making a difference, general and specific

I have some odds and ends here that I wasn’t too sure where to put. I try to do linkdumps infrequently. Here are some things I’ve come across in the past week or so that seem to be a few people deciding to improve something and what came out of that decision.

just to make sure we’re all on the same page here

“A team from Google interviewed dozens of people in Times Square the other day, asking a simple question: What’s a browser? This was in an effort to understand and improve the customer experience of Google’s own browser, called Chrome.

Turns out that over 90% of the people interviewed could not describe what a Web browser is.”

Don’t believe me? Watch the video. Granted, this comes from Google, but while we’re all being “blah blah Firefox, etc” there are many people who just see what happens when you “click the e” and go forward from there.

talks I’ve done that might be helpful to you

So, my resolution to write all new talks for 2009 is meaning I spend a lot more time on them. “All new” may be a bit of a stretch since one of my recent talks contained a part of an earlier talk, but they’re all revamped and recontextualized. I was away for eight days. I did a training at the North Country Library System — a consortium that serves many tiny libraries just like mine, only in upstate New York instead of Vermont — that was a lot of fun. I then drove down to the Jersey Shore for one of my favorite library conferences, NJLA.

I don’t know exactly why NJLA is always so fun. I think it’s a combination of a well-organized and fun conference put on by an organization that doesn’t seem to be going broke and held in a neat location. The New Jersey librarians I have met there are a mix of older and younger librarians who seem to work and play well together. Maybe it’s just that they get my jokes. I did a talk about how to do some advanced stuff on YouTube and then also did an expansion of the Firefox talk that I did at Computers in Libraries.

As always my slides, notes and links are online and you can see them on these two pages.

Enjoy and if you came to any of these talks, thanks for being such a great audience.

Applying for a grant….

firefox users go fuck yourselves, love OCLC & WebJunction & the Gates Foundation

So today my task at the library where I am employed as the nominal “systems” librarian (a very part time job mostly concerned with the eventual automation of the card catalog) was to decipher the procedure for using WebJunction’s TechAtlas (© Powered by OCLC) to do an inventory of our four public access computers. This inventory is mandatory for those applying for funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Here is how my day went.

Our library had gotten a letter from our state librarian including a letter from the TechAtlas people explaining the steps we needed to take to do this. The first step which was strongly suggested but not required was to sign up for a webinar that explained, I suppose, how to do the inventory. My boss wanted to arrange a time where she and I could both be present for the webinar. I got as far as the Wimba set-up asking me to disable my pop-up blocker (do not get me started on the 2.2 MB door card again) and then said I thought we could figure out the process (for our FOUR computers) without it.

The letter had a space where our login and password were provided for us. Unfortunately our letter only had our password and not our login. I called the help number at the bottom of the sheet and talked to a nice lady at NELINET who gave me my login (which was just the password as a techatlas.org email address). She wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be upper or lower case. When I logged in, I had to set up my profile [and choose our own login and password] which included a library name that was not ours. [Note: I fixed this problem, but our "network" still displays a library that is nowhere near us and not related to us]. This occasioned another telephone call to NELINET where they actually had to call the TechAtlas people and get back to me. I had to enter our library’s information — actually my information — on a page with no privacy policy or terms of use. Every time I update an item on my profile page, TechAtlas sends me an email. I have seven emails from them now.

I did track down the privacy policy, not because I’m worried I’ll be spammed but because I think it’s a good idea generally to read them and see what they’re about. Oddly, the privacy policy page in the TechAtlas universe ended prematurely, halfway through the word “statement.” Of course I took a screen capture, but they have since fixed this, making the privacy policy a downloadable pdf, which doesn’t seem super user friendly to me (and hey isn’t that what OCLC just did with another policy…?). Here are the Terms of Service which aren’t in a pdf. There are also the terms of use linked from this About Us page which are a LOT more legalistic. Please keep in mind that if I do not agree with any of these, I am welcome to not use the site and I can not apply for funding in this round of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funding.

So, on to the mandatory inventory. This was the first thing that greeted me, a browser incompatibility message (some language nsfw there). What this means, in a more polite fashion is that TechAtlas has some nifty IE tools that can make the inventory process a lot simpler. Firefox users need to do more of the process by hand. You know, that’s fine with me. I don’t like it, but that’s okay. However, acting like this isn’t a series of choices that were made by designers and program managers seems somehow odd. Odder still, when I went home this evening to grab some screenshots, the site now gives me a similar “Browser Incompatibility” message and yet displays that I am using a compatible browser. Apparently Firefox got compatible within the last few hours. I guess this is good news? The part they left out is that my browser is incompatible because I’m on a Mac, not because I’m using Firefox.

So we have four computers and it’s not that difficult to fill in the blanks. For each computer, there are twenty-two fields to fill out, but only five of them are mandatory. We have four identical computers so this was actually pretty simple and you can edit the entries if you get anything wrong. Oddly, one of the questions: “Opportunity Online Grant Funds?” which is asking whether you used this certain grant to get the money to buy the computers originally (a question our librarian wasn’t totally sure about, but was pretty sure) isn’t actually editable after the fact. I hope I chose correctly!

So, it didn’t take terribly long. Most of my time at work today was spent cursing at Overdrive and having to do Windows Media Player updates on computers that are locked down via Centurion guard. What I told the librarian — who is a very nice lady, and sympathetic to my muttering in a “There but for the grace of god go I” sort of way — is that this time around, if they let us, maybe we should get Macs.

is your library’s browser safe?

FreeGovInfo — whose guest blogger this month is none other than Ric Davis, acting Superintendent of Documents and Director of Library Services & Content Management at the U.S. GPO — points to a well-researchd report about vulnerable web browsers and the problems they pose. The article concludes that only 60% of web surfers use current versions of whatever browsing software they choose to use. This isn’t one of those “Hey, get Firefox!” articles, though it does point out that users of the Firefox browser are the most likely to be using a current version of the operating system — IE users are least likely — and part of the reason for this is that browser and plug-in version updating is built in to the system itself and turned ON by default. Read this article and then go make sure your library’s browsers are updated to the latest version. It’s important.

Understanding the nature of the threats against Web browser and their plug-in technologies is important for continued Internet usage. As more users and organizations depend upon these browser technologies to access ever more complex and distributed business applications, any threats to the underlying platform equate to a direct risk to business continuity and integrity.

four talks in six days in two countries

If the title sounds familiar, it’s because it is. I’ve been trying to combine more of my public speaking trips which means more weird weeks like this one and that one, but it works out a lot better on my end. After I got back to Massachusetts from Access, I drove over to NELA and gave three talks there. I really enjoy NELA but there were some complications this time around mostly involving iffy wireless (and hotel staff who were just repeating what their outsourced IT told them which the IT-librarians knew was a little fishy-sounding, but I digress) which means I wasn’t doing much blogging and had a period of radio silence here and on Flickr and on Scrabulous, etc.

I got home today and I’ve uploaded the latest talks. One was all new, one was a modified version of an earlier talk and one was a talk I gave earlier, but with twice as much time. All of them went really well but I have a sore throat and will be heading to bed as soon as they’re linked here so that I can be bright and bushytailed for work which starts tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who made my trip easier, more pleasant, and fun.

Firefox, pimped

Now that I’ve don’t the little talk, I’m curious as to what libraries are actually using with their Firefox installs. I took my best guesses and included some stuff that I use, but what do you use? SkaGirlie starts it off with her list.