Thursday, May 28, 2009

Zoho -ho - ho

Zoho. Word processing as done by Santa Claus, right? It looks like Word, feels like Word, so the question appears to be why hasn't Microsoft made Word available via the internet for collaborative writing?

As written about in a recent posting, on more than one blog, my son is experiencing real world difficulties with his first landlord. As he resides at some distance from me, assisting him in preparing written communication has been via e-mail with Word document attachments. This works but in order to review or edit, there's a time lag made necessary by the need to re-send the document . Zoho appears to make that disappear, allowing near simultaneous editing or revising. What Zoho does make necessary is for all parties concerned to have a Zoho account. Wonder if that's a marketing ploy?

From initial experience and usage, it seems to be a productive tool, allowing publication directly to a blog, such as this, without the need to cut and paste. It appears to be the equal of Word, if not gooder.

Ah, you say, "gooder" is not a word. Nor is it a version of Word. Nor is it a synonym for "better". What it is is a funner word to use. Ah, you say, "funner" .....

No, they're not proper words but as expressed succinctly in Through the Looking Glass, "`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.' `The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all."

Today, I choose to be a benevolent and funner master.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Your Foot's Gone Prime?

What a wondrous age! Data and thought and information speeding along, sometimes at the speed of light and sometimes, via AT&T, at the speed of molasses. Thoughts, statistics, opinions, all instantly or, via AT&T semi instantly, available.

Yet the speed of information alone is insufficient to make it useable. Listening and understanding to the information make it so. And those two skills are not new, indeed are very old, but absolutely necessary.

Ofttimes what we think we hear or read is not, in reality, what was said or printed. I have a minor affliction with dyslexia which rarely impedes serious reading but will on occasion create some startling headlines or signs. After all, who knew that the California Auto Association sells weasel tires?

In a serious, especially if heated, conversation, it is crucial to listen to what the other speaker actually said, as opposed to what was expected or anticipated to be heard. I am guilty of blithely opining against what I thought someone said only to feel silly (or worse) when they say that they agree with me, adding those four little words: "That's What I Said!" Oops.

Part of the impetus for this post is the return of books from those students doing research projects. I find it amusing to see that five books on New Jersey are returned by a student, as if the more books one puts in the bibliography, the better the grade. Hopefully this isn't true. The sheer amount of information represents only the opportunity to use it; in and of itself, it isn't important. A report using three books and an encyclopedia on forests may well be better written and more inciteful than another report that cites eleven books, three articles and a personal interview with a maple. OK, I made that last one up.

Progress is made when our ability to decipher, interpret and use data increases. That equals understanding and comprehension. Mounds of information are simply numbers or words.

"Your foot's gone prime"? "You're my sweetie pie"

Friday, May 8, 2009

More Scotch, Less Ice ...

Ah, Library 2.0. Not to be confused with Library 1.0 or even 1.5(a), release 6. I suppose it could be worse; Microsoft could have produced it and we'd then have to deal with issues of books crashing, along with our computers.

As suggested, I've perused the writings upon Library 2.0 and note there is an obvious consensus that libraries will have to adapt to changing demands and, further, that such demands will change the look and form of libraries. How do they ever come up with such radical ideas?

Rick Anderson has authored a piece entitled Away From The Icebergs in which he points out three "icebergs" that libraries, and library systems, should steer away from. Mr. Anderson has presumably chosen these three from a lengthy list and provides sound reasons why they present dangers to the evolution of libraries. His essay seems written more because he was asked to write something than because this issue was important to him and I say this because he belabors the obvious. No one involved in the library arena would dispute that it is changing, both in form and in services (both provided and expected). Since we know this, shouldn't his (or anyone's) insight provide directions for growth instead of a generalization?

Mr. Anderson writes "At a minimum, this means placing library services and content in the user’s preferred environment (i.e., the Web); even better, it means integrating our services into their daily patterns of work, study and play." Perhaps it's just me but would not this evolution result in fewer positions; i.e., jobs and a de emphasis upon libraries as locations? If our "library" is on the web, why would it be necessary for a customer to travel anywhere? If it's on the web, where is the interaction between the customer and the staff member? Is the future of reference to be a call center located ... oh, say Sri Lanka? No, I don't think so.

Mr. Anderson asserts that "in my library, we’ve seen a 55 percent drop in circulation rates over the past twelve years." I concede that Mr. Anderson's essay is undated and may predate the current economic downturn but the circulation rates at the Sacramento Public Library have increased. People constrained in discretionary spending due to economic distress, are turning to free services. They are also seeking direction and directions in updating resumes, job searches, educational opportunities, community training courses, volunteer opportunities. Some of this may be done online but our customers want personal interface.

The library will change in response to technology and demands but there will always be the opportunity to instruct, direct, assist and learn.

And just in case that Microsoft does sponsor or run the library of the future, I offer this as a suggestion for those who may suffer social distress or, as part of the economic downturn, can no longer afford service.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No Further Questions ...

The internet is unquestionably a remarkable educational tool, providing access to a universe of information. My limited exploration prior to and as part of 27 Things has proven this to be true. Yet, to accurately utilize much of this information, it is necessary to know what is sought to be found or proven and, ancillary to that, what questions to ask that will facilitate understanding

I daresay that there are fewer areas of interest more susceptible to the adage "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" than law. Most people at some time or another have had contact with our legal system or, worse, have watched a movie or television program about lawyers and thus have the equivalent of a degree. And based upon that equivalency, now drone on at great length about it; its procedures, its application, its inequities.

My son is now experiencing this phenomenon. In response to pressure from an apparently attractive female renter, his landlord is claiming that he has committed waste upon the rental property and has become a nuisance because of his failure to clean the bathroom. He is, understandably, upset about the matter, contending that this uproar is over a little hair in the drain and, perhaps, towels on the floor.

I have chosen to use this episode as a lesson in life and the law for him. First, this has little to do with whatever he has actually done; it has to do with the fact that the female renter wants additional space and privacy and is prevailing upon the landlord to yield to her desires. Supply and demand economics crosses many boundaries.

Equally important, it highlights the distinction between English as commonly used and the law's usage. A cursory review of Black's Law Dictionary will make such clear, in mind boggling detail. Waste and nuisance have specific legal meanings, apart from ordinary usage but this is usually lost upon those who throw such words around with reckless abandon. This brings up the question of those who are not devoid of "reck" but that will wait for a later analysis.

An act or the occasional person may be a nuisance but not such as to rise to the level of being legally actionable. For those bold, or foolish, enough to actually go forward and make such allegations within a courtroom, it is often a financial shock to discover the difference when their contentions are dismissed or disbelieved due to lack of legal evidence.

Where does all this fit within the library experience? The answer is often. Many customers come to the library because "they" told them that a specific form or document was available at the library. These customers know this to be true because their friend obtained this form at a library and won his/her case, had her/his criminal record expunged, received custody of his/her children, had her/his ticket dismissed, ad nauseum. When told that there is no such form or document or that such may apply only to another jurisdiction, customers will gaze with a "how did you ever get this job" look and repeat, this time louder, their specific requests. "Just go to this website", is often included in the litany of directions. When told there is no such website, the conversation usually goes downhill - despite serious efforts to assist those who have little to no idea what they really want.

The internet, and its world of information, is a pathway to knowledge. It is not magical and it requires the ability to discern its limitations as well as the skills to apply its teachings.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bless you ....

As I progress through 27 Things, this very thought has crossed my mind on several occasions. While the types and amount of information available for posting are mindboggling, not all of it truly needs to be publicised.

Part of this week's digital adventure is to explore Library Thing . As I am not a reference librarian nor do I play one on tv, I see this as more of a toy than a tool. Those I know who have explored this in more depth have found that it makes errors in its suggestions, ofttimes forgetting the aspect of age appropriateness. Such a recommendation could be embarrassing.

That said, the site does offer instant access to reviews and, like, suggestions for other items based upon "your" library. This I do like since I am far beyond age appropriateness. I discovered, and am now reading, a collection of short stories by one of my favorite authors - John Irving: Trying To Save Piggy Sneed.

What I discovered in cataloging my own collection is that I would have a very difficult time characterizing my reading interests. I routinely tell those who ask, a small number, thanks for asking, that my primary interest lies in the area of mysteries, yet mystery tales comprise a minority of my personal collection. I discovered that general fiction and non-fiction, historical if one should inquire (and no one has), make up the bulk.

Could I have discovered this without the insights gleaned from Library Thing? Only if I had looked. Would I have discovered this without the assignment which includes Library Thing? Probably not. Is this a good thing? Stay tuned.