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Hi, everyone! One of my favorite librarians and open source advocates (Nicole Engard) just Tweet DMed me and asked if I ever shared officially the tools I mentioned in a discussion session on Presentation Tools and Techniques at Pres4Lib at Princeton Public Library. I replied no, with regrets. I figured if she’s wondering about it, maybe you are too!
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I use a pretty well structured, personally vetted workflow for developing presentations and blog posts that involves developing an outline, collecting images, preparing images, research and citations. Let me share some of the tools that I use to accomplish these tasks just about every time.
Google Docs Presentations
I stopped using Microsoft PowerPoint a few years ago and have not looked back. While I would consider using the open source alternative of OpenOffice.org’s presentation tool, by instead choosing a presentation tool in the cloud, I get the ability to edit and present anywhere where I’m connected, the ability to edit offline with Google Gears installed on Firefox, the common ability to add images, draw pictures, embed my slideshows (!), allow people to automatically see the latest greatest embedded versions of my presentations up to the second after I’ve updated them, allow for collaboration and co-viewing and if I absolutely must, export to a PDF for offline sharing and presentation disaster backup. I can even make a PPT for someone who insists on it.
I typically log in to Google Docs, create a title slide for my topic, and then immediately develop an agenda slide, which I then begin to outline with the topics (and slides) that I want to cover in my talk. My style emphasizes simple broad topics which I elaborate on in spontaneous ways. I try to keep the number of words on slides to an absolute minimum. I usually make a slide for each of my topics, and I then try to look for stories, photos, and illustrations that lead the people in the audience to start thinking about my topics before I introduce them verbally or textually.
Creative Commons vetting via Google Image Search
Google Image Search is far and away the best image search tool I’ve come across (with the ability to search for line art, faces, and by color, etc.), especially now, since the recent addition of the license search feature in the advanced image search tool, which allows me to search according to Creative Commons licenses applied by designers and photographers to their images all over the web. This is especially important for me because I don’t just want to just use other peoples’ images in my work without their consent. I want to respect the wishes of image creators. By using the license restrictions, I can quickly find images available for commercial use, images allowed to be modified, images that simply require attribution, and even images in the public domain.
When we respect the rights of creators and innovators, and celebrate others’ work properly, I believe we engage in modeling important aspects of information literacy, if not common humanity.
I’ll search for a topic keyword, often choosing CC-attribution licensing, which allows me the greatest flexibility with which to use the images, to modify them, use them in commercial situations, and promote creative commons licensing, while simply being required to include attributive references to the original image author. I will very often name the file locally with the name of the author of the image, in the format “by username.jpg” or “from nameofwebsitedotcom.jpg” so that I have a built in back-reference.
Once I have the images I want to use in my presentation saved to my local hard drive in a project folder, I often need to tweak, categorize, combine, title, tag, and integrate the images. While I can do this in a myriad of different utilities, tools, and applications, none of them have quite the combination of speed, comprehensive toolset, ease of use, functions, smoothness, or slickness of Google’s Picasa. Once you have downloaded and installed this free tool, you can use a Google account to store images in free named online galleries and keep them synchronized for free. With the number and variety of images I work with in my design and presentation work, I am thrilled that I have Picasa to help me wrangle them all.
I use it to tag, group, move, geocode, describe, upload, tweak, collage, print, and watermark my images for presentations, design work, papers, and everything else. It is a free, versatile, and irreplaceable tool in my personal tool set.
Zotero is a Firefox extension that allows for the single click based collection, categorization, tagging, editing, and even full text storage of web based database entries, books, articles, presentations, images and other standard citable sources. The amazing thing it that it automatically recognizes and collects metadata when it is present in a form that Zotero understands. This might sound like a difficult thing for content providers to implement, but all I had to do to make my WordPress blogs compliant was to install a single metadata-providing plugin (COinS) that offers my name, the title of posts, the publication date and other automatically generated metadata in blogging to Zotero users. Other sources who provide the relevant metadata to Zotero include major scholarly databases like Ebsco, newspapers like the New York Times, online booksellers like Amazon, and blogs and wikis around the world.
If I haven’t hooked you in to using Zotero yet, did I mention that with two clicks, you get properly formatted bibliographies in APA, MLA, and other citation styles? After I’ve visited books on Amazon and collected their data, or after I’ve found articles on Google Scholar and collected their data, or after I’ve grabbed creative commons licensed images from Flickr and collected their data, I can simply select all of them in my Zotero database, right click, and choose “Make bibliography from selected sources” which I then choose to send to clipboard, then paste right into my final slide, reference area of my paper, or wherever else I need to respect copyright or usage license. It is also a phenomenal way to meet the requirements of CC Attribution.
Number 5, QuoteURLtext (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4292) is another Firefox Extension that does one thing, but does it exceptionally well. It copies the highlighted text on a page along with the date and time, URL, and page title to the clipboard so that you can easily paste some casual piece of information (such as a tasty tech tip, a quick statistic, a delicious quotation, or a little known fact) into a slide, paper, or post without having to go so far as to reference it in APA style. It’s like a casual little sister utility to the powerhouse that is Zotero.
<Jeopardy Daily Double Music> Bonus Tool: Zemanta: </Jeopardy Daily Double Music>
Finally, Zemanta (a play on semantic) is another Firefox extension that shows up in a sidebar when you are using supporting applications, such as Gmail, Blogger, WordPress, and other applications (check out their site for more). I desperately wish it worked with Google Docs Presentations, but nothing hints at that yet. Here’s why I care: All of the photos, captions, tags, post story articles, and even some of the links to referential sources were all suggested, generated and placed with a single click each using Zemanta. As I type, Zemanta autoscans sources with CC licensed imagery, content, and resources related semantically to my content. Let me reiterate: As I type. All I need to do to add it to my post is simply to click. Clickety-clickety.
A pleasure to speak with you as always, I hope you learn to love these great free tools for developing your presentations just as much as I do.
Related articles by Zemanta
- A Simple Way to Specify Image Licenses (thaibrother.com)
- Back to School: 10 Must-Have Firefox Extensions for Students (mashable.com)
- 10 Browser Based Research Tools (imakethingswork.com)
I recently sat down with (ok, meebo‘d) David Lisa, Director of the West Long Branch (NJ) Public Library, to discuss how he recently converted his traditional library webpage to a blog-based webpage.
Pete: Thanks for joining me this afternoon.
Dave: Always a pleasure!
Pete: For starters, tell me a little about yourself and your library.
Dave: My name is David Lisa and I am the Director of the West Long Branch Public Library. We are a small municipal public library. West Long Branch has about 8700 residents. We have three full-time employees and 7 part-time, 3 pages (PT) and one volunteer. I’m the only professional on staff. Other than that, we are your normal small burg PL.
Pete: Thanks Dave. So tell us a bit about your decision to make your webpage blog-based.
Dave: I had worked on several different templates for the new version of our website and nothing was working. Then I attended the Web 2.0 seminar led by Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine and took what the speakers said to heart. It really seemed to me that if we started with a Blogger.com format and expanded upon that, we would be able to accomplish what we wanted to do. Namely to be able to give our users news about programming, spotlight our collection and keep them up to date on new additions to our collection. It also dawned upon me that we could utilize Blogger’s template structure to organize our website by listing the links to the various pages on our site in the right column and be able to provide an archive etc. It did everything we needed! So, I set to work setting it up, then “adapted” our extant pages to the Blogger template format.
Dave: Well we are getting lots of great comments about how up to date our site is. People really like seeing the latest news on the front page in reverse chronological order. And, of course, one big benefit is being able to offer an RSS feed through Feedburner. We like to stress that we can bring the news about the library to you on your schedule rather than you having to come to us all the time. One drawback has been that we have found that not a lot of people are acquainted with RSS feeds and we have to explain how to subscribe a lot.
Pete: That leads into my next question (or series of questions): Do you find that your customers understand the RSS feed? Are they using it? Have you done anything to promote the feed and/or teach your customers how to use it?
Dave: As I mentioned, there is some confusion about RSS still. I see that as being general initial confusion amongst the public at large. We really wanted to get the feed through Feedburner since they do a good job explaining it. We are pleased to have the feed in place and are actually waiting to see how it works out…right now.
Pete: Well, I think you’re ahead of the curve. I believe the next release of IE will have built in RSS detection and reader. At that point, knowledge and use of RSS among the general population is likely to grow quickly and exponentially.
Dave: That’s a good example of the confusion…try setting up an RSS feed with Firefox and IE and it’s a different experience. We wanted the user to be able to click through the experience and know little about what they had to do to make it work. Feedburner does a great job enabling that.
Pete: And of course Feedburner gives you great stats and bunch of other nice benefits!
Dave: Feedburner has a nice page that you get after you click on our Subscribe link and it explains the variety of choices of RSS readers.
Pete: How much technical ability is needed to create a blog-based website? Is it something anyone can do or is a certain level of technical know-how necessary?
Dave: Good question. I believe that the approach we took to revamping our website takes little web publishing knowledge and could be mounted by people with little experience. And I think that is the direction web publishing is taking. Jenny [Levine] and Michael [Stephens] mentioned that web publishing software (Dreamweaver, FrontPage, etc.) will be outmoded by this approach soon… and I believe them.
Pete: Well, Blogger, Typepad, WordPress really make it easy!
Pete: I see you have multiple authors. Who gets to post, and what do they get to post about? Did you and your staff come up with a blogging policy?
Dave: Glad you asked that question. From the get -go, I wanted our library website/blog to be a collaborative effort. I met with my Administrative staff and indicated that since we were re-creating the website in this fashion, I wanted them all to be involved. I also involved key members of the part time staff too (Book Discussion group moderator, etc).
Pete: That’s great!
Dave: I also wanted staff members that are posting to be recognizable by name to library patrons that read the blog and could answer questions. We crave a fandom. [smile]. This is a truly collaborative experience.
Pete: I salute you! The research going on in virtual reference shows that customers really like to have a name associated with the librarian (as opposed to being served by ‘librarian34’). Using names is a great way to bring about more of a sense of personal connection.
Dave: I wouldn’t have it any other way…I want it to be a personal experience for the user. We want to hear this: “Wow, Janice recommended the new DVD Lucky # Slevin. I checked it out and I loved it. Thanks Janice!”
Pete: OK, since we’re on the topic of collaboration… It doesn’t look like you have comments enabled. Any plan to enable comments?
Dave: We purposefully disabled it for now. We do have plans to enable them at some point, but we want to plan for it so we can handle it correctly.
Pete: Well Dave, I think you’ve done a great job with the site, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us. Is there anything you’d like to add before we conclude?
Dave: I’d just like to say that we actually stumbled upon this idea by accident, and it was all due to the seminar… so thanks for sponsoring it. We’re always looking for new and different ways to do things here at WLBPL and we are having lots of fun with the website/blog.
Pete: Credit for sponsoring the seminar goes to Princeton Public Library and CJRLC (although we also had Michael Stephens present for SJRLC members that same week.)
Dave: Thanks for interviewing me!
Pete: You’re welcome Dave. Thanks again for your time.