Wednesday, January 28, 2009

23 Things Vol. 8: the 23 Things Experience

While late to start and late to finish I complete 23 Things this evening. Since I am a newly minted MLS graduate this is my first real experience being a joiner for an SLA event. I’ll have to admit that I enjoyed the online tutorials and enjoyed building this blog. I am a constant dabbler in technology. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I am an early adopter, but I like to tentatively try new web services or find programs that help me work smarter rather than harder. I will admit that I had experience with several of the services that the 23 Things program outlined, but there were a few that I had not experienced or had not had the chance for trying them first hand.

In the final blog post in the series I thought I might show an alternative or two for some of the services that were shown on the 23 Things modules. I think the staff responsible for developing the program did a great job of showing the technology inherent in many services, and since they couldn’t cover everything I thought I would provide a little context.
        An alternative to You Tube Viddler caters to the business world while You Tube caters more to the consumer market. Much like Paypal wants to be your shopping cart Viddler wants to be your video service.

The service lets users imbed the Viddler player in their site while changing the players look and adding the users logo/brand to the player.

Web Personalities/Service that Use Viddler:
  • Wine Library TV (Gary Vaynerchuk’s video blog)
Twitter, Plurk (Microblogging)

The trend toward microblogging has exploded in the past few years. Mircoblogging refers to short text messages (normally no more than 140 characters) that are sent out in bursts to a select group of followers. They include information like “waiting for the train” or “check out this link:”. Different people have used the services for different purposes. I personally didn’t quite understand the allure until trying it out and now I can understand for those who like to remain in close contact with their friends, colleagues or family it could be an invaluable tool.

Though what began as true inside baseball with only the techno-elite participating has made large strides toward the mainstream. Newly installed President Obama has won accolades from many for using social media services including Twitter to help him get elected. Celebrities like Britney Spears have also moved into the microblogging sphere. There are different services that offer microblogging, but the one with the visibility is Twitter which pioneered the model.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

23 Things Vol. 7: Online Collaboration Tools

The next section on the 23 Things site brings everything together from the previous modules. While previous we went over RSS feeds or tagging the next module is about online software. There are several services that help users organize their workflow to help work smarter rather than harder. Some of the ones that the module highlighted: Remember the Milk, Zoho Docs and Mindomo though there are several other services out there as well. The main draw for the services is they help aggregate content on the web or your wholly created content to make your work easier. Another benefit is that since the data lives in the cloud you can access it from anywhere with a working internet connection.

For those interested in learning more about developing their organization kung-fu there are some great websites that provide excellant content for helping users work better. The well-known site Lifehacker is well-known for providing innovative solutions for life’s problems both big and small. Though my personal favorite is the 43 Folders site created by the talented Merlin Mann (who is kinda like the Confucius of the productivity space). The site is a mix of general ruminations on living amid the information packed 21st century and general ruminations on life. While note particularly always relevant to the your situation Merlin is always interesting to read and most often amusing in some capacity.

One site that I stumbled across that is both a great collaboration tool and a rather neat database management system or DBMS is Dabble DB. The site brings the usability of blogger or type-pad to the database space online. It allows for importation of data from a website or spreadsheet or for the user simply begin entering data from the start. They also have unique pricing structure. They have a thirty day free trial and then you either choose to play of the premium service or you release your data on a creative commons license (i.e. give everyone access). I signed up for a free trial account and have some ideas about how to use the site, but I will definitely have to play with the interface more. For a good tutorial about the product check this little video put together by the dev team behind the site.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

23 Things Vol. 6: Wikis and Collaboration Software

The sixth module in the 23 Things list covers Wikis specifically and collaborative software in general. I particular interest in knowledge management and skills shares so I am always looking for new ways to share information and collaborate over projects. For all the focus on Wikis I think emphasizing the technology might be a mistake. (However, 23 Things generally about introducing the SLA community to new technologies so I could be missing the boat so to speak.) Focusing solely on the tool and not on the organization culture is a mistake. I have observed offices currently undergo the transition to Sharepoint, but the organization still relies on a largely feudal culture. Units within the organization guard their knowledge and powers that be don’t encourage an open sharing environment. Collaboration requires buy-in from all the involved parties or any tool is going to be underutilized.

Wikis can be valuable tool for supporting a collaborative, sharing environment, but can’t create it from nothing. Though when trying to implement a sharing portal or tool it is important to understand the organization needs versus the software capabilities. Wikis do several things well: low barrier for content creation, open source solutions, high cultural visibility, but they are not perfect. The general benefit for Wikis: the simplicity; can be their undoing. Wikis generally don’t scale without heavy forethought and controls that stifle the organic growth. Monitoring the content and maintaining quality control can be difficult since every user can add/subtract content. Wiki software is ideal for a small business, or small business unit, but organizations can out-grow the software package. Though there are enterprise solutions like Sharepoint that better suited to large organizations (with large budgets and dedicated IT staff).

I have my apprehensions about Wikis aside there are some Wiki sites that I enjoy. The most relevant site is the Library Success website moderated by Meredith Farkas.

Another is the human power search engine Mahalo which employs Wiki technology with a nice user interface layered on top.

Wikis and other collaborative tools can organizations large, small and in between build their knowledge base and help enrich their work force. New employees could belong to a new hire wiki where they could share information like whom to talk to in HR about getting your travel expenses reimbursed, where is the best dry cleaners near the office, and how to best approach a particular type of customer. The information management/knowledge management team could monitor the wiki topics for information that could graduate onto the general organization intranet.