Friday, January 30, 2009

Delicious...or merely appetizing?

Here's my take on Thing 13, which demonstrates tagging and folksonomies via : Interesting, but not thrilling. Perhaps my opinion will change with further use.

What I like:

  • Non-browser-specific bookmark portability (obviously)
  • Ease and flexibility of bookmarking and tagging (less redundant and easier than IE)
  • Ability to share/collaborate with others by using a unique tag
Well, obviously, I like the portability of the links. However, since I use 2 computers 99% of the time (home and work) and the browser-specific bookmarks I have are unique to the types of things I do on those particular computers, not having portable bookmarks has rarely been a hindrance for me. There are the occasional circumstances when this can be handy, though. There are other ways around this hindrance, too, that don't involve Delicious.

I do like the nice little browser buttons that let me bookmark a web page in a click and tag it immediately. This is infinitely better than clicking Favorites/Add to Favorites in Internet Explorer (IE) and then sorting within folders. It's nice to not be limited to either choosing one place to file the link (i.e., choosing the equivalent of one tag) or having to repeatedly copy the link into multiple folders. In the Delicious model, one link can have many tags. This is a very good thing. BTW, I found the IE manual installation to work best for me, since there are many controls on my work computer. (See Installing bookmarklets on Delicious.)

I wouldn't have immediately (eventually - yes, since my library roots are in database design and this is a basic principle, but immediately - no) thought of creating a unique tag to collaborate on a research project, except that I recently was following tweets from the Consumer Electronics Show that were tagged with #CES09, so the whole concept just happened to be top of mind. This idea also was stated in Otter Group's podcast, tutorial. This could be handy when slamming together rush research with the library team, although the confidentiality issue would need to be addressed; I need to investigate that issue further.

What I don't like: using it as a research tool. When I started following tag trails, I didn't find anything better or faster than I found by searching traditionally. The trails are going to be, by nature, irregular. Consider, someone needs to tag a page for you to find it in the first place, and unless you know the tagger (that might happen), their credibility and tagging prowess is questionable. I waded through a lot of muck only to find some of the bookmarks I already had on a very straightforward topic. I can't really see myself following Delicious tags for research unless I am really desperate. I guess I'm not the sort who holds the blind hope that if I comb through the sand on the beach long enough, I might just find a real shrunken head.

For some reason, my Delicious network badge only shows up in my browser when I refresh the page. I hope you can see it, below:

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Unimpressed with Rollyo

Well, here is the first thing in Learning 2.0, Thing 12, that has been thoroughly unimpressive. It is a tool called that allows you to "build your own search engine" that simultaneously searches only the internet sites that you select. I tried it, both with custom engines that I created and some of those available on the site. I thought the results were poor -- too many irrelevant hits.

So, I went to Google, looking for a better option, and, as usual, Google did not disappoint. worked beautifully. There are some who disagree. (I prefer the simplicity of Google.)

In my side-by-side test of Rollyo versus Google custom search using the exact same sources, Google gave me precise and 100% accurate results, with the relevant content highlighted in the results, so that I did not even need to go to the returned site to verify. Rollyo gave me a bunch of irrelevant results and didn't highlight enough in the results page to help me to know why it returned those results. I'm sold...on Google. As an added feature, Google immediately asked me if I wanted to add a widget to my iGoogle page for my new search engine. In one more click, my custom search widget was ready to go forevermore on my iGoogle site. Hooray!

So, here are my two custom search engines that simultaneously search the two most popular listings of school closings in Cleveland:

search of Cleveland school closings
VS.Google search of Cleveland school closings:

Which do you think works better (and looks infinitely cooler)? I wish I would have set this up earlier this week -- my children's school was not listed on the source from which I receive text alerts, but it was listed on the other. It would have saved an unnecessary trip in blustery weather conditions.

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Monday, January 26, 2009


Late to the party on yet another one. Yep, I've known about for a long time. Yep, people I know and respect, including my library co-workers, use it enthusiastically. Yep, it was yet another thing I never got around to trying, until now (Thing 11).

Well, now I've tried it. I added 10 books in a matter of seconds. Slick!

If I can add a few books from our extensive personal library a little at a time, perhaps we can stop buying duplicates. I'm going to need the paid lifetime subscription to LibraryThing.

You see, my husband and I are books. The only way I can avoid overindulgence is staying away from bookstores, cold turkey. One might think that Amazon would be online crack for me, but Amazon is my utilitarian version of a bookstore; I am less likely to overindulge because I usually am seeking something in particular. But in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I am swept away by the entire sensory experience of browsing: gazing upon tall shelves of beautiful and colorful covers, floating on the scent of new paper and coffee, feeling the smoothness of the pages and hearing them crackle ever so gently as a book is opened for the first time. I love the aesthetics of books as much as (sometimes more than, if it is a truly beautiful book) the content. Put me in the classics section of Borders and I will walk out with a big bag of books and a huge dent in my credit card.

My husband is more likely to fall off the wagon in Half Price Books, as he always entertains the notion that he'll find an overlooked first edition by a hailed author buried among the cast-offs of others. In that store, my strategy for virtuousness is restricting myself to the children's section, where I figure my inevitable purchases are, at least, benefitting our household youth. (Truth be told, the kids' books I buy are really for me. My latest overindulgence: The Tales of Beedle the Bard. I read the kids one of the stories. Really.)

I'm going to mull over using LibraryThing professionally. It certainly is cool for personal use.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Return to the 23 Things: RSS

Okay, I need to start jamming on The 23 Things again. It seems appropriate to address RSS and Newsreaders (Things 8 and 9), because I recently had a day from heck that could have been much less irritating if RSS had been used properly.

So, what happened, you ask? Well, I post entries on behalf of a group of other people to a particular internal blog at work. (Trust me, there's a reason.) The blog is in SharePoint which has a clunky blog editor, so my preferred tool for editing and posting entries is MS Word. Using the blog template in Word, I can post to any blog to which I have publishing rights with a simple click of my mouse.

This time, however, it wasn't so simple. I published a new post, and when I went into the blog to ensure that it displayed properly (there often are differences between the preview and the actual post), I saw an error. I went back to Word, fixed the error, and then published a draft copy (i.e., unapproved for general viewing) of the post to the blog. Unfortunately, this triggered a memory problem and I received an error message telling me that the draft could not be published. But that's not what really happened. The draft did publish, crashing Word along the way and corrupting my document. But, on my end, it just looked like Word was slowly trying to save the document. I left Word alone to crunch; it usually is better to let Word finish whatever it's doing and close itself down properly than to force it to abort with the Task Manager. What I didn't realize until my email box started filling up was that Word was stuck in some sort of weird loop and kept republishing the same corrupted draft. I finally had to force Word to close and restart my laptop, thus pulling the plug on that particular problem. Then, I went back into Word, started from scratch to avoid propagating whatever had corrupted the draft, published the new draft, deleted the original post for fear of possible embedded corruption, and, finally, approved the new draft.

So why was my email box filling up? I subscribed to the "alert me" feature for the SharePoint site on which the blog resides so that I would know if any changes were made to the site or its contents. Every time the draft republished, I received an email. These alerts weren't a problem for me; I want to know about every little change. That's the point of the "alert" function. Frankly, if I hadn't done this, it may have taken me longer to figure out what was going on with the endless loop of republished, corrupted drafts.

The problem is that, instead of subscribing to the RSS feed for the blog, some of the readers of the blog also had subscribed via "alert me." So, they, too, received a barrage of emails while Word was going through its endless loop crisis. I received a phone call from a co-worker admonishing, "Stop editing the blog! I've already received 9 emails on it!"

I checked my RSS folder for the blog. It had two new posts in it: the original post (that I deleted for fear of corruption) and the post-systems-disaster corrected version. (Check! RSS working as expected.)

Thus, my next task was sending out a general announcement on how and why to unsubscribe from alerts and subscribe to RSS. (Yes, readers should be blocked from alerts, but that's a whole different story...)

Anyhow, the point is that RSS is a great tool for keeping up on only what you want to know and arranging it a manageable way. If the readers had all been using RSS (as directed when the blog originally launched), my episode with Word's "undocumented feature" would have gone unnoticed by readers.

With respect to the 23 Things, I did, in fact, set up a account a while back and I tried out other readers. I used the search tools and added lots of blog feeds relevant to my work. My conclusion is that having RSS delivered into my Outlook RSS folder works best for me.

While I'm at it, I did Thing 10 as well. Obviously, if you read my other posts, I've been doing Thing 10 unwittingly for a while now. Here's my official result, though:

I used , which was very user friendly.

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