Monthly Archives: May 2009

Thing 6 – Blog Readers

I’ve been using the old Bloglines as my aggregator/blog reader for a while. I’ve been fairly happy with it, although there were times when it had trouble with feeds, and a few years back there were some privacy issues (resolved before I started using it). I only have 46 feeds in there (more than I can keep up with), and hadn’t added Blogger blogs I was following via my Blogger profile Dashboard. Since I was thinking about deleting even more feeds (more about this in my Thing 7 post), it seemed like a good time to try out Google Reader, especially since I already use Blogger, Picasa Web Albums, and Gmail.

And in fact, because I was already “following” blogs through Blogger, Google Reader set up was very easy. Google Reader automatically added all the blogs I was following through Blogger as subscriptions. Interestingly, it also added four other blogs automatically. Two were other Blogger blogs that I subscribe to in Bloglines – but don’t follow in Blogger. One was Leon Hale’s blog through the Houston Chronicle – I follow it in Bloglines, but it’s not a Blogger blog. The last one was really odd – a Blogger blog I used to follow in Bloglines, but dropped months ago. I can’t figure out anything these four blogs have in common that made them automagically appear in my Google Reader! Google Reader also put three of them into folders I did not create – but that make sense (friends, librarian, and Texas for Leon Hale), even though there’s nothing in the names of the blogs to indicate these classifications. I’ll continue to use those folders and add other blogs to them. Not sure why it didn’t place the fourth one (a Blogger blog) in a folder.

I haven’t worked with Google Reader long enough to make any real comparisons. However, I found a number of blog posts and articles that DO compare them:
Google Reader vs Bloglines Beta (Phil Gyford 12-17-08)
Bloglines vs. Google (CAKES: learning technology blog 12-16-08)
Bloglines Returns to Challenge Google Reader – Thank Goodness (ReadWriteWeb 10-20-08)
Aggregators: A quick note ([librarian] Walt [Crawford] at Random 10-12-08)
Bloglines vs. Google Reader (JenG, Rutgers library school student 9-28-08)

I’m glad I found these links because I hadn’t realized the Bloglines Beta version has been out for about a year and a half now! I immediately opened my Bloglines with that and I like the interface MUCH better. For one thing, One-Minute Book Reviews, a blog I read regularly, now formats correctly in Bloglines Beta:

Bloglines Beta:  One-Minute Book Reviews

Bloglines Beta: One-Minute Book Reviews

Looks like I’m going to have to play around with both of these, Bloglines Beta and Google Reader, for a while to figure out which one I like best. I’m leaning a bit towards Bloglines Beta just because I hate to see Google pulling a Microsoft.

I’ve tried to use the RSS read/feed feature within Microsoft Outlook at work, and it doesn’t work properly.  I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that I access my work e-mail from four different computers, sometimes two at the same time.  I understand Firefox has an add-on RSS reader, but if that will just clog up my toolbar, I’m not interested.  My (and my husband’s) vision isn’t so hot any more, and we have screen resolution at home set to 800×600.  That makes for a pretty small screen as it is, and I don’t need any more toolbars on the top of the page than the one I have to have!

I’ll write more sometime next week or the week after. I will be in New York City May 30 through June 3, and it’s going to be a REAL vacation – I will only use a computer to print the boarding passes for the return home! Tomorrow I need to get a bunch of things done before we go.

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Thing 5 – Image Generators

I’ve played with a few of these before, in my library’s 23-Things-like project (see here). Romance Novel Cover from Glass Giant was one of the first I played with, after my brother’s wedding in 2003. A fun one for librarians is John Blyberg’s old-style Catalog Card Generator.

One of the nice features of Motivator and Trading Card Maker, both from Big Huge Labs, is that they will easily allow you credit the source of your photo if you choose one from Flickr (you have to check the “Add credit to image” box with Motivator; Trading Card Maker automatically inserts the credit).

Here are some of the things I created with these four image generators in our library’s version of 23 Things.

Picnik is a relatively new discovery for me. Although you can use it as an image generator, I prefer to use it for its Photoshop-like qualities – cropping and correcting photos. As an example, I’ve been using it to create a digital file of a large number of art prints that were donated to my university. It’s not good for the prints to be handled a lot every time someone wants to see what we’ve got, so I photographed all of them. I took the photos at high resolution, but I need to modify the files by cropping, correcting, and resizing so they are small enough to attach to an e-mail or fit on a thumb drive. While I can’t show any of these copyrighted images here, suffice to say that Picnik makes it possible for me to do this work at slow times at the two reference desks I work at, and not just at my office computer which (besides home) is the only place a version of Photoshop is installed.

I was surprised to see Tabblo included in the North Texas 23’s list of image generators, because I think of it more as a photo display site than an image generator. Nevertheless, I’ve been wanting to try it for a long time, and North Texas 23 gave me an excuse:

[Click the “Online Image Generators” tab above or this link to see how our library addressed image generators in our 23 Things.]

Thing 4 – Flickr Mash-ups, the end

OK, one more – Animoto, where you can make short, 30-second videos from photos for FREE.   This one takes 12-15 photos you choose from your Flickr account (or Picasa, or Facebook, or Photobucket, or SmugMug, or your own computer or some stock photos on the site), then you choose a music clip from their library or upload one of your own, then the software generates a video.  You can remix it if you don’t like the results.  Here is one that I did with 12 photos from a Florida trip:

[clearspring_widget title=”Animoto.com” wid=”46928cc51133af17″ pid=”4a184cf2110f8e93″ width=”432″ height=”240″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

Thing 4 – Flickr Mash-ups, continued

I tried a lot of the mash-ups suggested in the North Texas 23 blog post. I love Big Huge Labs (aka fd’s Flickr Toys, of which Captioner is a part) and use it a lot for image generation (see Thing 5!). I didn’t like Spell with Flickr because my old eyes have a hard time with small, light text against a black background (a hint to some of you bloggers and website designers out there – think about ALL your readers). It was an immediate turn-off.

The Tagnautica link didn’t work: “Forbidden – You do not have permission to access this document.” I don’t play Sudoko, but for those who do, I bet Flickr Sudoko is fun. FlickrFling has an interesting premise (pulling images based on news feeds), but it was not easy to use and you couldn’t explore the pictures it pulled up any further as you can with some of these other mash-ups.

Flappr is a lot like flickrCC which I’ll talk about in a bit, but not as nice, in my opinion. Colr Pickr and retrievr are other neat ways to search for images. None of these limits the results to only photos in Flickr that have Creative Commons licenses, though.

Which brings me to flickrCC. As you know (or should know) not all images on the web are copyright-friendly. You do not have the rights to use all visuals found there. That is also true with Flickr photos in the overall collection. I’m a university librarian, and we’re always talking to our students about plagiarism – well, isn’t it plagiarism to use an “all-rights-reserved” photo you find on Flickr in your blog, wiki, website, etc., especially without crediting the photographer?

However, the folks at Flickr have arranged separate collections based on the copyright-friendly Creative Commons rules. The photos found in these collections can be downloaded and used under the rules of the specific license for that photo. Searching those collections within Flickr is rather cumbersome, though.

flickrCC is a great tool for searching Flickr for photos that are shareable under the Creative Commons (CC) license. This means flickrCC does the legwork in rounding up pictures you can use for projects, clip art, presentations, bulletin boards, and anything else you can come up with, so long as you give credit to the photographer.

Enter a search term in the box and click “Find”. You’ll get all photos with a CC license where *all* your search word(s) have matches in the picture’s title, tags or description. They are sorted in order of ‘interestingness’, the photo voted most interesting first, and that photo also shows up larger on the right side of the screen. If you don’t like that photo, just click on a different one on the left. If you don’t like any of the first 36 photos, click on “more” on the bottom left. If you want to edit the photo before you reuse it (for example, in an image generator), make sure the “FOR EDITING” box is checked (that’s the default) before you search. If you’re going to use the photo for commercial purposes, make sure the “COMMERCIAL” box is checked before you search.

Here’s a sample search I did on the word “library”, where I wanted to edit the photo:
FlickrCC2 (694 x 401)
Even better, Peter Shanks of Lithgow, Australia, the developer of flickrCC, has also included features (when you click on the “Edit image: in house” link) that enable you to crop, resize, add text and basic graphics to the image, and then add an attribution mark for the photographer. Here’s an example of a photo from the search above where I added the attribution (it’s always put below the photo and becomes part of the image) and some text I added onto the photo:

VancouverPL

One more mash-up to write about – but that will be a separate post!

Thing 4 – Flickr Mash-ups

I used Mosaic Maker at Big Huge Labs to make this:
mosaic4547770

1. Nose bubbles!, 2. Peanut Butter Cup Heart, 3. Houston at Sunset, 4. the green ascent, 5. Shakespeare_Hamlet_Castle, 6. Sapphire Martini, 7. View from 5th Floor of Barbados Hilton, 8. Gruene_08062006_ 038, 9. Heart graffiti, 10. Movie Poster House Tour: Breathless, 11. All that remains of a once mighty tree, 12. DSCF1265

This mosaic was actually created a few months ago as a response to a meme (“an idea, project, statement or even a question that is posted by one blog and responded to by other blogs.”). Here are the question prompts that each of the photos (reading by rows, not columns) answers:
1. First Name
2. Favorite Food
3. Hometown
4. Favorite Color
5. Celebrity Crush
6. Favorite Drink
7. Dream Vacation
8. Favorite Dessert
9. What I Want To Be When I Grow Up
10. What I Love Most In The World
11. One Word That Describes Me
12. Favorite Season or Holiday

Can you guess my answers to some of the prompts? (For #12, I was originally answering a different meme that asked for my blogging nickname, but the answer to that is related to my favorite season.)

If you want to try this yourself, here are the directions (scroll down below the mosaic).

I’ll write more about my experience with the Flickr mashups in North Texas 23 (and about a cool mashup called flickrCC) in a separate post.

Thing 3 – Flickr

My husband and I have had Flickr accounts for a while. I like the sets feature, and we use our accounts primarily to upload and share large numbers of pictures – it’s easy to just send the link. For example, there’s a set in my account with photos of our house when we bought it three years ago, and a set in my husband’s account with photos of our cruise in November 2007.

I’m not willing to shell out the annual $25 fee for even one “pro” account, though. For one thing, we haven’t been on/to a big photo-taking trip/event since the cruise! If I have just a few photos to share, I either attach them to an e-mail and/or upload them to Facebook.

Plus, there are lots of other photo sharing sites out there. Picasa Web Albums are connected with Google, so if you have a Blogger or Gmail account, you have a Picasa account (and that’s where all the photos you upload to your Blogger blog wind up!). Here’s an album I put together recently with photos of my aunt, who will be celebrating 60 years as a nun next month. I needed to send the photos to someone in her town for a PowerPoint presentation, and it was easiest to scan the photos, upload them to this album, and send the link.

[Click the “Photo Sharing” tab above or this link to see how our library addressed Flickr and photo sharing in our 23 Things.]

Thing 2 – Library/Web 2.0

I decided to watch the two videos for Learning about Learning 2.0, but the Stephen Abrams video is just his talking head, and I learn better with some other visuals :), so I watched the A Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto video linked from a comment at the Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us video.

I guess what I take from all this is that Library/Web 2.0 means a willingness to try new things and to change – but not just for change’s sake. I’ve played with some of these 2.0 tools before, some for a long time, some just recently in a 23-Things-type program we’ve been doing at my own library. I like to try them out and then see if there are ways I can use them at work to make my job easier AND benefit our users.

I love, for example, the way blogs and wikis have made it possible for me to create my own “websites” without having to go through our university’s Web Services department or know a lot of code. It’s faster for me to scan and tag books in my collection in LibraryThing than it is to add genre and other information to the local notes in our ILS catalog.

Some things I’ve tried haven’t worked so well – I put Meebo widgits on the blog and wiki I created for a class I support, but the students weren’t using them. But hey, I tried, that’s what matters, and it may be that this or a different tool will work better later.

I guess 2.0 is an attitude more than anything else.