Missives from the Bat Tower

Doing 23 Things all in the name of Web 2.0

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Thing 14: Going beyond Google

New Year Google doodle

This thing is designed to make us think beyond Google and try out other search engines. Why bother? I hear you cry. Well quite.

I have tried other search engines before, partly because it took me quite some time to work out how to change the default search engine in the Internet Explorer box from Bing and partly because the Nectar points tool bar uses Yahoo! and you get Nectar points each time you do two searches. I found both quite frustrating as the results just aren’t as relevant as the ones you get with Google. I even find that often websites own search boxes aren’t as good as just searching via Google. Google may well be taking over the world but as it does what it does very well I’m extremely reluctant to change to something else.

I decided to try one last time to break my Google habit and opened up Zuula which searches across lots of the main search engines so that you can compare the different results they bring back. I entered my name as the search term and what came back was pretty indicative of why I don’t use any other search engines. The Google results were returned almost instantly but when I clicked on the tabs for Bing and Yahoo searches both of them came up with this message:

Sorry but results from Bing/Yahoo are currently not available or are being returned too slowly.

Please try again later or try another search engine (tab).

 Nuff said.

Thing 15: Memorising with Memrise

Thing 15 is a website called Memrise which has the tag line Learn Something New Every Day. It contains courses/quizzes which help you to memorise anything from the Kings and Queens of England to the Chinese characters which make up a restaurant menu.

I’ve given it a go but to honest I can’t really see what use it has in my professional life. I tried out the Kings and Queens test but I didn’t find the mems (visual or anecdotal aids to help you remember things) very helpful and I soon lost interest.

This apathy towards Memrise may be slightly due to the fact that I am already marginally addicted to Sporcle which isn’t quite the same but it does include lots of trivia quizzes although no way to help you memorise the answers. Using the two together could make me a quizzing behemoth but as Memrise doesn’t have an iPhone app (which I think is a great downfall) I probably won’t be pursuing that dream any time soon.

Thing 16: YouTube vs Vimeo

Like most people out there I’ve seen lots of YouTube videos, shared by friends or searched for myself, they are part of modern day life. In fact one of my friends is known to get a bit YouTube happy after he’s had a drink or two and will insist on people sitting down to watch his latest favourites (this is actually quite fun and nowhere near as dull as I’ve made it sound – unfortunately most are not really work suitable so I’ll refrain from sharing them with you). However, I’ve never visited Vimeo before. I had a bit of a search on both and found this cartoon about digital preservation on YouTube:

The basic message is: bit rot = bad, metadata and trusted digital repositories = good and bad digital preservation could lead to nuclear holocaust, sort of. It’s a fun way to get across some basic principles of digital preservation and could potentially be used in advocacy presentations for a bit of light relief. It really is quite hard to make digital preservation fun!

I didn’t find that Vimeo had the same range of results when I did a bit of searching but I did find this video from Australasia which looks at what people can do with their own digital files at home:

My initial impressions are that whilst YouTube has much more content, the Vimeo videos are better produced and look a lot more professional. I’d be concerned if I was contributing a video that people wouldn’t really search for it on Vimeo whereas YouTube would be the first port of call for most people. This might be just my preconceptions as I haven’t used Vimeo before and I wonder if once you’ve joined the Vimeo community there might be no turning back!

See my Twitter feed for another YouTube video – not strictly work related but I was shocked to read that a librarian had lost her job over it.

Thing 13: Prezi

As I’m so behind with the 23 Things I have decided to throw caution to the wind and pick at random the ones I want to do so I’m afraid the ordering has now gone haywire. Probably a terrible thing for an Archivist to do but hey, I’m a maverick.

Thing 13 is to give Prezi a go. It’s an online tool which allows you to create presentations with a bit more wow factor than your common or garden PowerPoint. I first came across Prezi in action at some interview presentations I attended. I was treated to an excellent Prezi presentation using lots of the wizzy features available which was swiftly followed by another candidate’s presentation which was dull as dish water and didn’t really use Prezi as anything other than a prettier PowerPoint. Having had a quick look at a couple of intro videos it has became clear that although Prezi does look very modern and I really like the graphics, if you don’t actually need anything more than static slides then PowerPoint is still a very useful tool. Prezi is very good at showing connections between ideas and going back and forward if you need to return to a previous point without having to duplicate the slide as you would do in PowerPoint.

I’ve been thinking about creating a Prezi for the history of the College presentation I am often asked to give (at staff inductions and UCAS open days etc) but my main concern was that if I didn’t want to pay for private Prezis I would have to make it open and that caused me some copyright concerns about the images I wanted to use. What I hadn’t realised was that you can get a free private section if you are from an educational institution – great! I haven’t had time to tackle the history presentation just yet – I feel like it would take me quite a while to sort it all out – but I have made a start on a presentation I am giving for Learning at Work Day after Easter on where to start when you want to find out more about your family history. The beginnings of the presentation is here (I can’t for the life of me work out how to embed it in this post) – please don’t judge the content too harshly as I haven’t really thought about it yet, I was just using it as a way to try out creating a Prezi.

The software took a little bit of getting used to but I was helped by the fact I had seen a finished Prezi in action so I already knew to a certain extent what was possible. I need to have a bit more of a play about before I feel totally confident with it but it does seem pretty easy to pick up at least the basics.

Thing 10: Can I dig it? Yes I can!

Dig for Victory Aidan Brooks Flickr

Dig for Victory (c) Aidan Brooks Flickr

Thing 9 is focussing on social bookmarking and trying out using Diigo, a social bookmarking tool which allows you to bookmark, tag, highlight and add notes to web pages. I have a nasty habit of not bookmarking stuff and just using Google to find things again but this can often be frustrating and time wasting so I was keen to give Diigo a try.

As mentioned in my previous post about Evernote, I am currently working on a project to put in place systems and processes to ensure we can preserve our digital archives. As you might expect, much of the information and discussion on this happens online. There are lots of people out there and increasingly lots of guidance and case studies so keeping track of everything that is going on can be tricky. Having said that, I think Diigo could be a great way to bring all the resources into one place and organise them into something meaningful for my research. I particularly like the ability to tag things (I do like to tagging stuff – it’s almost like an archive classification scheme but much more flexible because things can have more than one tag) it means that I can have an overall tag of digital preservation and then have more specific tags too. I think this works a lot better than the alternative which would be to create folders within folders on my Internet Explorer favourites list.

I found Diigo very easy to set up and start tagging, I added a few of the websites I find particularly useful and a report I’d just discovered about the future of archives and tagged them. I then tried out the highlighting tool which seems like a really useful idea… until it actually came to doing the highlighting. I had selected a 12 line paragraph and was told it contained too many words to highlight. Too many words? I agree it would be wholly pointless to go about highlighting vast swaths of text but one paragraph? It seems ludicrously restrictive. After a quick bit of googling it seems that the limit is 50 words although as Diigo don’t seem to mention it in their help section I’m not sure if this is totally correct.

So, although I think I will still use Diigo for collating digital preservation info (and sharing with colleagues who are also working on it) the highlighting tool seems to be a bit of a damp squib.

Thing 9: Evernote

Baby elephant

Well things have been pretty hectic in the Bat Tower recently, students coming in left right and centre, which is great for the archives but not so great for my ability to complete 23 Things!  I am weeks behind but we’ve quietened down a bit now so I’m making valiant attempts to catch up with everything I’ve missed.

Week something or other, which was yonks ago now, was all about Organisation and Helen set Evernote as Thing 9. She accompanied this with lots of tweeting and a post on her own blog waxing lyrical about how utterly fantastic and life changing Evernote is (might be laying it on a bit thick there but that was the general gist). As with many new technologies, initially I thought I couldn’t really find much use for it as I’m happily saving things onto folders on my Y: Drive and I can use the College’s VPN if I need to access work stuff from home (which happens very rarely as it’s difficult for an Archivist to work from home what with there being no archives there). I’m still not sure I currently have an opportunity to use it for work but now I’ve had a play with it I think it’s going to be pretty useful for planning my summer holiday. You can create notes (which can be anything from a long text doc to a things to do list), add photos and can clip webpages to it as well. You can also add Outlook emails to it (or at least I assume you can as a little elephant popped up on my toolbar telling me so). You can then organise all the different notes by tagging them and putting them in different notebooks. The software is pretty intuitive and I do really like the tagging abilities.

If I start a project which has lots of web based info that I will need to refer back to I think it could be very useful and in fact I think it could work quite well for the work I will be doing around digital preservation as there is lots of advice online to refer back to.

One thing I would like to see which it doesn’t do (or at least I don’t think it does, maybe Helen can correct me on this) is to share a notebook with another Evernote user so that they can work on it. You can share notes via Twitter, Facebook and email etc but I think it would be very useful to be able to share it with one (or more) other within Evernote and allow them editing rights so that work on a collaborative project would be easier. It seems like such an obvious and useful function so why haven’t they included it? (I do realise this may bring up issues of version control but it would only be the same as using a shared drive.)

Our task for Thing 9 was to create a note and share it, you can take a look at mine here: http://www.evernote.com/shard/s320/sh/4b2c44ad-b8aa-4f8f-8da4-0f3c40cc461b/afe2c057d9219b8431d74a3f2fff4d09

p.s. as a bit of an aside, the Wikipedia entry for Evernote describes it as software designed for notetaking and archiving – if only digital preservation was actually this easy!

p.p.s. I found this article on why Evernote is great really interesting and it gave me some more ideas on how/why to use it: http://lifehacker.com/5989980/ive-been-using-evernote-all-wrong-heres-why-its-actually-amazing

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