Category Archives: TTW Contributor: Kyle Jones

Excuse me, Prof. – Can I Twitter that?

I take notes, share those notes, and build a community with my peers – just by using twitter -it’s really quite simple.

This is how I feel about Twitter in the classroom.  But the 9/18/08 article over at Techdirt, and the comments in particular, paints some different hues (see: “Should you live blog/twitter a class?“).

Last weekend I was engulfed in one of three weekend intensive sessions in Michael’s “Library 2.0 & Social Networking Technologies” class.  As he went through his well-honed version of “The Hyperlinked Library”, I thought, “man, it would be cool to capture some of this and my reflections.”  At this point some might be saying, “yes, Kyle, you should be taking notes.”  But I took it one step further.

I hopped on Twitter, signed up for a quick account, and started tweeting(?) my heart out with every thought and quick reflection.  I also linked my tweets straight into my class WordPress MU blog.  Soon enough, a classmate had seen my twitter and we became reflective friends.

But at lunch time I timidly asked Michael, “yea, would you be mad if I Twittered class?”  Those of you who know Michael would know that angry would not be his response to this.  He was more intrigued and interested and happy than anything else.

If you’ve read the Techdirt article you know that this is the complete opposite reaction than that of the NYU journalism professor.  But I will admit, I’m just as guilty as most students who zone off in class and dive into the ether that is Facebook – and I’ve done it in Michael’s class, too (*sorry :/*).  But I turned my lust for technology and social networking into a productive method by writing my reflections in Twitter.  On top of that, I got to know some of my classmates before even saying a “hello” to them.

As Brian Rowe, a commenter in the article, wrote:

Sharing what you learn or don’t learn is an important part of being global citizen and helping free culture

I couldn’t agree more.  But some couldn’t agree less, as in this comment by Vince:

I can’t defend this. I believe this material should not be posted outside of the classroom…this material is not owned by the student.

He continues to say:

Universities usually have some sort of internal CMS such as Blackboard or WebCT that allows them to share classroom material and most professors actively use these systems. Theres [sic] no excuse.

I agree with Vince, students shouldn’t and legally can’t copy their professors’ academic work for public access unless that is their wish.  Michael posts “The Hyperlinked Library” here at TTW, but I still wouldn’t post any other of his materials without permission.

What I’m doing is taking brief reflective notes – similar to how I would do it in a notebook – and providing my classmates with an opportunity to respond to my reflections.

I’m curious:  Any grad students (or any student readers for that matter) who blog or use Twitter in class?

~Kyle Jones~
TTW Contributor

Cover Flow and Collection Interaction on Library Websites

It’s my belief that library users are expecting more from their web browsing experience. I’m not talking social networks, I’m talking interactive web design. These users are used to websites that allow for dynamically changing content (content that may not require a new page to load) and for a feeling of interactivity with the page. Dynamic content shifts on the page, animates, and morphs into something it wasn’t previously. Let’s look at some examples:

Jeep:

The rectangular information boxes nicely animate in and out upon click of the left or right arrows allowing for new information to nicely slide in to place.

Apple:

Apple’s start page uses the accordion effect to hide and show its content in the sidebars. Simply hover over, say, “Top Songs” and a top ten list shows up.

Vimeo:

Vimeo, a social networking site about sharing video, smoothly scrolls in new videos that users like every couple of seconds on their “Right Now” page.

I’d venture to guess that a lot of us don’t even think twice about some these nice effects that we engage with during our daily browsing. But we have to recognize that they add to our experience, our “likability” of the pages we view. Understandably, library web pages need to be focused on presenting accurate, useable content; however, we can do these things and still not dismiss the opportunities we have to organize our information in aesthetically pleasing and engaging ways.

One of these engaging ways that I have been very intrigued by is the use of Cover Flow to present resources. If you don’t know what Cover Flow is, take a look at your iTunes library in Cover Flow view by choosing “View” and “Cover Flow View – it looks like this:

It’s easy to make the jump from collections in your iTunes library to the collections in your actual library website. A couple folks around the ‘Net have been thinking the same thing I have and have commented about it:

To my pleasant surprise, Lee (fellow TTW contributor), led me to an excellent implementation at Villanova University’s Digital Library.

VU uses Cover Flow to display photos of some of their digital collections in a highly interactive way. While I personally had no reason to look further into their collection, the fact that I was able to engage with the collections by browsing intrigued me enough to look further at their collections. This “doorway,” so to speak, is an excellent way to get more views at different collections by catching the user’s eye from the get go.

Not to be outdone by academia, Cambridge Public Library in Canada has also put together their own version of Cover Flow for over 20 different categories of their collection (nice!).

You can choose your category at this screen:

and are given a nice Cover Flow output when you click on the purple icon:

Some of these fancy, schmancy animations and graphics do take some more advanced knowledge of Javascript or other coding languages, but luckily enough most of these tools have such a great following by web designers and wannabe’s like myself that there is a plethora of resources created to help you whip one up. I’ll admit that I have no experience with Javascript but was able to create a couple really nice accordions like within Apple’s start page. If some of the creators of these excellent Cover Flows are followers of Tame the Web, I’d be really interested to read what you used to create your tools and the effort that went into it.

Some Javascript libraries of note for further research:

Posted by Kyle (TTW Contributor)

Put Virtual Reference in the User’s Pocket

Some say that IM is on the verge of extinction and that forging into such territory for virtual reference so late in the game is a waste of a library’s energy. You can surely count me as one of those who agrees with that statement. I predict, as do many others, that virtual reference needs to fit in users’ pockets – in their cell phone.

We need to look at the trends happening now (according to PEW, 2006):
-47% can’t live without their cell phones
-35% use SMS and 13% would like it added to their features
The preceding stats were from the general respondents. Look at what the younger population (18-29) has to say:
-65% use their cells for SMS
-36% want their IMs to be forwarded to their cell
-40% would give up their landline completely for a cell (Note: I’ve done this already)
-56% want access to mobile maps and directions (could we include this into a broader grouping such as “want for general information?”)

Some of us look at our phones and say “jeez, it’s just a phone.” I personally don’t do text messaging because it hasn’t become a part of my communication habits (as an aside, my director jokingly put that I must be “old” seeing that I usually fit in with the tech habits of digital natives). Others see the phone as something greater than what Alexander Bell once did. Obviously, the PEW stats indicate such – the phone is more than a phone – and I’d venture to guess that those stats have risen dramatically over the past two years.

Let’s not stop here, shall we? These are statistical trends, but there other trends, observational trends, that we simply can’t ignore.

Walk into your local Verizon wireless store or AT&T and look at what they offer. More and more these big name cellular companies are introducing Smart Phones (phones with applications, advanced hardware, WiFi access, cameras, and more). These are what’s wanted and what’s needed (by some). Take a look at what the Mobile World Congress introduced this week. More Smart Phones. More technology. More features.

It’s safe to say that Apple knew this a year ago. So what did Apple do even though they knew cell phone users wanted more features (applications specifically)? Apple basically said “you don’t need more applications than what we give you – just be happy.” The couldn’t have been further from the truth. No one was angered more than the high tech iPhone users when they were limited by Apple to its default application settings. These high-end users wanted a software developers kit (SDK) to create more applications and they wanted it that instant. Apple is the whipping boy here – other phone companies have gotten the same treatment.

Finally, Apple was forced to see the light and said “fine, go build your applications – sheesh.”

Guess what. Over 70 applications that provide information services have been created. Nearly 900 total applications have been developed across all categories. Is your library one of them?

We can’t deny the trends. But we can and should adapt our virtual reference services to forge into the cell phone world. Adapt SMS reference, create mobile applications to search the OPAC and federated search tools, and – the biggest one of all – develop your website so it’s viewable on a cell phone or other mobile device.

I’d bet my MacBook Pro that this is the future of virtual reference (and that’s saying something!).

TTW Contributor – Kyle Jones

Business trends @ your library

As we’ll see, coffeehouses provided something society needed: a place to just be. But no one had any idea how badly we needed it. (51)

So reads a section of Starbucked by Taylor Clark. The idea of a comfort place, a third place as it has been called, was taken under the wing by the Starbucks visionaries and has become a staple at nearly all their stores. The comforting soft tones of wood tables, abundant chairs of varying sizes and comfort levels, and the wafting aroma of splendid coffee all welcome you in from the freezing cold (if you’re in Chicago like myself) or the scorching heat (if you’re someplace pleasant and not Chicago). The point being that Starbucks is a comfort place.

There are two distinct memories of my high school library that come to mind: one, the very nice computer lab and, two, the donated sofa and recliner placed next to the periodicals. Yes, we had books. No, we did not have a full-time librarian (and that’s another issue entirely). And of course I have other memories – but my mind chooses these two first and foremost for their obvious importance to me. Those old pieces of furniture provided a refuge for me during passing periods, as a place to relax before extra curricular activities, and as a pleasant place to study. The computers served my geeky needs. Together they created my comfort place.

Sadly, not all libraries get this – the idea that the stacks can be intermixed with a welcoming decor, a place to indulge in the pleasures of a book, or even a quick check of e-mail (or stock quotes). Creating a pleasurable experience is now a necessity for businesses and, whether we all agree or not, libraries keep stock, provide products, and serve customer needs – just like businesses. It’s important to note where our users shop and why. Do they go off to Starbucks and Barnes and Noble? Why? What is it that lures them in? There is nothing wrong about examining business practices for potential implementation in libraries. As I recently saw, Barnes and Noble in northern Milwaukee offers meeting times for aspiring writers – something libraries have done and continue to do. If they pull ideas from libraries, why not reciprocate?

Besides looking at physical layout and design ideas, libraries should try to look at business practices and place them in a library-related context. Something as simple as designated tech support (like the Apple genius bar), comfy couches (like Barnes and Noble), or even rent on demand (Netflix) could make all the difference to patrons.

~Kyle Jones~
Blog: The Corkboard