Archive for August, 2011

#cpd23 Thing 13: In quest of love

August 23, 2011

First let’s get Wikis out of the way, because least said and all that. We were supposed to learn wikis in school, never did. I was hoping we’d learn their use in my Internet Information class, mainly because there is no W in Hebrew (we use a V instead) and the instructor’s name is Viki. Yes, I’m easily amused. I’ve used wikis extensively, particularly in my fandom-oriented life, but also for projects such as Library Routes and Library Day in the Life. I can see the usefulness of wikis, particularly for collaboration when there is little chance of real-life interaction, but I’ve not had much chance to practice what I’m preaching.

And now on the tools of my everyday trade.

My love for Google Docs and for Dropbox — knows bounds.

I started using Google Docs for work. We had a project manager who had come to us from very corporate, very organized firms, and it was clear he longed for that security in place of our free-form, free-wheeling, free-application-using amorphousness. (He’s since gone back to corporate life, leaving the world of start-ups behind.) He tried to organize us while bearing in mind that we had no budget for a real enterprise system and that we were a staff of 5, with a few more freelance consultants; we could make do. For a month we tried Salesforce, but he’d misread the TOS and at the end of the trial, we lost access to everything we’d had on there.

In any case, Salesforce was rubbish when it came to storing documents, and understandably so. It was meant for customer relations management, not project management. So we turned to that citadel of freebie-ism, the G Machine, and uploaded our documents to Google Docs. Free, access for everyone on the team, available everywhere — what’s not to love?

Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Part, I have to admit from the start, was not Google’s fault. Our project manager tried to route our mail through Google’s APIs and messed things up so badly that there are still accounts — the accounts tied to Google Docs — that we can’t access, as it seems that there never were passwords associated with these accounts. Sharing ownership of files and folders became impossible, and the application balked every time we asked to share a file with a non-GMail address.

Part was Google’s fault. One of the things we liked, in theory, was the possibility of working collaboratively. We’d long been using TeamViewer for collaboration, alternating who had control of the cursor and keyboard, but Google Docs seemed to promise that we could all work on the same document at the same time without fighting for control. Yeah, right. It worked, as long as you didn’t mind lags long enough to go and make a coffee and sandwich.

Another problem is supposedly a feature — documents you open in GMail are saved in your Google Docs file list. For us, that way lay madness, with our file lists quickly becoming cluttered with junk we’d pruned from our email but had to spend time deleting from Google Docs as well.

The main thing I do love about Google Docs is that, since it’s so ubiquitous, there’s a tutorial out there which will teach you how to do just about anything with the service. (When I find the tut which will teach me how to get Google Docs to clean my house, I’ll be sure to share.) It’s been immensely helpful when I’ve been limited to using Google services to complete school assignments because of my program’s increasing Googlization.

 

There are vows that must be made
There are terms that can’t expire
There are words that must be said
And there are qualifiers
I’ll love you but I’ll count the ways
The things that I admire

–Tracy Chapman, “Conditional”

I had already been using Dropbox constantly. I work on two computers and my smartphone, and I don’t always have internet access. (My library school was notoriously bad about WiFi in the classrooms last year; they say it’ll be better this year. I’ll believe it when I see it.) I appreciate the convenience of having my work in the Cloud, but I appreciate more having it available to me on my local computer.

I know Dropbox has had its issues. There are questions about how secure it is. There are questions about whether Dropbox employees can decrypt files in your Dropbox and read them. And then there was the morning this summer when all you needed to access someone’s Dropbox contents was their email address, no password required. There’s the Dropbox TOS that allows them to publicly display your files to an extent “reasonably necessary to the Service.”

I recommended Dropbox to my colleagues, and they enthusiastically adopted it — too enthusiastically. I keep reminding them not to post confidential material using the service and they keep forgetting, so I have to keep harping at them. They forget that when you store files on Dropbox and then remove them, they’ll be removed permanently. (Yes, I know there’s 30 days grace. But that only helps if someone decides, within 30 days, to retrieve the files.) I do try to backup the work Dropbox folder to local storage every once in a while because if I know my workgroup, someday they’ll frantically search for some file they erased.

Would I change some things about Dropbox? Certainly. Is it my only on-line storage location? No. Is it my primary storage option? Until something better comes along, yes. I love Dropbox — conditionally.

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#CPD23 Thing 12: Battle of the Network Stars

August 16, 2011

K.C.: Seven different people spammed me the same link.
KC’s Friend: What is it?
K.C.: I don’t know, but I’m really hoping it’s cats that look like Hitler, because I can never get enough of that.

–The Social Network (2010)

I’ve written about my love for social networking before, and despite some recent signs of fatigue (not surprising, as I’m an early adopter). Face it. I’m a middle-aged widow-woman living in the back of beyond, telecommuting to a solo  librarian job. Where else am I going to meet like-minded people?

But the problem with being so isolated and using social networks to compensate is finding people from whom I want to learn. I’m not worried about the age/experience disparity as some are. I fully accept that I’m likely to be older than any other librarian in my social groups. (The stereotype of the technologically clueless middle-aged librarian seems to be truer than I would have thought based on my own experience.) I fully accept that I will know more than most in my own field of LIS and much less than most in the things I’m just starting to learn. I fully accept that listening to people who know more than I do, whether they are younger or older, more or less experienced, will be to my benefit.

But how to find them? I’m starting to think about the courses I hope to take next year and what electives I will want, and I’d love to get more knowledge about instructional design, cataloging, and non-textual literacies. I’ve found a cataloger or two to follow on Twitter, but beyond that? I don’t see any listings for the fields I’m interested in on the CPD 23 delicious list, but those fields may be hiding behind other names.

Anybody in the know willing to hook a sister up?

#CPD23 Thing 11: If wishes were horses

August 8, 2011

Photo Creative Commons by skedonk

Oh, yes, I know what you’re thinking: There she goes again, whining about the state of Israeli librarianship. So why doesn’t she do something about it?

I would if I could, but I’m not even sure where to start. My program doesn’t seem to offer any guidance on mentorships. We will need to do an apprenticeship in Year 3, but they haven’t told us (approaching Year 2) anything about the process–do they match us up? Do we need to find our own opportunities? At the open house before I joined the program I did get a hint that the coordinator tries to place students in jobs near their homes, so perhaps she does take charge of the whole task. Do I get a say in what kind of library I apprentice at? If so, how do I know what I want? At this point, the only kind of librarianship I know of is solo corporate librarianship, and I wouldn’t want to apprentice at that (if it were possible; apprenticing as a solo librarian is sort of a contradiction in terms, isn’t it?). I have been putting time in at a public library, but only as a volunteer, and never in work with patrons. How would I know if I might like that? And I’ve never done anything in an academic library, a realm which I think might suit me. Would committing myself to 120 hours of work there be my dream job or a nightmare?

If we had an efficient local network I could try that as a way of finding official or informal mentors, but we don’t. I do try, when we take a tour of a library or when I go to a conference I chat up anyone who seem willing. I often do make friendship, but whenever I think I might be finding a mentor I’m brought up short by reality. Fact is, no matter what I’ve called what I do, I’ve been an information professional for well over a decade. Most of the people I talk to either do not have as much experience as I do or are more interested in what I do (as I am more interested in what they do).

When I have my Year 2 planning meeting in October I’ll approach my department head for advice or a name she can recommend to me. I would love to have someone more experienced and more knowledgeable to help guide me, and I think I have enough experience and variety in my professional life to give something back, as well.

If wishes were horses, all librarians would ride. I think it might be time I try to locate my local stable.

#CPD23 Thing 10: To know where you’re going…

August 2, 2011

I think some people are born to their professions.

Take my aunt (please!)

(Thank you, I’m here all week. Try the lasagna, and don’t forget to tip your waitress.)

She’s a born social worker. Family legend has it she was giving the delivery room nurses advice, and at 4 she sat the postman down for a long, deep conversation about what was wrong in his life.

I’ve always been the information finder and sharer. You know, the annoying kid in class who was always correcting the teacher. Who always waved her hand frantically, wanting nothing more in life than to answer the question.

That’s right. I was the kid you all hated. But really, you should have pitied me. It wasn’t that I was a show-off, it’s that I was addicted to information. Walking into school was like pushing the plunger on the syringe, getting that sweet, sweet fix.

In high school I decided journalism was the way to get my daily information high, and that lasted me up until I moved to Israel at age 25. There were few English language outlets back then, and I knew that I’d never be as good as I wanted to be in Hebrew journalism, so I skidded off into editing and translating. From there it was a short hop into researching and organizing information as a corporate Information Officer.

When I was widowed I realized that I needed a reason to get out of my home office and get out into a crowd, so I decided to go learn something. Since I never had any formal training in librarianship or information science, I decided to check out programs and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the average age of post-graduate LIS students in Israel is mid-40s.

I enrolled in the Beit Berl post-grad program, about which I wrote on Hack Library School. Because of the program I’ve started to volunteer in a public library, but that’s a story for Thing 11.

#cpd23 Thing 9:They say it’s good for you

August 2, 2011

Oh, Evernote. I want to like you, I really do. You seem to have everything I could want — you’ve got a desktop and an Android app, you can handle to do lists, pictures, voice notes, and annotation of webpages, all in one place.

But I have a feeling you’re like cantorial music, exercise, and dark chocolate: something which is supposed to be good for me but which I just don’t like.

My try-out of Evernote was far from smooth : it took most of a week to get the Firefox add-on to properly install. It kept downloading, but the icon never showed on my browser and when I tried to configure the add-on it crashed Firefox so spectacularly that I had to reboot my computer. But since the Android app and the desktop versions worked well, I soldiered on.

I do like the way Evernote handles my to-do list. I’m a ticky!box fangirl. But my-oh-my, what a mess it makes of webpages I have it save for me! The text gets all scrunched up, one column of a table piled onto the other like a heap of wriggling puppies.

Part of the problem may be that Evernote doesn’t have support for Hebrew. I know never to expect such support, but for me that’s a huge consideration.

I’ve only been using Evernote for a week now, so I’ll give it another week or two as a fair trial, but I’ll do use the belt-and-suspenders approach. Aside from my to-do list I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done to keep notes on websites: print the page to a pdf using primopdf, annotate the pdf using foxit, and then make the pdf available to all my devices by putting it in my dropbox.

ETA: OK, the Hebrew was not the problem. Take a look at this hot mess:

Those of you who do like Evernote, what am I doing wrong? WHy are you swearing by it while I’m swearing at it?

 

#libday7: What is it you do?

August 1, 2011

For years, the rumor in the town where I live was that I work for the local spy agency. When my kids were asked “what does your mom do?” they answered: “Forget it, it’s too complicated to explain.” All anyone seems to know is that I mainly work from home, I work long crazy hours, and I’m able to support a family.

So what is it I do?

The easier thing to explain is what I do as a volunteer: music cataloging at a local library, the Karnei Shomron Public Library.I’ve done about 200 out of the 700+ discs that need cataloging; when I finish those I plan to move on to getting the English language books into the computerized catalog. That means searching out information that’s not on the disc or the accompanying materials and deciding what access points, given my very limited time, are worth putting in to the catalog.

The harder thing to explain is my day job as corporate information officer. Technically I work for a small boutique investment firm, which seconds me out to companies currently under its sheltering wing. That means one year I may be working on information about widgets, the next about aardvark technology. Well, no, not really, but since we mainly invest in high-tech stealth start-ups, I can’t really talk about my fields of practice unless I get you to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Yes, it makes for fun times on first dates when I can’t talk about what I do.

I usually work out of a home office. At around 7 am I wake, make coffee, and read the tech blogs. Anything that would be of interest to one of my companies gets put on the relevant corporate blog. After that I scan the marketing blogs and newspapers and add any relevant information to marketing plans.

The afternoons vary, depending on which client company need attention the most. I might compile a list of publishers or work with a marketing professional to create brochures. I might search for suppliers, chase down NDAs from potential partners, put together grant applications, get information on the availability of WiFi in Bora Bora, or debunk the latest hoax going around the industry. I read my LinkedIn groups and then start making and returning calls from Europe and the US. Sometimes I’ll go out for meetings with investors; one day last week I got to go to see a competitor’s product demonstrated.

In short, my job is to know why our corporate product is better than our competitors’ and be able to back up that claim with scientific studies and marketing history.

Except, of course, on days like today, when I spent 14 hours writing a 26 page paper, with a 3 page bibliography, on antelope prevention.

Library Day in the Life Round 7