Saturday, September 30, 2006

Audiobook adventures - or: why I won't be listening to Frankenstein on the way to work.

Recently Aja got me an Mp3 player for the car. It's a cer stereo that also takes Mp3 Cds, an incredibly cool thing, considering how much music we have.

So when I got to the poiunt of downloading an audiobook from NetLibrary, I naively assumed I'd be able to play it in the car. The car stereo plays Mp3 and WMA files, and the Netlibary downloads are WMAs.

Unfortunately, DRM stood in my way. Before the audio file will play, it ha to check with Netlibrary to make sure you have permission to use the file. As the car stereo doesn't have an Internet connection, it can't check with Netlibrary to get the relevant permissions. So the major use I would have for an audiobook (driving to and from work) can't be fulfilled this way.

It's a shame. I love audiobooks. When I lived in gastonia I drove for an hour and a half each day, and listened to some great fiction while driving. Now, my drive is ten to fifteen minutes, but it would still be fun to be able to listen to something while I drove.

The sad thing is that it would be comparatively simple (if illegal) to make a playable Mp3 CD of any audiobook the library has. I'm not going to do it, because I have more respect for library property than that and I don't want to break the law, but this is another case of legal methods being more fiddly and annoying than illegal methods.

I have friend who loves listening to music on his computer. He is online most of the time, and likes having a soundtrack. I don't think he owns a CD player other than the one in his car and the one in his Mac. He had recently bought an album (I think it was the Velvet Revolver debut one) and tried putting it in his computer. Instead of playing the CD, it crashed his computer. Seriously crashed it. The reason was, it was loaded with copy-protection software designed to work on a PC, and instead of working on his Mac it crashed the whole thing. It also didn't work in his car.

Eventually, to listen to the album he had laid down hard currency for, he had to download it illegally.

That's an example of companies turning consumers off. I really hope NetLibrary doesn't turn out to be the same thing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Second life, first time.

I got Internet access at home about two and a half weeks ago.

I know that's incredibly behind the times, but we've only just moved into our new house, and we didn't feel like paying to get cable installed in the last place if we would be moving after a couple of months.

Thus, I've only just been able to get on Second Life. As of right now, I have no idea what I'm doing. I've found the library and several other place, adjusted my appearance so I don't look as silly, and had a lot of fun discovering that I am immortal no matter what height I drop from.

It's all a bit like living in the Neal Stephenson novel Snow Crash.

Oh, my name on there is Lamuella Raabe, in case anyone cares.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I second that dailymotion.

youtube is all well and good, but there are other, equally fun video sites out there. Dailymotion is much more user-centred than youtube, focusing on people's own videos rather than clips from TV shows or music videos. The clips they have tend to be funny, well-produced, and easily accessible. I'm a big believer in self-publishing, zero-budget filmmaking, and removing the boundaries between artist and audience. For that reason, any site like this that puts the creator at the forefront is something I appreciate.

I'm feeling a bit wicky

One of the final requirements on learning 2.0 is to pick a site from the web 2.0 awards and write a blog post about it. I decided to write about Wikispaces.

I found Wikispaces by accident when looking for a place to put up a collaborative fiction wiki. I wanted to create a world with some friends and tell stories in it. Wikispaces was easy and fun to use and encouraged collaboration.

When I was setting up my core competencies wiki, it was my first choice partly because I already had an account but mostly because it was so easy to use. I firmly believe that anybody who can write a blog post can create a wiki with this easy to use system.

Web 2.0 tools have to strike a balance between ease of use and power. If it's easy to use but doesn't do much, people won't use it. If it does everything but requires a PhD to work, people won't use it. Wikispaces is one of my favourite web 2.0 tools simply because it combines both worlds so well. It's incredibly easy to use, and allows great complexity in function and appearance.

Any tool that you can use to tell stories and get work done from the same interface is a winner in my book. That's why pens are so popular.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

one of the best teen sites I have found this year

Thanks to the guy at Walking Paper for the link.

If you want to see an example of a teen library website done right, look no further than My Own Cafe. This is a community website based at the Southeastern Massachusetts Library. It provides message boards for kids to chat on in a safe environment, links to programs and activities going on in the area, and easy ways to find books, articles, and reading recommendations.

It's wonderfully put together, teen-centred, and a hell of a lot more fun than the average library teen website. I think the Library Loft is a pretty good site, but it pales in comparison to this.

THe sad thing is that if the fools behind DOPA have their way, this site will be inaccessible from schools and libraries.

Librarian 1.5

As this learning exercise continues, I am slowly gaining confidence both in my abilities using these programs, and in the purpose of what I am doing. For a while I thought that while a lot of this stuff was fun, it had minimal practical value.

I've started to change my mind.

Blogs are a great way of keeping teams in touch. I just started one for my Systemwide Strategic Priorities team, and I think it will be a great way of exchanging ideas and information.

Wikis have the potential to be wonderful storehouses of information. A best practices wiki on programming would be a fantastic place to share not just ideas for programs but tips about how to improve existing programs.

A tool like Writely is invaluable as a way of working on consensus documents. If the drafts of your document are dynamic, changes can happen as quickly as conversation. This is a good way of stopping documents stalling in committee.

And that's just the backstage stuff.

Once we start to recognize that we are living in the information age, we can make all the library's resources part of a wider conversation. A socially networked catalog, where users can record opinions on a book as easily as they can request it, would make patrons feel like this is their library. A teen library website like myowncafe is more than just a list of links to library resources; it's a place for kids to hang out and talk about whatever they want in a safe and fun environment. Library 2.0 means that being part of the library doesn't mean sterile and monolithic. The website should be part of the library in the way that the staff and the patrons are part of the library, as active, enthusiastic participants.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Everybody needs some time all aone...

Last night, I read this comic:

And then for the first time in 14 years, I had to break out the November Rain video.

I rocked out large style.


I've always been a big fan of wikis. I've written blog posts about them before. I think they are quick and easy ways to disseminate and review information.

I've even created a Wiki before now: the Core Competencies wiki, which I am incredibly behind on updating and would love people to help me with.

I guess you might say I'm a wiki kind of guy. If that was the kind of thing you might say.


So I was all set to play around on Wikipedia. I'd set up an accounht and everything, thought I was really getting the hand of this...

...when it tells me I'm blocked. Apparently someone from the library's IP address thought it tremendous fun to vandalize the Terri Schiavo wikipedia entry with unprintable smut. As all the staff computers have the same IP address, this means that none of the computers in the back room at this branch can edit Wikipedia entries.

This is one of the downsides to Wikipedia's "editable by everyone" policy. If you can edit a page without a username, then all you give is an IP address. This means that instead of your account being punished, everyone at that IP address is punished. As Wikipedia don't have a way of telling who at a particular IP address did the vandalism, everyone suffers for the actions of a few.

And this is why we can't have nice things.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Things I disagree with.

I found this on Tame The Web. Usually I agree with most of what Michael says or quotes, but this particular soundbite did nothing but annoy me.

"If you have staff who have butts in seats and they are just me a retail operation that would let people sit."

for one thing: I am rarely if ever "just sitting". I'm usually doing other work at the desk because I have to work about four hours of my eight hour day at the desk.

For a second: I can name you half a dozen retail operations where at least some of the people are sitting. They tend to be the more upscale places where transactions are more than just passing items through a checkout. Not that passing items through a checkout is an activity to be scoffed, and it's an activity I have done for a living, but it's in general less in-depth than working at a reference desk.

For another: why in the world are we comparing ourselves to a retail operation? Why would we want to be compared to a retail operation? I've worked retail, I've managed a retail store, and the motivators are entirely different to the motivators that exist in a library. In retail your main motivation is to sell. Sell stuff, make a profit. To do so, you want to treat customers well and get them what they need, but that's secondary to the bottom line, which is to make money for the business. Actually, as a retail clerk, your motivation is not to be yelled at by staff or customers, and (in the case of the bookstore I worked at) to sell as many discount cards as possible. In a library, the motivation is to help. To get each person that comes through the door the information they need in the way they want it. We don't charge for this (except for particular items and particular circumstances), we don't consider it a failure if someone walks out without a book, as long as they walk out with the information they want. We are not a retail establishment, and I really don't see why we should behave like one.

If you find a retail operation where the staff will find books for you, search for information on the Internet and beyond, help you with your computer problems, help you with your research, tell stories to your kids, and do all this for free, then firstly, congratulations, and secondly, I guarantee they will be sitting.

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Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

I am and always have been a die hard comic book geek. I know how many sidekicks Batman has had under the name Robin (four in continuity, another one outside of continuity). I know what Judge Death's father did for a living (he was a dentist). I know Wolverine's real name (James Howlett). Heck, I even know what "retcon" means. Anyway, it was becoming harder and harder to keep track of places to find good comic book news. What I needed, I decided, was a search engine that would look through the major comic book news sites like Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, and so forth, all at the same time.

So I built one. It's called Secret Identities. Thanks to Rollyo for the assist.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

tame your enthusiasm

so I've been looking round a few professional blogs lately.

I have to say that the best one I've found so far is still Tame The Web. Michael Stephens manages to combine humor and intelligence effortlessly.

As far as somewhat less professional ones, Ive always been a big fan of the livejournal library communities, such as Libraries. There are also other, ruder livejournal library communities, but in the interests of keeping this safe for work, and keeping my work and personal life separate, I'll not link to that one. Suffice to say that it's for librarians who use a certain oedipal swearword a lot.

tracing the lines in my blog

As Rob said in High Fidelity, it's not what you are like, but what you do like that matters. So here are the blogs I read:

Ian's Bloglines Account

I highly recommend Achewood to anyone who doesn't mind deeply odd stories about animals.
cats have taken over our living space. Here are some new pictures from the house

Friday, September 08, 2006

Oooh, look! A bandwagon!

This is my library code:


Confused? Me too, until I read this link