Archive for June, 2008

Ode to a lappy

June 27, 2008

It’s just a very ordinary Dell D620 but there area couple of things about it that make it the key tool that supports my professional development at the moment:

  • it is provided by my workplace
  • I have administration rights
  • I get to take it home at night

The admin rights are the IT policy of my organization (I know- you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out). They mean I can install and trial (read “play with”) whatever I like without asking permission all the time. Mind you I am trusted then to know how to fix it too. Non SOE is not officially supported by the IT help desk but they are usually understanding. I also need to be aware that there are reasons that I must not install certain things (like IE7- not compatible with in house financial systems).

Being able to take it home was a consequence of working at multiple sites not a deliberate policy. But using the same lappy at home and at work means that I get to use the same configuration and keep trying things out where ever I am.  It gives me more time for online reading. I don’t have to bookmark or install things twice. If it is time to go home or to work and I am half way through something I can just shut the lid and resume after I get there. My kids will tell you that it means I am working more but conversely I can easily work from home without prior planning if I or they are sick.

Sharing links

June 24, 2008

Because I am a librarian and sharing information is what we just do I wanted to start a list of tools that help the easy sharing of links and clips with colleagues and clients. So here it is. The trouble is that I have been working on this for days and I keep finding ones that I didn’t know about and new ones keep getting released. I was going to expand it out into the features, pros and cons of each etc but it is a much bigger project than one blog post. Maybe I should start a wiki for it but maybe it already exists??

I have broken the list below up by the source of the original information.  The first list is just the ones that I have tried.

From Browser ie Web Page/Link

From RSS Reader- sharing a post or link

  • Feeddemon
    • send to
      • email
      • delicious
      • digg
      • blog
    • clip to clippings folder then share via RSS
  • Google Reader
    • star
    • share
    • share with note
    • email
    • tag to a public folder

Sharing journal articles

  • Connotea
  • CiteULike

John over at Library Clips has had a series of posts about many more sharing tools that he has tried:
http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2008/05/08/google-reader-notes/
http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2007/12/19/a-quest-to-discovering-a-private-text-and-link-sharing-service/
http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2007/09/21/google-shared-stuff-and-other-common-ways-to-share/
http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2007/09/21/siphs-link-blogging-and-sharing/
http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2007/05/30/link-sharing-with-sharethis-and-others/

These are others I have found (some in the last day or two) but have yet to try:
Furl
Spurl
Diigo
Simpy
Mister Wong
Mento
Zigtag
ma.gnolia
Awesome Highlighter
Citebite
Shareaholic
SharedCopy

If I do expand this out to a wiki I want to limit it to the type of sharing that can be directed to people of groups of people so I didn’t want to include social news aggregation sites like Digg, Mixx, Newsvine or reddit. Or personal clippings and links management tools that don’t have sharing features or at least an RSS feed.

What is your favourite tool at the moment? Opinions, additions ….help???

Wordle play

June 21, 2008

wordle form delicious

I love visualisations so how could I not resist a play with Wordle? The tag cloud above is from my delicious bookmark tags. The seemingly obsession on Twitter is not only because I am addicted but I have been collecting research for a paper.

Ping.fm – not so great for conversation

June 18, 2008

I have been a Twitter addict for about 14 months now and have been playing (lemming like) with other microblogging tools as they have come along been bought to my attention via Twitter.

Plurk was launched recently a few of my Twitter friends went over there so I went too- just to have a look at the shiny new toy.

The trouble was that not everyone did. While Twitter has had problems recently no-one quite wants to abandon it completely. These social network sites are all about the community. If your friends are not there they do not have much value. So the issue becomes how to keep up with those on Plurk and Twitter at the same time.

Plurk is great for conversations but at the moment it has no integration with other sites as Twitter does. It is not yet supported by Friendfeed and I couldn’t get Feeddemon to see the RSS feed – but that could be because I have a private feed.

Ping.fm is designed for those, like me, wanting sometimes to update their status on several sites at once eg Plurk, Twitter, Facebook. It offered a iGoogle gadget from their site so I added it to my iGoogle page and had a very convenient place to post status updates. I shut down Twitter etc when I don’t want distractions but I always have my homepage open.

Trouble happens when someone responds to the status change i.e. wants to start a conversation. Great but if you havent got the site open in your browser or desktop client (like Twirl) you will miss the response and the opportunity to connect. If you had those sites open you wouldn’t need Ping.fm in the first place. It all depends on how and why you are using these types of sites whether you will find Ping.fm useful.

Second change(s)

June 15, 2008

1. In the first iteration of this blog I had a theme in which the RSS feeds for the blog were displayed via a link (not an icon) on the “Meta” widget and I placed it low on the right hand column. On the top of that column was (and is) a widget displaying my recently shared and clipped posts which because it uses an RSS widget also displays an RSS icon/link. One of my readers (my hubby) mistook this for the link for the feed for the blog and subscribed to my shared posts instead of my blog feed. A lesson in usability- make things obvious. I could have made a RSS icon by placing some HTML in a text widget but I decided to change the theme instead. I will probably change themes fairly often. It gives me the opportunity to discover what I would require from the perfect theme. Using WordPress.com as my host means my choice of themes is relatively limited and I can’t change the CSS without paying for an upgrade.  Something for the future- I’ll build up to it.

2. I also wanted to add a library blogroll to the sidebar – in part to pay tribute to all the wonderful librarian bloggers out there and in part to suggest possible sources to anyone new to the biblioblogosphere who may happen to pass this way.  Ideally a blogroll is a dynamic thing and stays in sync with where ever I am reading these feeds. I often add and delete feeds. However the way Newsgator (and Google Reader and Bloglines) generates the link to your feeds is via a small piece of javascript – something not supported by WordPress.com for security reasons. The compromise was to temporarily sync my library folder feeds from FeedDemon to Newsgator. Then in Newsgator find Settings/Edit locations/Web edition/OPML which gave me an OPML URL (after I ticked “expose OPML to all users“). Then in the admin for this blog under Manage links/add new I found a link to Import links. This allowed me to specify an OPML URL. It sure saves adding the links to a blogroll one by one or even downloading the OPML file to a local drive then uploading it to this blog. The compromise it that it will not stay in sync. I will have to repeat the process from time to time until I find another workaround.

Why use a RSS reader??

June 15, 2008

For those doing their online reading by visiting and revisiting individual web sites selling the advantages of using an RSS reader is easy. You can just point them at the wonderful video from Commoncraft.

But what about those subscribing to updates by email. Well thats OK because that may be where they live. (see previous post). But if they have never tried an RSS reader they may not know what they are missing.

So what are some reasons for subscribing to online reading by RSS into an aggregator rather than by email?? What are the really basic selling points.

Email overload
We all complain about email overload and there are reems of books and posts on methods to overcome it. Why not start by only using email for what its best at? Email isn’t bad it just needs to know its place. Email is at its best used as for lengthy communications between two people. Not for sending or receiving broadcast messages or collaboration. See this RWW post for a great analysis and this from Library clips on alternatives to email.

Batching
Batching
your reading can be more productive than reading in a piecemeal fashion as in comes into your email box.

Maintenance
Email folders and rules only work so far and, especially if you are practicing GTD in your email, your subscriptions are just adding to your inbox maintenance.

Post Control
When you subscribe to updates by email often you are getting a digest when contains many posts. Some may be relevant and worth reading or saving, some may not be. In a reader you can mark individual posts for reading, sharing and saving.

Subscription control
To subscribe to a feed you need the URL and usually will get it from the originating site but after that unsubscribing can be done in the reader with a click. No need to revisit the site. FeedDemon has a “dinosaur” report that lets you easily see with feeds are no longer updated.

Search
The better readers have better search options, for rereading that half forgotten post, than Outlook.

Archiving
A lot or organizations put limits on your email inbox. If you shift your subscriptions to a reader then you can archive in the reader. The web based ones are limitless, the desktop ones are dependent on your PC .

Sharing
Most RSS readers offer many ways to share an article with colleagues and clients beyond email. For example, depending on the source of a post, FeedDemon will let me email, send the post to any blog that I own, add a post to del.icio.us or digg, add the post to a folder that can be shared by RSS.

Subscription Simplicity
Not all websites that provide RSS feeds provide an email subscription option. Restricting subscriptions to email means that you would need to use a third party RSS to email service and a lot of clicking and pasting or URLs to set it up. Using the RSS directly usually means one or two clicks to subscribe to a feed depending on your browser and your reader.

Spam and security
Using a RSS reader limits the number of places to which you are handing over your email address.

Extra Tip
You can take one more step and turn those email list that don’t provide alternatives into an RSS feed with this howto from Lifehacker

What else??

For some of us this is basic stuff that we take for granted but how do we communicate it to our colleagues and clients? The points above are just the possible selling points of using an RSS reader over email that I could think up for now. I am sure that there are more and I would appreciate additional suggestions via the comments.

[UPDATE: Richard Ackerman commented this via Twitterrss reader is controlled info flow. Reader + other web tools (share item/bookmarking/friendf) is participation in websocialnet “ ]

[UPDATE 2: Richard Ackerman’s second  comment also via Twitter “the other thing that occurs to me is that by reading RSS headlines/batches, you can see trends as they emerge”]

Them and us

June 14, 2008

I had a couple of email conversations on Thursday which lead to a couple of conversations on Twitter about people’s uptake of reading online using an RSS Reader rather than email.

After mulling over it (I need time for reflection – I learnt that at a recent train the trainer training session) yesterday morning I had a realization.

I live in my browser- other people live in their email client. They aren’t wrong just different. but that is where my barrier is in talking to them about some things.

Actually at home I live in my browser. I work I have dual screens. One generally has my email client and the other my browser.  This is because the preferred communication method in my organization is email.

This post took a couple of days to write and in the mean time Richard at Science Library pad says the same thing (only much better).

Sharing bookmarks and clipped posts

June 11, 2008

One of the things we want to be able to do as librarians is quickly and easily share our newest discoveries with our clients and each other. I wanted to add a display for my shared, bookmarked and clipped items to this blog.

Sharing from an RSS reader
Social bookmarking like del.icio.us is an obvious choice but how about from my feedreaders. Google Reader makes it easy providing an RSS feed for both starred and shared items. But I recently shifted to Feeddemon, a desktop reader because Google Reader cannot see firewalled feeds such as those generated by our internal wiki. Feeddemon has a “add to clippings folder” which acts much like “starred items” in Google Reader. The trick to sharing them was to synchronize with Newsgator – Feeddemon’s online partner.

Problems along the way
Initially I synchronized all my feeds making them available to myself at any computer. The trouble was that for some reason a great number of my feeds stopped updating all at the end of May. It was a busy time for me so I initially didn’t notice. A trawl through Newsgator’s support forums indicated I wasnt alone but that Newsgator were treating incidents on a one at a time basis. I wanted my feeds back quickly. When you use Feeddemon the request for an update for a feed comes from your own PC. When you synchronize via Newsgator they come from the Newsgator servers then are downloaded to the PC. Switching off synchronization updated my feeds again.

Resolution
However, thankfully, turning off synchronization doesn’t turn off synchronizing the “Clipping folders” (don’t ask me why). And there is a RSS feed for it (very hidden but they give you the URL in very tiny font right down the bottom to the page). There is one last step. I wanted to have one place where everything I bookmark online can appear and I use del.icio.us for items I come across not in a reader. I took the RSS feed for my del.icio.us bookmarks and the RSS for my Feeddemon clippings and added both to a  Google Reader folder. I went to (confusingly) “tags” under the Google Reader settings and there made that folder “public”. Then going to “view public page” for the folder gives me the RSS feed for the mashed up feeds which I could add to a widget to display in the sidebar of the blog.

Recollections and 23 things

June 11, 2008

As part of my motivation for this blog was to figure out how to evangelize Web 2.0 technologies to my colleagues I have been thinking about how I came to be here.

As I didn’t document the process its fairly unclear but I remember some events along the way.

In January 2004 I went to VALA where just one of the highlights was Lorcan Demsey giving the closing keynote. I came away with a notepad full of acronyms that I hadn’t heard of and I swore not to get so far behind in my professional current awareness again.

Then in March 2005 I bought a Treo 650. I was motivated to buy a smart phone as I was sick of carrying around a PDA and a phone and had a very ancient phone. The thing with a Treo is that it isn’t a toaster. It takes some work to set up and customize. To get full use out of it I started looking for help on the web. That lead me to various Treo forums and to Jenny Levine’s blog and her series of Treo posts. A librarian blog!

One thing leads to another. I started with a Bloglines subscription sometime in 2005 (judging by the date on some saved posts in the clippings folder) then moved my ever increasing feeds to Google Reader. I was working part-time during this period and had some time and access to the web at home to play. I had been reading Librarian.net but just started reading Librarians Matter in time to catch that Jessamyn was coming to Perth and I happened to sit next to Kathryn at that talk. 2007 was a whir of starting a new full time job that gave still gave me full access to the web, meeting other librarian bloggers, joining Twitter and going to a Barcamp, Podcamp and an Library Unconference.

I think the main lessons from this long and rambling post would be to start with a motivation to be aware and keep aware of new technologies, get some tools and some mentoring to help the process. Also people need some time with full web access to play.

We have been talking about running a “23 things” program since February. I have added it to the todo list but need to research running it for distance learners. (There are 27 of us all over the country with a great deal of variation in awareness level.) I am also curious about the designer of the program’s choice to introduce blogging and Flickr before RSS whereas my experience was the other way around … and I am blogging well after everything else. 🙂

First change

June 11, 2008

I just added the Meta widget to quickly make the RSS link obvious. What is it with wordpress themes that hide the RSS icon link in the Meta widget? The readers don’t necessarily want the link to wordpress.org or the admin client but they do (or should) want an oblivious RSS link.

Note to self- add RSS icons in a text widget or learn CSS enough to rewrite WordPress themes. Start a to do list on this blog.