Friday, 29 July 2011

Thing 9 - My tale of woe, and the moral of the story: Google Docs.

Yet another really useful Thing that I wish I'd known about before! Only last week I got myself in a complete muddle of the sort which could have been entirely prevented by using Google Docs. I had been asked to write up my experience of the recent T.S. Eliot Society (UK) Festival, which I duly did at home on my flatmate's computer. I then saved it to a memory stick, but also emailed a copy to my work email (just in case of, well I don't know what really, my memory stick blowing up or something - I tend to be quite paranoid about these things!), intending to check it the next day (after work on my work computer) and then email it off. However, somewhere between saving to the memory stick and emailing myself I must have saved some new changes, because after making a few alterations to the version on the memory stick the next day at work, I decided it didn't seem quite as I remembered it and that I really ought to check out the one I'd emailed to myself, which did indeed turn out to be different (are you keeping up?!). Aaaargh! Suffice it to say, I was completely confused...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Sticky Notes - unsophisticated technology!

My computer was upgraded last week and I am now getting to grips with the Windows 7 operating system. I'm sure that there is plenty of sophisticated functionality and work-flow enhancement that I should be excited about, but instead I have to tell you about my new favourite thing.... Sticky Notes! Sticky Notes are virtual Post-it notes that you 'write' (type) and leave on your (computer's) desktop. It comes as no surprise to me to learn that the Post-it note, although invented in the late 70s, made it big in the 80s. Yet another element of 80s culture (I've already confessed to leotards, leg-warmers and dance movies in my post on Thing 8) with which I feel a deep affinity! In all seriousness, ignore anyone who tells you Sticky Notes are just a silly gimmick (that's you, long-suffering colleague). If, like me, you are forever scribbling down lists and things to do on scraps of paper (or genuine Post-it notes) which float around your desk and are in danger of being swept off or buried at any moment, then Sticky Notes may be just the ticket. I wrote a couple last night to remind myself of some things I need to do today, and sure enough I'd forgotten all about these things until I saw the Sticky Notes on my computer desktop when I logged on this morning!

On a more philosophical level, I've been trying to work out why it is that I like Sticky Notes so much. There are many ways in which I could have harnessed computer, mobile phone and web technology to remind me about the things I have written on the notes (for example by setting reminders in Microsoft Schedule+, or an online calendar, or my phone). However, the key for me here is that the Sticky Note replicates almost exactly the unsophisticated and very visual in-your-face way in which I do things outside my computer (i.e. scrawling on Post-its or scrap paper), and it's more efficient (won't blow away or fall off the desk etc.). It suits the way my mind works. Sometimes technology can be too sophisticated. I think the Sticky Note is a perfect example of the effectiveness of keeping it simple (so there, long-suffering colleague!)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Thing 8 - Google calendar vs. my 80s lifestyle

My diary...
I don't have a lot to say about Google calendar. It was easy to set up and seems easy to use, but I currently have no use for it. At work us staff members use Microsoft Schedule+ to record, for our own and each other's benefit, appointments and activities. There are at present no plans for any kind of public facing calendar (one step at a time - we barely have a website at the moment!), but I can definitely see that Google calendar would be a strong candidate if there were. As for personal use - well, outside work I'm still living in the 80s. Not only do I spend a lot of time in a leotard and leg-warmers and watching movies like Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, and Footloose, I don't even have a computer at home, let alone internet access; and my mobile phone, although not the size of a brick, is definitely not internet enabled. Instead, I organise my life in a good old-fashioned paperback diary. I did briefly think about using Google calendar as a sort of back-up, in case I lose the hard copy, but therein probably lies the path to mix-ups, double-bookings, or complete no-shows, because I put an event in one and not the other, etc. etc. So I'm going to stick with the paperback. Which reminds me, in a few weeks time (or maybe already - I've not been into Paperchase recently) I need to make a date to trawl the shops for next (academic) year's diary, an exercise which I find ridiculously fun. Now, where's my diary...

Monday, 25 July 2011

Thing 7 - Doodle is a doddle

I really, really like Doodle. It's a simple idea, easy to use, and extremely effective. Before I became a librarian I spent a year working as an administrator in the Old Schools. I used to spend a ridiculous amount of time 'birdcaging', by which I mean making elaborate tables in Word or Excel to record the results of my contacting various extremely busy people's secretaries to find out when they were available for meetings. Doodle would have had a significant positive effect on my work-flow, freeing up a lot of time for me to spend on the many other things I had to do!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Thing 6 - Screencasting

Screencasts are a great idea. They are a really useful aid to training and education, and I think there is a big role for them to place in libraries communicating with their users. But... I am not a natural born screencaster.
Here's what I came up with on ScreenCast-O-Matic:

It's dreadful, really. What I'm trying to inform you of is pretty useful I think. But the way I've done it is appalling! I think I could do better with a program that enabled me to edit, and a bigger mouse-mat (I could never get the cursor where I needed to go in just one smooth move!); however, the fact that most other people managed something pretty decent (I'm thinking particularly of Gareth's fab video, with music!), persuades me that I am not naturally gifted in this area...

For some eloquent, simple instructions on how to do what I attempt to show in my video (subscribe to an RSS feed of new items by subject heading), see Rachel Marshes notes on the UL Service Development Blog (Raven ID required)!

Twitter again

I'm off on holiday this weekend (Duns, near Berwick-upon-Tweed). Naturally I'm looking forward to it, and looking forward to the break from work (even the keenest librarians surely need a change of scene now and then?!), but - and I could never have predicted this - I'm going to miss Twitter!!! I have no mobile internet, and am unlikely to be spending my holiday time on a computer at the nearest library/internet cafe, so I shall be going cold turkey. No tweeting, no blogging, no 23Thing-ing.

I mentioned in my first post about Twitter that I felt "as if I'[d] walked in on a party that started a long time ago", and that it was "full of unique vocabulary and networks of which I'm not a part". I felt quite overwhelmed, and a bit of an outsider. But no longer! Little by little I'm working out what things mean (#ff being the latest revelation!), and building up a list to follow, and getting involved in conversations. And to my surprise it's fun and useful and effective and informative, and I begin to see (and realise) it's potential as a tool for communication in the library world, my professional life, and beyond. It's a great feeling to have 'learned' a new technology, to start thinking about the opportunities and potential it presents - basically to get excited about something new! And isn't that what 23Things is all about?!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thing 5 - Screenshots

At last, a Thing that I didn't find daunting! The LightShot add-on is great and really speeds the process up, although (like Erin) I am a little confused about the uploading option, and am currently saving my shots and browsing for them when I want to insert an image. I have put a couple of shots into my post on Thing 1 (iGoogle), which helps to break this relatively long post up and hopefully make it more readable/appealing. I have also downloaded LightShot to my desktop, and had fun taking this shot of my 23Things-in-progress desktop.
A little cluttered don't you think?! (Also a little contrived - I don't usually have all these things open at once. In fact my computer started making such awful racket when I did that I quickly closed most of the windows!)

How many librarians does it take to change a lightbulb?

In this case, none. We had to call in the scaffolders! This light fitting hangs above the stairwell, and changing the bulbs without scaffolding would mean risking your life hanging off a stepladder above a very long drop. Why is the light fitting there in the first place? Who knows, but it was certainly designed in the days before health and safety. Moving it doesn't seem to be an option. Lets hope the new bulbs are very long lasting...

Many librarians here in Cambridge are blessed (or cursed!) with working in very old or architecturally unique buildings. I feel that it's a privilege to work in such an environment, but it can certainly give rise to some extraordinary situations!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Thing 4 - Twitter, and the joy of 23things

Well, I've signed up (murmuringgirl), I've sent (tweeted?) a couple of tweets. But that's as far as it goes at the moment. In fact, I hate to admit it, but I've just printed off some stuff from the help pages to read over the weekend, to try and get me on track (I don't have the internet at home)...!!

In all seriousness, 23things is already proving to be an extremely worthwhile experience. It's forcing me to try out things that I had decided were (for no good reason) not for me, and also helping me realise that it doesn't take long to get to grips with new things. At this precise moment Twitter seems like chaos to me, full of unique vocabulary and networks of which I'm not a part - as if I've walked in on a party that started a long time ago. But to judge from my 23things experience so far, by the end of next week I'll be a pro...(well, almost!)...

Thing 3 - Google Reader again (or rather, Google Launchpad)

Having just spent the last fifteen minutes quite happily reading through the new items that had been syndicated, really simply, to my Google Reader 'inbox', it looks like I'm going to have to admit that my initial panic was misplaced. I had some really helpful comments to my last post (thank you!), which brought me around to a new way of thinking about the reader. In response to my comments about the bland, visually unexciting presentation of feeds in the reader, several other 23thingers mentioned that they often have a quick scan of what's new in the reader, and then click through to see the items of interest at their source (i.e. with all their formatting and visual stimulation etc). So, I've started to think of Google Reader as a launchpad. It's brilliant in gathering into one place what's new from the various sites and blogs that I'm following, but it needn't be the prison I feared, holding me captive whilst I plow through reams of monotypic text, framed by all that clutter (and in fact, as I've just spent a quarter of an hour quite calmly browsing, I think perhaps this fear was a monster of my own making!). I am still very wary of the potential for RSS to be completely overwhelming, and in light of this I will be careful to limit the number of subscriptions I make, and be sure to check regularly for new items. Like Erin, I feel strangely compelled to read everything that is fed to me, so I really want to avoid being inundated. If I'm conscientious about it, I think I can make Google Reader work for me...