Friday, May 30, 2008

Random Ideas

I was in downtown Lock Haven, PA last weekened while they were setting up for their Memorial Day celebrations. They had an interesting and moving display - there were banners on all of the streetlights and each banner had a different veteran's photo. The theme was "Hometown Heroes" and people or organizations sponsored each one. They just had a photo, the name, and which war they served in. Their newspaper had a series of stories about individuals shown in those photos.

Since Computers in Libraries, I have been keeping my eyes open for ways we can get students involved in our marketing, esp. things we could put up on our blog. This has me thinking about something like Hometown Heroes, like having students submit photos of vets who are special to them for Veteran's Day with a paragraph about what the person means to them. The problem is we can't say "hometown" since most won't be from Williamsport, and many won't have photos with them at school, and it will be just for Veteran's Day. Anyway, it doesn't really have anything to do with the library.

We're going to interview faculty about books that changed their lives. I'm hoping to record the interviews and post them as podcasts throughout the year. But I also want some good ideas for students. I'd like to think of something they can submit to me that I can post on the blog. Or any other online format, for that matter.

I'm also thinking about instruction ideas for next year. I'd like to introduce excercises on paraphrasing and note taking, and get them to review each others' work. I really need to improve the amount of active learning exercises I do, and these things go beyond just using the databases.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Interesting Story

Here is an interesting story involving Harry Potter and libraries. A part-time librarian was forced out of her job after objecting to dress up like a witch for an after-hours Harry Potter party. I personally feel that people who are against Harry Potter are usually ignorant, I still respect people's right to free speech. However, there are a lot of questions I'd like to have answered. Was she given the option of not dressing up but still working? I don't think it would go over well if I told them I wasn't coming in during one of our big events. I'm sure this was an event where all hands were needed on deck, and that some reasonable accomidation could have been made.

If I can find out more about what her options were, I'll post it here.

I return... finallly

I just got back from a 5-day weekend and then couldn't think of anything to write yesterday. I'm sure I'll come up with a few things today. Right now, it's about literature. I get a publisher's e-newsletter called Shelf Awareness each day, and occasionally they have a section called Book Brahmins where someone in the business gets interviewed about books. Here is what I would write:

On your nightstand now:
The Fingersmith

Favorite book when you were a child:
Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. My mother used to read it to me and I can still recite a lot of it from memory. My favorite was The Worst, where the poem describes a big, hairy, bloody monster, and the last line is "he's standing right behind you!" I screamed every time. She read it to me again when I was a teenager and I still screamed.

I also loved a beautiful book called something like Mr. Pengachusa. I can't find it anymore, or even how to spell it. It was a collection of stories told by a pet hamster to a little girl who had scarlet fever and was isolated from her friends and toys. When she gets better, the hamster disappears.

Your top five authors:
Jane Austen, Amy Tan, Isabel Allende, C.S. Lewis, and Cornelia Funke

Book you've faked reading:
Lots of what I had to read in college since it was in foreign languages. Proust, Rousseau, Diderot, and I can't even remember the German books I faked. Somehow I got good grades anyway.

Book you are an evangelist for:
Oh, so many! Any of my top favorites, like The Great Divorce, Daughter of Fortune, My Sister's Keeper, Lovely Bones, Kite Runner, Inkheart, Count of Monte Cristo (though no one has taken me up on that one yet).

Book you've bought for the cover:
Inkheart. It has such a beautiful cover, and the book ended up being just as good. I also got Silverthorn for the cover because it was my favorite painting by Don Maitz, who does fantasy artwork.

Book that changed your life:
The Great Divorce. I was at a very confused part of my life and was just starting to put the pieces together. My Bible study leader gave me a xeroxed copy of one chapter, and I liked the first few paragraphs so much, I got it out of the school library and spent a Friday night reading it from cover to cover. It's an amazing story, almost haunting. I reread it a few weeks ago and it was just as powerful, esp. the parts about the nagging wife since I'm getting married soon and sometimes nag my fiance.

Favorite line from a book:
Roughly translated from The Little Prince: "It is only with the heart that one sees rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

Book you most want to read again for the first time:
That's another hard one. Probably To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a classic I never had to read. Since it was a classic, I wasn't interested. But I was bored once, so I picked up the old paperback copy off my parents' shelf and started reading... I think it is the best book ever written since it transcends so many boundaries: age, gender, time period, life experience...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Best Environmental Awareness Ad Ever

I just ran into this on YouTube. My mind is racing on how I could use this concept in my online tutorials...

creepy treehouses

I ran into a blog that discusses the issue of the "creepy treehouse." What this term refers to is adults trying to lure children in by making something look like fun. In the technology world, this is being applied to adults trying to create stuff for young adults, such as librarians and educators getting involved in MySpace and Facebook. See Barbara's post for a more eloquent explanation.

I have heard reports that performed surveys of college students and very few wanted librarians involved in Facebook. They see that as their space, meant for socialization, and they don't want us stalking them there. So many librarians are talking about using social networking tools to "meet the students where they are." I haven't bought into that. I mean, I don't want anyone bothering me there unless I ask them to. I do use these to keep in touch with friends from grad school. Some students here have chosen to make me their friend and invite me to join groups, but only two students have ever contacted me that way and it wasn't for anything library-related.

I don't see anything wrong with making Facebook widgets available since you can do so much with the same widgets in other places. I definitely don't plan to stalk down our students through these means, and now I have a great term to back up my excuses!


I finished the book Atonement a few days ago and ran across an interesting information issue that I had discussed in my international information class in grad school. It is the issue of libel. I don't understand it in the U.S. as it's such a subjective issue. My example in class was, it's okay to run into your neighbor and say "I think the maintenance guy stole something out of my apartment," but you can't write it that same thing out and slip it in all of your neighbors' mailboxes. Or can you even say that casually without possible legal problems? Can you not say anything unless you can prove it's true? Where do you draw the line between gossip/free speech, and libel? How does the National Enquirer and Star magazine get away with their headlines (how many times have Brad and Angelina broken up?).

At least in the U.S. if you get sued, the other person has to prove you committed a crime. The issue is much crazier in Great Britain. If you're accused of libel, you have to prove you didn't do it. Proving something didn't happen is a lot more difficult to do than to prove it did. At the end of Atonement, the main character is going to publish the book the reader just read, but has to wait until all of the characters are dead. It made it seem like this is a law, and not just avoiding getting sued. And even if Europeans are probably less litigious than us, don't think that Brits aren't concerned with libel.

I find this difference in such a confusing issue absolutely fascinating.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Britannica & Free Blogger Access

So I got permission to use and link to Britannica a few weeks ago, but I foldered the e-mail and haven't gone back to it since. But I was reading the Liminal Librarian, who linked to the Wikipedia article in Britannica (to play with her new access) and I found that once you get in through a blog, you can move around to the links on the page. You can even use their search box to get to other articles that aren't related. This seems extremely generous... which makes me nervous! Call me skeptical!

Anyway, try it out: Web 2.0

I actually like the layout of this better than the main layout. I know the main layout has many more features, and some of these features are really cool (I was fascinated by the desktop feature I saw demonstrated in a Webinar a few months ago). However, I was playing around with it while working on my "game" and trying to get students looking at the articles and found that it wasn't obvious there were another 29 pages to the article. I thought those two paragraphs were the entire article, which was terribly incomplete. The table of contents is also much better and clearer in this bloggers' format (check out the article on "petroleum").

I do see how linking to this can be useful, and will try to remember this more often when I write!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where's George

I came back from grabbing lunch at the snack stand to find two one-dollar bills on the library floor, just inside the front door. I just went out quickly and had some money in my pocket, so I'm not sure if I dropped it or if someone else did. I don't think it was there when I left 3 minutes before. Anyway, one of them was stamped on the front and back in red ink, telling me to go to and find out where my new dollar has been. It seems to be pretty new and only one other person has registered it so far, in New Enterprise, PA (what kind of a name is that???). You can see my report here (they even make it clear what the URL is so you can send it to friends or post it on your blog!).

This is really fun. I couldn't resist running to my computer to find out where this has been. There are all kinds of fun tools and stats to look at (PA is the second largest bill-enterers!).

Here's to bringing fun Web 2.0 tools to the masses!

Library Video Game

I spent a large part of the weekend working on my Flash ActionScript programming to make an educational video game for our English composition course (the basic research paper). It's nowhere close to being finished, but you can get through it all the way.
Last week, I looked up Camtasia's ability to create interactive components to tutorials. I was able to get Flash last year and learned the basics back then, though drew the line at programming anything more complicated than a button. I believe I could have done this with much less of a learning curve with Camtasia or the other one they're always talking about on listservs, including multiple choice quizzes at the end. And they probably would have been able to print at the end how many the student got right. The idea of having wasted time learning Flash upset me, though getting the software might have been more difficult than getting Flash (it turned out the college had an extra, unused license at the time).
Anyway, I guess that helped me find a bit more motivation to learn some basic programming to

move beyond what Camtasia could do (it's the stubborn Irish blood coming out in me). You can actually do quite a lot with just Beginning Game Programming for Dummies and some good problem-solving skills. I can now tally up how many right answers a student gets for text-input, multiple-choice, and drag & drop questions. I can make a little guy move and send him to new screens when he runs into a particular area. I can make the buttons move around the page and move to the next screen only when they have clicked on all of the right buttons... okay, so that might not sound like all that much, but you can do a lot with it.
I'm hoping some of my colleagues and fellow librarian friends can help me come up with some other activities to make this more fun and varied. Please send me any ideas you have!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Here Comes Everybody

I finished Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody last night. I had read a review on Shelfari that said this book didn't say anything new, but was still worth reading. I think that sums things up. Anyway, here are some of the interesting points I took away.

  • Communications between groups is part of what makes us human, so any technologies that change how we do that will change society.
  • There are three levels of interactivity that increase in difficulty: Sharing (Flickr), Collaborating (Wikipedia), and collective action.
  • Not just anything counts as "user-generated content," it has to find an audience first.
  • Lots of the stuff on MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter (etc.) seems so banal and pointless. Why is that? Because they're not talking to you! This is interesting since it's a public place to write messages to only certain people.
  • There are some times when people don't want professionally-produced content. He gives the example of singing Happy Birthday to his kids, they don't want a recording. This extends to journalism, photography, and other things as well.
  • In the past, there was Broadcast Media, which was one-way and one-to-many; and there was Communications Media, which was two-way and usually one-t0-one. Now we have ways of producing content that can be many-to-many. However, fame still applies. A famous blogger cannot give each reader individual attention, it's not socially possible with the imbalance of writers to readers.
  • "Communications tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring" (105).
  • Wikipedia is the result of a never-ending, collective argument.
  • In the 1960's, they thought improved communications would cut down on people's reason to travel. Evidence has since shown that the opposite is true. The better communication systems are, the more people travel.
  • New technologies make it easier for odd people to find each other, such as Meetup helping stay at home moms (SAHMs), witches, ex-Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. It also helps terrorists and groups that don't have societal approval like the pro-anorexia movement.
  • Throughout the book, there is a theme of the online influencing real life, rather than replacing it. People are using online tools to act on real problems, to create support groups, and to meet up with people who have unusual shared interests. People aren't just sitting around on their computers and not meeting people face to face.

There was an interesting quote that involved librarians that I would love to hear him talk about more, since he studies information but not in the context of libraries. The first quote was this:

"In particular, when a profession has been created as a result of some scarcity, as with librarians or television programmers, the professionals are often the last ones to see it when that scarcity goes away. It is easier to understand that you face competition than obsolescence" (58-59).

That's the last time he mentions librarians, but shortly after he continued a similar train of thought:

"Professional self-conception and self-defence, so valuable in ordinary times, become a disadvantage in revolutionary ones [...] In some cases the change that threatens the profession benefits society, as did the spread of the printing press; even in these situations, the professionals can be relied on to care more about self-defense than about progress. What was once a service is now a bottleneck."

The printing press comment was talking about its effect on the professional scribes, and how it made them obsolete. I don't think he thinks that tv programmers are in danger, but I don't know what he means by librarians. Does he think we are obsolete? I really want to ask...

So overall, after being very impressed with the talk he gave at a Web 2.0 conference, I guess I had expectations that were too high of this book. Still, I got some interesting points. It may have all been said before, but it is said in a new way, he's very easy to read, and he illustrates his points with great examples.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So much to say

I am really liking a blog I recently started reading, called Please Be Quiet. She was able to go to LOEX 2008 and provides summaries for the sessions she attended. I am so jealous now that I am reading these summaries.

I am particularly interested in Session 3, and the idea of starting off an instruction session with Internet searching since that's what they know. Then move them into Google Scholar, then into the databases. This provides a better opportunity to show how database searching is different and explain why (more complicated = more sophisticated and precise!).

I need some good ideas for next fall to jump-start my teaching, and I think this may be the first thing I try. It's not active learning, but we can get some hands-on activities in there and it could be really great.

However, I will have to figure out how to fit in reference books into this structure...

Tech-Savvy Students?

I had a class yesterday afternoon even though it is summer. They're on their way to London and Prague for two weeks as part of a business May Term course. I was helping them get set up with a class blog on Blogger and a Flickr group to assemble thoughts and pictures on the trip for their families and future students. This is definitely an experiment and I can't wait to see the results.

So I asked the nine students if any of them kept a blog on MySpace or Facebook, or any other program. None of them raised their hand. I had thought a few would have used this feature of social networking. When I got to Flickr, I asked them how many had a Flickr account, and only one of the nine raised their hand. I should have asked how many posted pictures on MySpace or Facebook, I probably would have gotten more hands.

I have been assuming that these students are using all of the major Web 2.0 tools that I have become obsessed with, but I think that's a wrong assumption. I know they're using MySpace and Facebook, I've asked in large groups before and nearly everyone raises their hand. I think next time I have the change, I would like to hear what features they use, and how they use them.

I hope they have fun blogging. This could be a great product when the trip is over.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Censorship in Academia

I was listening to the radio this morning and got very interested in this story. At first, I thought I couldn't tie it into my blog, but then I realized it has several things to do with what my blog is about. The first is academia, and the second is censorship.

Even before I knew I would be working in academia, it drove me nuts to know how liberal academia tends to be. You can smeer feces on a statue of Jesus and call it art, you can burn American flags, you can claim to be Native American when you're not, you can sleep with your students, and you are usually protected by the administration. Yet voice one conservative opinion and you're in a lot of trouble.

There is an upper-level human resources manager from the University of Toledo that has just been fired for writing an editorial saying the Gay Rights movement does not have anything to do with the Civil Rights movement since being gay is a choice. She is African American, but I'm not sure that is a central issue. She was not representing the University of Toledo in her editorial.

I strongly disagree with what she says. I don't believe that being gay is a choice. For the first time in my life, I am fairly close to a gay couple. I had no idea it was that hard to be gay in our society, and I would happily go to their wedding if they were allowed to have one. If only all heterosexual relationships could be such beautiful examples of love and partnership as theirs is, the world would be a better place.

However, I believe that as I have the right to say this, she has the right to disagree. In the video, she seems like a well-educated, intelligent, reasonable woman. She says as a human resources person, she has hired homosexuals and heterosexuals without discrimination. She believes that others have the right to disagree with her and she respects their opinion. If her practices at work were discriminatory, then she should be fired in a heartbeat and no human resources department should ever hire her again. But that does not seem to be the case. She simply stated her opinion, and for that she was fired.

I suppose I can't help showing my political beliefs in this blog. I am very liberal on certain issues such as gay rights, women's issues, and the environment. Yet there are many that I am very conservative on, such as welfare and education. I'm a libra, I can't pick one side or the other and go through life struggling for balance!

I wish Ms. Dixon luck in her fight to protect free speech. It would be a scary blow to academia if she loses.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I met a friend from library school this weekend and did typical librarian stuff like go to Trader Joe's (food) and pour over the collection in a great used bookstore (books). The only thing missing was cats, but we certainly talked about them enough. What else to librarians talk about for fun other than food, books, and cats?

She taught me a new word when we were in the bookstore. I said that I wish I had a phone with Internet access so I could directly put book titles into my Shelfari wish list. Writing it on paper isn't good enough for me anymore! She exclaimed, "Talk about metageeking!"

This word intrigues me. My library school friends are technically up with things, most of us took the information architecture class that required writing HTML and CSS code from scratch without Dreamweaver. We stay in touch on facebook, Shelfari, and blogs. Most of us use RSS feeds and iGoogle, are addicted to cell phones and texting (okay, I haven't got into sending texts, but am okay with receiving them). This list would go on if I stopped to think of other technologies that are very ingrained in how we live. As I play with these more and read more about them, I know I am becoming more of a geek than I already was. I have to stop myself when I start rattling off geeky stuff to people who are not as into these technologies as I am (which is most of the people I have daily interactions with).

I am very excited to have a new word to describe what I'm doing... "Excuse me, I just started metageeking again. Please let me start over in English!"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Grateful student, grateful librarian

I was still in my office at 5 one afternoon this past week when the reference phone rang. The librarians normally go home at 4, and I wasn't sure if I really wanted to answer it. But I knew I wanted to help whoever it was, so I did.

It was a legal assistant student in Florida who was looking for an obscure, old book and we were the only library she could find that had it. Even I couldn't find it in WorldCat until a co-worker showed me a new trick, and then it turns out only 13 libraries in the country still have it, most in Florida. We kept it because the author had something to do with our college at some point.

Anyway, she only needed one chapter, so I told her to contact her public library and see if they could send the request through the traditional ILL means, and if that didn't work, I gave her my e-mail address. The public library wasn't able to do it, so on Thursday I scanned the chapter and sent it to her.

She called and sent the following e-mail:

Mary-This is PERFECT!!!!!! I got it just fine and have already forwarded it along. You are such a dear!! I can't tell you how very much I appreciate this!!THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!! YOU'RE NO. 1!!! Please let me know if/when I can return the favor!

She said that she was a middle-aged woman, which is probably why she was so dedicated to finding this one obscure book, and why she expressed her gratitude so profusely. You can bend over backwards for the traditional students, but they usually either don't care enough or are too over-committed to care as much about finding the resource or the effort people took to help them. I'm over-generalizing here and I love our students. But sometimes profuse gratitude from anyone is enough to make a librarian very grateful for that opportunity to help.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Oh, the irony

A mother went into Urban Outfitters looking for clothes for her teenage son. She got terribly upset when she saw some racy books like Pornigomi and Porn for Women (pics of men doing housework). She is calling politicians and upper management of the company.

I don't really have a dirty mind, but I've seen American Pie a few times and I Googled the word to make sure... So here comes the ironic part...

Her last name is "Milfs"

Something to Blog About

Two nights ago, I was watching a Simpsons re-run with my fiance (it's one of the few tv shows we can agree on, along with Jeopardy, Cash Cab, and Dirty Jobs). It was a very touching episode that gave a reference book a brilliant moment in the sun. Homer has to do marketing research to try to get more business for the bowling alley so he can get a raise. He put on his reading glasses and is reading Advanced Marketing at the dining room table. That ends up in the trash as he moves on to Beginning Marketing. That also ends up in the trash. Then he is seen with the New American Dictionary, looking up the word "marketing."

I wanted to possibly use this clip in the instruction classroom. It would bea great introduction to reference books and getting students to start at the beginning. However, I hardly ever watch the show and couldn't think of how I would possibly figure out which episode it was.

Within seconds of starting my search, I found the exact episode title, season, summary, and list of cultural references on Wikipedia. It has its own entry for every single episode of The Simpsons through the summer of 1999 (the later DVD's are apparently not available yet). I am completely blown away, and this is a great way to illustrate how Wikipedia covers popular culture much better than any print encyclopedia... I highly doubt any pop culture encyclopedia has its own entries for every Simpsons character, episode, and location!

I looked up Gil Grissom, a character from CSI, and the entry includes the character's life story, first appearance, and have individual entries for episodes of that show as well... Print Preview shows it would take 9 pages to print this article. ER also has a list of episodes with summaries, but not individual entries.

I know Wikipedia was extensive, but I never realized how extensive. It has been incredibly helpful to me today, now I can get that season of The Simpsons on DVD if I want to show it in class, as well as finding new ways to procrastinate at work (which I hardly need)!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Social Software in Libraries

I just finished Meredith Farkas's Social Software in Libraries. I highly recommend this book to nearly everyone. I have been working with these programs for several months... actually longer, but I've only been conscious of them for the past few months. So even being pretty comfortable with most of them, I still had plenty of content to take notes about. But I think the histories and explanations at the beginning of each chapter make it ideal for librarians who are just starting the exploration of these wonderful tools. Whether you're a newbie or an experienced user of social software, the easy explanations can help you understand these yourself, and explain them to your patrons, administration, and faculty.

She is a very good writer and I found her explanations easy to understand. I also found her balance of different types of libraries fair, though I would have liked to know more about what academic libraries are doing with gaming.

The "software" covered in this book include blogs, RSS, wikis, online communities, social networking, social bookmarking & collaborative filtering, online reference, mobile revolution, podcasting, screencasting & vodcasting (videos), and gaming. There is also a chapter on "what is social software?" and tips on how to make things work for your particular library, keeping up, and future trends.

I don't want to copy all of the notes I took down since I think people should read the book themselves and this would end up being a very long post. However, I want to share some of the practical ideas I found in the book, or that the book inspired me to have.

  • Can place an RSS widget on the main Web site so that news from the blog will appear on the home page. You can also do this with social bookmarking to highlight good Web resources.
  • Other things to include in a blog: reader's advisory, highlighting books, database updates (Example), news, workshop supplements, suggested sites and sources, and marketing. Blogs for staff: news, reference knowledge, record of questions and answers, book club discussions, printer status, database access issues, policies, and articles others might be interested in.
  • Some libraries are turning most of their site into a blog format, or using blogs, wikis, or social bookmarking sites to create subject guides.
  • Encourage students to comment on the blog.
  • Use LibWorm to find blogs of interest.
  • See if Indigo offers RSS. We have our OPAC through TLC and are anxiously awaiting Indigo, their brand-new catalog currently in development that includes a lot of Web 2.0 features. But I don't know if RSS is one of them.
  • Can use RSS with job sites. I'm not looking for a job, but I could show practicum classes how to do this!
  • Some libraries are offering RSS feeds for news about your library account, though there are security issues with this.
  • Put RSS feeds in subject guides. Include the important journals or organizations' news.
  • RSS Mix and KickRSS allow you to mix RSS feeds.
  • Wikis are good for a group working on a collaborative project towards one specific goal, which is a little different from a blog which is better for an individual or small group who wants to disseminate information or start a dialog.
  • Create a Flickr account with pictures from past library events and put a sideshow widget under the News column on our Web site.
  • Build a presence in the places where patrons are.
  • Some bookmarking tools detect broken or redirected links. We could possibly use this to control our Web site sections of the Subject Links.
  • Two social bookmarking sites are designed specifically for academics and researchers: Connotea and CiteULike.
  • You can use social bookmark tags like "read_later" to mark things you want to come back to.
  • Can use LibraryThing for reader's advisory, and
  • Add a page on bottom of Subject Links for resources on social software.
  • Some libraries like the University of PA are creating their own social bookmarking sites.
  • Perhaps use some of this stuff with an RSS feed for a Hot Topics section with resources on current events.
  • Some public libraries have programs where they help students create podcasts and videos.
  • Audacity is the most popular free podcasting software. You can find copyright-free podcast music at
  • The Flash tutorials I created are "screencasts"... yeah!!!
  • You can record audio or video of speakers in the library and post them on the blog or Web site for people who couldn't make it.
  • Don't use the word "blog" on the Web site. It turns non-techies off and it's just the software, it's not descriptive of what it does.
  • Perhaps we could have circulation workers pass out bookmarks next fall that market the blog (but only if we have more frequent updates!)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Passion Quilt: Be Informed

I'm jumping on the bandwagon and creating my entry to the passion quilt. This seems to have been the original challenge, which is to pick a photo and write words on it that show what you're most passionate about children learning.
I knew right away what my wording would be, though once I selected it, perhaps it is too simple. But I'm simple and this is something that I have been thinking about a lot.
When I say "be informed," I am talking outside of class. I want students to become informed adults and recognize when they need information out in the real world. I want them to pour through Home Buying for Dummies like I just did last weekend, to scour Consumer Reports before buying a car, to make informed decisions on careers and graduate school. I want them to study politicians and the issues being debated before voting, to know where the products they buy are being made and how their actions affect the environment, to know enough about others to have compassion for the less fortunate and to see others' perspective.
I found the original picture here, and think the photographer gave it a perfect title: "Please read instructions fully before opening!"
So I really hope my title doesn't seem totally lame...

Friday, May 2, 2008

100th post

This is my 100th post! Yeah! I want to see confetti and balloons!

Anyway, I just spent the morning making a brief tutorial on RSS feeds. It is heavily based on Common Craft's Plain English video, but I want to bring in the academic uses of RSS feeds. I really hope this isn't considered plagiarism. I can give this to faculty to get them started, then they can read the Web site information I created for them last month.


I signed up for a Twitter account yesterday so I can stop saying "It sounds stupid" and can either say "Once I used it, it's great," or "Once I used it, I realized it was stupid."

Yesterday, I watched Common Craft's Twitter in Plain English video and highly recommend it. I plan to watch the rest of the videos today. A blog called Please be Quiet I found through Twitter recently posted on using the Plain English explanations to help students and colleagues understand these technologies. I haven't had much luck explaining Web 2.0 stuff to people, so I think I'm going to watch these and carefully take notes.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wonderful Video

Perhaps many people saw the link to this in the ALA Direct newsletter from last night, though I would be surprised if many sat through the 15-minute video. I have to say this is a wonderful presentation by Clay Shirky at the Web 2.0 Expo, and worth the investment of time. I even took a whole page of notes while watching the video.

The presentation discussed a response to someone's question of how do people find the time to participate on Wikipedia and other social networking venues on the Web. The implication is that these people had no life. He pointed out that for the past 50 or 60 years, our society has had an unprecedented amount of free time and we have chosen to spend a large amount of it watching television. The entire Wikipedia project represents about 100 million hours of human thought, whereas television represents 200 billion hours of human thought in the US alone in a single year. We spend 100 million hours per weekend watching the ads alone! Of course finding concrete studies to back up these numbers would be interesting, but the figures are plausible.

From the point of view of the masses, the media of the 20th century was only about consumption. Now, it's largely about consumption, but also producing and sharing. People who grew up with one-way media aren't necessarily buying into the new media, but young children are assuming that media is broken if they cannot interact with it.

Within this, he talked about the "cognitive surplus" of our society. If we knew what to do with it, it wouldn't be considered a "surplus" anymore. He is not advocating throwing the television out of the window. He feels that if we take a small part of this cognitive surplus and put it to use, we could do some wonderful things.

I'm going to try to find everything this guy has ever written now!