Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Learning 2.0 Wrap Up

I think the most useful discovery I have made during my Learning 2.0 has been photo sharing using Flickr.com. I am getting married on June 27th, 2009 and since discovering the site I have been using it to share engagement photos and after the 27th to share our wedding photos. In order to accommodate the amount of photos we will have we signed up for Flickr's Pro Account. Unlike the free account offered by Flickr the pro account offers unlimited uploads and storage, allows you to create an unlimited number of sets and collections, provides ad-free browsing and sharing of files, and allows us to share video files in high definition. So by using Flickr we will be able to share our pictures and video easily with our family.

There were a number of surprises along the way that made the Learning 2.0 interesting for me as well as intrinsically motivating. I had little previous experience with most of these applications so nearly every week my awareness was expanded. I have made use of the newsreaders and worked collaboratively using wikis in my Information Technology as well as other classes and have found it extremely useful when scheduling conflicts make meeting group members in person difficult.

The only suggestion I have for future versions of this program is that it keeps its finger on the pulse of communication technology. While these web applications represent new technology and new information management tools now, as time goes by these new applications will give way to newer tools and newer ways of interacting with people and objects on the Internet. As long as this program keeps its topics updated and the tools they showcase relevant then I think the Learning 2.0 program has a great future in educating the average user and information science grad students alike about the newest advances in interactive web based technology.

One final thing I thought worth mentioning that I enjoyed about the program was the actual blogging itself. I find that by experiencing these new things and then committing myself to put down in words my reaction or interpretation has helped solidify them in my memory. Blogging seems like a great way to share your ideas and interests with people (if you can get anyone to read it). However, despite my lack of readership I have found my blogging experience quite enjoyable. There is one last thing I would like to share. This is a short YouTube video which shows some of the artwork of Alex Grey, my favorite living artist.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Predilection for Podcasts

Since February 2005 the estimated total time spent viewing podcasts on Youtube.com equates to approximately 9,300,000 years. I have to pause to wonder how much of that time I have contributed to over the past few years. As is evident by these numbers, creating and viewing podcasts on the internet has become extremely popular, and for good reason. This is yet another way for people to publish their thoughts, words, songs, poetry, music, or (in some cases)their outright stupidity for all the world to see.

But the applications for podcasts doesn't end there. I looked through a number of the podcast directories and found uses for podcasting I had never thought of before like using it as a medium for teaching a foreign language, how to knit a scarf, or how to use new versions of your favorite software. The use of podcast directories greatly expedites the process of finding the type of podcast you are interested in viewing. On Youtube.com you can type in keyword searches, browse what others are currently watching, or view featured podcasts. What I feel Youtube.com lacks is a more organized and systematic way of accessing the type of materials you want. My perception is that sites like Podcast.net, Podcastalley.com, and Yahoo Podcasts do just that, they organize podcasts by themes which make it easier to manipulate your way through in a more focused and less casual way.
Next I attempted to get on the NetLibrary website but kept receiving a message which read "We apologize, but the page you have requested is currently unavailable." at the PLCMC website. However, NetLibrary is not the only place on the web where you can search through and download audiobooks. At www.TheAudioBookStore.com visitors can download any audiobook to their pc, laptop, mp3 player, and so on for approximately seven dollars and fifty cents. Their site has over 50,000 audiobooks to choose from. Similarly, SimplyAudiobooks.com offers over 55,000 audiobooks and offers users options to download, rent, and purchase materials.
Finally, I found a brief synopsis on the components and uses for podcasting that I thought you all might enjoy. There are numerous "In Plain English" podcasts to choose from, each explaining a different piece of technology.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Online Applications & Tools

Prior to this week's Learning 2.0 exercise I had already had some experience making documents using online applications and tools. I have used Google Docs to collaboratively work on class assignments both in my Information Technology class as well as many others classes. This is a great tool for people working together on some form of group project that find that they do not live in close proximity to one another. Case in point, I am using Google Docs to compose a term paper for another class this semester. The members of our group live on average approximately an hour and a half away from each other. For us to drive that far in order to meet consumes massive amounts of time and energy. I am happy to say that this is the old way and that the new way is much easier and will avoid you racking up the miles on your odometer. I can also predict that I will be using these same web applications (as well as some new ones) for many years to come. I suspect that there will be many more group projects to complete before my time here at Rutgers has concluded so I will be keeping these sites on my toolbar and in my list of favorites (as well on my Delicious account.)

As I said, I have dabbled around with Google Docs in the past but I had never heard of Zoho.com before this week. I thought that Google Docs provided a lot of opportunities for collaborative document creation but Zoho goes above and beyond offering a plethora of online tools including an online presentation tool, word processor, web application creator, web conferencing application, an online invoice manager, a spreadsheet tool, instant messaging, and many others. Using Zoho.com
I found a lot of web videos giving tutorials on how to use the various web applications found on Zoho.com. There is clearly a need for this as there are so many web tools available on the site and while each is user-friendly it requires the same multitude of skills required to create using the offline versions of the same tools (i.e. PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, OneNote, or Publisher.) I did find a video describing the general usefulness of the web applications found on Zoho.com. Enjoy.

These online applications sound great! Free to use, saves space on your external memory devices, allows you to work collaboratively with people on all types of projects... but one major question remains. What happens to a user who suddenly finds him or herself unable to access the internet. Throughout my time as a Comcast customer I have found myself unable to access the internet quite regularly. When this happens I am at least able to work on my various projects offline. I can edit the animation timing on my PowerPoint Slide show, recalculate our household budget on Excel, and add a new chapter to my novel (if I were working on one) on Word. Now if all these files existed only on the web, then my inability to get online would also be an inability to do any of my projects. I understand that this is where saving your files in multiple places comes in handy, but I still felt that this could be a major chink in Zoho.com's armor as well as the armor of the other similar online tools and applications. The last thing I have to share is the CEO and a developer for Zoho.com talking about the launch of their Zoho Offline application Package. Apparently other users like the applications they offer but are not ready to compose and maintain their documents strictly online. This one is a little long but it does shed some more light on how Zoho and other online web tools plan to function and adapt their services to meet the needs of their clients. They discuss the benefit of open source programing and mention the platform, Google Gears. Google Gears is software offered by Google that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser. Google Gears is free and open source software.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Wiki

The creation of wiki's has lead to some dynamic changes in the way people can interact with information. Through the use of a wiki various people can work collaboratively on the content contained within a wiki enabled site. Being a web based application that doesn't require the use of markup language allows for creation and modification of web content in a way that the layperson never could previously have hoped. Having just gotten through the first of our readings on HTML, XHTML, and CSS I am beginning to better understand how this feature can make such a considerable difference for users, especially users that have little or no experience or knowledge in using this unique language. Wikis allow people to alter and modify web content with the same ease and fluidity that they alter and modify content on a word processor. This allows for huge groups of people to influence the content of these wiki pages.
Clearly the best known wiki to date is Wikipedia, an encyclopedia website which uses a wiki to allow users to constantly add, update, and amend content on the site. As I read more about this I was reminded of one of my favorite books, Douglass Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
In this story, an interplanetary traveler to earth introduces the guide to a human friend. The book is basically a wiki, the content for the book is collaboratively modified and amended by countless "field agents" strewn throughout the galaxy. There is a part in the book which mentions a previous (and for the sake of my argument, non-wiki) galactic encyclopedia and how the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a clear improvement.

"In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it is slightly cheaper; and second, it has the words "DON'T PANIC" inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover."

In some ways, the same holds true for wikis. Because wikis are modified and contributed to by members of the general population and not necessarily by experts in that particular field, the content on these sites may have "many omissions and contain much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate." There are systems set up to assist with that problem which can include standards for submissions as well as ways to access previous, earlier versions of the site. One thing is certain, it is far easier to share your knowledge and wisdom on a wiki than it is to have your thoughts published in a traditional encyclopedia. It is also cheaper to access a wiki than to purchase an encyclopedia set. As far as the words "DON'T PANIC" go, I'd like to see that added to the cover of Elizabeth Castro's HTML, XHTML, & CSS, 6th Edition.

I have also seen some interesting library applications for wikis. On the BookLoversWiki I found a variety of wiki applications in use. The first thing I noticed was the book reviews. Through the use of a wiki, readers can search through an index of review topics, contribute their review of a book, or make additions and amendments to previously posted reviews. In order to join the conversation I needed to establish an account through PBwiki. I also tinkered around on the Library Success Best Practice Wiki and was interested in the number of library topics available to read and contribute to. Some topics that caught my eye were "Selling Your Library," "Materials Selection and Collection Maintenance," and "Services to Specific Groups." The last one being of special significance to me because user groups are practically the main focus of my Human Information Behavior class. I also looked at a library wiki that was intended to become a staff manual. One problem expressed was that when these staff manuals come out in printed form they are often already outdated. In this case a wiki is an ideal way to post information that is subject to frequent change.

After that I went onto PBwiki and attempted to add my Learning 2.0 Blog onto their list of "favorite blogs." I follow the instructions and found myself on a page that said to click "EDIT" and add content to the bottom. When I clicked on that link I was shown this message: Failed to enter edit mode: $("wikiedit") is null. I did not run into the same trouble when I posted some of the books I have most enjoyed throughout the years on PBwiki's "Favorite Books" wiki. I used the edit option and was able to make my addition to the wiki. Clearly there are many applications for wiki use by libraries and other information providers not to mention applications outside of the realm of library science.

Lastly, here is a video about some of the benefits of using a wiki.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tagging, Folksonomies & Technorati

I have discovered delicious. Searching through tagged bookmarks and following links to other links and then so on and so forth. I can see how this system allows for people the social networking component that has become such a popular addition as a web application. This site specifically lets you share and index information that is important to you in some way as well as explore what others have submitted in similar or dissimilar fields. I have found this to be an excellent way to browse the web for information that interests me in a more sane manner than I am accustom to. I managed to tag a number of sites that I thought might be of interest to my fellow classmates in SCILS550, Information Technologies for Libraries and Information Analysis. I have been able to see what they have been tagging in connection with our work on the Learning 2.0 Project as well as in connection with the class itself.

The blogosphere can be a big, scary place. It's like the Pacific Ocean; if you are floating around in the middle of it you'd think it was endless. What's worse, if you are looking for the "right" blog, it's like looking for a specific cup of water in the Pacific Ocean. 51 million blogs currently in operation is an astounding number. How is it possible for my little blog to be found among the other 50,999,999 or so blogs? A practical answer seems to be Technorati. Once you claim your blog as your own you are able to network with other bloggers, search blogs of particular interest or blogs similar or dissimilar to your own. To increase the the number of subscribers to your blog you can have your blog site featured alongside other blogs of similar topic or interest.

I recently removed a blog I had posted earlier. I posted it as a miscellaneous submission because I had found a video that I thought was so amazing I had to put it up on the blog. I removed the blog because it definitely exemplifies some of the concepts of Library 2.0. This is a video from a library in Denmark where they have employed a very user friendly and user centered approach in their children's library. You will also see some amazing applications for Radio Frequency ID Tags.

What we see here is a library that recognizes the needs and inclinations of their patrons. Visitors are encourage to explore information in a variety of ways which employ cutting-edge technology, modifications made to accommodate different learning styles, and wildly creative, user-centered ways to search their database of materials. In this case the patrons are children but the same thing, in principal, can be done elsewhere (and is being done in many places.) The more accessible and interactive our libraries become, the more the libraries will remain an established place to seek out and obtain various types of important information as well as a place to stimulate the mind where all types of learners are recognized and valued.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Image Generators, Library Thing, and Rollyo.

I have been playing with some different image generators this week. I have had the opportunity to transform some of my engagement photos into a comic book, inserted my face onto a breakfast cereal box, put some of my students heads on animal bodies, and finally I fiddled around on fototrix.com. Here is a picture of my ferocious house cat, Vash "The Stampede," using a tool named "embosser with ripples."

I have also been hard at play with Librarything.com. The site connects you to a multitude of great literature blogs, blogs about reading in general as well as blogs about specific books. I have been sharing my reactions to my favorite books and adding more and more books to my library. Every book I searched for was in the database and I was unable to find a single book of mine that wasn't already listed. I also enjoyed the recommendations made for further reading based on my choices. Since I chose a lot of my favorite authors I found a host of books I had already had read as well as other books that sparked my interest.

Rollyo allows you to customize your own search engine so that it references only the sites that you see fit. I imagine that if used properly this could drastically cut down the amount of irrelevant information you have to sift through each time you enter a search into one of the larger search engines. I find that the responses I get to inquiries are more related to the aspect I am particularly interested in. I have always felt ill at ease when I type in a search in google and get "1-10 of 234,659 matches for library science." I think Rollyo will help eliminate some of the information overload that has become common with mainstream search systems.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Agricultural Revolution of Information

Prior to this exercise I had not even heard of RSS or Feedreaders. I had been in the practice of hunting and gathering for information much like our ancestors did for food. It was often a long and laboring process but it was commonly believed that the gains outweighed the losses. (Food for our ancestors and tomorrow's weather forecast for me.)

Over time our ancestors adopted new, more sophisticated ways of their attaining their sustenance, turning from their hunter/gather paradigm to one that embraced agriculture. "What a boon to mankind!" it was undoubtedly argued, "All the food we could want in one place where we can more easily manage our food supply!"

RSS and Feedreaders seem much like that to me. Informational agriculture! "What a boon to mankind!" it is now argued, "All the information I could want in one place where I can more easily manage it!" Bloglines is in essence my information garden. You choose what you want to be exposed to and limit your exposure to things that are distracting like endless advertising space.

I have been tinkering around with bloglines for a little while now and currently have feeds which include The New York Times, The Shifted Librarian, Library Development, LISNews, librarian.net, Librarian's Internet Index, and (one of my personal favorites) a Daily Dilbert Comic Strip. I have also had the opportunity to follow what other Learning 2.0 participants are doing and see how they are progressing through the program.

Here is a short video describing the benefits of RSS as the new, fast way to access and manage information.