Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wherefore art thou Zotero?

Zotero!  This bit of web wizardry seems eminently practical.  It's something I would really want to use.  I hate creating citations!  I hate trying to keep track of a million disparate sources online while I'm trying to craft a paper!  This will save me much time!

Only I can't get it to work right.

Is it just me?  What am I doing wrong here?  After I installed it (forced to use firefox, btw, which is not my browser of choice, but I can deal), I went to Amazon to test it out, since the tutorial thingy prominently featured that site.  I tried to save an entry for Towers of Midnight (yeah, as if I'm ever going to lose track of that book in my brain-stacks, but this is an exercise, dammit), and it ended up giving me...a blank zotero thingy.  Nada in there.  Okay, so maybe there are some issues with Amazon.  I'll try Google Books!  Less capitalism, more open access, or whatever.  We were just exploring it in my class today.  Perfect.  So I pull up Richard III and presto, I save it to zotero!  Only, wait.  it has listed as its title the following: "King Richard III - a tragedy in five acts - William Shakespeare - Google books."  That isn't the title.  That's the title, plus the author, plus the source.  It's not helpful at all to have all that crap lumped together and leave their appropriate slots blanks down below.  Am I expected to fill the info in myself?  Hardly seems likely.  And it won't even let me copy-paste from the title field, soooo...

I tried with Frankenstein too, just to see.  Same problem.  So then I went to see what it would do with a database entry.  Jstor hoooo, gimme something onnn---oh heck, it's October, let's search for Bram Stoker.  Okay great, here are some articles.  Zotero, do your thing, and--nup.  no good.  For the title, it lists JSTOR and the source journal.  i thought the point was to save citations for individual articles--right?  Am I doing something wrong?  I thought I did what the tutorial video guy told me to.  Shall I just blame firefox?

The worst was when I tried to save articles on the digital divide from some library database or another.  Zotero didn't even respond.  Just ignored me.  it continues to ignore me.  I really want zotero to work as I enter the paper-writing season, but it doesn't seem to like me.  any pointers?  I'll keep messing with it in the light of day, but for now it's a no-go....

UPDATE:  I think I figured it out! <3 you, Zotero....

Monday, October 10, 2011

There are those out there on all sides of the ideological spectrum who think that this is an expression of First Amendment freedom.  It is not, as we as information professionals--standard bearers of legitimate freedom--must educate our users to make that distinction.

Tag! Del.icio.us is NOT it.

I'm not sure del.icio.us and i are meant to be.  i'm an easygoing guy, i just like to go with the flow and use what works.  Delle (let's call her 'delle') is so demanding!  everything seems to have to be her way.  "ok, i'll try making a stack, Delle."  "Well, it has to have at least 3 links in it!" "Oh, I'm sorry, baby.  You didn't tell me that before."  "Well,I'm telling you now! God can't you just LISTEN?! I"M TRYING TO HELP YOU!!!!"

Yikes.  That kind of help I don't need.

There are a few other things i don't like about delle, besides this initial lack of clarity (despite my having read the helpful blog post we had linked beforehand).  For one thing, she's so...public.  I like to pick and choose what I put out there for everyone.  Yeah, I know Delle has the "private link" option, but everything she does seems geared toward full disclosure.  And that's fine for you millenials, all you kids who were spoonfed Facebook with your strained peas. I'm ever so slightly (so slightly!) more old-school than that.  And it's not like I want to hide things out of shame or embarrassment; I just don't think everyone wants or needs to know that I love 'Game of Thrones' on HBO or whatever.  that's just me.  I hang out in the corner until I feel I have something useful to say.  If i never feel that way, you will probably never hear from me.  very unlike the "I just had cheerios!" FB status updaters.  They're fine; I don't mind 'em; it's just not me.  and Delle seems to want to MAKE me that.

What else was there...oh yeah.  Speaking more generally, I'm not sure that tagging works for me in any useful way.  I gather that Delle's strength is in creating your own associations for things, making it easier to find them through a simple search, rather than dig through deep bookmark hierarchies.  Well, that's cool, but when I want to find winter-is-coming.com in three months, will i remember that I tagged it as "asoiaf" rather than 'ice and fire,' two common abbreviations for the book series from which it comes?  should i have tagged it 'hbo' too? would i remember if i had?  if i tag it 'tv' will it be any easier to slog through all my tv-related links than it would have been to go through my bookmark hierarchies?  anyway, i *like* my hierarchies.  i'm that kind of organizer and thinker.  i've actually been tagging stuff for years--i tag all my journal entries--but i do it mostly for funsies, and completely inconsistently and inefficiently.  i don't think i'll be able to get more disciplined for delle. (and i probably shouldn't go into cataloging either, huh?)

Finally--'deli.icio.us'? to quote a great SNL sketch, "Who are the ad wizards who came up with that one?"  I don't think Krug would approve of the sheer annoyance that comes with trying to type that. at least it's not in the actual url.

PS i don't really see the need for this service and my RSS feed...their functions seem to overlap.  except with delle, i get other people's pithy judgments on a given site.  not sure what value that adds yet.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

RSS: Rather Shoddily Signaled

I've been using RSS feeds with my google reader for several weeks now.  At first, I was truly enamored with it; it seemed just as easy and convenient as all the hype claimed it'd be. I set up a bunch of folders to organize my feeds into my major areas of interest and need: LIS stuff; local stuff; news; art and literature; humor; the paranormal; miscellaneous personal interests (cartography, infrastructure, New York City history & development), etc.

Maybe I bit off more than I can chew, because now I sort of dread my twice- or thrice-daily scans of my feed.  There are always at least 500 new entries that I need to go through, and I feel more obligated to go through all of them than when I was just scanning the individual sites--I feel more like I "should" be reading them since they're being delivered right to me, else I'll reveal myself to be some sort of information poseur.  But despite that, I just can't do it, and I end of dismissing the vast majority of entries unread.

(The main offender here seems to be my subscription the the Huffington Post.  They are updating and feeding me CONSTANTLY.  When I visit the site I can easily run through the front page section, reading only what interests me, but when it all comes to my reader, all condensed and sans pictures and identifying section colors, I have trouble quickly identifying what I want to spend time on.  When I initially subscribed, it seemed like I could subscribe to individual sections--I chose Viewpoints, News and Green--but that was a red herring and each one just subscribed me to the whole site.  Bad move, HuffPo! Fix that.)

On the subject of news feeds (actual feeds of news sites, I mean), I think that a weakness the RSS model has is that you miss the context and clues inherent in newspapers, which news sites try to follow.  The reader just aggregates every update as it is posted in each site; there's no breakdown into sections, no clear sense of what's an update of a previous story, and most crucially, no sense of hierarchy: I have no idea what the top story of the moment is.  An article about the Bills winning is given as much priority about the latest happenings in Libya, and being in Buffalo, I have no idea which one might be considered the more 'important' story by the editors.

It's a bit of a mess.

Still, I go back several times a day in a quest to keep up.  Maybe I'll eventually abandon the idea of getting my news via RSS and rely on it to aggregate the pages of personal interest that used to take up a lot of bookmark space and cause a lot of skipping around the net for me.  That part's been working fairly well for me.

So, having built up a bit more RSS experience since the last time I touched on it in this blog, I think I need to reassess my sense of this technology's applicability to libraries.  I say, handle with care.  Having a "quick world catchup" feed on public computers for the edification of patrons can become overwhelming; sites to feed must be selected carefully, and I'd recommend skipping HuffPo.  So too with the library's own feed, if you have a site you want people in the community to subscribe to.  My best advice would be to mark each update with its relative importance level and subject/interest area right in the headline to that info will show up in feeds; important vs casual information, reader's advisory vs library operations vs community activities, etc...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wiki quickie

I love wikis.  Nothing screams collaboration, community, engagement and open access like wikis.  And, by and large, i think wikipedia gets a bad rap; in my (extensive) experience trawling it, I find that the vast majority of contributors know what they're talking about and contribute because they care about the topics they're elucidating.  On top of that, wikipedia's network of moderators does a great job flagging what's innacurate, biased, out-of-date, irrelevant, etc.  It's an amazing development of social industry.

That said, I'm disappointed by some of what I found on libsuccess.org.  I was excited to look through it, thinking, "Great!  This is perfect for me as a young librarian.  A one-stop shop of everything that works!  Tried and true methods."  Instead of an easily-digestible encyclopedia of practices, though, I found more of a directory of other websites, other sources and blogs and listings.  I think that sort of misses the point of a wiki, where we would expect to find knowledge concentrated, not merely pointing to its dilute locations around the web.  Not happy!

I did really love the notion of the wiki as repository of a library's community outreach events, as was the case with http://booklovers.pbworks.com.  If I had been them, I would have kept that up beyond 2006.  As a hopeless nostalgia-hound, I love the opportunity to look back at what I was reading years ago; a record of a summer book club is like a community-wide archive of literary memory, with full accounts of relevant criticism, discussions held, and reviews written.  I'm definitely putting that on my best practices list.