Monday, June 30, 2008

Thing 11: Tagging and

I've spent a lot of time on this one because it's huge. Which made it seem difficult for me to comment on. But I'm just going to forge ahead and not get bogged down. Also, I am particularly fuzzy-headed today, not for any fun reason, but simply because I am drained. I've been staggering around wondering why I'm so tired for the last few weeks and then I realized that the children are up much later with these long summer days and man, it's doing a number on me. Oh, for the dreary winter. Kidding.


Very cool and clearly a higher evolution of the old Furl app I fooled around with back in the day. is the web within The Web. This whole trend of sites that enable us to monkey-vine swing from our interests to similar interests held by others is so cool, and so addictive. And so potentially time-consuming. I'm thinking here of Good Reads and Library Thing, both of which can easily chew up an afternoon. Also Netflix, now that I think of it.

So I set up an account and with the idea in mind of finding some good reader's advisory lists that will help me identify books to read to Eldest. I started at the Newbery Medal site. Tagged it with "kiddie lit".

23 other people have tagged the Newbery site. I followed the "kidslit" tag posted by bibliaugrapher to see what other sites he/she had listed. Mostly UK reader's advisory sites.

Then I sat back and tried to really think about how this app could really be used. Could it help with business research? I did a search for "green corporate". I got 1970 hits, some of them pretty good. I also got a list of related tags. This is useful! I could see using this tool for research, sure. One could dig their way down to fairly decent information pretty rapidly.

Does anyone know the reason behind the name? Am I the only person who finds it to be vaguely annoying?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Thing #10: Wikis

Oh, how I do love a good Wiki.

I was thinking earlier about Google and how I suspect that anyone that still thinks the "Google will destroy libraries" argument holds any water is undoubtedly not involved with the real work of libraries. The truth is, we have benefitted from Google. Oh, I know, I can practically hear the tortured cries of how stupid the young folk are, now they all just use Google, but I'm standing firm with my "the kids are alright" worldview and instead would posit that all this rampant Google usage gives librarians the chance to do higher-level information analysis. This is a recurring theme for me, but I just don't buy the argument that young people are that dumb. So now they go to Google, or they go to Wikipedia and they gather information. They get a starting point. And then they get to the higher level stuff on their own or though the gracious assistance of a librarian. We have better informed users that are coming to us with more specific information requests, right out of the gate. This is a good thing. I mean--it would have been so wonderful to have Wikipedia when I was in college! Say I had the assignment to write a paper on Hegel. I would have gone to Wikipedia, read the entry on Hegel, picked out what part of his theory really interested me, and then, using the references cited at the bottom of the entry, proceeding with the research knowing what I was looking for (say, Hegel and his concept of "world spirit"). Or I would have gone to a librarian and asked for help locating print volumes on Hegel, and then would have used the index to look up "world spirit". Boom--done--walk away. And this would have resulted, frankly, in better quality papers than the stuff I was writing in college. Explain to me, again, how this is a bad thing?

Thing #10 is on Wikis. This is a fun Thing, my favorite so far. I visited the Library Success wiki which is a wiki devoted to library best practices. It hasn't been heavily populated with entries (yet). But the section alone on weeding is excellent. At the bottom it lists articles of further interest and included this fantastic blog post by ricklibrarian about the decision to weed Compassionate conservatism by Marvin Olasky. His post perfectly captures what goes through the mind of the librarian when weighing whether a book should be weeded.

Then I visited the Albany County Public Library staff wiki and liked their quick-and-dirty process for cataloging papaerbacks. And I particularly liked their work process "Checklist for Psycho Space Puppet's Departure" which I was unable to quite figure out but which delighted me all the same. Rock on, Albany!

Last, I visited the 23 Things on a Stick wiki and left a note there... Was interested in this comment: I'm experimenting with this. Wikis can be fun but how can you ever trust the "information" you find on them???? Name not left, so if it's your comment, please feel free to let me know. Now, not to harsh on anonymous poster, and also not to fall down some epistemological rabbit's hole--but--anon, how can we trust any information? Oh, I know, juried academic journals, established sources... etc. How do we know what we know? How do we trust what we know? I, for one, trust Wikipedia because for some reason people have some kind of emotional investment in the idea of "truth" which is why studies have shown that Wikipedia is just as reliable (if not more reliable) than Encyclopedia Brittanica. I'm just ruminating here, but maybe our idea of critical analysis should extend beyond just checking that a source is "reliable", i.e., objective. Because isn't that what the naysayers want and claim Wikipedia does not provide--an objective source? I'm not so sure there ARE any objective sources. Oh, I don't mean to sound so ponderous and self-important. I just think examining motive is essential, whether it be applied to an academic journal or a Wikipedia entry. And I suspect we will revisit this concept when we get to the Thing on folksonomies and tags.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Zoho Writer is a beta app that works as a collaboration tool... In the simplest sense, it is a souped-up type of Microsoft Word that allows you to create docs and then allow other people acccess to it through the site, where they can make edits as necessary. The idea is that this type of tool eliminates the whole endless emailing of attachments back and forth. Users, coworkers, what have you, simply visit this site, log in, and work on the shared docs.

It's a great idea. But there are a lot of great ideas out there: Communism and those jars that contain both peanut butter and jelly spring to mind. Great in theory. But reality has a mind of its own. And things that are great ideas are often deeply flawed when put into practice (the former) or just straight-out disgusting (the latter).

See, I have some experience with this type of tool as my esteemed employer tried to implement something like this about three years ago. Through the company intranet we were all given access to "project spaces" where documents could be posted and then worked on collaboratively. No more attachments! they crowed. And this is the main aspect Zoho plays up, too. It's a great theory and I was something of a believer and I used our project space like a wild woman. Well, as wild as a woman can be when she's posting documents in a corporate setting. It's just not that wild-and-crazy of a scenario. But then I, like I suspect many others that walk the halls of this Death Star--oh! I mean Mother Ship! Mother Ship!--sort of... fell away from it. And the docs grew out of date. And the emails with attachments started to fly once again, the way weeds would poke up through the concrete in the post-apocalypse. Somehow like that.

So I am skeptical as to the usefulness and ultimate usability of this tool. About a year ago I was involved in an incredibly interesting research project for my job. We studied trends that would influence the development of legal research software applications. Really, I'm not kidding--it was incredibly interesting. And the main thing I remember from this project was that you can develop the coolest product in the world and if it's not some combination of cheap, easy, and adaptable it won't sell. What am I getting at? The fact is, this type of collaboration tool is not (yet) as intuitive and "easy" as the old way of sending email attachments. The steps aren't standardized enough (so it's not adaptable, i.e. flexible, pliable) and, let's face it, sending email attachments seems to work pretty well. So the sense I get is that people in development really want us to dig this type of tool, and they keep building more of them, and they keep trying to sell us on it's strong points, but the fact is, we just don't need this tool yet and so it won't be used. So stop trying to cram it down my throat.

Man, the similarities to Communism just keep getting stronger and stronger. I'm kidding. There are no similarities.

Zoho doc

Sample blog post re: Zoho writer.


Let's try to use this as a blog post.