Friday, May 8, 2009

OpenURL is no joke!

OpenURL is an amazing technology that has succeeded in weaving together large numbers of databases into a functional whole. Key to OpenURL is passing clean data from one database to the SFX database that knows what a library owns. Actually, there is no real difference in my OpenURL results between Google Scholar and Citation Finder, although in the latter case, I would have had to navigate lots of journals with the word nature if I hadn't cut and pasted in the ISSN into Citation Finder. I know from experience that the ISSN will help make SFX much smarter; maybe another user wouldn't think to to that. If you remove metadata elements, like vol, year, issue, then your click into the database will not be very productive. You'll get to the right journal, but have to navigate (drill down) to the correct vol, issue, and article.

The hardest part of this Thing was to find something fun or humorous in Google Scholar. My article on joking relationships is actually an example of how to strip all humor out of what should be fun! Sorry about that...

Fine, G A. "Joking cultures: Humor themes as social regulation in group life." Humor 18.1 (2005):1.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

PBworks??? What gives?

What do I like about wikis? I like the sense of ownership that a group, not just an individual, can have toward a wiki. I like how a wiki can grow organically with a project. I like that you can roll back changes. I like the quirky things you can find on Wikipedia and nowhere else.

What don't I like about wikis? I don't like how their organization can get complicated if one part takes off and other parts are undeveloped. I don't like the learning curve there is with understanding the formatting of say MediaWiki. I don't like how wikis can sit around unused but basically never die and go away.

What really surprised me about doing this Thing was that pbwiki became PBworks. What's up with that? Works? Wasn't that some scaled down MicroSoft software for people who couldn't handle or afford Office? I understand that PBworks has document management and other things you don't usually get with a wiki, but it made me wonder? Is the wiki moving on into the sunset?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thing #8 with my link to Google Docs

Tagging up the Pollak Library

Hmmmm, let me start out with my delicious link:

Tagging is something that is so very obvious as useful in delicious. I mean, there you have your own little bookmarking kingdom where you can call an apple "banana" if you want to. Of course, if you call an apple "banana" you will annoy anyone who is searching for bananas and doesn't want apples, but who cares. Your tags are mainly to help you organize your stuff, and the ability for others to make use of your tags is just a happy side effect. The trick is to get so many people tagging in your system (like delicious does) that quirkiness is rendered statistically unimportant. I think tagging gets to be more of an issue when there is not enough people tagging.

That gets to another issue. Unless someone plans to come back multiple times to a place where they have tagged, why would anyone bother to tag stuff? Where's the motivation. One reason seems to have something to do with self-identity and the urge to express oneself through one's interests. But in an academic setting, students are not usually identifying themselves through their information searching, which is usually externally not internally determined, e.g. professors set the task and often the subject of research. One exception is tagging resources with specific course numbers, which I can definitely see them doing. They may also want to tag to get around the fact that some subject headings are just plain useless. Faculty (& grad students) are different from undergrads insofar as they have long-term research interests, and I could see them tagging up WorldCat or other big databases with all kinds of esoteric tags. But again, there has to be a critical mass of taggers, I think, or the utility to the user community is going to be less than it could be.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Firefox add-ons and browser crowding craziness

Browser add-ons/plug-ins are not new to me. I haven't been able to live without a Google toolbar or delicious in my browser for quite a while. Too many can get crazy. I particularly dislike the way that the book burro hovers around like an annoying yellow cloud, so after trying that add-on last year some time, I ditched it. In fact too many plugins can make the browser so fat at the top, you want to chuck the whole thing. I know I can hide any toolbar I want, but if I don't see it, I don't remember to unhide it. I do like tools that are slimmer and more subtle. I tried Email This for the first time thanks to this "Thing" and I love how you can just right click to bring that up when you need it. Very sweet. I also have to admit that LibX is quite wonderful. I just wish it didn't install an entire extra toolbar cuz I really don't need or want a big gigantic search box taking up so much of my screen space. If we could make that a little smaller I'd be happier. Leaving my own preferences aside for the moment, and thinking about your general user, it seems like LibX is definitely worth promoting, but it does have a learning curve to understand what it does. Will's video was helpful. I wonder, do we know how many people have downloaded that plugin? Maybe we have tried to stuff too much into it??? Just wondering....

Friday, April 10, 2009

I got my Jing on!

I have been Jinging for a while now, and I think it is my absolute favorite productivity tool. I have used it with numerous techs to help them help me troubleshoot, and they love it when I send them a Jing video showing step by step what stupid thing I (or the technology I'm using) is doing to screw things up. I have started to use it with library instruction classes as part of an enrichment piece in the Blackboard course site or elsewhere. I use it in IM reference sessions to show a quick tip or trick. I also make use of it a lot in the online class I teach to show students how to do something, or explain something complicated about the course. My only complaint is the free version's five minute limit, which, while good enough most of the time, is occasionally too short.

Here is an example of a quick video made to show how to use Find Articles:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I am all for visuals and basically think text is yawn and pictures are ooohhhh. I think most students feel the same way. We have some great use of photographs (thanks to Mikey) on our web site already in the banners. But we could use a lot more. My favorite pics are of my girl...