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March 29, 2005

Tracking faculty publications with CiteULike

I've posted a couple of times (1, 2) about CiteULike because I think it's a great tool. Sitting in a meeting last week discussing future directions for subject pages, it occurred to me that we could track our faculty journal publications using CiteULike. Keeping tabs on journal publications is a notoriously difficult job. CiteULike makes it a little easier by providing a bookmarklet for direct export from a select number of databases (predominantly scientific). So I scanned a few of them, searching by affiliation. For the most part, I had no problems exporting. You can see the results of just a few entries that I've added, here:

CiteULike: UNLV Libraries

I tagged each citation with the appropriate department(s) (for subject-related page feeds) and author-supplied keywords. I used the 'note' field at the bottom of the page to denote which of the authors (when there are multiple) is UNLV-affiliated. The primary purpose is to use this central library for all institutional publications (tagged with the appropriate department) and feed that to appropriate subject pages under the heading of 'new faculty publications' or something like that. The beauty of applications like CiteULike is that once you have the information tagged, you can customize and feed the RSS feeds practically anywhere you like. It's also a great tool for tracking citation behaviour, prolific publishers, etc, etc.

Of course there are always fears that the newest cool tool on the block may be yesterday's news and even disappear. There is an export feature in CiteULike, so keeping backups would be easy enough to do. But to make something like this successful requires participation from a significant number of people, because it is a lot of work. But in the absence of an institutional repository, an effort like this would be of great benefit to the institution, faculty and students. It presents opportunities for even more outreach with faculty and developing relationships with them in keeping up-to-date on their scholarly endeavors.

Posted by Sherri at 12:35 PM

I heart Trillian

I've spent time in the last week looking at how to implement IM as our new chat reference service, and Trillian was one of the first things I downloaded. I poo-poo'd Trillian in the early days, and I can't remember exactly why. But this latest release is rich and fully featured, and with a much improved interface to boot. I was a little concerned about how to keep logs and statistics if using IM, but Trillian has some great options for creating logs using the Activity History.

But here's the rub: there's nothing available for Mac. This is not a problem for here at work because we're fully windows-ized. Why not sign the Port Trillian to Mac OS X petition? I'm using Adium X at home on my Mac, and it's been pretty good so far. The only thing that is really buggy is file transfer, and for that, I usually end up opening iChat (but I think this is currently on the bug list, so there may be a fix soon). Unlike Trillian, it doesn't support video or audio, so I have to switch to iChat if I want to fire up the iSight.

Now the only other thing that would make my Trillian dreams come true is plugin support for Skype . . .

Posted by Sherri at 8:33 AM

Back in business

Looks like the feeds and back up and updating via Bloglines, for now anyway. I didn't hear anything from them, so I don't know if this was a widespread problem that they've been able to fix or just another short-term feed reset solution. Given the growing number of posts over at Technorati by other aggravated bloggers about this very issue, you'd think they'd release some information to let everyone know. Wouldn't you? Ah, I digress . . .

Posted by Sherri at 8:17 AM

March 27, 2005

I've been hacked

Less than nine months in the United States and my identity has been stolen. There has been quite a bit of press about hackers gaining access to the California State University data, but nary a peep about the infiltration at UNLV. Specifically, the SEVIS database was hacked, which stores information about all current and past international students and scholars (it is required by Homeland Security). My name, DOB, social security number, addresses, and citizenship information may be floating around out there somewhere. Scary.

My SSN has been bandied about like a phone number on the back of a matchbook. This is partly because I'm a foreigner, and I can be (and have been) denied access to basic services (like power) unless I provide it. Now that identity theft has become one of the most prevalent forms of crime in the US, organizations are beginning to rethink the practice of storing SSNs in databases, and in many cases, using them as primary keys. So if you see my name on America's Most Wanted, rest assured that I (the real 'I') have not abandoned librarianship in favour of a life of crime : )

Posted by Sherri at 7:58 AM

March 26, 2005

Hey! Bloglines! What gives?!

I posted a while back the folks subscribing to this blog via Bloglines would likely be experiencing problems receiving updates to this feed. For some inexplicable reason, the feeds weren't updating though both validate just fine. In the end, the only explanation I received from Bloglines was: "we are currently experiencing some difficulties with our server." At the time I was just happy that they got it working again and didn't pursue it any further, but now I'm getting annoyed. Neither the rdf or xml files have updated since Tuesday (March 22nd). I have contacted them again, and haven't heard anything. Now that Bloglines has been sold to a major search engine, shouldn't it be working?? Well, it looks like I'm not alone. Michael Feldstein over at e-Literate has been experiencing the exact same thing, and has gone so far as to tell his readers not to use Bloglines.

New and improved RSS 2.0 feed
So needless to say, I've removed the 'sub bloglines' icon from the front page for now, and I've taken the opportunity to spiff up the 2.0 feed. This feed now displays comments along with the entries, so if that's something that interests you, you may want to switch by subscribing instead to the RSS 2.0 feed.

I just randomly spot-checked my Bloglines subscriptions against my Sage feeds (because I inherently distrust Bloglines now) and my feed is not the only one that isn't updating. Skype Journal, for one, hasn't been updated since last Wednesday through Bloglines (though if you go to the blog you'll see several postings since then). This is troublesome, to say the least. I've already exported all of my feeds to NewsGator and Sage.

Posted by Sherri at 4:11 PM

Are computers having an adverse effect on learning?

That's what Thomas Fuchs and Ludger Woessmann of the CESifo economic research group in Munich argue in their paper Computers and Student Learning: Bivariate and Multivariate Evidence on the Availability and Use of Computers at Home and at School. The international study researched approximately 100,000 15-year-olds in 32 different developed and developing countries. Though focused on school-aged kids, this certainly stirs things up the elearning world, generally. A debate now appears to be raging over the use of computers in the classroom, with Prince Charles complaining that computer-driven modules are now occupying a disproportionate amount of current teaching practice, and turning student into 'better robots' (see Students not robots, says Charles, BBC News 16 November, 2004).

Overall, the authors found little evidence that computers in the home and school improve student performance. They argue that standardized tests, which in the past have shown a positive relationship between computer use and performance, often do not take into account other mitigating factors such as family background, for example. So performance may have more to do with access to more prestigious schools with better resources and instruction, for example. But when controlling for background, the effect turns around. "This may reflect the fact that computers at home may actually distract students from learning, both because learning with computers may not be the most efficient way of learning and because computers can be used for other aims than learning." However, when computers are used for email, accessing the web, and educational software, part of that negative effect goes away. In schools, it is important to look at how computers are being used: are they used as a substitute for teaching? They claim that using computers a few times a week has been shown to help students learn, but overuse and dependence on them in the classroom may easily turn that into a negative effect, as it takes away from teaching time and other teaching methods. Well, that seems perfectly reasonable to me. It's all in how you use it, right? So perhaps the spotlight on 'computers hindering student performance' ought to be shifted just slightly to highight problems like underfunding and teacher-student ratios in education today, and also look there to see why there may be a reliance on things that deter from 'quality instruction' . . . just a thought. Read the full report (pdf)

There has been plenty of coverage on this, and here's just a sampling:

grey-podcast-2.gif Could computers actually be bad for learning? from Future Tense (podcast feed)

Doubts about school computer use BBC News 24 November, 2004

Pupils 'do worse with computers' Guardian Education 21 March, 2005

Posted by Sherri at 11:04 AM

March 24, 2005

Exploring Your Options Abroad: Working as a Librarian in the USA

Inforumed (from the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto) has a post with links to helpful tips and advice for Canadian librarians considering or looking for work in the United States.

Posted by Sherri at 4:12 PM

Usability for library websites – Insight from Memorial University

Being the good Newfie that I am (and former MUN student), I'm going to throw some praise to Memorial University of Newfoundland Library's website redesign efforts (which I believe happened about a year ago?). What brought this to my attention more recently was a posting that I came across with a link to a presentation by Louise McGillis that gives a pretty thorough overview of the ABCs of testing, as well as some of the outcomes and design implications:

So What do we do now? The impact of research on web design

A great read for anyone conducting usability tests at their library or looking to get started. A couple of things that caught my attention about 'what they liked':

Speaking of FAQs, I found a neat little tool this morning: phpMyFAQ, an open source FAQ system for PHP and MySQL.

[via Science Library Pad]
Posted by Sherri at 12:30 PM

March 22, 2005

Can IM solve my digital reference woes?

I was intrigued by Aaron Schmidt and Michael Stephen's CIL presentation about instant messaging in libraries: Collaboration & IM: Breaking Down Boundaries. I've been thinking about this for a while, and specifically, the viability of ditching the "bloated VR system" for a much simpler and functional solution. The merits of using IM versus VR have been widely and even hotly debated on listserv such as Web4Lib and dig_ref.

So here are some of the pros and cons (for our particular situation), and my general questions . . .



As I see it, the cons are easily overcome with some fairly straight-forward workarounds, but I'm interested in hearing how others using IM in libraries have tackled these issues. Any thoughts out there?

I want to respond to Paul's comment here in the post because I haven't enabled comments in my feeds yet (note to self: get on that), and he brings up a good point: "but another thing acting as a con on the IM list is the inability to co-browse." I'm once bitten, twice shy when it comes to co-browsing, and I didn't list it as a con for our particular situation because we're not currently using it.

Theoretically, it's a great idea, and when it works, it's a fabulous teaching tool. But in practical terms, I've had very limited success using it within mainstream VR software applications. I've been keeping my eye on Jybe and have had various levels of success using it as well, though it looks very promising especially if they continue to work out some of the kinks (see Paul's post for more details). This has primarily been because of bandwith issues (on either end - sometimes hard to tell where the problem is), general incompatibilities, and so forth. I want something that's simple and effective, and until I stumble across something that is just that, I'm content to type a little more : )

I heard rumblings a while back that someone might be working on a co-browse feature for Rakim, a great open source VR chat application that I've used very successfully in the past (for a real-live example, see the University of Winnipeg Library's Live Help). Oh and some intrepid library folk worked on Rakoon, a co-browser for RAKIM, at the 2004 Hackfest. Peter Binkley and Kenton Good were part of that group (I'm convinced there's something in the water in Alberta ; ), but I'm not sure if anyone is continuing work on the project. Anyone? Anyone?

Bringing all these great things together in some integrated way will be key for drumming up interest and generating buy-in amongst staff. Then we're cookin' with gas . . .

Posted by Sherri at 12:27 PM

March 21, 2005

Task-based digital library design

Library Web Chic posted some comments about Steve Abram's talk at CIL, and what caught my eye in particular was mention of the "transition to service-oriented architecture" as predicted by Gartner for libraries by 2006/2007. I'm assuming since I wasn't there to hear it myself (and can't find a link to a presentation) that this is referring to what is often called task or action-based design.

I'm currently involved in a campus-wide (not library–specific) portal project. The momentum appears to be moving toward an organizational model of portal development. Creating content and navigation that is based around organizational layout and hierarchy doesn't make good sense, in my opinion. With the proliferation of digital libraries and services, students perhaps aren't associating physical locations and services as readily as they once did. The organizational structure that once may have been more obvious and apparent is now blurring with the increase in the numbers of students who engage with the institution/library online, such as distance students and even on–campus students who prefer to work online. In many cases, students don't know that they need to navigate to 'library departments' and then 'collections' in order to find inter library loans: it has little intuitive value for them when trying to access information quickly and efficiently. The organizational model is one that is very much rooted in 'physicality' and how we in the organization think of ourselves, but is not especially helpful for our users. To create a different architecture would require a greater understanding of how users themselves conceptualize online services and resources, and engaging with them in the design process.

Posted by Sherri at 11:22 AM

HTML Validator for Firefox and Mozilla

HTML Validator is a Firefox/Mozilla extension based on Tidy. Available for Windows, Linux and Mac, and works with Firefox 0.9.x, 1.0, 1.0.1 on Windows and Linux (version 0.5.6 for Mac). A nice feature is the ability to 'hide' errors and warnings – very handy if a website you're working with uses tags or conventions that are not quite standard, but used legitimately for a specific purpose nonetheless. It sits quietly in the statusbar and watches for HTML nasties.

Get it!

Posted by Sherri at 10:19 AM

March 18, 2005

It's off to Scotland I go, hi-ho-hi-ho

I just learned this morning that my proposal for the eLit 2005 conference has been accepted for the "Challenges of the eEnvironment" theme. I was lucky enough to have attended and co-presented at the 2003 conference, and it was a fantabulous time. Great, but very expensive - anyone else out there going and looking for a roommate?

My presentation is:

Creating and Assessing Learning Opportunities for Distant Students: The 'Do-it-Yourself' Approach

At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries, distant students, not to mention the growing number of students and faculty who choose to carry out their research off-site, may be disadvantaged when opportunities for online learning are considered. Though a well-developed and widely utilized Instruction program exists, similar opportunities for eLearning had not been developed within the digital library environment. A handful of co-present Instruction teaching materials had been transferred to the web, however there were no specific or focused technological structures in place to facilitate eLearning. This was largely attributable to the fact that few staff were available with the necessary time, technical, and computer programming knowledge required to create such an infrastructure.

Upon recruiting a librarian to play a key role in developing content for distance education and remote learners, one of the primary goals involved creating online learning opportunities in ways that emphasized both the cognitive and social dimensions involved in learning at a distance. The proposed creation of learning objects would utilize some readily available as well as more experimental synchronous and asynchronous information communication technologies. While creating interactive tutorials comprised one approach to developing content, it was felt that a key aspect of interactivity still needed to be addressed. An effort was made to investigate and utilize often freely-available tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasting and rss data and comment syndication to create a community of distributed yet connected and engaged distance learners.

This case study will outline the strategies employed and challenges encountered in developing instructional content for a library website with minimal technological support. With limited resources available, the 'do-it-yourself' approach was adopted. Lessons learned will be reported with advice for information professionals seeking to develop content for distributed learners.

Posted by Sherri at 9:06 AM

March 17, 2005

Saving searches with Bloglines Directory

I posted previously about using Bloglines to monitor listervs, and I've just discovered another new-ish and wonderful thing: the Bloglines Directory. This might be old hat to some, but a press release released sometime ago highlights some additional features for managing dynamic web content, including:

The Bloglines Directory is not unlike some of the other blog/rss search engines out there, but what I found especially handy was the Advanced Search feature (not linked to or displayed very prominently) that allows you to focus searches within your own subscriptions or to exclude them and search all of the feeds monitored by Bloglines. One of the drawbacks to searching with a general blog search engine is that you often find some pretty irrelevant stuff. You can then create a query and subscribe to it as a feed - voila! The search feed will have a magnifying glass in front of it. However I just checked out Feedster's new Powerful Search Capabilities, including tips for boolean, proximity and phrase searching.


I'm interested in this in part because I'm not set up with any means for 'broadcasting' news to distance students as of yet . . . we're just not wired that way in terms of infrastructure, but are working on it. And even if I did have RSS feeds for distance students, it doesn't guarantee that they're going to read or ever see it. So I've been toying with the idea of setting up a listerv via FreeLists. The Bloglines setup will give students the option to subscribe through an aggregator like this (and perhaps other blogs, such as ones that their professors have started) and get used to the whole idea of the blog/rss medium. I'll have to think on that . . .

Posted by Sherri at 6:29 AM

March 16, 2005

Sherri goes to the cogdoghouse

I had a Skype meetup with Alan Levine (aka cogdogblog) yesterday morning, which he recorded and posted to his growing list of podcast interviews. Not what I'd call my finest moment on the air : ) I was a bit startled when Skype started ringing and unexpectedly, just as I had just walked into my office and turned on the gateway beast computer in the early am. Anyway, 'twas my first foray into podcasting, and hopefully won't be my last.

UPDATE: Michael Stephens has a posted some thoughts on the Implications of Podcasting in Library Land

Posted by Sherri at 6:18 AM

March 15, 2005

Rule the web with some javascript, greasemonkey and a butler

This is not especially library-related, but I thought I'd post about a great new Firefox extension. It's highly customizable, and who knows what some tech-savvy librarians out there may come up with : )

greasemonkey is Firefox extension that uses user scripts to alter webpage behaviours and easily control any aspect of a webpage's design or interaction. There's a user script repository that has some useful ready-made scripts available.

My favourite du jour is Butler. "Butler enhances Google search results by adding links to competitors. It also removes ads, changes typography, and a few other useful things." Here are the 'few useful things':

Posted by Sherri at 11:20 AM

March 14, 2005

SkypeIn and Out

Skype has just announced SkypeIn (Beta), a pay-for service that works by assigning you a 'virtual' phone number that people can use to call you via their own (mobile) phone. And there's a bonus: people who sign up for SkypeIn also get free voicemail.

Pretty cool! You can choose up to three SkypeIn numbers from area codes in France, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States (more area codes 'available in countries all around the world' coming soon). Now if only they could work on integrating an 800 service, we'll really be cooking with gas!

If you're interested in Skype news, head over to Skype Journal (rss available).

Posted by Sherri at 11:09 AM

S5: A Simple Standards-Based Slide Show System

S5 is a slide show format based entirely on XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and created by Eric Meyer. With one file, you can run a complete slide show and have a printer-friendly version as well. See a sample in action:

S5: An Introduction

All you need to do is follow these steps to get your very own S5 slideshow up and running. It involves downloading a template and adding content with Dreamweaver or any other editing tool that you use. There are also a number of themes to choose from, but anyone with a basic understanding of CSS could easily brand this using their own graphics and styles.

Now, for some (think: faculty), this process may seem a bit daunting. S5 Presents is an open-source web-based solution for creating slideshows. I logged in a created an account, and in less than a few minutes had a slideshow in the works. It's a great tool for those not familiar with editing tools such as Dreamweaver or who don't want the hassle of editing code and posting. Another promising aspect of the S5 Presents setup is that with an account, you can view all presentations you've created, and view the presentations of others who have marked their presentations 'public.'

via e-Literate

Posted by Sherri at 9:32 AM

March 11, 2005

Podcasting at the CBC

I've always been a fervent supporter and fan of the CBC. I was listening to one of my favourite shows, Quirks & Quarks, last Sunday morning when I heard Bob McDonald mention something about podcasts of archived shows on the program's website. So I checked it out, and there it was:

for Quirks & Quarks

It seems that the CBC has undertaken a podcasting pilot project that also involves /Nerd

for /Nerd

The Podcasting page offers up a pretty spiffy set of instructions on getting started for newbies, and for those who want to know more about podcasting in general, they've also published an in-depth piece:

Podcasting: New-fangled internet radio

Now speaking of new-fangled radio, Tod Maffin, the host of /Nerd, has published some interesting thoughts on a concept that he calls vertical listening. In a nutshell, he argues that the 'playlist generation' is demanding a more customizable way of accessing (in this case, radio) programming that's not based on the traditional linear broadcasting model. Podcasting, on the other hand, allows users to build and create their own radio stations based on content that they want to hear. For an example of some cutting edge work in this area, check out what PRX is doing. Podcasting has some exciting possibilities, but I continue to struggle with how (or even if?) it 'fits' with library services.

In the meantime . . . boring bus rides be gone! Bob McDonald is about to make my morning commute much more interesting.

Posted by Sherri at 12:57 PM

March 10, 2005

Sorry Bloglines readers, but this feed is not updating

I have no idea what's going on with Bloglines and this feed, but neither the rdf or xml feeds have updated since Monday and it's making me just a little nuts. Both feeds validate just fine, and the problem clearly isn't on my end. Both feeds also update properly via Sage and NewsFire. If anyone has any clue as to what might be going on or have experienced something similar, please let me know and play your part in upholding my sanity : )

UPDATE: Kudos to Bloglines! I emailed them yesterday to ask about why my feed wasn't being updated, and they responded within an hour! They reset and it still didn't work, and emailed me again to let me know they were working on another issue. As of 4:45 PST today (Friday), the feed is updating thanks to the resposive folks at Bloglines. Thank you!

Valid RSS feed.

Posted by Sherri at 11:00 AM

March 8, 2005

Get ready for Access 2005!

I had such a great time at Access 2004 this past October in Halifax that I'll beg, borrow and steal (okay, maybe not steal) to get myself to Access 2005. This year the conference is being hosted by the University of Alberta in Edmonton from October 17th - 19th. This is one of the best and most interesting library & technology conferences out there. Plus I'll get to:

Stay on top of the latest news and announcements by subscribing to the Access 2005 RSS feed.

See you there!

Posted by Sherri at 10:57 PM

Canadian Feds considering VoIP - will higher education follow?

An article in today's Ottawa Business Journal reports that the Canadian Government is looking into VoIP, a move that some are saying could prove to be the "bellwether moment for VoIP." Veeeery interesting.

I've had VoIP phone service with Vonage at home for the past 8 months and can't say enough good things about it. The service is nothing less than excellent (who ever heard of a phone company lowering its rates?!), and the sound quality is on par with what you'd expect from a traditional land line. Oh, and I get to call Canada anytime of day with no long distance charges above and beyond what I pay for my rock-bottom cheap monthly plan.

I got to thinking about how distance students can benefit from this technology. We don't have a toll-free number at the library where I work, and students have to rack up long distance charges to talk to us. When Skype came on the scene, I was immediately excited (and still am) about the possibilities, including the fact that it's absolutely free for student to use - all they have to do is add me to their contact list. And if the Jyve presence server script ever works properly (!), then even more opportunities are available for distance librarians to 'embed' themselves at the point of need. I'll be incorporating Skype into the distance education library portal that I'm currently developing.

But think about the possibilities if an educational institution decided to go VoIP at an enterprise level. Concordia did. Besides the fact that costs would be greatly reduced, planning for the future with VoIP opens up possibilities for affordable video conferencing, or something along the lines of virtual office hours using an online whiteboard or a Breeze-like application and telephony, perhaps. I'm just scratching the surface here I'm sure . . .

There are other VoIP-ish applications out there in production. Take Video Furnace, for example. They use IP devices to direct streaming content and television, what they like to call 'video over IP'. It's not internet-based, so unfortunately no immediate application for distance students because of bandwidth requirements. However it's something to watch for. Check out how Northwestern is using Video Furnace:

Broadband Networking >> The 'Other' VoIP

It's a VoIP VoIP world!

Posted by Sherri at 9:28 AM

March 7, 2005

Google Desktop leaves beta


Google Desktop officially leaves betaland today and goes 1.0. I've installed it on my work PC, and it's now busy indexing all of my files. This will likely take a while, as the initial one-time indexing is done when the cpu is idle (currently sitting at 4%). I'm excited about being able to search the fulltext of pdf files. Somehow, as diligent as I try to be, my folder organization doesn't always make retrieval especially intuitive later on . . . It also indexes all of the web pages you've viewed, AOL chats, and Outlook and Thunderbird email. Google released the API, and I expect there will be lots of additional plugins in the near future.

Google Desktop is only available for Windows XP and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above. But don't fret Mac users! We'll just have to wait for Spotlight. Judging from what I've seen so far, the wait will be worth it.

Posted by Sherri at 10:41 AM

March 4, 2005

Thanks, Jyve, but no cigar

I blogged previously about using Public Mind to request Sykpe features, and last night I got an email indicating that a response had been posted to the request. You can check out the response at the Public Mind site.

It points to Jyve Solutions, a Skype user portal. You can sign up to get a Jyve Tag and Jyve-Card:

"A Jyve Tag is a snippet of HTML code that you can copy-paste into any web page. This snippet of code produces a live Skype Button which shows your current Skype status. This enables you to show your presence on any web page. If this button is clicked, it launches your Jyve-Card."

Great, only problem is, it doesn't work.

The Support Forums indicate that others are having the same problem. I've pasted in my code, below, but you don't see anything but whitespace:

Here is the actual code:

<a href="javascript:void(0)" onClick='window.open("http://jyvesolutions.jyve.com/Qcard/sherri.vokey.htm","QCard",
"menubar=no,scrollbars=no,height=500,width=800")'><img src="http://jyvepresence1.com/qzoxy/sherri.vokey.png" border="0"></a>

Anyone out there using this and getting it to work?

UPDATE: I just noticed that my Skype presence button is appearing now - clickity click, barba trick! I read all of the instructions and added presence.jyve.com to my list of contacts back on Friday (I guess this is how they keep track of your status), but it took two days for the graphic to appear. Funny thing is, I'm online, and it's says that I'm offline. I wonder what kind of delay there is. It will require more 'testing' before it makes its way to my sidebar or distance ed support pages . . .

UPDATE #2: Okay, so the graphic is changing to indicate online status, however, it's about 4 hours behind by my rudimentary calculations. Not especially useful given that it's online 'presence' script is displaying information that is out by a few hours. You may think I'm online when I'm really at home watching the Daily Show. I'm not throwing in the towel just yet . . .

Posted by Sherri at 2:37 PM

March 3, 2005

More on Macromedia Captivate

A Quick Look at Macromedia Captivate by Paul Clothier outlines the basic features of Macromedia Captivate as an e-learning application. Too bad I didn't have this last week when I was looking for reviews and comments!

The article provides a fairly positive review and comprehensive overview of the software. Good to know, since UNLV Libraries decided to go the Macromedia route in the end.

Posted by Sherri at 3:07 PM

University of Calgary gets down to blogging

via D'Arcy Norman Dot Net

It's a beta, and we'll be experimenting with the best setup of modules and content, but the only way to know if this boat will float is to put it into the water. So ...

weblogs.ucalgary.ca is on the air.

Anyone with a valid University of Calgary email address can go ahead and login - a blog will be set up automagically for you - and start creating content.

They're using Drupal, an open source content management platform.

Posted by Sherri at 2:54 PM

Library Shuffles Its Collection

Wired has an article out today about the South Huntington Public Library on Long Island, New York, which became one of the first public libraries in the country to loan out iPod shuffles. Not only does purchasing ebooks in mp3 format save on storage space (as opposed to buying CDs, etc), but the library director has also found using the shuffles to be very cost effective. Most titles on CDs cost the library around $75, whereas in MP3 format, they range from $15 to $25, and "[i]n the end, obviously, we're literally saving money . . . [t]he units are paying for themselves."

Don't forget that Apple offers some pretty good pricing deals through Apple Education, too!

What a cool idea. I've been toying with the idea of buying a shuffle with my educational discount for a while now, but my local Apple store is always out of stock. It's hard to justify in a two-iPod household, but maybe not . . . I can also use it as a usb memory device to store and synch data between work and home : )

Posted by Sherri at 7:11 AM

March 2, 2005

Developer extensions for Firefox

Here are a couple of must-have developer extensions for Firefox:

Technorati Tags: , ,

Posted by Sherri at 3:25 PM

Why I love Plasma – or – Ruminations on better search interfaces

I could go on and on about how much I enjoy using liveplasma. I knew and loved it back in the days when it was simply known as 'musicplasma,' a search engine for music. The name has since changed to liveplasma to reflect the addition of a movie search capability.

Using liveplasma the other day to search for my favourite band of all time got me thinking about search interface design, in general. I've always thought that there is much to be learned by stepping outside one's own discipline or sphere of expertise, and I think that liveplasma (and others) proves the point.

The beauty of liveplasma is that it is a visual resource discovery tool that is premised upon finding other related things based on spatial relationships and proximities. I've always liked this kind of serendipitous searching. I can't say much about how the engine works, as there aren't many details provided on the website. It's done in flash, and so far, there isn't a way to share maps with other users (other than emailing them a url) in the tradition of some of the other social software apps on the scene (think Flickr or Wists).

With the folksonomy phenomenon taking off and the increasing popularity of 'tags,' searching and classification conventions are changing and interface design has to keep up. Interfaces like the one liveplasma uses hold some promise of where things could go.

To bring this around to libraries and our search interfaces, some such as Andre Pace have argued that we need to start from the ground up, and deconstruct the behemoth otherwise known as the opac (see: Dismantling Integrated Library Systems, Library Journal, February 1, 2004). I wonder how a system comprised of a typical opac overlaid with a 'visual' search interface that included the option to perform a parallel search of tags created by students that made sense to them would work in a practical sense? Hmmmm . . . From the visual/clustering perspective (not tagging), I'm thinking of how xreferplus's Research Mapper (a tool with visualization capabilities) works, which returns results in the form of a cluster maps with related concepts, people and places for the user to see and explore.

In the meantime, the following is a list of search engines that are working on the clustering/visual idea:


Posted by Sherri at 1:03 PM

March 1, 2005

Canadian Librarians in America

I had intended, way back when starting the initial preparation for my move to the United States, to document everything about the process so that it may benefit someone finding themselves in the same situation. This fell by the wayside as I was swept up in all the details and yes, complications involved in actually getting here. However, as tax time approaches, I find myself sifting through documents that I had bookmarked several months ago that are now coming in handy.

  1. Canadian Librarians in America This site is maintained by Carol Dales (a fellow Winterpegger!). It has great information on visa types and some legal information. A CanLib Discussion Forum has been set up - a great place to post your questions!
  2. T4056 - Emigrants and Income Tax
    This useful (but for me, somewhat incomprehensible) document is especially pertinent to those who have severed residential ties with Canada (for more on that, see NR73 Determination of Residency Status).
  3. The Canadian's guide to the Brain-Drain FAQ
    Somewhat outdated and no longer updated, but some useful information here nonetheless. It provides a pretty in-depth discussion of the difference between the two tax systems, and one person's experience leaving Canada for California.

Posted by Sherri at 1:41 PM

Firefox 1.0.1 Released

Firefox 1.0.1 has been released and includes several security fixes. These and other details are included in the release notes.

Download Firefox for your OS today!

If you're still thinking about making the switch, you might consider reading Wired 13.02: The Firefox Explosion

Posted by Sherri at 12:47 PM