At the Ref Desk (10/6/18): (Question of the Day): "For how much time can I ask you questions?" I told him we were open till nine. [more...]
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Telephone Book Delivery

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 3/28/07 (4:01pm)

Telephone Book Delivery

Telephone Book Delivery: Waiting for me right outside my door. How much longer is this going to last?

One of the librarians on the Usability4lib List was concerned about the amount of investment -- particularly in time -- that embarking on a social networking strategy might require for her library.

Here's what I wrote in reply:

Well, for starters I wouldn't do it simply for the hell of it -- i.e. simply to say you're doing it.

On the other hand, I don't see why it should require an inordinate amount of time, especially if you approach it in small steps.

You say your library is going to do user surveys, and also that your ultimate product will be a CMS-based website.

You could survey the users as to what they use (IM? Facebook, etc.). You could then follow this up by examining a few individuals and their use of these services.

(Personal note: IM's been around for years but it was only when I started looking at how the student workers were using it that I finally got religion.)

On the CMS side, you could use the properties of a CMS system to churn out RSS feeds (such as news, events, classes, etc.). These could be added auto-magically to your Facebook or MySpace Page -- thus lessening potential overhead while still maintaining currency (it's the Web 2.0 way!)

A great first step is just making sure everyone's comfortable with IM'ing and that they all have screen-names. You might also want to get your own Facebook account to test out the waters.

One way or another, this isn't an 'all or nothing' proposition.

PodCasts from SXSW Interactive

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 3/20/07 (1:15am)

If you couldn't make it to the annual get-together of the "interactive" world in Austin, this is just about the next best thing. Here's what's up so far...


Do You 'Twitter'? (And If Not, Why Not?)

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 3/13/07 (7:58pm)

Twitter LogoIt doesn't get any more ephemeral than this: you pop a sentence about what you're doing at the moment in a box and then go back to whatever you were doing.

Who'd bother, you ask? Even more, who'd bother to read it all?


Gored For Women Dot Org?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 3/12/07 (3:42am)

Gored For Women Dot Com?: Seen on Oak St. in Chicago.

Probably not the intended message but we put spaces in between words for a reason. 'CamelCase' might have helped.

In any case, as seen on the Marquee of the now closed Esquire Theater on Oak St. in Chicago.


Props to the Chicago Public Schools

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 3/8/07 (7:53pm)

From the Chicago Tribune:

After-school tutoring, better-trained teachers and new classroom assessments in Chicago public schools helped drive an "extraordinary" increase in state scores that improved the fortunes of nearly every city elementary school last year, district officials said.

This is just one year's results and from year to year there are enough changes in the way the test is given to make drawing longer-term conclusions problematic. That said, anyone familiar with our school system knows how hard everyone works -- particularly the teachers!

These results are a great credit to their efforts.


Silence on Deck: New Project Up Ahead!

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 3/5/07 (11:48am)

I'm working on a neat new utility which will be ready to unleash on the world in a couple of days.

It's a combination of a couple of things that I hope people will find useful. All I can say at the moment is that it's library-related and that it came to me as I was thinking about the next 'Website of the Month' piece.

Being the neurotic perfectionist I am, I repeatedly go over the thing, thinking about how to improve it. That adds extra to the amount of time it's taking me.

In any case, I'll try to have it finished either this week or next.

Bill in U.S. Congress on Fair Use Called "Watered-Down"

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 2/28/07 (9:45am)

Ken Fisher of Ars Technica isn't impressed by a Bill on Fair Use that was recently introduced by Congressmen Rick Boucher (D-VA) and John Doolittle (R-CA).

Calling it "watered down", Fisher comments:

Yet again, the bill does not appear to deliver on what most observers want: clear protection for making personal use copies of encrypted materials. There is no allowance for consumers to make backups of DVDs, to strip encryption from music purchased online so that it can be played anywhere, or to generally do any of the things that the DMCA made illegal in one fell swoop."


Current Cites for February 2007

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 2/27/07 (10:47am)

Current Cites Logo

Current Cites for February 2007 is out! You can find the issue here...

'Ape with a Termite Stick': Jon Udell on Screencasts

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 2/25/07 (12:11pm)

Learn by seeing other people doing things. We used to call it 'monkey see, monkey do'. Jon Udell calls it "ape with a termite stick".

In any case, that's what a screencast does and Udell, who's done a number of them, has a nice write-up, "Screencasting Tips" that's full of observations like the following:

Given all the network connectivity that we have nowadays, it’s perhaps surprising — but nevertheless true — that we have few opportunities to directly observe how other people, who are proficient users of software tools, do what they do. Screencasts are the best way I've found to make such tool use observable, and thus learnable.

I'd only add that as the variety and importance of these software tools grow, so too does the need for good examples.