me to learn.

The easiest habit for me is to play. I've always believed that learning happens best through play. I learn best what I have fun learning.

The hardest part for me is developing a learning toolbox. I'm supremely disorganized, and it takes a lot of effort for me to keep myself disciplined. In learning, I tend to use what is to hand, rather than seeking out new resources, and this can be a hindrance.

I'm also a little skeptical of the power of affirmations. If I can't speak spanish yet, saying that I can doesn't help me. What helps me is learning how. I'd prefer to say that I will be able to do something, rather than that I can do it.

As such, I haven't created a list of affirmations. I prefer to have a list of goals.

I will use social networking technology in my job to improve how I do things.
I will complete the core competencies wiki
I will serve on, and enjoy serving on, the Emerging Technologies Committee.
I will get my mp3 player :)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Why DOPA scares the life out of me

For those of you who don't know what DOPA is, it's the Deleting Online Predators Act, and it's a very bad and very scary piece of law.

In short, DOPA would prohibit schools and libraries who receive federal funding from accessing "commercial social networking sites" and "chatrooms". This would supposedly stop online predators in some vague not quite defined manner.

"Commercial Social Networking sites" are defined as: "Sec.2(c)(J) a commercially operated Internet website [sic] that- (i) allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users; and (ii) offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger."

In other words this would ban libraries from using anything that lets you create a profile and talk to people. A short and incomplete list of things banned by this bill:

All blogs.
All photo sites like flickr
All message boards
All wikis (they all have talk pages and profiles)
All messaging software
Homework help sites such as Brarydog (they have profiles and ask-a-librarian features)

This is scary. This is legislation of the Internet by people with no understanding of the Internet. The worst part for me is that it doesn't even do what it sets out to do: namely protect kids from predators.

This has already passed the House overwhelmingly. Let's hope to heaven it falls in the Senate.

Rather than adding badly formulated, barely enforcable legislation, why not just stress what really should be done about children's use of the Internet to protect them from unsavory people online? Educate kids that not everyone you see online is your friend. Let them know not to put personal information out there. Talk to them about safe surfing and what to watch out for with new online friends. Above all, PARENT these kids and INFORM yourself. The computer in your child's room is not just a box of flashing lights and whirring parts, like a hi-tch TV. It's a window to the outside world. Parents need to understand how it works. If they don't they will either be over-scared of it and their kids just won't listen, or complacent, and their kids won't be protected. Parents need to understand the technology their kids are using. If your daughter has a Myspace account, you need to get one too, in order to see what she is putting up there and who she is talking to. If your son has a blog, you need to read it. Be as concerned about who they talk to online as you are about who they meet in the park. This is YOUR responsibility, not that of the school or the library.

Don't turn information into a banned commodity. Don't use legislation as a substitute for parenting.