As much as the blogoworld might seem otherwise, ours is not a particuarly trendy profession. However we do have trends and HotStuff 2.0 uncovers them for us. It’s an autogenerated blog set up by Dave Pattern which tracks hundreds of blogs and looks for trends. Sometimes these are pretty prosaic (really, potato?) but other times you can sort of see somethign happening there if you squint a little. Either way it’s an attractive and interesting blog with the obligatory “Hot or Not” which I don’t totally understand but I guess I’m happy to be on. Neat project!
I’ve been MIA the past few days because I’ve been preparing and presenting a Continuing Ed class called Beyond Google: Using Web 2.0 Search Tools. I gave this class at the NAHSL conference in Lowell, Massachusetts yesterday. It was a long class, four hours, and while I was putting it together I was a little concerned that it might be too short, but it wound up maybe being a little too long (I breezed through some stuff at the end that I would have lingered on, but did end everything on time).
While the documentation for creating the class required me to prepare a “handout” I mostly made a slide show and then a corresponding page of every link I’d mentioned during the talk. It was time-consuming work, but ultimately more useful to participants than a printed page full of URLs. I gave out handouts that were mainly for note-taking in addition to some short lists that I thought would be good takeaway points. I’ve said it before but I really think empasizing handouts over web resources when we’re talking about the web is a smart way to move forward. That said, my handouts are downloadable in PDF format in case anyone wants to repurpose them.
The class itself was a mixture of some talk about Google and what sort of things they do besides their basic search portal, looking at what I think of as “2.0 search” and why I think some sites fit the description and a discussion of collaborative information tools like wikis, question and answer sites and “ask an expert” sites. I finished up with a talk about Firefox and why I think librarians should be using it. At least a few class members were unable to use any other browser in their workplace so I put in a plug for Portable Firefox as well as listing my favorite add-ons, themes and plug-ins. We even installed a script just to show how terrifically easy it was.
I’ll be giving a short talk on 2.0 topics at the University of Michigan’s MLibrary 2.0 kickoff event tomorrow. Admission is free but the registration process is onerous. If you’re in the area, please persevere and come hear me and Peter “ambient findability” Morville and Kristen “NCSU digtal library” Antelman talk about techie library topics. Update: I had bad information about who was and wasn’t invited to this event. My apologies.
So last week I helped one of the small libraries I worked with get their in-house library catalog actually online, like on the web. They use Follett and had to pay some ungodly amount of money for the “web connector” software to make this happen. The process involves installing a fairly non-standard web server onto whatever your server is and then using it as the interface to your existing Follett install. The manual says you need to have a static IP address to make this work and the cable company they use for Internet won’t give them one. So, we had to do a little haxie magic using DynDNS, a special port redirect in the router, and a little app that lives on the server and broadcasts its current IP address to the DNS server. I had an idea that this would work but wasn’t totally sure, so we tried it. Other than that, my basic approach was “I am not a good cook but I can follow a decent recipe” which is what we did for the install.
When I say “we”, I mean me and my friend Stan who is a local IT guy who comes with me on some of these more complicated projects for the cost of lunch and does all the typing while I answer questions and explain what’s going on. The software install took all of fifteen minutes but the Q and A session took nearly an hour. As it stands they’re probably still going to use the local version of the OPAC in-house just in case the Internet goes down. I’m not sure I understand this reasoning and told them so. I’m as cautious as the next person as far as having a Plan B for most catastrophic situations, but I worry that if you only roll out the most bulletproof solutions, you wind up never trying new things and you live in fear that you haven’t tested everything rigorously enough. This sort of fear, uncertainty and doubt means going with large-scale tried and true solutions and is a definite impediment to getting libraries to work with open source. Additionally, with the perpetual betaness of a lot of 2.0 tools, anyone can muster up a reason to say no to them. I’m still always looking for the angle that will make people say “yes.”
Librarian.net is eight years old today!
You can take a peek at what it looked like when I first started it up, April 20, 1999. Back then we didn’t have CMSes and I had to upload the webpages uphill both ways in the snow to bring you all these excellent links. I didn’t have comments (though to be fair, I was slow on that bandwagon even once I moved to Movable Type). I based my design on Jesse James Garrett’s Infosift which predated lib.net by almost a year. I met Jesse mainly because I asked for design help [and to ask if he minded if I copied him] and my friendship with him and a big group of early bloggers paved the way to my work with MetaFilter and a lot of my interest in 2.0 technologies. Today I’m in Dodge City, Kansas preparing to give a talk about the big 2.0 thing and I’ll see if I can wrap all that in together and make it make sense to folks who don’t have a bunch of stuff on Twitter and who may wonder “Why MySpace?”
I’m making use of the wifi here at the Convention Center to make sure my talks are online. Both have been updated, these versions are shorter than similar versions I’ve given before. Thanks to everyone at the LocLib conference for your hospitality, attention and collegiality.
This is a non-library post just to say that I am in Boston for the weekend for the MIT Mystery Hunt. Myself and fellow non-traditional librarian J. Baumgart will be working with Codex Ixtlilxochitl, a giant team of brainiacs all over the world using wikis and IM and Google spreadsheets and all sorts of other high and low tech means to solve puzzles and have fun. The first time I really used a wiki was as part of a puzzle hunt team and I think it really helps with all of this social software stuff to see some of it in action — helping you solve problems — to see why people think some of this stuff is so great. In any case, emails and IMs may go unanswered for a little bit, but feel free to cheer us on from home. We’ve got (at least) two librarians on this team, how can we lose?
update: we came in second by about 90 minutes. The winning team, Doctor Awkward, had some of the famous puzzlers from Wordplay on it. This means that next year they get to make the puzzle and we get to play again. From what I can gather, this was the outcome that a good chunk of my team was hoping for anyhow.