Monday, June 29, 2009

Horseshoe Fall from Goat Island, Niagara (LOC)

The Library of Congress has just added a bunch of new photos to their photostream, including this one of the Horshoe portion of Niagara Falls. I grew up in Buffalo, NY, and a trip to The Falls was part of any visit from out-of-towners. My most recent trip was in 1995 or so, when my parents made my now husband (then boyfriend) get out of the car to view the falls on the way to the Toronto airport for our flight back to California. The rest of us had seen them plenty of times; we stayed in the car.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thing 21 - Podcasts

I'm a spoken-word junkie. When I'm driving, or doing housework or laundry, I don't usually listen to music. I need my brain to be engaged, and I want to listen to people talking. "I want stories!" Stella yells from her carseat in back, and I concur. Audiobooks are great when I've got longer trips, but right now, I'm mostly listening to KQED. My absolute favorite radio station bar none, however, is the BBC's Radio 4.

Radio 4 is dedicated to spoken-word programming, and it is unlike anything in the US (NPR is its closest cognate). The format is a mix of news and culture reporting, interspersed with comedy programming, plays, call-in shows, and the world's longest running serial drama, The Archers. When I lived in Cambridge, it was on all the time. I scheduled my life by it, and when Stella was born, we scheduled bedtime so I could nurse her down during the 6:30 comedy programming.

So, moving back to the US, it was a wrench leaving all this quality programming behind. Lucky for me, however, there are podcasts available for many of my favorites (including, thank goodness, The Archers.

I used to subscribe to feeds through Google Reader, now I do it direct through iTunes. If you're looking for particularly British (IMO) programming, I'd recommend:
The Archers - British rural soap, updated daily, average length 13 minutes.
Friday Night Comedy - Either the News Quiz (satire) or The Now Show (also satire) - 28 minutes.
Best of Today - Highlights of the daily morning news show. Interviewers are known for haranguing politicians.
Thought for the Day - Included less because of the content than because it would never happen in the US. 3 minute essays by faith leaders on topics of the day.

In thinking about library applications, the obvious thing for SPL would be to put Dial-a-Story, Dial-a-Book, and Telecuentos on as podcasts. Some libraries are doing this already. I wonder, too, if we (this "we" being libraries in general, not just SPL) could convince audiobook producers to let us podcast audiobook teasers, like some commercial sites do.

More on YouTube

I actually do quite a lot with YouTube. We don't have cable, and Stella is sometimes jonesing for screen time when there's nothing available on plain old broadcast TV (or the wind is blowing, which screws up our reception). So we hit YouTube.

Pixar's "For the Birds" is a sure winner:

The advent of branded YouTube Channels has been great for us too. Sesame Street has a channel, for example. Aardman (of Creature Comforts and Wallace and Gromit) has a channel, but it's only viewable in the UK.

Various offices and departments in the US Government are creating channels on YouTube, which is exciting to me from a Government 2.o-wonkish perspective. The US Government has an official channel, with links to various department channels. My personal favorites include the Library of Congress (archival footage made public, swoon), and NASA. What the FDIC channel has to offer, I'll leave it to you to discover, but it does involve Suze Ormond, apparently.

But back to preschoolers and their screen needs - I'll close with a video clip I which every public library would embed in their children's department web-pages, in which the most powerful man in the country stops and reads kids (his and others) a book:

Thing 20 - You Tube!

YouTube has been in the news a lot lately - with the death of Michael Jackson, major news outlets are turning to YouTube for images of people moonwalking, or doing the "Thriller" dance sequence.

Right now I'm at McKinley Library, hanging out while folks from the WWE set up to do a photo shoot for the YALSA/WWE Wrestlemania Reading Challenge. So far it's just a bunch of lights. Talent arrives at 10:30, so I've no idea who is coming.

Will it be Maria?

Or Matt Hardy?

Or someone else?

I'll keep you apprised...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thing 19 - Award Winners!

OK, I went and looked at the Web 2.0 Awards as suggested, and the most recent list dated from 2007, which is like a million years old in web years. So I poked around a little, and found out that cnet has something called the Webware100, an annual list of "cool apps for everyone".

Running down the topics list, I was understandably drawn to the Information & Reference page. And I actually have a reference question, involving a washing machine that leaves linty deposits on everything. So armed with my test question, I gave the suggested resources a spin. Most resources gave me a result, but none of them gave me anything better (or frankly different) than what I got from google. I think search engines are still largely a matter of preference, unless you're talking about truly specialty resources.

I decided I'd better play on some of the other resources, I signed up for Far from the benign silliness of "electronic paperdolls" (as described on the can), this was in fact an uber-branded shopping mall experience, with clothes, accessories and decor all available for the buying. Ick. I'm sure kids (and others) will love it, but it grosses me out.

For what it's worth, in order to keep up with social media applications, I subscribe to Mashable's RSS feed - there's lots there I'm not interested in, but I do star about one entry a day to look at when I have more time.

Thing 18 - Web productivity tools

I've used Google Docs a few times - it's helpful when you're on one continent and your spouse is on another.

The PARC team was thinking about using it for some of our group work, but IT put the kibosh on that - I wonder if we could get away with it now? Certainly a number of SPL work groups are using web-based tools to get group work done - is PBWiki really that much more secure than GoogleDocs?

I wish we could convince our customers to use these sorts of internet-based tools... Imagine how much simpler it would be if folks could just save to the interweb, rather than having to figure out if their particular storage device coordinates with the quirks of the terminal they happen to be using. Nice, no?

I do suspect that web-based storage, rather than storage you carry around with you, is what's coming next. My husband still pays for a backup service that involves some hard storage, but he's got his PhD to worry about - I probably wouldn't trust that to the free net either, but neither would I trust it to a (corruptible, breakable) external storage device I could carry around. When I have something I really, really want to keep safe, I e-mail it to one of my various gmail accounts.

Eventually, I predict, we'll have all our data out there in the ether, to access from whatever device we happen to be sitting at. Convenient, and also risky. Some things (banking?) you may still opt to link to a particular computer. But beyond that, I predict convenience will trump security concerns. I know it has for me already.

As for web-based productivity tools, I want to plug FreeMind, a freeware Mind Mapping program. You do have to download it to your computer, so you'll have to do it at home or come up with a really good reason why you need it at work. But if you're looking for a brainstorming tool, I can recommend this one wholeheartedly.