Library Technology Essentials Webinar

logo_500x500[1]Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be doing a webinar with some of my co-authors in the Library Technology Essentials series. I’ve got 6 minutes and 40 seconds to talk about why I love WordPress and what’s covered in my book, Pecha Kucha style. This is my first time presenting in this format, and I’m extremely excited about it.

Because the format doesn’t leave much time or space for links, here’s a list of things I mention in my slides:

Interesting things I’ve read this week – 10/19/12

Random House Says Libraries Own Their Ebooks

(Library Journal) I’m entirely surprised to read this headline and story, but Random House now flat out says that libraries own ebooks that they’ve bought from them.  That may seem like an obvious statement, but up till now libraries have only been able to license, not own, ebooks from the big 6 fiction publishers.  Of course, libraries don’t buy ebooks directly from publishers like Random House.  We’re still at the mercy of licenses we sign with vendors like Overdrive – and those licenses very clearly deny ownership.  Now it’ll be an issue of getting vendor licenses to line up with what Random House says here.  Plus trying to get the other big publishers to commit to the same thing, of course.  Those are still big hurdles, but at least it’s progress.

How We Lost the Future (Final Bullet)

In some ways I see this as a counterpoint to Louis CK’s “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy” bit.  Have we lost the capability to even think about and imagine what the future might be?  “To say ‘we live in the future’ is an expression of a predestination fantasy. This way of thinking is cheating us out of the exciting reality of growing and achieving a future.”

How Not to Talk to Your Kids (New York Magazine)

This is a bit old (2007), but as an expecting parent I find myself paying a lot more attention to issues surrounding child-rearing.  I’m trying to avoid drowning myself in advice & ‘systems’ of child-rearing, but this piece dealing with how styles of praise have huge effects makes a lot of sense to me.

Can Boxee reinvent cable with the help of a TV antenna? (The Verge)

At home we use an antenna to watch live TV, and a Hulu subscription to watch things later.  For the most part I’m really happy with the setup, but I do still miss having the ability to pause live TV.  Current solutions for that issue are largely homegrown and a pain to set up & maintain.  The new Boxee TV has a good chance to change that, though the thought of another $15/month subscription does give me pause.

Tools from the edUi 2012 Conference

edui logoLast week I went to the edUi conference in Richmond, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s certainly the best conference I’ve ever been to for work.

In their words, edUi is “A conference for web professionals serving colleges, universities, libraries, museums, and beyond”. I think that’s the main reason I liked it – it brought in perspectives from outside libraries, but ones that are still relevant to our mission. Like any conference some sessions were better than others, but I came away feeling inspired and anxious to get to work. I highly recommend it for anybody who does any kind of web development in higher ed.

Here’s a list of some of the tools I learned about:

Interesting things I’ve read this week – 9/19/12

William Gibson on Punk Rock, Internet Memes, and ‘Gangnam Style’ (Wired)
Part 3 of an interview with the always fascinating Gibson ends with a tiny bit about ebooks.

How To See The Future (WarrenEllis.com)
Warren Ellis is one of the weirdest & smartest future-thinkers I’ve ever found. This recent speech from him made me think about our present and the future in whole new ways.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: We Burned Two Years Betting On Mobile Web Vs. Apps (Forbes)
I’ve always hoped that the mobile web would win out over apps. But it’s looking more and more like I might have been wrong.

What happens to your iTunes library when you die?

This turned out to be a hoax, but yesterday Bruce Willis was supposedly going to sue Apple for the right to leave his iTunes music to family in his will.

Again, it was a hoax. But the story still highlights some very important questions. It’s all very grey: the lack of DRM on most music purchases means I can in practice give my mp3s to someone else, but the license I agreed to when I purchased those files still says I can’t. That was the first red flag to me that this might be a haox – why would someone sue over this when it would make no practical difference?

It would make more sense to go after Amazon for similar rights for ebooks (they’ve still got DRM preventing an easy transfer) or iTunes for movies.

(This also highlights just how weird internet rumors can be.)

Quickly share screenshots with Snipping Tool++

I’m going to try posting more frequently with shorter items. So here’s a good start: Snipping tool ++ is my new favorite bit of free software. Windows 7’s built-in snipping tool is great, but I often need to quickly share a screenshot with someone else online. ST++ auto-uploads it and puts the link in my clipboard all ready to paste into a chat. Ta-da!

Here’s a screenshot I uploaded while composing this post. It’s a no-doubt fascinating view of my taskbar, and took just one keypress and one mouse click to create:

My taskbar

You can get the tool here: http://shaneisrael.weebly.com/snipping-tool.html

(Found via Lifehacker)

Search for the answer, not the question

I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts, but I try to make time every week to fit in This Week in Google. Leo Laporte, Jeff Jarvis and Gina Trapani always have interesting takes on wide-ranging web issues (the show’s scope often wanders quite a bit broader than the title implies).

Last week they had on Andy Carvin as a guest. Andy works for NPR, and has been curating a fascinating and informative collection of resources on the current Mid-East unrest via twitter. Andy talks a lot about just how he curates this list: how he’s built his network, verified sources, all the standard marks of good journalism. At one point discussion moves toward just how Andy searches for information on ‘happening now’ breaking news style events on twitter. Essentially, he puts himself in the mindset of the tweeter present at the event – what are the standard ways people react to extraordinary situations? He searches for phrases like (pardon my French) “Holy shit” or other expletives in conjunction with topical keywords. Looking for witnesses to the Japan earthquake, he had success with phrases like “What the hell was that?”.

This is exactly how I taught my INLS 501 students to search Google last semester, and likely will again this fall: Assume the answer to your question is out there, and think about how the answer might have been written. This is especially when dealing with factual questions of a slightly oddball nature. Here’s the example I used in class:

I remember a real reference question from when I was young. I wasn’t the asker, but must have been waiting in line behind whoever was: “How many windows are there in the White House?”

In the time before Google, I remember the librarian tracking down photos of the White House from each side and helping the patron count them up. (I’m not sure why this stuck with me – maybe the extraordinary level of service?)

Today I would run this Google search: “there are * windows in the White House”, or variations on that phrase. Putting the sentence in quotes returns only that exact phrase. Using the * inside the quotes means I’ll get the exact phrase with any word or number standing in for the wildcard instead. In this case, I see a few sites that tell me there’s 147 windows. I still have to evaluate the quality of those sources, of course, and maybe try variations on the phrase like “the White House has * windows” to cross check. But that’s still a lot easier than counting from photos 🙂

I just envisioned the answer as I’d write it, and let the search engine fill in the blanks. Of course there’s countless other possible searches to get to this kind of answer, but this is still my favorite method.

Back to my original rambling – Andy Carvin is a very smart man, and you should give that episode of twig a listen. There’s tons of stuff that’s likely of interest to information science-minded folks covered within.

Libraries as techshops

I respect the people at Make Magazine quite a bit. I may not always be skilled enough to replicate their impressive DIY instructions, but they make me want to improve those skills and tend to have unique perspectives on fixing problems.

So when one of their writers speculates at length about the future of public libraries, I stop and listen.

That piece provides an interesting option – can libraries be retooled as public-access techshops? We’re lucky enough to have a techshop locally here in the Triangle. The basic idea is that members have access to a large variety of tools, from hammers on up to laser cutters and 3d printers. I’ve toured the space before, and it completely makes me want to build things. I have a 2 month membership credit waiting to be used, and what keeps stopping me is that I simply can’t decide what to work on. Too many options!

I don’t know if converting public libraries to the techshop (or similar) model is viable – I’m especially concerned as to whether a tax base would support a library concept that doesn’t involve books – but this article makes me wish I worked in a public library so I could find out.

[As a side note, the concept makes excellent further reading to go with Eli Neiburger’s recent “Libraries are screwed” talks (1,2). ]