29 October 2005

on the uses of the biblioblogosphere

I started browsing around in the biblioblogosphere sometime during winter break last year. I had heard of librarian.net and Librarian Avengers and a few others from various sources, but when I dove in to the land of links, I really had no idea who any of these people were. And as I started reading, I had no idea who all the people they talked about were. Who was this Walt Crawford person, and why was everyone so excited when he got a blog? I had a hard time lining up real names and blog names for awhile--was Jenny the Shifted Librarian or the Librarian in Black, or maybe the Free Range Librarian? And what the hell was all this RSS stuff everyone kept talking about? Feeds? Subscriptions? Aggregators? It was code to me; code being spoken by a group of people in the know, all of whom seemed to know each other and refer to one another in endless loops. In many ways, then, it was like a clique--like one of those supercool groups of people I never quite belonged to. But in important ways it was different from a clique--it existed (mostly) in virtual space, and, perhaps by virtue of that, it was a club that anyone could join. I never felt excluded in my early months of reading; I just felt like I was getting the lay of the land.

Eventually I started to figure it out. Bloglines! What a nifty tool! RSS goodness, as so many of the people I read would say. I figured out who was who. I started using my incredible printing privileges at school (they let you print out unlimited amounts of stuff for free--it's crazy, but hard not to like) to print out Cites & Insights. And then, perhaps inevitably, I started a blog of my own.
Now, thanks to Michael Stephens ofTame the Web, there are a bunch of Dominican students blogging. (Hi, Natalie and Connie and probably some others of who whom I know but am forgetting!) I stopped thinking of this as a sort of unofficial Dominican forum and started thinking of it as my own little personal domain awhile back. I had the great privilege and pleasure of meeting a whole bunch of the people whom I had myself started to refer to casually at the bloggers' shindig at ALA (thanks again to It's all good for sponsoring the party, and thanks to Walt for sharing cab fare up to the Loop).

I've been thinking a lot about all of this while reading various people's reactions to the Nielsen weblog usability article over the past week or so. I won't reiterate the excellent critiques made by Mark and Angel, but I will say this: I never felt unwelcome by the first blogs I read (my blog parents, as Rochelle so charmingly put it). I didn't understand everything I read, but it wasn't because people were using too much jargon or acting too clique-ish. I didn't understand everything I read because I was new to the biblioblogosphere and new to librarianship. I liked what I read; I liked figuring it out; and, most of all, I liked the feeling that I was entering a community I was welcome to join.

There aren't many places in the world where you can get by--get ahead, if you want to think of it that way--simply on the strength of your ideas and your willingness to express them. The biblioblogosphere turns out to be one of those places. I'm immensely grateful for that. I haven't been blogging much lately--the whole life trumps blogging thing that many have experienced--but I still dip in and sometimes dive in to this wonderful set of waterways that all of you have built. One way or another, I plan to keep on tumbling through it, and I hope that next June, one way or another, many of you will all wash up in New Orleans.

23 October 2005

carnivals and dereliction of duty

I am so woefully behind that I have even neglected the marvelous Carnival of the Infosciences. I am sure that, due to the wonders of the biblioblogosphere, you have picked them all up elsewhere, but to give them the credit they richly deserve, here they are:

Carnival of the Infosciences #8 at The Industrial Librarian
Carnival of the Infosciences #9 at . . .the thoughts are broken. . .
Carnival of the Infosciences #10 at A Wandering Eyre
Carnival of the Infosciences #11 at Christina's LIS Rant

And there'll be another one tomorrow!

my mantra

Here's the post I wrote in Writely sometime back. Life has become more hectic since then, but I offer this to tide you over for awhile.

Everyone has their own set of frustrations (often with technology, sometimes with life in general). I've had my share over the past few weeks, too numerous and dull to mention, and thus instead I offer you today my favorite frustration mantra. You can find it at the very end of The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling.


We haven't a camelty tune of our own
To help us trollop along,
But every neck is a hairy trombone
(Rtt-ta-ta-ta! is a hairy trombone!)
And this is our marching song:
Can't! Don't! Sha'n't! Won't!
Pass it along the line!
Somebody's pack has slid from his back,
Wish it were only mine!
Somebody's load has tipped off the road,
Cheer for a halt and a row!
Urr! Yarrh! Grr! Arrh!
Somebody's catching it now!

Note: One should really always try searching the Web before typing. I was just trying to find a nice Open WorldCat record to link to, and I found that (not surprisingly) there are full-text versions of the whole book available from Project Gutenburg and the University of Virginia. The UVA one even includes the proper italicizations, which the Gutenburg version lacks.

09 October 2005

brave new word processor

When I first read about Writely (I can't remember where, though I've since read about the experiences that Rick and Rikhei have had with it, and I'm interested to see what comes of Chad's experiments with SynchroEdit), I was extremely excited. Writely (and its rival applications, including SynchroEdit and WriteBoard, which Rikhei was unimpressed with) is a web-based word processor. All of them are hyped as collaborative tools--ways for multiple users in different locations to work on the same document, but they can also be used by a single user to work on the same document at multiple locations. That's the part that got me excited.

For years I have been schlepping files around (either literally, via floppy disk, or virtually, by e-mailing attachments to myself) in order be able to work on them as I move from home to school to work. It's kind of a pain, since I often have to reformat documents--I use a Mac at home and PCs of varying ages and with varying editions of Windows installed on them elsewhere--and from time to time the transfer simply doesn't work.

Wouldn't it be great if I could store my files in cyberspace, and work on them in cyberspace, and have them accessible to me anywhere I can I get online, no muss, no fuss? That day may be coming, but it's not quite here yet. Writely lets me write and keep files on the Web, but so far (and I should cut them some slack; I know they're still in beta) it doesn't provide many of the functions that I need and want in a word processor. It's great for blog posts and probably for Web content in general; I like the template layout rather better than Blogger's, which I'm using now, though I haven't been able to post to my blog directly from Writely yet. But if I'm writing a paper or an article, there are a lot of things I can't do. I can't add footnotes. I can't get a page view to get an idea of how many pages I've written and how much space I have left to fill, and I can't get a word count. In theory you can export the document as a Word file or a .zip file; on my Mac, the .zip file came out nicely as an .html document, but the Word file came out as an Excel file, and I wasn't able to read it at all.

Despite these difficulties, I'm still excited about Web-based word processors. I have a Web site in part because it's such a handy way to store information, although the process of storing it there is somewhat laborious. Web-based e-mail and blogs are wonderful because you can create them on the Web as well as storing them there. I look forward to the day when I can do fully functional word processing on the Web and stop worrying about how to get my words from one place to another.

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