Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Here Comes Everybody

Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, shares some interesting perspectives on "Gin, Television and Social Surplus" Shirkey asks the metaphysical question, where does all the time we waste on blogging and surfing come from? The metaphysical answer, in our day and age, is sitcoms. Back in the early days of the industrial revolution, the social surplus represented by television today was to be found in gin - not the cotton gin, which is the one I always associated with the industrial revolution, but the kind that comes in bottles. At the height of the Gin Craze, the spirit of which is nicely captured in Hogarth's painting, gin was ladled out from stalls and wheelbarrows in the streets of London. Shirky argues that only after "society woke up from that collective bender" that was the gin craze, did it set about developing the institutional structures that we today associate with the industrial revolution - public libraries and museums, increasingly broad education for children, elected leaders..."a lot of things we like--didn't happen until having all of those people together stopped seeming like a crisis and started seeming like an asset." It sounds like an endorsement of web2.0, but I'm not sure I get it. Undoubtedly, I now waste less time on television and more in front of my computer - perhaps that's a small step forward. To my mind web2.0 prophets too often see participation and interaction as a virtue rather than mere diversion, which is what it is most of the time. Shirky says "It's better to do something than to do nothing. Even lolcats, even cute pictures of kittens made even cuter with the addition of cute captions, hold out an invitation to participation." I think not - time is better spent reading, or just thinking, and drinking gin. Jonathan Franzen's wonderfully titled collection of essays "How to be alone" provides some balance for the web2.0 mindset. The NYT article "A Newer Lonelier Crowd Emerges in New Internet Study" cites a report that shows an emerging lonely crowd on the internet, but that was in 2000 - it would be interesting to see something that addresses web2.0. (and follows classic studies like Riesman's Lonely Crowd and Putnam's Bowling Alone) Throngs? One at a time...use the comments feature.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Wix - to borrow Crunchbase's profile- " a free flash design tool. It enables users to create Flash-based websites without any programing skills, and publish those sites anywhere on the web. The output can also be widgetized and published on social networks. There are many other site design tools that take the need for programming skills out of the picture such as Synthasite, Weebly, Jimdo and Google Page Creator. However, none of these allow for easy creation of Flash-based content; for that, one must look at Sprout."

Friday, April 25, 2008


Trendpedia searches blogs and presents the search results in an electro cardiogram called a trendline. From the "about" page:

Search blogs — discover who’s discussing what, where, when and how. Trendpedia finds trends in social media. You choose the topics, enter the keywords, and click “Search Trend”. Trendpedia finds the articles online that talk about your topics. Trendpedia organizes the articles in a trendline that shows the popularity of the topic over time — you can track a topic’s trendline from three months ago up to today. Trendpedia collects posts about your topic per day. Click on the trendlines to find the articles about your topic posted on the date of choice. Watch the articles appear in the tabs below, organised according to topic and date.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The 100 top Web apps for 2008

The site (Cool web2.0 tools apps for everyone) announces the 100 best Web 2.0 applications for 2008, chosen by "Webware readers and Internet users across the globe. Over 1.9 million votes were cast to select these Webware 100 winners"

2008 State of America's Libraries

U.S. libraries play a key role in learning and development, and public libraries are engines of economic growth, according to ALA's 2008 State of American Libraries report. While school libraries are acknowledged to be particularly important and effective, funding for them continues to drop. Other findings:
  • Ebooks continued to emerge as a regular feature of libraries of all types.
  • library supporters won an important victory in 2007 when the Environmental Protection Agency was ordered to re-open many of the libraries it had closed in the past year.
  • College and research libraries continue to find innovative new ways to meet the rapidly evolving needs of the academy.
  • Libraries and librarians of all stripes continue to stand up for the First Amendment rights of all Americans, responding in public discourse and in court to unconstitutional snooping and aspiring book-banners. The right to read — freely and in private — remains a core value of the profession.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Topical widgets from EB

Below are two of some twenty topic widgets available at the Encyclopedia Britannica Webshare site. Here is the blurb...
"Quickly and easily explore key people, places and topics via widgets based on the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, one of the world’s most trusted sources of information. Widgets (also known as gadgets) are miniature objects or applications that contain dynamic content, which can be easily embedded on your own Web site or a customizable homepage, such as iGoogle."

And note that if you're a blogger, or web publisher of some other kind, you can get free access to Britannica all about it at TechCrunch.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New blogger search feature

Throngs, have you tried the new "Search this blog" feature over there on the right? Do, it's really cool (and ignore the search box at the very top of the page, which this new feature renders redundant...unfortunately I can't remove that yet, since the new feature is still in Beta) Search for something, Einstein for example, and you'll see that "Search this blog" not only finds occurrences in this blog, but also in blogs and websites that this blog links to, and in the web in general. And if you click on "more results" at the bottom of the tabbed results box, and then proceed to the bottom of the subsequent page, you'll be presented with three options for staying up to date on these results. (There is a bug here however, and I've reported it to Blogger/Google...if you search for "why Italian men grab their crotches" in the old navbar search box at the top of the page, you'll find the post about the Explainer. But if you do the same search in the new "Search this blog window", you won't find anything...I have no idea why.)

Inspiration Across the Nation

I was perhaps overly harsh in my assessment of the Library of Congress Experience below. LC can endure a little criticism from a knowbody, but I'd like to make amends nonetheless. While Topical (below) represents a useful application of web2.0, useful is not the first descriptor that comes to mind for LC's Inspiration Across the Nation. Not everything has to be useful however, and something that is inspirational, and celebrates humanity, is arguably better than useful! Inspiration Across the Nation invites anyone over 13 years of age to submit their creative impressions in the form of a photo, videos, songs, artwork, essays, along with a description of what inspired the work. The submissions - due by May 30 - will form a mosaic of "inspiration across the nation." Far be it from me to say bah humbug to a web2.0 project as noble as this! And best of all, LC requires submitters to list their local library branch! Why? Because "The Library of Congress Experience is also a celebration of libraries. Because our local libraries play such critical roles in providing open access to knowledge-and thus inspire and foster imagination-we ask that you recognize the creative power of your local branch by listing its name here." God bless the Library of Congress!


Topicle is a community of customized search engines, where users can submit - and edit - Google custom search engines using Topicle's interface. The real power of Topicle is that it harnesses crowd wisdom to select appropriate urls for its custom searches. There are currently 1151 custom search engines at Topicle, including one that searches sites that have CRS reports. That custom search engine includes 5 urls, but I added some wisdom of my own - the FPC and U.S. Embassy Rome sites! Those two nominations are currently in the "Suggested URLs" column on the right, but will be moved over to the left column once a sufficient number of people have deemed them worthy - and then the Web will be even better! Like the Wikipedia, this is - in my curmudgeonly opinion - an example of web2.0 democracy at its most useful!

Monday, April 14, 2008


Kathy Dempsey's article in Information Today ("The Library of Congress Delivers a Whole New Experience), does a brave job of describing the new Library of Congress Experience website, which to me is indescribably confusing. My advice is to banish any thought of navigation and just click on links and let them take you where they may - there are plenty of nice and interesting things to see at LC (and don't be discouraged if some links just take you back to where you came from). The Inside the Experience page itemizes the various exhibits that make up the LOC experience, and they look very attractive indeed. But only one of the items - labeled "now open" - links to anything. Two others read "available in April 2008" and 4 others are "scheduled to open in April 2008" (any difference?). One of them (MyLOC, available in April 2008) is demonstrably open (I stumbled upon it via another page), but no link from this page. I spent some time keyword-searching the site to see if some of the other exhibits might also secretly be open, but gave up after a while. There are apparently two new sites, then, The Library of Congress Experience, and MyLOC. Curiously, it's the latter site that sports the "Library of Congress Experience Video", perhaps one of the most annoying video presentations ever made. Scholarly custodians of the library's treasures talk about their particular favorites with the Miami Vice (or something) soundtrack blaring LOUDLY in the background. The presentation - which would be interesting were it not for the music and the hell-bent effort by scholars to avoid sounding scholarly - commences and concludes with 7 or 8 of them extolling the virtues of LC in the every-other-word locution of Huey, Louie and Dewey. (Huey) "This is a place that houses more fantastic (Louie) and inspiring ideas (Dewey) than have ever been assembled (HueyII) in one location. There are billions of words (LouieII) and hundreds of languages," etc. etc. You get the idea. At the end they all bark "Check it out!" God help us all.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What I'm doing right now?

Well it's about time, I thought you'd never ask! Actually, right now I'm writing a post on my blog about another instructional video from Commoncraft, this one explaining Twitter. As usual, they do an excellent job of demonstrating what the thing is. And also, inadvertently I fear, what an absolutely preposterous thing it is. The presenter laments that "Real life happens between blogposts and emails" - but that was before, now Twitter can help remedy that regrettable situation. Check out the video. Now I'm going to change the band-aid on my heel, and then take the dog for a walk. But stay tuned, I'll be back soon! (Unfortunately, soon after that I have to vacuum..)

p.s. - I'm an old fuddy-duddy, and Twitter may well deserve a second opinion