Monthly Archives: September 2010

Breaking things and making progress

One of the big “themes” in the libraryland literature (and conference programming) is failure in libraries. One of my friends, Amy Buckland, is moderating a “Failcamp” at Internet Librarian this year with Krista Godfrey, Jan Dawson and Char Booth and, though I won’t be able to attend, I do have some thoughts on the matter.
I attended the NAGW annual conference last week in St. Louis and heard Jared Spool give the opening keynote. In it, he said that “risk averse organizations produce crap” – a very twitterable statement if ever I’ve heard one – in the context of spending an hour and a half talking about a study he and his company did on organizations that produce good stuff.
Between those two themes, there are a lot of good ideas to take away. One, the fact that you have failed in a program or project does not mean that you, or your library, is a failure. Two, failure is the best way to learn. If you succeed, there is no incentive to discover the cause of the success – failure practically begs you to discover the cause and learn from it. Three, if you are afraid to fail, you will be unable to do the risky work required to truly succeed.
All of these points are applicable to everything from creating programs and events for our libraries to coding and network maintenance. I quite regularly break our Drupal installation by doing something a bit risky and I learn more about Drupal and its inner workings every time I do it. One of the major things I’ve learned is how to *very quickly* recover from a system meltdown in Drupal…
We could be scared and unwilling to try anything new and let the status quo stand, but that will never get us anything but more of the same. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results – if we want to improve ourselves and our libraries, we have to be willing to try new things. Those new things come with the risk of failure, but, as the many articles, blog posts and conference programs show – failure isn’t the worst thing that could happen to your organization. In my opinion, not trying anything new and not innovating is.

The week in Tweets

  • Checked into my hotel and ready for tomorrow – mostly. #NAGW2010 #
  • Checking in to 4square now that I'm all registered! (@ NAGW 2010 – St. Louis) #
  • Time for a nightcap or two (@ Martini's Lounge) http://4sq.com/co16rN #
  • Chocolate kiss martini = 3 Olives chocolate, White Creme De Cocoa, Bailey's Irish Creme & a choc kiss. It's pretty yummy @Martinis #NAGW2010 #
  • Drupal session going well, I think! #NAGW2010 #
  • Drupal session was good, WJ Webinar was good – lots of good questions and discussion from both. Now I'm tired, though, and will nap. Hard. #
  • CIMG0034 [pic] http://ff.im/qUVbw #
  • getting ready to head down to breakfast before Jared Spool's keynote this morning!! #nagw2010 #
  • Jarod Spool's hash tag for his keynote #jarodramblesonandonandonandon #
  • That's Jared, not Jarod. Stupid iPad keyboard. #JaredRamblesOnAndOnAndOnAndOn #
  • Gourmet experiences – 1) meticulous preparation #nagw2010 #JaredRambles… #
  • Gourmet experiences – 2) Quality ingredients # nagw2010 #JaredRambles#
  • Microblogging nagw http://ff.im/qWRfY #
  • We learned that terrorists can't operate ziplock bags (water boarding works?) #nagw2010 #jaredRambles… #
  • @dullroar I still love it, I just get annoyed with it. Sort of like my child…. in reply to dullroar #
  • Best teams have no real methodology or process – they concentrate on tricks and techniques. #nagw2010 #JaredRambles… #
  • Jared showed Uni sites with girls under trees (lots of 'em) then showed a dog school with bitches under trees. Hysterical! #nagw2010 #
  • No evidence that the deployment of templates produce quality designs because templates stop people from thinking #nagw2010 #JaredRambles… #
  • No templates = people who can get from a design prob to a design solution by learning tricks & techniques #nagw2010 #JaredRambles… #
  • Vision is a stake in a sand – too far for us to get to today, but everyone can see it and head toward it. #nagw2010 #JaredRambles… #
  • Feedback – spend time *constantly* watching people use your or a competitor's site. #nagw2010 #JaredRambles… #
  • Culture – have you rewarded a team member for a major design failure? So important to learn from failure! #nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • "Risk averse organizations produce crap" #nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • Went through a 5 second test, learned lots about what design elements are featured, intentionally or not. #nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • Paper prototyping (Carolyn Snyder) is another good testing method.#nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • Inuksuk – statue Inuit put out in mid of nowhere, signs that someone else had gone this far, they had made it. #nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • Found Inuksuk all over the web.#nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • Question: why 5 years ahead for vision (experience of using site, not design – that should be doable) #nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • Question: how do you balance templates with tricks and techniques? Pick a pet project to push boundaries #nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • Question: biggest mistake made in Jared's career? Not realizing how important hiring staff is. #nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • Interview question that tells you most – what is your accomplishment that you are most proud of? Drill down on that project for more. #nagw #
  • Question: tips for usability when the audience is tiny? Buy users lunch and talk to them for a while, hang with them for a day. # nagw2010 #
  • Question: usability studies on mobile apps? You can do anything, nobody knows what good mobile exp is yet. #nagw2010 #JaredRambles #
  • Getting ready for CSS based tempting with 960 grid system with Jack Horner #nagw2010 #
  • Slides up at aetheric.teleopticator.net. #nagw2010 #
  • Overview of available frameworks, blueprint and Golden Grid were particularly good in Jack's opinion. #nagw2010 #
  • Went with 960 because it has lotta of tools, fairly simple to learn, wide adoption with multiple CMSs. #nagw2010 #
  • 960 is the usable width of a 1024×768 resolution. #nagw2010 #
  • 960 has a lot of divisors, so there are lots of options for grid systems. #nagw2010 #
  • Grid = block of content that can cross more than one column in a container. #nagw2010 #
  • Span columns for content, everything floats to the left so that when you get bigger than 960, content drops below. #nagw2010 #
  • Http://960.gs, base files are hosted at GitHub, includes design sheets with 12 or 16 grid for paper sketching, HTML layout generator #
  • http://www.matsugov.us/myproperty – property lookup info all in grid, no tables. #nagw2010 #
  • Prototyping the layout/skeleton of the site is superquick. Model it, get HTML and CSS immediately. Heavy code, but cleanable. #nagw2010 #
  • 960ls.atomidata.com – prototyping site. #nagw2010 #
  • For others to use, edit base CSS to provide selectors that users will understand. #nagw2010 #
  • Alpha and Omega classes are useful for nested containers to avoid stair stepping margins. #nagw2010 #
  • Showing how to add new class of nav to, for example, the 4 grid wide class, and it's understandable and memorable. #nagw2010 #
  • Diva aren't really necessary – can assign selectors to elements and lighten HTML and combat div-itis. #nagw2010 #
  • LOL at spell-check changing Divs to Diva. Seems so true… #nagw2010 #
  • Excellent real- world example of the use of the system on a web page. Good question, good answer! #nagw2010 #
  • Holier Grail has equal height columns, as does Typogridphy #nagw2010 #
  • Dammit. FriendFeed is down. Now where am I supposed to announce that I'll be writing a chapter on GApps for a new book from LITA and N-S? #
  • @baldgeekinmd *sigh*, but that's so very old-fashioned… ;) in reply to baldgeekinmd #
  • Irritated at sitting in my hotel room working instead of at the jQuery session. Thanks, @almusy, for tweeting the session!! #nagw2010 #
  • @LibrarianE13 joking – sorry, a little humor from folks who really like FriendFeed…. ;) in reply to LibrarianE13 #
  • @swolak gotta do it in person! Hint: I'm presenting again at 4 today… in reply to swolak #
  • @swolak won the prize, though I haven't delved it to her yet. Justin Imes came in second – he gets a consolation prize… #
  • @swolak – I'll be hanging in the hall outside the conf rooms at 5:30 if you want to get your prize then! #
  • @LibrarianE13 friendfeed has threaded posts (no losing comments) and LOTS of librarians – a thriving community! in reply to LibrarianE13 #
  • @LibrarianE13 you do have to create an account, but you should be able to use Twitter creds to do it. in reply to LibrarianE13 #
  • @LibrarianE13 yes, but you can read most folk's Twitter posts in FF, so you can usually just check FF and get most content there. in reply to LibrarianE13 #
  • Listening to the CityLife folks talk about mobile apps for cities – gov't info on your iPhone! Cool stuff #nagw2010 #
  • LOVE! The casino night dealers at #nagw2010 are giving out extra chips if you show them your library card! Sweet!! #
  • Getting ready for @mollydotcom to do her keynote, Building the Matrix: The Emerging Open Web # nagw2010 #
  • Flickr.com/groups/nagw2010 – flickr pics of the con. #
  • Innovation is disruptive and means that you constantly live in a state of change #nagw2010 #
  • Why HTML5? lots of reactions from Twitter show mixed feelings about the standard. #nagw2010 #
  • Open Web = dedication to open standards; open talk encouraged; use of non-open tech should be unobtrusive; web as app platform #nagw2010 #
  • Open web = browsers have baseline of standards; competition occurs on other layers #nagw2010 #
  • Universality – not writing for desktops but for a wide range of devices #nagw2010 #
  • Open source and open standards are complimentary, but not the same thing. #nagw2010 #
  • Open web tech stack – similar to MVC concept – document, style, behavior and the media above that. #nagw2010 #
  • Sum up – web masters are now software engineers; HTML5 is cornerstone of W3C lang for apps; pro skillset bar is being raised. #nagw2010 #
  • Get involved, bring the change, force the hand of browser manufacturers – we as web workers have the power. #nagw2010 #
  • My takeaway from this keynote? Shit. I have to bone up on HTML5. I've barely scratched the surface. #
  • @booksheaf you are welcome! I'm glad they are useful for someone else!! in reply to booksheaf #
  • @dullroar thanks! That helps!! in reply to dullroar #
  • On I70 doing 0mph. Ugh. #
  • Another 0mph stretch of I70. This one's near New Florence. Can't tell what the holdup is yet. #

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The week in Tweets

  • @nengard FriendFeed in reply to nengard #
  • I am a command line ninja! Successfully repaired the Drupal database without leaving my chair. Yeah for putty & command line skillz!! #
  • I'm reading The Grand Design (Hawking) and quantum physics are blowing my mind. I start to understand why @zorpheous is so warped… ;) #
  • That's "I start to understand why @xorpheous is so warped". My bad… #
  • @xorpheous so I'm learning… space-time is warped, why wouldn't you be??? in reply to xorpheous #
  • Okay I'm totally dictating this tweet on my iPad using the free Dragon dictation program. This rocks. I am living in the future. #
  • My to-do list is long and has already been derailed this morn by a MySQL issue. An hour into my day and I'm just now starting it… Boo! #

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links for 2010-09-16

The week in Tweets

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links for 2010-09-09

Blogging for work

Blogging

I’ve found myself, more than once, sitting in front of my computer at work, desperately trying to come up with a topic, an idea – anything – that would be appropriate to blog about for the library’s blog. I’m sure those of you who blog for an organization have felt the same futile search for topics that are both interesting and relevant to your organizations. I’m doing something about it this year! Starting in January, my library’s blog will revolve around an editorial calendar that will also provide content for our Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.
The editorial calendar is created from the events and “special days” of the library. I’ve put out a call to the staff to let me know of events and programs they are working on for next year so that I can come up with 12 themes to base my posts upon. Each month, I’ll focus on the event or special occasion and work that theme into the majority of my blog posts. Of course, that won’t work for everything that needs to be posted over the course of the year, but it will give me a starting point when I’m staring at that blank editing box in WordPress.
My question is – what are other people doing when they need to blog for their organizations? Are you doing something similar? Flying by the seat of your pants? Something in between? While my decision to pursue the editorial calendar might be the best for us (and I don’t know that yet – only time will tell if this will work), I know that there are other methods out there that are being used – successfully. Tell me – what are you doing?
Update: David Lee King just posted a “how they do things in Topeka” post on his blog that is pretty much related to this one – go check it out for more ideas on work blogging!

The week in Tweets

  • @dullroar Mine has been zero for almost 30m. Don't tell anyone, though, 'cause they'll just email me to irritate me… in reply to dullroar #
  • Google doesn’t make you go to Google to Google. Google brings Google to you. http://bit.ly/aX0vLc Once I wrapped my head around that I <3 it #
  • How To: Quickly Enable Social Logins with JanRain Engage http://ff.im/pZxOJ #
  • Never Hand Out Your Password Again: Twitter Goes OAuth http://ff.im/pZxOL #
  • Using Your iPad With Your Mac / PC – to Help You Focus | The Brooks Review http://ff.im/pZxOI #
  • GR-TJ04-01 World Bank [pic] http://ff.im/q1ZGt #
  • CIMG0020 [pic] http://ff.im/q4Ulj #
  • Good morning, my social network friends! Today I'm wrestling with PowerPoint, working the desk and closing the library this evening. Fun!!! #

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Screen and distractions

Earlier this week, I read a post on Lifehacker that got me thinking.

When new people come to my apartment there’s usually a point in the visit where they stop and ask, “wait, how many screens do you have?” (from http://lifehacker.com/5625890/why-technology-is-so-addictive-and-how-you-can-avoid-it)

I started wondering how many screens I had in my house! First, though, I had to define a screen because there are some gray areas. For my purposes, a screen is anything that displays information digitally (even just time information) but is not a digital clock. That would have sent my numbers soaring… So, the cable box is a screen as it displays the channel I’m watching, but the digital clock next to it is not. Clear as mud? Yeah, you may want to re-work that definition If you decide to do this…
For me, I came up with 21 screens in my house. Considering that I have 6 rooms (not counting bathrooms), that’s kind of crazy. We have TVs in four of those rooms, a desktop computer with 2 monitors in one and laptops, e-readers and cell phones sprinkled throughout. Is it any wonder we get distracted and sidetracked so easily? In my living room alone, I found 9 screens from the entertainment center, to the Harmony remote to the two laptops, iPad and Kindle that tend to live in there while getting charged up. These are, admittedly, decidedly first world problems, but it can be a problem.
I’m a reader, I love to consume books in any format and fashion that I can get ‘em. Even though most of my reading these days takes place on a screen (Kindle or iPad), I still don’t read as much as I used to because there is nowhere in my house where I am not presented with the distraction of a screen. I could go outside – we don’t have a yard TV yet – but if the weather isn’t cooperating (and I live in Missouri – the weather rarely cooperates) that isn’t all that comfortable.
These are not just passive screens, either. Some are – the TVs don’t generally turn themselves on and beg to be watched – but some, such as the cell phones or the iPad, have reminders, alerts and various other ways they try for our attention. (Also – I just realized I’d not counted our land-line phones, all of which have screens to display the caller ID information. That’s three more, for a total of 24 screens – and I bet I’ve forgotten a few others!)
I’m the last person to argue for fewer techie toys (did you notice I have both a Kindle and an iPad? I’m a gadget whore….), but I do wonder what all these screens will do to the attention span and distractibility of our upcoming generations? There are some interesting comments at Lifehacker’s post, so if you haven’t read that one yet, go check it out.