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kascils598s08



Kevin's social software class blog



Last Build Date: Sun, 05 Oct 2014 02:45:20 +0000

 



If I Were Steve...

Sat, 03 May 2008 23:33:00 +0000

I wouldn't change much about this course. I know that's not very helpful, but I think the structure of this class is really great. I like the way that it starts with the more necessary technologies, like RSS feeds, and then moves on to more complicated things. It really allows you to build on what you've learned. I love the mix between the task-oriented lectures (the screencasts are wonderful) and the practical application exercises. I even thought the readings were fun. It was great to think about the impact of technology on our lives (Feed, Long Tail, Everything Bad is Good For You) while we were doing all of this work. I can't even really complain about the final, because I am going back and applying all of the things I've learned.

One thing that I might add is a more in-depth discussion of tagging and how it can be applied in a library environment. I'm personally very interested in issues of user-created metadata and using tags and comments to find and organize things, especially within libraries and other institutions. I think we touched on this a little in the social bookmarking week, but I would love if it were expanded a little. There is so much to squeeze into the course, but I think social bookmarking could make room for a more in-depth look at tagging. It might also be useful to include a few more academic LIS articles on these topics.

Otherwise, I really just enjoyed having a class dedicated to this topic. If I were Steve, I would keep up the good work and try not to go crazy staying up to date with new technology.



Should Libraries Provide Everything Bad?

Sat, 03 May 2008 22:50:00 +0000

I really enjoyed reading Johnson's book, and I think that it can really help libraries break out of their love affair with strictly print resources and begin thinking about stocking their shelves with other types of popular culture works, such as games, movies, and TV shows.

I have long been a believer in taking popular culture seriously. As I have said in my earlier post on this book, I think too much emphasis has been placed on reading, and not enough attention has been paid to the benefits and importance of other means of taking in information. Visual literacy is becoming a popular topic because so much of our information comes to us through images. It makes sense for us to pay attention to images and sounds and how they effect us, how they tell us story, how they impact our lives and emotions. The printed word is not the only storyteller, and Johnson shows us that it is not the only method for exercising our brain. I believe that TV, film, and video culture should be considered in the same way as print culture, and this book helps to provide some backing for this sort of paradigm shift. By showing us how pop culture can expand our mind and "make us smarter" even if we don't read as much, Johnson gives libraries and librarians something to seriously think about. I agree that everything bad can be good for you, and I think this book can help me to make that case.

Even if you don't believe TV shows and games are "making us smarter," I still think it is important for the library to provide access to popular culture resources. Libraries don't seem to have a problem providing pop culture books like mysteries and romances, even if these books aren't as complex as some of the games that Johnson mentions. Libraries provide these books not because they are "good for you," but because they are popular and they are something they patrons want. They are part of our common culture. A strong argument could be made that nothing today ties our culture together more strongly than movies and television. Some people may believe this is a bad thing, that popular culture is dumbing us down. I have already stated that I don't think this is the case, but even if it were, it doesn't change the fact that this is our culture. TV, movies and games are a huge, important, and popular part of our culture, it would be silly if libraries didn't provide them.



Second Life Post

Sat, 03 May 2008 20:32:00 +0000

Second Life is a fascinating, frustrating, and overwhelming experience. The entire idea of it intrigues me, but I have to admit that I find it a little hard to get into. I'm know that I'm not the only one who found my first visit to Orientation Island to be a completely frustrating experience, and I agree with some of what my classmates have already been saying. It is totally confusing at first, and just getting off the island can be a real challenge.

Once I found my way off the island, I did check out Info Island, which is pretty cool. It was neat to be walking through a virtual library, and actually taking virtual books off a shelf. I thought it was particularly neat that you could actually read the content of these books. You can see from my screenshot that I had been reading Moby Dick. I have to admit, though, that while this was very cool, the odds of me sitting down and reading all of Moby Dick online are slim, but reading it within Second Life is even less likely. This was one of the problems I had with Info Island; it was a cool experience, but if I was actually looking for information, I would much rather have a well organized website. A lot of the stuff on the island was neat, (like the RSS bulletin board behind me in the screenshot) but it linked to web pages. It would be kind of annoying if you literally had to search around an entire island to find what you were looking for.

I'm sure there are a lot of great things that you can do with Second Life, but I found it so overwhelming that I might not have had the opportunity to do a lot of them. I will admit that I found interacting with other people a little creepy, and was sort of reluctant to do it. I feel much more comfortable communicating with people in a more structured web environment. Overall, I felt like Second Life was pretty cool, and it seems like it would be a great way for institutions like libraries to get their name out and reach the SL playing segment of the population. But for actually taking a class, or getting information, I might prefer a good old fashioned web page or wiki. But maybe I'm just biased because I had a lot of trouble changing the facial hair on my avatar...

Here's my second life photo - KA Madfess in front of an RSS feed, contemplating Moby Dick.
(image)



Everything Bad Is Good For You

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 16:39:00 +0000

I think this book makes some really interesting points and can really be a great starting point for librarians who are looking for ways to open up their collections to more than just text-based books. By focusing on the narrative complexities and problem solving opportunities offered by "junk" TV and videogames, Johnson shows that these popular sources of information and entertainment offer some of the same benefits that librarians celebrate in printed books. Too often we make judgments based on the medium. A book is inherently "good" for kids, no matter what the content. We often hear the phrase "as long as they're reading!" Yet we very seldom hear anything positive about TV, and even more rarely hear people praising the cognitive effects of video games.

Only recently have libraries begun to realize the value of having graphic novel collections. In the past, such "comic books" were seen as having no educational value, even if the shelves were lined with text-based fantasy stories. Now, graphic novels are celebrated for getting kids interested in reading, for having complex content, and for increasing visual literacy skills. Its time to start looking at TV and games in the same way. They are not books, as Johnson acknowledges, but their content may have some worthwhile features. This book really makes you start to think about why we value text, and helps us to realize some of the positive aspects of new media outlets. To say that they are simply sophisticated ways of delivering stupidity is a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. We need to overcome our old prejudices and consider the benefits of what has widely been considered "bad" for us.



Screencasting Best Practices

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 16:24:00 +0000

Screencasting can really be a wonderful tool. I have to admit that I have enjoyed making screencasts for this class, and keep thinking about how useful they can be for libraries and other organizations. There are some tricky aspects of screencasting however, and here are a few of the best practices I have come up with.

  • Plan it Out. I agree with Steve that you don't need to write out a whole script, but you should try and walk through the screencast so that you can anticipate any glitches. For example, your viewable area might be perfect for what you want to show, until you realize that you have to open a menu that expands beyond the are you have selected. If you walk through the cast first, you can adjust accordingly.
  • Know the limitations of your technology. For my screencasts, I have been using an on-board mic on my 5 year old laptop. (I didn't even know the mic existed until I installed Jing). Needless to say, it isn't very good, but by putting my head in the right spot, and talking directly into it, I find that I can get relatively decent audio. I also have a spotty internet connection, so strategic use of the pause button has been important for me.
  • Camtasia has great tools. Some of the additional tools in Camatasia may seem like so many bells and whistles, but some of them can be really useful. For example, you can blur an area of the screen. I tried this out when I was making a video where I needed to enter my library card number. If you were showing how to use an e-commerce site and you wanted to enter a credit card number, blurring it out would be really great. Some of the other tools are really neat as well. To make a good screencast, you shouldn't go overboard, but you should know what tools are available to you.
  • Keep it short. I wish I could say I always followed this advice. Its easy to ramble when making a screencast. Keep it simple, and you can always use the pause button if you don't feel like filling dead air with "ums" and "ahs."
  • Be Yourself. I think the biggest advantage to the screencast is that it lets the screencaster's personality out. Don't just read a script like its a book, that takes away the personal nature of the screencast. Just make sure you don't get too off topic and start to ramble.



Game Screencast: Anagramatic

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 16:18:00 +0000

Here is a screencast of me playing an online game called Anagramatic. It is a multiplayer word game available at http://www.miniclip.com/games/anagrammatic/en/. The video is below. Its about six minutes long because I wanted to get the complete game, but don't worry, you can sort of play along in your head while you watch.

Click the image below for a pop-up video, or follow the link below.
http://blip.tv/file/859707

(image)
Click to play


Media Files:
http://blip.tv/file/get/Kascils598s08-AnagramaticGameWalkthrough198.flv




Which Console?

Sun, 27 Apr 2008 15:31:00 +0000

If I were in charge of acquiring a gaming system for my library, I would have to consider a number of different things. My research would have to based on the type of program that I was planning on using the video game system for. For the sake of this blog post, I will assume (realistically) that I have to purchase a console that will be flexible and can be used for many different programs. With that in mind, here is how I would go about making this decision.Research:Talk to patrons. Find out if people are interested and gaming, and if they are, what sort of gaming they like. I don't just mean kids here either. Find out if adults and older patrons are gaming, and ask them what console they use.Look at game catalogs. This is important. A console could have all the best features, but it won't survive unless it has a nice set of games that are appropriate to the library's mission.Look at other libraries. Jenny Levine talks about the success of the gaming program at Ann Arbor District Library. I would check out their website, and maybe even contact them to get some advice.Play the games! This would be a personal sacrifice, but I would definitely want to play the games (or at least read game reviews or gaming magazines to get a fuller sense of how the games work).CriteriaPopularity. Getting a game console wouldn't be effective if no one cared at all. I would want to make sure that whatever console I get is popular with gamers, so that we would have the potential to make a splash.Cost. How expensive are the games? Are we only going to be able to afford one or two games, or can we get a diverse collection?Diversity of games. Are all of the games similar, or are there lots of different games that will appeal to a broad range of people.Connection to the community. You have to know your community and know the users of the library. Is there an active community of older patrons who may be willing to try out the system, or are the only anticipated users children? This would effect the decision.Space/technical considerations. Do you have enough room for a Wii? How big is the TV that will be used? Will the game system be in an area where there shouldn't be a lot of noise? All of these factors will have an impact on the decision making process.And the winner is...I think I would be inclined to get the Nintendo Wii. I might be biased because I have more experience with a Wii, and find it to be great fun, but I do think it would be a great way to meet the different criteria I have defined above. Although other consoles may also have some of these advantages (and some advantages of their own), here is why I chose the Wii:Types of games. The Wii offers a wide range of multiplayer, community based games that are simple, easy to learn, and quick. This would be great for programs, where you want a high turnover of players.Appeal to older users. The Wii is much heralded for its appeal to non-gamers. I know that my mother loves to play the bowling game (she has gotten a perfect score) and I can see the Wii opening up a range of intergenerational programs, as well as programs geared toward older users. I think this might help to boost the reputation of the gaming system and reduce some of the challenges the library may face. I like the way the Wii makes users think about gaming in a different way, and this may be VERY valuable to a library just starting out with a gaming program.Its fun! There is no way around it. The Wii will be very useful for bringing people into the library, and it will attract the attention of kids and adults alike. But most games don't require a huge learning curve, or force users to be completely immersed in the game environment. Although there are numerous benefits of immersion (I'm sure we will talk about it next week) I think the nature of simple Wii games like Wii Sports enables users to have fun playing the game, but they are still available to the communit[...]



boyd Readings

Sun, 20 Apr 2008 23:27:00 +0000

It was refreshing to see an article about social networks that wasn't just about the dangers of online predators, but was actually quite scholarly and informative. I took a lot of different things away from the boyd articles, but here are a few things that I thought were particularly interesting:

I thought it was important that boyd talked about how most social networks were used primarily to reinforce real, "offline" relationships. One quote really caught my eye: "SNSs are "networked publics" that support sociability, just as unmediated public spaces do." I think this is an important point for libraries to consider. Libraries, after all, are themselves public spaces that support sociability. Creating a space where the community can gather and socialize has always been part of the mission of public libraries. This is now part of the mission of social networking sites. Using boyd's research to support this conceptualization of SNSs might help libraries to think of Facebook and MySpace less as terrible, dangerous spaces where predators lurk, and more as modern public grounds where libraries should have a presence.

As many of classmates have already said, it is very important for libraries to have a presence on these social networking sites so that they can get involved with kids where they live. I know that the library website will never have the "stickiness" of SNSs, but wouldn't it be great to see a MySpace page for a library filled with patrons as friends? If SNSs are another way to keep the library in the minds of its patrons and engaged with the community, than libraries should definitely embrace them.

It might also be possible to think of Facebook and MySpace as a way of encouraging reading in general. Having a virtual bookshelf is pretty cool, and it is a means by which people encourage one another to read different books. The library can encourage patrons, especially younger ones, to add applications like the virtual bookshelf to their Facebook profiles, or to get involved with other social services like Librarything. Getting kids involved with books might be one way to get kids involved with the library.

I also want to mention the other boyd article, about social class difference and social networking sites. I don't know how much utility it might have to libraries, other than helping them gauge where they might be most likely to find their user base, but it was an incredibly interesting and thought-provoking article.



Ning

Sun, 20 Apr 2008 22:50:00 +0000

After setting up an account on Ning and clicking around a little bit, I have found that it has some unique advantages and disadvantages that allow it to occupy a unique middle ground between a Facebook or MySpace group and a group Wiki or Blog.

For example, Facebook and MySpace groups offer some similar functionalities to Ning, in that it enables a group of people interested in a topic to gather together in one place. There is a forum, a list of group members, and a place to post photos and other media. The functionality is limited in Facebook or MySpace, however. Only one forum, and there isn't the flexibility to add all of the additional pages that you can add in Ning. If you have a large, dynamic group, and you want to provide a flexible meeting space to pursue lots of different ideas, Ning might be a great choice. Of course, you sacrifice the popularity of the other two services, which brings in the "stickiness" established in the previous post. It also allows users to use their already established profiles.

Ning is also more flexible than something like a wiki or a blog, which is great for bringing in group collaboration, but is better suited to definite tasks. Ning allows more free form networking. It is a great tool for bringing everyone together, and then allowing them to explore different things and spark different discussions in one organized place. It is flexible enough to expand in the ways that the group needs, but not quite as structured as a wiki, and certainly more open than blogs.

Ning occupies an interesting sort of middle space for social networking. It allows for more features than a Facebook or MySpace group, and it isn't as structured or formal as a group wiki or blog. It has its own utility for groups that want to provide a flexible meeting space that is open and free form, but can grow with the needs of the group. This can be very useful in a work environment, in that it can allow all of the members of an organization to have a meeting place that is not necessarily work related, but conversations can be had and issues can be addressed as they arise.



Social Networking: A "Sticky" Situation

Sun, 20 Apr 2008 21:11:00 +0000

I think there a number of different reasons for the "stickiness" of sites like Facebook and MySpace.

One reason is definitely the personal nature of these sites. Facebook and MySpace bring the users' ego into the web surfing experience in a way that a news website or your favorite library OPAC can't quite replicate. Crafting a personal profile and keeping it up to date can be very important to many users, and it may keep them on the site for a long time. In addition, users are constantly drawn back into the site every time someone posts a comment, sends them a message, or otherwise interacts with their profile. Once back on the site, they are open to a number of other "stickiness" factors.

One factor is the ability to get lost by clicking through a variety of different links. A user might go to the site to check a message, and find that one of their friends has changed their profile photo. They will then see that they added new photos. These might include another friend, which brings the user to their profile, where they are inspired to send a message to this friend, and so on and so on. Facebook really encourages this serendipitous discovery of new additions to friends' profiles by offering a news feed. Once the user is in, it is easy to get lost and spend a lot of time in these sites.

Both services keep adding things to their sites that make them even more "sticky." Waste a lot of time online playing internet games? Now you can do it through Facebook! Spend time surfing for new music? You don't even have to leave MySpace. There are groups to join, applications to add, profiles to trick out, etc. The list of things you can do within these services continues to expand (Facebook just added chat), and the amount of time you can spend there just continues to grow.



Facebook Screencast: Pandora Application

Sun, 20 Apr 2008 20:13:00 +0000

In this screencast, I show you how to add a Pandora application to your Facebook page. This is a pretty neat app that allows (among other things) your friends to see and listen to your Pandora radio stations. Click the link below, or watch the embedded video to learn how to use the application!

http://www.screencast.com/t/UUxIp3RAT

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Media Files:
http://content.screencast.com/bootstrap.swf




SCILS takes YouTube

Sun, 13 Apr 2008 17:15:00 +0000

It was really fun to watch everyone's YouTube videos, and I was impressed by so many of them. My favorite, however, would have to be Lorri's wonderful video, Bald is the New Black. It is a great video that introduces us to a serious topic, but with a charming sense of humor. One of the things that really impressed me about the video is that even though it was made with a relatively simple technology (it looks like Windows Movie Maker), and it only uses text and images, it has a lot of personality and really captures the positive attitude of Lorri's family. It shows us how, even using some pretty basic technological tools, we can connect to a large number of people. And it seems, by the way, that Lorri's video does speak to a large number of people - look at those growing view numbers!



Camtasia Screencast: Using the Library Catalog to Place Holds

Sun, 13 Apr 2008 16:39:00 +0000

In this video I show users of my public library, and those of the consortium that we belong to, how to place holds over the internet and have their books sent from one member library to their home library. Its not exactly clear how to do it, and most of our patrons don't even know they can do this sort of thing. Making this video made me realize just how useful Screencasting could be for libraries as they try to introduce patrons to new technologies!

Click the screenshot below to open a new window with the video, or click the link below to see a .mov version of the screencast on blip.tv (warning - this might take a long time to load).

http://blip.tv/file/get/Kascils598s08-PlacingLibraryHolds579.mov


(image)
Click to play


Media Files:
http://blip.tv/file/get/Kascils598s08-PlacingLibraryHolds579.flv




Jing Screencast: RSS Feeds for Job Listings

Sat, 12 Apr 2008 23:40:00 +0000

In this video, I show you how to use RSS feeds to have job listings sent directly to your RSS feed reader. I have found this to be one of the most useful applications of RSS technology if you are currently engaged in the job hunt! I made the video using Jing.

http://www.screencast.com/t/EqHEaHa9


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Media Files:
http://content.screencast.com/bootstrap.swf




Our Flickr Photos

Sat, 05 Apr 2008 03:42:00 +0000

We definitely love our pets. If one thing comes through from our Flickr photos, its that we have a lot of pet enthusiasts. Vacations and food are also some biggies in terms of how we define ourselves. I wonder what that says about us?

As far as the ed experience goes, it seems like most of us experience SCILS through our laptops and our often messy desks. I was relieved to see that I wasn't the only one with a cluttered workspace. It must be all the time we spend organizing information, doesn't leave a lot of time to organize our own desks.



Educational Videos vs. Entertainment Videos

Sat, 05 Apr 2008 00:06:00 +0000

I think educational videos do stand a chance against entertainment videos. YouTube may be best known for its "viral" comedy videos, such as laughing babies and the like, and it cannot be denied that entertainment videos seem to dominate the web. Still, it would be ridiculous to assume that there is no room for educational videos on the internet. If Anderson's book has shown us anything, it has shown us that there is a lot of room for just about everything in the long tail. A laughing baby may be a hit, but that doesn't mean people aren't going to watch all the niches of educational videos.

Furthermore, the Pew survey tells us that educational video on the web might not be as niche as we think. Yes, more young adults watch comedy videos than anything else, and this seems to be what the media likes to dwell on, but most adults watch news videos on the web. I think this survey provides pretty good evidence that educational videos do stand a chance.

Need more evidence? Cruise around YouTube. Look at how many videos are in the how to section (and we just added some ourselves!). Look at how many hits the Obama race speech has. Millions of people see internet video as a source of information, and I think as we go forward, internet video will definitely emerge as a legitimate source of educational material.



My Entertainment Video - Anthony and the Balloon

Fri, 04 Apr 2008 23:52:00 +0000

So here is my thoroughly un-educational entertainment video. It is a very quick little clip of my friend Anthony sucking the helium out of a balloon and telling us to "look at the little grill" that is next to him on the couch. He then laughs like a chipmunk. It seemed pretty funny and YouTube-worthy, so I hope you enjoy it. I took the video with a simple digital camera, and did a little bit of editing with iMovie before putting it up on Blip and YouTube. Here it is!

http://blip.tv/file/800163



(image)
Click to play


Media Files:
http://blip.tv/file/get/Kascils598s08-AnthonyAndTheBalloon195.flv




My Educational Video - How to Make a Gingerbread House

Fri, 04 Apr 2008 23:21:00 +0000

This is My Educational video. It is a photo video I made using Windows Movie Maker that guides you through the construction of a gingerbread house. I had a lot of fun making it, I hope you enjoy watching it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-wSbAGQGpk


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Media Files:
http://www.youtube.com/v/8-wSbAGQGpk




The Long Tail In Libraries

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 02:20:00 +0000

I think this was really a great book for us to read as librarians entering a field that is undergoing some drastic changes. We definitely need to start thinking about libraries in some entirely different ways, and The Long Tail forces us to ask questions about some of the potential changes to the library we might be seeing in the coming years. After finishing the book, I do think that libraries can effectively harness the power of the long tail, but it will take a lot of work and a lot of open minds.

I think we all noted in some of our earlier blog posts that interlibrary loan is one obvious way to make use of the library Long Tail. As Anderson repeatedly notes, shelf space costs money, and anyone who has ever been involved in weeding a library collection knows this applies in its own way to libraries as well. Weeding often results in many different libraries of "hits" all across the country. What becomes of the niches? If we are lucky, we can interlibrary loan them from other libraries, if we aren't we either have to buy a copy or tell the patron he or she is out of luck. Anderson has shown that there is, without a doubt, a market for these niches that are frequently weeded from library shelves. But how can libraries tap that market?

Expanded interlibrary loan programs, on a massive scale, might be one answer. It won't be easy, but imagine if there was one centralized interlibrary loan interface for library users - think an ILL Netflix. Users could select a book, and request that it be delivered to their home library, if it doesn't already have a copy. By working together and sharing their collections on a massive scale, libraries could tap into the long tail effectively, and maybe even save money along the way by not buying books that will only circulate once or twice. Of course there are logistical problems - some libraries will loan more than they borrow, etc. There is also the problem of who would run this system. There might be some outcry if OCLC offered to integrate it into Worldcat, for example. Still, it is something to think about, and might be one possible way to tap into the Long Tail.

If libraries were equipped to deliver items to the Long Tail, they would also have to increase their filtering capabilities. Anderson has shown how important recommendations engines can be to sending people to items in the Tail. I don't think LCSH offers the same sort of serendipitous discovery as browsing another users tags or ratings. There is some hope in this arena. The integration of social tools like LibraryThing is one possibility, and the addition of Web 2.0 functionality to traditional OPACS (again, Worldcat.org) is another. If recommendations, ratings, and other social networking tools were built into this giant library Netflix-like interlibrary loan interface, I think it would have a great chance of catering to the Long Tail.

Yes, there would be problems, but I do think reenvisioning the library not as one building in one community, but as a larger, more centralized network serving a wide clientèle would help libraries better manage their inventory and better meet the demands of the Long Tail. This would allow them to worry less about collection development, and spend more time worrying about some other other drastic changes that will no doubt be facing libraries in the future.



Text Blogging Vs. Podcasting

Sun, 30 Mar 2008 18:02:00 +0000

Now that I have had a first hand experience with both creating a podcast and doing text-based blogging, I can weigh some of the pros and cons of each.

From the perspective of a producer, podcasting has some obvious drawbacks. First of all, you have to speak into a microphone, and if you aren't really comfortable performing in this way, that could be a big problem. Second, it is a performance, so you don't really get the same sort of freedom to go back and re-read and edit the way I can with this more traditional blog post. Of course, if you are more comfortable speaking than writing, podcasting can be a really quick and efficient way for you to get information out to your audience.

Once the podcast has been produced, it has some advantages over a text-based blog. The biggest of these is that it can be downloaded, transferred to an MP3 player, and listened to away from the computer. I listen to hours and hours of NPR and other podcasts while I am at work, so I definitely understand the advantage that podcasting has over traditional blogging in this respect. As we have seen, podcasts can be syndicated as RSS feeds, so they can be picked up just as easily as text-based blog posts, but they offer some more flexibility in how you actually get to the information contained in the post.

Still, text blogging has some advantages over podcasting. One big one is searchability. As we have discussed a little already, you can't search a podcast, and transcripting technology isn't really there yet. We search and find things on the internet using text primarily, so text blogging has a clear advantage over podcasting in terms of findability.

Both methods have some clear advantages and drawbacks. Overall, it depends on the type of information you are hoping to share, and the nature of the audience you are trying to reach.



My Podcast! RU Women's Basketball

Sun, 30 Mar 2008 16:07:00 +0000

Get excited for NCAA tournament time with this brief story of the Rutgers Women's Basketball team's 2008 season so far.

http://www.switchpod.com/users/kascils598s08/kevinstory.mp3

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Media Files:
http://www.switchpod.com/users/kascils598s08/kevinstory.mp3




The Long Tail Eats the Head

Sun, 16 Mar 2008 14:24:00 +0000

I recently read this article in The Economist about the "battle for Wikipedia's soul." It discusses the issue of whether Wikipedia should start to impose tougher editorial standards, or continue to let everything be included, no matter what that does to the encyclopedia. It contradicts some of Anderson's assumptions about the limitless space of Wikipedia and, in my mind, raises a question about whether or not the Long Tail can come back to eat the head. Should the Long Tail be stopped at some point or another?



The Long Tail Revisted

Sun, 16 Mar 2008 14:01:00 +0000

Everyone knows that libraries will be filling new roles in the future, and I think its very useful to think about some of these roles in the terms that Anderson uses in the Long Tail, such as New Tastemakers, New Producers, and New Markets.

First, let's look at the issue of libraries as tastemakers. In a way, libraries have always performed this function. The collection the library has, the display it puts up, a conversation with the person at the desk, all of these have long helped to shape the tastes of library patrons. Now, technology is just allowing libraries to do this more efficiently and on a broader scale. In a physical library, only a few displays can be created. There can be a holiday display, or a themed display, or a new display, or a best-seller display, but for the most part, the majority of the books will remain lumped together in some physical collection. This does not have to be the way. In a library catalog, or some other online environment (say, for example, a library's LibraryThing account) books can be grouped in endlessly different ways. This is already done through Subject Headings, which can present a view of all the books on a certain topic, but what is stopping libraries from incorporating more social software tools and adding to the list user ratings, or statistics to show which books are most frequently checked out. This would enable patrons to not only see a list of all the books on their topic - say, for example, Web 2.0 - but to see the 10 most popular Web 2.0 books at the library, and the top 10 user-rated Web 2.0 books. People find this sort of tastemaking to be very helpful, and it has doubtlessly played a huge role in the success of things like Netflix and Amazon. If our experience hasn't already shown us this, then Anderson's book has. I think libraries need to try and get on board. Adding more collaborative functionality to catalogs, or incorporating social software like LibraryThing would be a great start.

I talked a little bit in my last Long Tail post about how libraries can work at filling New Markets. Increased usage of and demand for interlibrary loan will certainly help to fill markets that a physical library could not possibly hope to fill. By collaborating with other libraries and pooling collections of diverse materials, it will be possibly for libraries to supply not only the most popular books to their patrons, but also to supply the books that populate the Long Tail. This will require a major shift in the way we think about libraries as fixed, separate entities, but I think it is a shift that is already starting to take place.

Finally, libraries can take advantage of new Web 2.0 software to fill the role of new producers. We have been learning all semester long how libraries can do this. We are seeing how libraries can produce content using blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, Flickr, del.icio.us, LibraryThing, etc., to bring new and more useful information to their patrons. Libraries used to have very limited options in terms of the amount of information they could produce. They could print out newsletters for distribution at the library, for example. Now, however, the potential to produce content that is available to all patrons is almost limitless. It is simply up to the library how to use this power to produce the most interesting and useful information for their patrons.



Google Analytics

Sun, 16 Mar 2008 13:46:00 +0000

Browsing my Google Analytics page, I can learn all sorts of interesting things about who views my blog, how they got there, and what they do there. I can also see what browser and connection speed they are using. It appears that most of my readers like Firefox - 33 visits - while only 5 use Internet Explorer (there was also 1 Safari). The dominance of cable in the connection speed category was, strangely, exactly the same. 33 Cable Users, 5 DSL, and 1 T1.



SCILS Ed Experience

Sun, 16 Mar 2008 13:33:00 +0000

Being an exclusively on-campus student prior to taking this course, my SCILS experience has taken place almost entirely in the SCILS building. Well, that and riding NJ Transit trains for a nice chunk of the day. It has been great. The people here are wonderful, and I've made a lot friends.

As wonderful as the experience is on-campus, I really have not minded trading in the uncomfortable chairs in some of the classrooms for my new classroom, pictured below. I've been pleasantly surprised to find that even in an online course I've felt like there is some sense of community and really active learning.

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There is more where that came from. To find out more about my SCILS educational experience, check out my Ed Experience set on Flickr.

Lots of people experience SCILS in lots of different ways though. To see more of the SCILS educational experience, check out the group page for SCILS Ed Experience.