Moving the Blog

As of today, I’m moving the blog to my ThirdScribe website. I won’t be taking this site down per se, but it won’t be updated. The ThirdScribe site will be, at least once a week.

If you’ve been following along with this craziness, don’t worry. I’m taking you with me. The ThirdScribe blog is functionally identical to this one. All the share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, and so on are still there, so if you use social media to connect with my rantings, you won’t miss a thing. I’ll just be pushing posts to those platforms from a different website. The archives are already there, both posts and comments. There are exceptional book-related resources there as well.

If you connect to my stuff by way of RSS, then just slap this new info into your feed reader:

For RSS Posts: http://jonfrater.thirdscribe.com/feed/

For RSS Comments: http://jonfrater.thirdscribe.com/comments/feed/

I’ll still be posting about library matters, books, readers advisories, and whatever else I can think of. The truth is the ThirdScribe interface, analytics, and format are easier to use and to give me a lot more data on how people read this thing and where they come from. Rob McClellan was right to build the AddThis code directly into his platform. ShareThis never worked properly in that regard.

See you there!

ThirdScribe Launches Today

Today is February 17, aka President’s day, which used to be known as George Washington’s Birthday. As old timers will remember, we only got the day off (along with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12). No lumped together presidents’ birthdays, no week-long vacation from school. But today is still a holiday, so yea for a day off of work.

Second bit of good news: iTunes’ season pass for Season 3 of Game of Thrones earns its money today as the entire season is supposed to be available for download starting today. I’m crossing my fingers on that one; iTunes can be finicky when it comes to streaming multiple downloads, especially if several people on the same account but with different computers watch the same shows. Not to mention that if I’m downloading 10 episodes, everyone else who bought the season pass is doing the same thing.

Third, but hardly the least important bit of good news for today: Rob McClellan’s  book-centric social media network ThirdScribe goes live today. I’ve created book pages for the two library-oriented books I’ve contributed to.

I’ve been alpha testing Thirdscribe for the past few months; I’m pretty happily impressed with the design. It’s designed from the ground up to be a social media tool for books, authors, and readers. Authors and readers can choose from paid or free accounts, depending on the perks they want to be included with their setup. DNS hosting and transfers are available as is URL forwarding, and entire site migration is available for bloggers and website owners who want to go whole-hog into adopting ThirdScribe as their new medium of choice.

ThirdScribe uses a WordPress framework to manage various site admin rights, visual arrangements, and interactive facets. The thing to remember is that while Thirdscribe does include full-featured blogging tools (hey, it’s WordPress) it’s meant to be primarily a social network. Books have pages, authors and contributors, and sales links. Each one also has a forum which you set up at the time you create the book (or not, the choice is yours). Once your account is set up, you can check on your own books, modify the information about them more or less at will, then check out other members’ pages and see what books they’ve created pages for and who is saying what in their book forums.

Beyond that, you can synch your ThirdScribe network profile (but not your blog) to any social media platforms you already have, so that what’s posted in ThirdScribe is pushed to, say, Facebook and Twitter.

My testing has convinced me that ThirdScribe is something genuinely useful for books, and the people who read and write them. Meaning that I’ll be sticking with it for the forseeable future. I probably won’t be transferring this blog over to my ThirdScribe space simply because there are different people who read this than who are likely to want to talk about the books I like, but sure, there will be some cross-over as time goes on.

ThirdScribe is live, so take a good, long look at it. I think this thing has a bright future.

To Wiki or Not to Wiki: That is the Question

We all know the phrase, since we’ve all had the talk with our students regarding research, so let’s all say it together: Wikipedia is not a citable source. Fine. Except we came up with that rule a billion years ago when the Wikipedia project was in its infancy. Or at least, its adolescence. Things have changed since then. Haven’t they?

Ultimately we have to re-evaluate the question and ask ourselves how reliable is Wikipedia anyway? I mean, considering that professionals like Trevor Thornton and Christina Pattuelli are using publically edited records for their own work? Does the description of Wikipedia’s contents as nonsense invalidate these models by association? The question did come up during the NYTSL panel, and they felt that for the purposes of their own work, the data standards were high enough to make it a reliable source.

On the one hand, those linked data projects were limited in scope. It’s one thing to crowdsource the conversations and quotes from musicians, or an index of personal names in a historical context. It’s quite another to use the same strategy to, say, devise medical treatments (except they are). And to be fair there is a world of difference between creating a wiki-based general catalog of informative articles and utilizing a distributed data processing model. (Except when there isn’t.)

Additionally, Wikipedia can be improved and if its own metrics are to be believed, is continually being improved by users who actually give a hoot about the quality of their submissions.  Whether or not that improves the whole project or just select bits of it is yet to be seen.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with my advice to students that Wikipedia is still not citable, but it is a decent source of useful references that might be well be worth checking out.

 

Do We Still Need RSS?

William Vambenepe says that “If the lords of the Internet have their way, the days of RSS are numbered.” He then points to the facts that Apple, Twitter, Firefox, and Google are all slowly but surely de-coupling RSS access from the functionality of their products.

Before I got the chance to work with RSS personally, I had categorized this post as a bit of a rant and kept it in my drafts folder, wondering if I would have the chance to take a closer look at it. For the past week I’ve been trying to figure out how to push this blog’s new material into my existing FeedBurner RSS account. I have no idea how to make it work. Our Emerging Technology Librarian, Emma, has no idea how to make it work (and looked sort of freaked out when I told her about my project.)

At the moment, I’m ready to start cheering for Team Lords.

The process of building a new website after importing the old posts was the easy part. Typepad has decent export options and WordPress is much the same with importing new material. What it doesn’t have–what nobody in the world apparently has–is a way of seamlessly switching an existing RSS feed for a new one. There is the added consideration of where the new stream of traffic comes from: so far, most of the action on the new website has come out of shared posts, tweets, and URL transfers, not RSS click-throughs. Even on the old blog, RSS click-throughs constituted less than 10% of the total activity.

I have tinkered with the guts of FeedBurner’s forms, tried splicing new feed URLs into existing feeds addresses, and played with the idea of using third party plugins to push new posts to the old feed. Nothing has worked very well. There are plenty of ways to squeeze traffic into the new feed but no way to transfer the new stuff into an old RSS URL.  (If you know of a way to do this, don’t keep it to yourself. Drop me a comment and let’s talk about it.) Old blog = old feed,  new blog= new feed, and there is no crossing the lines between the two. At least that’s how it seems right now.

I can burn new feeds all I want. I can combine them into one gigantic master feed through applications like Yahoo Pipes and Google Feed. I can redirect existing feeds from one blog to the other if I can figure out how to create a 301 permanent redirect through cPanel (or convince an exceptionally helpful tech support person at my ISP to do it for me). I can build an XML redirect and send it into the old feed in the hope that the current subscribers take advantage of it and migrate.

Or, I can abandon the current subscribers. For obvious reasons, that’s my least favorite option. Sadly, it seems to also be the most efficient option unless I can muster the additional time and energy to Franken-feed something together. Regardless of FeedBurner’s relative ease of use, modifying an existing feed is considerably more difficult than just burning a new feed and assigning it to a syndication page.

I’ll be honest. After three days of this, I’m ready to give up. RSS is unquestionably useful tech, but if it’s not portable, then other more portable options will leave it in the dust.

I burned a new feed for the WP blog, and I hope that at least some of the existing RSS subscribers have the patience, energy or motivation to click on the new feed when they get to the new website.

Which brings me back to the original critique of Vambenepe’s point . . . maybe the reason that the big players are abandoning RSS is the fact that you can’t really do anything with it. Except, of course, create more RSS feeds.

Again, if there is a way of making RSS portable, then I’d love to hear about it.

 

A New Project

I’m writing a science fiction book. Actually, I’ve written the book already. Actually, I’ve shown the manuscript to an editor, and she likes it. She liked earlier versions of the script, made some suggestions, and now she likes it even more. She wants to see it in print, and so do I. So that’s good news.

The bad news is the sheer tedium of the process of turning a manuscript (idea) into a book (product). There are meetings: with the editor, with the editor’s boss, another with the editor, then with the editor’s other boss.  There are conversations: with the editor, then between the editor and the agent, then between the editor, the editor’s other boss, and the other boss’s lawyer, then with the editor, the editor’s boss’s lawyer and the boss’s agent—then with the new agent—then with the new new agent—and you get the idea. It’s a process. A slow, ugly, infuriating process, that reminds one of why we rarely enjoy finding out how the sausages are made. But at the end is a book on a shelf in a book store with my name on it. That’s the plan. More news as it happens, but this is a long-term project.

In the mean time, I decided to take on a few other tasks. First, I'm planning on moving this blog from its current Typepad account to a self-hosted WordPress.org one. I had a few reasons for that: first, I needed a reason to improve my coding skills. Having my own sandbox forces me to improve my HTML, CSS, and PHP. If all goes according to schedule, I'll have the new site up and running by the end of June. I'll keep you informed as new things happen.

If you want to take a look at what's already there, be my guest. Just be aware that it's a work in progress, and there's a lot more work to do. I haven't transferred the link lists over yet, or set up menu bars. I need a better looking banner. The end result will look different but have the same essential functionality. (Comments and suggestions are welcome.)

Beyond that, I'm supposed to send an article about stress management to a different editor within two weeks, so that's taking my time. Oh, and Lara and I have decided to try our hand at e-publishing. That will be a blast, especially considering that her brother's small press, Ig Publishing, just celebrated its tenth anniversary.

And in the immediate future, I'm going to do my best to keep to this new posting schedule: new posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a minimum. It keeps me focused. I need that.

Banned Book Week 2011 Begins

As I wrote earlier today, it’s Banned Book Week. (Yay!) As part of an agreement with Sheila DeChantal over at the Book Journey blog, I'm reviewing  a banned book.

Last week, I took an extremely informal poll on my Facebook page and asked people to vote on which book I would review this week. The possibilities were limited to books that I felt that I knew well enough to write competently about, namely The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, The Diary of Anne Frank, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, or Steinbeck’s classic, The Grapes of Wrath. All four selections got at least one vote each, but the contenders turned out to be Atwood or Anne Frank. 

I decided on Atwood for several reasons. First, the controversy over The Diary of Anne Frank is generally more limited when it surfaces at all, mostly over sexually explicit scenes. The Handmaid’s Tale gets a lot more flak a lot more often over it's treatment of sex, violence and politics. Also, I’ve never reviewed Handmaid.

Thursday around noon is when this review will be up, if you want to mark your calendar. If you are reading this and want me to comment on any particular aspect of the book, just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to comply.

See you Thursday.

When You’re Sick, Ask for a Librarian

This bit from Stever Robbins is pure gold as he makes a point that gets made far too rarely . . . you need librarians, you just haven't realized it yet. In Stever's own words:

Librarians are information scientists. While doctors may do a little
to keep up with current research, they’re primarily educated by pharma
companies with a vested interest in presenting research and information
that encourages doctors to prescribe drugs. While their intentions are
no doubt good, there’s so much research about how unconscious bias
controls our behavior that I just don’t believe the pharma reps are
presenting unbiased health information to the doctors.

The librarians, however, are trained to seek out the latest information and understand the quality of that information.
While doctors are busy seeing patients, librarians are busy learning
the latest. In-hospital librarians then serve as a resource to medical
teams to make sure they are aware of the latest and best information
about treatments and research right when they need it.

Take a moment to read the whole thing–it's not long (promise!) And thanks to Rhonda Allard for alerting me to it.

Slouching Toward “Social Networking”

I admit it: I'm not as quick on the draw as at least a few of my friends and co-workers think I am.  The immediately relevant case in point is that fact that I'm having a bear of a time learning how to navigate the NetworkedBlogs application on Facebook.  Facebook is itself easy enough to figure out.  The NetworkedBlogs app is actually kind of nifty, and the preliminary work of registering this blog on it was simplicity itself.  The vetting process–where they demand 10 friends' confirmations as you (me) as the author, and a minimum 'fan' base of 20 to enter the feed in cascading posts–while less than efficient (I'll explain why shortly) at least makes sense.

The real problem is getting the RSS feeds to transfer from Feedburner.com (which I use) to Facebook. I managed a few manual posts and link, no problem.  But when I checked the staus of the RS Blog on Networked Blogs, I saw error messages in the feed status area.  Which is a fancy was of saying that Facebook didn't recognize what Feedburner was sending it.  I don't know why this is–I hope it's a simple matter of me giving it the wrong URL. (I've just fixed it, so if that was the problem, it'll be corrected shortly.  I hope.)

The efficiency matter I just mentioned is more of a pet peeve than a real design flaw.  On Facebook, you have the ability to launch applications more or less at will, and a lot of these are geared toward signing your friends up for wacky good and services, like joining a game of Knighthood, or getting a digital Mushroom, or starting a digital garden, or whatever.  If you have more than a few friends on this thing (I managed to gather 54 in the past month, don't ask how) these gifts, requests and such like are going to back up.  Facebook has, to its credit, anticipated this, and segregated the older requests-in-waiting from the newer ones.  But they don't seem to have anticipated the probability that faced with, say, 6,452,744 outstanding requests, most people will just ignore that darned button and after a few minutes, not even think about it.  (My wife who is a case in point, had over 100 of these requests gathering dust and it never occurred to her to clear them out.)

My point is merely this: Facebook is not quite the untapped wellspring of fame and prosperity I'd been led to believe "social networking" sites are. At the very least, using them effectively takes skills that I don't have (yet).  Obviously, this is not to say that there's no value to Facebook-based applications (if a creep like Michelle Malkin can get 300+ freaks and weirdos to read her stuff there's every chance I can get a bunch to read mine.)  I think it is to say that there's clearly a learning curve involved in dealing with this type of tech and the hype there, like everywhere else, needs to be cut through first before one can become productive using it.

On the positive side, the RSS feed to this blog is available on Livejournal.com–that took two minutes to set up–but the lack of formatting in the text is something I'm not that happy with.  Still, it's there.  And if you're on Facebook and want to subscribe to the feed there, you can do that here.  Heck, become a fan and/or confirm I own this silly place.  (I'd be grateful.)  I'm dealing easily enough with LinkedIn and I don't know enough people on MySpace to create a profile there, but . . . we'll see.

Next, I try to install Google Analytics . . .

Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Librarian

I am hoping now that the election is over (more or less) and Barack Obama is safely considered the U.S. President elect that I can back to dealing primarily with library-related issues, ideas and articles. That's not to say that politics is boring or unimportant. Neither is it to say that I'll now refrain from posting things of a non-library nature I find genuinely interesting, but enough is enough.

On that note, I'd like to point out Denise O'Shea's FDU Library Technology News weblog. I just found it after losing contact with Denise some time ago (we worked together at NYAM for a while and she is now the Systems Librarian/Tech Support Specialist at Fairleigh Dickinson University.) It (and she) promises to be an amazing resource for those interested in systems librarianship. You can find this link in the Library Blogs typelist in the left margin.

Enjoy!

Worldcat Love & the BiblioblatherBlog

A coworker mentioned the Biblioblather Blog to me at lunch, and, being the inquisitive type of paranoiac that I am, I tuned in and found a really nifty string of links. Not the least ofwhich is one to WorldCat Lookup which the Biblioblatherblogger has already described in prose so exemplary, I could only chew my own spleen in hate and envy at this person (who I don’t even know) who obviously writes so much better than I do, and who, I’ll just bet, does not have procelain laminate orthodonture that broadcasts their every move to the CIA, like mine does.

At any rate (and I suppose I’ll have to forgive the Biblioblathering person for writing better than I do, although it pains me mightily) I’m putting this into the Library Blog Typelist for y’all. Enjoy!

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