Thing we made today: raised vegetable bed frame.

June 15, 2014

Four pieces of 3.3 metre decking from the scrap yard for $10 each. Each made one end and a side. It was nice as the top and bottom were rolled and so not sharp. We used some Dexion that we had down the back shed for legs cut into 4 lengths. Felt virtuous using recycled materials. Ian got to use his nibbler attachment that we bought a while back to cut the decking.

Planned to make 2. Got one done. And it’s bigger than I had in my head. It still needs washing down and the bolts painted to rust proof them a bit better. The Dexion sticks out at the top so I can potentially use it for netting or reticulation and at the bottom so we can drive it into the ground.

I will put cardboard underneath to mulch out the lawn then fill it lasagne style. It may need repositioning yet. I will see how the sun strikes it for a bit before we fill it in case it needs to be shifted.

Design process

Measure and cut

Pieces to assemble

Final frame in place?


Thing I learnt about today: WebGL

June 14, 2014

I am reviving this blog for a particular purpose. I have long forgotten everywhere this post may propagate so this itself could be interesting.

Anyway. What purpose?

I did my APA (annual performance review thingy) the other day and, of course, it generated some reflection on the year that was. It was a gratifyingly long list of tasks completed but last year was also a year of learning many new things, large and little, that I hadn’t documented.

So I am going to start (re)documenting things I learn in order to track them. Now don’t expect large reflection posts- although that may happen. Things political and issues work related are problematic and won’t be mentioned.

However I am learning lots in my current role that can be mentioned. Some are merely new-to-me concepts that I needed to investigate more, not huge revelations in general. Also last year was a bit satisfyingly creative at home. I count that as learning too so will be including those sorts of things here.

One “thing” per post? Maybe. Some days I learn more than others. Maybe one post per day or week will be enough. Most posts may be a simple term and a link. This post is likely to be the longest for a while.

The “thing” for today WebGL. @mpesce mentioned it on Twitter this morning so I went off to read about it. I should have already known. There are collections in our data repository that really need WebGL to display. I just hadn’t grokked that before. See? Learnt something.

Yammer thoughts

August 27, 2010

Peta at Innovate asked me to comment on the “success” of Yammer at MPOW. I read her post last night and couldn’t comment then so I have had some time to think about it.  So naturally my thoughts have expanded to the size of a  post rather than a comment.

Firstly – how do you measure the “success” of something like Yammer in an organization? I am sure the KM people could point me to some resources and there would be usage criteria but we haven’t done the study – as far as I know.

Some stats- at the moment there are 836 members but this is rapidly shifting. The total size of the organization is 6500+ so proportionally there are not so many members.  The first members joined up 15 July 2009. There are currently 11 internal groups and 4 “communities” that allow external collaborators to join.

This is not a library initiative. When I joined, just to see what it was about and after hearing about it on Twitter, I found about 50 people already there.  No part of the organization had “ownership”  until a little while ago. Yammer is free but paying as an organization gives some benefits. For example paying designates an administrator who can then remove individuals when they leave an organization or do some moderation on content.  The cost was going to be prohibitive as it is per person in the organization. When the membership numbers started to grow the benefits of designating an administrator became evident and our “Communications” (marketing and web, social networking etc) people negotiated a better price. The manager of our web team is now the administrator.

As an observer of how people use social networks it has been interesting to watch. There was an influx when the Communications people advertised it as a forum in the weekly email newsletter a few months ago and there is a large influx happening at the moment. I suspect from the messages happening when people join up that the current influx is largely from the way Yammer invites participation and the way that it is presented rather that any deliberate actions. (“what do we do now”, “dunno- I just joined because you invited me”)

As with some other social sites when you sign up you are presented with an “Invite others” option. You need as organization email to join but anyone would know or can easily can look up their colleagues organization email address in our directories. Anyone invited to join or invite others to join any external social site thinks (I hope) twice. But apparently not with Yammer. And less so since paying has enabled the site to be branded as belonging to us.  And as the invitations come from work colleagues. I know that there is not an awareness that Yammer is not actually running on our servers.  There are reminders from time to time from our IT security expert. There were 650 odd pending invitations this morning which went up to 713 after an hour. Then down again slightly as some of those invitations were accepted. It’s going viral.

It’s apparent when the people join with experience on other sites. They start using it in more than just the basic way. For example starting communities or importing RSS feeds.

More stats-the most number of messages by an individual in the main feed is196. There are 26 people with 50+ messages in the main feed and a VERY long tail of those who have joined and never posted. People with the most messages are the early adopters and/or experienced social network participators and are mostly from our “Comms” team again. I was following a few on Twitter before I joined Yammer and have started following a few more since. It is not a small thing to my perception of the success of Yammer that our CEO is among the 26.

Beyond the stats are more of my perceptions. I have said that we are a large organization but we are also very dispersed- across 50 sites and three time zones- 5 in the daylight saving months. We are a research organization with a wide variety of disciplines. Communication between divisions has always been a problem. So when I see research scientists from 3 different sites and two different disciplines jointly discussing a post started by a librarian or a Comms person I count that as a success.

From a library point of view we haven’t had any direction to be involved but we have been encouraged by our team management to be and I see a growing number of us that are. We are using it to post interesting links and incorporating it into our current awareness service delivery but also responding to issues that fall into our area. For example someone complains in a general way about the institutional repository- we can respond- get in touch and hopefully help quickly. Someone recommends a book we can recommend our document delivery service to access it. Conversely if I need to find someone with the right expertise I can ask the “yammersphere” and usually get a quick answer.

There are some Yammer attributes that have helped uptake and success (in my humble opinion).

  • Threaded conversations.
  • email integration- many post from email and get their notifications in a daily digest
  • As stated above- perception as a “safe” network. It has our corporate branding and the email integration.

A final thought. I follow everyone and get my notifications via a Firefox plug in and the iPhone app and there is an one tick box that allows that. For the library purposes above that is necessary. With the current uptake its going to get noisy. I have just started to see some links be repeatedly posted.  It would be interesting to get some stats on actual use. How many have joined but never read any posts for example? Will the noise drive some people away? How many are using the desktop application?

Reflections on #blogeverydayinjune

June 30, 2010

And now we will return you to you regularly scheduled program. Or irregularly unscheduled program.

It has been an interesting challenge and I am a couple of posts shy of actually making it. It did teach me some things about myself and blogging and so I am glad I tried it. I won’t be trying to keep it up. On the other hand I will be trying to keep up the connections that we made.

These are some of the things that I learnt (there aren’t 30):

  1. Posting every day is hard work and time consuming for me. It wasn’t so much that finding the time that was difficult as finding “a” regular time. Mornings are as busy here as in any other house and I like to spend the free morning time catching up on other people’s posts tweets etc. Night times are OK but I am not a night person and tend go to bed early. I am also not as clear thinking after a hard day’s work. I posted a couple of times at lunch but a lunch 1/2 hour wasn’t long enough for a well constructed post.
  2. Inspiration can strike at any time which can make me late for work or late to come home when I stop to post. Or make hubby express frustration that I am blogging AGAIN. I can’t schedule that so I won’t be promising to make a certain number of posts per week.
  3. My first rule of blogging was “have something to say”. Some days I just didn’t.
  4. I read some time ago that the worst thing was a blog full of posts apologizing about a lack of posts. It stops now.
  5. Questions can be interpreted as challenges
  6. Writing knowing that I have an audience changes my perspective.
  7. Coming to know and connect with that audience via their personal blogs, comments and tweets REALLY changes my perspective. I found that I was writing much more like I was telling a story or having a conversation.
  8. We are all complete people and posting everyday can mean having to blur the professional and the personal lines and letting go of self imposed rules.
  9. Following from that it was difficult to start posting personal subjects, which I had to in order to have something to say some days. It felt wrong on this “professional” blog. I somehow reserve that for twitter or facebook in my mind. A big thing that will be occupying my mind in the months coming up will be my kitchen renovation. Do my readers really want to hear the gritty details?? I also wondered all the time whether I was “oversharing”. Strange- it’s not something that I worry about in 140 characters, just long form posts.
  10. Stranger- I didn’t apply that judgment to others and I really valued learning about them via this challenge and felt I knew them better via their “personal” posts.
  11. I kept forgetting the hashtag.
  12. I started with a theme in order to have something to post about. I have posts on that theme still sitting in drafts. But after I did a couple I felt they were much too snarky and negative. It has been a hard month at work and any negativity was bringing me down further. I felt my negativity coming through those posts making them even more snarky in my eyes. So I left most of them in the drafts.
  13. Having a life gives me something to post about. It also give me less time to post.
  14. My post about hubby’s gig was as much an experiment in mobile citizen journalism/life stream recording from my iPhone as a post about our lives.
  15. My current theme (White as Milk) is not good for posts with lots of pictures. I should try another.
  16. I am not a natural writer. Writing for me takes some time to edit and grammar check (thank god for browser spell checkers). Practice hasn’t changed that.
  17. Some topics I thought I may have been repeating from old posts and I had to search to make sure.
  18. Memes make posting easy except when they are topics too revealing. But don’t bring comments.
  19. I also observed and tried a couple of alternative post styles- as though I was seeing if they fitted. But it was like I was using someone else’s voice.
  20. Minor observation. My trained tendency, even after 25 years of knowing differently, is to write in the third person passive. I hope (but I know that they do) that they are not still teaching Science undergrads that. I just had to go over and edit all of this post.
  21. My assumption that I should not do link posts because my audience would have already seen the information that I was linking to was wrong. I shall try more of those.
  22. My most viewed and commented post over the 30 days was the one that got everyone crossposting – about blogging itself. But it started as the sort of post I would have ordinarily have made and a homage to Dorothea. It was just serendipitous that the timing made it relevant to 30+ other people.
  23. Numbers viewing does not correlate to numbers of comments. Except when they do.
  24. There is a hierarchy of validation of blogging for me:
    1. viewers
    2. comments about my ideas- not necessarily on the blog post
    3. my ideas being discussed in another blog
    4. then the highest compliment. When someone takes an idea in one of my posts and it solves a problem for them. And they let me know.
  25. However, validation is nice (OK- it’s lovely) but not why I post. I post to get an idea out of my head and into a form where I can see it and judge it. The act of writing it out make me structure it better.
  26. I was too busy writing and reading to give good comments. I will try to fix that.
  27. I apparently only have mind space for a certain number of posts. My posting on our in-house blog for my colleagues, which is mostly link posts, declined a lot.
  28. From the above – I need to but have yet to find a balance in these things.

Classifying Libraries

June 29, 2010

@nomesd was quizzing us today on twitter for a list of library sectors. This is the list she came up with:

Is this a full list? Academic Corporate Government Health Law National/State OPAL Parliamentary Private Public School Special TAFE Vendor

It differs from mine. I tend to roll in Corporate/Government/Health/Law/Parliamentary into Specials. Although there can be Academic law and health libraries. But I am aware that definitions differ. @Nomesd later found “ALA just says academic/public/school/special/other”. When I talk to US librarians they include a Law Library working for an Academic institution as a “Special”. Their definition is by the  range of the collection.

What is your definition of a Special Library?

Maybe this is a faceted classification:

  1. You can classify the sectors on the patrons or clients the library serves. So if your library exist to serve  clients who are the “staff” of your parent organization you work in a Special. If your library exists to serve students K-12 you work in a school library. If they are tertiary students you are an Academic library. OK- I agree that this is an obvious simplification. Academic libraries serve researchers/faculty/staff as well. But what is their principle purpose? Public libraries serve their local public. States and Nationals serve the larger populations. Or does this resolve to who is paying the bills?
  2. You can also classify on the core subjects of the library or rather the core subject interests of the clients so as to get the Health/Law/Parliamentary type breakdown.
  3. You can classify by the sector of the parent organization ie Education/Government/Corporate/Nonprofit/NGO.
  4. OPAL libraries are classified by how many people work in them. But even this is loose. I daily work as an OPAL but part of a larger organisation.

Let’s test this. According to my classification I work in a Special/Geology/Research/OPAL . I know those that work in Academic/Geology/ and Special/Geology/Corporate and Special/Geology/Government and Academic/ and Public/.

It needs work.

Is it important to know what a library is classified as? Well it’s important to know who your key clients are and what your core purpose is when is comes to knowing who and how to justify the library’s existence. And that’s important in deciding your core services.

But other than that do our classifications just serve to help decide which e-lists to join and which conferences to go to? And what boxes to tick on forms that ask?

Maybe our classifications are dividing us?


June 27, 2010

This is going to start off sounding like a riddle.

What happens when a science librarian and a geologist/saxophone playing/IT nerd share a study? This mess:

The book shelves are actually one of my pride and joys. We lived with a muddle of shorter units piled on top of each other that were repurposed from another house but I always dreamed of floor to ceiling wall to wall shelving in our study. The benches on either side came first and we have some other shelves on the two other walls that were salvaged from an office refit. Because it would have to be made to measure it was going to be too expensive to get it custom made and too big a job for hubby to do. So we did without. Then one day I had an epiphany. With some careful measuring and some compromises we made these from various units from Ikea. The compromises were some gaps around the base where the corners meet the benches. But it was great when I realized that some CD drawers nicely filled one of the side gaps at the top.

What’s the messy bit? Well these books all started off being arranged by subject. They are our non fiction books that have survived several moves. A couple are texts that I have had since uni. When I had finished arranging them there were none that were lying flat or sideways but hubby doesn’t replace them so well and I gave up fixing them.

What about fiction? There wasn’t enough room until I thought to buy them their own bookshelf which lives in the family room. Recreational reading in the recreational area. Made sense. We don’t buy many new books these days. Which is just as well. I would have to weed these to make room. (By they way they are grouped by genre then author :))

RSS evangelism

June 25, 2010

Anyone reading through some of my older “How to” posts would realize that (besides Twitter and Friendfeed) I love using RSS and RSS readers for keeping up with information. I also love being able to use them for mashing up information feeds and enabling auto sharing.

However I know that other people may not even be aware of what an RSS feed or reader is or does.

“Keeping up” and current awareness is a big part of the service and training that we are concerned with at MPOW. Most of our clients are researchers with long term projects and interests and appreciate being auto notified of newly published research. A lot of journals and databases now support RSS as well as email alerts. And most researchers will say that their email boxes are overloaded and they can’t keep on top of it all. But most will not know about RSS readers.

There is a digital divide amongst scientists as well as the rest of the population and last year Martin Fenner in discussing it thought that Science Librarians had a role in helping bridge it.

When we rolled out our in house current awareness blogs we couldn’t enable email alerts at the time and one of my colleagues ran RSS training sessions for the others so now most of my colleagues are at least aware of RSS and readers and some now actively use them. We have talked from time to time about taking this experience and running sessions for our researchers but as with most things these proposed sessions take a back seat to other priorities. As in most special libraries training is just part of our role and we don’t have dedicated librarians for the purpose.

So I would like to hear from other librarians. Has anyone else included using RSS feeds as part of their info lit/digital lit/literacy programs to clients/patrons/faculty/students? Can you share your experiences?

Where were you … when we got a female PM?

June 24, 2010

Where was I when the news broke last night about the spill?

Umm…in Maccas. #trueconfessions

I had an early morning meeting then Mr15’s parent teacher meetings at his school from 5:30pm for which I had to leave work at 4 to go home first and pick him up.  So I had been offline for a while. (and no time to blog yesterday.)

[The meetings went well but didn’t actually resolve anything re his subject choices for next year. His Art and Drama teachers are delighted he is continuing, the others are concerned about the workload those 2 subjects entail. His recent relatively poor grade in Chemistry could be the result of too much chatter with his mate, but he has lifted in Math from a rank of 80 something last year to 39 at the moment. English and English Lit will each have their pros and cons.]

So hubby went to band practice after the meeting and it was just boy and me heading home to a cold house. So we decided on Maccas on the way home. And regretted it – as we always do. While we were there I checked in with twitter and  saw all the #spill tweets (I am still curious about who started it and picked that hashtag) but none that cited sources and I didn’t take the time to go through them to check. So I remarked to my boy that there seemed to be rumors of a spill. A remark that he quoted back to me this morning “you said that it was just a rumor”.

By the time I got home the stream was full of #spill tweets and jokes like “I hope BP will be at the #spill” (Miles Burke).

The rest of my experience was much like Kathryn’s. Nothing on the ABC TV or SBS in Perth. Someone tweeted that in Perth Channel 7 was broadcasting the speech so I flicked to that.

The news about the result of the ballot has just broken as I have been writing this. I am sitting on the bed listening to ABC radio and checking twitter from time to time. There was a also joke on Yammer that at least a restructure in the labor party is over in 12 hours.

Hubby’s observation this morning is that a new prime minister is like a new phone. We live in anticipation of the new bright and shiny model. Comparisons with the old model start right away. The gloss wears off in about a year and we know that when we are sick of it there will be a new model waiting in the wings.

My other observation, and it is not new, is that its yet another demonstration of the importance of twitter as our news source these days. Even my daughter and her mates (who aren’t on twitter…I think) were quoting the twitter stream in a Facebook thread last night. And yes I am still on Facebook. I get to keep up with daughter and other relatives there.

The making of a science librarian

June 22, 2010

@gigglesigh asked “when and why did you decide to become a librarian?”

It’s a long story. Are you comfortable?

I went straight from school to a BSc, ended up majoring in Botany and lost motivation around the beginning of my honours year. It should have been a clue that my lecturers were urging a gap year and I couldn’t think up a project of my own but did one my supervisor was more interested in than I was. Anyway, I didn’t do so well but after that did work as a research assistant on a taxonomy project in Sydney for a couple of years. One good thing that happened from my honours year was meeting hubby. In fact we met through another student of my supervisor’s so even though my honours was a bomb I would not have had the life I have today if I hadn’t done it. (My kids know this story well- the lesson is that failure is not necessarily failure in hindsight.)

The research project finished at the same time as the early 1980’s mining downturn and I worked for the Commonwealth (Telecom) for a time to qualify for a mortgage while hubby was contracting. Then he got a permanent position with a mine in Broken Hill. I worked at a few different things there for a while (Dairy lab, geophysics fieldy) then ended up back with the Commonwealth government in the Broken Hill Social Security office. The work wasn’t great but did provide some benefits. It kept me occupied and they had maternity leave provisions and supported part-time work. (From that experience I know just about everything on the “dealing with difficult clients” front.) They also provided free job counseling.  I knew I couldn’t stay there forever so I took advantage, did some hard thinking and skills analysis. I also read a bit. I would recommend this book for anyone contemplating a career change. It helped me.

I was focusing on my organisation skills and what they could be applied to but other transferable skills sprung to mind. My training in taxonomic Botany meant I think in hierarchies and classification just comes naturally. And it was always the literature search phase of a research project that I enjoyed the most.

So I decided to give librarianship a go. Curtin University offered external studies and I started a graduate diploma in 1991. I did a couple of units and then withdrew. I was trying to combine it with maternity leave and the infancy of Ms-now-18. This was also pre-web and some of the assignments assumed access to an academic library when I only had the local remote rural public library. In late 1994 hubby got a job in Perth. I was pregnant with Mr-now-15 at the time and again on maternity leave. I worked in the Social Security call centre part-time and when he was old enough for longer day care I reapplied. Curtin let me back in 1997 and even gave me credit for the couple of units I had already done.

The rest, as they say, is history. But the experience in Social Security may explain to you why I prefer not to work in a public library.


A musical interlude

June 20, 2010

I have mentioned before that my hubby plays baritone saxophone for a big band. They are called Rush Hour. Not being a night person I don’t go to many of their gigs but today they were playing at Fete De La Musique, an all day free event at the Lake Monger Recreation Centre (Wembly Bowling Club). They played at the same event last year but the vibe was not the same. Last year’s was in Fremantle on a market day and, as they are LOUD and you could hear them in the street, they attracted a lot of passing trade. You can see a clip from last years show. This year’s event was a bit more out of the way and you would have to have known that it was on. They played first so they were on at 11am. Which meant that they had lots of time to set up but it was before the crowd started turning up for the food. I took some photos and videos with my phone to share with you all. A couple I streamed to Qik to try it out but they aren’t great quality. This one is better. Hubby is on the far right. the soloist is Ross.

They only had 1/2 hour then there was a heavy rock band  (Blackjack) followed by a classical trio (Trio Espressivo). We couldn’t stay longer but the rest of the program [pdf] was going to be  just as varied.

The food was french so we piled up croissants and baguettes to take home and partook of waffles and crepes there. Then we went to Herdsmen Fresh to do the weekend shopping on the way home.

It was a good day. NTS: I should go out more often.