It’s been almost a week since I posted about my fifth “thing.” There are several other things in the School Library Journal’s list that I’d still like to try, but for this assignment I only had to do five. I feel that I’m getting closer to actually tweeting instead of just using Twitter to follow bands (“wait, Brand New is playing a handful of shows in PA after Easter, must go!”) and that would not have been possible without the nudges towards Web 2.0 that were part of this project.
The thing I found most useful personally was RSS. Having my favorite blogs gathered in one place and waiting for me is ridiculously convenient. I may occasionally need to click on a link to see an embedded video, but it’s one click and, besides, I know it’s something I want to see.
The things that I think could be most useful professionally are the ones that lend themselves to promotion: Facebook, YouTube, and even Twitter. I mean that both in terms of self-promotion (job searches, etc.) and promoting your library and its services. Setting up a Facebook page and a Twitter account for your library is an easy way to get the word out about upcoming events, new services, and even changes in operating hours (such as longer summer hours). Additionally, you could film story time or an author event and post a condensed version on YouTube. It’s extremely important that libraries remind the public and the powers that be of all the good they do for their communities.
Today’s (final) thing is Flickr. Not being a big photography buff, I had never used Flickr before. I was impressed with how easy it was to set up an account and start uploading photos. I also appreciated that Flickr didn’t require me to create a brand new user name and password, I could simply log in using my Google account information.
I had taken pictures of my two birthday cakes with my iPhone and decided to upload those pictures to Flickr, mostly so I could write a blog post about the crazy Neapolitan cake I made myself and include a picture. I ran into trouble when I tried to embed the picture from Flickr. I couldn’t seem to find a URL that the WordPress image uploader was happy with. This may have had something to do with the fact that it was almost 1:00 in the morning. I had no trouble uploading the image directly to WordPress from my hard drive, though, so I did that so I could finish the post and go to bed. About 30 minutes ago I tried the blogging feature in Flickr, and that was fairly easy as well. I was able to blog a picture of the ice cream cake I had with my parents and aunt on Sunday. Neither one of these experiences is exactly what I am looking for, however. I’m sure that, as I gain more blogging experience, I’ll become a pro at including pictures.
Today’s “thing” is video sites, specifically YouTube, the granddaddy of them all. (Interesting side note: one of the founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley, went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, my alma mater. Not that I ever met the guy, I just think it’s cool that one of the YouTube guys went to IUP. Sadly this fact is not widely known and has done nothing to erase the confusion most people feel when they first see or hear the name Indiana University of Pennsylvania. It’s a PA state school located in the town of Indiana, PA; it’s really not that complicated. But I digress wildly.) Of all the “things” I’ve covered so far, YouTube is the only one that I embraced immediately upon learning of it. Like most people, I use YouTube almost exclusively for entertainment purposes, but I see it’s potential for libraries, professional organizations, and education. A quick search led me to the YouTube channels for the ALA, the Library of Congress, and the Free Library of Philadelphia (whose most recent posting featured the Phillie Phanatic!).
As I’ve said before, blogging is new to me and so is the embedding of media into blogs. Luckily, the process to embed videos in WordPress is pretty simple. I ran into a bit of trouble when I first tried to embed the video because WordPress didn’t accept the shortened URL that YouTube gave me when I hit the Share button, but I got around that by simply copying the actual URL for the page. Everything seems to be working just fine now.
Today’s “thing” may be called social networking, but it was really about Facebook. Even when this activity was created (in 2007), I believe most people had at least heard of Facebook. I certainly had, but I managed to remain a Facebook hold-out for another two years. In the end, I realized that 95% of my family and friends were on Facebook and it seemed like a convenient way to keep in touch, so I caved and joined.
I sometimes wonder if I would have joined Facebook earlier if I had still been in college when it launched (and required an email address from a .edu domain). I doubt that I would have. For one thing, I never joined MySpace. The other, much bigger, reason is that I am a very private person (also the major reason I never started a blog before). My instincts toward privacy also explain why I have a relatively small number of Facebook “friends.” My Facebook friends can be divided into three categories, family, actual friends, and people I went to school with, with a couple random others who don’t fit in any of those boxes. You will notice that there is no category called co-workers, this is because my rule is to not Facebook friend someone until one or both of us leaves the company. That rule may change someday, but it has served me well thus far.
This “thing” paid a lot of attention to Facebook apps. Even though I’ve used Facebook for two years, I almost never use apps. That’s mainly due to a disconnect between the information apps want access to and the information I think they should have access to. People have sent me hearts and drinks in the past, but I never reciprocate because I don’t believe the app they used needs to see my profile, my wall, and whatever else the app wants access to. For the purposes of this “thing” I decided to investigate the different apps available. As far as I can tell, most of them are ridiculous, but I did find Goodreads, a sort of personal library. I remembered that one of my old roommates was on Goodreads, so I checked it out. I felt the familiar unease when I read the list of things Goodreads wanted access to in Facebook, but I created a Goodreads account and linked it to my Facebook account. I like what I’ve seen of Goodreads thus far and will probably keep my account there, but I’ll probably delete the Goodreads Facebook app.
I first heard of today’s “thing,” podcasts, years ago. Like RSS feed aggregators, I didn’t really see the point – my iPod was for listening to music, why would I want to listen to people talking? Once I started listening to podcasts, however, I quickly saw the error of my ways. Unlike RSS feed aggregators, I started listening to podcasts three years ago.
I started listening to podcasts three months after moving to Tampa. I was about to start a new job and suddenly found myself feeling kind of homesick. I remembered my buddy Dan telling me that the Preston & Steve Show, a morning radio show in Philly I had listened to off and on for 10 years, made each of their shows available as a podcast a couple of hours after they went off the air. I went to the iTunes Store, searched for “Preston & Steve,” and subscribed to the podcast. It was perfect! Listening to Preston & Steve, even if every show was a day late, gave me a sense of normalcy at my new job and allowed me to feel connected to the Delaware Valley. That connected feeling became even more important to me later that year when the Phillies and Rays were in the World Series and the local news was full of stories in which my team was the enemy.
In the years since July 2008 I have started (and stopped) listening to many other podcasts. My current favorites are The Nerdist and NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! I have recently given up several podcasts that I love (including This American Life and WTF with Marc Maron) because I have too many back episodes sitting around in my iPod.
This “thing” asked us to look for new (to us) podcasts, especially those that are library related. When I searched the iTunes Store for podcasts containing the word “library” in the title, I discovered that lots of public libraries have podcasts. Most of these podcasts are recordings of lectures and/or readings that take place at the library. The Free Library of Philadelphia, for example, has the Free Library Podcast, described as “an easy way to participate in the author events and lectures that take place at the Central Library.” Interestingly, the most recent Free Library Podcast featured Eli Pariser talking about his new book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, about the behind-the-scenes personalization processes at sites like Google and Facebook. The book sounds like a fascinating read for anyone, but especially for librarians and future librarians. It has gone on my to be read list.
Even though the last thing I needed was yet another podcast to listen to, I ended up with two as a result of this “thing.” I thoroughly enjoyed the most recent episode of the Free Library Podcast and I checked out the Grammar Girl podcast that is referenced on the webpage for this “thing.” I found Grammar Girl to be interesting, informative, and each episode is less than 10 minutes long (bonus!).
The first “thing” I tackled (here) involved learning about RSS feeds and readers. I first heard of RSS and Google Reader years ago, but I never bothered to try it out. I never really saw the point of going somewhere other than my favorite blogs to read my favorite blogs. (Let’s face it, that does seem counter-intuitive and more than a little goofy.) Less than 24 hours after signing in to Google Reader for the first time I am already a convert.
First things first, I chose to use Google Reader because I already have a Google account (thank you, Gmail). I suppose by that logic I should have chosen Blogger over WordPress, but after comparing the two I preferred WordPress. Upon signing in to Google Reader for the first time I was informed that I was being “followed” by someone I assumed was my brother (after following up with him, I’m not so sure). That was odd, but not that big of a deal. I decided to ease myself into the RSS feed aggregator pool by subscribing to my favorite Phillies blogs. It took less than a minute to subscribe to three blogs – and most of that time was spent locating the RSS icons. It was so easy that I just kept adding all the blogs I could think of and within minutes I had the contents of a dozen or so of my favorite blogs collected for my perusal.
As I said above, I am already a convert. I’ve logged in to Google Reader several times today and it is so convenient. I love how easy it is to jump from blog to blog! In fact, I remembered a couple of blogs that I haven’t subscribed to yet, so I must add them.
23 Things is a program to learn about Web 2.0 technologies (blogs, wikis, etc.). The original program, created by Helene Blowers at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, can be found here.
Since the original was created in 2006, many organizations have created their own 23 Things programs. For the purposes of this class exercise, I will be following the program created by the School Library Journal.