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value of leadership

The dinner was rather awful, but I really enjoyed this talk. It touched on issues that have become a recurring theme through our classes — relevancy, keeping up, user-centric orientation. The tale of the Encyclopedia Britannica is educational and also a bit chilling, which I suppose is what it was meant to be: I associate the Encyclopedia Britannica with libraries still, and even though it hasn’t died out, it’s no longer even close to the authoritative source it once was. And one would not wish that upon the library institution.

The pace of change these days is a bit frightening, I suppose. And though the lecture did a good job of assuaging that fear, of pointing out ways that libraries can adapt to face this current situation, things will continue to change and soon we’ll have to remake ourselves again and it seems as though there will never be any point at which one can actually stop and rest for a bit.

That’s an exaggeration, of course. I’ve never had any trouble keeping up with all the shifting trends of technology, and that was without trying, something that simply happened as a result of being interested in new things and sticking with the ones that offered the most. I suppose that’s really the basis of what’s called for, in the end — staying alert and aware and not being afraid to try out new things, of going with what works best.

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last post?

I can’t believe it’s our last post for the project; it seems like hardly any time since we started. ^^;

Before I get into a wrap-up, I’d like to point to a new gaming journal I started at Dreamwidth, which is a fledgling web blog/journal service started by a former member of the Livejournal support team and utilizing the Livejournal code that prides itself on ‘Open Source, Open Expression, Open Operations’. Of course, there have been many Livejournal knockoffs past and present, but I know something of the person who’s running the site, and it doesn’t look or feel like a Livejournal knockoff — at the moment, it looks/feels better than Livejournal, IMO. It’s still in beta right now, but I have high hopes for it.

I’d also like to link the Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent video that was linked to me by my Livejournal friendslist. I hear that it’s been overhyped in the media lately, which is a shame, because it seems like it will hinder her more than it will help? But I don’t watch TV, and I would probably never have caught it if not for Youtube — and even if I saw it on the news, we’re just so conditioned nowadays to distrust the media that I’m not sure it would have touched me the way it did.

So! 2.0 wrap-up: Since the beginning of the project, I’ve gotten somewhat into Twitter, revisted my old Flickr site, done some other things I probably would not have done if left to my own devices, such as listening to podcasts or creating my own search engine, and learned about Library 2.0. I have also, of course, continued to make use of weblogs and Google docs and Youtube and all the other applications that were already deeply ingrained in my life.

I love the convenience of these services, how cheap and easy they make it to do things that twenty years ago were in the purview of a lucky few. As capitalism pushes us more and more towards a reality of huge, greedy corporations and conglomerates, it’s a way to ensure that the voice of the individual is not smothered. The #amazonfail event last week aptly illustrates this — rich as you may be, powerful as you may be, the world is watching, and it’s gossiping amongst itself.

I really do believe that 2.0 and the Internet itself are powerful weapons that will ultimately prove to be a great boon to society — a compilation of human knowledge, imperfect and at times dangerous, to be sure, but so is humanity itself, after all. They are tools, and tools are only reflections of those who wield them. The potential for greatness is there, but will not materialize on its own; it’s up to the users — to all of us — to see that it is achieved.

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five minutes of fame

Podcasts

(Just a note: podcast.net seems to be gone? At least, I cannot find it.)

Frankly, I’ve never felt their appeal, though I can certainly understand it — then again, I’ve never listened much to radios, either. Text > sound! *g*

As mentioned above, podcast.net appears to have vanished (was it supposed to be podcast.com?), podcastalley.com’s featured podcasts all seem to be erotica (also, there is a typo on the front page), while podcasts.yahoo.com leads to a File Not Found page.

I did find a podcast on umm World of Warcraft gold farming and how omg laborious it is! One-track mind, sorry. I must say it is rather tempting, cough, especially since some of the Chinese gold farmers are actually making more money than teachers.

But yes, podcasts. For some reason, they never really caught on in the corner of the virtual world I inhabit, possibly since we now have

Youtube

Why just listen to sound when you can have images and sound? Now everybody has a chance at their five minutes of fame, even if it is just literally five minutes.

I remember when the Paul Potts audition video started making the rounds among my friends; I’d never even heard of Britain’s Got Talent before, and I definitely wouldn’t have watched the show on TV even if others had recommended it to me. But it’s easy and quick to click on a link, so I found myself watching the video, and was touched by it as so many others before me had been. That’s just one example out of many. I was linked to the Free Hugs video when going through a fairly difficult time in my life, and it made things just a little bit better for a while.

The signal to noise ratio is very low, as it generally is in the Web 2.0 era, but there are always those gems that make it worthwhile.

Audiobooks

I once downloaded a bunch of audiobooks with the intention of listening to them each night as I fell asleep, as an attempt to improve my writing, in hopes that the ‘feel’ of the flow of words would take root in my subconscious brain, I guess.

The experiment failed abysmally. For one thing, it’s odd to listen to one person doing all the voices of the different people, although I suppose that is how people tell stories all the time. It’s just different when it’s in my head, you know? And it throws me out of the story. For another, you can’t tell the audiobook ‘Wait, stop, I didn’t get that part, can you go back a bit?’ if you missed a vital piece of information — you can rewind it, which already feels like a bit more trouble than it’s worth, but what if you have only a vague idea where the information could be? Reading is just so much easier for those who have the option.

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Communal Sandbox

A few years ago, some friends and I decided to do a short comic together — we would collaborate on the ‘screenplay’, and then Friend A, the actual artist among us, would do the drawing.

We never actually completed it, but we did have a lot of fun hashing out the plot over MSN. We created a private Livejournal community for our project, and edited the screenplay through the unwieldy process of each person making a new post for each draft, with each person highlighting their own changes with a certain color. It wasn’t convenient, but we continued on because we didn’t know of any better way.

Fast-forward to this year, and our Computer Purchase project. Our group used Google Docs to manage the assignment collaboratively, and it went amazingly smoothly (except for a bit of fumbling when we tried to copy the spreadsheet to MSWord without losing the format). Things were easy to edit, easy to identify, and it was easy to check past versions of the document. I still think it was pretty fun.

Another thing I’ve used Google Docs for to great effect is keeping track of household expenses with roommates. I’m kind of a scatter-brained person when it comes to keeping track of outbound money, but one of my roommates (who was interning with Google at the time and who recently found a job with them despite the recession, congrats to him!) set up the spreadsheet, and all I had to do was input the shared household expenses that I paid for each month into the proper cell, and voila! All was recorded and calculated for the random day when we decided to settle our shares.

So yes, Google Docs definitely has my thumb’s up. *g*

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D:

Sorry, I couldn’t think of a better heading through the rumbling of gastric juices. I decided to check out Im Cooked, a website devoted to cooking videos, and it may not have been a good idea, because I am very hungry now.

It seems to be built mostly along the familiar Youtube lines, just with food as the central theme. I’m a very lazy and indifferent cook myself, and I’ve done some horrible things with food before due to ignorance — a recipe can only tell you so much! — so videos should definitely be helpful.

But, oh my god, it is probably a good idea not to browse this site unless your stomach is already very full.

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a delicious new world

del.icio.us is one of those sites that I have used extensively over the past few years. I used it as a recommendations list; it’s a wonderfully efficient way of going about that without too much unnecessary formatting trouble. In the end my reviews/comments wound up as simple keywords (moving forward, amazing, happy endings, etc.) separated by commas, but even that gives enough information for other readers to judge whether or not the link is worth their time, I think.

As a research tool, it must also be very effective. We’ve been learning how to use Dialog in the Principles of Searching class, and I’ve been tearing my hair out over some of the assignments; how useful it must be to have access to past searches and have something similar to the ‘Users who liked this book also liked…’ function in Amazon! The great thing about Web 2.0 is the breadth and the scope of it; there are so many different communities that are using tools like del.icio.us for so many different things — research, entertainment, even social purposes — and it serves all those needs equally well. One of the things the Internet has done is to make it easy for those with like interests to find each other and to share information that might be useless to most of the world, but completely relevant to these niche groups, and the 2.0 tools have been wonderful at facilitating the process.

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I’m fairly sure that WordPress does not require me to include the manual code to append a Technorati tag, but I will do so anyhow instead of using the usual tagging system and see how it works. *g*

Not sure what to say about Technorati, aside from that fact that it’s great for vanity searches. :p In any case, Technorati makes it easy to keep up with what’s going on in the blogosphere without tripping through 928374928374 different blogging sites. Everything is connected; everything is intertwined.

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Library 2.0. It’s a good concept, something solid to grasp onto in this current stage where the identities of libraries and librarians are constantly in flux — and yet it is itself built on the never-ending shift of the world’s collective consciousness. I think one of the problems libraries face at the moment is the push and pull between what people believe libraries are, and what people want libraries to be. The concept of a library is still for the most part bound to a stolid, respectable-looking building, shelves of dog-eared books, a librarian in glasses behind the desk and a hush throughout the premises. It may feel old-fashioned, outdated, even though at times it is still desirable as an oasis in a sea of bustle. But for information-seeking purposes, it is no longer what the younger generations are accustomed to turning to.

How to change that? In theory, Library 2.0 molds itself to the desires of its users, the same way Youtube and del.icio.us and Twitter have been shaped into what they are today. I am curious as to what form it will eventually take. One of the qualities of the aforementioned 2.0 tools is that the actual content is generated almost solely by the userbase. Yet a library is not merely a single vast repository of unfiltered information — for that, you have Google, you have dozens of different search engines. From what I understand, what makes libraries different is the human filter for that information; it is the librarians themselves. But I honestly don’t know how well introducing a human moderating factor that is integral to a 2.0 tool would go over. Internet denizens are generally an opinionated bunch, and wary of ‘the Man’. Of course librarians do not seek to direct or oppress, but if Library 2.0 is going to be a popular thing, a tool everyone and their pet dog uses, I can already foresee the flame wars and kerfuffles that will break out over perceived prejudices and slights.

The concept is fascinating, and I would love to be able to help the ‘latest model’ of libraries grow and become established in the minds of the public, but I really can’t imagine how it’s going to turn out. It will be interesting to see. 🙂

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lolbooks

Mah kittiez:

Sadly, I have few images on my hard drive, and I am really very bad at coming up with clever, catchy phrases to tack onto an image. *g* But here’s an image from my childhood, circa age 6, and what I am SURE must have been going through my head at the time:

The next picture, which unfortunately I do not have in digital form, captures not just I, but both cousins adjacent to me peering avidly into my lunchbox as well.

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My LibraryThing Catalog

I am compelled to admit that although I’ve owned a GoodReads account for going on three years, I have never actually used it except to keep track of what my friends are reading. To me, these nifty little things are interesting mostly in how they can work socially — if I didn’t know anybody on the Internet and didn’t want to, I would not feel compelled to post pictures or reviews or whatnot. Is a sound a sound if there’s nobody around to hear it? Do our Internet endeavors actually exist if there’s nobody with whom to share them? *g*

(Not that that explains why I haven’t posted reviews to my GoodReads account, of course. That is just pure laziness. If I like a book I will just shove it towards my friends and say “READ IT OR DIE!”)

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The Public Domain E-books Search has got to be the coolest thing ever; I never knew it existed! Of course, these days I get my e-book fix through IRC, coughcough (I do buy those that I enjoy!), but e-books already in the public domain are much easier on the conscience.

Because I am totally lame and unimaginative, I created a World of Warcraft search engine.

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    Pecha Kucha

Glancing at the event calendar, I see that there is no Pecha Kucha for us poor NJ-ers, sigh.

In any case, this seems like a great idea, for both the presenters and the audience. The audience gets to not have to snore through hours-long presentations in which they have no interest, and the presenters are encouraged to ponder the most essential elements of their subject. It’s more challenging, but also more rewarding.

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    RSS

I set up a Bloglines account as instructed, but honestly, I don’t know how often I’ll be checking in. I created an RSS list of all the blogs/journals I followed a couple of years ago through Gregarius, and it kind of fell by the wayside. I think it’s probably because the first blog/journal website I became familiar with after the heyday of mailing lists was Livejournal; the people I followed moved their writing to Livejournal, I created one of my own, and for many years it was where I spent most of my online time. I’m used to the format there, and it’s been a bit difficult to dig myself out of that niche.

In LiveJournal, you have a ‘Friends List’ of all the journals you follow, the look and layout of which you can customize to your heart’s content. Bloglines is — dare I say it — rather ugly? I’m used to following the latest posts in a setting that is aesthetically pleasing to myself, that I can change whenever I grow bored with it.

Beyond that very superficial reason, one of Livejournal’s greatest weaknesses is also its strength. The Livejournal Friends List shows only journals that are on Livejournal; for other blogs, you’re on your own. But because of that, there’s a sense of community to it. There are blogs that feel more like a soapbox than a forum of discussion; comment threads are hard to follow, and discussions are difficult to track. One of my favorite blogs, the one kept by Neil Gaiman, doesn’t even allow comments. Livejournal is set up to be a social website rather than a simple journaling one, and one feels more welcome commenting on a random post from an unfamiliar user than one would while browsing a post from a pure blogging service, I think.

There was a huge brouhaha over certain issues in Livejournal a few years back that caused many friends and myself to consider moving off of Livejournal, which was when I set up my (other) WordPress blog. I did try to move to it, and I set up the Gregarius feed aggregator to simulate my Friends page. It took too long to load, was ugly and never felt right, and eventually most of us returned meekly to Livejournal.

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