Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thing Fifteen - Waiter, there's a game in my library!!!

Oh boy!

There are very few subjects that I would consider myself an expert in and I was surprised to find one in the 23 things list, gaming. This could definitely be considered a generational trait. I'm 24 years old, and video games really only gained immense popularity within the past 20 or so years. I grew up with video games, and technology in general. To give a small example of the popularity of gaming in society, the video game industry has made more money then the movie industry by over $1 billion for several years in a row now. I have been playing games since I was a wee lad and is now definitely an almost daily part of life. Games have expanded from the "toys" for little boys in the 80's, to serious pieces of electronics and to some, centerpieces for home theaters.

I'm definitely no stranger to online games, MMO's, (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) specifically the world's most popular one, World of Warcraft (WoW). WoW has now exceeded 10 million subscribers worldwide, which is unprecedented. Each subscriber is paying $15 per month to play the game, so to soar to over $10 million is nothing short of astounding. Now seeing as WoW has nothing to do with 23 things no library would have a practical use for it, I will stop discussing it, though believe me I could fill multiple blog posts just talking about my experiences.

Second Life is an interesting title. Like they stated, it's really not a game, there's no goal or points and clear purpose. You kinda have to make a game out of it yourself, if you're looking to be entertained. As far as I could tell from using it, was people using it as a social tool, a place to gather in e-form. I can kind of see the appeal to it in that regard, much like chat rooms were fun and exciting for me when I first got the internet, I can see people have a similar experience and feelings in second life. Personally, Second Life to me is incredibly boring and pointless. I don't have friends that play this, I'm far past the point of randomly talking to strangers on the internet, so there's not a lot of appeal for me. Though from the videos, I can see the use of it educationally, to reach out to younger students that might not otherwise be involved. Putting assignments and challenges along with videos of teachers and information in this digital format was forward thinking kind of move, and I think we've yet to see if it's a practical use of our time.

Thing Fourteen - My Library Thang!


I've never used Library Thing before, nor have I heard of anyone at the library using it, so this was a new experience to me. Creating an account with Library Thing literally just took a few seconds, extremely fast and easy. After creating my account I easily started adding books to my virtual shelf. It seems that it searches for the titles and images, so I can only assume almost all popular titles are going to be found.

That link should take you to my catalog I've created so far.

After choosing some of my favorite titles and series for the catalog I looked at the details for all of them. I was surprised how popular a few of my books were with Library Thing users, the Harry Potter titles are obviously going to have a strong following, but I didn't expect that from the others.

I added the library thing widget to the side bar of the blog. Setting that up in the blog was pretty easy, and I like the effect of book covers.

If you had a really really small library, this could be useful for you, and easy to setup. Or if you're a larger sized library, I could see this being used to highlight a smaller selection. A series from an author, or a particular genre could easily be added to this and accessible from the website.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thing Thirteen - Online Productivity


I chose to use iGoogle as my homepage, mostly because I've used Google as my homepage for years now. It was pretty easy to setup, and it's convenient having this Blog, RSS reader and my favorite search engine all connected. Seeing how Google is my home page on my home PC, I setup the "iGoogle" feature available from google. It places your RSS feeds on the home page, as well as other widgets like local weather, the time and date, movie listings among other things, most importantly sudoku.

For the calendar aspect, naturally I chose Google calendar, staying with the theme of Google and one username and password for all their services. Setting up Google calendar initially was almost ridiculously easy, I just used the same username and password that I used for Blogger, GMail, and iGoogle. Also on my iGoogle start page I found a widget for Google calendar, which is a great addition to the iGoogle home page. I then created an account with the Try to remember the milk list site. A nice feature that offers is it's ability to integrate itself into Google calendar. Still, I don't really see a lot of use for it, if you're already using Google calendar. Also, I wasn't able to see the lists, when viewing Google calendar from my iGoogle home page. The Backpack site seems cool, especially if you don't already have any of the features it uses. If you do however have a calendar, or planner or to do list among other things, I don't see much of a need to switch over. Backpack does however offer more then just those features, so much so that it can actually seem a little intimidating with everything you can do. I went to Zamzar's site, which has a cool premise, converting one file type to another, which could be really useful anywhere. But, one of the most annoying flash ads/popup slowly slid across the screen in front of "Step 1" and I wasn't able to exit out of it, and I quickly left the site out of anger. The idea of easily being able to convert a file that library computers can read is definitely something that would prove useful.

In all, iGoogle is the one thing I might recommend to others. You can access your iGoogle page with your username and password from any computer, and depending how you customize it, gives you a quick glance at your calendar or weather or RSS feeds.

Thing Twelve - Can you Digg it?

Hello peeps,

Social news/media sites and I are no strangers to each other. I was there at the inception, when Kevin Rose from the now extinct TechTV "The Screen Savers", created Digg. Originally Digg was a technology news website that combined social bookmarking, blogging, RSS and non-hierarchal editorial command. They've now expanded to cover popular as well as world news, in addition to the tech news. Digg is one of my favorite websites, as you can see in my "Favorite Links" section on the sidebar of this blog.

I use Digg on a nearly daily basis as a way to learn about some news stories as well as many other tech related things. Due to the user submitted aspect of the site, there's almost never any downtime in regard to new stories hitting the site, though due to an algorhythm only the more popular and relevant stories hit the main page for the general public to view. Reddit, Newsvine and Mixx I'm not as familiar with, though I did look at each of them individually. But it's clear, the Digg is one of if not the most popular of the social news sites, by far.

Although Digg is my personal favorite of the sites listed, I don't really see a lot of uses for that particular site in a library, aside perhaps from reference staff scouting out what's popular today for a potential heads up. It's definitely geared towards a younger tech savvy kind of audience, and the news stories can definitely reflect that. There's definitely more of an emphasis on "popular" stories, over stories that might be more relevant in society. I'm not saying that's always the case, cause there are certain world events like the presidential election that are very popular with the users. That being said, it makes sense that some stories get more attention due to the users being entirely the source of whether or not something hits the home page and flares in popularity.

As much as I like these sites, I'm not so sure they aren't a productivity detractor. Sure, they give you cool news stories and information, but is that really going to increase productivity for most of us? My guess is no. Also as a user of Digg for many years, I have submitted stories on a couple of occasions, none of them gaining any kind of popularity. For every really popular story out there, there's another 10 of the same subject that didn't get picked up for a number of reasons. I love the sites, and will continue to check it out as I've done for years now, though I'm riddled trying to figure out any practical applications for use with the library.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thing Eleven - Mmmm D.El.iC.o+u-s!?


I have to first say, that the placement of periods in delicious is more then a little confusing to remember., it doesn't really roll of the keyboard, so to speak. But in any case it's an interesting tool at our disposable, and actually one I really had no knowledge of. I had however heard of tagging, even if it's not something I was actively doing myself.

The first thing I did for this, was go back to one of my old posts and added tags to it. I tagged about the pictures that I added to the post, which if you click on the links, shows you all the posts that used those tags, or labels as blogger calls them.

I then created an account with, which was very easy and quick to setup. During the account creation, it's suggested that you install the buttons to your internet browser, clearly stating that firefox is the preferred browser. After doing so, adding web pages to your delicious account or viewing pages saved only takes one click. Now I have to be honest, to me personally the ability to bookmark web sites and access that list wherever you want is more useful to me then the tagging aspects. I don't have a strong interest in what's popular with other users, or searching through them in that way. That being said, it could still prove useful in some libraries, most likely among the library staff. Now our library at least, already has a website with links to resources and other such things. But I think that the bookmarking abilities of delicious would make the site more user friendly, in a sense. Just for example, you could be reading a library blog and then look at their list of sites that they keep, using delicious, and find extended information or something entirely new.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thing Ten - Wikis

Hello people,

So I looked at some of the library related wikis. I'll state first off that I wasn't able to do any editing myself, which is probably a good thing since I don't really have anything useful to add, but the reason for this is due to verification necessity. All of the wikis that I looked at, required you to either have an invitation to edit that specific wiki, or create an account and have email verification to make any edits. What I did see looked promising though. A book lover's wiki with book reviews, would really be useful and practical to an extent for libraries to give recommendations and get user input at the same time. There was a wiki that had links to many other library blogs. I didn't see our library in that list, and I may actually add to that wiki in the future. One blog in particular that seemed really interesting to me was the library staff wiki. A wiki that's totally and only accessible to all the library staff, a sort of web 2.0 version of a bulletin board. I really think that could be a good idea looking to the future for our library.

I checked out the 23 things on a stick official wiki. I read in the comments that people were hesitant, even scared to change anything. So I took the bull by the horns so to speak and did some editing myself. I added a section called "Blog Contributions" and added a link and plugged my blog. The editing was very simple to do, basically if you're doing this blog yourself, you can easily edit a wiki.

They say that some teachers ban the use of wikipedia as a source of student research. Personally I have to agree with them to a degree. The way wiki's are setup, if you let just about anyone edit the information things are going to happen. People are going to lie, make stuff up to be funny or just to cause trouble. Obviously not every wiki is going to suffer from it, but having the chance of using misinformation as a source is reason enough not to allow it, at least academically.

While I believe wikis would be very useful internally at libraries, or the workplace in general, there is always the inherent risk of some people adding inappropriate things or change factual information around. There are pros and cons to every thing and this will likely have to be a case by case basis.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thing Nine


This online collaboration thing is a cool idea, with the word processing editing software available for multiple people to use at once. This is really a great idea for people on the go a lot, especially if you forgot or just don't have a laptop of your own, you can get on just about any computer with internet access and work on a document you've already started, or start a new one entirely. I can really see this only getting better and more useful as time goes on.

For the first part of this thing, it asks you to edit the famous document first using Google Docs. Now, unless I was doing something wrong, my accound didn't have any permissions to edit the document as it was presented to us. Obviously you can cut and paste that text into Google Docs and edit it there, but I wasn't sure if that's what they wanted. I went ahead and pasted it into Google Docs anyway and did some editing. It's pretty similar to blogger, it has most things you need, ability to save, spell check, change font and colors etc. Now I didn't spend a significant portion of time with Google Docs or Zoho writer, so I can't say this conclusively, but it certainly felt like Google Docs had far less features then Zoho. Zoho writer, is probably what I would choose as an online word processor, over Google Docs, with the amount of time i've spent with it thus far. There's a lot of options in the form of buttons at the top of the application, that looks like it gives you even more options then most traditional word processing programs. It allows you to place Emoticons, or smiley's as the kids call 'em these days, which we all know takes top priority when writing documents, and just a bunch of other formatting options that you might not normally expect from an online application such as this.

All in all, the founding fathers would be shocked and terrified by our talking picture boxes and transportable telemaphones. But after that, they would be greatly impressed by our Quill-less writing methods, and the ability to edit from anywhere in the world.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thing Eight - Sharing my creations, IT'S ALIIIIIVE!!!!


Well, sticking with tradition I started a Picture Trail account and created a jigsaw puzzle slide show, something they call "Flicks".

There's a picture of my nephew when he was a baby, my mom and I holding a guitar shaped cake and a couple pictures of my grandma and myself. Good stuff.

It's an interesting tool which gives you a new way to present what would otherwise be a regular slide show or photo album. It was easy enough to setup and customize the different presentation options. I'm not sure if it's necessarily better or not, but it's certainly another option to consider.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Thing 7 - Communication Tools... OF THE FUTURE!!!


Electronic mail, or E-mail as the kids refer to it as these days has clearly made an impact on today's society. Personally, I've used email myself since my family first hooked up to the internet, and haven't been without it since. Back then, it was only used for entertainment reasons. I would email friends, relatives, sign up for this and that using my email address. Now it's become much more useful, and really neccesary in many ways at work. While it's not impossible at work to walk down to the first floor and personally give someone a message, but you've gotta admit it's far faster and more convenient to send them an email. It really becomes neccesary when messages to all staff members need to be notified on a particular subject. Instead of trying to gather everyone around and hoping everyone hears what you say, a simple email can inform everyone in a simple manner. At work I use email everyday, mostly receiving from supervisors passing along information to the masses, but I also receive it from co-workers at branches among others.

Instant messaging. It's a sentence an and of itself, to me anyway. I talked about IM'ing a lot in one of my first posts, and everything I said about it then, still holds true. It is SO useful to me in my everyday life. I've been using it since my family hooked itself up to the internet and I've never looked back. Enough about my own personal experiences, regarding libraries I think it's a new frontier that will eventually happen at my own library. I think it's a matter of 'when' rather then 'if'. That short video showed just a glimpse of how useful IM'ing is. I think of it almost as an equivalent of the phone, but with text. It's real time communication, a level of customization with the individual clients, you can usually change your Icon/Avatar or the skin of the program. File transfers are also common among IM clients. The ability to send a file to whoever you're chatting with, whether it be a picture from your digital photo album, a report you're working on or a new song you've been listening to. While being able to have the staff in order to offer a service such as "Instant Librarian" is always an issue, those libraries that can offer this service would be making their services even more available. It's hard for me to say enough about IM'ing, I've spent many an hour using them, to me, my IM client is as common and useful as a TV or a Stove is to others.

Now SMS/Text messaging is another story. Up until last year, I never used a cell phone, so I didn't do any text messaging at all. But that all changed when I finally made the jump and got my 1st cell phone. There is a cost associated with using text messaging, so it will never compromise my #1 position of Instant Messaging. However, it's still useful at times. Personally I only use text messaging with girlfriends or family (mostly so they can contact me whenever they feel like it no matter where I am), while I communicate almost entire with regular friends through IM. There are certain things regarding text messaging that irriate me. You're limited to the number of characters you can use in a given message. It's not always instantaneous like IM is, depending where you're located at what service you're using. Obviously it costs money, to get a plan with a set number of text messages and even more money for unlimited text messages. I also can't stand the "lingo" or language that's allowed in the text messages. "R U rdy 2 go?" I understand it makese sense to replace entire words with a single letter for space reasons, but I still don't like it and never use it myself. One last thing, on most phones it's clunky typing messages to people. There are 3 or 4 letters assigned to a number key 1-9, say 1 has the letters a, b and c assigned to it, if I wanted to spell the word "cab" I would have to hit the number 1 three times to get "C" wait for the cursor to stop blinking, then hit 1 once for "A" wait for the cursor to stop blinking and hit 1 twice for "B". I realize there are word recognition programs that assist your typing messages, but all in all it's a slow experience. On the plus side, if you're away from a computer and inside your phone's coverage area you can send a text message. Also, many IM clients allow you communicate with cell phones with text messages, though the phones have to support this option themselves by already having AIM (Aol Instant Messaging) or one of the other clients on the phone to begin with.

I've only experience web conferences since I started working at the library, in the form of webinars. During our webinars, there would be a number of people connected to the host's phone and we would listen to him on speaker phone, as well as be connected to his desktop so we could see what he was doing on our computer. While this is only conjecture, the webinars I've experienced can test your ability to maintain conciousness. Perhaps, given more excitable subject manner, personal opinions can change. Though on the technical side, things never always work how you expect. Most likely due to the speed of the library's online connection and slower computers, the online aspect of the webinars were laggy, sometimes minutes behind what the host was actually doing. Such a lagging online experience really negates the learning, because the person is always talking in real time, but seeing that translated on our computers minutes later really detracts from the presentation on a whole.

In all, most of the communcation tools listed, are here to stay.

"R U 4 REALZ???"

"Yes... Yes I am."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Thing 6 - Pick up sticks!


Image generators. Sounds a little intimidating at first, but as I've found it, it's actually pretty cool and a lot more fun that I would have imagined.

For this Thing, I used a couple of the image generators that were suggested on the 23 Things blog. I had a lot of fun with the options you had for creating these things. I probably spent far more time then is required. I created a trading card for my own drawing of Cosmo from the Fairly Oddparents.

It's a little hard to read the text, but if you click on the image itself, then you can make it out.

I created a bunch more, but I'll just post these few. I'm not sure what else to say about these image generators. It's fun to fool around with them, and create these things, perhaps libraries could create some posters and such to post. The trading card is a cool idea, and makes me want to create a game involving trading cards of all my friends and their "Talents" and "Abilities". But that's neither here nor there.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Thing Five - Super Happy Funtime!

D_McElman_070713_1576 B L o Wooden Tile C K

Welcome again,

As you can see, I used a Flickr mashup to spell out the name of my blog, and it's incredible. I also made one of my pictures into a jigsaw puzzle.

I think it turned out well, given the quality of the small image to begin with. The site that made that jigsaw puzzle, actually offer an option for you to order a real life jigsaw puzzle with that image of your choice. Perhaps this is something I would use as a gift of some sort in the future. I don't personally see a lot of use for these mashups in the library that we'd actually use, but you never know.

Having setup a Flickr account and used it for a brief period, I can see it's appeal to those into digital photos and online images. Also, just for backing up your photos, it would seem priceless for those with a lot of photos on their computers. As for me, it's not something I'm really all that interested in. I don't do digital photography, nor do I have many pictures that I've scanned into my computer. So unless I actually get into some sort of digital photography, I really don't see myself using this program in the future. My personal feelings aside, I think it could prove useful and convenient for libraries with large photo collections to share.