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.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thing 20 - Instant Messaging

It is nice to see how librarians are providing live reference service via IM nowadays. Sites like Chat with a Massachusetts Law Librarian are a way to go! I tried asking a question today, but it was too long of a wait to connect live and I ended up emailing them. Still, nice idea. And I did successfully chat with our course teacher, which was more on topic anyway... I really liked the idea of scheduled group chats at another online XML course I took a few years ago - they made the virtual course feel more real once and for all turning me into a pro-online education champion. The review and comparison of 20 IM services is of a great help: I've never heard of Snimmer and eBuddy before, and many others that combine the most popular instant messengers into one. I am often using Yahoo Messenger with my friends and have come to appreciate Skype with its audio/video features, free international calls, games, and file tranfer systems. Using this in workplace, especially for library and archival services, makes perfect sense: our email tranfers have size limitations, whereas requests for digital files have grown over the last years. And wouldn't it be nice to see your distant patrons once in a while putting faces to names? All of this makes me wonder: do any librarians find chats distracting? I could see how they could be, when you announce to the world to be "online" and become inevitably "available", no matter how busy your day is...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thing 19 - Bookmarking

I had my field day on the Delicious web site and set up the account with the ambition to create a library of psychoanalytic bookmarks. I've so far "clipped" several sites with psychoanalytic book and journal resources, and started a list of Freud museums and archives, check here to see my work in progress. I eventually hope to create a useful resource page for our library: currently all these links sit in the related sections on various collection web pages, and they not very visible that way. I could also finally integrate and annotate all archives out there that are related to ours. A relatively small archive as we are, we have many collections that are pieces of the larger archives stored elsewhere, and social bookmarking could help us recreate that whole picture for each particular collection. With online archival services like Harvard OASIS , cross-referencing becomes much needed and often required. I could see how "clipping" could make our web sites more dynamic and in touch with reality. Very few people use our library catalogs, but hey, something better is on the way.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thing 18 - Playing with Wiki

I greatly appreciate Wiki technology for all - I hope it will solve our endless struggle with document version control, long email threads, and poor planning. New Year 2009 Resolution: organize your next ski trip in Wiki! For now, my book review has been added to BPL Booklist

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thing 17.2 - Course Discoveries

I decided to start browsing the discoveries of my course fellows with a Random Joke from Comedy Central (thanks Chris N). I am always on the lookout for funny things, and my RSS "joke of the day" does not seem to update for some reason. I also appreciated the Unshelved library-related comic strips - this will be my new source for the weekly library bulletin board clippings (I've been known to post a New Yorker cartoon here and there in the past, but these have been specifically drawn for us librarians). I also could not help but listen some of the Lonely Planet Podcasts, thanks to Carin. I love Lonely Planet books, and their audio stories are of the same great quality. I've lately been disappointed with the Travel channel: I think it has become very commercial focusing more and more on "top" distinations and poker games. I am glad to see that Lonely Planet still carries the torch of character travel and that it chose to podcast its discoveries. Their stories are surprisingly visual even without the video illustration. You could "hear" the unique personalities of the storytellers, their interactions with locals and nature, all of which makes you re-live somebody else's travel experience. And the photographs complete the pictures.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thing 17 - Dream Studies

I work for a small non-profit, which has an Institute - a professional training school for psychoanalysts. With students that all have prior careers, full-time jobs, families, and often other academic affiliations, the possibilities for online studies are endless. One could start dreaming by transferring all syllabi in the Moodle like course setup, where students participate in forums, get assignements, being quized and get their readings online. Should there be a way to redirect citations to the widely used PEP-Web database giving students a way to download articles directly, the print/copy in library process could be fully eliminated. I think the psychoanalytic field requires meeting of small groups and with a professor in a real class setting - I cannot yet imagine such a program functioning completely virtually. But a good deal of homework, paperwork, presentations, audiovisual materials, and lectures could probably be used online. Given a proper security, which most of the CMS systems provide, even some sensitive clinical materials used for training could be accessed via the web. Course evaluation is another thing suitable for anonymous online submission, as well as surveys and grading. Give it a try, and I bet the courses themselves will soon look different: when professors know their are teaching online, they will design presentations with a distant student in mind. There will be more Ted like talks and lectures, assignements will become more interactive, and who knows, maybe we will finally solve the parking problem...

Thing 16 - Google Docs

After much frustration and a couple failures I finally managed to publish my document in Google Docs. The toughest part was to retrieve a URL to link to it. I will try to add few more useful work related files later. Great idea, but being Beta and all, they don't seem to have figured our their interface yet and are also pretty slow. Still, I've needed to share a large Power Point file for a long time - hope Google Docs is just the place.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Thing 15 - Etsy, Lulu, CafePress, and

The idea of artisans, artists, and crafters having their own online services to sell goods is very encouraging. Etsy certainly found a way to put a "face" on every product, with a custom-designed entry page for little companies like Cosmos Curiosities. I found most of the prices to be on a high side, but this is probably reasonable given the hand-made non-commercial quality of goods. I also appreciated honest allergy disclosures, e.g. "this product comes from a home with a cat" - somehow it makes you respect the craftsman even more. I liked the recycling approach in the tins and boxes, and the the fact that you could ask for a particular design and color. I will be ordering my holiday cards from this year and was absolutely thrilled by a possibility to publish my own cook book here. Something for my next life to consider: right now those recipes are sitting in a folder on my kitchen counter, some are quite battered. And all illustration I could provide... Well, back to earth now. Coincidently, I've recently ordered some election sweatshirts from CafePress - very nice company with many smart choices. Slogans like "barack, paper, scissors", "omerica", and "joe the plumber meet barack the president", "barack and roll" and "polar bears for obama" made me smile and think of the times when we all wear self-designed t-shirts. Mine would have a quote from a contemporary Russian writer saying "Everything good in me is owed to sleep".

Well, on a related note, I've recently discovered another excellent buyer-seller service, which might help libraries with their book sales. It's called and it specializes in rare and used book sales. You could find anything from out-of-press to first editions here, and many local book stores are participating. I will try to find out how a library can join in. If any of our fellow librarians have used it for work, please let me know!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thing 14 - Backyard Activity

I have to admit I was late on this assignement and had to search the calendar slightly backwards. Surprisingly, my backyard in Newton did not have too many scary Halloween events listed on American Town. There was one call from the Kids Halloween Dancing Party preceding the trick-or-treat, but the rest of the week-end activities look way too serious, ranging from Week-End Masses and Worship Services to local politics, town councils, product recalls, and oncoming election. What can one expect from a town with a 100% election turnout - the statistics I just got from the Wicked Local, which, by the way, I found a little more interesting and lively than American Town. They annonced the Silver NewTones Halloween concert (one small con: it still appears in their Coming up section 10 days after the event). The WickedLocal events are not as organized as Globe, Herald, and American Town, and searching is a bit tricky here, but news are interesting and read more like they have been written by real people. I used to follow WickedLocal predecessor TownOnline, but ever since I got school age kids at home, I don't: kids bring tons of local event flyers from school every day. Somehow I know what's going on in my backyard before it makes the headlines...

Thing 13 - Horror Read

My "scary" search on Library Thing brought me to two children books I am going to read to my kids. These are from the authors they would read anything by: Dav Pilkey and Robert L. Stine. I imagine they are more funny than scary, but what's wrong with a good laugh on a Halloween night? I really like how Library Thing gives you a list of sites where you can buy or swap a book, reviews are nice, even though I noticed that they generally don't offer as many as Amazon. I wonder if this thing hasn't picked up on the level of big book seller sites - libraries could really make it happen. Searching and subject tagging are clearly their strong points, as well as popularity index and statistics. You could feel that our MLS pros are behind many of these ideas. I would join with my library, but the thought of cataloging all of my personal books scares me to pieces!