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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