Monday, November 5, 2007

Thing 23 : I came, I saw, I conquered. Sort of.

9 weeks ago, I joined my colleagues and participated in a training program called "23 Things", it is designed to help me understand this internet phenomenon, Web 2.0 .

Web 2.0 was a stranger to me, and I was skeptical. "Is Web 2.0 just a fad?" "Will any of the Web 2.0 websites still be around in a few years?"

"23 things" never answers my second question, but it has successfully
convinced me that a major social change is indeed happening on the internet and there's no turning back, it also challenges me to envision all the opportunities and possibilities this movement can trigger.

I wish there would be an easier way to explore Web 2.0. Many websites mentioned in the program wouldn't let me set my foot in unless I opened an account and disclosed some personal information first. Each time I did this, I felt like I was giving a piece of myself and my privacy away. Is this the trade-off for embracing new technology? Sometimes I wonder.

The websites that "23 Things" introduces me to are the best of the crop. At first, I was worried I didn't have enough technical knowledge to tackle them. It turns out lack of expertise was not a major issue, answers and solutions were a few clicks away if I was patient enough. Web 2.0 makes it easy for amateurs like me.

On the other hand, preconception can easily become an obstacle. My years of working in Automation may have caused me to judge some social bookmarking sites unfairly, "23 Things" reminds me that in Web 2.0, people matter, users matter, popularity is as important as quality, and I need to look at these sites again from a different viewpoint.

I have been trying to figure out how to apply some of the Web 2.0 concepts to my daily life. First, I have to decide if I should have internet connection at home so I can take advantage of what I've learnt at my own pace.

Second, I need a good search engine. Not all search engines are created equal and I find Rollyo the most useful, it now occupies a permanent place on my browser.

I like Flickr, but I have no desire to acquire a digital camera at this moment. I enjoy YouTube videos that my friends send me occasionally, I don't think they will be my main source of information and entertainment. On the other hand, downloading a movie, especially the classics, from OverDrive is very appealing to a movie enthusiast like me.

When one of my friends was concerned with his children's school work while he's away on business trip, I suggested Google Doc to him. The fact that he and his children can both work on the same school project at the same time over the internet makes Google Doc more than a word processing program, it becomes a useful parenting tool.

My biggest triumph with "23 Things" came when I threatened my son that I would join Facebook if he didn't answer my e-mails. I know e-mails are passe to him, text messaging and Facebook have become his preferred modes of communication. On the other hand, he doesn't like his mother to stalk him in front of his friends in this social networking site. Thanks to "23 Things", I got his attention and e-mail is back in service, at least for now.

This is the power of the internet and I have just started scratching the surface of it.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thing 22 : Audiobooks

Our library is one of the libraries in Maryland that subscribe to OverDrive. To access this digital library, all I need is a valid library card.

There are 2 ways to search the OverDrive collections. I can go to Maryland Digital eLibrary Consortium website, or I can search for downloadable audio or video titles in my library's online catalog, each downloadable title includes a link to the OverDrive page.

The OverDrive collection, which is quite small, is a supplement to our library's electronic resources. Navigating the site is easy, it is not as chaotic as some of the digital library sites I have seen. I can search by genre, title, author, release date and popularity. It seems our library already owns many of the popular audio books that are listed in OverDrive.

The capability to download digital content from OverDrive to a MP3 player is a big plus. In the past several years, we have witnessed how MP3 technology has dramatically changed the music industry, many of our customers are used to this format and have been regularly downloading music to their mobile multimedia devices. To entice customers to use our electronic resources, the MP3 capability is a must because that's what our customers would expect from a digital library.

At the end of this discovery exercise, out of curiosity, I decided to download the movie "8 1/2" from OverDrive to my computer. I quit in the middle of the downloading process, partly because it took too long, mainly because I realized this movie deserved a screen bigger than my 17" monitor, I should and will get a DVD copy of this title from my local library instead.

In this digital age, my library still matters.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thing 21 : Podcasting

is a low-cost and effective way to reach audience and share information with them. Many users particularly like audio podcasts because of the conveniences and the great varieties of subjects available to them. They can listen to news, sports, entertainment, life skills, lectures, and even obituaries from any computer or from a MP3 player when they are on-the-go.

To many users, podcast is like a blog . With a microphone, even amateurs can talk like a professional radio host and broadcast their thoughts to the world.

For me, podcast is a new way to touch base with my hometown which is 10,000 miles and 12 time zones away. Some of my hometown newspapers and radio stations have
podcasts that provide the latest local news and radio programs, I can visit home without actually leaving home. is my primary source when searching for a podcast, search is fast and easy and it includes
podcasts in foreign languages. A recent keyword search of "library" in the same directory produces 63 results, quite a few libraries as well as companies such as SirsiDynix have already been using podcasting as a tool to dispense information. To find booktalk podcasts, Washington Post and New York Times are good sources to go to too.

Connecting to a podcast through can be slow sometimes , a faster way to connect is to subscribe to individual
RSS feed, through which I can also get the latest episode of the podcast.

With YouTube, everyone can become a filmmaker, with audio podcasting, everyone can become a radio host. When podcasting is becoming mainstream, will it pose a threat to radio station?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thing 20: "I AM big, it's the PICTURES that got small"--Sunset Boulevard

If Norma Desmond had lived a few decades later, she could have reinvented herself in the universe of YouTube She could have been the 80-year-old British pensioner and widower, geriatric1927, whose series "Telling it all", is one of the most subscribed videos in the short history of the site. In this series, he talks about himself and the world around him, and one of his episodes has actually reached over 2 million viewers so far.

The same movie quote can also be used to describe the phenomenon of YouTube. It is a small screen that shines brighter than any social networking sites. Even though it has more popular videos than quality videos, it is still a land of many possibilities, it's social impact has been widely recognized, and libraries should capitalize this opportunity.

YouTube, with 100 million views worldwide everyday, is a place where library can gain high visibility. From what I have seen in YouTube and Yahoo video, many libraries have already used this social networking tool to conduct virtual library tour, to promote library programs, to share information, and to create training manuals. Picture is worth a thousand words, messages in this visual format can really travel far.

Free flow of information, A+ Partners in Education are two of the many causes that our library always champions, one of YouTube's nonprofit programs, "Broadcast your cause"
, is a place where I think we can reach out and make a powerful statement.

I found the following video in YouTube after I had read about the World Digital Library Project in the newspaper. The project is initiated by the Library of Congress, and people who are involved know where to go to broadcast their message.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thing 19: Wanna "Yelp" about it?

Yelp, one of the Web 2.0 award winners, is a local community guide. Type in a zip code, I can find suggestions of where to eat and shop, where to find local libraries, or the best route to take to go to work. Recommendations come from members of the site and they are usually rated, this adds credibility to the reviews and it literally puts local businesses on the map.

Yelp is more than a local reviews search engine, it is a social networking site as well.
It lets each user blog about almost anything in his daily life. It gives users a platform to discuss what is going on in their own communities. From what I have read on the "Conversations in Columbia" page of this site, topics can be anything from Halloween party to Al Gore winning the Nobel Prize. Yelp also provides users an alternative way of communicating with their friends, it looks more and more like the social networking site, Facebook, to me.

This is what Yelp, or Web 2.0 is about, connecting, communicating, and sharing information, users' involvement is very often as important as the information itself if not more.

Friday, October 12, 2007

This blogpost is created and posted directly from Google Docs. I choose this program over Zoho simply because I have already had a couple of gmail accounts, this makes trying some of the program's appealing features easier.

To start this free service, I don't need to install any software. I very often work from 2 different workstations, now I can have easy access to this service from any one of them.

Google Docs looks and works a lot like many conventional word processing softwares, it requires very little technical expertise to use it. I can invite up to 200 people to share, and 10 people to edit my document simultaneously. This concept of sharing and collaborating is very similar to wiki. Like wiki, all revisions are recorded. Unlike wiki, I have better control over the quality and the access to my work with Googke Doc. I can also add a RSS feed to alert other participants of the latest update.

"Word count" is a nice feature to have too. It is statistics that analyzes the structure of my work, and I can take it as an advice to improve my presentation.

Once my document is created, it's saved and stored automatically inside Google Docs, this makes floppy disks more and more obsolete. It can also be searched by keyword, there's no need to go through the extra step of tagging the document.

Now more and more people turn away from conventional e-mail and prefer to communicate through text messaging and social networking sites, Google Docs, with its many nice features, can make e-mail relevant again.

Thing 17 : Wiki sandbox

I added a comment to the Maryland libraries sandbox, which was not difficult to do, but I was unable to add my blog to the list of all Maryland library blogs, someone had inadvertently deleted the Blogs! Here page. This problem is exactly what critics have been saying all along about wiki, when people are allowed to edit freely, the content of the wiki can easily be compromised.

Once law and order is restored to the wiki community, I will try adding my blog to the master list again.