June 6, 2007
Screencast-O-Matic = fast and easy online tutorials
Screencast-O-Matic isn't as robust or fully-featured as products like Camtasia or ViewletBuilder, but what it does allow you to do is quickly and easily create and upload screencasts right from your browser with no software install (read: free!)
- audio inputs
- 5 minute screen capture maximums
- mouse movement aren't recorded but there is a 'red button' feature' that can be used to highlight things on a screen
- two capture sizes
- ability to add notes
- file upload and URL for distributing and promoting content
- privacy/viewability settings: public or private
- ability to create channels/groups to categorize screencasts together by subject, etc
Screencast-O-Matic is currently in beta. Go on, give it a whirl.
Posted at 5:36 PM| Permalink
May 4, 2006
Keeping tabs on blog stats
Though this blog is run on Movable Type, it is hosted on a server that I don't have access to (thank you to my kind friends at the University of Winnipeg who allow me to blogsquat there!), and I rely on a variety of third party applications to track site statistics. These aren't exactly 'new' tools, but they're definitely very useful. They are also free, with the caveat being that they're also in various stages of development.
But before I get to that, let's not get carried away with or discouraged by stats used as a measure of a blog's popularity or worthiness. Well, I suppose that would depend on your motivations and reasons for blogging in the first place (won't go there), but a number of newer bloggers have said things to me like 'nobody is reading my blog so why should I bother to put in the time and effort.' That's a whole other conversation altogether. But stats paint a picture, and it's not necessarily the only one (have I made my methodological bias glaringly apparent?) Stats can be very useful for highlighting posts that are getting attention (perhaps warranting an addition to the 'popular posts' category, etc), where your readers are coming from geographically, and ultimately how many hits you're getting a day. What they don't do as well is measure overall impact: that's much harder to capture.
This is an all-around great tool for capturing all kinds of stats. It's free, includes customizable cut n' paste scripts for pretty much all of the major blogging software out there. Simply insert the script into a few blog templates and you're set. Users can log in to their accounts and access the stats with the dashboard, and/or receive updates through an RSS feed. It captures the activity of visitors, repeat visitors, and search engines:
I've been using Perfomancing Metrics for the past couple of months and highly recommend it.
ClustrMaps is a visitor tracker and does not offer anywhere near the level of detail as Performancing Metrics, but what it has that Perfomancing doesn't is a neat graphical representation of visits to your blog, and for those of us who are particularly fond of maps, this is a very good thing:
ClustrMaps has tiered service levels, and is free for 'light' users who get less than 2500 hits a day. Light users have a limited map archive whereas paying users get an unlimited archive.
There is also an option to subscribe to an RSS feed of visitors to your site. Correction: RSS is currently not available with ClustrMaps. I've been using ClustrMaps for several months and have found it to be pretty reliable.
Ah the mashups! Here is a visitor counter that displays data with, you guessed it, Google Maps. Like Performancing Metrics and ClustrMaps, gVisit works by pasting a bit of code into your blog template. It's free, and like the others, provides an RSS feed. With a small donation, you can get rid of the ads and see 100 most recent visitors instead of the 20 that you get with the free account.
Posted at 12:24 PM| Permalink
February 21, 2006
Meebo adds new features
Remember Meebo? Well, a great web-based IM tool has just gotten even better. Kind of like a Trillian for the web, Meebo previously allowed you to sign into multiple IM accounts simultaneously, but now boasts single sign on. By creating a free Meebo account, you can associate all of your IM accounts with it and sign in with just one username and password. Sweet! Supported IM clients include AIM, ICQ, Yahoo!, Jabber or GTalk and MSN. I'm also happy to see that it is still ad-free.
Another nice bonus is that you can set accounts to connect automatically on launch or remain invisible. Meebo will also save old (session-specific) chat dialogue, so if you close a chat window and open it again without quitting the program, you can see the chat you had 20 minutes ago, for example. I've been using it for the past couple of days, and its running very smoothly. I had problems in the past with unpredictable and completely random disconnects, but that doesn't seem to be happening anymore. This is a great little app!
Posted at 2:17 PM| Permalink
January 30, 2006
SubEthaEdit: text editing gets even more collaborative
If you've got a Mac, you need to check this out (it's a Mac-only download). Writely is another and perhaps more familiar collaborative web-based word processor, but SubEthaEdit is like Writely on steroids. Not only is it collaborative, but it's completely synchronous. Combine that with some audio iChatting and you've got yourself quite a setup.
Though originally intended for developers working collaboratively on html documents, it's functionality and applications extend way beyond that. You can see real-time typing as well as each participant's cursor and place in the document. Each participant has an assigned colour, so you can track what they're doing and saying. Levels of access can be controlled (read; read/write) and you can easily boot those caught misbehavin' out of your documents. SubEthaEdit works with a local Bonjour network, or via the internet with people around the world. Oh yeah, and it's free for non-commercial use.
It is, quite simply, awesome.
Posted at 2:49 PM| Permalink
December 11, 2005
Google Maps Creation Tool & Tutorials
Some pointers to great Google Maps tools found via Google Maps Mania.
Posted at 3:42 PM| Permalink
November 25, 2005
Is your OPAC taggytastic?
A while back I posted about tagging-enabled plugins for database tagging and thought, wouldn't it be great if we could implement something like this for use with our OPACs? We can always dream, right?
Posted at 3:06 PM| Permalink
November 16, 2005
New AJAX-driven slideshow application
It's great that there are options out there other than powerpoint. Maybe I'm being persnickety, but the "powerpoint=bad" and "everything else=good" line that's been circulating at conferences and via blogworld doesn't make sense to me, and is somewhat irritating. It's not the software that should be blamed (afterall, it's only a tool!), it's how you use it, right? S5 and AJAX-S can used just as badly as powerpoint. Kathy Sierra illustrates this point oh-so eloquently in her post Stop your presentation before it kills again!
Posted at 10:39 AM| Permalink
October 17, 2005
FTPish tool for Gmail file upload :: now for mac!
I use my GMail account for file transfer and storage quite often, and was delighted to find out about the GMail Drive file extension a while back. Problem is, I could use it only with a windows PC (at work). If you are a windows user, you may want to check out Engadget's How-To.
Now there is an option (and dare I say far slicker!) for Mac users: gDisk. It's perfect when you don't have a usb drive handy, or want to be able to access your files from anywhere, on the internet. I'm going to create a new GMail account specifically for this purpose.
Once you create a directory, gDisk will upload the file(s) to your Drafts folder and create a label to match:
Eeeeeexcellent : )
Posted at 12:20 PM| Permalink
September 15, 2005
Web based IMing with Meebo
Meebo is an ajax and web-based IM client. It integrates accounts from AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, and ICQ into a single buddy list. So think of it as Trillian or Adium for the web. It's still in alpha, so be aware that things may change (and hopefully improve!) over time. Kinda like eMessenger, but much better (for one thing, no advertising). Applications like Meebo are a great way for users to connect to IM services at libraries, for examples, when they are in labs or other settings that don't allow access to installed IM clients.
There is a blog if you'd like to keep up on all the latest and greatest developments. I sure will be.
Hello Web 2.0 : )
Posted at 1:51 PM| Permalink
August 18, 2005
Chatalot? Maybe you should Chatalog!
iChat users might be interested to know about a cool new tool for archiving iChats directly to email. Chatalog:
will take each of your iChats as they occur, tag them with participant, time and date and forward them directly to your email client where all of your correspondence is kept. Chatalog will also create a handy html archive of any web links or images for easy searching.
Never forget or lose track of your chats with colleagues again (I agreed to WHAT deadline?!) There is even a widget for 10.4 users. Free to try, $12.95 to buy.
Posted at 10:55 AM| Permalink
August 11, 2005
'StumbleUpon' some useful stuff on the web
A while back, I wrote about a couple of grad students who were doing the web differently by building applications that facilitate annotated and trusted web content. StumbleUpon is yet another tool that allows you to "browse, review and share great webpages while meeting new people." It uses collaborative opinions to rank website quality and make suggestions based on like-minded stumblers (check out the screenshots). All that you need to start stumbling is this Firefox extension.
Posted at 3:17 PM| Permalink
August 5, 2005
I've finally had a moment to download and update my Skype indicator with the new and improved Jyve status button (after installing the Jyve plugin first). If you're a Skype user, you should really check this out. Not only does it provide a properly functioning and responsive presence indicator, but also extends the functionality of Skype with additional features like Browser Sync, which enables shares web browsing with a Sykpe contact (hello co-browsing!); and auto responder messages for various Skype states.
Anyone want to give it a go?
Posted at 11:30 AM| Permalink
August 3, 2005
Konfabulator now even more Konfabulous
This is old news by now, but a week or so ago, Yahoo! acquired Konfabulator, one of my all-time favourite applications. And now it's free!
Other than being a very cool tool (and apparently cool enough for Apple to not-so-discretely rip off as one of its new Dashboard Tiger OS applications), I have found that using the Konfabulator newsfeeds widgets has been a great way to get staff started with the whole concept of institutional blogging and rss. A number of people were interested in receiving the blog content, but not yet ready to assume authorship. Having the widget sit on the desktop was easy and allowed people who were otherwise completely new to blogs get a sense for what kind of content we might circulate amongst ourselves and how rss works without having to load the blog in a browser to check for updated content.
Posted at 12:40 PM| Permalink
July 16, 2005
Nvu: a complete open source web authoring system (for Mac!)
A complete Web Authoring System for Linux Desktop users as well as Microsoft Windows and Macintosh users to rival programs like FrontPage and Dreamweaver.
Nvu (pronounced N-view, for a "new view") makes managing a web site a snap. Now anyone can create web pages and manage a website with no technical expertise or knowledge of HTML.
It is based on Gecko, the layout engine used in Mozilla. From a cursory overview of the features, it indeed looks to be quite comparable to Dreamweaver. I will most definitely be giving this one a spin on the Mac.
Posted at 2:48 PM| Permalink
July 7, 2005
Project Gizmo: (another) free voip option
Project Gizmo is the newest voip contender on the block that purportedly out-features Skype with call recording, call hold with music, and a cool call mapping feature. Like Sykpe, there are CallIn and CallOut, and lots of other additional features. Gizmo is SIP-based, which allows you to call other voip networks. I'll have to give this a spin!
Though available for Mac and Windows, it was developed for Mac first (wink). The Linux version is due in August.
Posted at 10:04 AM| Permalink
July 3, 2005
Feed Your Reader
Feed Your Reader is a Firefox extension that ". . . allows you to use the RSS Autodiscovery in Firefox to launch external aggregators..." by extending the functionality of the built-in Live Bookmarks feature.
Posted at 12:59 PM| Permalink
July 1, 2005
Got GarageBand? Get Podcasting!
Now that Apple has joined the podcasting game, they are supplying GarageBand users with information on how to create professional-sounding podcasts. This article goes beyond the more typical technical step-by-step instructions, and focuses more on how to plan out your professional-sounding podcast 'recipe', add musical interludes, etc.
Posted at 3:00 PM| Permalink
June 13, 2005
Check out my presence
I'm beta testing a presence application for a company that's working to make broadcasting Skype presence a whole lot easier. It monitors status in real time - not almost real time - but 'real' time. Pretty exciting stuff. Only issue for me is that it's a Windows-only .exe install (there's a wee little application that installs and runs in the systray), so I can use it at work, but not when I'm at home on my Mac.
I've been told that this will likely be ready for more widespread release in the next 90 days. Though according to the rumour mill, there may or may not be lots of changes ahead . . .
Sherri's Skype Status
Posted at 4:16 PM| Permalink
June 5, 2005
Need a Wiki? Try Schtuff
Schtuff is a free web-based Wiki hosting service (read: no server or server setup required). Tagging and RSS feeds included, as well as custom permissions and an image gallery.
Posted at 2:44 PM| Permalink
May 22, 2005
Two grad students do the web - differently
When did grad school get so, um, interesting? Two social web projects crossed my radar last week. Both are the result of master's thesis work.
Outfoxed is an application that builds a 'trustworthy' web based on your own network of invited friends to vet the good, the bad and the ugly on the internet. It uses a Firefox extension, but you need to be invited in order to get started. Outfoxed represents the implementation side of Stan James's Masters thesis at the University of Osnabrück, Germany.
GoodNotes is another web-based tool that, like Outfoxed, allows groups of people to set up shared spaces, but also allows you to annotate webpages, bookmarks and tags. GoodNotes was developed by Christina Goodness, a Masters student at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University (incidentally one of her primary advisors is Clay Shirky). I found this snippet (link) particularly interesting:
Many students and adult learners don't use libraries - Google is their best friend. But the kind of guidance a guru or teacher or smart peer might provide is absent in the empty broadcast experience of web publishing. Blogs and wikis and other social software are getting at it, there are more powerful relationships than purely social or commercial ones.
GoodNotes is an attempt to create a free open-source tool for students/learners who are fairly tech-savvy to re-socialize online information searching. The goal is to reinforce local knowledge that is located in social groups and allow people to push back against the dominance of the author in the current web model.
Both of these applications at first reminded me a little of the Wikialong extension for Firefox that appeared a while back, but they clearly place a lot more emphasis (and functionality) on the P2P exchange/guidance/learning aspect. I hope that this is a sign of things to come not only with respect to the web, but also our own library catalogs so that, as Christina suggests, our users don't have to make Google their best friend. Applications like these can help make that happen.
Posted at 6:53 PM| Permalink
May 18, 2005
Yahoo! makes its move on the Skype market
Free worldwide calls.
Sound familiar? Yahoo! is making a clear segue into VOIP territory with a new Skype-like beta version of Yahoo! Messenger. Well, kind of. This is not true VOIP but VOIM, meaning that calls are limited to PC to PC only. There is no equivalent to SkypeOut, for example, which allows you to call land line phone numbers.
Posted at 9:26 AM| Permalink
May 11, 2005
Greasemonkey: "Not Your Dad's http"
I blogged about Greseamonkey a while back and have been using it ever since, much to my Google ad-free searching delight (among other cool tricks). The blog posting Greasemonkey will blow up business models (as well as your mind) outlines some of the cutting-edge customizations that you can execute using Greasemonkey. A link is provided to John Udell's excellent screencast about linking to local library holdings from an Amazon search, for example. From the post:
Greasemonkey lets you mash-up websites. It lets you extend and script websites and integrate that script right into the original site as if the designers had intended it to be there. It lets you use their web site, their data, their servers, their work to serve your purpose and function. There will soon be an army of hackers enhancing every site you use. Whether that site likes it or not.
Library applications anyone? This post also makes some interesting predictions, including that " . . . browsers that don't support Greasemonkey are going to lose marketshare as "must-have" Greasemonkey scripts roll out." Currently, Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension. Hmmmm, yet another reason to pester Systems to install Firefox on our library computers? Well, that in addition to the fact that students are asking for it.
Posted at 9:22 AM| Permalink
May 5, 2005
Look, Ma! No SFX!
My good friend John Dobson at the University of Winnipeg Library (where I used to work) reported yesterday that the UofW has implemented a new journals catalogue (online and print) driven by CUFTS. CUFTS is a title list knowledgebase that powers other applications that are part of the larger reSearcher suite, such as Godot.
Now I'm not beating up on SFX per se (just have Elton John on the brain : ). But it is remarkable how this product, built through collaborative efforts within the library community, compares in terms of functionality - not to mention cost!
Posted at 3:58 PM| Permalink
April 21, 2005
Folksonomy-enabled plugin for database tagging
Freetag is a "tagging and folksonomy-enabled plugin for use with MySQL-PHP applications. It allows you to create tags on existing database schemas, and access and manage your tags through a robust API."
Oooooh cool! How great would it be to be able to implement something like this into, say, a catalog! I know, I'm dreaming. But mapping or knitting a folksonomic infrastructure into an existing catalog schema would be oh so interesting (not to mention useful and user-friendly). Imagine having a Folksonomic Zeitgeist for your own particular institutional knowledge ecology, that represented in real-time what users are tagging within your collection, what's 'hot' at the moment, and what vocabularies they're using. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we see things like this emerging in libraryland.
Posted at 9:19 AM| Permalink
April 7, 2005
ourmedia: the global home for grassroots media
Ourmedia provides "free storage and free bandwidth for your videos, audio files, photos, text or software. Forever. No catches." Wow! All that's required is an Internet Archive account (free). It's a great place to start storing your vblogs.
And check out the Editor of the Week - it's none other than the 'rarin librarian Jessamyn West!
Posted at 2:09 PM| Permalink
April 2, 2005
Podcasts in my (smart)playlist
I'm now listening to a handful of podcasts on a regular basis, and got to wondering what everyone else out there is tuning into. Here's my list:
So . . . are there any other great and wonderful auditory goodies out there that I'm missing?
In other news, I've been following Carol Cooke's thread on leaving the collective and crossing over to the
dark most excellent mac-a-licious side : ) Podcasting couldn't be easier on a Mac. I use iPodder in conjunction with iTunes to synch to my iPod (iPodder and iTunes will also work with Windows, but I've only ussed on a Mac and don't know if there are differences). iPodder will set up a separate playlist for each feed, but here's a handy trick if you want to simplify even more: create a smart playlist in iTunes that dumps all or selected feeds into a podcast playlist. The you only have to drag one playlist to your iPod or other listening device.
UPDATE: If you're not receiving comments for this feed, you might want to check out the full post to read some of the great comments that have come in from D'Arcy and Greg. They offer some tips that make the process even easier than I had thought!
Posted at 2:31 PM| Permalink
Update on Jyve Card for monitoring Skype status
If you visit the ::schwagbag:: blog itself, you may have noticed that I added the Jyve Card presence button for Skype in the 'About' section in the sidebar. So far, not great, but better. Again, according to my rudimentary calculations, it's taking about 20-30 minutes for the presence button to update itself. This is an improvement over how it was working at first. I've been lurking in the Jyve Forums and found the following post which explains why things have been so flakey:
The user authorization is a manual process and make take a long time (maximum: 2 to 3 days)
The Skype client becomes very unstable when the number of contacts exceeds a certain number of users and crashes often when authorizing new users. With the ever increasing number of users registering to Jyve, the time require to accept someone is become longer and longer.
We are currently working on a solution and will be able to provide more reliable presence server soon.
I haven't found anything else out there that even comes close to the potential functionality offered by the Jyve Card application. I may be willing to use with my distance ed portal as is, and perhaps offer a disclaimer that there may be a lag in the status update. Though, depending on how quickly a new and more reliable presence server becomes available, it may be a moot point.
Posted at 2:28 PM| Permalink
March 29, 2005
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 at 8:33 AM| Permalink
March 21, 2005
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.
Posted at 10:19 AM| Permalink
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:
- Bloglines Directory, a listing of all news feeds indexed by Bloglines with added features not seen in typical directories. Bloglines Directory also supports the community qualities of blogging and feed reading, and allows users to view the news feeds others are reading to discover new sources and learn from people with similar interests.
- Bloglines Top Links, a tracking and ratings feature that calls out the most popular feed and blog articles each day, and highlights topic trends that are gaining (or losing) popularity in the blogosphere. (Kinda like Daypop's Top 40)
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 at 6:29 AM| Permalink
March 15, 2005
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':
- removes ads on most Google pages (yahoo!)
- fixes fonts on most Google pages
- Google web search:
- adds links to other search sites ("Try your search on...")
- in news results, adds links to other news sites
- in movie results, adds links to other movie sites
- in weather results, adds links to other weather sites
- in product results, adds links to other product sites
- Google image search:
- adds links to other image/photo/art sites
- Google News:
- adds links to other news sites
- adds links to other product sites
- Google Print:
- Removes image copying restrictions
- adds links to other book sites
- Google Toolbar Firefox page:
- adds link to other Firefox-friendly toolbars
Posted at 11:20 AM| Permalink
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 at 11:09 AM| Permalink
S5: A Simple Standards-Based Slide Show System
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.'
Posted at 9:32 AM| Permalink
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:
It seems that the CBC has undertaken a podcasting pilot project that also involves /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:
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 at 12:57 PM| Permalink
March 8, 2005
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:
It's a VoIP VoIP world!
Posted at 9:28 AM| Permalink
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 at 10:41 AM| Permalink
March 2, 2005
Developer extensions for Firefox
Here are a couple of must-have developer extensions for Firefox:
EditCSS let's you view the CSS of the page you're viewing in a sidebar. I like to learn by seeing and doing, and this extension is great for just that. Why reinvent the wheel, right : )
- ColorZilla 0.8.2
With ColorZilla you can get a color reading from any point in your browser, quickly adjust this color and paste it into another program.The built-in palette browser allows choosing colors from pre-defined color sets and saving the most used colors in custom palettes. whOOt!
Posted at 3:25 PM| Permalink
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 at 1:03 PM| Permalink
February 25, 2005
CiteULike Searches TOCs of 6488 journals
CiteULike is a tool that I've been keeping my eye on. It's a free service that helps academics share, store, and organise academic papers. It's an an online citation manager with the added perk of promoting resource discovery through tagging and other basic features of what some of the latest and greatest social software apps have to offer.
Now CitULike has implemented a browsing feature for current TOCs of 6488 (current count) scholarly journals.
Example journal: Library Review
Example article: A portrait of Olas as a young information literacy tutorial
CiteULike will also list the tags used by anyone who has added a given article to their database, and list users who have access to the article through their respective libraries. Links to fulltext are offered via IngentaConnect and DOI. Of course it also supports RSS so anyone can add the feed for their favourite journals to their aggregator.
UPDATE: A comment left by Carolyn prompted me to delve deeper into CiteULike, and in doing that, I've encountered a couple of things of note.
Adding citations when authenticated through a proxy server
I've had varying levels of success adding articles to my library when authenticated through our ezproxy server from home, and not in my office (where, obviously, the ezproxy address wouldn't be written into the url). I wasn't able to add a citation from Science Direct while authenticated, but could once I closed to session and tried to add the citation as a 'guest user.' However, I just tried adding an article from JSTOR while authenticated, and it worked. Puzzling. But if we're thinking about promoting on-campus to faculty and students, it's something to consider and might warrant further investigation and testing.
Here's something I can't quite figure out: CiteULike has a feature called "Who has this article in their libraries?" It lists which users have access to a given citation at their institution. Here is a link to the citation I added from Science Direct while not authenticated (a guest user):
Notice that it says that I have access to this item at my library. I'm not sure how this all works, because when I added it, I was not authenticated and searching as a guest: therefore no access to fulltext.
Supported databases & targets
CiteULike lists a number of supported databases that, when used with the provided bookmarklet, will import citations fairly seamlessly. The list of supported databases and targets is comprised primarily of scientific and medical sources, though if you choose to add a citation from a non-supported source, you can enter details manually.
What about RSS feed for specific tags or authors?
Yes and yes.
See the xml feed for the tag 'literacy' for my library, below. You can also create feeds for tags that would include everyone's libraries.
I don't have many citations in my library yet, but here is an xml feed for the author 'Balas'
CiteULike makes it very easy to add feeds to your favourite aggregator by including the orange 'rss' button on all pages where it's an option. If yo u'd like to watch a number of different libraries, authors and/or tags, you can combine as many as you wish into the CiteULike-provided 'watch' feature, and then create an xml feed from that watchlist. Handy!
Also does it let you export to RefWorks?
I can't say for sure, since I don't have access to RefWorks. But I remember from a time when I did have access that BibTex (the export format supported by CiteULike) was a supported filter for certain scientic databases. However, as for importing a batch of citations from CitULike in BibTex format . . . I don't know. If anyone out there with refWorks access would like to try it out and report back, please do! Carolyn?
Posted at 10:53 AM| Permalink
February 17, 2005
Using Public Mind for Skype Feature Requests
Public Mind is a an online suggestion box that allows people to recommend new products, services and enhancements. It's a neat idea that is still in beta, so I have no idea what kind of real clout this has.
However, I've been scouring the net for an online status indicator for Skype, but to no avail. I thought I'd give Public Mind a try and see what happens. If you're interested, add your voice to the group:
and . . .
Public Mind: Store my Skype contacts list remotely Oh please please please!
I didn't come up completely empty-handed when I was looking for a status indicator. Things that ... make you go hmm posted an entry on how to use callto tags with Skype. However, a post over at cogdogblog suggests abandoning the callto protocol (Do not callto://me) because of some possible interference with Netmeeting. I've seen many posts that suggest using the Skype-Me Buttons, but they too use callto, and on my computer at work (Windows), an 'External Protocol Request' pops up and asks the user to choose and launch the appropriate application. Not very user-friendly, but here's what the button looks like, followed by the code:
And of cource this doesn't indicate status, so it's useful only to a point. So I think there's a need (and enough demand) out there for a real bonafide online status indicator. Public Mind is a good first start!
Posted at 9:36 AM| Permalink
February 5, 2005
Serials Solutions launches federated searching tool
Serials Solutions has released Central Search, "Serials Solutions' powerful federated search engine, allows patrons to search disparate digital resources from a single, easy to use interface." The base price is $10,000 per year, which covers up to 50 database connections ($85 per connection per year for additional connection).
Posted at 9:07 AM| Permalink
January 25, 2005
Wanna chat? Skype me!
I'm looking for some guinea pigs to test out my software find du jour: Skype. It's a free instant messaging client that also has free chat/voice support. So anyone whe has dowloaded the client can 'talk' - for free! The sound quality is excellent.
I've been using this on and off as an IM for a while, but am thinking about integrating it into distance ed support here at the Libraries. If things go smoothly, I'll possibly offer it up as one more way for distance students to contact me, since we don't have a toll free number that out of town people can use if they want to call us.
So if you're interested, follow the link below to download the free software and add me (sherri.vokey). Of course Mac users don't need to bother with external mics *grin* (unless you're annoyed by a bit of feedback) but Windows users will in many cases need to hook up something external.
Posted at 12:18 PM| Permalink
January 13, 2005
Openly's OpenURL Referrer for Google Scholar
Openly Informatics, Inc. has added OpenURL 1.0 to a Google Scholar plugin [read press release]. Openly's OpenURL Referrer is a new extension for the Firefox web browser, which adds a link to GoogleScholar's results page that points to a specific library's full-text copy of the article. This extension is based on Peter Binkley's earlier proof of concept.
Posted at 10:21 AM| Permalink
December 23, 2004
Open Sesame: Guests Wireless Internet Access
. . . the user is asked to punch their cellphone number into a slot on the browser's welcome page. Seconds later, a password is sent to the phone in the form of a text message. When the password is typed into the browser, the visitor is given access to the Internet through the SesameSpot. They can check e-mail, surf the Web or even log on to their own corporate virtual networks . . . At about $1,500 to install and about $1,200 a year to maintain per location, Sesame Networks predicts SesameSpots will prove to be a popular way for businesses to give their guests quick, easy and secure access to the Internet.
Coincidentally, Sesame Networks provided WiFi access at the Access 2004 Conference in Halifax this past October. Everything seemed to run very smoothly (I can't attest personally since I was, ironically, WiFi device-free at the conference). A concept like this presents some interesting possibilities for libraries in providing internet access, especially when computers are in high demand and there appear to be more and more users coming in with their own laptops.
Posted at 9:36 AM| Permalink
December 20, 2004
PHPSurveyor: a questionable little script
PHP Surveyor is a set of PHP scripts that interact with MySQL to develop surveys, publish surveys and collect responses to surveys. Once a survey has been created it can be published as an online survey (displayed as single questions, group by group or all in one page) or you can use a data entry system for administration of paper-based versions of the survey. PHP Surveyor can produced 'branching' surveys (set conditions on whether individual questions will display), can vary the look and feel of your survey through a templating system, and can provide basic statistical analysis of your survey results.
Hmmmmm, interesting. I have been thinking about how to best gather feedback from distance and remote users, and was inspired by the methodology outlined in Frankilin and Plum's article Library usage patterns in the electronic information environment. PHPSurveyor may prove very useful in accomplishing this . . .
Posted at 9:28 AM| Permalink
December 17, 2004
Connotea: new collaborative bookmarking service
Connotea is not unlike many of the other collaborative bookmarking services out there such as Furl, Spurl, unalog, del.icio.us, and CiteULike: it is a place to keep links to the articles you read and the websites you use, and a place to find them again.
Connotea, however, was created by Nature Publishing Group's New Technology team. The ideas behind it come from del.icio.us. Connotea takes this concept and adds some features to tailor it to the needs of scientists (I'm not sure what these features are and if/how they would or would not be applicable or useful to folks in other disciplines. Maybe I'm missing something . . .).
One thing that I noticed and liked about this tool is the ability to leave comments about any page you view via Connotea that others have bookmarked. It kind of reminds me of the Wikalong extension for Firefox that allows you to save comments about viewed webpages, wiki-style.
Posted at 1:03 PM| Permalink
December 1, 2004
CiteULike: A free online service to organize academic papers
CiteULike is a free service to help academics to share, store, and organise academic papers that they are reading. When you see a paper on the web that interests you, you can click one button and have it added to your personal library. CiteULike automatically extracts the citation details, so there's no need to type them in yourself.
Posted at 12:39 PM| Permalink
November 19, 2004
Google Scholar . . . Yahoo/OCLC Toolbar . . . widgets and gadgets - OH MY!
There certainly has been a flurry of activity on the library listervs and blogs these past fews days concerning the launch of Google Scholar and the Yahoo/OCLC Toolbar. Much of the discussion has focussed on whether new cool tools like this will put libraries and librarians 'out of business.' I'll skirt that debate and instead pass on links of interest so that you can test these things out for yourself.
Google Scholar Firefox search plugin (from BioMed Central)
BioMed has posted a Firefox extension for Google scholar. This will be added to the serch box options in the top right hand corner of the browser window.
Google Scholar Bookmarklet
Paul Pival at the University of Calgary has done some tweaking and made a Google Scholar Bookmarklet that you can use to search GS directly from your browser toolbar. There are two flavours:
Mozilla / Firefox: Google Scholar
IE: Google Scholar
Just drag them to your toolbar and start searching!
OCLC and Yahoo! have offered up a free joint toolbar that provides one-click access to Open WorldCat as well as Yahoo! Search's Web search engine. At this point, the toolbar only works with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. A whirligig
OCLC logo to the extreme left on the toolbar clicks to a subset of Open WorldCat (currently 2 million of the 57 million records available in the full WorldCat, reflecting the holdings of some 9,000 libraries).
Posted at 3:27 PM| Permalink
November 17, 2004
BioMed Central creates search plugin for Firefox
"The BioMed Central search plugin for Firefox adds BioMed Central to the list of search engines that are available in the quick search box at the top right of every Firefox browser window. Installing the plugin takes only seconds."
Posted at 3:58 PM| Permalink
November 2, 2004
The buzzz . . . (or new stuff you need to know about!)
Here is a list of the stuff that people were 'buzzing' about at the Access 2004 conference.
This is a fairly new-ish search interface that searches for info contained in scholarly/academic collections and is based on RLGs "Union Catalog on the Web" (books only at the moment - about 120 million). The beauty of this is that you can log in and customize RLG to check results against your own library catalogue (UNLV is on the list). The metasearch groupies are claiming that this is just about the best search interface they've seen (arguing its merits vis a vis the traditional opac). You can save citations and export to MLA, APA, etc
unalog is a Furl-like application that is one of the growing number of social software apps that are springing up. You use it to save your bookmarks online, and you can share with others, syndicate using RSS, and so forth. unalog was created by Daniel Chudnov at Yale.
- Delicious Library
Run your own library with your Mac (yay Mac!) and iSight! This project opens up discussion at a conceptual level (this is not, as far as I can tell, a fully functioning ILS BUT Seattle Public Library has been working with it) about the alternatives that are out to traditional ILS systems (see also the Sakai Project).
Posted at 4:58 PM| Permalink