Trailmeme Revamped

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I’ve talked about Trailmeme previously on my blog and during the latter part of this year it went through a bit of a revamp. Trailmeme is a method of organising related web resources in a way that make sense and allows easy navigation through them. It can be used for a variety of purposes – event logging; tutorials; subject resources; mind mapping. The new version looks more polished than the previous one. New features have also been added – you can now create/update a trail in a variety of ways…

  • Advanced create/edit: Access markers you’ve imported into your account; import new markers; add them manually.
  • Quick create: Build a trail manually.
  • Edit Trail Map: Add/edit markers while in the trail map.
  • Bookmarklet: This sits on your toolbar and allows you to add markers whilst browsing the web.

Other features include…

  • Firefox toolbar: Provides the ability to add markers to a trail and search for trails, without needing to visit the Trailmeme website.
  • WordPress plugin: Can be used on self-hosted WordPress blogs as a way to highlight themes covered in a blog or a series of articles.
  • Discussion forum: Could be useful for getting others involved in the development of your trails, or as a way to discuss the ideas raised within the trail.
  • You can also identify if a marker you use has been used on another trail.
  • Social gaming/interaction: Blazer’s Journey. The more active you are on the site, the higher the level you reach.

Image (c) UW Digital Collections / Flickr.

Trailmeme is a lot easier to use since the revamp, whether it’s from the point of view of creating a trail or walking one and I’ve been working on a few new  trails using it. The latest is…

Voices For The Library campaign trail: The starting point for the trail is the VFTL campaign website. By putting this trail together I was attempting to highlight different resources mentioned on the VFTL website. The trail fans out from this website in three spokes – each spoke links to other VFTL web presences; endorsements from other organisations for VFTL; campaigns mentioned on the VFTL website. I’ve had to use intermediary pages for each of the three spokes, as I didn’t want to highlight a particular endorsement, campaign or other web presence from the VFTL website.

Leeds Libraries use Mapped in Yahoo Pipes

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Recently, Ian Clark blogged about proposed closures in Leeds Libraries on the Voices For The Library site. Following the Freedom of Information request this blog post was based on, we thought it might be useful to map some of the data, as a simple way of comparing libraries in Leeds. (NB: These figures were only a starting point for the findings.)

The FoI request included details of issues, visits and PC bookings. After tracking down unemployment figures for electoral districts, I mapped them to postcodes so they related to the correct libraries. The data was then combined in a Google spreadsheet and the spreadsheet was mapped in Yahoo Pipes.

Each library appears as a marker on the map and they contain information such as “Middleton Library. Change in issues: 20185 . Change in visits: 28409 . Change in PC Bookings: 945 / Unemployment 2010: 13.6%“.

As I say, it was just a simple way of comparing usage figures of libraries situated close to each other alongside unemployment figures. It beats scanning a list of figures on a spreadsheet. I also just wondered if I could put Yahoo Pipes to practical use. My pipe tinkerings have previously been aimed at seeing what I could do with pipes, whereas this was more to do with putting it to good use and maybe building on it in some way.

Follow Friday 2010 Thanks

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In 2010, through Twitter, I got to know a library community beyond the walls of my own organisation. Without this community I wouldn’t have got involved in so many library related initiatives as I have done this year. The community has encouraged me to look at libraries with new eyes. Twitter has a tradition called “Follow Friday”, which is normally used to recommend Twitter users to other Twitter users. On Christmas Eve I decided to use my Follow Fridays as a way to say thanks to all those Twitter users who had inspired, supported and helped me along the way. This blog post follows up those Follow Friday’s and explains why I wanted to thank them…

They got me mashing…

I got involved in Mashed Libraries – attending events, creating mashups (combining data from different resources to present it in a new way), getting back into computer programming after a break of about 20 years. I also presented sessions at two separate events. These were the first presentations I’ve ever done outside my department.

They made me want to play a part in the wider library community…

I got involved in projects in the library community, beyond the scope of my own job. I also joined CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals). The people I follow on Twitter showed me that CILIP does have an important role to play in the future of libraries. I also now feel as if I’m part of the library community beyond my own organisation.

They got me thinking about the future of libraries…

I became increasingly aware that the value of libraries and librarians were being questioned by people beyond the library community and within it. As the year went by I heard more stories about local authorities planning library closures. I was concerned and angry, but at the same time I got inspired/motivated by a small group of librarians and information professionals, who felt that someone needed to do something to stop these closures. From this, within about 2 weeks, we founded the library campaign Voices For The Library.

They made me smile…

There’s always someone on Twitter who will make me laugh, smile, give support, or “make it better” with a funny comment, a piece of advice, an anecdote, or a show of concern. It’s been a bit of a disheartening year with regard to some aspects of libraries, so this kind of support counts for a lot.

I appreciate all of these people and I just wanted to say thanks… Oh! Go on then. Have a hug. 🙂

Image (c) ganesha.isis / Flickr

I also realise I missed some people off my Follow Friday’s and this thanks is for them too.

Creating a Voices For The Library newspaper with paper.li

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Along with a couple of other people in the Voices For The Library team I tweet from the official account, as well as my own personal Twitter account. As well as highlighting what we are doing in the campaign, we also use the account to highlight links to our followers. These tend to be positive library stories and links to articles about cuts and campaigns. These tweets are spread-out throughout the day and as not everyone sits on Twitter all day, so we can’t guarantee that everyone will see a @ukpling tweet they are interested in. I thought it would be useful to bring all these links together, along with other relevant links from other Twitter users.

There are a number of applications that use Twitter to pull together links you are interested in and present the links in a more readable way, than just performing a standard Twitter search and going through all the shortened links one by one.

I chose to use paper.li, because it allows you to create a daily newspaper page that can be published/tweeted at a preset time. It displays the title and snippet of the item you are linking to, which is better than looking at a shortened url and not knowing whether the link is useful or not. It also displays any photos or videos that have been tweeted.

It’s easy to set up. To get links into your newspaper you can pull them out from Twitter using one of the following methods:

  • Choose a Twitter account (this picks up links from that account and also Twitter users that account is following)
  • Set up a hashtag search
  • Choose a Twitter list
  • Set up a complex search

 You can give your newspaper a name and this will appear at the top of the page. Below this are a number of horizontal tabs, indicating ‘Headlines’, specific subjects extracted from the tweet (eg Education) and any hashtag mentioned in the tweets that contained the links. The paper is also archived, so you can revisit any saved links from the time you set up the newspaper.

 (c) Nationaalarchief/Flickr

I spent some time tinkering with the search methods to get the most appropriate links into the newspaper. By using complexes search containing ‘@ukpling’, people we follow on Twitter, or followers of a list, or even various hashtags, it didn’t work as I wanted it to. These methods pulled in links that weren’t relevant, because other people we follow aren’t solely focussed on library campaigning (even from my own personal account I don’t just tweet about libraries). Hashtags are also used inconsistently, so wouldn’t pick up everything we were after. In the end I set up the simplest search ever. It just contains the word ‘ukpling’. This allowed links to be picked up that were either sent out from our account, or someone sent to us, or mentioned ‘ukpling’ in any way. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best!

It’s set up to publish (tweet) at the same time every day – lunchtime. I just figured people may be more likely to be looking at Twitter at this time and can see all the consolidated links we’ve tweeted over the past day. Our followers can then also retweet our consolidated links to their followers.

You can also embed paper.li into a web page too as a widget.

As I say, there are other applications like paper.li and I played with a few of them, but I just found this to be straightforward and more or less achieves what I want it to.

My only quibbles are that:

  • I’m sure there are other relevant results hiding on Twitter, but at the moment the Twitter search API doesn’t allow you to get at them easily without pulling out irrelevant links too.
  • Sometimes duplicate links appear in paper.li – because more than one person has tweeted them.
  • It would be good to be able to set up your own layout for the newspaper you create.

These are minor things and I’m happy to live with them. Just the fact that we’ve now got something set up to bring these links together in a readable form is very useful in itself.

You can read the daily ‘Voices For The Library Links’ here.

Finding Packrati Popular Library Links

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I’ve been wondering about how I can pull out popular links about libraries from Twitter, for current awareness purposes. I’m talking about the sort of links that people find so interesting they get retweeted. I suppose I could just create a twitter search and look at which links have been retweeted the most, but it’s a pain in the bum to perform the same search all the time and trawl through a load of search results. Plus the fact, I thought it would be interesting to try and do something a bit more techy.

I decided to make use of packrati.us, which is a bookmarking service used to automatically save links you tweet to your delicious.com account. It can also be used for saving links in HistoriousInstapaperPinboard.in, and Diigo accounts too, but I just use it for Twitter. Loads of other people use it too, so I thought I could make use of links that everyone has saved via this method.

(c) National Media Museum/Flickr

By default if a link is saved in delicious.com using packrati.us it saves it with the tag “via:packrati.us“. This gave me a starting point to create relevant RSS feeds to pull into Yahoo Pipes. I then built on it to pull in tags such as “library”, “libraries” and “librarians”.

Delicious is a bit of a nuisance, because it does rank bookmarks, but it doesn’t do it by the number of times a link has been bookmarked. It provides links to popular bookmarks (using some kind of relevance ranking), not necessarily links that have been saved the most. Strangely enough, even though delicious.com users have been asking for ranking by the number of times an item has been saved for a while, this feature hasn’t appeared.

I then:

  • Put the RSS feeds into Yahoo pipes
  • Combined the feeds into one feed
  • Filtered them (so that each link only appeared once in the list)
  • Sorted them by number of times the link appeared in the original RSS feed & date (to get most recent at the top of the list when it’s refreshed)
  • Pulled out keywords from the original Tweet and delicious bookmarks (I just wanted it to give me an idea of the focus of the link. eg literacy; reader development, etc.)
  • Deleted any irrelevant words (‘quot’, which appears in the text if ” is used)
  • Mapped the keywords to the description field.

This is the resulting pipe.

It does what I want it to do, but it would be better if:

  • All packrati links could be pulled out. At the moment I’m relying on people tagging anything they save via packrati with a tag reference to libraries too, so I may be missing out on library links that are popular, but haven’t had an extra tag added. There’s no other way of getting an RSS feed for a search on any keywords. RSS feeds in delicious.com are limited to tag searches.
  • My regex skills aren’t great, so some odd keywords like “RT” and “amp” appear in the description field of the results. I couldn’t get rid of them.
  • The term ‘library’ or ‘libraries’ can also refer to programming code collections, so I might end up with the odd false hit in the results.

As far as I’m concerned they’re not massive issues, but I’d like to get them ironed out if I can.

Anyway, now I don’t have to perform loads of searches every day to find the most popular library links.

Amendment to Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964

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Today, Alison McGovern (MP for Wirral South) raised an amendment to the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. The amendment asked for cultural services to be protected by law in the same way that local authorities are duty bound to provide a public library service. The amendment was agreed and the bill to amend the Act will have its second reading on 17th June 2011. I’m not sure how much discussion can now happen around this amendment, but I really hope this will allow the statutory provision of libraries under the 1964 Act to be tightened up & formalised more clearly, so that local authorities are no longer able to farm out (privatise)  public library services they are obliged to provide, to anyone who fancies running them. It’s no good getting library authorities to be responsible for cultural services in the same way as they are for libraries, if under the current Act it allows them to hand over responsibility to other organisations/groups of people.

The video recording of Alison McGovern’s speech is here.