Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category

Ask a Librarian 2.5?


Google Wave is looking to make a splash and I am excited to test this and see how far we can take it for our reference services.

Categories: google

Facebook a distraction from studies?


Jeff Young from the Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog recounted a new study from Ohio State in which the performance of students was assessed using their use of Facebook as a determining factor.  There are many raised eyebrows surrounding this topic, but the data so far is inconclusive and not accurate enough to draw true correlations between use and performance.  Frankly, I would wager that there are more factors than just Facebook for poor performance.  What if one student didn’t use Facebook but constantly texted their friends in class, played Warcraft until 3a.m. and then spent most of the other times watching old Kung Fu movies without cracking a book?  I would wager that performance would rate rather low.  Then again what if there was another student which had a similar behavior pattern but used Facebook to organize get togethers with their friends, shared assignments online, and contacted their librarian for help via Facebook.  They may still perform poorly, but it wasn’t their use of Facebook that brought them down. 

I would be curious to run a study in which the students are assigned a level of social networking proficiency.  From that we could try to rate whether their networking seemed to add or detract from a normalized pattern of studious behavior.

10 SKills for Software Developers of the Future

04/02/2009 1 comment

Justin James submitted a post about possible preferred skills software developers will need in the next few years. It isn’t a far leap to realize that many of these skills will be necessary for librarians dealing with web and application design.

You Tube goes edu

03/30/2009 1 comment


As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, You Tube has recently created a channel for colleges and universities.    They are only accepting one channel from each institution, but this is a great way to focus your library videos onto the You Tube network.  Now when your users look for your library’s information literacy video, they won’t have to spend hours browsing through unrelated videos.  There are over 100 institutions signed up now, so don’t wait and start the process to get your videos into the You Tube Edu stream.

Google Chrome is shiny

Google has just released their first foray into the internet browser race with their product called Google Chrome. Though my first hand experience has only been for a few short hours, I am already impressed by what they have built.

Chrome features easy tabbed browsing, but bumps it up a notch by dynamically showing you sites that you frequently visit when opening a new tab.  The tabs themselves are easy to move around, pop out from the browser into a new window, and won’t crash the entire application if one tab goes kaput.  Chrome has instant bookmarking options as well as application shortcuts.  It features secure browsing and the newest hot topic for future IE releases, incognito mode.  (I am instantly reminded of the Simpsons reference to Guy Incognito.)

I suppose this may be a bit annoying to non-technology nerds and systems administrators, but there is something nice about seamless interoperability in a secure and stable browser.  I am anxious to see how people react and what types of hurdles Chrome must leap before it is featured amongst the big names in web browsing.

Creepy Treehouse?

08/26/2008 1 comment

From a wonderful post on Flexknowlogy, I was introduced to the term in education technology of “creepy tree house.” From their article the definition is:

n. A place, physical or virtual (e.g. online), built by adults with the intention of luring in kids.

Example: “Kids … can see a [creepy tree house] a mile away and generally do a good job in avoiding them.” John Krutsch in Are You Building a Creepy Treehouse?”

n. Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards.

(see article for remaining uses)

The main concept is a sound argument and one with which libraries struggle to find a safe distance from which to communicate with their main audience, the students. It may be difficult to let go of the notion that we need to be at arm’s reach for the students at every point along their day. Blackboard, as mentioned in the article, is a prime example of this notion.

I remember first using it as a student and laughing at the collaborative features. After using them for about 10 minutes, I asked the rest of my group whether they wanted to use Google Docs and Skype, as they were much more efficient and less buggy. I applaud Blackboard for trying to bridge the digital gap between students and faculty, but the amount of time spent using “BB only” applications will most certainly cause some students to grow weary of the labor.

Library systems are slowly entering into this realm as well, especially if we start to look at where the next-gen catalogs are going. Catalogs are now featuring clustered search results, personal item lists, and user submitted comments. Library web sites are consistently offering Instant Messaging and, to a smaller extent, text messaging reference services. These types of service methods move closer to the concept of “creepy tree house” as they mimic communication methods not normally associated with research or academic endeavors. There is also a slowly growing number of library promotional videos that pop up on YouTube, trying to ride the viral marketing wave.

I am not saying that these things are a bad move by any means, but it is important to be aware of what these movements might mean in the eyes of the new students. Will they accept librarians in their social spaces or will our presence be seen as a nuisance? I hope that students will catch on but not tune out.

In a sense the “creepy treehouse” metaphor could also be applied to the generational divide that exists when librarians or educators attempt to adopt cultural cues taken from their younger audience. Be wary of using such references if they may have a very short shelf-life, or small target audience. Once used you may not be able to regain that “respectable” status of intellectual librarian. But then again, what’s the fun in being serious all the time…

Cuil or still a bit tepid?

A new competitor for Google was released in the form of Cuil. Based on work by two ex-Google employees, this search engine’s philosophy is touted as;

Cuil’s goal is to solve the two great problems of search: how to index the whole Internet—not just part of it—and how to analyze and sort out its pages so you get relevant results.

An interesting concept but will the indexing actually help you find what you really “need.” The overall look has a much more modern feel, but just because the container is sleek does not guarantee that the content will be worth it.

The search results page is pleasing to the eye as well and after a short time getting un-Google-fied the multiple avenues of a search progression can start to take shape. I enjoyed how alternate suggestions for the base search were made into tabs above the results. I also liked the concept of the “drill down” box, but the actual interface was a bit too touchy. Maybe they will add other ways to expand and contract the information in later releases.

The results are fairly comparable to Google though there seems to be far fewer unconnected results. (The goal I suppose.) I feel a bit let down by seeing over a million results for my name, but only about 20 links to follow. Perhaps a slight redesign to that display would be in order.

I can’t say I will be switching from the big G but I am going to keep an eye on Cuil.

Extra: I also wanted to point out that I smiled pleasantly after reading this snippet from their site about the reason they chose the Gaelic word Cuil:

Tom Costello, our founder and CEO, comes from Ireland, a country with a rich mythology around the quest for wisdom. Cuil is the Gaelic word for both knowledge and hazel, and features prominently in ancient legend. One famous story tells of a salmon that ate nine hazelnuts that had fallen into the Fountain of Wisdom and thereby gained all the knowledge in the world. Whoever ate the salmon would acquire this knowledge.

A famous poet fished for many years on the River Boyne hoping to catch the Salmon of Knowledge. When he finally caught it, he gave it to his young apprentice Finn McCuil to prepare, warning him not to eat any. As Finn cooked the salmon he burnt his thumb and instinctively sucked it to ease the pain. And so it was Finn and not the poet who gained all the wisdom of the world. Finn went on to become one of the great heroes of Irish folklore. Any time he needed to know the answer to a question, he sucked his thumb.

As a child Tom poached salmon from the same spot on the Boyne where it is said the Salmon of Knowledge was caught.

I am not sure whether to be inspired by this or nervous about the implications of divine inspiration. Granted I have long been an admirer of the Celtic mythological tales. 🙂