Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thing 47: and furthermore

I've been trying to put my finger on why this round of Things was less rewarding. I think it just couldn't be as exciting to learn "more" as it was to enter a whole new world. In addition, I had already learned some of the techniques, and explored some of the software, in this year's exercises.

The library world has changed a great deal since "23 Things on a Stick." Life is more grim, both at work and at home. Sub hours have been nearly eliminated, so my connection to library life is very tenuous. When I did "23 Things," I had hopes of using some of the tools in work. With sub work disappearing and hiring frozen (in my system), the odds of me using these tools are considerably lessened.

Thank you for considering substitutes to be part of the library community. I hope that we still will be the next time we do "Things." If things continue to be this slow, I would understand if that changed.

There was something new for me in every task. I appreciate the range of choices in the tasks. I also appreciate the honor system which lets us go deeply into Things we're particularly interested in, or to skim the Things that hold no thrill. Even in the tasks I felt completely competent in, there was a new article to read, or an alternate site.

TV and video? got it under control.

But wait, what's that Joost thing?

Oh, Cool!

I wrote in my previous evaluation post that I'd like to tackle a smaller group of tasks that I don't feel fully competent in, or that I didn't fully explore. Perhaps we could have "Lazy On a Stick" or "Self-Paced on a Stick," in which we could revisit either group of Things. It would involve less work on the administrative end, and still be very useful. We could either totally self-direct the learning, agreeing only to tackle a certain number of Things, or you could design a menu based on blog comments indicating "needs improvement." The Top 5 most awkward Things.

My other idea is about developing community. There was a large cohort that did 23 Things the first time it was offered. In my system, I think the second cohort was smaller. At least, I didn't find too many people who were doing it.

How would it work to bundle about 20 participants in a group so we could support each other? If you figure for dropouts, that would leave a manageable number of blogs to read, and I think it would increase interaction. If you pick blogs to follow, you have an unrelated list. Generally for me, a list that is far ahead of me! If you had a group with interconnected nodes I think we'd hang around for each other even if some were slower.

I feel sheepish that despite the extended deadline, I ended up cramming it all in at the last minute, but I rather expected it to work out that way. Life is always full of immediate deadlines, and as the saying goes, "urgency drives out importance" It wasn't until this project was urgent that I could make the time to finish it. It's time had come!

I can't thank you enough for offering this opportunity. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thing 47: Evaluation

Superwoman!Image by Nils Noack via Flickr

I ended both Thing sets with feelings of regret. In spite of all I learned and all I did, there was so much left to explore. It's just hard to carve out the time I'd like to spend on these Things! I wish we didn't have a deadline, but conversely, I wouldn't have gotten any of it done without one!

My imaginary next Thing set (not swing set) would consist of me exploring 5 Things in greater depth. For starters, podcasts, screencasts, and mashups!

That's all for now, but I will try to add more tomorrow.

And again, thanks very much!
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Thing46: WebJunction Minnesota (WJMN)

WebJunction Minnesota is acting up tonight. Perhaps it doesn't like humidity. I like to think there are other More Thing-ers prowling the pages of WJMN tonight, this penultimate night of the "More Things" challenge!

I ws drawn to the courses offered by some of the affiliated library schools in core competencies for various aspects of librarianship. I'm vamping a little bit here because I can't get back to that page. It provided some ideas for further study, things that I could add to my resume.

I talked to Mary Wagner of St. Kate's last fall at the MLA conference, and asked her about any refresher or keeping up courses, but they didn't have any plans for that sort of course. So the offerings here interested me.

I saw a lot of "stub" profiles, probably people like me who created a profile but then didn't return to participate in the community. Things looked pretty quiet on the "Early Career Librarians" discussion, and I couldn't get to the proper screen for the MN Destiny group -- I kept getting re-directed to "101 Tech Tips in 30 Days," which interested me--until I realized it was more technical than I ever get!

One of the things I've taken away from the Things, More Things, and my own wikis ( a library substitute wiki now dormant because subs in our system are getting so few hours, and a family wiki created for an all-family celebration last Christmas) is that it really takes a core group of dedicated, involved individuals to create a sense of online community. At a certain size it becomes more likely to survive, but it's not a sure thing that a sense of community will develop.

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Thing 45: Cloud Computing

King CloudImage by akakumo via Flickr

I'm a big fan of cloud computing. As a substitute librarian, I want to be able to access my bookmarks, social web, documents, RSS feeds, etc., from any location. Just one example: I keep several prepared storytimes on Google Docs. Several times I've been called at the last minute for a shift that includes a story time. If there's time, I'll create something fresh, but it's great to have those storytimes available, either to use as is or to use as a template.

Gmail is my primary e-mail, and Google Reader my RSS feed. Google homepage is my custom h ome page. I like the idea of a custom desktop, so I will further investigate some of the virtual desktops described in the instructions for this Thing.

Kevin Kelly on the next 5,000 days of the web : Kelly talks about the need to give up privacy in ordere to fully participate in cloud computing/ web 3.0/the One machine. I'm not ready to jump into that as fully as he is. I predict too that there will be a generational drive, with the Boomers clinging to our vestiges of privacy and younger generations being more fearless, for better or worse.

I enjoyed Kelly's presentation, but I'm less enchanted with predictions than I once was. I think the overall shape of his predictions make sense, the way that everything will become increasingly connected, that devices will be a "window into the One," but we've lived throuogh a year that few predicted, and I'm more skeptical now, knowing the power of "Black Swan" events.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thing 44: The Economy

Lots of good links here! Thanks!

I found out my car's mileage* and carbon footprint (, identified the pest that's been chewing up my plants (U of M Extension), tried very hard to connect with my bank on, and found a great t-shirt on a click-through from Frugal Dad to Dress Me: a picture of William Shatner with the caption, "Shat happens." He sure does.

I looked at and might go back to set up an account. I only have two bills that I don't pay with automatic online banking; but with so few, they often slip my mind until it's too close to the due date for comfort.

I was kind of baffled by the cell phone plan comparison tool. I didn't see the option I currently have, so it was like comparing apples to oranges. Nevertheless, I did pick up a few facts about other cell plans.

I investigated Deals and Coupons on, including a few articles confirming some of my beliefs about the value of spending extended time poring over the Sunday coupon circulars (low value; speed through and only grab coupons for significant discounts for things you regularly purchase), grocery flyers (the sale prices are often only a few cents from the regular prices; best deals are on fresh produce), and coupon indexers.

I've used Freecycle in the past so I checked out Craig's list, just poking around. My experience with Freecycle was that it was great for giving things away--it was fun to meet people who were eager to get daylilies or our foosball table--but when we were looking for items they were pretty junky. Also, it's pretty competitive. Some people must check constantly. Since I was more casual about it, I was too late for most things I was interested in.

I tried the Yard Sale treasure map, but found that I'm not interested in baby clothes or furniture. I might be past my primo garage sale years. This year I'm going to have a garage sale of my own, and I'm not interested in seeking acquisitions as I try to empty my house.

I liked the Savvy Shopper's Guide to this year's deal finders, and RetailMeNot. I added the Firefox extension for RetailMeNot. No more missed online deals for me!

I like the extremely frugal Hillbilly Housewife--low-cost, home cooking from scratch. She has lots of recipes for dried mixes (e.g. seasoned rice mixes) and a competent, straightforward style.

My latest cheap thrill is the realization that the bags which line cereal and cracker boxes make excellent freezer bags and lunch bags. I already drove my kids crazy by rewashing purchased zip-lock bags, now there is another set of bags drying on the counter. Someday they'll thank me. Someday, after the years of therapy and related bills, which will beggar them, leading them to economies like re-using plastic bags. It's beautiful isn't it? The circle of life. . .

My other favorite tip, which I don't use but which I hold in reserve for truly desperate days, is to tape the light switch on the refrigerator so it doesn't go on when the door opens. That's frugal!

*EPA Est. mileage 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined. Sounds about right.

Thing 43: Online TV and Video

Edie Falco at the premiere of Tennessee at the...Image via Wikipedia

This was certainly "easy to love!" I've been watching shows online for a little while know. I watch the Craig Ferguson Show, because I can't stay up so late! And between the first would-be conversion date for digital TV and the recent actual conversion, we couldn't get Channel 5. I'm a big fan of the George Stephanopolous show, which is on Channel 5, so I've been watching it from the network website. It was a real treat t be able to continue to watch it when my normal access method didn't work.

When I explored Joost (I'd been using Hulu before) I watched the pilot for "Nurse Jackie," Showtime's new show starring Edie Falco. Again, this was great, since we don't have cable! When I was watching "The Sopranos," I had to wait a year for the DVD's to come out.

Despite these opportunities, though, I don't watch too much TV on the computer because usually when I watch TV, I'm going through e-mail, Facebook, Reader, etc., and I don't have the processing power to do both at the same time! Or the screen space.

We do use the laptop for TV and videos in social situations, though, both in the context of our family, when we all sit down together to watch a movie, and when friends visit and want to show us a TV show or video they like. We can hook up the TV and laptop and watch on the bigger TV screen. We still have Netflix, and we also get movies out of the video store about once a month or less (but when we do, Jarrett takes out the maximum amount.)

Free on-demand access to TV and movies has changed our viewing habits. I often wonder how often our local video store will survive. And I wonder how the entertainment industry will replace those revenue streams. It seems unsustainable. I was going to write, "There will always be an audience for cable TV," but I checked myself -- is that true in the CEE, the current economic environment?

One effect we see already is the popularity of reality TV. Since it's cheaper to produce, it's fortunate for the TV industry that people seem to love it so much. I have a limited taste for seeing people humiliated, so I don't watch much. In fact, I don't usually watch American Idol, but I got caught up with Susan Boyle's story and followed "Britain's Got Talent" online. For a while I was checking in every night! I really enjoyed it. I think it's the pop diva "warble" of false emotion that turns me off to American Idol.

A "Cloud computing" aside: I usually use my litle netbook to work on the Things, but I'm borrowing my son's laptop tonight to use the full-size keyboard. I can access my blog, and the Things list, and most everything I do, but I use Firefox on the netbook and I'm using Safari on the Mac. On Firefox I use the nifty "Zemanta" extension, which provides additional blog fodder in the form of pictures and articles related to the blog text. I bet Zemanta would have an article for me about the financial future of the entertainment industry. Let me check.

OK, Hulu has ads. I forgot about that. So some money is being made.

I didn't want to monkey around importing Firefox to Evan's computer, so I saved and closed the post, then re-opened it on the netbook with Firefox and used Zemanta to look for articles.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thing40: Mashup your life

I hit a winner right away with "Wheel of Food." Thanks -- it's fun! Here are some Northeast Minneapolis lunch spots, if you're interested.

I tried "Let Me Google that for you" and thought it was odd. Well, that's too harsh. But it's my job to Google things for people, and I don't get requests to Google for people in other contexts. However, the answers that came up led me to a program I hadn't heard of before, called Muckety. It maps relationships. For instance, one relationship map showed Sonia Sotomayor's key professional and political connections. Neat! You can click on the picture, above, to enlarge it.

I also explored Visual Headlines and Interestingness.

For new mashups, I found GotFreeShipping? which searches Amazon and E-bay for items with free shipping.

Another new mashup is Geographical Media, "a news monitoring tool designed to make it easy to follow news and find statistics about the people, places and other things you are most interested in. We read thousands of news articles a day from news sources from all around the world and identify who, what and where they are about.

"Who are the most talked about people in the world? What about in Africa? What are people in Russia saying about Barack Obama? These are some of the questions we hope to answer by statistically exploring the world's news."

I tried to do a mashup using autism statistics from Fighting Autism, using Dapp Factory, but I didn't succeed. I think the data was not amenable to being selected as fields. These were charts of autism prevalence and rates in the 50 US states, but I couldn't select just the states as a field, or just the prevalence, or just the rates. I should have tried something simpler.

This is the Thing I dreaded most. I've been turning over different ideas for mashups, but most of them already exist! Maybe I need more information neediness.

Here's one I was going to invent is on Programmable Web--it's called CodexMap, and it "lets you find, and place, books graphically on a map. Whether the book was added to the system by our harvester, or by you or another user, you can interact with a map to find books.

APIs: Amazon EC2 + GeoNames + Google Maps + LibraryThing."

Ironically, the same info is available for fiction on NoveList, though without the map (last time I checked!)

So, I turned to the user-friendly BigHugeLabs and Hockneyized a photo. OK! Done!

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Thing 42: Music 2,0--Everything's amazing, nobody's happy

I was grousing that Pandora wasn't all I wanted it to be, and my son called me on it, saying, "Everything's amazing, nobody's happy." He was quoting comedian Louis CK, shown here on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, riffing on rotary phones vs. cell phones, wireless internet on planes, and flight delays.

I tried Pandora. Somehow I had gotten the idea that you could input multiple songs, and Pandora would find common characteristics. So I was disappointed to find that wasn't so. I had posted "Taylor, the Latte Boy," to Facebook, and it came up in Pandora when I logged on, so I started a channel from that. I like musicals, but not THAT much, so I wanted to enter another song, but on the same channel, to add some more data to the Genome Project -- but it was not to be.

I listened to an "All 80's" station which had the added interest of being from the U.K. Definitely out of my regular listening routine. I was surprised at how many of the songs I didn't know! A different set of hits!

I was one of the many heartbroken "Morning Program" fans who migrated to Heartland Radio when the Morning Program went off the air. It's not the same, though. He's clearly broadcasting to a smaller audience, which seems like a club I'm not part of.

I enjoyed this Thing and look forward to listening more.

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