Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thing #10 - Image Generators

Okay, I totally LOVE this! Thanks, 23 Things!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Are Ess Ess? (Things 8 and 9)

I have to admit to being something of an old hand at RSS. However, it's been a long time since I visited Bloglines, so I went back there and looked at some of my old subscriptions. In the process, though, I noticed that there's an RSS icon on the Internet Explorer toolbar:

So I began playing around with that. It turns out the Favorites Center in the library's current version of Internet Explorer has a place for feeds. If you click on the star to the left of your tabs, you can see where they show up.

It's not as full-featured as a real RSS reader, but it's a neat way to add a few feeds to the PC at the reference desk for downtime reading. Fun!

...and then he read Thing #9 and felt really foolish. Heh. Guess I didn't discover anything exciting.

Several of my co-Thingers have remarked that the number of RSS feeds available is overwhelming enough without using something like Technorati to add to the load. With that in mind, here are my capsule reviews: I'm using a search for the term "librarian" to compare them.

Bloglines search - I'm partial to Bloglines since I've used it so much, and its utilitarian look appeals to me. I tend to like a stripped-down screen without much going on.
Search Results: Bloglines searches both posts and blogs at the same time, giving results for posts in the main window, blogs on a right-hand sidebar. I really like the automatic option to subscribe to the search, allowing me to just let Bloglines do it all for me.
Membership: Being a member of Bloglines allows you to immediately subscribe to feeds you find through the search, but not much else. Bloglines remains very focused on RSS.

Syndic8 - Having praised Bloglines' simplistic design, I have to say that Syndic8 looks amateurish.
Search Results: Syndic8 assumes that your search is for entire blogs/feeds, not posts. As I've fooled around with it, I don't see any way to search for posts at all. I do like the tabular form of the results, though. Very easy to read and understand.
Membership: Becoming a member of Syndic8 is more like becoming an employee. They immediately put you to work reviewing feeds for inclusion in their database!

Topix - Topix is clearly intended as a portal more than a search tool. There's a whole lot happening on the front page. It's pretty overwhelming.
Search Results: Here is the opposite of Syndic8's approach. The default is to search posts, and again, I don't see a way to switch.
Membership: Topix goes far beyond simple RSS syndication into the realm of social networking, with its own discussion forums and other features.

Technorati - All about the popularity, which has its place, but I'm not sure that's the best thing when I'm searching for new content. I tend to avoid the mainstream and popular as a general rule.
Search Results: I have to say, Technorati impresses me here. I like the way the results are laid out, and especially the prominent "filter" options that would let me switch from the default posts search to one of blogs. I love the little graph showing how often your search term has been mentioned in the past month, with the tempting offer to compare with another term. Is "librarian" or "library" more popular?
Membership: The most important feature of Technorati membership is the ability to "claim" your blog. You verify that you own a particular blog, and then you can track its popularity and see where other people have linked to your posts. That's a neat feature.

So, that's my take on the four feed searches. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thing 6: Picasa Web Albums (and, as it turns out, Thing 7 as well)

From Zimmermania

I am a flickr user for the most part, so I was interested to look at Picasa Web Albums. Right away, I was shocked to find that I already had three albums of my own! It turns out that, because Google owns both Blogger and Picasa, it has integrated them in such a way that any photos posted to a Blogger blog are automagically saved in Picasa albums.

I was excited by this, and immediately set about playing with the photos I have. I worked on doing some face tagging as noted in Thing 5, and I geotagged a couple of photos. As I was doing so, though, I noticed something odd. Many of the photos in my main blog don't appear on Picasa at all. In fact, they seem to have stopped abruptly right about the time of last winter's ice storm. As I looked into things more closely, I discovered the reason.

As I mentioned before, I use a service called Utterli to do my blog posting. It cleverly allows me to make my post in one place and have it populated all over (in my case, that means my blog, twitter, and flickr). The downside appears to be that the Picasa/Google/Blogger collective does not recognize my photo as "a photo" and copy it over to Picasa. "Okay," I thought, "I'll just have Utterli send my posts to Picasa, too." Unfortunately, no can do. Grr.

So now I have to decide what I want to do. As it currently stands, if I want my photos to go to Picasa when I blog, I either have to copy Picasa on the e-mail I send to Utterli (not a huge problem, but a bit annoying) or figure out how to get one of my other destinations to cross-post there. Another possibility would be to drop Utterli and go back to posting direct to Blogger. It would then send my photos to Picasa, but I'd lose the connection to Twitter and Flickr and would have to figure out other ways to get them in the loop.

Here's where this morphs into Thing #7: Blog About Technology. The more time I spend with Web 2.0, the more it starts to feel like quicksand. Or maybe Br'er Rabbit's Tar Baby. I see something interesting, get immersed in it, and it leads me to something else. These two work together, and also work with this other cool thing, and before I know it, I'm in the situation I have now. It's hard to even say how my blog posting currently works without resorting to an image, so I'm going to go ahead and just make one...
From 23 Things

As you can see, a basic post to my blog goes immediately to three different places. This doesn't count anything that uses my RSS feed. If I posted from Utterli, that adds two more right away, and my Facebook friends start getting annoyed, because they see the post in my Notes, they see my flickr photostream update with the same photo, and they see my Twitter app updated with a message about the same post.

In a way, it's like that picture. In order to make it, I created the diagram using Publisher, because that's the tool we have on the library computers that I'm most comfortable with. I took a screenshot, then pasted it into Paint and saved it as a .jpg. I used three different kinds of software (plus the browser to upload it) to get that image.

But here's the difference. There are programs designed for making screenshots that would replace them all in one fell swoop, but if I started using one of them, Publisher wouldn't get offended. MS Paint wouldn't say, "Hey, I wonder why Karl doesn't use us any more." With social networks, once you've spent a certain amount of time on one, you are obligated to keep updating it. I have friends on LJ who don't read my blog and aren't on facebook. If I drop the LJ feed, they will miss me. Or maybe not. Maybe it's just ego. Or neediness.

I've wandered pretty far afield, partly because I've written this post on three different computers (using two different operating systems) over a period of about six hours. I'm not sure I even have a point any more, unless it's this: technology is amazing, it's useful, and it opens up new possibilities in the world every day, but it can be dangerous (or at least distracting) and addictive. It's deceptively easy to spend a lot of time doing things that appear productive, but are not. In an effort to save time, you can easily waste hours searching for a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

7.5 Habits

In response to PLCMC's presentation, TCCL has asked that we talk about which of these habits is easiest, and which is hardest for us personally.

My initial reaction is that none of them are really that difficult for me, so for easiest, I'm going to choose Habit 4: Have Confidence In Yourself as a Competent, Effective Learner. To be honest, I've always been teacher's pet, head of the class, do-gooder, nerd, what-have-you. I often say that, if I win the lottery, I'll go back to college and stay there. I love learning new things, especially in a structured environment like a classroom.

That brings me to my downfall. Habit 1: Begin With The End In Mind is quite difficult for me. I tend to have a hard time planning ahead, and I rely a lot on others' structure. As an example, I have taken two creative writing classes in my life, one in high school, and one in college. During those classes, I was highly productive, writing poems, short stories, and other works with frantic speed. Once I left the classroom, though, without the formal structure of assignments and deadlines, I just quit. I need that outside pressure to drive me to succeed.

My Blogging Past

I'm a pretty experienced blogger. My main blog ( has been around since 2004, and is approaching 900 posts. I had some other attempts prior to that, but "Txt-Based Blogging" is the one that stuck.

I have other blog-type presences online, including a LiveJournal account and my Facebook Notes, but mostly those just re-post what comes from my main blog. Also, since I do a lot of photoblogging (mostly pix of my kids), I use a service called Utterli (formerly known as Utterz) to send the posts from my phone.

Hello World!

This is a learning blog I've created as part of the Tulsa City-County Library's "23 Things" Library 2.0 course. I'll be using it to complete assignments for the course and muse on the vagaries of all things 2.0-ish.