Monday, June 19, 2006

Getting the 411 on New Technologies Workshop Summary

I had the pleasure of attending the 411 on New Tech workshop held at the Middletown Library Service Center on Thursday. Conducted by the always amusing Rob Favini and lively, positive Amy Benson (excellent presenters from NELINET), the day was split into two parts, with Rob covering Blogs, Wikis, & RSS and Amy covering Mobile Devices & Wireless Access in the Library. If I'd realized that the blogs/wikis section would be in the AM, I would've skipped, though, not because Rob isn't knowledgeable and entertaining, but because it essentially covered much of what Steve & I have been teaching our colleagues about these technologies. So I started getting my blog entry ready while he spoke. [for the contents of our blog workshop, go to]

The four primary factors in the evolution of today's technology, Rob explained, are:

  1. Mobility
  2. Personalization
  3. Self-service
  4. Technological innovation
    • smaller, fast, cheaper - as an example of the "cheaper" part, Rob noted that devices now are often free with service and that it is the service people are paying for (e.g., cell phones)
    • rate of change increasing - this final point being the most salient one from my perspective - a realization that if you're treading water, you're drowning... you have not only move, but move quickly these days!

He emphasized how users are seeking autonomy - to do things themselves - to do them online 24x7x365. They want systems that facilitate their autonomy and that anticipate their needs. He talked about the creation of online communities of interest, the use of social software probably most effectively demonstrated by services popular among adolescents & young adults, such as MySpace, Facebook, LiveJournal, etc. These social networking sites often have blog features. There are also the photo-sharing services, such as Flickr. Though it wasn’t mentioned, I’d add into the discussion, the video sharing service YouTube.

Also not included in this workshop, but important in the overall trend toward autonomy/self-service and social networking, are social tagging/online bookmarking services, such as Furl - and - The collaborative creation of web content using "wiki" software, best illustrated by Wikipedia, was covered in the workshop, but I won't go into it here, because there are links to wiki information from the blogshop page and comprehensive coverage in - guess what resource?! - yes, Wikipedia! (BTW, apparently the term wiki comes from Hawaiian for "quick" - "wiki wiki".)

And many/all of these online services are available at some level for free (the only cost for a free account may be your privacy as they often require personal information from you - but apparently this doesn't phase the up-and-coming generation...)

If you haven't heard about these types of services before - blogs, wikis, and social networking sites - and don't have time to follow up further on your own, I would strongly recommend that you take one of the many great workshops being offered on the topic (and no, despite its appearance, this is not a shameless plug for the CSL blogshop!). Connecticut librarians, of course, can take advantage of the workshops provided through the State Library's Division of Library Development (see the learning section at CT Webjunction -

The piece that I really came for was the section on mobile devices. Why? I have no iPOD (and feel little desire to spend that much money on a device that was only designed to hold audio content when I could use it to update my TMobile PocketPC phone edition (a combination PDA/phone with the old mobile Windows and Office suite) to a Treo, Blackberry, or similar device) but patrons do. I don't have a recent "smart phone" (my current smart phone is so old, it doesn't even have bluetooth or a wi-fi card), but patrons do. I don't know how to design a web presence for wireless devices, but have to learn what the basic skills are (it turns out that to optimize your site, you should use Wireless Markup Language and, as I learned from a workshop co-participant, there is a validator to check the look of your site on a PDA through (now Adobe) Macromedia's Studio 8 - (the latest edition of Dreamweaver) - though I haven't checked it out yet). This was the most crucial piece of the workshop for me. Yes, it would be easier not to have to figure out yet another web technology, but mobile computing is becoming so ubiquitous that - to serve our audience as best we can - library webmasters (and/or systems people in charge of library OPACs) have to pay attention to this.

Overall, the workshop provided a broad (if necessarily somewhat shallow) overview on an array of technologies. If you didn't really know what a blog, wiki, RSS feed, wi-fi/wireless internet access, or PDA/other mobile device was, this day-long event got you up-to-speed quickly.

BTW, to see NELINET's entry into the blogosphere, see their TrendNet blog at In Rob's section on blogs, he showed this blog and some of his own. His experience is instructive as he is a self-identified "serial blog abandoner". You see, it's outrageously easy to start up a blog, but it requires commitment and time to continue it. He also noted that the way NELINET was hoping to fight blog authoring fatigue (& to keep its TrendGauge blog up-to-date) was to open up authoring/editing to a large number of employees (maybe the whole staff, I wasn't clear on this). Time will tell if this method works for them. This is a huge consideration in the creation of blogs for an organization.

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