Read: Emergent digital services in public libraries – a domain study

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I’ve just read the following study:

David McMenemy,  (2012) “Emergent digital services in public libraries: a domain study”, New Library World, Vol. 113 Iss: 11/12, pp.507 – 527

It focused on the provision of online services in Scottish public libraries, and a few areas that caught my interest in the study were:

  • How digital services are providing libraries with more opportunities to act as content creators as well as access providers.
  • The importance of the delivery of library services via library websites in a climate of physical library cuts and closures.
  • The structure of library websites, how they were broken down into different topics/subjects, and how inconsistent terminology was used to describe library services.
  • The suggestion that a national body could be used to provide content that was common across many library services, leaving local authorities to focus on local content.
  • The need for public libraries to improve guidance on using externally subscribed services as part of their remit to provide equitable access to information.

If you’re interested in any aspect of providing online services in public libraries I’d recommend reading it.

Tinkering Day 1

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As I couldn’t go to Dev8D and I probably won’t get to go to the next library mash event 😦 I thought I’d have my own day of tinkering. I probably gave myself a bit of a long list of things to try, but I managed a fair bit.

(1) Made a bit of progress on the Literary Twist project – Scraped a list of commonly used words, worked out phrases to replace them and put them into all into a Yahoo Pipe. Need to tinker with it though, to make sure it comes up with consistent and accurate output all the time, no matter what user puts in. I think I could do a bit more with regex too, but that might be another stage on. Also learnt trick for avoiding problem of pipe not running properly. Also realised on another pipe that Yahoo pipes can be overloaded and might not be great for lots of feeds going into one pipe.

(2) I also tried to work out if you can pass query to flash player. You can, but not with the one I wanted to do it to – might try to find a paste and run script, if such a thing exists.

(3) Basic programming – My first programming language was Basic and I still love it. I know some programmers look down their nose at it, but I don’t care. It’s easy for me to remember. I think my head is still in BASIC mode and that’s why I’ve struggled to suss out Java. I’ve made progress on Java, but it’s taken me a bit of time. Anyway, I got a yearning to tinker with my old MSX (still in cupboard) and decided to download an MSX emulator. I could still program in BASIC on it after so many years of not bothering, but I couldn’t save files on the hard drive. I wiped it of my computer in frustration and looked for a browser based basic instead – just out of curiosity.

I found runbasic 🙂 , which looks straight-forward, but will allow me to develop interactive websites in a language I’m familiar with. So, I’ll be tinkering with that, even though I’ll still be using Java too.

(4) I also tried to get to grips with Gamemaker. I’ve had a bit of success in putting very very simple games together on it in the past. However, even though you don’t need to know how to program to use it, I think if you do know how to program you might as well program, as it’ll be just as quick. It’s not as straightforward as pointing and clicking. So, I think my tinkering time will be better spent somewhere else.

(5) I also had a scout around for free Java and php hosting – just as a way to test out some programming on a live site. I found a couple of sites via Free-web-hosting. They don’t get massively high scores, but I just need somewhere to tinker on a live system, rather than on my home test system (Apache server).

I’m quite pleased with what I achieved in my first full day of tinkering – sorting out some of ‘Literary Twist’, flash player queries and tinkering with runbasic. Even where I didn’t make any progress (MSX emulator, Gamemaker) it meant I could wipe them off my list of things I want to get to grips with and move on.

Mobile Browser Site Design

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Having been woken by the neighbours with a bit of crashing and banging at regular intervals, I am now wide awake (1:30am) and have been flicking through the web on my Palm Treo phone. It still surprises me that there are sites that don’t provide decent access via a mobile browser. You can still just about read the information on these mobile incompatible sites if you like scrolling in all directions, you want your text columns to be 1 inch wide, you enjoy wading through the extra bits that make a full size sites snazzy but a mobile site difficult to use and you’re prepared to wait a couple of minutes before the site loads up.

As mobile site access is such a big thing now, major sites should be able to either pick up that I’m using a smart phone to access them and either change the layout accordingly, or divert me to the mobile version of the site. Some sites even seem to go so far as to hide the fact that they have a mobile version of their site, providing no information about the url, despite the fact that you’ll eventually stumble across it by sheer luck.

In some cases I prefer using the mobile site, rather than the full site. Most of the time this is because the clutter is removed and the functions are stripped back to the most useful things.

I do sometimes use sites like Skweezer to view normal sites in my mobile browser. Skweezer strips out the extra bits and bobs and presents you with the web site in a less cluttered way. All you have to do is type in the site url or keywords into Skweezer’s search box and it converts the sites successfully most of the time. When it fails, it is generally due to the over-crowded page it is trying to convert and again you get a load of extra information you don’t want.

I’ve got access to most types of sites that I need on my browser on a regular basis in a decent readable form, without using something like Skweezer. However, in some cases I’m using a site in preference to the one I’d rather use, just because the one I’d rather use doesn’t have a mobile version of their site.

If a company hasn’t got their site set up for mobile browser access they will be, and are, losing out to another site. As mobile browser access expands, that other site will slowly take away web traffic, because I’m sure that if I’m going to another site for my information, I won’t be the only person doing it.