Monday, 9 August 2010

Thing 23: Final thoughts

Which Things did you find most useful, or thought-provoking?

I had better admit, here at the end of 23things, that my personal Web 2.0 use pattern is not markedly different from what it was at the beginning. My most useful things are still the ones I was finding indispensable already: Doodle, Google Docs, Google Calendar.

I have begun to see a bit more of the point to RSS feeds, and to use Google Reader in a big way. I suppose RSS feeds and Google Reader may be said to fill each other's gaps.

The most thought-provoking things will have been Twitter, Google Reader and Marketing.

In the case of Twitter, I found myself defending my enthusiasm for that resource in the face of other participants' deep aversion to the same thing, though we ended by agreeing to differ.

Google Reader was thought-provoking, not so much in itself, as by serving as the medium for all the other cam23 blogs. I didn't devote a post to it.

Marketing asked for thought explicitly: the question posed by the instructions, "Blog about how you feel about the marketing opportunities that social media now offers and specifically about one tool or strategy you are going to adopt to promote your service as a result of your participation in Cam23", was in essence an invitation to think.

Which didn't you find useful at all?

LinkedIn is the one I saw no need to create an account for. Zotero is the one that put up the most resistance to being used, and my need for it has not so far been strong enough to overcome that resistance.

Which have you persisted with?

The trick that scores highest for both newness and persistability -- i.e. I wasn't doing it at all before, and am doing from time to time now -- is the embedding of screenshots and other images. But I'm not much given to using pictures anywhere, and I don't think cam23 has changed that.

What about Web 2.0 and social media? How do you think they are shaping library services?

I can mention some visible trends, like the help that social media give to communication, both within library staff and between staff and users, and the hope that these are making libraries more responsive to users' needs.

Social media and libraries are a research question, that one could spend three years answering. Arcadia showcases some of the investigations that have been going on into small parts of the question. Any attempt I may make to answer it is going to read a bit like the 5-word essay in Willy Russell's Educating Rita, on the difficulties of staging Peer Gynt: "Do it on the radio."

And how theatre and radio have shaped each other.

Thing 22: Wikis

I admit that my own use of wikis has, so far, been very limited. Wikipedia is often my first port of call for factual information, even with all the caveats that need to be borne in mind there. My tiny contributions to that resource are enumerated in an earlier post.

And I have signed up for TeachMeet in the prescribed wiki way.

I sent an email round the Haddon team, earlier in the year, that said, in different words, "We'll get up a wiki when I've done 23things, you see if we don't." What I had in mind at that time was a replacement for emails in the description of tasks. Emails for that purpose have a way of drawing queries, which then need answers in the form of clarifications, which, to avoid a need for cross-reference between emails, means revised re-sending of the original emails.

A library application that immediately suggests itself is the planning of events. I was struck by the similarity between the holiday-planning wiki of Wikis in plain English and the emails that fly round the Haddon team in the run-up to, for instance, an Alumni Weekend presentation. A wiki serves in a situation where people are in broad agreement about the task to be accomplished, and are in discussion about means. A wiki about what was to be accomplished, and why, would presumably be harder to manage, though Wikipedia's continuing usefulness amid endless contentions is a demonstration of what is possible in that line.

Having, therefore, an application in mind already, I have put off the task of exploring all the wikis listed in the Library Success Wiki, LibraryWikis, and Anna Laura Brown's Wikis for Libraries site. For the moment, it is enough that wikis offer great improvements in method for what we are doing already. There's a limit to how much new I can do at a time....

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Thing 21: podcasting and YouTube

What did you think of the library podcasts you listened to/viewed? Might you start subscribing to podcasts or consider podcasting yourself? Or alternatively have you got an idea for a library video to go on YouTube? What do you think about using the audio-visual medium to reach library users? Optional extra: Creating your own podcast

My best answer to any of those questions lies at the intersection of all of them. Having watched the library videos, and having, from time to time, fantasised about doing something similar, I explored the possibilities of the webcam I use for Skype, and found that the Logitech software's help pages were in the form of animated slide sequences. I feared that that instructions for use taken by that medium might be hard to remember, but it turned out not to be so. I watched the slideshow to the end, followed its instructions around the icons and buttons, and filmed myself singing 'I must not show off in the library'. That video will never go up on YouTube, but its shortcomings do not reflect on the instructions from Logitech.

So how do the library videos and podcasts (hereinafter LVPs) compare with the Logitech instruction slideshow?

It's not a strict comparison of like with like, because the LVPs serve a slightly different function. Their aim is to convey an impression, or inculcate an attitude, rather than guide the viewer through a precise sequence of actions. Success for the LVPs is thus not only harder to achieve but harder to measure. What information about classification does the audience take away from Romance of the living book? How is the audience affected by the difficulty of skimming, and of copying and pasting, in videos and podcasts compared to text-based documents? What is done to the message by ironic touches like the twist at the end of A plagiarism adventure or the wholly parodic content of Harper College's Tour the library? (Irony is the blind spot in my own sense of humour.) Have the LVPs, like songs, a value independent of the message driving them? And can the success of the LVPs, however measured, be held up to the more obviously measurable costs, in time, money and materials, of their making?

Further research needed. The short, provisional answer is that library videos get made by librarians with a passion for making videos, who may or may not be all the more pleased to be exercising this at work. But I'm glad that llordllama gets a mention. His prolific video output is sometimes to do with his day job as Document Supply and Repository Manager at Leicester University, and sometimes not.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Thing 20: Google Documents

Google Docs is another of those applications that have established themselves as almost indispensable. Flawed but almost indispensable. And only almost indispensable.

Let's take those qualities in turn.

The near indispensability

Google Docs fits any situation where documents need to be accessed by more than one user, or from more than one computer. I have found it of more value, so far, within the family than at work. Notable successes are:
  • a log where progress on certain shared concerns can be recorded by all involved
  • a spreadsheet for names and contact details of people to whom we send Christmas cards, updatable as readily from the computers of Christmas hosts as at home, with no problem arising from divergence of versions
  • spreadsheets showing birthday & Christmas presents given, enabling us to track their progress from bright idea through purchase and dispatch to presentation, and likewise updatable with no risk of divergent versions
The flaws

Google Docs can be unpredictable. One of the documents named above has been known to revert without warning to a previous version. That's very rare, but the fact that it happens at all vitiates the main selling point. Commands can be a bit wayward: in preparing a document (see screenshot) earlier today, by way of cam23 homework, I found awkward periods where neither mouse nor keyboard would let me scroll to the right. Google spreadsheets appear to offer no function for copying and pasting additional material into a cell: pasting, so far as I can tell, has to be done over the cell's current contents. An attempt, at work, to share a document with members of the Library Committee met with complaints that they had been unable to access it, for reasons that were undiscernible to me. Google Docs is sometimes choosy about formats, without warning: the spreadsheet you see above, originally created in Open Office Calculator, had to be saved as .xls before Google would upload it without unexplained server errors and requests to wait.

(Following the instructions, I uploaded it for sharing with a colleague. Sarah Humbert is responsible for the turquoise.)

The distance from indispensability

Google Docs is dispensable because it is not unique. There's Ulteo , which I used before I knew of Google Docs, and which does something similar, albeit with more difficulty and with a need for paid susbcription. There's Zoho, which Kirsty's instructions point us to; I looked at it, said "Wow" and did not explore further, but took note of its existence in case Google should ever disappear. And there's the data-stick. Yes, the data-stick goes with copies and multiplying versions, and is part of the problem that Google Docs exists to solve. But that's not to say that we couldn't go back to the data-stick if Google Docs showed itself unusable.