Missives from the Bat Tower

Doing 23 Things all in the name of Web 2.0

Archive for the category “Things”

The end of 23 Things?

do all the things

Today we had our celebration to mark the end of 23 Things. Helen and the 23 Things team provided some yummy cakes and biscuits and I managed to nab a cup of tea – a lovely way to spend half an hour with colleagues. We had a bit of a discussion between us about what we had thought of the program and overall the feedback was positive (this may be due to the fact that it was a celebration of the project and if you didn’t enjoy it even the prospect of free food may not have lured you in). Some felt it was really helpful to have the weekly sessions so that help could be given when needed. I would have liked to attend the sessions but unfortunately didn’t manage to get to any but the first one because they fell when the bat tower is open to researchers and we were overrun with them last term! When I did have any queries I emailed Helen and she was quick to respond but it would have been nice to get an idea of how other people were getting on (face to face rather than virtually).

I haven’t finished all of the 23 Things yet but I think I will carry on with the ones I’ve missed out but so far my top three have got to be:

 1. Blogging and Google Reader (I’m lumping these together because they’re both about blogs)

 2. Twitter (turns out there are loads of Archivists on Twitter!)

 3. Dropbox (this is the one which will be most helpful to my day to day work)

But there are lots more of the Things that I will be using in my work in the coming months (e.g Evernote, Diigo and Screencast-o-matic).

Oh and guess what… I won a prize! (Turns out some people have actually been reading my blog.)

Thanks 23 Things team!

Thanks 23 Things team!

Watch this space for the remaining things…

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Thing 11: Oodles of Doodle

A lovely labradoodle puppy

A lovely labradoodle puppy

Thing 11 is a nifty tool called Doodle which lets you find out when people are free to meet up. I decided to try it out to organise a lunch date and found it really easy to set up. You can choose date and time options and then can either let Doodle send out an invitation or write one yourself (I chose this option). The people I sent it out to seemed to have no problems using the system (although one wrote a comment instead of using the poll which is a handy feature). The lunch date never happened because there wasn’t a time we were all free but the process itself worked well.

I would say that Doodle is probably more useful for larger groups meeting up, with just four people I did feel that I could have done it more easily over email. I can definitely see how it would be useful for large meetings, especially with those outside the organisation or people who don’t tend to use their Outlook calendar on the internal system. In fact, I have come across it before being used for just that – a meet up of Archivists from across different organisations so I will bear it in mind for future use.

Thing 17: Screencast-o-Matic

With a name that sounds like something from a Wallace and Gromit story and a promise to help users actually use the archives catalogue, I was keen to have a go with Screencast-o-Matic. Our archive catalogue does actually work quite well but it isn’t very intuitive, especially for first time archive users. A screencast seems like the perfect solution to show people how to use some of its features – mainly how to browse collections from your search results.

I found the whole process of recording a video with Screencast-o-Matic very easy. The controls are simple and there are a few things you can customise (like whether to highlight the mouse in the video). I even found the caption writing a breeze which I thought might be a bit more tricky. You have to write a text file with the captions and the timings you want for them and then they appear at the bottom of the screen. It took a little bit of fiddling to get the timings right but after I’d sorted that out I was pretty pleased with the outcome.

But… when you finish your video you have a couple of options, you can either upload it to YouTube or Screencast-o-Matic or download it as a video file. I wanted to put it on the RHUL Library YouTube channel but I didn’t have the log in to hand so I thought I’d save it to Screencast-o-Matic in the mean time. All was well, I could share the link – great. However, when I came back to try and upload it to YouTube it wasn’t anywhere near as easy as I had hoped. There was no longer the option to do it straight from Screencast-o-Matic but I could still download the video as a file. So I saved it and then uploaded it to the RHUL Library YouTube channel which was all quite easy. When I played it back my lovely captions weren’t there! Disaster! I didn’t record a voiceover because a) I don’t like the sound of my recorded voice and b) a voice over isn’t very helpful if the user is in the library so the captions are quite vital.

I haven’t yet worked out how to rectify this so to see the video please follow this link (I can’t embed it because WordPress is mean and strips out the code and I’m not tech savvy enough to work out how to embed it another way). I suspect I may have to record it again to upload it with captions to YouTube but if anyone has any tips please leave me a comment below!

Thing 23: Dropbox

Dropbox cartoon

Dropbox has changed my life and is the answer to all my woes.

Possibly a slight exaggeration but the 23 Things team have definitely saved the best ‘til last as I discovered today when trying to work out how to get a high res image from my computer to the BBC for use on tonight’s One Show programme without involving a CD and a motorbike. I’d heard of Dropbox before and thought it sounded quite useful but had never really had call to use it myself – I’ve used CDs before if I have a big file to give to someone. Now I have discovered it though, I will definitely be using it when I need to give an archive image to someone and it’s too big for an email attachment. It allows you to put files into your drop box which is then saved into cloud storage and any made available to any other device (PC, Mac, iPhone) that you have the software on. You can then share a file with other people and allow them to download it to their own computer. The only downside on the sharing files side of things is that if you want to share more than one file with someone who doesn’t have their own Dropbox account you have to send the link to them for each individual file but if they have their own you can share whole folders with them – great!

Dropbox is also going to be very useful when I’m wearing my other archival hat – Secretary for ARA South East – which involves me organising meetings and events. It will be so useful to be able to put all the documents into Dropbox so I have the most up to date version at my work and home computers and my mobile too. It will also let me share docs with other members of the committee which will be really useful and avoid me having to email everything to myself.

Dropbox might even be edging out Evernote as my favourite Thing because, although I love the Evernote tick list, I have found it a bit clunky when saving PDFs as notes and I think for Word Docs actually just keeping them in their original form is best for the purposes I want to use them for. Evernote, as the name suggests, is great for notes though so I will definitely still be using it!

Thing 22: Library Wiki

In an effort to do some more of the 23 Things before the deadline I thought I’d pick Thing 22 as my next thing as it seemed like quite a quick one to do. The Thing is to add myself to the Who’s Who page on the Libray Wiki. Expecting to find a whole page of the smiling faces of my colleagues, I was a bit disappointed to see that only two people had added theirs (and only one of the 23 Things team – shame on you!). I was a little bit put off but thought I would preserver and add myself anyway.

Moon face (c)penguinbush via Flickr

(c) penguinbush via Flickr

Following the instructions on the RHUL 23 Things blog was pretty easy and as I’ve contributed to Wikipedia before it was all quite familiar. The only thing I did have a problem with was adding the photograph of myself. I decided to use the one that had been taken for the library’s main Who’s Who page as it’s already on my computer so I duly followed the instructions and uploaded it. I put in the code to embed it and then when I checked the edit I was greeted with my GINORMOUS FACE. Turns out that you need to have already sized your photo before you upload it to the wiki or, if you have a high res image as this turned out to be, it will be huge. After a quick bit of resizing with Photoshop I’d got myself down to a more suitable size and I re-uploaded it (I think removing the original as well – or at least I hope so, you could see every freckle on my face it was so big!) and because it was the same file name the version in the page automatically updated to the more manageable sized me.

Voila – Thing 22 ticked off the (Evernote) list.

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.

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