Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bebo, Facebook et al.

I can see why these sites are so popular - they are great places to invent (or re-invent) yourself online in relative safety, but as with so much of this social networking technology you still have to wade through the usual legions of adolescent diaries and lame groups where they all argue about the virtues of evlish versus klingon, or whether Bladerunner or Star Wars was the greatest SF movie in the universe to get to the bits worth looking at. I'm still not sure I want so much personal info just out there for the world to see. Back when we all wrote our diaries the old-fashioned way they often had keys, or you hid them where your Mum and your sister couldn't get at them. It was called privacy, and back then, I valued it.

I've had a look at the three sites, I've created an account and a basic profile (Facebook) - but do I feel moved to keep using the site? Proably not, for now anyway. I'd rather talk to actual friends in a real cafe while drinking coffee I can smell and taste - the virtual world is fun, and occasionally useful (see last post) - but I still prefer the offline world. It has better bandwidth.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Books Online

Better accesibility to e-books is good news for the print disabled - most people with vision impairments read in this format rather than braille. It's also good news for the leisure reader - I had a friend whose husband was a long distance truck driver and he loved listening to audiobooks while he was driving. The range of titles is so much better now than the Catherine Cookson- style Victorian romances and westerns that dominated the old audiobook on tape and CD format.

For the serious researcher though, the preferred digital format is full text online rather than audio. Why? If you live in this part of the world and your research area isn't NZ-related (or even if it is), you need access to out-of-print and often very fragile old texts that in the past you would have had track down and use in a rare book archive in some overseas uni or national library archive. Project Guttenberg started it all off, and the NZ equivalent is the NZ Electronic Book Center. Having this material online makes access so much easier and cheaper, and (a plus for the library that owns it) it protects the old book from rough handling. Here's one I tracked down via Google Books and used while researching my PhD at Auckland Uni. It isn't available in hard copy in NZ.


People interested in full text online versions of out-of-copyright New Zealand books should try the NZECTC site - it's a goldmine for those interested in NZ literature and history.


Thursday, September 25, 2008


Had a look at the podcast directories - again, lots of American content, so I don't know how often I'd actually use those to look for things to subscribe to. Mostly I find podcasts on the sites I'm already interested in anyway, or find out about them by word of mouth. National Radio has podcasts from their various shows and I've put a feed on my Bloglines site to their regular movie review guy, who is very good. They also archive many of their interviews.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio is where you will find all their feeds.

What will be more helpful in the long run is the tutorial material on how to create your own podcast - I can see this being good for book launches, Heritage Week - that kind of thing - especially now our new PA system allows us to digitally record events.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I think we all know this site and regularly trawl it - mostly for the funny/weird stuff that you often hear about via word of mouth (who really wants to trawl it just to wade through someone's Emo teen angst video diary?).

It's actually pretty easy to find things here - on Saturdays National Radio had a half hour slot where NZ comedians play their favourite comedy clips and you often hear alot of great old classics by people you've never heard of.

One of the ones I remembered was by an American guy (whose name turned out to be Alan Sherman) singing about being a kid and going away to summer camp - it was used in a funny yoghurt ad here about 5 or 6 years back - and I could only recall the first line of the song. Typed it in, and within about 2 hits, found it.

The clip doesn't include visuals, just the audio - for the curious, here's a link to the relevant YouTube page.

Hello Muddah, Hello Father song

And here's another funny cat cartoon (from the same "Simon's Cat" series as the one that did the rounds a few months back).

Anna L

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Checking out eSnips

Went to the Web 2.0 Awards List and had a look at quite a few of these sites - most seem very US-oriented, and a couple were no longer around (one link took me off to some US Insurance company's site) - so you'd want to be a bit careful about what you end up uploading to some of these sites, especially those that offer internet storage and online sharing options for your documents (in other words, back them up if you need to keep them). (And don't use them to store confidential work-related stuff - that should be a no-brainer).

A few are sites we've probably all seen before, but some were completely new. I can't see a direct work-related use for many of them - they fit into the 'fun but use them at home' category - but I would use the mapping tools for creating local history content. Wayfaring looked nice, and so did Community Walks, (though even with broadband they are slow to load and to navigate).

I also set up an account on eSnips - one of those Facebook-y type sites - though it's slightly worrying how much personal info you are invited to post there. Good to have an alternative online identity. Not sure how much I'll use it, but we'll see.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zoho Blog

The tools here are easy to use - easier than Word, since you don't have the menu structure to wade through - and if you are comfortable with Word you won't have any problem using Zoho. It does seem a bit prone to crashing though - this is my third attempt to write and save something without getting the 'we are about to kick you off the internet' error message. Not sure why - it may be something to do with the way it interacts with our local network.

Comments are easy to insert, making this a useful tool for documents being developed collaboratively. (Though I noticed that when I published my Zoho document here in Blogger it didn't bring the comment itself across - it only remains visibile in Zoho.) And publishing the text directly to the blog was no problem. I also like being able to save the doc as a pdf (or as a web page), since I don't have Adobe installed on my work pc - that gives it quite a bit of flexibility for online use. It's also useful to have the option of writing and storing documents online - I will be interested to see though whether there is a file size limit, and whether you can create a web link within a wiki direct to a document here without having to upload the document to wiki. If you can, it would solve one of my current wiki problems (see earlier blog for the boring details). Haven't experimented with that yet, but will try it out and report back.

Tried adding a picture which I browsed to in my C drive - added it OK in the Zoho doc, though using drag to re-size it doesn't work as well as it does in Word, Picture Manager etc. You only seem to be able to resize in one direction (horizontally or vertically) at a time - you can't drag a corner in and resize both dimensions at once, which means that the proportions of the image get out of whack if you aren't careful, and the image distorts. Will experiment with that further.

[Next paragraph added while editing the above text in Blogger].

I have also discovered since publishing the text I wrote on Zoho here on my blog that while the image I inserted while in Zoho did originally appear here on my blog, it disappears again if you then go into your published blog and edit it. Had to browse back to it from within Blogger and then insert it again.

- here -

which actually worked better anyway, as Blogger handles images better than Zoho and resizes them without the distortion. (BTW, The Victorian gent in this image is David Barr, a great uncle from Wanganui. He was about 21 when this was taken, and this is his visiting card).

Anna L.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Had a look at this. It's a nice idea, a site that lets you create a search tool that works across your favourite sites, but in practice the results it brings back aren't that great, and on the whole seem to be a pretty good demonstration of why librarians are actually still needed when it comes to searching out targetted info using sites specifically developed for that purpose.

A metasearch tool like this is always going to struggle when it is being asked to operate across a disparate range of sites with little behind-the-scenes consistency. I probably won't use it - actually, I found it pretty irritating - as I wasn't that impressed with the search results it brought back from the Rollyo of local history sites I created. Why?
1. The only successful searches were with very generic searches that were too unfocussed to be useful - anything more specific and you got nothing.
2. It only searches text on the site itself, and if you work primarily with sites that are interfaces to behind-the-scenes databases, it isn't able to pick up info at the individual record level.

Can I see a role for it? No, not if you are wanting to search online databases, like our Local History Online, or Matapihi, or Auckland Museum's "Street Search" - but if all you want to do is pull together info actually written on the site itself in xml or whatever, then yes, it could be useful.

Not sure whether this link will work for other people, but anyway, here it is:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Nice site, and very easy to add titles - no cataloguing required, which is pretty good. I can see the value of being able to link to other booklists belonging to people who have read the same book - what you like tends to be such a personal choice, and being asked by library borrowers if I can recommend good books is always difficult if you don't read the same kind of thing they do.

Link to my catalogue (so far)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Image Generators

Used Generator Blog to check out some of these and found one called Old Photos which turns recently taken digital photos into ones that look like old heritage images. Here's the before and after shots.


and after:

It's pretty effective, even down to adding a 'silvering' halo effect in the center of the image, which you get with old photos. Here's the url: http://generatorblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/old-style-photo.html


I liked this - it's a bit more intuitive than the Wikipedia style wikis, and adding the blog link wasn't hard. Will explore this further as I can see some useful applications for it. It's quite similar to Fitch in terms of the way you use it.


I have used wikis before as a shared workspace for a group project involving staff from Rodney and Waitakere Libraries and from Datacom - it was a good solution for a working group that was geographically spread not only across Auckland, but across NZ (one member was based in Christchurch).

The pros - it was a good one stop shop for providing overall management of the project, and also as a home for recording decisions once they had been made. It's also a good place for setting up frequently asked questions.

The cons? For some members who didn't use it much, having to log in each time (and remember their log-in) and then remember how to edit was too much of a barrier to its regular use, and most tended to revert to email for the day to day correspondence. The other negative - becasue it's web-based, it's fine if you want to link to other web pages, but not ideal as a repository for large project-related documents stored on local drives.