Monday, April 30, 2007

A Case for a Wiki

The slew of e-mails today regarding Section 8 applications got me thinking. Would it not be easier for all of us to keep track of something like this via the MPLICWiki rather than email? If you are helping a customer now, and they are wondering where they can pick up an application, you have to scan your Inbox to see what the latest word is for a specific branch (do they or do they not have applications available).

The wiki version would have a page that lists all of the branches with a note indicating whether or not they have section 8 applications...or if their air conditioner is broken...or if their typewriter is broken...or whatever special news that branch may have.

Whenever the status changes (the branch runs out of applications; the branch received a new batch of applications; the typewriter now works, etc.), someone from that branch could edit the page to notate that change (instead of sending or in addition to sending the email). The entire system would have immediate, quick access to all the special notes for all locations.

However, MPLIC is not quite ready for this yet. Currently, just about all staff are trained on the use of email. If a message needs to be sent to the system, just about anyone can do that now via email. As easy as editing a wiki can be, if we do not have the staff to make the immediate changes when necessary, then your product loses validity fairly quickly.

One of the trainings I will offer in the fall is a Wiki Editing training. This will hopefully be the first step towards building a comfort level with the MPLICWiki so that we may utilize it more in the future.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Content for MPLIC Tech Train Wiki

I recently added some instructions to the MPLIC Tech Train wiki regarding creating and sorting lists with Excel. Many of you have come to me over the years for assistance in using Excel to do just this. Here you will find answers to common tasks such as resizing, inserting, deleting columns and rows, sorting data, formatting text, etc.

Also you will find information on wrapping text (if you've used Excel before, you know that text will keep going and going unless you tell it to wrap or do something crazy like put your text in two different cells giving the impression that the text wraps to the next line...)

If you are wanting to use Excel for a list, then check here. You can also call me and I will help. Additionally, I will be adding this class to the rotation of the successful one hour classes (mainly on Word) that I offered last year. But first, we need to get past this ILS training...

Over the past few weeks, I have also added this content to the wiki:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Great Description of Aggregators/RSS Readers

See this video below from Common Craft about aggregators/rss readers. For those of you already using a reader, then you can't see the video from your reader. You can click here to see it, although since you are already using a reader so you don't have to be convinced to use one... but I like the style of this video and you may too.

There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don't. This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don't know where to start.

What is the Difference Between a Blog and a Wiki?

Here is a frequent question I receive when I talk about wikis and blogs:

"What is the Difference Between a Blog and a Wiki?".

The obvious place to start is defining each:

Here is Wikipedia's definition of blog and wiki.

In short, a blog is a "website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in reverse chronological order".

A wiki is "a website that allows visitors to add, remove, edit, and change content...and allows for linking among any number of pages".

Blogs and wikis share some common traits:

  • They are both websites.
  • They are both user-generated (the content of blogs and wikis is created by the actual people who use the blogs or wikis.)
  • They both allow users to comment on the content.
What are wikis better at than blogs:
What are blogs better at than wikis:
  • Blogs are better at quickly sharing new information.
  • Blogs are better at starting and maintaining a dialog between the publisher and reader.
What are some common misconceptions about wikis:
  • A wiki is limited as an encyclopedia-type tool. Not true. Because Wikipedia is so entrenched as the shining example of what a wiki is, many people make the assumption that you can only use a wiki to create some sort of list of definitions. A new wiki is a blank slate.
  • Anyone in the world can edit every wiki. Not true. You can password protect your wiki so that only select people can add, edit, change the content.
  • Once content is changed, it is lost forever, making it susceptible to intentional or unintentional loss of information. Not true. Every rendition of a wiki page is saved. If something happens, simply change back to any past version of the page.
What are some common misconceptions about blogs:
  • A blog is just a diary. Not true. While online journals and early blogging seemed to focus more on diary-type writing, today's blogs are more varied. Blogs can focus on politics, food, travelling, technology tips, whatever.
  • Only one person can author a blog. Not true. You can set it up so that as many people can publish information on a blog. Readers will be notified who authored each post.
Or, to sum it all up, as the blog Common Craft states in it's post "Introduction to Stocks and Flows: Weblogs, Wikis, and RSS", a blog is a flow of information. A wiki is a place to stock information.

Or look at it another way. In a workplace setting, a blog replaces the bulletin board. A wiki replaces the binder-manuals.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How to Open Files

Files GibberishA couple staff have contacted me lately because they were having difficulty opening customer files. The cause of the problem was due to the fact that they were trying to use Word to open the file. And the type of file format that the customer wanted to view was not a Word document. They ended up getting gibberish like you see to the right.

Have you ever gotten that before? Basically, Word has no idea how to read the file, but he will try anyway. Much like if I tried to read a language I did not know or if I tried to explain abstract art. I'll give it a try, but you probably won't get anything useful.

So how do you know what program you are supposed to use? Just let the computer choose. Follow these instructions in this past MPLIC Tech Train blog post that explains how you use the Address Bar in Internet Explorer to view files on a customer's disk or flash drive. If you access the file directly, the computer will automatically use the best program to view the file.

In one instance, the customer wanted to view a PDF (or .pdf) file format. A PDF can only be displayed by a PDF reader, such as Adobe Reader. Click here for more information on PDFs.

In the other instance, the customer wanted to view a picture (generally a J-Peg aka .jpg file format, although many more image file formats exist).

FilesMicrosoft Word can only properly display certain types of file formats, mainly .doc files (document files).

There are many file formats out there. File format extensions can be found at the end of the file name. For example:

Healthy Websites.doc
Form 1040.pdf
Grand Canyon.jpg

For all you file format nuts out there, you can see this ENTIRE LIST OF ALL FILE TYPES...crazy.

See Also:

Search for the Format You Want

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Go Live Circulation and Reference Training Dates

Go Live 2The Go Live Reference Training dates and the Go Live Circulation Training dates have been added to the sidebar. You can also access these dates, times, and more details from the ILS blog (Circulation and Reference).

Brainstorming with the StratPlan!

By now, many of you have probably participated in a strategic planning brainstorming session. See the "We'd Be a Better Library If..." article on page 2 of the April 2007 StaffWise for further information on this process.

Since we are trying to gather ideas from as many forums as possible, why not gather ideas here as well? So, if you would like to pass on an idea, just add a comment to this post (anonymous if you so choose).

You can also contribute by sending an email to Damone or by speaking up during one of the many brainstorming sessions we are conducting.

So, we'd be a better library if...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hidden "Shadowed" Titles in the New Public Catalog

Go Live 2The online catalog on the EPS will not display "shadowed" records. In other words, titles will not display if they are missing, assumed lost, discarded, etc. This will remove any possibility that someone will request, place a hold, or even ask about any of these titles.

That does not take away the reality that a customer may remember that we had a title that has since gone missing. WorkFlows (our staff catalog interface) will show these titles when you perform a keyword search.

If you have any questions regarding this process, please let me know (email, phone, comments, wiki discussion page, etc.).

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Google Maps (My Maps), or All About Google Maps (Part Two)

Google Maps just released a new service called My Maps. Here you can create your own map with your own marked destinations.

For an example, see this map I made of all MPLIC locations. You can add text, lines, images, and videos as well.

All About Google Maps (Part One)

Google Maps 1Google Maps is a great tool to use when helping our customers find other locations or services. For one, you have the basic services of finding any location or directions to locations.

But you also have the ability to Search Nearby for any location you find. For example, a customer asks where the nearest Notary can be found. Rather than scanning the yellow pages for anything that may be near your branch, just type the address of your branch. When Google Maps finds your branch, you will see a link that says Search Nearby. Click on it and type Notary and a list of notaries appears arranged by proximity.

Also, you can use the search to find answers to obscure questions as well. For example, I was recently helping a customer who was looking for a hair braiding place on Summer. He did not know the name or where on Summer it was located. He had searched the Yellow Pages and did not find it. He was scanning the Cole's "criss-cross" directory for every location on Summer to no avail.

I went to Google Maps and performed a search "hair braiding summer memphis tn". Several locations appeared on the sidebar with their locations pinpointed on the map. Only one was on Summer.

"Would that by Mame Hair Braiding?" I asked. He jumped up and said "YES!". I gave him the address and phone number. He had been looking for this place for about 30 minutes. Google Maps found it is less than 30 seconds.

For details on how Google Maps works, see their Help page.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

LEAP Survey and Library Programs with Computers

You recently received an e-mail from some of the current LEAP participants requesting information about your skills for programming. You may be thinking that you do not have any skills that anyone would want to know about. Let me share some ideas about computer classes that could be fun for some folks.

Currently, our computer classes focus on tasks such as mousing, web searching, sending/receiving e-mail (very basic stuff). Would it not be great to also offer classes such as How to Buy and Sell on Ebay? Or How to Share and Edit Photos Online?

I can probably develop these classes, but having never sold anything on Ebay, I may not be the right one to present it. Have you sold anything on Ebay? Would you like to show others how it is done?

Are you an expert at other specific computer topics such as MySpace, Blogger, or Flickr?

When completing this survey, keep in mind that these skills are popular right now and could probably draw a good crowd. On top of it all, it would be a lot of fun.

What Good is the Alt Key, Anyway?

What good is the Alt key on your keyboard? Combine Alt with other keys and it creates a wonderful thing: efficiency.

  • Press and hold Alt along with the underlined letters on the Menu Bar to access tools without using the mouse.
  • Press and hold Alt while repeatedly pressing the Tab key will toggle through all open windows.
  • Press Alt and F4 at the same time to close the current window. If you have a bunch of windows, press and hold Alt while pressing F4 repeatedly and all windows will close quickly.
  • Press Alt along with certain numeric codes to insert various symbols ranging from currency symbols to letters with accents. Follow this link for further information.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Send Your E-Mail Messages to "Purgatory" Before You Send Them Straight to... the Deleted Items Folder

Someone recently shared with me a tip on managing your Outlook email account. This person has set up a sort-of "purgatory" email folder for those messages that they want to delete but are not too sure if they will need them or not.

Generally, time will be the decider as to whether or not you need a message. If a month goes by and you have not needed the message, you can probably chunk it.

The staff member then can Empty their Deleted Items folder without losing the "purgatory" email items (now located in a separate folder).

This system does two things:

  • It rids their Inbox of unwanted messages.
  • It allows them to empty their Deleted Items folder more frequently, thereby giving them more space on the Exchange server.
For more information, see these MPLIC Tech Train Wiki entries:

MPLIC Tech Train...Wikified

I have been busy lately producing a new "product" that will bring our technical training documents to the next level. Rather than having various handouts uploaded to the intranet in either Word or PDF format, I have been converting these documents into wiki format. Click here to see the MPLIC Tech Train... Wikified.

Doing this will give everyone one central place to look for technical advice specially geared towards the Memphis Public Library & Information Center.

Also, since everything is in wiki format, you can utilize the wiki search tool to find the information you need quickly.

Finally, as the technical world keeps changing rapidly around us, and as we continually find better ways to work with our existing tools, the wiki format will allow for us to share, change and evolve quickly as well.

This is still a work in progress (and will continually be a work in progress), but I have completed enough for us to go ahead and share.

If you would like to suggest an addition to this wiki, let me know.