Thursday, December 6, 2007

Revolution OS: Notes from the Revolution

Overall I found the production an informative account of the development of the "free"/open software movement. It was marred by the sometimes strident tone adopted by Susan Egan, who did the voice-over. Beside the technical purpose of the piece, perhaps, but this observation troubled me: Ms. Egan's voice was the only female voice I heard throughout; every other speaker or interviewee was a white male. If this indeed reflects the actual composition of the high tech development world, it could use some diversity. If this does not present an accurate picture, then Revolution OS is flawed in its conception.
I believe Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which is cited several times, would add to my understanding of the subject...and allow for my low-tech preference for printed words on a page I can turn at will!

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Few Notes

These may not be the final notes from the belfry, since I would like to complete Thing 24 when I have a sufficient block of time away from work. For now, my goal is to let the many Things I explored in Learning 2.0 sink in, revisit those I found most useful or fun or applicable to my job, and keep my mind open to new technologies as they appear on the horizon.
Overall I liked the self-paced aspect of the course, which was clearly set forth and divided into manageable bites, and would take part in such a course again if it were offered. I benefited from the support of my supervisor who gave me the time to complete this work in a timely manner and from the understanding of my co-workers, some of whom had already finished when I joined in and others who are still pursuing that goal. Having the right hardware and software to support this program is crucial, too, so thanks also to our tech support staff! One suggestion I would make to each library system conducting the course is to offer a few (non-mandatory) opportunities for group interaction off line during which people could discuss their findings about, say, audiobook searches or online productivity tools and swap tips. Blogging and e-mail are all well and good, but for the non-technical the chance to gather in a room and around a computer to clear up confusion has its points.
It has been said that the past is a foreign country. Even the very recent past becomes foreign when viewed from a technological standpoint, and keeping up to date could easily become a full time occupation. Harder still is to evaluate the many changes when they come so quickly. The fact that we are changing and being changed in significant ways by the technology we design and use was deeply impressed upon me at every stage of this journey. Our responsibility to understand what we are doing, why we're doing it ("because we can" is not sufficient reason), and what effects we may produce upon society at large is inescapable.

Video Games

All right, YouTube isn't a video game in the usual sense of the term, but it's a fun, democratic site. I enjoyed seeing what was popular at the moment and I can understand how viewers could get hooked, especially if they have a topic of interest shared by many other viewers and contributors.
It's good to know there's a place to share creative effort. The problem with most videos is their shelf life, which admittedly isn't supposed to be long. Once you've seen the cute kittens playing or taken in the views plus commentary from someone's vacation in Hawaii, the novelty wears off unless the video has been created in a very clever way. Since most of us don't shoot these things for a living--and wouldn't make enough to survive if we tried--the results on YouTube often are no better and no worse than home movies with better production values.
Remember, though, I said "most" videos. There are exceptions, usually productions done by pros and contributed by viewers who appreciate the skill involved. Accordingly, the YouTube video that won my personal "Play it again, Sam" award was the Audi R8 T.V. commercial. People who make commercials expect many people to see their efforts more than once and work hard to create something that will hook the audience and stand up to multiple viewings. They keep it short and sweet and use a variety of camera angles to get powerful shots. The audio component is finely balanced, the voiceovers mesh with the music and background sounds and visual effects, the viewer is carried along and everything runs like--well, like a finely tuned engine. Rather like an Audi at speed.
Though libraries aren't in the business of selling cars, they could improve their websites by incorporating more color and movement, maybe even sound. The trick would be to balance these components to achieve a site attractive to users but not confusing or difficult to navigate. Like big commercial advertisers, we have information to impart and services to offer. But our information and services differ from theirs, and our budgets aren't even comparable.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Casting About provided some interesting material during non-peak hours. I especially enjoyed the world music offerings that included interviews with the featured artists. Finding really good library-related sites on Podcast was a bit trickier. The best tag was "book", with "libraries" and "library science" yielding many fewer hits; even "book reviews" was disappointing. For comparison, I explored Yahoo! Podcasts (with some reluctance, since the company is closing down this service on October 31 due to Yahoo's financial slump) and appreciated the familiar topic/author/other keyword search function.
Websites related to books and culture often provide podcasts, of course, and a search on C-Span's Book TV reassured me that there's a lot out there for the literate. Finding sites that don't make you download software before playing is a big plus. Libraries which offer this kind of easy access podcast will score points with the non-technical...though I'm not convinced that podcasting a storytime without some sort of visual component will hold any child's or parent's attention for long.
Just for fun, I added the popular MuggleNet podcast to my RSS feeds and will dip into it from time to time to keep up with the news from Hogwarts.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

And the Award Goes To...

For Thing 19 I explored Craigslist, the 1st place winner in blogs and directories on the Web 2.0 list. I'd heard rave reviews for Craigs but had never looked at the site and was surprised at the wide variety of categories it contains. Everything you'd find in a newspaper's classified, personals, and employment sections combined is there. You can pick the geographic area you want to search; new city locations are added as interest is generated. The site can be informative, social, or both, with discussion forums running on many topics (I followed one of the strings under Gardening). The help page is comprehensive. Craigs is timely--a plus for anyone seeking tickets to a football game, for example. Posting an ad costs less than using and similar sites, so Craigs is attractive financially as well. On the minus side, just like with print classifieds you usually have to call or e-mail to get the important details about postings; for instance, although a couple of entries I read under Childcare were informative--one potential nanny gave her entire resume--many in other categories were sparse indeed.
In a library setting, I can see Craigs fans visiting this site often. It could be especially helpful for people planning to relocate. Thinking of a young couple I know who recently moved west, I pulled up the San Diego listings and tried to get a feel for an unfamiliar city by searching Community, Housing, and Services.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Gutenberg & Co.

I enjoyed exploring Project Gutenberg, the first site I recall hearing about when the e-book revolution began rumbling into town. Project G. prides itself on using what it calls "free plain vanilla electronic text" in an effort to make as many texts as possible available to as many people as possible, regardless of fads and foibles in operating systems. I did find the site easy to use. Browsing was uncomplicated, and the advanced search option allowed me to zero in on specific texts, for example Cervantes' Don Quixote in the original Spanish. Copyright restrictions, if any, are clearly set out if you want to download a book. The service is free and you don't have to open an account. Pretty simple, and I can see how valuable this tool could be for students and researchers who want to access materials not owned by their local libraries or even kept under surveillance in the rare books room of an academic library. It's a great way to expand the collection at no charge and without wasting precious space on hardcover texts that are rarely consulted. It would also help the student who's failed to nab the last copy of a reading list classic; no library has an inexhaustible supply of any title.
While browsing, and quite by accident, I found a title I remember seeing in hardcover as a child visiting much older relatives who kept everything in print they'd ever acquired. Maida's Little Shop, a children's book about a frail little girl who regains her health by running her own store, was published around 1906. Who would have guessed it would be scanned and made available a century later on the Project Gutenberg site?

What's Up, Doc?

GoogleDocs could be quite a useful tool. Already the editing possibilities have me thinking about ways musical and other organizations I belong to might work collectively on contact lists, performance schedules, and other business that usually gets dumped onto one or two hardworking members who maintain documents and spreadsheets on the group's behalf. Less individual e-mail contact, fewer revisions--sounds good for all concerned.
To test GoogleDocs, I typed up a short transcription of an old (1940's) newspaper article I'd found in the family archives quietly curling around the edges and fading away. This was easy enough to create and file; next, I'll try sharing it electronically with relatives across the country. Sharing documents with distant co-workers in a similar way seems logical.