Category Archives: IL2006

Reports from the 2006 conference in Monterey, Californina.

Search Engines — does Google suck?

At the Internet Librarian conference I heard several people mention that Google’s search results are getting worse. I agree.

Some of you may know that I run a fairly popular skateboarding website — http://www.bobstricktips.com . The site has been around since 1999, and it gets quite a lot of traffic. It is always ranked in the Yahoo! skateboarding pages as one of the most popular skate sites, and it is really the only site of it’s kind on the web. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have used the site.

So what happens when you search Google for “Bob’s Trick Tips”? Well, you don’t get my site, at least not near the top. You’ll find sites that link to me, but not my site itself.  Likewise, searching for “skateboard tricks” doesn’t get me up there either. 

Similar searches of Yahoo! produce slightly better results. It does find “Bob’s Trick Tips”, but I don’t come up well for the “skateboard tricks” search.

Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but my site really should show up in these searches. With all proper humility, if I were a kid searching for “how to ollie”, I would want the proper page on BTT to show up in my search.

I did the same searches in Ask.com . My site popped right up. Perfect. And all the other results were highly relevant too. A very good search, on all my search strings. Ask.com is doing something very, very right.

I’m not sure what has happened to really ruin Google’s search results, but they suck. And everyone who knows anything about web-search knows they suck. Come on, Google — get with it. Google is doing some really great things, but their basic search engine is falling apart.  

So I suggest to everyone that you might want to use Ask.com — then Yahoo! — then as a last resort Google for internet searches.

Internet Librarian 2006 Notes: Javascript and RSS

At last year’s Internet Librarian conference, RSS was a very popular topic. I came home and related all I had learned about RSS to my fellow librarians. I told them about RSS, XML, feed aggregators, etc. After a month went by I sorta felt like it wasn’t that useful. At that point, I really didn’t think most patrons would be into it. How many would actually get an aggregator? Not many, I think.

Over the last year, however, the web development world really seems to have figured out how to make RSS useful. A lot of portals, like My Yahoo!, allow you put new feeds on your homepage. Stuff like that is all RSS. Podcasting has really taken off, and as noted earlier, to be true podcasting one must be able to subscribe to it. And the subscription is all RSS. People are using RSS without knowing it.

So for those of us who manage web sites, what does this mean? Well, there are a lot of Javascript tools out there that we can use to put news feeds on our webpages. I will refer again to the LibrarianInBlack for some details about the session. Likewise, the presenters at this session have put their very useful material on this wiki for our convenience. The “Tools” page on this wiki is particularly cool. It includes tools for creating RSS feeds, taking multiple feeds and blending them into one, tools for syndicating podcasts, and tools for displaying RSS feeds on webpages. Very, very cool.

One potential hangup for me is that most of these require putting some Javascript code into my webpages. Unfortunately, our content management system may not allow it. There’s a good chance it will simply strip out that code if I paste it in. Our Sharepoint intranet site may be a little more flexible, but I’ll have to explore this.

I’m hoping this stuff will be useful for several applications. First, I’d like to have an intranet page that aggregates news feeds from organizations relevant to our city government. I’d also to be able to create a feed for stuff from our intranet site. For the public library, I’d like to use RSS to allow librarians to update some of the “internet links” pages from outside the content management system. I’d also like the public library website to include an RSS feed of our news and events that our users could subscribe to. And of course, I want us to do some podcasting, so we need to be able to syndicate that content too.

Internet Librarian 2006 Notes: flickr

On day 2 of the conference, I attended a session on flickr, the photo sharing website that was acquired a while back by Yahoo!

I’ve never payed much attention to flickr. For my own personal websites I have gallery programs running on my server. Because these have proven adequate, flickr really never got my attention. But as the session started, it was made clear to me that flickr is much more than just photo sharing. It is a full blown social networking site, using images as the main content and the “draw” to get people in.

So here are a few cool things about flickr.

  1. Very easy to set up an account. In fact, if you have a Yahoo! Mail or My Yahoo! account, you already have an account on flickr. You just need to log in to finish your profile.
  2. Because of the flickr API (see more about APIs below), there are many 3rd party sites that use flickr for additional functionality. More on this in a bit — it is really cool.
  3. Users can associate tags with their photos, and the whole system is searchable by tags. Search flickr by the tag “IL2006” and you’ll see that this was a very photographed conference.
  4. flickr includes comments and comment tracking. In many pieces of social software, including this one, there is often very useful information in the comments, which are often running conversations.
  5. flickr supports “sets” of photos within an account. Very cool, and potentially useful for library images.
  6. Each image has its own URL and webpage, so you can link directly to the images.
  7. Includes RSS feeds for photo streams, so you can use RSS tools to aggregate images.
  8. Many blogging systems, including this one (Word Press) include widgets with which you can add your most recent flickr images to your page. I set this up by uploading a few photos. Really cool.

Besides people of every age and walk of life, many libraries are using flickr in various ways. Just sitting there, I began to think of potential uses for our public library, such as event photo albums, various kinds of digital photography contests and shows for our patrons, bibliographic instruction sessions on the use of flickr, etc.

OK, a bit of semi-technical info. I mentioned that flickr works well with other sites and software, enabling many 3rd party sites to use flickr’s functionality. This is due to flickr’s API, or Application Programming Interface. An API is part of an application’s code that allows it to talk to other applications. For example, it can allow flickr to exchange information, on a machine-to-machine level, with other websites. This allows the development of hybrid products, sometimes called “mashups”.

This story from the official IL2006 blog includes links to several very cool mashups using the flickr and Google APIs. By tagging your photos in flickr with specific geospatial coordinates, you can then use Google Maps to do some cool things.

My point here is that because the flickr API is available, many creative people are using flickr in ways that Yahoo! may not have anticipated. Each new application of flickr makes it more useful, drawing in additional users and increasing the database of images and the social network. And the virus spreads…

So now a little editorial. Web services like flickr are where our patrons are going on the web. A library system can spend the time and money to build its own photo gallery, but that gallery will be an isolated island on the ‘net. It is much smarter to use flickr and similar services to meet our patrons where they are. This not only allows us to interact with our patrons more effectively, but also gives us much greater flexibility, since we’re no longer married to expensive systems we’ve invested in.

the Internet Librarian 2006 – segundo dia

conference centerThe 2nd day of the conference has come to a close. Very good sessions today. I spent the morning learning about podcasting. Not a lot of technical detail, but I didn’t expect a lot, so that’s cool. I think we can get into podcasting without much, of any, actual dollar cost. I also think there are numerous library events that would make really good, useful podcasts for our public library patrons. Likewise, for my specialized client base I think there are some good podcasts I can seek out, subscribe to, and direct my users to when relevant subject matter appears.

The session on JavaScript and RSS was extremely interesting, and I suspect it will be very useful. The speakers presented various tools which use JavaScript to embed RSS feeds on “normal” web pages. The intranet site I’m building for city staff is potentially a great place to do this, and I’m sure the public library site could use it too (assuming we can get the CMS to allow it).

I also attended a session on Flickr. It turned out to be not only a very fun session, but also useful. I think the public library could do some really cool stuff with Flickr, and I’m making a list of some potential projects.

plaza

Tonight I went to a dine-around with about 10 other librarians. Good food. Very cool people. The official subject of the night was blogs, but conversation of course drifted to related topics. I met the librarian who runs this very cool Flickr photo collection. I love stuff like this because it’s real. It’s not someone blogging about what they had for dinner that night. anyway, I had cheese ravioli with shrimp. The restaurant was down on Old Fisherman’s Wharf. To get there you walk through the plaza (to the left). You will notice the white wall. It surrounds the plaza.
no skateboarding

About every 20 feet, the message to the right is posted on the wall. Not cool. I guess skaters could say they misunderstood the message. “I thought it meant bikes and skateboards. I was only on a skateboard.” When I was in Germany over the summer, public space was exactly that — public space. People could skate wherever and whatever they wanted, even right outside the museum in Cologne. Skate stoppers (little pegs they attach to ledges to prevent manuvers) are everywhere here in Monterey, which does have a skatepark. It’s free and concrete, and actually quite fun, but it really doesn’t simulate the kind of real street obstacles that modern skaters enjoy. Oh well – same ol’ same ol’.

dsc00002.JPGAnd as long as I’ve swerved over to the topic of skating, here’s a picture that Gary Holl took of me during our Sunday flatground session. Nice pic. I think I even made this fingerflip.

Back on the subject of the conference…I’m just astounded at how quickly some of the bloggers are churning out detailed reports of sessions. Rather than write my own when I the spirit moves me to do so, I may just link to some of the better write-ups and makes some additional comments.

Internet Librarian 2006 – day uno.

eateryI’ve now been in Monterey for two days.

1st day on my own dime. Rented car. Drove to San Francisco to skate. Had a great time. Drove north to Mill Valley to hang with my friend Dale and skate. Also had a great time. It’s always great to see Dale. Good to skate with someone who’s style makes sense to me and talk to an old friend about new things. As usual, I was so busy skating I forgot I had a digital camera with me. So no pics or video.

calamari2nd day — Day 1 of the Internet Librarian conference. So far the conference has been very cool. I spent most of the day in sessions related to some new (to me) web technologies. Paul Miller, of Talis.com, was an interesting speaker. He discussed the terms “Web 2.0” and “Library 2.0” – essentially a service outlook of engaging your customers and the technical tools that enable that to happen (http://www.talis.com/tdn/innovationdir). I was pleasantly surprized today by a session on information discovery of blog and podcasting information. I really only went to the session because after lunch I wanted a comfy seat, and that session was in the “nice” auditorium! haha. Anyway, besides providing some hints on resources for finding such information sources, the session gave me some ideas for new things to try at work. Actually, new things for other people to try, that I’d like to be involved with. In particular, I can think of some good applications for podcasting of some services the public library provides. Likewise, there are some really cool potential applications for podcasting to my own, specialized customer base.

At 5pm they opened the exhibit hall and had free food. I lurked in there for a while and took some pictures. Then I went down the old pier and ate some fried calamari while watching some sea lions beg for food. Nothing compliments the taste of good fried calamari like the smell of sea lion.

sealionI’ve decided that on Tuesday I’m going to attend sessions on podcasting all morning. In the afternoon it’ll mostly be podcasting, but also a session on JavaScript and RSS techniques that we might be able to use to include external content on our webpages, which is one of the main things I came here to learn. I’ve decided not to hit the session on Mashups. I think the topic is a bit too technical to get the detail I need in short sessions. I can learn it on my own.

Mashups article

The July/August issue of Online magazine has a pretty good introductory article on web mashups. This is a topic I’d like to learn more about, so I’ll be attending at least one session on it at the Internet Librarian conference. Frankly, I’d like to do a skateboarding mashup, but not enough to actually do it. I’d rather spend my non-work hours doing something like actually skating.

the Internet Librarian: part 1

Later this month I’ll have the opportunity to once again go to a great conference, the Internet Librarian. Very useful for librarians of a techno-bent, or really anyone wanting to learn some of the more recent things happening in library-relevant internet technology. I’m going to try to blog my experiences every day. The big topics last year were blogs, RSS, wikis, and tagging. It will be interesting to see which of these is still hot, and what if anything has displaced them.

Last year, I learned that you don’t have any cool tourist experiences if you don’t take at least a day outside the conference to devote to fun. Everything in Monterey except eateries seems to shut down after about 5pm, and there’s only so much fried calamari I can eat before it loses its novelty. So this year I’m going out a day early, on my own coin, renting a car, and driving up to San Francisco on Sunday. Going to meet up with Garry Holl and some other freestyle skateboarders for a nice session, then hopefully see my old friend Dale, who lives in the area. Then a scenic drive back to Monterey.

Fingers crossed for good weather.