Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thing #16 - Assignment Calculators

It was interesting to compared the 2 sites listed. If I was actually doing a project, I think that the University of Minnesota's tool would be more helpful. It seemed to have everything ... even a link to information on formatting notes, etc. If you are actually a student at the University, all of the on-campus resources available to students are listed along the way at the appropriate point in the project (with special attention to the aids specific to your topic). However, Research Project Calculator did have one huge plus ... in all of the scenarios I inputted, it had the "finished" date for the project before it was actually due. The UMN tool spread things out right up until the due date. The other minor point in RPC's favor was that it covered different formats of projects rather than just papers.

I'm not sure how I would use this in a public library. Many of the students who come here looking for information are either already down to the wire or have the project fairly well under control. I will recommend it to some of the homeschooling families in the area as a resource. I know that I wouldn't use it personally ... although I do many large projects both in my work life and privately, research is usually a small part of the project and both of these tools assume that research will take the bulk of the time.

Thing #15 - Gaming in Libraries

Ahoy landlubbers! For this thing, I tried the Puzzle Pirates site. I did some interacting with other players (mostly other greenies - or new members) and tried 4 of the different skill games (carpentry, sailing, bilging, and swordfighting). I found that most other players were quite willing to chat or test their sword skills; however, in all cases, I had to initiate the conversation. The puzzles themselves were something of a disappointment ... they all seemed to be simplified variants of tetris/poppit puzzles. I found it especially hard while bilging not to be able to swap pieces upwards as well as across.

I also walked through the helps/faq on the Second Life site, but I chose not to sign up for an account. I hadn't heard of either of these 2 online sites before I started working on the 23 things. However, Runescape is very popular with tween age boys in our library, and I'm aware that WoW (World of Warcraft) is heavily played by some of the young adults (late teens and early 20s) that I know.

I am fine with patrons (of all ages) using library computers for online gaming as long as they abide by our rules (the primary problem we run into here is players respecting the time limitations when other people are waiting).

Thing #14 - LibraryThing

This was an interesting site. I thought that the recommendations based on the titles I had added were fairly accurate. I also found that the reviews/discussions about individual titles were interesting and more thoughtful than many of the reviews I've read on commercial sites. I enjoyed looking at members who had the same books as I did although I didn't spend as much time on this.

Although I really like the ideas behind it, I was dismayed by how cumbersome it is to add titles. I tried several of the advanced options, but even those were not very effective in adding a long string of titles at once. The suggestion of using a barcode reader to scan titles in didn't seem like a great option for someone adding a home library -- first, you'd have to buy the reader and then either transport books to computer or vice versa.

I can see how this would be a useful reader addition to a library's homepage if you had the staff time to enter in both new titles as you get them and the older parts of the collection. It is something I may consider for my library in the future.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thing #13 - Online Productivity Tools

I wasn't particularly impressed with the tools offered in this thing. I made a personalized Yahoo page, but I tend to rely on RSS feeds to keep up with my favorite news interests and tend to use Yahoo and Google more as search pages than start pages.

Most of the other sites are not things that I choose to do on computer. While I like making "to do" lists (okay, what I really like is that satisfaction of crossing off something I've finished), it seems much faster to use a scrap of paper rather than log in and out of a website. In the same manner, a small datebook works great for me as a personal calendar and can be stuck in a bag and taken from work to home to a meeting where there isn't a computer available for me to check an online calendar. It also seems like an extra step to have to enter these things onto a computer -- especially since my home computer is dial-up, so online use takes some time.

However, I can see the advantages to some of these tools. An online calendar could be great for a business professional who is generally connected (via wireless or otherwise) throughout the week, but not spending all his or her time in one location. I think the Backpacker site has some nice features for groups of people working on projects needing to share information on deadlines, etc -- perhaps that would be a good site for use by teams in a larger library environment.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thing #12 - Digg, Mixx, Reddit, etc.

After trying all of the sites suggested on the 23 things page, I decided to set up a Mixx account. Mixx was very easy to navigate and the initial page of offerings seemed closer to my interests than some of the others listed. Adding a link to a story was very simple. I thought it was interesting that all 4 sites had several of the same articles about the presidential race tagged on their start page -- evidently, it doesn't matter with major news which site you choose to favor, the same source articles will show up.

I'm not sure how I would use this professionally in a library. It is another source to sort through the amazing amount of information that's available on the web (always a plus); however, if I was looking for some specific information, I don't think it would be a site I would use unless several others lacked information.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thing #11 - Tagging & is an interesting site. I spent just a few minutes trying out the 23 things account before I went on to set up my own account. Then the fun REALLY started. I liked the idea of being able to share the bookmarks on my work computer with the ones I've saved personally at home. (It sounded much easier than trying to remember either the URL or how I found a specific site). So, I piled in a whole bunch of sites into my newly created account and tried to remember some other sites that I used semi-regularly, but haven't bookmarked. Then I started following links out to other people's accounts. Wow, more cool / useful / interesting sites that I never knew existed! This site is a great way to find hidden gems of the internet without using a search engine. And, there's a small social observer side to me that had fun creating a picture of other users by what they had tagged -- student who travels a lot, avid reader, another librarian? -- I'll never know if I'm correct, but a part of my brain had a great time making up backstories for each of those folks.

While I was having fun, I did note a few downsides based entirely on my own quirks. First, I have a habit of putting commas into a list -- this confused my tags. I'd have a set of "travel" and another set of "travel,"; it was easy to fix, but I had to concentrate after I figured it out to stop myself from continuing the comma problem. Second, I also don't follow capitalization rules when making lists only for myself - so I know I cut down my possibilities by labeling things like London as "london". Again, this is my problem, and not that of the site, but it was slightly annoying to have capitalized and non-capitalized letters separated.

I am sure that this site will continue to be useful to me personally. I am less sure how much I will use it as a professional resource. I certainly can use it for reference work, but I had my bookmarks on my work computer well organized and could have continued with that system without much fuss. It could be very useful in finding new links and sources of information on specific topics, but, as a librarian in a small public library, I don't spend much time compiling topical resource lists for patrons or classes as suggested in the introductory video. I will certainly mention this tool to patrons that I know rely on several computers or mostly public access as a way for them to compile a personal bookmark list that will "follow" them from place to place.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thing #9 - Online Collaboration

These were interesting tools. I found Google's version much easier to use; however, Zoho seemed to have lots more bells and whistles. For basic text editing by a group that had a variety comfort levels with the software, Google would be by far the better choice. However, for anything involving graphic design, Zoho might be more useful.

I can't see that these tools would be very useful for working directly with the public. I can see that they would be a fantastic resource for regional committees trying to put together any sort of project (RFP specifications, new policies, brochures, etc) since they would allow each member to contribute wording and comments at their own pace.

Thing #10 - Wikis

This was an interesting topic. I've used larger wikis before for quick overview information or as a starting point on tough reference questions. I don't usually give Wikipedia info out as solid fact, but it's good to know things like the approximate date of a battle to look up more information with a history question. I've found that sometimes the information is more specific than what I can find elsewhere -- that always makes me wonder what the author's source was.

I added a link to the MN 23 things on a stick wiki - the resource page - to a similiar program that's running in WI libraries. Of the wikis listed to look at, I thought the Princeton book one was the most interesting. I can see it's application in even a small library or for an associated book group to give out recommendations for others to read.

Although I work in a public library, I know that some of the teachers in town will not accept wikis (or, in a few cases, any websites) as resources for projects. I can see the validity of both sides of this stance ... they want the kids to learn to judge the accuracy of information rather than just writing down the first facts they find; however, sometimes wikis can lead to finding great new sources of data AND some wikis do include traditional source notes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Thing #8 - Sharing Creations

I used Picture Trail to create a slideshow of photos from an evening of making gingerbread scenes with some friends. While the site was fairly easy to use, it seemed to take a looong time to bring up each successive change when I make it. I'm not sure if that was just the circumstances of web traffic at the time or if the site normally runs a bit slow. I found that wiggling the mouse (without clicking) made the photos move through faster.

I looked at the other resources listed for this topic, but didn't try to create anything on them. I thought eFolio was especially interesting -- what a nice way to share some of your accomplishments in a resume sort of presentation. However, I can see that using this resource as a job tool means that you need to have employers who have the time and inclination to follow through and look at this site.