My personal set up

Here’s the thing: when you go looking at comments about different tools, you’ll probably find what I did: lots of people talking about the tools, but not as many talking about the meat and bones of how they set things up. (There are a few, but not, in my opinion, enough!)

So, I wanted to do a detailed overview of exactly how my system’s set up. (It got long, but I think having it all in one place is easier than splitting it up.)

Continue reading My personal set up

Links of interest: April 15th, 2011

Living online:

Comments to one of the posts I linked to last week (Denise’s post about why LiveJournal has been such a major free speech tool in Russia) brought up a link to another great post, this one from a 2008 speech from Ethan Zuckerman (formerly of Tripod) about how technology use can shift – the Cute Cat Theory of Activism. It’s well worth a read.

The future of libraries:
Several interesting posts this week about the future of libraries.

Other ways to teach:

Michael Stephens posts comments about what’s working and not working for two different MLIS students in online programs, and solicits ideas from others – some interesting stuff!

Gwyneth posts a great series of library orientation exercises using QR codes that were particularly accessible to ESOL students.

And Cat Valente (author and prolific blogger) shares a really great story from her own education, and about how a week of class time had a lifetime impact on her sense of story and narrative.

Copyright resources update:
I’ve added two new links to the copyright video resources page – one from YouTube about copyright (as you might guess, pretty heavily on the side of content creators, not remixers), and one from Rocketboom about how to dispute a takedown challenge (and what kinds of uses might be fair uses.) More on the copyright videos page. I have some more additions planned, but due to other commitments, it may be about two weeks before I get a chance to both watch the new videos and write them up.

There may or may not be links post next week: I have a day-long interview in a totally different city on Thursday, so it’ll depend on things like travel delays and the amount of focus I have after that.

Task management: tools

Step two in the task management series: figure out which tools are going to work for you. (Part 1: a summary of theories and approaches is a good place to start.)

Starting points:

There are so many things to consider when picking a tool. If you’re like most people, it may take a couple of rounds of trying different ones out, before you find the one that really clicks. Here’s some things you might think about.

Some people really want a satisfying user experience (whether that’s the scratch of a good pen on good paper, or a beautifully designed user interface for the program.) Some people want the bare bones: a plain piece of paper or the blank possibility of a text file. Likewise, some people have a strong preference for specific features or tools, and other people have no need for those same things. So, in this post, we’re going to look at some general questions you might want to think about, and then a couple of different tools, so you can see a range of differences.

There are a ton of free options out there, so if you have trouble figuring out what you like, you can play around with different tools and see which features matter to you, even if you settle on a paid option eventually.

Continue reading Task management: tools

Task management: theories and approaches

I’ve been promising a series of posts about task management for a while now. Welcome to the first one, where I’m going to talk about some of my own background, and then some different basic philosophies. I’ll have links to resources as I talk about different approaches. (Next post will be looking at some different tool options, and then I’ll talk about my actual system.) I’ll also touch on some things we as educators are not really teaching students about these topics in various places.

Many task management systems were originally designed for use by business executives – or at least people with offices (and doors that close), appointment calendars, assistants, and who could plan on at least some chunks of focused time. As a librarian and educator, that’s not reliably a part of my work life (and it isn’t for a bunch of other professions, either), so one thing I’m going to particularly focus on is creating a system that works for those of us who are frequently interrupted, regularly have to switch priorities, or who have variable amounts of energy and focus for whatever reason.

As with other posts in this file and information management series, this series on task management is going to be about half general theory and things to think about, and half “here’s what I do, and why”. I promise screenshots when they’re useful, too!

Continue reading Task management: theories and approaches

Links of the Week, March 22nd, 2011

Welcome to a middle-of-the-week roundup (as I said last Friday, this coming Friday I’ll be running around making an event happen, so you get links today, and then a week from Friday.)

Here, on this blog:

You’ll notice I’ve rearranged the sidebars – added is a new box with quick links to some of my favorite posts and post series. (I think the new layout works a bit better, but please let me know if something doesn’t work for you.)

You’ll see that one of those links is to Copyright Videos: this is the round-up of videos about copyright. My focus was on videos that were short enough (5-10 minutes) enough to be played briefly at the beginning of a discussion, but that also informative enough to give students or teachers something to dig into. (There are a few longer ones that I thought were especially interesting.)

I looked fairly broadly, but I’m sure there’s lots of amazing stuff I missed. If you have a favorite that fits the criteria, please leave it in comments or use the contact form.

Information bits and pieces:

Brian, at Swiss Army Librarian, has a neat post about the American Library Association Library, which posts some of the reference questions they receive (with answers) and links to some of their other resources. Brian also has a post showing how Delicious (whose future is still up in the air) and Diigo compare, using the same links and basic structure.

Joyce Valenza shares several posters she and her practicum student, Jenni Stern, made to illustrate how both traditional and new information skills matter.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has been about how information is communicated. I don’t want to do a roundup of links, but I do want to highlight two that I found particularly interesting. One was a conversation on my favorite Minnesota Public Radio show, Midmorning, talking about news and journalism relating to the quake. It’s actually one of the least smooth conversations I’ve heard from the host in a long while, but that shows how hard it is to have a conversation about some of the deeper issues (and it does settle down into the goal topic eventually.)

I’m also fascinated by the geek comic xkcd’s illustration of radiation levels. You can see some more about the design over on their blag, and his source for the data has a different presentation of it (with more about some specific effects) as well. (She’s a senior reactor operator at the Reed Research Reactor, and as she says “.. one of my many duties is being aware of radiation levels in the facility and adjusting my behavior appropriately.”)

Connecting online:

There’s a great post about what social networking might mean in academia from the Tenured Radical. I definitely agree that it’s much more about making things easier than anything else.

And in the latest round of privacy issues in online settings, Etsy (which has been moving towards adding more social networking tools) made people’s past purchases visible online. Fortunately, they turned this off, but in the meantime, there were some interesting posts about the specific issues of privacy in a purchase setting. Ars Technica has a summary, and Yvi has a roundup of several other posts, as does The Consumerist.

Jonathan Martin has a great post on edSocialMedia about the dilemmas and tensions of blogging as an educator. Personally, I blog because writing for an audience (even a very small one!) makes me think about what I say (and how I say it) in ways that improve my life (and my professional work), because I like sharing neat stuff with other people (hi, librarian), and because it also helps me have a record of what I was thinking about (at least partly) at a particular time.

(I’ll also be honest here and add that I’ve spent more time on the professional blog rather than other forms of writing in the last 10 months or so because it’s also a great way to demonstrate my technical skills, information literacy interests, and much more to potential employers. But I’d been blogging in other settings long before that, and knew that once I found the right tone and focus for this space, it’d be great, which it is.)


The big conversation this week has been about ebooks, and more specifically pricing. First, there’s the question of how much money is saved by having an electronic version rather than a print version. iReaderReview has an older post from 2009 breakdown of costs with links to some other analysis. (but the print book numbers probably haven’t changed that much: I wanted something for context.) Here’s another take from an eBook publisher. There are definitely various ways to look at pricing, but the short answer is: the costs aren’t always where readers expect.

(The rest of this gets long, so you get a ‘continue for more’ cut at this point.)

Continue reading Links of the Week, March 22nd, 2011

Links of interest: March 11th, 2011

Hello, welcome to this week’s links-that-intrigue-me.

First: Marianne had some great comments about the copyright videos I linked to last week. One of my other browser windows currently has a bunch of open tabs where I am looking for more varied perspectives (in video form). I hope to get that posted sometime early next week. (I was hoping for this week, but forgot about the part where it takes me more time to watch videos than it does to scan most webpages for the useful bits.)

Changing world:

There continues to be a lot of discussion in various online spaces about ebooks, ebooks and libraries, technology and education, and much more. This fails to surprise me, somehow. This week has brought:

21 things that will be obsolete by 2020 covers.. well, 21 things in the world of education that may not be here. I disagree with a number of points (I’m pretty sure print books will continue to be around, in part because it’s not like the existing print books we have now are suddenly going to vanish in a puff of smoke or anything), but it does raise some interesting issues about the assumptions behind our current educational models, and what could change, what should change, and what might be really amazing to explore.

Banned Library has a post on 5 Reasons Libraries Should Not Use eBooks … Yet. There’s some vociferous disagreement in the comments that makes further interesting points. (Me, I agree that there are some very real technical, practical, and funding challenges there, especially for public libraries, and that it makes sense not to put too much weight on any one solution or option until some things settle more.)

Brian, at Swiss Army Librarian, has a roundup of links and conversation about the current ebook situation and Harper Collins. [ETA: I realised when making another edit I forgot to mention something here: my understanding from folks I know in the publishing industry is that most of the costs in publishing remain for ebooks – it’s just the shipping/distribution bits of the cost that disappear, which are not as big a part of an individual book’s cost as you might think at first glance. I’ll see if I can dig up some useful discussions of this.]

Steve Lawson and Iris Jastram have the beginnings of a plan for libraries and ebooks: it’s articulate, thoughtful, and addresses a number of specific frustrations and issues. It also can continue to grow, so they’re looking for feedback. Jenica and Marianne both also have additional excellent comments on the plan. (I’m still thinking about the questions Marianne raises.)

Interacting online:

The other major theme in my reading this week was some interesting approaches to interacting online.

Mark Thompson, at Poynter, has a great post called “A 5-minute framework for fostering better conversations in comments sections” that looks in particular at the challenges of figuring out a better way to do that for NPR’s comment threads, that includes links to a lot of different examples (both of what works, and what fails).

Library Journal Online had a piece on whether incremental or major website redesigns are better for libraries (and there’s some discussion in comments). My own take is that it depends very much on what you’re using on the back-end: sometimes a big leap into a new scaffolding is the best way to be able to be more flexible and incremental in the future.

Tyler Tevo0ren had an interesting guest post at Zen Habits on creating a mindful digital life. I particularly am mulling over the advice to “Choose the traits you like about yourself, and exemplify them online.” and the idea of a digital home versus embassies.

There have been a series of posts by various people on the concept of a “YA Mafia” – namely, the idea that YA authors are using their power to ruin up and coming authors, and that’s turned into a more general discussion about cliquishness, friends, and social connections in the publishing industry.

Holly Black’s initial post on this summarises the flaw with the first part very simply: as she says

“But even if there was a YA Mafia, I very much doubt that they’d be able to ruin your career because writers are basically lazy and impractical people. We live in our heads a lot and we can barely get it together to do anything. Seriously, it took me until after 3pm yesterday to get myself a sandwich.”

She’s got a further link round up in a later post, and the DearAuthor site has some thoughts, links to past discussions related to the romance community, and links to other notable posts related to the bigger discussion of interactions between readers, authors, and reviewers.

And finally:

Sarah, at Librarian in Black, has a fascinating if distressing post talking about the results of a survey around book challenges. I find it distressing, but not precisely surprising that there are more challenges than get reported, and that many challenges are not handled in accordance with the actual policy.

Links of interest : February 11th, 2011

Welcome to this week’s installment of interesting links! Coming soon, another post on file management – naming conventions (I’m about halfway through a draft.)

Credit where it’s due: Do you use Creative Commons materials? Do you get frustrated figuring out what you need to cite and how? The OpenAttribute project is designed to help: it’s a browser add-on that looks for information on the page to formulate the citation.

What should people know about dinosaurs? Ok, I admit, I never entirely outgrew the “dinosaurs are neat!” phase of my childhood, but I’m actually equally fascinated by the question of “What *should* people know about a particular subject, and how do we figure that out?” So, imagine my delight in getting a pointer to a post that combines the two. Tom Holz (a paleontologist who focuses on the tyrannosaurus rex) has written a guest post about that very topic, with both general and specific things he thinks people ought to know about the field and why they matter.

A follow-up from last week – namely the bit about BitchMedia’s 100 Best Feminist YA list removing some titles. This week, I bring you Scott Westerfeld on the topic (author of many things, including the Uglies/Pretties/Specials series, and more recently Leviathan

On the issue of diversity, there was a fascinating article from a professor, Margaret Price, about the ways that academic hiring processes are particularly challenging for people with particular learning styles, or disabilities. The article also makes some interesting points about how a gruellingly lengthy interview day (of 8+ hours with very limited breaks) is not actually showing you someone at their best – or as they’d be during a regular teaching day. As more and more schools recognise the importance of diversity and pluralism in all directions, I hope that some of these ideas will become more common.

I know that I’ve deeply appreciated interviews that pay attention to these things, including sharing names of the people on a committee in writing before or during the interview (so that I can match the name and the person and their role as we go rather than try to sort out names and their correct spelling afterwards), and that give reasonable breaks to collect my thoughts and remind myself of what I want to focus on for the next conversation.

As a librarian, how I talk about things with faculty is often different than what and how I want to talk about things with technology staff, for example – and both are definitely different than how I interact with kids.) Obviously, I’m good at changing modes on the fly (that’s part of the job, really), but I do better at it with a moment to get a drink of water, gather my thoughts, look at my notes, and take a deep breath (all things that I’d plan into a typical workday on the job.)

Looking for a good guide to Facebook settings? Mashable has just come out with a really nice, new summary of settings to be aware of. I like to keep an up to date (last month or three) in my bookmarks because they do tend to change things, don’t they?

What technology changes: Henry Jenkins has a great post about how open book exams must change in a wired educational setting – all excellent points. Personally, I’m convinced that it’s possible to design exams (and other projects) such that online resources are helpful – but only if you already know the subject pretty well. This does mean moving away from simple identification questions (which are trivial if you have online access to resources), and moving into questions that require you to understand those terms, but which focus mostly on doing something else with them.

Joyce Valenza is also thinking about this general topic, but from a different direction, in her post about creating a new Research Tools resource online (as she’s moving her materials to LibGuide)

Links post: February 4th, 2011

Short list today: this week has been full of job stuff – last week was sending out lots of applications, this one has been visiting Boston mostly for a hiring conference today and tomorrow which has so far gone well (I liked all three of the interviews I’ve done so far, and I think they’d all be interesting jobs with great kids, but they’re rather different settings, which is also cool.)

Tech literacy:
LG, a maker of various electronic gadgetry, have combined forces with Jane Lynch (of Glee and various other TV fame) to do a series of short videos about various aspects of texting behavior. They’re funny and informative. Their website has links to the videos, but also other resources for parents looking to talk to their kids about texting and electronics-mediated behavior.

Mashable has a nice guide to creating a Facebook engagement policy that’s aimed at businesses, but just as applicable to libraries and other organizations.

A discussion on one of my library boards pointed out a great resource for people taking over archives as a project – particularly apropos for me, because one of my interviews had just asked about my experience with it (I have some, in fact, but more tools are always great.)

Other amusements and news:
Most of you have probably already seen links about the hawk trapped in the Library of Congress’s main reading room, but they managed to catch it on the 26th. (It’s getting checked out by raptor rehab folks, and will be released in a more natural location.)

John Scalzi has a post about an interesting issue – the inclusion or removal of titles from a “100 best titles” list – in this case, a list from BitchMedia of 100 best YA titles for feminist readers. (I do sort of wish he’d left comments open, because his comment space is a very different place from that thread, and I’d have liked to see both approaches to discussion.)

And Jessamyn West, of MetaFilter, had an essay on the NYT about the recent news that only 15% of Wikipedia contributors are female. (MetaFilter, where she is a moderator, takes several steps to make the site a space that is more inclusive of women.) The comments, however, are pre-101 level on this issue: for further reading on related topics, I recommend the Geek Feminism blog.

Me, I think it’s a complex issue, but I’m fascinated by the question of how the choices we make in online settings create places people do or don’t feel comfortable contributing. I don’t think every space has to have the same goals (and in fact, don’t want them to – that’d be boring), but I think more sites being more deliberate about their choices and particularly what those choices mean is never a bad thing.

Links of interest: January 21, 2011

Welcome to the return of the links posts! I’ve got an interesting collection again, so here we go:

Continue reading Links of interest: January 21, 2011

Links of interest: December 6, 2010

(Yes, I try to do these on Fridays, but last Friday I had an interview, and the Friday before was Thankgiving. This week is busy too, so I’m doing this now.)

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I took part in a free WebJunction conference that focused on 21st century librarianship. There were lots of great ideas and discussions (and the WebJunction staff and software worked very smoothly). You can now see all the conference materials (including the presentations and the simultaneous chat sessions) online. I particularly liked Pat Wagner’s presentation on staying committed to great customer service, but there were lots of other good conversations.

On the topic of learning more, how had I missed the site until now? They ask experts in a field (anything from architectural history to political satire to mysteries to .. well, anything) to recommend five books that would give someone a solid understanding of the topic. And why, which is in many ways the more interesting bit.

And Discover Magazine has an intriguing article about using a simple writing exercise to vastly improve student achievement in a challenging class.

What’s the goal of being online?

Several links I’ve come across in the past week or so have talked about both the powers and perils of online interaction.

Doug Johnson revisits an old post of his from 2005 that talks about why restricting online access in schools is problematic. What I find interesting is how much is still like that – but also how much things have changed in some schools.

And I love Scott McLeod’s post about the things we’d be doing (differently) if we truly supported educational technology. (I’m glad to say I’ve done more than a few of them.)

Common advice to authors these days is to be involved online – but how? A post from Betsy Lerner (an agent) looks at a few of the complexities.

I’m very fond of Common Craft’s explanations of media and technology – and they’ve got a new one about social media and the workplace. Particularly great if you know people in smaller businesses trying to figure out where to get started with the subject.

And BoingBoing shared a presentation that makes one think about the power of online tools, and the importance of teaching evaluation skills – and common sense. (The actual combination of events is, as commenters point out, unlikely, but at the same time, I think it’s an interesting case study in looking at other ways to send a situation.)

For librarians and library geeks:

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at Perkins (You may know the name as Perkins School for the Blind but they do a lot of other things these days). More about my job.

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