Friday, 2 July 2010

A date with google calendar

Yet another Google application. Not a bad one admittedly ; I fail to find any major drawback to the thing.

The best feature of Google Calendar, in my opinion, is the possibility to create several calendars (for work meetings, personal invitations, cultural events, etc…) to which you can attribute different colours, and which can all be viewed simultaneously on one page. Calendars can either be private or public, with the possibility to add some events private within a public calendar. Events can be automatically reproduced daily, every week, etc, which is quite practical.

The system of notification of events by email or pop up window is also certainly useful, especially for scatterheads like me, but of course you might not want your email address to be flooded with reminders. I preferred to change the default settings and turn it off.

Another interesting feature of Google Calendar is that it can be used to advertise and invite people to events, but to that purpose doodle has the definite advantage, to my mind.

Then there are some more anecdotic features: you can add the weather forecast, and the calendar is linked to Google maps, so that you get a little map when you enter a location for your events (although admittedly it didn’t manage to find “The Coffee Table” I entered for my 23 thing meeting!). Adding the calendar to igoogle was a piece of cake (figuratively speaking, unfortunately).

Now after saying all those good things about Google calendar, it remains that I still prefer the plain, old-fashioned paper calendar that I carry in my bag all the time and which has the major advantage of being doodlable (I mean old fashioned doodles with a pen). I suspect too I am not the only one. As Libgeek suggested, this would seriously compromise its viability as a staff calendar.

Now the other obvious use for libraries is, as suggested on the 23 Things blog, to use it to advertise events or show opening hours and planned closures. This is an excellent tool for big academic libraries and for public libraries where there are always many events taking place very regularly, but probably not as relevant to college libraries.

Sunday, 27 June 2010


Against all appearances to the contrary I am not dead, or on holidays with no internet, and no, I haven’t given up on the 23 Things. I have only been extremely busy the last three weeks, but now I well intend to catch up with all that I missed!

Now for the doodle meeting. I had had opportunities to answer doodle polls before, so was not new to the concept, but I had never organized an event myself. Now this is definitely something I might adopt on a regular basis. Organizing a meeting via doodle is extremely simple and quick, and is a definite better than sending emails back and forth between various participants. The big plus side is that one doesn’t need to register. To modify the poll is also very easy.

When all the questions of space, time, matter and the nature of being have been resolved thanks to a little poll, only one question remains: Will there be biscuits at the meeting? To make sure that the coffee discussion over the 23 things would prove attractive I even set up another doodle poll:

The only thing which I would like to have is the opportunity to give more subtle answers that OK/NO. Something along the lines of YES, PERFECT / NO WAY I CAN DO IT, NO, EVEN IF THERE ARE COOKIES / WELL, YES I CAN, BUT THE COOKIES HAVE BETTER TO BE GOOD BECAUSE IT’S REALLY, REALLY NOT CONVENIENT AT ALL. Or something along these lines. Apparently Doodle allows you to do that already, according to the blog Musings about Librarianship, but I could not find the option. I would be very grateful to whoever would tell me!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Blog picking

The instructions for Thing 4 seemed innocent enough: read the blogs of other participant to the programme and report back. The difficulty of the task soon became evident at the number of blogs on display. Which ones to look ? My dubious solution was to pick a few catchy blog titles, combined with the pseudo-methodical approach of working my way up the list from the end of the alphabet.

I hadn't expected such diversity of displays and design, some minimalists, others very elaborate, others fun and quirky. Contents similarly varied. Some blogs adopted a straightforward and personal approach to the thing at hand: describing how they went about doing the thing in question, their own difficulties, what they liked or disliked about it. For other bloggers the thing was the pretext for a broader reflections on librarianship. I particularly liked the post of whisperintewilderness which took as a starting point her or his feeling of “information overload” when going through the myriad of 23 Things blogs. I also read with much interest the post by Magistra questioning the use of library rss feeds, and musing on what their contents should be.

As for interaction, I commented on a couple of blogs, with mixed feelings – I had nothing really interesting to add, but at the same time felt I should let the blogger know that I had found their posts interesting and thought-provoking. I also answered a doodle poll aiming to get age statistics about the participants.

It appears from the very handy netvibe list of 23 Things Cambridge blogs compiled by LK that most participants settled on blogger. I hesitated a little before adopting blogger. I had used it before and was a bit dissatisfied with the system of label – wordpress, which allows you to classify posts in broad categories, and further specify their contents with tags, appeals much more to my guilty need for classification.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

igoogle? imnotsure.

I took me a long while to write something about Thing 1, because igoogle didn't elicit any strong reaction one way or another.

So... I had used google maps, google books, google translate, google analytics, blogger, google groups, and even created a gmail account for blog, but I had never heard of igoogle before. It look reasonably nice and is easy to use; there are countless different themes to customize it. With boring predictability I searched for "book", and found one with engravings of palm trees apparently from a Dutch rare book. Serendipity.

The "stuff" one can add to the page ranges from the serious and / or practical, to the completely useless and weird. A bit like on Facebook, except that here, you don't have daily requests from friends to add an application that tells you what type of cocktail you had been in a previous life. Boringly again, I stuck to the stuff I knew already and am sure to use. The cute animals which do things in a corner of your screen are probably funny for a while, but, well, for a while only.

Although igoogle seems like a convenient way to have all one's tools and favourite pages in one place, I am not sure I want to adopt it for my personal use. For the thing to be handy, one needs to be constantly logged in with your google account, which I am find myself slightly reluctant to do.

More interesting is the possibility to aggregate all the RSS feeds thay one is following, and to classify them through tabs. However the professional interest is limited ; there doesn't seem to be a way to create a public file with interesting rss feed and share it - but maybe I haven't had a close enough look.

A friend of mine who is training to be a librarian in France suggested I had a look at Netvibes instead, which allows for both private and public pages. It has been used for example by the University Library of Lyon 1 to aggregate news, rss feeds of new publications, etc.. classified by subjects, and subdivided by categories of users. It sounds like a great idea, provided of course that the page is sufficiently advertised and is actually being used by students.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


My experience of web 2.0 until now has been limited to personal use. It can be classified as follows (using the "Thing" classification system, certainly the most flexible in existence):

  • Things I know, use and appreciate: pictures and video sharing applications, wikis, blogs, and online communities like Deviantart (where you can upload your artworks and comment on other people's). I even kept a blog with a silly name featuring film and book reviews and illustrations, twice. Unfortunately my intentions to update it at least weekly failed to be translated into practice (let us hope this blog will have a better fate).

  • Things I know and used, but wished I hadn't, like Facebook.

  • Things I know are useful and definitely should use more, amongst which, RSS feeds.

  • Things I roughly know of, but never bothered enough to look into, such as twitter - although the word limit suggests interesting literary developments...

  • Things I might vaguely have heard of, such as, well.

To be absolutely frank, my initial reaction to the 23 Things Cambridge was - that sounds interesting - but aren't some of those things a bit gimmicky? Well, some probably are, and others might turn out to be extremely useful in improving academic library services. The only way to know is to try, and this is a great incentive to do so.