23 Things: Technorati

I follow so many blogs and feeds at this point that I don’t usually go out looking for more things to read, so I don’t usually go look for what’s hot on Technorati. I do, however, like that you can subscribe to a search (of course I have a vanity search set up … though it mostly returns hits on a designer who shares my name), I like being able to follow specific tags, and I often check it when I am composing a blog post to see if anyone else has commented on the same topic.

I don’t see myself using Technorati much for library services, simply because I need to focus on scholarly literature for my patrons. For me, Technorati and other blog search and ranking sites are definitely professional development and networking tools.

Next up: the Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 can of worms.

23 Things: Tagging

At the SLA conference in Seattle, I got talked into signing up for SLA’s 23 Things. While I don’t consider myself on the forefront of Web 2.0 (I’m convinced that once I found Facebook, it instantly became yesterday’s news), I’m pretty comfortable with a good number of the tools (my library has been blogging for over 2 years now and this humble blog has been around in some form since 2003) and I’m not afraid to try new ones out. I thought 23 Things might get me out of my comfort zone and get me to try some new things – plus the organizers were pretty persuasive.

I haven’t blogged about the first few things (blogs and wikis), mainly because I was so familiar with them. I have more blogs than I can handle already, and I started using a wiki for SLA Social Science Division program planning last year. (This year I’ve invited more people to use the wiki, and am happy to see most of them at least reading the wiki and a good number contributing to it.)

Now we are on to tagging, which I’m not quite as comfortable with. Oh, sure, I tag things, but I’m never quite sure about it. Is this the right tag? Will I ever find this again?

Mostly I am good at coming up with my own special tags. For example, I tag books in Library Thing with currentreading and use that to display them on my blog. I tag posts on del.icio.us with staffpop and plug that feed into my intranet site for my staff. But actual meaningful tags? I’m a little behind on that.

Next up: Folksonomies and Technorati, where the current top story is “Dick Busted on Sex Charges Outside Chicken Joint”. You can’t make this stuff up.

YouTube U

Yesterday I wrote about the popularization of science and the role it plays in scholarly communication. Technology can make popularization easier than ever. One example is the proliferation of academic lectures on YouTube, as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education (free online article).

Easier does not mean easy. The article quotes Michael L. Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, on making online videos:

The thought process is very different, which I actually think can be very valuable. I mean we think a lot about how to present our work in writing, and I think when you shift into thinking about how to present this work visually, it actually forces you to think through things in new ways.

No more static web sites in academe?

Steven Bell, writing on ACRLog, says that static personal web sites are becoming less common among academic librarians as they are replaced by blogs, social networking profiles, and other interactive web tools. He argues, however, that a static site can still benefit librarians. Brock Read, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus, asks, “Should professors and librarians delete seldom-used personal pages, or keep them around for posterity?”

More important than whether your site runs on WordPress or Drupal or hand-coded HTML is whether visitors can find out about your professional accomplishments. (I’m assuming here that your blog is not anonymous or pseudonymous, and that you consider it part of your professional self.) Is there a link on your blog to your academic credentials? to awards and honors you’ve received? to your publications and presentations?

In my roles as a conference and program planner for professional associations, I often look at personal and staff pages of all varieties looking for information. And I do sometimes rely on web searches to help me identify potential speakers. I’m much more likely to give you a call if I can find that you’ve already presented on a topic I’m interested in. In this day and age, why not also add video of yourself speaking?

I think (though I’m not as immersed in the culture) that other academics benefit from enhanced personal sites as well. I regularly research potential speakers for lectures and symposia sponsored by my organization, as well as prospects for open faculty positions. I can give the committee a much more detailed profile if I can find a recently updated profile (or CV or resume or whatever you want to call it). If I can’t find a profile, I have to rely on what I can find through web searches and literature searches, which is probably not as complete, nor as focused.

The bottom line: a personal web site, of any variety, gives you some control over how people view you. Here’s mine, also linked from the sidebar of DIY Librarian, and from my employer’s web site. OK, the design won’t get me hired as a web designer, and it’s nothing revolutionary, but it is up-to-date.

From library conference to web conference

Upon my return from SLA 2007 in Denver, I attended another conference, because I just can’t get enough of conferences.

The conference I attended was a conference for web developers at my university. This was my first time attending a technology conference, so I was afraid most of it would be over my head. Maybe I just chose my sessions wisely, but I thought the conference was very relevant to my work and not above my technical level at all. From looking at the program, I think there were also more technical sessions for real web developers.

Not surprisingly, many of the speakers focused on Web 2.0 and its place in higher education.

The opening keynote speaker, Jared Spool, defined Web 2.0 as “designing with an attention to the total experience of the user.” He added that user generated content does not mean Web 2.0, citing Amazon.com reviews and eBay, both of which have had user generated content for a long time.

As an example of what Web 2.0 is, he took a photo of the audience with his cell phone and uploaded it to Flickr. He then discussed mashups, RSS, tagging, and social networks.

His comment about the problem with chronological data in RSS feeds caught my librarian’s ear: “Imagine if the library was one big in/out queue,” he said, adding that RSS is not a good way to find specific information.

From there, I went to a session on “Web 2.0 and the Higher Education Enterprise 2.0”, where we got an update on Web 2.0 applications at Penn State. The presenters said that both student expectations and budget and staffing constraints are driving these developments.

Much of the presentation focused on the differences between this year’s presentation and a similar presentation last year. The big difference seemed to be that rather than trying to develop its own social spaces, Penn State is instead going to the spaces where the students already are.

An example of the power of social networking sites was the ability of Penn State students to organize a tribute to the shooting victims at Virginia Tech in a matter of days.

Then I attended a more applied session on web graphics. Cyndi Carey said that web design is different from all other design because of end user control over the display and differences in equipment. She also noted that we have gone backwards, in a way, because so many people are accessing web sites using handheld devices. She urged developers to “use graphics responsibly,” using them only when they enhance communication and keeping download speed in mind.

My next session, “Creating Web (2.0) Sites to Support Communities and Collaboration” provided examples of the use of CMS and blog software at Penn State.

The final session I attended was not directly relevant to my work but was one of the more interesting. Christian Johansen and Jerry Maddox spoke about scholarly publishing on the web. Johansen talked about the semantic web and “lost (X)HTML tags” and metadata. Jerry Maddox, an art professor, spoke about making long texts easier to read online. He emphasized typography and eliminating “density” (extraneous information that is not part of the text). He demonstrated a style switcher he developed for reading texts online.

Maddox began his talk with another library story. He talked about sitting in Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library, taking advantage of the wifi. A little boy came up and started talking to him, and wondered whether sharks have babies. Maddox typed “do sharks have babies?” into Google and got the boy an answer in a matter of minutes (some sharks lay eggs while others have babies). I started to be offended, but then realized I would have done the same thing. As Maddox pointed out, it would have taken much longer to go into the library and look up the answer. For the purpose at hand, the Google answer was good enough, and Maddox is probably an astute enough web user to evaluate his sources. And Maddux warmed this librarian’s heart by ending his story with a note that it then started to rain and he went into the library.

Though I did get to meet some of my campus colleagues, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to do more networking. To tell the truth, though, I may have just been too tired after SLA to network. All in all, I’m very glad I attended the conference, and I’d encourage other librarians to attend conferences outside of the library field.

Tomorrow morning I’m attending a post-conference tutorial on writing for the web. Because I really just can’t get enough conferencing!