Using Trailmeme to document an event

I created a Trailmeme for the Middlemash event , which was held back in November 2009. There was so much information generated around this event that I wondered if it could be presented in a different sort of way.  The good thing about Trailmeme is that you can connect up related web pages in a way that allows you to branch off in different directions.

So, I’ve used the middlemash blog as a central point and branched off to different presentations, linking individual presentations with web sites mentioned in them eg. Tony Hirst talked about Yahoo Pipes, so I linked to the Yahoo Pipes site (as a marker). Paul Stainthorp & Edith Speller also mentioned Yahoo Pipes, so I also linked to the same marker from their presentations too.

Middlemash Trailmeme

As well as the presentations, I’ve linked back to the Mashed Library ning, wiki, Google map, Twapperkeeper archive (for tweets) and as many blog posts about the event as I could find.

I was hoping to link to photos of the event on Flickr, but Flickr doesn’t like to be embedded in a trailmeme. As an alternative, I could probably set up some kind of intermediary link page (if I wanted to keep it all in the box).

I also thought it would be a good idea to have an intermediary page for all the blogs. Otherwise I would have had to link to one of them and then branch out from there. I created a simple document on Google docs which just said “Here come the Middlemash blogs!!!”, published it as a web page and then linked to all the blogs from there. It’s not very pretty, but it does the job.

I’d be interested to see if people find this a useful way of bringing the event information together from a variety of places?

Going off on a tangent now (and unrelated to Trailmeme)… wouldn’t it be good if you had a video of an event and at certain points in the video you could link to related web pages. eg. In the case of Middlemash we might have Chris Keene talking about Aquabrowser during his presentation and at that point a link pops up to take you to the Aquabrowser site. Maybe this does exist – I remember Tony Hirst talking about captioning video with Twitter feeds, so is this feature similar and already available for people to use???

Cross-Sector Collaboration

I recently mentioned in a blog post that I thought it would be useful for the library profession as a whole if there was greater cross-sector working. In a time where money is tight and staff numbers are being reduced, it makes sense to pool and share information.

It seems as if many members of the library profession see their area of interest/work as unique to their organisation – public libraries deal more with fiction, a wide range and level of readers (0 to 100+) and informal learning; academic libraries concentrate on research, development and formal learning; specialist libraries deal with group of users based on a specific profession/subject area. I also think that this attitude of ‘We are unique!’ can come across in library services in the same sector providing the same services to a different local area.

The focus appears to concentrate on the differences in services we provide and not the similarities, which is strange, as the similarities outweigh the differences. Maybe some information professionals just want to actively keep their services unique… it helps to justify their role??

I also feel as if some people will immediately dismiss the ideas/practices of library services in another sector as irrelevant, because they are again emphasising the differences in the services and not the similarities.

Library services appear to be constantly re-inventing the wheel on a project where someone else has already thought through the same project/problems and has solutions that may be relevant.

We should be taking advantage of these ideas/solutions from outside our own sectors and use them to develop our own library services. We need to ask if there are similarities between what we are doing and what other library services (public, academic or specialist) are providing, no matter how vague the connection may appear. If we don’t, I feel we will be missing out on some great opportunities to develop the library profession as a whole… and if we don’t develop we will get left behind.

CilipFuture 2

I didn’t get to finish my brain dump about Cilipfuture in my first blog post, so here’s the second bit…

Could the CILIP website be used as a site that scoops up relevant links/bookmarks to other sites/comments of interest that are relevant to our profession, so it acts as a single reference source to any material that may be relevant. For example, I know of a few wiki’s out there with overlapping interests in librarianship and information management – I just stumble across these things at the moment, but if CILIP was happy to archive these links I’d know that I could go to the CILIP site and any link I wanted would be there. If you made it open access you’ve probably got an army of IT literate information professionals who would help populate it.

Finally, would there be any mileage in partnering with an organisation such as the British Computer Society, to provide affiliate memberships and cross-industry training?

Advice Wanted

After a bit of proverbial kick in the 8-bits today, I’m currently wondering where I should be going careerwise and need some advice. (I may look at things a bit more stoically tomorrow, but today, not really!)

There are a couple of angles to this – I’m a librarian and also a bit of a programmer.

As a technically minded librarian who programs outside of work and has the sort of interests you can see in this blog, where should I be going? I can program in a few languages – I’m not an expert in any of them, but I get by. I don’t have to use them in my day job, and they’re just used for my personal tinkerings. Would you recommend I focus seriously on a particular language and get a qualification, or is that a pointless move? eg I can program in Java, but is it worth me getting a qualification in it, or should I move on to something else which will give me a better long-term result? Should I not even bother with programming using code? Sh0uld I be looking at developing other areas of IT information related skills? I have various holes in my knowledge, some of which for a clunky programmer might be considered basic, but I just tend to use/deal with things I know about and fill in gaps as I go along.

Now I think I really need to put some structure into what I’m doing and concentrate on areas that are going to help me in the long-term – I’m not normally career minded – I have been fortunate to be led down a route that I’ve been happy with, but now I think I need to put a bit more direction into what I’m doing.

Also, on the non-programming side are there other avenues in libraries and the information profession I should be exploring?

This is a genuine request. Any feedback/suggestions from anyone would really be appreciated. It doesn’t matter if what you say is at odds with other people, or if it’s just one idea or a big long list of suggestions, all thoughts will be considered.


Cilipfuture part 1

Cilip (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) have been asking for comments about how workers in the industry see the future of the information profession developing and what should Cilip’s role be in this environment? So, I thought I’d give my thoughts on it, for what they’re worth. I should say that I decided not to read any other blog posts about this before writing this- I wanted to put down an unswayed opinion. This post also looks at what I feel our role as individual librarians outside Cilip should be too.
Firstly I’ll admit that, even though I’m a librarian, I’m not a Cilip member and I never have been. I didn’t see what they could offer me for the amount of money personal membership costs. I’ve managed to get to a position I’m happy with without the need for chartership or their direct support. I do recognise that chartership is useful for some colleagues and that Cilip provides a channel/support network for information based work.Even though I have no direct contact with Cilip I do recognise that their support keeps the idea of libraries alive and maybe without that public libraries would be a thing of the past and I wouldn’t be working in a job I enjoy so much. Not being a member of Cilip makes me feel guilty about having the title ‘librarian’, especially as I am the only person in my library service to have that word in their job description… and I’m sure some of my my colleagues deserve to be called librarians more than myself.
With more information being fed to us electronically/digitally as time moves on I feel Cilip needs to emphasise the needs for digital channels to remain open. Often corporate IT blocks access to important information resources and Cilip should be championing this access in a more forceful manner via Government agencies.
Cilip should be seen as the first stop for anything that is information and library related by anyone ie librarians, other professions, Government, public. If in doubt about where to find a piece of information anyone should just be able to go to the Cilip website and be pointed in the right direction. This ‘right direction’ might be library, Government department, shop on the corner, Mr Smith 6 doors down!
Technology is developing in different directions, all of which are relevant to information provision. No matter whether it moves to the cloud, becomes an app or something else, we need to know what is going on and be able to cope with these technologies- showing no allegiance for a single platform.
As an industry we need greater collaboration in the work we are doing and we need cross sector working. I’ve attended a few events primarily for academic libraries, which left me thinking that it was just as relevant for public libraries to be involved in this area too, even though we weren’t. It would be great if Cilip could help promote/develop these relations. How about funding cross-sector partnerships? Even in public libraries there seems to be a lot of reinventing the wheel for projects and overcoming problems, rather than making use of work others have done before. eg 23 things
Cilip needs to recognise the full scope of the library and information world. Keeping up to date with what’s going on… follow the trends and not follow late. Cilip should be telling us what’s out there and encourage development into non-traditional areas. Tony Hirst recently talked about how librarians should be programmers too. I’m not sure all of us should be programmers (is it a specialism, like being a cataloguer or childrens librarian? I’m still not sure), but I can see the point he’s making. Programming tools can help bring together and represent information, which is what librarians do.
I don’t know why it happened, but now, more than ever, I’m proud to be called a librarian- maybe it’s because I’m in the sort of job I really want to do and I can see new and exciting possibilities out there. The title ‘librarian’ is important to the profession. We shouldn’t disguise librarians & libraries under new fancy names, such as information evangelist and idea-sheds. We should be honest about who we are and what we do, so people know that libraries and librarians are still relevant. Changing the name disguises this fact.

Got to go now… my train just pulled into Liverpool and I haven’t finished yet (to be continued)

P.S. Apologies for spelling errors- it’s difficult writing this on a mobile phone!

P.P.S. Just found this unpublished so am publishing now.

Dewey Invaders Project

A while ago I thought it would be a ridiculous idea to create a game called Dewey Invaders. In this game the player would be presented with a subject heading and also a series of Dewey numbers, one of which is related to the subject heading. The player would then shoot down the Dewey number that the subject heading referred to. If they shot down the wrong Dewey number they would be sternly corrected by the father Dewey ship. It is a “What’s the point?” idea, but I also think it would be a great training tool for game minded classifiers. In fact, with cataloguing and classification being dropped from so many library courses it might be the most cost effective way to train classifiers. I could sell it as an app (even though I hate the word app). What’s the going rate for an app these days? 59p! Oh, that’s the rate for a good app! You can have this for 7.5p then.
It’s not as dull as it sounds, you know! I’d put the numbers into the shape of aliens & have explosions in 3 vibrant colours. 😉 What do you mean- it still isn’t enticing?
It might sound like a daft idea, but I actually think it would keep me up-to-date with my Dewey. I’m partly a cataloguer/classifier, but most of the time I don’t need to add Dewey to records. I just need to know that a number that’s been added to a record is okay and because I enjoy the challenge and style of retro arcade games this would be a way of learning something useful while playing.
I don’t mind what I zap- It’s just pixels on a screen, so it might as well be pixels in the shape of Dewey numbers!

Can I trust what you say?

Any decision we make is often built on information we take from other resources – whether that’s people or inanimate objects. For example, my digital watch is telling me I’ve got 3 hours before I can even think about taking a step out of the door to go home from work. I rely on this information being correct.

However, how do you know you can trust the information you are presented with? What you expect to be true, might in fact be wrong. If you are using a source of information that has credentials and is regarded as an expert in the field why would you ever think that information was wrong?

For example, over the past few months I’ve come across the following lies.

Lie: My computer tells me the square root of 25 is not 5. It is 4.999999999998, or something just as daft.

I spent a long time wondering if my basic maths was flawed. Had my maths teachers been lying to me when I was at school? No, apparently it is a computer floating point error. If someone hadn’t told me about this how would I know that this inaccuracy existed? It was lucky that I tested my programme with the number 25, otherwise I wouldn’t have known there was a problem. Now I am wondering how many other of the calculations are wrong? I can get around this problem, but I’d rather be presented with the right information first time. Do I have to check n numbers of every numeric calculation I use in future? Having a computer telling me lies in a situation like this isn’t a major problem, but just think if it was a life critical situation.

Lie: The live train information tells me my train is on time.

No it’s not. It’s late – and your live train information system made me wait in the snow for hours. You know the information is wrong – you know the snow is affecting the network. You know that the live update service for my train has said that the train was cancelled right at the start of the journey (about 10 stations back), so why don’t you just spend some time providing the correct information for my station?

Lie: At £140,000, this 2 bedroom property has no faults at all.

At that price, in this area, I’m not so much of a potato head that I will believe that for more than 2 seconds and because you are trying to fool me into thinking it’s a good deal, Mr Estate Agent, you lose my respect and my custom. It either has a short lease, is in poor condition, has dodgy neighbours, or is in area that has been set aside for a nuclear dumping ground.

Lie: Political Party X can sort out all the problems caused by the Government.

You may have good intentions, but I think you’re all in the same sinking boat.

The situation you then find yourself in, is questioning information that you wouldn’t have questioned in the past. If a source of information is meant to be authoritative how do you know if anything else from that source or any other source of information is correct? The damage is already done.

Well, even though I’m still not sure about all of the above lies, I don’t tend to take things at face value anyway and I back things up with a double check using other information resources. For example, I asked around about the floating point number problem and how to overcome it; I still use the live train update, but check a few of the stations further up the line; I question estate agents about why a property sounds too good to be true; not sure about the answer to the political problem though!

The key for me to getting the right information is not to just making do with the first bit of information I’m presented with. Double checking what I can helps to reassure me that the information is correct and helps me cope with any unforeseen problems or pre-empt them as much as possible. There are so many people/systems out there saying different things, that if you don’t check what you are being told is true, one day you might end up believing that the square root of 25 is, in fact, not 5.