25 October 2007

#13 De.lic.ious - my view of tagging develops

I didn't think much of tagging when I had a look around Flickr. But the article I read this week on The Several Habits of Wildly Successful del.icio.us Users hit home immediately when I started to consider the difficulties we have locating documents in our organisation's document management system. It requires that the creator of a document use "appropriate terms" in naming the document. That's fine for the creator, but if other users of the document could add terms or tags of their own to help find the document again, that would be a definite plus.

The use of the "for" tag looks interesting, too, for current awareness alerting within our organisation. I must investigate that further. Ditto for another relevant website I discovered: Social Software in Libraries
Melissa Rethlefen's article "Tags help make libraries del.icio.us" in Library Journal last month is another eye-opener, filled with exciting ideas for attracting library users to high quality information sources.
Even within our staff, using accounts with del.icio.us and LibraryThing could be a great way to share ideas for developing services.

16 October 2007

#12 RollYo search for Grey Power

Now isn't this the tool I've been needing for so long! What a great way to focus searching to the most reliable sources.
Since ALL of us are growing older (not just us Baby Boomers) the question of how we want to live our lives in 10, 20 or 30 years from now is one that most city governments grapple with on a daily basis. Working for a municipal library, I have often had queries from our council staff about access, design, strategic planning and policy research for our ageing population. There is a lot of excellent research taking place and some wonderful internet resources like Ageline, DocuTicker, Intute and Australian Policy Online that help connect us to it. I have grouped my favourite resources together into a search engine I've named Grey Power and added the search box to the sidebar. Give it a try with this search example: technology "older people" to give you an idea of the range of excellent ideas at work in the world.

14 October 2007

#11 LibraryThing is very addictive

This was almost like getting lost in a secondhand bookshop! I could spend days and days here! I particularly like the suggested reading recommendations that it offers when searching either an author or a book title. This could be very useful for reader advisory.

I've set up my LibraryThing catalogue using my InfoSleuth handle. There's also a search box you can try over on the right sidebar. Input "photography", "travel", or "crime" and you can see some of the ~25 titles I've added. These represent some of my own home library, but I intend to continue to use LibraryThing mainly to document my reading which is supported by my work library more so than my home library.

The Librarians Who LibraryThing group is a terrific social network. I've joined that one and the one for Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries where I couldn't resist making a suggestion for a Michael Connelly fan.

13 October 2007

#10 Playtime with Image Generators

The rumour that's flying around is that John Howard will announce the date of the next election sometime this weekend. So it seemed perfectly reasonable to consult the "Bizarre Rumour Generator" that I found on the Generator Blog. It took a few goes, (because this generator is truly bizarre!), but eventually it created:

Merely twenty minutes ago, John Howard skillfully was mistaken for 3.14 screaming children.

Now this was a rumour that even I could believe! We'll have to wait and see if the other one is for real.

In Flickr Toys I selected the Motivator and made a poster from one of my photos:

eLouai provided the Harry Potter Doll Generator that enabled me to create this avatar:

I have no idea what Harry Potter character this has morphed from. Obviously not Hagrid!!

07 October 2007

#9 RSS Set Up

This took awhile and was a bit tricky, but I've got a Bloglines account now. I think I have made my feeds publicly available and I have also registered this blog with it.

I have added a number of library-related feeds, including The Shifted Librarian, several book related sites, eg, a favourite crime fiction blog, The Rap Sheet. I also put a couple of digital photography blog feeds on as this is currently my passion, and I will monitor some of my favourite current awareness sites - ResourceShelf and Librarians' Index to the Internet. I'm not sure quite how to list these on this blog, but there is a link to them on the sidebar. I think I need to find a good humour site to add to the list!

06 October 2007

#8 RSS Feeds

More serendipity this week:

One of my most favourite online reference sites, ResourceShelf, has chosen the timely subject of its own RSS feeds as its "Resource of the Week" How good is that!

What is also quite uncanny is that this weekend is when our IT department is planning to load the IE7 browser onto our work PCs. I've been waiting a long time for this, especially because we are not allowed to download software and IE6 does not have a built in RSS feed aggregator like both Firefox (which I use on my home PC) and IE7. For a long time now, I have been considering how RSS could be used on our Council's corporate intranet to enable internal users to create their own "current awareness" pages. There hasn't been any way of testing this idea until now.

Rafe Needleman's video introduction mentions "more news from more sources than you could ever possibly read. " Now this is what has frustrated me the most about RSS feeds up till now. The ones I currently have on my home PC in my Yahoo Mail account are mainly news headlines from major media sources. Most of the time I don't want to read any of them. But what do I do with the ones I want to keep or read later? I guess the trick now is to focus or customise the RSS feeds that I subscribe to. I'll go back now to the lesson plan and work my way through. This may solve my problem.

01 October 2007

#7 Cataloguing vs. Tagging

I've had a look at a number of photo sets in Flickr to see how tagging was used. Pretty sloppy on the whole, I think. As far from LCSH headings as you can get. A number of contributors made up excessively long lists of tags which they added to each photo in their set whether the tags were relevant to the content or not. Others chose very obscure, made-up words to tag their photos - a private coding system? As a mechanism for describing photos tagging seems only to add extra serendipity to an already very serendipitous environment.

This exercise resurrected a memory of an exhibit I saw many years ago at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art. As I recollect, it consisted of approximately 10 copies of the same A4 sized photograph. Below each was an A4 sheet containing a minutely detailed description of the photograph. Each description focused on a particular viewpoint ranging from the wholly objective to the purely subjective. These are roughly the areas of description covered:
1) Physical - spacial dimensions
2) Chemical analysis of the paper and emulsion
3) Technical - how the photograph was made
4) Economic - commercial product
5) Historic - when it was made and its provenance
6) Thematic - style of composition
7) Sociological - its meaning in the society
8) Cultural - aesthetic properties
9) Psychological - emotional impact of the image
10) Philosophical - existential meaning - which would be totally unique and subjective for every viewer.

In case you are wondering what it was: a monochromatic sepia-toned commercial print made in the late 1880s; a figure study, not intended to be shown in polite company but quite tame by today's standards!

As an example of descriptive cataloguing, I don't think I have ever seen anything to match it. And yet it showed very clearly the variations of description that can be applied to just one photograph and how those will ultimately vary from one viewer to another.

So what is the value of tagging or folksonomies when there is unlikely to ever be any agreement on what tags are meaningful for all? There is certainly no thesaurus in evidence. I found an astonishing number of photos of groups of people partying when I had searched only for photos with tags that were place names. From looking at any of these photos you could never guess that the party was in Melbourne, Sydney, New York or Paris.

I am open to arguments for tagging, seeing as tags are popping up in all kinds of places - I've seen them recently on Amazon.com and they have been used in Fiction Connection (not very usefully in my experience), so we better get used to it. But at the moment, I'm not convinced.