Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thing 15: Itsy Bitsy Etsy

Now, I'm not one to advocate joining the consumer rush for the holidays, but if you do enjoy giving gifts that mean something, perhaps a few online alternatives might make things easier.

To illustrate the point, let's look at Etsy, a "marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade." Rather with struggling with their own sites or large, multipurpose clearinghouses, Etsy gives artisans a place of their own on the net. Creators put up their wares for sale, Etsy handles the money transactions, and then the crafters ship the products. Sites like this bring us back to a time of small, personal business while they open us up to the products of the world. As an example, take a look at Cosmo's Curiosities.

Small entrepreneurs can find a marketing site for nearly any thing they create. Here's a small sampling to show you what's out there:

Lulu.com is a self-publishing business and marketplace for creatives of many stripes. They use Lulu's tools to format their content and turn it from electronic files into print, CD, DVD, calendars and reports. They can then use Lulu as the back end for their electronic store or distribution network.

CafePress and Zazzle offer a similar service for folks who want to sell merchandise to promote a band, company, event, online comic strip or anything they can think of. T-shirts, mugs, calendars, CD covers and gifts of all sorts are available.

Threadless takes a slightly different twist. Artists and designers upload their submissions and Threadless members take a week to vote on the designs. When an idea wins, it's printed onto a T-shirt and sold through the site. Often edgy, Threadless t-shirts are perfect for the eclectic freethinker in your life.

New to the scene, Spoonflower will soon be making quilters and crafters around the country swoon. You can upload an image or design to their site and they will custom-print fabric for you. A perfect example of a small home-grown business designed to serve the same type of folks.

Remember SmugMug? You can use their printing service to showcase your favorite photos through prints, photo books, puzzles, photomugs and other personalizable gifts.

If custom printing is more your speed, you've got a wide array of sources to choose from. VistaPrint will take any text you input (or upload) and print it on business cards, stationery, greeting cards, sticky note pads and more. MakeStickers.com works on a similar platform to make custom bumper stickers just for you.

Moo initially made their name by offering minicards -- trendy mini-sized calling cards with individualized designs or photos -- but now stand out by letting you create sets of cards or stickers with a different image on every one. Think of the customization possibilities!

Discovery Activity
No, I'm not going to ask you to purchase anything. Instead, take a look at a few of the sites above and post about what might convince you to buy (or not buy) from the sellers there. What did you like or dislike about the site or the merchandise? How far could this micro-business model go?

That's all the fun and games for now. I hope you all have a wonderfully spooky Hallowe'en! Next week, we'll get back to some nitty-gritty work with Thing 16: Now My Whole Office is Online! See you then!

Thing 14: Right In Your Own Backyard...

One of the most enjoyable things to do at this time of year is find a local haunted house, spooky cornfield or pumpkin patch to hang out in. American Towns "offers communities a single online location for everything--and everyone-- needed to navigate daily life in their town." Local resources of all sorts can be found here, including events and attractions. Updates can be accessed via RSS feed or weekly email digest.

Oddly, American Towns is one of the only non-newspaper sites I've found doing what they do. As you've seen, the Globe, Herald and Phoenix all offer classifieds and event listings. In addition, many of the former Massachusetts small town papers have merged and gone online as WickedLocal, an umbrella site for town-oriented blogs and news sites.

Another way to discover local goings-on is through placeblogging. In the words of Watertown placeblogger Lisa Williams (of the currently non-working h20town.info): "A placeblog is an act of sustained attention to a particular place over time." These blogs focus on physical locations rather than a blogger's life or interests, and can have a treasure trove of local information.

Placeblogger is a search site/directory for placeblogs around the country, while Boston Online colocates links to Boston-area blogs. Universal Hub works slightly differently - the authors write posts about mentions of Boston in other blogs, rather than just offering a list of links.

Discovery Activity
Search American Towns or Wicked Local to find spooky things in your town. One you've found a listing, post a link in your blog.

If you want to Go the Extra Mile, post an event to one or both of those sites for your institution or an organization you belong to.

With our next Thing, we'll shift from the current holiday to our first glimmerings of the next few. If you're in a gift-giving mood this fall and winter, perhaps you'll find a few treasures in Thing 15: Itsy Bitsy Etsy.

Thing 13: This Thing...That Thing....Library Thing!

Spooktastic congratulations from your Coach! We've completed the first half of our run together and to celebrate, this week's Things show us a bit of the lighter side of the social web.

First, though, could you please all take five minutes and fill out our midway survey? It's a few short questions on what you think of the class so far and how you're faring with these Things. Tell me the good, the bad and the ugly....and then it's on to Thing 13.

LibraryThing is a book cataloging site that began as a way for folks to keep track of all the books in their home libraries, but it quickly became much more. To date, over 32 million titles have been cataloged by 500,000 members; each title has user reviews, useful information, descriptions and tags. Tags are user-created terms that help searchers find what they're looking for, based on phrases that other readers think will be helpful. Tags not only identify the content, but also describe the less tangible aspects of the book.

Let's start with a traditional request for this time of year: "I want to read something scary."

Starting from the Search tab, we can enter "scary" as a tag search. Our choices are plenty, but equally importantly, LibraryThing gives us related tags for further searching. Just click on one to get another list of suggestions.

For more traditional searching, you can also use a list of related subjects to find what you're looking for.

Good searching is only the tip of the LT iceberg: users can form groups around genres or authors, discussion forums allow for good conversation, and the zeitgeist page puts all sorts of stats at your fingertips.

A recent LT development is LibraryThing for Libraries, a service that institutions can overlay on top of their existing OPACs to bring LibraryThing tools to patrons. Check out the Danbury (CT) Library's use of LTfL in their catalog.

LibraryThing was one of the first book cataloging sites/social networks, but others have followed. GoodReads and Shelfari are stand-alone sites, and Visual Bookshelf is a Facebook application that does much the same thing. (Here's a neat comparison of LibraryThing and Visual Bookshelf.)

Discovery Activity
Poke around in LibraryThing or another book-based social network and find some spooky reads for the weekend. Choose one or two and share them with your running mates in a post. Feel free to link to the title record if you're able to.

Many of you may have already Gone the Extra Mile and signed up with one of these services. If you have, care to share your libraries with us?

Meanwhile, we'll press on from scary reads to spooky goings-on-about-town with Thing 14: Right In Your Own Backyard....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thing 12: Can You Hear Me Now?

Podcasts are audio broadcasts used to spread the word (many words!) across the social web. Podcasts are created by professionals, amateurs or anyone else with access to a computer and a microphone, and can be on any topic under the sun.

What makes podcasts different from any old audio track embedded in a website is their serial nature. Typically, a new podcast comes out daily or weekly, with a changing topic or guest speaker. You can subscribe to podcasts through a service like iTunes or through your RSS feed reader, or listen to the cast directly at its site.

LISTen is a weekly podcast from LISNews. A short synopis of items of interest, LISTen hits the highlights of the hundreds of weekly stories from this user-supported library news source.

StratFor's Daily Podcast offers a quick analysis of world events and trends, geared towards decision-makers and those who want to know. As someone told me recently: "Listen to this every day if you want to get smarter."

And, of course, one of the most natural podcast sources is radio. NPR's podcast directory is a testament to the continuing appeal of well-created audio-only news and entertainment.

As a note, podcasts are different than streaming audio or internet radio. Podcasts have distinct starting and ending points, while streaming audio flows like a river of sound. Spoiler alert: We'll be covering streaming audio in a later Thing.

How do you find all of these podcasts? As with all things 2.0, you can either hear about them from friends, family and bloggers of all stripes, or you can see if your favorite news/entertainment/educational source has podcasts to offer. You can also search a podcast directory site such as Odeo, Podcast Alley, Podcast Bunker or Podcast.com to look for podcasts on particular topics. If all that fails, use your favorite search engine to look for "a subject of your choice" AND "podcast" and you'll turn up more results than you'd thought possible.

Discovery Activity
Find a podcast that intrigues you using the resources listed above (or another you already listen to) and share it with us in a blog post. Please link to the original website (such as NPR above). Tell us something about your experience searching for podcasts and about what sorts of things were available.

Housekeeping: This is the last of our 2-Thing weeks, but don't worry. In honor of reaching the halfway point in our run, next week we'll be taking a break and engaging in a few more playful sites and tools. So tune in on Monday for Thing 13: This Thing..That Thing...Library Thing!

Thing 11: You(Tube) Oughta Be in Pictures

So, enough with the screens and screens of static text and images. The first decade of the 21st century is much like the first decade of the 20th: still images have begun to move! They've also started to speak and sing and...well...

Meet Keepon, a robot designed to react to and engage with children with autism. Turns out, he's also a YouTube sensation. Just as I'm doing right now, videos posted to YouTube are linked to and embedded in blog posts and web sites around the globe, quickly shooting unknowns into online stardom! They even inspire responses and parodies.

YouTube began as a place for individuals to share moments from their lives, from zombie marches to orchestral experiments and drum line performances. Christmas house light displays and the Hallelujah chorus. Oh, and knitting instruction...lots of knitting instruction.

Somewhere along the way, posting a video to a website became an important marketing strategy. Bands are using online video for inexpensive and easily shared exposure. The pop group OK GO! posted an innovative music video two years ago and it's gotten 40 million views to date. The popularity of this video earned them a spot at the MTV Music Video Awards in 2006.

YouTube is the most well-known free video hosting site, but there are others: Google Video, Vimeo and many more.

As internet connections have gotten faster, longer and more serious video has made it to the smallest screen, usually kept on an individual site rather than with a free service. The TED Talks, Google Tech Talks and Berkman Center lectures are three series of presentations given at esteemed institutions and conferences, put online to share ideas beyond the limits of the lecture hall. Similarly, some higher educational institutions are videotaping professors and offering their lectures online, while others are offering distance learning with print, audio and video components.

Now, for the obvious question: How are libraries using this multimedia tool?

Discovery Activity:
Go to YouTube and run a search for "library video". Include the quotation marks to focus the search a bit. Choose a video that strikes you and link to it. In your post, talk a little about the video and what you think of the library's use of this tool.

If you'd like, Go the Extra Mile and embed the video in your blog post.

And now, reversing the usual course of history, we're going to move from moving pictures back to audio-only with Thing 12: Can You Hear Me Now?


Some more of my favorite videos, just for fun:

Mime Johann Lippovitz's version of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn echoed across the web....and eventually got him onto to the stage with her.

Do you remember The Dot and the Line?

And, because we must be able to laugh at ourselves...The March of the Librarians.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thing 10: What Do I See There?

There's a certain satisfaction in sharing your photos with friends and family, but how about millions of people seeing your favorite pictures while looking for other information? In the past year or so, sites have been encouraging users to upload their photos to add richness and interest to search results of all kinds.

For instance, if you use Google Maps to look for San Francisco (CA), you'll not only find a street map of the city, but photos, videos, user-created maps, comments and more. What was once a very flat (and...perhaps even boring) answer of "You Are Here" has expanded to "You're Here, and Here's What You Can See, Do, Find, Eat, Explore...."

At reviewing sites like Yelp, user photos can help make those ratings jump off the page. Don't just read what folks liked or disliked about the Boston Common, click on the photos at the upper right and see for yourself.

Over at Amazon, customer images are used less frequently, but sometimes with interesting results. Check out the mind map illustrating Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat.

Discovery Activity
Using Google Maps, Yelp, or another site you've discovered, locate some examples of user-added photos. Write up a blog post on how these photos might have changed your opinion of the place or thing that you searched for. Add a photo or two to your post to make your point.

Your Extra Mile is to upload your own photo to one of those sites and share the link with us.

As this is a short week, we'll end here, but don't touch that dial! Next week we'll take these images and get them moving...then add sound...beginning with Thing 11: You(Tube) Oughta Be in Pictures. And now, for a preview....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thing 9: My Friend Flickr

Hello, all! As I'd hoped, you took advantage of the long weekend to catch up, go further and write prolifically. I'm still reading your posts, comments and email, but in the meanwhile...on to Thing 9!

Sharing your favorite photos has come a long way from vacation slide shows and sticky-paged photo albums. Web-based photo sites like Flickr will store your digital photos and other images online and let you arrange them for easy viewing, but there's so much more you can do.

When you look at a photo in Flickr, you don't just get the image but comments, subject tags, various sets that the image belongs to, additional data about the image and much more. If you click on any of these bits of information, you'll start a search that will find all of the images that meet that criteria. Better still, other people can add tags and comments, or ask to include your work in their photoset to bring similar things together.

Professional photographers and everyday snapshooters are obvious users of these tools, but so are libraries. The Boston Public Library is in the process of putting its collections of public domain postcards and other rare images online. Think about the fragile resources made more widely available through this process!

One of your fellow runners proudly shared a current project: the Emmanuel College Library's Flickr site. They've linked the image of a group of book covers directly to catalog records, so by posting this Flickr image on their website, patrons can see the cover of the book and immediately find out if it's available. Nicely done!

Discovery Activity:
Choose one of the photo sites below and run a few searches for things you enjoy. Try searching for your institution's name and see what shows up, or for a travel destination you're eager to visit. Find a photo that appeals to you and post a link to it in your blog. Write a bit about how you might use photo sharing in your life or library work.

Some places to start:
Take a tour of Flickr's features to see exactly how flexible this tool can be.

Google's photo tool comes in two parts: Picasa is photo editing and organizing software you can download onto your computer, while Picasa Web Albums lets you store and share images online.

SmugMug is a paid photo-hosting service that provides more security and stability for a low annual fee.

Photobucket is a free site that targets bloggers and social networkers, with one-click posting and tons of special effects for your pics.

If you want to Go the Extra Mile, create an account on the site of your choice, upload a few photos and share them in a blog post. You can either post a link to your photos or embed one in the post -- it's up to you. If you have an account already, then just go ahead and show us what you've done!

Now that you've explored the possibilities in getting your photos online, we'll take a look in what you can do with them in Thing 10: What Do I See There?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Thing 8: Of Dates and Lists

In this Thing, we're going to take a look at some fun and functional tools for keeping track of your life online.

Another of Google's many services is Google Calendar. From doctors' appointments to class assignments, Calendar lets you update your schedule from any internet connection. Adding and changing events is as easy as clicking and typing, and you can set reminders to poke you, via a pop-up window or email.

If you choose to, you can share your calendar with friends, family or anyone else who needs to see what you're up to. Depending on what you're using your calendar for, you can make it public to the general world, or invite only a few select people to view it. Many organizations include a calendar in their website to keep customers or members current on events and schedule changes; clicking on the event title in the calendar brings you additional information, directions, contact info and more.

Discovery Activity:
Set up a Google Calendar and share it with me. Just as you did with Google Reader in Thing 7, you'll find the link to the Calendar service in the upper left corner of your Gmail page. Click on the link, fill in the appropriate information and you're set.

Once you've got a few things scheduled, click on the Settings link under the "My Calendar" box. In the list that comes up, you'll see a link to "Share this Calendar" next. Click on that and share your calendar with "boston26dot2 @ gmail. com".

Please note that the goal here is to learn to use this tool. For your calendar entries, feel free to use made-up events, national holidays, celebrity birthdays or the storytime schedule at your library. Just something to practice with.


Shifting from managing time to managing tasks, Remember the Milk, Todoist and Toodledo are three tools to help keep your to-do lists organized and available wherever you're online. Depending on which service you use, you can integrate your task manager with your calendar and email to create a personalized complete time management system. Toodledo has thoughtfully provided us with a comparison of some popular tools.

Going one step further, 43 Things, the 1001 Day Project and similar sites take your to-do list into the social web. Rather than a simple checklist of tasks, these sites encourage you to think of long-term or life-time goals. Then, they take that simple list and add the elements of a social network to it, providing you with a virtual community of support, advice and encouragement. Other members of the network cheer you on and you can do the same for them.

There are many other tools out there to improve your efficiency and organization on the web. LifeHacker and 43 Folders are two sites that showcase the newest resources and offer tips and tricks for streamlining your life.

If you'd like to Go the Extra Mile, consider signing up for one of these services and tell us which you chose and why in a blog post.


This is one of our two-Thing weeks, and you've got a little time to catch up and play with what you've discovered so far. Next Monday, we'll get away from all the text and start looking at some pictures with Thing 9: My Friend Flickr.

Housekeeping note: Due to the Jewish holiday and the long weekend, I won't be online as much this coming week as I normally am. Keep emailing me questions and concerns, but understand that I'll be slower to respond than usual. Thank you, and enjoy!

Thing 7: Feed Me!

Every once in a while, someone else has described something so well that all you can do is share their words. The Common Craft Show is a free resource for videos that teach the basics of the social web and other topics. For an introduction to RSS, here's Lee:

Simple, yes? RSS is a tool that allows web users to "pull" information to them, much like a magazine or newspaper subscription lets folks pull the news to their mailbox. Using feed readers or news aggregators, individuals can subscribe to receive the latest updates from their favorite sites. To read the updates, all they have to do is go to their reader, log in and see what's new.

For a bit more detail, here's a text-based presentation on RSS, feed readers and how to organize them.

Discovery Activity
Create your Google Reader account and subscribe to up to 5 feeds. You can subscribe to your favorite blogs, news feeds from national or local sources, or library-related resources. Better still, subscribe to your running mates' blogs and follow along with them on our marathon!

A word of warning: subscribing to feeds can be a bit addictive and quickly overwhelming. Start small and build up your collection slowly.

To start using Google Reader, log in to your Google/Gmail account and click on Reader in the upper left corner. You'll be taken straight to your Reader page and you can take off running!

A few places to find those feeds:

The New York Times and The Boston Globe both offer feeds for their primary sections. You do need to register with the site to read the content, but it's free.

Library Journal has feeds for most of its major sections. Scroll down until you start seeing those orange RSS icons, then click on one to see the full list.

Educational Feeds and Government Central collect feeds from those fields in one A to Z list. Think of how this might help with reference, if you could find out what's new on the Census Bureau's site without having to remember to check it each week!

As one last resource, I keep track of a number of library-related blogs using Bloglines. Check out my Every Day folder for top recommendations.

Going the Extra Mile
It's not just news organizations and blogs that are using RSS to push information out to their patrons. Libraries are, too. Poke through some of these examples and write up a blog post on how your institution might use RSS to offer your patrons customizeable service.

Now that you've got your information inputs organized, let's move on to time management with Thing 8: Of Dates and Lists.