Tools 2.0

Posted in Learn and Play with tags , , on November 8, 2008 by moamcm

Finally got around to thing 18.  This one has been tough since there are so many things to look at (ok, so I did not have to look at all of them, but I ended up getting sucked in and checking on many of these).

The top two I really liked were:

Pandora.com – A good friend of mine actually introduced me to this a while back and I like it for a quick play of music when I don’t feel like digging through what I already own.  I also have found several things I like that I did not know about through the associations to favorite artists.  I’m actually listening to The Sisters of Mercy on Pandora as I type this (a favorite group of mine – one track from a CD I often listen to in my car at high volume – just get out of my way when you hear this playing behind you, really, it’s for your own safety).

Imcooked.com – Cooking and video – nice.  I can’t stand recipes without pictures.  I want to know what the finished product looks like.  I’m one of those weird food people who believe that a good plate is as much about appearance as flavor.  Without pictures, a recipe is dead text.  Now to be able to see a recipe from start to finish… that seems very useful considering that not all recipes are clearly put together.  Like most things with the internet, some of these are pretty good and others just suck for quality, but it’s worth digging for the gems.

Other than that, many were interesting, but not particularly useful to me personally.  Note that this does not include things like the already mentioned Flickr or Delicious.  Since I already covered my feelings on some of these in previous blog entries I did not include these thoughts here.

I think the application in the library setting is simple.  I think it’s time to consider things like setting aside space on our site to allow users to post things like a recipe database or tutorials for various subjects.  Completely user interactive and people get to add directly to their local library.  Interactive event calendars for the community would seem to make sense as well.  Anything that directly allows our users to contribute and search content at the local level would be a good thing in my mind.  So what are we waiting for?

A Target without a Gun

Posted in Customer Service with tags , , , on October 22, 2008 by moamcm

Guns are bad.  Specifically toy guns are bad.  And me, I’m a bad, bad, bad father for thinking about getting my little girl a toy gun to go with her Halloween costume.  At least, that’s the impression I got from a Target employee the other day.  I visited Target thinking to complete my daughter’s cowgirl costume.  Now being someone born west of the Mississippi River, I don’t tend to think of guns as a bad thing.  I mean I’m not a member of the NRA or anything; it’s just that guns are not evil where I come from.  My father, like many others in the region, taught me something apparently lacking in today’s society: responsibility with a loaded weapon that has the potential to kill.  That’s what I was taught and that’s what all my friends were taught.  Guns just were not that big of a deal because everyone had one (or three, or five..) and we were all taught how to properly handle and use them.

So I didn’t think much about asking where the toy guns were.  After all, cowboys and the American West were cool for me growing up.  Hell, I still love a good Western and that idealized portrait of the West will draw me in every time.  Boy was I wrong to think that was alright though.  The smirking employee with a clear hint of disdain replied something along the lines of “you won’t find toy guns at Target.”  The tone and facial expression however said a whole lot more than the words.  Now I had just walked through the toy section and I really didn’t like the attitude I was receiving.  So I pointed out that Target seems to have no problem carrying an assortment of war toys such as GI Joe, various other action toys, and even Hulk’s “smashing fists” or something like that.  In fact, I could even buy a toy knife if I felt like it.  So what’s the difference I asked?  The answer, “well, it’s a fine line.” 

Give me a break.  That’s a pretty serious fine line I would say.  Ok kids, it’s not ok to play with toy guns, but it’s perfectly fine to play at war, knife your friends, and maybe pummel them with giant green fists.  No fake shooting little Johnny in a showdown, but you can really shoot little Johnny with a foam bow and arrow if you want to.   Even better why don’t you blast little Johnny with a paintball gun from the sports section!  Hypocrisy, in the true sense of the word.  Perhaps the folks at Target who made this obviously politically correct decision need to look up that definition and try to understand what it means.

And then to make it all one step more annoying, I find this on Target.com.  How amusing is that?  We won’t sell you a toy gun in the store, but you can have it shipped to your door!  Awesome.  Too bad I won’t be buying any toys at target for a while. 

Oh, I’ll be back.  One crappy employee isn’t enough to keep me away forever and overall the local store I go to is not too bad – average apathetic service as usual as retail environments go – I’ve seen worse.  But for now, I’m still a bit irked and that will take a while to rub off. Until then, I’ll be dropping my cash at Walmart, Kmart, or any other discount store that comes to mind when I have a need for that kind of shopping place – even if I have to drive out of my way to get there.

You could say I feel a bit vindictive about this with posting the experience online and not shopping at Target for a while.  I personally see it as choosing to spend my money at a place where the employees understand that their personal beliefs are of no interest to me as the customer and where store policies are not riddled with obvious social commentary.  I guess you could say, “It’s a fine line.”

Now Hiring – One PB Wiki Editor (or More)

Posted in Learn and Play with tags , on October 20, 2008 by moamcm

Nice and easy interface and simple to use.  I notice however, as I mentioned in my previous wiki post, we could already use an editor.  To be nice, merely allow me to say there are some peculiar things in peculiar places. 

But the only real issue I had was getting access.  In the end I requested access and received that in about 15 minutes.  The password at the top of the page was useless it seems.  Clearly this process could have been explained a bit better.

You can now find my blog on the favorite blogs page.

Google Docs

Posted in Learn and Play with tags , on October 20, 2008 by moamcm

Google Docs is nice.  I like the ability to share documents and collaborate on something without having to email back and forth all the time.  It seems far better to just let another person incorporate their part or changes in a document than to go back and forth with email after email.  I also like the fact that you can change to different file types, such as PDF.  This will definitely be something I am going to be using personally.

I think this is going to be an awesome tool to use with patrons as well.  No floppy or thumb drive to save to?  Google Docs is the answer.  In fact, I would go so far as to say we should have a link to this on the desktop of all public PCs.

I created a quick test PDF.  Nothing important, just the Lorem Ipsum text and a picture, but if you want to see it and a translation for that Lorem Ipsum text click here.

Protect the Humans!

Posted in Viewing with tags , , , on October 17, 2008 by moamcm

Weird kick of the month, I’ve watched two documentaries discussing life on the planet after people, we humans, are gone.  The reason as they say at the beginning of each documentary is not important, but what happens after we are no longer here to tend to our civilization?  By the way, can I call it a documentary if it is purely fictional and yet based in science?  Well for lack of a better word, the two “documentaries” were Aftermath: Population Zero and Life After People.  Both titles are available at CML if you are interested.

Confession: I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic fiction.  I can’t say exactly why, but there’s something fascinating about the collapse of civilization and the struggle to maintain / rebuild that follows.  Perhaps because it’s Darwinian?  Adapters survive, those who can’t are eliminated.  Excellent (rubbing hands together with maniacal grin).  The chance to start again and do it better (unlikely) is a pleasing thought.  But I digress…

In the case of both documentaries, this is life on Planet Earth with no survivors.  So what happens to our buildings, our roads, and our proof of existence if you will?  Not pretty.  Turns out it doesn’t take that long for Mother Earth to erase all trace of us from the surface.  I won’t say how long because that would be a bit of a spoiler, but basically our existence would become some future E.B.E.s archaeological dig site at best. 

The imagery in both was incredibly well done.  Many a famous monument or bridge meets its doom with some very well done effects and solid science behind it as to why and when this would happen.  Overall the content of both was extremely similar with some topics being so close that I felt like someone ripped someone off.  But both are worth seeing since they do have differences here and there.  For instance, they disagree on what happens to our nuclear power plants when no one is there to tend to them.  And of course each covers some things the other does not.

Then there is the Chernobyl footage in the Life After People title.  This was fascinating since that particular site is of course not even remotely hypothesis.  We can actually see what our cities look like without human care for 20 years.  And interestingly enough we can actually see that a nuclear meltdown is not even remotely the threat that environmentalist would have us believe.  Sure it sucks for a while, but overall the planet heals quite nicely without us around.

Moral of the story: we don’t matter nearly even a fraction of what we think we do and it’s definitely not Planet Earth that needs protection from us.

Have a nice day!

Confessions of a 64 69 67 69 74 61 6c Librarian…

Posted in Learn and Play with tags , , on October 15, 2008 by moamcm

Hi my name is, well my name is my business, and anyway… well I’m a wikaholic.  I use Wikipedia… a lot… without regard for authority… or a care in the world who made the last edit.  I’ve been wikaless for 2 days now, but I know it won’t last.  I can’t stop.  It’s just too good.

I’ve seen fellow librarians criticized because “Can you believe it? She used Wikipedia to answer that question!”  While I would agree that taking Wikipedia wholesale as the only source is probably not a valid choice as a professional information gatherer, ignoring it is also not a valid choice.  Wikipedia is often a great start point for finding the terminology one needs to find even more information on a subject area.  I use it this way all the time and where I need to be absolutely sure my answer is correct, I fact check it against a site with some authority once I know what to look for.  Kind of obvious what I think about wikis huh?  Good stuff, mostly.

I took a look around some of the library sites suggested on the Learn and Play page.  Good starts, but definitely smaller wikis.  Either not enough users to provide true content or bad structures that really need the help of a stronger editor.  See I like Wikipedia because it has a huge community who keep it looking and functioning well.  But that just usually is not true on smaller wikis.  Things get too disorganized without a clear vision.  An editor or at least a group of people willing to act as editors is about the only complaint I have with Wikis (the lack of editors I should say).

I think using wikis as pathfinders, announcements boards, and tutorials could be a valuable thing for us to do.  We just need to stick to the minimum, simple wiki and do it right.  Maybe we could even convert all of our internal docs to wiki format (P&P, Best Practices, etc).  This would save much time as we could go in and change things when needed very quickly (and a record of who made the change would exist along with the previous version).  I can see project teams using wikis to build joint information sites with timelines and what needs to be done still. 

All in all, I think the wiki concept is useful.  But we would have to seriously promote it to the public and our staff to get content, keep it simple and clear so people know how to use it, and not clutter it up with junk.  Skip any of those things and we end up with another dead wiki.  There are enough of those out there already.

Library 2.0

Posted in Learn and Play with tags , on October 15, 2008 by moamcm

I read Michael Stephen’s Into a New World of Librarianship, Dr. Wendy Schultz’s To a temporary place in time…, and Rick Anderson’s Away from the “icebergs.”  All were interesting reads with excellent points.  So what’s my take on “Library 2.0?”

Well, it’s a nice label.  But we may be missing the point.  Over and over, I’ve seen “Library 2.0” discussions devolve to how we can use some new whiz-bang online application.  It seems like getting online and using online tools has become the focus.  Realistically, these things are just tools that do not mean much, especially since they are branded by another organization.  We need to be doing these things ourselves (or at the very least co-branding and assisting with new development).  In fact we need to be doing more than just online and we need to be coming up with tools that no one else has thought of before us!

A few random observations and thoughts on some places we need to be stealing from…

Yahoo Answers – What?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  How did we miss this opportunity?  Why don’t we have “CML Answers” with questions openly posted by people and answers by people who are actually experts at finding information?  You know those people right… librarians?  It sure would be a lot better than “Fred in Nowhereville says…”

Amazon.com – Reviews, wish lists, ratings, look inside, tagging, etc.  Our catalogs, even the coolest ones… well our catalogs suck at best by comparison.  We need to be updating how our catalogs look and making them user interactive (including allowing user content).  We don’t need this tomorrow – we need it now.

Excite.com, Yahoo.com, or any other homepage provider – completely and absolutely user interactive with the ability to choose layouts, choose themes, and choose what information you want to see when you stop by.  So how about the average library’s homepage?  Well, it’s about as interactive as a dead parrot.

Internet Movie Database – See Amazon.com – Do I need to say more?  Ok maybe I do.  IMDB has extra things like movie trailers, images from the film, and discussions.  How cool would it be to be able to watch a trailer for the movie I am thinking about reserving without having to go to an outside source to do that?  Or maybe read a discussion to verify I am interested?

Borders, Starbucks – Coffee, pastries and cookies, mood, socialization, etc.  The library, books, CDs, DVDs, blah, blah, blah – cool for something to pick up, but god awful boring as a place to hang out.  About the coolest thing we do is offer children’s programs (and I’m being serious – we do this one well).  We need more programming (especially for adults), more comfy chairs, more free flowing open buildings that can be configured to meet program needs, and more reason to come here and make these building a part of our customer’s lives (and a priority).

So you get the point I’m driving at here right?  We are talking about “Library 2.0,” but do we get it?  This isn’t something WE need to think too much on or talk about for a long time.  We provide the tools that our customer’s need to create content and enrich our site and our physical spaces.  We provide the tools that will integrate in to their daily lives at home, work, and school.  WE need to do.  Not later, not after we committee it to death, not even next year.  We need to do this right now with all the risk that entails and nothing but guts to open.  Our job is to then sit back and let our customers use those tools in whatever way they want to use them to create the library they want.  When our customers express a new need, we create or find a tool to assist with that also.  Besides that, we need to be aggressively promoting ourselves and our brand constantly in every way possible.  And definitely, we need to update our buildings to encourage a place with real “destination experience” – a place where community wants to form (20/20 is dead on, but what can we do NOW with limited funds?  Partnerships maybe?  Starbucks and the library together at last?). 

Isn’t it about time that someone out there said, “I just wish we could compete with the Library?”  I want to hear that phrase someday.

That’s “Library 2.0” in my mind.