Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Avatar Quest

I would really like to have a cool avatar that subtly hints at my super-hero alter ego but still is recognizable as me. I can't seem to find the right utility, though (not that I've knocked myself out trying). I tried , which was just not the right set of looks for me -- too "teen hipster." was another attempt, which I wanted to try for the animation. However, it's been loading for 30 minutes with no result, so I'm giving it up as a bad job. , which is very basic, worked well enough for me. The search wasn't working, which made it a bit tedious to find items, but otherwise it was easy. Here are my "3 seasons" results:

Loosely named "Brrrr", "Just right", and "Warmish."

I'm thinking I need to break out the art supplies and do my own. Of course, that would require a time investment of more than 5 minutes...

Update: I finally did get Meez to work. Couldn't really find the right options to make it look like me. But it does blink. That's something.
Meez Avatar

My last attempt, although there is no animation, was at . I like the way these turned out, although I did some editing in my own image program.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Further Behind I Get...

Okay, I have totally abandoned the 23 Things for the present. The 4th quarter of the calendar year is just too busy for me. I'm behind on the 1023 Things I HAVE to do for work, so there's no time for 23 Things I merely WANT to do for my own professional development right now. Maybe I'll resume in January.

Anyhow, I did take a little while this morning to catch up on a few recent posts on , the blog of the mastermind behind Learning 2.0 and The 23 Things, . Of course, I had to analyze my blog after reading one of the posts.

Turns out that my blog type according to Typealyzer is ISTP - The Mechanics:

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts. The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk.

Interesting that I approach my writing as an ISTP (which sounds right to me) when my personal type is INTJ (which is me all over).

GenderAnalyzer guesses that my blog is written by a woman (59%), but "is quite gender neutral."

Here is my readability level from The Blog Readability Test:

blog readability test

Not very inclusive, eh?

Finally, my blog has no commercial value whatsoever, according to How Much is Your Blog Worth

Bummer, eh?

Also, for a real hoot (thanks again to Helene Blowers), try . My favorite look was my face with Donald Trump's hair:

although I look pretty darn good with Reese Witherspoon's short, wispy blond cut:

but just can't pull off the Gwen Stefani stylized do:

Next time I see my hairdresser, I'm bringing her a copy of me with Reese's hair. Or, maybe, The Donald's.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm Obviously Clueless About Public Libraries

Disclaimer: Not being a degreed librarian but merely a corporate library manager, I only understand public libraries from a patron's point of view. Read the following commentary keeping that in mind.

I read an interesting blog post by Kathy Dempsey about a missed opportunity to market public libraries within a 4-part series on called "Top 20 things librarians in public libraries wish patrons knew or did". I agreed with her, it was a sadly missed opportunity for marketing the "gee whiz, I didn't know you did that" things that libararians can do. One comment on her blog post chided her for criticizing another librarian by failing to see that the article was intended to humanize librarians. Certainly, public librarians must deal with a lot of unfortunate, inconsiderate actions from library patrons that probably make them feel like screaming, "Show some manners, people!" but I have to admit that the title of the article series made me think that something other than a list of wishes for better library etiquette was to follow. I was disappointed that I found myself reading tips for common library courtesy, which, in all fairness, must be not so common if the interviewed librarians overwhelmingly brought them up. I'm guessing, though, that a more thorough probe by the writer of the article into what the interviewed librarians really would like patrons to know/do would have produced 20 more interesting things than the top-of-mind ones listed. Kathy Dempsey alludes to some of those more intriguing concepts in her comment after the last installment of the article.

A friend who is currently looking to re-enter the library workforce recently offered me her insights on various libraries at which she considered seeking employment. I am amazed at how "old school" many of the public libraries which she has considered appear to be. These old school libraries seem to view themselves as an extension of ivory tower academia, rather than operating like organizations responsible for providing value to their taxpayers. Not that they don't provide value, but they can't articulate it. Their visions are weak. They have no marketing plan. Gosh, even universities are acting more like businesses these days because no one wants to plop down big piles of hard-earned cash if they don't see that they are going to be getting good value. People want cutting edge for their money, especially when it is to gain knowledge.

My friend's anecdotes confirm that, like any other type of profession, the library biz has a few innovative thinkers and many who are solidly pedestrian in their thinking. The trouble with the pedestrian view is that it leaves you out on the sidewalk when the window of opportunity begins to close. Sure, information is all the rage and that helps the image of libraries at present, but librarians who don't demonstrate their unique value now will be left in the stacks as end users develop a grass-roots understanding of information through the empirical approach to dealing with it afforded by the post-Web 2.0 world. The more information savvy the end user perceives himself to be, the less he will value a pedestrian-thinking librarian who doesn't see -- or maybe CAN see, but can't describe and market what they do with pizzazz -- beyond the bookshelves or children's story hour.

Librarians connect people with information, wherever it resides: in other people's heads, books, online, or in other media. They can take the increasing amounts of relevant content available to us and help us to extract the best value from it. Librarians who can demonstrate and articulate this unique value will relate to these new self-made information patrons/experts. (Thus, the value of Learning 2.0 and the 23 Things.) And, after all, the new self-made experts pay taxes. In the not too distant future, the millennials who already believe themselves to be savvy about everything, including information, will be deciding the fate of libraries with votes outnumbering those of the boomers. Are the millennials hanging out in libraries (physical or virtual), or are they bypassing them? I don't know the answer to that because I haven't researched it, but it seems that someone must have. In any case, shouldn't public librarians be listing 20 things that appeal to the the information savvy or, at least, to information-savvy wannabes? I'm guessing that reminders to respect personal space and refrain from sneezing on the reference desk don't really resonate with the current information generation. But, I could be completely wrong.

BTW, if you want to read a practical article on basic tips for using your local library wisely, look here. It is written by Jeff Scott, Library Director for the City of Casa Grande Public Library (Casa Grande, AZ).

One fabulous take-away from the "Top 20 things..." article, though, is the reference to The Book of Bunny Suicides. I, of course, have at least a dozen people on my Christmas list who are now going to get that book!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Crazy Busy

September and October are always crazy-busy months for me, so blogging, since it does not directly support keeping my job or my family operational, went right out the window. I'll be getting back to my pursuit of the 23 Things in November.

I did, however, decide to use a tool discovered in my Learning 2.0 journey to create a gift in honor of a relative's "significant birthday." I am now the proud author of a single-copy, vanity press book, published by . I found the software (download) to be very intuitive -- I'm a "forget the manual and jump right in" sort of user, so intuitive software is important to me. My only complaint is that I would have preferred more background and layout options. (I opted for minimalistic all black backgrounds with white lettering. No judgment on whether that's good or bad, but, for some reason, my mind always associates Spinal Tap's Smell the Glove, a.k.a., Black Album, with all black layouts of anything. So, I couldn't help mentally referring to my great literary product as "Black Book: Smell the Ink" when I was putting it together. I'm sure a psychiatrist would have something to say about that.) I suspect, however, that I could have adapted the layouts and backgrounds beyond the obvious had I bothered to read the help messages or poke around the software a bit more. Or, I could have coughed up the money for the paid, rather than the free, download. The time-quality-resources triangle again, eh?

Anyway, the book is better than expected. First, I received it in less than 3 business days -- wow! More importantly, I was a bit concerned about how some fuzzy, old, tiny photos would look when scanned, enlarged, and printed in the book. They look exactly like the originals, so it couldn't be better. Overall, it looks just like a book I might have bought at a quality bookstore. Friends who examined the book today were highly complimentary. I am well pleased; I believe the recipient will be over the moon.

This experience makes me take a fresh look at "NaNoWriMo" (i.e., National Novel Writing Month), too. I've always pined to do it, but haven't taken the plunge yet. Maybe the prospect of a book in hand, a la, could make it more compelling to me. Or maybe I'll write my hack novel in a month that's more convenient for me.

For now, I just need to get back to the blog. I'll be writing, I hope, next month!

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Friday, August 22, 2008

My Avatars

Technology that I find to be insanely useful and fun to use is digital photo processing software. I absolutely love the fact that I never have to trust my negatives to a photo shop or drugstore anymore. It's great to know that even if there is something unappealing in an otherwise great shot (like my kids' dirty socks on the floor when I'm snapping their beautiful smiles or power lines breaking up a beautiful sky), I can simply edit it away. No longer is there great disappointment about bad lighting or poor alignment ruining an important shot; these problems can all be corrected. A few years ago, this would have seemed like an impossible dream. Now, in the same way that the web has made everyone a publisher, digital cameras and photo editors have made everyone a photographer. What an infinitely rich visual history our children will have to share with their progeny!

My home is filled with framed photos: snapshots from our travels B.C. (before children), heirloom photos of ancestors, current family photos. Through the wonders of scanning and photo editors, we have been able to doctor these up to display quality, whether by enhancing the color, removing scratches, or resizing to fit the frame. I've created some montages and put special effects on some of the pictures, which used to cost big money when a photo studio did it for you.

I've been using a digital camera for about 6 years, and there have been leaps and bounds in the ease of manipulating and printing photos. The first software we had was so clunky that I did little more than crop photos, usually with the result of a grainier, poorer quality image. Editing a photo was then a lengthy project. Now, in a matter of moments I can edit photos in a myriad of ways, either with software on my own PC or, better yet, with online tools like (which quite honestly does such a great job at automatically fixing my photos that there is little reason to use anything else). I can even create "art" (see my cool avatars) -- and to think that I used to use paints and pencils for that!

Now, if you really want to see some amazing digital art (not that my avatars aren't fabulous, but...), check out the genius of on his Digistyle website. He also has a great blog.

Where will art and photography go in the next few years? I can't wait to see where technology takes us!

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Fun with Flickr

Ah, now this is good internet:
Cheese aficionados throughout Europe – a Flickr map mashup.

I am constantly amazed by what one can find on the web.

Also while Flickr-ing, I joined the ranks of those who have created a Librarian Trading Card. What do you think?

I also must credit Flickr and onebeatmonsters with giving me access to the somewhat disturbing Angry Librarian photo included in my first post.

Working my way through this Learning 2.0 course is quite fun. Who would have ever thought I'd be pasting my mug on a trading card while sipping tea and clicking through the European cheese landscape?

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Learning 2.0 and the 23 Things: Better Late than Never!

Okay, I admit that I’m late to the party on Learning 2.0 and the 23 Things. I ignored the whole thing when it took off 2 years ago because it didn’t seem like a match for my needs. In the fast-paced business world, learning via playing over a 9-week period with tools that are not in the standard office suite is largely discouraged. If it were a 1-hour, no-nonsense course using behind-the-firewall products, we’d have no issue.

Of course, being an ultra-hip librarian, I’ve been using Web 2.0 technology for a while now, albeit stumbling along and learning the hard way (which probably is my favorite learning style – jump right in!). But, in my behind-the-firewall universe, thinking can become limited. So, despite the "learning by playing" and "large time investment" taboos, I finally decided to check out Learning 2.0 to seek inspiration in the outside-the-firewall world, nabbing whatever cleverness I can find for my inside-the-firewall applications. I will try to be diligent about doing the exercises, although my instinct is to power-learn through them in days rather than weeks (always trying to reduce cycle time…), so I may take a few shortcuts and jump around the curriculum a bit.

As directed, I viewed the 7½ Habits of Highly Successful Lifelong Learners. (BTW, I think I need to visit the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County because it’s definitely NOT your father’s public library. I also want to buy Articulate.) Here’s my assessment of what’s hardest and easiest for me.

Habit #4 – Have Confidence in Yourself as a Competent, Effective Learner.
No doubt, I believe I can learn anything that interests me. I’m a Chemist by degree, but forged career well outside of a lab. I learned everything from database and web design (in the days when it was a matter of typing straight HTML code and JavaScript into Notebook!) to business management on the job. I learned well, too. On the flip side, because endeavors like cooking don’t interest me in the least, I can barely make toast.

Habit #1 – Begin with the End in Mind.
Goal setting, per say, isn’t a problem for me. In fact, I excel at setting ambitious business goals and executing to achieve them. My problem lies more in the difference between goal setting in my work, family, and public life and goal setting just for me alone. I need to work on investing dedicated effort to achieve goals that are just for my own benefit. My excuse is familiar: I have little “me” time. I don’t believe the nonsense that you can just “make the time” – I’m an efficiency expert and still can’t create time. When someone figures out a way to extend the day past 24 hours I’ll be all over it; until then, we’ll have to rely on balancing the well-known business triumvirate of resources, time, and quality.

On the job, if I have a work-related goal that is inflexibly under-resourced and I am unwilling to sacrifice quality, the only solution is to extend the timeline, steadily and persistently continuing the course at a slower pace until the goal is achieved. On personal goals, however, when that timeline starts to feel excruciating long, I have a tendency to either abandon the quest outright or become so intermittent in its execution that my efforts to achieve the goal begin to quietly sputter and fade. I can do better.

Yep, I’m filling out the learning contract. The details are private, but I’m going to give my best personal effort at reaching a “me” goal.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Pay for News? (My first public blog post in my Learning 2.0 journey)

A recent report from Outsell, “”, has caused some muttering among corporate librarians. The reason behind the ranting is that this publication is being heavily cited, often out of context, making some executives question, for example, why they need a paid news subscription when “good enough” news is free on the web.

"Don't you dare question me!"
Angry Librarian
Originally uploaded to Flickr by

Outsell's worthy intent is to force information professionals to think of their business in new ways. My guess is that the furor is not so much about the content of the Outsell report, but the unintended consequence of the publication making executives ask uncomfortable questions of their corporate librarians. To me, evaluating, building, and communicating value is my most important job responsibility. I (perhaps strangely) enjoy the opportunity to measure and calculate value and absolutely love each opportunity to present our great results to higher ups. Maybe the muttering librarians agree, but are too humble to toot their own value horns. Maybe their executives never asked tough questions before. (Are there executives like that?) Maybe they don’t have regular vehicles for communicating value to their executives. Maybe their bosses aren’t clever enough to understand value that doesn’t directly hit the bottom line. Or, just maybe, Outsell hit its mark.

An enlightened (read: shares my views!) acquaintance who is an executive for a manufacturer of OTC products said it well:

“I am a big believer in the corporate library/information group and the value it brings. I think we should question its value regularly and adapt to changing conditions…If a report gets a senior executive to… [take interest], we should welcome the opportunity to answer…”

Heck, adapting to changing conditions is what makes being a corporate librarian fun! There’s great sport in determining how changing technology and business conditions can make use of business content more effective. After all, this is the information age – wake up and enjoy it, all ye mutterers!

I do believe that information wants to be free and that, someday, even “premium” content will be (i.e., no more pay-per-article). However, premium access, delivery, and analysis options (i.e., pay-for-utility) are of significant value to business users because they save time, reveal harder-to-recognize leads, and close critical content gaps. The smart publishers are working on differentiating themselves not by continuing to hold their basic content hostage, but by providing interfaces and tools that will integrate content with daily work processes and decision-making triggers in seamless, AI-powered ways. In the not-too-distant future, business information systems are going to be really, really cool – even cooler than they already are.

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