Posts filed under ‘Technology’

What Would You Ask Bill Gates? (and Why Doesn’t YOUR Library Website Look Like This?)

I just received an interesting email indicating that I could have the opportunity to ask a question to Bill Gates.

Well, there is a small catch (of course). I (and everyone else on the planet) can submit questions and the “best one” will be chosen and asked of Mr. Gates….

I have no idea what criteria will be used to determine “the best” question…. but I thought it might be an interesting chance to recommend a question.

Another interesting aspect of this that I didn’t realize until I followed the link, is seeing what others are suggesting…. Some are serious, some are funny.

I thought it might be interesting if it happens that A LOT of LIBRARIANS suggest questions. (Who knows, maybe one will even be the “chosen” one.) I think it would be interesting if there were so many suggestions by librarians, on this otherwise non-library-related site, that the general public (or readership of this site) noticed. I wonder what they would think. I wonder what, if anything, would happen.

We out here in library-land have had our own “dealings with” Mr. Gates and we may have some specific questions we want to ask him…..

This is all taking place over on FastCompany.com – a magazine and site I really like. In fact, I have been thinking about doing a post about their site ever since I joined it because I think it is an interesting approach and one that libraries should consider.

It is a very “social” site, but it is a specific social site and not just a general social site for the sake of being a social site, such as facebook and/or MySpace*. What I mean by this is that you can sign-in and personalize your whole experience and use of this site. There are specific categories and interests (for this site they include “leadership”, “management”, “technology”, etc. all related to business… but things that I am interested in nonetheless). When I log in this is what I see:


So I have my own area with any messages or other information I might want – and I have controls on the right to edit my profile, post, invite others, send a message, etc….

Some libraries ARE doing things like this on their website, or on another virtual presence, and I am certainly not the first or only to call for this. However, not enough are doing things like this. As I was signing up for my account on fastcompany.com I couldn’t help but think about library websites as I went through all of my options and interests…. What topics am I interested in? Which newsletters and updates would I want to receive. What do I want my “homepage” to look like when I come here and sign-in… these would all be great features on a library website.

Look at this particular part of my page on fastcompany.com:

I know it might be small here, but in that red box I’ve drawn I have all these MY things, and they literally say they are MY things: MY contacts, MY bookmarks, MY feeds, MY settings, MY network, MY recommendations, etc…. this really makes this MY page to me, for me, when I come to this site.

It also makes it much more specific, interesting and useful to me. I have already narrowed-down what aspects of this page/company I am interested in… and it is all ready for me right on the front page FOR ME when I sign-in here.

Additionally, right above that are the general topic areas for fastcompany.com – Innovation, Technology, Leadership, etc…. all interesting and attractive (to me) to click on and go right to what might be of interest. I can also easily find people, groups, and blogs, of interest to me. This provides me a chance to create an even more specific, smaller, community within this community for me. I joined the Leadership group and the Technology group here, and even started my own, called Librarians just because I am like that! ;-) I like to put libraries and librarians in wherever ‘technology’ is. So far, no one has noticed it, but I wonder what might happen if they did. (“Librarians!? Technology and business?! Huh!?”)

I also just happened to see my.barackobama.com . If you check out this site you can again see that this is the Barack Obama site for YOU. Here is what it can look like:

It can have everything for ME - My People, MY Network, My Blog, etc… I keep finding that sites like these provide people an opportunity to have a blog right within them – on this topic of interest to them. They don’t need to go to any specific blogging site (like blogger or wordpress or whatever – not that there’s anything wrong with them). These sites are providing them with blogging spots, on sites of their own interest, where others come who have the same interest, thus providing a built-in readership for their individual blog. I think a lot of people wonder who would read their blog and why. People hear about “blogs” all the time, but maybe they aren’t ready to actually GO to a blogging site, sign-up and start blogging. But maybe on a site they like and use, with an easy way to blog right there, they might just do it. This is something libraries could provide…

Maybe these are not earth-shattering things, but it seems to me that I am seeing more and more websites like these. Library websites are already, for the most part, behind the times, and as more of these sites go to more and more personalized interfaces, we don’t want to be another generation behind.

So, anyway, submit your potential question for Mr. Gates (by posting it in a comment on the post) and also take a little tour around FastCompany.com … and my.barakobama.com, if you’re so inclined.

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* Don’t get me wrong, I (of course) think you can create for yourself and have a very personalized and meaningful experience on facebook….. but again, that happens when you create a “community” within a “community,” which is what I feel happens within fastcompany.com

June 4, 2008 at 11:35 am 3 comments

The New IT Librarian Application

In the past couple weeks, I’ve listened to a few librarians talk about the woes of their supposed IT specialists.

The problem? They are really good with buzzwords and not so great with applications. Some have complained that their IT specialist were generally unfamiliar with basic computer competencies. And while it is generally deemed okay for a ‘normal’ librarian to be unfamiliar with computer applications and some 2.0 technologies, this should be essential for a person who specialized in IT for their library. If not, we are then left with libraries that stagnate in their IT competencies and fall behind the tech-trend.

So, let’s lose the buzzword interviews. Let’s plan an application process that would really test the abilities of your IT specialist.

When the job is posted for a general IT position, require that the application and cover letter be sent via email in an attachment. If they can’t do this, which is largely considered a basic competency, then they are not qualified for the job. Require a cell phone number (more on this later).

If they are applying for a webmaster position, require them to post their resume online. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a site with resume and a link to download the resume as well… to show they have basic web-design skills.

If the person’s resume and cover letter meet your standards, TEXT their cell phone to set up an interview. Unorthodox? Perhaps, but part of the IT personality is embracing modern technology. Texting is one of the most popular means of communication with our younger population and, if we want to stay current with our patrons, then we need make sure our IT people are familiar with it as well.

Next, set up a time to talk meet your potential employee ONLINE. Nothing complicated, have them meet you on G-chat, Meebo, AIM or whatever. Once they get there, just hold a brief conversation about what the upcoming interview will entail, quick clarification questions, or see if they have any questions. Better yet, perhaps ask them, for the interview; to prepare a brief demonstration on their favorite 2.0 technology that they think would be useful or popular with the community. The importance is not the conversation itself but more that, once again, they are familiar with using this technology. Again, IM is a popular method of communication and your IT specialist should be comfortable with it.

By this time the interview comes, you will have a basic understanding of the applicant’s technological ability. If they needed instruction or familiarization with any of these things, that should be a warning flag. When they give their demonstration, you will also be able to see how well they can communicate the use of these technologies to other people and just how ambitious their Library 2.0 goals are.

Yes, I do realize there is a possible flaw in this method; it requires that someone on the interview team be familiar with technology as well. It’s a conundrum, that’s for sure. But, let’s look beyond that.

Oh, and if you want to have a little fun with them at the interview, put them in front of a computer with the machine on but the monitor off (or unplugged) and ask them to figure out the problem. Tell them you’ve tried hitting the machine but ‘nothing happened.” If they look at you, remark, “I just don’t think this machine likes me very much.” Then watch for a reaction.

May 15, 2008 at 10:02 am 16 comments

Bamboo: Great tool for a great price

Check it out! Look what I can draw on my computer!
Well, yeah… I know it’s not Mona Lisa but, hey, it was my first try. It deserves some credit, right?
Bamboo is marketed as the affordable and ‘fun’ drawing tablet for the recreational artist. At $79, they were right on the money with affordable. As for fun, I am having trouble putting the pen down.
The learning curve for using Bamboo is pretty low. If you know how to hold a pen, and have a semi-steady hand, there really isn’t much else to learn.
Installation is a piece of cake as well, essentially a plug ‘n’ play device. The pen can double as a mouse and the tablet can be used in leiu of the primary mouse. Every button is customizable, which makes it very convenient to the user. As you can probably guess, I have the second button on the pen set to Control-Z in order to quickly erase those all-too-common slips of the hand.
The box also comes with Adobe Photoshop and Corel Ink. Both are solid quality image softwares that should appease most users.
If you are looking to provide a little ‘something more’ for your patrons’ computer resources, Bamboo might just be an ideal purchase. As for programs, it is a great addition for any graphic novel club, Photoshop instruction, and even handy if you wanted to create a digital signature.
You might want to come up with some check-out or anti-theft attachment for the pen and mouse though, both could easily walk.
That said, I know exactly what new tech toy I am going to be pushing at my library.

April 8, 2008 at 3:39 pm 1 comment

Friday Fun: Test Your Technology Type

PEW Internet and American Life Project has a quick 10 question test for people to see what kind of technology user they are.

When looking at the different types of users, I was pretty suprised to see that the American population was well dispersed between the 10 different categories.

My results pegged me as an Omnivore, which comprises 8% of the general population. The provided description was pretty accurate, the only big miss being that I do not own a Blackberry/iphone.

But I will…. oh yes, I will. bwahahahahahaha!

February 8, 2008 at 11:43 am 9 comments

Gphone? Now we’re talking pure technology bliss!

If I get one of the new generation phones, I don’t want to have to re-invent the wheel.
No new calendar
No new photo program
No new notes
And please, no new desktop program that I have to upload to my computer and, possibly, have to constantly connect to in order to keep both phone and program in synch. Palm OS, I’m talking to you.
But what if Google made a phone and it was designed to work with all of my pre-existing apps, then we’d have something!
In a way, it is a backwards approach, creating the content before creating the hardware. Google already has all the applications in place along with millions of dedicated users. Creating a phone that will allow users to bring their pre-existing applications with them, without having to reset or rebuild, is an extremely enticing idea.
Just imagine, all of your mail, docs, notebooks, readers, photos, maps and videos readily available at a moment’s notice. Yeah, I know you are probably already telling me that iphone, Treo and all the other ones have the ability to link to the mobile versions of these programs but it is not the same.
I’m talking about a phone where I place in my one username and password and then all the applications are ready-to-go (think a mobile version of google desktop); ideally, they are just a simple click away from the phone’s desktop. No jumping to various websites and no downloads of new applications. Think plug’n’play, take’n’go w/ my phone.
The expectations for such a phone are huge, in fact, Gizmondo has already released their wishlist of apps they really want to see the phone contain.
The only thing I would add is that the “gphone” has an adequate harddrive right at the start… not a 4-8GB version that will become obsolete within the first 6 months of manufacturing.
Not mentioning anyone in particular, I’m just saying…

October 23, 2007 at 9:45 am 2 comments

Magical Mystery Tour Wiki Link

As requested, here’s the link to the Wiki that supports the Magical Mystery Tour: http://librarygarden.pbwiki.com

My Flickr set from the day is available here.

My 15 minutes was focused on getting across the concept of RSS. I did a powerpoint (also up on slideshare.) All of my supporting information is up on the wiki here: librarygarden.pbwiki.com/Pete’s+Favorites.

We’re doing a repeat performance next Thursday (and then Barbequing at Chateau Bromber’) so if anyone has any recommendations or feedback to improve my RSS presentation I’m all ears. Grilling tips are also appreciated.

August 23, 2007 at 5:15 pm

What the RIAA can learn from They Might Be Giants

I just picked up They Might Be Giants new album, The Else, and got a neat surprise, a bonus CD. The disc contained 23 songs they previously released on their podcast site, and almost all were never previously released on any of their other CDs.

And as excited as I was to receive more music than I anticipated from my favorite band, my initial reaction was “Finally, someone gets it!”

Suing fans is a bad incentive for buying the album, especially when the laws are somewhat contradictory, you can legally copy an analog tape but not on a digital CD. It’s no wonder that many people who get their music from p2p networks don’t believe they are doing anything terribly wrong. After all, how can copying be legal in one format and not another?

Y’know, I’ve always wondered how much money the actual artists get when the RIAA wins a lawsuit for pirating. If anyone has information on this, I would love to know.

They Might Be Giants tried a different approach (as are other musicians)… give the fans something in exchange for their support. A bonus CD of already recorded songs might have cost them a dollar a piece to manufacture but in doing so, they will start a buzz around the official CD and bonus tracks which will creates an interest for people to want to buy it. And even jump their sales a bit.

On a semi-tangent, some Nintendo products are trying the same approach. When I bought Pokemon’s Battle Revolution for Wii (please don’t judge me) a card fell out asking me to register the game. The reward for doing this was extra pictures, wallpapers and tips for the game. Imagine what more powerful systems like Xbox or PS3 could do with registration; give the registrants extra levels more characters, unique weapons, etc.

July 13, 2007 at 12:50 pm 1 comment

Librarian 2.0- The new professional or the responsible one?

Reading the Librairan 2.0 Manifesto was both an inspiring and frustrating read. Inspiring because it iterates goals that make me love my profession. I love outreach, I love working online and I love sharing new web 2.0 finds with peers and patrons.

But frustating too because I was left wondering how we got to a point in our profession where some of the goals needed to be written. Take the following examples:

*I will not fear Google or related services, but rather will take advantage of these services to benefit users while also providing excellent library services that users need.
*I will let go of previous practices if there is a better way to do things now, even if these practices once seemed so great.
*I will recognize that the universe of information culture is changing fast and that libraries need to respond positively to these changes to provide resources and services that users need and want.

These are new goals for our profession!? We actually had to put in goals that state we need to be open to efficiency, convenience and we need to provide resources our patrons need and want? As public servants in information resources, it would almost seem as if these goals were a mandatory. And yet, I can also see why we needed to specify these goals; there are quite a few among our profession that need to be reminded.

But how did we get to this stage? Why do we have professional librarians who refuse to keep up with the professional and technological requirements? How did we reach a point where the patrons’ needs were less important than the traditional way of doing things?

All along, the job of a reference librarian has been to find the information patrons need. We are in the business of connecting people to the information they require… so why care about the format that information is found in?

Although traditionalists’ argue the Internet is 90% junk, it was originally built as a means to convey information and expedite the communication process between people. Even among the copious amounts of junk found on the web, legitimate information has rooted itself firmly in cyberspace as well. For some reason or another some in our profession dismissed this technology as non-important, despite the visibly growing applications and use among our patrons. And because of this lackadaisical and rejective approach we are left with professionals so far behind the curve that waiting for retirement is as an easier path than training.

And so I grow frustrated when I read the goals and responsibilities of the 2.0 Librarian, it should’ve been part of our profession all along.

July 12, 2007 at 1:19 pm 11 comments

Multiple Tools = Multiple Work!?

The always smart and thought-provoking Claire over on the PALS Plus 2.0 blog wrote about “living in interesting times,” referring to living in these times of great change that are taking place right now and how much fun and frustrating it can be!

Specifically, she talks about how to choose the “right tools” to accomplish things. She wants to announce the PIMP MY BOOKCART contest to PALS Plus libraries and figures that right now, the best place/way to announce it is still using “1.0” methods, i.e., group e-mail. However, PALS Plus will be launching a “Fall Into 2.0″ program and perhaps by October, and most likely (hopefully!) by next June’s contest, there will be other, multiple ways that she can get the word out and be assured that everyone will see it.

I started thinking about this…. My first reaction is “put it out there in as many ways as possible” because I feel that this philosophy is what sort of underlies a lot of 2.0 stuff – make things accessible in many different ways in case some people access you in those ways. Make it easy and convenient for them to get it, in ways they like and use. In other words, be where they are, put it where they are.

So, that would mean, have it posted on a blog, with an RSS feed, AND send a mass e-mail, AND post it up in flyers for the pre-2.0 and barely-1.0 folk, put it up on facebook, etc., and make a flickr account with pictures, and, and, and …!?

BUT THAT got me thinking, oh my gosh – is putting stuff out in MULTIPLE forms creating MULTIPLE work for US!? Now, in some cases no. Once you have these things in place they sort of take care of themselves, meaning, if she posts it to the blog, it will have (most likely) an RSS feed and anyone subscribed will see it. Also, if she uses feedblitz and anyone is signed-up for that, they will get the e-mail notification. That still only requires ONE post. One post and many ways to be made aware of it. In fact, RSS takes care of a lot of things – anything you can do that has the feed makes it a one-stop-job. If she did put something on flickr, there’s a feed for that too, so now we have TWO places and still only TWO things to do, but resulting in several means of people being “told” about it.

No wonder people make the point that RSS IS 2.0 – it is the backbone of the whole thing!!!!!

The 2.0 forms actually really do and should cut down not only on the time and effort required by those who take advantage of them, but also for the creators…. Hanging up flyers and putting memos in individuals’ mailboxes at work – decidedly two pre-2.0 (even pre-1.0?) ways to do things – requries A LOT more time and effort to do than ANY of the 2.0 tools do, even if you choose more than one.

So, sorry, Claire, no answers here, except for my idea (and concern) that things should be put out there in as many ways possible – without overburdening the putter-outer.

And, I agree, eventually the “better” tools will last and the not-so-good or not-so-useful will naturally fall by the wayside. But, I think it will always be “interesting times,” and there will always be the next thing coming down the pike . . .

June 22, 2007 at 9:13 am

You Don’t Have To

Feeling overwhelmed by everything?

I sure have lately! Finding facebook and loving it somehow pushed me over the edge. I thought of myself as “keeping up” and “in the know,” and then somehow I found myself feeling as if I’m drowning in the sea of incredible, new and fun tools, unable to get a breath!

I was talked down by this post from The Shifted Librarian (Jenny Levine). All I can say is, Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jenny. Your timing couldn’t have been more perfect (sorry for that word ha ha.)

Please, for those of you feeling overwhelmed, I highly recommend you read it. Now.

You can’t do it all, and admitting it is okay. This online stuff, it’s
great. We *love* living in this time, right? It’s fun, it’s constant learning,
it’s empowering and alluring if you love learning and information. All of those
tools at our fingertips to learn about and play with, all to help people. It’s
beyond cool.

But it’s not your life, nor should it be. You have to learn to let some of it go and then be okay with that (which is the hard part). Michael Stephens talks a lot about how librarians need to let go of the “culture of perfect.” For the younger bibliobloggers I will add that you have to learn to let some of the pressure go. You physically cannot keep up with it all, so beating yourself up over failing to do so is pointless.

May 30, 2007 at 11:06 pm 6 comments

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