Friday, May 30, 2008

The End, On Deadline Day, Even! (Thing #23!)

First of all, I have to say that being a part of this here Web Challenge has been a TON of fun for me. As you can tell by scrolling down the page, I clearly like the excuse to ramble about web technologies. But even more fun has been reading all of the other players' blogs (okay, not all of them, obviously, do you know how many posts have been written so far? A whole hell of a lot!) and talking to people about web 2.0. And desperately trying to convince all of you nay-sayers that RSS really is worth it.

My favorite thing was definitely google docs. I didn't use it before, and now I use it all the time. I'm even trying to convince my department members that we should start using google docs for all sorts of crazy things, like meeting notes! keeping track of librarian-by-appointments! or maybe even... the schedule! I'm being a bit silly here, but honestly, using google docs has really changed how I approach the internet and working at the library in general. And the simple fact that I can access my google docs from any computer I'm using at work or home makes my life SO much easier (see also: why I love!). Honorable mention has to go to flickr and my old pals RSS feeds, because I use them day in and day out and would be very sad to give them up.

As for my least favorite thing, I'm not sure. I will say that the RSS feeds Things weren't concise enough... and I really don't think I'll end up using LibraryThing seriously. I keep a list of what I'm reading elsewhere, and since I don't have any friends on LibraryThing, I just don't see myself using it all that regularly. Also, Technorati. I wasn't a fan, although I don't think I'm alone.

I think the library can definitely get more involved with wikis, and (one of these days I'll stop talking about making a reference desk account for our branch and just do it), and google docs, just for the collaboration.

As for that loaded last question, what's web 3.0? I can't even imagine. I did a pretty rudimentary google search and read some stuff that frankly went over my head a little bit. A lot of the articles (like this one I saw in PC Magazine) mention something called the Semantic Web which seems to be something where intelligent computers can read the web sort of like we read the web, to find what we're looking for, effectively turning the web into one giant database. .... What? I think we may have to wait and see what happens with Web 3.0. But I'm pretty content to continue to spend some time using and exploring Web 2.0.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thing #22: ListenNJ, Interrupted.

At the last library I worked, I would occasionally have to teach a customer how to download a ListenNJ audiobook. We even had a practice mp3 player at the reference desk to use. I got into the habit of listening to audiobooks when I worked at Rutgers, because it somehow kept me less bored during the 3 hours I'd spend each day in the car. But have I ever downloaded a ListenNJ audiobook to actually use for myself? Of course not! I tried this out at work, although I was a bit skeptical that I'd be able to download the software successfully... and I was right, so I'm going to have to try this at home tonight. Talk about cutting it down to the wire!

Update: Well, after some rigamarole about upgrading Windows Media Player so the Overdrive player would work, and a few restarts, I finally got my audiobooks to work. I downloaded Goldfinger by Ian Fleming. I've long been a fan of the James Bond movies (is it bad if I tell you that while I adore Sean Connery as 007, I secretly prefer Roger Moore?), I've never read any of the actual stories that the 007 movies are based on. But anyway! The bottom line is that I got the audiobook to work, and I'm already digging the very British narrator (Robert Whitfield). Something about the fact that ListenNJ audiobooks are, I don't know, FREE, will get me to make a habit of this, especially now that this Thing got me to actually go ahead and download the software. I also downloaded the audiobook of Dracula, one of my very favorite books. Yay!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Podcasts Are Still a Bit of a Mystery. Or, Thing #21.

Honestly, I get the idea of podcasts. They sound pretty cool, truly. I just haven't yet found a use for them in my real life, I guess. Some of the blogs I enjoy reading post podcasts, but I haven't ever actually listened to one. When I'm in my car or at home, I'd prefer to be listening to music (or to have the Mets game on in the background). Here's another confession: I haven't even listened to most of the web challenge podcasts! (Ack! I know!)

But along came Thing #21 and I couldn't escape any longer. I use itunes for my music, but the idea of browsing itunes for a podcast didn't really appeal to me. Instead, I decided to go with the recommendation route. I've been reading a lot of interesting things (through some of my photography buddies, actually) about a Couch to 5k running program designed by I have been meaning to get back into exercising, and being that this program starts with the assumption that you're a couch potato, I figured it might actually work. And THEN I discovered that someone had created a Couch to 5k podcast. This guy Robert Ullrey created these podcasts to go along with the Couch to 5k program. With Couch to 5k, you're supposed to go through week by week and gradually increase how many seconds/minutes you're running at a time. I'm sort of lazy, and didn't really like the idea of timing myself. But! The podcast takes all of the thought out of it - Ullrey recorded himself telling you when to run and when to stop (with some crazy techno music thumping in the background). I tried it out last week, and while I wouldn't say I'm a total podcast convert, I do quite enjoy this particular podcast. As for the running, we'll see if that sticks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thing 20: The Web 2.0 Time Waster Prize Goes to... Youtube!

One of my favorite examples of this whole "web 2.0" thing when talking to people who aren't too familiar with the concept is youtube. It's clearly an entertaining website where you can waste quite a bit of time. One of the things I use it for quite often is to find new music. Because so many bands are posting their music videos to youtube, it's a surprisingly easy way to listen to some songs before you decide to buy the entire album. Another particularly entertaining youtube pasttime is watching old tv commercials. As I was surfing youtube, trying to find the perfect video for this here blog post, I discovered something pretty awesome: there are old Mets commercials on youtube! Two years ago, there was a series of Mets commercials featuring my favorite mascot, Mr. Met, getting into trouble while the Mets were playing games away from Shea. Here's one of my favorites of the bunch, because I absolutely couldn't resist:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thing #19: The Best of the Web 2.0y Best

With Thing #19, we're asked to explore SEOmoz's Web 2.0 Awards, a really great way to explore the best and the brightest of web 2.0 tools and tricks. There are so many that it was hard to know where to start. I picked a few random ones to look at.

The first I looked at is Backpack, which falls under the category of Organization. When I wrote about Google Docs and Zoho, I briefly mentioned my personal quest to find a way to stay organized online - all in one place. I already use Google calendar and Google docs and Tadalist, an online to do list manager. While Zoho has an online organizer type thing, I didn't like it because it's not pretty enough for me. Backpack, though, seems like it might be a good solution. What I was most surprised about as I looked at it today, though, was that in reality, it looks just like a wiki... a wiki without the collaboration. Like a wiki, Backpack allows you to gather all types of information (links to sites or products, photos, a to do list, uploaded files, all sorts of stuff). Actually, now that I think about it, Backpack looks like a strange hybrid. Or a wonderful one. I am torn, because I'd sort of like to try it, but do I need another account with something? Probably not.

The next two sites were just for fun, and they are pretty darn fun. One Sentence is a blog of sorts, where users can submit stories that can be told in one sentence. It's a relatively simple idea, but one that can be unexpectedly poignant. Coverpop is a sort of strange site... it's a collection of giant mosaics, and you can hover over them to see the source (a flickr image, online store, etc). Here's one of cell phones that's pretty interesting to look at. It's not necessarily a useful site, but one that's very visual and undeniably 2.0.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Scanner. Or, Thing #7, Better Late than Never

It's hard to get to a scanner at my branch, so I've been putting off completing Thing #7. However, someone pointed out recently that there's a scanner over on the children's side, and no one's ever over there using the computers at 9:30 in the morning.

So! Here's my scan. It's one of the postcards I bought to hang on my desk. I've got a thing about birds lately, so that's why I picked it out.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Google Docs and Zoho Are Untapped Resources: Thing #18

It's not really a secret by this point that there are quite a few of these web 2.0 tools that I'm a bit ... obsessed with. (Flickr, RSS feeds,, I'm looking at you...) Well, along those same lines, I'm a bit of a Google junkie, too. I've been using Gmail and Gchat for years, and a few months ago, I started using Google Calendar to keep track of being at the reference desk, teaching computer classes, going to meetings, all of that stuff. (And I probably spend too much time trying to get the colors perfect, because having each item be color-coded is one of my favorite parts.) And Google Reader is my go-to RSS feed reader. One of the reasons I like the Google suite is that I just log in once and I can get to each of the tools from the navigation bar at the top, no matter which one I'm logged into. (I'm lazy, what can I say?)

I didn't really start using Google Docs until I worked for OCL, though, but like a lot of these other web-based tools, it's just simply convenient to be able to get at my documents from any computer I'm using. I'm constantly moving around from the reference desk to the office and back again, and while I do have a flash drive that I use constantly, sometimes it's just nice to have it right there online already. And then I joined the Committee for this very OCL Web Things Challenge, and my Google Docs use went through the ROOF. We have been using Google Docs to share our meeting notes, edit our blog posts before they go live, and even to keep track of players' progress. We can all get at the files when we need to, and the ability to collaborate from anywhere at any time is simply awesome. But even just back at the reference department, I think Google Docs could really help us plan computer classes. If we shared the handouts and lesson plans for the classes several instructors teach, we'd ensure that we are all working off of the same material. Hmm.....

I also looked into Zoho, which honestly I hadn't explored before because Google Docs works fine for me. I was especially happy to see that I could log in with my existing Google (or Yahoo) account, so signing up was quick. It looks like Zoho's slideshow, spreadsheet, and word processing apps can do just a bit more than Google Docs, so if you are really looking for a Microsoft Office replacement (ie if you were going to buy a new computer and avoid buying Office), Zoho might actually be a better bet. What I didn't know, though, is that there are so many OTHER Zoho apps... Wiki, Notebook, Planner, and a few others. I couldn't really tell what makes Notebook all that different than a straight up wiki, other than the ability to move objects around the page in an interesting way, almost like designing a website in Dreamweaver. I did like Planner, though, although the interface isn't the prettiest. Because so much of my life is online (email, calendar, RSS, you get the drill), I've been wishing there was one magical program that could combine a to do list, notes, and a calendar all in one place. (I think I am way too picky, though, because I've looked at Tadalist and Remember the Milk and Google Notebook, and ruled those out for various superficial reasons. Backpack looks cool, though.) Zoho Planner does a pretty neat job of it - allowing you to add appointments, organize to do lists, add notes, email notes to the page, and even attach files. Once it's all there, it looks a bit messy, and although it's probably silly, I'm not too likely to keep using it if it is so cluttered. Clutter doesn't exactly make me feel more organized. ;)

So I didn't quite know I had that much to say about Web Apps, but there you go. I like them. I am definitely going to continue to use them, and I will try to spend some more time looking at Zoho, just to see what it's all about.