Beginner’s Nerves

You know how you think you have ages to wait for something, then suddenly find that it’s right on top of you? I’m starting to see Tweets and messages about the CILIP New Professionals Conference, which should be great. It’s awesome when people are excited, and CILIP have a competition for a free place (enter here!) and it’s all very buzzy and cool etc etc. For me, there’s just one little drawback. Well. Not a little drawback. More like a great big nerve-inducing drawback. And that would be that I’m speaking at it.

I’m going to pause here to breathe into a paper bag for a while before going on. Talk amongst yourselves.

Seriously, I’m incredibly excited about this, and am looking forward to it more than I can say. Not only do I love Sheffield as a city, but I’m going to get to meet people who are just little squares on Twitter, and whose blogging I really enjoy. If I focus hard enough on that, I can ignore the nerves, hopefully enough to let me get over ‘blank page’ syndrome. Lindsay and I were very clear about what we wanted to say when we wrote our proposal, but trying to recapture that feeling a few months down the road and seeing people say they’re looking forward to coming is something else entirely. It’s a whole new experience, speaking at a conference where beforehand, you can pick up other people talking about it and read the work of other speakers and attendees. There’s a Twitter hashtag already (#npc2010) and I’m starting to track down fellow-speakers, while trying not to be intimidated. Hopefully everyone who’s speaking at a conference for the first time has a “who, me? seriously?” moment, and I’m also very aware that there are questions at the end of the session. The conference is about a conversation, about us standing up and saying “hey, look at this thing we think is interesting” and see what other people make of it. Maybe if I think of it as live-blogging, I’ll be less nervous.

It also helps that we have great support here at the Law Library and from the conference organisers, and we’re really passionate about our topic. Yes, it is possible to passionate about cataloguing. You just watch us!

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Identity Crisis II

As the 23 Things programme rolls to an end, I’ve had to face up to the problem of online identities, my main issue being that I have three. I’ve been online for nearly four years now, and in the communities that I first joined, pseudonyms were normal. Everyone chose a name that said something about them, or related to their interests or that they liked the sound of. For many of us who’ve always used the internet like this, we’d probably answer to our pseudonyms offline as well as on. It’s considered terribly bad form in these circles to connect someone’s online identity to their ‘real life’ identity, and there are some people I’ve been talking to for years whose ‘real’ names I will probably never know. This is perfectly normal, and doesn’t get in the way of lively conversation and informative debate.

For 23 Things, I decided to create a whole new identity for myself, which presented me with yet another issue. Did I want my new identity to be purely professional, or was it going to be personal as well? Put simply, was my blog just going to be about libraries, or was it going to include all my other interests as well, and if the latter, would library colleagues mind the occasional picture of crochet, or would craft friends be interested in all my library things? In the end, I decided that the answer was ‘yes’, and going forwards, I’m going to use my 23 Things blog for anything that I wouldn’t post to my pseudonymous blog. Three online identities is too much for even me to handle. I’ve been reading about people’s struggles to remember passwords with a sort of hollow laughter – I have 2 Twitter accounts, 2 registered Google IDs, 2 Google Wave accounts, 3 blogs, Facebook, a Yahoo mail account, my work email and my work login and a partridge in a pear tree. And that doesn’t take account of things like Photobucket, eBay and Etsy, where I sometimes have trouble remembering my login name, let alone my password. Let me be an awful warning to you all of the dangers of internet overload, and let me point you once again in the direction of KeyPass, which may well have the power to save my aching brain.

When you’re pseudonymous, protecting your privacy is important and easier. I’ve been intrigued by the posts during 23 Things about privacy in ‘the real world’.

(quick disclaimer: After this post, this blog will be moving to WordPress. This has something to do with privacy, since my non-professional identity is connected to a gmail account, which is what you need for this Blog. That, the logging in and out logistics, and my general dislike of Blogger, are sending me elsewhere)

Click here for the rest of the post

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The iPad cometh

Picked up from Phil Bradley’s Twitter: A 2.5 year old encounters the iPad for the first time. Fascinating to see how quickly she picks it up, although he does say in the whole article here that she already knows how to use an iPhone.

I’m not entirely sold on the iPad personally, but that’s probably because I have a Touch, which seems remarkably similar, only littler. And I have my netbook and no more money to spend on gadgets. People who’ve used it are loving it, though, so it’ll be interesting to see how much market penetration they get beyond the Apple Faithful. It looks gorgeous and is easy to use by all accounts, but I find it hard to believe that Apple really believe they’re going to kill Flash by refusing to have it enabled on their devices. The frustration of only being able to see half a website just doesn’t go away.

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The Home Straight

Well, I added the Delicious widget to my iGoogle page, didn’t like the way it looked there and removed it again. I think that’s because I don’t really use Delicious as a networking/discovery tool, I use it as a personal bookmarking account so that I can access my bookmarks from any computer, anywhere. If there’s a subject I want to keep track of, I use my GReader account and RSS feeds, which work better for me than Delicious, I think.

I’ve also added the Flickr Photostream gadget to my blog, which is all well and good, but I only use Flickr for my crochet photographs, so that’s what people will be getting for now!

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed 23 Things as a way of finding new tools and gadgets (Picnik is going to stay a favourite), and as a way of seeing how the things I already use can be relevant to a library context. It’s been fascinating as someone who is already using lots of Web 2.0 tools to see what other people make of the things that are part of my every day life. Most of them will remain part of my toolkit (if Delicious ever disappears, I’m in so much trouble), some will remain on my radar (Facebook and LinkedIn, which aren’t particularly relevant to me now, but might be in the future) and some I just didn’t take to (ThinkFree and, I’m sorry to say, Blogger). The joy of Web 2.0 is that I’ve got lots of other options, and as these last 2 Things have shown, everything talks to everything else. I’ll be moving this blog to WordPress, but I can import my content, still have those gadgets in the sidebar, have my Twitter feed show up there and even connect to my Facebook account if I want to. The interconnectivity of Web 2.0 is what really gives it its strength I think. I remember seeing someone posting concerns about the diversity of websites and tools out there, wondering how we connect to each other when we all use such different sets of tools. Gadgets, widgets and our own shortcuts allow us to connect these things together in a way that suits us best, which the control freak in me greatly appreciates.

I don’t have to do things the same way as you, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never find each other. We can still all be connected, just in a way that suits us rather than the way we’re told to do it, and I think that has to be a good thing.

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Cloudy day

I absolutely love Google documents and wouldn’t be without it. Although I’ve never used it for work, in my personal life, I use documents, forms and spreadsheets to do just about everything. My writing is all in the cloud, which means I’m less likely to lose drafts and random snippets that I might want some day, and Google forms are just brilliant. I’m running something right now that has over 60 partipants, and the forms make life so very, very much easier. I think the best thing about Forms is the way the results are kicked out – easy to interpret and manipulate however you need. Although I’ve never used Google Presentations – and doubt that I’d want to move away from Powerpoint for creating them – being able to upload them to the cloud means I don’t have to worry about file corruption or my terrible memory. If I forget anything, it’ll be there for me to edit, and I can always download it as a .ppt file again.

Rather than email my form, I thought I’d try to embed it. Click the jump link to see if it worked!


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My first attempt at that was much, much bigger, but fortunately I knew what to look for in the code and was able to make it smaller – the scroll bar appeared automatically, which was quite pleasing.

I’m afraid ThinkFree turned out to be a bit of a washout for me. I couldn’t get it to create a new document for me, and while I liked the idea of being able to see random things that people had shared, I don’t think that would be enough to keep me coming back. I did like being able to preview a document, but can’t really see me using it that much. As others have said, it’s very slow and seemed to take forever to upload my document, while slowing me down on other things (thank you, java). Overall, not a hit, I’m afraid.

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MARCthulu fhtagn

This came up on various of my RSS feeds this morning, along with an invitation to the Cataloguer’s Forum, so I couldn’t resist re-posting.

The speaker is Simon Spero from ibiblio.org, and he gave this 2.38 minute talk at the recent Code4lib conference. Considering the OLIS issues this morning, it seemed appropriate…

I originally picked this up from Roy Tennant’s post at Library Journal

[with thanks to Wiki for the title quote]

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All knowledge is contained on Wikipedia. Possibly

Wikipedia is both an incredibly useful resource, and the absolute bane of a teacher/information professional’s life. It’s become ubiquitous as a source of all knowledge, and a recent spat with the Encyclopedia Britannica didn’t settle the matter, it only added fuel to the fire.

I use Wikipedia all the time to look up TV shows and people I’ve never heard of, as well as finding a good source of references. A good Wiki article is an absolute mine of information, as long as you’re willing to scroll down to the bottom of the page and check where the information came from. If there’s nothing there, then you have to take the information in the article with a pinch of salt.

Personally, I tend to find that the factual information in Wikipedia is normally pretty accurate. It’s the interpretation I find a little suspect. So the science pages are actually pretty good (or so my chemist husband tells me) because they’re pretty much copied out of a book. But historical or political pages are much more vulnerable to bias – famously, the George W Bush page has to be locked down to avoid one side or the other putting their own spin on the events of his Presidency.

I took a trip over to the web 2.0 wiki and added a few lines about the wiki we’re using at the Law Library for managing our reclassification project – since the wiki isn’t live yet, there’s not too much to say, and I expect Helen (who’s done more work on it than I have) will add more when she gets to this “Thing”. I also had an interesting time glancing through notes about various Web 2.0 around Oxford and particularly the thought that has gone into how they’re used. We use so many at the Law Library, that I’m not actually sure we need any more, but I like to see why libraries have chosen what they’ve chosen. Because in the end, all these things are just tools for doing the job, and each library will need different things from them.

And since I seem unable to disentangle Things 17 and 18, I’ve put more thoughts about Wikipedia under the jump below

As I said above, I’m a big fan of Wikipedia, and for things that aren’t important, I think it’s fine to use it as a source of information. What does wind me up is when I attend academic/librarian events and Wikipedia is used to provide the definition quote. You know the kind of thing I mean:

“[subject we are talking about] is defined in Wikipedia as…”

I will absolutely advise people to have a glance at Wikipedia to get a rough idea of the subject, and it’s true that many of the editors will be experts in their field. I can go to the Bodleian Law Library page and add content, and since I work here, it’s likely that the information will be accurate and – to a certain extent – authoritative. But that’s me. Reading the article, you have no way of telling whether or not it was written by an expert. You have know way of knowing whether the person went to a textbook or the online Encyclopedia Britannica and copied the information out, or if they just made up something that sounded good.

And that’s the point. I always regard information without provenance should be regarded with deep suspicion. If I don’t know who’s said something, I have no way whatsoever of judging its accuracy. With Wikipedia in particular, there’s a certain logical fallacy that I think people use, which runs something like, “I know this subject and the Wikipedia article about it was accurate, therefore Wikipedia is accurate”. I just don’t think you can generalise like that.

Nowadays, most people have access to peer-reviewed, edited sources of information like the OED and the Enc.Brit. through their local library. When I’m at work, I can click straight through, and when I’m at home, I use my library card number. There’s no excuse for going to Wikipedia because it’s the ‘only source available’. It isn’t. What it is is an incredibly useful quick reference tool. Some of the sources linked at the bottom of articles are genuine, scholarly articles and incredibly helpful. If I was teaching this to undergraduates, there’d be no point telling them not to use Wikipedia, because they’re going to anyway. The least we can do is teach them how to use it intelligently.

As an addendum to that, I’d also add that in-house wikis for knowledge gathering are quite a different beast to the behemoth that is Wikipedia (which is why I’ve been careful to use its whole name all the way through). One thing I like about internal wikis is that they’re an easy, searchable way to hold the knowledge of an organisation, without needing a complicated set-up. Once our reclassification Wiki is live, we’re going to encourage people to use the discussion board at the bottom of pages so that if they have questions or clarifications, they can be held close to the information they refer to. It saves a reclassifier having to wade through a great big manual, as they can just search for what they need, and add more if we’ve missed something out. No one can think of everything, and a wiki takes definite advantage of the “many hands/light work” theory.

Athough you have to watch out for is the “too many cooks/spoiled broth” one.

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