Friday, September 28, 2007

Thing 8: RSS and Newsreaders

I have a confession to make: I've been putting off this exercise because I've embraced Bloglines as a newsreader for quite some time. I didn't think I could learn anything new, so I procrastinated on reading Thing 8.

I subscribed to the other participants' blogs during the second week, and it has been interesting to keep up with everyone's progress. I was already subscribed to the recommended feeds in Thing 8.

I have mixed emotions about my Bloglines account. On the good side, it has really cleaned up my e-mail inbox because I stopped subscribing to many e-newsletters that I now get in a feed. On the bad side, I am so overwhelmed with information that I often simply delete them all without reading them. I do try to at least read the headlines when I can.

Here is my blogroll.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thing 7: Blog about Technology

I'm using this post to go public with the fact that I've learned that Flickr really is useful for many things. While it doesn't make the pretty online photo albums that I most enjoy, it does have other applications. I am so happy that we had the previous lesson because I learned that you can indeed link to a Flickr photo, and in a variety of sizes. I always thought that Flickr looks messy...heck, I still think that...and I was too distracted by that to find out its many uses.

Still, while it is tons of fun to explore the bazillions of pictures in Flickr, I don't presently have a professional use for it.

I've been reading the other participants' blogs all along and some of you will find that I've made comments! I am enjoying getting to know all of you.

Thing 6: Flickr Fun

In my previous post, I admitted that I much prefer Picasa to Flickr for my personal photo albums and for sharing them with others...and for keeping up with friends' photo albums. Pretty much everyone I've shared Picasa with has become a convert!

However, when it comes to fun time, Flickr wins hands down. Flickr can become a huge time sucker as you discover all types of silly and creative things to find or to create. I doubt that I'll really use it on the job, but it can be fun for creating humorous images for friends...for example, FD's Flickr Toys has lots of fun projects. It would not surprise my friends to learn that the first one I tried was the lolcat generator.

This is Digby. He is my ancient Cornish Rex cat, and he is living on some borrowed lives because his nine ran out years ago. He is a pure black and pure white cattie, so I made him the mascot for our library's digital laboratory for digitizing our special collections: Digilab. YAY, I figured out how to link my Flickr photos to this blog without saving them to Photobucket!

Unfortunately, the mappr site has been down for a couple of days. I played with this when I attended Computers in Libraries this spring. The Color Pickr is fun but it didn't hold my attention for long. Montager wasn't doing anything past just finding one image using my tag "lolcats"...if I was looking for other "lolcats" it would be easier to just search Flickr. I posted my Librarian Trading Card yesterday. I read the Quick Online Tips article and learned of many useful tools...if I were to use Flickr for my online albums. Alas, I am still a Picasa addict and won't be using them...but I might visit FD's site again to create more lolcats, LOL!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Thing 5: I don't like Flickr and I want you to try Picasa

I love to take pictures. It has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl and was gifted with someone's old B&W camera, the type that you hold at your waist and look down into.

Over the years I became more lazy about film photography. Storage was such a hassle. Where to keep those big bulky albums? I can go for years and years without looking at old photos. If I need to find a particular one, it takes a lot of effort to find the right box with the correct album, select the correct album, and find the picture. And I can just forget ever trying to find the negatives. Only a few people can view an album at one time. I tried slides and a projector for a while, but ended up hating that format and selling the projector. And how do you share your pictures with friends and family in other areas?

Once point-and-shoot digital photography became affordable, I fully embraced it and began carrying my Kodak Easyshare in my purse. I am frequently the one called upon to take candid snaps of social events.

Online photo sharing is not a new concept for me. My first attempts at this were to create my own website and link photos to it, but that was a lot of the document in the html editor, edit it, save it, then upload it and the photos. The emergence of online photo galleries made it so much easier and it can be done from anywhere.

When I purchased my digital camera, I began using the Kodak Easyshare Gallery but soon found it to be cumbersome. Some friends were using Webshots and I liked the sharing aspects of it, but it took a long time to upload and view photos. Someone told me about Snapfish, but that took a long time as well. I used Yahoo! Photos for a while, but they are now Flickr.

You can usually count on Google to come up with a fantastic solution, and they did not disappoint: in 2004, they started offering Picasa, which is free software for editing, organizing, and uploading photos. They offer 1 GB of free storage and despite having many online albums, some with more than 100 pictures, I have not even come close to filling my free quota. It can't be beat for on-the-fly photo editing. You can batch process your photos (for instance, do a batch "sharpen") or you can edit each one one by one. It is incredibly fast...I returned home from a trip to the Bahamas with about 150 digital images and edited and uploaded the entire set in about an hour...I was able to share them with friends who had gone on the trip with me before they had even unpacked their dive gear! Here I am in San Salvador with my partner Jay.

Honestly, while I've had a Flickr account for quite some time, I just can't get excited about it for sharing my personal web albums. I feel that Picasa's interface makes my photos easier to access and in a larger format for others' enjoyment. I don't have a personal need to have my photographs available to the web community at large, and I think Picasa looks much cleaner and more professional. It is easy to subscribe to other Picasa user's albums via RSS, and it is easy to e-mail a particular album to anyone. You can link to any individual picture in a variety of sizes from thumbnail to large and use it on another web page, forum, or social networking site. You can make your Picasa album searchable within Google if you want the world to see your photographic art, but I have disabled that feature.

In addition to the free online albums, Picasa's free software, downloaded to your computer, will help you export html for a web album that you can upload to your own website. It looks so much cleaner than Flickr that I wonder why libraries that use it don't use Picasa instead. Here is an example of one I created after Hurricane Wilma and uploaded to a friend's website. To me, Flickr just looks like a mess and I really wonder if that is the image we want to portray to our customers.

That said...there are a lot of fun Flickr toys that I will explore in Thing 6. Last year I created my own Librarian Trading Card. However, I have been unable to find a way to link directly to the .jpg image within Flickr to post it here. Flickr is VERY limited in how you can use it to link to images on other sites. I can only post to Blogger from within Flickr. Photobucket is a very useful tool for linking photographs to posts. You can easily resize your pictures and you can insert them in web pages or posts on forums and social networking sites. I am an avid road cyclist and SCUBA diver, and here is a photo I have stored in my Photobucket account that I've used on cycling and diving forums.

That said, there is a cumbersome way around linking to images within Flickr. I just saved my trading card to my hard drive and then uploaded it to my Photobucket album. Here you go, enjoy!