Archive for the ‘Blogging’ category

Most of What You Need to Know About Blogs

February 15, 2007

This posting was written to support the presentation given at the T4 session, February 15.

UPDATE:  I just switched to Google Reader as my primary RSS  feed reader.  I had been noticing the time lag before Bloglines picked up new feeds for some time.  Today I read Jennifer Macaulay’s post  and decided to make the switch to Google Reader.  As an added benefit, I discovered I was wrong about Google reader not suporting folders.  When I imported my OPML file from bloglines, there were my folders.  Not sure where I got the idea about Google Reader.

Blogs are hardly new so why am I flogging them in this post? Several reasons. This is the start of our (to be) regularly scheduled Third Thursday Tech Talk (T4) sessions for staff and I want to establish a foundation on which new technology issues can be discussed. Blogs are an important source of information about what is happening in technology, information management, and libraries. Blogs also can be used to support departmental activities and serve as a marketing tool for the library.

What do I like about blogs

Libraries spend a huge part of the budget on journals. There is a much shorter time to publish with journals than with books so the information is more current and, presumably, relevant. Blogs serve a similar function in delivering information, though the availability of new information is measured in seconds rather than weeks or months. Blogs are not a replacement for journals but what first appears in blogs may end up in a journal.

UPDATE: I just read a blog post that suggests that blogs might be an alternative to print publications in some instances. Look at the update under If You Want to Start a Blog below.

The Internet is a huge, world-wide, source of information. Trying to find the relevant bits ourselves would be impossible. With blogs, we have millions of writers world-wide posting and commenting and making the information more readily available. According to The Blog Herald, as of Feb. 2oo6, there were over 200 million blogs. This is a cool number to throw around but it doesn’t mean that there are 200 million bloggers. If you start looking for a URL for your blog in WordPress or Blogger you will find that a lot of names have been taken by people who made one post several years ago and haven’t touched it since. Since nearly all blogs support comments, a post can generate an interesting dialog between the readers and the blogger and between the readers themselves. Blog commenters can significantly add to the information presented by the blogger.

There are a large number of blogs devoted to family, pets, hobbies, celebrity antics, and current events but there are also a remarkable number of blogs that support library concerns directly and indirectly by posting on technology news.

I encourage everyone to read widely and don’t limit yourself to only those blogs that directly relate to libraries. Interesting stuff can appear in the most unlikely places.

Managing Blog Feeds

You can access a blog from your web browser’s bookmarks/favorites but that isn’t very efficient. Using this method you would have to visit each website not knowing if the has beesn updated recently and, more importantly, if it had anything of interest to read. By subscribing to a blog using an rss feed reader, it is much easier to manage the blogs you read. A blog reader will tell you if there are new posts to the blog and show you the title and first paragraph or so of the blog posts. You can decide if you want to read the entire post.

An rss feed reader can be web-based and accessed through your browser or located on your PC/Mac as part of email or as standalone client. I am not going to cover desk top feed readers for this discussion. I recommend that you try several of each to find the one that best suits your work style. If you think you might like a client rss reader, check out Blogbridge (in the Deliciosu bookmarks).

I use a web-based blog reader. The most obvious benefit of a web-based reader is that you can access it from any PC/Mac with Internet access — your work station, home, Panero’s, Aromas, hotels, the public library, while you are at the reference desk. Wherever. I’ve tried a variety of feed readers that could only be used from my office computer but have found that the web-based approach works best for me.

Here is a link to some del.icio.us bookmarks that describe feed readers.

Feed Reader Bookmarks

Subscribing to Blogs

When you land on a web site that has a rss feed, both FireFox and IE will display a symbol like thisFeed Icon

Clicking on it will start the process of adding it to your subscriptions. In FireFox, you can associate the feed icon with a feed reader such as Bloglines and Google Reader. Also, if you decide on a feed reader such as Bloglines, you will find that the service provides buttons for your toolbar to view your subscriptions and to subscribe to new ones. There are more nuances to the subscription process that you will discover as you explore.

Mack’s bookmarks about feed readers

The reader I use is Bloglines. It isn’t the most popular but it has one feature that I like. I can create folders into which blogs can be grouped. Google makes it attractive to use their reader which is one of the more popular. With one Google account you have access to their entire suite of products so you have a single login for everything. Other readers I have tried and liked include Alesti and Reddit which you will find in the del.icio.us bookmarks linked above.

Feed readers have a feature that make it remarkably easy to try different products. All of the feed readers that I have worked with have a utility to export and import subscriptions as opml files (outline processor markup language). If you have added subscriptions to a feed reader but want to try a different reader that you think might be better, then create an account on the new service, export your subscriptions from the current reader, and import them into the new one.

For a more technical explanation of how rss subscriptions work, Stephanie Quilao, a blogger in California and Enthusiast Evangelist for Microsoft for the Silicon Valley region has an excellent explanation:

How to Explain RSS The Oprah Way

Library/Information/Technology Blogs

Some of the blogs I follow are listed in del.icio.us with the tag, blogs, Some blogs that Mack reads.

When you start reading blogs you will discover that blogging is a very interconnected community. Bloggers refer to other blogs. I think I started with The Librarian in Black and The Shifted Librarian and built my subscription list by following references to other blogs which led me to other blogs and on and on. Additionally, many bloggers provide a blogroll – the blogs that they follow themselves. I always review blogrolls looking for new source. Check out Life as I Know It and The Shifted Librarian. They both have blogrolls that I have trolled. By the way, Life as I know It is the most excellent blog of a library science student.

Google’s blog search and Technorati are blog search engines. Be sure to look at the options under advanced search.

If you want to start a blog

Now that you are all pumped up about blogs you might want to start one to document the antics of your pets or your political button collection or a cause you are interested in supporting. But lets look creating a blog in the context of our library. Why might you want to start a blog?

One use of a blog might be to market library services such as highlighting new acquisitions with reviews. or describing a new service. Public oriented information.

Another might be internal, to inform library staff of on-going, departmental activities. We have quite a few work study students and such a blog could be used provide them a single source of information since they have widely varied work schedules.

To seed your thoughts along these lines, take a look at Meredeth Farkas’ post Blogs! Blogs! Blogs!. This post is part of the on-line course, Five Weeks to A Social Library. Working Blogs into the Library Structure is another interesting post by a different blogger on the same website.

UPDATE: This blog posts discusses blogging with regard to teaching faculty. The blogger gives a couple of examples where a blog might take the place of a print publication. Publishing Presentation on Academic Blogging.

This blog, Techview, was created as a means of communicating information about technology issues to the Swem library staff . Since we allow it to be indexed on the Internet we get readers from outside the library. Another local example is the TIP Community blog which is the collaborative product of the technology integratration program at William and Mary. The Reference department has The Compass. Note that Techreview, TIP, and The Compass are collaborative blogs which means that one person isn’t tasked to keep the blog current.

When you explore blogs note that a blog posting can take many forms. I can be as short as a sentence “Hey, look at what I found about whatever here.” Or much longer and more detailed. The point is that you shouldn’t fear that you have to write lengthy, finely crafted prose that takes you weeks to compose. Spelling and grammer are important, of course. Personally, I hate to write and if I manage to come up with something to blog about, any one can.

There are quite a few Internet services on which you can run your blog. Two of the best, Blogger and WordPress are free.

Here is a comparison of the top five blogging platforms. Blogger, the top one, is actually owned by Google. This means that Blogger would become another service in the suite of Google products to which you have access with a Google account. There is a real convenience factor here.

When you create a blog you are asked for an email address. For Techreview, we use our departmental email account. You could also create an email account using Google which would facilitate creating a Blogger blog.

Earlier I mentioned that the world of bloggers is very interconnected. That extends beyond beyond bloggers pointing readers to other blogs. Some social network sites allow you to take from their site and post it directly to your blog. f you have an account on Flickr, Digg, or Delicious, for example, you can send an image, story or bookmark to your blog.

I hope that the presentation I gave on blogs as part of our Third Thursday Tech Talk series will inspire you explore more. I also challenge you to consider the application of blogs within the library.

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Social Software Staff Presentation

August 7, 2006


Mack’s Desk

Originally uploaded by Max46. This image was sent to the blog as an example of how applications are sharing information. The original image was uploaded to Flickr for inclusion in the Librarian’s Desks group then sent to this blog.

Here are other links for the presentation. We expect to add an mp3 file later.

UPDATE: Audio of August 7 Social Software Presentation now available
I added an introduction and Troy cleaned up the audio of the presentation using Apple’s Soundtrack Pro. It was fascinating to watch. He removed the audio that preceeded the start of the presentation, the shuffling, scraping noises as people came in and found seats. After I recorded an introduction, Troy added music tracks that play under the introduction and come up at the end.

Listen to it here — Social Software mp3

Zohoshow slide presention

Zohowriter notes for presentation

Diigo links used in the presentation

What’s On My Desktop

June 26, 2006

With all writing we have been doing on social software and web 2.0 I though I would share what I’m actually using on my desktop. This list changes often and I’ll update it periodically. I hope you will leave comments if you have a favorite that I didn’t include or I left out some important feature/disadvantage in my descriptions.

del.icio.us & tag del.icio.us — Before del.icio.us it was a chore for me to remember where I found a website. I would bookmark the site then promptly forget where I saved it. With del.icio.us, I can add tags to identify key subject areas. When you add a site to del.icio.us you get a screen where you can add tags and a description. del.icio.us tells you how many other people have bookmarked a site and you can see what tags they used. When you click on the link saved by nn other people you will see the tags they used for the web site as well as their comments. I have used this social aspect of del.icio.us to locate related web pages. There are many ways to use this social aspect of del.icio.us. A professor told me recently that he applies a class tag to sites he wants his students to visit. He give them a URL to his account with the tag filter in place and they get, in effect, a citation list. Librarians could do the same for subject guides. Your list is in last-in-first-out order which may be annoying if a site you visit frequently was one of the first added. You can filter by tags so it is managable. There are alternatives such as ma.gnolia.com. I am considering a switch to Magnolia. This service carries the social software aspect further along by allowing you to join and create groups. I also like the screen layout in Magnolia. del.icio.us does have a larger number of users so the social network is larger. I plan to use both services for a while. If you really want to look at social bookmarking, WikiPedia has a nice article and a Google search for “social bookmarking.”.

bloglines/subscribe to bloglines — for me, blogs are a major source of information about library and technical issues, trends, problems, concerns, and news. RSS feeds and RSS aggregators are an effective way to manage subscriptions. Before I discovered the beauty and efficiency of RSS, I would bookmark a site in a FireFox folder. Every day I would work my way down the list. A good aggregator will tell you if there are new posts and how many new posts. Your list of subscriptions is fixed in one panel and the blog posts appear in another. No more going back and forth between the website and your bookmarks. Your subscriptions are stored on a Bloglines server so you can get to them from any PC. Bloglines works well for me but you might also look at alternatives. Here is a nice RSS compendium. You’ll find both web-based and PC based reader/aggregators.

Gaim — Gaim is an open source instant messaging client available from Sourceforge. It supports multiple protocols inlcuding AIM, Yahoo, and Jabber. It is a good, solid client for IMing. Like other single front-end clients, you don’t get the bells and whistles that you would have with a service specific product such as AOL. It really depends on how you use IM. there is nothing to say that you can’t have multiple clients installed. Trillian is another single front-end IM client. It has some features not present in Gaim such as automatically saving a chat session to disk.

CiteULike and Connotea — These two services are citation managers. One of their primary finctions is to store links to articles with bibliographic information. I still testing both of these services.

CiteULike is marketed to academics and helps “academics to share, store, and organise the academic papers they are reading.” As with other social software, you can apply tags and see the articles to which other users have applied the same tag. CiteULike has supported sources. this means that if you find an article on one of these supported sites and post it to your account, it will carry over the journal citatioin with it. The supported sites include Amazon, JSTOR, HighWire Press, Nature, Science, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, and Wiley Interscience. If you post an article from another site you have the opportunity to fill in the citation information.CiteULike also has a feature to export to EndNote

Connotea is a bit more like del.icio.us in that it also markets itself as a service to bookmark websites as well as articles. As I write this I tried to go to connotea and got a message that it is unavailable due to very high load. That’s annoying. Ah, it’s back. Connotea also has sites that it recognizes and will autumaticall pull in the bibliographic informaiton. The list isn’t as extensive as CiteULike but I imagine that will change. Connotea would like to be your one-stop reference center. Right now I am leaning towards CiteULike but I recommend you try both services.

Flickr — Flickr is a hugely popular site for storing and sharing your photographs. As with other social software you can tag your images and search for other images with the same tag. A handy little Upload to Flickr client is available. You can also create and join groups. As Wayne snarkily pointed out in a comment to another posting, I failed to mention that Swem has a group on Flickr. Take a look at it here. There are other library related groups. For example, Libraries and Librarians Group Photo Pool. Google has just introduced Picasa Web Albums which has some of the same features as Flickr. It uses the desktop Picasa application to upload web albums.

ZohoShow — This is in my try-it-out-sometime group. zohoshow allows you to create, edit, and show presentations. You can load existing PowerPoint and Open Office presentation. There is a 1 Mb size limit for uploads which might limit this feature. You can also import pictures from your Flickr account. You can invite participants to view and control the show remotely. I can see it as a handy tool for for committees with distant members. You could combine it with voice over IP or IM chat to make it interactive.

LibraryThing — This is a service for cataloging your personal library materials. Right now it is in my fun group of services but it has larger potential. You can tag you books, search for other items with the sam tags, find another user who seems to have similar tastes and see what he/she has in his/her library, write reviews. The folks at LibraryThing are intersted in reaching out to traditional library services.

StumbleUpon — This is a fun site for idle moments. You can select a category then stumble through random web sites. Tag a site as being of interest, see who else is interested in the site. I’ve found some gems this way.

This has gone on long enough so I am going to stop here. The problem, for me, is that I start looking at a web service which leads me to a similar web service which I then have to try by creating accounts on those new services. Remeber what I said in and earlier post about developing a standard naming convention for user accounts. It comes in handy.

Michael Stephens on Blogging

June 20, 2006

Last week I participated in the Alliance Library Systems "On-line Library 2.0 Extravaganza!" conducted by Michael Stephens. The extravaganza was in four parts, the first being blogging. The presentation on blogging is available at the OPAL Archives web site. Michael also provided additional information in this posting on his blog. I hope you will listen to the presentation and view the slides.  Be sure to use Internet Explorer when viewing the presentation.

Blogs have become a major source of information for me. One reason being that there are very smart people out there willing to share. For another, immediacy – It isn't unusual to find events discussed in blogs as they are happening or within minutes of being announced. As Michael was conducting the first session, it was being bloged. Here are some points Michael makes

  • We need to use available tools for collaboration and communication to better serve our users. They use these tools and we are going to be left behind.
  • "Library weblogs can be building blocks for communicating news and information."
    • Sharing how the library works and how resources are used.
    • Communicates to staff what people do.
    • Creates community. (my emphasis)
  • Read and evaluate other blogs.
  • Blogs don't have to be permanent. You can create a blog for a special event or project.
  • Collaborative authorship can spread the writing duties but there needs to be a common voice and mission.
  • You can have blogs to support any aspect of the library.

There is no technological barrier to blogging. Techview is hosted by WordPress where the setup is taken care of for you. It took longer to think of a name than it did to create. Perhaps ten minutes elapsed between the creation and first post.

So listen to Michael and view his slides. Read and evaluate other blogs. think about how can you use bolgs to inform people about the activities in your unit. Blogs are also marketing & promotion tools. Do it!