Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On Previous Posts

Postings titled as "Things 1-26" below reflect my participation in the online "26.2 Things in Boston" course on the social networking in libraries, which I took this fall. Just when I thought I was an internet expert, the course made me take another closer look at the web. I discovered a whole new world of internet services designed to help us communicate more effectively. Most of us heard of blogging, podcasting, and Wikipedia, but not everyone knows how easy it has become to design your online classroom, open your own radio, microblog daily like our busy politicians do, create an online library of clippings, or plan projects and events without the email thread. The best part of these services: most of them are free, and, yes, the quality and security are also in place. If millions of people find something useful, I am always curious to understand why. So feel free to take a look too...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thing 26 - Finish Line and Related Events

I've just examinded several online event planners, which have all been slightly different from Evite. CityCita has indeed a very interesting aproach to group events, I just hope it picks up the volume for Boston. Let me point out one more of my favorites here, SocializR, a hassle-free party planner, which interface I liked the best after beeing tired of seeing the same Evite card designs over and over again.

26.2 Things in Boston has been a great course, but, sadly, it is coming to an end... It has been fun to learn about social technologies in such fun and interactive way. I did not know I could blog away for weeks. I am looking forward to a graduation event (RSVP sent), and would like to thank our teacher and coach Jennifer for running this program. I sincerely hope to use Web 2.0 tools in our library and archives: podcasting, social bookmarking, online classroom, and micro-blogging all make perfect sense for our environment. Not to mention great places, like Yelp, Etsy,, LibraryThing, Remember the Milk, Pandora - all discovered in the course of this course. They are good to take not just to work, but anywhere life puts me. So good night and thanks for reading :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thing 25 - Online Quest for Food

OK, I have to admit here, I have been partial to online recipe networks. The idea that you could open your fridge, count the ingredients, and enter them in a search query to see what you can cook struck me as genious the minute I came across Epicurious many many years ago. Ever since, instead of reading recipes and then going out shopping, I would often buy some "thing" that I always wanted to cook, but did not know how, come back home and delve into the bulk of Epicurious suggestions and followup reviews. Should I stick to the recipe and make Mahi-mahi with that Orange Avocado Salsa or substitute orange with mango and see what happens? (both scenarios have been tested and proved delicious). I am not an obidient cook, and online recipe search lets me get the big picture, and then mix and match (not always successfully, but at least I can share the experiment or get alerted not to follow some instruction literally).

For those with kids and Star Wars fans, I recommend our favorite C3PO droid pasta. It is a very easy dish made from spagetti, bread toasts cut up as faces, and yellow squash, boiled in chicken or vegetable stock with a pinch of tamarind for extra yellowness and later decorated with black bean or pine nut eye pupils, as shown on the picture. I tested this on 3 little boys last week - they all loved their droid despite presumably hostile attitudes to squash and tamarind. Pour the yellow stock over pasta while the kids look away, and it tastes even better!
Another recently discovered party pleaser for holidays (contrasting nicely with turkey and potatoes) would be Roasted Mushrooms with Feta, Spinach, and Bacon, which, by the way, goes perfectly fine without the bacon or feta - the latter could be substituted with goat cheese. Hm... let me see now what others are cooking.

Thing 24 - Twitting Librarians

I am really excited that there is a way to blog without the commitment of hours and weeks. How do you keep your blog alive after you loose the initial enthusiasm or simply don't have time to update it often? Microblogging lets you communicate in tiny bits and fewer words - most of us, the busy bees, could do it. No wonder politicians found it appealing. I clearly see the benefits of Twitter for our small library. We could post new book titles, twitt about upcoming events, like "Meet the Author" or "Off the Couch" movie series, and poll our patrons on the use of journals. There would be a way to spread a word of a dupicate book our library could sell or donate. What I like to see most though is a two-way communication with readers and other librarians, where the best ideas could come from outside. If there are books, journals, services, programs and communities we are not aware of yet, microbloggers could help us stay informed in the fastest and most time efficient way. Being a one-man library and one-man archive that we are, keeping in touch with fellow librarians becomes vital. If there are decisions to be made on the upgrade of our online catalog system, journal delivery services to subcribe to, or image or audio formats to store your media, I would want to consult other experts in the field, e.g. "here is what we are doing, any problems?"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thing 23 - Pandora or NPR, Apples or Oranges

Who does not dream of their own radio station: no commercials, silly jokes or title rotation lists to spoil your day, just the songs and voices you want to hear... Looks like Pandora takes this dream and makes it real. One could only hope nothing evil (i.e. copyright lawsuits) comes out of this box... I created my own station and was poking around while listening to a pretty good selection of artists (I only chose one, the others were provided by, I guess, association). I really liked how they link artists to wikipedia entries, display their biographies and discographies, and often surprise you with nice music you've never heard before. There is a thumbs up/down feature, and when you rate a song, Pandora promises to consider your ranking for their future selection. I almost felt sorry to see their pledge not to play this song ever again, when I down rated something. I've only tried "my station" for a day: so far it has been a very pleasant experience. They always start with the title artist (different song every time though), and continue down their association chain. My only confusion is that I am only getting female voices having chosen the female artist in the begining. Is the logic there that people only listen to either/or? I guess I will need to create another station with my favorite male singer in the title to get "a second opinion".

Well, it is not easy to compare my Pandora station to WBUR Listen Live broadcasts, but let me try :) Put all authority, schedule, and predictability aside, I imagine the day will come when each of us has a say in the NPR's streamline radio choice of programs. We'll be mixing, sampling and rating programs and ancors, creating our own "ideal" NPR radio. We already have been asked to provide our own stories. Plus, there are Our Space, Talk to Us, and Radio Twitt where you are given a chance to interact with WBUR through forums, chats, feedback, and your own news. So one might be musical and personal, while another is wordly and national, but the similarities are striking. It is always there when you need it, and you don't have to do anyting to enjoy the stream. One button to press and the sound never ends...

Thing 22 - Wayback Machine

It turns our the Big Brother has been watching all these years. Just when we thought we tricked him by moving into a virtual space. Everything you did on the web was stored and filed. I am talking about the Wayback Machine, an internet service that archives older versions of homepages. Here is our old design - we all had to start somewhere. Look at the Old Google, and there is proof right there that there was no internet (as we know it now) back in 1998...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thing 21 - NetLibrary and Project Gutenberg

I've been using NetLibrary for some time now, through the service provided by my public library. Even though it has a nice book collection, the search interface is screaming to be improved. There is no way to limit, narrow or advance your search beyond the "keyword", and when you choose to browse by subject and select a category, i.e. "literature and fiction" you cannot search at all: you have to scroll down alphabetically. I know, it's free if your public library participates, and it's probably a start in a sense that something is better than nothing, but if NetLibrary is a project of OCLC I just can't believe such a library-oriented service can't do better. What I really like about their interface is the Favorites and Notes feature that allows you to store good books that you had found for later use. Giving the trouble it takes to find anything, once you have found it, there is no way you want to go through the process again. So click on "Add to Favorites" and listen/read this book months later. No matter how discontent, I am still using NetLibrary, which, I guess, is an indicator that it is a great value after all. Each audiobook comes in one file, but with more and more players having bookmarking feature, it's not a problem. Still, I would like to believe the improvements are on the way...

Project Gutenberg, on the other hand, is a non-commercial service brought to life by volunteers. It exists in a wiki space, so anyone can participate. There is a nice Advanced Search screen with lots of options, RSS feed to inform readers of latest editions, great selection of e- and audio- books, and many spin-off projects and services. Individuals and libraries could participate in an eBook creation, profreading, and archiving. There is Distributed Proofreaders to convert public domain books into eBooks, The CD an DVD Project that lets you generate custom CD's and DVD's of books, and, finally my favorite, the Digitized Sheet Music Project where volunteers have been putting together domain musical scores for anyone who wishes to study and perform classical music. Amazing what people could create without any commercial interest at heart! This is definitely a move toward that universal digital library, which up until now had only existed in our dreams and some Sci-Fi books.