Monday, June 30, 2008

pooh to the bear

Playing with the flickr image generators at fd's flickr toys. It's fun, kind of, but this exercise doesn't grab me as much as the earlier ones so far, at least not with the tools I've played with so far. Though I wish I'd known about the 'create your own polaroid' tool earlier on, when I was painstakingly putting together the fake polaroids for the website in Photoshop. Haven't been able to find anything particularly grand by way of other sites, yet - just a lot of free and shareware, ads and sites to make barcodes.

Ok, just found an interesting site that doesn't need a download and is quite fun to play with: Viscosity. You get a selection of brushes to push around something that looks a bit like origami paper, and can change the palette and opacity to try different effects. Here's what I made:

putting the toys away

Just started to browse through the new blogs cropping up as the course is about to start, and I love the way Top Cat's feeds on Bloglines are tucked away in folders... appeals to the inner tidyness freak in me. Much nicer than a scatter of feeds all the way down the page. Also liked the idea of adding coursemates' blogs, too.

All of the image/text generator sites seem to work okay on the Learn.nets. I'd like to have a hunt around to see what else is out there.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I might just be putting off doing the dishes, but I've been thinking that I should be using this course as more than just an opportunity to find stuff that I think is fun. It's probably time to start applying some of these ideas to work stuff, too.

What I thought was, I could use the GROW method we got taught in the library leadership workshop a couple of weeks back, to determine an actual goal for the course, what I'd like to get out of this, in an overview sense. It's too easy to get caught up in the tools themselves, and the wonderful tangents they throw up, and forget part of what I'm here for.

The 'G' of GROW stands for Goal: what do I want to achieve? I want to identify how I can use these tools to serve our customers, to give them a better customer experience, to add value to what's on offer for them. I want to assess if there's something here we can use to enrich what we offer through the website.

Because I was thinking about RSS today, and putting together a couple of thoughts: 1) are databases and link lists our best and/or only way of offering people online information? At the moment, our online information falls into three categories, roughly; content we have written ourselves (with limited resourcing), content we buy from vendors, such as databases, and content we link to, mostly in the form of pages with lists of links (often left without being updated for some time).
2) RSS feed collections, such as with Bloglines or Netvibes, are free and simple to build up, given some canniness with selection principles and a good knowledge of our customers (both of which librarians have aplenty), and someone else in effect does ALL THE WORK of keeping them up-to-date. What about if we had something like a page on the website with feeds from all the NZ newspapers that offer such a service, for example? A page you could point people at that would be the online version of a nice newspaper reading room for local news? Once set up, it maintains itself!

I think we need to have a good look at how we can use that librarianly skill of selection to pick some useful stuff out of this mess of web content and offer a portal to it on our site. And I probably need to do some digging into how other libraries might be doing such a thing, and how it could work.

Another thing I was thinking today - as a library user myself, if I can put together a single webpage that delivers a selection of recipes from great sites to my desktop on a daily basis... I might not choose to travel to a library to borrow cookbooks.


Just snuck around WebMarshal by looking into Technorati a bit more on my staff pc - no problems there. In fact, I've found that so far I've been blocked more on the Learn.nets than I have on the staffside, which is weird. Might need to investigate that.

Decided I wanted some feeds of recipes to add to my Bloglines page, so I searched for 'recipes' on Technorati and then on the results page, clicked on the Blog tab to see all of the listed blogs which have 'recipes' as a tag. THOUSANDS of results but even on the first page there were a couple that looked really good. I could then take a look at the blogs, and if I liked what I saw, add their RSS feeds to Bloglines.

Very simple, very satisfying to use all round. One of the cooking sites I went to, Epicurious, had several feeds; one for new recipes, one for quick, nutritious recipes, and one for each of the forums, which was cool.

feeding bloglines

I'm just working through the list of sites that will provide rss feeds for Bloglines. No luck with Feedster on the, though it doesn't seem to be blocked; just doesn't load.

When I went into Topix, it already knew I was in Auckland, and offered up an RSS newsfeed of Auckland-focussed stories at the top of the page; I've added this in to Bloglines. The stories seem to be a bit more involved with policy, research and technology than the stories on a local news site like Stuff or NZ Herald, for example. Not sure if it's something I would want to look at regularly as a feed.

Looking through the site a bit more, news is categorised by 'topics', each with it's own feed - these go down to the level of detail of, say, an individual TV show, but could be as broad as 'Reality TV', 'Smoking' or 'Sri Lanka'. There were so many lists that I found it a bit unwieldy to browse for a topic that might catch my eye. I think the site would be easier to use if you knew what topic you were looking for, and could then use it as a discovery tool to find some feeds of interest.

Say, for example, I wanted more movie reviews on my Bloglines site. I could search for a review of a particular movie on Topix, then find a review I liked, and trace it back to it's source blog or website, then add the RSS feed from that site to my Bloglines account.

Syndic8 is currently blocked on the - will report this and get it unblocked.

Technorati is not blocked. Searching Technorati, is, however. I can't look up anything on the site except what it wants to show me. Back to Datacom for this one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

so many ways to waste time

Here it is, should be asleep by now, and I'm roaming through websites looking for things to add to my feeds. I've been trying out an alternative to Bloglines, Netvibes, which is prettier to look at and which lets you arrange your feeds on tabs. I like that - it looks tidier. I've got a tab for image feeds and have spent the last hour or so on flickr, looking at groups of images on a variety of topics; costume, carnivals, abandoned houses, Japanese streetwear... anyway, a selection of what I've found is on Netvibes.

I was sad to see that Deviantart, the image site where I do most of my image browsing (mostly for people's amazing digital art and paintings), has no RSS capabilities that I can find. It would be so good to be able to add my favourite artists into some sort of feed aggregator.

Argh, there's always just one more thing to look at. Must close down my pc.

ps. re rss

Three new things I've learnt:

1) Blogger saves a draft which you can find in the list of all posts, so I could have recovered my 'eaten' post after all
2) To change the detail settings of a single feed in Bloglines, select that feed and click on 'Edit Subscription' to look for summaries, rather than detailed items
3) My public Bloglines URL is

blogger ate my homework

OK, so I just wrote a long post about RSS and Blogger became 'unavailable' when I came to publish the post, and now it's gone and can't be retrieved. Lesson 1 - I don't know... copy and paste into Word while working? Very very annoying.

First off the blocks today - Bloglines, like Blogger, was blocked on the Learn.nets (and now is not, thanks Michael!). While I was waiting for it to slip through WebMarshal's sticky net, I worked through a couple of the tutorials listed on the course blog. Palinet was a very useful, simple and basic introduction, though I found the wait for transitions between slides was slightly annoying. The 'Using Bloglines tutorial' was great. It started with the basics, with plenty of screenshots, and then blossomed out into an exploration of some of the ways you can use the site.

I really like the idea of RSS. I'm a spotty user of the internet, as it is; I read a couple of web comics, spend a bit of time browsing galleries and art sites, watch batches of movie trailers and read reviews... all 'when I remember'. The idea of something that collects the stuff I find fun and inspiring into one place, and serves as a gentle reminder to see what's new out there, is very cool. The challenge is, I guess, not to be flooded with stuff as a result, because there's so. Much. STUFF.

Also, of course, there are things we can and should be doing as a library service, with RSS. We've got the lovely new New Books pages which could be drip-feeding into people's newsfeeders, and Kelly's suggested we could have a News and Events feed so that people get notified whenever there's a new event posted. Definitely something to explore in the future.

Re Bloglines itself: I found it pretty easy to set up, and adding feeds is easy so far. One thing I want to investigate is how to change the options for a single feed, rather than all feeds; for example, in Options, it says I can choose a level of detail for single feeds, but I can't see very clearly where to do that. Something to explore.

I was interested to see a library-related feed in the Top 50 list, so I've added that and will give it a whirl.

Monday, June 23, 2008

hello and welcome

Hi, welcome to the toyshop, anyone who wanders in.

So far blogger has been a bit of a mixed bag. I feel like I could spend hours tweaking the colours and layout till I'm happy, but it's probably not the best use of this time so I've made myself stop. For now.
Some of the editing tools blogger has are great; I love being able to drag page elements around to try them in different locations, for example.
Other features aren't so easy to use. I tried to figure out how to position an image where *I* wanted it in the header, but don't seem to be able to do that. 'Behind the header text' is as close as I can get...

Adding images to the page was fun; I recommend a favourite graphics site, (which isn't as deviant as it's name suggests, in case that makes you hesitate). There is a category on the site called 'Resources', which has freely downloadable textures and abstract images that people have put together, often with very little requirement for copyright beyond acknowledgement.

These pics come from SparklingTea, from one of the Chiogami Paper sets. They fit nicely under the download restrictions for the and are easyish to modify, size-wise, in Paint.

I'm really looking forward to working through this programme, since I should probably be a fair sight more familiar with these tools and ideas than I actually am. I'm also testing them as I go, on the, to make sure that the sites will play nicely with WebMarshal. Just as well, as it happens - I've just had get blogger unblocked for 'inappropriate content'... not a great start to the course if nobody can even create a blog here...

ps. After posting this first post, I've also noticed that the date/time-stamping is not set up for our timezone, so I've been into the settings to Aucklandify it. It's now no longer Sunday. Shame.