Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blog #12: Training materials and colds don't mix...

Finishing up the wiki is almost surreal. When we started it seemed so far off. We have put the finishing touches on what we are doing as far as I know. We tried to contact Nancy and have her attend one last meeting but we never got a response so we are powering forward with what we have. She is welcome to change anything she wants once it is hers. We've finished major changes anyway. Small content changes may be made but we're working on training materials now so major things have to stay where they are. The training materials should go well. We tested the software at our meeting last week and we are all meeting individually to use the screen casting software with Kay. I was supposed to meet with her on Tuesday but have acquired an insane head cold. I'm not sure they want to hear me sneeze, sniffle, and cough my way through their training videos but it hasn't really gotten better and we're running short on time. I'll take some medicine before class this afternoon and hope that works. We'll see. A cold is definitely not in the plans and goes to show that even non-technology can screw up your whole plan.

The Usability test section is done and posted. I now have to go through and test two other wikis. It's weird to look at a wiki that isn't yours and realize that even though you have been working with the wikispaces technology for a while, it's a whole different world to go into someone else's wiki. It will be interesting. I'm not sure if we're supposed to be returning these finished tests to the person or what we're supposed to be doing with them but I guess we'll find out this evening in class. It's also weird to go back to class after having a few weeks without it. With luck VIC will work with us tonight and not throw us off. I have a Saturday class where we get thrown off every week as well. Oh technology, how we love you...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Blog #11: Winding down?

We're starting to finish up changes on the blog and to work on training materials. It looks like we will be filming our openings on Thursday (so I will try to remember not to look like I just woke up) and we are writing the scripts this week but may not film them this week. We aren't sure yet. It depends on Nancy and what she says she wants to change. This is pretty much her last opportunity to say if she hates something or not before we have to finalize so we can film training materials and finish up. We each have two scripts to write. Mine are the counter widget and the search feature which includes my new and working tag cloud. I have started to kind of play around with what each thing is capable of to write a short script for it. I think I'm just going to jot notes for each step I take and go from there. I'm not sure yet but I better get sure soon since we're looking at them on Thursday at our team meeting.

This has all gone so fast. I can't believe it's almost over. I also can't believe that after all the time, energy, and frustration that the tag cloud was something the wiki had built in to the search feature all along. Oh well. it works now the way I want it to. It's useful and I like it. I'm pretty proud of the way it looks. I've had a coworker take a look at it and she loved the way it looked and wondered if she could get me to set one up for her. As much as this has been very interesting and I'm glad I know how to do it now and feel confident just playing around with things, I think she's on her own with that one. She can learn how to do it when she takes the class.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Blog #10: The Tag Cloud Saga continues...

I think I might officially hate tag clouds. The truth is that I want to be able to use the tag cloud widget on our site the same way it's used on the wordpress blog and it doesn't seem like an option with a free tag cloud widget. I made a tag cloud out of a sample of 20 words that we can use as pretty general tags on our wiki and I like it but it's small. If they want to keep it and use it I think they should have a list of at least 100 words for tags. I'm also not sure if they'll even want to use it or if it will be just one more step people won't want to do. It's hard to say. I don't know how useful it's going to be to them to see the amount of times a tag shoes up on the site but maybe it will be. It's pretty cool idea but it takes too long to update and it is kind of a pain. I used tag-cloudgenerator.com and I couldn't find a better one. I liked the way it came out and I like the way it goes onto the site so far but I'm just not sure of it in general.

Looking toward the future I think we have to finish it all up and tie up loose ends at this point and move forward with our quick start guide and training materials. I'm not really worried about those as Kay knows what she's doing and I've had a little bit of experience with it as well. I think our training materials will go well and will loom great. We just have to come up with a list of everything that needs to be included as well as write the scripts and just do it.

Also my counter widget is up and running correctly and I like it a lot. I'm glad we changed. I'm glad we're using an easier service and I'm glad it has some additional features that I think are pretty cool. I'm pretty proud of the way the wiki is coming together, especially when you think that none of us had any idea how to do this in the beginning.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blog #9: World wide widget hunt

I kind of hate widgets right now. I spent most of yesterday looking in to what I thought would be a pretty simple widget hunt. I had to add a counter widget to our wiki and look at tag clouds to see if they would be useful for our wiki as well. Finding the counter was not had at all. It took me just a few minutes to locate one I liked and only a few more to add it so that it would actually show up on the page. This was the easy part. It was there with the widget adding area of the edit menu. It read 385 visits. There was a place to go to reset the widget for your site but it would not reset. I tried everything I could think of. I took it off, logged back in and relinked it to try it from scratch again. I got rid of all of it and tried again. I tried to reset on different computers. I tried it all but it would not work for anything in the world. I ended up looking around for different widget and loading that onto the site. So far so good. It works and started at 1. Amazing. Now I just have to figure out if I can easily reset it and we'll have to add that information to training materials.

The tag cloud is different altogether. I'm not sure it will even work for us. All of the generators I have been looking at need you to add the tags you want it to look for. This is fine if we want to give them a list of tags to use all the time but if they want to create their own tags they won't want to keep generating new clouds. If there was a cloud that would look at all the tags and create it's own list it would work well but I don't know yet if there is. The tag cloud on the YA area of the ACPL site is great and I am going to ask who found it and where they found it to see if we can recreate it but if not we might have to give up the cloud. It was suggested to us by one of the YA librarians as something they might like to see but if they have to generate new clouds every time they come up with a new tag then it's not worth it to them. They want something quick and easy and that would be neither. It was a cool idea. Too bad it might not happen.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Blog #8: Green Shorts

No, you don't have to actually wear green shorts to participate but if you feel that will get your creative juices flowing...then by all means.

This week duing YA program on Wednesday afternoon we are beginning a program called Green Shorts. This first meeting will be to brainstorm ideas for short films on how to go green. The summer reading program is going green this summer and at my branch we're taking this very seriously. We've started a One Green Summer blog to talk with each other about ideas and this will be the tens' first program on going green. They're going to come up with ideas on how we can make Youtube videos about going green.

All week I have been looking at Youtubes that might work as examples. I've found some of the PSAs from Live Earth that I'm going to show them with actors they know. There are also a bunch of band PSAs I'm going to show them as well.Then we're going to talk about what we can do in the library and start to search for quotes on changes we can make and effects of those changes. From there we're going t start writing scripts and then eventually video tape and edit these videos together. This is planned to take 3 to 4 afternoons to do. It might take more. I've worked with Youtube only one other time and it took me 2 hours to edit a 45 second video. It should be interesting to show teens how to do it and see how long it actually takes. I'm excited to see their finished products and possibly be able to use them this summer and for class visits in the late spring.

Here's the only Youtube I've ever done. I hope you find it half as funny as we all did.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blog #7: Freaks and Geeks Training

ACPL has a program which focuses on new technologies that they call Geek Out Don't Freak Out. I haven't been able to attend this session before the one this week. The newest edition of this (which my assistant manager calls Freaks and Geeks Training (as if we need to be trained to be bigger freaks and/or geeks) was today and focused on mp3s, analog to digital music, and the new Amazon book reader called the Kindle. I have to say I really wanted to go see the digital turntable. My dad has wanted to convert his records to cds for a long time. He has some things he can't find on cd. So I wanted to go and learn more about this. I was also interested in seeing the Kindle up close since we've all been talking about it around the library for a while now.

The mp3 portion was something I didn't really need to know. I've geeked around with that equipment for a while. We did all just get new mp3 players if we participated in learning 2.0 though and this will be able to play audio books (which we are getting back as downloadable in the system soon). I'm excited about this since my ipod will not work with them and I haven't had a reason to be able to use it before. I did learn that we are getting that service back soon and am excited about that option.

The digital turntable was great. The One Kay used was called the Ion and it looks very easy though I'll have to make sure my dad cleans his vinyl before we use one. It's funny because I'm so used to burning cds which takes no time at all but to do this, it's like going back to when we had to make a copy of a tape which took as long as it took to play it. It will take a while for him to convert his stuff but apparently we can find them pretty cheap on half.com so this might be worth looking into. Kay also showed us how to take analog music from a guitar and microphone and use Garage band (an apple application) with them. We're starting a band. I get to play drums. I always wanted to be a drummer so this is great. Ha!

The Kindle is kind of cool. I have to admit it. I like the digital ink (e-ink maybe) and how it doesn't look like a computer screen but an actual book. It is kind of cool that way. It turns pages by flashing to the next page which is weird but interesting as well. I have a lot of doubt that this will ever come close to taking a big percentage of book sales but it is cool to play with. It's also really expensive and I can't see owning one even though new releases and best sellers are 9.99.

In less happy technology news, this last week with oncourse has been horrible. First it wouldn't let anyone log on, then it was slow, then I uploaded a few assignments for my other class and one posted but the other one gave me a confirmation screen but didn't post. Being 2 hours away from Indy and turning all assignments in via oncourse, when it goes down and has issues it can be really frustrating.

Well, I'm off to pick up my 35mm film now!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blog #6: The Wiki Begins

Starting with the wiki has been an interesting experience. We set up a new group wiki with a common password to get us all in. We logged in and started to look at the look and feel of the site. After a minute or so we decided that we'd wait on that, it being not all that important. We discussed what content we needed and where this content should be located. What needs to go on the navigation bar? What should we include? What should we leave off. We ended up generating a lot of questions...quite a few more than the five we needed to record to answer the next time we meet. With luck we will have answers to these questions and be able to move forward.

After the meeting I started playing around with the wiki on my own. After I actually logged in with the right user name and password that is. It's interesting to just look around and try to locate tools and how they can be used. I made a test page on my own personal wiki just to try it and I'm wondering how easy it is to delete content or pages in case I mess something up and want to start over. It's been interesting just to take a look around but I am excited about actually getting started.

In other technology news, I have been working on trying to put together a digital newsletter and or digital flyers for programming. ure this is something I will ever use but it might be and I've been finding new ways to use Word that I haven't done before because we don't have access to PageMaker and PhotoShop at work like I do at home. It's been a little frustrating but I'm really glad I know I can do the things I want with a program I have access to both at work and at home.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Blog #5: Old technology in new ways...

In the past week I have gotten a few new toys. I ordered a new Polaroid instant camera, an Action Sampler and a Fish Eye camera. The first is the old style instant Polaroid and the other two are 35mm which I haven't worked with in ages since I got my first digital. I bought the Polaroid for art purposes...well I bought them all for that actually. I want to work with some scratching and manipulation of the instant shots. I did it once in an art class and want to explore more. The Action Sampler takes four pictures in rapid progression and then develops all four shots on one print. Therefor it records action and movement. The fish eye I haven't gotten yet but it's on it's way. It takes 170 degree shots and I am excited about using it to distort images.

As excited as I am about the new stuff I got, each one has involved some level of discovery for me. I haven't loaded 35mm film in so long I forgot how to do it right and spent ten minutes just trying to figure out what I screwed up. I did finally get it but now I have to learn how to use this thing to my advantage. When they say rapid succession they mean it. I could barely move as the flashes went off and everyone I have shown it to is like 'It's done?'. I think I did get some good shots of my new puppy as she moves pretty rapidly but I don't know yet. There's another aspect to get used to again...developing film. No more instant gratification. Also no more steady cam shots. Oh how I do rely on technological advances. I'm also going to try distorting these pictures but I'm not sure how.

Just got the Polaroid today. It's been around a while but I have never used one besides the one time. I didn't know how to load it. I can't even seem to find out how to change the battery or how often it's going to need it. I have started scratching though and that's been a lot of fun.

I realize that this is technically old technology, some of it dating back a while but for the most part I grew up with digital and there are a lot of differences. It will take a lot of getting used to and a lot of exploration. I am definitely finding the irony in me being the person many people come to for help with new technology and not knowing how to use technology that they don't think twice about because they've been using it for so long.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Blog #4 - Beginning Podcasting

I am a podcasting newbie. I have to admit I never really had anything I wanted to podcast but thanks to an interesting new possible opportunity, I decided to go ahead and try it. We have a step-by-step explanation in our Library 2.0 site at our library but that seemed kind of complicated and I want to be able to use this podcasting with others who will probably have less experience than I do. In short: make it easy. The less steps the better. There’s a blog on Livejournal (where my personal blog is located) that I read quite often. It’s the blog of a guy from Chicago who has started his own publishing company to self release his own books and audio books. For a long time he has been doing what Livejournal refers to as voice posting, which is basically podcasting. A person can use the phone to call in and host the voice file on the Livejournal site. Recently he has wanted to expand and be able to make longer posts (Livejournal limits to 5 minutes). He is a self professed technophobe and someone gave him a link to a service called Gabcast. He has since used it several times and raves about how easy it is. This was for me. I had to try it. If it really was as easy as he said, I wouldn’t even need a microphone or recording device. All I would need was my phone.

It was that easy! I set up a GabCast account at www.gabcast.com and created a channel for posts so I could use different channels for different aspects of my life and people could subscribe and learn whenever this channel was updated. I got a channel code and pass code to post and all I have to do is call a toll free number, record my post and they convert it and host it. I can delete, listen to make sure everything sounds alright before posting, and then take the link and add it to other sites when I’m done. It’s so easy, not a lot of steps, and I will be able to show others how to use it easily as well. Now all that is left is to try to include it in this posting and see if that works. I’m really excited about this.

Did I mention the podcast can be either streamed or downloaded?


Gabcast! Booktalks etc. #1 - Fat Kid Rules the World

Booktalk for Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Goings.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blog #3 - Library 2.0...exploring...eventually...

We've been working with Library 2.0 at ACPL as a way to get the staff involved with learning more about the new technologies. It's an optional program for us but it just made sense to me to be involved. The program includes information and support on learning new things such as blogging, wikis, myspace, facebook, delicious, mp3s and mp3 players, and many other internet options that can be useful for libraries. It has been an interesting getting into some of these aspects but I have learned something about myself in this process.

I am far more likely to tackle the aspects of Library 2.0 that I already have some understanding of. I would like to have been able to tackle the more difficult things first but I didn't. I followed the steps on myspace which is a site I have been using for years. I set up a Facebook figuring it was similar and would be simple. I already had several blogs, a couple of which I have been using since 2004. I even looked into downloadable audio books and mp3 players which I had quite a bit of experience with as well. I did find some more uses for several of the programs which was nice and I did reflect more on the use but I didn't learn much at first. I didn't learn much until I had exhausted all of the familiar options that I had.

It's not that I didn't want to learn the new aspects available. I love playing around with things until I figure them out and what better place than at work where they want me to do it and they want to pay me to do it and it's someone else's technology so I'm not all that worried about getting into something I can't get out of. There is tech support. I have no issues. I want to get into it but I saved all the harder stuff till last. I can definitely relate to patrons and other staff members who find it intimidating to get into new technologies. I need to continue to work on the different aspects set up and learn new things rather than reviewing and adding information about old things.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wonderful World of Wikis

I've just begun to look at wikis as I was looking at the syllabus for class and saw that we will be doing a good amount of work with them. Wikis are an area I don't have a lot of knowledge about. The most use I've ever had with a wiki is Wikipedia and what I know about that is that I should always have a source to back up any information I find as Wikipedia is not a reliable source for research and much information. This has been drilled in as along as i have been writing research papers...or at least as long as I have been writing them while Wikipedia has been in existence. I have used the site from time to time for personal use and found mistakes and I also use it when looking up information for patrons for basic things. My point is that my only experience with wikis is Wikipedia and distrust of information.

Needless to say, I'm a little nervous about getting in to wikis, probably partly because of prior experience but also because of lack of experience. I've never participated in creating a wiki entry and I'm not sure how it all works. I am interested in getting started. I read the chapter in Library 2.0 about all the wikis there are and the different sizes of wikis and I'm interested in going to the site which has the index of wikis. I think I'm going to start there so that I can get a greater range of information and knowledge of uses for wikis. I'm also interested in seeing what uses libraries have for them. We use a blog in my branch and I can see the advantages and disadvantages of this. I wonder if having a branch wiki would be more use to us. We currently use our blog just for our summer program but if we had a wiki would allow us to cover multiple topics and keep them separated.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Blog post #1 S554

I created this blog last semester for another class so I figured I would just use this same blog. I have blogged for personal, school, and work use before. I started a blog in 2004 on livejournal that I have been using ever since. This has been a great way to keep up with people who live far away on day to day events. I'm able to tell my friends and family what is going on in my life and read what is going on with them.

This blog for inquiry class began last semester. I blogged about a project that I had been working on for the class. This was the first time I had used a blog to document my ideas and the process of working through a project. It was an interesting experience and allowed more opportunity to reflect than I normally allow time for.

We're currently in the process of blogging with my entire branch on going 'green' for the summer reading program. We've been throwing out ideas on recycling and and utilizing recylced products as well as educating our community in many different ways. It's been great to work with the whole staff on the blog. We all work different schedules and don't have time to have regular meetings to throw around ideas so the blog has allowed us to read each other's ideas in our own time and communicate that way as well.

I will put a picture on here as soon as I find one I don't hate. Yikes!