Category Archives: Web 2.0

More about learning and libraries

Yesterday, I posted about the libraries role in regards to giving people space, equipment and motivation in order to get the most out of MOOCs. Today I’m going to talk about why that is so very important.

In yesterday’s ReadWrite article on “10 Technology Skills That Will No Longer Help You Get A Job“, Brian Hall lists 10 dying technologies that are perhaps not what young folks want to study these days. At the end of the article, however, he mentions that one skill that is always necessary is the ability to learn. My coworker, Heather Braum, has on her email signature line the quote:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those cannot read and
write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ~Alvin Toffler, *Rethinking
the Future*

The point being that no matter what we learn today, the chances are that in this fast paced technological era in which we live, tomorrow we will likely have to learn another skillset in order to be able to feed ourselves. Nobody can afford to go to college that often, quite frankly, so I’m going to suggest that the idea I posed yesterday – about libraries supporting local MOOC groups – may be more important than ever in the future. Sure – there are commercial training outfits, but they can be very, very pricey (though not as pricey as college, says the woman whose child is about to graduate from high school in a couple of weeks) and will cut out the very people libraries are there for – the folks who can’t afford high training class fees.

So, the role of libraries as educators (most especially as free educators) in society is vitally important today, but will become even more important tomorrow and beyond. What are you doing in your library to encourage life-long and self-motivated learners? What are you doing to encourage those who might not be quite as motivated?

Libraries and Education (yes, I’m going to use the word MOOC – a lot)

Sorry for those folks who feel they’ve heard *way* too much about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) lately… While reading “Why online education is mostly a fantasy” at Pandodaily today, I was struck by his comparison of libraries to MOOCs. Libraries have offered free education and learning to anybody who asks for years and, as the author of the piece points out, there are few self-made entrepreneurs who learned everything they needed to know to start their business in the library. For the same reasons (mainly motivation), the author believes that MOOCs will be similarly unsuccessful in providing free education to the masses.

What if, however, libraries used the advantage of local spaces and face-to-face meeting possibilities along with the advantages of MOOCs to create study groups. Anyone with an interest in a particular class can sign up and the local students could use a library meeting room, library computers and each other. With equipment, space and motivation to continue provided by fellow students, combining MOOCs with Libraries seems to me to be a pretty sweet combination. Librarians can get people in the doors by offering space and, maybe, refreshments (though not near the computers, maybe?) and patrons can sign up to take classes and form study groups while educating themselves – something libraries should always be prepared to support!

Is this already being done? I think the possibilities are endless – especially for a library that knows its patrons and can connect circ stats to what patrons might be willing to learn about.  The author of the article ends with:

most people [will] continue to require structure and a supportive learning environment in the modern age of online education

Why can’t libraries be the institutions that step up and make that supportive learning environment happen?

Digital Literacy – What Responsibility Do Libraries Have?

Over at the GovLoop site today, there is a post from Dave Briggs on the need for digital literacy in the general population today. He mentions that Howard Rheingold in his book Net Smart outlines five key skills needed for digital success:

  • Attention
  • Crap detection
  • Participation
  • Collaboration
  • Network smarts

I can see libraries at the forefront of teaching/assisting with at least 3 of these and a case could be made for library involvement with all 5. The three that I see as fundamental to library involvement at the middle ones – Crap Detection, Participation and Collaboration.

Crap Detection is just the ability to evaluate information – libraries and librarians have been teaching that for years, long before the Internet came along. We can (and most have) easily update our information literacy and evaluation lessons for academic librarians and the way we help patrons with understanding what information is valuable in public libraries.

Participation is alive and well in libraries today – the rising numbers of Maker Spaces like Johnson County’s Maker Space in Overland Park, Kansas and YouMedia in Chicago, IL. Providing our patrons with the tools needed to participate in the increasingly digital culture by making green screens, recording equipment, printing hardware and more available to patrons who want to create content and participate in the conversations happening online is something we should all be doing – in whatever form our community needs. Not every community needs a full recording studio – but offering something that patrons can use to communicate and participate in the digital culture is becoming increasingly important.

Collaboration is another skill that libraries have always pushed but one that is even more important these days. From collaborating on school projects to creating a community-written novel (see Topeka’s very cool Community Novel project), libraries can be the hub for collaborative projects large and small. Using the same technology provided for participating in the digital conversation, libraries can let folks connect over great distances via Skype or Google Hangout video conferences and give them the hardware and – most importantly – the bandwidth needed to make regular connections to far-flung collaborators.

While Network Smarts can be taught through computer classes and reference interviews throughout the library and helping folks focus their attention on what is important can be considered another library-taught skill, the three skills in the middle were tailor-made for library instruction and assistance!

Libraries as Entreprenurial Spaces

Libraries meanwhile may be associated today with an outmoded product in paper books. But they also happen to have just about everything a 21st century innovator could need: Internet access, work space, reference materials, professional guidance.”

via The Atlantic Cities

Co-working spaces, mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph I quoted above, are places for freelance or telecommuting workers to gather and make use of shared Internet access, printers and printing supplies and other people upon which they can bounce their ideas, just like in a regular office. Libraries have all those things – plus direct access to both print and online resources (databases, etc.) and people who are professionally trained to find things for other people. For those who are just starting out and don’t have the resources for high-speed Internet or even a printer, using the library as an office could be enough to push them into profitability (and if they are profitable, they pay taxes, which go back to the library and allow someone else to use those resources until they become profitable, ad infinitum). Of course, libraries have to balance the needs of small businesses and just-starting-out entrepreneurs with the general public and their needs and come up with limits to their levels of service. Will circ staff become secretaries for the up-and-coming entrepreneurs using the space? Will the reference staff limit the amount of time they can spend on business research? What kinds of office supplies will libraries stock and how much will they charge? Will there be limits for the amount of time a particular person can spend at the library, working? If content creation station(s) are put into place at your library, will you have to police their use so that a couple of individuals don’t monopolize them? Will you enter into a partnership with a commercial printer or printers or will you be in competition with them?

Considering all the angles can be difficult, but being open to the possibilities of welcoming struggling start-ups and brand new entrepreneurs into your library so that they can build a business can be a great service you can provide to your community. It can open up possibilities for community partnerships (how much would the Chamber be willing to provide to help businesses via your library?) and can help funnel money into local print shops, supply shops and other local businesses – all of which pay the taxes that support your library. Finally, how will this “service” be marketed? Will you need to compete with established co-working spaces? Can you support a rush of individuals using your library as a workplace? If you build it, will they come?

Journaling

journal

Photo Credit: Tom Swift

Do you journal? I’ve been trying a few different ways to get my thoughts on paper daily and it seems like nothing sticks for more than a couple of weeks – at the outside. The closest I’ve come to consistently entering my daily activities in a single place is the “to-done” lists that I keep in Evernote. I started doing them every weekday to help me put together a document for MFPOW (My Former Place Of Work) detailing my job responsibilities for when I left. I still do it, though not on a daily basis any more, for really busy days just so I can keep my work straight in my head. It consists of taking the daily note that I have set up through IFTTT that shows up in my Evernote Inbox around sunrise each morning and contains the day’s weather forecast and adding everything I’ve done to that note. Under the forecast, I enter “To-Done:” and then start listing stuff. Every question I’ve answered, every edit I’ve made, every meeting I’ve attended – it all gets entered. This is the closest I’ve come to real, actual journaling – and it is entirely mechanical – what I’ve done, not how I’ve felt about it or what I plan to do or anything like that.

It’s getting to the point that I’m considering trying actual paper and pen (though that never works because keeping track of pens is not my strong suit – I spend more time looking for one than I do writing…). Using my iPad as a journaling tool fizzled out pretty quickly as has every other “real” journaling effort I’ve made. Maybe the tactile pleasures of a Moleskine notebook could help me keep up a regular diary or journal? I’ve been trying to spend some time in meditation each day – maybe I could incorporate the two (though I skipped the meditation today, so that might not be all that helpful).

If you journal, how did you start the habit? What helps you keep it? I’m going to give it another try, so any advice from successful journalers is welcome!

Web 3.0, Knowledge Graphs and Google

Several years ago, at the 2008 NAGW conference just outside of Chicago, IL, I gave a talk about the coming of Web 3.0. Fast forward a few years to yesterday, when I was trolling about on the Internet and came across the explanation of Google’s Knowledge Graph – a GUI for the technical stuff I presented to government web developers those few years ago. The presentation is embedded below and, while it’s 4 years old and a bit outdated, it does still describe the underpinnings of the Semantic Web, mostly. No mention of HTML5 resources, of course, and some of the stuff I mentioned didn’t really pan out…

But, I checked today – just to see if one of my predictions came true. In the presentation, I said that with the proper coding of the web with semantic markup, search engines would become very powerful – able to answer questions asked in native English. So I went to Google and entered the same phrase I’d used in the presentation – “who starred in both saturday night fever and pulp fiction” and got the answer – John Travolta’s wikipedia page is the 4th response and the 3rd response shows a video clip with him featured in it. The future is here!!

Search for "who starred in both saturday night fever and pulp fiction"

Semantic Web In Action

All that being said, we aren’t yet at a “good enough” place – anyone who has spent more than a few minutes fighting with Siri can tell you that there are improvements to be made. Google is making those improvements, though, and pretty soon our patrons will be asking Google the exact same questions they are asking us at the reference desk – and finding the answers. This doesn’t mean reference librarians will become obsolete – it means that reference librarians will become the resource of choice for those who need more than a simple answer to a simple question. That’s what reference librarians are good at, so I’m not concerned about the “future of the profession” in that regard, but it is something that we’ll want to keep an eye on!

Until our patrons become universally wired into the ‘net (if that ever happens…), we have a way to get those simple questions answered now without resorting to fancy boolean statements  and we have a way, with Google’s knowledge graph, to point our patrons to even more information about their subject, should they want it.

NAGW – Day 3

I was up at 7 and breakfasted and back in bed by 8. I did get some rest in this morning and then went to lunch and the Taking It To The Street – Delivering Citizen Services Anywhere by Michael Jackson of Adobe. He started with a one minute video of all the cool things Adobe can do (think Wired and HBO Go on the iPad as well as other stuff). Adobe is “changing the government through digital experiences”. He started off talking about budget issues and other challenges that the public sector faces daily – and promises that Adobe has actually solved some of those challenges.
Mobile – for some people, the phone/connection is the only way they can connect to the ‘net. He mentions the greatest rate of adoption in the mobile sector is lower income – they need to have access to government services that are just as fully featured as are available through a full computer. Digital Government Strategy – 30 page document, 3 main narratives – use mobile, protect privacy and make gov’t info machine readable by default.
Showed a picture of a line coming out the door at a DMV office and talked about the silliness of the only people being empowered to interact with their systems are the relatively few clerks. This is changing in the private sector – Travel Agents are getting squeezed, customers can now interact directly with the reservation system – but not in gov’t. Yet.
To force old systems of record into new systems of engagement can create a “hot mess”. Adobe helps to translate legacy systems to new interfaces.
Adobe and Digital Gov’t – 3 legged stool; Citizen Engagement, Business Process Efficiency, Measuring Effectiveness (aka Analytics). Content Level Security (the seat of that 3 legged stool).
Adobe’s 5 steps of citizen engagement – create, manage, deliver, measure, optimize.
While Mike was talking about managing assets in Adobe, a question about accessibility was asked. Mike said that all of their products are 508 compliant.
(Sorry about the great appearance/disappearance issues on this post – I accidentally posted it early, but I’m going to keep it up and update it as the day goes on, hopefully this does not cause a Twitter storm).
Personalized engagement – Amazon says “Hi Mike” when he visits, we should be able to as well.
I’m getting the feeling that I’m not going to be able to finish this write-up – it’s getting on to 1:30 and I need to get to my room and get set up for my upcoming session.
He spent some time showing the failure of the medicaid.gov site on an iPhone – an agency that is designed to help those most likely to have no other way to access them than by a mobile phone is unreadable on a phone.
Then he started talking about Adobe’s mobile emulator – he also suggested to build for mobile first, then build for desktops/etc. You can personalize on geography, browser, etc.
He next began talking about how Adobe helped the Army from start to finish. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to bail to get to my room and such. Next update will probably come from my house after I get home…

And now I’m home. I finished the day with my Tips for Solo Techs presentation,  which is embedded below, though it won’t be nearly as useful as attending the session is, because it became a big discussion about what tools we use to make our lives easier. I had my suggestions, of course, but the brilliant NAGW attendees used stuff that was just as helpful and we all shared our best practices with each other. It was all good!

Now I’m going to go sit on my couch and veg out in front of Glee for an hour or so, then go to bed. As always, NAGW was an amazing experience and an incredibly valuable conference. While I got a lot from the formal sessions, the contacts I made and the business cards I collected at the Nighttime Networking events are like Platinum to the NAGW session Gold… ;)

Syncing and the modern computer

From Dropbox to iCloud to the new Simperium offering from the folks at Simplenote, the race is on to find the best option for synching data between the desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet and phone that you use every day. I know that without the ability to sync up data between my computer and my iPad, I’d be lost much of the time. Some of this is done through the application itself, such as my Remember The Milk application which syncs up beautifully between my browser, my iPad and my phone (as long as I pay that “premium” fee, otherwise it only syncs up weekly, I believe). Other syncing is done via one of the technologies listed above – Dropbox, iCloud or the new Simperium. To introduce the newcomer, we turn to the analysis at Read/Write/Web:

“You can think of Simperium as a post-PC circulatory system for data,” co-founder Mike Johnson says. It’s built to speak to all kinds of devices and services and be easy to implement. “The result is that developers can use Simperium like a Lego brick,” snapping together different applications and devices with data that fits, allowing “pretty much any feature where data needs to move quickly and reliably from one place to another.” (www.readwriteweb.com/archives/why-apples-icloud-doesnt-just-work.php)

A “Post-PC circulatory system for data”. That’s a lovely way to phrase it, in my opinion. It’s also quite true. The ability to have a “home” in the clouds where your stuff is kept is becoming vital these days. Many of us (and I’m certainly guilty here) have many. I use Dropbox, Evernote, Google Play and Drive, Amazon Cloud and iCloud for the big stuff and I use a bunch of smaller cloud syncing options (such as the aforementioned Remember The Milk syncing features) alongside those. I’m using mostly the free versions for all of these (Evernote and RTM being exceptions) so I have limited space. This means that I have stuff scattered all over the place.

This can be both a good point and a bad point. On one hand, if one service gets hacked, they aren’t getting my entire life – just portions of it. Google Play holds my music, but none of my documents. Dropbox is the opposite – many of my documents (but not all, because some are backed up from my iPad using iCloud and others are stored in Google Drive) are stored there, but none of my music. In this way I’ve sort of insulated myself from a complete loss of my digital treasures. On the other hand, that’s a lot of user/pass combinations to remember, not to mention remembering where certain documents can be found  – though there are services that help here – see Cue, which searches across most of those services; Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, etc. You could also take a pointer from a presentation I heard at the LibTech Conference in Minneapolis this year – use the standard “reminder/task” function that comes with your tablet or phone to sort out where you put what. The presenter used it to remember which note-taking program held which note, but you could also use it to remember which storage service holds which file…

However you choose to do it, getting by without some sort of cloud support is becoming more and more difficult in this post-PC era – I can’t even imagine trying to keep my Android phone, iPad tablet and Windows PCs all useful and up-to-date without my personal little cloud.

Using GCal to organize my life

Meal planning! I always mean to do it. Occasionally, I actually do it. Never for more than 2 or so weeks in a row, though. I just get lazy, I think. A year or two ago, I got a whiteboard so that I could write down, on the board that now hangs in the kitchen, what the week’s meals would be. This worked surprisingly well – when my son knew what I was making, he was more likely to actually be home for supper. Unfortunately, it only worked when I updated it. Leaving the same week of meals on the board for a month  seemed to make it a bit less useful than might be desired.

I’m not sure if this GCal idea of mine – to create a calendar that I use specifically for planning out my weekly menu – will be any more successful than the whiteboard has been to force me to actually consider menus in advance, but I’m hoping it will. It has the advantage of being available from my smart phone or my iPad in the store while I’m picking up groceries or from the farmer’s market while I’m picking up veggies.

What kills me is the fact that it’s taken at least a year for it to occur to me that using the GCal instead of a whiteboard in the kitchen might be a smart move. I present, write and teach about Google Apps on a fairly regular basis. This, however, doesn’t mean that I consider the best way to use them myself, apparently.

 

Writing, writing, writing

I’ve been doing a bunch of that. Everywhere but here, that is… So far this year I’ve written book #2 (Outsourcing Library Technology) for ALA Editions, a chapter (Blogging for Readers) for Rowman Press, to be included in a book on Social Networking Best Practices and an article on Cloud Backups for Computers in Libraries magazine. What I have not been doing is writing here on this blog.

I’m not going to make a pledge to write more here – I might be able to, I might not, but I will make a pledge to at least consider, every time I go to FriendFeed to post something, if it might be better posted here, on my server and in my database of writing.  This blog may not always win out, but I’m hoping it does at least occasionally so that I can keep track of what I’m doing all the time. Also, I’m heading to the NAGW conference next month (presenting Project Management for Techs and Tips for Solo Web Workers) so the blog will undoubtedly be fired up for my travels then.

Either way, I’m going to not just default to Tweeting or FriendFeeding without thought. I will consider this blog more often, I promise!!