Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thing 15: Roll your own search engine

Well, I tried Rollyo and I can see where it can be of great benefit. I visit some of the rescue organization sites for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels nearly every day, so I thought it would be great to see if I could make a Rollyo search.

Each day I visit Pet Harbor (the database used by the Humane Society of Broward County, Broward County Animal Control, and similar organizations in South Florida); Petfinder; Cavalier Rescue USA, and Lucky Star Cavalier Rescue. I created my Rollyo account and added those four websites to be searched.

My test search used the term "blenheim", which is the coloration of my own CKCS, Barkley. It only retrieved results from Lucky Star and Cavalier Rescue, and one listing of a pair of adopted dogs from Petfinder. Bottom line: this particular search isn't appropriate for Rollyo as I can simply visit those sites daily and spend a few seconds to review new dogs. Actually, Pet Harbor and PetFinder send daily update e-mails when new dogs matching your criteria are listed.

Try your hand at searching for a rescue Cavalier! Here is my Rollyo:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thing 14: LibraryThing

Well, I know I am going to get kicked out of the librarian's clubhouse for saying this...but I find LibraryThing tedious. Honestly, I can see why so many people think it is cool and why it is so popular, but for me, it is a time waster.

I am very odd in that I don't really like to own too many books. I work in one of the world's best libraries and if I need something, I simply borrow it. If BCL doesn't have it, I order it through ILL. Once in a while I will buy a book after I've borrowed it so that I can refer to it again and again, but in most cases once I'm doing reading a book I have no need to keep it.

I entered five books and was not surprised to see that they are not popular...they are diving and kayaking guides. I spent a little time reviewing and tagging one of them, but I got bored with it. While the social networking aspect of LibraryThing is awesome for fiction and more popular nonfiction, the type of books that I am interested are owned by too few other members for me to benefit from the 2.0 aspects of it.

But don't misunderstand, I am not a sourpuss about LibraryThing! I think it is an AWESOME tool. Many of my friends do keep some type of catalog of the books they own. For me, I own too few books, probably less than 100, to have a need for a personal catalog.

The widgets are pretty cool. So here you go, the widget for the five books I catalogued from my personal library.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Testing the posting of a trading card

Thing 13: Online Image Generators

Oh, what a fun exercise! Image generators are nothing new for me, but I love to discover new ones. While at first glance they may just seem like playthings, they can be very useful when creating web content. I've created many websites over the years and took advantage of free online button generators.

I receive the RSS feed to The Generator Blog and love to play with new items as they are announced. I encourage you to explore the fun and useful generators. Here is one I created back in January with the M&M Character Generator. Don't you think that the likeness is remarkable? :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Have a great weekend!

Barkley and I wish you a wonderful, fun, and restful weekend!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thing 12: Thinking about 2.0

I read the articles posted on the TLC 2.0 website, but I think that our own Amy expressed it in more practical terms. Her blog post here (clicky).

Indeed, my pointing to her blog is a 2.0 action! :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thing 11: Tag your own blog

I love seeing Geeks On Tour for the example of a tagged blog in this exercise. Chris and Jim are long time friends of mine, living the American dream. They sold their Fort Lauderdale computer education company, Computer Savvy, a few years ago...bought a used motorhome on eBay...and took off on the open road with their beloved poodle, Odie. They sell internet satellite dishes and give training on a variety of computer topics as they travel from place to place. If you want to know more about their fun life, visit their blog.

Now it is time for me to blog about my favorite new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy! I've wanted a CKCS for years and years and years. Last fall, I decided to start seeking one in earnest. However, despite contacting rescue societies all over the country, it seems that I could not rescue one. Their excuses ranged from "you work full time" to "you live too far away and we don't ship" (never mind that I would fly up for a dog!) to "this dog hates cats" (I have five cats".

Finally, I found a matched pair just up the coast in Fort Pierce, a boy and a girl 6 and 7 years old. They had to be adopted together. I filled out their application and was interviewed over the phone. The interviewer was very positive and enthusiastic about my suitability as a home for the two.

Then, the wait. I waited and waited and didn't hear. I sent an e-mail that was ignored. Finally, I saw on the rescue's website that the two were adopted by someone else. Then I received a curt message that they found a home where the people didn't work.

Exasperated, I gave up the search for a rescue Cavalier. If I couldn't even adopt two older animals that had to be adopted together, that were a short drive away, it seemed futile to continue. I started searching reputable breeders in the state of Florida. It turns out that Keith Robbins of BlueTide Cavaliers is right here in Broward County, and he is respected nationally for breeding and showing beautiful dogs.

I called him and we had a delightful conversation...indeed, he had two puppies available from two litters and he understands that most people work full time. I made an appointment to visit the baby dogs.

To cut to the chase, a few weeks later, precious Barkley, AKC name BlueTide Captain Morgan, came to live with me. I thought I was buying a dog...but I got a lifestyle! I could blog for hours about how wonderful life is with my beautiful baby boy, but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, here you go, Barkley at Happy Tails Dog Park in Plantation on October 31 at 16 weeks of age. Note that I have added many tags to my blog!

Thing 10: Tagging and

In my last blog post, Blogging About Technology, I promised to write more about newspaper database editing.

Back in the dark ages of electronic database searching, a query had to be quite precise in order to bring back the desired results. This meant that every single story in the daily newspaper has to have "keywords" attached to it so that reporters, editors, and researchers can retrieve them and get relevant results. Because so much newspaper research is done on a tight deadline, they can't afford to weed through irrelevant results.

One of the chores performed by newspaper library staff is called "database enhancement". Basically, it involves making sure that all of the searchable fields are entered correctly: title, date, page, edition, reporter, keywords, and graphics.

Fast forward to the web 2.0 world and now this called "tagging". But that was then, and this is now! In my old newspaper library days, we had to adhere to an approved list of keywords and could not stray without permission from a supervisor. However, many people don't know to search using the formal keywords. A library example of this is that cookbooks are catalogued in the subject "cookery" but customers would search the catalog looking for "cookbook".

Tagging makes searching easier for the lay person. It can make finding things so much easier but on the other hand, can enable the return of many false results.

So far as, I've had an account for some time there. At first, I thought I would find it useful for when I move from computer to computer during the week. As it turns out, though, I have only about 50 websites that I use consistently, and I have them saved to my My Yahoo! portal page. I access most of my daily information from My Yahoo! including e-mail, weather, stocks, headlines, and more. To also add my bookmarks to would be redundant. But that is just for me. I can see where it is a very valuable tool.

Google has made bookmarking somewhat irrelevant anymore. I have the Google toolbar on my browser and if I need a website, I simply type in a couple of key words that I know will bring up my desired is quicker and easier than typing in even a known URL, and faster than going through my bookmarks...whether the ones in my browser or the ones in my account.

I can see where would be useful for reference departments in the library to save frequently used sites for the whole staff. However, I find that I don't really need it on a personal level.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thing 9: Blog about Technology

I think it is amazing how technology has escalated in such a short time. My first job dealing with computers was in 1970, when I was contract help for a community college's registrations. Students would first line up at a desk where a clerk with a keypunch machine would input the student's information onto a Hollerith card. This was called the "header card". They would go to another station where another clerk would input the card and check it for errors.

Next, cards matching the courses they registered for would be pulled from slots not unlike mail slots. They were stacked under the header card with other cards...I forget what but they probably had to do with lab fees or activity fees or something. I don't remember the rest of the process exactly, but the student's stack of cards would go into the master stack. When the stack was the correct height, I'd run it over to the computer center...a HUGE facility that used to be a department store...and put it into some sort of sorting or checking machine that was the size of a chest freezer. From there, it would eventually work its way into the mainframe and the student would be registered.

The thing that amuses me now is that the huge computer that filled a floor of a once department store had less power than the handheld PocketPC I now carry as a super cell phone.

Another thing that amazes me is reflecting back on my first library job. I worked in the library of a major urban newspaper as an Editorial Researcher. When I started in 1988, there was very little that we could search online. Our main tool was VuText, with which we could search local newspapers for free, but occasionally we needed to search Nexis/Lexis or Dialog when we needed information from other states, other countries, or specialized databases. We needed to use advanced Boolean language and sometimes we had to use an old fashioned modem where we would put the telephone receiver into a coupler. The databases cost up to $600 an hour to search, so we had to construct our search query in advance and have it approved by a supervisor.

My job was amazing and exciting. Many times we were gathering information on deadline and compiling it for reporters and editors. I won several awards for deadline research.

One day everything changed. The search system in VuText became easier to use and was mounted on all reporter and editor terminals. They rarely needed the help of a news librarian to get the information they sought. My free time was filled with database editing, a tedious task at best. More on that in a future blog post for the "Thing" about tagging. I was in library school at that time and the Broward County Libraries Division was growing rapidly. I waited until I was vested at the newspaper, applied to BCL as a Librarian I, got an amazing job at South Regional Library, and never looked back.

Right about that time, the SEFLIN Free-Net was established and it was our first glimpse at FREE internet for anyone. Because of my 5-1/2 years of database searching experience, I was certified as BCL's first Certified SEFLIN Free-Net trainer. I had the best time teaching the public how to look things up using the Lynx Browser and how to use Pine e-mail.

Before long, Mosaic arrived on the scene and then Netscape and then Internet Explorer and things moved so quickly that it was hard to keep up! I joined the team that did the initial FirstSearch training for BCL. Looking back, it was a very cumbersome way to search, and we were also teaching people how to use the mouse and how to right and left click and use their address bar. Just think, today anyone can just type a few words into Google and there is a good chance that they will find just enough to satisfy them...or an overload to sate them!

It amazes me that today, anyone, anywhere with an Internet connection, can easily find the world at their fingertips faster and for free. I feel very fortunate to live in these times and to appreciate how far we've come.