Saturday, December 09, 2006

Back Again!


Hello everyone!

I'm back after a long hiatus. My wife and I have been travelling and running paperwork here and there for the purpose of adopting our new daughter, Aly (see photo.)
We have a little more work to do, but we're nearing the end (or beginning) of our journey.

Anyway, I'm going to have a little time in the next few weeks to catch up on my reading and web experimentation.

In the meantime, I've been looking at Google's combination of JotSpot, Google Docs, Google Pages, Blogger, Gmail, Google Calendar, Notebook, Picasa, and Google Base. I have been wondering how far they are from combining these items into a centralized screen and if they will allow users to create faceted displays.

There may also be a way to combine these items into one Personalized Google page using widgets, but I am most interested in the ability to set up separate displays. For example, if someone had an interest in computers, libraries, chess, Superman, Chuck Berry, and the Baltimore Ravens, they could have separate pages for each that would display blog entries, wikis, photos, document collections, calendar entries, and so on. The entries would be made from a unified page, and the author would select the display pages by choosing the corresponding tag.

Hopefully, JotSpot will be able to consolidate these functions effectively, but at this moment, the application is less than intuitive. They've done a pretty good job on the other issues, though, so I'm hopeful that they will be able to streamline the package and add some more functionality to what they already have.

If anyone has discovered a free application that is more powerful and easier to use, let me know.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Writely Open

For those of you who are interested in web-based word processing, Writely is now accepting new registrations. It will take me a while to see if there are any new features and to explore its capabilities, but I will post again if I find anything newsworthy.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Upgraded to Blogger Beta--Part 2

Now I'm really starting to get annoyed. I have not been able to put my AdSense ads back on my blog. Now I know that this doesn't particularly bother the rest of you--I mean, who really wants to see the ads on my blog, anyway? It just detracts from the high quality content, right?

But that's just my point! I have all of this great stuff on my blog today, but I won't get a red cent--in spite of the millions of people who are reading this blog right now! There's nothing to click. How are the people going to know that Google provides blogs through Blogger if there are no links to click? How can the economy survive if Madison Avenue can't reach the consumer hoards through my high quality blog?

I'm not sure I can handle all of this stress. I need a drink.

Test of Windows Live (Beta)

I am writing this post using Windows Live Writer (Beta). The interface is simple and fairly intuitive. I can change the font if I want to. I can insert links, pictures and a Microsoft Virtual Earth Map:

Image would have been here.

Now, the big question for me is, how well does it publish the post?

Here goes nothing.

Well, I was informed by the program that my weblog won't publish images. As you can see in other entries, this is not true. Well, let's try again without the map image.

Again, nothing.

Well, I am now cutting and pasting this entry directly into Blogger. So much for my first test of Windows Live Writer (Beta).

In all fairness, I must point out that I have just upgraded to Blogger beta, so it may be a few days before I figure out where the glitch is. Better luck next time, I suppose.

Upgraded to Blogger Beta

I upgraded the blog to the new Blogger beta format. In the process, I lost a couple of feed buttons and my WorldCat search box, but I like the look of the blog, the atom feed at the bottom, and the ability to tag blog entries. I also have the option to modify the layout without hand coding the template--I can use the mouse to drag sections around, create new ones, or edit the labels. I'll let you all know how it goes from here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tweaks to Google's GMail and Calendar Displays

Google has added a link to their Spreadsheets and another one to bring up additional services at the top left hand corner of their GMail and Calendar pages. I hadn't even looked at the spreadsheet service since I tried it out once during the early testing phase. There were some problems with rendering at the time which seem to have been corrected since then.

Monday, August 07, 2006

WorldCat.org goes live

I have added a search box for WorldCat.org's new web search service. Check it out today.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Test of Podcast

This is a test of a podcast.

I don't think that this is the best way to try this, so I'll keep at it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Google Help

Google has centralized all of their help information at Google Help. They have divided the information into broad categories which seem to give an indication of how they think of their own organization. I'll take a longer look at it later--it may be a way to pick up some new tricks.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Taking Notes the Easy Way

I could just kick myself.

I have always been looking for a simpler way to take notes. I have considered software, notebooks, notecards, voice recorders, ripping the pages out of materials and filing them as is.... I never considered voice transcription software, however. Now, after reading David Pogue's review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9.0, I could just kick myself for not thinking of it sooner.

Imagine looking up from the middle of a good read and saying "note", to see your computer set itself up for a note entry, and then dictating the note without picking up pen or paper. Unless you have your own personal secretary, I can't think of anything that would beat it.

This fulfills my ease of transfer law. Now if it were only portable...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tech 20

Our library held a technology conference for its employees at our main location today. I had the privilege of giving digital photography demonstrations. I spoke about Picasa, Flickr, and Adobe Photoshop Elements among other things--which is great because I'm at about the same level as the listeners! I'm the guy the family designates to take off-center pictures, annoying candid shots and those great shots of headless people. It was reassuring to see that there were people who had less experience than I did. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Laws of Information Needs and Uses

There are so many formats and protocols for information these days. I think it would be a good idea to develop some guidelines for evaluating and developing new information tools.

  1. People want information to be free.
  2. People want information right this instant.
  3. People want information to be ubiquitous.
  4. People want information to be accurate.
  5. People want information to transfer easily to other devices or formats.
  6. People want information to come from one tool.

People want information to be free.

I think that this is the case in so many ways. First of all, nobody really wants to pay for anything. Secondly, we have gotten so used to free information from the library and the internet, it is especially galling for the majority of the public to pay for it.

People want information right this instant.

Technology should be shortening the distance between our information need and our information acquisition. If I'm hiking in the wilderness and I think that I hear a bear, I will want to know if I'm supposed to make a great deal of noise when I confront it, or if I'm supposed to play dead--the distinction could be a matter of life or death, and I don't have time to go to the library. Ideally, a short phrase spoken (quietly) into my wireless phone or Pocket PC would get me the information I need.

People want information to be ubiquitous.

Looking back at the bear example, it is also important to have access to information wherever possible. Having the information in my house, at the library, or in a bookstore is all very well and good if I'm ever attacked there (provided the bear gives me the opportunity to find the right book and consult the index) but I don't recall any recent cases like that.

People want information to be accurate,

This seems like a given, but there is a great deal of misinformation out there and we need to have some method of determining our source's authority. In this case, I'd hope for some information from the National Park Service.

People want information to transfer easily to other devices or formats.

Once I find my information, I may want to keep it with me for reassurance. I may want it recorded so that I can play it back for myself (or the bear). I may want to save it on my phones display screen. I may even want to print it out--not the greatest idea if you're looking for low-impact camping. I may want to email it to my lawyer for liability purposes ("I did exactly what they said--now they won't pay for my limb re-attachment.") The point is, when I find information, I hate having to type it or write it out again.

People want information to come from one tool.

I say this not because it's the best method, but because it's how people seem to look for information. If someone likes using Google, they will Google everything. If they prefer Yahoo, they will turn there for information. If they always ask their friends, they will continue to ask their friends. When one tool works well for someone, they will try that tool first, regardless of its appropriateness (wrench as hammer).

There are drawbacks and hazards associated with each of these "laws" and I know that there are more ways that people hope to obtain and use information, but I think that this is a good jumping off point for planning and discussion.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Google Sitemaps Update

Anyone who has a web page may want to take a look at this recent entry in the Official Google Blog about Google Sitemaps. The Google Webmaster Help Center lays out what they are looking for in a web page. Google has also included a robots.txt tool.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Introduction

Hello!

My name is Rob, and I'm a reference librarian at a public library somewhere in Ohio.

I'm starting this blog with the purpose of exploring the role of new (popular) technology in the traditional library setting. I may discover that the two are incompatible, or that the two go together like peanut butter and jelly, or that I'm totally out of my depth (highly probable).

In the coming weeks, I want to take a look at, among other things, the Web 2.0 phenomenon, AJAX, the Semantic Web and SPARQL, social software, tagging, blogs, wikis, podcasts, vlogs, digital rights, web development, the open source movement, and the giant that is Google. It's just a small amount of information to cover, but I think we could probably stretch it out into a few posts.