The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Blogging for Tech Support

Ernie Provides an Identity Manager

"ErnieTheAttorney sends a comment that answers my desire for an Identity Manager! This may not have everything that you are looking for, but I use it and like it. It's free and it's name is....? Roboforms I hope it helps. I can't imagine living without it.

Thank you Ernie! RoboForm looks pretty cool. In fact, I see that Discover is using it for their Deskshop product. This will definitely be getting a trial on my machine in the near future. These weblogs are great! Why do I blog? It enables others to help me solve problems." [On the Mark]

A cool tool I'll have to try, now that I've given up on Gator. Mostly I'm highlighting this for Kate, who desperately needs to get rid of Gator. Oh, and Roboforms is free.

Now, if I could just solve my problem of getting Dreamweaver MX to search an Oracle database using ColdFusion MX.... (If you've done this successfully, please contact me!!!!!)

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A Good Application of Wireless in a Public Library

Laptops Spread Learning

"Patrons of the Brighton Senior Center call Ray Binkowski a computer nerd.'I learned a lot but it would have been better to have the class in a classroom with a laptop computer,' Binkowski said. 'It's hard to get some seniors to use the computers -- some of them are a little afraid.'

Alleviating that fear of technology is one reason the library applied for a $35,000 state grant to purchase a computer lab in a box.

The portable system includes 10 laptop computers and hardware allowing for wireless access to the Internet. The system can easily be transported to senior centers or local schools.

'We wheel the portable cart into a room, plug it into a data connection, and have 10 laptop computers that are connected to the network without wires,' said Joy Chichewicz, the Brighton electronic services librarian.

'There has always been a big demand for classes but they were hard to hold because we were limited by space. We had to kick people off the computers in the public area. This denies access to the other patrons.'

The 75-year old has earned the name because he is often found hanging out at the senior center's computer center. Binkowski learned about computers from classes offered at the Brighton Library before they got a wireless computer lab." [The Detroit News, thanks to Steven for the link]

My home library wants to do something similar, so I hope they'll pursue a grant in the next round. I still think the potential for a combination of OQO mobile PCs, VKB laser keyboards, and paintable LCD screens could someday hold great promise for libraries. Now that would be a mobile lab!

If they're not already doing it, I hope the Brighton Library considers providing public access to their wireless network.

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Shifting My Presentation into Radiopoint

Final Class Session

"I'm trying the new RadioPoint tool to deliver tonight's parting thoughts. Not quite as polished as PowerPoint because I'm just starting the learning curve, but thought it would be fun. Decided to download and use the template created by Paolo. Thank you and thanks to Dave Winer for the pointer.

For those of you who need somethiing to do while you pretend to listen, let me suggest Poke the Penguin!" [Jim McGee: McGee's Musings - TEC924]

I wish I could have sat in on Jim's class tonight, because Buzz is visiting! I'm frantically working on a big project at work in the hope that I can have lunch with him on Thursday!

Inspired by Jim, I'm going to try to convert my Information Shifting presentation from Powerpoint to Radiopoint. I'm intrigued by the idea of letting folks subscribe to the presentation itself! I'll give it a whirl next week after things calm down a little.

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The Music Alone Is Worth It

Whoever did the trailer for Windtalkers did a great job. That's one commercial I'm not skipping.

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The Video Reference Interview 101

"MX Executive Presentation is more than just a telling of the expected return-on-investment from MX technologies... it's also a demonstration of the upcoming Flash Communications technology. We're playing this pretty low-key right now, using this presentation in part for load-testing on the servers, but please do take a critical look at it to see the technical problems that are being addressed.

On a related note, I was hunting wristwatches the other day and came across this experimental videoconference wristwatch. It's not in production, but various wristwatch digital cameras are already mass-market items.

I've been trying to think how video communications will change when you can casually broadcast images from your computer's cam. The availability of portable video recorders made everyone a potential reporter, and mass-market TV shows which featured amateur video consequently changed the aesthetics of mainstream video shooting. Low cost and portable digital cameras now let bystanders beam crime-scene details directly to investigators while the trail is hot. There are unintended benefits from making it more economical to connect.

I have a feeling that this Flash Communications technology, when coupled with client-side interactivity and server-side connectivity, and with the prevalence of portable devices, sensors and effectors, may have unintended benefits greater than previous revolutions.

What happens when video changes from a presentation technology, to a communications technology...?" [JD on MX]

An excellent point. If you're hesitant about dipping your foot in the pool of instant messaging, just wait until it includes video.  :-)

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A Good Laugh....

"SatireWire has been on a roll lately.

  1. SatireWire devolves, releases 'book' printed on 'paper'
  2. Men do talk about relationships
  3. U.S., Russia sign histoic nuke treaty neither side plans to abide by. ...hailed as one of the most important international treaties the U.S. will eventually try to back out of, and Russia will secretly ignore."

[dive into mark]
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Gadget Envy

Ulead COOL 360 - Panoramic Photos Made Easy

"The pencam ships with software to let you easily make panoramic shots.... You can also use it to help make trippy composites." [Kung Fu Grippe]

I definitely want to get the Ulead software now, but I'm also envious of the Pencam, too! Sounds like a fun little toy. Check out the pix on Merlin's site to get the full effect.

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Why Libraries (and Others) Need to Recognize Instant Messaging as a Valid Communication Medium

Is AOL losing its messaging voice?

"AOL plans to release a corporate version of its AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) product, dubbed "Enterprise AIM," by summer. Like Yahoo--one of AOL's chief rivals in the consumer IM market--it will face competitors that have already established beachheads on corporate shores....

Meanwhile, the amount of time people spend chatting on instant messengers at work is ballooning. People in 82 percent of all organizations are using some sort of IM application, with 70 percent of those using AIM, according to a report issued by Osterman Research this year. Microsoft's MSN Messenger is a distant second with 51 percent, and Yahoo Messenger third with 44 percent....

When Enterprise AIM hits the market, it will face scores of competitors, mostly small companies, offering secure instant messaging among an array of other tools. These include e-mail, file transfers, conferences, message broadcasts, and message archiving and security. These last two features are of increasing importance to financial services companies, which are in many cases required by the Securities and Exchange Commission to log all instant messages." [CNET News.com]

Email became popular through the workplace first, then at home. The same thing is happening with instant messaging and adults (kids started out using it at home). As the medium moves into an official form of corporate communication, more and more people will expect to reach library services via this route. Maybe you don't want to use it for asking questions, but there is a definite segment of our audience that already does, and that population is only going to grow.

Also, if you adhere to the principle of privacy of library records, then you need to take security into account when you start investigating IM software. Something to keep in mind....

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Such a Tease!

Everyone Needs a Good NAGGIE

"Jon Udell: 'The raw output of the online news collective is filtered for me by people doing what they do best: spotting patterns, alerting the tribe.' Like Ernie the Attorney, I call my News Aggregator my NAGGIE, and it helps me wade through 26 news sources. It's not to be confused with my ZAGGIE, which I'll reveal here in August when I explain how it trawls more than 2600 news sources." [Underway in Ireland]

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No One Wants Digital TV As It Is....

Digital TV Deal Said Near

"Movie studios and consumer-electronics companies are close to reaching an agreement that would protect digital-television broadcasts from being copied and traded Napster-style over the Internet, negotiators said Monday.

The group will likely report that most industry players agree that digital televisions, recordable DVDs and other devices should recognize a “broadcast flag” that would allow consumers to make personal copies but prevent them from distributing those copies online, said negotiators involved in the process.

Consumers could save digital broadcasts on DVDs, and transfer broadcasts for playback on different devices in the same house, they said. But they probably would not be able to e-mail an episode of “The Simpsons” to a friend, or make it available on a file-sharing network like Kazaa....

The U.S. Congress or the Federal Communications Commission could use the group’s conclusions as the basis for a new law that would prevent electronics manufacturers from making devices that do not conform, observers said....

Substantial disagreements remain about the precise definitions of personal use, said negotiators, asking not to be quoted on the record. For example, the companies did not agree whether consumers would be allowed to send copies to their office computers, or whether recordable DVDs would have to be encrypted to prevent further duplication." [MSNBC]

First of all, what kind of technology do you think they can come up with that will allow me to copy digital content for personal use within my own home, let alone on my various machines at work, home, in my car, and on my portable devices? If they could do this, then the entertainment industry wouldn't be pushing so hard for even more restrictive legislation.

And if recordable DVDs end up with embedded encryption, how is the average person supposed to send home movies they've burned onto a disc to others for viewing?

Second of all, note that exemptions apply to personal use only, which means there is no viable way for libraries to purchase digital content and circulate it since the traditional exemption for libraries does not fall under "personal" use. Granted, libraries currently do not circulate broadcast television shows, but we do lend videos, DVDs, CDs, etc., and whatever encryption scheme is implemented for digital TV will most definitely influence these other industries.

The group creating these standards is holding closed meetings - no outsiders, no public, no minutes, nothing. Is there anyone in that room that cares about libraries and the people they serve?

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It Was Difficult to Read this Story in the Print Version....

Does the Type in this Column Look Too Small? by Bob Greene

"Follow this investment advice, and you will be a rich man or woman.

It has nothing to do with telecommunications, or computer systems, or wireless networks, or any of the other technological industries that for so long we have been told are the gateways to fabulous wealth....

It's not glamorous; no one ever talks about it. It wouldn't seem to be a place where you should put your money and expect it to multiply.

Until you think about it.

The industry is the large-print book business....

Yes, it has come to this -- for millions of us, as we traverse the peak of life (that's a nice euphemism for over the hill), books as they are published now increasingly appear as if the type is small and faint, even when we are wearing our glasses. Our instinct is to become angry at the publisher. But the publisher hasn't done anything wrong....

The really depressing thing about this is that -- after my first wave of grateful giddiness at how easy it was to read the large-print book -- something dawned on me:

We've come full circle.

We've seen this kind of big, dark print before:

In the Dick and Jane books. When we were first learning to read, in 1st and 2nd grade.

Look. See. Run, Spot.

We're back where we started. Oh, my.

When's recess?" [Chicago Tribune, registration required]

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Suh-weet!

The T39: Quality and the Perfect Personal Device?

"For those of us who use both a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and a mobile phone, the Holy Grail is a single integrated device. I've always wondered which side of the market would drive convergence of devices. On the one hand, the Palm OS and Windows Pocket PC devices have slick intuitive user interfaces with thousands of applications. On the other hand, the market clout and distribution channels of the major mobile handset manufacturers (e.g., Nokia, Motorola, Ericsson) suggested they could eventually dominate. So I kept my eye out for the perfect personal device hoping that this would suggest which sector would eventually be in the driver's seat....

I had noticed during my trips to Asia that handsets in those markets are small, beautifully made and often hang around necks on cords - they're more like fashion accessories than phones. Slowly, it's been dawning on me that the perfect personal device is more about form factor and quality than anything....

picture of the T39m My latest personal device, the Sony Ericsson T39m, is beautifully made, synchronizes with my contact list and calendar in Outlook/Exchange, provides GSM tri-band support, has a POP3 email client, T9 predictive text input, Bluetooth, GPRS, a long-life battery, and best of all, it has a small and elegant form factor which just feels right. It fits in any pocket and really is the first device that I don't mind having with me anywhere, anytime. So the T39m has my vote as the current perfect personal device. Bravo to Ericsson." [robertshaw.info, thanks to Will for the pointer]

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Questioning "QuestionPoint"

New Service Allows the Public to Pose Reference Questions Without Visiting the Library

"Starting on Monday [yesterday], members of the public will be able to use the World Wide Web to seek answers to reference questions from librarians around the world, including some at college libraries.

The service, called QuestionPoint, will operate through a Web browser and may make some visits to the library unnecessary. The Library of Congress and the Online Computer Library Center, better known as OCLC, developed it.

A patron will gain access to QuestionPoint through his or her local library's Web site. Questions will be routed to local libraries first. If a user's local library isn't open, the question will be sent to an open library elsewhere -- one that has strengths in disciplines that match the nature of the question. A librarian will pick up the question and help the patron find an answer. QuestionPoint offers a reduced subscription price for any library that agrees to help answer its inquiries....

But some librarians will need more persuasion. Barbara Fister, the librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, was one librarian discussing QuestionPoint on COLLIB. In an interview, she said that QuestionPoint was a product of 'Jeeves envy,' referring to Ask Jeeves, an online search engine. She says librarians and people at OCLC shouldn't try to offer a competitive service, and she predicts that QuestionPoint is going to be 'a major market bomb.'

'It's providing something completely different than what you can get at a reference desk,' she says. "'his sends the message that you can go online and get your reference done and that you don't need a library for that. In a higher-education market, that is so dead wrong. ... I look at the reference desk as a place where teaching happens.' [The Chronicle]

With all due respect to Ms. Fister, this is exactly the kind of "shifted" service that libraries need to be moving towards. How would she feel if banks didn't offer ATMs outside of their physical buildings? Or if Ingram and other suppliers didn't offer online ordering? Or if she couldn't look up an answer in an online database? Those are all services from industries and companies that have shifted their services into their users' worlds to try and reach customers where they are, not where the company thinks they should be. Libraries need to do the same.

Normally I'd be singing the praises at the launch of this system, but I can't because of the name. Why on earth did they pick "QuestionPoint" as the name? Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, now does it? While I'm 100% behind the idea, that name has got to go. So on that point, Ms. Fister and I agree that this service isn't going to work. We just disagree about why.

This gives me the chance to finally quote Andrew K. Pace in a completely unrelated post to the WEB4LIB mailing list in response to a thread about Google Answers versus libraries. Keep in mind that Andrew didn't say the following in regards to QuestionPoint, but I think it's a very valid point:

"If people don't know about answers.google, then they most certainly don't know about VRDs...who do you think will ultimately win this marketing race...hmmmm, I wonder, cuz, you know, 'Virtual Reference' is almost as great a branding as 'Google.' Why do we call it 'virtual' anyway? Aren't the questions, the answers and the people on both ends real? What's more, 'ask a librarian' puts the emphasis on the question, not the answer, where it should be. I propose that we change 'Virtual Reference' and 'Ask a Librarian' to simply 'Real Answers.' That's what we're good at, isn't it?"

I hope QuestionPoint is a huge success, but I don't think they'll get the recognition they need to go mainstream unless they change the name, get a better logo, and start marketing in the non-library media (Time, Newsweek, on Yahoo, on Google itself, etc.).

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Two Fine Etch-a-Sketch Links

  • EtchSketch - 1.0, software to recreate this classic game on your Palm! I haven't tried this yet, but I plan to, especially since it's free. (Side note: I wish I was an artist so I could emulate PocketPig, but maybe this will make me feel a little better.)
  • Etch-a-Sketch Gallery, an older link via Library Stuff that I meant to highlight.
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Now *This* Is Must-See TV!

Starring on TV: The Milky Way

"With astrophysical simulations and computer visualization techniques, The Unfolding Universe on The Discovery Channel is must-see documentary." [Wired News]

I'm mostly posting this for my family to make sure they catch this on Saturday (June 8) at 4:00 p.m. CST. It's cool that Wired thought to post a story about this and that it automatically showed up in my aggregator. It's too bad my ReplayTV doesn't have hooks into my news aggregator so that I could just check a box there to notify the Replay to record it.

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What's Wrong with this Picture?

"NEW YORK - May 21 - A study of ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News in the year 2001 shows that 92 percent of all U.S. sources interviewed were white, 85 percent were male and, where party affiliation was identifiable, 75 percent were Republican." See CommonDreams.org. [via there is no spoon via Adam Wendt's Agnostic Audiophile Smorgasborg]
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Apologies

It looks like I've hit the limit on the number of pages PicoSearch will index (after having already maxxed out my Atomz account), so I will start bribing Andy B. right away to see if he can install ht:dig in the near future. Until then, the search engine for this site is, most unfortunately, down.  :-

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Visualizing the Blogosphere

jardinblu left me a note about the Blogosphere Ecosystem graphic over at The Truth Laid Bear.

"The map is a graphical representation of the relationships between weblogs in the Blogosphere; each weblog is represented by a node, with links between weblogs shown as lines. The size of a node roughly corresponds to how connected it is to the other nodes in the blogosphere."

Very cool graphic, indeed! It also produces a list (on the left-hand side of the page) of sites linking to TTLB, and they're ranked by the "total number of incoming links a blog has from other blogs on the list." Good stuff.

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