Archive | March 2013

The Mobile Web

Here is a link to my very first podcast:¬†http://picosong.com/nDfN/. It’s not perfect but I knew that if I tried re-recording it, I wouldn’t stop ’til I drove myself crazy. The link is working for me right now, but if someone notices that it isn’t working please let me know!

Also, this is the article that I talk about in my podcast: The Most Popular Podcasts of 2012.

That’s all, folks!

P.S. I think I mispronounced “Gangman Style”. Forgive me ūüėČ

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

This week, we learned about cloud computing, which is defined by Jay Jordan as “a style of computing in which scalable and elastic information technology-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to external customers using Internet technologies” (Jordan, 2011). Many people and organizations already use cloud computing without actively thinking about it; for example, by posting information on Facebook or by using Google Drive, you are contributing information to the “cloud”.

Cloud computing has a considerable amount of potential for libraries. In Jordan’s “Climbing Out of the Box and Into the Cloud: Building Web-Scale for Libraries”, he describes the ways in which the Online Computer Library Center has used WorldCat and WorldCat Local, among other initiatives, to try to encourage libraries to utilize cloud computing. Jordan explains that OCLC aims to benefit thousands of libraries by way of collaboration; Jordan’s view of cloud computing has libraries enhancing user experiences while lowering the cost of managing library collections. Specifically, Jordan cites the following advantages of utilizing cloud computing in libraries:

  • “Increased visibility and accessibility of collections for users
  • Reduced duplication of effort from networked technical services and collection management
  • Streamlined workflows
  • Cooperative intelligence and improved service levels” (Jordan, 2011, p.7)

As we can see, cloud computing certainly has potential benefits for library staff and library users. However, there are many disadvantages that users and library staff members may encounter when using cloud computing. The first and perhaps most concerning issue, is that of privacy. If libraries and/or users are sharing information with each other, might other libraries or individuals misuse this information in some way? Not all libraries or all staff members will necessarily be comfortable with this free exchange of information. Another big concern that comes to mind is that of accessibility. We have all experienced internet outages (like the great Rogers outage of February 2013, a very boring night! :P) and have seen how these outages can affect the workplace and one’s personal life. I love Google Drive, but on one trip to my cottage I realized I couldn’t access a Google Doc I wanted to edit (I had forgotten to save it to my computer before leaving civilization and the internet behind). This was a big inconvenience for me, but in a work setting this could have created a much larger issue.

In terms of libraries and computer users in general, the more we rely on cloud computing, the more we stand to lose when technology fails us. For this reason, some people may be apprehensive in the move towards putting more information “into the cloud”. In terms of where cloud computing may lead us in the future, only time will tell!

References:

Jordan, J. (2011). Climbing out of the box and into the cloud: Building web-scale for libraries. Journal of Library Administration, 51(1), 3-17.

Bookmarking, Tagging and Folksonomies

Tags

This week, we discussed the advantages of bookmarking, tagging and folksonomies. To clear up the web jargon, bookmarking is a process that saves websites for future use (sometimes the terms ‘shortcuts’ or ‘favourites’ are used to denote the same function in different web browsers). Tagging is “the process of adding free-text descriptors to online objects” and folksonomies are the compilations of tags associated with a particular website (Rasmussen, 2013). In order to explore these concepts further, I examined the LibraryThing, Oakville Public Library and Delicious¬†websites.

I’ve used LibraryThing a few times in the past, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever become a regular user of the website while Goodreads is still around. A major difference between the two sites is the way tags are displayed. On LibraryThing, quite varied tags are used; users tag standard information like authors and genres, but popular tags also identify when users read a book, and whether they own a paperback or hardcopy edition of the book. For example, in the image above, A Game of Thrones is tagged on LibraryThing with several useful tags like “A Song of Ice and Fire” and “fantasy” (the popularity of these tags can be identified by the size of these words within a ‘tag cloud’). However, many other tags are displayed within the tag cloud that aren’t of much use to me, like “Kindle”, “own”, “read in 2011” and “signed”.

Meanwhile, Goodreads pages are organized in a more aesthetically pleasing manner (in my humble opinion, of course!). On a book’s page, the genres that users have “shelved” the book under are featured. For further information, users can “See Top Shelves” to view the varied tags/shelves under which users have categorized a book. This way, less pertinent tags ¬†like “own it” or “on hold” do not appear on a book’s homepage. In my experience with both sites, I prefer my orderly ‘shelves’ on Goodreads to my tags on LibraryThing, although both sites are very appealing from a book lover’s perspective!

This being said, I was very impressed with how libraries can use LibraryThing, like this example of Martindale Public Library. Particularly, the virtual shelf browser is a tool that I would love to use while browsing TPL. I searched TPL on LibraryThing and found pages for branches with location and contact information, although none of the branch pages seemed to be frequented or updated very often. Since the TPL website doesn’t offer any opportunities for user interactivity, I thought that creating a page on LibraryThing, or perhaps having LibraryThing mashups on the TPL site might be an interested endeavour.

Unlike TPL, the Oakville Public Library website features many opportunities for user interactivity. Keeping on theme, I searched A Game of Thrones and¬†found that a considerable amount of ‘community activity’ had occurred on the book’s webpage. Users had posted tags, similar titles, related videos, lists that include the title, comments, quotes and summaries of the book! Most of these features seem to be being used effectively, although the lonely 2 summaries of the book did make me laugh aloud:

OPL

Other than the summaries that left something to be desired, OPL seems to be doing a fantastic good getting the community to actively engage with the library’s website. I’d love to see more features like this on the LPL and TPL pages in the future!

Lastly, I also explored the Delicious¬†website. This website may have particular appeal to users who use different computers in their everyday lives. I often find myself somewhat lost when I’m without my laptop, and the main reason behind this is that when I use the computer at work or at school, my handy bookmarks are nowhere to be found! I perused this site for a little while, searching various tags, networks and links of interest. Keeping on theme, I spent a while finding Game of Thrones related links (can you tell I’m excited about the season 3 premiere!?). Overall, I found that the website was not particularly user-friendly and, for this reason, I’m not sure if I would recommend it to others. However, I did find quite a few neat links to keep me busy!

Microblogging

Twitter

This week, we discussed the appeal and potential of microblogging. When we update our Facebook status or post onto Twitter, we are microblogging. While I am a daily Facebook user and am familiar with the status update form of microblogging, I haven’t become a regular user of Twitter (yet?). ¬†Personally, I have never connected with Twitter. I’ve had two separate accounts and in both instances, I eventually deleted ¬†the account. I’ve used Twitter in the past to follow my favourite bands, authors, TV show pages, actors and news websites. But I found that the types of updates posted on Twitter were normally not particularly interesting, or relevant to me. Both times that I tried out Twitter (in about 2009, then again in 2011 I believe), not many of my friends or family members had accounts yet. Those who did have accounts normally used it to post about food, or to complain. I didn’t see any appeal in reading those posts, and I eventually gave up on Twitter. The second time I deleted my account, I vowed to never go back! Nowadays, many more people that I know are using the website, so perhaps I will eventually return. In any case, the increase in users of the site is good news for libraries.

In David Allen Kennedy’s How Your Library May Not be Using Twitter but Should, he outlines the main ways librarians can use Twitter to their advantage. He identifies five main types of library tweets: (1) the average library tweet, (2) the materials promotion tweet, (3) the promoting things as they happen tweet, (4) the “it doesn’t have to require a library visit” tweet and (5) interaction tweets with other users. After spending some time perusing the Twitter accounts of the London Public and Toronto Public Libraries, I found that these types of tweets were fairly consistent with the content that was being posted on these accounts. Both library’s accounts seem to do a fair job of promoting events without bombarding users with reminders. Both accounts post several times a day, tweeting about library events, meetings, branch renovations, closures and re-openings, and community events. But most importantly, both libraries seem to be making an active effort to reply to or to retweet posts users make about the respective library systems. Kennedy asserts that these forms of interaction with other users are one of the most “useful ways libraries can use Twitter but don’t.” It’s important for libraries to interact with other users as a way to address patron concerns that are posted online, and also to retweet compliments that the libraries are given!

In order to remain current, libraries should read all posts directed at them, and should also check up on hashtags relevant to the library that may be of interest. These posts may be helpful to librarians trying to roll out new library initiatives or changes. As Kennedy suggests, since Twitter’s popularity is on the rise, the site presents a prime opportunity for a library to reach users. TPL has 15,400+ followers and LPL has nearly 4,000. With these amounts of followers, information about library events and programs is bound to reach more people than traditional, physical promotion at a library. In smaller libraries, Twitter may not yield enough benefits to keep an account running, but the website has seemingly become a staple of larger library systems.

On a final note, here’s a neat website that I found that shows Real-time Local Twitter Trends. I found it particularly interesting to see how certain trends are prevalent across all continents, like the Harlem Shake meme (if you haven’t seen any of these videos yet, check out Western’s Harlem Shake video).