Thursday, December 21, 2006

Can't believe I forgot to mention ...

the web 2.0 feature I've been working with most, Yahoo!'s new bookmarking system, which lets you organize bookmarks both in folders and by tags. I've been working on it for at least a month now - it should be very, very useful once I finish getting it set up.

I imported my bookmarks from Firefox and from (which Yahoo! now owns); what's taking so much time is organizing the folders and making sure they all have good tags. The tags I'd been using in were imported, but I decided I didn't like them and am changing most of them. (My tags were all one word, using a . instead of a space between words. The Yahoo! system lets you use spaces, etc., and since the tags are searchable I decided to change them over to a more regular syntax. I'm also trying to make them more consistent.)

At any rate, I'm almost done assigning new folders and keywords, and then ... efficiency is mine!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's been a while

since I posted anything, so here's an update.

I've played around with Consumating a bit, but it lost its appeal fairly quickly. I just don't have time to wander around online looking for friends, and my RL (real life) friends aren't exactly the type to join these sites. I still visit Consumating occasionally, but it's fairly rare. (I'm BlueGreen there.)

I also decided to try out Fitness Journal, and quite like it, although I'm not very good about remembering to go enter my information every day. I really must get back in the habit of doing that!

Just today I decided to try creating a new Scrapblog. I'm not overly enthused about it, but here it is. Not all the stuff that is actually on the pages is showing up for some reason, so if it looks odd that's probably why ...

And I'm trying to figure out Second Life, which is a bit difficult to do since I'm pretty sure I can't install it on my home computer because I don't have enough memory left. No real opinions about it yet. It's interesting, but all I've got to go on so far are Wikipedia articles and a few videos SLers have made and posted online. I'm going to a demonstration of Teen Second Life at ImaginOn this afternoon, so maybe I'll have a better understanding afterwards.

Oh, and I've come across a few neat Web 2.0 things. I'll just list them here and come back and add more about them later.

  • Wordie (make lists of words you like, or don't like, or whatever) I'm Jaie.
  • Squirl (catalog your collections and show them off) I think I'm Jaie here too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Posting a photo from Picasa

  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bloglines alternative

No matter how many online newsreaders I try, I've always gone back to Bloglines. It's not that I'm really terribly fond of Bloglines, just that it works so well. (It's clunky though, both in the way it looks and in some of the features.)

Now I might have found one that works just as well, looks better and has some really nice features - the newly-updated Google Reader.

I tried Google Reader once before, but the updates released earlier this month have made a vast improvement. Google Reader imported my many, many feeds from Bloglines and even organized them into the folders I had set up at Bloglines. I can't recall any other reader that has done that, and it made a very favorable first impression.

The next big improvement is the way Google Reader treats individual items when a feed is open for reading. In Bloglines, once a feed is opened any item in that feed is considered "read" unless you specify otherwise, which means that if a feed has 100 entries and you only manage to read three of them, the other 97 are still marked as "read" and not retained for you to view later.

In Google Reader, however, items are not marked "read" until the feed is opened and you scroll past the item. If you see the first three but stop scrolling there, the other 97 are still marked "unread" and will be waiting for you the next time you sign in.

Google Reader is still a part of Google Labs, and new improvements are being made every day, but I'm really impressed.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rated R for language - don't say you weren't warned!

Julia, this one's just for you!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fainting Goats - 26:46

Fainting goats, for those not familiar with them.

The Man in this Relationship... Is(n't) Me!

He's the Man, from YouTube

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More Library 2.0 and Web 2.0 goodness

Great post from Stephen Abram at his Stephen's Lighthouse blog linking to a terrific article at Libraries and Librarians Rock about the traits of Librarian 2.0.

In another post, Stephen linked to a Solution Watch post about sites useful to students and teachers as they head back to school. Standouts from that list include for resume creation and storage, and Backpack for all sorts of stuff, some of which I haven't figured out yet. MindHacks also created a list of essential sites for students.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The 43 Things

Here's a list, more or less, of the 37 things Stephen Abram mentioned in his "43 Things I might want to do this year" article. (He didn't get to 43.) Some of them I've done as part of the 23 Things project, some I'm just so familiar with doing already that I won't do again. I'll mark those so I can see which ones I still need to do.

  1. Take a digital picture with a camera and/or phone and download it to your PC. - Done in 23 Things
  2. Register at Blogger and start a blog. Post every once in a while and add a photo. - Done in 23 Things
  3. Register at Bloglines and aggregate your blog and RSS subscriptions into one reader. Check out what other blogs aligns with your interests. - Done in 23 Things
  4. Look at Facebook and see the next generation of social networking.
  5. Set up a Flickr account and post a few digital photos online. Tag and annotate them. - Done in 23 Things
  6. Look at LibraryElf and see the potential for personal library tools.
  7. Check out LibraryThing and catalogue a few books from your personal collection. - Done in 23 Things
  8. Register at MSN Photo Album and build an album to share with friends, family or colleagues.
  9. Check out MySpace and see how this service has become so huge globally.
  10. Have some fun with the links on the Generator Blog. - Done in 23 Things
  11. Download Firefox and compare it to Explorer and Opera.
  12. Research bookmarklets and try a few.
  13. Revisit Yahoo! and remind yourself why it is visited more than Google.
  14. Learn about iFILM and viral video. - Done in 23 Things
  15. Get a PubSub account and start searching the future.
  16. Make a map of all the countries or states you've been to at Visited Countries.
  17. Experiment with some sound and picture search engines like Podscope.
  18. Try some new web search engines like, Wink, Gravee, Clusty, Mooter, Kartoo, etc., or others you can find at Search Engine Watch's list.
  19. Learn more about visual display tools like Grokker.
  20. Check out Google Base and see what the fuss is about.
  21. Register with NetFlix and rent a movie. Learn how to deal with streaming media. - Done on my own; I joined NetFlix 4 or 5 years ago.
  22. Get a account and play with social bookmarking and tags. - Done in 23 Things
  23. Play with Blinkx and learn about searching TV shows, video and podcasts. - Done in 23 Things
  24. Try MovieFlix too. There are plenty of free movies to learn to do this with.
  25. Set up a Google Picasa account. Post a picture and then edit it. - Done on my own.
  26. Download an MP3 file to your PC, laptop or phone. Try iTunes, LimeWire, Kazaa, or eDonkey. Look for something that's not music too. - Done on my own, constantly in the case of iTunes. Also, eDonkey has been shut down.
  27. Listen to a podcast. - Done in 23 Things
  28. Find your home and your office on Google Maps.
  29. Check out your local library's website. - Done on my own, many times.
  30. Change your ring tone so you don't jump when everyone else's default ring goes off. - Done on my own. The ringer is set to The Rolling Stones singing "Here Comes Your 19th Nervous Breakdown." It's appropriate.
  31. Visit the Google Labs site regularly.
  32. Set up a personalized Google or My Yahoo! page. - Done on my own.
  33. Play with JibJab.
  34. Play with Wikipedia. Edit an entry, feel the network. - Done on my own.
  35. Play with Copernic and extend your searching.
  36. Play an online multiplayer game.
  37. Take an e-learning course from Click University.
And, adding my own ...
  1. Create a podcast.
  2. Understand bit torrents.
Well, there will be more later.

23 Things - Done. Bring on more!

With this post, all 23 things on the list are done. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Learning 2.0 experience and am almost sad to be finished. Even when "learning" about websites I was already familiar with, I discovered new ways to use them and new things about them.

My favorite site was probably Flickr, which I had explored before but not as much as I should have. It's so wonderfully simple to add a picture to a blog from Flickr! I'll return to Technorati more often, and I'm not finished with my experiment at Consumating.

I enjoyed tracking other staff members' progress through the 23 Things and reading their opinions of each task. I was asked several times to help coworkers finish their tasks, and was honestly surprised at how much help some of them needed. It was a good reminder of how much help Virtual Village computer users will need with these concepts, and of how difficult it is for some people to "play" with a technology they don't know much about. I think they tend to get frightened and hesitant, and don't give themselves permission to poke around and figure things out. With Web 2.0 being perpetually beta, comfort with uncertainity is more and more of a necessity and I hope people will be able to adapt.

I've done the 23 Things, but I'm not done learning. I'll continue to update this blog with my experiences at Consumating, and I'm going to do the remaining items mentioned in the original 43 Things I Might Want to Do This Year article.

So stay tuned!

Consumating update

I've been playing around with Consumating for a few days; so far, I'm having lots of fun!

How Consumating is different from other dating sites:

Consumating SST Derek
Originally uploaded by JChristenbury.

  • No long profile to fill out; just answer questions posed to the entire membership (if you want to - no pressure). You can be sarcastic, goofy or serious, whatever works for you. You can also use pictures in your answers. Questions include "What skeletons live in your closet?" and "What's your favorite toy?"
  • Start a "conversation" - i.e., ask your own questions, get answers if everyone else thinks the question interesting enough.
  • Other members "tag" you, which lets you know more about what they think about you.
  • Your popularity is based more on answers to questions and conversations than how hot you look in a bikini. This is the point system the Wall Street Journal article talked about. You can get (or give) points from any other member, boy or girl, or even a visitor.
  • Frequent "real-life" parties to meet other members.
I'm having lots of fun answering the questions and reading other answers, but I'm not sure I see how Consumating works as a dating site. It's an enjoyable social networking site where you might find someone you're interested in, but I'm not sure how the matchmaking could happen. Maybe if there were more people signed up from the Charlotte area?

Since Consumating isn't all about matchmaking, I encourage everyone to sign up! It really is a lot of fun.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dvorak asks: "Does Web 2.0 = Dot-Com Bust 2.0?"

I've been meaning to post this for a while. PC Magazine's John Dvorak asks where the money for Web 2.0 is coming from, and how long it can be sustained. He also asks how YouTube ever expects to make money, a very good question.

New Elmo

Check out Lori's blog for a YouTube clip of the new TMX Elmo. C'mon, you know you want one!

PLCMC & NetLibrary

I'm not much of an audio book listener. Somehow, I need to see the words on the page to really grasp what's being said.

For me to listen to an audiobook, it's going to have to be easy to purchase, easy to listen to, and portable. (I cancelled my membership a few years ago because the files just weren't portable in any convenient way.)

To be completely honest, I probably won't listen to anything through PLCMC's partnership with NetLibrary because the files aren't compatible with my iPod. Not that other public libraries are doing any better; a quick search revealed that most are using either NetLibrary or OverDrive, both of which require Windows Media Audio DRM.

Nevertheless, I took a look at the offerings available to PLCMC patrons from NetLibrary. I found a surprisingly good "fiction & literature" collection, with lots of works by Southern authors like Lee Smith. Over one quarter of the 1,377 titles offered are classified as "mystery & suspense" - I wonder if there is data saying that mysteries are the most common type of audiobook purchased?

A few titles were miscategorized. For example, Salem's Lot by Steven King was in the health and medicine group, and Anne Perry's (fictional) Belgrave Square was categorized as non-fiction. Book descriptions were short or even missing; NetLibrary should think about allowing users to tag audiobooks, to provide more detail.

I did my exploration at a computer without speakers or headphones, so although I was able to download an audio book I was not able to listen to it. Downloading was easy, at least! There are a few NetLibrary titles that I might want to try downloading to my home computer so I can listen to them, including one of the recorded lectures.

Viral videos? Where's the doctor?

Being somewhat familiar with YouTube, I decided to explore other user-created video sites on the Internet. I was surprised by how many I found.

[Note:] Sites with * require you to watch ads before your video plays.

Many choices for browsing
For browsing, I still prefer YouTube, but I also like Veoh and DailyMotion. Like almost all video sites, clips play directly on these webpages.

Yahoo! Video and Google Video make browsing easy, although clips from Yahoo! Video sometimes open in a seperate player window, usually either Windows Media Player or Real Player, instead of playing directly on the site. AOL Video offers paid selections as well as user-contributed clips (as does Google Video). I also liked Atom Films*, an old-school viral video site that I hadn't visited in years.

GoFish was typical except for the annoying America's Dream Date clips that start playing as soon as you get to the site. Metacafe and ifilm* were also rather typical. A lot (but not all) of what's on view at MySpace is almost pornographic and generally NSFW (not safe for work).

Not your average video sites
Revver is a little different than most; they say they are "the first viral video network that pays." Each video has an ad at the end of it; each time a viewer clicks the ad, the video poster gets paid. YouAreTV has interesting and different clips; they say they offer "the best independent films, shows, and videos online," and it's true that the videos weren't your typical offerings but tended to be more serious. DailyMotion offers more international clips (like these from France) than other sites.

Blinkx for searching
With so many video clip websites around, a search service like is invaluable; blinkx searches even more video sites than I had already located. I ran my infamous fainting goats search, and blinkx found 25 videos from a wide variety of sources.

Favorite clips
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, told in Legos, from Veoh

Still Weathering the Storm, a Hurricane Katrina documentary by a group of kids, from YouAreTV

Bathtime in Clerkenwell (again) on Atom Films

Cats & Dogs, from Google Video

I don't think the dog is dead ...

Crying kid just won't stop, from AOL's UnCut Video

Hamster Dance, from MySpace videos

Get this video and more at

Martin Scorsese's Sesame Streets, from ifilm (Warning: Rated R for language)

Britian's Dumbest Criminal, from Metacafe

Britians Dumbest Criminal - video powered by Metacafe

Diet Coke and Mentos fountain, from GoFish

Very funny parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful"

Profile at Consumating

It's official. I've created my profile at Consumating. In interests of anonymity, the only pictures I've posted are of my feet. (I cringe when I think about the possibility of someone using the computers at Virtual Village recognizing me.) Thus begins a grand experiment in observing dating Web 2.0 style. Let's just see what makes this site so different, eh? Mind you I may not be ready to post a complete wrap-up of my experience before the PLCMC Learning 2.0 tasks are officially complete, but if you keep paying attention after it's over I'll let you know.

Oh yeah, there's a new Consumating badge in my sidebar. Go give me a thumbs up, please! I don't think you'll have to register or anything to do that. Feel free to add some tags to my profile as well, if you want.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Useful site I just found

Just sort of stumbled across a really great website/service called looks like a search engine, but instead of a keyword you type in a URL and get back a list of websites that are similar. For example, a search of returned links to Podcast Alley, Podcast Pickle, PodShow, Odeo, Yahoo! Podcasts and PodNova among others.

Sounds dirty to me

I decided to try, a web 2.0 social network/dating site, mostly because I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal about it Tuesday morning. Members rate each other by awarding points, and apparently the competition can be rather ferocious.

Click "Read more" for an intriguing quote from the article …

From "The Undateables," Wall Street Journal, Sept. 23, 2006, pg. 1:

"For Sarah Schoomer, it's meant focusing as much on trying to boost her ranking as on searching for a soulmate. … Ms. Schoomer thought she'd give a shot. … The site also seemed cooler than others, with its quirky ratings feature and offbeat questions that encourage sardonic responses. … But not long after her profile went up, the lines were silent. The site posts each member's popularity score, which changes based on positive comments from other users, and then ranks them accordingly. … [S]he took drastic action: a plea to the site's 20,000 members. … [T]hey doled [points] out to her liberally, and within days, she'd climbed to number 343. … After coming this far, Ms. Schoomer says she now worries that she could get so caught up in the popularity game that her true match could look right past her — or vice versa. "It does make me stop before posting something and wonder, 'Am I being authentic, or am I just saying something provocative?'"

So, as soon as I can figure out what name and "witty one-liner" to use on my profile, I'll sign up, explore and report back on

Quick update to podcasts

I got a chance to play around on my home computer for a few minutes this morning, and I've got to say that Yahoo! Podcasts integrates with iTunes beautifully. All I had to do was click the appropriate button on the My Subscriptions page at Yahoo!, then "open" the downloading file, and the podcasts were added to my iTunes podcast list to be synced to my iPod. Isn't it nice when something actually works the way it's supposed to?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Finding podcasts

I have iTunes installed on my computer at home, and it's so easy to use that I rely on it to find and listen to podcasts. But I know not all podcasts are listed with iTunes, so for this exercise I decided to try some new happy hunting grounds.

I tried:

Interface-wise, I definitely prefer Yahoo! Podcasts, which includes ratings from other listeners and some easy to follow instructions for creating your own podcast. And they get bonus points for making it so easy to listen to a podcast with just one click. (Although I was hoping The Dolphin Pod would feature dolphins talking, kinda like whale songs.)

Then again, is just as easy, with the added benefit of letting you see right away when the last podcast was posted (if you browse the categories on the front page); no use listening to a news podcast that was created in January of 2005!

Podcast Alley is a bit harder; you can listen to a podcast but the link for that is hard to find. It's much easier to find the "subscribe" link. Since podcasts are free, you may as well subscribe and cancel later if you hate it, I suppose. I like to listen to a snippet first, though. I often know in 5 seconds if I'm going to hate it. is the only service to feature a podcast player that's not a pop-up window, and has a broad listing of programs. The podcasts started playing very quickly, and continued to play as I browsed the listings some more. The podcast played smoothly as well, and wasn't interrupted by streaming problems. is still in "alpha"; right now, there's one directory of podcasts. Soon, the site promises, users will be able to create and share their own directories, so you can find listeners with similar tastes and grab podcasts from their directories.

Even if a podcast site doesn't have a built-in player, it's easy to subscribe to a podcast feed in Bloglines. Do just as you would to add any other RSS feed in Bloglines: copy the link for the RSS feed, navigate to Bloglines, and click "My Feeds." Then click "Add," directly below the "s" in Feeds. Paste the url for the RSS feed in the appropriate box and click subscribe, then answer the questions on the following page.. To listen to a feed in Bloglines, scroll to the bottom of the post and click the arrow on the blue icon. Warning: Navigating away from this post will stop the podcast.

Yahoo! Podcasts led me to The Definitive London Podcast, which is new to me and which I am quite enjoying as I type. This one might need to be added to my iTunes list so I can get it on my iPod, actually!

More 2.0 sites - this is fun!

As far as exploring new Web 2.0 sites, I glanced at a couple and decided to really explore one.

First, what I glanced at.

  • - How is this 2.0? Just because it allows players to tag games? Surely I'm missing something.
  • Fitness Journal - This looks great, but it's paid subscription based. I think I might visit again after I get paid on Friday!
  • NBBC - What a disappointment to realize this is a business-to-business undertaking and not somewhere I can watch videos of NBC television shows.
  • Last fm - Looks interesting, but since it requires installation I can't play with it at work.
  • I tried to play around with Cityfeeds, but the site just wouldn't open for me.
  • Coverpop is weird.

Web 2.0 sites

Looking at the SEOmoz list of Web 2.0 award nominees, I was struck by how many of the nominated sites I'm already familiar with. (Hello. I'm Jamie and I'm addicted to the Internet.) I guess I'm more familiar with Web 2.0 than I thought I was.

Where I've been:

Online word processors wrap-up

So, I've tried Zoho Writer and Writely. I also tried an online word processor called ajaxWrite. You've seen the results, so all that's left are my final impressions.

ajaxWrite didn't do much for me. I wasn't able to upload any existing Word documents to it, although I tried multiple times. I was able to type up a document, but could not change the text color, add a picture, or post to a blog. Disappointing.

Zoho Writer featured my favorite interface, and was easiest to navigate thanks to the "My Documents" pane. Performance was better than ajaxWrite, but Zoho Writer still didn't do everything I wanted it to. Almost all of the options were there on the toolbar, but the buttons stopped working on each of my documents. So I wasn't actually able to insert a picture or a special character, or to change the color of the font. Zoho Writer was the only application to successfully upload my Word docs, and it retained most of the original formatting although the line spacing was off enough that a two-page document grew to three pages. Spell check worked well, although without an "add to dictionary" option a word like "Mecklenburg" had to be corrected multiple times (or ignored). Zoho Writer's right-click menu was helpful, featuring cup, copy, paste, select all, make link and alignment options.

Writely was the best of the three at producing a final document similar to the Microsoft Word "control" document. I was able to insert a picture, change text size, color and font face, and so on. Spell check worked as well as Zoho Writer's, with the welcome addition of being able to add a word to the dictionary. Special character insertion was easy. The right-click menu allowed me to cut, copy, paste, select all and insert. Navigation was a little clunky, but not so much as to be incapacitating. However, I was not able to convince Writely to upload any of my Word documents; I even tried emailing them as the site suggested, but was unsuccessful that way as well. However, text pasted into Writely from Word retained almost all formatting.

Drawbacks common to both Zoho Writer and Writely are few:

  • Because the documents created are actually HTML, it's hard to work with pictures and text doesn't always wrap around them well.
  • There's no "reveal codes" tool to help you figure out what you've done wrong, but you can navigate to the HTML code for the document for troubleshooting.
  • There's no way to zoom in or out on your document, and no way to see how it's going to look on the printed page, even using print preview. (Especially troublesome with pictures.)
  • Font faces and sizes are limited to standard HTML choices.
  • Margins can only be changed using the printer properties feature when printing from the web.
Despite all the negative things I've said about them, these online word processors are actually darn useful! I would encourage a library patron creating a resume to use them, for example, so he or she can easily access the file from any Internet-connected computer without having to keep up with a floppy disk or purchasing a USB drive. Anyone who can use Word should be able to use either Zoho Writer or Writely, and for creating a simple document they would work beautifully.

What they looked like printed

As promised, I scanned the printouts from each of the online word-processing sites I used, Zoho Writer and Writely, as well as the "control" print from Microsoft Word. Click "Read More" to see the scans.

First, the "control" sample printed from Microsoft Word

control from Word
Originally uploaded by JChristenbury.

From Zoho Writer

zoho test
Originally uploaded by JChristenbury.

From Writely

writerly test
Originally uploaded by JChristenbury.

Posting from Word

Okay, I think the posting from Word didn't work because Blogger can't take Word files. I also tried to email the file as an attachment and received a message saying that was the problem anyway. So, this time I've just used copy & paste to get the Word version into the blog. Notice how the line spacing and sizing is still really off, and the picture still isn't showing up.

Click "Read more" to see the results.

Dear Emily,

Grab your swimsuit and sunglasses. We’ll be off to the beach in the next few days. Take enough clothes to stay a while. This will be a long vacation. We’ll be gone for several months. We’re booked on a cruise ship headed for the Greek Isles!

Don’t forget the suntan lotion!



Blogging from word processors

Still trying to figure out what I like and don't like about these online word processing programs. One thing I thought I'd better try out was posting to this blog from them.

To make things easier, I posted the same thing - the exercise from our Word Basics class - from Zoho Writer, Writely and, for control, in Microsoft Word, and then post each result to this blog. The assignment is to type out the following "Dear Emily" note, make it Comic Sans, font size 16, blue, bold text. Then I added a picture at the end (or tried to in the case of Zoho Writer). Here's what I got when I used Zoho Writer and Writely to post directly to this blog; from Microsoft Word I used the built-in email feature to send it here, and I'm still waiting for it to arrive. (And I don't know why the picture from Writely isn't showing up here.)

From Zoho Writer
Dear Emily, Grab your swimsuit and sunglasses. We'll be off to the beach in the next few days. Take enough clothes to stay a while. This will be a long vacation. We'll be gone for several months. We're booked on a cruise ship headed for the Greek Isles! Don't forget the suntan lotion! Love, Mom

From Writely
Dear Emily,

Grab your swimsuit and sunglasses. We'll be off to the beach in the next few days. Take enough clothes to stay a while. This will be a long vacation. We'll be gone for several months. We're booked on a cruise ship headed for the Greek Isles!

Don't forget the suntan lotion!


I also printed this exercise out from each of the three applications; I plan to scan the print-outs and post them as well if I ever get the chance.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

While I'm jumping ahead ...

I might as well jump some more.

Thinking about podcasts this time. I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately; in fact, until this past weekend that was pretty much the only thing I'd listened to on my fabulous new iPod (thanks again for the gift, bb). There are some great podcasts out there! There are some terrible ones too. My advice is to go for the professional podcasts instead of the personal ones, which are often self-aggrandizing by their very nature.

So, without further ado, a list of some of my favorite podcasts:

There are also some good podcasts from BBC, PBS and more from NPR.

P.S. There's a great list of popular podcasts at Yahoo! Podcasts.

Jumping ahead again - video on the Internet

I'd better blog about this now before I forget. Looking at the assignment about online video reminded me of a video I often show in my Internet Basics classes.

When demonstrating how search works I like to search for an interesting topic that will spark some interest in anyone who has been drifting away. We often search for fainting goats, which has the added benefit of being one of those phrases that comes up with different top results on different search engines, so it works really well.

The students always want to know what a fainting goat is. This is the video I show them to answer that question.


I made this:

It took over an hour, it wasn't easy, and the second page still looks awful. Oh well. I'm sharing anyway.

Web-based applications

I'm playing around with web-based applications; right now I'm testing out Writely and Zoho Writer. I've been messing around with Google Spreadsheets too.

It's too soon to have an opinion on any of these yet, although I will say I like the look of Writely quite a bit. Virtual is really busy and the Internet connection is getting pretty slow, so I'll add that web-based applications are great when you have a good connection but can drive you nuts when you don't.

Neat new (Web 2.0) book site

Well, I finished my beloved Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell this weekend, and have been at a total loss for what to read next. Nothing, but nothing, is going to be as good.

I got online to get some suggestions and came across the StoryCode website. At StoryCode, you "code" your books. Were they character or plot driven? Commonplace or exotic? Realistic or fantasy? Your books are given a number value for each variable; bover time, a good picture of what you like to read develops and books that fall within your results are recommended to you.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Almost caught up! Adding a post to PBwiki

Yay! I'm almost finished with this week's lessons, which is good 'cause the week is almost over. (It's 5:30 on Friday.)

I made a few posts at the PLCMC Learning wiki. I'd almost forgotten how easy it is to work with PBwiki. I really like PBwiki. (Although it's PmWiki I think will work best for my current project.)

My PBwiki (hpjc)

I've also looked at PBwiki this week. A year or more ago I decided to try creating my own wiki, just for practice, and set it up at PBwiki. I created it just for myself because I'm not very good at remembering character's names and am always getting stumped when a "new" character who has actually been around before is introduced into the Harry Potter story. But I abandoned the project before I got even a twelfth of the way finished and haven't been back to the site in many months.

Oddly, the same week that PBwiki is one of the 23 Things assignment, I received an email from PBwiki letting me know about cool new features, like tags and an API (application program interface, which is more or less what lets you create mashups, and which is way more than less over my head). The PBwiki team is also created a nice gui front-end for creating and editing pages.

I'd forgotten how much fun I had playing with my wiki, and was surprised at how good it looks now that I haven't seen it in a while. I was essentially typing up some annotations for the Harry Potter books; I've already made the notes, I just need to enter and link them. Maybe it's time to start doing that again.

Although at the moment I'd rather create a new wiki doing the same thing for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Wiki, Wiki everywhere but not a place to write

I've spent most of the latter part of the week searching for a wiki that allows moderation of content before it is published. I've realized I can't find it because moderation is completely anti-wiki; the admin is meant to trust the user both to not need moderation and to moderate other users. A scary proposition, but one which seems to work for Wikipedia, despite media claims to the contrary (although deliberate vandalism is still a major concern).

Certainly Wikipedia's coverage of the July 7, 2005 London transport bombings was incredibly well-done and absolutely up-to-the-minute as events unfolded. (As is the nature of Wikipedia, the most remarkable aspects of that coverage were erased very soon after they were added. In fact, it's that constant updating that made the page so remarkable. For similar responses to current news, try Wikinews.)

Since I like Wikipedia, I was looking forward to seeing what libraries are doing with wikis, I really was. I expected to see full-blown catalog wiki sites with long lists of reader comments and tags on each book. I expected library user comments on various reference sources. I was less than impressed with what I saw.

Wikis are the star of the show when it comes to the read/write web. Read what's there, and if you disagree or think something needs to be added, write it up! Simple.

Library wikis seem to have forgotten the "write" part. For example, the OCLC has apparently decided to call the OpenWorldCat a "wiki" because they accept user-written reviews. (Which, of course, Amazon has done for years.) Similarly, the Princeton Public Library wiki has some great book reviews written by patrons, but ... That's it. No responses to the reviews, no comments, no tags. (The reviews are so well-done I hope they continue the project now that summer reading is over, BTW.)

I honestly can't see what makes the University of South Carolina Aiken library site a wiki except that it happens to be run off PmWiki software. The Bull Run library site adds some RSS feeds by being a wiki, but again I don't see any "write" elements except the ability to add favorite books to the library's LibraryThing list, "an experiment in opening up this wiki to external input (Seeing that Recommend a Book didn't result in many recommendations)." If there's another "write" component, I can't find it. The Beth Page Public Library Wiki seems to be just one static page, but calls itself a wiki.

According to the University of Calgary wiki, a wiki is characterized as "an open, collaborative website that allows anyone to add and edit pages." I suspect that while library staff see these websites as wikis, the public sees them as typical websites.

As I said, I was disappointed. I was hoping for something created by both a library and its users.

I know that for libraries the wikis I've mentioned are baby steps, that getting staff to use a wiki is hard enough, that most libraries aren't philosophically ready to surrender control of content to the users. (Some library organizations, like LISWiki, are brave enough to allow library-connected users to post to their pages and have gotten some terrific results.) Maybe a nice transitional step is to convert the PLCMC intranet to a wiki?

As we move towards real wikis, we should all read the Cluetrain Manifesto's 95 Theses at least once a week to remind us where we are trying to go and why. And if it's any consolation, private industry is struggling with wikis as well.

Interesting fact: Most of the library wikis are run off PB Wiki. Hmm. Wonder if they are using the paid version?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Banned Books Week, Sept. 23-30

All about me, from Blogthings

You Are a Life Blogger!

Your blog is the story of your life - a living diary.
If it happens, you blog it. And make it as entertaining as possible.

Your Career Type: Artistic

You are expressive, original, and independent.
Your talents lie in your artistic abilities: creative writing, drama, crafts, music, or art.

You would make an excellent:

Actor - Art Teacher - Book Editor
Clothes Designer - Comedian - Composer
Dancer - DJ - Graphic Designer
Illustrator - Musician - Sculptor

The worst career options for your are conventional careers, like bank teller or secretary.

Your Linguistic Profile:
45% General American English
35% Dixie
10% Yankee
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

You Belong in San Diego

Laid back and friendly, you were meant to live most of your life on the beach.
You usually think everything is "all good"... except when the weather dips under 60F.
You stay classy - especially when you're in Tijuana!

Your Theme Song is Back in Black by AC/DC

"Back in black, I hit the sack,
I've been too long, I'm glad to be back"

Things sometimes get really crazy for you, and sometimes you have to get away from all the chaos.
But each time you stage your comeback, it's even better than the last!

You Belong in Amsterdam

A little old fashioned, a little modern - you're the best of both worlds. And so is Amsterdam.
Whether you want to be a squatter graffiti artist or a great novelist, Amsterdam has all that you want in Europe (in one small city).

Brainy Kid

In high school, you were acing AP classes or hanging out in the computer lab.

You may have been a bit of a geek back then, but now you're a total success!

In a Past Life...

You Were: A Charming Herbalist.

Where You Lived: Austria.

How You Died: Killed in Battle.

You Are A Rowan Tree

You are full of charm and cheer. You light up a room.
And while you crave attention, you do it without ego.
You are an interesting mix of contradictions - and very unpredictable.
You are both dependent and independent, calm and restless.
You are passionate, emotional, gregarious, and (at times) unforgiving.

I was a swan!

You Were a Swan

You are a spiritual soul who sees into the future.
You are also good at interpreting dreams - those of yourself and others.

Jessmage on Library 2.0

I've been reading other people's Learning 2.0/23 Things blogs, and I've come across some really good stuff. Jessmage at "More from the World of Randomness" has some great things to say about Library 2.0 and how staff levels sometimes keep us from doing what our patrons really need.

Sitting in front of the computer ... for HOW long?

Great post from Susan over at "Susan's Blog." She wonders if the Internet and blogging will replace face-to-face interaction, and how anyone finds time to read the thousands of great blogs and websites and still fit in books, newspapers and magazines.

I wonder too, Susan. There are hundreds of books I want to read but can't get around to, and over 200 RSS feeds in an old Bloglines account that I have just given up on. Somehow, sitting in a dark room reading from a computer screen makes me feel anti-social and reclusive, in a way that reading a book in front of the TV does not. (Which really doesn't make sense because I'm alone in both cases.)

I know people who sit in front of the computer all night; I can't see how they do it. I connected with someone I met online a few months ago and we've had a relationship for a while, all conducted through instant messaging. Chris thinks nothing of being online for 4 or 5 hours a night, and absolutely all day on weekends. Just thinking about doing that gives me a sick, queasy feeling. And I can't really explain why.

I don't know. I work in front of a computer 8 hours a day; I just don't want to sit in front of one all of my off-time too.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A few quick links

The British Library gets interactive.

Read/Write Web analyzes and compares social bookmarking services like, diigo and Ma.gnolia. Many comments, which are interesting in their own right.

Here's one library user (okay, an author) who doesn't approve of Library 2.0.

Library ghosties. Maybe that's why our computers get so slow sometimes - the ghosts are sapping all the electrical energy.

We used to have a wiki ...

Originally uploaded by JChristenbury.

Wikis. We used to have a wiki. Her name was VViki. She was very helpful when we needed to get a phone number for the nearest Internet cafe or the URL of the local Employment Security Commission. But she's dead now. She lived on one of Rogan's computers and stuck around for a while after he left, but she's gone now. Her icon and shortcut live on on the desktop of our service desk computers!

Library 2.0 links

While researching Library 2.0, I came across some really good blog posts about the subject that I couldn't work into my own write-up. They're still interesting, though, so here they are.

T. Scott doesn't have a problem with the idea of Library 2.0, he just really dislikes the name. He believes that what we're calling Library 2.0 is really just an extension of the librarian/community relationship already in place in good libraries.

Mr Krumpus at Library of Terror thinks Library 2.0 is mostly a marketing term and an attempt to woo "millenials" who will eventually grow up and change their ways. He poses some interesting questions about what a library is, and I agree with some of his answers.

Jessamyn at, whom I discovered at Ask Metafilter and only later realized is a brilliant librarian, talks about how to share Library 2.0 ideas and adds, "Our patrons share their hopes and dreams and foibles and ambitions with us all the time, it may be time to give back, become more interactive and collaborative, make that door swing both ways. This is what Library 2.0 means to me."

If I find more, I'll post them too!

Library 2.0 audio blog recap

In case you don't want to listen to my lurvely audio posts, here's a recap.

Firstly, I want to make clear that I believe Library 2.0 is absolutely vital to the survival of libraries around the world. Libraries have always changed as society changed; to take the most basic of examples, we don't rent reel-to-reel movies anymore but we do have DVDs. In many ways, Library 2.0 is no different. A bigger step for some of us, yes, but still a step that today's culture (and tomorrow's, presumably) insists that we take.

The articles from OCLC were generally very good, and did a good job explaining what the vision for Library 2.0 really is. I do have one little semantic quibble and one major reservation about 2.0 as they presented it, though.

My quibble is one that Helene alluded to in her introduction to this exercise when she said, "Others within the profession have asserted that libraries have always been 2.0; collaborative, customer friendly and welcoming." If Web 2.0 means "the read-write web," where users post comments that then become part of the webpage's content, it follows that part of Library 2.0 is "the read-write library."

That, we've always been. A simple example: you recommend a book to someone. She comes back and tells you she hated it. You recommend the same book to someone else. He also hates it. You may recommend it a third time, but you'll likely include the warning that not everyone will like it and it isn't to everyone's taste. You have absorbed the feedback from the first two readers and used it as part of your presentation to the third reader. That's what librarians and library staff do: evaluate something (a book, a reference source, etc.), use it or recommend it, gather new information and opinions about it, revaluate it, and so on, continuously.

Our technology, however, could use a bit of catching up with what we humans do so well. A library catalog with tags? Great. Or how about "favorite users" who post lists of what they read so I can find someone with matching tastes? Or at least a book recommendation engine as good as the one at

On to my more serious reservation. In the "Away from Icebergs" article, Rick Anderson says, We need to focus our efforts not on teaching research skills but on eliminating the barriers that exist between patrons and the information they need, so they can spend as little time as possible wrestling with lousy search interfaces and as much time as possible actually reading and learning. ... But if our services can’t be used without training, then it’s the services that need to be fixed—not our patrons. One-button commands, such as Flickr’s “Blog This,” and easy-to-use programs like Google Page Creator, offer promising models for this kind of user-centric service.

I'm not sure what kind of computer users Mr. Anderson is used to seeing in his Reno, Nev. library. But the ones we see in Virtual Village often don't understand what a webpage is, much less a blog, and one-click services do them no good until they learn how to click. The read-write web is beyond them, as they are just now learning about the web in general These users still need a great deal of training; many of them aren't ready for Library 1.0 yet, and will be utterly baffled by 2.0. As Michael Golrick says in his Thoughts from a Library Administrator blog, "So many of the technology solutions included in the discussions of Library 2.0 completely disenfranchise those who are on the wrong side of the Digital Divide."

And there's another group of computer users we see who, although they could learn to do things on their own, prefer not to. Some lack the confidence and want someone on staff to stand beside them as they work so they don't "break the computer" (which I tell them they probably couldn't do with a steel-toed boot.) They are the nervous ones, who will always need our help.

There are also the flat-out lazy ones who see no reason to do something if they can get someone else to do it for them. I don't like sounding so negative about them but I don't know how else to describe them.

These two groups are the ones who don't want to make their own computer reservations through EnvisionWare, who want us to walk to their computers with them and type in the card number (we don't, but they wish we did), who never even think of looking at our map to figure out where their assigned computers are. They are either not ready to be empowered, or do not want to be empowered (because empowerment carries with it some responsibility for your own actions?). Are we saying we don't want these passive computer users anymore?

I know, actually, that we're not overtly saying that. But I do worry that our staffing levels will be so changed by Library 2.0 expectations that we will not be able to provide the kind of service they need or desire. (A part of me says that's fine, especially in the case of the capable but unwilling, but another part squawks that Virtual Village sees a lot of these people every day and they are a part of our user base.)

I said I had a reservation about Library 2.0. On second thought, it's not really a reservation, just a caution that we can't forget the users who aren't 2.0 ready.

One more thing that's been on my mind about Library 2.0 is that it invalidates our traditional method of judging a library's success: circulation numbers and door count. If library users don't even have to come to our building to use our services because they are online, these measures are no longer valid. They no longer present a descriptive picture of how well we are serving the community.

Even the statistics that we gather quarterly about reference activity cease to have meaning if our goal is to have that information available to our users so that they don't have to ask us for help. I feel like we're being pulled in two directions: while we're working so hard to build Library 2.0, I still sense a lot of pressure to maintain or increase our door count and circ numbers.

From the Web 2.0 Logo Creator

Generated Image

Create your own at the Web 2.0 Logo Creator.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

One more post for today

Just when I was getting ready to fuss at Helene for posting comments at 9 p.m., I realized there was one more link I wanted to share. Not about Library 2.0 - wait, maybe it is about Library 2.0, and why it's becoming so necessary.

Why don't people read for pleasure? As a booklover it's hard for me to understand, but this article by Michael Silverblatt might just explain it.

Library 2.0 audio post - Part II

this is an audio post - click to play

Library 2.0 audio post - part I

this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, September 18, 2006

Library 2.0 Idea Generator

Okay, I'm supposed to be off work today and I've absolutely got to go to the grocery store soon, but this is too wonderful not to blog: The Library 2.0 Idea Generator. Very tongue-in-cheek, but fun!

What is Web 2.0?

In case you're having trouble getting a grip on what Web 2.0 really means, here's a website that collects the logos and a bit of information about every Web 2.0 site they could think of. (I've also seen Web 2.0 described as "the read-write web," if that helps.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Technorati, then

Until today, I hadn't visited the Technorati website in ages. Last time I was there it was just a plain old search engine, only it searched blogs. Now it's much more, and I like it!

Plus, I went to claim my blog and found that someone had already linked to it! That's cool! (And thanks.)

Anyway, Technorati would have been very useful last night when I was looking to see if there was anyone online discussing the Goldrush game at AOL. (There are lots of people discussing it in the blogosphere, by the way. And you should play; it's a chance to win a bunch of money from the people who make Survivor. If you decide to play, I wanna be your buddy. I'm

So now I know, to get a handle on what's buzzing in the blogs, use Technorati.

Deli-style, then. Well, let's see. I've been using since February of 2005, and already have 353 bookmarks there.

So, is it useful for research? Yes and no. Frankly, it depends on how internet-savvy the researcher is.

For me, it's a wonderful tool; all I have to do is click a tag I've added to one of my bookmarks, then click "all" on the next page, and now I've got a big long list of sites other people think are relevant to that topic. A quick glance at how many other people have bookmarked a site gives me some idea how useful it will be. (Early on, I found tons of knitting sites this way.) Or, I can just search for a tag using the search feature, and get a surprisingly long list of links about the Brontë family.

The kicker is that, as with everything else on the Internet, you will have to use discretion about which sources are credible and which not worth your time. "Trusted users" (i.e., your network) will help to combat this problem.

As much as I personally like, I doubt I will recommend it to Virtual Village computer users very often. For one thing, they generally don't understand tags (which in their simpliest iteration are merely self-chosen keywords) or even bookmarks; I just don't think they'd understand what they were looking at on the site. They also aren't typically very good at recognizing untrustworthy websites.

By the way, if you like, check out the Absolutely Tools Collection.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Snowy Minster
Originally uploaded by jimoftheday.
I'm finally reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and it is indeed as wonderful as everyone said it was. I'm so happy it's so long as that means I get to live in that world for a while!

One of the pivotal scenes takes place in Yorkminster on a snowy morning.

Mood Portrait by Ryan Terry

I've been meaning to add this image for a few days, and finally got around to doing a screen capture for it this morning. (It's created in Flash, so a screen capture is the only way to grab it, although you can print it from Flash.)

This mood portrait was created using Ryan Terry's generator, which I actually mentioned a few days ago. The things Terry's generator comes up with are so pretty, I just wanted you to see one. Please, go try it out!

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