Category Archives: Technology

I *heart* Interface Analyses

I love reviews of different user interfaces. Ever since I took a class at SJSU SLIS about Web Usability, and even before that when I was a closet graphic design major wannabe (does that even work?), I was in love with the way we interact with computers and terminals and phones and other things.

There has been a lot of hub-bub today about the release of Lion, the newest version of Mac OS X. Rather than focus on the elements that are new or the new features, I’d like to point out an in-depth review of the update. Within this review is probably my favorite section of any software/hardware review I’ve ever read: the author reviews the interface updates that have taken place with Lion. In all honesty, I’m not a designer, so I can’t really comment too much on whether something is necessarily ugly or not. For me, a lot of my perceptions regarding an interface comes from how I interact with an object. If to me, the interface is awkward or difficult to understand, I take the time to figure out why I think it’s awkward and then absorb that so that I no longer will commit such sins against interface design in my work.

Okay, let’s get on to the actual discussion of the review. One of my favorite phrases, if you have known me long enough, is “mental bandwidth”. For example, if I am reading three books, and working on three projects, I am currently at my mental bandwidth limit – it describes exactly how much brain processing power I have available. It’s not necessarily a comment on ones intelligence, but rather their ability to deal with issues and items that come on. So this reviewer mentioned that the “bandwidth” necessary to parse an interface has increased greatly in the past few years. This comment reminds me of an assignment I had where we had to provide examples of good and bad interface design. One example was sleek, smooth, and handily provided all options that were necessary. The other provided every option IMAGINABLE on screen…creating a cluttered look. The mental bandwidth necessary to deal with this type of interface is greater than one that is simple and to the point. I think this is one of the best aspects of Apple design – they have Human Interface Guidelines for all of their products. In this way, they ensure that products are easy to understand and use.

One off-shoot of simple and smooth design is using real life analogues to replicate the feel and intention of a product. Apparently, in Lion, iCal and the Address Book provide the experience/look of their analog copies. Despite the fact that these changes do not negatively affect the usability of the product, it also doesn’t necessarily add functionality. I’m of the mind that the design of the product should increase it’s value. I guess you could say that I’m very “form follows function”. I’ll have to deal with these interfaces more before I can truly pass judgement, but I guess these changes are fine – as long as the product is still usable then who cares about the design. It’s not as if I had a hand in creating the interface, so I shouldn’t complain.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones – Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Review

Online handles as a discussion of identity change

God, to look back at my first online handle is like…foreverago.

Let’s see…I think the first screen name I used was back in like, 1992 – whatever generic AOL screenname we had. I’m pretty sure I used my parents screen name then convinced them to let me create my own AOL name. That became ARCRA25 – ARC – my initials. RA – repeated for good measure. There were apparently 25 other ARCRAs out there. Nice and generic yes?

This handle stuck with me until high school…senior year. I created a new AIM screen name to um, anonymously chat with a friend….yeah, let’s go with that story. This became “secretfanofu”.

OH actually..before this, I had a variety of screen names that I used on DDRFreak, to chat with folks about Dance Dance Revolution. The one that stuck with me the most…was TemporarySpastic. 1) Let’s get serious, I’m a little spazzy. 2) This was from a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. 3) it was often shortened to “spazzy”.

Back to “secretfanofu” – this screen name stuck with me forever. Until recently, I used either secretfanofu or my full name, andrewcarlos as an identity. Now, I’m trying to unite my online identities as a librarian and information professional under @infoglut.

What about you? Share your stories about embarrassing online handles!

The Eternal Shame of Your First Online Handle – Technology – GOOD.

Lesson Planning Is So Much Fun

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on modifying my lesson plans for my upcoming web design class. It’s a shorter class than I taught last year, so I want to make sure that I’ll be able to cover all of the topics that I want to cover. I leave it up to the students as to how much we cover – even though it’s summer school, I still want them to enjoy the class. I had to do a lot of editing work in terms of topics – I tried to scrunch a four week class into a two week session. Out went all of my Web 2.0 focused classes – instead of a day focused on these tools, we will discuss how they are used throughout the course. I did manage to free up two days, in which I am going to try to teach a little bit of Scratch, a programming language. Nothing too intensive, but I want the students to have a taste of it – maybe they will be encouraged to take up computer science and programming!

I actually just finished teaching a three week summer school class on video production last week. It was a good turn out this year – 6 students. We were all able to create videos individually and to learn how to work as a group to create one product. I think it went well, and the students had so much fun creating videos and learning how to edit them. While it would have been grand if I could have shown the students how to use iMovie, I was working at a school that did not have Macs for their students – we were working on Windows PCs, using Windows Movie Maker. The ideas are the same, though the steps might be different. We created three major projects – a commercial, a mini-documentary, and a music video. I have to send the videos to my students soon, since I’m sure they would like to have them.

It’s been a very busy summer…I’ve been teaching summer school all summer, plus have presentations to plan! I ended up getting two proposals accepted at Internet Librarian 2011 and one for CLA 2011 in Pasadena. Man, this will be a busy year for conferences. I’ll divulge a few more details about my presentations in a later post.

DIY and the Librarian Perspective

So this has been something that I’ve been kicking around for a few months but I have finally gotten the chance to put some ideas down on (digital) paper.

I’ve always been interested in the DIY movement, in the Maker movement, in different aspects of programming and digital life. To this end, I have actually gotten together with a friend and we are working on a project encouraging librarians to take part in these movements. It’s all very exciting right now and nebulous but I think once we get our thoughts straightened out, it’ll be a great project.

I don’t know exactly how many librarians would be into this idea, but it really couldn’t hurt to put it out there. I think there should be enough to start it off and then, with proper marketing and advertisement at conferences and social media, we will be able to get a good amount of people interested in the idea of DIY and Maker Faire-type events for Librarians.

Here are some things that I am currently working on/enjoy DIYing/having fun with:

  1. Learning Processing – I want to do an interactive art project regarding space in a gallery
  2. Learning Ruby on Rails – working on a few websites for myself and for friends. Working on creating an Assignment Calculator for work – students can use it to determine how much time they have, what steps they need to take, what resources are available to them
  3. Learning how to bookbind – I’ve always wanted to do this and it seems SOOOOO fun
  4. Knitting – I’m so behind on my projects, it’s embarrassing

So keep an eye out for an announcement regarding the beginning of this project. We are still hammering out minor details (such as the name of the project) but hopefully we can launch it by Internet Librarian 2011 – seems like a great place to launch a program like this.

The Freelance Librarian

It’s hard out there as a librarian to find a job. There are just way too many librarians applying for too few jobs. It’s kind of disheartening for a lot of my friends who have recently graduated. I’m not really at liberty right now to speak publicly about what is going on with my job search (it’s not that I have a gag order, but that I’d much rather not discuss it openly) so instead I’d like to talk about something else that I’ve been thinking about as a supplement: being a freelance librarian.

This really all started when I found out that Oracle, from the Birds of Prey series, is an information broker. That got me thinking, I could do this. I could be a freelance information broker, finding information for people, doing research for people, all independently and on my own time. Apparently, I’m not the only one who has thought about this. There is even an organization for Independent Information Professionals. I haven’t really put that much more thought into what I would do as a freelance librarian, but the possibilities really are exciting – I would not be tied down to one location, I can travel more, meet more people, and still perform the duties that I enjoy – finding information for people, doing research, maybe even doing a little bit of teaching on the side. Wouldn’t that be an exciting life?

To do this would also require some work, like how to setup your own business, what needs to go into being a freelancer, finding clients, etc. It could be much more work, but in the end could also be really satisfying. I’m really just throwing ideas out there and hoping it sticks not only for me, but for others who are trying to figure out what to do now that they are out of school.

Has anyone else considering this as a possible career path? I’d like to start off as part time, and maybe eventually have this as my full time job.

Do we have the right to be forgotten?

Old article, but for some reason, I’m feeling like writing about old news.

As I said in my previous blog post, I’m all about transparency…as long as it doesn’t offend anyone or mess up your chances at getting that job. If I write an article, I don’t care if it floats out there. If I make a bad decision, I live with the consequences of it.

However, I very rarely make bad decisions that are documented. And if I do, I try to keep it off of the open web. If anything, the worse that happens is it gets posted on Facebook, untagged and unconnected to my account. In this way, I can chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, yet not actually have it affect me. I find it funny when others complain about how some of the things they did under the influence of something is now out there. Clearly, you had the conviction to talk about it, so just own up to it. It’s a nice thought to be able to be “forgetten”, in the sense of having your Google search results modified. However, are you not then presenting a fake face to the world?

I guess I’m just wary of ways in which we are able to alter our appearance. I’m careful about my actions and expect others to be. And if they do end up making a bad decision, own up to it. I respect people who own up to their mistakes more than those who try to hide behind something.

In a way, this article reminds me of a book that I have been working (not very hard) to finish reading, in which it is argued that in the history of humankind, the standard has always been to forget. It is only with digital memory that we have created a culture that seeks to preserve every memory, every instance of pain and joy, every achievement and poor decision. In this sense, Spain is just asking for what we have always been able to do – to forget about the good and the bad.

Spain Asks Google for the Right To Be Forgotten.

The varied uses of mobile devices: replacement for analog issues

I’ve been working on this post for weeks, but my portfolio has taken up much of my time. This will be very brief, as I just wanted to share Eric Schmidt’s thoughts on mobile devices and their uses for LIS.

At 6 minutes and 15 seconds into his keynote, he mentions this little tidbit below:

Over the next few years, all the mobile phones and tablets that are coming mean that you never forget anything: where you stayed, who you talked to, what you said. You’re also never lost. When was the last time you were ever really lost? And all your friends know where you are, too. You’re never lonely – there are always people “around” you. And you’re never bored, never out of ideas. “We can always suggest new ideas.” (Emphasis mine)

Here are the two things that I’ve always enjoyed about mobile devices: their ability to act as your offboard memory and their ability to act as a continuous connection to your social network.

As someone with serious memory issues, it’s nice to be able to have something on me that allows me to take notes, carry around other information or even look up information on the go. I know that many of these can be accomplish with pen and paper, but by using your phone you are down one less thing to carry. And besides, you have your phone with you all the time. And really, when was the last time using pen and paper helped you find out new bits of information? Remember, the origins of the Guinness Book of World Records was to resolve bar bets – instead of referring to this book, we now refer to wikipedia…on our phones.

In Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal mentions the idea that, in the case of MMORPGs, it’s not about the actual interaction with people but about knowing that you are in the presence of others. Having a connection to your social network acts in the same way. From my personal experience, I know that in certain situations where I am by myself, I take comfort in looking at my Twitter stream and engaging people through that. This is not to say that I am an inherently lonely person, but that sometimes you don’t want to interact with the people immediately around you and you choose, instead, to interact with your online social network (or even your RL friends through text message).

With the rise of ubiquitous computing and always on connections, we now have this amazing device that we carry at all times that allow us to do so many things. Yet, for me, the most useful aspects of the device are things that could be accomplished by analog, old school methods. Interesting isn’t it?

Live from Eric Schmidt’s Keynote at Mobile World Congress.

Locally aware, yet not newsworthy

Context is king. One of the most important things I’ve learned in my MLIS program is that the context of an information need is very important. There is the traditional sense of context: I need help with a project, I need help finding information about such-and-such, What websites are good for solving this type of problem, etc. Basically, this context revolves around the project.

However, I also feel there is the important context of space. For one thing, how do our information needs change based on our location? Remember, the Guinness Book of World Records started as a way to answer bar bets. Who is to say that now, instead of using this tome, we use our phones to Google our questions. In this sense, it is a social context – answering a question that you probably wouldn’t worry about on your own but only with friends.

What about physical location? Does our physical location affect our information needs? Well..yes. What if you are in the middle of a city and completely lost – your information need could be to find the nearest bathroom or the nearest police station. In this sense, the context is purely selfish – not a very social need. However, this does not always need to be the case. Sometimes we are lost in the city as a group and we all need to find the answer for something.

This brings me to the subject of the below link: hyperlocal awareness. With the rise of location-based services, we are now in an environment in which we can find information about our surroundings quickly. Foursquare, Twitter, Yelp, Loopt – these are all sources for information around us. If we are so hip to these apps, why haven’t hyperlocal news technologies been able to gain a foothold?

As awful as this is to say, I tend to find local newspapers lacking in quality. Perhaps people are used to this stereotype of local news and don’t consider the quality of hyperlocal news outlets to be worthy. Do you use any hyperlocal news site, such as outside.in? What do you think of it?

Hyperlocal Heartbreak: Why Haven’t Neighborhood News Technologies Worked Out?.

Emotional attachment to an inanimate object

I’ve always formed a weird bond with my gadgets. Not to the point where I fantasize about them, but rather I love them dearly.

It all started when I was in college and had my FIRST cell phone. I grew to love it instantly, being able to communicate with friends, call my best friend at 3 am so we could break down our days, just being a lifeline for me. When I broke that phone and replaced it with a Nokia, I was even more in love.

I accidentally lost that phone on a ride at Disneyland and for a whole 13 hours, I was in a state of panic. I was LOST and DISCONNECTED without my phone. I ended up calling Disney and described my phone to a T. The woman on the other end said “I’ve never met anyone who could describe their phone with such detail….”

Let’s skip a few years and now get to current times: the iPad. I just bought the previous generation last week and I’m infatuated with it. I love the ease of use, the lightness of it, and the ability to just carry it everywhere. When the new generation was announced, I was a little torn: do I return the old one and upgrade?

But then it dawned on me: I’m not a specs whore. I don’t care if the new one is faster, lighter, better. I love my iPad cause it does what I NEED it to do. and it’s convenient. It’s about the experience of using the iPad, rather than its speed or specs. For some people, this is what keeps them within the Apple ecosystem.

I don’t want to say that I’m a purely emotional person, but I am. I let my emotions control me sometimes, but at the same time I am logical. I hate that about me. That I can end up being both logical and emotional. At least I’m not a robot….

New iPad Appeals More to Emotion Than Reason — State of the Art – NYTimes.com.

What can libraries do during a crisis?

A recent tweet I just saw from ALA Library twitter account made me think of what libraries can do during moments of crisis, such as the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.

In moments of crises, what can libraries do to help their communities? There is the physical help they can offer, by having their libraries open for people to use them as shelter. Of course, this only works if the building itself isn’t damaged.

What else can we offer? How about information, seeing as how we are librarians. We can be a source of information for people who are lost, we can offer advice on rebuilding, we can offer simple first aid tips and manuals.

But I think the most important thing we can offer is distraction. We can stay open for people to check out books, movies, magazines, anything. We can host events for kids. We can be a resource for the community.

What do you think? What else can libraries do?

@ALALibrary – No damage to Japanese libraries