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I use old technology

September 8, 2012 Comments off

CC image from Wikimedia CommonsEarlier this week, one of the storage closets at my library was given a (late summer) spring cleaning. It was like an archaeological dig. We re-discovered things that caused us to pause, think hard, and have to ask, “What is this? What was it used for?” Some things we figured out. Others? Well…we just gave up and moved on. Put simply: It was a blast. Forget the fact that we had a library to run. We had hidden treasures to find!

Two particular items that we unearthed from the shadows of the closet were an 80’s-era touch tone phone and what had to be one of the first laptops ever used at our library (a circa-1996 NEC Versa 2435CD notebook). I’m a librarian, so I immediately knew what we needed to do. Make a joke, of course. I proceeded to take a picture of the equipment sitting on my desk and posted it to Facebook with the following caption:

I couldn’t resist, and it provided some mid-week comic relief for a number of my friends to boot. (The ever-helpful librarian after all) OK, so it was a tongue-and-cheek reaction, but it got me thinking about how much I actually DO use “old” technology on a regular basis.

We live in a disposable society–particularly when it comes to our technology. When I walk out of the store after having bought a shiny new mobile phone, I’m already planning for when I will be back to retire it for an even shinier new phone with an improved data plan. When it begins to take more than 120 seconds for my laptop to turn on and let me double-click into my virtual world, I want to start window shopping. If I’m two software upgrades behind, bless my heart.

Before you label me a Luddite or technophobe, hear me out. I love new technological toys and advancements. How liberating it is to cloud store my files and be able to access them from anywhere with an internet connection–even if I don’t have my laptop or a folder stuffed with paper documents with me. And I was immensely thankful last week that I was able to use FedEx overnight delivery to send a time-sensitive document to Pittsburgh and did not have to settle for the Pony Express. Long live the growth of advanced and improved technologies! What I am recognizing here is the fact that alongside the new technologies, I still use and depend on many things that have to be considered old technologies. Cases in point:

  1. I used a hammer last weekend to hang a framed picture on the wall.
  2. A needle — one of the most ancient of technologies — was my tool of choice this summer when I discovered one morning that my shirt was missing a button.
  3. At my house we keep a classic and seasoned pocket calculator in the junk drawer for quick access (the thing is far older, by the way, than this year’s college freshmen).
  4. Every day I trust my life to not one but four of a millennia-old device — the wheel — on my way to work and back.
Actual artifacts I still use

So, yes, I use old technology, and that makes me ponder: Why do some technologies remain timeless while others become so quickly outdated? One answer: Usefulness. Let me bring this back to the library world for an illustration. Many library catalogs now offer the ability to send a catalog record to a mobile phone via text message.

The “Send via Text Message” feature is a handy way of bringing the book’s call number with you to the shelves to retrieve the book without having to engage in a cram session of memorizing the call number (which I often forget before I get to the book stacks). With that said, the classic golf pencil and scrap paper also remain effective tools for this. Not so much, granted, if I have to leave the computer to locate a pencil (and a sharpener because, of course, it would need it) and then run around looking for a scrap piece of paper in every trash receptacle I can find. But strategically placed next to the computer, yes, the pencil and scrap paper work beautifully. Effectiveness trumps age. (Not to mention the fact that the 4″x4″ scrap paper stack provides a way of recycling paper left abandoned at the copiers.)

So as society continues to develop and use (rightfully so) new technologies that improve our ability to accomplish tasks, let us give thanks. But let us also remember to pay homage to those technologies that are “long in the tooth” but continue to serve us well.

How do you blend the use of old technologies with the new?

Categories: Technology Tags: ,

Following the Computers in Libraries Conference Online

March 21, 2011 Comments off

Computers in Libraries 2011Once again, this year, I will not be attending the Computers in Libraries (CIL) conference in D.C. Bummer for me, really, because it is such a great conference for libraryland.

For those who may not be familiar with the Computers in Libraries conference, the website describes it this way:

The conference program is filled with ideas, innovative practices, tips, and techniques for identifying community needs and opportunities as well as designing and delivering strategic and creative services that are of primary importance to our communities. The emphasis is on creating strategic value for our user communities and using new web tools to build innovative and priority services.

CIL 2011 kicked off this morning. If you are like me and (1) are not at CIL 2011 and (2) wish you were, there is hope thanks to online connections. Here’s a quick rundown of 4 ways that we can follow CIL 2011 online:

  1. LibConf.com – A very handy blog provided by Information Today (who organizes the conference). It provides access to a lot of great information and resources about/from the conference (especially in the Computers in Libraries section). Some of the goodies you will find there are listed below.
  2. Twitter – Following tweets with the hashtag #cil11. This can be done several ways. You can follow the tweets feeds at LibConf.com or TweetChat.
  3. USTREAM Computers in Libraries Channel – Live streaming (complete with live chat) of the 3 keynote addresses. If you miss the live streams, the videos are usually archived at USTREAM for later viewing. I imagine that will be the case for CIL 2011 live streams. (Note: The Monday morning keynote speaker, James Crawford from Google Books, is MIA due to a flight delay. However, Information Today stepped up and did a great job of putting together an impromptu panel, and it is being live streamed.)
  4. Blogs – Quite a number of librarians in attendance at CIL 2011 will be blogging from the conference.

These are some good ways to begin connecting online with the conference. (The nice thing is that a number of these resources move beyond simply stalking the conference to interacting with those in attendance.) Other ways will surely surface as the conference continues. Many presenters, for example, will likely post their presentation slide decks at SlideShare.

Go quickly and enjoy. The conference is already underway!

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One Day in the Life of a Mobile Smart Phone

October 22, 2010 1 comment

CC photo by Andy Mihail

It’s nearing the end of another (busy) day. For some reason, I began reflecting on my mobile phone usage today. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading and reflecting on the recent Bobbi Newman and Jason Griffey dueling blog posts about mobile phones and the digital divide. In any case, I decided to list the ways that I used my mobile phone since waking up this morning.

  • Checked email
  • Sent email (work-related and personal)
  • Added a November meeting to my calendar
  • Broadcasted a question to librarians on Twitter and replied to responses
  • Accessed content from my Evernote account
  • Searched the web to find a local restaurant
  • Used Google maps for directions
  • Called AAA emergency roadside service (battery died — all is well now)
  • Called home

For some, that may not be much activity at all. For others, I might be labeled as one of those people who is “always doing something with that phone.” Personally, I can clearly recognize a progressive increase in my use (bordering on dependence in some cases) of the mobile smart phone for many different tasks. For me, in other words, the device has crossed the line between “cool gadget” and “everyday appliance.” That is true for a lot of people that I know–but not everyone.

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Categories: Mobile, Technology Tags: ,

Google Search Feature: Find an ISSN

August 19, 2010 1 comment

I may be way behind the curve here, but today I accidentally discovered another Google Search Feature that I did not know existed. I needed to find an ISSN number for a journal (Jewish Quarterly Review). I was going to head over to our local catalog or WorldCat and look it up. As chance would have it, the cozy Google search box was there waiting for me on my laptop screen, saying (almost audibly), “Hey, John, why don’t you just use my box to look for that International Standard Serial Number? Everybody’s doing it.”

So I did. I entered jewish quarterly review issn and clicked the magic button.

And here’s what I saw display in 0.46 seconds (Is web searching getting slower? Come on!)…

Nice. So nice, that I thought I would try another just to see what happened…and another…and another…and the game was on.

I did discover that the ISSN search feature doesn’t always work. In most cases when it didn’t work, however, the first result usually came from JournalSeek. Just as good. And it seems to work better for popular magazine titles as opposed to scholarly journals (not a scientific study, just a cursory observation).

Granted, if you enter [journal/magazine name] issn into Google, chances are the first result is probably going to give you what you need. I just thought it was interesting that Google (at least sometimes) offers the answer as one of those handy-dandy search features, like unit conversions.

So there you have it–Another tidbit of search knowledge and something to share at the next party you attend.

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Categories: Technology Tags: , ,

QR Coded

August 12, 2010 3 comments

I am finally getting around to sharing the QR Code that I generated for this blog. Here ’tis…

Speaking of Information Blog

Some time ago, I experimented with generating this odd-looking square barcode that is a matrix of black and white square boxes–a QR Code. QR Codes have been around for a while now. Perhaps you’ve seen one on an American Express shipment label. These codes are beginning to be used more and more in everyday applications centered around mobile phone users. QR Codes provide “quick response” (thus, QR) mobile access to information, such as a URL for linking to a website. Maybe you’ve recently seen one in a magazine ad.

And you can generate your own QR Codes. There are several free online QR Code generators available, as well as free QR Code readers (software) available for download to your mobile phone. I created my QR Code using BeeTagg.

What used to be a tracking application for manufacturing, distribution, etc. is becoming a mainstream tool for the general consumer with a mobile smart phone.

Point camera phone. Snap picture. Receive URL. Be whisked away to web content.

Don’t be surprised if you begin to see QR Codes popping up in all sorts of places.

CC images on Flickr (by avlxyz, GlacierGuyMT, goosegrease, and osde8info)
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Categories: Technology Tags: ,

Common Craft Video: Secure Passwords

August 4, 2010 Comments off

Common Craft has released yet another informative video in their signature playful style. Secure Passwords explains “in plain English” the risks involved with the use of weak passwords and offers tips on how to create stronger passwords that are harder for others to guess.

View the video here

The use of secure, or strong, passwords is good practice for us all–especially for our more sensitive online accounts such as banking, email, and shopping. If you are like me, it is quite possible that you have a long (and perhaps growing) list of passwords for your online activity. It is worth the effort to put some thought into creating passwords that are more secure than your pet’s name.

Educators…a new school year is right around the corner (or already here for some). Students from K-12 to college need to know about the importance of strong passwords. This video would be a good way to open up the conversation. We shouldn’t assume that they know.

Parents…this video could set up an excellent teaching moment around the home computer.

Anyone…how strong are your passwords? Need to make some changes? No problem. Most online accounts provide a fairly painless way to manage your account, including the ability to change your password.

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Leveraging Location-Based Social Apps: A Foursquare Example

August 3, 2010 Comments off

I play around with a personal Foursquare account–partly because I enjoy experimenting with tech toys, partly because it is game-like (and I have fun with that), and partly in order to understand something about the service. I would like to be able to have an (at least somewhat) intelligent conversation should it ever come up in my information-consultant role as a librarian.

The other day I was checking-in on Foursquare at a business establishment in the city where I live and noticed an icon pointing me to a “nearby special offer.” I clicked the link to discover the following…

Here is a real-life example of a business where I live that is leveraging their presence on Foursquare to connect with existing/potential customers and draw their business. (For those who are not familiar with Foursquare, users check-in at venues with their mobile device and are awarded points and sometimes “badges” for reaching certain levels of activity. The person with the most check-ins at a venue at any given time is dubbed the “Mayor” of that location.)

So it goes like this: Visit McAlister’s (and enjoy a great meal) as many times as possible, check-in with Foursquare more than anyone else, and enjoy one of those great meals on the house. It’s incentive-filled. Friendly competitive. Simple.

Location-based social networking applications–like Foursquare, Gowalla, BrightKite, and Loopt–are seeing a growth in popularity. (RJMetrics tracks usage data for Foursquare and Gowalla.) Some in the business world have recognized this begun exploring ways to incorporate these social networking tools into their advertising strategy. Likewise, some of us in the library world are asking ourselves, “How can we use applications like Foursquare to connect with our users who are sporting mobile devices and enjoying a bent for social networking?” It’s not necessarily about new resources and services. It’s not even about the social networking app. It’s entirely about making connections–making our libraries relevant to users.

This topic has been discussed for some time and at some length among librarians. Cecily Walker (Vancouver Public Library) blogged about Foursquare and libraries. David Lee King (Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library) wrote a post on the subject and then a follow-up post. Kyle Jones (contributor to the Tame the Web website) told of the Darien Library experiment with Foursquare and their library users. And Jenny Levine (The Shifted Librarian) shared her Foursquare “a-ha” moment with us. These are just a few examples.

Take a look at these two libraries on Foursquare:

Librarians, is your library using any of the location-based social networking sites to connect with your users? What kind of things are you doing? Are your efforts strengthening, enhancing, growing, etc. your connections to your users?

Library users, are you using location-based social networking sites like Foursquare? How would you like to see your library using these social networking sites to make special offers to you and have some fun along the way?

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