Archive for July, 2007

Library 2.0 – ACPL’s New Books Wall Mashup and More!

July 31, 2007

Sunrise Alley by Catherine Asaro Just for fun, I created an old-fashioned card catalog card for the book I had downloaded from baen.com/library using John Blyberg’s card catalog generator. You have to enter the data by hand (I copied it from Amazon.com) but it makes a really fun graphic. With some programming, you can make a mashup that uses this. A mashup is a website or application that combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience.

Sean Robinson (my husband and head of IT Technology at the ACPL) created this book wall called Books we added to the catalog yesterday combining the new material checked in each day at the ACPL (Allen County Public Library) with data from Amazon. It shows pictures of the actual book covers for each book and if you click on a book cover, it will show you an old-fashioned card catalog for that book and information on it from Amazon (if the book is brand new, it doesn’t necessarily have review info yet).

Then you can click on “Look this up in our catalog” to see the ACPL card catalog information on that book like how many copies there are and if they are available and where they are located and do all sorts of neat things like add it to your list or put it on hold. You can also find more books by that author, more books with those topics or browse nearby call numbers (books that would be on the library shelf with this book).

Go check it out and play around with it. It is a great example of how you can combine Web 2.0 tools to create something new and exciting and useful.

For this and more innovative ways the Allen County Public Library uses Web 2.0, visit their Library 2.0 site: ACPLib2.0. ACPL Rules!

~Susan Mellott

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Library 2.0 – World Public Library and Baen – free ebooks

July 31, 2007

Per the World Public Library website: “July 4th to August 4th Download Your Selections From 500,000+ eBooks for Free.”

According to their site: “Hosted in World Public Library’s multi-terabyte server network is the world’s largest digital archive of PDF ebooks and edocuments. Our collection hosts more than 500,000+ PDF ebooks and edocuments. As a member you will have complete access to the entire collection. Our collection is constantly growing and our projection is to reach 600,000 by fall of 2008”

Here is a link to their Facts, Questions and Answers page. According to their price sheet, it is $8.95 per year to become a member, or $2/year per FTE institutional rate (for public librarie, priced per number of cardholders – which could possibly be adjusted).

I downloaded the Northwind Trilogy by David Drake and Bedlam Boyz by Ellen Guon to check it out. It downloaded quickly and I was able to save it to my hard-drive to read. I did go to the public access page to do a search and got an error message, but I could browse collections and download from home page without any problems. And I just did a search using the member search on the home page and it worked for me (but I couldn’t download), although I couldn’t really find anything I was looking for .

Another thing of note is that on the Baen Books site, they have a free library also of a selection of their books you can download in several different formats for free. Both Ellen Guon and David Drake have free downloads of several of their books as well as many other authors. I downloaded Sunrise Alley by Catherine Asaro in a very nice html format.

And of course, a search for free ebooks through Google turns up several more sites that I didn’t check out. You can though!

So go “check it out”!

~Susan Mellott

Celebrity 2.0 – Wil Wheaton is Web 2.0

July 31, 2007

I imagine most of you know who Wil Wheaton is. He is an actor who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Actually, he has done a lot more than that, but that is mainly how I know of him.

But what makes him interesting is his love and knowledge of technology and his leading edge use of Web 2.0 tools. Here is the wikipedia entry that talks about him and what he has done.

From wikipedia: “After leaving Star Trek, Wheaton quit acting altogether. He moved to Topeka, Kansas to work as a programmer for Newtek, where he helped develop the Video Toaster 4000.” (I assume they meant he temporarily quit acting)

Wil was a very early adopter of blogging, creating his site wilwheaton.net (see the wikipedia article on his blog) which is currently being updated (since about last June) and is replaced for now by his blog WWdN: In Exile – Wil Wheaton’s not-so-temporary blog. Per the wikipedia article on his blog: “Rather than just a fan forum, it was a place where people could gather to talk about various subjects including movies, music, books, religion, politics, gaming, geocaching, and miscellaneous topics; the original emphasis was on topics of interest to Wil Wheaton and not the man himself.” He has entries on his blog dating back to July 2001.

Wil also has written 3 books, and most of the entries are extended versions of his online blog entries. (Take note, bloggers, this is not a bad idea if you have a following).

Also from wikipedia: “In late September of 2006, Wheaton began hosting a Revision3 syndicated video podcast called InDigital along with Jessica Corbin and veteran host Hahn Choi. ” Of note: Wil found an error on the wikipedia entry for himself and asked on slashdot for someone to correct it.

Wil also twitters regularly and has just recently twittered on the Comic-Con he attended. Interestingly, he is having a problem at the moment trying to remove people he no longer wishes to follow and is talking about it on twitter. Update: as of about 4 hours ago, he twittered that the problem was a bug in twitter and was fixed by Biz Stone.

Wil also uses flickr and has some very interesting photos. And something I found interesting too that Wil has been doing on buzznet is “What is Wil looking At?” which is sort of a cross between flickring and twittering (flittring?). It looks like he is taking pictures with his phone of whatever he is doing and uploading them. It’s a neat idea and I’m sure at some point, people will be doing that just like they twitter now.

And of course, he checks technorati for links to his blog and has a profile technorati for wilw. Here are some other things of his (from his blog):

And there are quite a few interesting videos of him talking about technology on YouTube. Here is one where Wil talks about Podcasting (answering fan’s question at reading of his book, Just a Geek)

And there is a lot more that he is or has been involved with. The wikipedia article and his blog has more information.

To be honest, although I knew who he was, I’m old enough that I watched the original Star Trek more than I watched The Next Generation. But I think he seems like an interesting person and certainly one who is Web 2.0.

~Susan Mellott

Web 2.0 – Code4Lib addresses Data Mgmt – When will You?

July 30, 2007

As you know, I’ve been concerned about the institutions that host data for Web 2.0 applications. Code4lib, a major library 2.0 site (and everything else hosted on anvil.lisforge.net) was hacked on July 21 and is still not available. They are hoping to have everything back on Aug 1 – we’ll see.

And 6 back-to-back power outages hit the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco last Tuesday afternoon causing major havoc with popular web services. 365 Main was down, along with craigslist, Technorati, Yelp, AdBrite and SixApart (including TypePad, LiveJournal and Vox). Many other popular sites such as CNet were unavailable too.

I wrote a couple of posts about these problems and suggested that it is is greater issue earlier – this one on the 365 Main Outage and some thoughts and this one on if you trust online sites to protect your data re: Code4lib.

Well, Code4lib is taking this seriously (as they certainly should) and is hosting a special discussion on August 1st to discuss this. Here is the announcement from their Planet Code4lib website (the only code4lib site currently available).

“You are invited to a special discussion in #code4lib on irc.freenode.net on 1 August 2007 at 1900 GMT about how to prevent this from happening again. We’re going to be talking about moving some of the web applications to institutions that are better set up to manage them.”

I am thrilled that code4lib is now thinking about this and I hope they can recover all their data in a timely manner. And I hope that other organizations that are heavily web-based will follow their lead and seriously look at who is hosting their data and that they are thinking about ensuring that they know what is in place to protect them.

In the Web 2.0 world, it isn’t just about content and collaboration and new ways to interact. Now that these Web 2.0 concepts are coming to fruition and are becoming valuable resources, it is time to look at making sure they are operating in a stable and protected environment.

~Susan Mellott

Web 2.0 – What does an Organization Really Need to Get There?

July 28, 2007

This was originally written to update my “About Me” page. But it turned into this. These are the posts that prompted this post – MLS and Library Technology, a post on Why require an MLS for library technologist about a post on code4lib regarding an MLS degree for library technology postings (which unfortunately is currently unavailable since all code4lib.org sites are down). And here is an interesting post about an opposite perspective called I Didn’t Get an MLS to do That and another about the MLS degree in general called The Embattled MLS in the Library Journal. Which begs another question about whether or not an IT degree should be a requirement for librarians. But that is a post for another day. Anyway…

I said I am a coder. But it is better to say I was a coder. I did love to code. But honestly, I’ve gotten less interested in it since I’ve retired. What I really love to do is to listen to what people want to do and then translate that into something that solves their problem and/or enhances their technology environment.

For as long as I worked, I was what was known as a Programmer/Analyst. That means that the majority of my time was spent conducting client interviews, learning the ir processes, creating client/IT teams to discuss what the goal is and then doing a lot of analysis and design to get to where they want to go. The coding, although fun, is the easy part.

I had to take a concept that someone had and translate it into something functional that transcends their original thought and turns it into a working, creative, useful application. You might not realize what this involves. Most of the time, people don’t know exactly what they want, they just know they want it. This is actually the best scenario. It is really harder when people think they know how to design what they want. There is a reason why there are special IT analysts/architects. We spent a lot of time and have a lot of experience designing technology solutions.

Just as people are experts in their own field such as financial organizations or non-profits or libraries, so are IT analysts experts at translating what someone else does into a technology based solution. And just as I could not tell you the formulas for calculating statistical risks for life insurance, neither would a risk assessor know how to take what they do and make it user-friendly and technologically innovative.

I think one of the problems organizations are having with going Web 2.0, is that they don’t recognize that they need a person who can look at their processes and design a Web 2.0 solution. I’ve done that for many, many years and I really find it surprising that other organizations (such as libraries) that say they are wanting to have an online presence and to go Web 2.0, don’t even seem to realize the need for someone with those skills.

I worked with various functions in life insurance most of my IT life. And I have little to no background in life insurance. It is not my field. But it never needed to be, nor should it have been. There were ample experts in all facets of life insurance that could determine the formulas needed and the results expected, and could take me through the processes. My expertise was knowing how to listen to what people want, to learn how they currently do it and to design a technologically progressive solution that goes beyond what they envisioned and yet still satisfies everyone and is not intimidating. It’s really a very complex job.

I have to confess, I find it funny (sad) that the IT positions for libraries all seem to require an MLS (master of library science) degree. That makes no sense to me. There are plenty of people with library skills and knowledge already in a library. What is lacking is anyone who is able to look at the processes from an IT design perspective and to pull all the areas and processes together into one, creative, innovative and functional design.

I also hear the arguments that you can’t talk to a librarian or understand a librarian unless you have an MLS. How can that make sense? I’ve talked to actuaries and lawyers and accountants and life risk assessors and all sorts of people with their own expertise and language and ways of thinking. Why would a librarian or academic or anyone else be any different? I’m not stupid. I think I can grasp how most jobs and functions work and I think I can talk to most kinds of people and be understood and understand them. And I know how to create a team that includes expertise from all areas so that everyone contributes in ways only they, with their knowledge, can.

Next time your or your organization are thinking about hiring an IT person, think about what you are trying to accomplish and what needs you have that you don’t have internally already. Then look for someone who can determine where you are, where you are going and how to get there in a way that includes everyone and appreciates their expertise while contributing their own expertise. Be understanding of each other and teach each other. Then sit back, let go of the reins and see how far you can go.

~Susan Mellott

Google Analytics Update and WordPress Beef

July 27, 2007

Well, the latest on my problem accessing blogger.com, google analytics, etc is now fixed. I’m not sure what the problem was, but I closed Firefox and reopened it and everything was OK. I had tried closing all but 1 tab and that didn’t do it. I thought I might have to reboot my PC but fortunately not.

As you may know, I’m trying to decide between Google Blogger and WordPress for my blog. Currently I am updating both and trying to decide which one I want to ultimately go to. So far, in many ways I have been leaning towards WordPress. Part of this is because I like the idea of hosting it myself and I am hoping that when I do, some of the problems will be solved with the additional plug-ins available.

But it is driving me crazy trying to add buttons and whatnot to my WordPress.com blog. I am trying to add a “Digg It” button for Digg. But it seems to be impossible. I have looked and looked and can’t find a reasonable solution. And there are many other ones that won’t work on WordPress, usually because WordPress doesn’t allow Javascript.

And it would not be so bad if it wasn’t almost every single thing I try to do. I do it in Blogger and it is easy. I try in WordPress and it is somewhere between difficult and impossible.

I am still hopeful that if I host my WordPress blog, it will solve alot of these problems. I really hope so because for some reason, I still like WordPress.

~Susan Mellott

Google Analytics (and maybe blogger) acting up???

July 27, 2007

It might be just me, but I am not able to connect with www.blogger.com or http://www.google.com/analytics/or the Google Analytics Blog and I can’t post a new post on my Google Blogger Blog although I can view it. But when I click New Post (or one of the links above), I get “connecting to ssl.google-analytics.com…” and it just waits and waits.

I don’t know if this is because I have Google Analytics running, or if Google Analytics itself is having problems or what.

UPDATE at 1:40pm: Well, I’m still having problems, but Sean tried to get in blogger.com and google analytics and didn’t have this problem. So now I wondering if it has something to do with the fact that I installed it and am using it to track one of my sites, like it has something that runs in the background that might be acting up (I know I am probably pushing my computer pretty hard and it isn’t always happy with everything I have going)

Here is a link to some other problems people have had lately. I’ve seen some of them too.

I will say that I have not been overly impressed with Google Analytics. I’ve had problems with it and there is some reporting features that it lacks that some of the other trackers have that I am using.

~Susan Mellott

Phone 2.0 – Skype!

July 27, 2007

Have you tried Skype yet? If not, why not?! Probably because you couldn’t think of a good reason to use Skype over your regular phone or cell phone, especially since you can make free long-distance calls with your cell phone, which at one time would have been a good reason to use something like Skype.

I had the same thoughts when my mom and uncle started using Skype and were trying to get us to set it up. I waited quite a while before setting it up, just because it seemed like a hassle and I couldn’t think of a good reason for it.

Well, I have changed my mind! I installed Skype for us and surprise! It was a piece of cake to install (really! even for people who are not comfortable with computers) and we found so many uses for it that I am surprised that we did without it before. Here are some of the things we use it for:

1. For absolutely free, we can talk to my husband’s brother who is going to school in Italy. And since it is much easier for him to be online than to be near a phone, we can talk to him frequently where otherwise we would not easily be able to get a hold of him. Skype makes it very easy to know when someone is available and online, the symbol for that person turns green.

2. Again free, we can all talk to him in a family conference call where anyone who is online can be conferenced into a call. So we can all catch up on everyone at the same time and we can also make plans or discuss things in a group instead of playing “he said, she said”.

3. My sister just moved to Florida for 13 weeks (and will be traveling around the U.S. since she is a traveling surgical tech). She has set up Skype and a web cam at home and on her laptop. So she and her husband can talk to each other and see each other at the same time. When you are away from loved ones, seeing them is very good. Free!

4. And my sister just became a grandmother for the first time. So she can use Skype and the webcam to see her granddaughter and to see her get bigger and all the new things a baby does. It just isn’t the same at all to look at pictures. And of course, she talks to Grace and Grace gets to see and interact with her too (or at least hear her voice, she is still a a very new baby). Need I say it – free!

5. My husband’s father and mother live in New Zealand. So of course it is expensive to call them. And one doesn’t even have a computer and the other is not very computer-literate so she doesn’t have Skype installed (and may never). But for $29.95 a year, we can call any regular or cell phone in the US and Canada. And for 2.1 cents a minute (plus a small connection fee), we can call any regular phone in New Zealand. This is much, much cheaper than calling international long distance on our land line.

Having this, we could get rid of our international calling plan and for that matter, we could get rid of our long distance on our regular phone altogether since we can use our cell phone or skype to call national long-distance and Skype for international. Take a look at your phone bill sometime, especially if you call international long distance, and see how much you spend each month for that service. It’s not just the per-minute fee, but all the taxes they add on each month, and you only have to make 1 long-distance call to incur a ton of extra charges.

The different countries have different rates but for the vast majority of them, they are considerably cheaper. And of course, if the other party has Skype, it is absolutely FREE!

6. A friend of ours has a business that takes him out of the US regularly since he has offices both here and in England. I think that what he has done is to set up two SkypeIn phone numbers, one for the US and one for England. That way people in either location can call a long-distance number in their own country (so it is free from their cell phone). And he can be anywhere and get the call. He can be sitting on the shore in England and take a call to his US number. To get a SkypeIn number (a number that anyone can call from a regular phone, it looks like a regular phone number), it is $60 a year and includes free voice mail.

Also, even if you live in the US, if most of your business is done in a different country, you can get a SkypeIn number for that country and people can call you on a phone number that is local to them. I have another friend who does a lot of business in Japan and if he is not using this, he really should. I’ll have to ask him because it would be really useful for him.

7. Until we had a lightening strike that took it out (!), we had set up a small device that plugged into our phone and into our computer. We have a phone setup that has 1 base phone and then 3 phones you can plug in anywhere, they don’t need a phone line. We plugged the base unit into the device and then we could make and take Skype calls from any of our regular phones. We got it from and it worked great. It had lots of great features including call recording, voice mail, routing calls to and making calls from other phones (like our cell phone) and all sorts of neat things. They probably have newer models out now. We bought ours from von-phone.com. This is what we got:

AU-600 Skype Gateway with Remote Calling and Call Recording 1 $38.9

There are also many add-ons to Skype. Here is a list of Skype add-ons to record calls and take messages:

http://www.masternewmedia.org/online_collaboration/skype-recording/how-to-record-Skype-calls-tools-guide-20070624.htm

Note: PrettyMay and KishKish Sam are free

8. We have not used this yet since we haven’t had an international vacation lately (and I am NOT happy about that). But since we do normally do a lot of international traveling, we will be able to call people easily very easily, which is not usually the case. And as I understand, we will be able to call any US phone for free, regardless of where we are, because we have a Skype Unlimited US account. And of course, we can call other countries for the regular Skype Out International Rates.

Sean has also taken an old cell phone that doesn’t work anymore (was replaced with a different one) that has a wireless card and set Skype up on it. What that lets us do is to connect through the phone using a wireless connection rather than needing a computer. Since wireless connections are becoming ubiquitous really, throughout the world, it’s a good way to call people without having to haul a computer around.

I remember when I was “backpacking” through Thailand for a month in 2001 and even then, I could always find a computer with an internet connection, although finding a phone to call from was difficult and a hassle to use. Even in the tiny village of Pai (which took about 8 hours to get to from Chang Mai, riding on a big pickup truck with benches in the back), I could find a couple internet cafes. But there was only 1 public phone in the whole village, in the post office on the farthest end of town. To use it, I wait in this long line, then I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork (and didn’t really understand it all so they made me correct it several times) and then I had to dial a bunch of numbers that I couldn’t get to work and then there was a time limit of 10 minutes. And I knew I would be going at least a week before I could call him again. …But I digress… 🙂

Anyway, as you can see, these are uses that we have found for Skype so far. And I know there are many other great uses. But this made it worthwhile to us.

Do you think it might be worthwhile to you?

~Susan Mellott

Do you remember the Detroit Riot of 1967?

July 26, 2007

This week is the 40th anniversary of the 12th Street Detroit Riot. It started early Sunday morning, July 23, 1967 during a raid at a blind pig (after hours bar) and continued for 5 days. At the end, there were forty-three dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests and more than 2,000 buildings burned down (according to Rutgers University who have a very thorough write-up of the events) .

This was when Detroit was the Motor City and the hotbed of Motown. It was the Summer of Love and the summer of riots. The Vietnam “War” (as far as I know, it was never officially declared a war) was taking our youth right and left (no pun intended).

Do you remember? It was a long time ago. But it was a vital part of our recent history and I recommend everyone, while you are thinking of it, go refresh your memory or learn about this event. Here is a wikipedia link to the riots. The above-mentioned article by Rutger’s is also a must-read.

Thank you to NPR Talk of the Nation (from whom I learn something new every time I listen) for making me aware of this. They had an excellent program on the riots, including interviews with people who had been there and on Detroit Past and Present. Here is a link to their blog entry and where you can also listen to the audiocast of their show on this. This is one blog worth marking and remembering.

~Susan Mellott

Major Web 2.0 Sites Down from Power Outage – They need a lesson from Big Business.

July 26, 2007

Power Outage in SF Tuesday brought down major Web 2.0 sites.

6 back-to-back power outages hit the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco Tuesday afternoon causing major havoc with popular web services. 365 Main is down, along with craigslist, Technorati, Yelp, AdBrite and SixApart (including TypePad, LiveJournal and Vox). Many other popular sites such as CNet were unavailable too.

Interestingly enough, a “source close to the company” (365 Main) had this to say:

“Someone came in sh*tfaced drunk, got angry, went berserk, and f**ked up a lot of stuff. There’s an outage on 40 or so racks at minimum.” ValleyWag had a good article on this with lots of interesting links.

This however was unlikely as the cause since the area had been having power outages and clearly their UPS system did not function properly.

The San Francisco website Laughing Squid has a write-up of the power outage .

Here is another informative post from Radar.OReilly.com

Six Apart, in a very 2.0 move, kept everyone updated via its twitter stream.

But the real question is, what happened to their power backups? They should be able to keep running regardless of any lack of power. This is a good post about what 365 had to say regarding its “Credibility Outage” (and basically they made a bunch of excuses).

So again, do you trust your Web 2.0 online providers? Clearly there is a gap between what “should” have happened and what actually did happen. Datacenter 365 Main released a self-congratulatory announcement celebrating two years of continuous uptime for client RedEnvelope, mere hours before today’s drunken blackout.. [PR Newswire]

And without extensive testing and backout plans, it is hard to know what exactly would happen if something happened like a server being hacked or a major power outage. I would be more interested in the disaster recovery plans and testing they (or any major player) had done than in what they theoretically think might happen, based on the things they think they have in place.

Coming from a big business background, where their only real commodity is data (in my case, insurance), I have seen and been involved in a huge amount of disaster recovery testing and planning. I remember what they, and other businesses went through for testing for the 2000 rollover and for any number of other potential disasters. September 11th tested their and many others disaster recovery plans. The Stock Market and major banks and other financial firms simply cannot just go down or lose data, for any reason.

But as we move to a Web 2.0 world, companies like 365 Main are now also the repositories of major amounts of data and for many Web 2.0 companies, their business is data, just like financial institutions. It’s not small potatoes anymore. Face it, they are big business now and need to act like a big business. I’m sure they are bringing in big business income. So who holds them accountable? I’m wondering if many of these Web 2.0 companies didn’t grow from such small beginnings that they may not even be aware of what they need to ask and know from their provider.

And unfortunately, I hear people with a business background being dismissed as “luddites” or “1.0” or “dinosaurs” or just not with it, supposedly not able to comprehend the new 2.0 world. It reminds me of when PCs first came out and I started programming them after having had a mainframe background for several years.

PC programming was wild and wooly. There were no standards, no one documented their code so maintaining it was a nightmare, and people would see how many functions they could put on 1 line of code (more being better in their mind). An “elegant” piece of code would be completely undecipherable by anyone (which seemed almost to be the point) and would have no documentation. Which meant of course, that the code for most of the programs were a mess because no one could figure out what the last person did so they hacked around it. But if you were from a mainframe background, you supposedly could not “understand” PCs and were basically a dinosaur. Well, I know that is a bunch of nonsense because I didn’t have any problem understanding PCs and PC coding. What I didn’t understand was why they allowed projects and programs to be so sloppy and poorly run and written.

It was a real case of 1.0 technology meets 2.0 technology. In this case, Mainframes vs. PCs. Now it is happening again with Web 2.0. And regardless of what the current “New Thing” ™ is, one thing they all have in common is the belief that they know more than the people who have used the ‘old’ technology. But what they don’t realize is that they really haven’t learned anything at all yet. They have a great direction and new ideas and concepts and great plans, but if for no other reason than that the technology has not been around that long, they don’t have practical experience and a background to build on. I’m sorry, but while college gives you an in and a piece of paper to say you are somebody, the real learning starts when you start applying the knowledge in real world situations.

I remember taking a LOMA (life office management) test on data processing and thinking it should be a piece of cake. It turned out to be one of the hardest of the set because I had to learn what they thought the right answers were, not what was actually correct. I had the same experiences in higher education where what was being taught was so outdated that it was really completely wrong and in my opinion, was harmful in many ways to learn, especially if you thought you knew something afterwards.

And this is where I think the 2.0 arrogance is showing. It is a wonderful new way of doing things, but there are many foundations they could and should build on that have already been figured out. They can take what has been done to new and exciting levels, but reinventing the wheel for every single thing is pointless and causes the new technology to be without wheels for a while.

~Susan Mellott