Monthly Archives: April 2012

I love living in the future…

Just a quick note to say that I stopped today and considered my recent activities over the last 24 hours. They include:

  • Sitting on my back deck, reading and responding to my co-presenter (who lives in MD) about our upcoming keynote (using my iPad, Google Docs and lots of sunshine)
  • Setting up a series of cloud-based, automatic actions that take articles I’ve starred in Google Reader, save them to a folder in my Dropbox (via ifttt), then convert them to Kindle format and send them automatically to my Kindle reader on my iPad (via Wappwolf).
  • Watching two episodes of season 2 of Downton Abbey off of a laptop (using iTunes) connected to my 49 inch TV in my living room
  • Conducted text conversations with people in Maryland, Chicago and across the street in the main building of MPOW

These are just a few of the things I have done in the last 24 hours that convince me that living in the future is pretty damn neat.

Drowning In Data – A Tip

The release of Google Drive means that I, personally, will now have 8 different places that I can store a file. Between the hard drives on my work computer, my home computer, my laptop, my iPad, my Android phone and the cloud drives of Dropbox and Google Drive (formally Docs) and at least one file sharing server in my workplace, that’s a lot of places to look for a file when the time comes to edit/access it.  Fortunately, I go to a lot of conferences and hear a lot of ideas both in session and between. This tip comes from a session I attended at the LibTech conference earlier this year on optimizing iPads with applications, but it will only really work for people who use a task list that is *other* than the built-in one on your iPad (or iPhone).

When the presenter places a file somewhere in the cloud or on her iPad in one of the many note-taking applications that are available for that device, she puts a pointer/reminder in her Reminders app that lists the name of the note or file and the location in which it can be found. If you aren’t creating documents and notes in a massive way, this could be an excellent way to remember just where you last opened that document (for me, I have to remember if the PDF I loaded on my iPad is in iAnnotate, GoodReads, iBooks or just dumped somewhere in Dropbox for me to open later). For folks who create and manage documents constantly, this might be a bit cumbersome, and a real organizational structure (all my class documents go into GoodReads, my work documents into iAnnotate, my ALA stuff into Google Drive, etc.) would probably be almost as good. I would end up forgetting what goes where, though, personally…

Whatever method you use to manage all of your files across all of your various hard drives and cloud drives, this is a skill that we will all need to cultivate and work on, just so we don’t drown in our data!

My take on Jason Griffey’s question…

What is our product? What should we be commoditizing in order to make our product more valuable? (A question from Jason Griffey – below is my response)
I’m starting from the position that “Library’s” product is information in general and the containers of that information in particular (though we could have other products and other starting points for this exercise, to be sure). Books, magazine articles, reference questions – they all are parts of the product we provide. The commodity complement to that information could be a way to put it all together in a publishable form. Whether this is a class on book publishing or a multi-media station that allows patrons to record audio or video for publishing on the web or help with putting together a research paper with proper citations and formatting, these are the commodities that grow from the product we provide. We could package those commodities in multiple ways. We could offer classes in a series from finding information for your genealogical history to putting it all together in a comprehensible way to publishing it for your family to purchase from an on-demand publisher. A content creation station that lets people record audio and video with a knowledgeable librarian nearby to help them remix the content we have into something new and fresh for their use or to help them polish the final product and choose where on the Web to publish their creations. And, as many librarians have done for years, a research paper help guide that gives tips on formatting and properly citing references in a formal way.
Another commodity that we can offer is the packaging of our knowledge into “classes” a la Moodle courses and offering those as “for more information on…” modules for patrons to use in their information searching needs. We have, as a profession, a number of skills and literacies that we could share with our patrons to make their information searches more fruitful and to help them make something real and concrete with that information that they’ve found. Those skills could be packaged up into a course container and provided to patrons at the end of a reference interview or in a computer lab where the tools to make use of those skills are readily available to them. For non-computer using patrons, we could provide the information as handouts or even library-published small books that could be given to them as we finish with our interactions and they have the information they need. They could be pointers to what they can do with that information and how we can help them do it.
This is pretty much the result of a free-writing exercise this morning – I used Jason’s question above as a prompt and started writing. I know there are other ways to create commodities that we can offer to make our product(s) more valuable to our patrons and I’ll be watching his blog post to see what other folks come up with!

Up to Chapter 3

I’m writing another book – this one on outsourcing IT functions in the library tech department – and so far I’m up to chapter 3 (though I should be done with that and working on chapter 4, which is due next Friday, according to my self-imposed deadline). I thought I’d take a moment to write about the process I use when writing and to share some of the applications that make it so much easier than taking an actual, physical pen to actual, physical paper (for me – your mileage may vary, of course). This seems like a fine way to spend some quality procrastinating time…

First, I start off by setting up the structure of the book in Scrivener, a writer’s word processor that does everything from basic word processing to scriptwriting to providing a name generator for fiction writers.  It’s not free and it’s not native to Windows – it’s a Mac program that costs about $45 and has a somewhat delayed Windows port available (the Windows version just released 1.0, the Mac version is at 2.0). The more I use it, the more I realize the Windows version is pretty crippled, in comparison to the Mac version, but the Windows version is still far more useful than any other word processor I’ve tried. Scrivener is also not natively able to do much syncing in the Windows version – but you can set your writing folder (where Scrivener goes to save everything, sort of like My Documents in Word) to your Dropbox folder and use it on several different computers that way.

Setting up involves taking my Table Of Contents from the book proposal and making files for the various chapters. I also put any research or images that I have already gathered into the Research folder in the Scrivener file so that they are there and easy for me to access while I’m writing. After the chapter files are set, I go through and give each one a  word count “target”. Scrivener then puts a little bullseye with a progress bar on the bottom of my screen and I can see at a glance how I’m doing on my word counts – the progress bar shades from red (not much there) to green (nearly all the words are in place) and keeps me aware of where I am in the chapter, as far as word count goes. At this point, I write.

After I’ve finished a chapter, I compile it to a PDF (Scrivener does so much formatting and prettifying of the text for you that it’s really not saving your text – it’s actually compiling it according to very specific instructions that you can adjust as needed) and save it to my Dropbox. Once there, I let it sit for a bit (at least a week) before opening the PDF in my iAnnotate app on my iPad and open it for editing. I read through the chapter, making notes and comments as needed, then, when I’m done with the editing, set the iPad next to my desktop computer and go through the Scrivener file making my changes as I come across them in the iAnnotate PDF file.

At this point, the chapter is now in the “second draft” stage and ready to be compiled with the whole book for a final editing session when I’m all done. One of the nice things about Scrivener is I can set each chapter with a label of “first draft”, “second draft”, “final” and see, at a glance, where I am in the book. These labels are, of course, completely customizable to the way you work, so they can give you any kind of information you need!

That process, repeated several times – at least once for each chapter in a book – is what I do when I write either a book or an article for publication. Between Scrivener and iAnnotate, my printer is becoming a lonely and little-used (other than as a convenient place to stack stuff) peripheral on my desk – and that’s the way I like it!

Libraries and Content Creation

At the Tame The Web blog, Ben Lainhart talks about Print On Demand services and how they can be used to make libraries more of a content creation laboratory than a content consumption warehouse. This is a grand idea – but the use of a very expensive Print On Demand machines isn’t necessary. After reading Walt Crawford’s most recent book, The Librarian’s Guide To Micropublishing, (disclaimer – I contributed a “blurb” to the cover of the book, but I have no financial stake in the book whatsoever – other than wishing my friend Walt well), there are many, many ways that a library can support content creation without investing a crazy amount of money to do so. From following Walt’s advice on self-publishing support for patrons to setting up a media creation station with a Mac and some hardware and software, libraries can do a lot to support their patrons in both consuming and creating content at the library.