Thursday, March 22, 2007

Come On...You Do It Too!

Do you have a name-doppelganger? There was an article in today’s Houston Chronicle about how people find others with the same name and then feel somehow connected to them. And come on...we all do the vanity search, right? A person might even feel a bit angry if the “other” had already grabbed a website with the .com URL for that name, thus sentencing him or her to a lowly .net. Or, you might feel a little put down if the other person was rich or successful, as if somehow YOU should be the best with that name. OK, I thought, and did a Google vanity search for “Mary Ann Bell.” I did find a counterpart, who likes to read and, like me, was less than impressed with the book The Mermaid Chair. The only thing that kept me going through that story was wondering if the old lady would lop off another finger any time soon. Still, I did not feel a particular kinship with Mary Anne beyond that. She is a student in Chicago with an interest in anime, which I do not share. We are generations apart. Next I went for my maiden name. I hit the jackpot! I found another professor who teaches technology classes in a library science program in Georgia. Her name, like my “real” name, is Mary Ann Fitzgerald, and her achievements are quite impressive. She is a very prolific writer and presenter, and I am proud to share her name. Next I checked my daughter’s name, Emily Herring. She is well represented in a Google search. I have done this before, but rediscovered competing postings for two young musicians of about the same age. The “other” Emily is extremely successful in her chosen areas of interest, Broadway musicals and plays. I wonder what she thinks of her name double, a feisty country singer whom she has doubtless encountered on the net. And also, what about you? Is there another “you” out there?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Email? E-mail? Killer app? Has been?

Is email still the killer app? And do you say email or e-mail? And what the heck IS a killer app? Well, first, I say email because it is easier, but I think stylebooks favor e-mail. Picky picky. Second, I don’t know whether email is still considered the killer app or not, and that is the purpose of this entry. Third, according to Wikipedia (yes I DO go there), “A killer application (commonly shortened to killer app) is a computer program that is so useful or desirable that it proves the value of some underlying technology, such as a gaming console, operating system, or piece of computer hardware.” For a long time, I believed email was THE way to get a technophobe interested in using computers. For this reason it came to be called a killer app. People who were hanging back in the 80’s often came on board with technology when they realized that they could keep up with friends and family FOR FREE via the Internet and email. At the school where I was librarian for fifteen years, I saw a number of folks tentatively start out with email and then go on to use many other applications and incorporate technology into their teaching tools.

Then a while back I was hearing that email was soooo yesterday. Blogs were the new thing! And wikis! And vlogs and podcasts, etc.! And then there was the problem of spam. Blech, I hate spam myself, both the canned kind and the techhie kind. Lowly email was doomed to the long goodbye which might not be all that long in today’s speedy technology driven world of communication. But, email seems to me to still be going strong. I got to thinking about this because Dr. Carol Simpson pointed out that, while blogs are hard to search, mail programs make email increasingly easy to search. I know that is true for my new favorite, Google Mail. I can find stuff there with either the mail search or with Google Desktop. Further, Dr. Simpson warns that spam is now invading blogs. So will email have the last laugh, thumbing its nose at blogs as they slowly sink into the technological tarpits? Gee I wonder what everybody else thinks…

Am I a Dinosaur and the Blogosphere is a Big Tar Pit?

Did I show up for the party too late? I am hearing that country song in my head, “Turn out the lights, the party’s overrrrrr…” I just started my blog recently and since then I have seen some comments that the blogosphere may be imploding, exploding, or otherwise meeting its demise. I got worried when I heard this opinion being voiced by someone I admire, Dr. Carol Simpson. In a recent LM_NET posting, she stated (and I did get permission to quote): Frankly, blogs are going to go the way of newsgroups, to which they are related. Newsgroups died because email software got better at filtering and organizing.” Her assessment is based on the facts that blogs are difficult to search. Tagging is supposed to be the solution to this, but so far it has not lived up to the promise, or so say blog critics. Further, a blog is something you have to GO TO, and many ask who has time for that, even with RSS?
I went looking for people who agree with Dr. Simpson and find them I did, as Yoda would say. Many are from the business world and, efficient types that such folks are, they also bemoan the difficulty of searching. Consulting the SHSU periodical databases turned up several articles promoting this view.
BUT THEN, I read a quote from someone else I admire, David Warlick! He is quoted in Steve Hargadon’s blog as saying, “He (Warlick) is still the most excited about blogging of all the technologies, because it is all about "conversation." Teachers keep telling him how excited students get about writing. Assignments stop being "assignments," but become engaged conversations. And it's so simple--get to the conversation quickly without a lot of preparation.”
Can they both be right? Maybe so. I think that in the blog world, there is a lot of chaff and much less wheat. Those people who have important or enjoyable sites will survive. So will some of the sites with limited appeal, that are directed at small audiences, like reading club blogs, family blogs, student blogs for various content discussions, etc. I know that, speaking for myself, I am willing to go to certain blogs, and I am not so much going for a specific topic as I am going to hear what that person has to say, period. For example, I will go to Doug Johnson’s blog without knowing what his current topic may be, just because I am interested in his take on just about anything. The same is true for Teri Lesesne’s blog, and others.
Where does that leave me? The jury is absolutely out on that question. I held off starting a blog until I thought I had some definite ideas and time to make entries at least twice a week. I see my blog as a way to explore in more detail topics of interest from listservs or from my own columns. I know LM_NET sometimes seems to need a place to spill over to when a topic gets a lot of discussion, and tell myself I might be able to assist with that. Right now I am enjoying the experience so will continue as long as I feel it is worth the time and effort. Wonder what everybody else thinks?


Friday, March 9, 2007

Geeky Fun

OK so it is Friday night and I am sitting in front of the TV with my laptop, neatly nested in my lounge chair. On the show Numb3rs one of the victims was wearing a flash watch. So off I go Googling for watches with USB slots. Sure enough I found them! Prices range from $10 to $500 range. Not sure I want one though. And then I went from there, next arriving at The Red Ferret Journal, which is surely an impressive repository of geeky things. For instance, get a load of the USB Retro Lamp! Only $10! Why I could probably get $10 worth of fun with that on one trip. Imagine flying at night and switching on this little honey instead of your overhead lamp. Anyway, while admiring it, I noticed the little scrolling display on the lower right. One after another, lovely geeky toys…GPS sneakers! Glove mounted indicator lights! The ultimate pooper scooper!

A little more looking and I realize that Red Ferret links to Wists. Well that makes sense! What is Wists? Take a look…it is social networking meets shopping! Give it a try at

By the way, when I went to Wists (wish list=wists, get it?) and spent a few minutes gazing at other people’s lists and considering where to click, I noticed an ETSY site. What? You have not visited Etsy? Well here it is:

And it is the place to shop for all things homemade! Are we having fun yet? Meanwhile the Numb3rs episode is drawing to a close. I had a bunch of fun!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

New Site to Me + Fun Finds Via Vanity Searching!

First off, I happened today upon something new to me, and a nice Web 2.0 tool that bridges the "old" and the new. It is Slideshare:
Like so many other Web 2.0 environments, it is free to sign up and then you can upload and share your PowerPoint Presentations or Open Office slideshows. The show I viewed was very clever, and informs us about RSS. Take a look at it and the site as a whole. I just signed up. I have been boycotting PowerPoint of late, because everybody uses it and I don't like to be like everybody else. So for my presentations I usually just post some very simple web pages. BUT, with the uploading so easy and something a bit new, I may think again about PPT. The presentation I was talking about is by David Jakes and located here:

Now about the fun finds. Last night I was in my easy chair again, with the TV on, and indulging in my usual pre-bedtime vegetative state. I got the idea to do a couple of vanity searches--you know--when you search for yourself. First I Googled my daughter and came across a really super review of her CD. I had seen it before but it has been quite a while and really I do think this is someone who "gets" what it is she is trying to do. The review is here:
Then I thought what the heck, I will Google myself and did so. As always my SHSU page comes up first, which I am glad to see. But look at what I found out there!
Wow, is that nice or what! These kind words really made my day, and I found her blog in general to be one I will follow and recommend to students.