Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thing # 7: Anything Technology

Ok, this is the easy one. The only trick was figuring out which bit of technology in my life I wanted to write about. I guess I'll go with my new computer. My old PC just wouldn't play the games I wanted it to, so I started the long search online for something I could actually afford. I finally found a refurbished model for about $300 with a good processor and motherboard, and enough other bits and pieces to get me started. But it didn't stay in its original form for too long, as I cannibalized my old CPUs and created a franken-puter which will hopefully last me for a few years to come. I cracked open my old PCs and tore out a few sticks of RAM, a graphics card, a DVD ROM, and a DVD burner. Getting all of these new bits working together and happy was quite the chore. My computer still has some problems playing videos. But largely things are cruising along now, and I can play a number of games I couldn't have access to before. The fact I went to so much effort for games is proof that I am, in fact, a dork.

Thing # 17: 2.0 Sandbox

This was another activity that I completed but never bothered to blog about. Man, I'm lazy! Anyway I found it kinda fun and light, obviously not anything serious, but it did show how the wiki process would work. I see, you made us learn something while we had fun. Very sneaky. But yeah, it was nice to see everyone's favorite foods and books and what not, and be able to add to that list. Just an enjoyable little exercise.

Thing # 9: MERLIN

Oh yeah. Now I remember why I never blogged about this, even after I did all the work. It was boring. Real boring. We had already worked with RSS feeds and I had explored many of the options for locating feeds in previous Things. Merlin didn't offer a whole lot in the way of interesting content, although I could see it being a great resource in terms of local librarians being able to communicate and share resources. With some more content added, it certainly has potential.

Thing #23: Summin' it up

I currently can't really feel too much of a sense of accomplishment over the fact that I'm finally working on the final Thing. I know that after #23 is written, I'll have to go back and fix several blogs that I didn't do properly, or maybe that I did the work for but never actually blogged about. So there's still work to go. With that said, it's still nice to know that I've finally managed to work my way to the end. This project certainly offered more challenges than I had anticipated. I went into my first Thing with an undeserved sense of arrogance, thinking that the internet couldn't possibly hold any real surprises for me and I'd breeze right through. In alot of cases, this was true, but along the way I found some Things that confounded and perplexed me, and others that were unexpectedly fun and fresh. I'm pleased with alot of my progress, especially today when I decided to add a few RSS feeds (previously quite the challenge) and had no trouble at all. This is juxtaposed with yesterday when it took me 2 hours to get a YouTube video posted into my blog. The 23 Things were a mixed bag of fun, boredom, challenge, and ease. Somewhere around thing 10 or 11, I totally burned out. I had done several Things in a row that just bored me senseless and I didn't even look at my blog again for several weeks. But upon my return, there were some fun exercises awaiting me and I'm glad for the experience.
I can't say that I'd really be eager to do a program like 23 Things again. It presented far more challenge and a much greater investment of time than I had originally expected. I would have thought I'd be finished months ago, but even after today I'm sure I'll be making corrections and additions. But this is the kind of work that really will be important as libraries become more and more technologically dependant. Gone are the days of us being able to rely on our reference books to "completely answer" a question. These days we have to at least have a working knowledge of many of the online components of our patron's lives. I'm not sure how many of these Things will continue to be popular in years to come and how many will be eclipsed by new and better programs, but at least now I have a firmer grasp of which direction the internet is headed.

Thing #22: Online Books

Luckily this was a resource I had already experimented with a few years ago when I first started dealing with the online sources for downloadable books. Going back and looking at the sites again made me reaffirm my initial conception that this was a very neat idea that would inevitably catch on. I'm just not sure that its time has yet come. While it's very convenient to have the availability to easily download an audio book from home, the selection still isn't terrific. This is a frustrating situation though, as the service isn't popular due to the lack of titles, and they can't afford to get more titles unless the service is popular. I'm sure in time this dilemma will be resolved. However the problem also exists that some of the files are very large, and would take a significant amount of time to download, even with a fast connection. Then of course only part of the book will fit onto most portable devices, requiring the patron to listen to the book in chunks rather than being able to put the whole item onto their device. Of course they could always sit at their computer to listen to the complete work, but that just sounds dreadful. I really do think this is a service that will be quite popular in the future, once all of the technological quirks are moved past. As things stand, it's only now starting to be convenient for those who can afford the fast internet connection and portable device necessary to make it practical.

Thing #21: Locating Podcasts

Well my ignorance was quickly and brutally exposed when I began work on this Thing. For as long as I've heard the word "podcast" I thought that a podcast was an audio file available online for those who owned an IPod. Not owning one myself, I totally ignored every mention of a podcast as soon as it entered my ears. Well, I guess that was silly. Armed with the knowledge that I could actually make use of these resources, I eagerly began to explore the various podcasting directory sites that were suggested. At first I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped to find podcasts from some of my favorite political commentators, but came up empty. Discouraged, I continued looking and was pleased to find podcasts dealing with some of my favorite topics. I was interested to see the ways in which different directories organized their listings. Happily, each method was familiar from other online directories, and I was pleased that they decided to use tried and true methods rather than experimenting with untested and needlessly complex organizational schemes.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Thing #20: YouTube

I've had some experience in the past with youtube, so I went into this Thing thinking that it would just be a casual stroll around the site to find some new videos and refresh my memory about the various features that were offered. And so it was, until the time came to post a video of my choice to my blog. I'll come back to that.
YouTube really does offer a great selection of videos. Of course most of them are quite dumb, or poorly filmed, or too short, or too long. Putting it bluntly, most of the content is junk. But for virtually any topic you could think of, there are some really great gems to be found. This is really true of the internet as a whole. If you have the time and skill to pan through raging rivers of crap, there's gold to be found.
Such was the case for me today when I found a very nicely done video of an emperor scorpion eating what appears to be a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. This was quite an interesting video for me (i have a sweet lil' scorpion of my own at home) since it's rare to see such clear footage of a scorpion as it feeds. They tend to be reclusive and like to enjoy their meals in secluded areas. This video was just great though. The picture was clear and there were interesting facts interspersed with the footage for those new to the species.
However, getting this video to load into my blog proved to be quite a chore. After struggling with it for about an hour, I enlisted the help of 2 fellow librarians (who had already made it work on their own blogs) and they couldn't remember how it was done either. I finally made it work, but it seems that all 3 of us stumbled across the correct steps on our own, without the process being clearly laid out for us. There should really be a better set of instructions for this. But, now that I've done it once, I imagine that I'll be able to do it in the future. Then again...