Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Blog About a Document That Became a Blog

I'm using Google Docs and Spreadsheets, a free online service, to create this blog entry. I've always relied on MS Publisher, Word, or other variations lurking on my drive at home to create documents. This online version has most the bells and whistles those programs have, but besides being free, what makes it most exciting is the simple sharing and collaborative editing of documents. And we all have instant access to the same version of the program... yes! This is nice.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Great Search

I'm using various engines to search the web, and comparing the results. For comparison purposes, I've chosen to search for international monks, simply because these were the first random words to pop into my head. What psychological statement this makes about me, I'm not certain, but here are the results:

1) Exalead- Many internationally-flavored sites on monks and monestaries came up.

2) Wink- Only social networks are searched, so the results were odd. The web search tab on this page links to the personal search engine, making me wonder why it's even on here.

3) Gravee- News search results only. However, if I ever wish to know what international monks are up to, this would work just fine.

4) Clusty- Results very similar to Exalead, with many of the same hits in the top ten.

5) Mooter- Interesting graphic-cluster approach to searching, but I didn't notice any difference between the results displayed for each cluster! They all had the same links, all to news.

6) KartOO- No flash player is loaded on the workstation I'm at, so I shall attempt later...

7) Yahoo- Emphasis on news and music in the results. Not the same as Clusty or Exalead.

What have I learned from all this searching? Different search terms might be necessary to get similar results, but as is, the results I wish to get would determine which engine to use. Emphasis is on news items when using Yahoo or Gravee, blogs and personal pages with Wink. When it comes down to it, even though I might branch out to other engines now and then, I'm still a happy Googler.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Beta is Forever

Week eight of Library Learning has brought me to the crux of this class: How is library technology changing to fit the needs of an ever-increasingly connected patron base? What mindsets need changing in order to grasp the online information explosion, and changing needs of our patrons? The title of this blog is the favorite line I read concerning this issue. Beta versions of software are ones that are in a late testing stage, not yet ready for full release. Changes are constantly being made to work out the bugs. In order to fully serve the patron base, and gain new ones, libraries must take a beta is forever approach, constantly updating and changing rather than waiting for a technological plateau that will never arrive. It's a smart approach, but one that I have a couple questions about... Actually, I have many more, but won't take the time to type them.

1) How will we offer new approaches for younger patrons while still maintaining services for those who aren't technologically savvy? For instance, I don't believe it is realistic to expect an older and younger patron to adapt in the same ways. As the population ages, this problem will lessen, but today, we have to consider this gap. How do we avoid driving off a considerable portion of those we are tasked to serve? If they don't understand it, they won't use it.

2) Which formats, and how simple will they be to upgrade? Reading through the material for this lesson, the meaning behind the text is clear: Printed materials are dinosaurs, stumbling around the edges of a tar pit. Digital formats are fine, but constantly change. Digital libraries will need to reformat on an amazingly regular basis, or risk becoming the digital version of an 8-track tape. A book, printed a hundred years ago, yet taken care of, is as readable today as the day it was printed. Yet, there are already a mind-boggling array of digital text, image and audio formats (some proprietary, some not), and more always right around the corner. Beta is forever. What standards do we choose, and why? Our digital formats need to be easily upgradable, and cost effective, to work. A digital library must allow all patrons access to data, not just those with the latest gear. Will we rely on remote databases, and hope those running them upgrade to the latest formats, or will we be in charge of our own collection on our own servers?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

North Dakota, It's Nothing Personal

Having clicked on various states at, I discovered what I'd known for some time- I've visited a majority of the US. Unfortunately, having seen my travels displayed on a map, I've learned something new... Apparently, I hate North Dakota. I hadn't realized this. It sits atop my map, lonely and white, in a sea of red. Sure, I've not been to the New England states, or the extreme southeast, but at least they are able to handle the rejection as a group. Even Michigan and Wisconsin can hug one another for support. But not poor, sad North Dakota.

My unknowing rejection makes me want to plan a trip. After all, the Roughrider State has much to offer, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, International Peace Garden, and approximately fifty million tons of open space. But apparently, being the northern sister of a state with huge granite faces is enough to keep me away. North Dakota, I promise it's not personal.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A New Generation

I get to play this week. Good thing, because I was starting to become a dull boy. There are a slew (I know, because I looked up the word) of image and text generators available online, and I'm visiting many of them, creating odd artwork and text for web pages, blogs and such. There are approximately a billion sites, so I have my work cut out for me. By the time I'm finished, my sites and blog pages could look like a night on the Vegas Strip. Here's what I found...
One of the larger sites of image generators I discovered was at Everything from warning signs to fake book covers are linked to here, for users to edit. Not finding anything that interests you? Well, then, you might rather choose to upload a photo and create a text image out of it (using just the numbers 1 and 0) at (I feel like such a shill). I enjoy this more than most the sign generators I played with.
Last but not least, I earned Library Learning 2.0 frequent flier miles by...
a) noticing a link within the news from Library Thing, which was possible due to...
b) having set up a Bloglines newsreader account, and read it diligently (stop laughing). I then...
c) linked to a nifty generator which creates animated .GIFs that look like those equally-nifty scrolling LED signs. Finally...
d) I typed the universal phrase Eat At Joe's into the generator, and pasted the results into the top of my blog page.
The magic link I found? It's

Friday, January 19, 2007

Feeding Frenzy Continues...

I'm enjoying a feeding frenzy, thanks to Syndic8, a search site for news feeds. Of the sites I used as part of the Library Learning lesson, this was my favorite. For the most part, search results were accurate, and simple to browse through and add to my Bloglines page. In fairness, I need more experience with Feedster to give a full comparison, but thus far, the numbers of irrelevant results were far greater on Feedster. I go with what works for me.
As an experiment, I simply used Google to search for Missouri library news feeds, and found all kinds of interesting ones, with minimal fuss. I think the best approach for me is a combination of tools- I haven't found a magic bullet yet.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Feed Me, Seymour

I've now entered the world of RSS feeds, and am loving it. Having access to the news and information from the sites I regularly visit, without having to visit them all, is brilliant. And ad-free, to boot. Again, how in the world have I not been taking advantage of this until now? I have no excuses.
The account setup process at Bloglines was simple, and the listing of recommended feeds displayed while signing up was helpful. I've added many more on my own, and have quite a list of others I plan to, which brings me to my only concern...
Although feeds will save me the time formerly wasted on linking to various sites, and slogging through ads, the ease of adding new feeds to my list makes the volume of information I want to read through much greater. How much time do I expect to spend reading all this? I think I'll have to pick and choose my feeds a bit more carefully.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I'm A User

Several friends over the years have asked if I can write computer code. My answer has always been, "I'm a User." A geeky reference to the movie Tron notwithstanding, it sums me up as someone who uses tools supplied by others to create my own works. I can't write a computer game, but I can use an editor to create new levels to play. I'm not able to modify something from source code, but with some sort of interface, I'm able to create my own worlds.
Through APIs, creative programmers are mashing together the best bits of different applications to create new, interesting ones, and I think it's fantastic. In many cases, the result is a more exciting use of the technology than the sources. Allowing others to modify your efforts is a great way to keep the creativity flowing, but the best part of the deal is that I get to play around with the results.
Of the mashups featured on Flickr, my favorite would have to be retrievr. A few mouse-drawn lines or squiggles sends the search engine off to retrieve images that match both the color and shape of what I sketched. Some of the results may be head-scratchers (photos of eyes seem to match any sketch!), but what a cool way to search for photos!

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Bright Flickr'ing Light

The latest Library Learning lesson (say that ten times fast) takes me to Flickr, and online photo albums and sharing. I could waste hours here, and probably will on my own time. The driving force behind sites like this is the same device driving my own amateur love of photography: the digital camera. No more waiting for film developing, only to find that those perfectly-framed photos are not developed, nor perfectly-framed. Flickr's uploading tools are simple, and adding tags and such is a nice feature. With a simple search for abstract architecture, I was able to pull up loads of photos similar to this one I took at the St. Louis Science Center. It may also be found on my Flickr page:

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I Am a Library Thing

For better or worse, I've updated a book review site for years now. But after playing in the sandbox at, I realize how much simpler this process can be. With auto-linking tools for publication data and cover art, creating lists at is a breeze, and makes more sense than my approach. Wow, a new trick. This dog must not be as old as I thought. Now if only I can convince a daughter to cut-n-paste a couple hundred reviews while I play Half-Life2, I'll be all set.

You're It: The Sequel

Tags, links, lists, directories, searches, posts... aarrgg! They are beginning to get as muddled in my head as the million user/password combinations currently residing there...
Yet, somehow, through it all, I can still recall that seagulls drink seawater (thanks to a nifty natural filtering system in their heads).
My adventures in tagging continue, in yet a different sense. What am I tagging about now? Search engines. Specifically, search engines for blogs. Now we're cooking with gas, as my mother would say (even though she was curiously silent about the whole seagull/seawater thing). Just as with ordinary web sites, all the beautiful blogging in the world is for naught if no one reads your thoughts. The quick addition of a tag to a blog assures that search engines such as Technorati are able to find your pearls of wisdom, no matter what size... as long as the search matches your tag. C'mon, who wouldn't want to read about MRRL2.0? I'm excited just typing it.
Searching on Technorati is quick, but interpreting the results a bit more complex. Having messed around with the various search modes with the search words learning 2.0, I found what I was looking for with a directory search rather than a blog or tag one. Blog searches, in particular, will result in a hodgepodge of results (especially if not filtered by language!).
Technorati Tag:

You're It!

I'm in deeper water now, paddling around the Library Learning pool in my inflatable platypus ring, tagging things. Having only tagged on the playground before, working with is a new experience. I'm all for simplifying my methods of organization, especially considering the sad state of my favorites list within Explorer (time to add yet another file folder of links). Is the method simpler? Sure. Is it an effective research tool? Absolutely. Is it helpful to see what other users are interested in? You bet. But is tasty enough to tempt me? Hmm. Paddle, paddle, paddle.

Friday, January 5, 2007

My Space, Your Space, Our Space

My Space is quite a place. It develops both a feeling of individuality and of being part of a community. In this regard, it's similar to other online experiences, such as MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role-playing games). I'm not certain I'd appreciate meeting up with a MRRL elf, an institutional rather than individual avatar, essentially waving a library flag at me. As a teen on My Space, however, would I view library spaces as "invasions" of a community of individuals? I'm not sure most teens care. The web is bursting with sites of all types, the difference between them and a page on My Space being arguable.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Wiki Wiki

Week two of Library Learning 2.0 led me through various wikis, and how to edit them. I had no idea where the term wiki originated, but I had experienced them to varying degrees online. The format is tailor-made for reviews- an approach minus the urge to give things higher marks in order to have others recommend a review. Of the examples in the lesson, I prefer Book Lovers over iRead, mostly because I learn more from a thoughtful review than a list of recommended titles. My favorite usage of wikis, however, would have to be while searching for obscure information on people, places and terms. Sure, I'm never certain what to believe, but verifying the information is half the fun.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

What is an EyeOh?

It lives! As part of Missouri River Regional Library's Learning Library 2.0, I've created my niche in the blogosphere... But what, exactly, is an EyeOh?

Back in '88, fresh from college and living in California, I was a big fan of Depeche Mode, the English synth band. Discovering my roomie's synth collecting dust in the corner, I began picking out Mode melodies on it, playing along with my cassette tapes. Five years and one horrendous garage band later, I stumbled across OctaMED, computer-based music composition software, and have been using different flavors of such software ever since. Needing a "band" name for myself, I settled on Io (io), a reference to Jupiter's volatile inner moon. This name soon evolved into EyeOh, the same name written phonetically. Over the years, I've written several CDs worth of music, and collaborated with fellow MED users as far away as Ireland and England. I'm not certain I've helped make them better musicians, but I couldn't help but learn from them.

Is this blog work related? No, but now perhaps when you read the name EyeOh, it won't remind you of singing dwarves.