Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Video, Video, Video!

I have friends who are more heavily into YouTube than I am, but I've certainly enjoyed my share of videos there. As with television, internet videos can be funny, educational, entertaining, thought-provoking, or total garbage.

I've been referred to goofy and mildly amusing videos there, and have also watched documentaries and educational programs, including some videos recommended for classes. I think there's certainly plenty of good stuff there, but I generally wait to hear about it from others since I find trying to sift through the mountains of random junk a little overwhelming.

I understand that there's a social networking aspect to YouTube, since you can befriend other members, subscribe to their videos, check out what other people are watching, share videos with friends, etc., but, again, lack of time to explore has limited my use of this feature.

I mostly rely on out-of-site social networking, otherwise known as people I know who specifically send me links, or finding videos linked on (or embedded in) blogs.

Here's my attempt at embedding a video (Sesame Street!):

Casting Pods Before Swine

In theory, I am very interested in podcasts, and could definitely see them having a place in the library, either as resources in the collection to which patrons can be directed for information, or as information resources produced by the library itself.

It will probably not be every library that has much use for producing podcasts, but if there are frequent information updates, events, etc., there's no reason those couldn't be publicized and offered to users for subscriptions. The library used to promote events on the Community News update on our local public radio affiliate when I was a kid, and podcasting is essentially an extension of radio, so why couldn't someone read the library's news and post it?

In much the same way that blogs might, podcasts could provide a means of getting the news out. And, again in the way that blogs do, a librarian's personal podcast might provide a means for thoughts and observations that could serve to highlight aspects of the library's functions.

And, of course, subscribing to health/library/science/technology (or whatever one's subject interest) podcasts could be a good way for librarians to keep up with what's going on in these fields. Since they're audio files, they can be listened to during a commute or while doing other things, rather than requiring the focused visual attention of reading, and I know many people appreciate being able to catch up on a topic by listening.

In practice, I have limited experience with podcasts, mostly because I have limited time. Podcasts aren't on my assigned coursework, so they aren't high on my priority list right now! I am, however, interested in learning more about them and using them more in the future. It's really on my list of things to know more about, once I'm done with school. (Because once I'm done with school, I'll only have a job, and that won't keep me busy at all, right? No, don't disillusion me.)

One of these days, I'm really going to get an iPod, the way I've been thinking about for months (I know, you don't need an iPod, any mp3 player will do, but I've still got credit on an Apple gift card, so I'm leaning Podwards).

I'm interested in Odeo, and look forward to listening to some of the things I found to subscribe to. It seems like a convenient organizing site to keep your podcasts in one place---I saw that there's also an option to subscribe via iTunes and have new podcasts downloaded to your computer, but the cool thing about Odeo is that you can collect the things you're interested in online, and then get to them from any computer (as Google Docs and other online office applications offer for documents). I like it!

Hmm...this was only one week's assignment, but this is already getting a little long, so I'm going to put the youTube reflections in another post.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Takin' Pictures

Ah, photos. I just got a digital camera for Christmas, and have been enjoying taking pictures of stuff. 

For example, please enjoy this image of some buildings I walk past on my way to work in the morning. 

I've also posted some photos on Facebook, and shared some on Picasa, though I keep those albums private and only send the link to people I want to see them. 

I tend to think that people don't care that much about most of my family event photos, and also that I don't care that much about having people see them indiscriminately...but it is incredibly nice to be able to share photos with the people I do want to see them, without having to print up copies, or attach them one by one to emails, or (back in the dark ages), get multiple prints developed and mail them to people (what are we, barbarians?).

I think photo-sharing has a lot of uses, because photos can often make clear things that are complex and difficult to explain in words. 

Also, people like to take pictures, and to share them with others, so there's an obvious social component that will be popular. 

Libraries could use photo-sharing features to post pictures of events, nice shots of the library looking libralicious, snapshots of employees, and so forth. It's often nice, while browsing a website, to get a picture of what the people involved look like (although it may also often be the case that I really don't care---it's of minor interest to me to see pictures of the manager of my bank or something).

Of course, some people don't really want their picture on the website of their place of employment, either. I'm indifferent, but I work with people who aren't comfortable with it: they're simply "more private people" and aren't interested in having just anyone with an internet connection be able to look at their picture.

So photo-sharing comes with some privacy concerns, and with the added twist of having people be able to post pictures of other people, not necessarily with the other person's consent or even knowledge. 

This tends to be legal, if the photo is taken in a public setting, but whether it's appropriate can still be a complicated issue. Should the library get permission from everyone in the audience at a poetry reading, before they post a group photo online? 

Should they get permission from parents to post photos that include children? 

Should they just stick to photos of buildings, the way I've done here?

Some buildings are extremely handsome, but what if you live in an ugly town? 

Clearly, this is an area with food for thought.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bloggin' From Google
I've tested posting to WordPress blogs from Google Docs, and it worked imperfectly. I'm going to give it a go with a Blogger blog and see what happens!

The Wave of the Future

Is this [online-dwelling, everywhere-accessible programs not tied to any particular computer] the future of all software products?

Hm. I'm going to say no: this is not the future of all software. It seems as if there's got to be some software that is going to stay tied to servers and specific machines, because even stuff that lives online needs to be stored somewhere.

Is this the future of a lot of software products? Very likely. The convenience of being able to sign into a website and work on a document online, from wherever you happen to be, rather than having to transfer items back and forth, is a very big deal.

I tend not to create the final versions of documents online. I use Google Docs, in large part because once you have one Google account it's soooo easy to add more and not have to remember new passwords for new sites, and I'm not sure how well the other products we read about do the same things, but Docs, at least, tends to have odd formatting issues and look a little unfinished.

I wouldn't turn in an assignment from Google Docs. I do, however, start documents there, work on them from various computers, fiddle with the text, and get the main thing into shape, before saving it as an MS Office version for final editing and polishing.

I used to email myself versions of documents to work on, and that's OK, it gets the job done, but I'd wind up with lots of different 'editions' of a single document, and the folder would get cluttered. Also, if I forget to email it, I can be left unable to work on it until I get back to the originating computer. In these busy days, where any time you have to work on something is precious, you don't want to be unable to make that nifty little addition to a paper that you just thought of, because you can't access your document.

Flash drives are another option for this, and don't get me wrong, I love me my flash drive, but you still have to remember to move the item from one drive to the next, and the multiple copy issue is still there.

A different and equally major benefit offered by these online office programs is the option to have multiple people working on the same document without having to have multiple copies floating around, waiting for someone to integrate all the changes. Online documents can be really useful for collaborative products, and I've successfully used them for slide presentations and word documents. Again, the finished version of the product wasn't presented in Google Doc format, but we were able to get a lot of the initial work done that way.

I don't think the online office is totally ready to be a stand-alone feature yet, but it offers another useful tool that, when applied to a problem, can make things go a lot more smoothly.

And in answer to the question, I expect a lot of software products will at some point be available online rather than needing to be installed to a specific machine. But not all.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Did the guy who started have any idea what a vast collection of terrible puns would result from that name? I mean, it practically begs to be part of dumb blog post titles like the one above. People can't help themselves! I know I can't.

Well, regardless, I definitely see the value of and bookmarking sites like it. I have tagged links to sites that I meant to come back to later for research for an assignment, or just to read for fun when I had time, or to add to my RSS aggregator (if I didn't feel like signing in to add a subscription right that minute).

It's a big help to be able to have those bookmarks available from any computer I may happen to be sitting at, so I don't have to worry "did I add that to my 'favorites' at work, or at home?" and "should I write this down so I can remember to add it to my home computer too?"

Given that memorizing URLs (like memorizing phone numbers, now that I have a cell phone to keep track of those for me) is just not something I even try to do anymore, it makes life easier to know I can get to the one place where I made a note of it, no matter where I am.

I've been less interested in the social aspects of social bookmarking sites, though those are definitely present and could be useful in the right situation. Finding a good resource for an information need, and then seeing who else has tagged it, what they called it, and what else they've tagged with that same descriptor, could easily be a great pathway to uncovering resources you might not otherwise have come across.

The web is a big, wild place, where it's easy to get lost in irrelevant materials and miss useful ones, and having a means to follow other peoples' signposts over their specific paths through the wilderness, as well as set up your own, is a great feature.

If specific tags are assigned a certain meaning agreed upon by a particular group (say, everyone in this class agrees that we're going to use the random tag Kx107-o! for everything we think is cool), it can also be a way for groups to share information. I could subscribe to the RSS feed for that tag, and receive updates every time a class member finds something they think is cool--and since the tag is random and fairly unique, we're unlikely to get a lot of clutter from unrelated people using it for their own bookmarks.

I've been in courses (and am in them now!) where sites related to certain subjects we're discussing are tagged in this way, with a bookmark specific to the course and the topic, and it's a good way to see resources that classmates have discovered that enhance the assigned readings.

I have not used it to the extent that I think it could be used, but to the extent that I've used it, has been helpful to me. I think it's definitely a worthwhile program to be aware of for collecting bookmarks, and for its potential as a research tool and means of sharing information within a group.