Reflections on the Learning 2.0 program

I really enjoyed the completing the Learning 2.0 program, which I’ve undertaken as a staff member of Darebin Libraries. The aim of the program was to get us up to speed on current Web 2.0 technologies.

While I was already familiar with a lot of what was covered, and am a blogger from way back, I loved being able to explore new technologies as part of work. Watching YouTube videos, writing a blog, posting photos to Flickr and listing the books I’ve read on LibraryThing felt like leisure rather than something I was getting paid for! While working through the activities, I often felt like I should be getting back to my ‘real’ work.

So while it was fun and a great break from cataloguing, I can also see the benefit of the program. I am now more comfortable using RSS feeds and podcasts, and I think it would be a good entryway into Web 2.0 applications for those who hadn’t come across them before. 

Considering that as a profession librarians may seem a bit behind when it comes to technology, preferring to stick to the safe world of books, programs such as this are important for getting us up to speed. I’m glad I was given the chance to participate.

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Audiobooks

Free audiobooks are available for download from Project Gutenberg. These are generally books with expired copyright. For instance, I am now listening to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein  through Windows Media Player.

Don’t go anywhere near the computer-generated audio books; they’re too freaky and weird to listen to. Stick with the human-read audio books instead.

I think the site needs to be upgraded and have better functionality.

The site is hard to navigate. For instance, in Browse by category: Audio book, human read, if you click on one of the letters to browse by say, authors beginning with H, this takes you to a list of all the authors Project Gutenberg has that start with H,  rather than only the ones which have audiobooks available. So you get links to authors’ Wikipedia entries or text versions of their books rather than audio books. If you only want audiobooks, you are better off scrolling through their long list of available audiobooks, listed alphabetically by author.

It also took me a while to figure out how to actually play the audiobook. With Frankenstein, for instance, it is not immediately clear which link to click to download the book. I was able to listen to the first section of the audiobook when I opened up Windows Media Player and then clicked the ‘main site’ link on the first MP3 Audio one. This file than started playing on the Windows Media Player.

Why not have it so it says, ‘Chapter 1: listen here’ or something? The site needs a pretty radical overhaul if they want the layperson to be able to navigate it.

Podcasts

I’ve just added Hack and Sunday Night Safran from Triple J podcasts to my Bloglines account.  I think technology such as podcasts, DVDs and the ability to download TV shows and movies fundamentally change the way we use media.

Whereas once people would stay home to watch a favourite show on a particular night, these days users can choose when and where they want to view or listen to a favourite show. I like how these technologies give media consumers more freedom to consume media as they choose.

ITube, YouTube, we all scream for YouTube : Hellzapoppin’ swing dance clip and Japanese hilarity!

How can you not love YouTube?

As a swing dancer, I am inspired and awed by clips such as this one from Hellzapoppin’, an otherwise-average Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson film that features what is often considered the best scene of lindy hop on film. The dancers are Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, featuring pioneer swing dancers such as Frankie Manning and Norma Miller. Norma Miller has written a great book about her time as a swing dancer called Swingin’ at the Savoy.

While the Internet has brought the world closer together and allowed people to access any information they want from anywhere, it’s also brought us such highbrow, intellectual entertainment as I can has cheezburger and Cats that look like Hitler (aka ‘Kitlers’). In the same vein, I bring you one of the best-ever Japanese YouTube clips. No explanation is needed. Just watch.

Favourite Web 2.0 sites – Threadless, Etsy, Facebook, Lulu

I’m pretty fascinated by Web 2.0 and how it’s changing the way we do things online. While Web 1.0 was basically going to a website and reading the information and content on the page, Web 2.0 is about going to a website and interacting with the page- adding photos, comments, videos, etc. Here the users have more power and are more active agents in their interaction with the website. Quintessential examples of Web 2.0 include Facebook and YouTube.

I looked at Web 2.0 t-shirt company Threadless and Web 2.0 homemade craft company Etsy for an assignment last semester which looked at how Web 2.0 devices can be used by businesses. Web 2.0 devices are absolutely crucial to these businesses. With Threadless, users design t-shirts, which are then voted on by other users. The most popular designs are printed. Users also post photos of themselves wearing the t-shirts and post on forums and blogs about the t-shirts. The active Threadless community is central to the company’s success and profitability.

I am surprised by some of the winners and placegetters in the SEOmoz 2008 Web 2.0 awards. Twitter came first in the ‘Social networking mainstays’ category, while the vastly superior Facebook took second.  I am a member of both sites and can’t see why Twitter is better than Facebook when Twitter is basically only Facebook’s “Susanne is…” section. On Facebook you can post photos and videos and connect with people. Strange decision.

I’m impressed by Lulu, which won the ‘Books’ category in the SEOmoz Web 2.0 awards. This is a self-publishing site that allows people to produce their own books and CDs. It’s a great idea, and it’s another step forward in the flattening of the world – where individual users have more power to create their own content from the bottom-up, rather than the old top-down process of writers submitting their manuscripts to a publisher. It’s so interesting how all these traditional power structures are breaking down and more power is being given to the individual through the Internet and Web 2.0 devices.

Being a librarian and a former student of English literature, I find it hard to even contemplate liking Imcooked, which won the ‘food’ category. Unless ‘Im’ stands for something, it should be ‘I’m’! It is, however, another excellent new Web 2.0 site, where users upload videos of themselves making recipes.

Zoho Writer

I am writing this post via Zoho Writer, a sort of online Microsoft Word.

I like the idea of applications like this being attached to the Web rather than to one’s own desktop as software.

The set up is similar to Microsoft Word, but because Zoho writer is a Web-based application, you can access the document from any computer. I believe you could also use Zoho Writer to collaborate with others on the one document – when changes are made, a new version is created.

I’m currently reading a fascinating book called The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman, which is about how with the Internet, the playing field is being levelled and more people across the world have the opportunity to publish web content, start businesses, etc., and I do think this sort of application is the way of the future – why should you pay for Microsoft Word and Microsoft Office tools, when collaborative Web-based applications are available for all on the Internet?

Wikis

I really like the idea of using wikis to annotate the library catalogue, as discussed by Meredith Farkas in Using Wikis to create online communities.

She writes:

Most library catalogs only contain the most basic information on books.  They have the elements that go into a MARC record: title, subject(s), author, year published, etc.  When patrons go into an online catalog, they probably won’t know if what they’ve found is the sort of book they’re looking for until they pull it off the shelf.  When users go onto Amazon.com, they will find a book synopsis, cover art, and reviews from people who have already read the book.  This extra content helps people to get a better sense of whether the book will meet their needs.  Why can’t we do that same at libraries?  Adding wiki functionality to the catalog would allow users to post synopses and reviews for books they’ve already read.  We can capitalize on the reading experiences of our patrons in order to help them make informed reading decisions from the library catalog

I would really like to see a library catalogue where users have input as well as just us cataloguers. While we don’t read every book we catalogue, library patrons who do read the items could then tag the books with subject headings and write reviews for others to read.

I am a little bit hesitant about wikis because of the fact that anyone can change them – I think there is a need for things to be edited – but as seen with Wikipedia, it can  work. The collective knowledge of people who read the entries can be used to keep things in check. At least in theory…