November 27, 2007 at 1:24 am (1)

I just joined coastr:


I figure I should actually write something about coastr, instead of just, you know, saying that i joined.

Coastr is a social network for beer and ale lovers. There are thousands of different breweries, and tens of thousands of different beers, in dozens of categories. People who like to try different beers are always out at the specialty markets, looking for something new and interesting to tempt their taste-buds.

Little known fact about myself: Before I was a librarian, and while I was starting my Master’s Degree, I was a brewer of beer at a local brewpub. Every day I was either making beer, putting it into kegs, or cleaning. Mostly cleaning. We got to write our own recipes for a lot of the ale we made, which meant that we were always on the lookout for good beer and ale to try and mimic, if we could. Hence, I became an aficionado of fine ale!

Hey, what’s the difference between beer and ale? Well, beer is kind of a blanket term for that type of beverage. There are two general types: ale and lager. These two types have to do with the kind of yeast used in fermentation. Ale yeast has to ferment at around 68 degrees, and lager yeast has to ferment at around 4o degrees, I think. A batch of ale can be made, fermented, cooled and put into kegs in as little as a week, if everything goes well. Lager, on the other hand, takes over a month.

Ales tend to run the gamut of styles – dark, light, strong, weak, experimental, herbal, etc. Lagers tend to be light and crisp.

Anyway, back to coastr – thousands of beers. When you try one out, you review it. The more you review, the higher your score. I don’t think the score gets you anything, unless you review a lot of beers, in which case you get profiled on the front page of the site. The navigation on the site is a little clunky – I did a search for Chimay, which has three different varieties. Even though I got the list, I had to choose one to add, then use the back buttons to click back until i found the list again. It would be nice if it had a checklist, like goodreads, where I can add items from a list with one click, without leaving the list. Then, I could go to my list later and review everything to my hearts content.


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Why I love WordPress

November 25, 2007 at 7:59 pm (1)

I’m addicted to checking my blog stats. That’s something in the backend of this blog program, where I can look at how many people visit this blog, what they click on, and where they came from, including what search engine terms they used on their way to clicking on the link to the blog. I’m not entirely sure how it works, but it gives me some interesting insight into what people are looking for when they find my blog randomly, and also some insight into the ways people search for things they’ve seen before but can’t remember where. For example, this Thanksgiving weekend there were a lot of people searching for Zwinky information online. I can only assume that many thousands of bored teens fled to their rooms over the holiday to hunch over their laptops and commune with other Zinkys in cyberspace, and try to figure out how to make more Zwinky money fast so they could get better stuff so it would look like they’ve been on Zwinky “like, forever.”

That’s all happening in my imagination, btw. No hard facts to back that up.

As far as people looking specifically for this blog, having once found it and then wanting to locate it again, this is my favorite search string ever: “webkinz blogs with sam in it”

Well, maybe not my favorite “ever” as in “ever, ever,” but certainly in the top ten somewhere. How was everyone’s Thanksgiving?

(pause… pause… pause… <sound of crickets> pause…)

Hey, if you do read something here and you think that you’d like to keep track of what i talk about and also have an easy way to get back here later, consider adding this blog to an RSS reader.  For a quick how-to and walk-through of putting that together, look in the sidebar under RSS, or just click this link here:   Which will take you to the same place.

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Blog reading level

November 20, 2007 at 8:14 pm (social sites)

If you go to and enter the URL of your blog, they’ll tell you what level of education your readers need in order to read your blog.  This blog requires a Junior High School reading level.  I figure that’s just about right.  When talking about new technology it’s better to keep things simple and straightforward.

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November 20, 2007 at 12:41 am (1)

It’s been pretty quiet here for the last few days.  The reason being that I’ve been working on a bunch of other projects and haven’t really had a chance to explore, or report on what I’ve discovered.  I’ve been pursuing the video project with some gusto, and you can see the results over at or on my facebook video account, if’n you have a facebook of your own.  So far I’ve made 11 short videos to promote the One Minute Critic, and i’m starting to get more ideas for videos using other people and also using the library as a setting.

I’ve been getting some traffic here via sites that look like blogs, but appear to be some kind of automated blog post republisher – so my post about Zwinky and WebKinz was republished in a WebKinz blog, and my post about the Annoyed Librarian and Video games showed up in a Halo 3 blog.  Weird, but interesting to keep track of.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and travel safe.

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November 15, 2007 at 1:10 am (1)

Since updating the wiki to say that i’m no longer updating the wiki, and everyone should come here instead, I’ve noticed a spike in visitors to the blog, so welcome!  One thing i like about WordPress over the wiki is that i can keep track of exactly which pages are getting viewed, and what people are clicking on, etc.  One thing i can’t get automatically is a response from you, the users – I’d love to hear from you!  Are the modules helpful?  Are they interesting?  Are there things i’m missing?  It’s still a work in progress, so let me know how you’re doing.


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November 13, 2007 at 12:41 am (social sites)

Well, i signed up for a Zwinky profile to see what that’s all about, but ran into some grief because it wanted to download some stuff to my computer.  In Firefox, i was able to get it to work until i wanted to build and clothe my avatar – then it wouldn’t work.  In IE it wouldn’t work either, because i don’t have the latest ActiveX installed.  So it could be a little while before that comes my way.

I might try it out at home, now that i’ve started the process.  I was thinking about looking at some of these sites that target younger audiences, and seeing how they compare with each other, and what the “creep factor” is – like, is there open chat and things like that.

I’ve seen Webkinz in action, and it’s not so bad – you can play lots of games, get cool things for your virtual house, and get stuff for your pet.  You can wander around the Webkinz world and meet other webkinz in and around their houses.  When you want to chat with someone, you can’t type a message – you have to select things to say from a list, like “let’s play a game,” or “see you later” or something like that.  I’m not sure if more open chat is available to other users or not, but i don’t think that it is.

I’ve been hearing about another site like Webkinz, called Club Penguin, in which kids get a penguin avatar, and wander around playing games and meeting other penguins.  There is chat available, but apparently it’s monitored in some way.  I haven’t tried it out yet, and i’m not sure i’m allowed, seeing as how I’m 32 and all.

Then there’s Gaia Online, which has few restrictions.  This is a popular site with the middle school aged set, and was built around the topic of anime and manga, but has since spread out to cover everything.  You can get an avatar with some basic clothing.  To get more clothes and things for your apartment, you need money.  To get Gaia money, you have to post things on messageboards and move around Gaia.  The more you post and move, the more money you get.  There are some really expensive items to get for your avatar, and even the cheap stuff is pretty spendy.  The result is that in order to make your avatar look cool, you have to chat and post hundreds of times, or thousands, even.  The need to post in quantity does little for quality, and there are a lot of non-substantive posts.  Of course, the topics are ones that no middle school aged kid could tire of talking about, so there are a lot of substantive posts, too.  Even though the target audience appears to be low teens, users can be of any age, and there’s not a lot in the way of moderation or monitoring, unless it’s by the community at large.

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Last of the stuff from the wiki

November 12, 2007 at 7:50 pm (Library 2.0)

Here’s the last stuff from the wiki – these are all works in progress, as far as creating short learning sessions for them.
Screencasting? resource:

Distant Librarian (

O’Reilley – What Is Screencasting? ( ( monthly fee site for screencast hosting, delivery, etc.

Screencast-O-Matic (

Jing (

Gather No Dust – My First Screencast… (

Screencast re. Open Library ( via the Disruptive Library Technology Jester.

Slideshare (

Slidecasting – Add Audio On Slideshare ( via Librarians Matter.
Lifestreams? resources:
Mashups? resources, sites, what-have-you:
Groups – like Google Groups (, Yahoo Groups (, and now Group Swim (

Seems like the whole “Groups” idea was a precursor to current social networking practices. Interesting to see how/if it’s evolved. Of course, if we’re exploring precursors to current social networking phenomenon, then we’d have to look at chat rooms as well – not a bad idea, since chat rooms are one of those things that quickly gets filtered. Maybe if we understand them, we can make more informed decisions about their use in libraries and schools…

Learning about Chat:

We could always start with Wikipedia’s definition of Chat Room (, but it looks a little on the thin side, so we should also check out some other sources (I’ll find some soon…)

Chat places:

Yahoo ( of course.

Here’s one that has a high Google rank – I didn’t go into any of the chat rooms, but take a look at the categories available. Chat Avenue ( says they have a Kids Chat section, but it’s stuck in the middle of a lot of other chat room possibilities that are probably not as kid-oriented…

People Connection ( at AOL looks like another chatty type area.

Of course, chat rooms have their counterpart in IM, with group chat functions. Group chat can be pretty useful in organizations, the online equivalent of a conference call. If people are spread over a diverse area, then group chat can be a good way to handle discussions, particularly if they involve the sharing of web resources – you can post links, and people can look at them while keeping up with the chat.

Message Boards

Here’s another early incarnation of social networking that became something else but still has applications and users all over the world. A nice article about Message Boards can be found at the Common Craft show, in their post What Are The Differences Between Message Boards And Blogs? (

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Video experiements

November 8, 2007 at 5:58 pm (Library 2.0)

I’m doing some experiments with video marketing for a library program.  I’m just getting things started, and i’m looking for input on how the videos look, and if the message in them is clear, and if they’re entertaining or not.  I can re-edit the text portions pretty easily and reload the videos.  I’m thinking that i might need to do that, but maybe i’m just being overly critical or anticipatory, knowing what’s in the videos.  Anyway, I’ve got them over at the blog i made to promote the program, in a vod:pod sidebar widget.  BTW, vop:pod is one of the only ways i could find to embed videos into a wordpress blog.  As soon as i can get the podpress plugin, I’ll try doing some recordings of people talking about books, interviews with people, and so forth.   Here’s the site:

Let me know, too, if the videos are slow loading – i can reduced the bit rate a little bit more, but if i go too low, then the text gets muddy and i like the SimSun font too much to ditch it if i don’t have to.

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Yahoo Answers

November 6, 2007 at 1:46 am (Library 2.0) (, , , )

I’ve been answering questions over at Yahoo! Answers, as an experiment, because it’s kind of fun, and the site could use some librarians to answer the questions.  I just browse random sections and look at questions that don’t seem too much like people looking for direct answers to fill-in-the blank homework assignments, and aren’t people asking rhetorical questions, like “My boyfriend said this, what do you think it means?”

So far, I’ve answered maybe 20 questions there.  I always provide a summary of the information i’ve found as well as a link to one or more sources that i found.  I often suggest that if they’re looking for information for a report, that their library will probably have some books or databases that would provide more in-depth and reputable information, and i always sign it as “your friendly neighborhood librarian.”

Of the 20 or so questions, i’ve gotten 5 “best answers” which is pretty cool.

Sometimes when i open up a question to look at it, i’ll see a well written and informative answer there, so i’ll let it be.  Most of the time, the answers will be completely unhelpful, like “I think you could like, just practice and that should work.” In answer to a question about voice training.

If you’re looking for exercises for grad students to get real-world reference experience in an online environment, Yahoo! Answers isn’t a bad way to go – students get some practice answering questions quickly (if you spend too much time on it, then your answer ends up buried under a dozen other answers) and informatively.  You get rewarded with points, and if you get a “best answer” vote, you get lots of points.

Along with getting practice, you’ll be adding value to something that a lot of students use, and taking an opportunity to subtly remind them that the library is always there as a resource, too.  (only if you self-identify as a librarian, or suggest library resources, of course.)

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Annoyed, MLS’s, and Video Games

November 5, 2007 at 12:52 am (Library 2.0)

I just read a post over at Annoyed Librarian (sorry, no link love – it shouldn’t be too hard to find in the usual way), about Gaming in Libraries.  Overall, I found the article to be a little depressing.  Why is that?  Well, in summary, the article was about video game programs in libraries.  It wasn’t very supportive.  A good portion of the article was about the poor quality of Masters of Library Science programs, especially ones that have classes where students learn about video games.

Annoyed Librarian is an anonymous blogger, of the Rush Limbaugh school – by that i mean that s/he makes snarky, sweeping sarcastic comments, criticizes and insults things s/he doesn’t agree with, offers very little in the way of constructive criticism, and very likely doesn’t actually care about the topic as much as stirring up his/her readers.  This is something AL succeeds at – stirring people up.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.  I just find it a waste of my time.

AL brings up some interesting questions, whether s/he cares or not.  What is the state of MLS and MLIS programs in the US?  Is it good?  Is it not so good?  Also, why teach about video games?

Having recently graduated and having heard all of AL’s snarky comments firsthand from a variety of sources, I’d have to say that in most cases, MLS and MLIS programs are only slowly responding to the rapid changes occurring at the professional level.  The reason for this is that MLS and MLIS programs need to be accredited by the ALA.  Accreditation by the ALA means that you instruct students on certain things, have a certain ratio of teachers to students, etc. etc.  In order to add more things to the curriculum, you have to remove other things, and there are many things that can’t be removed, like the theory classes.  What you might feel about this, well, it doesn’t particularly matter – change in academics occurs rather slowly.  There’s bound to be some dissatisfaction with what’s being taught verses what actually takes place in the libraries.  Some programs address this by familiarizing their students to things that are happening in libraries, like video games, others have only enough time slots for the classes that are required, and the options that they have the resources to offer – by resources i mean teachers.  So at the MLS and MLIS level, there are many structures in place to govern the programs.  Changes are difficult to make at the individual school level.  Changes have to be made at the overall system level, which means that enough discontent with the current way things are has to permeate into the inner workings.  Discontent begins at the profession, works slowly back through the schools, and eventually reaches the central system.  It will be interesting to see how the science and the programs change and adapt over the next twenty years.  For my part, I hope to be a part of shaping that future, and I’m not terribly interested in complaining about it as much as i am in understanding it and working toward viable solutions.

On to video games – how do they relate to libraries?  Well, it’s all about the way we humans create, store, and retrieve information.  For a long time, that was done with books, in text and pictures.  Libraries helped to store and retrieve this information.  This is still the case with the Internet – we help people retrieve information that is stored locally or remotely, electronically or physically, etc.  Regardless of the medium in which it is contained.  Now of course there are plenty of arguments against video games as valid library content, but then that’s always been the argument, against fiction and comics and manga and movies and music.  Are video games different from these other content delivery devices?  Yes, because they’re interactive.  In many cases they depend on interaction between users.   Video games are a thriving industry, and have many permutations – people play them on PCs, game systems, hand held devices, and their phones.  The content continues to broaden, with very physically active games like DDR and Guitar Hero, Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Carnival Games, Wii just about anything else.  There are many games that are coming out that provide a new interface to relatively normal “library-like” content – like cookbooks.  There’s a Japanese cookbook available for the Nintendo DS.  It talks you through the recipe, responds to your voice, repeats, adds detail, pauses, etc.

That’s just one case, right?  True, true.  No one knows how video games will evolve, but the reality is that games are evolving and becoming ubiquitous.  Game-like features are showing up on sites all across the internet.  Advertising is particularly fond of games, to engage potential customers for longer periods of time.

Through the last thirty or so years, video games have been the method by which the next level of computer technology has been shown to the general public.  Games have shown us what computers are capable of.  In fact, throughout history, games and toys have been the forerunners to many great inventions.   Games reveal what is possible, and through their popularity, drive technological development.  The industry is bigger than music and movies combined.

There are not a lot of libraries that practice video game collection development.  It’s a tricky area, because there are so many different platforms, and because individual items can be expensive and require additional controllers, etc.  On the other hand, one of the reasons for a public library is to provide access to information which might be too expensive or otherwise inaccessible to members of the community.  So in actuality video games would be an ideal thing for libraries to collect, because they can be expensive for individuals to purchase.  Would they be incredibly popular?  Yes, it’s likely they would be.  Would they fulfil the library mission to provide access to information?  Yes – because video games, aside from providing content also provide an understanding of technology and of technological development.  I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the future of the Internet and therefore almost all information creation, storage and retrieval, will be heavily influenced by video games.  It will not be long before 3D interactive environments are a normal part of online activities.  I don’t think Second Life will survive, but it’s effects are already rippling out – i posted about Sun’s MPK20 a couple of days ago, if you recall.

So, should we learn about video games in library school?  Yes.  Should be discard cataloging in favor of fun things like video games?  No.  What should we discard?  Nothing, yet.  What if we’re in a MLS program that doesn’t challenge us enough?  Well, challenge yourself then, and use the curriculum as a means to a better end.  If you think your program was a waste of time, then maybe you didn’t use it to your best advantage.  As a Master, you need to be working hard to improve yourself, not complaining about what’s being spoon-fed to you.  Take some risks.  Form some great arguments that offer real solutions to problems facing the world of librarianship.  Why not?  There’ll be some annoyed librarians out there who will want to discourage you from being interested and excited about your profession, but i think you’ll find those types of folks in all professions, and you just have to persevere.  When a profession is in flux, you can choose to despair or be a part of the solution.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll let you know that I’ll likely never waste my time reading the Annoyed Librarian again.  I’ve got a lot of work to do, and some of it includes video games, Web 2.0, and the future of library science.  Some of it involves planning a new program and running a book group and writing curriculum for computer classes.  Oh, and some of it involves providing excellent reference to our patrons.  Did i mention that i love my job?

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