Monday, March 31, 2008

Blue 2.0 Moon of Kentucky...Keep on Shinning

Ahhh....the last Blue 2.0 post. I'm a little sad that it is over, but ready for a break from the hectic tech homework that seemed to have me plastered to my pc screen both at home and work! Not that it required my home time involvement, but with these new fangled applications, it was fun to explore them in depth....probably should have been doing homework were right about that Jennifer....but I became addicted quite fast. Adding some blue to my gray cubicle was so nice while it lasted!

And for the last report:

Could really take it or leave it. I like the customizable layouts and backgrounds, and there seems to be more prominent places for video, music and pics, but the activity is really low compared to Facebook which I will mention in just a sec. I will admit that I have kept away from these types of networking sites based on the privacy issue. Not that I'm involved in any shady activity, but haven't we all been stalked at one point in our lives? (No? Maybe that's just me.) I've also heard the horror stories of, let's just call them unfortunate, individuals who spilled too much about themselves and were passed over by employers who review these sites before hiring. I realized that I will probably never get really personal in these sites unless I turn on the privacy settings. Otherwise, a fairly common space that includes your education and work connections seems harmless enough, so I will probably let the account live, even if it does become neglected. I gave my page a little bling, and added a couple of friends, but the real UK action is all about Facebook, so I better get moving to that area. Here's my page for a quick look-see, but I guarantee it's pretty boring, except for maybe the spontaneous library musical prank I included in my videos.

I really like this one - but this has to do with the fact that so many people from UK are using it that it quickly begins to feel like a family page. It is a much easier way to stay connected to those who are just a cubicle away or a continent away. With a few clicks you have connected without digging up their e-mail, writing a long treatise and then waiting for a long response. The Facebook method is short, sweet and effective....I like all of the widgets and groups, and even though the reading areas are sometimes miniscule compared to Myspace, somehow it is still very easy to read and follow. It even lets our avatars connect! My former student assistants have congratulated me on finally coming to the darkside by joining Facebook! And on a side note, Facebook just let me re-connect to my High School best friend in Pennsylvania....miracle working technology!

Second Life Librarians:
This one is pretty cool! Very simple to use and should really prove to be helpful when I meet other SL librarians while traversing in-world. This way we can stay connected and talk about SL/Library issues as they arise. And it also comes with a great little widget that I just added to my sidebar! I would say after Blue 2.0, Kentucky Librarians in SL are being well represented in this Ning site. Knowing about Ning is also a nice nugget to file away in the recesses of my brain for future library use.

Farewell to Blue 2.0! It will be interesting to see how many of these applications establish permanent residency in my daily repertoire. Now if only I can manage to keep this library blog alive simply for library issues....hhmmmm.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Podcasting and Video

Well, the podcasting thing was interesting. It did give me an excuse to break in the old (or new last Christmas) digital recorder we purchased for converting some analog sound files within the on-going family history endeavor. This was really great, and so easy that I feel like I was allowed to cheat. But in the interest of keeping my one or two readers from lapsing into a coma, I will not share my lovely audio testing. The main thing I wanted to do was check out how podcasting works and whether it would be easy enough to use with our external equipment, and things went fine. I did enjoy the podcasting directories which I had not perused before, so this was another neat find. Finding podcasts easy to use was a challenge. I finally succeeded in adding feeds to my Yahoo account which had a handy player already embedded in the feature. I added Gardening Notes with Carl Elliot found on NPR which had the "My Yahoo" link. Otherwise, if I tried to download the podcast directly as an mp3, the download froze up. As a tool, I wasn't very impressed because it simply acts as a radio broadcast. There are more than one people speaking in radio interview format and even listener questions are taken to answer. The episode I listened to was about bees....and after listening to the most recent post, I was disappointed to find the most recent post was from 2002! I understand the episode was designed to instructional and informative which should have no shelf-life in the gardening sector, but as podcasts are advertised with the "subscribe" feature, the listener is pre-conditioned to expect fairly recent material. Overall, the podcast I listened to was fairly monotone and flair whatsoever.

This was my favorite of the tasks...I mean, who doesn't love YouTube? From the moment one of my students told me I could watch Gummy Bears for free (back before Disney pulled things like that - of course you can still watch the theme song in Japanese.) I was hooked. I have never downloaded my own video, but I have a huge list of favorites. When searching for libraries or library or books, I expected to run into the same group everyone else had already reviewed, but I still found the variety to be sufficient. An early listing was my quick winner: Mr. Bean at the Library.

As a review, it was horrifying from the archivist standpoint. He starts with writing in the book, then he uses white-out, then he rips out pages, then he cuts out pages, etc. While Mr. Bean is always frustrating to watch, I found this clip to be endearing simply based on his library activities. It makes sense out of all the damaged items I've used in libraries over the years; to realize maybe we just had a few Mr. Beans lurking between the stacks!

Ok, so it's not much of a review since Mr Bean speaks for himself, but here is a small video I couldn't help adding since our March Madness ended so early:

Well, sniff, sniff, on to drown my sorrows in Facebook and MySpace....

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Flickr Foto Fun

I've been taking digital photos for a few years now and greatly enjoy its versatility. My only beef with digital photos is the preservation aspect. Utilizing a digital format we want to be around for many years, the issue of how best to preserve them is a hot issue much too vast to address here. I have personally moved to gold CDs and DVDs, but also make sure I have paper printed versions as a secondary back-up. The only HUGE problem I find myself fighting all of the time is making myself follow my own preservation decision. I take so many photos and try to arrange them in folders that group by subject and date, but the volume I produce is so problematic that I will need to begin weeding from the PC as I burn the back-up copies, because I just can't keep adding more and more without being selective to a degree. Big one on the to-do list as soon as I graduate!

So I will move on to my experience with Flickr. I have been avoiding Flickr because I've been aware of the open theft that occurs there. Despite the copyright notice attached to each photo listing, Flickr has always been used by the layman as a free photo database. Sure, most of them just copy for personal screen savers or odd projects, but there are unscrupulous people out there using it for more ominous purposes. Flickr has said that it does not monitor who copies photos from their site, but if you see your photo being used somewhere else without your permission, you have the option of reporting to them and they can suspend the user, etc. Blah, blah, blah...sure, like that is going deter copyright violators!

As I started my account, I quickly realized that the storage amount was fairly low at 100MB per month. Actually, this was ok with me. Due to the above mentioned theft problems, I had already compressed all of the photos I was going to download, simply to make further use very limited for violators. I could have placed a giant watermark on the photos through photoshop (or Gimp), but that would be too much work, and really, I don't mind regular people copying the photos for personal use as long as no commercial purposes are intended.

The size of your photo holdings can be increased for a $24.95 per year fee. This is where the purpose for Flickr becomes very is meant to share the photos you want to share....really share...not just store. I can see the benefit for work related events, since this would be a really easy way to share nice size quality photos that can be downloaded for prints, or even purchased directly. I didn't care for the company specific choices for prints, especially since I hadn't heard of these companies. I'm very picky about my prints and have tried many different companies....and so I'll take the opportunity to plug my favorite that has the same sharing options but really produces high quality photo I've been with this company for over a dozen years back in my 35mm days and they have always offered great services at great prices. They too are following photo community models and already have storefronts to allow purchases directly from the photographer with profit markup for the professional. By the way, Photoworks has no limit on your holdings size or set numbers all for FREE!

So back to Flickr....I really love the tagging options....BUT....I was very frustrated by the tagging habit of combining your two term tags into merged one word oddities. When I first tagged an item with Laurel Court, I typed it just as you see it, and it showed up just as I typed on the main picture page. So for my next photo from this set I chose to use their "choose from your tags" list with the next photo. I chose my new tag listing of laurelcourt, not liking it, but thinking it would appear correctly on the picture. Not so, the new tag for this photo was laurelcourt. I grew concerned about this since I wondered how it would affect search results. I tried searching others photos with "laurel court" which produced 20 photos. I then searched laurelcourt, which produced 46 photos with many of the original 20 not being listed! Ugghhh!! So it does matter how you type in each tag. If it is one word, you can choose from your tagging list, but if it isn't you should type in the two words separately each time unless you think most people are going to know to enter these one word amalgamations.

Overall, I think Flickr is fairly easy to use and convenient for group sharing, but it is far from perfect and could use better options for honoring copyright and for printing. I do like the RSS feed option that allows you to subscribe to my account changes, and I really love the mapping options! In the future, I will be glad to have an account, but will probably only use it for work group or family sharing, and will not post my best photos on there for the world to use. Call me selfish!

Here is the link to my Flickr page:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Odds and Ends from Play Week

I know that Second Life already filled up my Play Week quota, but I wanted to comment on a few of the other choices we had:

I switched to this Google format quite some time ago, but it really has helped in the same way Bloglines has: by grouping some of my favorite news sources into one page. Another time and click saving option that also adds a bit of giggle to your day. It is very customizable and you can pick things such as weather, "Today in
History", "Art of the Day", "Word of the Day" or, my personal favorite, "Funny Cat Photos". What more perfect element is there for librarians than cat photos?! If you're having a cloudy day, these cute cat captioned photos will do the trick!

I signed up for this last night and everything seemed to go well. It was kind of interesting to see my blog ranked at the bottom of almost 5 million. It sure puts the blogging impact in perspective....we may like the writing or sharing....but few to share it with in reality. I really liked the feature of listing the most popular blogs by category...just to see what everyone is reading and searching out new additions to my bloglines feed list.

Besides Technorati, I also registered a while back with Blogflux. It's a nice browsable blog directory, but with one huge drawback: as they add more blogs, they start a new alphabetical list all over again at the end of the first...very frustrating! Blogflux claims to offer a lot of services such as stats, ranking, templates, hosting....all of the same things most blogging services offer, but Blogflux is still very much in the minor leagues as they only claim to feature a little over a hundred thousand blogs in their directory.

But for you Gardeners out there:
I have stumbled across Blotanical. This directory may not have a ton of blogs yet, but the concept is great! They display the gardening locations of the bloggers complete with clickable maps and each blogger listed has a plot of their own to leave messages, list favorite plants or plant expertise. Best of all, the browsing format is so user friendly it practically begs for a cup of hot tea and scone on a cold winters day as one dreams of the gardening season. Remember, below the equator, the gardening season is reversed, so when we are snowed in, they are ranting about their latest garden failure or success. The pictures alone are worth the browse. The popular listings have screen captures and descriptions of the blogs to better help you decide what kind of gardening blog looks promising.

Blinging the Blog:
I will admit to blinging my blog from day one because I love the magic of widgets. I learned about the Library Thing widget almost at the same time Blue 2.0 began so the timing was perfect. I also added my own counters and mapping systems, but I try not to bling too much since I don't want readers overwhelmed with the selection of widget choices. I have been to some blogs that require adjusting my focus just to see the blog posts. Simple, clutter free blogs are so much easier to read.

I do like the tagging option which I added fairly early and I also visited Feedburner to add a nice large RSS button on my blog....I don't understand why this wasn't an offered feature in Blogspot. However, Google just purchased Feedburner, so I would imagine this will be a feature VERY soon!

Second Life:
Just as a wrap up on the Second Life fun had by all the past two weeks:

While poking around Library Thing with their new local registry I noticed that they do have a Second Life Group to join.

Oh, and don't forget to add the official Linden Blog to your RSS feeds since they include important updates and tips!

But the Second Life exploration should really dictate we refer to the past two weeks of Blue 2.0 as Party Weeks since, as you can see below, there are librarians aplenty dancing the afternoon away at the grand opening celebration of Cybrary Island. Touted as a "global village for information professionals", they actually offer space for free in order to "build a more "global village" atmosphere and outreach to more international communities within the library and information science professions." So far, we haven't had the time to explore much of their concept, but they sure do know how to get librarians dancing....just ask the UK Island's Blue 2.0 explorers: Goffredo, Sifriya, All of Manni's Angels (with Manni in tow) and Genevra! Those Librarians sure can move!

Well, off to play in the snow...IF it gets here.
Have a good weekend!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Avatar Adventures in Second Life

Ever since Beth's presentation last year, I have been intrigued by Second Life, but mildly afraid of it as well. My fear did not stem from its content nor the skills necessary to join in the fun, but rather from my own addictive nature. I viewed it as a video game and knew that if someone gave me the push to play, I would really have a hard time stopping. After one week, my opinion has not changed overly much, although the creative nature and educational opportunities of this environment cannot be denied. Not surprisingly, I have found myself drifting about in childlike wonder since my first day. I knew that the first blog entry about Second Life should be written about these early experiences as soon as possible, because with each passing day in Second Life, one looses the innocence that was so palpable on the first day at orientation island.

Innocence is an interesting word to use when describing life "inworld" as most of the main areas are open sewers of avatar in this instance I am referring to Second Life innocence in the sense of inexperience. From the moment of second birth, the learning process begins and hopefully never ends since educational events will continue to be opportunities for learning. In the first days, however, learning is much more physical in nature as you learn how to become an accomplished puppet master for your new avatar.

To prepare for the Second Life plunge I did some homework, which proved to be an invaluable asset in speeding up the inworld learning process. Ironically, one of first things I learned by accident was the original and morphed meanings of the word avatar (according to MSN Encarta):

1. Incarnation of Hindu deity: an incarnation of a Hindu deity in human or animal form, especially one of the incarnations of Vishnu such as Rama and Krishna. (This definition seems to have some bearing on the Second Life existence as the two main forms allowed from the beginning are human and animal - other forms such as space creatures or the Kool-Aid guy can be created or purchased later.)

2. Embodiment of something: somebody who embodies an idea or concept. (Ideas and concepts do seem to flow from these SL avatar puppet masters on a regular basis.)

3. Online image of somebody in virtual reality: a movable three-dimensional image used to represent somebody in cyberspace.

4. Computer games computer game persona: in computer games, a character or persona of a player with a graphical representation.

This long set of definitions is a great example of how our culture is changing from the inside out as technology becomes more and more ingrained in our daily processes.

My next element of homework included watching YouTube videos about what to expect including tips and tricks. I also reviewed the links set up on the Blue 2.0 post which were helpful as reference tools while playing.

One tip I will pass on that I learned while picking out a name for my avatar: all of the last names are provided by SL and should be looked at closely before selection. I was pleasantly surprised by the long list and while making a list of my favorites actually discovered an ancestral surname or two. This meant many of the names were normal....but before I selected the final last name for my avatar, I did a quick Google search...and was VERY glad I did. One of the last names that I had looked at was one letter away from a surname I knew, but that one letter made a difference in cultural slang. Just a word to the wise.

So my avatar, Sifriya Devin, was finally born on February 26th. SL was having some problems that night and into the next day as I did not receive a confirmation e-mail from them at conception and had to e-mail support to get the finishing step. I have learned that technical difficulties are fairly frequent in this program and even orientation island had to be left before completion of all four tasks due to these problems. I was assured by one of the SL mentors floating around orientation island that it was ok to move on to Help island if you experience difficulties....the key earned at the end is purely morale related to provide a happy moment of accomplishment and not needed to move on...or so the bright pink haired avatar informed me as she flew away.

I quickly learned that taking pictures is a very fun activity in SL. This is my avatar's first photo on orientation island. So far, I have not chosen the wild and crazy representation that many have went with, although I am building new manifestations and saving them in files as Beth instructed in her tip sheet. I may have went with a fairly normal person not unlike the generic girl that you can pick at the beginning (keep in mind when beginning the selection process that in order to arrive for the first time in orientation island in a fully clothed state, you should pick one of the avatar choice models or end up arriving in a naked unformed humanoid representation), although, each time I see her, I keep hoping they have automatic contacts in SL as the only glasses I have found so far are groucho glasses which, while giving everyone a good laugh, will not help me maneuver any better. If you see me stumble around inworld, I'll just blame it on a lack of glasses.

The next big area of discovery was UK Island....and I have to say I am very impressed! The library is amazing and I love the nature elements - the water garden in my favorite. Compared to the rest of SL, this is a fantastic place to practice being an avatar. Lots of room to move around, explore, get a free t-shirt, play in the sandbox (a place that allows you to build or open boxes you have received) and meet up with co-workers. This is a picture of my avatar with co-worker avatar Bambi Yokosuka on the front porch of the Niles Cabin. Several of us have thought the SL Young Library would be a great place to host the next departmental staff meeting!

I have not seen any educational events on UK Island this week, but am looking forward to the next offering! There are many other offerings within SL with the libraries being the most active places around. I am looking forward to the next Jane Austen discussion in dress is ready!

While waiting for events, I have taken the opportunity to explore the amazing things in SL. Some of my favorites have been 3D models of places we don't get to see everyday...mainly in places far away or non-existent in First Life. I have also enjoyed visiting other University representations such as UC, one of my old alumni haunts, and the many historical places that include lots of free clothes. Groups are a good way to keep abreast of the upcoming events by sending personal invitations. With so many library groups it is hard to keep up since SL limits group membership to 25. I will admit that one of the most fun things about SL is dressing my avatar in different outfits....much like the old days of dressing up Barbie!

While I wrap this post up, my avatar is lounging at a beach resort watching the sunset in Tel-Aviv. The beach is rather boring compared to the things my avatar has encountered this week. Here is a top ten of our most favorite moments:

10. Dancing the hula 25 times before finding out the SL tutorial was not going work no matter how many times I gave SD a shake.

9. Riding in the UK hot air balloon.

8. Getting a box stuck on my head while in a Budapest Synagogue. The only guy that saw my humiliation was an Anglican Monk...yes I said an Anglican Monk in a Jewish Synagogue - who was trying to convert me, but the box thing was getting in the way.

7. Realizing that long similarly colored pants are required under skirts to prevent embarassing moments when sitting down.

6. Dressing up in my blue Victorian dress and playing the piano on the UK School of music recital stage - complete with sunrise.

5. Walking around the back of an IDF soldier command post and encountering 3 Obama '08 posters in a garden.

4. Getting my picture taken with a giant Easter Bunny on the Piazza in Venice.

3. Sitting in SL Ireland and hearing a live music performance from FL Belfast.

2. Joining a SL Yeshiva taught by a Rabbi in Israel.

1. Touring a 3D model of the first century temple in Jerusalem and a SL version of the Kotel.

On to more fun and my next assignment....hope to see you "inworld" sometime!
CD aka SD

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Google Docland

So far, the most exciting thing about Google Docs is its freeness. I used this word hoping to trip a spell check, but I haven't found it yet. While exploring I noticed you can export the new work as an HTML document and even export to the Office suite choices. This all sounds pretty neat. I am intrigued by the "save copy as a presentation" feature, but at this point, I don't want to mess too much with my assignment. The share feature actually seems to be the most interesting since it would be more secure than an open wiki, and much easier than sending e-mails to each other. Ok, so what does the quote symbol do besides enter thin text boxes below the original paragraph? Does it include " or do you need to add these? I am thinking this is for a paper or article with a quote paragraph, but not used all that often outside of the academic realm...hmmmm. Ooohh, I also noticed the little flashing red "save" feature every few seconds...that's pretty cool since we could have a pc crash or power outage any second.... a safety feature that Word should really adopt. I hate to blog and run...but this one seems pretty simple yet very useful. I can think of several instances I could have used this with past committee assignments.

**Update: I did encounter an error in trying to publish to my blog. The pop-up box that requires you to enter your blog id and password also has a place to give the name of your blog and says that this allows the correct blog to be the post recipient. If this is not filled in Google states the program will select whichever blog it comes to first. Problem: I have more than one blog and the non-Blue 2.0 blog is listed first in my dashboard. I looked around for a place to switch the dashboard order, but couldn't find as an experiment, I allowed the Google Docs item to publish anyway. I didn't like it. The title was not in my nice bold print with designer color and my body font was not consistent with the rest of the blog posts. Being two Google items, I would have thought this process would have been more seamless. I assume it will become more seamless as time roles along, but for now Google Docs looks to be limited to group work or writing on the fly from a foreign computer.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Delicious Tagging

I'm not really sure what I think about the delicious task. I like the concept of having access to my bookmarks online...very convenient if you switch between several computers. The site itself was interesting. After I downloaded the two easy add and tag buttons, the site wanted me to add two more buttons that I could never quite add because their example was from an older version of Explorer. I eventually gave up on these new toolbar buttons, but I felt the first two were enough since they allowed me to add and tag on the fly - two more buttons might have added too much clutter. I like the feature of seeing how many people have added the same link, but when you click to see the people who have this link, they are listed in two different places which kind of breaks the flow of easy reading. I finally got the hang of it...but again, I think it will just take some getting used to. Here is my list so far...I couldn't quite quit with five and will add more very soon:

As for the optional task, I had already completed most of this one when I joined two years ago. Even after all of that time I still LOVE Library Thing! The widget was one of the first things I added to my blog from the first day of blog creation. The only thing I had not done was actually tag my books. I really hadn't seen a use for this since I knew all of the subjects I owned anyway, but after I got started it was handy to tag by century (for antique volumes) and by series since LT lists by title or author instead of keeping known groups together. It became quite addictive for a couple of evenings and I still didn't tag everything since some things just don't fit into a group I might want to access. I think the real joy was seeing my very own tag had been depressing to see I didn't have one as I kept procrastinating about this task....thanks Blue 2.0 for giving me a tag kick in the pants!

And for Valentine's Day a special selection from my Library Thing collection:

Now on to Google Docs.....