Saturday, October 11, 2008

Web who.0 - Journeys end?

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step

Well, after this long journey, I must admit to feeling rather like a mama polar bear, emerging blinkingly into the spring sunshine from the winter hibernation, new babes in tow. The first days of this exploration did indeed seem a long time ago, and I know there were a number of us questioning the wisdom of the quest. But persevere we have, and we have learnt much along the way. Helen Keller once said "Life is either a daring adventure - or nothing."

It's hard to pick highlights, so maybe I'll start with the lowlights, as they are quite fresh in my mind. I can't see that I'll hurry back to places like bebo, facebook or myspace for more explorations, apart from taking a peek at the NSL community there. Rollyo is also something I can't see a great deal of use for, personally, as well as finding it a bit clumsy to use.

RSS I still haven't come completely to grips with, but as I have moved on and done more exploring I have used it a little more, and can see the possibilities and usefulness of it as a way of keeping up-to-date with various topics that are of particular interest, and which you won't necessarily have a chance to seek out yourself. So not quite singing it's praises yet, but... (and you can guess where my quest here will focus on).
Exercises I did enjoy were much like some others whose comments I have read - Generators and YouTube were a lot of fun, places you can too easily while away hours and hours of time, being quite unsociable in the process if you're not careful. LibraryThing I will also probably continue to use. E-books was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, although this isn't a format I can picture myself using for my reading pleasure. I will have to remember to revisit Zoho and master some more of it's tools. I may be doing this the wrong way, but I have difficulty dropping images to my posts in the place I would prefer them, something Zoho is good for. Yet another skill to work on. Flickr and wikis are also places I will remember to come back to for some more exploring, once I have got over the fact we don't 'have' to anymore.
Some things I am still not convinced about are technorati and Clever sites, and I can see their usefulness, but not for me I feel. Mashups are something I still need lots of practice with, but I can't imagine returning here just to 'play'.
So what have I learned? Life truly is a mystery. What gives sense to it is learning - learning that leads to insight and then to understanding. Irrespective of how long in the tooth we may be, all of us must be prepared to learn. Challenge assumptions - explore beliefs. Discover new trails; revisit old ones, and where needed - make fresh tracks. Let the pack sing out a collective howl of thanks to our alpha leaders, aka the NSL Web 2.0 Admin Team, who have marked out a path through the snow, mushed the way ahead and kept the pack (mostly) on task.
However, there are those among us who have ranged the rugged wilderness of cyberspace, on edge. Cautious and ever watchful - hackles up, neck ruff raised, noses lifted to the four winds. On guard - alone and independent. The lone maverick wolf - fringe guardian of the pack, curious but mistrustful of the material, and alert to all - seen and unseen - that flows by.
Just as wolves have been reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, this Web 2.0 experience has reintroduced me to a professional landscape and convention I thought I knew well. However, on occasions I have felt like a recently released wolf might, liberated at last and left to fend for myself in an environment culturally familiar, yet disconcertingly foreign - all at the same time. I sought to avoid traps that could waylay me on the journey - and have only lost a little bit of fur along the way.
So - has it been worth it? Sometimes. I've really enjoyed the creative process week by week, thinking about the images and quotations I've used to illustrate my ideas - an acknowledgment to the innate and intuitive wisdom of the Great Spirit, and the connectedness of all things - a trait also inherent in canis lupus. The duties to consider the great drifts of information along this trail has been exhausting at times, and not entirely rewarding - akin at times to when the alpha leaders return to the den after the hunt - unrewarded! Owhoooo - no meat on the bone there! As H D Thoreau so aptly said - "In wildness is the preservation of the world". Which leads us to a question - will lupi not the olive oil continue in the blogosphere, or fade back into the timberlands? Now - that's a mystery.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

All aboard the Social Wave @ the Library

"You might as well expect rivers to run backwards as any man born free to be contented penned up"

Well - what can be said about all these social network sites that our younger generation(s) can't seem to get enough of? I've looked at a few of the library sites but none have really invited me in. Some didn't link, others hadn't been updated for some considerable time - nothing like information about events that are a year or more old to make you shut the door on that one! Others had so much, it made your eyes blur. Like anything in this tech-age, the tools - and we have discovered what a wealth of these there are - are great if they are used well, but you do need to spend time and effort into making these work for your site. I didn't see many comments on the several library myspace and bebo pages I visited, and I admit to feeling jaded over my explorations. There is just too much out there, and after dipping in to places that hold no appeal, you begin to see what a challenge it is to create something that will grab and hold the attention of the net-kids.

I did find Beth Evans' article "Your space or MySpace?" an interesting read, and I learned some new words - Millennials; "screen-agers" - and I do agree how easily we librarians can suffer "paralysis by analysis" - refusing to move forward into new ventures because we overthink. For any library thinking of setting up one of these network accounts, you need to decide why you are doing it, and have a clear idea of what you want to do with it, and how you will use it to interact with your younger patrons. Don't just do it because everyone else is, and you think it's 'a good idea'.There are endless possibilities as far as what and how you can attract these "screen-agers" to your site, but with so much competition out there in so many forms, you need to have some goal in mind when you begin. Once you do begin - don't forget the on-going needs of resourcing such a project. Libraries and librarians have never been afraid to jump on the next wave, but we sometimes struggle to stay afloat for the journey, or when it moves to the next chapter. So yes, I think there is a place for libraries to have a presence on bebo, Facebook, MySpace, etc, sitting alongside our more traditional roles - it gives another means of entering our "community living-rooms", but in a rather more "virtual" way.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Exercise # 21 - HELP - all this socialisation

"A mirror reflects a man's face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses".Proverbs 27:19 (The Bible)

I will confess I hadn't been looking forward to this 'Discovery Exercise' with much enthusiasm, and my journey here has done little to change that feeling. Unlike countless millions, I don't feel an urge to sign up to one of the 'social networking' sites - I prefer to keep my profile somewhat anonymous (or as anonymous as one can be around the NSL community). The world has became voyeuristic enough with mobile phones, YouTube and various other means and modes of technology that we all seem to be hooked in to now, whether we want to be or not. I didn't find myspace very appealing - I tried looking up a few things, mostly of a musical nature, but admit to not being drawn to voyage any deeper in to this space. The peek at Facebook was indeed no more than a peek, as it looks like you have to sign up before you can go anywhere? - a big turnoff for me. To top this off, I was very disconcerted on my dip into Auckland City Libraries bebo page, when I went to follow a lead that looked interesting - and behold, 2/3 of my 'true-life' name was already staring at me from the screen - and I know I had not typed it there. Talk about "Ghost in the machine" - what happened to Privacy here? Needless to say, this promptly halted any further excursions for this exercise, when earlier I'd thought bebo could be the most appealing of these "networks". Maybe it's a generational thing, but my enthusiasm rather too quickly waned. Since embarking on these '23 exercises' I have already felt neglectful of my 'actual reality' social network, small as it is, yet at times I've also experienced the "thrill" of getting caught up in what often seems like a "virtual reality" world. I can see just how easy and totally addictive this can become, without you even realizing it. It all helps to reinforce my thoughts that you can never truly "hide" from the world - "You can run but you can't hide" definitely rings true here. Or should that be "you can click but you can't hide" - add another can of worms to the ever-expanding network of global sharing. Not forgetting the matter of once you are joined - how do you go about "un-joining" - I've heard that is no easy task, if it's even possible at all??
I feel I have woven all manner of threads through the Web, and left many trails over these past weeks, signing up to this and that - all those usernames and passwords - I was truly beginning to wonder who I was. Perhaps the idea of assigning everyone with a barcode at birth isn't such a silly idea after all! I have now got to a point where I need to reconnect with my 'Flesh and Blood' social network - including a recently retraced friend from nearly 20 years ago - tracked down through the rather more conventional online means of the telephone book. Thus, I will take time out to ponder my joining the 'virtual' social space. I'm not ruling out a return to do some more explorations here, but it's not "myspace" right now. One small step for this lupe at a time...

"It's said that Crazy Horse had the power to dream himself into the real world - and leave the illusion behind"

J.D. Blackfoot, from his album "The song of Crazy Horse" (1973)
(You can click the album cover and see a YouTube clip of the long version - 20 minutes, the complete side 1 - of this song. There is also a shorter 10 minute version on YouTube)

Friday, October 3, 2008

e-book - see/hear/read - Where's the Book?

"...each day mankind and the claims of mankind slipped farther from him. Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call , mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest."

The Call of the wild (Jack London 1876-1916), 1903 - Chapter 6 "For the love of a man"

Well for the last half-dozen or so years at least, there has been talk that e-books will herald the death of the book as we have known it for the last millennium or so. However, after delving into the world of the 'alternative format' book, I don't think we need roll out the black arm-bands, or light the fires, just yet. The written word is still at the heart of all these formats, and as long as people continue to write, and there are still eager-beavers waiting to share in their tales of wonder and imagination, that flag will continue to wave. Having said that, though - it is amazing the choice we now have in how we read the wealth of literature that exists, and to be reassured that these various formats are contributing to the preservation of, and extending the reach in ways probably never ever considered in the wildest imaginations of some of the ancient scribes who first penned those works.

I had forgotten just how long Project Gutenberg has been going, and this was my first real look right "into" it. I searched for Jack London, as he is the first author to really make an impression on me when I first discovered reading. I devoured "Call of the Wild" and "White Fang" back then (perhaps that explains why I have such a bent for dogs wild cousin the wolf?), before digressing to "Robinson Crusoe" and other such classics. I hadn't realized Jack London had such a catalogue of works, and browsing the "pages" of these old favourites has rekindled my interest in his writing, so it will be a visit to the "Stack" to search out some of this wonderful stuff. I was also curious to see if under "language" there would be an entry under 'Maori', and was heartened to find one title there. It is the story of "Hinemoa" and the information that is given with entries is well presented, although I would have liked to have known a little more about the provenance of this particular text. Mention of the assistance by Victoria University of Wellington/Te Whare Wananga o te Upoko o te Ika a Maui reminded me of that institutions own project, which is well worth exploring for New Zealand texts. Among their ever-growing catalogue, you can find the 54 works that make up the "Official history of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945', and the latest addition is volumes 1 & 6 (vols 2-5 will follow at a later date) of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Volume 1 "Wellington Provincial District" weighs 5.1 kilograms in hard-copy - imagine if that fell on your toe! Small mercy then that this is available for perusal online - one small triumph for "Health and Safety" in the library stacks.

I have rambled on enough now about this, and there is still Google Books, Kindle, LibriVox... I have dipped into these as well, and am impressed by the array of ways to access/view/listen/download. But for me, nothing can yet beat curling up with a lovely cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate - sadly a glass of wine would put me straight to sleep - with puss (1, 2, 3 & 4) for company, reading text and turning the page of a tree long since pulped, and floating off in to dreamland (some might call it dream-er land, but what's wrong with that). On that note I will bid goodnight, and get off home to afore-mentioned Puss 1, 2, 3 & 4, who have been known to masquerade as 'wolf in sheep's clothing'. ..

"...there was about him a suggestion of lurking ferocity, as though the Wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept."