Debbie’s blog

I enjoyed the workshop on Second Life – it was really interesting to see how Imperial is using it as a learning tool. I can see how you can use it to give a more realistic experience of a hospital than a questionnaire would be – they’d both test the student’s understanding, but a more visual experience might help people remember better.

I had fun creating my avatar – who knew virtual hair could be just as unruly as the real thing? There were some interesting points raised in discussion once a few people had turned up at the SL version of Imperial, as to how virtual worlds evolve and what they’re useful for.

I don’t think that SL has much to offer libraries at the moment. I think it’s at its best when allowing people to interact with each other. There might be something we could do with linking e-books to a book in SL, but I don’t really think the technology is there yet – the graphics are too clunky and at the moment it’s going to be far quicker to just go to the website. I also don’t think that students would necessarily expect to be able to go to the library in SL, unless Imperial vastly increases the virtual campus.

In common with approximately half the internet*, I downloaded Google Chrome when it was released. I then opened it, played with it once, and promptly forgot about it. But earlier this week, I had to be away from my usual PC, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to try something new.

I’m always slightly suspicious of Google. Despite their claim that they’re not evil, I often can’t shake the feeling that they’ve watched too much ‘Pinky and the Brain’ and sit there every night plotting to take over the world. Them launching a browser is clearly their next step on the path to world domination. But it sounded so good…

Chrome is definitely fast. And the fact that each tab is almost a separate browser is very handy when one site you’re looking at crashes – everything else is fine, which is a nice change from the whole browser crashing. I don’t like the combined search & address bar – the flashing up of things as you type annoys me. And a few sites which I regularly use don’t like Chrome – they either say they don’t support it, don’t allow me to use a full range of features, or tell me to upgrade my browser – though this is the sort of thing you expect for a beta service.

I think, on the whole, the main thing that I dislike about it is that I can’t customise it. I’m an inveterate fiddler – I add buttons to toolbars in Word & Excel, I change settings in Outlook. Firefox, with its many many add-ons, is more or less aimed at me, and I’m far too attached to it to let go. Yet.

*disclaimer: I in no way tried to research this, it’s just a guess.

I’ve been using this week to catch up a bit, as I missed week 6. Naturally, it seems that I missed the week with the most things to try!

I tried setting up a homepage with pageflakes. I did look at Netvibes too, but there didn’t seem to be much difference and Pageflakes seems friendlier, somehow (completely illogical, but there you go).

I didn’t think too much of it at first – it struck me as a bit of an overblown RSS reader. Then I added my twitter feed. Then the Facebook flake. Then I added the Blocks game, but I had to take that off as I’m a recovering Tetris addict…. and, rather optimistically, I added the comments feed for this blog. I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be keeping Pageflakes going, but I suspect it’ll be more as a personal thing than a work one – I like the fact that I can update sites from there, without going to them. What can I say, I’m lazy and it’s quicker!

There are definite applications to use this for learning though. For Environmental Technology, we already have a blog and a delicious list. We could add those as flakes, the general library feed, two or three other subject related ones and then you have a subject portal, near enough.

For this week’s activities, I signed up with twitter and Ning. I quite like twitter, although its usefulness does rely on you having people to tweet at…..and something to say yourself! Once I’d started following Jenny, I looked for any other names I recognised – I take it it’s not something many other people opted to do?! Though it did lead to me getting the (slightly disconcerting) message that ‘DowningStreet is now following your updates on Twitter’, which led to thoughts of Big Brother. No, not that one, this one. Twitter strikes me as a useful way to communicate with users, particularly students – maybe a twitter feed of library headlines or something along those lines?

I’m on Facebook, but I’m not what you’d call an active user. In common with most people, I signed up because a couple of friends did. I use it mostly for messaging people whose email I’ve lost, and reading other people’s status updates, though I usually do that via RSS rather than the site itself. I’ve just started using pageflakes, so that might change.

Given that I’ve used Facebook, the Ning interface looked oddly familiar. I’ve had a play with some of the options on there, and can see that it might be useful to have all the tools available (blog, discussion, comments etc) in one place. I don’t think I’m likely to continue with it personally, as I don’t think I’m sociable enough for two social networking sites! I think it might be a better option for libraries to use though – you could build a network for a purpose, and it exists on its own. We could apply it to some of the teaching that we do, I think – use the blog and discussion features for follow up.

I’ve been listening to podcasts for about 18 months now. It started with just the one. Then, before I knew it, there was another, and another. Currently there are 6 I listen to on a regular basis, with a few more that I dip into. However, these are all entertainment ones – given that it’s me that we’re talking about, the usual content is robots/spaceships/wizards/zombies/mysterious tropical islands with polar bears on; they’re generally not concerned with libraries. So I was interested to see what this week’s activities would be about. I’ve had a listen to the library podcast that we offer, and the new one that’s in progress, and they’re pretty good. I think that they’re a useful thing for us to be providing; when you think that most students will probably have an mp3 player, offering them content in this way has to be a good thing.

I’ve got a bloglines account, so I’ve been using that to keep track of podcasts. It’s getting to be a bit of a pain downloading them though, so I thought trying a podcatcher might be a good thing to do. I downloaded iTunes, and more or less disliked it on sight. I mean, it’s pretty and everything, but I don’t really listen to music much, so I don’t really need links to the the iTunes store. I don’t have an iPod, so I can’t sync my mp3 player with iTunes. There’s nowhere to import feeds to. And when it finally does subscribe you to the feeds that you want, it puts them in a set of folders which are fine if you’re using the whole thing and want to keep tv shows, movies, podcasts and music separate, but are less than helpful if you want to just do podcasts. So I gave up and looked for something else! I ended up with Juice, which is a lot simpler and lets me specify the folder I want to use. My mp3 player is essentially a flash drive, so I can set it up to download to there and I’m sorted. Much better. (Note: I don’t think Juice is being updated any more, but for the moment it does what I want how I want, so I’m happy. Feel free to suggest something else for me to use!)

To try and avoid making this the longest blog post in history, I’ve added a video to a separate post, which is really easy! I can see how youtube, and videos in general, could be a really useful resource for us. We could, for example, make a video tour of the library. Not only would this be useful for new students who can’t make it to a library induction, it would also help us show off the new ground floor to returning students and staff.

The session yesterday with John Conway was very informative. I hadn’t realised that so much could be done with such ease. There are definite applications here for us. We could put little bits into Olivia about searching the catalogue, or databases – it’s much easier to get an understanding of what’s going on when you actually see it happening. We could maybe put some of the training sessions that we do up online somewhere too, and that might reach students who don’t want to come to library sessions, but still might need a bit of help.

I can’t seem to get to grips with the audio, as I don’t have anywhere to upload the music to. So here’s a video from youtube instead. Can we get chairs like this for the library?

I use delicious quite a lot – we have an account set up for Environmental Technology, which we use for listing various useful resources – for example, ones mentioned mentioned by lecturers as recommended reading, or free online resources that are subject relevant. I’ve found things by clicking on tags to see what others have saved, which is a change from using a search engine – it’s also interesting to see how many other people have saved a link, as it gives you an idea of whether it’ll be useful or not.

I use delicious for personal things too – I mostly tag stuff on there if I think I might want it later, but not frequently enough to bookmark – my bookmarks are overflowing as it is!

There’s a handy application for checking all your links are still available, which I’ve found very useful when checking the Env Tech account – checking 317 bookmarks indivdually would be a bit of a pain. It’s called FreshDelicious, and you can download it from here. You get a report of which links are giving error messages, and then you can either delete them or mark them to check again later.

I do have a flickr account, but I don’t really use it. I think this is probably because I don’t take many photos, and when I do, they’re of people; I’m less happy about putting those online than I would be photos of landscapes. I think that flickr could have applications for the library – we could put up a set of pictures of the new ground floor, for example, so people can explore it before they come over.